Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience “the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23–24).
Just imagine for a moment the glory that was present there in Eden. It was a place where God’s glory was seen in all He had made, but most of all, in man who was made with the capability to commune with his Maker. The glory of God was revealed again in taking a rib from Adam’s body and forming it into a woman, “a helper fit for him” (2:18-22). Man was surrounded with glory!
We are not told what Adam’s reaction was when he and Eve were forced out of Eden. But imagine never being able to see that glory again! It’s one thing if we have never enjoyed the presence of God and His glory, but to have once tasted and then been banned from it is unthinkable.
Dear believer, please stop for the next ten minutes and think about how in Christ, we who believe have been restored to a relationship in which we can gaze on the glory of God in Christ. This is the gospel! Jesus’ prayer for us takes away our ambition for anything this world offers; “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24).
What is standing between you and the experience of seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus? See Acts 7:55.
It is very hard for people who have busy lives to put aside less important things and give time to the most important. Mary did that as she “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching” (Luke 10:39). Cooking and dishes could wait until later. She seized an opportunity that might not come again. Moses was given the opportunity to ask God for what he wanted as he was on the mountain alone with Him. “Moses said, “Please show me your glory”” (Exodus 33:18). He also asked, “Let the favor [beauty] of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalm 90:17).
Transformation never takes place when we are preoccupied with the busyness of life. David was passionate about “One thing…I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING?
Most of us fail to realize the privilege we have in this day of the Spirit. Moses and David had to ask for just a short glimpse of God’s glory. Mary knew that her opportunities to sit at Jesus’ feet were very few. Paul makes it very clear that we are not like Moses who had to wear a veil after only forty days on Mount Sinai. Neither are we like David or Mary who captured what they could.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We have access to this glory anytime and anywhere! Why then is there not more evidence of transformation? It’s open to “all”! The problem is that we are not “beholding the glory of the Lord” because HIS GLORY IS NOT OUR PRIORITY! Without this priority, there can never be change.
After writing my blog yesterday, I became deeply concerned about how the Church is going to be awakened from a spirit of lethargy and complacency about the gospel reaching those last 1,568 people groups. Could this blog make a difference? Could ten thousand preachers have enough passion to start a movement? If every mission board and organization redirected more money to this effort, would there be a sudden change of heart in the Church?
NO! IT MUST BE A MOVEMENT FORGED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD!
As I wrestled with these questions, I picked up Leonard Ravenhill’s book on “Revival God’s Way” and opened to where I stopped reading weeks ago and found these words; “Any true revival can be proven by the fact that it changed the moral climate of people, a church, an area or nation.
· It cannot be organized.
· It cannot be subsidized.
· It cannot be advertised.
· It cannot be computerized.
· It cannot be regularized.
· It cannot be rationalized.
· It cannot be denominationalized.
· It cannot be nationalized.
Many people express an interest in revival. There are not so many deeply concerned about it, and fewer still burdened for it, still fewer heartbroken for it…it is imperative!” (Pages 63-64).
What change is taking place in your heart? Is it moral? Are you heartbroken for change?
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” (Revelation 7:9–10).
As much as I try, I cannot imagine this scene. It was planned in eternity past. It was worked out from the moment of creation. It was made possible at the cross of Jesus Christ; His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. It was sealed by the coming of the Holy Spirit and His dwelling in those who believe in the Son. This “great multitude that no one could number” will be the eternal proof that the gospel WILL reach “every nation…all tribes and peoples and languages”!
Since this is God’s plan and it will come to pass, why are there still 1,568 unengaged people groups with NO Christians, NO witness or testimony to the gospel? WHY? What is the problem with our methods of evangelism? John Piper challenges us with this statement; “There is not one unengaged people group who have not been reached because of the lack of money. It is because we have plenty of money that they are not reached.” In other words, we are so wrapped up in the money we have, using it the way we want, and it is not helping reach those that need the gospel most. ONLY ONE PERCENT (1%) of all missionary giving actually goes to reaching the unengaged around the world. WHAT A SHAME! Will you pray with us that God awakens the Church to this great need and help us change our priorities?
One of the most fascinating studies in Scripture is noting how God uses pagan rulers to further His work and proclaim His plan. In my devotions, I have noted how God used Cyrus king of Persia and Artaxerxes king of Babylon to bring God’s people back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
Caiaphas the high priest answers the complaint of the Pharisees that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and they were afraid that “everyone will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nations…but…he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:48, 51-52). How profound! This high priest was confirming that Jesus had “other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16). Those other “sheep” were the Gentiles; “the children of God who are scattered abroad”.
Jesus will have one flock, one Bride, one Church, and they will come from every people group on earth! “The gospel must be proclaimed to all nations (ethnos or people groups)” (Mark 13:11). We must make sure that our individual and collective ambitions support this divine objective.
After confronting the Pharisees regarding their blindness, Jesus unveils a wonderful truth about Himself; “I AM the door of the sheep…I AM the good shepherd” (John 10:7, 11). As the Shepherd, He knew there were some sheep who would follow Him, even from among the Jews. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (10:27–28). That is absolute security!
Jesus makes another astonishing statement in this section; “And I have other sheep (the Gentiles) that are not of this fold (the Jews). I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16). How would this take place since we do not see a major movement in Jesus’ ministry toward the Gentile, though a few came to Him? Hear the Savior’s heart as He prays to the Father:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (17:20–21).
This profound truth could not be understood by the Jew in Jesus’ day. It required the coming of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the heart. The “other sheep”, the Gentiles, have heard because the apostles received the Holy Spirit and were directed by Him to the ends of the earth so that all would hear. You and I are in that line of messengers who proclaim the Good News of the gospel. Let us not minimize our responsibility to proclaim the message Jesus started. He has “other sheep” and He “must bring them also… So, there will be one flock, one shepherd”!
Even after many years of reading the Scriptures, my heart still becomes excited as I see the perfect agreement between the Old Testament and the New. As I was reading Acts 15 again regarding the question before the Jerusalem council: ‘whether Gentiles should be allowed into the Church without first becoming Jews in custom and practice’, I began thinking again about how the gospel would reach the ends of the earth. To start the discussion, Peter gives his personal testimony of what God had done with Cornelius and his household. This was followed by a movement of the Holy Spirit at Antioch toward the Gentiles.
The next testimony at the council was by James quoting from Amos 9:11-12-- God’s promise to rebuild the kingdom started through David. Then God promised; “that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things” (Acts 15:17). The “remnant” or part of mankind from every tribe, tongue and nation, will seek the Lord because of the gospel that will reach them. As being brought through salvation in Jesus Christ into the Church, they will be “called by [His] name”. There was no necessity of becoming a Jew first before entering the Church. It was by grace and faith alone!
The human side of us says, ‘how will this happen’? With still 6,992* unreached people groups, we tend to doubt the possibility of this taking place. If we lean on technology and advanced education to provide us with tools, we will fail! Notice what God says through Amos; “the Lord, who does this [makes these things]”! We must STOP leaning on our human means of understanding God’s ways and START acting by faith; START relying on the Holy Spirit.
Not everyone who receives the goodness of God is thankful for what He has done for them. I am sure you are familiar with Luke 17:11-19. The ten lepers asked Jesus to have mercy on them. In return, Jesus asked them to do something that required their obedience; “Go and show yourselves to the priests. And as they went they were cleansed” (17:14). In this obedience, transformation took place and they were no longer the outcasts of society. In going to the priests, there would be an immediate recognition that these men were now acceptable in public.
Sadly, nine of the ten missed the connection between their healing and the source of their healing and only one of them retraced his steps. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”” (Luke 17:15–18).
Do you realize what God has done in your life? Thankfulness grows as we realize the transformation God has made in us through Jesus Christ. The blind man in John 9 knew ONE THING; “He answered ...One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25). He knew the transforming work caused by the touch of Jesus. The change in both these men was very real and both of them gave Him thanks and worship for what took place in their lives.
What about you? If God has transformed your life through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and you received the Holy Spirit, has your life become a continual expression of thanks and gratitude in worship? Paul exhorts us; “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). It must be our continual attitude because of God’s overwhelming grace.
We have so much to be thankful for! Circumstances should never dictate whether we should be thankful. Years ago, I was asked to speak at two churches in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. One was in a very poor section of the city where a family worked as a street sweeper for 2 to 8 a.m. every morning. The church met in a very small two room hut with wooden floor. There wasn’t any furniture, so we sat on the floor. The other church was in the city dump. The believers there made their living by recycling items from the dump. They had built a small crude hut for the church to meet and sleep. Here we climbed a makeshift ladder above the debris below. In both places, their joy put me to shame as they sang songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
What can we be thankful for? “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart” (Romans 6:17). “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Deliverance from the slavery and power of sin gives us much to be thankful for! This deliverance came to us through God’s “inexpressible gift”, His Son! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved--” (Ephesians 2:4–5).
Will you take some time today and thank God for His amazing gift that frees us from sin and give us eternal life through His Son?
Just before Paul begins to explain the gospel of grace, he makes a very powerful statement. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
How did Paul know this truth? First, he knew this truth by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which he received on the day of his conversion in Damascus. Since that moment, Paul had plenty of time to reflect on what the power of the gospel had done in his life. “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women….and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:4–5). “And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (26:10–11). There is more evidence of what Paul (then Saul) had been before his conversion, but this is enough for this blog to underscore the tremendous change that took place in his life as a result of coming face-to-face with a holy and righteous Savior. It was the power of God in the gospel that transformed his life!
I am sure that most of you have not had a conversion experience as dramatic as Saul’s, but you need to stop and consider what God has saved you from. Think of the sinful person you were before He saved you and examine what the power of God in the gospel has done in your life. If you do this with honesty and the help of the Holy Spirit, you will begin to understand in a new way “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. Like Paul, God wants you to share the power of this salvation in your life with others who have not heard and need to know its power.
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