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Where There is No Vision, the People Perish
by David A. DePra
Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Prov. 29:18)
The word, "perish," in this verse doesn’t really capture the meaning of the original Hebrew word. The Hebrew word from which, "perish," is translated actually means, "to become naked. To have no protection. To have no restraint." The thought of the verse is that if we have no vision, or the WRONG vision, we have no standard. In other words, we are adrift – we have nothing by which we can live. We are naked as to motivation, and we are lost as to purpose.
You will note that it is the lack of vision that results in these terrible conditions. Don’t think of a vision as only something God gives in a dream or a trance. No. Vision for a Christian is much more than that. Paul spoke of it in his letter to the Ephesians. He said:
I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (Eph 1:16-19)
Here we see real spiritual VISION, or sight, according to the mind of God. Paul said that he wanted the church to have, "the eyes of their understanding enlightened." To what? Well, it is actually TO WHOM. Paul wanted the church to have the spirit of wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of Jesus Christ – and then, on the basis of THAT, he wanted them to know the hope of His calling, i.e., God’s eternal purposes. I submit that if this is how Paul said he prayed, and that it is recorded as part of the inspired Word of God, then this is what God Himself wants for His church.
The fact is, unless Christians are at least in the process of realizing this tremendous desire of God, we won’t get far. Indeed, unless we SEE JESUS, and are growing to know Him, we are going to be adrift. In fact, I would say we will be ripe for deception. The purpose of God in this life is that we might KNOW JESUS – every other purpose is built upon that as the foundation. HE is to be our VISION – without which we will certainly have no purpose, motivation, or restraint against error. Unless our eyes are opened to Jesus, we will be NAKED as to our Christian walk.
The True Knowledge of God in Christ
Christians today are rarely taught Christ. Rather, we are taught facts ABOUT Christ. But we are not told how to know Him personally; indeed, we aren’t even taught that we are supposed to know Him. Yet personally knowing Christ is the basis for everything God wants to do, not only in our personal lives, but in the Body of Christ.
Think not? Well, read the words of Jesus. He said, "I am the Truth." (John 14:6) He also said, "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) In other words, you must know JESUS HIMSELF to be set free. Or, to put it in the negative, you cannot be free unless you know Christ. The entire statement of Jesus is predicated upon the fact that we are NOT free until we know Him. Until we know the Truth in Christ, we are going to live in bondage to lies about God, and really, lies about everything else.
Even Christians do not believe this. Or, we apply these verses on the wrong level. To many, "knowing Christ," means only to know Him as Savior. Well, even THAT would be wonderful. But I think that even many who say they know Christ as Savior really don’t – what they know is the doctrine which declares that He is their Savior. If a person truly knew Christ as Savior – if they knew the personal, living Christ as their Savior – it would flush out of them legalism, fear, condemnation, and every thing else that stands as a contradiction to the Truth of Christ as Savior. And yet, how many of us take years to see the Truth about Christ on these matters – even though we might have said that we knew Christ as our Savior?
Now, it is here that we MUST begin to see something. We must see that there is a big difference between knowing doctrines and facts about Christ, and knowing Christ Himself. The doctrines ARE essential – they TELL the Truth about Jesus. But the doctrines if they are true, do ONLY that – they tell the truth about the Truth Himself. The doctrines are not the Truth Himself; the doctrines are not the Person. We must inwardly see and know the Person to which all true doctrine points.
There is one thing that the Truth in Jesus does which doctrines cannot do. The Truth in Christ MAKES US TRUE. Yep. The Truth actually makes us TRUE TO GOD, because the Truth is a revelation of how TRUE God Himself is to us. Doctrines alone cannot make us true. They merely give us true information about God. Truth is not information. Truth is revelation.
We catch a hint of this during the ministry of Jesus. Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do YOU say that I am?" Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Note Jesus’ response to Peter:
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mat 16:17-19)
Note that, "flesh and blood," had nothing to do with what Peter had come to see about Jesus. In other words, this was not INFORMATION that Peter had pieced together. It was a REVELATION given to him by, "My Father which is in heaven." Indeed, Jesus goes on to say that it is upon THIS ROCK – the revelation of Himself to individuals – that the entire church will be built. Nothing else can move forward in the purpose of God without this revelation of Jesus to individuals.
You will note that at this point in the life of Peter, he had been with Jesus about two years. He had seen all of the miracles and heard all of the teaching. If knowing Jesus Christ were merely a matter of gathering the facts and drawing conclusions, Peter could have figured out the identity of Jesus. Indeed, the disciples already thought they knew the purpose of Christ – they thought He was the Messiah who would restore Israel. Sure. They all had these facts. But despite everything, they did not really know HIM.
How far do you think that Peter and the others would have gotten if they had not received this revelation of the Christ? I dare say that all of them barely grasp this Truth before it was severely tested when Jesus was crucified. At that point, they all doubted the vision or revelation God had given them. And when they doubted this vision of the Christ, what happened? Well, exactly what God says happens where there is no vision: They became naked as to purpose. They were lost. They were scattered. They really did PERISH as to everything for which they had been called.
As it turns out, the revelation that was declared by Peter and the others in Matthew 16 was merely preliminary. It was REAL – and Jesus said so. But it was only enough to get them through the ordeal that was ahead. In fact, even before Matthew 16 is closed out, Peter is being used of Satan to tempt Jesus!
This is quite typical of US. Isn’t it a fact that God will often give a revelation of something to us – a new vision of Christ – and what it really signals is a time of testing? Sure. We rejoice in what we see of Jesus, thinking that we have arrived at some new level of relationship with God. But before you know it, everything God has shown us is being called into question and contradicted. But the vision WAS true and remains. If we continue to belief and turn to God, we will get through and find that the revelation is the Truth. It is the Truth in many ways for which we had no frame of reference to begin with.
The disciples had received a great REVELATION that day. But they were to receive even more. God had given them a revelation of Christ – they were going to receive the inward dwelling of Christ Himself. Everything they saw from God in Matthew 16 came to be a living part of them in Acts 2.
Jesus Himself had told them that the Holy Spirit was WITH them, but would, after He ascended, dwell IN THEM. (John 14:17) In fact, God Himself gives this distinction as the fundamental difference between the OLD and NEW covenants. (see Heb. 8:8-13) I cannot overemphasize the need to understand this. If Christians would only see that before Acts 2 that the Holy Spirit had indwelt NO ONE, it would clear up much confusion and falsehood. We would understand that before Acts 2 there was NO new birth possible. This would completely dismantle the doctrine of the second blessing, and bring things back to the very definition of Christianity: Christ in us, the hope of glory.
The disciples and saints of the OT were saved by the same Christ – looking forward to His Redemption. But before Acts 2, the experience of salvation for THIS LIFE was not the same as it was after Acts 2. Of course not – for as mentioned, before Acts 2 there was no new birth through the indwelling of Christ. Yet now, things had changed drastically – and wonderfully. Sure. Otherwise, there would be NO DIFFERENCE between the old and new covenants. Otherwise, Jesus lied when He said that the Holy Spirit had not YET been given, and COULD NOT be given until He ascended. Otherwise, the Spirit had been IN THEM, even though Jesus said He had only been with them. But no. In Acts 2, in that upper room, the New Covenant was ushered in. Christ, who had ascended, now descended through the Holy Spirit, and for the first time was now IN THEM, rather than just WITH them. And for the first time, people had been BORN AGAIN – which is why the NT church was born as the Body of Christ that day.
So really, we see that the disciples received a vision of Christ in stages. The first stage was out of the OT Bible. Much of this remained intellectual and factual. Indeed, even after they met Christ Himself in the flesh, it remained that way. The second stage, shown in Matthew 16, was a revelation given TO THEM by the Father as to the identity of Jesus Christ. But this was not enough. The third stage was a revelation given IN THEM through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, beginning in Acts 2. And it is not a fact that it was at this point that we see drastic change in the disciples? Absolutely.
You and I can receive many facts about Christ, and even come into a certain amount of revelation ABOUT Christ. But until we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God. Until Christ is formed in us – until we have an inward consciousness of Christ – we have only limited, if any, vision. We need to have Christ revealed IN US.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Gal 1:15-16)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
God wants EACH believer to have IN THEM a revelation of Christ. In fact, the work of the Holy Spirit in the church is supposed to be unto this end – unto the edification and revelation of Christ to each person. It is ONLY then that the Body of Christ can function to God’s glory as a unit – if each person is presented mature in Christ.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. (Col 1:27-29)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Eph 4:11-13)
The Body of Christ is only going to be as spiritually minded as the individuals that comprise it. Thus, the goal is to present EACH believer mature in Christ. This is God’s purpose, and it is the only way unto His glory. But without an inward revelation of Christ, this purpose will perish.
The apostasy we see in today’s false revivals is obviously the result of people teaching, and believing, great error. But the only reason the error is able to be at home in the church is because the people have no vision of Jesus. They don’t know Him. Therefore, there is no anchor. There is nothing to restrain error. Christians are naked as to protection from heresy.
If we don’t know the Truth, we will NOT be free from the errors that oppose the Truth. If we don’t know Jesus, we cannot discern what is OF Him, and what is NOT of Him. If we have no inner revelation of Christ, we might still know lots of true doctrines about Him. But we won’t be MADE TRUE. All that we know will be nothing more than a bunch of facts – and our faith, our heart, and our mind, could still come under great deception.
I’ve known many Christians in my life who know doctrine but have a terrible attitude about them. They know truths of the Bible, and truths about Christ, indeed, they are even able to teach others – even able to help others – but there is something WRONG with them. What is wrong is that they are not RIGHT with God. Somewhere in their heart, mind, and spirit, they have not personally yielded to the Truth. They teach it, declare it, but stand outside of it. Or, to put it another way, the Truth has not made THEM TRUE.
In this there is a spiritual principle that almost no one seems to care about or know about. That principle is this: We don’t know the Truth by studying – although God knows we all need to study His Word. But study of the Word alone will not bring you a knowledge of the Truth in Christ. No. The only way to know the Truth is to be MADE TRUE by the Truth. In other words, the way to know the Truth is to allow the Truth to make you right with God.
God always says, "You cannot see light by studying about light. No. The only way to truly see light is by coming into the Light." In other words, I can describe to you much about light and Truth by using the Bible. But the question is whether I have come into the Light, and whether that Light is now IN ME. And of course, this is exactly what the Bible we study TELLS us to do.
Many of the people today who are involved in apostasy are deceived. They really don’t realize what they are doing. Now, they OUGHT to know. For many, they COULD know. But they don’t know. The cause is surely that they are not obeying the Bible. But the greater cause is that they don’t know Jesus Christ – which, again, is exactly what the Bible says is God’s priority. The only solution is that they begin to seek God Himself and refuse to settle for anything less than HIMSELF. Get right with God and it is amazing how you will come to know Him, and be set free from error.
APOSTASY means, "a falling away." Well, doesn’t that make sense? – apostasy is a falling away from Jesus Christ to something less. Apostasy is never a Christless religion. Never. Not Christian apostasy. But if deception is to have any chance of working, what is going to be offered as the alternative to Christ are things which claim to be from Him. Sure. And today what is being offered are signs, wonders, and manifestations.
There are Christian people right now who cannot accept that all those who have become caught up in these revivals could be wrong. They have SEEN so many, "slain in the Spirit," and perhaps have even FELT what they think is the presence of the Holy Spirit upon them. Despite everything else that ought to PROVE to them that these outpourings are NOT of God – they tend to go back to this. They say IT IS REAL and so IT IS OF GOD.
It is a fact that none of these revivals are of God. And I say that despite the fact that people do FEEL sensations that are real. I say that despite the fact that people do fall down on the floor and are NOT necessarily faking it. Now, of course, there IS much that is over hyped, and even lied about, in these revivals. But there are sincere Christian people who have gone to places like Lakeland and FELT as if God touched them. And yet this is NOT of God.
When will we read the Bible and realize that it is entirely possible for Christian people who ignore the warnings of scripture to get caught up in some very REAL spiritual and psychic manifestations that are not of God? Why do we continue to think that if something is real, or spiritual, that is must be of God?
God said, "Test the spirits." I submit that this warning is bogus if it were not possible for WRONG spirits to gain entry into the church. Furthermore, God said, "YOU test the spirits." God offers NO protection unless we test the spirits. In fact, He is telling us that if we ignore His warning, we are going to be deceived.
The Bible, and human experience in the occult, proves that evil spirits can cause human beings to lose control of their physical body – the Holy Spirit will NEVER cause this. The Holy Spirit will never cause a person to fall on the ground and begin jerking. Read I Corinthians 14. Likewise, evil spirits can cause feelings of great ecstasy and elation. You can find such things in every occult religion in the world. Evil spirits can provide you with everything you expect might come from God. But you see, Satan always comes as an angel of light. An angel of light is never going to seem like a bad thing. It will always seem like a good thing.
I have heard the answers of those who support these terrible manifestations in these false revivals. Some say, "God is setting us free from religion. Therefore, don’t encumber us with Biblical teaching. God is moving and we are following." Others declare, "God is killing the old mind. So don’t think about what you are doing. Just yield to this spiritual thing God is doing." Such teaching is dangerous and cannot be found in the Bible. In fact, the Bible says the opposite. God says, "Test the spirits."
And certainly if we do, we are going to do it with a Bible in our hand.
If we would go to God with our Bible, we would find that Jesus gave SEVEN things that the Holy Spirit would do when He came – all found in John, chapters 14 through 16. Thus, if these things are not happening, the Holy Spirit is not working. And I don’t care if the dead are raised, or fire is called down from heaven. When will Christians stop responding to supposed miracles – most of them are lies anyways – and start taking heed to God’s Word? It’s ALL IN THERE – if we would only read it.
The Bible itself tells us that the only real solution to all of these terrible deceptions and false revivals is the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. Without that, people perish – they have no protection against the wiles of the enemy.
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:13-15)
Today we are seeing the cleverest ploy of the enemy: He has people accepting APOSTASY as a great end-time revival. Sure. But the Bible has never suggested an end-time revival. It says plenty about a great falling away and deception.
Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (1 Tim 4:1-2)
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:1-4)
A Return to True Christianity
Christianity is CHRIST IN US. The Christian life is a growing to KNOW HIM – and as a result, a BECOMING a witness unto Him. This is for our benefit, but unto His glory.
You cannot know Jesus unless you know the Truth – for He IS the Truth. Therefore, anyone who tells you that Truth doesn’t matter is saying that Jesus doesn’t matter. Indeed, Jesus said:
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
All of the Truth about God is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. This is why we must know Him personally, and as a result, come to be made TRUE to God. Note the words of Jesus – He used the phrase, "true worshippers." The true worshippers are those who have been MADE TRUE by knowing the Truth Himself. This is not an elite group. It is what God seeks for EACH person.
The centrality of knowing Jesus consumed Paul the apostle. Towards the end of his life, he continued to have this as his passion:
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:8-11)
Where there is no knowledge of Jesus Christ – an inward personal knowledge that will set us free to be true to God – the people perish. They have NOTHING if they don’t know Christ. There is no restraint against error. Paul prayed that the eyes of our understanding might be opened. I’m certain that the Holy Spirit continues to intercede for us today along that same foundation.
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