We're Saved by Our Good Looks
A sermon based on Isaiah 45:22
Sunday, December 29, 2013 – Christmas 1A
The Mormons were going door to door one afternoon and came across one strapping young gentleman, in his mid-30's, very handsome, though slightly balding. They asked this young man if he was saved. "Yup," the man replied, "I sure am." "Well, how do you know?" the missionaries prodded, "What makes you so sure that you're saved?" "Well," the man replied, "I know I'm saved because of my good looks." The missionaries were taken aback. "What? Because of your good looks?! You expect to get to heaven because of your good looks? No offense, pal, but you're not that good looking."
"I know it sounds arrogant," the man replied, "But let me explain. You see, I used to be concerned with only how I looked. I would look only to my own interests and looked at other people to see how I could use them. Those were all bad looks. But then, with the help of a friend, I took a look into the Bible. That was a good look! There by the work of the Holy Spirit, I learned what Jesus has done for me. Now I look to him in faith (another good look) and I know that I'm saved. So you see, I'm saved because of my good looks."
Dear friends, as we continue our Christmas celebration this morning, we take a look at a beautiful verse in the middle of Isaiah. Here we're reminded that we, and the whole world, are saved by our good looks. Even though on our own we once looked hideous to God in the filth of our sin, when we look to our Savior, Jesus and look to him in faith, we look perfect and holy to God. And we look for opportunities to share this good news with others. Listen to Isaiah 45:22:
"Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." (NKJV)
I. How We Look to God - Disgusting in Our Sin
Now, if you were following along in your bulletin, you noticed that what I read was different than what's printed there. There it reads, "Turn to me, and be saved…" That's how the NIV translates the verse. But what I read is from the New King James Version. It's translated exactly the same except for the first word. There they translate the Hebrew, panah, literally "turn," with the word "look." "Look to Me and be saved." This, is how someone is saved. Not by what they do, but how they look.
Now don't get me wrong. No one is saved by their appearance. That could never be because on our own, we don't look very attractive to God. As a matter of fact, covered in the filth of our sins, the way we look to God, we're not just ugly, we were disgusting to him. We were hideous to a holy and sinless God because of the way we look.
You see, when we look at something which God forbids and simply entertain the idea of serving ourselves instead of him, we sin just like Eve did. "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." (Genesis 3:6a)
When we desire things that God has told us we can't have, we ruin everything with just one look, just like Lot's wife did. The angel said to Lot and his family, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! …But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:17,26)
When we let our eyes wander like King David's did we fall into sin. "One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her." (2 Samuel 11:2-3) And you know the rest of the story.
Jesus points out that because of the way we look with our eyes, we look like the worst of sinners to God. He said, "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28) Because of the way we look with our eyes, we are covered in sin, and we look disgusting to God.
And if we look to our own will-power to improve, it won't work. How well did last year's New Year's resolutions go? If we look to self-help books or programs, they won't work. If we look to our deeds to try to seem attractive to God, they can't improve our appearance before him.
No matter where we look there's no solution to our dilemma… but one. That's why God said through Isaiah, "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."
II. How We Look to God - Through Faith in Jesus
Look to ourselves and our efforts and we're doomed to spend an eternity in hell. But look to God and he tells us what the result will be. "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!" No one is excluded. This promise is made to the farthest limits, the very ends, of the earth.
And what do we have to do to be saved? Nothing. Look to God. That's why I prefer the New King James Version to the New International Version on this particular verse. "Turn to me," could be misunderstood that there's something we have to do. But he doesn't say do, but look. And what could be simpler than looking? Looking requires no effort.
Think of the Old Testament Israelites wandering in the wilderness. When they grumbled and complained against God, he sent venomous snakes to bite and kill them. But when they cried out to God in repentance, remember what God did? "The Lord said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived." (Numbers 21:8-9)
What did they have to do to be saved? They didn't have to do anything. With one good look at the bronze snake they were saved. That's how we are saved from our impure eyes and our disgusting looks because of our sin. We don't do anything. We look to Jesus.
When the Jailer at Philippi asked Paul and Silas what he had to do to be saved, they didn't tell him to do anything. They told him to, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31) In other words, they relayed the same message God gave the Israelites through Isaiah, "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!"
What a loving and gracious God we have! Even though we deserve an eternity in hell for the way we look at ourselves, at God, and at the people around us, he hasn't given us what we deserve. Instead he offers his Son, Jesus, who was born as a baby to take the penalty our sins earned so that we don't have to do anything to get to heaven. He did it all. We just look to him. We look to the cross to see our sins forgiven. We look to the empty tomb as the guarantee.
So dear friends, let's continue to take a good look at Jesus every day and as the author to the Hebrews put it, "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) And when we do, we look differently to God. We look goooood. J
III. How We Look to God - Sinless and Holy
When we look to Jesus in faith, our every sin is removed and we look perfect and sinless and holy. Paul says in Ephesians 5(:25-27), "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." In other words, we look good. We look better than most attractive supermodel to God. We look perfect.
And now, since we are sinless and perfect in his sight, God even entrusts this message of his grace, namely, that "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life…" (John 6:40), to us. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us."
And with the forgiveness of every one of our sins with no effort on our part, with the heaven that's ours, free of charge, that no once can ever take away from us, with the confidence that if God is on our side nothing can stop us, we are eager to boldly accept the challenge to reach the whole world one soul at a time.
After all, Jesus is the only way for them to be saved. God says, "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." So our attitudes become the same as our Savior, who, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36) and we "open [our] eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (Luke 4:35)
We reach out to the lost around us and look for those who need a good look at Jesus. We hold him up to be clearly seen by the way we speak about him and in the way we live for him. We support the work of our church and our synod with our financial gifts so that others can take the gospel to places where we aren't able to. We support these missionaries even more with our prayers. And we pray that more and more might look to Jesus and be saved, from all the ends of the earth.
In spite of the way we once looked to God, by grace he's taken that sin away when we did nothing but look to God, so that now the way we look to God is sinless and holy and perfect in every way. We really are saved by our good looks. Filled with gratitude and thanks to him for it, let's get to work to reach the whole world one soul at a time. Maybe you can start by telling a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or a neighbor all about how you are saved by your good looks. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.