Thursday, July 09, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Face to Face
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
I have a face that’s easy to read. I know, some of you humorists out there think I should have said I have a face that’s easy to forget. While that may be true, I am told by those closest to me that I do not have a poker face. My true feelings and emotions are easily read by the expression on my face. It is an almost uncontrollable reaction to what I hear and what I see. There are times I wish I could hide it. I’m sure there are times when you wish I would hide it as well – the whole face, that is.
Unless we have become very good actors, or as we learned yesterday, liars, our face is the outlet of the sea of emotions within us. The face responds almost instantaneously to what is going on around us. The expressions of the face are the indicators of what we feel. Those around us, even strangers, can read us as easily as Dick and Jane books.
Yesterday, during a class I was teaching, I was sharing an incredible truth about our salvation in Christ, when I noticed one of the men with a scowl of pain on his face. I thought I had said something wrong, or that he was confused about what I had said. I asked him what was wrong. He said he had bumped his foot on the bottom of the chair and that it really hurt. His face immediately gave away his feelings.
There are several expressions used in Scripture about the face of God. For one, His face shines on those who are righteous (Psalm 67:1). We also know that His face is against those who do evil (Psalm 34:12). In addition, and to our benefit, He hides his face from our sin (Psalm 51:9). And when things aren’t going our way, or moving as quickly as we think they should, we accuse God of turning His face away from us (Psalm 88:14). We are also encouraged to seek the face of God (Psalm 105:4).
While we could make lots of applications of these truths today, let me just ask this one question – What would be the expression on the face of God right now if you stood face to face with Him? Would He have to turn His face because He couldn’t look at your sin? Or would His face be shining with joy at the mere sight of you?
H. G. Wells, while not a real friend of the church, told a helpful story years ago in the New Yorker. There was a certain pastor who was the kind of man who always said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of voice, was, “Have you prayed about it?” If said in just the right way, it seemed to settle things.
The pastor himself didn’t pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat package that he thought he controlled pretty well. But one day, life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the pastor that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral, went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his hands before the altar and began to pray. He said, “O God,” and before he could say another word, he was dead.
The next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the pastor sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him over, lines of horror were etched upon his face.
What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they saw him face to face.
Either the face of the Lord is against you, or it is shining upon you and giving you peace. God does not arbitrarily decide to do either one. His facial expressions are a response to you, and His face is easy to read with your spiritual eyes. If you are living in righteousness, surrendered to His will, His face is shining. His eyes are upon you and His ears are listening to you. But if you are living with known and unrepentant sin, His face is against you. His eyes still see what you are doing, but He has closed His ears to your prayers. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:18) The face of God is the mirror that reflects your choices. Just remember, your face also reflects those same choices to us. What does your face tell us today?