March 10, 2013
Rev. Philip D. Eberhart
As I began to read and pray through the readings for this morning, I was arrested by the first phrase in our Epistle reading:
From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view;
Someone might ask, “What other point of view is there?” And that is what I want to explore with you this morning.
We are about midway through the season of Lent this Sunday. Two weeks to Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday and three weeks to Easter.
We are engaged in a look inward during this season, at our thoughts and our habits of mind and body, at ‘things done and left undone in thought, word and deed.'
We are encouraged to ask the hard questions of ourselves during this season; to do the examination of our motives, our intentions – to allow the Word of God to do its work in us “piercing to the distinction between thought and motive, desire and intention, bone and marrow.”
God wants to do a deep work in us and this season is our remembrance of that fact. But God is working that work of transformation at all times and one of the areas that God wants to transform is the way we “see.”
Jesus opened blind eyes while here on this earth, but the ministry he pointed to in his job description in Luke 4:18 from Isa 61 points to more than only physical blindness that Jesus was dealing with. Repeatedly Jesus speaks of both a physical blindness and a hardness of heart in the same breath. Paul even conflates the two in his Apostolic prayer for the church in Ephesus:
I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be opened.
I think it’s really interesting that for Paul, the first evidence of his encounter with the living Jesus, was actual physical blindness. A kind of reversal of what many encountered when they met Jesus for the first time! He had to sit in the darkness for some time before Ananias came to baptize him and to pray for him for his healing. Paul came face to face with his own blindness when He met Jesus and received his sight back at the hands of the living Jesus, moving through the Body of Christ.
It’s on that thought I want to dwell for a bit this morning as we think about what Paul is talking about here in this second Corinthian letter.
From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view;
Just what is our human point of view?
Well, first of all our viewpoint is earthly – earth ‘bound.
We see people as flesh and blood: we see sexually, we see racially, we see politically these days, more and more. Where there is no spiritual light in a person there is only darkness. There are vivid descriptions of those who are both IN the world and who are OF the world in Scripture.
Paul in Galatians 5 talks about the works of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit –
Peter talks about those who “indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority, daring, self-willed … reviling where they have no knowledge … suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong… eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin.”
John is clear in his first letter: (2:11) “But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
It is clear that our purely earthbound view of people is fraught with harm, and that we need the light of the Gospel of Christ to give us a different viewpoint from which to see people. In the chapter just before our reading this morning, 2 Cor 4, Paul makes the case for such a blindness and what he calls “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
My point here is not that we need to see people as sinners and convey on them the judgments prescribed by God – that is God’s business; it’s above our pay grade friends! My point here is that we need to see this kind of darkness in ourselves, as we seek God for His light in our own lives and in our view of those who are around us in the world.
We need the prayer of Paul to be in full effect in our lives:
“…that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened, that you may know the hope of His calling to you; the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; and the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
The second way in which our viewpoint suffers is that it is time-bound!
We do not, most days and in most ways, have or take an eternal view of things or of people. It is easy for us to value things and use people, rather than the reverse, which is God’s way – to use things and value people.
When we begin to see, with the eyes of heaven that Paul prays for we see with eyes of hope. When we let ourselves be earthly and time-bound our hope often gets crushed. This is one of Paul’s big three: “Faith, Hope and Love, these three remain!...” It is a sign of love for others when we “hope all things” for them, but that loving, bearing, enduring hope is what gets crushed when we let our eyes fall from a heavenly vision of people to an earthly vision.
With the eyes of heaven we see the riches of the inheritance that God has in the saints – in other words, we see the worth that God places in the people around us, especially those in the household of faith. Look around you and ask God to let you see people in the Body of Christ this morning as he sees them! It will rock your world!!
When you come forward and receive communion this morning as you receive the bread, think “this is the sign of the worth that God places on my life and the lives of those around me.” God so loved that He gave His only Son!! You are worth a lot!!!
Finally with the eyes of heaven, we see the power of God in those around us. God has placed His Spirit in the other members of the Body here today and each one of us partakes of that gift which is the Holy Spirit – it is the promise of Jesus to each one of us. You may have a greater or lesser awareness of God’s presence in your life, just as you do of the Lord in the lives of others. I pray that you come to a greater and greater awareness of God’s presence and activity in and through you each and every day… and in the Body of Christ – those who believe and with whom you share this life IN CHRIST.
Now I want you to turn, if you have your bible (please bring your bibles to church)
to the chapter of our reading, 2 Cor 5.
I want to set this statement and those following it in a context of Paul’s argument here. One thing that popped out at me when I looked through this passage is that there are five “therefores” in these 17 verses from 1 to 17.
Paul is saying
1. We have a heavenly home – a building from God, a house no made with hands, eternal in the heavens (v.1)
2. We struggle to be clothed with this heavenly home in the here and now – we groan, being burdened,… so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. (v.4)
3. This is God’s doing, His work – by the Spirit, who is the pledge toward his finishing the work in us.
THEREFORE (1) WE ARE OF GOOD COURAGE, WALKING BY FAITH NOT BY SIGHT.
THEREFORE (2) WE ARE AMBITIOUS TO PLEASE HIM, KNOWING WHAT IT IS TO FEAR HIM
THEREFORE (3) WE PERSUADE MEN, CONTROLLED BY THE LOVE OF CHRIST, WHO DIED FOR ALL MEN AND ROSE ON THEIR BEHALF.
THEREFORE (4) WE VIEW NO ONE ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, AS WE ONCE DID JESUS, BUT NOW NO MORE.
THEREFORE (5) IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATURE; OLD HAS GONE, NEW HAS COME!!
THEREFORE (6) WE ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST – GOD MAKES HIS APPEAL THROUGH US: “WE BEG YOU … BE RECONCILED TO GOD!”
Six “therefores” in 16 verses.
Don’t you want to know what they are there for?
God wants us to view our world, our work, our lives and each other, from His viewpoint – His vantage point. Do you remember the verses from Isaiah 55:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than you thoughts.”
So how do we gain this perspective of God – the perspective of Jesus Christ – His viewpoint, His worldview?
I think Isaiah heard the answer from the Lord in the same chapter!
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
Friends, we are ambassadors of heaven – and the Kingdom of God in our world today is like an embassy on foreign soil – you are sitting in the Embassy of Heaven right now. When someone on that foreign soil wishes to make an appeal for asylum or even for a visit, he must come to the embassy and apply – make his appeal.
But more than that, this embassy is one which actively seeks those who want to come within its walls. We are the ambassadors of Heaven, you and me – each one of us, as we “live and move and have our being” – are representatives of Jesus Christ, who has given Himself up for everyone we meet. And we are aware of this fact as a primary motive and as the overruling truth of our lives.
… we are filled with courage, walking by faith, not sight.
… we are ambitious to please Jesus, knowing the fear of God.
… we are persuasive, motivated by Jesus’ love for every person
… we are not persuaded by earthly ways of thinking about people
… we are sure of the new creation that God works in people
… we are ambassadors reaching out with Christ’s own love and passion.
“For He (Jesus) who knew no sin, God made sin on our behalf, so that we might
become the righteousness of God in Him.”
I want to be quiet for a couple of minutes to let that last verse sink in to our consciousness and into our conscience. Join me please.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. So clothe us with your Spirit, that we, reaching our hands out in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of You, for the honor of your name.