A Vision That Renews
by Ted Schroder
There are two ways of living: one way is to get up every day and do what is on the agenda for that day; and the other way is to look ahead beyond the immediate and ask, “Why am I doing this? Where am I going? What do I want to achieve?” The former approach allows the immediate to dictate how our time is used, and the latter approach prefers to set priorities according to their answers to those questions.
I prefer the latter approach. I like to set long term goals which influence how I manage my time and priorities. Goal-setting requires having some sort of vision for your life. Where do we find that vision? How often do we need to renew our vision? I find that I need to do it fairly frequently in order to stay fresh, and to check whether my priorities are what they should be. The days and years can roll along without change for some time and then there is the need for a renewed vision. There is a tendency for our energy to run down and our batteries need to be recharged. A crisis can occur which gets us reaching out for help with a new urgency. There are new demands upon us to which we have to respond. New situations arise in which we don’t have all the answers. The former responses don’t satisfy and we get discouraged. We need a shot in the arm – something to get us going again in the right direction, with renewed vigor.
Such was the case with a young nobleman named Isaiah. His beloved king had died, and he was in mourning. He went to his church (the Temple) and there experienced a life-changing vision. (Isaiah 6:1-8) What can we learn from his experience to renew our own vision?
1. Seek a renewed vision through prayer and worship.
While he was praying in the Temple, Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted. Above the Lord were the seraphs, heavenly creatures who guarded the throne and led the worship by singing of the transcendent holiness and universal presence of God’s glory. The vision was one of sovereignty, power, authority, purity, and omnipresence: “the whole earth is full of his glory.” We gain perspective on our lives when we are reminded of the transcendent: God in his heavenly court: the supernatural, celestial world, angels and archangels. The book of Revelation reminds us that behind and beyond this world with all its clamor and historical crises there is another eternal, heavenly world. When we get hold of that reality our lives take on a different meaning from the merely temporal and material. When we pray for guidance and wisdom we are connecting with a spiritual world that is powerfully connected to us. God delights to hear our prayers. Worship is meant to help us focus on the Presence of God. God is present in worship. God is present in all creation. The whole earth is full of his glory. That is our belief. Our vision is renewed when we know that. We know where we are going in Christ, and we know God wants to help us to get there.
2. Be aware of your own need, and the needs of others.
As a result of seeing the Lord and the heavenly court Isaiah was convicted of his own unworthiness and the problems of those among whom he lived. “For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” His vision of the presence of God had awakened him to his own impurity, inadequacy, and failure, and the plight of others like him in his community. Efforts to keep ourselves away from God by denying his existence and presence are defensive attempts to maintain the illusion of our own independence and goodness. When we experience the presence of the inexplicable, the reality of God, we get a clearer glimpse of our own problems. Self-examination under the bright light of God’s gaze can be devastating. There is no way we can hide, excuse, or cover up our shortcomings. But accurate diagnosis or evaluation is necessary before a cure can be applied. We look around us and see that others are afflicted with the same problems. We all stand in the
same fallen, fallible, and frustrated human condition. The daily news confirms this diagnosis.
3. Welcome the burning love of God.
The seraph touched Isaiah’s mouth with a live coal from the altar: “See this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” A sacrifice on the altar had been offered in his place to atone for his sins. God in his compassion and mercy had acted to cleanse him of guilt, to pay the penalty, and to restore him to fellowship. The love of God came down to us in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, so that we might be made new, given a new start, and totally purified. The fire of God’s Spirit brings the presence of God into our hearts to dwell there with us. When we appreciate all that God has done for us in Christ and by the gift of his Spirit we can never be complacent or complaining. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5,6) If we are so renewed then we must seek to be continually renewed by the filling of the Holy Spirit. Ask and you shall receive.
4. Hear and Respond to God’s Call.
God advertises for volunteers to represent him in the world: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” The Holy Trinity seeks willing individuals to commission as ambassadors for the Gospel. The world has fallen away from God, it exists against his will, and he wishes to have it back. Isaiah finds his vocation as prophet when he responds to the call: “Here am I. Send me!” In order to get this world back again, and in his compassion, God wants the Gospel proclaimed. God is continually calling his people to reach out to others with the Good News of his love. Just as the live coal from the altar touched Isaiah’s lips and he became a prophet, God seeks to touch us to become his messengers. We are his lips, his voice to the community.
Who are the people to whom God is calling us to go?
1. The Skeptics: those who do not believe in God, or heaven, or visions, or accountability, or salvation. They are alienated and angry, and need love and acceptance.
2. The Ignostics: those with no Christian background and no experience or memory to relate to Christianity. They need to hear the story of Jesus.
3. The Notional Christians: those who have some memory or notion of what Christianity is, but it is not impacting their lives. They need to experience the reality of the Spirit.
4. The Nominal Christians: those who claim to be Christians but are not active in any church. They need to belong to a loving community.
What are the characteristics of the unchurched?
They may not be in a church, but they believe in God. They have legitimate questions about spiritual matters. They want to experience God, not just know something about him. They may be morally adrift but they want an anchor. They are looking for a practical application of faith. They are not loyal to a denomination but want to find a community where their needs are met.
What can you do?
1. Make sure that your vision of God is fresh – experiential and not just intellectual. Seek that vision in your Sunday worship and your daily prayers.
2. Get in touch with your own needs and the needs of others by transparent
evaluation. Pray that the Spirit would reveal to you what you need to know about yourself and others.
3. Let God love you with his forgiveness and cleansing. Thank Christ for his sacrifice on the Cross to heal you. Deepen your appreciation of the Cross and the gift of the Spirit. Seek daily to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of the love of God.
4. Listen to what God is calling you to do for others. Reach out to the people God is putting in your path. Get to know them. Ask them questions about their lives. Earn the right to share with them your faith. Invite them to join you for worship so that they too might experience a vision of God that will renew them.
June 3, 2007
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