Matthew 7:1 (“Judge Not”) Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

What is the most quoted Scripture?

John 3:16?

Romans 8:28?

Nope.

Through a process of entirely unscientific observation, I have concluded that the single most quoted verse is Matthew 7:1.

Or should I say, partially quoted? Maybe misquoted?

Judge not”

You can hear it quoted everywhere, from a hipster coffee shop in Portland to a classroom in Minot to a dive bar in Key West.

It’s the trump card in any moral argument, the nuclear option for any religious conversation.

But when Jesus said it during his Sermon on the Mount, I do not think he meant it to mean what we think it means. His argument is not “Judge not.” It’s more nuanced than that. He continues in Matthew 7:1b-2 –

, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

As a general rule, we shouldn’t put a period where Jesus puts a comma.

“Judge Not. Period.” means that you are never to make a value assessment, never to exercise discernment in relating to others, in fact never to think or say or do anything regarding another person ever, positive or negative, destructive or constructive.

But if we read it in context, Jesus means anything but that. He means don’t judge recklessly. Don’t judge unnecessarily. Don’t judge harshly. Don’t judge finally.

Instead, Jesus says, “judge even as you recognize that doing so opens your own life up to judgment and scrutiny.”

If the second reading is the correct one, we need some context. Jesus gives us that in Matthew 7:3-12. Let’s walk through and see what Jesus tells us about judging others:

Be extremely cautious in judgment

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 

This is something that we as Christians, as the church, fail in so often. We, who are citizens of the Kingdom, should know better than to point fingers and condemn others. Why? Because we know that we have sinned too and often in worse ways. We know, as has been said, that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

We forget so easily.

We love to condemn those around us. “Those homosexuals, those alcoholics, etc.” I could get more likes and comments on this post than I’ve gotten in twenty others if I would simply rail against societal evils and the downfall of America due to the liberal agenda.

But if I want to cast stones, if I want to condemn those outside the church walls, I’m on shaky ground. Jesus says, “Watch out.” Because when we start judging out of self-focus, we will be judged in return.

I think one of the reasons people have such a hard time accepting Christians in the public square right now is because for years, Christians had a hard time accepting other people there. We threw stones for years. We fought for slavery, defending it with the Bible. We fought for segregation when that failed. We fought women’s right to vote. Now, don’t get me wrong, we fought for a lot of good things too but we were rash in judgment and fought against other good things. We expected perfection from our society and wouldn’t let anyone off the hook if they fell short.

Now it’s us on the hook.

Is it any surprise that an increasingly secular society questions our motives when we try to defend religious liberty? Is it any surprise that many in secular society view a call for traditional marriage as simply one more in the line of harsh and domineering attempts of the Religious Right to legislate morality?

Remember:

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

We judged quickly, we judged wrongly, we judged harshly, and now we are being judged quickly, we are being judged wrongly, and we will be judged harshly.

Now, before you start judging me, let me clarify: I am for traditional marriage, I am for religious liberty, but I do believe that in large measure the American church is reaping what it has sown.

But frankly, that doesn’t matter now. We can’t change the past.

What matters now is the gospel being spread and disciples being made.

Do you know the number one reason people give for not becoming Christians? I can guess based on conversations I’ve had: “I don’t want to become a Christian because they’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”

In Matthew 6, Jesus says “don’t be like the hypocrites sounding trumpets when you give, praying on street corners, begging to be seen as righteous.” He continues the thought here: don’t judge like hypocrites imagining that you are judging from a position of superiority. Judge solemnly, judge carefully, because how you judge when you judge will be the same way you are judged.

In other words…

Exercise humility in your judgment

Recognize that when you judge, you do so as a fellow sinner. Recognize as well, that your sin is usually worse. Recognize also the humor required in judgment. If we step back a bit, this bit from Jesus is funny stuff. The mental image of a dude with a tree trunk stuck in his eye offering to help remove a dust speck from his brother’s eye is meant to be funny even as it illustrates the absurdity of trying to judge righteously while presupposing superiority.

I used to work in an automotive shop and one day, through sheer stupidity, managed to cut my finger pretty good. I drove to the nearest convenient care, registered, and waited to be seen by the doctor. A nurse came in first. She looked at the cut, decided it probably needed stitches, and went out. She returned with the doctor on duty. This was a man who had clearly given many years to the good work of helping heal people. It was equally clear, however, that he was in the twilight of his career. He walked with a cane, squinted through coke-bottle glasses, and his hands were shaking like leaves in the wind as he unwrapped the dirty shop rag I’d pressed over my finger. The nurse asked him as he peered at the cut, “Are you comfortable trying to stitch this cut?” Everything in me wanted to interject, “I’M not comfortable!” I had this mental image of a improbably large threaded needle moving ominously, though shakily, towards my bleeding skin. Thankfully, the doctor said that he was as uncomfortable as I was at the prospect and he referred me to the nearby hospital ER.

When we judge, we need to understand that we are trembling doctors at best. So exercise humility in judgment. Humility in judgment is three-fold:

First, we recognize that we do not judge others from a position of righteous superiority – we are just sinners like everyone else.

Second, humility means actively pursuing holiness in my life so I am in a position to help others. Not through self-righteousness, but through sympathetic example.

Finally, in our judgment we should always direct others to Christ who can judge rightly. Anyone can judge; only Christ can judge rightly. More than that, only Christ can heal.

We should also recognize that humility in judgment doesn’t mean inaction in judgment. Instead…

Pursue healing through your judgment

Christ-like judgment is never designed to destroy or condemn. It is designed to heal.

This is where we go wrong in judgment when we are too self-focused. When judgment is an opportunity to make ourselves feel better at the expense of others, we are not pursuing healing.

This is the problem the biblical prophet Jonah had. He was sent to deliver the message of God’s judgment but got confused and wanted to sit in judgment himself. He needed those sinners in Nineveh to stay sinners so he could continue to measure his own self-righteousness against them. He needed God to punish them harshly in order to justify his own sense of superiority over them. God didn’t do it. Instead, he gently, lovingly, challenged Jonah’s approach to judgment. And in doing so he confronts our’s.

Do we judge in order to condemn or to heal?

When judgment is about me being right, I am wrong. When judgment is about me looking good, I am ugly. But, when judgment is about making someone else right, I am seeking righteousness. When judgment is about helping someone else be good, I am pursuing Christ-likeness.

Jesus coming to earth is God demonstrating this principle. Prior to Christ’s coming people could say when faced with God’s judgment: “you just don’t know what it’s like to be human, God.” “This life makes it too hard for me to keep your commands God.” “If I was God, I’d be perfect too.”

But God’s judgment isn’t God’s attempt to prove himself superior to us: he doesn’t have to prove that. His judgment wasn’t to condemn us: we did that all on our own. God’s judgment is revealed as healing when he becomes a man. When Christ the Son, eternal God of eternal God, becomes a man, he is demonstrating his identification with our circumstances. When this God-man dies on the cross, he is demonstrating the righteous judgment of God. And when the God-man rises from the dead, he is demonstrating the healing that God’s righteous judgment brings to those who submit to him.

But not everyone sees this…

Recognize that healing judgment is wasted on those who will not value it

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” 

This is one way we know that Jesus was not telling us not to judge period in verse one: how do you obey verse 6 if verse 1 means to never make any assessment of another person whatsoever?

Note that Jesus is not saying that the people around us are pigs and dogs. The focus is not on the people, but on the hope of healing judgment. On holiness and pearls, not dogs and pigs. Jesus is saying it’s a waste of time and it ends up hurting you later to try to heal someone through holy judgment if they aren’t in a place to want the help.

This is one place where recovery services (AA, Celebrate Recovery, etc.) get it better than the church. A Christian friend of mine makes no secret about his struggles with substance abuse and had told me to call him if I ever needed help in counseling someone with substance abuse issues. Well, I heard about this young man who was in the hospital because of substance abuse. I called my friend and asked if he’d mind going with me. He said sure. We went. The young man wasn’t really happy to see us. We talked for a bit and then my buddy shared his story and they exchanged numbers. And then he said something like this: “Don’t you dare expect me to call you and check on you – if you want help, you call me. I don’t have time to worry about your problems, I’ve got my own.” It was harsh! After we walked out, I asked him what that was all about. I’ll never forget his answer: “Brandon, I can’t want him to get help more than he wants to get help. I can’t be the one working towards recovery for him. Until he decides to acknowledge the problem and wants to work on it more than he wants to get high, it’s a waste of time and a frustration for both of us if I’m working on it for him.”

We Christians have a tendency to spend most of our effort in judgment on those who least want the healing that comes after it! We race around trying to judge people in order to fix them when they don’t want to be fixed.

That’s not our place. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work.

We have to recognize that valuing healing judgment is a Christian quality and giving healing judgment is a place where we have to exercise wisdom.

Seek God’s wisdom for your judgment

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 

These verses have been ripped from their context nearly as much as verse 1. We read this and say,

“Wow, if I ask God for a new Jeep, he’ll give me a new Jeep!”

“Well, how do you know?”

“Matthew 7:7 said so.”

The Greek word for that is “Baloney!”

What Jesus is talking about us asking for, in context, is the wisdom to know when we are dealing with dogs and pigs and to withhold healing judgment. The wisdom to know whether we are the ones in need of judgment rather than the ones supposed to be giving it. The wisdom to know when to speak and when to shut up! The wisdom that isn’t found in any human mind, but in the mind of God.

When it comes to judgment, we are not sufficient for the task. We need the wisdom of God. And, good news, he offers it to us with the assurance of it being ours for the asking.

Finally,

Judge others how you would like to be judged

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

We misunderstand this verse when we make it the “Golden Rule”. It is and it relates to all of life but here, in context, Jesus applies it to our judgment of others.

If we are wrong, we should want others to tell us. If we offend someone, we need to know. We need others to exercise judgment over us because there are so many blind spots in our lives. We need brothers and sisters in Christ to help us change, to grow more Christ-like. That’s a safe place to practice the Golden Rule from: I will judge you in order to help you in order that you might judge me in order to help me.

Or is your desire to look like you have it all together? To pretend that everything is all right and nothing is wrong?

If that’s you, the Golden Rule says don’t judge.

If you’re not willing to endure healing judgment from others, don’t you dare judge others. Because you will do so as a hypocrite, you will do so to condemn rather than to heal. But if you desire Christ-likeness in your life, give healing judgment to those who will receive it. Do not let brothers and sisters drown in sin, give them the hand of salvation, one that judges (“you’re in a mess there”) for the purpose of healing (“let me help you out of it”).

Everyone who is submitted to Christ wants to grow in Christlikeness; that only happens through healing judgment, both given and received.

“Judge Not” doesn’t mean what you think it means: it means what Jesus said it means.

(An updated version of this post appears in my book, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means. Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Think-Means-What-Misunderstand/dp/B09KNCXDLJ)

One Year Later: A Reflection On Calling, Pastoring, and the Word

Apparently all the cool pastors write a listicle of things they’ve learned in their first year in their role. I have benefitted greatly from some of these. But as I look back on my own first year as a lead pastor, I don’t have a list to offer (which pretty much confirms my suspicion that I am not a cool pastor). But I do have some reflections.

May 8. One year ago, having flown with my family from Baptist Mecca (Nashville, TN) to the least evangelical state in America (Utah). I stood up in front of a church to preach “in view of a call.” 95% of them had no clue who I was. 100% of me had no clue what I was doing. And yet, God worked and the church extended a call for me to be their next pastor and I accepted.

The church didn’t call me because I’m a phenomenal leader: pretty sure I ruined last Mother’s Day by not looking at a calendar when we set the date for the trial sermon.

They didn’t call me because I am a polished preacher: I hadn’t preached many more sermons than I have fingers and toes.

They didn’t call me because I gave them an exciting vision: I admitted that I had no clue what my vision for the church was.

And heavens knows they didn’t call me for my looks or fashion sense.

So why did they call me?

I’m sure some of the members are still asking themselves that question one year later.

And, to be honest, I’ve asked that question at times throughout the past year as well. Sometimes I’ve asked it humbly, sometimes I’ve asked it dejectedly, and sometimes I’ve asked it sarcastically.

And I can’t give a specific answer. But ultimately, I come back to the fact that they did call me. And, I trust, they did so because the Holy Spirit moved in his people to affirm his will. And that’s remarkably comforting: to know that I am not here because I sought it or because they had a good reason. I’m here because God had something to teach the church and because God had something to teach me. And, he has a purpose for us coming together.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

When someone gets offended by some leadership action I take – when someone else gets offended by leadership action I don’t take – it bothers me. It bothers me on one level because I can’t make everyone happy. It bothers me on another level because I know I’m not anywhere close to sufficient for the task I’ve been appointed to. If this were a listicle of things I’ve learned in my first year, that would be items one through ten: I’m not sufficient.

And when my insufficiency runs into the organizational needs of the church, things can get sideways in a hurry. So items eleven through twenty in my listicle would basically be apologies to the church for the times when I’ve pastored poorly through unclear communication, through insensitive changes, through forgetfulness.

Pastoring this church has exposed a lot of my imperfections, quirks, and sin. At various times, it has squeezed my lungs, drenched my cheeks, and left marks on my soul. People can jump to conclusions or ascribe motives that aren’t there, but there’s still the root truth that I’m not perfect, far from it. I’m dreadfully broken, weak, and ugly. While I’m using this post as an opportunity to confess, I’ll admit that the weight of leading the church has at times led me to the edge of the chasm of depression, something I used to scoff at as weakness. Father forgive me and give grace to those whose struggles there run deeper than mine! The little brother of Spurgeon’s “black dog” has kept me awake at night and woke me early. Sometimes the cause is readily discernible: a conflict in the church, a need in a member’s life that has no answer, a decision I know I got wrong. Sometimes, usually Mondays, I don’t know why, the weight on my shoulders transfers to my heart and spills out of my eyes.

There’s a reason why would-be-preachers are frequently exhorted with the cliched advice that, “if you can do anything else, do it.”

And if my reflections on this date, calling, and pastoring stopped there, I’d be done. I’d quit and walk away because, even though the church called me, I’m always insufficient, I often lead poorly, and, honestly, it hurts. A lot at times. And as I look forward from this one year anniversary into the future, I’m convinced that, however long the Lord has me here, those things won’t change.

But I’m not quitting. I’m not walking away. Why?

First, because of the graciousness of the church. They’ve been patient with my rookie mistakes. They’ve welcomed my family as part of their own. I’ve seen amazing love, Christ-like love, shown to me and to others. I’ve seen openness. I’ve seen friendliness. I’ve seen a willingness to sacrifice for the glory of God and the good of others. I am continually humbled by their willingness to serve, to embrace, to encourage, and to love.

Basically, I’ve seen Jesus here, in this precious group of saints. And I want to be where I see Jesus. This church, like Jesus, has graciously overlooked my failings, they’ve been patient with my ignorance, and they’ve adopted me and mine into their family. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

And I’ve learned something else in this first year: no matter how weak I am, Scripture assures me that Jesus is the Sustainer of Creation. No matter how poorly I lead, I read that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. No matter how much it hurts, I understand from the Word of God that Jesus is the Healer. Because God gave his Word and his Word reveals Jesus.

And, ultimately, that’s why I will keep pastoring. Because it’s not about me. And, ultimately, it’s not even about the church. It’s about Jesus, the hope of all, revealed in the Bible. I’ll keep going as long as God lets me because God has given his church his Word and he has given me the task of proclaiming it, leading the church to it, and pointing everyone to Christ through it. I may have thought I had something personally to offer the church a year ago, but now I know I don’t have anything to offer anyone outside of the Word of God pointing them to Jesus. And the Word is sufficient because the Jesus it reveals is sufficient.

So I’ll keep preaching, I’ll keep pastoring, and I’ll keep reminding myself and the congregation that nothing other than Christ revealed through the Word will sustain a Christian, a pastor, or a church.

And that’s enough.

No, Your Church Doesn’t Need “Visionary Leadership” – Proverbs 29:18

Proverbs 29 18If you’ve read any leadership material in your lifetime, chances are you’ve come across references to a mythical creature:

The Visionary Leader

I say “mythical” because the descriptions of this rare and wonderful being depict a creature that is undoubtedly too magnificent for our plain-Jane reality:

“Visionary leaders are the builders of a new dawn, working with imagination, insight, and boldness…They work with the power of intentionality and alignment with a higher purpose. Their eyes are on the horizon, not just on the near at hand. They are social innovators and change agents, seeing the big picture and thinking strategically.” Corinne McLaughlin

These great and glorious creatures are bigger than life. Just being around them causes us to get swept up in the tide of their superhumanity:

“Visionaries are propelled by great dreams. They’re pulled along by the grip of destiny. Invariably, the force of their resolve pulls us along with them.” Patrick Morley

Kinda makes you want to be one, huh? Too bad:

“Vision cannot be delegated.” K. Ferlic

“Visionary leaders are…Inspirational…Imaginative…Bold…Magnetic.” Scott Jeffery

So if you’re not those things…sorry. You can be a peon like the rest of us, but you’ll never be a visionary leader.

“But, wait,” you say! “That doesn’t sound right! Because we are in the church and Jesus makes all things new. And aren’t we told that ‘God didn’t choose the wise, but the foolish, the strong, but the weak?’”

Yeah, but that was then. Apparently, now that we’re in the 21st century, God’s finally got with the program and decided that even in the church, we can’t do without visionary leaders:

“All memorable achievements were brought about by leaders who had vision. God uses visions to excite leaders because excited leaders get the most out of followers. Active followers accomplish much, and Christ’s Body keeps getting bigger thanks to prevailing local churches. Ken Godevenos

Just so we’re clear on the process here:

God Gives a Vision -> Visionary Leader Gets Excited -> Uses Followers More Efficiently -> Builds Bigger Churches

Where’s that in Scripture, you ask? Ken’s going to tell us:

“That is why Proverbs 29:18 clearly states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Let a leader grasp a godly vision, and then watch God work.” Ken Godevenos

But is that what Proverbs 29:18 “clearly states?”

I would argue no.

Proverbs 29:18 “clearly states” something else entirely. Consider the Christian Standard Bible’s translation of this verse:

“Without revelation people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction will be happy.”

We will unpack what this means but, before we go any farther, understand that the vision the church needs is not one that excites a leader to use followers…it’s God’s Word. And while God has given his people pastors who lead, it is ultimately Christ who is the shining hero who builds the church, not any single visionary.

To understand Proverbs 29:18 fully, we have to put it in its context.

What is the Context?

  1. The (Whole) Verse:

When most Christian leadership gurus quote Proverbs 29:18, they only quote half the verse, and they have to pick their translation carefully. Why? Because the context makes it clear that it doesn’t mean what they want it to mean. It is not a defense of the Lone Ranger Leader with the shining white Vision of Justice: it’s stating the general truth that apart from God’s law, mankind falls into the chaos of rebellion.

Let’s look at the translation most people quote from for this verse:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” King James Version

Even in the King James, this verse is clearly not about people dying because they don’t have some visionary leader to tell them what to do! The Hebrew word for vision here is never used to reference an individual leader’s ideas but refers to God’s divine revelation. Without which, the verse goes on, the people perish. Perish is translating a Hebrew word that doesn’t mean “die” but means “cast off restraint” or “rebel.” The Christian Standard Bible renders it pretty colorfully with “run wild.” And that gets at the idea. But the verse doesn’t end there, as many would have us believe. Instead, it goes on with a clear contrast: but if you obey God’s divine revelation, you are not rebellious, but are blessed or happy.

  1. The Chapter

One of the things that makes verses from Proverbs so prone to misuse is that, by nature, proverbs are meant to be “short and pithy.” In other words, they shouldn’t need a lot of explanation or development. So, you might have a proverb about not being greedy right next to one about not being lazy. While both are attempting to steer you away from sin, they are not necessarily related. But there do seem to be themes that nonetheless tie various proverbs together.

A friend pointed out to me that, in Chapter 29, we see a theme of contrast between the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness.

When the righteous flourish, the people rejoice,

but when the wicked rule, people groan.

A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,

but one who consorts with prostitutes destroys his wealth.

By justice a king brings stability to a land,

but a person who demands “contributions” demolishes it.

An evil person is caught by sin,

but the righteous one sings and rejoices.

The righteous person knows the rights of the poor,

but the wicked one does not understand these concerns.

Mockers inflame a city,

but the wise turn away anger.

 

Bloodthirsty men hate an honest person,

but the upright care about him.

A fool gives full vent to his anger,

but a wise person holds it in check.

 

A rod of correction imparts wisdom,

but a youth left to himself is a disgrace to his mother.

When the wicked increase, rebellion increases,

but the righteous will see their downfall.

 

….

Without revelation people run wild,

but one who follows divine instruction will be happy.

Proverbs 29:1-18, CSB

Verse 18 is not contrasting a group of people who have a visionary leader with a group of people who do not but is comparing the result of submitting to the source of righteousness, God, with submitting to the source of rebellion, ourselves. Indeed, some of the visionary leadership the church has seen has been not the kind that brings blessing, but the kind that throws off the restraint of revelation in favor of selfish desire fulfilling “vision.”

  1. It’s a Proverb

Finally, to understand the context of this verse, we have to start by understanding the nature of a proverb.

Google defines a proverb as, “a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.”

Why does that matter? Because it’s crucial for us to understand that proverbs are not unequivocal truth statements, but state “a general truth.” In other words, “this is how the world generally works.”

A “general truth” means that you can find specific examples where it doesn’t. So, when a Christian leadership guru says that Proverbs 29:18 “clearly states” the necessity of visionary leadership, he’s stretching the context of the statement as a proverb, let alone its clear reference to vision as the Word of God.

Because it’s a proverb, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see people who reject God’s revealed Word nonetheless living exemplary lives. This proverb isn’t saying that people who do not submit to the God of the Bible will be holy terrors all the time. It’s saying that submitting to God’s Word is the only secure foundation of blessing and happiness, not seeking our own glorification.

So What Does Proverbs 29:18 Mean?

As I was researching this passage, I asked friends on Facebook what they thought this passage meant. The answers were very helpful, but one was particularly so. My friend Clayton Pruett said this:

“(This verse) is not referring to an individual vision for a personal purpose but rather the Word of God that guides his people and society as a whole.”

I love that! Proverbs 29:18 is not a statement of the need for visionary leadership in the church, but a statement of the need for God’s people to be guided by, shaped by, transformed by, the Word of God.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t need leadership in the church. A local church appointed me to lead it, affirming God’s call on my life. God has gifted that church with other capable leaders as well. Indeed, God spends a significant amount of his revelation in the New Testament talking about how the church is to be led. Leadership is essential, but not in the way the visionary leadership prophets would have us believe: leadership in the church serves to help us all, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to obey Christ.

This is why when I put a vision before the church I lead in January for us to adopt, it wasn’t a vision containing my best ideas for how to grow the church. No! I don’t want to be a visionary leader if that means me using people to accomplish some dream that I’m excited about. Instead, by God’s grace, I asked the church to agree that we would simply try to obey Jesus. I don’t want us to be a church that waits for some “bold, charismatic” leader to tell us how we’re going to do things: I want us to be a church that loves God so much we will run out into this world to love others in the name of Jesus and make disciples who will do the same. I don’t want people to be impressed with the clarity of my vision: I want us all to be humbled by the immensity of God’s vision. I wish we would be a shining example of love and grace and righteousness to everyone who sees us, an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven. We, as a church, agreed together that our peaks and valleys are not going to be tied to any man’s vision or his comings and goings, but will be tied to our obedience of Christ’s commands in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.

So we agreed to “Love God” through our worship, through our prayer, and through our study of his Word.

We said we will “Love Others” through fellowship, through serving, and through giving.

And we will seek to “Make Disciples” by intentional discipleship, evangelism, and missions.

I wanted to say to the church, contra the leadership mantras, “Don’t look at me, look at Christ. Don’t listen to me, listen to Christ. Don’t submit to my way, submit to Christ’s way.” Because, ultimately, that’s what everything comes down to.

How Do We Read Proverbs 29:18 In Light of Christ?

Proverbs 29:18 is meant, in God’s providence, to point us to Christ. Whatever else it may be, visionary leadership that is not squarely centered on Christ is not Christian leadership. The Teacher in Proverbs points us to the revelation of God, which is simply what God has revealed to us about himself in his Word. And we know that Christ is the final Word from God. We’re not sitting around waiting for some extra revelation that will get us on track, some vision that will set us straight. God already gave us the vision, God has revealed himself fully in Christ. Everything that we need to know about the blessing of God, we see in submitting ourselves to Christ. Everything that we need to know about the perils of “running wild,” we see in those who reject Christ.

The vision for the church is the same as the vision for all of reality which is the same vision the God has for each of his people: that Christ would be “all in all.”

So don’t wait for some magnetic personality to tell you what to do: Treasure Christ. Seek Christ, Desire Christ. Obey Christ by the Holy Spirit for God’s Glory. Because when you do, you will be blessed.

Oh, and just so we’re clear, your church doesn’t need visionary leadership: it needs Jesus.