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LOOKING BACK UPON THE EARTH

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
United Methodist - American Baptist

25 AUGUST 1996

by Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Isaiah 51:1-6
Matthew 16:13-20
Romans 12:1-8

When I take off in our airplane and climb out, the things upon the earth get smaller and smaller, as my field of vision gets larger and larger.

The astronauts who have looked back upon the earth from orbit can see almost half the earth, yet they see little detail.

And those astronauts, who saw the earth from the surface of the moon, saw a great blue marble hanging in the darkness of space; yet they saw even less detail.

But to look back upon the earth with God is quite another matter.

When we look back with God, we see all the details, all the people, all the animals, and we can see them as they are, and as God intended them to be.

We can see the entire earth, all at the same time.

This is the difference between a physical view and a spiritual view.

Way back before there was even a thought of flying in a plane or going into space, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul, among others, got a chance to look back upon the earth.

They got this chance because of their faith and because of the grace of God.

And each and every one of us can have this spiritual vision, if we give our heart to the Lord and desire to take this spiritual Journey.

Itís all a matter of knowing who we are, and where we are.

Letís begin our spiritual journey by looking at what Isaiah tells us in 51:1-6.

First, letís consider who we are:

1.  "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,

Who seek the Lord:

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

And to the quarry from which you were dug.

2.  "Look to Abraham your father,

And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain;

When he was one I called him,

Then I blessed him and multiplied him."

3.  Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion;

He will comfort all her waste places.

And her wilderness He will make like Eden,

And her desert like the garden of the Lord;

Joy and gladness will be found in her,

Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.

Do we pursue righteousness and seek the Lord with all our heart and soul?

Do we do it all the time, or do we forget some of the time?

The Lord knows our failures and our forgetfulness; thus we are reminded to look to the rock and to the quarry from which we were cut out.

In essence, we our to look back to our beginnings, and not just to our mothers and fathers, or to our physical birth and beginnings.

We are to look to our spiritual rebirth.

We are to look back to the day when we first came to believe.

This is who we are.

And God says he will restore this world as the Garden of Eden, where there was no death before the Fall.

This will happen as more and more people begin to see with the eyes of God.

Keep a bookmark here in Isaiah, and turn to Matthew 16:13-20, and see how this happened with Peter, and listen carefully to what Jesus says to him:

13.  Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

14.  And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

These answers are all from an earthly and physical perspective.

They only saw Jesus as a Man, and thus they could only compare Him with men.

So, Jesus asks the same question of the disciples:

15.  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

16.  And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Peter is looking with heavenly eyes. He is looking back upon the earth, as the Lord confirms:

17.  And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

This confirms the spiritual position from where Peter is looking; but Jesus continues and reminds him of who he is:

18.  "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.

19.  "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

20.  Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

The rock from which Peter is cut is the witness of Jesus as the Son of God, and as the Messiah of Israel.

From which rock are we cut?

Now, with this in mind letís go back and continue with our passage from Isaiah, which was written some 700 years before this encounter between the Lord and Peter (Isaiah 51:4-6):

4.  "Pay attention to Me, O My people;

And give ear to Me, O My nation;

For a law will go forth from Me,

And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.

5.  "My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth,

And My arms will judge the peoples;

The coastlands will wait for Me,

And for My arm they will wait expectantly.

When Jesus asked the disciples who the people say He is, He got a physical answer, and here is why:

6.  "Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment,

And its inhabitants will die in like manner,

But My salvation shall be forever,

And My righteousness shall not wane.

They never lifted up their eyes to heaven; thus, they could not see with heavenly vision.

They could not look back upon the earth, and recognize Jesus for who He is.

They only saw the Man, and not the Lord.

We see a lot of other people; who do we say that they are?

Who do they say that we are?

Do we see only each otherís actions, whether good or bad, or do we also see each other as the people God intended each of us to be?

Do we see with earthly eyes, or do we see with heavenly eyes?

Unconditional love will help us see with heavenly eyes, because unconditional love extends to God, and from there to the whole of His creation:

We see every aspect of our environment, and we care about its wellbeing.

We see every animal, whether great or small, and care about their wellbeing, and that they, too, would live in peace.

We see every human as our equal, and desire for them what we ourselves desire in the perfection of God's love.

In Romans 12:1-8, Paul speaks of who we are from a heavenly perspective, something we should all learn to do.

Listen to what he says:

1.  I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Our worship isnít just what we are doing here today.

This is just a communal way of expressing our feelings towards God.

But our real and lasting spiritual service of worship is who we are; and who we are, determines whether or not we are really worshipping God.

And if this is like a stab in the heart, we need to do some inner reflection and repentance:

2.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is who we should be.

We should be new creatures in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3.  For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

God has given each and every person all the faith that is necessary to be transformed into the image of God.

If we donít use this faith, itís not Godís fault, but ours.

Now, none of us are islands unto ourselves, but I pray that we all are part of the overall body of believers.

And together we not only multiply our worship, but our transforming power upon this earth:

4.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,

5.  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

6.  And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

7.  if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;

8.  or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

This is the nature of a true church.

When people look in from the outside, it should look like an assembly of pastors and priests, for all are ministering, and not just to our own congregation, for Godly ministry has no limits.  It extends to the whole of creation.

Each of us should look like this.

What are other people seeing?

What are you seeing right now?

Can you see the Hudson River?

Can you look North and see its source?

Can you see the rain that fell upon the mountains, and which flowed down in little streams joining together with each other to form the River?

Can you feel as the people on our prayer list feel, that their pain is your pain, and pray for them accordingly?

Can you feel the horror and suffering of people all over the world who are caught up in some war or another.

Can you feel the terror of some lonely laboratory animal who is being systematically tortured every day of his or her life?

Can you feel the suffering of the billions of factory-farmed animals, who are slaughtered each year in this country?

Can you feel as God feels over what we have done to His beautiful creation, and how much it hurts Him when we donít return His love, and when we donít love each other?

If you can see and feel these things, then you have a heavenly vision.

But if you cannot, then you need to return to the basics, and really and truly confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

You need to surrender all of your pride to Him, and ask Him to make you into the person He wants you to be.

You need to open your eyes.

Let us pray.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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