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Sharpening the View




<Click.> “How does this look?” <Click.> “How about this?” <Click.> “And now?” Click. Click. Click. Read these letters. What number do you see? Cover this eye. Is this better? Worse? Ah, the delight of myopia. It dragged me into the optometrist’s world with its phoropters of multiple whirring lenses, of alphabet charts and an array of annoying choices. Sometimes the difference between views was so slight that I felt like I was only guessing. Selecting frames, adjusting the frames to my face, sidewalks coming up to hit my chin, shrinking stairways and the ensuing headaches while I got used to the new glasses compounded the confusion. That was the pre-bifocal stage. Now, I have progressive bifocal lenses that make it seem like I am permanently stuck on a rocking ab machine. 


The ordeal of getting prescription glasses, painful though it might be, pales against the frustration and hazards of blurred vision. It started with my inability to read the blackboard from my grade school desk. It worsened with the trouble in reading traffic signs at seventy miles per hour. Now, my driver’s license has a check mark in the little box for corrective lenses. Without glasses, my vision was limited to large nondescript objects and general views. The fine lines, small print and the infinite range of subtle differences didn’t materialize for me until they were twelve inches in front of my unaided vision. Finally, no longer able to negotiate my dim view of life, I succumbed to the eye doctor’s torture chamber. After my geeky glasses were perched on my nose and strapped around my ears, a brand new world immediately appeared to my wondering eyes. And, in getting a better handle on the basics of life, I also discovered that much of life’s enjoyment comes from delicate nuances that I formerly missed altogether.

The old adage is that “the devil is in the details.” Whoever originated that saying clearly needed glasses because the truth is that God, not the devil, is in the details. Frequent passages throughout the scriptures pound the point home that God brooks no cursory examinations. Those who have no patience for seeking, studying, analyzing, meditating and sometimes laboriously exegeting difficult verses never tap into the mother lode of spiritual wealth. In fact, spiritual near-sightedness should generate extreme skepticism in Bible-believing Christians. It is precisely by drawing close to God, by bringing him into sharper focus, that one begins to discern his meticulous work with the nuances and critical differences. To think that knowing God must be so tortuous that man has to reduce him to fuzzy ideas like nice, wonderful love and peace in order to be relevant is a dangerous point of view. Don Koenig, a specialist in Bible prophecy says,

“Now a new name has popped up…called the emerging church. The philosophy behind this growing movement is that purpose driven churches were designed to appeal to baby boomers but now they need churches that will appeal to the post modern younger generations. The emerging churches will be more experience orientated and will rely more on story telling on Sunday than on teaching scripture. Some in this movement have called the teaching of Christian doctrine divisive and say that everything has to be redefined in the light of modernism. After all, the post modern generation has no moral absolutes and neither will these churches. One should wonder what they base their Christianity on? I will tell you. They base their Christianity on a Jesus conjured up in the crystal ball of their own mind. They embrace mystical experiences, feelings, and goose bumps instead of biblical truths! Their beliefs are very compatible with those of Eastern religions. Jesus just happens to be their personal Guru.”

Some default to the blurred outlines of vague doctrinal statements out of indulgence or laziness. Others suffer from some sort of theological attention deficit disorder which interferes with any substantial thought being held in their minds for more than a few seconds. But there are other apologists who genuinely feel that the more attention we pay to details, then the more exclusive we become as a church or an organization. In their opinions, setting the bar too high denies worthy souls access to redemption. Several vital points need to be established here.

We are commissioned to preach the Word…nothing more, nothing less. If our credibility consists of our appeal to the infallible Word of God, then to venture outside of its parameters or to omit significant portions of doctrinal truth leaves a so-called preacher with no credibility at all. Jesus, in fact, anticipated the rise of this breed of preacher. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. (NIV) A doctor cannot practice his own private brand of medicine and keep his license. An attorney cannot choose his own set of statutes to guide his cases and remain credentialed. A policeman’s authority is strictly limited by the law. Likewise, any preacher who sweeps away Bible doctrines because they don’t fit with his private interpretation or that simply get in the way of his personal ambitions disqualifies himself from the ministry. The Apostle Paul took this conviction seriously. “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27.

Preaching less than the scripture demands creates a false hope in people. I can think of nothing as cruel as to sell souls an incomplete gospel, leading them into a false sense of security. Unlearned souls who feel the attraction of Christ’s love rarely question the details of message preached to them. In their innocence and sincerity, they feel the compelling hand of God on their hearts and want to respond. They grant implicit trust to the person who represents God’s Word to them. It is a crime of the highest order to mislead innocent people who seek God. Those who do so are the brutish pastors of Jeremiah and the hirelings of John chapter ten who have no regard for souls but for their own carnal welfare. The Apostle Peter issued a strong warning against those who exploited men’s souls for personal benefit. “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof , not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3.

The less we require, the less will be given. It is a scriptural truth, but it is also a universal principle that a man reaps what he sows. Productivity responds to the demands of leadership. Each time we lessen the demands that the Word of God makes on us, each time we eliminate one more distinction that the scriptures establish as integral to the believer’s relationship to God, we ensure that people will not only sink to that minimum, they will undoubtedly fall below it. Water, as we know, seeks the lowest level available to it. If much is required where much is given, then when little is required, little is given. It is the Adamic nature. One can judge the teacher by the class; one can judge the coach by the team; and, one can judge the preacher by the church. Regardless of his motive, a preacher who decides to lessen the impact of the gospel on the lives of his people violates his commission and demeans his calling.

The scriptural progression always goes from the less defined to the more defined. God lets us start out at the elementary levels but he continually presses us to upgrade and learn more. “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. In creation, God started with darkness and void. He then progressed to light, then water, earth, plant life and animal life. His crowning achievement was man. Again, he first created the body, then he gave it life and finally transformed man in to a living soul.  It goes from the general to the specific, from low definition to high definition, from fundamental to complex.

We often see this principle illustrated in the trades. A painter, for example, becomes increasingly more careful as he gains experience in his trade. He selects his paint carefully, usually that manufactured by one or two companies; he only purchases certain brands and types of brushes; he settles into a routine of preparing surfaces, getting his materials ready, applying the paint and meticulously cleaning his tools at the end of the day. He probably learned the hard way that the extra time and effort to do the job right paid off in the end.

The implementation of mature growth principles suffers seriously when we blur our view instead of sharpening it.  Those who deny this progression end up with regression. This purpose of discipleship as succinctly spelled out in Hebrews. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14.

Finally, Christ’s parables speak strongly against relaxing our efforts. One need only to reference the parable of the talents to show this principle.  The Lord’s greatest displeasure was reserved for the man who did little or nothing with his investment, whereas his fellow recipients busied themselves with the strictures of profitability. They did not slough off, but redoubled their efforts to please their master. We are not told all the excuses the third man used to justify his idleness. Perhaps he said, “Oh, my master won’t care about this. He just wants me to be me. He just wants me to be honest and real. (Interpretation: he knows I’m lazy and he wants me to be true to myself.) No. The master wanted to turn a profit. He will not conform to our indolence; he intends for us to conform to his excellence.

Does God require less and less? No, quite the opposite. Remember the guest who entered without a wedding garment? Today, some would pat him on the back and tell him not to worry, that he was just fine the way he was. But the parable is clear. He was not welcome. “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:11-14.

One could go on citing many more examples of sharpening the view. When we sharpen our view, we bring better detail, thus greater understanding to the Word of God. The dumbing down of America has become the bane of this culture. In it are the seeds of eventual demise. This must not happen to the church. We need more, not less. We need more doctrinal teaching, not less. We need clearer teaching about lifestyle, not less. We need greater spirituality, not less. We need more of the Bible, not less. We need a deeper understanding about discipleship, not something thinner and shallower.

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white : for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 19:6-9.

No bride approaches this day with a casual, haphazard attitude. A bride, with painstaking care and rapt attention, makes herself ready. After all, her wedding day is the most important day in her life. The event ahead of us calls for the best within us.

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