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"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
Personally, I am a fan of the New American Standard Updated edition:
"Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law."
The New Living Translation gives yet another version, which is yet easier to grasp:
"When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy."
Each of these translations come close to the point:
Human beings need God to give them purpose and direction or they devolve into chaos and death.
Although I believe this is true for all human beings, this truth is absolute for God's people. You cannot be a Christian and not be led by God's vision. In other words, if you claim to be the church or even a church, and are not driven by God's vision, God's revelation, God's divine guidance, then you have missed the mark: you are a civic club with good intentions; but not the ekklesia; not the body of Christ.
This is a harsh conclusion, but what the prophets proclaimed to Israel was harsh, wasn't it? However, in a world where the church is rapidly shrinking, becoming irrelevant and losing influence, we desperately need insight not only into our plight, but into God's solution. The Church is the Body of Christ; God will not allow it to disappear. Nevertheless, God will not allow the church to thrive where it pursues its own self-driven agenda at the expense of God's purpose. This is Jeremiah's point in "The Potter's House" prophecy of Jeremiah 18. God is the potter and we are the clay. If the clay does not retain its shape, or fails in its purpose, then the potter begins again.
The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again. [Jeremiah 18:1-4 (NASB95)]
The same is true of our personal lives in Christ. If you have claimed Christ, the expectation is that you will "take up your cross and follow." This does not mean that our walk in Christ is "perfect", "flawless" or even "without sin" - but it does mean that we are constantly seeking God's purpose or vision for the life He has given to us. If we are not seeking that divine guidance, then our lives will never be what God has destined them to be; indeed, if we are not seeking His vision, then the "anointing" falls upon those who are. This does not mean that you "lose your salvation" or are simply miserable. What it means is that you will not be what God destined you to be...and isn't that difficult enough?
The New Testament is all about God's vision for each one of us and for the church. Individually, God's vision for us is Jesus. He is our model, our exemplar. He is the nexus of truth, goodness and beauty. Jesus is what it means to be human. His vision for us is in Luke 10:27-37; it is in Matthew 16:24, Mark 10:21 and John 15:13 - to name a few parts of the vision for us.
But Jesus then calls us out of our radical individuality and into a radical corporality! His Spirit calls us into a new way of 'being' - we are incorporated into a larger community of persons that is governed by the Spirit and Vision of Christ. Indeed, we are no longer satisfied by the poor substitution of selfish desire, but only by the very presence of Christ. It is his "well done, good and faithful servant" that satisfies us. It is the fulfillment of His desire, His will and His vision that drives us. The person once ruled by selfish pursuits is now driven by the very love of Christ. Our unique personhood is placed into the service of the Kingdom of God, which is exactly that for which we were made. It is only there that we find true satisfaction and life.
Friends, enter into prayer today and ask God about His vision for you. Ask Him to reveal that which is getting in the way of embracing and embodying that vision. Then take up your cross and follow Him; for it is only when we are "crucified with Christ" that we can be the person or church we were destined to be.