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Seen versus Unseen

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Nov 4, 2018


by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:18–4:18

I. Introduction
 A. Review
 B. 2 Corinthians 4:18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
II. 2Corinthians 4:16–18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
III. Looking at things we can’t see
 A. This sounds contradictory.
 B. We have two different sets of eyes.
  1. We are blessed to have eyes in the front of our heads.
  2. Eph.1:17–18 prayer — “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints...”
  3. So, believers have eyes of the head (most do) and eyes of the heart.
  4. If the eyes of the heart are blind, then we don’t think there are eyes of the heart.
IV. Look to: pay attention to
 A. Mind the gap, mark my words
 B. It’s not as easy to see the unseen things as it is to see the seen things.
  1. This world seems so real. The pain and pleasure seem so real.
V. Focusing on the unseen realities, not on the visible ones
 A. The things that you see are transient. They are not going to last long. There will come a day when everything you now see has passed away: cars, houses, positions, jewelry, money, toys, tools, clothes.
 B. The invisible things, on the other hand, will last forever.
  1. Souls will last forever (souls are the spiritual, invisible part of us).
  2. Christ will last forever. His truth will last forever. His promises will last forever. His righteousness counted for me will last forever.
 C. In February of 1990 we had a house fire that, among other things, destroyed all our clothes, jewelry, and many of our mementos. As my wife and I poked through the rubble afterward, we found some of our treasures, ruined by fire.
  1. As we stood there we said to one another that some day everything  we have will be like this.
  2. Today’s treasures are tomorrow’s trash. Everything we see is fading away. Even the part of ME that is visible is fading ("wasting away" in v.16).
  3.  But the invisible part ("the inner man" v.16) is being renewed day by day, and will last forever.
 D. But this world is transient, wasting away, temporary.
  1. Edna Lynn weeping
  2. I was a competitive child. I was all about winning. All those games: I don’t remember them now, and I don’t care who won.
  3. What seems so big one day can seem so small later on.
 E. The problems and pleasures of this world look so big and feel so real – until you see them in the light of eternity, until you see them in light of eternal things, until you see them in light of God.
  1. When we have eyes to see Jesus Christ – then everything else seems small.
 F. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." (Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)
 G. “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” Psalm 63:3
 H. This verse is why I sometimes say that the things of God are more real than the things of this world.
VI. But there’s something even deeper here.
 A. Though there is a time element to this truth, too often we think only of the ‘now’ and the ‘then.’ We have our lives now here in this world, and then after we die we’ll have our lives in heaven.
  1. Notice Col.3:2 – "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."
   a. This speaks of the two worlds not in the language of time but the language of location.
 B. Notice that 2Corinthians 4:18 isn’t in the future tense. It’s talking about looking at unseen and eternal things which exist right now, not that one day will exist.
  1. “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
 C. There are two worlds, but it is not just a now world and a then world. And it’s not just a here world and a there world.
  1. The fact is, in one sense the world we can’t see is all round us, pressing in upon us.
 D. There is an important connection between the two worlds. The invisible dimension of reality is an important part of the world around us. And you can’t really understand the world unless you see the unseen dimension.
  1. When you look at a person, you see their body, their intelligence, their personality, but you don’t see the fact that they are eternal souls created in the image of God, in need of a Savior. That’s the unseen truth we need to take note of.
  2. Each moment is not just a tick on the clock, it is a gift of God.
  3. When you look at our planet, it may look like a giant ball hurdling through space as a result of a long series of cosmic coincidences. But our planet was made by God, and for God, and was gifted to us for us to enjoy and cultivate and maintain.
  4. We need to view the visible things of our world in light of the invisible things.
 E. What are the things we see every day? People, cars, the sun and sky, trees and grass, computers, buildings, etc.
  1. You can look at all these things through the eyes in your head, and you can look at all these things through the eyes of your heart.
  2. Everything we enjoy: good health, a loving family, a sound mind, freedom, decent jobs, opportunities — these things (and many others) are not just luck or good fortune. These things are undeserved blessings from God.
  3. The creation around us: a gift from God, reflecting His glory and requiring our care
  4. Computers and cars and buildings: tools God has supplied us with to use for His service
  5. People: made in the image of God, sinners in need of Christ.
   a. Think about lust. When we look at a person with lust in our hearts, we are looking only at what can be seen with our eyes. We are focusing on one very narrow aspect of their being. We are failing to see the One who made this person in His image. We are failing to see the eternal soul of this person. We are failing to see the person as someone who needs love and needs Christ and needs the gospel.
  6. And we don’t see purpose and meaning in life through the eyes of our heads.
  7. Things look very different with eyes of the heart versus eyes of the head.
 F. Let’s think about church. Let’s think about viewing church with the eyes in our heads, from the point of view of the outer man.
  1. People you might not enjoy.
  2. Music you might not enjoy.
  3. Prayers and sermons which might seem boring.
 G. Viewing church with the eyes of our hearts
  1. How do we view other people in the church? The people whom God has chosen for Himself, the apple of His eye, the ones He so closely identifies with that in Matt.25 He says, “If you did it to them, you did it to Me.” They are the ones who have an eternal destiny to be glorified, and will rule over the earth and shine like the angels, forever friends more closely related to us than unbelieving members of our own families.
  2. Now, about the music. You’ve heard of the song that never ends. Well, the fact is, there is a song which never ends. Over thousands of years it has been sung without interruption. And when churches gather, they have the privilege of joining in. And the music is combined with all the others who are singing songs of adoration to the Lamb of God into a giant symphony of praise and worship.
  3. I can understand how people are bored during prayers and sermons. When I was young, I was SO bored by that kind of thing. It was so hard to endure. But then I was seeing with these eyes. But now I see that prayers and sermons are at the heart of the most important conversation any of us ever have.
   a. It is almost impossible to have a relationship without having conversation. You need to be able to speak what’s on your mind and heart, and then listen as the other person speaks in the same way.
   b. The same is true in our relationship with the Lord. He speaks to us and we listen, and we speak to Him and He listens.
   c. These are the two sides of our dialogue with the living God. God speaks to us through His word, and we speak to Him in prayer. This happens individually, but it also happens corporately.
   d. Together we hear from God when we gather together and listen to His word read and preached.
   e. And then together we address Him, praising and thanking Him, and also crying out to Him according to our present needs. 
 H. We can see things with the eyes of the flesh and they look just like they do to non-believers. But they look completely different when we look with the eyes of Christ!
  1. You can only grasp the beauty and purpose of today if you understand today in light of the God who was, who is, and who is to come.
  2. Suffering looks like meaningless agony until you look at it in light of the invisible One who sends it in love and uses it for good.
  3. Earthly treasures look like sources of life, until your eyes are open to see Christ, the only true source of life.
VII. Conclusion
 A. What is the unseen thing? What is the invisible thing, ultimately? It is God, the invisible God.
  1. The most important things for us to look at are the things we cannot see. The most important person in your life is the One who is there even when you think you’re alone. The most important thing in your life is the Creator of all things.
  2. And when you look at the world without God in the picture, there is no purpose to things, there is no meaning to life, there is no reason for hope, there is no explanation for why things are the way they are.
  3. Any time we merely look at something, we miss what it really is. Let me repeat that. Any time we merely look at something, we miss what it really is.
  4. Only when we look at something in light of its invisible purpose, in light of the mind of the invisible God, are we able to grasp what that thing really is.
  5. Let me take that even farther. Only when we look at someone in light of his/her invisible purpose, in light of the mind of the invisible God, are we able to grasp who that person really is.
  6. Let’s take that even farther. Only when we look at ourselves in light of our invisible purpose, in light of the mind of the invisible God, are we able to grasp who we really are.
   a. Some of the unseen things which this verse is referring to are: God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, His forgiveness of our sins, the hope which awaits us on account of His righteousness and promise.
   b. You can’t see these things with your eyes. Thus, they are unseen. But through Paul God says, “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”
 B. Viewing the unseen things, Paul says, “For me to live is Christ.” (Phil.1:21)
  1. Paul was not a hermit who spent His whole day in prayer and meditation. He was very active!
   a. “So heavenly-bound that he’s no earthly good.”
  2. His point is that Christ is the thing which makes life on this earth rich, meaningful and even beauiful.
  3. Jesus walks with us in this world and transforms the way we see everything else.
 C. One of the most important aspects of spiritual maturity is to be able to see everything in light of the reality of God.