This morning, we gather together on the brink of the new year.  With the turning of each year comes a sense of hope and renewal.  This past year contained so many huge life changes for so many people.  The upcoming year will be one of adjusting to these changes for sure.  Often people make new year resolutions committing improve some area of their lives.

This morning, we’re going to look at something that affects every single area of our lives.  It contains the power to radically transform everything about who we are as well as the world around us without anything changing at all.  It has enough influence over our lives to tell us how to respond to situations and to guide the path of our lives. 

Companies spend billions of dollars annually to more effectively gain control over this part of our lives.  News sources across the entire spectrum choose to report certain facts, but they then go on to spend far more airtime guiding and directing this part of our lives used to interpret those facts.

What is this thing about us that is so valuable and impressionable?  It’s our perception.

Perception defined is the ability to become aware of something and understand it through the senses.  Perception is what magicians and illusionists take advantage of to amaze and wow us wondering how they do what they do.  Perception is the reality behind that old adage that things are not always what they appear.  Perception is what the serpent used in the garden when he asked Eve, “Did God really say…?”  Perception is still how our enemy can so easily deceive us today.

Perception is what we use to interpret everything about our lives and how we choose to respond to those things.  If my perception is set, then my thoughts, attitudes, and actions will all follow the lead of my perception.  Perception was created within us by God so that we would use good judgment and to make wise decisions.

Perception is what causes us to have the exact same circumstances and either choose to be joyful and content as we count our many blessings or disgruntled and bitter as we focus on the things that we do not have.

Perception exists in our lives to be used by the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us into the fullness of life.  Yes, it can be perverted by our own flesh, the enemy, and the influence of others, but it was created to be a good thing. 

As we enter the new year, one commitment that we all need to make is the commitment to be totally under the influence of God.  We need to be committed to perceive what God is up to in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in the upcoming year.  God makes us these awesome promises!

Isaiah 43:1-5a;16-19

1 But now, this is what the Lord says—

    he who created you, Jacob,

    he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters,

    I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

    they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

    you will not be burned;

    the flames will not set you ablaze.

3 For I am the Lord your God,

    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I give Egypt for your ransom,

    Cush and Seba in your stead.

4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,

    and because I love you,

I will give people in exchange for you,

    nations in exchange for your life.

5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

Now if our upcoming year were to contain all of these things, perception would be everything.  Perception would either say that we had the worst year ever as our homes were flooded, then destroyed by fire.  We’d be afraid of what could possibly happen next.  Perception would either say that or choose to praise God for the best year yet as He delivered us from both the flood and fire and kept us safe because of His great love.  What do I have to fear?

Perception either sees disaster or deliverance, curses or blessings all in the same circumstances.  God goes on…

16 This is what the Lord says—

    he who made a way through the sea,

    a path through the mighty waters,

17 who drew out the chariots and horses,

    the army and reinforcements together,

and they lay there, never to rise again,

    extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

18 “Forget the former things;

    do not dwell on the past.

19 See, I am doing a new thing!

    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

    and streams in the wasteland.

God says that He is doing a new thing.  God is making a way in the upcoming year for you where there was no other way.  Forget the former things and don’t dwell on the past.  Instead, perceive the new thing that springs up that God is doing.

What if this year whenever something unexpected happens, instead of asking, “How am I going to deal with this?” we instead ask, “God, what are you doing?”  What if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and allow Him to rewrite our perception?

Through perception, God can transform us from the depressed Eeyore who only sees doom and gloom everywhere, from the ever-anxious Piglet who worries about everything, from the Rabbit who obsesses and over every little planned out detail, from the over-active Tigger who only wants to have fun to being the more balanced optimist, Winnie-The-Pooh, who understands those around him and pulls them all together as friends.  Well, like Winnie-The-Pooh minus the obsession with honey and tendency to over-indulge ourselves.  🙂

Perception is what Jesus was referring to as He often said the phrase, “eyes to see and ears to hear.”

Perception is what God altered as Elisha prayed for his servant and enabled him to see chariots of fire all around him knowing that there were more for them than against them.  Perception is what enabled Peter, James, and John to see Jesus in all of His Heavenly glory and meet both Moses and Elijah.  Perception is what enabled people to be baptized by John and understand that he was the Elijah who preceded Jesus. 

Perception is how the resurrected Jesus walked with and spoke with His disciples without them noticing that it was Him as they asked, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?”  Perception is how Jesus was able to break bread and give thanks at the last supper knowing the agony he was going endure in only a matter of hours.  Perception is how Jesus was able to resist the temptation of the devil in the wilderness.

It is so easy for us to be so dull and completely miss out on what God is trying to do in our lives.  It is so easy to have God doing the miraculous right before our very eyes and completely miss it!  Don’t feel bad, even when God was in the flesh, His disciples had this same problem.  🙂

Mark 8:14-21

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Although we might be able to well-relate to the disciples, we should by no means be content to remain in that place.  We should be a people restless with understanding.  We should be a people who are constantly seeking after God and desiring to understand what He is saying and what He is doing and how we can cooperate with Him.  We should possess an insatiable hunger and thirst to be transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

One of the challenges is often that very reality.  We can’t obtain an understanding of spiritual realities in the same way that we normally learn; they can only come from the Holy Spirit.  We cannot change ourselves, only allow God to do so.  This perception change that brings understanding can’t take place just by reading a book, looking at a diagram in a manual, or watching someone’s how-to tutorial on YouTube.  This perception change can only take place through a personal relationship yielding to the One who created us.

1 Corinthians 2:12-14

12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

If we try to shove these spiritual realities into our lives without being changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit, we’ll just come out damaged, flakey, and worse off than we were without those revelations.  Perhaps you’ve met someone like this who has replaced a relationship with Jesus with a set of rules that you must obey or someone who saw demons behind every corner or someone who was so prophetic in their own eyes that their prophecies were vague and of no earthly good?  These are some of the results of trying to understand spiritual realities by natural means.  Jesus explained how this can happen this way:

Matthew 9:16-17

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

This is why we’re called to:

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

As the Holy Spirit transforms and renews our mind, then we can begin to perceive and understand what God is up to.  Then, we can test and approve what God’s will is and follow it.  As the Holy Spirit transforms our minds into new wineskins, only then He can pour into our lives His fresh wine.

There is so much more to discuss about this than we possibly have time for.  The important thing for us to remember, however is this.  As we yield our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will do His work to transform and renew us.  He will change our perception so that we can truly rejoice in every circumstance and choose to give thanks.  He will give us eyes to see and ears to hear and minds to understand so that we are less frustrated in life and more at peace.

He will then be able to reveal to us the secrets of His Kingdom so that we are better able to live our lives to their full.  We will be able to more easily walk in the deliverance and healing and the fullness of our salvation.  We will be able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and free ourselves from the traps of the enemy and the snares of our sin.

As we perceive the new thing that God is doing in the upcoming year, we will be filled with hope and joyful anticipation.  Though nothing may immediately change in our circumstances, yet will everything change for us.  We will be taken from victims to victors, from captives to a freed people, from overwhelmed to overcomers, from quitters to hopers, and from frustrated to refreshed!  Let the Holy Spirit transform and renew your mind and give you His perspective toward everything in this life.  You won’t regret it!