Wearing God’s Glasses
Have you ever seen an optical illusion? A picture, perhaps, that can look either like a duck or a rabbit, depending on your perception? That’s how the world can be. People who cling to God’s Word see things one way; people who don’t, see them another. It’s a matter of perspective.
Christians are supposed to have God’s perspective, which is usually a far cry from everyone else’s. God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways….For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9). God doesn’t see things as we do; and He designs our lives, from spiritual birth to physical death, to move us toward His perspective and make us like His perfect Son.
To do that, He uses the Bible—the objective, infallible record of God’s thinking and values. Its entire purpose is to reveal God in order to make this transformation of perspective possible. In America, there is no lack of Bibles, only a lack of people using them.
According to LifeWay Research, 89 percent of American households own an average of three Bibles, but 52 percent of Americans rarely or never read them.1 While a third of Americans say they read the Bible at least once a week, apparently the vast majority merely practice lightweight devotions. Few study God’s Word for serious changes in their perspectives, and surveys reveal the values and practices of self-proclaimed Christians vary little from those of their unsaved neighbors.
Combating Kingdom Myopia
In Matthew 16, Jesus worked with His disciples to adjust their perspective. In chapters 11—12, He began to tell them about the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. In chapters 13—20, He prepared them for the transition to the church He would build. In chapter 16, which first mentions the church, He asked, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (v. 13). He wanted to clarify the Jewish people’s perspective. The disciples said most saw Him as “one of the prophets” (v. 14). When He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15), Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).
That perspective, Jesus said, could come only from God: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (v. 17). This may be the first time any disciple had fully verbalized the true identity of the Messiah.
Then Jesus further adjusted the perspective: “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (v. 21).
But Peter objected: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22). Peter was not trying to be difficult or to oppose Jesus and make himself a spokesman for Satan. Certainly, He loved Jesus and did not want to see Him suffer. Yet His view of the Messianic Kingdom required a living King. Perhaps his anticipated role in the Kingdom flashed through his mind, along with the two years he had invested in following Jesus. Undoubtedly, his theology influenced his response.
Jesus’ statement did not coincide with Peter’s perspective for Jesus’ life. So in the heat of the moment, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him (v. 22). No doubt his confidence from the preceding discussion contributed to his boldness. Had he thought about it, he may have realized the incongruity of rebuking “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Those words originated in heaven; the words in verse 22 did not. Just because a believer has heaven’s perspective in one breath doesn’t mean he has it in the next.
Knowing the other disciples had heard Peter, Jesus quickly rebuked him: “Get behind Me, Satan!” (v. 23). Jesus did not mean Peter was actually Satan but, rather, that he had functioned as Satan’s tool: “You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 23).
Though Peter finally grasped God’s perspective regarding Christ, he was still hung up on man’s perspective regarding Christ’s mission to become the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:4–10). In Peter’s defense, this was the first time Jesus told the disciples He would die. However, Peter did not understand because he was focused on human agendas.
That none of these men understood until after Jesus’ resurrection should warn us all about the difficulty of gaining God’s perspective. Like Peter, we are all products of our culture and rearing, deeply immersed in the natural world around us. And, like Peter, our perspectives do not change completely the moment we are born into God’s family. Herein lies both the problem and challenge of the rest of our earthly lives.
The apostle Paul urged the Roman believers, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). The Greek literally means “stop being conformed,” which indicates this was a battle they all had to fight. Conformity is not a disease believers might catch; it is a congenital defect that afflicts us all. Blindness to God’s perspective characterizes every believer to one degree or another.
All who receive new life through faith in Christ begin that life with Kingdom myopia—the absence of Kingdom perspective. God wants His children to become like His Son (Rom. 8:29). We are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s]” (Rom. 12:2). This transformation is accomplished only by replacing man’s thoughts and ways with God’s through “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in an article titled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” wrote,
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”2
Speaking to the point of biblical literacy, Barna wrote,
The problem facing the Christian Church is not that people lack a complete set of beliefs; the problem is that they have a full slate of beliefs in mind, which they think are consistent with biblical teachings, and they are neither open to being proven wrong nor to learning new insights. Our research suggests that this challenge initially emerges in the late adolescent or early teenage years. By the time most Americans reach the age of 13 or 14, they think they pretty much know everything of value the Bible has to teach and they are no longer interested in learning more scriptural content. It requires increasingly concise, creative, reinforced, and personally relevant efforts to penetrate people’s minds with new or more accurate insights into genuinely biblical principles. In a culture driven by the desire to receive value, more Bible teaching is generally not viewed as an exercise in providing such value.3
Our society is not unlike the one Jesus sought to penetrate. Our world and even our Christianity are largely caught up in the pseudo reality of Satan’s world, like an optical illusion. Our thoughts and ways—from borrowing and spending versus sacrificing and giving, for example—mimic the world around us.
The only way to become transformed is by immersion in God’s Word. Otherwise, it becomes easy to act like Peter and become a stumbling block to others by presenting Satan’s perspective rather than God’s to a lost and dying world.
- “Americans’ Experience with the King James Version of the Bible,” Lifeway Research <tinyurl.com/lifewayresearch>.
- Albert Mohler, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” October 14, 2005 <albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem>.
- “Barna Studies the Research, Offers a Year-in-Review Perspective,” Barna Group <barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/325-barna-studies-the-research-offers-a-year-in-review-perspective>.
Used by permission.