Learning to See (Part 1 – Others)

Scripture:

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13           Mark 4:26-34           2 Corinthians 5:6-17

Anyone who has ever broken their arm, leg, or had surgery on their shoulder or hip can tell you that after surgery when you are finally done with casts and slings, crutches, and walkers, then the real work starts. After the your body has healed, then you begin the longer and harder task of rehabilitation, rebuilding muscle strength, and relearning how to use something you thought you had, but realized that things don’t work the way that they used to. I have shared with you before that after receiving my cochlear implant, I am still relearning how to hear and every time they update the program, everything changes again.

But for the most part, our ability to see is different.

When we get glasses, they make what we see more focused. When we have cataracts removed, it makes our vision clearer. If we wear something like night vision goggles, it is quite possible that we might need to relearn to recognize some objects that look differently than they do with normal vision. But in most cases what we see is, in fact, what is there. There is never a time when we have to relearn to see…

…Except when we become followers of Jesus Christ.

As followers of Jesus we are called to see things, not as they appear to be, but to see them the way that God sees them.

We begin this morning in the book of 1 Samuel where God calls his prophet to anoint a new king in place of Saul. (1 Samuel 15:34-16:13)

34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

4 Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Jesse had good looking sons. They were tall and handsome and well constructed. And as they passed in front of Samuel, several times, if not every time, Samuel thought, “Surely this one looks like a king,” but God doesn’t see the world the same way that human beings see it. Each time that Samuel thought he saw a king, God told him that he was seeing it wrong. This happened so many times that Jesse ran out of sons and Samuel had to ask if he had any more. And the only son that was left was the kid brother they had left out in the fields to watch the sheep.

No one knew that Samuel had come to anoint a new king, but no one, not even his own father, thought that David was important enough to invite to dinner with God’s prophet. But the son that had been overlooked by his family was the very one that God had in mind. God’s vision is different than ours. God sees things differently than we do. And that means that things are not always what they appear to be. What we think we see is not always what is. What our eyes tell us about reality, is not always real.

Paul elaborates on this idea in 2 Corinthians 5:6-17

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Paul says, that we live by faith, and not my sight, which is a good way of saying that the things that we see, aren’t always reality. What is seen with our eyes is not always all that there is to see. For that reason, Paul encourages us to focus on a world that we cannot see, so that we will be rewarded by Jesus on the Day of Judgment.

The followers of Christ, according to Paul, will be questioned by people who take pride in what they can see and we will sometimes be accused (just as Jesus was) of being “out of our mind,” because we choose to ‘see’ with our hearts rather than with our eyes. For that reason, we are called to take pride in what we are doing, take pride in the good that the followers of Jesus are doing, so that we can answer those who are only proud of the things that they can see. We must stop seeing those around us as the world sees them, but instead see others the way that God sees them. Whenever we are in Christ, we are changed and become something new, and Paul encourages us to see the people around us the same way.

God’s way.

And as we learn to see the way that God sees, we realize that the world we are learning to see is the future kingdom of God. In Mark 4:26-34, Jesus described that world this way…

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a man who is planting seed. While he is the one who put his hand in the sack and scattered the seed, once it left his hand, he is no longer responsible for anything that happens. Instead, “all by itself the soil produces grain.” Once the seed is planted, everything that happens depends on God. Even tiny seeds can grow to produce great sources of shelter and food, but our only responsibility is to plant and to harvest. When we see the world the way that God sees it, we remember that people are not always what they seem. Sometimes the most productive plants grow in unexpected places. Dwight Moody, the great evangelist of the 19th century was brought to Christ when he was a shoe salesman. Billy Graham was a country farmer who came to faith in Jesus at a revival meeting he attended at the request of a friend, and only accepted because his friend offered to let Billy drive his pickup truck.

When we see the world the way that God sees, we remember that just because people look like they are poor, or ugly, or dirty, or drunk, or foreign, or different than us, doesn’t mean that God sees them that way. We remember that God loved all of us long before we were anything close to loveable. God desires for every human being to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to follow him. It isn’t up to us to choose who hears. Our only calling is to scatter the seed and let God be responsible for growing it.

It isn’t easy to see the way that God sees.

It is hard to doubt our own senses.

But when we choose to follow Jesus…

…we must learn to see all over again.

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