O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
But that's just your perspective ...
"But that's just your perspective ..."
Preached on Feb. 29, 2012
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 14:12)
Fellow baptized saints, have you ever heard the expression, "appearances can be deceiving?" Or perhaps you've heard another variation of it, "Things aren't always what they seem." These two sayings highlight that there is often a difference between appearance and reality. Mothers and fathers teach these expressions to their children to keep them safe from deceivers. To challenge their children to look beyond what the outward appearance of a situation may appear to be.
This evening we have another report from our spy in the enemy's camp. Our spy has been undercover there for an entire week now, and the spiritual espionage being conducted is slowly revealing the attack plans of our enemy the Evil One. Our spy has finally determined his general strategy, and has prepared the following summary for us this evening.
There is a prime directive in our enemy's camp: Deception. Trick the humans by preying on what they think they see or know. Appearances can be deceiving. The father of lies is in the business of making fools of us. Making us strongly think that we know something because of what we see, when in reality we are utterly wrong. The Scriptures concur with this intelligence, its says, "the Evil One masquerades as an angel of light." He is undercover too. Disguised. Trying to make the way seem right to us, but its end is the way to death. He is very crafty at executing this strategy. He is very skilled at creating a counterfeit, and it is difficult to know the "fake" from the "real" sometimes.
The strategy goes far deeper than this however, it reaches much farther into our everyday lives. First, the Evil One draws our attention to outward appearances. He makes us focus on the way things look. We need only look around our culture to realize his success in this endeavor. A vain shallowness dominates all things. Image and appearance reign supreme, from those who are publicly proud of it, to those who secretly care about it but publicly denounce it. But it is here, in the moment our attention is drawn to outward appearances that the true attack comes. Here is where the ‘bait and switch' happens - the trick.
The Evil One then convinces you, that the way things look is the way things are. That there is no difference between appearance and reality. He falsely assures you that, "You can see it all." Appearances cannot be wrong, and you cannot be tricked. He flatters your pride by suggesting that you of all people know what is really going on, and that you can trust exactly what you are perceiving in a given situation. By the end of his attack you may be convinced that the only thing happening is what your two eyes can see, from the single angle from which you are looking, and what your vast wisdom and understanding can comprehend. Your perspective is all that matters. Your perspective determines reality. The Devil's first trick has worked again - you have made yourself god. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." Adam and Eve would wholeheartedly agree.
His strategy in the last fifty years has been to convince us that we each create our own truth. That it is up to us to find true morals, true worship, true religion. We hear things like "that might be true for you," and "yes, but that is just your perspective." We are no longer creatures, but creators of our own truth and reality, so we've been lead to believe.
Even young children have been deceived by this trick of the Evil One. When asking questions about heaven, the grade 3 and 4 class at BSLS were confused how we will all be together in heaven when we all have different ideas of what it should be, and what we will want there. They were confused because of the deception that somehow we create our own truth and reality. They needed to ask themselves some basic questions just as we do tonight.
Ultimately, what is it that determines reality? Is it the way things look? Is it what the majority of people believe? What determines reality for you and for me? Only one thing - God's Word. The Word of God determines reality no matter what anyone else says. God tells us what is real. God says what is and what isn't - what should be and what shouldn't be. We receive reality from Him. Thanks be to God. It was His in the beginning, it is His now, and it will always be His - even in heaven. Whether He says, "Let there be light," "You sin is no more," or "Come, enter into my kingdom," the words that come from His mouth are real - and all others are only appearances.
Let us look at some examples in Scripture. The poor widow with her penny offering. She appears to be giving next to nothing. The rich around her appear to be giving far more - but Jesus declares the reality - "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Appearances can be deceiving.
Or think of the prostitute who wept on Jesus feet - to the Pharisees at the table she appeared unclean. The Pharisees themselves would appear very righteous and "clean" - but Jesus declares the reality to the poor woman - "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." Appearances can be deceiving.
But let's bring things in a little closer to home. What about Christ's Church? The devil is quick to draw your attention to appearances. The person singing out of tune, the one with the squeaky shoes, the crying child, the balding man, the person of different social class. This is what the devil wants you to think of Christ's Church - what to think of your brothers and sisters in Christ. But appearances can be deceiving. For you may not be welcome in the choir, or able to afford quiet shoes, or sporting thick luscious locks of hair, but God has told you who you really are. He has declared you are mine. He has spoken His name upon you in Holy Baptism, and now you are in Christ. You are in the Word of God. The only true eternal perspective - God's perspective. God sees you. He sees you as you really are. A forgiven sinner clothed in His Son's personal robe.
For let's be honest, Jesus did not appear to be the Son of God when He was betrayed and abandoned by His disciples. He did not appear to be the Son of God when He was whipped and crowned with thorns. He did not appear to be the Son of God when He was crucified as a criminal. But appearances can be deceiving, as His resurrection proves. Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who determines all reality, has died for you - that you may not die. What does it matter what anyone else thinks? As St. Paul says, "If Christ is for us, who can be against us?"
This is the reality of Christ's Church. She is not a small, beleaguered dying body as the devil tries to show us - but something that brings Him great fear. The true Church is a mighty army with Christ as its King that no one can number that spreads out through all time and space, with its roots in eternity. One against which the Evil One can only fight with lies and deceit, trickery and deception. For the victory is already won. Christ has already conquered. And you are an important part of His reality.
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." And there is a way that seems weak to man, but its end is the way to eternal life. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I pray that Christ makes the reality of His Word take root in your heart by faith. And that you test the things you see in this life against His Word. For your Savior has so much peace and certainty waiting for you and I in all that He says, that we will rejoice and give thanks for it for all eternity. Death will not be our end, thank God that appearances can be deceiving. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr