Originally published Monday, 13 October 2014.
Be thou my vision / O Lord of my heart...
As I sat pondering a vision that had seemed a long-time formed, yet still a far way's off, this hymn ran its lilting melody through my thoughts. Praise the Lord that he provides reminders of the truth, a renewing of the mind, when the world and its desires tempt us to lose focus of what is true.
Here's what I mean by this. There is so much pressure to do something great for the Lord, to find one's area of giftedness and run with it to the max. (Aubrey actually wrote a post on this several months ago that I would encourage you to read.) So much pressure, and much of it, I must admit, comes from my own expectations for myself.
I want to believe that my intentions are good, that I truly desire to honor Christ in whatever "things" he leads me to "do."
But what I read this morning in Matthew chapter 23 challenged these intentions. And my hope, in sharing the passage with you, is that God's Word will lead us both to pursuing an even bigger vision for our very lives.
The passage is what has come to be known as "The Seven Woes." Here's the beginning of the story from Matthew's Gospel:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:1-12).
Regarding the reading of the Bible: The question to ask is not, "What are my life experiences telling me about this passage?" but, "What does the truth in this passage tell me about my life? What does it tell me about Christ and the gospel?"
In asking these questions about Matthew 23, I realized that Christ's words here are directly tied to my recent musings about vision. So I ask, "What does God's Word have to say to my understand of what true vision is? How does this passage shape my understanding of vision?"
It led me to contrast two very different profiles outlined by Jesus:
The Humble look to Christ as their vision. They look to serve others, rather than be served by others. They walk in the way of Christ, rather than merely giving lip service to his commands. The humble find their success not in what they "do," but in being united to Christ Jesus.
The Proud look to worldly gain, recognition, and peoples' approval as their vision. They look to be served, not being willing to move a finger in the labor of love towards others. They consider themselves so great and lofty that they do not even walk in the commands of God, themselves, though they teach them to others. The proud find their success in the accolades of men.
In looking at these two profiles, I find myself considering the motives behind this vision I've had in mind for so long. And I am cut to the heart when I realize that I often "do" in order to be seen by others. I often "do" because I think God most certainly must use these astounding gifts he's given me (what else would they be for?).
But my heart is misdirected. Suddenly, this vision has become about me, about being seen by others, about being served rather than serving.
Everything within me cries, "Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart! Naught be all else to me, save that thou are! Thou my best thoughts by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light."
Please do not hear me say that having a specific vision is selfish or wrong; it's not. Christ had a vision to save his chosen ones, and praise God that he obeyed it perfectly.
But it led him to the cross.
The road was not easy, not glamourous, and certainly was not complete with mens' accolades. Christ suffered so that those who put their faith in him might have life. Christ looked to his Father for vision and followed him obediently all the way to his death.
Knowing Christ, abiding in him, and following obediently is the greatest vision a person could have for their lives. We can rest assured that, when we are seeking to know him, he will show us the specific paths in which we are to walk, while leading us by the power of the Holy Spirit. This will absolutely lead to doing the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do, that we should walk in them.
But these specific visions and good works come from first seeing Christ as our whole vision and loving him above all other earthly things.
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." May we all, who call Christ Lord and Savior, be humbled by his great glory and authority over our lives, making him our vision and practicing whatever he would command us to do. Let's take up our crosses and follow him, wherever he may lead.
Lord Jesus, All authority belongs to you, on earth and in heaven. You have made us your disciples by your grace, when all we deserved was judgement. And you have lavished your riches on us, preparing good works for us, that we should walk in them. Give us clear direction about what those good works are in your timing, and provide us the strength to obey, wherever you may take us. Be the vision of our hearts, humble us to your glory, that we may love you more and know you better every single day.
[Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.]
See the original post over at The Identity Project.