"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
The Look of Spiritual Renewal
"Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day . . . while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen" (II Cor. 4:16, 18).
The inward man, like the outward one, has to be renewed, or he will perish. That renewal is no more automatic, or unconditional or without conscious effort, with the former than with the latter. In both cases, it is by means which God has appointed, duly employed, that life is sustained. To neglect those means, is to forfeit the essential renewal, and so to lose life. The natural man must be sustained by "the food which perisheth," and the spiritual one, by that "which endureth unto eternal life" (Jn. 6:27, ASV).
It is with the spiritual renewal, or sustenance, that we are here concerned. We have found that most people do not have to be taught or exhorted to feed and care for the outward man, as Paul observed (Eph. 5:29).
The Designated Means. The provided and designated means for renewal of the spirit or mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10) is that of faith, as faith is the means by which spiritual life was initially conferred (Jn. 20:30-31). That is the sense in which the word "looking" of our text from Second Corinthians is to be understood. We look at "the things which are not seen" by believing God's Word concerning them. So, too, do we look to Jesus, "the Author and Finisher of our Faith," as we are urged to do (Heb. 12:11-4). That is to say, we look with the eye of faith, living and being sustained in life by faith, as the justified man does, and must do (Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11).
It is, of course, this state of the case that is enunciated by Jesus in John 3:14-16. There, He parallels Moses' lifting up of "the serpent in the wilderness" (Num. 21:5-9) to His being "lifted up" on the cross and to the eternal throne. The literal look of the snake-bitten Israelites to the uplifted serpent is compared to the belief of sinners in the uplifted Christ, who died for their sins, and rose again for their justification. Those who so "look" to Christ, i.e., believe in Him, shall "not perish [the result of unremedied sin], but have everlasting life." That is the spiritual parallel of the physical situation, when the ones bitten by the poisonous serpents looked to the provided antidote and lived.
Essentiality of the Look. Because of oversimplification and prevailing superficiality at this point, the essentiality of the look of faith needs to be emphasized. It is not a mere intellectual consideration of the historical fact of Christ's death and resurrection; much less is it a maudlin dwelling on the physical goriness and suffering of the crucifixion. That sort of looking to Jesus tends more to the fostering of carnal sympathy for Him than to spiritual renewal of the one engaging in it. It should be remembered that our Lord gently rebuked the women who were so affected by the terrible scenes attendant upon His death (Lk. 23:27-31). It is not sympathy that Jesus wants, but the appropriation by sinners through faith, of the efficacy of His death for them.
To effectually look to, or consider, the uplifted Christ-unto the saving of the soul-therefore, requires more than carnal contemplation or remembrance of it. The practice consists in knowledge of and devoted reflection on the Scriptures which present the saving efficacy for humanity of that death. That is to say, the renewing look is essentially doctrinal in nature. It involves focusing the mind and heart upon Scripture's great and central proclamation of men's justification before God thereby. Thus, the contemplation of such texts as the following would constitute such a look:
"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5; cf. vv. 6, 10). "Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Cor. 5:21, ASV). "Who His own Self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Pet. 2:24). "Then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Rom. 5:9). "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18).
The Effective Ministry. As the spiritual reality proclaimed by such Scriptures as these is assimilated to the human spirit, it is nourished up in its life Godward, and so renewed unto life eternal. Thus, did Jesus declare, "As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even He shall live by Me" (Jn. 6:57).
The Lord's table, in the weekly assembly of the church, is God's appointed time for such corporate renewal of His people. By so dwelling upon the blessed truth of Christ's atoning death for the world's sins, as it is proclaimed by Scripture, the brethren look to Jesus, and at "the things which are not seen." In that look, they have their spirits renewed and sustained for another week of warfare in the body and in the present evil world.
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).