“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Seeing From a Better Perspective (Tom Edwards)
Seeing From a Better Perspective
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This was actually the very last sentence in a 14-page essay, entitled, “Is Theology Poetry?,” that C.S. Lewis delivered on November 6, 1944 to the Oxford Socratic Club, a debating society. Later, in 1962, that work was then published with the new title of, “They Asked for a Paper.”
What a great illuminating orb the sun has been for our planet! Much of what the darkness hides can be clearly seen by the sun’s reaching and revealing rays. I’ve even noticed how much easier it is to read a Kindle that is set to its smallest font when out in the direct sunlight.
And just as the sun has brought numerous things to light, even more importantly are those things that Jesus, who is “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) and “the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12), has shone into our lives. His words are illuminating, “imperishable… living and enduring” and enabling one to be “born again” (1 Pet. 1:23). For His words are “spirit,” and they are “life” (Jn. 6:63), and truly an enlightenment at the highest level. Surely we can say of the words of Christ, just as the psalmist said of God’s word in the Old Testament times, that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105) — and how necessary that is. For with God’s word to light the way in our journey through life, wrong turns and dangers can be avoided, comforts and blessings can accompany us, needs can be met along the way (Psa. 23:1; Matt. 6:33), and we can eventually reach our longed-for destination. For as Jesus says, “…he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (Jn. 8:12).
When Jesus came to “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,” Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned” (Matt. 4:15,16, cf. Isa. 9:1, 2).
The light of the gospel not only illumines our way, but also develops within us “the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5), as we make God’s word an active part of our daily lives (cf. Eph. 3:3-5; Rom. 12:2; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:11-13).
Paul was one who testified toward having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), and notice the perspective it allowed him to have even toward severe persecution that he underwent: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Paul calls it “momentary, light affliction.” But how can he say that in view of all that he went through for the cause of Christ — the “far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death”? The 5 times he received 39 lashes, for a total of 195? The 3 times he was beaten with rods, the once he was stoned, the 3 times he was shipwrecked, the night and a day that he spent in the deep? The frequent journeys, the dangers from rivers, from robbers, from his countrymen, from the Gentiles, from the city, from the wilderness, from on the sea, and from among false brethren? The labor and hardship, the many sleepless nights, the hunger and thirst, and often without food, and in cold and exposure, along with the daily pressure he had for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:23-28)? Yet, even in spite of all that, he viewed it as only “momentary, light affliction” because Paul had the mind of Christ and could see even these persecutions and sufferings from a better perspective.
We see this also in Jesus who “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). The Lord could see beyond the cross and its terrible agony. He could think of what His sacrifice would accomplish for a world of lost sinners and His soon being back in heaven’s glory, after having faithfully completed His mission on earth.
When we are in Christ, as Christians, we can also have a better perspective toward difficult trials that challenge our faith. As James writes, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Through God’s word we learn of the better ways of viewing things. Consider also the words of Jesus: “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11,12).
Peter exhorts the brethren, by saying, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14).
These passages show of the better perspective we can have while undergoing difficult situations, and we see that type of mind in the apostles who after being imprisoned and flogged were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:42). How often would you find an innocent non-Christian today who would be wrongfully punished with scourging and imprisonment, but would then be able to rejoice in view of it? Having the mind of Christ sure made a difference for the apostles! It gave them the right perspective.
Philippians 2:5 is also rendered as, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (NASB). How often have we been guilty of having a wrong attitude that has led to trouble? Paul’s exhortation, however, goes on to illustrate the mind or attitude of Christ by showing His willingness to leave the blissfulness of heaven; to submit to receiving an inferior human body in place of His heavenly, glorified one, so He could humbly become a servant among men and obey His Father even to the degree of giving Himself over to the torturous death on the cross (vv. 6-8).
How can any of us even come close to willingly giving up as much as Jesus did, which shows such supreme self-denial, in order to carry out the Father’s will?
It is also by developing the mind of Christ that we can reach the spiritual maturity that enables us to “discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14), to “be transformed” (Rom. 12:2), and to have the right moral perspectives based on God’s standard.
Unfortunately, this is greatly lacking in our world today. Far too many want to endorse the wrong and live according to it, while shunning things that are morally good and virtuous. Of course, this problem has been around for a long time. Way back in the days of Noah, who was in the 10th generation from Adam, “…the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and…every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Isaiah, who began his prophetic ministry roughly about 750 B.C., declares in Isaiah 5:20 the following: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20). What he said then is still often seen and heard in our time, and how tragic if folks guilty of such won’t come to that realization until the Judgment Day, when it will be too late!
What better perspective can we have toward anything than by first developing the mind of Christ so that even our very conscience will react in accordance with it – rather than to be like those “whose consciences have lost all feeling” (1 Tim. 4:2, CEV)? Or, as the NASB speaks of those, as having been “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron”?
Let us, therefore, remember the words of the apostle Paul to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” and each strive to fully develop that mind that we may become more like the Savior and live and act and react in greater harmony with the Scriptures, thus improving our lives, and increasing our ability in seeing all things from a better perspective. For what we see and encounter, as we go through life, is one thing; but how we view that and how we react to what we face or undergo is another. So may that always be with the mind of Christ!
(Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)