Proper perspective brings assurance and confidence.

We have been looking at the desperate need for Believers to Earnestly contend for the Faith, once for all delivered to the Saints. The Believer is bombarded from every direction with anything but the faith once delivered to the Saints. Ephesians 4, as well as many other passages, deal with this age old problem of being bombarded with every wind of doctrine. The Scriptures do mean every wind of doctrine. There are so many brands and shades of doctrines today that it would be impossible to even name them all. Please look carefully at Ephesians 4:11-16. We will refer back to this passage throughout this lesson and the ones to follow. For now, I want you to have this passage in the back of your mind as we proceed. I have highlighted some very important little words. We won’t have the time to explore each of them, this time around. I do trust, however, that you will note them and study their importance, on your own.

Ephesians 4:11-16 And He [Christ] Himself gave [to the Church] some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

This passage goes a long way in answering that real and honest question, How do we obtain that proper perspective? In the last lesson, we looked at establishing a proper perspective by knowing and understanding that God is in control of the beginning and the end as well as the middle of all time and also our lives. Paul demonstrated by his life, and gave us the reason for and the instructions to have this proper perspective. A perspective that is needed, if we are to live the real Christian life.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Concerning this thing [Paul's thorn in the flesh] I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God uses the thorns of life to teach us the need of proper perspective. God also uses the thorns of life to train and discipline our lives in such a way that we can see the events of life, good or bad, as tools in the hand of God, so that the power of God will rest on us. This training starts with the realization that God’s grace is sufficient for any thorn of life. Therefore, if our purpose of life is not simply for personal gain and comfort, but to glorify God, then we will see the thorns of life as something more than simple suffering, but instead as a great opportunity to serve God in the highest manner. This in no way means that we should go looking for or try to obtain these thorns of life, so we can live a better Christian life. You won’t have to go looking for thorns, they will come to you in the natural process of life. There was nothing wrong with Paul’s desire to rid himself of the thorn. There would have been a problem, if after using reasonable means, he could not get rid of the thorn, he then turned to bitterness instead of acceptance.

When our perspective is simply human comfort and satisfaction, 
our minds are locked in the human mode.
Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit.
set mind on flesh = (Greek) to exercise or direct the mind, literally, to have mental disposition in the direction of self-interest. It implies moral interest or reflection, not mere unreasoned opinion.
set mind on Spirit = (Greek) to exercise or direct the mind, literally, to have mental disposition in the direction of God-interest. It implies moral interest or reflection, not mere unreasoned opinion.

It depends on which mode is running our life, how we will respond to the thorns of life or the comforts of life. You see, as a Christian, we have two modes of mind control within our lives, and it is up to us which one of those modes we allow to control our lives and thinking. In the 2 Corinthians 12 passage, Paul, at first wanted the thorn removed for personal comfort. God never condemned Paul for wanting and seeking personal comfort. Instead, God said, My grace is sufficient for the thorn, and if you will draw on My grace, instead of retreating from the thorn, I will demonstrate My great power through your life because of the thorn. The direction and extent of Paul’s perspective became clear because of his view of the ultimate purpose of living. Was his ultimate purpose of living for physical comfort or was his purpose to glorify God by life or death. Please understand, there is nothing wrong with having physical comfort. However, that should not be the purpose or driving force of our lives.

2 Corinthians 5:8-11 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well-known to God, and I also trust are well-known in your consciences.

Over and over again, Paul declared that his purpose was to have God glorified in his living and/or his death. Notice 2 Corinthians 5:9, in which Paul declares a very important factor in establishing a proper perspective. That factor is personal responsibility. Paul said, "we make it our aim" That was Paul’s responsibility and that was Paul’s action. Now the question. How do we make that purpose our aim? Hopefully, we will have the answer before these lessons are concluded. Being personally responsible does not produce the glorification of Christ. Fulfilling our responsibility is an act of obedience that allows God to work in our lives, as He sees fit. When we are obedient, then Christ can be glorified, even if we have millions or we’re flat broke or whether we live or die. The glorification of Christ does not depend on our condition of life, but only our obedience to God and His Word. To have such a perspective requires continuous action on our part. Proper perspective is not something that comes in the salvation package, when we were Born Again. If Paul had continued seeking relief from the thorn, after it was revealed that the thorn was a tool for the ministry of God’s power, he would have suffered death instead of enjoying life and peace, as we see in Romans 8:6.

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
set mind on flesh = (Greek) to exercise or direct the mind, literally, to have mental disposition in the direction of self-interest. It implies moral interest or reflection, not mere unreasoned opinion

When our minds are set on carnal (physical) things, we:

Enmity is usually a noun. That may not seem important, but remember, among other things, a noun is the producer and controller of the action. When we are at enmity against God that becomes the controller of our life. Enmity denotes more of a state of being, rather than an action. It is from this state of being, that our carnal actions are produced.

enmity = (Greek) a reason for opposition; the opposite of agapa love
enmity (Webster 1828) = The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; it expresses more than aversion and less than malice, and differs from displeasure in denoting a fixed or rooted hatred, whereas displeasure is more transient.

When our minds are set on the things of the world, we have a fixed and rooted hatred [native] for the real things of God. That does not mean we can’t be religious, or even desire to know spiritual reality. Even with a desire for spiritual things, if our minds are set on the things of the world, there is no way we can know spiritual reality, because we are living by a fixed or rooted hatred of true spiritual things. Because some have a desire to know spiritual reality, yet are in the state of enmity against all that God is, they concoct imitation spiritual actions. In so doing, they push themselves further and further from the truth, as Paul said in…

2 Timothy 3:5-7 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

These who have set their minds on earthly [carnal] things may have a imitation form of godliness, but they don’t have the power of godliness. These, who have their minds set on the wrong things, may have great learning but they are incapable of having the real knowledge of God’s truth. These may be so learned that they can convince many that their false teachings are of God. Esau is a good example of this sad truth. You remember the story. Esau had been out deer hunting all day and came up empty handy and his stomach was pretty empty, too. However, his twin brother, Jacob, had spent his day cooking up a pot of chili. Well, maybe it wasn’t chili but it must have been close. Esau, because his mind was set on the physical and not the future, bargained with his brother to get a bowl of that chili. He finally agreed to give his birthright for a bowl of stew or chili or whatever it was. It was not having the chili that was wrong, but his natural desire became the controlling factor in his living and his future. We are to use and control our natural desires, to aid in living not the other way around. However, later when Esau realized the importance of that birthright, there was no way of getting it back.

Hebrews 12:15-17 looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

The crux of the matter is that our native or default mode of life is have our minds set on carnal things. Therefore, the problem is how do we change the mode so that our minds are set on spiritual things? It takes a little more than holding down the control key, on your life computer, and hitting the F5 key. Look again at our passage, and review in your mind our dilemma.

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

If our minds are set on earthly [carnal] things, we are dead to God’s life and peace, we are at enmity with God and are not subject to God’s law. As a matter of fact, with that mind set, we cannot be subject to God’s law. In that mode, we are incapable of being subject to God’s law, even if we wanted to be. So, another big question is how do we change that setting in our lives? Once again, we must understand that this is our responsibility, we must set our minds on the things of the Spirit. When in obedience, we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, then God’s power is manifest through our weakness. God does the impossible and we are to do the possible. Don’t forget! What we do, has no quality of spirituality. It is simply obedience. God said it. I do it. Let’s quickly look at the process, and some of the main aspects of this process---and it is a process!

Ephesians 4:20-24 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.

Once again, it is important to see that we have a responsibility in this matter. We are to put off the old man and its conduct and be renewed in the spirit of our mind and put on the new man.

renew = (Greek) to renovate; to make new, not revert to what it once was, but different.

Renewing our minds is not the same as having the mind of Christ. I’ll attempt to show the difference between our renewed minds and the mind of Christ in the following lessons. For now, we need to see some of what is involved in renewing our minds. We will not have time to look at much of the technique of renewing our minds, in this lesson. I want to establish the fact that there are things we must do, if we are to experience this renewal.

I want to quickly look at several passages of Scripture that use the term renew. Other passages shed a great deal of light on the subject, even though the word renew is not used in them. We’ve already look at Ephesians 4:20-24 and have seen that we are to put off the old man and put on the new man. More about that later. However, look at some of the context following this passage, and it will give insights as to the how.

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.

All of that is involved in putting off the old man and putting on the new man. Notice once again, we are to do or not do these thing. This doing or not doing is our action of obedience.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Just a couple of things out of this great passage that are vital to the renewing process. We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. As with any sacrifice, our sacrifice is to be presented in holiness. Once again in this passage, we see the theme of not being conformed to the world. In this passage, there are things that we are to do before and during the process of renewing our minds. And please! I know I’ve pointed it out before, but it needs to be pointed out over and over again. We have a responsibility in this process! We are:

In the next lessons, I will try to tie some of these things together and show how they relate to our being renewed in our minds.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

As with so many of these passages, we need a lesson or two on each, but please let me simply point out some surface truths.

I hate to run away from such a wonderful passage, but we must if we are to arrive at our goal. In like manner, we can only give a glancing look at this next passage. In Colossians 3:5-17, what I want you to see is found in v. 10. This renewal process comes through biblical knowledge. As we read through this passage notice how many things we are to do or not to do. Once again, this is our responsibility because of obedience. All of the things to do and not to do have great deal to do with our renewal process, so notice them carefully.

Colossians 3:5-17 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you also once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Whew! That is a lot of things to do and not to do, and I didn’t highlight all of the commands. Being renewed is very similar to growing in Grace and the Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They are slightly different aspects of the same process, but you can’t have one without the other, and we could add to that process the word maturity. Like any newborn baby, God expects babies in Christ to grow. No, it’s not a requirement for entering the family, but it is the hope and expectation that every member of the family will grow to full maturity. In the human life, babies grow at their own pace. Some learn to crawl and then to walk in no time at all, but others seems like they will never walk. Some spend a long time crawling before they are ready to take their first steps along the edge of the couch. (If couches go out of style, I don’t know how babies will ever learn to walk.) Some never crawl at all, but get around by scooting and squirming until they are ready to stand up and take off. Babies grow at their own pace, but they do grow. If a baby stops growing, stops maturing, stops reaching out for new challenges, we begin to worry. As a matter of fact, we panic because it’s just not normal. In a similar manner with babies in Christ.

Apostle Peter spoke of this in…

2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…

The growth of Christians was a regular theme of the Apostle Paul. He spoke of that fact in…

Ephesians 4:14 that we should no longer be children [immature], tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive,

Please allow me to briefly examine some necessary traits of spiritual maturity. One of the first trait of maturity is the ability to distinguish good from evil, the ability to tell the difference between truth and error.

We can properly call this trait of maturity discernment    

A new Christian doesn’t know the Bible very well. His knowledge of good and evil is what he has learned from society. The new Christian is not yet informed enough to evaluate if society and Biblical teachings are compatible or if they are at odds. Even after the new Christian learns the difference between good and evil and can see where society is wrong, that Christian may not be mature enough to stand against the social pressure, nor will they be able to apply the Word correctly to real life situations. That’s ok. Some of that is to be expected. Most babies have to learn to crawl before they can learn to walk. It is a mark of maturity when Christian can see through some fine-sounding teachings and not be deceived by them, nor be blown around by every wind of teaching through the craftiness of the teachers who are, themselves, deceived by their own teachings. The next trait of maturity follows close on the heels of discernment. This second trait of maturity cannot exist apart from discernment. However, being able to discern what is right or wrong, is needful but is of little value, if you can’t or won’t choose right over wrong.

The Scriptures uses several words to portray this trait of maturity 
such as perseverance and some times patience, or longsuffering, etc.

Look at a passages that speak to this trait of maturity in the Christian life.

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [that’s perspective] , 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [perseverance]. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.

I wish we could walk through all of these passage slow enough to point out all the good stuff. Please note how important it is to have proper perspective about the thorns or the trials of life. Verse one says count it all joy when you fall in various trials.

various = (Greek) variegated; motley

The focus here is on the type of trial. These trials are like many different colored threads woven together to make a variegated cloth or multicolored picture. We’ll look at this factor later in these studies, but let me introduce it now. The idea here is of many smaller trials. If these trials were the really big ones, then they would be blocks of color rather than a variegation of colors. Therefore, we are to count it all joy when we receive many smaller trials. Why? Oh, the text tells us, why. When we use our faith to produce perseverance, it brings maturity or adult strength. It is a little like going into the weight room at the health club. You don’t start your weight program by trying to press 250 lbs. You start off with the smaller weights. Maybe even the 10 or 15 lbs weights. However, each time you press those smaller weights, it is preparing you to move up [mature] to heavier and heavier weights. Until one day, along comes the big one, that 250 lbs. dumbbell or that gigantic test of life. Because you have been counting it all joy with the smaller weights [tests], you can allthe maturity gained by the many little tests and you can, with great effort press the 250 lbs. dumbbell.

And Oh, that felt good!  
You did it! You faced the big one and persevered!

So, take those little [variegated] trials with joy, and use them to build your perseverance, because the big one is coming! If you have matured on the little ones, you will be more than a conqueror when the big onedoes come along. But if you haven’t been faithful with the little ones, when the big one comes along, it will crush you. It matters not if you are a Christian or an unsaved person, in life the big one will come sooner or later. In God’s plan, because of His grace, He allows us to have the small [variegated] trials, so we won’t be crushed when the big one comes along.

An unknown confederate soldier wrote:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve
I was made weak that I might learn humility to obey
I asked for health that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity that I might do better things
I asked for riches that I might be happy
I was given poverty that I might be wise
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life
I was given life that I might enjoy all things
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for
Almost in spite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered
I am among all men most richly blessed.

We need perspective!
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2006