Sermon title: KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 12, 2018
If you have repented of your sins
and turned to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior,
there is tremendous power available to you.
There is power to do things that you can’t even imagine.
God has put his Holy Spirit in you,
and his power is Almighty.
If we look at Ephesians, Chapter 3,[ OPEN ]
we’ll see that this isn’t
just an exaggeration I’m making up.
This isn’t something that’s just promised
by slick TV programs
that say, “Send us your money,
and we’ll send you the key to power”—
as if they knew a secret unknown to others.
This is something promised to all Christians in the Bible.
And it’s found right here in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,
at Ephesians Chapter 3, Verse 20:
“Now to him who is able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power
that is at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen.”
So, our God is “able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”
And he can do this through “his power
that is at work within us.”
In our Responsive Reading this morning
we saw an outstanding example of that ‘power at work’
when the Apostle Peter walked on water.
Now, I’m not saying that you’ll be able to walk on water.
But that same power can be at work in you,
in your life—
power to accomplish things
beyond anything you can “ask or imagine.”
And power to help you through things
you could never get through alone.
that after Peter walked on water for just a bit,
he then began to sink.
That was when he took his eyes off Jesus.
Have you ever felt like you’re sinking?
How can we learn to keep our eyes on Jesus,
so that we won’t find ourselves sinking?
If we turn to Mark, Chapter 6,[ OPEN ]
we can see how this portion of the Gospels
will help us keep our eyes on Jesus
and keep from sinking.
In our Responsive Reading we read from Matthew,
the corresponding parallel account is here
in Mark, Chapter 6, Verse 12,
where we left off last week.
Last week we looked at the instructions Jesus gave the Apostles
before sending them out to preach for the first time.
And now Mark 6:12 says,
12 They went out and preached
that people should repent.
13 They drove out many demons
and anointed many sick people with oil
and healed them.
14 King Herod heard about this,
for Jesus' name had become well known.
Some were saying,
"John the Baptist has been raised from the dead,
and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him."
15 Others said, "He is Elijah."
And still others claimed, "He is a prophet,
like one of the prophets of long ago."
16 But when Herod heard this,
he said, "John, the man I beheaded,
has been raised from the dead!"
So, the news about Jesus was really spreading now.
Before this, Jesus had visited one village at a time.
But now he sent out his Apostles—probably 2 by 2—
to towns and villages all over Israel.
They were covering a lot more ground,
and more and more people were hearing about Jesus.
So, there was a lot of discussion going on
about who Jesus was.
Some people thought he was John the Baptist
raised from the dead,
and now invested with miraculous powers.
Other people remembered the Old Testament prophets
who worked miracles in centuries past.
So, they thought Jesus was one of those Old Testament prophets
raised to life again.
But Jesus’ Apostles themselves
were the first ones to grasp who he really was.
When Jesus asked them who they thought he was,
we read in Matthew 16:16,
16 Simon Peter answered,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And, because he was the promised Messiah, the Anointed One,
“the Christ, the Son of the living God,”
Jesus was doing many, many more miracles
than all the Old Testament prophets put together.
The account in Mark Chapter 6
goes on to review, in a flashback, the story of John the Baptist,
but we’ve discussed that a couple of times recently,
so let’s skip down to Mark 6:30.
And here we find that the 12 Apostles
have now finished that first round of preaching
that Jesus sent them out to do,
and now they are reporting back to him.
Mark 6:30 says,
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus
and reported to him
all they had done and taught.
31 Then, because so many people
were coming and going
that they did not even have a chance to eat,
he said to them,
"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place
and get some rest."
Our Lord knows our needs.
He may give us work to do,
but he also calls us to periods of rest.
Continuing in Verse 32,
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat
to a solitary place.
33 But many who saw them leaving
recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns
and got there ahead of them.
34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd,
he had compassion on them,
because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So he began teaching them many things.
Our Lord could have said,
“Sorry, it’s past closing time. Come back another day.”
But he saw the pitiful condition of the people—
that they were “like sheep without a shepherd”—
and he felt compassion for them,
and went on to teach them
things that would bless and help them.
And this opened an opportunity
for Jesus to perform another miracle.
Beginning in Verse 35,
35 By this time it was late in the day,
so his disciples came to him.
"This is a remote place," they said,
"and it's already very late.
36 Send the people away
so they can go
to the surrounding countryside and villages
and buy themselves something to eat."
37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him,
"That would take eight months of a man's wages!
Are we to go and spend that much on bread
and give it to them to eat?"
38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked.
"Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five--and two fish."
39 Then Jesus directed them
to have all the people sit down in groups
on the green grass.
40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.
41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish
and looking up to heaven,
he gave thanks and broke the loaves.
Then he gave them to his disciples
to set before the people.
He also divided the two fish among them all.
42 They all ate and were satisfied,
43 and the disciples picked up
twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.
44 The number of the men who had eaten
was five thousand.
So, from these passages we’ve read, so far this morning,
we’ve seen that God “is able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power
that is at work within us.”
We’ve seen that Jesus empowered the Apostles he sent out
to do many miracles.
We’ve seen he could do this because
he is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
And we’ve seen a mighty example of Jesus’ power:
feeding 5000 people on 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
If he could feed 5000, he can certainly feed us.
How, then, do we “Keep our eyes on Jesus”
so that his “his power ... is at work within us”?
This morning’s Responsive Reading in Matthew Chapter 14
will help us.
So, I’ll switch back from Mark
to Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 14, [ OPEN ]
and we’ll look again at the verses we read
that are printed on the Bulletin insert.
Beginning at Matthew 14:22,
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples
get into the boat
and go on ahead of him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowd.
23 After he had dismissed them,
he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone,
24 but the boat was already
a considerable distance from land,
buffeted by the waves
because the wind was against it.
And now Jesus is about to perform another miracle—
the one that teaches us to keep our eyes on Jesus.
25 During the fourth watch of the night
Jesus went out to them,
walking on the lake.
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
"It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them:
"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
At this point in time,
the disciples had been with Jesus a little over a year.
But they were still just beginning to grasp
who Jesus was
and the power they could expect to see Jesus exercise.
They weren’t expecting to see Jesus walk on water.
We might be like that, too.
We may be believers in Christ for 5 years already,
or for 20 years, or 40 years.
But we may not yet grasp
the power that Jesus can exercise in our lives.
Now the Apostle Peter does something that’s typical of Peter.
He was often the first one to say or do something—
the only one bold enough to do something—
when the others were still holding back.
28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied,
"tell me to come to you on the water."
29 "Come," he said.
30 Then Peter got down out of the boat,
walked on the water
and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid
and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand
and caught him.
"You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
Notice that Peter actually walked on water.
But he could do it only so long as his faith was strong—
only so long as he kept his eyes on Jesus.
When he turned his focus instead
to the wind and the waves
he began to sink.
That can happen in our lives, too.
When we take our eyes off Jesus,
we can begin to sink,
and we can let the troubles of this world overwhelm us.
But, notice that Jesus reached out his hand and rescued Peter.
He will do that for us, too.
His arm is strong,
and he won’t allow us to sink.
32 And when they climbed into the boat,
the wind died down.
33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
34 When they had crossed over,
they landed at Gennesaret.
35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought all their sick to him
36 and begged him to let the sick
just touch the edge of his cloak,
and all who touched him were healed.
Why was Peter allowed to walk on water—
the only person other than Jesus ever recorded to do that?
Was it so that he could boast of having walked on water?
No, I believe it was done as a lesson for us—
a lesson to keep our eyes on Jesus.
Now, for Peter, that was a matter
of literally focusing his eyes on Christ,
since Jesus was right there before him.
But today we can’t see Jesus with our literal eyes.
So, we need to focus our attention—
not our actual eyes—on the Lord.
And we do this
-- By personally reading the Bible,
-- By attending Bible studies,
where the Bible itself is the book actually studied,
-- By attending church where Christ is the center of attention,
-- And by personal prayer—
not just times set aside to bow your head in prayer,
but also constant prayer,
while going about daily activities.
All these things help us to keep our eyes on Jesus,
and to keep our faith strong.
And, if we keep up this 2-way communication with Jesus—
reading the Bible, to listen to his voice—
we will see his power demonstrated in our lives,
Jesus still performs miracles today,
to strengthen our faith.
I’ve seen Jesus perform miracles in my life,
and I know there are others here in this church
who have seen his hand of power
work in their lives, as well.
But, we need to remember
that God does these things to strengthen our faith,
not to guarantee good health
and plenty of money
to everyone who puts faith in him.
His time for giving all of us perfect health
and an abundance of everything we want or need
is in the Kingdom of Heaven—not now.
In the meantime, if everyone with faith didn’t get sick,
or if they did get sick, immediately got healed,
then Christians would never die,
and there would be 2000-year-old Christians
still walking around.
Someday, it will be like that—in God’s heavenly Kingdom—
but not now.
Even the Apostle Paul,
who miraculously healed other people,
got sick himself,
and often suffered from poor health.
Paul wrote in the 4th Chapter of his letter to the Galatian church
about how sick he had been—
when he visited Galatia.
It seems the illness prevented Paul from traveling on,
so he stayed in Galatia
and preached the Gospel to them.
At Galatians 4, beginning in Verse 13, we read,
As you know, it was because of an illness
that I first preached the gospel to you.
Even though my illness was a trial to you,
you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.
Instead, you welcomed me . . .
Paul had strong faith,
but there were times
when he was terribly ill.
In 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 12, Paul tells us
that he prayed three times to the Lord
to take away
what he called his “thorn in the flesh.”
In 2nd Corinthians 12, beginning with Verse 7, Paul wrote,
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure
by the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me,
a messenger of Satan to buffet me,
lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing
I pleaded with the Lord three times
that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
So, Jesus’ answer to Paul’s prayer for healing was “NO”—
The Lord would carry Paul through his ordeal,
and would empower him to do great things,
but would not heal him of his illness.
Another example of a believer with strong faith
who was sick nevertheless,
was young Timothy,
Paul’s traveling companion and helper.
At 1st Timothy 5:23 Paul told him,
“Stop drinking only water,
and use a little wine
because of your stomach
and your frequent illnesses.”
But God empowered Timothy to do great things for the Gospel,
despite his frequent illnesses.
We, too, may have to face sickness,
and other problems during our walk with the Lord.
But Jesus can give us the strength,
so that our faith won’t give out—
so that we won’t sink under the weight of our burdens.
And we can receive that strength
by keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Persist in personal prayer.
Persist in personal Bible reading.
Persist in meeting with God’s people
to study and listen to his Word,
to lift your voice in songs of praise,
and to share in loving fellowship.
All of these things will help you
to keep your eyes on Jesus
and to keep from sinking
under the burdens of this world.