By Andy Constable
Last week we were thinking about the lack of biblical men in our churches. One of the biggest problems for men is that of apathy and I think much of it is caused by a lack of vision. Many men are being taken in by pornography, television and computer games because they have little vision for the gospel and the church. They have little direction and don’t know what they, particularly, have been saved for. Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law…” (ESV) Solomon warns us that a lack of Biblical vision leads to a lawless society. A lack of vision leads to discouragement which, in turn, leads to apathy. On the other hand, someone who is motivated has a drive, something that they are trying to attain, and they strive for it.
As Christian men we should be, primarily, taken in by the wonder of Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Paul was a man who loved the gospel. For him to live was Christ. This man breathed Jesus. The Lord was his very reason for existing. Paul was in love with Jesus. Likewise, this ought to be our starting place. We are to be in awe of the one who gave up his life for us. One of my favourite quotes is by a man called C.T.Studd: “if Christ be God and died for me then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” If we truly knew deep down what it cost Christ to ransom us then we would have no problem laying down our lives in his service.
It’s important to ask the question at this time – is this statement that Paul makes applicable to all believers or does this just sum up the thoughts of a super apostle? One of the negative things often found within Evangelical churches is a separation between those we call ‘saintly Christians’ and ‘ordinary Christians’. The danger is that we can lionise the so-called saintly Christians who do missionary work, preach the gospel powerfully and appear to have a blessed spiritual life. Meanwhile the ordinary Christian, who maybe works a 9-5 job, or the new Christian who is still working out what the faith means, or the older Christian who feels that God has stopped using them, are somehow relegated to a second tier spirituality.
Many believers look at their mundane lives and compare them with the exciting missionaries going to exotic places and think, “I’m just an ordinary Christian who isn’t called to live for Christ”. This is a lie from the devil. All of us are called to live for Christ with our lives however we categorise (wrongly) ourselves.
Think about these verses that Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” A Christian is someone who has been given new life through Christ. We once lived for the things of the world – money, respect, houses, jobs, drugs, comfort, charity work, being religious…But now we are new creations with the sole purpose of living for Christ. We were dead in our sins, chasing after all sorts of things BUT God has saved us from our sin so that we might live for Him.
If we get the gospel then ALL our former purposes for living GO OUT THE WINDOW BECAUSE WE SEE THE MEANINGLESSNESS OF LIVING FOR THEM and we BEGIN to live for Christ. Existing becomes about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and all else becomes insignificant. This statement from Paul is not simply for him but should be the statement that sums up every Christian life. To live is Christ. With these truths as our foundation, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.
We need to look at what makes us passionate. What makes us get up in the morning? What moves our hearts? Is it music, the homeless, the persecuted church, our non-Christian work mates, young people, serving old people, teaching people God’s word…?
Whatever it is pray about it and see how you can use your gifts to serve this purpose for the glory of Christ. Then I encourage you to write down a vision statement to focus your energies. A vision statement encapsulates what you’re driving towards. Mine is: To have a gospel centred church that is reaching every area of life in Niddrie. Then pray about this vision. Think about it. Move towards it. And allow the gospel to move you away from apathy to action.
There is a pitfall to visionary thinking and that is that we need to be humble. Bonhoeffer wrote this: “God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious.” It’s important to have vision but make sure that you keep a humble heart. Let’s remember, that there is more to life than computer games, pornography and having banter. Jesus has called us from darkness into his wonderful light to serve him and his kingdom. As John Piper warns us through this old hymn: “only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Don’t waste your life on things that don’t make any difference for eternity. Only what’s done for Christ will last. Get a vision of Christ and get a vision for his work.