AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Without a Vision We Die
Proverbs 29:18 (p. 458) April 17, 2016
I took my 90 year old mom to the eye doctor a little while ago…she suffers with glaucoma…I won’t give you all the scientific definitions or symptoms but in a very simplistic way it’s been explained to me…that fluid gathers and builds up pressing against the optic nerve. If left untreated you go blind. It’s been nicknamed “The Sneaky Thief of Vision.”
Because the loss of vision happens gradually over a long period of time…because the pressure builds up slowly you might only recognize it when it’s quite advanced…worldwide it is the second leading cause of blindness.
My mom has to put drops in her eyes every morning and every evening so the pressure doesn’t build up.
I would share with you this morning that Proverbs 29:18 is a warning about spiritual glaucoma. I grew up where the KJV tells us “Where there is no vision the people perish.” The NIV translates it “Where there is no revelation people cast off restraint.”
The Message version says “If people can’t see what God is doing they stumble all over themselves.”
My simple definition is “If we lose sight of God’s purpose we’re spiritually blind.”
Without being too simplistic the Church exists to make disciples…we are to lead lost people into a saving relationship with Jesus…and we are to teach those who are saved how to be mature followers of Jesus. Go and grow.
Does anyone here disagree with that? Reach the lost, Disciple the saved…The Mission of Jesus’ church…and that mission never changes.
So if we can clearly see that this is what we are to be living our lives to accomplish…what clouds this vision in our lives? What pressures begin to build up so that many Christians begin to suffer from spiritual glaucoma?
I believe that Satan is “The Sneaky Thief” of spiritual vision. The Apostle Paul says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the gospel.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
Unbelievers are lost…living life in the darkness because of the Evil One. Stumbling through life a day at a time…but the real answers for hope and purpose are just beyond the top of their red tipped cane.
But God has provided an answer to Satan’s blinding schemes.
I. HIS PEOPLE SHINING IN THE DARKNESS
2 Cor. 4:4 finishes by saying “The light of the gospel displays the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”
How can people lost in the darkness experience the gospel light that penetrates the soul? Listen:
2 CORINTHIANS 4:5-6 (p. 804)
God’s answer for the spiritual darkness of a lost world is me and you…His answer is that those who have made Jesus Lord, the Church, become servants who reflect the Light of Christ…we show this world the Face of Christ.
1. The light doesn’t shine if we preach ourselves.
Paul says, “We don’t preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord.”
Selfishness and self focus can become some of the greatest reasons we start losing our vision.
[In 37 years of ministry I’ve never been with a group of Church people where someone wanted to argue about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. I’ve never had a ministry leader of staff person say “Heaven and Hell don’t matter.” I’ve never had a young believer say, “Old people aren’t important” or an older person say, “Young families don’t matter for our future.”
But in almost 4 decades I’ve experienced intense arguments over music styles, parking lots, color schemes and time changes for service. And instead of asking…what helps us accomplish our never changing mission better…selfishness and preference blind our vision…and while Satan gets us to fight about the color of the carpet lost people go to Hell and instead of preaching Christ, and growing in Him we draw up sides and criticize those who don’t see how important this is…Satan loves to blind unbelievers to the gospel but he also loves to cause believers to lose sight of what really matters too.]
You see anytime something becomes “ours” it stops being “His.”
And the light doesn’t shine.
2. If we become a bunch of flashlights in a well lit room.
God said, “Let light shine out of darkness.”
Do you know when He said that? It was during creation in Genesis 1:3. The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of god was hovering over the waters…And God said,
“Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:4)
Light penetrates darkness…light reveals what is good…light is more powerful than darkness.
John’s gospel tells us that the Light of Creation came as the spiritual light that gives eternal life to a dark, dead world.
JOHN 1:1-5 & 9-14 (p. 739)
He didn’t stay in heaven…He came…and only by doing that could we receive Him and become God’s children.
This world cannot receive the light of Christ if we don’t live out His grace and truth in the darkness…Flashlights all gathered in a well lit room have no effect upon darkness.
Church should be a place we recharge our batteries so we can shine His glory in our everyday lives and relationships.
The book of Acts tells us “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)
If Christ doesn’t shine in your heart Monday through Saturday so that people trapped in darkness are saved, there’s no real reason to get your batteries charged on Sunday.
It’s why we were created anew! These are important questions: Does our life preach us…or Jesus? Are we servants for Jesus’ sake…or consumers for our own? Do we remember when we were lost in the darkness and share how God turned on the light for us to have hope…or do we just see evil people who should go to Hell? Does this world see our face or Jesus’ face?
[James (not his real name) came across the parking lot toward me saying “Preacher, how you doin’?” James was high and smelled like weed…but he was saying…“You remember me from the bank? You helped me out one day…you gave me $20 and bought me some milk and gave me a ride home” and he hugged me. Our ladies had been serving dinner to girls inside a gentleman’s club…and I was working security…I remember James’ face…and he remembered mine…I hope it looked a little like Jesus’ as he asked about where our church was when I said, “It’s right here.” Looking at the women getting in the car, but on Sundays we meet at 940 Holly Springs…it’s back in the neighborhood off Lane Allen and Beacon Hill.]
The reason God’s Word says, “Be in the world but not of the world” is simple…the World is lost…it’s trapped in darkness…our job isn’t to judge the world…It’s our mission to save it. Listen to what Paul writes to the Corinthians:
1 CORINTHIANS 5:9-13 (p. 795)
Godly Christian leaders are to judge…but it’s never those outside the Church…it’s those who claim to have vision…but don’t. They’re greedy…they’re gossips…they’re idolaters…they’re drunks and cheats…but they claim to be a brother or sister…Churches lose sight of their mission when they don’t deal with this blinding hypocrisy…It’s not normal…it’s not healthy…it’s leaven that rots the entire loaf of bread.
With a vision, God’s people die. It’s a vision that is revealed through the Spirit of Jesus living in us…It lets us see people like Jesus sees them. It makes us love the lost and hurting to seek them, like he did. Let me end with an example of a church that lost its vision and went spiritually blind. Jesus speaks to the Church at Laodicea in the book of Revelation Chapter 3
REVELATION 3:14-22 (p. 863)
Helen Keller was asked if there was anything worse than being blind and she responded “Yes, having sight but without vision.”
This scripture in Revelation is the only time Jesus describes people who make Him want to vomit. They’ve become stale…stagnant…independent…They think they’ve arrived and Jesus says “you’re oblivious to the fact that spiritually you’re a pitiful blind homeless man wearing threadbare clothes.”
They have physical sight…but have lost their vision…and they are about to die.
Be earnest and repent. Stop pretending…Stop being so self sufficient and prideful and turn back to me with a broken and contrite heart.
It’s hard to rekindle lukewarm embers, but Jesus says, “Here I am…standing at your door knocking again…let me back in and I’ll have an intimate meal with you.”
“WHAT MAKES A GOOD CHURCH?”
If all the lazy folks will get up,
And all the sleeping folks will wake up,
And all the discouraged folks will cheer up,
And all gossiping folks will shut up,
And all the dishonest folks will confess up,
And all the estranged folks will make up,
And all the disgusted folks will sweeten up,
And all the lukewarm folks will fire up,
And all the dry bones will shape up,
And all the sanctified folks will show up,
And all the leading folks will pay up,
And all the true soldiers will stand up,
Then, and only then, will we have a good church!
We’re going to wake up, pray up, sing up, teach up, stay up, and
never give up, back up, or shut up until the cause of Christ is built up.
Our mission never changes…“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Only people who have had their spiritual vision restored can do this passionately.
The story is told of how William Carey, founder of the modern missionary movement came up with his “Rope Holder” philosophy for ministry…
India had horrible cases of blindness, some were treatable and other not…in one of the treatable cases an elderly Indian man with severe cataracts was healed almost miraculously through surgery…after his recovery he was released and he returned to his native village in a remote section of India.
After two weeks the staff at the medical clinic heard a knock on the door…and when they opened the door they were met with the sight of twenty blind men, standing in line, all holding onto a rope…they had walked from a remote village so that they too could have the cataract surgery…and at the front of the rope was the formerly blind man leading the way.
Our salvation is possible because someone extended to us the rope…our healing is possible because someone led us to a place of healing…
The question: Who held the rope for you? And now, who are you holding the rope for?