It’s now been a little over a year where we have been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. We have had to adjust the way we do things, the way we communicate with others, the way we spend time with others, and even the way in which we gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are now living in times where there are certain things that are defined as essential and others that are not. So, let’s start by defining essential; what does this mean?
According to dictionary.com essential means: absolutely necessary, indispensable.
Other words for essential are: crucial, fundamental, and necessary.
Whatever we refer to as essential is important and has value. While this may mean something different for each person, today let’s look from a Biblical perspective for a few reasons why missions is essential.
1. God is glorified through the work of missions
“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” 1 Chronicles 16:24
By sharing the Good News with others, God is glorified. We only have a small part that we play but we should always remember that missions is all about God and bringing glory to Him. When we have this focus, we are not concerned about worldly things or any inadequacies we may have in the process. We are simply vessels and we have a great God who gives us the wonderful opportunity to share the love of Jesus with others.
2. Missions is important to God
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And
surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
The Great Commission includes some of the most beautiful and powerful words that Jesus spoke, and these words are still for us today. Jesus came so that we could be reconciled to God, so that we could one day be with Him and God forever, and this is great news that we are commanded to share with others. Jesus lived out and accomplished the greatest mission and we have the honor of taking part in continuing to share that mission with the world. Missions is important to God.
3. People’s lives are forever touched through missions
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
When we share the Good News with others, their lives are forever touched because God’s word is living and powerful. I have heard several missionaries say that going on a missions trip is one of the most beautiful and life-changing experiences. People are changed, but we who are sharing are also changed. Something truly beautiful happens in these moments that God allows us to experience.
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
“How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:10-14
Missions is essential because God is glorified through the work of missions, missions is important to God, and people’s lives are forever touched through missions.
Have you ever been on a mission’s trip or do you hope to go on one in the future? Please let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you.
I encourage you to continue to pray for our missionaries. They are continuing to wait to be able to go back and serve in other countries. May God continue to touch our hearts with the things that are important to Him, in all that we do.
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.”
So far in this series, God’s Heart for the Nations, we’ve seen thatmankind is not at the centre of God’s plan and the Bible is not about us. And we have also seen that the Bible is not simply a collection of 66 books. It is actually one book telling one story with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. We learned how God’s blessing and His purpose for that blessing connect and we saw how God reaches the nations by blessing His people. We have learned how God reveals His heart for the nations in the Psalms and Prophets and last time we saw that Jesus was and isthe saviour of the world, not just the Jews.
In this post, we will learn that early in his ministry Jesus clearly communicated that He was the Messiah and that he had come to be the Saviour of the world. Jesus had less than three years to free his Jewish disciples from their nationalistic cultural biases. It was essential for these disciples to realize that the gospel of the Kingdom is for all peoples and that his mandate was to the nations, not to a nation. Jesus uses events like the ones we will look at in this post to strip away the cultural biases of his followers. We will continue to see how Jesus awakened his disciples to his global purpose, and see some deep personal implications for us today.
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Jesus and the Nations
In the ministry of Jesus there were instances where he ministered to non-Jews. Here are three examples.
Matthew 4:23-25 - And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
In this portion of Matthew, we see Jesus travelling throughout Galilee, which, earlier in verse 15, is described as being of the Gentiles. In Galilee, he taught, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and healed every disease and affliction. Matthew also points out that great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, both predominantly non-Jewish, as well as from Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 15:21-28 - And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
It’s interesting to note the underlying cultural dynamic that shows in this encounter between Jesus and the woman in Tyre and Sidon. Matthew calls her a Canaanite woman, perhaps to make the point that she is not a Jew. And at the end of the exchange, Jesus commends this Canaanite woman for her faith.
John 4:39-42 - Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
This is the aftermath of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman who lived in Sychar. After her conversation with Jesus, she went back into town and told the people to come and see the man who told me everything I ever did. Many believed and Jesus spent two days with them. And because of his words, many more believed.
The Call to the Nations
After the resurrection, as Jesus moved closer to His ascension to the right hand of the Father; He made it clear that His purpose was global and His mandate was to catapult His followers to the nations. The following passages collectively make up the Great Commission and restate the commission that God gave to Abram which is found in the purpose clause of Genesis 12:3.
Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of God blessing the families of the earth through Abram, as Paul says in Galatians 3:14. His purpose to His followers will never be understood if their only understanding of the Great Commission is gained from Matthew 28:19-20. Full understanding is gained when we study all five of the restatements of the Great Commission given after the resurrection.
Matthew 28:18-20 - This is the most commonly quoted reference of the Great Commission. It is important to understand that when Jesus says ‘nations’, he is not referring to political entities or geographic boundaries. ‘Nations’ comes from the Greek word ‘ethne’ from which we get our English word ‘ethnic’ and refers not to nationalism but ethno-linguistic groupings. There is more information on people groups inthis blog post. It is also important to notice the three verbs that help us understand what discipling the nations involves - go, baptize, and teach.
Luke 24:44-49 - In this record of the Great Commission, Jesus is making it clear to the disciples that, because they are witnesses of what Jesus has taught and done, they have a message to deliver, a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. And this message is to be delivered to the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. But it is a message for the nations.
John 20:21-23 - John has taken a broader view of his presentation of the Great Commission in that, through his gospel, Jesus speaks often of his ‘sent-ness’. In fact, he refers to being sent by God at least 24 times. And one of the key elements of being sent is that of submission. You submit yourself to the authority of another. So, when Jesus says that He is sending us as the Father sent Him, there is that sense of submission.
Notice that Jesus was not sending them out alone, though, and this is picked up in Luke’s account in Acts 1. He breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit. There is no way to overstate the importance of the Holy Spirit and the work He does in terms of gospel work. Be filled with the Spirit.
Acts 1:8 - In the Acts account of the Great Commission, Luke records the importance of the Holy Spirit in the work that they are being commissioned to do. In fact, it is so critical that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they did receive it before they began.
And once begun they were to be witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. To all nations. As witnesses. Preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. In the power of the Spirit.
So I hope it is clear that the church’s mandate is to the nations and not simply to our neighbourhoods. If you want to know how you can improve your missions involvement, make a call to our office and have a conversation about work among the nations.
Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.”
So far in this series, God’s Heart for the Nations, we’ve seen thatmankind is not at the centre of God’s plan and the Bible is not about us. And we have also seen that the Bible is not simply a collection of 66 books. It is actually one book telling one story with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. We learned how God’s blessing and His purpose for that blessing connect and we saw how God reaches the nations by blessing His people. Last time we learned how God reveals His heart for the nations in the Psalms and Prophets.
In this post, we will learn that one of the biggest challenges Jesus faced in His earthly ministry was to break the disciples of their cultural biases. Even though their Scriptures clearly communicated God’s heart for the nations and that the Messiah was also coming to be a light to the nations, most Jews were looking for a national hero who would establish His reign among the nations. The disciples were just the first layer in Jesus’ strategy of taking the gospel to all nations.
But His disciples were very nationalistic in their perspective of who the Messiah was and what He would come to do. Through His teaching, His ministry to Gentiles, His use of non-Jews as spiritual object lessons, and His mandates, Jesus was intentionally and systematically reshaping their worldview.
We will look at some scriptures with which you may be familiar. But I would challenge you to take your time to discover some new insights.
From the following prophetic statements about the Messiah, what will He come to do and for whom will He come?
Isaiah 42:5-7 - Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Messiah will come to be a covenant, a light for the nations, to open blind eyes, to release prisoners from the darkness in which they sit. And it is clear that He came for the nations.
Isaiah 49:6 - “It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations,
that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
In this verse, the Messiah will be as a light to the nations so that salvation may reach the end of the earth. And it is clear that He’s come not just for the sons of Jacob, the preserved of Israel.
Matthew 4:12-16 - Now when He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth He went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
In these verses, which were quoted from Isaiah, the point is made that Jesus chose to make His home base in Capernaum, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, among the Gentiles. This was a strategic move in that, Jews would travel from Jerusalem to see one rumoured to be the Messiah, but Gentiles would not travel to Jerusalem for any reason. And Gentiles were a part of Jesus’ mandate.
So it’s pretty clear that Jesus did not come just for the Jews. He came for the nations.
Fulfilling the Scriptures
Luke 4:14-30 - Please read this portion of Scripture to understand what is going on. Jesus had returned to Nazareth, where He was raised. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of Isaiah was handed to Him and He found the portion He then read (Isaiah 61:1-2). When He had read it and handed the scroll back to the attendant He told those in attendance that this Scripture was being fulfilled in their hearing.
They were duly impressed with His gracious words and marvelled that this was Joseph’s son.
Then Jesus spoke again, telling them that they would doubtless ask Him to perform the sorts of signs and miracles that they heard He did in Capernaum and that a prophet is without honour in His home town. Jesus then made clear the plan of God by referencing two incidents from their Scriptures.
The first was from the time of Elijah. The heavens were shut up three and a half years and a great famine came over the land. And while there were many widows among the Jews in those days, God sent Elijah to a Gentile widow in Zarephath, in the land of Sidon.
The second was from the time of Elisha. Jesus told them that, although there were many lepers among the Jews at the time, none of them was cleansed, but Naaman the Syrian was.
The point is that Jesus made it very clear that, while the Jews would have interpreted the passage quoted by Jesus from Isaiah as referring to the Jews, its application was much broader and included Gentiles (the nations) as well. And this inclusion of the nations was a fulfilment of Scripture.
How did those in the Synagogue respond to this lesson?
Saviour of the World
There is numerous places in Scripture where God makes clear His global perspective, His plan to include the nations.
John 3:16-17 - “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Here, Jesus says that whoever believes in Him, Jew or Gentile, would be saved and that His purpose was not to condemn anyone but to provide salvation through Himself. A similar reference is made in John 6:33.
John 8:12 - Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Again, Jesus makes it clear here that the light of the world is for the world, not just the Jews. Whoever follows Him will have the light of life.
John 12:30-32 - Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not Mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself.”
Once again Jesus says that when He is lifted up He will draw all kinds of people to Himself without distinction, all nations.
1 John 4:14 - And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world.
John could not have made it any clearer. The Father sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. This was not just Jesus’ purpose, but it was the purpose of the Father.
Disciples of the Saviour
If Jesus is the Saviour of the world this means that you are a disciple of the Saviour of the world.
How do you think this truth should impact your daily walk with Christ?
How should this truth impact the way that you pray?
How should this truth change the way you view people who look different from you?
John 4:39-42 - Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.”
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up.
In this post, I wish to look into the power of prayer. Perhaps one of the most widely assumed facts about prayer is that it is powerful or we hope it is powerful. We expect or hope that prayer will change something over which we have no control ourselves.
But I’ll be honest. When I think about prayer, the first thing that comes to mind is not the power of prayer. If you were to get a glimpse into my prayer life, that much would be evident. The simple fact is; the amount I pray doesn’t reflect the power of prayer. When the Bible talks about prayer, it speaks in explosive, world-altering terms.
James 5:16-18 says this;
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
These verses paint a breathtaking picture of how powerful prayer is. It draws a direct line between the weather-altering prayer of Elijah and my own prayers. It is absolutely unbelievable. God wants me to look at Elijah’s prayer and to think, “The same kind of powerful praying is available to me.”
The plain truth is that I take prayer for granted. I was taught to pray at a young age and my family always said prayers before meals and bedtime. My Dad would sometimes pray before we left on long trips and pray for us when we got sick. And I continue the same sort of patterns of prayer in my house. Regular rhythms of regular prayers that are not terribly remarkable. There aren’t any miracles happening after these prayers.
And if you were present for any of these prayers it would probably be pretty obvious that I am not thinking about the power of prayer at that moment.
Why is this?
One reason may be that, because Christ has opened the way into God’s presence, I can pray freely at any time of day. I can pray in the car, as I’m working and while I am watching my granddaughters. Being able to pray so freely is such a wonderful blessing.
But, that very freedom with which I can pray causes me to take prayer for granted. I don’t treat prayer as particularly powerful or sacred. I don’t come to terms with the reality that prayer is a real live exchange between me and the living God who created everything.
If I want to start appreciating the divine power of prayer, I need to remember a few things when I pray. And these things constitute the power of prayer.
1. God Hears
Psalm 4:3 - But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.
Psalm 5:3 - O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch.
When I pray, the Lord Himself, the King of kings, the commander of the armies of heaven, hears me. The God who crushed the Egyptian army and humiliated the prophets of Baal hears when I call to Him. The God who split the Red Sea, who singlehandedly dismantled the Babylonians, who conquered the Midianites with 300 men and a coward of a general, is tuned in to my prayers.
The power of prayer does not come from the words I say but from the God who hears.
When I call, God hears.
I’m not speaking empty words into emptiness and I’m not simply speaking to myself. This is not the power of positive thinking.
When I call, God hears.
Can you believe how astonishing this is? God truly and really hears when I pray. Why would I not take advantage of this more often? Why do I so often struggle in my own strength when the omnipotent (all-powerful) God is waiting for me to pray to Him?
2 Chronicles 16:9 - For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless towards Him.
2. God Acts
Matthew 21:21-22 - And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Not only does God hear my prayers, He actually responds to them. The more I think about this, the more trouble I have comprehending it.
I ask and God acts.
3. God Strengthens
Psalm 10:17-18 - O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
So, not only does God hear me when I pray. He also strengthens me. In the midst of difficulty or trial, when I think I barely have the strength to call out to God, He hears me and strengthens me. He gives me real spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength.
Prayer connects me to the awesome strength of God. This is the glorious power of prayer. Though I am pathetically weak, prayer plugs me into the One who makes supernovas look like nightlights. Prayer is a divine invitation to experience the life-changing power of God.
4. God Blesses
Matthew 7:11 - 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!
God is eager to bless me. Just as I am eager to bless my own kids by giving them good gifts, so is God eager to give good gifts to me. When I pray, God unleashes blessings into my life.
And I am not talking in the way that some of these ‘faith preachers’ or faith healers’. I am talking about a biblical understanding that God will use whatever means is necessary to conform me to the image of His Son and that means is a blessing, whatever it is.
And we must not forget that the purpose of the blessings of God is so that we may be a blessing and that it would be known that there is a God in heaven that ought to be worshipped and adored by every people, tongue, tribe, and nation.
Over and over in Scripture, we see God responding to prayer with blessing. When I neglect prayer, I am missing out on unique grace that God wants to give.
So, given what we have seen about God’s hearing, acting, strengthening, and blessing in prayer, how would you describe your prayer list, if you have a prayer list?
Don’t misunderstand me. Prayer lists can be wonderful tools. They help me remember to pray for things that I would normally forget. I would say that I tend to abandon a prayer list because my prayer lists are boring and unimaginative. They tend to be stale, like old, bland biscuits. They read like recipes.
If you look at my prayer lists, you wouldn’t say, “Hey, hold me back! You must think you’re Moses or Elijah or John the Baptist or something because you’ve got some crazy things you’re asking for here.” I tend not to have any big, fat, bodacious, faith-stretching requests on my prayer list.
Why is this? Why do my prayer lists tend toward the boring? It’s probably because I fail to take into account Scriptures like Ephesians 3:20 which talk about the glorious power of prayer:
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”
If I sat down and thought about it, I could come up with some pretty big, important things to ask God. Things that I wouldn’t normally ask for because they’re...well... they’re so big, things that definitely stretch my faith.
I pray for the salvation of my kids. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I could pray that God would dramatically and powerfully get hold of each of my kids. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can do incredible, powerful, life-shaking things for my children that I couldn’t even imagine! Do I really believe this?
I pray for God’s provision for my family. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would provide enough for us to give a chunk of money away to someone in need. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can provide for my family in breathtaking, surprising, “Oh my goodness, God is here” kinds of ways. Do I believe this?
I pray that God would deepen my love for Him. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would increase my love for His word, increase my love for fellow Christ-followers, and let me experience the reality of His presence every day. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can meet me and change me and work me over in ways I never could have dreamed.
Given the power of prayer, my prayer lists should be inspired, bold, and imaginative. And I should approach my prayer times with eager expectancy. I should expect God to blow away my expectations. I should expect God to give me more than I ask.
I should expect God to surprise me.
What about you? Do you have big, fat, bodacious, faith-stretching prayers? Or is this something that you could do better? Let me know in the comments. And please share this post with your friends.