I love it when I find sermon clips of Pastor John pastoring his congregation from the pulpit by illustrating how he does certain things in the Christian life. In today’s clip, he’s going to take us into his own life to show us how he focuses his attention on the glories of Christ (which is an essential discipline, as we just saw in APJ 1892).
This clip today is very tangible. In fact, we just had another clip like it come up about a month ago in an episode on meditation. You might remember that one. What does it look like when he meditates over the word to get God’s truth from his mind down into his heart and his affections? Pastor John illustrated his own process and practice for us in APJ 1886. Well, I just found another example of him doing something similar. That’s a clip I want to share with you today.
We’ve been talking lately about attention. Why did God create us to rivet our focus? Last Wednesday, we looked at Hebrews 2:1, a text that is, in my opinion, the most important verse in the entire the Bible for those of us who live inside this digital-media age — the age of the spectacle, the age of mass media, the age of endless social media, the age of addictive video games and blockbuster movies and viral television shows, all trying to grab our attention. So why did God give us attention, and what are we to do with it?
Hebrews 1 is all about the supremacy of Christ. And then Hebrews 2:1 says, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Here’s a clip from Pastor John’s 1996 sermon on Hebrews 2:1 and 12:2, modeling from his own life how he rivets his gaze on the glory of Jesus Christ. Here he is.
This text says it is more exceedingly necessary to give heed, to fix your eyes on Jesus. He’s your only hope. There’s another beautiful image later on in Hebrews 6:19, where it says, “We have an anchor in heaven.” So the anchor is in the temple in heaven, hooked over the mercy seat, and the rope or the chain is around your waist, and God’s pulling you in.
But if you take your eyes off of him, if you don’t focus on him, you become like a little leaf or a dead fish, and you just float the way the river’s going. And the river is not flowing toward heaven in this world. It’s flowing the other direction. So you don’t have to work hard to go to hell; you just have to drift. Drifting is very dangerous. Very, very dangerous.
“You don’t have to work hard to go to hell; you just have to drift.”
There are some drifters in this room right now. And the good news, the sign of hope for you drifters, is that right now while I’m preaching, God is awakening a desire not to be a drifter. Some of you are sitting there, and you know you’re a drifter. You haven’t read the Bible in a long time. It’s a hit-and-miss affair. You don’t spend any time or vigilance to focus on the Lord, to soak in him. But right now, as I’m talking, the Holy Spirit is saying, “You’d better fix that.” And you want to fix it. And your want to is a really good sign. It’s a really good sign.
If you’re sitting there right now just wishing you could get home a little earlier, and that I would not talk, and this is all for the birds, then that’s a bad sign, and you are in big trouble and need to pray earnestly that God would change that heart. Drifting is deadly in the Christian life. Pay close attention to what you’ve heard. Consider what God is saying.
Let me illustrate for you. I got up at three o’clock this morning. That’s no brag. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon my time; I’m still in Uganda. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to get up at three o’clock. I had no plan to get up at three o’clock. I couldn’t sleep. I said, “Well, if I’m awake, I’ve got to preach over there at Bethesda anyway. I’ve got to preach here, so let’s get up and get ready.”
So I went to the word. Now, everybody knows it’s the 28th, right? After the 25th, you can read anything you want to in the Bible, if you’re on my reading plan. For the first 25 days of the month, they tell you what to read; the last five days of the month you can read anything you want. So I’m totally free. But I say, “I’m going to go on in Mark — I’m going to read Mark 10.” And I opened my Bible and knelt down in my study, and I met Jesus.
The first thing I saw was this: “Suffer the little children to come to me” (Mark 10:14) These disciples were all like, “Get those children out of here — you’ve got more important things to do than children.” And Jesus says, “Let those children come to me, because to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And I stopped and I thought, You know what he’s saying? He’s saying that the kingdom of God is of such a nature that if you are contrary in your spirit to the needs of children, you are contrary to the kingdom of God. And I saw Jesus. I saw Jesus loving these little children.
Now I read further into the story about the rich young ruler, and I heard Jesus say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom” (Mark 10:25). And the disciples put their hands to their heads and say, “Well, who then can be saved?” And he said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:26–27). And I saw Jesus. “All things are possible with God.”
And then I read the next paragraph, and Jesus looks at him, and he says, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of the chief priests and the scribes. . . . And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (Mark 10:33–34). And I saw Jesus.
And then I read a little further, and I saw John and James saying, “Who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom?” And Jesus looks at them and says, “Get it: if you would be great, you must be the servant of all. If you would be first among them, you must be the slave of all. Because the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life for ransom for many” (see Mark 10:42–45). And I saw Jesus.
And I read one more paragraph further, stopping after each one of these, just letting it soak in — just loving Jesus, just looking, fixing my eyes on Jesus the way Hebrews 12:2 says. And I saw this blind man say, “Son of David, have mercy on me. Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Be quiet.” These disciples never get it. They never get it. “Be quiet. Be quiet.” He wouldn’t be quiet. “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus stops. They said, “Oh, he stopped — you can go.” And Jesus, of all things, says, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well. Go.” And he received his sight and followed Jesus (Mark 10:46–52). Sight. And I prayed for half an hour that I would see Jesus this morning, that you would see Jesus.
“Therein lies the key to the Christian life: not hard work for Jesus, not labor for Jesus, but looking at Jesus.”
That’s all I know, folks, about this text, that we are called upon to see Jesus, to listen to Jesus, to consider Jesus, to fix our eyes on Jesus. And therein lies the key to the Christian life: not hard work for Jesus, not labor for Jesus, but looking at Jesus — look at him over and over and over. And if you see him, if he does for you what he did for that blind man, you open your eyes. You can’t leave him. And if you haven’t seen him, pray that your eyes would be opened. That’s what this text is about.
When I was in Kenya, a week ago now — God was so good. Thank you so much for praying for me. God was so good to me in Nairobi and in Kapchorwa, Uganda, to give me all I needed to keep my tummy safe while eating all that funny stuff over there, and to help me handle jet lag and teach for sixteen hours in those five days. It was so good. And you know how he did it? Every morning, the word was alive — it was alive. And Jesus stood out of the word. He just stood out and said, “Here am I. I will help you.” Every morning when I said, “I’ve got five hours to teach today” — Wednesday, I had to teach five hours; Saturday, I had to teach five hours. I hadn’t prepared a stitch when I went. I just threw everything in a briefcase and said, “Lord, make a layover in Gatwick.”
The point of that was this: one morning in Kenya, the Lord, from Psalm 90:14, said in a prayer of the psalmist to himself, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” And it hit me like a ton of bricks that God inspired the psalmist to pray for satisfaction from the Lord. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love.” Do you ever pray that? That’s the most important prayer in the world. “I’m looking to you. I’m not looking to sex. I’m not looking to money. I’m not looking to health. I’m not looking to family. I’m not even looking to effective ministry. Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love.” Pray that prayer, and then just keep looking. Satisfy me that I may rejoice and be glad all my days, because if I rejoice and I’m glad in you all my days, the power of sin will be broken in my life, and you will be pleased, and I will be happy.
It’s very dangerous to drift, folks. It’s very dangerous.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus