Perspective Changes Everything (Experience Brings Perspective)

Sermon Summary

This message is the first part if a two part sermon that examines the truth that experience brings perspective. The text for this message is found in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. Paul had a number of detractors who tried to discredit him and his ministry. Paul's experience in ministry had given him a unique perspective on the situation. In chapter 10 Paul defends his ministry and from these verses we discover that Paul's difficulties had given him a unique perspective on things that really matter. Those opposed to Paul were tragically caught up in things that were false, fake, and motivated by selfish ambitions. Even with the terrible things they were saying about Paul, he didn't stop loving the church and working hard to see her become all God wanted her to become! (The last point of this printed message will be covered next week in part 2 of this message)

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Paul didn't just roll over and let those who were opposed to him have free reign, but he didn't loose his temper or give up on his ministry to the church. When people put you down, say false things about you, and are just mean, how do you react?

2. Paul remained meek and gentle in Christ as he dealt with the situation. Meek doesn't mean weak, but humble. There is a certain kind of strength that comes with humility. Why is this so? The following passage from the Psalmist will help you answer this question.

Psa 18:27  You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
Psa 18:28  You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
Psa 18:29  With your help I can advance against a troop ; with my God I can scale a wall.
Psa 18:30  As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
Psa 18:31  For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?
Psa 18:32  It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
Psa 18:33  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
Psa 18:34  He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psa 18:35  You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.

3. The Psalmist says that God trains his hands for battle. Paul states that a follower of Christ does battle differently than the world. When people in the world do battle, they rely on their own power, strength, and whatever weapons they have in their arsenal. Weapons like, hurtful words, false accusations, rumors, and sometimes physical violence. Paul said that he had different weapons. Read the following verses and then discuss some of the weapons a Christian might use in spiritual warfare.

2 Cor 10:3  For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
2 Cor 10:4  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Eph 6:11  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Eph 6:12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Eph 6:13  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Eph 6:14  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
Eph 6:15  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Eph 6:16  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Eph 6:17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Eph 6:18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

4. The false teachers who were giving Paul such a hard time were only concerned with surface things and how they looked to others. This gave way to an extreme and false spiritual pride. Paul had once had the same attitude back when he was persecuting Christians. However, once he met Christ, everything changed. Read Paul's words in the following verses and then talk discuss some of the changes that come into a person's life once Jesus changes their perspective. 

2 Cor 5:11  Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.
2 Cor 5:12  We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.
2 Cor 5:13  If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
2 Cor 5:14  For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
2 Cor 5:15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
2 Cor 5:16  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
2 Cor 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Cor 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
2 Cor 5:19  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Cor 5:20  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Cor 5:21  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


Full Sermon Notes

Experience Brings
Perspective

I love that line, "Your presence is Heaven!" When someone ask me where heaven is, I simply tell them: "Heaven is where Jesus is and Hell is where Jesus is not!"
So, while this earth is not heaven, I can experience heaven on earth as long as I'm aware of the presence of Jesus with me, in me (by way of His Holy Spirit), and all around me! There are those who only live for heaven some day and they despise their life here on earth. Then there are others who only live for life here on earth and give no thought to the after life! Both are terrible perspectives. Jesus wants to save your life and when He does He has a purpose for your life. As you live that purpose, you'll discover that experience brings perspective! Let's pray...

Sweet Jesus, You are truly what heaven is all about. Streets of gold, walls of jasper, pearly gates, and mansions of glory are incidentals, being in Your presence is what we long for! It's what we long for in this life and in the next! Thank You for going to the Cross and defeating death and the grave so we can live our lives free of fear and we can live our lives with divine purpose and meaning. Lord help us to know that studying Your Word and becoming fully devoted disciples is not about racking up great knowledge that makes us look smart or better than others. Help us to remember that the goal of every Biblical commandment, concept, precept, principle, proverb, psalm, gospel and epistle is to help us better fulfill the two greatest commandments. To love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our self. If we're not doing those things then we can know all the right commands, doctrines, theology, teachings, and still get it wrong and we don't want to get it wrong! Help us to not get it wrong by finding Your perspective on everything! Help us to learn from Paul the apostle how experience brings perspective. Help us to understand how vital it is that we not only know Your Word, but that we live Your Word and thereby gain Your perspective as we experience what it means to live out Your truth in our daily lives! God I pray you will be with the heart broken people in France, and help us continue to take Your gospel of peace to a world lost in spiritual darkness. Thanks for allowing us the privilege of having You walk with us as we live each and every day! Love Ya, In Jesus Name I pray and believe, Amen!!!

One of the most important things to remember when reading God's Word is that the context of a verse or verses helps us understand what God is trying to teach us. With that in mind, I want us to look at the context of our main text today. I was planning on preaching on 2 Corinthians chapter 11, but as I was studying and doing background work, I realized that point one of Experience Brings Perspective was in chapter 10, and it has eight sub-points. Next week we'll look at chapter 11!

Before we read the Scriptures, let me give you a little background. Paul had brought the gospel to Corinth. He was a church planter and an evangelist so he didn't stay there. Some church planters start churches and stay, I did that, others start them, turn them over to leaders they've trained up and then go start another church. Paul, however, stayed in close contact with his churches. He wrote letters to them and stopped by to visit them to encourage them when his journeys would allow him to do so. Now what had happened with the Corinthian church was this: They had a lot of internal conflict about different things and you can read about those things and how Paul addressed them in his first letter to the Corinthians. There was a lot of division, and disagreement. Paul was loving, but asserted very strong leadership in the way he dealt with the situations in his letters to them. What happened was there were some evil men who considered themselves to be super apostles. They decided to take advantage of Paul's absence. They claimed Paul had no right to tell them anything. They challenged his authority as an apostle.

Here are some of the allegations against Paul:
You're a terrible speaker!
You have no right to speak in Corinth!
You may seem strong in your letters, but you are a timid and weak man in person!
You are worldly and not spiritual!
You have no authority from Christ!
You don't even belong to Christ!

Now that last one had to hurt! But, as we're going to see today, Paul didn't let that stop him from doing all he could to help the church, to love the church, and to inspire the church to be all that Christ wanted it to be.
These false prophets claimed to be superior in everything: bloodline, knowledge, visions, and spiritual gifts! According to historians, they were fleecing the church of money. They would go to one church and get letters of recommendation so they could get into other churches and do the same thing. Paul wasn't motivated by power, fame, or fortune so he didn't flaunt letters of recommendation. He was not one to brag about his spiritual gifts, visions, bloodline or anything but Jesus. He did make one exception on the bragging, as we will see in next weeks message, but for a good reason. He only cared about reaching people with the same good news of Jesus Christ that had changed his life! In case you didn't know, Paul was at one time named Saul and he persecuted Christians to their death. He was one of those religious people who thought anyone who didn't agree with him needed to die! But Jesus changed his heart, his life, and his message! And as he lived his new life in Christ Jesus, he began experiencing a change in his perspective. He went from angry, power obsessed, hate-filled persecutor, to a humble man of God who could handle even the worst personal criticism. God led Paul into a ministry that would change the world and as Paul lived his new life of ministry he discovered that...

Experience Brings
Perspective
To What Matters!

Let's read 2 Corinthians 10:1-2  

2 Corinthians 10:1-2 By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!
I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.

Who you are on the inside matters!

Paul had become a humble man and it was because of his relationship with Jesus. Jesus was now living inside his heart and life and as a result he appealed to the church at Corinth by "the meekness and gentleness of Christ!" Oh to be sure, Jesus wasn't weak and afraid to stand up for what was right, but Jesus was humble and gentle! He could be tough when He had to be. He ran the crooked money changers out of the temple, but His desire was to gently lead people to a relationship with God the Father! He wept over the people of Jerusalem and put up no fight when He was arrested. He once said...

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

It has been my experience that I can influence more people with humility than with brute strength. Some of the people in my life I have respected the most were those who had the power and strength to make demands  but rarely had to because people respected them so much for who they were as a person. This flows from who you are on the inside. A humble person has different motivations. Paul knew he was being accused of living a worldly life by those who despised his leadership in the church. But his motivation was not revenge. He wasn't looking for a fight or a way to destroy those people. He was hoping they would change their hearts. He said...

2 Corinthians 10:2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.

That's saying something when he said, "I beg you!" Paul wanted there to be cooperation in the Lord's work. He knew there were some, though, who were not interested in cooperation to build God's Kingdom. They were more interested in themselves and what was in it for them personally. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,  
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

How you fight your battles matters!

"For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does." The world relies on shear power! Positions of power and instruments of power. Followers of Christ have other ways! We don't lie, cheat, steal, bribe, deceive, coerce, manipulate, or use our position to power over others. We're truthful, giving, helpful, prayerful, merciful, forgiving, and loving, but not afraid to use our power when we need to. We use our power mostly in the defense of others, but as Paul said, he was willing to punish acts of disobedience if necessary.
How do you fight your battles at work? With your spouse? With your children? With your parents? When it involves family or an ex or a neighbor? How do you fight the battles that sometimes rage inside? Let's read verses 4&5 again...

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Folks it says we have divine power to demolish strongholds! What has a stronghold on you right now? God has granted you the power to overcome whatever it is. You and I don't have the power, so God grants us His divine power through prayer, the power of His Holy Spirit and through the help and encouragement of Godly brothers and sisters in Christ. I also believe there are times when God uses counselors and doctors to help us discover whether or not it's a purely spiritual battle or whether there are physiological issues that are effecting our psychological and emotional well being. There are occasions where medicine is needed. Sometimes only short term to help a person get back to the balance they need. Sometimes long term. But what I've discovered in around 40 years of counseling is this: Many times once a person deals spiritually with the issue that was causing their imbalance, (anger, guilt, un-forgiveness, etc) they discover they don't need the meds anymore. If you're on medications, certainly talk with your physician before you make any changes. And if they tell you it's a chemical imbalance based on your DNA, thank God for gifting researchers with the wisdom to discover medicines that help!

And let's look at the first part of verse 5 again, it will help you find God's perspective...

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,  

Notice it says we demolish arguments and every pretension, not people! It's not our job to destroy those who disagree with us. Sometimes the best way to demolish an argument is to lovingly share with a person the truth and then be respectful as they offer their rebuttal. They way we handle the situation may determine whether they remember the truth we stated or whether they walk away hurt because of the way we stated it! Give the Holy Spirit time to work the truth into their heart. Oh, by the way, always be willing for God to use the other person to teach you something. I've discovered at times that I was the one in need of correction!

Notice I said earlier that sometimes the battle is not with someone else, but within our own mind and heart. Listen to the second part of verse 5...

2 Corinthians 10:5 ...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I've had many people down through the years ask me the question: How do I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ?
That's a good question, and it's certainly one I've wrestled with down through the years. It's not as hard as you might think. When you think about being angry at someone, ask yourself what does God's Word say about that? Same thing with selfish thoughts, lustful thoughts, or vengeful thoughts. Pray about it and ask God's Holy Spirit to help you think about things as Jesus would! Ask the Lord to help you find, read, and understand what God's word says about whatever it is you are struggling with.

Now if it's just some just some weird random thought that might run through your head, and you think, "where in the world did that come from?" don't fret about that, just let it run in one ear and out the other. Let that one go!God knows your heart and the intentions of your heart and mind so don't waste a moment worrying about some random thought that rushed through your head. Sometimes Satan likes to play head games with us and make us feel guilty about things we've done that we've already been forgiven of and then Satan may try to get us to feel guilty for things that God knows did not originate in our hearts. Here's the way to handle those thoughts...

1 John 3:19-20 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

God knows everything and He's chosen to forgive us in spite of our mistakes and our mess-ups, and our weaknesses! All we do is ask and then trust that He's answered our prayer!

Where you look matters!

2 Corinthians 10:7-11 You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

Some people look only on the outside. They are only concerned with what other people see and what they think. This is looking only on the surface. The problem with this is you can fool people some of the time or even most of the time if you're really good at being fake and false. But you can never fool God. He knows what's in your heart. Remember this verse from the Old Testament?

1 Samuel 16:7b ...The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Paul was dealing with false prophets who thought they were the only ones who knew Jesus because of what they considered to be their superior knowledge. They were so prideful they were even willing to judge Paul and claim that he didn't even belong to Christ. That's pretty arrogant! And here's the tragedy for those false prophets: They were depending on their own goodness rather than God's grace. And here's the kicker…you can look pretty good if you compare yourself to other people, but the measuring stick God uses is Jesus.

Who you compare yourself to matters!

2 Corinthians 10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

Have you ever heard some one say, "Well, I'm just as good as the next guy?" Or maybe you've said it. Of course, I usually picked someone that made me look good. Look hard enough, you'll find someone that makes you look like an angel, problem is, God knows the truth. Paul's experience and his testimony was that he was once in the same boat with guys like that! He looked pretty good compared to other people, but God knew his heart! He thought he was fine until God showed him his real heart. God changed his perspective. Now Paul lived his life for a different reason, a different motivation. Listen to the way he puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It amazes me that Paul would say, "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." I think he has in mind the very people who were false prophets. The ones who were fleecing the people. The ones who had said so many false things about Paul. Why would Paul care so much? Because his experience had given him perspective and he now knew...

What motivates you matters!

2 Corinthians 10:15b-16 ...Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory. But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Paul was so concerned for the people of the Corinthian Church. But not only them. He wanted them to get things right so he could move on to his next mission and share the gospel in the regions beyond them. Paul was constantly thinking about sharing his faith and his testimony. He was motivated by a desire to help others find faith in Jesus and have their perspective on life change forever!

I want to end the message today with an example of how a recent experience brings perspective! It is a good example of: who you are on the inside matters, how you fight your battles matters, where you look matters, who you compare yourself to matters, and what motivates you matters. The story I'm about to tell you is a true story! It shows beautifully how God can use various circumstances in our lives to help us gain His perspective on things and how we can trust Him to show us His will and how all thins work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose

Most of you know that a few months ago, Brother Cliff Arnold was talking with our association about planting an African American church in Slidell. He and I met and talked about things. We began to ponder the possibility of him helping Northshore do more to reach more of our community, as apposed to starting a new work. Because of the kind of guy Cliff is, humble and yet powerful in Christ, we were excited about the possibility of working with him. And another thing, I have discovered about Cliff, is that he fights spiritual battles on his knees. He is a praying man. He met with me, Jay, our staff and then He and his wife Wonda met with the leadership team. I guess you could say he was not just looking on the surface of things, but under the hood! Cliff was then presented to the church to be a volunteer staff member. He had already told me he would be out for about three weeks traveling with NASA. He would also continue to serve as Associate Pastor for the church in Houma where he preaches 3 afternoons a month.

I didn't know it, Cliff didn't know it, but God was about to do something none of us saw coming. We weren't supposed to see it. Cliff was sitting in church there in Houma when a text came in. It was the Senior Pastor. He said, "I'm resigning tonight." Cliff was like, "What?" He did.

And Cliff, being motivated by a pastor's heart, met with the church afterwards and told them not to worry that he would help them until they found another Senior Pastor. They asked if he would leave the room. He did. When they had him come back in they told him they had voted for him to become their senior pastor. He accepted. The following Sunday afternoon they more doubled in their attendance! This past week they had Vacation Bible School and had four young people accept Jesus as their Savior. Our leadership team met and voted unanimously to release Cliff from any formal responsibilities here at Northshore Church so he could focus on the new opportunity there in Houma.

Of course, I'm one of God's children that is always full of questions. So I started. God why did we go through all of the trouble and the meetings if this was going to happen? I don't get it! I need some perspective. And guess what, it came in the preparation for this message.

If we had not had the discussions we had and went down the path we did, Cliff would be in the middle of starting a Church in Slidell. Not just our church, but  our association and other churches would have made financial commitments and a process would have been started that would have made it very difficult for Cliff to accept the position in Houma.

Sometimes we only get God's perspective after the fact, and that's okay, as long as we get it! Besides, it was good for us to go through this process and we learned some things about our process along the way. I talked with Cliff and told him we would be prayer partners with him as he embarks on this endeavor.

He assured me we will see him and Wanda from time to time on Sunday mornings and that he wanted to learn all he could about Northshore's DNA and use some of the things we've done here, down there. What an honor. Amen! Let's pray.