In a recent blog, we talked about understanding God's highest aim for our lives. Seeing and living life God’s way to fulfill His highest aim for our lives means changing our point of view. It means me changing from my view and the world’s view of life to God’s view. It means you changing from your view and the world’s view to God’s view. Many would call this a change of perspective. Actually it is more than that, much more. It means gaining a real perspective for the very first time!
We think of “perspective” as the way we “see” things: ourselves, others, the world and universe around us and, most importantly, God Himself. We say that our “perspective” shapes how we “look at” anything and everything. And of course it does, because what we “see” depends on where we’re “standing.” Moving from one place to another actually changes how we see things visually. So too, changing beliefs, values or attitudes changes how we “see” our world, our circumstances, other people, etc.
This use of the word “perspective” relates to the most common definition of the word: “the technique or process of representing on a plane or curved surface the spatial relation of objects as they might appear to the eye … to give the illusion of depth and distance.”
However, reading farther in my dictionary, I discovered that the definition most suitable to how we most often use the word is much narrower than the way most people tend to use it. The word perspective means “the capacity to view things in their true relations.”
Wow! That one little word “true” changes everything. Most of us think we each have a “perspective.” Truth be told, we each like to think that our personal “perspective” is the best one, or the right one. A lot of our disagreements with other people occur because we don’t “see” things the same way.
Our society increasingly tells us that each person’s viewpoint or “perspective” is equally valid. The dominant message in our culture is that there are no absolutes, and thus there is no single “view of things in their true relations.”
But the dictionary definition tells us that perspective is not a subjective thing that each of us can choose to decide or define for himself. Perspective is objective, determined by what is true. I can only claim to have perspective when I see things in their true relations.
But who defines what is true? Who can see things in their true relations? Only God!! Only when I see things as He sees them can I legitimately say that I have perspective.
Until I see as God sees, I can have all kinds of opinions and points of view. But all of these will be distorted, incomplete, probably biased in my favor, etc. So in a sense, each person’s opinion or point of view is equally “valid” because they are all imperfect, incomplete, distorted and corrupted by sin, albeit in different ways!
Just as I have become very careful about how I use the words disciplemaking and discipleship, I have also become very judicious in my use of the word perspective. I try to avoid using perspective as a synonym for “opinion” or “point of view.” I have opinions and points of view about many things, but only God has perspective. You and I may have and share (or debate?) our respective opinions and points of view, but at the end of the day, all of these are irrelevant. The only viewpoint that matters, and the only viewpoint worth knowing, is what God says. Knowing what He says actually gives us perspective. Then we each must decide if we are going to accept and agree with what He says and live accordingly.
Once I have been born again, the process of spiritual growth is all about God trying to give me real perspective. Hard as it is for me to admit, I had no perspective until I met Jesus. I thought I did. I claimed I did. There was a way I saw things and the relationships between them. But I did not, and could not, see them in their true relations. I did not have the capacity. Therefore, I had no perspective.
Take a minute or more now and think about this. Get hold of the truth and reality of this.
Apart from knowing God, no one can have perspective. And apart from Christ Jesus, no one can know God.
God plainly tells us that we lack perspective. Consider Proverbs 14:12, which He even repeats in Proverbs 16:25, just so we can’t miss it:
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Or how about what God says in Jeremiah 2:13:
For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
In other words, our natural tendency in life is to choose dead ends. No matter how smart we think we are, and no matter how well we try to think things through, our efforts ultimately never get us where we’d like to be. The results of our efforts fall short of or are different from what we desired. Or perhaps our efforts have adverse unintended consequences. As Solomon learned and declared repeatedly in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
Furthermore, God tells us why this is so -- and the consequences of it:
But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD, and they do not understand His purpose. Micah 4:12
"The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10
Our need for perspective -- seeing things in their true relations -- is seen in verses such as these:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them. Hosea 14:9
How great are Your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep. Psalm 92:5
At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” Matthew 11:25-26
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
King David recognized this need to have God’s perspective. Think of all the verses in the Psalms where he asks God to teach him His ways. Here are a few examples. Notice the benefits David anticipated from seeing and living life God’s way.
Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Psalm 25:4
Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes! Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Your commandments. I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart when I learn Your righteous judgments. Psalm 119:5-7
Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Psalm 119:37
I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I hastened and did not delay to keep Your commandments. Psalm 119:59-60
This need for God’s perspective is universal.
Many nations will come and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths." Micah 4:2
So the perspective I need comes only from knowing and understanding God, and apart from Jesus, I have no way to do that. In our next blog, we will explore how to use God's telescope and gain perspective.