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A Mind For Missions

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A MIND FOR MISSIONS: THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES

INTRODUCTION

ILLUSTRATION: Pine cone – Fell to earth from mature tree.  Seed enters ground and it’s possible that another beautiful, mature tree grows.  But first, a seed had to be planted.

 

We are living & working in Asia to plant seeds and to help people reach maturity in the LORD.

One of our main goals is Thailand is to equip Christians leaders and help them to reach their fullest potential in Christ.

EXAMPLE: Vision training in Laos – Persecution – 17 yr old Hmong boy – Bible College – Hungry & thirsty to serve God.

What a honor and privelege to train and help he and other leaders reach their full potential, even as they are a salt and light to their own people.

 

I personally believe we’re only a generation or two away from Christ’s return (though we live as if it is a 1000 years away!).

I also believe this is a time of harvesting and gathering the last of the crop, or as Eugene Morse says, the “stragglers.”  They are just as precious, that is why the Lord hasn’t taken us home yet.

The work left is staggering.  Just a few brief illustrations:

In the 21st century…

•        There are 2 billion people in the world who identify themselves as Christians (all types).

•        There are 1.2 billion Muslims.
Muslims are the fastest growing major religious group, largely as a result of high birth rates.

•        There are 784 million people who are Buddhists or who practice Chinese traditional religion.

•        There are 811 million Hindus, largely in India.

•        There are 918 million people who profess no faith at all.

The 10 countries with the largest non-Christian population are: China; India; Pakistan; Indonesia; Bangladesh; Iran; Japan; Turkey; Vietnam and Nigeria.

Although these numbers are staggering, they are also seem so impersonal.  But God not only sees nations, He, of course, created every individual and has a tremendous love for them.

Our God is a missionary God; that is, with tremendous love and mercy, He is pursuing people to enter into fellowship with Him. 

This is why we and many others go; and this is why you are, for example, partnering with us to gather in the harvest.

Often, we think of well-known passages in the New Testament, such as the Great Commission, for the basis of gathering a world-wide harvest.

And, there are great passages in the New Testament, such as the Great Commission, found in all four Gospels, which motivate us to be involved in missions.

But for just a few moments, I would like for us to look at the foundation for missions, prior to the time Christ was on the earth.

In fact, God demonstrates that He is a missionary God from the time of His creation and in pursuit of man after the Fall – the fall being when Adam and Eve first sinned.

As a result of Adam’s sin, huma­n civilization abandoned a close relationship with God – the whole purpose as to why we were created, which is to enjoy God and to be with Him forever. 

Humanity populated the earth, only partially fulfilling the mandate found in Genesis 1:28, which says:

[God] said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals.”

Sadly, we have fulfilled some of this mandate, but without God’s intended perfection.

I believe this will be fulfilled during eternity.

So in time, God destroyed the earth because of man’s wickedness (found in Gen 6:5-7), but He redeemed Noah and his family because of their righteousness (Gen 7:1). 

Later, confusion reigned at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11).  When mankind became prideful and wanted full knowledge like God, there were given different languages and were scattered throughout the world.

ABRAHAM

Yet in the midst of this abundance of sin, and out of the increased distance that was building between God and man, God demonstrated His great love by calling Abram (Gen 12:1-3).

Genesis 12:1-3:  The LORD said to Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s home, and go to a land that I am going to show you. 2 I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, But I will curse those who curse you. And through you I will bless all the nations.” (TEV)

In these verses, we see that God made a covenant with Abram, promising him that he would be the agent of God’s redemption to all the earth. 

Through Abram, God promised that “all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

God’s call to Abraham is repeated in Genesis 17:1-7, where God establishes the “everlasting covenant” with Abraham and his descendants. 

Through Abraham and his descendants, God again took the initiative to bring His blessing and redemption to all the earth.

Today, just like through Abraham, God wants to bring His blessing and His redemption through our lives to others.

God desires us to share His love and character in practical ways.

Examples:  Kelly with gal – Dawn - in Khukhan – hired her to work.  Changed diapers, provided a meal and work.  Gave clothes, formula, etc.  – In Chiang Mai, for two years, once a week went to our neighbor – went as a family until she died.  – Kelly jogging in Chiang Mai – gave her coat to a man who was cold.

What are you doing to show God’s love to other people?

Let’s move on and briefly look at Abraham’s descendants – the people of Israel – and the Law.

THE LAW

God wanted to bring His message of blessing and redemption to all the earth through Abraham’s physical descendants, the people of Israel. 

However, the establishment of the Law was required because of their rebellion against God; and the fact that the price of sin must be paid.

Remember, our sin must be paid for in some way or another.

Even in the Law, which is usually considered to be a revelation specifically for the people of Israel, God demonstrates His love for all who are not saved.

At the outset of the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:3, God establishes that there is one God in all the earth: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

The people of Israel were called to be witnesses of this one true God.

Israel’s greatness wasn’t because of Solomon’s vast riches, or the number of people or the wars it won or the cities it built. 

No, Israel was great because God called the nation to demonstrate His character and love to the other nations around it.

This righteousness of the Law intended to set Israel apart.

Let’s look at a few passages to demonstrate this fact:

Leviticus 20:22 The LORD said, “Keep all my laws and commands, so that you will not be rejected by the land of Canaan, into which I am bringing you.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8: “Do this because you belong to the LORD your God. From all the peoples on earth he chose you to be his own special people. 7 “The LORD did not love you and choose you because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation on earth. 8 But the LORD loved you and wanted to keep the promise that he made to your ancestors. That is why he saved you by his great might and set you free from slavery to the king of Egypt. (TEV)

Deut. 14:2 You belong to the LORD your God; he has chosen you to be his own people from among all the peoples who live on earth. (TEV)

Deut. 28:1 “If you obey the LORD your God and faithfully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, he will make you greater than any other nation on earth. (TEV)

It’s not what the people of Israel did – it’s NOT what we do that makes us great or saves us; rather, it is God’s love, grace, mercy, and presence with us that saves us and ushers us into His Kingdom.

In the Buddhist religion, there is no God.  There is no merciful Creator to forgive a person’s sins.  People go to the idols and hire dancers, or burn incense or ring bells or put in 108 coins representing Buddha’s life, all for the hope of good karma.

But who controls the karma?  Where is the hope?

Where is your hope?  It should NOT be based on good morality – on being a good person – but only through a personal relationship with the living God and Savior Jesus Christ!

Later, God made it plain that Israel’s selection as His special people was for the purpose of leading others to “acknowledge the Lord” (Is 19:21).

However, the initial call of the mission was that one nation would know Him.

In the Law, God also actively reminds the Israelites to be concerned and compassionate toward the “aliens” and “strangers” because they themselves had been aliens in Egypt when God redeemed them (see Ex. 22:21; Lev 19:33-34; Deut 10:17-19).

Ex. 22:21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner; remember that you were foreigners in Egypt. (TEV)

Lev. 19:33-34: “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (TEV)

Deut. 10:17-19: “The LORD your God is supreme over all gods and over all powers. He is great and mighty, and he is to be obeyed. He does not show partiality, and he does not accept bribes. 18 He makes sure that orphans and widows are treated fairly; he loves the foreigners who live with our people, and gives them food and clothes. 19 So then, show love for those foreigners, because you were once foreigners in Egypt. (TEV)

The Law, then, witnesses to the fact that the descendants of Abraham – through whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed – were to be set apart.

They were to live out the righteousness of the one true God, whose glory they were to declare in the whole earth (see Num 14:21; Deut 28:10).

How are you being “separate” today?  Can people tell that you are any different from those who don’t know God? 

By being separated, I’m not talking about not having any contact with seekers.

Example: Convention at Denver: Kelly and I went into bar and ordered orange juice.  We’re able to share and give a Bible to the host.

We are to be holy, righteous, full of godly character. 

We are also to be salt, light, flavor!

What are you doing do demonstrate Christ’s love and character in practical ways?

MOVING TO THE PROPHETS

When the people of Israel rebelled against God, He raised up prophets as “missionaries, echoing the call of God.” 

The earlier prophets – like Elijah and Elisha – stood before rebellious and pagan kings, exhorting them to worship the one true God, and handing down God’s judgment on those who chose to rebel.

Why judgment?  To repeat … because sin must always be judged. 

We must always pay for our sins – unless paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

The later prophets spoke and wrote as God’s voice, calling people back into fellowship with Him.

Again, this is a demonstration of God’s great love.  Although we sin, He is always urging us to repent and return into His eternal love and care.

The prophet’s purpose in restoring the people of Israel to fellowship with God was so that the Israelites could be God’s witnesses in the world.

When we read the prophets, we can see clearly that the calling of Israel as a nation is for the sake of the whole world. 

Israel then is to be preserved, such as we read about in the book of Esther, so that she can act as a go-between for God’s promises given to all mankind. 

They are to exhibit a people, institutions, and a land which will reflect God’s glory so that this can one day be communicated to the whole earth and to all peoples.

The prophets spoke and wrote with God’s redemptive purpose clearly in mind.

Isaiah spoke with the vision that “the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3) and predicted, like Habakkuk (Hab 2:14) that the day would come when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Is 11:9).

Through Isaiah, God promised the people of Israel that they would be ”a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6, see also 60:3).

Is. 42:6 “I, the LORD, have called you and given you power to see that justice is done on earth. Through you I will make a covenant with all peoples; through you I will bring light to the nations.” (TEV)

Is. 60:3: “Nations will be drawn to your light, And kings to the dawning of your new day.”

In Isaiah 52:10 we plainly see God’s worldwide purpose: “The LORD will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (NIV).

And Isaiah 45:22-23 reads: “Turn to me now and be saved, people all over the world! I am the only God there is.  23  My promise is true, and it will not be changed. I solemnly promise by all that I am: Everyone will come and kneel before me and vow to be loyal to me.” (TEV)

While Isaiah is the most outspoken prophet regarding God’s commission to the people of Israel to be a “light of revelation to the Gentiles,” others like Habakkuk and Micah echo the same message.

In Micah 5:4-5a, for example, we read, “When he comes, he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the LORD and with the majesty of the LORD God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness, 5a and he will bring peace. (TEV)

Jesus Christ is returning again, and it is only life in Jesus where you will find strength, safety and peace. 

This doesn’t mean that you will live your live without any trials, temptations or sufferings; but it does mean that you will have God’s blessing upon your life – His joy, peace and ultimately eternal life.

Faith and trust in God allows you to experience His peace, calmness, assurance and victory in every situation.

I’m by no means perfect in this area, but it is something I am daily working towards.

Example: When I am in situations that I feel in danger, whether it be a military check point, etc., I struggle with fear, and have learned to share these with co-workers.

What worries and fears do you have that you can lay before the cross of Christ?

By all means, share these struggles with someone else, as this will help you to begin to experience freedom in Christ.

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE PSALMS

The writers of the Psalms likewise reflect a worldwide understanding of God’s purposes. 

When referring to God at work in the world, their overriding theme was that God’s name should be declared in all the earth.

For example, in Psalm 33:8 we see that all the earth is urged to worship God, as it reads: “Worship the LORD, all the earth! Honor him, all peoples of the world!” (TEV)

In Psalm 67:1-2 God is asked to work in such a way that His power and His name would be known throughout the earth:

“God, be merciful to us and bless us; look on us with kindness, 2 so that the whole world may know your will; so that all nations may know your salvation.” (TEV)

In Psalm 96:3 God’s worshipers are exhorted to be witnesses to God’s glory throughout the whole earth:

“Proclaim his glory to the nations, his mighty deeds to all peoples.”

And in Psalm 145:8-13 the psalmist testifies that God’s people will themselves speak of God in such a way that “all men may know of your might acts” (v. 12).

The declaration of God’s name throughout the earth is ultimately summed up in Psalm 2:8, which is a prophecy of God’s work through Jesus Christ: “Ask, and I will give you all the nations; the whole earth will be yours.” (TEV)

So we see this same theme running through the Psalms that we see throughout the rest of the Old Testament: God is concerned about nations – about individuals.

God loves all people and desires that those who are His to be witnesses of His great love and mercy.

Again I ask you, what are you doing to demonstrate Christ’s love and character in practical ways to those around you?

Let me mention some Old Testament MISSIONARIES

Of course, they weren’t known as missionaries back then, but it is a term that most of us are familiar.

The Old Testament’s “universal motif” (or design, pattern or picture) is demonstrated not only through the Scriptures themselves but also through the people presented in Scripture. 

Elisha’s work, for example, demonstrated God’s redemption to Gentiles like the Shunammite woman and her son (2 Kings 4:8 ff) and Naaman the Syrian commander of the army of the King of Aram (2 Kings 5).

Esther served as God’s missionary to her Gentile captors, and Joseph was God’s agent of redemption in Egypt (Gen 50:2).

The fact that God is a missionary God, however, is nowhere more evident in the Old Testament than in the lives of Daniel and Jonah, two “witnesses” to pagan kingdoms.

As God’s messenger, Daniel’s ministry brought him in touch with four pagan kings – Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, and Darius.

Daniel’s witness was consistent and convicting, to the point that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was seemingly converted (Daniel 4:34-37).

Daniel himself saw the universal aspect of God’s dominion in a vision where “one like a son of man” was given “authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him” (Dan 7:13-14).

Perhaps the greatest testimony to Daniel’s work as a missionary in a pagan land occurred after God’s hand saved him from the lions’ den.

When King Darius saw what Daniel’s God had done, he ordered “all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land” to “fear and reverence the God of Daniel” (Dan 6:25-27).

In these instances, God worked to bring His salvation to non-Israelites through one Israelite who was being a “light to the nations” as God intended.

Today, there are many unsung heroes in every nation who are bringing the love of Christ to their people.

Example: Once such person is Somchay.

Somchay was an opium addict who lived in Wiang Hang, wasting his life away.  Then he came to my co-worker Walter, who began to share the great love that God had for Somchay.

Somchay became a Christian, and now he tirelessly labors among the Karen and other people groups.  He fasts regularly and is up praying at 4 am every morning.

We have the honor and privilege of training many of the Karen preachers that Somchay has introduced us.


Then, there is my Chinese friend, Mana, who was a criminal and trouble-maker.  But God took hold of his life, and now he and his wife are missionaries to Taiwan among the Chinese and Thai working there.

Mana has recently invited me to help him train leaders.

Another is a Lahu gal named Goi, who we are sponsoring through Bible College, and is committing her life to work with the deaf in Thailand.

These are just a few who have committed their lives for the sake of the cross in Thailand.

What are you doing among your own people?  Your friends, neighbors and family? 

If God asks you to leave your home to serve Him, are you willing? 

He doesn’t call everyone to go, but everyone should be willing to go.

God loves all people from all nations and wants to use His Church – His people – to help gather in the harvest!

Our God is a missionary God.  He prepared His people Israel, as children of Abraham, to be a blessing to all nations.

In the Old Testament, God’s people made choices that kept them from fulfilling His perfect plan, but they could not stop His purposes from being fulfilled.

God was, and still is in the business of saving people, and He would accomplish His purposes through His Messiah.

It can be said that the Old Testament prepares a universal message – for all people – for what will become in the New Testament a universal mission – again, for all people of all tongues, tribes and nations.

Remember, when we speak of mission, or missions, THE BASIS OF MISSION(s) IS TO REVEAL THE GLORY OF GOD.

Scripture teaches that there is one all-powerful, all-glorious, perfect, and holy God who desires that all of His creation experience His glory – or His presence their lives.

But through Adam’s sin, His creation has fallen; yet, even now, this holy, awesome, glorious, almighty God seeks to restore fellowship with you and me! 

How better can it get!!?

This means that the world of mission is God’s.

He will work to accomplish His purposes: 

Isaiah 55:11: “So also will be the word that I speak— it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.” (TEV)

Daniel 4:35: “He looks on the people of the earth as nothing; angels in heaven and people on earth are under his control. No one can oppose his will or question what he does.” (TEV)

He chooses to use us but is not dependent on us.

For example, Isaiah 66:1-2 reads: “The LORD says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house, then, could you build for me, what kind of place for me to live in? 2 I myself created the whole universe! I am pleased with those who are humble and repentant, who fear me and obey me.’” (TEV)

God is not in a rush; He has not lost control of the world; His ultimate purposes are not being thwarted; He is still all-powerful, all-glorious, and still seeks to bring humanity back to Himself so that we might experience His glory (see 2 Cor 4:6).

2 Corinthians 4:6: “The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ.”

A. W. Tozer, a great leader and writer wrote, ”We commonly represent God as a busy, eager, somewhat frustrated Father hurrying about seeking help to carry out his benevolent plan to bring peace and salvation to the world … Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God.”

Tozer is saying, in effect, “Don’t get interested in missions out of some delusion that God is in trouble.  He is still the Creator of the ends of the earth, the great Redeemer, the Almighty.”

Serious study of Scripture helps keep our perspective straight. 

Scripture reveals that the one true God calls us into missions to declare His glory.

Therefore, knowing Him is our top priority, and making Him known is then a natural result.

Thought: The most important truth we share with those we leaders we equip is: “ministry flows out of being.” (not doing).

When your heart is full of love for God – when you hunger and thirst for God like nothing else – when you are full of thankfulness for God’s great love, mercy and grace for your life, and for saving you from your sins … when you fully understand that it is nothing you will do that will earn salvation and to get you into heaven, but only God’s favor and blessing on your life …

Then you will be truly motivated to surrender your lives to Him, no matter what that cost may be.

Do you remember my example at the beginning about the Christians in Laos?


Why are they willing to risk everything for God?  Because they love Him so much and consider it an honor and privilege to suffer for His glory.

INVITATION

As we have seen, there is a strong foundation from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, for our need to enter fully into gathering the harvest in these last days.

Jesus Christ is coming back for those who know Him and love Him. 

He will bring both judgment and reward according to whom we pledge our allegiance.

If you haven’t done so already, will you turn from your sins, repent and commit your life to Christ?  Enter into His love, favor, blessing, goodness and grace.

For those of you who are already a Christian, will you consider what the Holy Spirit is speaking into your heart today, in how you can be a part of what He is doing around the world in manifesting His glory?

How can you better demonstrate Christ’s love and character in practical ways to those around you?

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you, and He will be faithful to do so.

_____________________________

Source:  Perspectives Exposure: Discovering God’s Heart For All Nations And Our Part In His Plan,  Edited by Meg Crossman YWAM Publishing: Seattle, WA 2003

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