The Voice of Authority

This has been a very difficult sermon to prepare and not much easier to preach. At the end of the service you say, It was not easy for those of us who were trying to listen. This was not one of our better sermons.

Some sermon texts are difficult to interpret. Not so with this one, but the topic it presents to us, The Voice of Authority, is extremely irritating to many listeners. Let’s review the text.

Jesus and His disciples went into the synagogue at Capernaum. It wasÊone of His first public appearances at the beginning of a ministry that would last for three years. The synagogue was a logical place for ourÊLord to go, for there He could begin to teach the people who He was.ÊHe was more than Joseph’s son and the carpenter from Nazareth.Ê

He was the Son of God and Savior of the world. The service was simple prayer, a reading from the Scriptures and an exposition of what the text was teaching the listeners. When the service was over, those in attendance were interested in what Jesus had said.Ê

Unlike others who spoke at the synagogue, Jesus taught with authority. In addition to His preaching Jesus healed a man who was possessed with a demon. This was not a typical Sabbath and the big question being debated was, “What is this? A new teaching and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”

All of this leaves us anxious to know what Jesus discussed with the people on that day, but that question goes unanswered. The best we can do is list a few possibilities taken from other teaching experiences whereÊwe do know what His subjects were.

Perhaps Jesus talked about entrance into God’s Kingdom and the people’s relationship with God. You remember that was the livelyÊdiscussion He had with a member of the Jewish Council one eveningÊby the name of Nicodemus. He began by telling Nicodemus that no one could enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. What didÊit mean to be born again? This made no sense to Nicodemus who hadÊbeen taught that his membership in God’s Kingdom came because he was a Jew. Now Jesus was teaching this Pharisee that a person enters into a personal relationship with God through faith in Him who was God’s Son. As time went by, Jesus continually told the people that theirÊsalvation was not based on national origin, nor on their obedience to God’s Law, but was a gift from God through trusting in Jesus Christ.

Such teaching brought much negative reaction from the people, notÊonly because it was declared heretical, but because Jesus taught withÊauthority. It was hard for the listeners in Jesus’ day to accept and it isÊdifficult for people living in a pluralistic society to accept in our day.ÊYou say that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Do you know how offensive this is for my friends who are not Christians? You are telling them that they are not going to Heaven. You are building prejudices in their minds that will remain with them all of their lives. They might even try to evangelize some of these people who don’t believe in Jesus as the Savior of theÊworld, and that is not American.Ê

This is a typical response to the Christian’s proclamation of salvation by grace in Jesus Christ alone. These people are not opposed to us saying, It is my opinion that Jesus is the Savior of the world. That’sÊacceptable until you speak with authority that Jesus is the only wayÊinto a relationship with God and that is what He says. Whether thisÊwas one of Jesus’ strong points in His sermon at the synagogue thatÊSabbath day we do not know. But we do know that it is His primaryÊteaching today and it is hard for many to accept. Jesus was very concernedÊabout the home, so it would not be unreasonable to think that thisÊcould have been a part of His sermon on that Sabbath day.

Let’s begin talking about the home. Who should you marry? That’s kind of personal, isn’t it. Yet the Word of God speaks with authorityÊto the question. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do not be yokedÊtogether with unbelievers.” (II Corinthians 6:14) How does Mary reactÊto this authoritative word when her fiancee is good looking, well-educated and wealthy, but an unbeliever. Can’t you hear her say, “Is God tellingÊme that I can’t marry him? Forget it. That is one part of the Bible thatÊI’ve blotted out. You see, the reaction would not have been that strong had Paul written, “It might be well for you to consider not marrying aÊperson who is not a Christian.” Mary could have handled that word, and even respected Paul for his opinion, even though she did not agreeÊwith him. It is that authoritative voice that makes her angry, and that is what Christianity is battling in this day that stresses individual rights.

What happens in your family when you and your life have an argument.ÊThat is not unusual in any home. After all, we are different personalitiesÊand have strong opinions. The important thing is to know how to handle the dispute when it is over.Ê

I have a friend who told me that his wife puts him in the “deep freeze”Êwhen they have a big argument. By that he means that she does not talkÊto him for three days. They sit at the same table with the children andÊeat their meals, and she doesn’t utter a word to him. When it is absolutely necessary for her to communicate with her husband, sheÊspeaks through the children. You could almost laugh at such immaturity, but think what those children are going through during those hours.Ê

God’s Word would have no part in this kind of behavior. Paul writes toÊthe Christians in Ephesus, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”Ê(Ephesians 4:26) That means that our anger can not be more than one day old. How many marriages would have been saved if that word had been taken seriously, but a home can be destroyed because of the attitude. No one, not even God, is going to tell me that I have to apologize and accept an apology when someone has hurt me badly.

One more thought about life in your home. Are you teaching yourÊchildren to respect the voice of authority? The Bible tells us, “Train upÊa child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not departÊfrom it” (Proverbs 22:6).

I don’t like to talk about those good old days when almost everything was right. I am not so sure that such was the case. However, I am convinced that in general terms we who were raised fifty years ago had a better understanding of authority than is the case today.Ê

The school teacher was a disciplinarian and had support from society.ÊAs a third grader I had a great teacher. She was kind and loved her class, but none of us could misbehave and get away with it. At the beginningÊof the school year, she showed us her weapon. It was a piece of rubber hose about a foot long and split down the middle about six inches.ÊThe teacher told us that if it were necessary she would take any one who was interrupting the class out in the hall and slap our hands three timesÊwith the hose. I will not forget the day when one of the boys went to the hall with the teacher and came back with tears in his eyes.ÊAt recess time we asked Bob what happened, and he said that she had used the hose. If the discipline problem was beyond what our classroom teacher felt she should handle, the offender was sent to the principal’sÊoffice. She had a little whip, and the bad boy or girl was hit three timesÊon the legs.

Now, I am not defending this kind of discipline. I would vote againstÊteachers doing that today, but they know better than to try such methods of discipline. The teacher would not only be fired, but perhaps sued orÊput in jail for child abuse. However, these crude disciplinary acts did give us an understanding of what authority is all about. It is good to know there are other methods of teaching this same lesson, but it is tragic if something is not done to teach children that there areÊauthoritative figures and they must be respected, otherwise theÊhome and society will live in chaos.

How much discipline is in your home? Are the children running the home? God’s Word says, Better be careful. Without an understanding of authority your children could have some bad experiences downÊthe road of life.

Our impression of the authoritative voice is often wrong. We feelÊthat it takes something away from our freedom. Let me assure you that God’s voice of authority enriches our lives by giving us security, peace and hope. Think of His promises. He will forgive us our sins and restore us into a living relationship with our Heavenly Father. He will strengthen us when we need help for difficult tasks. Those words that He speaks to us are words of authority. They are sure.Ê

That’s why we can put such confidence in all that our Heavenly Father says to us.

It is my prayer that even though this sermon might have been irritating,Êyou know it was based on truth which comes from the Lord who loves you and wants the best for your life.Ê

Out Recruiting

A few weeks ago the door bell rang and there was my good friend,ÊTerry Allen, head football coach at the University of Kansas. TerryÊand his wife, Lynn, have been close friends since it was my privilege to introduce him to Jesus Christ.

After updating us on his family, Terry told us he was in the areaÊrecruiting players for his team. He wanted to have serious conversations with two young men about the possibility of theirÊcoming to Kansas to play football. Later, I read in the newspaper he had been successful in getting a commitment from one of theseÊtalented athletes. It is evident that to be a winning coach you haveÊto be a successful recruiter. You don’t have a competitive teamÊwithout a lot of talent.

Today introduces us to another recruiter who is none other thanÊJesus Christ Himself. He was out looking for men who wouldÊbecome His apostles. This was to be a distinctive office. TheÊbook of Acts gives the qualifications for selecting an apostle toÊtake Judas’ place, “It is necessary to choose one of the men whoÊhave been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and outÊamong us, beginning with John’s baptism to the time Jesus wasÊtaken up from us. For one of these must become a witnessÊamong us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22)Ê

They were twelve in number plus Paul whom the Lord met onÊhis way to Damascus and gave the special assignment of apostleÊto the Gentile world. Paul writes, “I am the least of the apostlesÊand do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because IÊpersecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I amÊwhat I am, and His grace to me was not without effect”Ê(I Corinthians 15:9-10).

These men had been taught personally by Jesus. He had inspiredÊthem to write the Scriptures, which are the authority of the ChristianÊfaith. Paul tells the church at Ephesus, “You are members of God’sÊhousehold built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, withÊChrist Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone.” The biblical scholar,ÊWilliam Barclay, points out in his writings that in Scripture theÊApostles were never to be succeeded. They were a unique groupÊof servants for that day and used in a special way to establish theÊChurch as we know it on planet earth.

In last Sunday’s text, Jesus recruited Philip and Nathaniel to be HisÊapostles. These were less prominent apostles than those being recruitedÊby our Lord in today’s text. This does not mean that they were lessÊimportant, but they did receive less publicity than some of their colleagues.ÊWe know little about some of the disciples, but they must haveÊpossessed specific talents and personality traits that caused JesusÊto recruit them.

This week’s text tells us about Jesus recruiting four other apostles:ÊAndrew, Peter, James, and John. Peter became the quarterback ofÊthe apostles. He was the spokesman for the group. He was theirÊleader after the crucifixion of Jesus. John was the running back.ÊÊChrist used him to write five books that are a part of the New Testament.ÊYou may ask, What about Andrew and James, plus the other eight?ÊThey too had very important roles to play in the establishment of theÊChurch. They surely did To use the football illustration, they couldÊwell have been that offensive line who got far less publicity than theÊplayers carrying the ball. However, as Ron Dayne, Heiseman TrophyÊwinner, could not have rushed over 7,000 yards in his college careerÊhad he not had a strong offensive line, so perhaps John would notÊhave been nearly as effective as a highly publicized apostle withoutÊthe assistance of his brother, James.

Thomas, who is often called the doubter, would have been theÊstrong player on the team to deal with those people who wereÊhaving trouble with their faith. Philip and Andrew showed a realÊpassion for those who were timid but wanted to meet Jesus. PeterÊmight have displayed an attitude of being too busy for this kind ofÊperson, but such was not the case with his brother, Andrew. HeÊand Philip brought those Greeks seekers to Jesus.

These were the Apostles, the unique office holders of Jesus in theÊearly Church. But the recruitment goes on. Christ did not stop withÊthe apostles. He sent the twelve out to be recruiters. This time theyÊwere to seek disciples. The search for these people was not limitedÊto those with particular abilities. They were to be witnesses for theÊLord. There was and is only one requirement to be Christ’s disciple,Êand that is to live and mature in a personal relationship with Him.

The recruitment continues as the Holy Spirit speaks to us who areÊbelievers in Jesus Christ. “You are to be my witnesses… I will makeÊmy appeal to this world through you,” are God’s Words to us. WeÊare saved to serve Christ. Let’s be honest, friend, and confess ourÊsin of leaving the witnessing to some other believer. This world would not be in the spiritual condition it is today if those who confess ChristÊwould only share their faith with others who do not know Him. It is toÊbe done in love to help those who walk through life without any spiritualÊhelp. A word spoken at the right time can be used by the Holy SpiritÊto start the process, which will ultimately bring the person to Christ.ÊThat is our mission as disciples of Christ.

All of this may cause you to have questions regarding the make-upÊof Christ’s Church. What is the difference between the people referredÊto as laity and those who are clergy? The clergy is that group of peopleÊwho have felt a calling to serve as teachers and preachers in the Church.ÊAfter being properly trained in theology, their inner call is affirmedÊthrough receiving a call from a congregation to come and be theÊshepherd of the flock. While the congregation should respect theÊoffice of pastor to which these people have been called, the clergyÊare not on an elevated level in comparison to the laity. This needs toÊbe emphasized, for it is easy to think the pastors have an exaltedÊposition because of their ordination. Some of the most effectiveÊwitnessing for the Lord Jesus is done by the laity. I recently read thatÊeighty-five percent of the people who come to Christ come on aÊone-to-one basis and not by preaching. This shows the importantÊrole of all Christians in reaching out, and there is no distinctionÊbetween laity and clergy.

Likewise, the Bishops, as we understand the Scriptures inÊevangelical Christianity, have an office that should be respected. They have been elected by the church to serve for limited terms forÊthe sake of order. They are often referred to as pastors to the pastors.ÊThey are available to counsel the congregations and the pastorsÊwhenever there is a need. This counsel can be accepted or rejected,Êfor the final authority of what happens is in the hands of theÊcongregation and not pastors nor bishops. The important Biblical teaching to remember is that, in Christ, we are believers to serve Him in various ways with a great mission, and that is to tell theÊworld about the Savior.

The bell to your heart’s door rings today. There stands Jesus.ÊHe is recruiting you to join Him in the mighty job of building HisÊKingdom which is forever.Ê

Jesus Believes in People

“If we sing Silent Night one more time, I’ll scream!” That’s what an elderly woman said to me the day after Christmas. She had heard this familiar carol sung from Thanksgiving to Christmas and that was all the woman wanted of that hymn for the time being. But wait until next Christmas and she will be anxious to sing its lovely melody and meaningful words again.

About this time of the year I also come close to screaming when I see the texts assigned for the next Sundays on which I am to prepare my sermons. Many Christian churches use the lectionary or pericope texts as the basis for the pastor’s message. For example, thousands of sermons are being preached on these words from John 1:43-51 which focuses on Jesus choosing His Apostles. Sometimes the faithful members of the congregation would say to me, “This is a beautiful portion of God’s Word, but there are so many other parts of the Bible which we know little about. Why do you continually preach on these portions of Scripture which are so familiar to us that the sermon becomes boring? When this comment is made, I know that I have not done my homework. I have been content to tell the Bible story which is familiar to the congregation, but behind the story there are the messages which the text seeks to tell.

One of the strong messages that comes to us today from the text is: JESUS BELIEVES IN PEOPLE This is a message we need to hear, for our society teaches differently. They believe it is necessary for people to prove themselves before they are worthy of being accepted. A friend of mine plays in one of the leading symphony orchestras in the United States. He is still on a probationary period before tenure will be given to him. These are the days when he is proving himself. The young athlete has to prove himself to the coach. What happens then? Well, enough rejections can make the person stop believing in himself. So I need to hear that Jesus believes in me.

Our text teaches us this lesson. I am thrilled that the two disciples our text deals with

today are Philip and Nathanael. There are not many references to Philip in the New

Testament. We are told that Jesus found Philip and asked him to become an apostle. The others either came to Jesus or were brought by someone else to Him. Does that mean Philip did not have as much initiative as the others? Philip could well have been pessimistic by nature. You recall the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 people. He did not want to send them home hungry. Listen to this part of the story, “When Jesus saw the great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him for he already had in mind what He was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Eight month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.'”

Andrew was listening to this conversation and he said, “Lord, there is a lad here with five loaves of bread and two fish. I know this is not enough to feed the multitude, but perhaps you can do something with this small amount of food.” This was an optimistic attitude, for Andrew believed that nothing was impossible for Christ. On another occasion some Greeks came to Philip asking to be introduced to Jesus. Philip did not have the courage to say, “Come with me and I will give you a personal introduction.” Rather, Philip ran to Andrew and said, “These people want to meet Jesus. What shall we do? It didn’t take Andrew long to take them to the Savior and give them that personal introduction they wanted to have. At times it seems that Philip was in over his head. One day he said to Jesus, “Jesus, show us the Father.” It was at that time that Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you are still asking me to show you the Father. He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

It appears to me that Philip was not a born leader, but I am sure when the day came for Philip to go and make disciples of the nations, he was ready for the mission. Jesus chose Philip because He believed that people could be changed and become great people of God. It was because God could change a person that we can say, “Jesus believes in people.” The second person called that day to become an apostle was Nathanael, who was from Bethsaida. Philip met Nathanael and said, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”ÊÊ

Hearing this Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Then Philip replied, “Just come and see for yourself.” When Jesus met Nathanael, he said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” This was too much for Nathanael. He responded, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus then replied, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Nathanael, I have great plans for you. You can’t begin to imagine how I am going to use you. Jesus believed in people because He knew how Nathanael could be changed and become a great man of God. We can be sure that as one of the twelve Apostles, he did much in bringing the Gospel to the people of his day.

Here is the great note of encouragement. Truly He can make something out of you and

me. Like the Apostles, Christ must first lead us to the commitment that He is Savior and Lord of all who will believe in Him. He must convince us that He will use us. Think of it!Ê

You can be used to lead another person to Christ. He took the negative, skeptical spirit away from Philip, and He can make the same change in you and me. One of the most exciting parts of my ministry is to see how God has used people.

We had a family in our church many years ago whose husband and dad never worshiped with the wife and two daughters. He stayed home and prepared the Sunday dinner while they were in Sunday school and church. I visited this man and pleaded with him to join his family on Sunday morning at the worship service, but he did not come. Then came that Sunday morning when I looked down from the pulpit and saw him sitting there, all smiles.Ê

I am sure that he thought I would fall right out of the pulpit, and I almost did. The next day I went to that home and asked what had happened that brought dad to church with them. “I’ll tell you what happened,” he said. The family was almost ready to leave and our youngest daughter sat down beside me on the sofa and said, ‘Daddy, do you love me?’ He looked at her and said, ‘Why do you ask that silly question. You know that I love you.’ With eyes beaming she said, ‘Daddy, come with us to church.'” Jesus used that precious child to touch the heart of her father, a heart that no preacher could ever touch.

Today you may feel that no one believes in you and you don’t blame them because you haven’t proven yourself. Let me say once more, Christ believes in you. He can change your life and use you to do great things for Him and others. He will equip you for whatever this task will be.

Yes, these texts are familiar, but how badly we need to hear the lessons they teach us.Ê

Jesus believes in you. He knows what you can become if you will let Him mold you into becoming a great man or woman of God.Ê

What Do We Do With the Bible?

The Bible as a book is still held in high esteem. Every year thousands of copies of the Scriptures are sold. Since so many people confess their ignorance of the Bible, one can only wonder how often it is read. What place does the Bible have in influencing our culture, our individual lives, and even the program of the Church? That’s what I would like to visit with you about in this sermon. But before we tackle that question, let’s take a look at our text.

John was preaching and baptizing people in the wilderness outside of Jerusalem. John was hesitant when Jesus requested to be baptized. This was understandable but John did baptize Him and as Jesus came up from the water following His baptism, a voice came down from heaven revealing who Jesus was: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (vs. 11).

Today this same revelation comes to us through those Bibles found on the bookshelves of our homes. It is good that we have this word from the Lord, but how is it applied in our lives. Here are three ways the Scriptures are treated:

First, there is evidence from high places in our society that it is denied as being the voice of any authority. If it were an authoritative voice, the Supreme Court’s decision of Roe vs.Wade, legalizing abortion would never have been written. And if it had been written by the Court, the Congress would have passed new legislation protecting the lives of the unborn in its next session. But politics prevailed over the authority of God’s Word which says, “Thou shall not kill.” Consequently, hundreds of thousands conceived in their mothers’ wombs are never born.

If the Bible had the same authority in the closing days of the twentieth century that it had at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Vermont Supreme Court would not have ruled that same-sex marriages must have all the legal rights enjoyed by heterosexual husbands and wives. The Word of God says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply'” (Genesis 1:22-28). Marriage, built on the authority of God’s Word, was intended for man and woman who were to propagate the earth.

And so in another year a new president of the United States will be inaugurated and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will officiate. The president-elect will place his hand on a Bible and take the solemn oath of office. This is wonderful. I would not want it changed, but one has to ask, “How much influence does the message of the Bible have in the oval office, the hallowed halls of congress or the supreme court when the hard questions have to be dealt with that will direct this nation in the new millennium?”

A second misuse of the Bible is to use the “pick and choose” method. I pick those visits that appeal to me and cast away the others. The beautiful words of Psalm 23 are favorites of most people, but the words of Peter, “Repent,” do not have the same popularity. In my years of ministering to people, I have not been asked to read the passages that talk about the consequences of sin or our need to forsake such sins as lust and greed. I can quote the passage, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” when some young teenager has become pregnant out of wedlock. However, I have difficulty with the words from our Lord, “If you know there is something wrong between you and another person, go to him and get it settled.”

Thirdly, and thank God, there are millions of people who take God’s Word as revealed in the Bible seriously. The blessed promises of God’s Word are our source of strength and comfort. Here are some of them: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us… For by grace you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ . . . I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he dies yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die . . . Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and your neighbor as yourself.” As you read these passages, are they not the spiritual gems that are important in your life? These are not idle promises based on feelings found in God’s Word which are our authority. We believe that through these words God has spoken.

The confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is well stated. “We believe that the Bible is the Word of God and our only authority in all matters of faith and life.” I am thankful that my church has this statement in its writings but none of us who belong to that church body would say that receiving the Bible as God’s Word comes naturally. Our mothers and fathers might have taught us this doctrine but it took the Holy Spirit to convince us of its truth. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

How fortunate for many of us to have been born in homes where the Bible was a used book. In my parental home seldom did a day go by but what father or mother read from the Scriptures. The blessing continued as we were raised in churches where this Word was preached and taught to us in our Sunday school classes. How well I remember one of my Sunday school teachers, Arthur Petersen. He was not a theologian but a man who loved the Lord and His Word. He came faithfully every Sunday and pointed us to God’s eternal truths.

A few days ago, I was riding with my 10 year-old granddaughter, Sarah. I asked her if all the children in her class at school went to church. “All but four, grandpa,” she replied. I then asked about the four children who did not attend church and she told me that two of them were Moslem and did not believe in Jesus and the other two just didn’t go to church.

Now she lives in a world where the Bible is called into question. As she talked about her own faith in Christ, which thrilled this old grandpa’s heart, I wondered if that same faith would be in Sarah’s heart when she is 20 years old. That is only ten years away and during that crucial time she will hear God’s Word attacked and made fun of in many different places. We can only pray that the power of that Word will enable her to not only own a Bible, but to consider it her source of spiritual strength.

If you came from a home where the Bible was not taken seriously, I would like to share how you can become convinced that in the Scriptures God is speaking to you.

1. Read the Bible. Then sit back and meditate on what it is saying to you. I used to keep a journal stating what God had said to me on a particular day from His Word. It was fun to read this a year later.

2. Attend church regularly where the Scriptures are proclaimed. You need to be spiritually fed. Worship where you best hear the Word proclaimed.

3. Become involved with a small group of people in Bible study. You will learn much from one another. In the Bible study group which I attend each Thursday morning, I have seen many men come to faith in Christ. I have also seen others who trusted Christ grow in that faith. A young industrialist told me that it was the “highlight” of his week.

What do you do with the Bible?

It is important to answer this question.

When you are led by the Holy Spirit to say the Bible is God’s Word, you have direction for living and a stability in your life that you would otherwise not have, you sense the presence of Jesus Christ walking with you through life, and you await a victorious death as Christ welcomes you to your heavenly home.

A God-Given Vision

Think of the blessings we have enjoyed in this millennium. Go back a thousand years and who knew anything about the land that would be called America? Go back one hundred years and living was much simpler but in other way is far more difficult than it is today.

Many of the blessings we enjoy today would not be ours if people had not had great visions of what could become reality Very little of significance happens without planning. The writer of Proverbs makes that clear when he writes, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

What are your dreams for the year 2000? I hope you have some. There is a note of defeat in the statement, I have no plans for the future. I just live from day to day. It is true that Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow. He wanted us to live each day to the fullest, but that did not mean we should not make plans for the future.

While the old King James version of the Bible translates the Hebrew word “vision,” the New International Bible translates the word “revelation.” It reads, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” Putting the two translations together teaches us that our vision for the future needs to be based on God’s revelation as revealed in His Word.

Perhaps we make biblical teaching clear by looking at the lives of Abraham and Moses. Abraham was living comfortably in Mesopotamia. Then came the revelation from God telling Abraham he should leave the land of his fathers with all of its luxuries, and God would lead him to the promised land where he would become the father of a great nation. Receiving this revelation the Bible says, “So Abram (Abraham) left as the Lord had told him…” (Genesis 12:4) Abraham had a vision based on God’s revelation.

Moses lived with his people, the Jews, in Egypt where they were considered slaves. It was a comfortable place to be. All the securities of family living were available for them, but God wanted His people out of Egypt, and Moses was the appointed leader. Unlike Abraham, Moses did not want this position of leadership. But God had called him, so finally Moses accepted the call. It was a vision based on revelation from God which gave Moses the plan to move his people out of slavery to the promised land.

It was on the day Jesus ascended into heaven that He gave His disciples a vision which was based on revelation, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” With this word from the Lord the Church of Jesus Christ has been motivated by this vision to bring the Gospel to all parts of the world. God has given us many visions based on the revelation in His Word. He has told us who we are people created in the image of God, who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ when we turned our backs on God, and called to be His ambassadors.

We are God’s people with a vision based on God’s revelation from the Scriptures. We are not just numbers printed on a credit card. The more personal our relationship with God becomes, the more we are conscious of His will, and this gives us a vision. No matter what our age, God is anxious to give us a vision for life. Young people living in our homes should be challenged to give serious thought to the question, “What does God want me to do with my life?”

Many young people have no idea what they want to do in life. They have been counseled that they only need to get a good general education and the rest will work out. I would be no one to challenge the educators in this advice, for we have seen the value of a well-rounded liberal arts education. But I have visited with many of these young people who are confused and separated when they have a bachelor’s degree, but are not prepared to do anything in the real world. I believe that if they were asking God to give them a vision based on His revelation, many of them would be well-directed in choosing work that would be a life-long satisfying experience.

As we move from youth to middle-age, God is anxious to give you visions that will enrich your life. By this time you have been blessed with children. What is your vision for them? Is it to have a prestigious position that provides an excellent income? Nothing wrong with that, but is it a big enough vision to assure satisfaction and happiness. Might it not be well to suggest that they make planning their future a matter of prayer for God to guide them?

He might give them more help than the guidance counselor is able to do. Do you have a vision for your marriage? Does your vision include growing in your Christian faith so that you become a mature witness for Christ and the Gospel? Then come the years where we enter retirement.

These days that we thought would be glorious are not all they are cracked up to be for many of us. Oh, there is plenty of time for playing, but it isn’t long before that gets boring. Walk the beaches of Florida and ask the retirees if they are happy. I have found that many of them wish they could be back at their work where there was some fulfillment. One man who had retired from an important job became so bored with life that he is carrying out groceries at a supermarket. It is not for the money. He just needed to be with people.

This is not true for all people, nor does it mean that we have to continue working at a job that requires great responsibility as far as the stockholders are concerned. But I wonder if God doesn’t want to use some of those talents even in old age. I recall the man in Florida who, after his retirement from a large eastern corporation, went to work as a volunteer in his congregation. This gentleman was training people how to share their faith in Christ when God gave them the opportunity to do this. I was one of his trainees the night that I listened to this former executive share the Gospel with a person who did not know Christ. It was exciting.

As we completed the visit, he told me that of all of the challenges he faced as a man with great responsibilities in his job, none were as challenging as sharing Christ with those who were lost. “Once I dealt with profits and that was important. Now I deal with the souls of people and that is far more important. God had given him a vision in his days of retirement which was based on the revelation, “You are to be my witnesses.”

Let me share my own experiences with you. Retirement from the parish ministry was difficult for me. I truly thought life was over. After a lot of complaining to my wife and a few close friends, I decided it would not be pleasant for me or my family if I continued in this state of mind. I began to make this a matter of prayer and it was not long before God laid on my heart the great challenges that I have in the radio ministry? I had retired from my parish, wasn’t it now time to retire from the radio ministry. By no means. This has become a great challenge to proclaim the great truths of God’s Word to perhaps many thousands of people each Sunday. We got new personnel in the radio office who had visions of what this program could become.

At the same time all of this was going on in the radio ministry, leaders from smaller congregations who were without a pastor began calling asking if I would preach for them on a Sunday morning. The opportunities there have become so numerous that I have to schedule a Sunday or two every so often to worship in our own church less we lose touch with those people who have been so important in our lives for many years.

I believe that we can also have a vision regarding our death. This does not mean that we run around talking about dying, but that day will come. What will it be like? None of us know but Jesus has given us a vision based on revelation. He has gone to prepare a place for us and one day He will come to take us to that heavenly home. Will we be able to lie on our death beds with that glorious vision of heaven as we breathe our last breath? I hope so.

I would like to suggest that you take a piece of paper and write down your dreams for the future. Then go over them carefully and ask if your dreams are based on God’s revelation. If they come only from your thinking, are the dreams big enough? Why not put each one of our dreams to the test to see if they are based on His revelation as taught in the Bible.

If they pass the test, you will have a God-given vision for the year as you begin a new millennium.