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A Powerful Liberating Perspective

Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 1:15-23

James R. Davis

An astronaut told how earth looks from outer space. He wrote: "...with the naked eye we could see freeways, airports, and cities...white clouds and snow on the mountains. We could see the green- and-brown patchwork of the farmers' fields and the beautifully painted deserts...When we were over Chicago, we could see most of Hudson Bay and at the same time see Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. We could see two-thirds of the way down the Mississippi River and out to Denver."

What is intriguing about an astronaut's out-of- this-world view is its range, taking in mountains, rivers, cities--yet picking up the intricate detail of freeways, fields, and airports. It reminds us of God's perspective--a view that by comparison dwarfs the astronaut's description into insignificance. The Bible says that the "eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth." (Zechariah 4:10)

How liberating would it be, if we could only see all of life from God's perspective? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is capable of giving us a powerful liberating view of life. The gospel of Jesus Christ has a personal liberating power in every circumstance when viewed from the vantage point of heaven.

In this lesson I want to help us develop a proper perspective about life that will enable us to discover the enabling liberating power of God which will encourage each of us to live more faithful and joyful in Jesus Christ.

The Perspective of An Enlightened Heart

We have a tendency to look at life from a negative viewpoint. Michael Dorris said, "Being positive is part of being a hero--maybe the hardest part, because if you are a hero you're smart enough to know all the reasons why you should be discouraged." (Quoted in Leadership, Fall 1995)

As Paul writes, "I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 3:1) Paul was actually sitting in a Roman prison when he penned these words. He was under the constraint of Caesar, but he saw himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ. What a liberating view! Paul was able to rise above his difficulties and see God at work. Paul saw himself as an "ambassador in bonds". (Ephesians 6:20)

Paul not only understood what it meant to sit in a prison cell; he also understood the enslaving effects of pride, legalism, self-righteousness and self-deception. Yet, Paul had been conscripted and captivated by Jesus Christ to discover the liberating power of the gospel. What a liberating perspective that transformed his entire outlook and approach to life? Who would ever think that becoming captivated heart, mind and soul to Jesus Christ would ever bring liberation? Yet when Christ met Paul on the Damascus road he was freed from painfully kicking against the pricks. (Acts 9:5) Now he has a new perspective on life.

The only way to be released from the tension and pressure of life's tough times is to know that we are not prisoners of our debilitating circumstances; we are not prisoners of fate; and we are not prisoners of people. But we are prisoners of Christ according to his unchanging unqualified gracious liberating power.

If most Christians today were sitting where Paul is sitting as we read this passage they would be sucking their thumb and pouting while mumbling, "Why did God let this happen to me?" "Why me?" "What did I do to deserve this?" "What I tried to do certainly was worth all this!" Yet look at Paul's attitude in the prison epistles as he sits in jail. "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." (Philippians 1:12-14) What an enlightened perspective!

While sitting in prison Paul wrote, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:10-13)

A teenager who was learning to drive kept weaving the car from side to side. His instructor helped him overcome his erratic driving by suggesting, "Son, you'll never steer a straight course until you learn to look farther down the road." That's good advice for life too when we are enduring a prolonged trial! Paul's enlightened heart allows him to see from the window of his prison cell the encouraging effects his difficulties would have on those farther up the road.

God's Power for Those Who Believe

Paul prayed for the Ephesians that the revelation of God might also give them the wisdom and understanding essential to enlighten their hearts that they might see things from heaven's perspective. Paul prayed, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power . . . " (Ephesians 1:17-19)

First, God's power comes to each of us as we allow God to change our perspective about our circumstances. The hope of God's calling involves the ability to be hopeful in every situation. There is something about Paul sitting in prison that has always haunted me. Earlier before Paul was sent to a Roman prison from Jerusalem Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." (Acts 26:32) If that were true, Paul is in jail for Jesus Christ because of his own error in judgment. If he had not of made his appeal, would he have not been free? There maybe something I am missing here, but that question always looms over me as I read it.

Today we can discover power for living, whether we find ourselves through no fault of our own placed in circumstances beyond our control or in self-made debilitating circumstances that, from this world's point of view, leave our lives hopeless.

A young girl came up to the church building last Sunday evening as my wife and I was arriving for the evening worship. She wanted to use the phone. She said that someone had told her that if they found her on the street they were going to kill her. She was calling her step-dad for a ride home. He told her she could get home the best way she could. I informed her that someone could take her home after our worship service. So she stayed, after services my wife and I gave her a ride home. I noticed that she was expecting a child. On the way to her house she informed us that she had been living with a foster family. She spoke of her foster brothers and sisters as really special. But she said nothing of an immediate family. And now she was living with her step dad. She was 15 years old. She has dropped out of school. She had just had a fight with her boy friend; he told her that the baby wasn't his. As I sat there listening to that seemingly hopeless situation, I could only wonder from a worldly point of view, "What future does this unwanted 15 year old child have and what about the unwanted baby that is coming?"

Yet, if she could only see her life from heaven's point of view. What a difference this would make? If her restless heart could understand that there is a place in the Son where there is hope for everyone. It is a good chance that her pregnancy is the result of not seeing herself as really loved by her family. Ultimately she is seeking the love she is missing in all the wrong places. Even though she is not a child of God she has a "high calling of God in Christ Jesus!" If she could only see her high calling of God. In spite of her very real setbacks she could rise above her failure. If she could only cooperate with the intimate hand of God desiring to work in her life.

Second, God's power can come to each of us as we allow God to change our perception of people. When you look at people do you place them in a limiting territory? A man who is a successful insurance salesman succeeded because he saw everyone he met as a potential client--even when he went to church. But when he became a Christian, he began to see people differently. He saw the churchgoers as brothers and sisters in Christ. He saw the unsaved as people in need of power that a life in Jesus Christ offers. He no longer viewed everyone as his walking retirement plan.

We see people differently when we truly believe in Christ. We look at them through new eyes because we have become a new creation. This enables us to see their potential from Christ perspective. Paul saw the Gentiles as the objects of God's love. He rejoiced that he was imprisoned for Jesus Christ on their behalf.

Third, God's power comes to each of us as we allow him to change our perspective of ourselves. The new Testament uses several words to describe Christ's followers (e.g. laborers, servants, soldiers, stewards, ambassadors), but they all imply that we are at the disposal of a superior . . . who just happens to be Almighty God.

The effort to think and act like a Christian is a challenge to take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world He created. It is a challenge to take seriously the lordship of Christ over those He died to redeem. It is a challenge to take seriously the sustaining enabling power of the Holy Spirit over our lives as he sustains us each and every moment, as we endeavor to be filled with his presence, as we allow him to direct our steps. (Ephesians 5:17-19)

It is from this perspective that we are empowered to rise above the difficulties of life as we endeavor to embody the principles of the gospel in our lives. At this point the gospel becomes the resurrecting power of Almighty God to redeem us in any and every circumstance in which we find ourselves.

Fourth, God's power comes to us when we allow this God given perspective to direct us at all times and not just in difficult times. Focusing on God is imperative. Growth comes as we rethink our concept of who we are. Focusing on God will expand our vision of who we really are and what we are about. It will open our eyes to the opportunities we have to redeem our time while living on planet earth (Ephesians 5:16). .

Paul's Powerful Liberating Perspective

It was Paul's perspective of what God was doing and what God could do through him that placed him in a position of service. Paul prayed that our hearts might be enlightened so that we might know the hope of our calling in Jesus Christ. There is nothing more powerful than a God given perspective for your life that enables you to see your possibilities in Christ Jesus. Paul says that it is this kind of hope that saves us. (Romans 8:24) This kind of hope will enable us to remain optimistic as we look for the way of escape which only God can provide. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Paul spoke of his hardships, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)

It was Paul's perspective of what God was doing that gave him hope for the future. As the gospel lifts us up in heavenly places with Christ we are enabled to see life from God's perspective and that alone reveals God's power to each of us. This perspective strengthens our inner being that we might have the courage to stand and face the future. Paul understood this powerful liberating perspective as he traveled the world preaching. In the prison epistles he endeavors to show us how his life demonstrated this liberating power regardless of the circumstances.

Jeremiah wrote as God spoke to him, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

The search for a Christian perspective for our lives is not just an academic exercise. It is possible to develop a correct perspective and yet be left powerless. So much of our theology leaves us thinking differently, but doesn't really have an impact on how we live. An enlightened perspective is important as it opens hearts and mind to the presence of God and the availability of his help in times of need. It was through an enlightened perspective that Paul saw his jail cell turn into a pulpit. But it was only made possible by the power of God.

From this heavenly perspective Christ became the fullness of God that filled every circumstance with his enabling power. (Ephesians 1:22-23) The power of the good news of Christ made Paul a prisoner of Jesus Christ, not a prisoner of Caesar. Paul saw the hope of his calling in Christ because he saw God's power redeeming the situation. He became imprisoned for the sake of those who were lost. "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory." (Ephesians 3:7-9)

Conclusion:

This is the kind of power that Paul prayed for us to discover. It is like the power that God exerted in Christ as he raised Jesus Christ from the dead. There is a dire need for the church to pray that God might open the eyes of our heart that we might see and cooperate with the power of God that is far above anything we can even imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Habakkuk determined that he was going to strive to see God no matter the circumstances as he concluded his book he wrote, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights . . . (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This can only happen if we gain spiritual wisdom and insight to our problems from the vantage point of God realizing that it is his power that will enable us to solve them.

When you live in Eden and feel deprived, it is only you that can decide to see the privileges of your circumstances. Only you can decide to start living a privileged life.

Theodore Roosevelt and a friend regularly engaged in a nighttime ritual. Author Leslie B. Flynn tells about it: "After an evening of conversation they would go outside on a clear night and search the skies until one or the other found a faint speck of light-mist in a certain spot in the sky. Then he would recite, 'That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. That speck is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.' Then he would conclude, 'Now that we have our perspective, let's call it a day!'" (Via InfoSearch Database)

You can pray this prayer for yourself or for the congregation as you finish reading or preaching the sermon. Paul's prayer for us is:

Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I  kneel before the  Father, from whom his  whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I  pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you  with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your  hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
 
 
 

 

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