Reach the nations in your backyard

“And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.””(Acts 10:15)

In a vision, God makes it clear to Peter that the gospel is for the nations. Peter is sent to Cornelius, who was a centurion, a Gentile. He was not a part of the nation of Israel by birth, but Peter was sent to fellowship with and present the good news of Jesus to him and those who were with him.

In this instance, God shows that He is for the nations. The good news that Jesus provides forgiveness of sins is not solely a message for Israel. Rather it is a message for the entire world. As Peter says in verse 43,

“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)

Everyone who believes in Jesus, no matter what background or nationality, can experience salvation. They can be forgiven of their sins and experience peace with God.

We are a testimony to God’s plan for the nations. Most of you who are reading this post are Gentiles who have been grafted into Israel. We are the nations. In order to continue to reach the nations, we don’t have to go much further than our own community. That is not to say we shouldn’t send missionaries overseas, we certainly should. But we must not forget that the nations to whom Jesus directs the disciples are you and me. We have the nations in our own backyard.

Part of living life “on mission” for Jesus is to reach the nations. We have an opportunity to do that each and everyday. Will you begin building relationships with your neighbors and co-workers in an attempt to reach the nations? Will you have someone over to your home for dinner in an attempt to reach the nations? Will you walk across the ball field and talk to another parent on the sidelines in an attempt to reach the nations? Will you have lunch with a co-worker in an attempt to reach the nations?

The nations are right here in our own backyard will you make an attempt to reach them?

Why do I have to join a church?

To relate to God, you must do it “covenantally.” He wants all of you; he wants every aspect of you; he wants every bit of you.” It’s silly, but it’s natural that American Christians will say to me, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Why do I have to join a church?” I say, “What do you mean?”

“Where does it say in the Bible that I have to join a church?”

“On every page,” if you understand the covenant. All joining a church means is you’re willing to make a public vow that makes you accountable for your whole life. That’s what we don’t like because, “Who needs that? The most important thing is the personal and the spontaneous.”

No! The most important thing is every part of you has to go to him. You’re supposed to make yourself a whole burnt offering on the altar. That’s what it says in Romans 12 where it says, “Make yourself a living sacrifice, a whole burnt offering, to the Lord.”

 Keller, Timothy J., The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013)

Rely on the Spirit to live “on mission”

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-26

We are able to live life “on mission” because the Spirit dwells within us and empowers us.

The degree to which we rely on the Spirit is the degree to which our mission will be successful.

Relying on the Spirit doesn’t look like us sitting on our hands. Rather it looks like us depending on Him to provide us the Words to say in difficult or foreign situations.

It looks like us trusting He will bring people into our paths. A “divine appointment” if you will.

It also looks like us petition the Spirit to change the hearts of those whom we know and asking that He would use us as His instruments to bring about change.

It further looks like us trusting that the Spirit will convict, convince, and regenerate.

Instead of seeking to build the church and make disciples in a man-centered way, we must rely on the Spirit and align ourselves with God’s will found in God’s Word.

Jesus sends the Spirit for a reason, let’s not deny His existence and power. Instead, let’s allow the Spirit to empower us to live life “on mission” for Jesus, making disciple-making disciples of all peoples.

The Importance of Reading the Bible in Context

“Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

(Matt 19:21)

Yes, Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. But why? The context tells us and the context is key. The rich young ruler thought he could earn his way into heaven through good works. Jesus, however, used his possessions to show him that was not true.

In the case of the rich young ruler, he may have kept some of the commandments but when it came to putting other gods before Yahweh, he failed. He worshipped his possessions, which is idolatry. When asked to put away his idols, he refused.

Our hearts are desperately wicked. An idol factories even. We don’t need the secret combination of works. Selling your possessions does no more to earn you a place in the kingdom than does keeping all the rest of the commandments. It is not about our actions, but our heart. Our heart is sick with sin. We need a complete heart change. We need a Savior. We can’t be our own. We need Jesus to pay our debt because we can’t pay it ourselves.

Be a responsible Bible reader. Don’t read verses in isolation. Read the context. It is important to understanding God’s will.

How Can We Reach the Next Generation?

“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Ps 78:5–8)

I have been reading through the Psalms as part of a program to read through them all 150 in a month. In this morning’s reading, I came across the above passage. In it, we are told that generational ministry is important. Whatever else we are doing, we need to see the importance of reaching the next generation for Christ.

How do we do it?

(1) It begins at home

If you want to reach the next generation and you have kids, you need to start pouring God’s Word into them. Start early and young. Get in a routine of reading the Bible with your children, even if it is a paraphrased version. A favorite at our house is the Jesus Storybook Bible. It is a great beginner Bible because it introduces them to the storyline of Scripture in a non-moralistic way.

You can also start memorizing Scripture with your kids. This is something I have started doing lately with my oldest. His mind is a sponge at this age, which means it is a good time for him to start hiding God’s Word in there. I am using the Fighter Verses App, and we are working through the Foundation verses for kids.

(2) It continues in the community

If we want to reach the next generation, we have to make ourselves available to them. As well as we need to seek to build relationships with them. We need to show interest in the things in which they are interested. Be an encouragement to them. Let them know we are a resource to them.

(3) It continues on into the church

If we want to reach the next generation, we have to recognize that the things that reached our generation are probably not the same things that are going to reach the generation or two or three after us. Their preferences are different. How they interact with the world is different. What they expect and want out of the church may even be different. We need to be willing to remove any obstacles to them coming into the church. As well as we need to look for ways to serve them.

But, and this is huge, we need to remove obstacles and serve the next generation do in any way we can without diminishing the gospel, and the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The gospel changes everything, we need to make sure it is central. Life change happens as the Word of God is driven into our hearts by the Work of the Holy Spirit. Watering down its message, changing it, or diminishing the centrality of God’s Word in any way our ministries will not result in us truly reaching the next generation.

The Psalmist tells us it is the truths of God’s Word that we are to teach our children to set their hope on, not fun and games, musical preferences, TedTalks, community service, etc. It is God’s Word that produces fruitful people who are ever seeking to glorify God with their lives, so we must keep God’s Word central, while at the same time removing any preferential obstacles in the church.

Question for Reflection

  1. How else can we reach the next generation?