Wednesday, November 21, 2007

This is the text of a sermon I preached today at International Christian School. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Eric J. Zanger
The God Who Sees
Preachment before International Christian School—Pyongtaek
November 21, 2007

Let’s Pray

Today, we are going to talk about God’s eyes. But, by way of introduction, I want to show you the incomparable glory of the eyes of God by comparing His eyes to our eyes. God does not see as we see. It is foolish to compare God’s vision to our vision. 1 Corinthians 2:9 states, However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

How can we compare God’s eyes to your eyes? It’s insane! It’s like trying to see a distant star with binoculars. Put on binoculars and we still can’t see it. “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” You know those things are huge right? You are high schoolers. But, to our eyes, we see them as little pin pricks in the sky, because we have limited eyesight. We cannot see everything in its fullness. However, God definitely can. God sees those stars for what they are, because he made them and put them right where they are.

Or, try this one…can any of you possibly see what you’ll be doing in ten years? Sure, you may have dreams and hopes and ambitions, and those are wonderful—keep running after them. But, can you possibly tell me where you’ll be living, if you’ll be married, how many children you’ll have, what their names will be, what job you’ll be doing? The list could go on forever. Here’s what I’m afraid of…is that you take your hopes and dreams and ambitions and you shove them in God’s face, as if you dictate to God what you should be doing. Do you really think you can put God into a little box?

Goodnight! Some of us need a shot in the arm that God has something unbelievable prepared for you. There is glorious victory over sin over the horizon; there is a chance to spend your life in building up another believer; there is glorious reality that the God of the universe loves you with an everlasting love and has set a way for you to escape the fiery furnace of hell.

Our problem is that we get stuck in the rut of our sin, and then, instead of bringing it into the light, we willingly hide it from everyone, hoping we can fake out other people. I lived that life for a long time. In public, I portrayed “Happy Zanger.” In private, however, I lived a life that was the exact opposite from “Happy Zanger.”

My problem, and your problem, is that we are unbelievable fakers and hiders. The deadly problem I had was that I could fake everyone out, but I could not fake out two people: 1) Myself and 2) God.

First, you have yourself. You cannot hide from the man or woman looking back at you in the mirror. You know at the bottom of your heart that you are a sinner. Your conscience is often the best prosecuting attorney against you. Sadly, every single one of us is guilty. And, we are not guilty by association. We weren’t accidentally walking by when someone robbed a bank, we are the bank robber. We didn’t happen to walk in on a murder victim, we are the murderer. However, I’m not here to talk about that…yet.

Secondly, you need to come to grips with the fact that you cannot hide from God. That’s where I’m going first. You cannot hide from God because he sees everything.

We have three Scripture passages today. One should make you leap for joy, one should serve as a warning, and one should worry you.

Will you stand with me out of respect for the inerrant, authoritative, and inspired Holy Word of God as we read today’s Scripture passages: 2 Chronicles 16:9a, Proverbs 15:3 & Hebrews 4:13

2 Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (That’s the one that should make your heart leap for joy.)

Proverbs 15:3
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (This should serve as a warning...what do you do when you think nobody is watching?)

Hebrews 4:13
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (This is the one that should worry you…maybe.)

Will you pray with me?

I want you to stop everything you are doing for a moment and think about this fact: God sees everything you do. He sees what you do in secret; he sees what you do in your bedroom; he sees what you do every single day. For those of you who are faithful followers of the Lord, God sees the little things you do every day. He sees obedience in the way you conduct your life. Perhaps, for some of you, he sees what you don’t do. He sees you, instead of getting drunk on a Friday night, staying at home and spending time with your family. Instead of having sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend, he sees you making the countercultural decision and saving that for a better place and a better time. God sees it, and according to 2 Chronicles 16:9, God’s delight is to bring you into a deeper and lasting relationship with Him.

The first thing I want you to get: If you live a life that is fully committed to God, you will receive strength to endure all things.

Notice what I am not saying. I am not saying that if you live a life fully committed to God, you will never have health issues. I am not saying that if you live a life fully committed to God, you will never have relationship issues. I am not saying that if you live a life fully committed to God, you will never face trials, tests, failures, or total suffering. What I am saying is that if you live a life fully committed to the Lord, He will strengthen you to endure those trials, to endure those tests, to endure those failures, and to endure the suffering, and in the end, to come out of those things with a greater faith and a greater trust in the Lord. Moreover, you will walk out of those things with a purer heart.

In order for a person to purify gold, the purifier must stick the gold into the fire, so that the imperfections are taken away. Imagine in your case that you are the gold and the fire is the trials and tribulations and sufferings that you are facing. While you are in the fire, it doesn’t feel so good, and I know—I’ve been there; I am there—but when we come out of the fire, we are a purer gold. We know our faith is real by how we struggle and fight through painful trials. And what God is saying in this verse is that he is scanning the earth looking to help and equip saints to stand in the fire of trials, so at the end, they may be perfect.

James 1:2-4 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” In another version, the word for mature is “perfect.” God’s goal through your trials is for you to become perfect, and he comes alongside you to help you through those trials.

Imagine it like this: In Cuba, the Marines has a base called Guantanamo. On observation towers, there are individuals who have the job of using binoculars to scan the horizon to look out onto Cuba to see if there is something going on. Should a Marine get outside of Guantanamo, then the other Marines would do whatever possible to bring him back.

Now, imagine with me, that God is the man on the tower, but, since he’s God, he doesn’t need the binoculars. He’s scanning the horizon, looking and seeing all things—seeing many evil things happening. And then, his eyes pause as he notices you—one who bears the name of Christ who is stuck outside the base, facing the bullets of the enemy. And God sees you trying your hardest to fight sin that is all over the place out there in the world. God sees that you are fully committed to him, as much as a sinful person can be, and so what God does is he strengthens you. And what is even greater, God leaves the base, walks across the minefield of broken relationships, walks past all the snipers, who aim to break our hearts, walks past the grenades of pain and pleasure, and meets you right where you are. Then, with arms wide open, God holds you, strengthens you, and leads you across the grenades, the snipers, and the minefields, all the while saying, “Follow me. Trust me.”

A general would be considered insane if he left the security of the base to go strengthen the private who was stuck outside the base. However, that is exactly what Jesus did…Jesus left the security of heaven to dwell with men so that he could strengthen those of us who are fully committed to him.

So, to the believer out there, be encouraged. When you face trials, it is because God is in the process of making you perfect, and he sees you where you’re at.

The second point I want you to understand is that it is not wise to mess with God. Or, in other terms, it is unwise to get into a game with God. Or, to put it another way, don’t start asking God where your strengthening is if you aren’t doing a thing in your life that shows your commitment to him.

Here’s what I’m wondering: Are you fully committed to him? Would you declare yours as a life of commitment to the Lord? Or, are you committed to him with some things, but with other things, you think you have it under control? Don’t start claming the blessings of obedience until you start to walk the path of obedience. That’s like expecting to get an A on your English Essay that you spent four minutes writing on the way to school in the bus, in pen, and on a napkin. It’s insane in English class; and it’s deadly with God.

For those of you who walk around here and wear the name of Christ on your shoulder, but you have no Christ in your heart, and have no active prayer life, you have no active time of Bible study, you have no desire to change, you have no desire to kill the sin that lives in you, and you live just like the world does when you leave this place, I would check your conversion. Remember what God said to Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I have some questions, and then I’ll wrap up this point: Do you hate your sin? Do you truly hate the fact that you don’t spend time with God? Do you have godly grief that you continue to struggle with masturbation or pornography or emotional adultery?

Remember, The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)

I became a Christian roughly eight years ago. And for the great majority of my Christian faith, I thought that true change was in me becoming a better hider. I really thought that the measure of my faith in Jesus was to trade outward, public sins for inward, private sins that were easier to hide from everyone.

I wonder how many of us are in the fatal flaw I found myself in. I would walk into church, put on my happy face, fake happiness for an hour, leave church, and go right back to my depraved ways. And yet, all the time, there I was, living an outward Christian life, but living an inward life that had no power of the Spirit in it, and I wondered where all the power was that I was supposed to feel, and why I wasn’t growing.

The point is this: How many of you are questioning God’s power but taking no course of action to get yourself into the river of blessing? God’s power is found in small baby steps of obedience. We start with baby steps, then we move on. And no parent is going to yell at a one-year-old baby, “Walk like a man!” No way! That father will explode with praise! And so will God—God is so delighted in our obedience.

Here’s our problem. In the same way that it would be silly for a baby to expect to wake up one morning a marathon runner, some of us expect God to completely fix us overnight…we expect to wake up one morning in complete freedom. We fail to realize that we must start, just as a baby did, with small, fumbling, silly, awkward, steps. That comes first. And oh, how God will bless you. But, so many of us take that first step and then we fall. The failure, men and women, is not in the falling. The failure is in failing to get back up and trying it again.

Do you want to be free? Do you want to be clean? Do you want to live a holy life? Then, quit being a defeatist. Quit thinking that once you fall, it’s over. Instead of that, rejoice in the grace of God that allows you to get back up and run the race again. The Christian life is one of continued attempts at obedience, and when you fail once, you get back up and you get it right the second time, the third time, the fourth time, the fifth time. Goodnight—come on—buck up teenager! Prepare your mind for action! Stand firm in God! Fight the good fight of faith! Run the race! Press on toward the goal! Live like conquerors!

Third part: Since God sees everything, you cannot hide your sins from God.

Now, if you have completely zoned out for the past 20 minutes because you see me every day, and you see this podium every day, and you see me waving my arms every day and walking around every day and therefore, you felt that it would be perfectly fine to not listen, that’s fine. All I ask is for you to focus in the next ten minutes, because I’m drawing this to a close. Give me ten minutes of your life, because this stuff is essential.

Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Again, God sees everything, which means you cannot hide your sins from God. Remember, God sees everything. I want that to land on you right now. He sees what you do when you are alone. He sees the sins that you try to hide, the sins that you are so ashamed of that if they became public, you would wonder if anyone would remain your friend. Well, here’s the truth. God sees those sins. It’s as if your entire life was on the 5 O’clock News, and God is a faithful watcher.

Romans 6:23 states, “The wages of sin is death.” At the physical level, we will all die because of the fact that we sin. Therefore, I love that Mr. Geist asks you to consider what you’ll be doing in 100 years. I hope you don’t trivialize that, chuckle at it, and leave the room without his words doing something to you. In 100 years, I think it’s safe to assume that all of us will be dead. Therefore, are you living this life to store up treasures in heaven, or do you live this life to get all you possibly can in this life, without even sniffing at where you’ll spend eternity?

The second thing that happens because of our sin is spiritual death. God becomes distorted in my vision. In fact, in my sin, I am telling God that I hate him. Do you ever look at your sin in that way? “God, I hate you.” If you don’t like the word “hate” because it doesn’t make you feel good, try this one…in our sin, we are telling God that he is “untrustworthy, unappreciated, useless, and unnecessary” in our lives. I hope that makes you feel a little bit better.

Now, imagine this situation. A new student comes to school. You befriend him, and when everyone else makes fun of him, you defend him. You pour your life into him to make sure that he feels accepted in this school. You two become best friends. Eventually, the other kids in your class start to like him too, and then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t hang out with you anymore. In fact, he avoids you, doesn’t sit near you at lunch, and never invites you to do anything with him. How would you feel?

As mad as you may be, and rightfully so, God has all the right to be furious at us. He is angry at us for our sins. He is angry that the creatures he created to worship and glorify him have turned away from him and place greater importance on having a boyfriend or girlfriend, or trying to get a boyfriend or girlfriend, or getting good grades, or getting into the right college, or sitting at the right table in lunch, or going out and doing the cool thing on Friday nights.

Romans 1:18-19 states, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” The serious problem in the universe isn’t the F you got in the first quarter of this year; the serious problem in the universe is that God is furious at how evil we are.

His wrath is nothing like what is visible on earth. The wrath of God is infinitely worse than having an angry and awful teacher; it is so much worse than having all your friends leave you; and it is worse than having a bad parent who criticizes everything you do. God’s wrath is eternal misery.

Remember Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Everything will be uncovered. Everything will be laid bare before God’s eyes. And we must give an account. This is language of judgment day, when we will face God.

We will face God, and though we try to fit God into our gray world, where there are no absolutes and black-and-white reality is frowned upon, God can judge us in one of two ways…innocent or guilty. There is no other judgment.

Our problem is that we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death. Therefore, each of us is destined for hell, because we are all guilty, including this preacher.

However, there is one way to be covered. There is hope. There is a way out. This wrathful God did not leave us without hope. In fact, God, in love, gave us the greatest gift imaginable. His name is Jesus. Let me tell you quickly what he did.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 3:16 (Say this with me) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Oh high school student, hear me. You do not want to face God without covering. The only covering acceptable to God is Jesus Christ. God doesn’t care about your good deeds; he doesn’t care that you helped old ladies cross the street; he doesn’t care that you went to church every Sunday. The only thing that gives you access to God is his son, Jesus Christ, and his death for you.

Your role is simple: Believe and repent.

Romans 10:9-10 states, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Peter, in response to the question of what to do to be saved, states, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Oh, precious high school students, hear this. Don’t miss this golden opportunity in your life. God is calling you to faith in his Son. This is not a suicide mission where you give your life over to a ruthless dictator like Hitler. You give your life over to the God who made you, who knows you, who sees you for who you really are, and, despite that, still loves you with an everlasting love.

Invite Christ in while you are in the day of salvation, because a day will come when you won’t be able to switch sides.

Saying no to God’s free gift right now and trying to switch sides at Judgment Day is like turning down a free gift of extra credit at the beginning of a quarter, then going to the teacher to complain about your grade after the quarter is over, grades are in, and nothing can be done. Grades are one thing; eternity is far more important. Get right with God. Please don’t wait until it’s too late for you.

Let’s pray.


Mike Lindstedt said...

Amen brother. Especially the last paragraph. There are people out there teaching that you can covert on the other side of this life. It's refreshing to see that the truth is still being preached.

Benjamin said...

Wonderful! Come back and guest preach this! We need it...