God’s Perspective

Scriptures: Psalm 20; Mark 4:26-34; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17

Perspectives: perspectives are ways of looking at things, and they change throughout our lives. A child may have a certain perspective. A youth may have a certain perspective. An adult may have yet another perspective. I always like to say how much smarter my dad got as I went through my twenties.

Perspective changes depending on the situation and knowledge. If we are ignorant of something, then we have a different perspective than we would have had, had we known some things.

Looking at the passage in 2 Corinthians, we can see that Paul sees things from God’s perspective. What do I mean by that? Well, there are several things of note in this discourse that I believe speak to the way that we should be looking at life, and death, and faith.

Now we’re going to do something a little unusual today, as we work backwards through the passage, rather than forwards through the passage.

Now our perspective as human beings is warped by our sin nature. It’s kind of like being in a fun house. We think it’s funny, looking in the mirrors – some of them even make me look skinny. Sometimes I lie to myself. We all lie to ourselves. We have a perspective on ourselves.

Sometimes we see things in ourselves that nobody else sees, and that can be bad things as well as good things. That’s a shame, because we are new creatures; we have new life in Christ. In verse 17, Paul speaks of that, being new creatures.

“Old things” (habits, desires, self-centered nature) are gone, and “new things” (a new focus, the Holy Spirit, new joy, new desires) are come. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s completed and finished, like flipping on a light switch, when we get saved.

Paul himself talks about the struggle between the old man and the new man, the carnal man and the spiritual man. Building new habits, and a new focus, is hard work.

I have discovered, in my experience so far with diabetes, that I had to change my perspective on a lot of things. There is stuff that I like, stuff that I enjoy doing, and then there’s stuff that I really don’t like very much and that I don’t like doing.

And part of my change that I have to have because of the diabetes is that I have to eat those things that I don’t like and do those things I don’t like doing, and I have to let go those things that I enjoy, to a large degree. But my perspective before was one of ignorance. Having knowledge now, I have to make the change. It’s required if I want to thrive and continue to live well.

It’s much the same with us and our salvation. We become new creatures and we have a new life. We have knowledge, now, of God that we did not have before, through the Holy Spirit. So we want to have a new focus, new joy, and new desires. We set aside those old things, and we look to and try to do these new things, because our perspective has changed, as we come into the knowledge of what is good and right in the eyes of God.

We need to look at ourselves from God’s perspective, rather than our own. God’s perspective of us is as new creatures. From His Word, we know that if we have truly accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, then when He (the Father) looks upon us, He sees the righteousness of Christ and presence of the Holy Spirit. And God’s perspective comes from perfect wisdom and knowledge, and it never changes.

Two weeks ago I spoke about being born from above We are truly new, and He sees what we shall one day become. John Maxwell, in a talk he gave, said he liked to look and envision every person with a “10” over their head. I think that God looks at us that way.

Even as we struggle with that, even as we work hard and sometimes fail, and we get discouraged, we can encourage ourselves by recognizing that God sees us, not as we are at this moment, but as we shall be when we are with Him.

We also need to have God’s perspective on others. We are called to see each person in the light of that same love and grace that we have experienced. In verse 16, Paul says “we recognize no one according to the flesh.”

It is not that we don’t see their flesh and blood bodies; but rather that he look not at their ancestry, economic status, ritual cleanliness, social status, or any other thing like that. Instead he looks to their life and witness in the faith.

Are they trying to live as holy people, blameless in all ways before God and witnessing to that new life as they live and love in this sin-stained world? Especially, how do we treat each other in the family of God?

I can’t tell you the number of times, as I grew up into adulthood, and then moved into the pastorate, that I have heard offhand comments made by people, about somebody else in the congregation. They’ll list the person’s past, from before they started going to church, and not trust them, for some reason or another.

The person will have some trait, that they think is a weakness. We all have our weaknesses, and we are called to hold each other accountable. But we’re not called to look upon each other as lesser because of what’s there and to speak in a disparaging manner. You see what they could become, and you encourage them in becoming that person, that believer, and that witness and testimony to the goodness and grace of God in Jesus Christ.

This is important, because we are all equal before Christ. All of us need Him for salvation; no one is perfect. Out of love for each one of us, it says in verse 15, Christ died for all of us. On the cross He took every one of my sins, your sins, and the sins of the world. Then He was resurrected on the third day.

In so doing, He became the way – the sole way – to eternal life. We who have gained that eternal life through Him then have an obligation to live for Him. We should have those new traits, habits, that joy, that bring the focus to Christ and the good news of the Gospel, and we should exhibit the fruits of the Spirit so that others can see, at least in part, what God sees in each one of us.

Since we know the truth – we’re no longer ignorant, and we have the respect and awe for our Creator renewed in us which had been lost in the fall, it is incumbent upon us to try to persuade others of this truth, which is what Paul speaks of in verse 11.

Now, the goal is not to convert every soul we meet. The goal is to touch their hearts and consciences by our witness so that we please God and can one day hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

As we look to, and participate in, the body of Christ which is the community of believers, we want them to be able to be proud of us and even emulate what we do. As Paul says, “I don’t do this to commend myself, but rather I want you to be able to be proud of me and commend me.”

This is not seeking their approval, by the way. Rather it is an act of character as we seek God’s approval. We want to be a good bride! It is God’s approval that matters. But if we are acting in God’s love, if we are looking from God’s perspective, then we will live a life that others can point to and be proud of and say, “I want to be like him” or “I want to be like her.” We want to be a witness, without spot or blemish.

You see, we have a purpose. God’s perspective about our purpose has never changed.

There’s a book called The Phantom Tollbooth. How many of you have ever read that? It’s a classic children’s book. Looks like a couple of the teachers have.

In this book, the main character, Milo, meets a boy. A boy who appears to be walking on air. His name is Alec. What happened is, apparently his people, once they’re born, go to what their adult height is going to be, and then they grow down, instead of growing up.

So Alec always sees things from the same perspective. It never changes. Now, in the book, they challenge that, in terms of flexibility and adaptability.

But with God, He is perfect in wisdom and knowledge. His perspective never changes, about who we are and why we’re here. We need to see God’s perspective on who we are. We need to have God’s perspective on what’s important, in seeking approval in terms of what we do. And we need to have God’s perspective on our purpose.

Paul calls it his “ambition,” but this is not an ambition in a negative sense, like doing whatever it takes – fair or foul – to climb up the corporate ladder. This is not like Mad Men, or West Wing, or some of these other shows.

This is ambition in the sense of a goal, or a focus. This is what our life should be about! Maybe it’s too much to use this two weeks in a row, but the Westminster Shorter Catechism addresses this exact same point when it asks “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what is the purpose of the redeemed? What should be our focus – our goal – and our ambition? Who knows the answer?

[People answer, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”] There you go. One day I’ll get all of you to say it at the same time.

That’s right! We are to please God as we glorify Him with our lives, and get to enjoy His presence forever. And there, once again, we see, in verse 10, God’s perspective: that of eternity. And make no mistake: as it says there in verse 10, we will be judged, all of us. God will look at our deeds, and our faithfulness, and give us our eternal reward – whether good, or bad.

As the liturgist noted, salvation is a free gift. But what we do with it afterward, we will be held accountable for. Back to that earlier point – we want to give a good witness to others. So what we need to do is change our perspective to God’s perspective, to have that eternal, God-glorifying perspective.

So what happens when we maintain that eternal, God-glorifying perspective? What becomes our perspective? This is a reasonable question to ask, especially in this day and age where everybody is all about “me.” Everybody comes out to be their true self inside. Everybody is taking selfies and posting them on facebook. It’s all about what I want to do and who I am and all that.

What happens to our perspective? Well, we find ourselves back at the beginning of the passage today, in verse 6. While we are here in this body, absent from the material presence of the Lord, we walk by faith in the promise of that eternal life to come. Our perspective is not set aside. Our perspective is subsumed, overcome, taken over by a greater perspective, that of God.

And much like anyone who is apart from a loved one, we long to be in their presence, which is what Paul was talking about. Many of you know that I come from a military family. My dad was in the Air Force 27 years. It had its downsides, with moving twelve times before I was eighteen years old.

It also meant that he was gone a lot. He took two tours in Vietnam, for a couple of years apiece. And even when he wasn’t at war, he was doing what they call TDY, temporary duty. He would be gone for three weeks, a month, at some usually unknown location – he couldn’t tell us where.

We would wait for him to come back, with eagerness. Not because he brought presents or anything like that, but simply because he was Dad. We loved him, as kids. And my mother loved him. She longed for him. We would prefer that he was with us, and we celebrated when he was, even as we honored his service to the country that protected us.

In a like manner, we would prefer, with Paul, to be in the presence of our beloved Christ, finished with our tasks and duties down here, enjoying the unhidden glory of God as we sing Hallelujah. And God wants to be with us, because He loves us so much, or He wouldn’t make a way to be saved and be in relationship with Him again.

Knowing that love, knowing that concern, knowing the demands of new life, this should be our perspective in life: looking to eternity, loving God, longing for God’s promise to be fulfilled in us so that we might be with Him, and living a life that glorifies God as we enjoy the new life He has given us in the Holy Spirit.

If we do these things, not only will our perspective on the world be changed, but others’ perspectives on us and on our God will be changed. And maybe, just maybe, it might draw them into knowing what we know: salvation in Jesus Christ.

My prayer for you is that your perspective would become aligned with that of God, and that you would love as He has loved, that you would live as He has shown us and calls us to live, and that you would look to Christ in all things, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, and taking joy in your life each and every day, with the promise of what is to come.

As you go forth into the world, may your perspective change to that of God. May you walk by faith and love, and hope for the promise of the future, that we might change others’ perspectives as well.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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