Changed by Beholding

Scripture: John 3:14-15, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 1 Corinthians 15:49
Date: 06/03/2017 
You become like what you look at. Most of what enters our mind comes by our sight. What we choose to look at makes a difference in who we become spiritually.

A Love that Transforms - Paper or Digital PDF

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Did you know most baby mammals, birds, and even some fish instinctively identify and bond with their parents in the very early stages of their lives? But if the parents aren't available, well, some strange things can happen. In the 1930s, Austrian zoologist Conrad Lorenz conducted some of the first experiments on the imprinting of precocial birds, those that leave the next soon after hatching. When he presented himself to a newly hatched group of mallard ducklings, and he quacked softly to them, they recognized him as their mother and consequently followed him everywhere.

Cross-species imprinting has been observed many times, even among some species that are naturally enemies, like cats and squirrels or lions and antelope. Did you know that in a spiritual sense, we humans can also be imprinted? We tend to become like what we look at. That's why it's so important that we fix our eyes on Jesus. So join me today as we explore the Bible facts about how we can be imprinted by our heavenly father and have a life-changing experience with Jesus.

John chapter 3 - and one of the most memorized verses is, of course, in John chapter 3 - that would be 3:16. But I’m going to ask you to go to JJohn 3:14. Jesus said, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Jesus must be lifted up so that those who believe might not perish but have everlasting life.

What does it mean to lift up Christ? Of course, we want to exalt Him in our lives, we want to lift up Jesus in our words, but that's not what Jesus was talking about. See, they had this bad custom in Rome; when they executed a person, they'd strap them to a cross or a stake and they'd fix one end in the ground like a fence post and they'd raise it up. And there, that person dying, usually had their crime above their heads and it was to work as a deterrent to crime. They'd put that criminal up suffering so everyone could see. And when Jesus said 'lifted up,' the people listening knew what He was talking about. That's what they called 'crucifixion'. But they bring Him up into a position of visibility.

Now Jesus is saying, 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness' - some of you remember the story there in the Old Testament, in the book of Numbers, the Children of Israel had been going through the wilderness for many years. God had been feeding them with manna from Heaven, but they got tired of the manna. It tasted good, but they missed the variety of Egypt. And, as they were complaining about God's bread, the Lord withdrew His protection and these serpents came in in a plague and every time somebody went to put on their - their sandals, they'd shake out the snakes and they were in their sleeping bags and - or whatever the Hebrew equivalent of a sleeping bag was - and they were getting bit and they were dying. It was a venomous serpent and it was lethal.

And God told Moses, He said, 'Alright, I’ve got - since they've asked for help, here's the solution. I want you to make a bronze serpent' - probably like the ones that were biting them - 'fix it to a shepherd's staff' - a pole - 'raise it up - get up on a hill and raise it up in the sight of all the people so they can see it, so whoever looks will be healed from the venom of the serpent bite.'

Well, some thought that was the most ridiculous antidote they'd ever heard of and they refused to look and they died. Some, in desperation - hope springs eternal - they chose to believe - they looked - and they were healed. It's interesting, the solution was there, but the only ones who lived are the ones who looked in the right direction. Many will be saved and/or lost based on what they look at.

And that brings us back to our sermon title, and our scripture for today, we are changed by what we behold. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says there, as he's pondering the meaning of life, 'The eye is never filled with seeing.' How many of you by 12:00 say, 'I’ve seen enough. I’m going to close my eyes the rest of the day'? Your eyes may get tired but it seems the like next day the eyes are hungry again.

Most of what comes into your brain comes through the medium of sight. Matter of fact, we'll even say to a person, as ridiculous as it sounds, 'Can you see what I’m saying?' You would think you'd say, 'Can you hear what I’m saying?' but we'll say, 'Can you see what I’m saying?' because sight factors so largely in what comes into our brains. And the theme of my message today is that there's something there that we should be looking at and what we choose to look at is going to make a difference in who we become spiritually. You've got to look at the right things.

Now, it's a fact of life that creatures can be transformed by their environment. I’m always fascinated - you know, I can't even believe that I used to believe in evolution, because there's so many beautiful mysteries in the world around us that are just wonderful, that we're filled with a world of wonders. Here, for example, look at how God has designed creatures with a certain camouflage - that looks like a leaf on a branch - the top little picture - it's actually a bug whose wings look exactly like a leaf - they're even green. And then, on the flower there, it looks like a flower but there is a praying mantis that looks exactly like that flower, so that it's able to camouflage itself. And, yeah, here's a praying mantis who, when it's on the ground, it looks exactly like a crumpled up shriveled up brown leaf. But it's a living thing. And they've got bugs that look like sticks and there's just all these creatures that have somehow learned to camouflage themselves in their environment.

You can see, in the Arctic North, they've got rabbits and foxes and polar bears. Now, the snow is white and the creatures are white. So what happened? When the snow saw all these white creatures, it decided to be white. If snow was brown - or the creatures were brown the snow would choose to be brown. Is that how it works? Does the color of the snow dictate the color of the creatures or does the color of the creatures dictate the color of the snow? The creatures have been transformed over time - you realize there were probably no arctic regions when God made the world in the days of Adam and eve. The difference in environment that the creatures beheld changed them.

There is no example anywhere in the world of macro-evolution, where you have a dog turning into a cat. As long as dogs and cats have been living together, there is no evidence that dogs have become cats or cats have become dogs. But one reason that some of these animals have changed is because of their environment. People can be transformed by their environment.

I saw something online where they - there was this service and they would go out and they would take homeless people that couldn't get a job because they'd been homeless or maybe struggled with drugs and drinking for so long, they started to look like it. And this one man, in particular, his name was Jim Wolf - an Army vet, a drinking problem - they took him in and gave him a complete makeover and dressed him up and cleaned him up and when they finally took the mirror - they wouldn't let him see - they said, 'Do we have your permission to help transform your appearance?' He said, 'Yes.' They found him on the streets - drinking problem - cleaned him up, cut his hair, they gave him a manicure, a little dental work - just the whole thing. They finally pulled out the mirror - they wouldn't let him look at himself.

Finally, at the end, they pulled out the mirror and they let him look at himself and he just broke down and started crying. He had come to see himself as a loser and all of a sudden he saw the picture of someone that looked like a winner and, you know, when he saw that new image, he stopped drinking, he now has a house, and he has a job. He just needed to have a whole new picture. So we can be changed by beholding. And, even when we see what God can do to us, how He can change us, it can change us just because we've got this vision in our mind of what we can be, we start to be what we believe we can be.

I can't over-emphasize to you how much that's true on a daily basis. You know, in that verse that we started with, 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face," - no sunglasses - Moses veiled his face after he talked to God, because he was glowing. But Paul says, "With an unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed" - and that word there 'transformed' is metamorphoun - and you know what we get from there is metamorphosis. It's talking about the radical change between a caterpillar and a butterfly and this is the language Paul is using to say what happens to us through beholding the Lord with unveiled face we "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Now the word there, where it talks about beholding, is not a one-time look. That's really important. How does this transformation take place? Because you get a flash vision and then it's gone? Or through beholding there's a transformation that takes place and, as we behold the lord, we are transformed into his image. You know, I love what it says in the Bible, that when the disciples were being tried for their faith, in the book of Acts, it says the Sanhedrin - the judges - they took note when they heard the disciples respond. They said, 'These are unlearned men. How can they talk like this with such oratory and elegance?' They said, 'Oh, they've been with Jesus.' They took knowledge that they had been with Jesus. They had spent three and a half years walking with Jesus and listening to Jesus and looking at Jesus, so, finally, they began to act like Jesus.


We become like what we look at. The Bible says, in 1 Corinthians 15:49, "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man." Here he's comparing Adam after he fell. We all inherited this fallen nature and, because we bear that image, in the same way, by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we will bear the image of the heavenly man. That's a promise in the Bible. You can read in Romans 8:29, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." We are being invited, through looking at Jesus, to study the life of Jesus and do everything we could to imitate Jesus. What a mighty church we'd have if we really were Christians.

Don't go anywhere, friends, we're coming back in just a moment to complete today's presentation. You know, the Bible is pretty clear that the ultimate supreme motive for everything in the Christian life is love. We have a special offer we'd like to make available to you; it's called “A Love That Transforms.” In it you'll learn why the Bible says God is love and how you can have more of the power of love that enables us to do God's will, to obey Him, and to serve our fellow man. Those are the two great commandments: love the Lord, love your neighbor. You're going to want this lesson. To get your free copy, call the phone number on your screen and ask for offer #710 or visit And after you read it, share it with a friend. Let's get back to today's presentation and learn some more amazing facts from the Word of God.

I don't remember who it was, but someone once said that, while you're seeking to be a Christian, some of it involves acting like a Christian until it becomes reality. You ever heard the expression, in AA they say, 'Fake it 'til you make it.' and just keep doing your best to fill the role and, somewhere along the way, you become transformed. Because we are transformed by what we behold. Ephesians 5, verses 1 and 2, "Therefore be imitators of God" - is that clear? - "be imitators of God as dear children." - like children look like their parents - "and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

Little brothers sometimes imitate their big brothers. How did someone like John and James, that were called 'Sons of Thunder', they ended up becoming like Jesus. Day after day, year after year, they spent so much time with Christ that it became like their own. Matter of fact, there's a beautiful quote in the book Desire of Ages that says this, "Day by day, in contrast with John's own violent spirit, he beheld the tenderness and the forbearance of Jesus and he learned lessons of humility and patience. He opened his heart to the divine influence and became not only a hearer, but a doer of the Savior's words. Self was hid in Christ. He learned to wear the yoke of Christ and to bear His burden until finally, John," - who was known for his violent temper, the apostle John, ultimately was known as the apostle of love.

How'd that happen? Day by day, spending time with Christ. We are changed by what we behold. Most of what people are beholding today is coming through various media. Media is very powerful. Not all of it's bad. We believe in the power of media to transform - that's why we're doing it in this church, not only through the television programs, the radio programs, through streaming, the internet, computers, and phones - no question that it is powerful. I could tell you testimony after testimony. It is powerful for good or for bad because, it is true, you are changed by what you behold. So, as Christians, you need to be very careful what you're choosing to look at when it comes to media.

If there was any single influence that I think could make the pivotal difference in a person's eternal salvation, I would put my finger on this button and say, 'Look at the right thing, don't look at the wrong thing.' Because, little by little, you might think, 'Oh, this one program, this one computer game, this one glance on the internet can't make that big a difference.' It's making a difference. Little by little we are being shaped by what we look at and I live in a world just like you - we're all - we're swimming in it, amen? We are just swimming in images.

You think of all the different screens that you've got in your life. Some of you've got a phone screen and you've got an iPad screen, you've got the computer screen, you've got the television screen, and if there's any screen I forgot to mention, I hope they're not offended, but there's all kinds screens that we're looking at. I think you've heard me tell you that I went to the Arco gas station around the corner from our house and I, as I’ve done a hundred times before, I swiped my card, I put the handle in the gas filler and all of a sudden I heard someone behind me. I thought I was the only one at the pump and I turned around - the pump was talking to me - and I looked and there was a screen on the pump I hadn't noticed and it's inviting me to watch the next commercial. And then there was this TV episode - or news episode - or something it was showing me, and here I am pumping gas. And they realized this is a marketing opportunity - you've got to stand there a few minutes to pump your gas. And so, while you're spending nine hundred dollars to fill up your car, you get to watch a TV screen.

I remember standing up one time in an airplane. I was flying overseas and it was late at night. I made my pilgrimage to the back of the plane and, on my way back, from the vantage point of the back of the plane at night - it was a big wide-body overseas aircraft - there were hundreds of seats - and I could just see row after row, every seat headrest had a screen on it for the passenger and it just gave me a picture.

Have you noticed, you ever gone to a restaurant, you know, you're eating out with your spouse and you look at people around you and they're eating together but they're looking at their phones. What kind of date is that? Is media changing us? Just people, they don't talk anymore. They're all - and they're all soaking up the media, whether it's YouTube or who knows what it is they're looking at that's affecting us, where we ought to be feeding our souls on the word of God. Romans 12, verse 2, "Do not be conformed to this world," - if you're going to use media, use the Christian form of media - I like the internet; I tell you, it's great - Bible study on the internet - I type in a verse and it immediately - sometimes I remember one and two words - internet is wonderful for Bible study, but the internet is like a tree of good and evil. There's a lot of evil - it's like any medium - television, books - you could have good books, you could have wicked books.

If you can't control it, though - do not be conformed to this world - I’m reading, again, Romans 12:2 - "But be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove" - you've got to make a decision what to look at. You need to test what is good "and acceptable and perfect will of God." Every day we're deciding what to look at. Are we going to look at the uplifted Christ and be healed, or are we going to look at something else and die? There's only two options in that story - the ones who looked and lived, and the ones who didn't look in the right direction and they perished.

Psalm 101, verse 3, David said, "I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;..." What are you looking at? Job 31:1, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?" If somebody is struggling with pornography - man or woman - Job says, 'I made a covenant with my eyes.' So we look for life. It's like that story I mentioned there I started out with. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up."

you know, the reason something is lifted up - we broadcast locally on antennae - ALB - Abundant Life Broadcasting - the reason we're able to broadcast is because we put the broadcast antennae - 300 feet up on a tower, not too far from this building. The higher it is, the more visible it is, the better the signal. Well, that's the way it is. When something's lifted up it's in a position of visibility and Christ must be lifted up in our life. That's what Paul meant when he said 'I’m determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.' Jesus said - John 12:32, "and I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself."

If we, through our words and our actions, put Christ in a position of visibility, others are drawn. Zechariah 12:10, "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication, then they will look on Me whom they pierced..." - when did they look upon Him? On the cross - yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn."

Have you ever noticed how many times in the Bible that a conversion was in connection with beholding? That there was a looking and a living - look in Luke 19 - we sing this to the children all the time: who was a wee little man?


Zaccheus. What brought about his conversion? He climbed a tree. Why did he climb the tree? Because he wanted to see Jesus. And when Jesus went down the road and he saw Jesus and Jesus saw him, he then repented. Jesus said, 'I want to abide in your house.' He confessed - he says, 'Half my goods I give to the poor.' He went through a conversion experience - and when did it happen? He saw the Lord - brought about his conversion.

The Bible talks about a thief that was crucified with Christ. In Galatians it says, 'I am crucified with Christ.' This man was crucified with Christ and he was converted. Why? He saw Jesus lifted up. He saw the sign above His head that said, 'Behold, the King of the Jews'. And, through what he looked at, he turned to Christ, he publicly confesses, 'We're getting what we deserve. This man's done nothing wrong.' He says, 'Lord,' - he calls him Lord - 'Lord, remember me.' he prays for mercy. So he goes through a conversion, he goes through a repentance - he looks at Jesus and he's forgiven.

What brought about the conversion of the apostle Paul? On the road to Damascus he has an experience. What happens during that experience? He sees the Lord. And is Paul converted? Are you seeing a pattern here or am I just imagining things? Everywhere in the Bible it's trying to tell us it's through getting this vision of God - why is idolatry so condemned? The whole mark of the beast thing is about idolatry, right? Making an image to the beast - why is idolatry so condemned? Because idolatry is about putting something in front of you that you will behold and worship and the thing I’ve been saying is you become like what you look at.

Can you see how insulting it was to God when His people made Him like a cow? But even if it's an idol of a porcelain Jesus or a porcelain Mary, what does that do to your concept of God? That your God is made out of plaster of paris? Or even if it's a gold cross, all of that demeans the living reality of God through idolatry. That's why what you worship is very important and that's why idolatry is wrong. If you want to know what your idol is, what gets your attention? What do you spend time with? That becomes your idol. You become like what you look at.

Now, if we want to have victory, we need to look. The Bible says we boldly come before the throne of grace because we look when we pray and we see an Intercessor who ever lives to make intercession for us. He's got His hands that are scarred with nails, outstretched to the Father on our behalf. Does that move you? Wouldn't that make you want to resist the devil a little longer when you see Christ is up there - He's cheering you on. We get the victory by looking.

Isaiah 45:22, "Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." What are you looking at? Hebrews 12:1 and 2, "Ttherefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus," - how do we run the race? Looking to Christ the whole way as "the Author and Finisher of our faith."

Have you ever ridden a motor - ridden a motorcycle or a bicycle - and tried to go down a straight line while you're looking over your shoulder? Do you know it is nearly impossible? Now don't try this and hurt yourself at home, but if you're - if you get out in a real clear spot, mark out a line, try and stay on that line - look over your shoulder and watch what happens to your driving. You will get off center because you're looking one way while you're going another. The way to go in a straight line is you look at the other end of the line. And, if you want to live a straight life, you've got to fix your eyes on Jesus.


Well, the world needs to see something of what Jesus looks like and He wants them to see it in us until they can look for themselves. And the way that that's going to happen is because we're looking at Him. This, to me, what I’m talking about today, friends, is, I think, one of the most important things to talk about. I mean, it's something I could probably talk about frequently - that we are being changed by what we behold. And I think that a lot of us could probably go through a revival and say, 'Lord, I want to have a conversion of my visual diet. I want to have my ears converted in what I’m listening to.' Because all of it is shaping who we are. And what a mighty church we'd have if we would really worship Jesus, amen?

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