The cart before the horse…

Last week I prepared a sermon from Isaiah 6. I titled it “Be Thou my Vision”, based on the Hymn by the same name. The first verse is,

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

After reading these words again my heart was triumphant and troubled at the same time; triumphant because of the truly God-centered words of the song; troubled because of its foreign tenor to the contemporary church. Without painting with an extremely wide brush, I am convinced that the many in today’s “church” simply cannot relate to God being their “vision;” their children, maybe, their spouse, maybe, their careers, probably, but God…probably not. What’s truly disturbing about this “Godless vision” is that it’s not only brought into the church by self-centered people with chronic narcissism, but it’s espoused and encouraged from the pulpit!
It’s espoused and encouraged from the pulpit by means of a watered down gospel, or I should say bogus gospel! This bogus gospel is extremely man-centered and shines its spotlight on the supposed benefits of salvation, such as promising perpetual prosperity, fantastic fitness, and constant celebrity, while gospel truth such as denying self, dying to self, taking up your cross, repentance, suffering, surrender, dependence on God, and God’s glory are veiled to say the least. This bogus gospel is usually marked by an invitation that sounds something like, “If you want to spend eternity in heaven with no more pain…if you want a great life now…if you want to be influential, simply accept Jesus! It’s as if the mind boggling sacrifice of Jesus has been relegated to nothing more than a spa treatment.

I think the causes of this are several, but one apparent driving force is the constant expectation of success. In other words, many within and without the church have created a mindset of “crowds equal success”. In other words, if you have a large number of people in your church you are successful! Therefore, your focus becomes getting people in your church, many times at all costs, even at the expense of the gospel! So, in order to fill the space we use every clever device we can muster, gimmick or not! Suddenly the purpose is getting more and more people and, of course the end justifies the means. Problem is…the purpose of the church has nothing to do with what I just described! The purpose of the church is to bring glory to God and take pleasure and satisfaction in Him forever!

Therein lays the “Cart before the horse” title. Many will go to great lengths, including arm twisting and coercion to “Cast a vision” in order to get their people to “win the community” but fail to point their people to the glory of God! Isaiah was overwhelmed with a vision of God! As soon as he “Saw the Lord, high and lifted up” no one had to twist his arm or coerce him to serve God. Once he came face to face with his own sinfulness he was quick to surrender to God’s will! If church is about God, why not focus on God?!?!? It’s almost as if a vision of God, according to the practice of many, is insufficient to motivate people to service, and the slick, clever leadership skills of charming, creative, and cutting edge pastors is more superior to getting a glimpse of the glory of God! So, we “cast a vision” to send people out to change the world for God while the very people we send out have no clue how glorious God is! We send them out to tell the world about God, yet they have never seen “The Lord high and lifted up!” It seems like a no-brainer but you must have a biblical vision of God before you can cast a vision for others!

How do the people in our churches see “The Lord high and lifted up”? Simply by the exposition of the Word of God! That’s what God intended His Word to do, to depict Him high and lifted up!! If we neglect exposition of Scripture we neglect the glory of God! If our churches see the Lord high and lifted up, if God is their vision, no one will have to force or coerce service, it will be the desire of the church.
So, the only true vision of the church is: “And I saw the Lord, high and lifted up…” What’s your vision?!?!?

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

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Categories: vision isaiah gospel exposition | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The cart before the horse…

  1. Hey dad, you're smart.
    The end.

    Love, blair.

    Like

  2. “It seems like a no-brainer but you must have a biblical vision of God before you can cast a vision for others!”

    Opposed to a “no Brainerd?”

    Well said Reverend. Christ as the vision of the church, crazy idea but it might just work.

    Like

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