Changing our perspective!
I think this is really going to help us re-think some things today, and if you don’t normally go to church but have tuned in, I think you will particularly be encouraged by this morning.
I want to challenge some of us today to re-think some stuff for a very good reason.
Matt 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
“In those days…”
I want to take some weeks to work through some of the early Gospel passages and messages because I believe it relates well to ‘in those days’.
This was written about AD 29… and for a few reasons I think it has bearing on today.
The Jews expected life to be one way and had centuries of living, thinking and planning how life or God’s plan for them would, should and could look only to find Jesus turn things upside down.
- They expected a military leader to come in to attack the Romans, lead a revolt and make Israel the rulers of an earthly kingdom, but Jesus presented a different kingdom
- They expected a God punishing people for breaking the Law
- They expected a Saviour to follow the current religious path and system
But Jesus came and brought a whole new perspective.
Many of us perhaps have been doing life in a certain way and all of a sudden with a random circumstance we are looking at what is happening in this season and it looks so different from what the other seasons had (at least in the western world).
I think there is great cause in revisiting Jesus’ teaching, knowing that He lived ‘in those days’ and I think we too live ‘in those days’.
- In those days being where a shift is taking place
So, in those days – John came preaching!
Matt 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
John’s job description was given to him many years before he was born by the prophet Isaiah and it is quoted – “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him…”
I hope that if you are listening today you are willing to prepare the way of the Lord for your heart, life, your family, your kids and those around you.
I want us to be willing to prepare the way for God and His love, work and plans for our lives – they are good plans.
But today I called the message, ‘re-think it’ because I think it may be a good time to re-think some things in order to prepare for what God is doing.
Preparation is important and we see this in one of the stories Jesus tells later in His ministry.
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
The difference here is not the seed – the Gospel… but the soil that the seed goes into – us.
- The difference today is not the scriptures, the circumstance, the promises of God, His Word
- It’s the soil it goes into!
- It’s our level of preparation for God’s Work in our lives.
If we want to see God’s fruitfulness, blessing and security in our life, the responsibility that falls on us is to prepare the soil for it!
That is what John the Baptist is called to ‘prepare the way’ for what God wants to do.
- Prepare the way for this new season of God
- Prepare the way for something fresh
The way had to be ‘prepared’ for Jesus because it wasn’t what everyone thought!
Maybe today God, in the midst of what is happening, wants to prepare us for His Way instead of living the life of distraction we have been.
What is John’s message that is used to prepare the soil?
Matt 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
It would seem from this that in order to prepare our lives for God’s Kingdom, God’s work, God’s blessing and God’s purposes… the ingredient is ‘to repent’.
But I don’t think it means what we have often associated it with.
From two Greek words and by definition, repent is to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction).
Repent – stop, turn 180 deg.
- I would put to every person today that repentance requires us to re-think things in order to get there
- If you repent you turn the other way and that requires a different perspective!
- If I am facing this way and now face this way – it is looking at things differently. I am seeing things differently – literally
- To repent without seeing things differently is impossible.
Perhaps today we need to look at things differently and consider or re-think:
- The reality and existence of a God
- God’s love
- Sin, whether it rules in our life or not
- God’s plan for our lives
- What God’s blessing looks like
If you don’t believe me it may be a good time to re-think. Let me give some perspective here:
- There would be many people in our communities who were financially secure, some quite wealthy, some doing jobs that they had done for 15 or 20 years and were well paid
- Many of those listening to this will have been living here in Bendigo or at least Australia in a free country where you had everything you needed, and would certainly not be told you can’t interact with your own grand kids, meet with your friends in a park, go to the beach etc.
But somewhere in China, it is suspected (according to what we could find) an animal of sorts, likely a bat, infected a chicken or fish with a virus, which was sold in a wet market in the back blocks of Wuhan, a place most people had probably never heard of … now life for us is different!
- It has affected international finances, caused entire nations to be locked down and taken freedoms, financial securities, jobs we would never have considered we would not have
If that cannot convince people of the fickleness of life, the futility of trusting this world’s systems, riches or current situation – I don’t know what will!
When John the Baptist was preparing for God’s work on the planet, his key, first message, was – repent meaning “look at things differently!”
What we find is when we look at things differently, it then leads us to a place of where all people who come to God must find themselves – realising their desperate need of God.
But until we look at things from a different perspective, or consider things we haven’t considered before, it is impossible to see the need for change.
As a kid I think back to some of the names we called other kids and ways we left them out of things and excluded them.
- But now as a parent of little kids and knowing the fragile little hearts, I have a different perspective
We did what we did and had intent about it given how we were looking at things.
- But when we saw another perspective, all of a sudden we wished we hadn’t done what we did, or at least had done things differently – it’s called repentance
I think all of us ‘Do life the best we can or at least we think…’ given the way we are looking at it.
- But maybe God has a different way of seeing things for us
As I see our current situation, I can’t help but think – this is a good time to re-think some things and to get a new perspective!
- Ask different questions. Jesus looked at the real questions that people didn’t want to ask – motives, truth, surrender, true love.
Maybe we need to ask some different questions of our lives, motives, actions, relationships, priorities right now.
John 8:3-8 (NIV)
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
When freedom and finances are turned upside down and people are gripped with fear because of a random event overseas, we can see how fickle and unimportant some of the things that consume so much of our life were.
Maybe we have always asked ‘What do I want – what do others need?’
We saw this with all the panic buying and how little consideration some people gave others, maybe there is a better way to do life?
- Maybe in our marriage or with our kids we have been living selfishly trying to get what we want out of it and wondering why it is all falling apart – And today is a good chance to re-think and ask what ‘The spouse needs, the kids need
- We might just find that asking that question changes things for the good
- What is easiest – what is best
Perhaps we have lived a life of convenience rather than conviction only to see it can be taken in a moment.
- Convenience rarely leads to good decisions.
- What do I feel like – what does God’s word say?
Perhaps I have always acted on my feelings rather than God’s Word and now, if I do that, life will be really uncertain and scary.
But with God’s Word as an anchor there is confidence, hope, life and purpose.
- Stand in a different position- (Jesus came from the position of the Son of God having left a throne and going back to one. He had intimate relationship with the Father)
- From an earthly perspective rather than an Eternal perspective
I think we see this with all the panic and fear – if there is no God and eternal plan, and right now is all there is, I get it. So perhaps it’s a good time to rethink Eternity, Life, Death, Meaning and Purpose from a different position of maybe what you see and touch isn’t all there is!
- A place of surrender instead of independence
Perhaps we have never really surrendered to God but tried to dictate Him our terms of agreement – but it seems our terms really don’t matter that much.
That is not the Christianity of the Bible. People who try to fit God into their plans soon get disillusioned, disappointed and will never see the blessing of a life of surrendered obedience.
Most people who have a problem with the idea of surrender to God is because of their perspective of who God is. Some think He is Nasty and a Dictator.
But He is a loving God who sent His Son for us!
We need to be in a place of God’s presence rather than this world’s fear, indulgence and worldly confidence.
I think if anything today’s situation shows the uncertainty of riches, this earthly life, government or science!
- I see a lot of fearful people whose trust is in those things, because they are realising and seeing just how un-sure they are
- I also see people who truly trust God who are not naïve but also not dominated by fear or worry – but have confidence in Him
That’s because some trust the scriptures:
Psalm 23(NIV) The Lord is my Shepherd
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil: my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 37:3,23 (NIV)
3 Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him, though he stumble he will not fall, the Lord upholds him with His hand
Perhaps today we can stand in:
- A place of trust, instead of doubt
- A place of faith, instead of fear
- Confidence with God, rather than doubt or insecurity
- Go to different voices (Jesus spoke with a voice the disciples and people had not heard… authority, purity, love, conviction and power – the scribes and Pharisees didn’t have that)
Mark 1:22 (NIV)
The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Matt 5:43,44 (NIV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
A new voice!
Can I encourage you particularly in this time to be careful of the voices you listen to? There is so much rubbish out there and to be honest I don’t understand why people would even allow it in their life.
Tegan did a great Instagram post about this.
In order for us to be repentant and rethink so God can work in our lives, we need to stop listening to some voices and start listening to others.
- What does God say, rather than circumstances or social media?
- What do faith filled believers say, not my backslidden mates or work colleagues?
- What do people with great fruit in their lives say?
- What do I not want to hear or what do I need to hear and who will tell me?
- The voice of God and His Word, rather than the voice of circumstance, fear, insecurity, the crowd or the media
Rev 3:20 (NIV)
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
When we consider these things, it puts us in a place to re-think and it is from here God can work in our lives and bring us to true repentance that changes our lives.
Only a few verses down John states:
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”.
Repentance isn’t a tickbox, it is re-thinking things that leads to real change and the fruit of change in our lives.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
According to the Bible, God is looking for a constant heart of repentance because He is always looking to do new things in our lives which requires:
- Re-thinking and
- Heart adjustment
- To stay close to Him and walk in His new blessing and purpose for our lives.
Suggestions for discussion
- What things in your life do you need to re-think?
- Discuss the statement: If we want to see God’s fruitfulness, blessing and security in our life, the responsibility that falls on us is to prepare the soil for it!
- What ‘different voices’ are you prepared to listen to, or not listen to?