Advent 2018 – Week 4

By December 23, 2018 Sermon Notes
  1. INTRO:

Perspective is a word that like many words; has evolved in its usage.

-It was first was used to describe the science of optics (using a lens to aid vision) in the 15th century.

-16th century it was first used to describe drawing objects to show depth or distance

-Drawing a triangle makes it look like a railroad track has depth

-What is called forced perspective has become more popular in the digital age

-It was not till the 17th century that the word was first used as a mental outlook.

So perspective is now a word that means how one person looks at things versus how another one does.

For example:

Same Event: Rain

Different Perspectives: Farmer during drought, Bride with outdoor wedding planned

-Perhaps the bride is sad that her wedding is rained out…and yet she has a good “perspective”…she knows that crops need rain though she is disappointed

Maybe her fiancée is the farmer and so she has a mixed perspective on the rain…ruins her wedding, pays their rent.

God sees with perfect clarity what is actually there…everywhere…his perspective is perfect

God understands with perfect clarity how we should perceive and respond to what is there.

He has given us his word in order that we would “see”…reality as it is (not exhaustively but accurately) and how we should respond to reality appropriately…ways that are good and cause us to thrive

The scriptures are the story of reality:

-What is really there? What is really true about the world, humans, God, eternity?

-How do we live in line with what is there?

This is also called a worldview…everyone has one…not everyone has one that is accurate.

Since reality is what it is…some people’s views of reality are accurate some are not.

It is commonly believed that sincerity is what matters most in regards to worldview

Or that personal autonomy matters most…”I get to choose what I believe to be true…no one can tell me.”

But few really believe this if pressed on it.

No sane person believes that sincerity will keep you from drowning if you try to breath water.

Or that your stubborn commitment to believe what you want to believe will allow you to float if you jump from a cliff.

Reality, not sincerity or autonomy is what matters most when it comes to the facts of the universe.

Last week of advent: Active waiting.

We are waiters…but waiting is more like a watchman than someone taking a nap.

Waiting is difficult work…especially when waiting for difficulty circumstances to change.

But waiting is not like a sci-fi movie…where you are put in suspended animation…wake up after a couple decades of space travel

We can’t skip the long boring or difficult parts of the journey

We wait actively on God for a hoped for future, and we wait actively with God in the present as it is.

He is not absent in the waiting but he can feel that way to us…that is where perspective is important.

Perspective:

-Remember there is an objective side (what is real, regardless of our perception)

-There is a subjective side (what do we feel and think about what is happening)

-Rain is great, rain is terrible

God is always present and at work: this is real regardless of our perception.

For us the challenge is to close the gap on what is actually true about the world and our perception of it.

Again is particularly hard when we are waiting through a difficult time.

Consider John the Baptist…a man who had been sent to reveal Jesus as the Messiah.

He had enjoyed years of living in the open air freedom of the wilderness…doing his best to obey God.

Now he has been locked up in terrible prison for a year.

Try to imagine a man who had lived in the wide-open spaces, following God…now in a first century, foul prison cell.

Do you think he began to struggle mentally, emotionally, spiritually?…the answer is “yes”

Matt. 11:2-3 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciple to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 

Less than three years earlier he had announced about Jesus…”Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Now he is struggling with doubt…his perception is being challenged by his circumstances.

Jesus sends back a word of encouragement and confirmation…”Yes, I am the one…even though you are in prison”

Terry…this is all very gloomy…if John struggled like that, what hope do we have to keep perspective?

We can be honest…like John when we struggle

And

We can grow, we can close the gap.

**For instance: Consider Paul’s growth in his own perception of circumstances..

Phil. 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

His circumstances were independent of his perception of them…

But his perception of his circumstances grew over time(he had learned) the secret of contentment in various circumstances.

What was this “secret”

Phil. 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

He had learned this over time…growth.

So too we must continually close the gap on our perception and the reality of what God is up to.

Imagine human history and your own personal history as a line with a series of “x’s”

The line is the waiting, the “x’s” the things we wait for.

Bible:

-Isaac is born after a long wait

-Moses shows up after a long wait

-Enter Canaan after a long wait

-Return from exile in Babylon after a long wait

-Christ is born after a long wait

Our lives:

-Graduate

-Get a job

-Get married, kids

-Promotion, retirement, big vacation

-Health recovers

But there is a lot of line to go with those “x’s”

In the history of humanity and our own personal history…what stands out is the “x”…but most of life is the line.

God is moving in history and there are occasional markers(the “x”)…but the markers are to drive faithfulness along the “line”

Most of what God is doing in our lives is line not x.

Even in the life of Christ…we have the x’s written down…but the line was much fuller than we have record of.

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

 For advent we started with the Exodus: long line (400 years) then a big “X”…then a long line(40 years)

Then we looked at the prophecy of Jesus on week two…Isaiah looked at his time through the lens of what was coming in a few years, then a couple hundred years, and then beyond that.

-Again, the long period of time (lines) were given their perspective by the “x’s”

Week three we looked at the coming of Jesus: How the fulfilled promise of Jesus in the past, gives us our hope for the future…and forms the basis for our perspective in the present.

Today: We jump to the end and see what is promised on down the line…The big “X” action of God that will be the second advent of Christ

Rev. 21:1-5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation was written by John (not John the Baptist) a man who suffered much for his faith and who was the key New Testament prophet…he was enabled to see what was going to happen in the future.

Part of what he was allowed to see was the same as what Isaiah 700 years earlier had seen through the vision God gave him…Is. 65:17

A new heaven and a new earth.

The future is not floating around as disembodied spirits in a cloudlike existence.

The future is like the past…a creation of God…a physical place for a physical people.

Though our future is a concrete existence the language he uses is symbolic.

He describes a city coming down from heaven.

The significance of this is that the first Jerusalem was the place of God’s promises fulfilled and his presence experienced.

God promised that he would make them a people, with a place, where his presence would be with them ..he did.

Israel was the people, Jerusalem was the place, and Temple was the presence.

Their sin would cost them their standing as a people, exiled from the place and the Temple was destroyed.

Yet though they would suffer…God had not abandoned them…he would keep his promises.

Jesus, the Messiah would make a new people, who would dwell in God’s presence in an eternal place.

This was always the end game of the covenant promises.

The future is a re-creation story.

Just as surely as the world we live in now is real and has a beginning…there is a world ahead that will begin anew and will be a real existence…not a fantasy.

This is where we need to remember the strangeness barrier from last week.

This all sounds so strange, that it seems to be of little practical use.

But clearly something is going to happen in the future…any version of it…is hard to conceive.

  1. Endless cycles of reincarnation
  2. You cease to exist
  3. A new heaven and a new earth

All of it sounds strange…because we cannot imagine any of it.

But for option #3…we have Jesus, the singularity in history, the resurrected one and the Scripture telling us to trust this future.

So…Why trust what the Scripture has to say about the future and how does it help us live with perspective now?

  1. Why trust the Scripture in regards to the future?

Many reasons, I’ll give four.

  1. Accuracy in prediction

-Isaiah for instance spoke of the fall of the North, then the South, the captivity in Babylon and the return…this happened.

-He said the Messiah would come and suffer and die and then live again

-He said there will be a new heaven and new earth.

  1. Accuracy in Description

It describes a world that has purpose, design, a beginning, an end, order, love meaning

It describes a world that is broken, out of order, searching for purpose

It accurately describes the world I see inside me and around me.

  1. Accuracy in Prescription

It prescribes the way back to beauty, order, meaning, a thriving life

It works…when the prescription as given in the Scripture is applied consistently and correctly it works.

  1. Jesus trusted the Scriptures himself.

Trusting the Scripture’s take on the future…How does a future perspective help us live well in the present?

Think of perspective like an old radio.

There are two tuning dials…one present, one future.

If you dial two much of one…to much future, wrong perspective…static

Two much of the other…to little future, wrong perspective…static

Get them just right…clear signal.

Our brains are not like a digital radio, there are no presets…you have to keep your hands on both dials at all times…or the music in the present will become static.

The transmitter is perfect(God and his Word)…our receiver is not…our perspective requires constant attention.

So…let’s look at a passage that describes this struggle for perspective.

2Cor. 4:16-5:9 Therefore we do not lose heart. (Make sure you do not become discouraged, lose perspective)

Though outwardly we are wasting away,(our circumstances can be disheartening)

yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (we are experiencing God’s renewal on the inside)

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (This is a very difficult perspective for us to gain and to maintain…but it is there for us if we will keep our hands on the dials.)

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (This is not escape from reality but a continual return to it

Getting eternal perspective on temporal circumstances.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

When we die…we will live on…”turn that future dial a bit”

God who made this body (tent) will make another one for us someday.

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  

“Turn that present dial a bit”…honest about where I am, what I am dealing with. 

In the time between the first and the second coming of the King…we groan.

We live the “already not yet” life.

We long for this eternal existence with God.

All people in this life “groan”…there is this sense that no matter how well things are going…things are not fully what they ought to be.

*This fact can drive us to God or drive us to folly..

The part of about being clothed and not be found naked has to do with the reality of our future existence…we will not be disembodied spirits floating around in the clouds.

The first time God created the physical universe…he was really happy with it.

When he recreates it…and us…it will be really good again…it will be a physical/spiritual world

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Again…while we live in this tent…this body (a tent is a temporary dwelling) we groan, we bear the burden of life now.

In the gospel of John Jesus was said to have put on human flesh…the word used was the same here for “tent”…Jesus “pitched his tent” among us.

It was the also the same word used for the Tabernacle…the presence of God with the people of Israel in the wilderness.

Jesus was God “tabernacling” among us.

So we, like Jesus…pitch our tents…but there is a future that is real and substantial…a permanent dwelling.

Now for the impact of our future hope on the present.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

Here is where we have both hands on the dials…to live with perspective.

Of course things are not as they ought to be and as we want them to be…but we remain confident now…the future is secure.

Turn those dials…live by faith not by sight.

Circumstances may say one thing…our perspective another.

Now…here is where we have this thing tuned in just right…it’s music not static is playing through.

Our goal is to please him(be faithful)…here and now…because our future is sure

Difficult waiting has been a barrier to faith for some and a bridge for others.

The same event, different perspectives…leads to drastically different outcomes.

Peter said “Don’t be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as if something strange were happening to you.”

Many of us are surprised at painful trials…and the long wait for the “groaning” to end can become a barrier.

The fact remains…in this life there will be trouble…meanwhile we groan.

God is offering us through his word, his Spirit, and his Church…the resources to wait well…we must embrace those resources and learn to trust him…to see “in here” what is real “out there”

We have looked at God’s activity in the history of Israel the past month…it is an amazing and inspiring story

He has written his name into human history.

Now let’s reflect on his activity in the cosmos…the heavens.

History declares the glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God as well.

Psa. 19:1-3The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy (and billions of galaxies)

The average distance between those stars is 30 trillion miles (which if they were any closer or father apart it would affect planetary orbits)

How far is 30 trillion miles?

If you boarded the space shuttle and went top speed (17,000 miles per hour) you get to the next star in about 200,000 years.

That’s to travel between just two of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy.

How many stars in the entire universe…it is estimated that there are as many stars as their are grains of sand on the entire earth.

Now what does this have to do with perspective and waiting?

Is. 40:25-31 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Our perspective needs to be continually dialed in to the reality of God…he is charge of history and the heavens…the cosmos.

Your history and your place in the cosmos.

Let’s close this advent series on “active waiting” with a passage on the purpose of painful waiting on and with the God of history and of the heavens.

Rom. 5:3-5 we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Hurting and waiting is what becomes growing and hoping…when we wait WITH God, FOR God to move.

Close the gap between your perspective on your circumstances and the reality of God in the midst of your circumstances…listen reflectively as John and Casey Sing of this reality of.

Hurting, waiting…growing, hoping.

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