Last Sunday I listed Chuck Lawless’ suggestions for 10 New Year’s resolutions that relate to cross-cultural mission. Lawless wrote: “I’d like to challenge you to think more externally and globally with your resolutions this year. The new year is another opportunity of grace to be part of reaching the nations.” The battle most of us have with New Year's resolutions is that we quickly forget them! So let’s review the 10 resolutions in a little more detail to keep them in our thoughts!
Resolution number one is: “In my Quiet Time, I will watch for evidence of God’s heart for the nations as I read the Bible. If you look for it, you’ll find that evidence throughout the Scriptures. Highlight texts whenever you see them. The God who called out Abraham to be a blessing to the nations (Gen 12:1-3) is the God who deserves the worship of all the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations (Rev 7:9-10).”
Genesis 12:1-3 comes very early in the Old Testament. Revelation 7 comes at the end of the New Testament. Chuck Lawless has given us the bread for the outside of the sandwich! In the Genesis passage the Lord says to Abram (before he had even had his name changed): “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Go, leave home and “I will make you a great nation.” It is easy to miss why that was God’s plan - “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The reason for Abraham going and for God's blessing as he went was that all families on earth should be blessed, not just Abraham’s. It is an amazing template of the purposes of God in mission.
I actually prefer the Revelation chapter 5 parallel to the chapter 7 passage that Lawless quoted. “You (the Lord Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9). I often say that this is a definition of my heavenly Father's “family business”. It is to reach, not just the nations, but every tribe in the nations, every people group. Like obedient sons and daughters, we should ask ourselves whether we're engaged in Dad's “family business” as it is defined here.
Those Genesis and Revelation verses come at the beginning and the end of the Bible, so they are the outside of the sandwich. Our first New Year’s resolution then is to find as many Scriptures as possible between Genesis and Revelation to make up the filling for the sandwich!
My favourite three would be:
1. Mathew 24:14. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” That verse redefines our expectations for when Jesus will come again. It is not till all the ‘nations’ have heard the gospel. The original Greek used for ‘nations’ here is ‘ethnos’, meaning ‘a tribe, nation, people group’. Not China, the nation, but China’s 400 to 500 different ‘people groups’. The Joshua Project says that worldwide there are 17,281 people groups of which 7,248 or 41.9% are still unreached. The task is not yet done.
2. Matthew 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The only way to obey the Jesus command is to ‘go’. You cannot stay at home and obey that command. Equally, there is a place for any follower of Jesus, because it involves preaching the gospel, baptising and therefore church planting, teaching all that He taught us in the Bible, not to mention the logistical roles that all of that will involve. Don't feel excluded! There is a place for any gifting.
3. Acts 1:8. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” We were never told to stop at our Jerusalem, our home city, or even at our Judea or our Samaria, our own nation or the nations similar to us. We were told to go to the end of the Earth. As far as I know, Jesus has never changed His mind about that one!
That is my suggested meat for Lawless’ sandwich! How about you? Feel free to add your suggestions below with verses from the Bible that spice up the cross-cultural mission sandwich! And note down the as yet unseen ones as you read your Bible throughout 2024.