Faith in Sight – J. Lanier Burns

when dr. Ryrie who is a friend to many and acquaintance with even more resigned from dallas seminary a number of years ago our speaker this morning was asked to take over the chairmanship of the department of systematic theology so it’s a fitting day that dr. Lanier Burns is our chapel speaker he serves as research professor of theology and senior professor of systematic theology here at the seminary here into th eminent THD from here and a PhD from the University of Texas he conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard he’s actively involved in administration in Christian and secular organizations he devoted time to writing conferences and pastoral leadership he’s been involved in postdoc research at Harvard and Oxford universities as well but for over 40 years his heart has been at the Asian Christian Academy in hoser India he’s participated in numerous neuroscientific activities for about 15 years and that’s beyond most of us his research interests include trinitarianism anthropology sin eschatology in the relationship of science and religion and issues in social justice he spends whatever spare time he has with his family and he enjoys sports dr. Byrnes thank you for your long history of faithfulness at Dallas seminary would you join me in welcoming dr. linear Burroughs I’m just off the phone with my wife who is with her mother who is going to meet the Lord as well old age is not for sissies yesterday I was working out at Landry I ran across my dear friend Rodney or and Cortina he told me they’ve healed the tumors that they were treating but that new tumors have arisen so I’m gonna ask us to pray together to begin I want to pray for all of you who have sickness in your family and you have struggles of your own if you would pray with me I’d like to supplement George and dear Lord Jesus we come to you because we’re so desperately dependent on you I do pray for my wife and for people in similar situations who either are sick or have debilitating sickness in their families and it hurts so badly we know that there’s a great hope that we have a heavenly dwelling but we know that we are bound to the earth by your Providence for a few years I prayed for Cortina she has meant so much to us in Rodney as I pray for healing for this next round I thank you for their friendship and your blessing in their life as we continue to live every day for the Lord Jesus amen Frederick Buechner was a noted Christian author and at the end of his life he was asked how would you sum up in one small simple way everything that you’ve tried to write and preached over years of ministry and beaten to thought a minute and he said that’s actually quite easy for me he said the way I would sum up my life of writing and of preaching is that you need to listen to your life he said the shock of my life has been that it involves far more de leanness than crises as I think about listening to my wife it takes me back about 60 years to my salvation in 1957 it was after hours and I was listening to my transistor radio by the way that dates me the one thing I really struggle with is I’m now an old man I wonder what it would be like and it’s just like I was on that evening in 1957 when I turned on the radio and just happened by the Providence of God to be listening to Ethel Waters sing his eyes on the sparrow and then I also heard Myrtle hull seeing Amazing Grace and I also heard Bev Shea sing How Great Thou art

and just to be frank with you I came to Christ and invited it into my life long before Billy Graham gave the invitation in his New York crusade I lived without any training whatever I lived without any formal exposure to the Bible for 12 years all through high school all through college and all the way through the army and my Military Police Service and I told my mom and dad what I did that evening in 1957 and they gave me the most beautiful Bible and I’ve carried it with me ever since ever since I was so thankful to mom and dad for that Bible that I did what I characteristically do you just flop it open and see what the Lord has for you you know and right after I made that decision it flopped open to second Corinthians 5:7 which has been among many life verses the life verse of my life and ministry for we walk by faith not by sight that one little explanatory Clause guided me for 12 years before I came to DTS and now use the seminary as a crutch because I can exegete whatever I want to but then totally untrained I didn’t know what to do now in case you don’t know it people are pack animals they’re pack animals and they go in packs of eight to ten people and I went to all-boys schools high school college and army I didn’t know there wasn’t actually I didn’t know there was a woman because I was married when I went into the army but men drove me to my wife but all the way for 12 years all right okay you know what I mean but for 12 years eight to ten guys battered me daring me daring me to do acts of vandalism addiction or various forms of immorality I mean until you know what Animal House is about you don’t appreciate that and that little clause is what helped me to say no and those were the big decisions I mean I have not faced anything in ministry quite like 10 guys saying come on you know no and the verse was simple and my answer was simple and now I look back with no regrets I went to my 50th anniversary of high school in college and I was shocked to see that the habits but all of those fellows formed in those years had neither taken their lives or gone with them throughout life and I can only praise God for this simplicity I learned two things out of that 12-year experience first of all I learned that an untrained kid can walk with God with an open Bible and I’m not sure that the sophistication of theological education can replace that foundation but all the way through ministry it showed me that untrained people can be some of the most outstanding Christians that you will ever meet but they do something with the Bible that is in front of them you see so often if we’re not careful the sophistication of Education can give us the tool of rationalization so that we lose our guts and we don’t stand for God when the line is drawn secondly God was preparing me for the toughness of ministry I learned in those 12 years that respect is far more valuable than popularity respect is rare popularity is on every hand in this country I was very very surprised as I worked my way through schooling with one small cause one small explanatory sentence that when leadership positions became available in my schools my name was usually at the top I couldn’t believe it because I thought everybody had written

me off because of my acceptance of Christ as my savior in a Presbyterian school you know wait I don’t know they were offended by me but I certainly was offended by them Kathy and I came to Dallas seminary for a single reason it’s biblical emphasis all of that living had really refined my thinking that I really needed to be trained in the Word of God to think right to live right and the minister right and I’ve not been disappointed I have not been disappointed nothing has been perfect in my adult years but I wouldn’t trade what this school gave me for everything else combined it Dallas I learned to exegete my formerly simple statement one of the first things I did every time I had a I had an experience with the Lord now I know people like philippians ephesians and all two songs you know but for me every time God wants to work on me he takes me to the Corinthian epistles are in the Army for example I enrolled in Moody Bible Institute correspondence courses and I looked at the catalogue the only thing available was Corinthians uh what about that you know and I’ve learned that this is a great way to be effective in Dallas just learn about current and you’ll be good in Dallas okay so when I found is that the dr4 explains Paul’s confidence his confidence that if he should pass from this body and time of dr. rorish death I found that pirata profound you pass into the better life of God’s heavenly dwelling and because of that hope Paul was the immensely strong person that he was there’s a key word here that is frequently neglected by seminarians called walk for we walk the word of course his peripeteia which is a very common term for poll for daily living in Galatians 5:25 Paul says something really significant if we live by the Spirit we ought to walk by the spirit now there peripeteia goes with star kayo and it means keeping in step with the spirit – keeping in step with the spirit Ralph Martin in his commentary offers a helpful comment that really refined me saying that first second Corinthians 5 which is really about the heavenly dwelling however according to Martin it concerns our present existence far more than our future existence it tells us how to live until Christ should come which we pray is Synanon this has everything to do with faith which as I was educated becomes more and more an acceptance of the truth rather than trusting God in the daily details of life you walk by faith not sight now he’s not talking about just acting stuff he’s talking about appropriating stuff into our life that we have accepted as truth that is a different thing that is a different thing for we walk daily dependence by faith yielding to the Holy Spirit which gives us the ability to say an appropriate to you or no or yes to everything that we face in life sight is the reality of the world that saturates all of our life both here in the city in the nation and in the world the sight of the world right now is not a pleasant thing so we walk by faith not by sight this brings a problem in a media generation of the antithesis how do we walk by faith not by sight when we live by everything that we see the antithesis is a characteristic Paul line rhetorical device in which the second element is an acknowledgment of where we spend our life you can’t run from a world of sight we do walk by

sight and Paul tacitly acknowledges that but how do you enrich sight provide depth to sight provide perspective about sight even if you’re overwhelmed by media images that’s a hard thing to do everyone has faith everyone has faith in something but if Jesus is not at the end of your faith you’re going to be reaffirmed and reinforced and living according to the values of the world and I find that on every hand we must be enriched by faith so that the common sight that we share with all people is transformed by the biblical truth that we know same sight all people live it but Christians are to live it in such a way that light shines Jesus did this in John 1:14 it’s always amazed me and the logos became Sark’s not enter puss he became Sark’s he lived a life of sight in the world in a perfectly godly way now that’s that’s somebody I can trust that’s somebody I can love okay because I don’t know how you did that that’s amazing Paul does the same thing in Colossians 3:23 everything you do do heartily as into the Lord listen to this and not in the minute he’s walking about talking about employee-employer he’s talking about master/slave so obviously he is not saying that we should not serve people around us heartily what he is saying is everybody serves people around them that is a common experience but if you live by faith and if you do that heartily as unto the Lord your sight will be transformed and you will be a happy employee even if things aren’t soothing to you so as a result of my education at DTS I have continued to live by walking by faith in sight I have called this little devotional faith in sight first of all raising a family people are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising a godly family or cultivating godly friends my goodness the wealthy invest sums in their children vast sums hoping that they can train them be socially elite and so hopefully they will not experience the pain that the parents experience which always happens always happened I train my kids to love the Lord so I was able to help them when the pack animals came after them all right right and I learned by working in South Dallas in India that the poor worked just as hard they worked so hard so their children will not embarrass them by having advantages that they couldn’t have it’s amazing when you go work in the inner city how when you see people progressing in their education it really threatens the parents because the parents never had that advantage so be actually trying to discourage your tutorials so that the kids won’t rise above them now the beauty of pause was saying for we walk by faith not by sight is it means that all people rich or poor regardless of your circumstances or your identity or to seek godly living where you are you turret you are to enrich your sight about what you believe what about ministry I will bet you that I am completely correct when I talked about the fact that everyone here is fantasized about the ideal ministry what we fail to consider is how different ministry is from other callings in life law medicine business athletics you name it very different for example my

daughter-in-law graduated from the University of Texas law school so when she went as an associate at Fulbright Dworsky they covered all of her death just will work in 150 grand mark most people are really shocked by what they find in ministry let me just say that when I was at Dallas seminary of course I was going to be an expository of the word in a local church whoa is there any other calling in all the world I bought everything here hook line & sinker forty years later let me tell you that I was shocked by what I found because God had been gifting me for years and years in the ministry of conflict resolution as I think and over my life and as I listen to my life so much of it has been dealing with Christians who simply are unable to coexist with their fellow believers I’m talking about hard and harsh conflict resolution very difficult ministry have you ever seen extremely successful people screaming at each other at the top of their lungs now you can get your little books and you can do pros and cons but sometimes you got to take action and you do things that you would not dream that you would have done for we walk by faith not by sight sight tells me to run faith tells me to get involved and do something about one of the church’s greatest problems the very tricky work because every one of these situations depends upon nuanced circumstances you know do the same thing in every situation people seem so happy when they come into the church and then when you really get to know them they’re seething they come to church because they’re hurting what are you gonna do about it what are you gonna do about it by the way God gave me practice in conflict resolution with my own family because when I came to Dallas seminary I was expelled from my liberal Presbyterianism they simply buried me with an empty plot where I came from and that was really hard and my family was afraid I was joining a cult over the years let me just tell you I have reconciled with all my family let me just tell you I reconciled early on with mom and dad who knew what Dallas was doing for me but my brothers and sisters and cousins were another matter hmm okay and I was the one who took the initiative my oldest brother is quite different from me he was an early develop I was a late developer and so he was a 250 pound heavyweight wrestling when I graduated from high school I was a hundred and fifteen pound featherweight wrestler and his primary daily activity it was just a beat the Lord and he would say I Love You Man BAM but you see when mom was dying there were years and years of alienation when mom was dying I used to go over and spell him and his wife sitting by her side taking care of her as she passed and that healed everything now we’re really close making up for lost time for we walk by faith not by sight graduate study is one of the most seductive things in the world you learn and you learn and you learn and pretty soon people feel that you have all the answers in the world the expect should I have those the truth of the matter is that you’ve matured in your learning you realize you have more questions than answers but I was doing doctoral work at Texas and my advisor came up to me and he said you know what I want to ask you to do something for me I said Oh

anything you say and he said my college at Cambridge st. John’s College is having a critical shortage on to the tutors all right that’s tutoring in the Tudor dynasty dynasty how do you say that okay it was a choice between Henry the eighth or Jesus Christ he said I was I was I was wondering if you could go and be a tutor at st. John’s Cambridge and I need an answer right away because you know Tom’s passing and I thought about I was thrilled we were not to lunch and he told me how smart a while you know just keep talking sir do I have to make a decision he says you know you would fit beautifully in the English system of tutorials he said you got mentoring skills and you’ll fly high there and I thought wow I never knew this you know so I said how long do I have he said evening and so I went back to the Texas library and I prayed about it before we walk by faith not by sight now what came to my mind was I knew a lot of professors Christian gentleman who took their children and a tender age out of school to go pursue academic goals and the children never reconnected and they gave up on the Christian faith it made a profound impression it came out of my work with Dallas Christian Medical Society and we shared these stories I also thought you know what God called me to biblical theological life and so I’m gonna trade this for that and it was hard for me to go back that night and say no same way I said no in my high school and in my college no and when I died for a little while in 2008 my children all gave me their goodbye speech and what came out of those goodbye speeches is Dan just want to thank you for honoring our needs rather than your own interests Wow I was ready to go home then I wanted walk by faith insight in heaven but you know you’ll hear things that are so encouraging and I’m so thankful for God leading me to remain here now I’m not children are all happily married happily involved in the Lord’s work all given me 11 grandchildren Wow hmm what about missions India so much of what I’m saying you can’t see you have to do it by faith but the faith is going to bring your sight the sight of Christian missions in India is hopeless how do you do that when you minister among the untouchables as Asian Christian Academy does how do you do that there’s no way to do that no way to do that 44 years ago I got involved what faith has done is to prosper that worked where now it is a very very substantial large ministry with a hospital with a seminary a secondary school and an orphanage faith insight is not hopeless I have found that God always honors his word in this way finally the most confounding thing of all was not any of the above but it was serious illness really really serious illness and you have no idea what I’m talking about yeah when you hurt so bad you can’t even say you hurt the sight here is perfectly obvious it’s bright operating lights medical personnel nurses and doctors shuttling back and forth talking in whispers so you won’t hear the bad news chaplain bill was there and I remember so well is holding my hand and said Lanier you’ve done well at DTS we’ll see you on the other side and I’m counting on that you know because chaplain bill is one of my most favorite people in the world but what what was so hard for me how do you walk when you’re strapped to a gurney in the intensive care unit you know I thought about for we walk by faith not

by sight how do I do that here well you walk by prayer you see walking doesn’t have to be step-by-step it’s a daily dependence on Jesus Christ I can’t tell you the blessedness of answered prayers that I had I’ll simply say this that one time that my my bodily measurements were so out of whack my statistics were so out of whack that said you can’t last a morning I said well what does it take to put my stats back in whack and the intensive care nurse said here they are I said could you write those down for me she said sure I’d be glad to and so I didn’t sleep much that night I just kept that little sheet of paper right there said aren’t God I’m putting you on the line now if you want me to go to my heavenly dwelling that’s one thing but I tomorrow morning I’d love to have these stats hey next morning she came in she said dr. burns she said your stats are perfect and then my surgeon came in my surgeon came in he said I don’t tell a soul please don’t tell my soul he said but I was out in the hall right now and for some strange reason I’m gonna do your surgery tomorrow morning I wasn’t gonna do it for six months but I’m you’re well enough to where I can operate on you and you know I never have thank God for surgery so much because I had to teach in a week and they assured me that I couldn’t my cardiologist said I told you one time not to go to India and you win anyway so it’s not going to do any good so if your wife will drive you to DTS and catch you when you die and I did before we walk by faith not by sight just one little clause in a magnificent chapter it shows us that untrained people can walk with God and the theological education if you use it correctly will enrich you beyond your fondest expectation oh it will but you have to use it right Paul runs into James on this point James gets very very strong and I love James but in chapter 4 verse 13 he says you run around talking about how you’re going to go to this city or that city for this year of that way to be involved to make money and they said some nasty things I can’t repeat in Chapel and they said what you ought to be doing is saying I will trust God for today that’s it walk by faith in sight if the Lord wills we will do this or that shall we pray dear Heavenly Father how wonderful is this word how wonderful are the hidden gems down at its core which which can even guide a little kid freshly saved who didn’t know a thing about hermeneutics or theology but he knew how to say no to the power of the Holy Spirit you continue to bring a simple little phrase and all of the conditions that we face in life that are so baffling to us and the Holy Spirit is our bone blessed assurance Jesus is ours for we can walk with God even in our inexperience in weakness ports in Christ’s name that we pray these things and for his sake