John 12: 20-21 | We would see Jesus
The death and resurrection of Lazarus occurred at a time when there were people from all over the world in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. There couldn't have been a better time for Christ to perform His crowning miracle of raising Lazarus. By saying this we're also saying that there couldn't have been a better time for Lazarus to get sick and die. I'm sure Mary and Martha didn't think so at first; but God does have a plan for every pain; and how beautiful it is when we see it all work out!
These Greeks no doubt had heard about the raising of Lazarus, and desired to see Christ. They went to one of His disciples, Phillip, and expressed their desire. Phillip told Andrew, and they both went and told Christ. Why Phillip did not immediately bring them to Christ we are not told. Neither are we given any information about the interaction, if any, between the Greeks and the Savior.
Those few verses, however, captures a most thrilling privilege of the believer: To help others see Christ.
This is not the first time we see Andrew bringing someone to Christ. In John 1 we see him bring His brother Peter to Christ. When Christ was about to feed the five thousands with the five loaves and few fishes, it was Andrew who brought the little boys lunch (and obviously the little boy) to the attention of Christ. Introducing people to Christ is what believers do.
But we don't have Christ's physical presence with us now. How then do we help people see Christ?
Christ in Us
In John 14 Phillip asked to see the Father. Christ responded “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father”. Christ is as much of the Father that humans ever saw. How was that? Christ answered that question too: “believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works”.
The Father dwelt in Christ and could be clearly seen through His words and works. But that’s not all. Just as the Father dwells in Christ, He (Christ) also dwells in us:
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you (John 14:19,20)
The presence of Christ in us is an awesome reality! We might not feel it, but we receive it by faith; and as He lives out His life through us we become more aware of the genuineness of His presence.
Now we know that others will see Christ in us, because He dwells in us.
A Pure Life
One way to reveal Christ is through a pure character. Peter says that some unbelievers will be won to Christ “when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:2)
I've been surrounded by many men and women whose lives model Christian love and virtues. I became good friends with a brother that I met shortly after becoming a Seventh Day Adventist. Over the 17+ years of knowing him he's constantly reflected Christlikeness. There is very little that I've seen over these many years that would cause me to question his integrity and honesty.
But while we see Christians whose character we admire, we also are only too aware of our own faults and the reality that even they mess up big time. At best, what people will see in us is a very distorted picture of Christ. Even our most sincere works are more times than not tainted with selfishness. Even worse, our attempt to seem holy is often perceived as hypocrisy – and it sometimes is.
How then do we help people see Christ?
Well, if our lifestyle doesn't fully reveal Christ, then maybe our testimony can help. Christ told His disciples “ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning”. Our testimony is an effective tool in defeating Satan (Revelation 12:11), but it is also one means by which people come to see Christ. We are not here talking about what happens during your typical Wednesday night testimony service. Testimony service was the highlight of church experience for the youth in my community when I was growing up. There was always something hilarious that the “entertainers” in our group could latch unto for their next stand up comedy.
Unfortunately, testimonies are traditionally generic statements that hardly say much about the person and character of the savior. As a believer you've probably got something better than “I was lost but now I'm found”, “I was sad and alone, now I'm rejoicing in the Lord”. Christ has done some very specific things for you. Some of it may be embarrassing, and requires opening up more than you feel comfortable, but that's when it usually is most impact-full.
We often try to portray the perfect picture of who we are in Christ, but there is an aspect of Christ that is reveal not by telling of how good we've been in Christ; but the opposite: How bad we have been. If there is one thing that everyone needs to know about our God is how longsuffering and merciful He is.
Peter speaks of those who will mock those who are waiting on Christ's return, saying it will never happen, because it hasn't yet happened. He says:The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)
Moses asked to see God's glory:
And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
It seems one of the things God wants us to know about Himself is that He is a merciful and longsuffering God. While we often do not fully reveal Christ through our own pure character, every believer can adequately reveal the fullness of His grace and mercy.
There is no believer that has not experienced this grace. It is this grace that lead us to repentance, and give us hope to endure to the end. Some of us are bigger proof that God is longsuffering than others. When I think of the level of sin and depravity that I've fallen into, and yet God not only has forgiven me but continue to use me in His service, I can only conclude that God must be extremely merciful; that His mercy is sufficient to forgive my sins is proof that he can and will deliver all who are willing to humbly confess their sins to Him and seek power to overcome.
This other brother that I met while working at the Home Depot a few years ago impressed me not because of his impeccable character, but because of his testimony about how merciful God has been to him. He was struggling with temptations, some of which I myself was battling. But while I preferred to talk about how good God has been in a general sense, this guy was obviously overcome with how merciful God is, and the specifics of his experience was proof of that. He's built a very relevant ministry praying with and for other brothers struggling with temptations, particularly sexual lust.
One person complained that many Christians talk too much about 1 John 1:8
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
He obviously hasn't experienced the depth of sin that some of us have experienced. When Christ has brought you out of hopelessness, and deliver you from suicide you talk about it. When He's delivered you from accidents, and miraculously provided your needs you talk about it. Our testimonies help people to trust and depend on Christ. Telling of His longsuffering and patience with you during your failures tells others of His faithfulness: “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Yet, even this is sometimes abused, and bring disgrace rather than glory to the name of Christ. He is not only faithful to forgive, he also has power to deliver us from sin. This is the greater testimony!
Preaching of the Gospel
Preaching of the Gospel is yet another way that the world gets to see Christ. Faithful preachers lift up Christ. Today most preachers spend most of their time trying to give techniques for solving the worlds problems. While it is practical Christianity to meet the needs of the people we minister to, this should never become the goal. While we address the issues of discrimination and violence we lift up Christ as the means to a new and pure heart that loves all people because of the love which Christ places in the heart. We address sickness, hunger, and other physical needs but we do so with the aim of helping them achieve not just abundant life here, but everlasting life through Christ.
“I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”, says Paul, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes” (Romans 1:16).
After an eloquent but almost fruitless speech in Athens, Paul “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). People are not brought to Christ through eloquence and smart sayings, they come to Him by beholding His goodness, judgment, and mercy; they are drawn by a sincere preaching of the Gospel.
But, as we've no doubt seen, there are many distortions of the Gospel today, leading more people into sin than to the Savior. Paul had to contend with them in his time “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galations 1:6-7). Many preachers put themselves and their congregants under a curse “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (vs 8).
Another way people come to see Christ is through our conversation.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (1 Peter 1:15).
It is in the regular discussions and interactions of the day that some will come to see Christ. In fact, Peter says that some unbelievers will be won to Christ without the “Word”, because of the pure conversation of the believer “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Again, the word “conversation” means more than just what we say, but how we conduct ourselves.
There are many persons whose lives are marked by good works. Great preachers proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Some have been blessed with a personality and heart to connect with individuals and share the good news through our testimony and many marvel at the way we conduct ourselves in our interaction with others.
Yet all of these come short of giving an adequate view of Christ. Men of integrity fail. The doer of good works cherishes pride. The preacher of righteousness struggles with selfishness. The nice, down-to-earth and friendly guy draws people to himself and not to God.
How then does one see Christ in a world where He's obscured both deliberately by the world and indirectly by His followers?
The One Fail-proof Way
The only fail proof way see Christ is by spending time beholding him in his word. Whatever falls short of helping those we influence to develop faith in God’s word and turning is a sad failure. By that qualification there are many pastors who might be popular, but the judgement will reveal how miserably they've failed.
The way to see Christ is through the scripture. What privilege we have today to enjoy full access to the Bible. Are you spending time regularly beholding Christ in His word?