Perspective Changes Everything (Experience Brings Perspective Part II)

Sermon Summary

This message is part two of a message in the series Perspective Changes Everything. Paul the Apostle faced opposition by false apostles who claimed to be super apostles. They bragged about their qualifications, as well as their spectacular visions from God. The problem was they were actually fleecing the people of their money and were seeking to have power over the people in the church for evil purposes. Paul reluctantly shares his own qualifications in order to counter the false apostles, but he is not dependent on his qualifications, rather he is dependent on what Christ had done in his life. Paul goes on to share his experiences of suffering while serving the Lord, something the false apostles seemed silent on. This story gives us perspective to see that what motivates you matters, who you listen to matters, your qualifications don't matter, and how you handle suffering matters. 

Community Group Study Guide
1. Do you ever give much thought to what motivates your life? Why or why not?

2. Paul was motivated by a love for God and a love for people. This motivation served to inform his actions, as well as his writings. Paul's entire life revolved around his desire to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ! As a result, Paul was responsible for taking the gospel to the gentiles, and consequently, the letters he wrote to the churches he started became a part of God's Holy Word, the Bible! How does our love for God impact and guide our motivation in life?

 Matthew 6:31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

3. Paul had a pretty impressive list of qualifications, but he didn't depend on his personal qualifications for authority in ministry or life. He knew it was God's grace, His calling, and His strength that allowed him the privilege of serving in God's kingdom. How does understanding this concept help us to be confident in our service to God?

Colossians 1:12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

4. How we handle suffering matters! People are watching to see if we are fair-weather friends of God or if our faith will hold up when we face life's greatest difficulties. Paul had seen what might have seemed an unfair amount of suffering for Christ, but he still found the strength to sing and pray when shackled and in prison. The result was the salvation of a jailer and his entire family. Are you more concerned that God keep you from troubles or that He be present with you in times of trouble? If going through troubles with His strength and power would bring greater glory to God and help others see Jesus, would you be willing to suffer for the cause?

 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.




Experience Brings

"You rescued me so I could stand and sing."
God wants to rescue us so we can stand and sing about His love and His amazing rescue! Paul the apostle had been rescued by God and he loved to share his rescue story and even sing about it. We're going to start today with a story and end with a story that will help us see that experience brings perspective, God's perspective! Let's pray...

Prayer - Father God, I need You to surround me with songs of deliverance every day. I need You to show me Your perspective so I can stay on the course You desire for me to follow as the Pastor of this amazing church and it's wonderful staff. I wouldn't last a moment without Your precious Holy Spirit's presence, protection, power and perspective. Thank You for always being there! I pray that you will continue to be with our dear friend Mike, who is still in the ICU. I thank you for the miracles You've worked through the doctors and staff at University Hospital. Please continue to be with his daughter, as she recovers as well and then with his wife and newborn baby. We have others who are dealing with health issues. Please be with them as well and help us be there for them if we can help. I also continue to pray for our nation, that good people, of all races and cultures, can come together in You Lord Jesus, to fight the evil that seeks to destroy our families, our youth and our society. Help us be a nation that falls on our knees and cries out for Your help. Be with the families who have lost loved ones and continue to be with all of our first responders who put their lives on the line daily for each of us. Now, Lord, please speak Your words of truth through me today and help us all find ways to apply those truths to the way we live our daily lives. In Jesus name I pray and I believe. Amen.

Some of you may be wondering what ever happened to Brother Cliff Arnold.  You might remember that Cliff 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 something I've 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 Wanda met with the leadership team. 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 a few weeks ago when a text came in. It was the Senior Pastor. He said, "I'm resigning tonight."  
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! The following 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!  

Last week we talked about Paul's experience with some folks at the church in Corinth. Paul was the first to bring the gospel message to them and started the church there, but there were those who opposed Paul and sought to discredit his leadership. Even so, Paul continued to love the church at Corinth and  prayed for those who tried to destroy him.  

Experience Brings
Perspective To
What Matters

You see, Paul's experience had brought him perspective on what really matters in life. Paul had leaned that it matters who you are on the inside. Paul had learned that it matters how a person fights the battles they face in life. Paul had also learned...

What motivates you matters!

Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10:15b-18 ...Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. 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 wanted the people of the Corinthian Church to grow in their walk with God. 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 testimony. He was motivated by a desire to help others find faith in Jesus and have their perspective on life change forever! Jesus had literally saved his life and Paul now wanted to help others meet Jesus!  Leading others to faith in Christ and then helping them grow in that relationship was not only Paul's purpose for ministry it was a core value of his ministry! Paul considered himself to be an ambassador for Christ.

2 Corinthians 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.

In fact, we see just how serious Paul was about his core value of winning others to faith in Jesus and while Paul considered his main ministry to be to the gentiles, he never gave up on his Jewish brothers and sisters. Listen to his words in the book of Romans 9:1-5

Romans 9:1-5 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Paul was heart broken that so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters had rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They had been given so much revelation from God but just didn't get it! And now in Corinth Paul is being abased by Jewish teachers who claimed to be super apostles with a superior knowledge and yet Paul knew something was very wrong with their motivations. But Paul's motivation, his purpose, and his core value was to help people to find Jesus even at great personal cost! Having this perspective changed everything for Paul and directed his church planting activities as well as his letter writing to those churches. The result is that he took the good news of Jesus to the gentiles, and ended up being used of God to write a good portion of the New Testament! I would say he was pretty successful when you look at his purpose and the way he lived out his core values.
"Ok, that's nice, but what does this have to do with me?" It has to do with the question of what motivates you?

If success for you is climbing the social ladder, the economic ladder, the popularity ladder, the corporate ladder, or whatever earthly ladder, when you die it's just game over. They'll divide up your stuff and it will just be over. It's not wrong to climb economic or corporate ladders, but the way you climb sure matters and the way you live your life along the way determines the impact you will have on others! You see, some people who looked at Paul considered him to be a looser. He had little worldly possessions to call his own. He was an itinerant preacher. His detractors were ruthless and unceasing in their criticism of him, but they bragged on themselves and made audacious claims. It was all about them. Paul didn't want to do it, but he felt he needed to show the people the truth, so he countered their claims by making some claims of his own. As he begins he makes it clear that it very much matters who you are listening to!  2 Cor. 11ff

Who you listen to matters!

2 Corinthians 11:1-2 I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

Paul is talking about spiritual purity here and he reminds them that his jealousy for them was godly and based on his concern that they listen to someone who cared about them rather than the people who simply wanted to take advantage of them. In fact he goes on to say...

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

In other words, Paul is saying they allowed themselves to be deceived by folks that were more impressive outwardly than Paul, and maybe more powerful in their presentation, but Paul goes on to say that it's more important what is said than the spectacular way it is said. He also thinks it is more important to listen to someone whose actions match their words. Listen...

2 Corinthians 11:5-9 But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?
I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.

Paul makes it clear in these words that his motivation was his love for the people and his desire for them to have a pure relationship with Jesus. Paul wasn't motivated by power, prestige, or money. In fact he went out of his way to not be a financial burden to the church at Corinth, but he was put down for that and the people were listening to the very people who were robbing them of their money. How crazy was that? Paul used funds from other churches for his support and we know from Acts 18:1-4 that he also worked to support his ministry...

Acts 18:1-4 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

So Paul worked on tents during the week to support his ministry to Jews and Greeks. Everything Paul did revolved around his God-given purpose and core value of reaching people. I pray that Northshore Church, which by the way, is you and me, I pray we will never forget our purpose and that our core values will always flow from our purpose. And just what is our purpose?

"It is the purpose of Northshore Church to see the One who gave His life for us exalted and the ones He gave His life for transformed!"

Paul continues in our text to counter his enemies and he does so by talking about his qualifications and then by his experiences. He will first talk about his qualifications, but he knows...

Your qualifications don't matter!

2 Corinthians 11:16-22 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I.

Boy, Paul does not like boasting about his own qualifications. Why? Because he used to be so braggadocios about himself and used his power for evil. But Jesus had changed all of that. Remember, the only reason he's bragging here is to counter the false prophets. How do I know that? Listen to what Paul wrote to the Philippian Church in Philippians 3:7-10

Philippians 3:7-10 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings...

How you handle suffering matters!

And talking about sharing in Christ's sufferings, Paul knew something about that. And it's funny how the false prophets or the super apostles seemed only to brag about their qualifications. They didn't seem to have much to say about their experiences of sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Probably because they were in it not for love of Christ and love for people, but for love of money. Paul wants to make it clear that his experiences had given him a new perspective on what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. A true follower of Christ is not a fair-weather follower. A true follower of Christ is motivated to follow Christ in the good times and the bad, when things are fun, and when things get tough, when it's popular and when it's not, when it's comfortable, and when it hurts! Listen to Paul's past experience section on his resume, even though he is still reluctant to brag.

2 Corinthians 11:23-30 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more
frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Paul had suffered so much because he was unwilling to back down from his commitment to follow Jesus or to give up on his fundamental core value of sharing how Jesus had changed his life with those who needed Jesus to change their lives. And you might wonder how well did Paul actually do when he was going through the things listed above. Well, let's just zoom in on one of those times he was in prison and see how he handled things. Because how you handle suffering really matters. Do your core values and your life's purpose survive when things get really bad? Paul's did! Acts 16:16-34

Acts 16:16-34 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God,
who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved —you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

If I were thrown into prison because I had helped someone find Jesus and come out of an evil lifestyle, I would be furious. But Paul saw his imprisonment as an opportunity to share Christ with the jailer! And of course you know the other prisoners saw all that had happened. I'm pretty sure some of them had a change of heart as well.

I don't know what hardships you are facing today, but I do know that perspective changes everything, and Paul's experiences had brought a new perspective to him on what really matters in life! Let's pray.