Seeing Myself As God Does

Welcome to our newest series, titled “Seeing As God Does.” Seeing things more from God’s perspective is like going up in a hot air balloon. You can see more clearly. You can see farther. Things that seemed to loom large at ground level get put into right perspective.

We’re going to unpack, from God’s Word, the freedom that comes from seeing as God does. We will explore the blessing that can come to our relationships from seeing one another as God does. We’re even going to go global, to the profound mind shift that comes from seeing the world as God does. There are other themes as well, all revolving around gaining clearer vision as we enter the year 2020.

Four powerful truths that can free you to come before God

For today, we start the series with seeing yourself as God does. This one alone is such a huge theme that I want to go at it a bit differently than usual. I want to start with four powerful truths that can free you to come before God joyfully and gladly. Then we’re going to turn the page to a great passage that’s all about how to face the unknowns of the year ahead.

Many people, when it comes to God, approach him with feelings of shame. Shame is the greatest joy-killer around. So let’s start with four foundational truths concerning how God sees you. Each of these four declarations is absolutely, unequivocally true for every man, woman, or child who trusts Jesus as Savior and Lord—that is, your trust is in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you are actively seeking to follow Jesus as Lord, as Leader of your life. If that describes you, each of these four statements is rock-solid, liberating truth to take into 2020.

1. God loves you.

He loves me. Write it down in first-person: God loves me! God wants you to be 2020 clear that he loves you. God. Loves. You! He loves you so much that, as John 3:16 declares,

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God wants you to be confident that he loves you! This is the whole reason he sent his Son—so that in believing in Jesus, you can say with assurance, “I have a Father in heaven who loves me.” God wants you to have 2020 vision about this—he loves you.

2. God sees you.

He sees me. For people who try to avoid God or deny God, it comes across as bad news that God sees everything. Nothing escapes his notice. God has perfect night vision and the ability to see through anything. But if your trust is in Jesus Christ, then it is good news that God who loves you, sees you. So take a page from Abraham’s maidservant Hagar. At the absolute lowest point in her life the Lord appeared to her, and she rightly replied,

“You are the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)

You and I serve the same God, the God who sees you. That means you’re not alone. You are not on your own. You’re not twisting in the wind. God wants you to know this, to stand with 2020 clarity on the powerful truth that he sees you. God who loves you, sees you.

3. God knows you.

He knows me. If you ever wonder if God understands what you’re going through, crack your Bible or Bible app to Psalm 139. Listen to verses 1-4: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” That poetic language declares the powerful truth that wherever, whenever, and about whatever, God knows. He knows you. He knows the best about you. He knows the worst about you. And he loves you. Jesus did not come, teach, die, and rise for people who are “pretty good.” Jesus did not voluntarily lay aside all the splendors of heaven, to becoming human, so that you would feel ashamed to come before him. God who knows you, and who sees you, loves you. God wants you to trust, with 2020 clarity, that he knows you, sees you, and loves you.

4. God holds the future.

He holds the future. What is it that we worry about all the time? The future; what might happen! We worry about the future, while God holds the future! Listen to this: Ephesians 1: 11, Paul praises God that,

“In [Christ] we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

In other words, God has always had a plan, God is working out his plan, no one can thwart God’s plan, and you can trust God’s plan. The Lord is strong, he is wise, and he is loving. He’s got the whole world in his hands. So don’t fall for the worldview behind so much of the daily news, with its false implication that everything is out of control. God wants you to believe, with 2020 clarity, that he holds the future. He holds your future. You can trust him.

There you have four liberating truths about how God sees you, and how God wants you to see him. God holds the future, God knows you, God sees you, and God loves you. If all you take through this new year are these four truths, confidently holding them before you each day, you will be blessed this year. God holds the future, God knows you, God sees you, and God loves you.

Let’s turn the corner to a great New Testament passage on how to face the unknowns of the year to come. Whatever 2020 may hold for you, this passage models three great attitudes with which to walk into the future.

When the apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi, he didn’t know what his future might hold. He was imprisoned, awaiting trial, and he could not know how things would play out. Yet in what he writes in Philippians 3:12-14, he models three great attitudes for facing the unknowns of the future. Each of these three attitudes brings clarity to the new day, week, month, and year. People who practice these three attitudes tend to be happier and less worried. They tend to be appropriately humble instead of arrogant; the people who adopt these three attitudes are the kind of people you want to hang around. Most importantly, people who practice these three attitudes become more like Christ. And there is nothing more important than that—being known by Jesus Christ, and becoming more like our Lord.

Great attitudes to move toward 2020 vision.

1. I’ll face the new year acknowledging my need to grow.

All of us need to keep growing…but not everyone does keep growing. Many get stuck. Some give in to bitterness or disillusionment. Without constant attention, apathy will overtake you like weeds in an untended garden. The New Testament metaphors for being a Christian—that you become a spiritual infant, then a young man or woman in the faith, and eventually go on to maturity, as well as the image of growth from seed, to seedling, to young plant, to bearing fruit and reproducing, those images of what it means to be a Christian are built on the premise that we remain aware of our need to grow, and we keep pursuing personal growth.

That was Paul’s attitude, even facing the uncertainties of his future. Right after describing what he’s aiming for, Paul admits in Philippians 2:12-13…

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Philippians 3:12-13

Even Paul could freely admit he hadn’t “arrived” spiritually. He knew the Bible deeply. He served the Lord wholeheartedly and sacrificially. He loved people deeply. And…he modeled humble honesty. He knew he still had room to grow, to become less like the old version of himself, and to become more like Jesus. That’s the goal. That’s the center of the target. We all have room to grow. It should be a lifelong pursuit.

Paul Tournier had a difficult childhood. Both of his parents died while he was young, and so he was raised by relatives. Paul was a Christian. He went on to become a physician, and became most known for helping patients consider their spiritual and emotional maturity as well as their physical health. I want you to hear a  challenging observation from this physician of the body, mind, and spirit:

“I believe there’s a great illusion…the very notion that there are two kinds of human beings: the strong and the weak. The truth is that human beings are much more alike than they think…All persons, in fact, are weak…All are weak because all are afraid. They’re all afraid of being trampled underfoot. They’re all afraid of their inner weaknesses being discovered. They all have secret faults. They all have bad consciences on account of certain acts which they would like to keep covered up. They are all afraid of other persons and of God and of themselves and of life and of death.” (The Strong and The Weak)

So what if this year you named one or two areas where you know you need to grow, but you’ve been stuck or kept the struggle hidden? What could the Lord do in you, and among us as a church, if we become humbly honest about where we personally need to grow, and we get going on that? A great attitude to move toward 2020 vision is acknowledging where you need to grow. Here’s the second:

2. I’ll face the new year learning from my past without being handcuffed to it.

Verse 13, Paul says…

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…”

There’s a reason the windshield on your car is much larger than the rearview mirror. It’s good to keep an eye on what’s behind, while you keep moving forward. It’s the same with our personal pasts. Paul brought plenty from his past into his life and ministry. In verses 4-6, Paul was able to name the past experiences that made him who he was. But then with verse 7 comes a shift, as he writes:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

What he meant was the arrogance and pride that marked his education and accomplishments, Paul looks in the rearview mirror at them and says, I’m throwing that stuff out with the trash—everything else I used to take credit for. Why? Because everything I used to think was so important, I now realize are worthless compared to knowing Jesus. Paul determined to let his past refine him, but no longer define him.

Maybe you want to write that down as something worth pursuing this year: I’ll let my past refine me, not define me.

You can face the new year acknowledging your need to keep growing, and you can face the new year learning from your past without being handcuffed to your past. A third attitude to move toward 2020 vision this year is…

3. I’ll face the new year pursuing a worthy goal.

Verse 13 again, along with verse 14, Paul writes…

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

He says, “I’m not saying that I have this all together. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—the honor of knowing Jesus, serving Jesus, and someday soon seeing Jesus.

There’s a worthy goal! Like Paul, let yourself be driven by awe at who Jesus is. Let yourself be driven by awe at what Jesus has accomplished. Let yourself be driven by awe at the reward that awaits you when you see Jesus. That’s the fuel that spurred Paul on—the ultimate worthy goal!

There are a lot of things that motivate us. One of the best…is awe. God has hard-wired us to respond to him with awe. Awe is the greatest motivation for following Jesus. Even secular psychology marvels at the motivating power of awe.

The March/April 2016 issue of Psychology Today has an article on awe titled, “It’s Not All About You!” It cited these secular sources as they wonder aloud about why awe is such a powerful motivator for us:

University of Pennsylvania researchers defined awe as the “a feeling of admiration…in the face of something greater than the self.”

  • A theoretical physicist wrote: “Awe gives you an existential shock. You realize that you are hardwired to be a little selfish, but you are also dependent on something bigger than yourself.” Being enraptured, he writes, is a way “to remove the tyranny of the ego.”
  • A therapist writes: “Awe…clears away inner turmoil with a wave of outer immensity.”
  • Social scientists have found that when people experience a sense of awe, they feel more empathetic and more connected with others. One scientist concluded, “Wonder pulls us together—a counterforce to all that seems to be tearing us apart.”
  • The Wharton School of Business evaluated the New York Times’ most emailed articles and found that the ones that evoked awe were the most shared.
    Carlin Flora, “It’s Not All About You!” Psychology Today, (March-April, 2016)

Looking back at Philippians 3, Paul is enraptured at the prospect of receiving from Jesus the reward that awaits him for his faithfulness. That becomes Paul’s one thing: pressing on like a marathoner toward the finish line, absolutely committed to this worthy pursuit.

We know that most people won’t complete their New Year’s resolutions. One reason is they’re often not realistic. But another reason is that they’re often not inspiring enough. Paul strikes the right balance by aiming heavenward.

What’s my one thing?

Right now is a good time to consider, what do you want to be your one thing this year? If you accomplish only one thing this year, what do you want it to be? A thousand things are going to paw at you along the way, vying for your attention. There’s no getting around that.

But what you can do, what is in your power, is to prayerfully determine the one worthy goal you’ll go all in on. What awe-driven goal can inspire you to pursue it?

Some say their one thing is to lose 10 pounds. Others to start learning a second language. Others to renovate a room in your home. Or to pay down debt.

Those are all good. And yet without way diminishing any of them, what’s the one most inspiring, motivating, heavenward thing you can aim for? Let me suggest a couple of worthy goals. I’m going to suggest a couple of very doable heavenly-minded goals. Maybe one will grab you as your one thing for this year.

My one thing this year is to:

Read God’s Word aloud for one minute daily following the Bible 2020 app.

That “one thing” will have you speaking more than 6 hours out loud from God’s Word this year. That’s a worthy goal. Maybe that’s your one thing this year. One minute a day. Download the app and it will remind you each day. I’ve started, posting a video each day with Bible reading. I’ve decided that whatever other goals I’m going after this year, I’m locked in on doing this. People around the world are doing it, I’m inviting you to jump in. It’s much more doable than last year’s through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. And BTW, there’s a link each day to the broader chapter if you want to continue longer than a minute. But how about a minute each day reading God’s Word aloud, 6 hours total by the end of the year? That’s a worthy goal and a heavenly-minded goal.

Or how about this one thing this year:

Spend time with fellow believers once a week outside Sunday mornings.

That can be in a small group: we’d like to see a new men’s group start this year. It can be asking someone out to lunch after church. It can be inviting someone over for dinner. This is a worthy goal, to strengthen your fellowship with fellow believers, to mutually encourage one another and bear one another’s burdens and pray for one another and sharpen one another up. If you spend time with fellow Christians for just an hour a week outside this gathering, it will total more than 50 hours getting to know others, and them getting to know you. That’s a worthy goal!

The average American reports they haven’t made a new friend in five years. At the same time, 45 percent of Americans say they would go out of their way to make new friends if they knew how or had more opportunities.

Here’s the opportunity: commit to time with others once a week outside this gathering. Or cut that in half and make it your one goal to spend time with others twice a month. Nothing happens unless you get it on the calendar. So here’s a chance to grow in fellowship. Maybe this is your one thing for this year, something that motivates and inspires you.

You don’t have to do any of this. But you have the opportunity to. The start of a new year is a chance, an open door, an opportunity to reevaluate. If you only fully commit yourself to one thing this year, what’s one that is eternally worthwhile, one that will sharpen your spiritual vision this year, with continuing impact? For Paul, the one thing was to run like a marathoner in pursuit of Jesus Christ who pursued him. That’s what the one thing was for Paul—to constantly hold before himself the image of being an athlete running for gold—and the gold is being with Christ, hearing him say, “Well done!” Paul gave himself to that worthy goal, and we know that he achieved that goal. He ran well, all the way to the end of his race.

Nothing ever gets accomplished without focus.

That has always been true. And that’s what Paul is saying here. Think about the advancements we’ve seen in cars.

  • First there were steam-driven autos.
  • Then came gas cars, which are all we’ve known in our lifetimes.
  • And right now we’re on the cutting edge of electric vehicles, both cars and trucks.

In every case—steam, gas, and electric—none of those potential sources of progress make progress until they are focused, dedicated, and devoted to one purpose: making a car move.

And that’s still the truth today: with anything run by solar or wind or electric power, those raw materials become useful only when they are focused on one dedicated goal.

What will be your one thing this year, the one thing you focus on, give yourself to, get help with, and call others to join you in?

Whatever it is, whatever your one thing, make sure it’s a worthy goal, a heavenward goal, one that makes your vision of Christ clearer and brings you deeper in walking with him.

Join me in praying:

Lord God, we cannot thank you enough for your kindnesses throughout this past year. Your mercies have been new every morning. You have given us our daily bread. You have held the future in your able hands. You have guided our steps. You have surrounded us with people who love us and whom we love. You have blessed us with your Spirit as Companion and Advocate. You have blessed us with your Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. You have blessed us with the church as our family. You have blessed us with purpose in our God-given mission.

As we have already dipped our toes in this new year, we pray that it will be one marked by ever-sharpening clarity. We pray as Paul does in Ephesians chapter one, asking you to give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we may know you better. We pray that you will make us intelligent and discerning in knowing you personally, our eyes focused and clear, so that we can see exactly what it is you’re calling each one of us to do.

We ask that you enable us to grasp the immensity of the glorious way of life you intend for your followers, and that we will grasp your incomparably great power for us who believe.

We recommit ourselves to you.

We long to go through this year with you.

And we praise you that this is precisely why Jesus came, so that you could be with us.

In his holy name which opens heaven’s gates we pray. Amen!