People With a Vision
By Pastor Jim May
What does it mean to have a vision? I want to quickly give you a few definitions that I believe pertain to everyone of us tonight. We must be people with a vision, but what does that mean?
Having vision is defined as:
-the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight (both physical and spiritual)
-the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be (having the right frame of mind and a good ability to discern what’s happening and anticipate the future)
an experience in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present, often under the influence of a divine or other agency
-a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation (the closer we are to the mind of Christ, the more vivid our vision will be.
While modern philosophers make the statement that, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive, he can achieve”, the Mind of Christ is more concerned with what is the will of God, and not of man. If God gives us the vision, then he also gives us the ability to see it come to pass.
-a scene, person, etc., of extraordinary beauty – This is all about Jesus and his working in us. The world doesn’t see Jesus as anything beautiful. I submit to you that many in the church don’t have a proper vision of Jesus either.
Isaiah 53:1-6, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
The world sees him as nothing more than a man, and even as a common criminal that died on a cross. The world sees nothing but suffering, blood, death and then no more than any other “holy man” except that he makes a claim that none other can make, that he rose from the dead. They cannot see the beauty behind the veil of suffering and death.
Many in the church may confess him as Lord and know of him as a Savior, but they don’t truly know him. They see Jesus as a limiting factor in their lives, someone who tries to control them and keep them from enjoying life and doing what they want to do. Their vision is marred and limited, and they can’t see the true beauty of Christ because of the veil of sin that still separates them from that clear vision.
The opposite of vision is called blindness and I also want to add a lesser, but just as limiting condition known as shortsightedness. The physical aspects of these conditions are easily understood, but we need to understand that the spiritual aspects are vastly greater.
These conditions in the spiritual realm are the result of a wrong attitude of the mind and of the heart and are the causes for a lack of discernment.
God wants his people to be people with a vision, not just to see the past, or the here and now, but to see into the future far enough to have a dream, to create a passion, to stir the Spirit within them, and give them a reason and a purpose for living; something that will drive them out of their comfort zones, out of their lethargy, and out into the world with but one purpose – to build the Kingdom of God by leading souls to Jesus. Everything else that we do must be centered upon that one purpose alone. Whether its bringing new ministers into the organization or building facilities; whether its having special services like youth camps, rallies, camp meetings or conventions; or whether its coming together for times of fellowship – everything must be geared to one purpose – reaching souls for Christ.
If we get caught up in trying to do our own thing, we risk the chance of losing the Mind of Christ. If we get caught up in personalities, or promoting our own agenda, instead of God’s agenda, then it will only result in divisions and schisms in the Body of Christ. We must keep the Mind of Christ through prayer. Unity is only built and only maintained as long as we stay focused only on what Jesus wants and nothing else.
Just having a vision doesn’t make us united. The fact is that we must all have the same vision.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13-16, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing."
We have to pressing in the same direction, everyone at his post, whether it’s the Bishop, Secretary Treasurer, Pastor, Evangelist, Missions Director, Youth Director or members of each church. If we are pressing for personal recognition, or pressing for special privileges, or pressing for a personal agenda, and we are not pressing for that prize of the high calling of God in Jesus, then we are going to bring about our own demise.
We can sense some of that happening right now in our National Organization. Some are pressing their own agenda of “modernizing” the operation and ministries of the church in an effort to reach the un-churched. Others are caught up in copying the methods of the mega-churches because they see the numbers and the finances; the great facilities and the power that it brings. Still others are pressing to remain in the past, not embracing much, if any, of what God is doing in the church of our times.
Each one, pressing in a different direction, seems to me like a balloon filled with pressure. Each time a little more pressure is added the gas molecules press outward in their own direction harder and harder. You can’t unite them because they are constantly trying to expand their own way. Sooner or later that outward bound pressure of everyone going their own way will cause that balloon to explode and then the power of that organized body of what was on the inside is forever lost, becoming completely ineffective to change anything as it is absorbed into the generalities of nothingness.
Whether we like it or not, or whether want to embrace it or not, we have to know that the church of the 21st Century is facing a whole different world, with greater technology, with a society that has a whole different mindset than the church of the 1st Century or the 19th Century. We have crossed a threshold where many of the old ways aren’t effective anymore. The key here is to have the Mind of Christ and to be able to discern what new methods are good and which are not. Not everything that is new is wrong and not everything that we did in the past is as effective today as it was then.
What then shall we do: relegate ourselves to being out of touch and out of date with what God is doing today because we refuse to allow our vision to grow; or to do we throw caution to the wind and embrace everything that comes down the tube? NO – we don’t do either one. We pray and seek the Mind of Christ in all things, allow the Holy Ghost to develop a new vision, to show us the path to walk and forget what doesn’t work, embrace what does and allow the Holy Ghost to guide us and keep us in the center of God’s will and within the limits of the Word of God.
Whatever brings God glory – that is we must embrace!
Whatever lifts up the name of Jesus is what we will use!
Whatever reaches into the heart of the Lost and brings them to Christ, cannot be rejected!
But they must be in line with God’s Word and the results must be real. Just getting the numbers doesn’t mean that they are being saved. The object is not just to fill the church with sinners. Yes, they must come in as sinners – but then we must show them Jesus so that they can be saved. We must never lose focus on that vision – it’s our main purpose for being here!
It wasn’t too long ago that someone in one of our own local churches said to me, “We don’t want anyone in our church that isn’t filled with the Holy Ghost. Leave the worldly people where they are.” My friends; that is one Christian who has no vision at all and that’s the kind of attitude that will ultimately lead to an ineffective church that is outside of the will of God. Now don’t start looking around trying to figure out who said that because they aren’t here anymore.
I hope and pray that this district, and the people in our churches, never get that kind of attitude. Sure, we all want holiness in our lives. We all want to see the people become more and more sanctified. But it’s a process that takes time, and it’s a different time for each one of us. Some people grow in the Lord faster than others. But that’s God’s business, not mine. My business is to teach and preach the Word of God without compromise and then let the Holy Ghost deal with the heart of the individual. I don’t consider myself “Holy Enough” to condemn anyone.
Jesus told those “righteous Jews” who were about to stone a woman caught in sin, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Brothers and sisters, none of us could have thrown that stone anymore than those Jews could on that day. Our job is not to condemn, but preach the gospel and allow the Holy Ghost to convict of sin and then lead them to Jesus when they respond to the conviction power of the Holy Ghost.
I grew up in a legalistic church. I never felt freedom from condemnation. I couldn’t live up to the rules of the church and the laws of the pastor or evangelists, any more than Israel could fulfill every law of the Law of Moses. Those laws are meant to bring us to Christ through conviction, where we can find freedom and victory over sin, we can we can be made overcomers of that sin through the power of the Blood of Jesus Christ. I refuse to be back under Law, whether it’s a law of the church, or the condemnation of another preacher. I’m not under Law but under Grace. I’m covered by the blood and though I may fall at times, I have an Advocate with the Father in Heaven pleading my case and I am found innocent of all charges simply by repenting of that sin and choosing to place by faith in Christ and not in fulfilling any Law.
People with a vision can’t allow themselves to bound under Law. The condemnation of the Law will destroy that vision because all that we will ever see is how far we fall short of being perfect, and we will never feel “worthy enough” to accomplish anything for God. All that we will ever see is the Law that we have broken. People with a vision must be free from the condemnation of the Law so that we may see the Grace of God at work in us and around us. People with a vision must be free to forget the Law and accept forgiveness from the Lord, forgive ourselves, and move on.
Now that does not give us the right to sin without repentance. We all know that sin cannot enter Heaven and that God won’t honor a disobedient servant. But who determines what is right or wrong? God is infinitely more intelligent than we are and that’s why we must have the Mind of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our churches. It’s too easy for us quickly judge something as being wrong, and too easy for us to embrace that which has destructive power hidden within. We must have the Mind of Christ to be able to discern those things.
All of us have read Proverbs 29:18 where the Bible says that, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
We must be people with a vision, a purpose, a reason for doing what we do, and our vision must line up with what God wants to do in us and through us. A wrong vision, based on our own way of thinking will lead to destruction – only God’s vision will work.
Some of our church have a wrong vision. They see only the ways of man and have left out the Mind of Christ. Where does that lead?
It leads to a partial gospel, which is no gospel at all. The Word of God is preached but it is preached only as far as makes the people comfortable. The people perish for lack of knowledge. They don’t preach about sin and its eternal wages in hell. And most of all they hear only of the blessings of God and never about the judgments of God.
We can only be truly free and happy in the Lord if we obey God’s law; not the moral law of the Law of Moses, or man made laws in the church, but the Law of Faith which means that we place our faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and his ability to save.
Now over in the Book of Habakkuk I want to show you what God desires for us to do.
Habakkuk 2:1-2, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth"
I will stay on guard, guarding against any evil that may try to invade our churches, this district, or my own life. I will stay in my place, and do all that I can to stay in the Mind of Christ. Jesus Christ is my strong and mighty tower and that’s a place of strength and protection from the attacks of the enemy.
If we are going to be a people of vision, that’s where we will have to stay, inside that strong and mighty tower with Jesus.
Rest assured that enemy will try to bring you out.
He will come at you head on with thoughts of a better way that will lead you away from the true vision.
He will show you how that methods of men appear to be working better than the methods of God.
He will show you that their churches are bigger, their numbers are larger, their finances seem limitless.
He will bring a few true converts of those churches into your path to make you wonder if you shouldn’t copy what they are doing because here is someone who is truly saved.
If he can begin to break down the walls of your tower or if he can get you to doubt whether you are in the perfect will of God, then it won’t be long until your vision is changed.
At other times he will try to like the fox that spoils the vine. If he can’t get you to come out of you tower one way he’ll try another.
He’ll come at you from the standpoint on your own pride because you see the accolades of men to those churches who are doing great works but whose vision is so very different from yours.
He’ll come at your from the standpoint of your own need and desire to see the church grow. When your finances are low and you are limited in your ability to reach out to the lost the way that you want to, then Satan will show you that “other churches” can do it because they follow a different vision.
What must I say when I see these things? What answer can I give when I am confronted with the attacks of the enemy that try to destroy the vision that God has placed within me?
“Write the vision and make it plain”, that’s the way that Habakkuk said it! Write it down! Don’t just commit it to memory. It pays to write down the vision of what God tells you to do. It pays to write it down so that all can see what the ultimate purpose and goal is for our district and our churches. Write it down and post it in a place of prominence where every member of the church, where every preacher and every youth can see what our purpose is.
Where are we going? What do we believe in? What purpose is there for us to be where we are? Why do we invest our money? What is our duty in serving the Lord? Who are we here to please? When we write down the vision, make it plain.
When we begin to wonder where we are going – read that vision statement.
When we can’t decide whether to do one thing or another – that vision statement will keep us focused on the right thing.
It’s not enough just to preach it or say it again and again; it must be written down.
If God thought that it was important enough to have his Words written down, as a permanent guide for all time, for all men, and not just to commit it to the memory of men and passed from one generation to the next by word of mouth, then we need to write down the vision too.
When we all have the same vision, and we are constantly reminded of that through our Vision Statement, then it helps keep all of us on the same track and running for the same prize.
Are we people with a vision? If we are, then what do we see? Is our vision shortsighted? Is our vision clear? Do we truly have the Mind of Christ and are we all minding the same thing?
I wonder where our vision is? I wonder what we, as a Body of Christ, as Christians, as Churches, Pastors and the Louisiana District are seeing? Are we as divided as our National Office seems to be? Are we united in our vision?
I want to point us to someone who had another vision in God’s Word so turn we with over to the Book of Acts and let’s see what God has to say about the kind of vision that his people should have.
In this chapter we have the story of the Centurion by the name of Cornelius who had a vision. He was a man who was searching for the truth and had somehow come to know about Jesus and embrace that truth. His whole house was doing their best to live for God but his vision was limited because of the lack of knowledge. In that vision, he was told to send for a man named Peter, a Jew and a man who was known for his indecision about certain things of the Law even while he served Christ.
If you remember the story from Galatians chapter, in verses 11-14, you will recall that Peter was being wishy washy in his convictions. He had an attitude like many of us have, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When Peter was with the Gentiles, he ate with them and fellowshipped with them, but when the Jews came around, he quit associating with the Gentiles so that he could appear to be a good Jew who followed the Law. His actions caused others to copy him and brought division in the church, even causing another disciple named Barnabas to fall into that trap of being hypocritical.
The problem was that Peter wanted to be accepted by the Jews, the legalistic, Law abiding people that he had always known, so he began to take on their vision and change his preaching by teaching that the Gentiles had to obey the law as well. He became a man with a shortsighted vision, not discerning that God desired to bring the Gentiles into his kingdom as well.
Paul rebuked him for his hypocrital ways and demanded that the gospel should be preached same for all men, but Peter was hard headed. God had to give him a new vision before he could become the man of God that God intended for him to be.
As the servants of Cornelius came nearer, God began to birth within Peter a vision that would give him the Mind of Christ.
Acts 10:9-16, "On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven."
Peter went up on the housetop, to be alone with God and to pray. It was getting close to the time of the evening meal and one of the customs of the Jews was not to eat, but to fast before that evening meal. It was about the same time as the evening sacrifice in the Temple
If you want to have a true vision that comes from the Mind of Christ, you need to find a place where you can get alone with God. It will take some prayer and fasting to get yourself to the place where God speak to you. It might take some time. God doesn’t always move or speak quickly.
Peter had been there for a while because he became hungry. God was birthing within Peter a desire for the reality of God in his life. Peter became physically hungry, but he was spiritually hungry as well. He needed some answers. He didn’t want to have the wrong vision for his life and ministry.
Are we hungry enough to seek for the right vision for our church, or our district? Do we just go about our daily lives not giving it much thought, expecting it all to be all right in the end no matter what we do? That is a recipe for disaster. Without prayer, fasting and a hunger for the true vision that God wants to give to us, we will never really know the Mind of Christ.
Peter fell into a trance and had a vision from the Lord. When we can shut out our own desires, forget our own agendas, cast aside our own desires and search only for what God has to say, that’s when the vision will come.
God revealed to Peter that there were a lot of things that he was not accepting that God had put his own approval upon. Peter was so caught up in his own legalistic ways that he couldn’t accept that God could use that which to him was unclean.
I’ve seen people who limited their own church’s ability to grow by rejecting what God was trying to do. I hope that none of are like that. No, we don’t want to accept anything and everything that comes, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Some years ago I had to come to terms with some things that I didn’t think were right. The question came to me from a young man who said, “Do you reject what’s happening because you don’t like it, or because it really is wrong?”
I had to pray and think about that, and I came to the conclusion that I was lumping everything that was contemporary or modern into one category and then rejecting it all. That was the day that I began to judge everything on its own merits, whether it was a song, or a certain type of worship, or a certain type of music. I had to become a little more flexible while doing my best to maintain what I believe are God’s requirements for living in holiness. That is a fine line that only the Holy Spirit can help us walk.
One thing that God helped me to see is that he is concerned with the condition of the heart and that appearances do not always reveal the truth of what is on the inside.
One Sunday morning, a few years ago, I was shocked by some visitors that walked into our church. This man was big, burly, covered with tattoos, had a pony tail and wore biker style clothing. My immediate thought was that God had brought him to our church to be saved.
But as time went on, I discovered that this man had a heart that was truly after God. The outward appearance nearly stopped my acceptance of him cold, but God said, “Let him come. Let him grow. Let me take care of the rest.”
I can’t say that he’s changed much in appearance, but I have come to love that brother so much, and there is no doubt whatsoever in my heart and mind that he is saved, full of the Holy Ghost and on fire for God. He witnesses more than the “clean cut” Christians do. His heart is soft before God and you can sense the love of God and the presence of the Holy Ghost whenever you’re around him.
That was just one example of what God put into my sheet. What God has called clean, we have no right to reject. That doesn’t mean that we compromise our own convictions, but it does mean that I don’t put my convictions on you. I just preach the Word and let the Holy Ghost do the convicting.
The point of this whole message is that God wants us to have the Mind of Christ. We are to be people of vision, but our vision must match the Lord’s vision. God wants us to be people who love God and who love people. God wants our churches to be havens of refuge for lost souls to come and serve the Lord without condemnation and with acceptance of our differences, learning to love one another and serve God and leave the rest to Him to work out.
Our churches are to be like the Cave of Adullam, where David’s army was brought together by God to serve his purposes. God is going to fill our churches with people who are in trouble and distress. Our times are changing fast. Economic hardships are going to force many who are in debt both financially and spiritually into our congregations. Many are going to come who are discontented with the world, and discontented with other churches where they have been disillusioned and even rejected. That’s the kind of church we are going to have; churches filled with discontents, debtors, troubled and needy people, but people who come to know the Lord and serve him. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about their coming and I want God to fill the church with them.
Are we truly people with a vision? Does our vision match the Lord’s vision? People with a vision don’t have time to get caught up in trivialities and things that just won’t matter in eternity. We won’t care who gets the credit or who receives recognition. People with a vision that comes from the Mind of Christ will only be concerned with one thing – seeing souls saved and people being blessed by the ministries of the church.
I want to have God’s vision. Let’s all pray that we see the same things and work for the same purpose according to God’s vision. Let’s pray and fast and join together, under God, to see that vision come to pass.