Jesus and the poor

Jesus embodies the message of Isaiah –

I’ll tell you
what it really means
    to worship the Lord.
Remove the chains of prisoners
    who are chained unjustly.
Free those who are abused!
 Share your food with everyone
    who is hungry;
share your home
    with the poor and homeless.
Give clothes to those in need;
don’t turn away your relatives. – Isaiah 58:6-7

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God’s supernatural

Jesus called together his twelve disciples. He gave them the power to force out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness.– Matthew 10:1

 Indeed, I will tell how Christ worked miracles and wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have preached the good news about him all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum.– Romans 15:19

God himself showed that his message was true by working all kinds of powerful miracles and wonders. He also gave his Holy Spirit to anyone he chose to. – Hebrews 2:4

While we do not deny the validity of the Word of God, many of us have not experienced this kind of New Testament power in our personal ministries.

Sometimes the question arises whether a Christian is really secure in Christ if he/she can come under demonic attack. The Bible warnings concerning demonic activity are all addressed to believers; so it is evident that Christians can come under attack. There is also abundant evidence that God has provided the resources for the believer to be victorious over such attacks. But the responsibility for choosing truth, for using the armor, for doing the resisting is clearly on the Christian. God does not do that for us. He commands us to use the resources He has provided. This issue in this struggle is not salvation; it is fellowship with the Father and victory in the Christian life.- Timothy Warner

Dr. Richard De Ridder, who was also a missionary in Sri Lanka, said that what deeply impressed him was the irrelevance of so much of traditional Reformed theology to the Sri Lankans and their situation. He realized that this theology seldom spoke to their real needs. He noted that Satan, demons, angels, charms, etc., are neither of great concern nor do they receive much attention in the West. Yet these are living issues for the Christians in Sri Lanka. The greatest joy for Dr. De Ridder was the proclamation of Christ’s victory over the power of evil, and to see the shackles of slavery to elementary spirits broken by Christ.

John’s disciples asked, ‘Are you he that should come, or do we look for another?’. Jesus answered not with logical proofs, but by a demonstration of power in the curing of the sick and casting out of evil spirits. So much is clear. Yet when I read the passage as a missionary in India, and sought to apply it to missions in our day, I had a sense of uneasiness. As a Westerner, I was used to presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments, not by evidences of his power in the lives of people who were sick, possessed and destitute. In particular, the confrontation with spirits that appeared so natural a part of Christ’s ministry belonged in my mind to a separate world of the miraculous – far from ordinary everyday experience. – Paul Hiebert
When Jesus came, He introduced the Kingdom of God into the present world.  This was a direct confrontation or invasion of the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan.
The god who rules this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They cannot see the light, which is the good news about our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like. – 2 Corinthians 4:4
We need to take Satan more seriously.
Even though it is not God’s will that any should perish, the world today is full of those who are perishing.  There are three billion of them out there and our task, as instruments of God’s hands, is to reach out to them and bring them into the Kingdom through the new birth.  This is the great missiological challenge.
We do the best we can to reach the lost for Christ, knowing full well ahead of time, on both biblical and experimental grounds, that we are not going to win them all.
Charles H. Kraft writes: “We’re hearing more and more about power encounter these days among non-charismatics. We are more open and less afraid of spiritual powers than we used to be.” He proceeds to refer to outpourings in the South Pacific, stating that “the early acceptance of the gospel occurred when there was an ‘encounter’ demonstrating that the power of God is greater than that of the local pagan deity.”
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The definition of mission

The cultural mandate, which is often referred to as social responsibility, goes as far back as the Garden of Eden.

 God gave them his blessing and said: Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth. – Genesis 1:28

We are held accountable for the well-being of God’s creation.  In the New Testament we are told that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. The concept of neighbour, as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches includes all of humanity.

With the evangelical mandate, humans had been alienated from God.  God’s nature was made clear by the first words He spoke —

The Lord called out to the man and asked, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:9

God immediately began seeking Adam.

 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them?  And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news. – Romans 10:14-15

Bearing the gospel which brings people from darkness to light is fulfilling the evangelistic mandate.

Prioritization of evangelism however best reflects the New Testament doctrine of mission and that is Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and we move out in Jesus’ name to do the same.

This is rooted in the Great Commission which appears in all four Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,  and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. – Matthew 28:19-20

What is a disciple? A disciple is one who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, a new creature in Christ. and who is known by their fruit.

Is setting goals and placing strategy based on the Great Commission a way of expressing faith? It is putting substance in things hoped for.

We are to strategically go into the world, preach the gospel to every person and make disciples of all nations – panta ta ethne.  God is not willing that any should perish.

A steward is entrusted to fulfill great responsibilities – we are stewards of the mysteries of God – a parallel expression of the gospel.  What is the gospel for? It is the power of God for salvation. Stewards are to be found faithful and successful.

In other words, if we are investing resources of time, personnel and money in programs which are supposed to make disciples but are not, we need to reconsider them and be willing to change the program if needed. Jesus’ parable suggests hat if the fig tree does not bear fruit after an appropriate lapse of time, it should be cut down and the ground used for something more productive.

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Strategy

I am encouraged by the Apostle Paul to see God’s concern for mission strategy.

So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints – Ephesians 1:18

If we look at the Lord’s prayer –

Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10

It is not when we invite Jesus to come and take over our lives does His Kingdom come – it is when we make Him Saviour and Lord that we draw in the Kingdom concept.

Jesus Himself declared that God’s Kingdom had arrived when miracles took place.

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.– Luke 11:20

Interesting to note that a Kingdom not of this world has the power that can cast out demons.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” – John 18:36

Jesus said this about His Kingdom too –

And this good news[a] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14

I am thinking that the kingdom He was proclaiming involved the power and presence of God breaking into situations dominated by Satan.

I do not think that we think precisely what are the works of the devil.

Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.– 1 John 3:8

Strategic

Urban mission

Urban mission began with the story of Jonah as he was called to preach to the people in the city of Nineveh.

God was serious about bringing His message to the city – He cared about them and even the animals.

And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” – Jonah 4:11

It is significant that the missionary strategy of the apostle Paul was completely urban.

Prayer for cities is missionary activity.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.– Jeremiah 29:7

Life in a city lies ahead of us.  It will be a city where truth and righteousness are the way of life and Christ’s name alone is honoured. That vision should motivate us now,and keep us going despite the obstacles. For like Abraham —

For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.– Hebrews 11:10

Ministry in cities requires the full armour of God – your spiritual development is most important – not just once, or occasionally, but daily.

 

Our first priority

And this good news[a] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14

God’s desire to reach all peoples and persons is obviously pat of His purpose for His Kingdom to come on earth.  He looks toward the time when all the nations of the world will declare His glory.

We look confidently forward to this time.

 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord
    and of his Messiah,[a]
and he will reign forever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15

 The apostle Paul was specifically sent to the non-Jewish people groups.

 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you  to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ – Acts 26:17-18

Is it possible that we have become so tied up with our measurements of evangelism, social reform and economic growth that we have forgotten that God is primarily in the business of expanding the reign of His kingdom and conquering Satan?

For our[a] struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.– Ephesians 6:12

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The supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ

We are gripped by the love of Christ – He hems us in and leaves us no escape.  We enjoy newness of life through His death for us, we have no alternative but to live for Him who died for us and rose again.  Our first loyalty is to Him, to seek to please Him, to live a life worthy of Him and to obey Him.

So may God fill us with His Spirit! Then, speaking the truth in love, we shall grow up into Christ who is the head of the Body, to the everlasting glory of God.

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