I’m a big fan of optical illusions. I like to be challenged to see things that might not be observable at first glance. Optical illusions are a perfect metaphor for life in that sometimes we only see things on the surface and fail to think about them on a deeper level. This post will challenge each of us to examine the way that we see the world, the way that we see the Church, and the way that we see ourselves and our place in both. For me, in preparing to discuss this vital topic, it was eye-opening to actually be contemplative instead of running around keeping up a busy schedule as we tend to do every day. Unfortunately, even in lesson and teaching preparation, preachers often end up with their noses in books and articles instead of in deep thought. We often miss the bigger picture by examining the smaller issues that occupy our time; we miss the forest for the trees.
What Do I See When I Look at the World?
We are inundated daily with different pictures of what the world looks like or should look like from politicians and pundits representing various points of view. We are told what our bodies should look like from those trying to sell the latest fitness plan or innovative diet. We are even told what to believe religiously based on constantly changing morals instead of divine truths contained within the only inspired book the world has ever known.
But what do WE see?!
The way we look at the world, or our “worldview,” shapes everything that we do and every decision that we make. There are many formal worldviews that generalize different outlooks, but most of us have opinions that do not fall into those, and our worldview is unique to us. My fear is that our worldviews are shaped by environmental factors and our personal experiences instead of being shaped by scripture.
Research from the Barna Group shows that less than 20% of those claiming to be Christians actually espouse a “Biblical Worldview.” This means that the foundational principles contained within God’s Word do not actually make an impact in the way that most Christians think about the world!
While Romans 12:2 very clearly states we should be TRANSFORMED, it seems that we CONFORM to the thoughts, ideas, and practices of the world around us. If we are just like everyone else in the way that we live, why would a lost world be attracted to a Gospel that doesn’t incite change?
Our statements of faith may tell a story of belief in a redeeming Savior and a desire to follow him, but when it comes to real life it seems like that’s just a good story for Sunday and Wednesday. Our lives must be shaped by our faith and our worldview must be shaped by the eternal truths of the Bible! This is the only way we can ever “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
What Do I See When I Look at the Church?
I’m sick and tired of hearing that the Church is a dying institution.
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” – Daniel 2:44
The Church will survive – what must change is what we see when we look at it. It seems that there are two common misconceptions from those outside and within.
The first is that the Church is full of perfect people and others are not “good enough” to be a part. What a joke! Joseph B. Wirthlin once commented on this idea:
“The church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.”
The second misconception is that the Church is full of nothing but hypocrites. Christians are often labeled as “modern day Pharisees” and many justify their lack of attendance and/or passion about the Church on the poor behavior of others.
The truth about Christians is that we are sometimes hypocritical and always imperfect. The Church is a haven for saved sinners trying to be transformed into the image of Jesus. If we see it as anything else, it’s time we re-evaluate our perspective.
What Do I See When I Look at Myself?
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
– James 1:22-25
What is our place in the world? This is often a troubling question as we ponder our careers, our reputations, and our legacies. We fail to remember that our standing is irrelevant if we leave the world separated from God. Our place in the world should only be as sojourners and pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11) and ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).
We should be much more concerned with our place in the Church. Unfortunately, many Christians see their “place” as the seat they occupy on Sunday morning. Instead, we should each be seeking to fulfill a role within the body so that it functions properly. Many time we have aspirations involving our jobs, hobbies, and personal accolades, but do not earnestly desire to be elders, deacons, worship leaders, Bible class teachers, etc. in the Church. When we do that, we are saying that we see the earthly things as more important than spiritual things. The way we view things inwardly will manifest itself in our actions.
Many struggle with self-esteem issues, but knowing that the creator of the world knows every hair on our heads should help us realize how special we are! The knowledge that he sacrificed his son for our sins should help us seek to live for him in all that we do. No one in the world is going to do anything for us; so why do we seek so desperately to be a part of it? We should see ourselves as people rejecting the temporary around us and wholly serving the eternal God. In other words,
“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Gal. 1:10 NLT).
So many have been lost because they were not able to see the truth. It is critical that I have a biblical worldview so that I see things through the lens of sacred scripture. It is also imperative that I see the church not as a man-made group of hypocrites, but as the redeemed Bride of Christ! Finally, I must see myself as God sees me. This will remind me of my alien status in the world and challenge me to devote myself fully to the Lord through godly living and service to His Church. So, when we look at the world, the church, and ourselves…what do we see?