Friday, February 01, 2008

Sunday’s Sermon Outline

Introduction: Many people today think that effective Christian leaders have detailed visions from God and are able to cast their visions well. People who follow such leaders relish having detailed spiritual road maps for the future. Unfortunately, rather than understanding the biblical definition for the word “vision,” such leaders claim to have a new vision from God and use the secular definition—a detailed goal for the future. When the Bible discusses the type of vision that motivates, it always refers to supernatural revelation. Many secular businesses and even schools have "visions" and "vision statements," not supernatural revelation. Many pastors have imported the secular definition and don't understand the biblical definition. If they understood the biblical definition, they would not claim to have a new vision.

1. What We Should Not Do to Determine God’s Will—Look for New Visions

Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law” (NASB). This verse is often abused by those who talk about visions. The vision here refers to a detailed prophetic vision of the future that was supernaturally given by God. Such visions always came true. Daniel received such prophetic visions, as did the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. Jeremiah warned of false prophets who claim to have a vision from God in Jeremiah 23:16: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD.’” Another verse that is frequently abused is Joel 2:28: “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” This verse was quoted in Acts 2:17 by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. Peter translated “after this” from Joel 2:28 as “in the last days” in Acts 2:17. Thus, many people think the direct visions from God will continue until the second coming of Christ, but the verse from Joel was fulfilled during the time that Peter lived. The “last days” does not always refer to the time of the second coming of Christ. Jesus died on the cross in the last days—“at the consummation of the ages” (Hebrews 9:26). The author of Hebrews said that God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). The Canon of Scripture is now closed. If people could now receive direct visions from God such as the vision John received on Patmos, then the Canon would not be closed, and we would in fact need notebooks to which we could continually add new visions—new revelations from God. New visions that come directly from God do not exist today. Scripture is sufficient. We now have no need for new visions—new detailed, supernatural, prophetic revelations.

2. What We Should Do to Discern God’s Will—Don’t Conform, Be Transformed

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul was writing to Christians here—the “brethren.” The word “prove” in this context means “discern.” Thus, to discern God’s will, Christians must do two things. They must not be conformed to the world, and they must be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Many Christians today have gone to the opposite extreme of the Amish, and they are greatly infected by worldliness. We must allow Scripture to transform our minds like a scalpel in spiritual surgery. Indeed, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Conclusion: When an important decision needs to be made, Christians should pray about the issue and carefully analyze the issue using Scriptural principles and renewed minds while not allowing worldly attitudes to affect the decision-making process. The Bible is sufficient to direct us. We do not need any new visions. We can certainly set goals, but we should not define goals as visions. Biblical visions were always direct, supernatural revelations from God.