WHERE THERE IS NO VISION
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Pro. 29:18
In my 40 years of preaching God’s word, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard preachers misuse and destroy this text of Scripture.
As is the case many times over, we hear a big name preacher, or even our mentor, preach a certain text a certain way and we automatically think that it is “gospel”. Have you ever heard of the more noble Bereans? Paul describes the Bereans as more noble because they “… searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” They did not believe everything they heard just because a famous or well loved and respected preacher said it was so. They took the time to compare the sermon with the scriptures. This, my friends, is a noble work that has been left largely undone in today’s Christianity.
Therefore, one unstudied preacher passes faulty doctrine and bad preaching on to other unstudied preachers and unsuspecting church members, and before long it becomes impossible for anyone to give a correct sermon or explanation of a very simple and valuable verse such as Proverbs 29:18
Every time, to the best of my memory, I have heard this text preached at a church or especially in a preacher’s meeting, we are subjected to a lengthy pep rally that resembles an Amway Convention more than it does a Biblical sermon.
Let me explain. These men who preach these sermons are telling us that “vision” is a plan or a goal for the future. The whole premise of their message is that if we do not have a plan, goal or a vision for our church, that it will die. The dictionary definition for this vision is – The mental image produced by the imagination. One preacher, trying to help raise money to finish a church parking lot, stood before a congregation and had them close their eyes and “imagine” their church parking lot with blacktop on it. This all begins to resemble Martin Luther King’s 1963 – I Have A Dream, or The Power of Positive Thinking with Norman Vincent Peal, or John Lennon’s popular song Imagine.
While I do not have a problem with pastors or other Christian leaders making plans for their ministry, I do have a problem with them using Proverbs 29:18 to support their Amway type of program for church growth. I once frustrated an Amway salesman because in the opening speal I did not dream as big as he wanted me to. Had I had “vision” and dreamed bigger and joined their company I, according to them, would be a financial success today.
The success of the church today has NOTHING to do with earthly planning, goals, dreams, visions and hard work. The success of the church and the growth of God’s people has to do with BIBLICAL VISION and not a pastor’s dreams and goals. What, you say, is Biblical Vision?
Have you ever done a study of the word “vision” in the scriptures? Let’s do so now:
In Gen. 15:1 – vision is “the word of the LORD”
In Num. 12:6 – vision is “I the LORD …. will speak unto him”
In Num. 24:4 – vision is “heard the words of God”
In Num. 24:16 – vision is “heard the words of God” and “knew the knowledge of the most high”
In 1 Sam. 3:1 – vision is “the word of the LORD”
In 2 Sam. 7:4-17 – vision is “the word of the LORD”
In 2 Chron. 32:32 – vision is “Isaiah” and “the book of the kings”
In Psa. 89:19 – vision is “then thou spakest”
In our text for today: Pro. 29:18 – vision is “the law”
In Lam. 2:9 – vision is “the law”
The prophets, such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, and Habakkuk, referred their heavenly message as a “vision”.
In the New Testament, where the word “vision” is used 15 times, each verse deals with a heavenly message. Consider, for example, Acts 10:3 and 10:17, both visions were a message from God. Also, Paul, in Acts 26:19, testified to King Agrippa that he had not disobeyed the “heavenly vision”.
Nowhere in Scripture does “vision” even come close to meaning what some preachers are trying to make it mean. Scriptural vision is NOT plans for the future, hopes for the future, dreams for the future, ideas for the future, or even motivation for the future. Scriptural vision is simply, the word of God, and specifically in our text, the LAW of God.
Now, that makes more sense does it not? Where there is a lack of God’s word being read, taught, and preached – people perish. Where there is a lack of God’s law being observed – people perish. My friend, there is today a GREAT lack of God’s word and God’s law.
Let’s start with vision meaning “the word of the LORD”. I have long chided the liberal churches and denominations for their lack of Bible use. Why have a church; if you do not use a Bible? It is somewhat like walking around in a wet-suit, flippers, air-tanks, and goggles with no water within 100 miles. Seems kind of silly doesn’t it? To watch most people walk in and out of most churches today, you will find them Bible-less. This is because there is very little if any Bible used in the pulpit, let alone the home, school or government. The sad truth is that in many of our Independent – Fundamental Churches we are seeing the same thing. Whatever happened to Biblical preaching?
Not several years ago I sat and listened to a preacher preach on the importance of building a church with the word of God. As he began, I thought this would really be an excellent message. I was glad I had driven over 2 hours to this meeting. Half way through I realized that I had not used my Bible once since he read his poorly chosen text! Sure enough, 40 minutes later we had not used our Bibles at all, nor had there even been once reference to a Bible text, and this was a sermon on the importance of using the Bible in the building of a church. How ironic is that? But this is unfortunately not an isolated incident. Many churches all across America are lacking good BIBLE teaching. Whatever happened to the man of God expounding on the Scriptures? Whatever happened to the man of God preaching “thus saith the LORD”? Too often the text is read and straightway there departed from.
Where the “word of the LORD” is not faithfully, honestly, and rightfully divided and proclaimed – people perish! Churches are full and spilling over with unsaved people on their way to hell … simply because there is no biblical “vision”. Where a CHURCH studies the Bible and faithfully TEACHES the Bible instead of what they have heard others say and teach … people will be saved and churches will be revived. Today’s Christianity reminds me of I Samuel 3:1 – “And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”
Now, let’s for a moment consider vision meaning, as in our text verse, “the law”. Of course the law is the word of the LORD, but it is a little more specific. If you agree with me that there is a general lack of Biblical preaching and teaching today, then you would probably agree with me that the preaching of the law is almost non-existent!
Somehow and somewhere we have come to this conclusion that we are under grace that the law no longer has any place in our lives. Let me assure you that the law still has a very important place in the lives of the saved and unsaved alike!
I first realized the full impact of the law about 37 or 38 years ago. I, of course, had read Gal. 3:24 (Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.) many times but finally understood it when I began teaching Bible studies for a group in our church. In these Bible studies I took one complete study to define sin as the “transgression of the law” as we read 1 John 3:4, (Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.) and then go on to Ex. 20 and spend the remainder of the hour explaining the law. Without exception I could see how people were irritated, agitated, convicted and moved by God’s law. I’ve had people jump up in my face irritated at one of the commandments, I’ve had people come across the table wanting forgiveness, and I’ve seen a people confess publicly in a group of a dozen others that they had broken every single commandment. These reactions are normal. The law is a schoolmaster convicting us and bringing us to Christ.
Where there is no vision (or law) there is no conviction of sin, and where there is no conviction of sin there can be no salvation, and where there is no salvation – people perish! If “sin is the transgression of the law” how can you explain sin without explaining the law?
What about the law in the lives of Christians? Well, that can be answered simply enough … which of these laws do you think the Christian can and should ignore?
I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
III. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain
IV. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
V. Honour thy father and thy mother
VI. Thou shalt not kill
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery
VIII. Thou shalt not steal.
IX. Thou shalt not bear false
X. Thou shalt not covet
So, church, instead of encouraging people to “dream big and work hard” why don’t you encourage them to Preach and teach the word” and teach the law of God!! Instead of encouraging people to “dream big and work hard” why don’t you encourage them to obey the word and the law. We may not grow our church as big by preaching the word and the law as we would with dreams, plans and programs … but I promise you we will grow a better church!
Listen, Church, I am not against being a visionary. I wish I was a better planner, organizer and visionary. I have a hard time making and keeping long term goals and plans. I have a hard enough time with a 1-year plan, let alone a 5 or 10-year plan. I envy those with such foresight, but one thing I do know and that is that Proverbs 29:18 has nothing to do with being a good dreamer or planner and has everything to do with being a good preacher and teacher of God’s law and God’s word!
So, keep your plans and keep your dreams and maybe you can even keep some of your programs, but keep the Word of God in your lives, homes, church and pulpit. Preach it, teach it, live it hard, hot, and honestly. Keep the law before all people alike and do your best to keep people from perishing and going to hell! And next time you decide to use Pro. 29:18 … you will know how to teach, live and preach it correctly!
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2