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The Power of the Gospel Vision (1)

Genesis 11:1-7; Romans 1:16

Jim Davis

Beethoven was deaf, but he did not allow his deafness to diminish his desire to compose the greatest operas the world has known. Beethoven wrote, "I have never seen life as a resignation. Life is a gift, as the word is a gift from a generous God. As our vital strength is a gift, I will not submit. I shall have the courage of my endurance. Where my body fails, my spirit will dominate, my heart will create. I shall speak out of my silence. I shall shout! I shall sing! Man, help yourself! For you are able!"

There are no hopeless situations, only people who think hopelessly. Beethoven’s dream to create music continues to shape the world of music although he is dead. Beethoven exemplifies the power of each of us. I think this tells us that having dreams and goals that direct us is powerful; even if they are wrong.

A worthwhile vision is the world's most desperate need. A vision is the dominant factor that governs your life. It determines all the choices you are making. It's what's left after all the layers are peeled away like an onion. Clinging like glue to the inside of your rib cage. ... It's what your mind naturally gravitates toward when it is not legitimately concentrating on something else. It's ... what determines your friendships and your relationships that you are cultivating. ... It's what your prayers are about--what you dream about and are giving money toward. (Citation: Phil Grant. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3.)

A solid vision can keep one motivated and bring excitement to an otherwise boring existence. The old adage "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe can be achieved" does carry a powerful message. The following verses reveal the power of visions born within our imagination.

Genesis 11:1-7

11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." NIV

The key part of these verses that I want to direct your attention is, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them . . ." Nothing will be impossible because whatever they imagine . . . that means nothing they envision or purpose to do will be impossible. That covers a lot of territory . . . this should remove any doubt we have about our human potential. God says nothing is impossible for them.

In an effort to rehabilitate prisoners at Folsom Prison a psychologist taught about the power of visualization to the inmates. He was teaching them the importance of visualizing themselves in a role and working toward accomplishing that goal. They told the teacher that he ought to try to get a prisoner named Eugene to make a public speech. Eugene was the shyest prisoner there. Eugene wasn’t in the group of prisoners he was talking to, but he came just after they ask the psychologist to try this visualization concept out on him. So the teacher called Eugene aside and asked him to participate in the experiment. He asked him to sit down and visualize himself as a great speaker giving a talk and then receiving a standing ovation. Eugene sat quietly with his eyes closed as the teacher resumed teaching the class. After about thirty minutes Eugene swaggered up to the podium and pushed the psychologist aside. He gave a fine talk, and went and sat down. They gave him a standing ovation.

There is unbelievable power in what our imaginations can dream, but it is nothing compared to the possibilities that lie within thinking godly.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. NIV

God wants to take your life beyond the possibilities of human potential; he wants your dreams to pulsate with his power. Genesis 11 supports the idea "whatever the mind can conceive and believe man can achieve." that idea. Moses writes, "But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." However, the most inspiring thing is that God’s power can take you beyond anything your fleshy mind can conceive or believe.

You may not realize the possibilities for a life directed by God. If Danny Simpson had known more about guns, he might not have needed to rob the bank. But in 1990, in Ottawa, Canada, this 24-year-old went to jail, and his gun went to a museum. He was arrested for robbing a bank of $6,000 and then sent to jail for six years. He had used a .45 caliber Colt semi-automatic, which turned out to be an antique made by the Ross Rifle Company, Quebec City, in 1918.

The pistol is worth up to $100,000—much more than Danny Simpson had stolen. If he had just known what he carried in his hand, he wouldn't have robbed the bank. In other words, Danny already had what he needed. (Arnell Motz, pastor of International Evangelical Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; source: The Province of Vancouver, British Columbia (9-19-90)

God gave powerful minds to all alike, but the direction we take for good or bad is a personal choice. In Genesis we see that those building the tower of Babel were not limited in their ability to dream and their power to pursue their dream even though their dreams were all wrong. The sad part about their vision was that it lacked the approval of God. They were foolish, but God continues to offer his vision to the foolish, for they do have the choice of accepting God’s vision and becoming wise.

We Need God’s Vision to Keep the Church Alive

The Bible is a book that seeks to give you a God empowered vision for your life. God is eager to share his vision for humanity with the wise and foolish; the possibilities for each of us lie within the power of God. The gospel of Christ reveals God’s powerful vision for your life.

Romans 1:14-17

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." NIV

The apostle John was exiled on the island of Patmos. God gave him a vision. John writes,

"I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9-10 NIV). This was where John was when he received the vision revealed in the book of revelation. In that vision God allowed John to see his hand moving men and nations to accomplish his will. Revelation is the story of the Bible in capsule form. Revelation reveals the power of God to salvage our world through Christ.

The island of Patmos was a penal colony. John was banished to this island for preaching the word of God and standing for the testimony of Jesus. The ironic thing is that God gave him a vision of how his divine power would shape world history. In this distressing time of John’s life, God knew John needed a vision to keep his faith alive. God allowed John to see a new heaven and a new earth created by the power of God. By the way, John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth continues to inspire us today.

The Bible is full of examples of ordinary men and women becoming extraordinary because they accepted God’s vision for their lives. Noah built an ark of salvation according to God’s plan; he saved the world by following God’s vision for his life. There is a vast difference in what Noah accomplished and those at the tower of human confusion accomplished.

Genesis 11 tells us of human dreams crushed by almighty God. Although they had power to accomplish anything they imagined, their dream failed. Genesis twelve opens by telling us of God’s dream for Abraham’s life.

Genesis 12:1-5

12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

2 "I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

will be blessed through you."

4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. NIV

Abraham spent his life pursuing God’s vision for his life, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10 NIV). Genesis twelve opens in this way because God wants to give you an idea of where his vision for your life can lead you and your descendants. The vision for Abraham’s life included you and me as God said, "all peoples on earth will be blessed by you [i.e., Abraham]." Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites were reminded of the vision God had given to Israel through the promise of Abraham. The gospel of Matthew opens reminding us that Jesus Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of Abraham’s dream.

We may tend to think that Abraham never enjoyed the ultimate blessing of God’s vision for his life, but we must never forget that Abraham’s earthly blessings were the result of pursuing God’s vision.

God’s dream for Joseph’s life reached far beyond anything he could imagine. When God gave Joseph a vision of his brothers bowing down in obedience to him, Joseph couldn’t see beyond his own egotistical desire to reign over his brothers. But God’s vision for Joseph reached far beyond Joseph’s imagination. Joseph received his dream when he was in his mid teens. It is never too early to see God’s vision for your life.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but he became the best of slaves. He was framed by Pharaoh’s wife and was thrown into prison, but he became the best of prisoners. He helped his fellow prisoner who was released. Joseph asked to be remembered, but he was forgotten. However, God’s provisions brought Joseph out of that prison and led him to sit on Pharaoh’s throne as God’s vision for his life was brought to fruition.

God has a vision for young and old alike. God vision for Joseph’s life was revealed to him when was in his early teens. He was sold into slavery when he was seventeen. The difficult with our world is that we are so busy thinking about what young people can’t do that we never help them see God’s vision for their lives.

God’s plan for Esther led her to be queen in the days of the Babylonian captivity. Esther was probably in her mid teens when she was chosen to be queen. Through Esther God accomplished his vision for her life as he exerted his powerful plan to save the Jews from total annihilation.

When your dreams involve being a part of God’s plan for your personal life, God’s supernatural power for your life becomes a reality. This is especially true when we are struggling with personal problems. Paul said, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13). Paul dream lifted him above his circumstances as he depended upon the power of God.

Realizing that you can do everything through Christ is like putting fertilize on a garden. It fertilizes our imaginations with our countless possibilities. Many of us remember how John F. Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon fertilized our imaginations as we worked toward that dream in the 1960’s. That dreamed was realized because its power motivated our ingenuity as we sought to make it real.

Dreams inspire us to accomplish the otherwise impossible.

Mark 11:22-25

22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. NIV

There are many supernatural dreams—God given dreams recorded throughout the Bible. God’s dream given to the Pharaoh of Egypt portrayed seven years of plenty and seven years of famine—that dream motivated Pharaoh to place Joseph as head of all Egypt as God fulfilled his vision for Joseph’s life. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that portrayed God as the supreme ruler of the universe as it allow Daniel to see the vision of kingdom of God to which Christians now belong.

God is seeking to reveal to you his vision for your personal life. It is true that God no longer speaks to us through dreams and visions because we are living in the reality of the dreams of the prophets as we live in the Messianic kingdom of Christ, which is the church.

What Is God’s Vision for Me Personally?

I may spend too much time trying to envision what the church ought to be without envisioning how God wants me to fit into his plan for the church. To visualize a praying church we must see ourselves on our knees in prayer for others. To visualize a dynamic worshipping church with a lively worship service we must see self engaged in dynamic singing and praying as we assemble.

Salvation is about visualizing in your mind’s eye God’s purpose for your life. Then you must allow God’s vision to permeate your imagination . . . yea, your every thought. God is asking each of us to come to him in order that he might transform us into the image of his dear Son.

Don’t allow your circumstances to blind you to God’s potential. God’s power continues to use the words Paul wrote while chained to a prison wall to proclaim the gospel to the lost today.

It is one thing to see God’s general plan of salvation as it applies to every person, but it is quite another to see God’s plan for my personal life. Christ’s disciples were everything but what God wanted them to be when he called them. They were anything but a light to the world, but Jesus fertilized their imagination when he said, "you are the light of the world." That is exactly what they became. They were anything but fishers of men, but that is exactly what they became through the power of God.

We know that God wants the church to be the light of the world, but does this fertilize our imagination about how to become the light of the world? Does it tend to fertilize my imagination on how I can become a light in my personal world?

It was Helmut Thielicke, the German theologian, who said that in studying these stories of Jesus the viewpoint is everything. To illustrate what he meant, he told of a time when his son was just a babe in arms. He held the youngster up in front of a mirror. The baby moved; the reflection moved. Baby waved; the reflection waved. Suddenly the youngster's face lit up. He realized, That's me!

Every so often that happens when you're reading the Bible. You pick it up, and it's black print on a white page, telling stories about the long ago and far away. But as you read the text, the print seems to disappear. On the page of Scripture, you see a reflection of yourself. (Haddon Robinson, "A Case Study of a Mugging," Preaching Today, Tape No. 102.)

Remember that you have to have what you desire in mind before it can come into your possession. Can you visualize yourself as God’s light to the darkness around you? Can you see yourself as a fisher of men?

When we find ourselves deficient in wisdom, it is not because the Word of God has pages missing, but because we have not seen all there is on the pages we already have. It is not another book we need, but better attention to the book we have; it is not more knowledge we require, but better vision to see what has already been revealed in Jesus Christ. (Eugene H. Peterson in Living the Message. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 7.)

I dream of the possibility of the church crossing every racial and culture barrier in an effort to become all things to all people making it possible to win souls to Christ. Conversion is not implanting eyes, for they exist already; but giving them direction, which they do not have. If vision is going to be owned by the people, it has to be more than something we talk them into.

Do you have a picture in your mind of what God is calling you to be? Do you see yourself standing before a class teaching God’s word? Do you see yourself a light in the community in which you live? Do you see yourself as a light to those who know you personally? Have you ever visualized yourself sitting by the bedside of the sick praying with and for them as you leave them with hopes and cheerful?

We see a bumper sticker on a lot of cars today that say, "WWJD." That stands for "What would Jesus do?" That is precisely God’s vision for our lives. Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes— the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

I know that I have to move from speaking about Jesus to letting him speak within me, from thinking about Jesus to letting him think within me, from acting for and with Jesus to letting him act through me. I know the only way for me to see the world is to see it through his eyes. (Henri J. Nouwen in Jesus and Mary: Finding Our Sacred Center. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 13.)

You can do it as soon as you accept and grasp God’s vision in your mind’s eye. Can you see yourself sharing the gospel of Christ with a friend? Do you visualize yourself praying for his/her salvation every day? Do you see yourself cultivating that friendship for Christ? Do you visualize yourself inviting that person to church or Bible study?

Almost 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find the source of the Missouri River, and from there to discover a relatively easy water route west to the Pacific. Such a waterway, they discovered, doesn't exist.

But they did succeed in mapping the Northwest and, 15 months after they began pushing themselves upstream, they found, near today's Montana-Idaho border, the source of the mighty Missouri.

Lewis's journal records on August 12, 1805, a member of the expedition, Private Hugh McNeal, "exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri."

The Missouri at its source looks a lot different than the powerful current that flows into the Mississippi River near St. Louis!

And in the Kingdom, too, many great things start out small. Too many of us allow the late news to dictate what we think about when we go to bed.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set I go into the other room and read a book.


Human need is always more apparent than God's presence for the same reason that the earth always looks flat. The human need is very visible in the sickness, the loneliness, the boredom, and the busyness, while all the signs and symbols of God's word and presence are several miles away in the church sanctuary. Our awareness of human need crowds out God’s vision for our lives and then takes precedence over our attentiveness to God's presence.

Sometimes our worldly visions make it impossible for God’s power to salvage our lives. We spend most of our lives trying to be like the people around us. Too often we seek to fit God’s plan into our plan. Seeking to fit God’s plan into my plan will only bring frustration. The rich young ruler came seeking to fit God’s plan into his own plans without having to give up his personal dreams.

Matthew 19:16-26

16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

18 "Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." NIV

God’s vision may be contrary to the vision you have for your own life, but don’t let this become a disappointment. Following God’s plan will not bring disappointment.

Give the invitation with God’s plan of salvation.


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