We live in a world where man has always tried to do things his way and ignore the righteousness of God. From the very beginning, man tried to establish his own righteousness by doing things his way rather than God’s. In every way, man has demonstrated that laying a foundation based on man’s standard will collapse. By the simple definition of righteousness, there can only be one standard by which everything else in the universe is measured.
Ethan the Ezrahite proclaimed, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your [God’s] throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before You.” (Psalm 89:14). God’s reign is founded on what is right and just. In our world, people cry for justice, but in most cases, their basis for demanding justice is not the righteousness of God. As a consequence, we end up with a condition among people much like we find at the end of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25). This is chaos!
If man is to find peace, they must seek a rule that is based on God’s righteousness. In a psalm written by Moses, he proclaims, “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (Psalm 97:1–2). Allowing God to reign in my personal life means that I can trust God the Spirit to work out His righteousness in my life so that God is glorified and my fellowship with Him becomes full of joy.
The subject of foundations run through all of Scripture. In most of the Old Testament references, it centers around the building of the temple. But there are a few verses that speak to the very times we are in today.
David begins Psalm 11 by affirming that “In the Lord [he took] refuge” (v.1). We know from reading First and Second Samuel, that he faced bad news, almost on a continual basis; wars, violence, crime, corruption and political unrest. Sounds like the news in 2018. In these times, David took time to write his thoughts, and through them he speaks to our hearts. The adversary knocked at David’s door and he knocks at ours and says “Flee like a bird to the mountains” because the wicked are coming. David responds, “In the Lord I take refuge…The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of men” (11:4).
Then David raises the question, “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (11:3). In other words, even if through all the adversity that comes against the righteous to the point that the foundations of the earthly temple are destroyed, the Lord is still in His temple and sits on His throne because its foundation is in heaven. The Lord is using adversity and trial in our lives to see if we are building on the right foundation.
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). What are you building on? God brings trials to test which foundation we place our lives on.
THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO WORSHIP
My heart has been singing as I have gone over some Scriptures that clearly give a universal call for “all nations (ethnos)” to praise and worship our Lord. I want to share some of these verses with you and trust they will give you a sense of what God wants and is going to receive universally.
“Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1).
“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Psalm 67:3).
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3).
“Peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord” (Psalm 102:22).
“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (Psalm 117:1).
Though the part I play in this ministry is very small, what we are doing together is all working toward this one end, that God will be praised and worshipped for every people group in the world. This has always been God’s purpose and plan, and it will not fail. What are you doing toward this end? Like me, you may think what you are doing or could do is very small, but it is not how we measure what we do that matters. It’s what we allow God to do with what we give to Him so He can multiply it for His eternal glory.
FAMILIES OF THE NATIONS
My attention was drawn today to Psalm 22:27-28; “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.”
Many times, in this blog we have referred to the word “nations” or “ethnos” which refers to a people group that is bound together by common cultural, physical or geographical ties. As we have said before, we are commanded to reach each of these people groups with the gospel, disciple and baptize them (Matthew 28:19-20 and other passages). In Psalm 22, which is mostly prophetic of the sufferings of Jesus, the point is made that within these people groups (ethnos) there are “families or tribes (miš·pā·ḥā(h))” which have family ties.
This same word is used in God’s blessing to Abram in Genesis 12:3; “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” They “shall worship before” the Lord! I can’t think of any work more exciting than being involved in a ministry that aims at reaching such families of the nations. I want to see this promise fulfilled as soon as possible to increase this worship to the Lord! We want them to realize that “the Lord…rules over the nations.” This biblical view redirects our focus away from the political mess this world is in to the eternal purpose of God – HIS GLORY!
CHRIST, THE END OF ALL THINGS
We would all agree that the coming of Jesus into manhood through the incarnation was in extraordinary humility. Andrew Murray said, “Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us partakers of it.” We see in Jesus what no other human being could fully live or manifest – humility. Throughout His ministry, there was a continual call by Jesus to those willing to “deny himself” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). God is the only one who exalts the lowly (Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Peter 5:6).
We often preach and teach about this subject, but when it comes down to working it out in the little details of life, I fail miserably. What is the end of a life of humility? Let’s look at the way Paul expresses this ‘end of all things’:
God, “making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9–10).
The question then becomes very important; is this “will and purpose” what I will work toward by the help of the Holy Spirit? Anything other than this goal is useless and a waste of time. “Uniting all things in Him” means that everything I do must contribute making Christ known and bringing Him glory and praise.
This was the third point made by Roland Allen and it is one of the main points of Paul and all of Scripture. John also confirms this by speaking of Jesus in John 1:2-3, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not one thing made that was made.” Those two verses cover what we are saying; that Christ is both the beginning and the source of everything that has any good value and will bring glory to God.
Here are some other references that point to Christ as Creator:
· “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6).
· “There is…one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
· “For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
· “But in these last days He [God] has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world” (Hebrews 1:2).
In the Colossians reference, Paul adds a point that is right at the heart of missions. The creation of “all things” was for a purpose; “for Him,” Christ! Every people group was created for Christ; that out of each one there would be those who “hope in Christ [and]…be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12, 14). If we were really concerned about the glory of Christ, we would strive more diligently for unity in the gospel in the Church. Every effort we make must be toward this end.
The second point that Roland Allen makes is that “all missionary desire and effort proceeds from the presence of Christ in the souls of His people.” To understand the importance of this, we must look at two statements Jesus made to His disciples before His ascension.
The first statement was told the disciples from the time Jesus called them and throughout His ministry with them; “Come follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; 19:21; Mark 8:34; 10:21; Luke 9:23; 18:22). The point of this call is further explained in Mark 3:13-14; “He…called to Him those whom He desired, and they came to Him…that they might be with Him.” Let us not forget that this command to “follow” Him did not end with Jesus’ ascension. After the resurrection, Jesus had a conversation with Peter about whether he really loved the Lord. Peter asserted that he loved the Lord three times. Jesus ends that part of the conversation by saying, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). This is repeated in verse 22. No missionary work can be effective without closely following Christ who left us here to do His missionary work. Let nothing and no one come between you and HIM!
The second statement is, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The word “age” is understood as a “very long time, eternity”, which confirms that he was not just referring to the time when He was here on earth. What a comfort and a motivation to know that Jesus is with us, particularly when we seek to follow God’s will. Jesus is intimately engaged in our effort to reach every people group with the gospel of grace.
These two ideas must work together in our souls so we do not become lazy about following Him or think that He is not with us. Pursuing a close relationship with the Lord Jesus assures us that He is with us, especially when circumstances seem against us.
THE COMPELLING MISSIONARY SPIRIT
“The Spirit which impels to missionary labor is the Spirit of Christ. All missionary desire and effort proceed from the presence of Christ in the souls of His people. He is the only source; He is also the end. From Him proceeds the impulse; in Him it finds its fulfillment; to Him it moves. The Hope set before us in the manifestation of Christ, the unfolding of His nature, the demonstration of His power, the revelation of His glory. Our Hope is Jesus Christ.” (1)
That is a very packed paragraph! I will try to take this statement, break it into several pieces, and relate each part to the Scriptures. The “Spirit of Christ” simply means that the attitude Christ had toward preaching the gospel to every people group is the same attitude that has been carried on by the Spirit. Let’s look at the comparison:
· Jesus sent out the disciples as missionaries with instructions to “proclaim the kingdom of God/heaven (Matthew 10:5-15; Luke 9:1-6; Acts 1:8).
· Jesus reminded the disciples that there was a divine continuity between the way the Father sent Jesus and how Jesus was sending the disciples (John 20:21); “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
· How did the Father send Jesus into His ministry? “The Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove” (Luke 3:21-22).
· In the same way, the disciples were sent out at Pentecost with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:1-41; 13:1-4).
These references help us understand that as obedience to Christ moved the disciples to proclaim the gospel as Jesus sent them out, so the Spirit impels us to spread the gospel because He is the missionary Spirit of Jesus.
(1) Roland Allen, Missionary Principles, William B. Eerdmans, 1964, page 67.
Over the last two centuries there has been a struggle in evangelism and missionary endeavors between proclaiming the pure gospel and placing emphasis on social action. Roland Allen expressed the conviction that the primary work of the Church is spreading the gospel to every people group. He said, “I believe that evangelistic missions are in themselves supreme and that without them no educational or medical missions would ever come into existence. Christ the beginning, the end; the need for Christ, the hope in Christ; the desire for His glory; the conviction of His sovereignty; the impulse of His Spirit – these are some of the reasons for evangelical mission.” (1)
In Paul’s beautiful portrait of Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20 says, “that in everything he might be preeminent” (1:18). During this phase of the Early Church, persons were trying to elevate philosophies and traditions to the same importance as Christ. For Paul and for us, such teaching is false and dangerous to the Church. Christ and the Gospel must be kept as the supreme message of the Church. While social efforts have their place and are needed, they must never transcend Jesus’ command to “Go…make disciples...Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). To help a young congregation get back on track with the gospel in faith and practice, Paul wrote, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
We are thankful for every ministry that is giving aid to the poor, sick, dislocated and persecuted people. But in our efforts to help these who experience human suffering, remember that the greatest help and healing comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. Persons become children of God through the Gospel and faith in Christ, not by possessing any material things.
(1) Roland Allen, “The Relationship Between Medical, Educational and Evangelistic Work in Foreign Missions”, Church Missionary Society, 1920, page 57.
“Thanks for prayers! This is probably the best teaching atmosphere I have ever experienced in India. Two brothers were in the teaching the whole time with each one taking turns translating. We have about 150 in training and many are Tamil speakers. They translated a couple chapters of God’s Plan for His Church for them and want us to go ahead with the Tamil translation and ship as soon as possible. The printing that Philip did looks exceptional.” (Tim)
What is needed everywhere is for the Spirit to ignite a fresh work and help persons become free from ‘old traditions’ and have a fresh passion for the Lord and His Word. It is not totally clear why Paul said this, but he told Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). This letter was written during a general decline in the Church as chapter four indicates. Paul wanted to “reactivate a gracious gift from God” in Timothy. Whatever that gift was, we are not told, but the gift was from God and it was critical that Timothy use it in a time when “people will not endure sound teaching” (4:3).
Whether it is personal or corporate revival, we must first realize it is needed in ourselves before it can be experienced by the Church. Revival of a different kind is needed all over the world – a RETURN TO SCRIPTURE AND ITS AUTHORITY AND SUFFICIENCY! Only the Spirit can awaken this.
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