We all need a vision of the Lord. Without vision, the scripture says, things fall apart. Vision has a way of uniting and holding together. Yet vision alone is not enough. Ultimately that grand vision must issue into something practical and real. Otherwise we will be left to wander in the realm of mere theory for the rest of our lives. Yes, vision is important, and there can be no beginning of the spiritual quest or church life without it, but vision alone is limited as to how far it can take us.
The Lord has saved us and brought us into a relationship with Himself so that He may be real to us. Experience is what we all so often lack of God. Many have a great deal of vision, or revelation, but very little has been wrought out in actual experience.
I remember my first days of seeing the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m talking about real heart revelation. The same goes for the church. When I first began to get an objective revelation of the Lord and His Bride, I was overwhelmed. The vision was staggering. It led me out of institutional Christianity. It liberated me from many of my tired, old mindsets.
Even here, though, I eventually began to discover the limitations of vision and the need for something more. I was reading a lot of T. Austin Sparks in those days, and when it comes to the presentation of the vision of Christ and the church, Sparks is without peer. But for myself, I did not know how to translate what I saw into practice. Eventually it became frustrating rather than rewarding. This is because what is objective must become subjective or else it will lose its value to us. God in heaven must become God within. The Christ of the cosmos must become my inner life supply, an indwelling Lord. I must come to know the Lord deeply in my spirit, and it must be real, living experience. Otherwise I will abandon the vision that once drove me as a mere pipe dream and return to being content with that surface-level, objective kind of relationship to God that most of Christianity seems to be built upon.
The way the Lord presents Himself in the gospel of John is staggering in its simplicity. Here, among other things, the Lord presents Himself as food and drink. Food and drink are things we need for our life, and as good as they may look or smell to us on the outside, until we receive them within-until we actually partake of them-they remain nothing and of no value to us. The Lord is like that. We may hunger for Him, thirst for Him, smell His fragrance and be so drawn by the vision to follow Him, but until we discover Him in the unexplored depths of our spirit and begin to touch and know Him there He will forever remain an elusive concept to us. I can believe all I want, study all I want, talk and think about God all I want, but until I know Him in the Spirit all I have is a theory. All our talking, thinking, studying, and faithful seeking is meant to issue in a real encounter with the Lord Himself, and until we have this we do not really have eternal life.
But take heart! For the Lord is incredibly gracious, eager to reveal Himself to those who will become like little children before Him. We may glory in the objective vision of Christ Paul received on the road to Damascus, where Jesus appeared to him from heaven, but the greater thing, the thing Paul would go on exploring in greater depth for the remainder of his life, was his subsequent experience of Christ within. “When it pleased the Lord to reveal His Son in me…” (Galatians 1:16)
So then, may the Lord give us vision. May our view of the Lord Jesus increase and abound. But may we also discover a very real and practical Lord dwelling in our spirits-a Life we can live by and a Land we may explore, day by day, moment by moment.