Sunday, February 8, 2009

Too Many to Count—part one

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

And that great multitude cried with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).

With the limited imagination I own (and believe me when I say that it is very active, even if limited) I strain to grasp the grandeur of this future event—the beauty of these words spoken in every language, the unfathomable joy pouring from every heart, the reality of eternity beginning to dawn on every mind. I strain, but I am only able to catch glimpses! This promised reality is magnificent—the presence of God, the tribes of Israel, the elders, the beasts, the angels, and the redeemed from every nation all together in the glory of perfection—every eye fixed upon the One who reached down and rescued man from the utter darkness of the grave.

It is hard to comprehend that magnitude here on earth! But I find that taking the time to ponder my own salvation adds incredible emotion to my imagination—for I am numbered (although it cannot be numbered) among this heavenly throng! I was damned to hell—I was doomed to destruction—it was by God's mercy alone that I was not, and will not be consumed! And so it helps to consider how, when, where, and why the Lord rescued my own soul from condemnation. The more I think upon these realities and those God used to show me the truth, the more excited my spiritual senses become. I am grateful for parents, for friends, for pastors, and for other believers who prayed for my conversion, counseled me with scripture, and explained the gospel in its entirety. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit who pursued me, who drew me, and who enabled me to choose to believe and, therefore, to receive the gift of life. My own salvation was wrought with a great price! And I am grateful for those who “worked” to bring it about! The conclusion of life on this earth will birth an eternal worship service—the incredible awareness of just what that price was, while standing in the presence of the One who paid it—will be motivation enough to never stop “cry[ing] out in a loud voice.” In fact, that knowledge alone urges me to begin right here and now. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness and an urgency to share Christ with those who have not yet heard...

There will be a day when all we know will come to a full blown stop—“and an angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven and sware...that there should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:5-6). Time is a precious resource. And so, as Scripture declares, we must value it highly! “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

What about our relatives? What about our co-workers? What about our friends? What about our next door neighbors? Will they join us in praise to the Redeemer?

What about the tribal man sitting in fear inside his smoke filled hut—he has just buried his dead wife (and to appease the evil spirits, laid his living child alongside his wife's body before covering them both with earth). Completely oblivious to the hope Christ is offering, this man suffers unmeasurable grief. Darkenss fills his empty eyes, and, as of today, nobody has introduced him to the Savior Who waits to bring him peace—a word he cannot define.

What about the little Asain girl bound to the most hideous form of servantude? She has never felt the touch of a father's love or a mother's caress—only the horrific reality of being sold by those who should protect her. She desires death as relief from the physical abuse—unaware that Jesus can bring freedom and complete healing to her body, soul, and spirit. Darkness fills her very depths, pain has saturated all her senses—she can only see, taste, smell, hear, and feel its reality.

What about the Muslim woman enamored by a false god and a book that distorts the meaning of every attribute belonging to her true Creator—life, love, mercy, forgiveness, freedom, eternity, salvation, joy, truth, etc...? Deluded by an imitation, she is completely ignorant of the “God” she desires to please—this in turn brings bondage and inner turmoil. Will she be surprised on the day of judgement as her sentence of destruction is passed or will she gather among those who praise the Lamb that was slain—the Lamb slain to deliver her from lies and idolatry? Will Jesus take her by the hand and lead her “unto living fountains of waters...and wipe away all tears from [her] eyes” (Revelation 7:17)?

I have been giving a lot of thought to those who will one day stand before God in Revelation 7, “clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” This pondering has become a study and I have been challenged with my findings—challenged by Paul's “watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” exhortation to young Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). I have also been reproved by the lives of those who have gone before me in order to fulfill the work of reaching the nations. I have read how they watched, endured, worked and faithfully completed their tasks.

The results of their faithfulness were often slow in coming and they definitely could not be measured on a human scale. Devotion to "reaching the lost" is utter folly to the world. It is never profitable to measure anything of eternal value according to the world's standard. Never.

But it is powerful to pinpoint the nations, the tribes, the towns, the villages, and the individuals who will be in heaven—and it is practical to discover who God used and how he used them to get them there. It is important, I believe, to take the time to soak up their sacrifice and let their choices influence our own. “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Bear with me as I ponder this together with you. Observing, calculating, and drawing conclusions as to passion and practice in evangelism can be for our edification, our education, and our exhortation. I hope it is used to increase your prayer life—for it has increased mine. I desire that it will give you ideas, give you courage, and give you compassion for those who yet do not know Jesus. Our goal should be that of our Savior's: The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Let's be willing to move out of our comfort zone in order to secure the eternal comfort of another.

John 4

There will be those from the village of Sychar, in the land of Samaria, worshipping the Savior in their eternal home because Jesus “need[ed] to go through” that unpopular place! Jesus chose to travel the road to Sychar (He chose the disagreeable route)... before He walked the lonely road to Calvary! He physically sat down beside a well and engaged a woman in conversation. He creatively drew her to a spiritual topic. And Jesus verbally communicated His plan! He took time to speak into the life of one woman…and because of that encounter He was able to speak into the lives of an entire community! Jesus is our example of missionary service—He left the glories of heaven in order to live, breathe, and minister upon “foreign soil.”

He took a road uncommonly traveled by Jews
He placed Himself where people would be passing
He took time to sit among those despised by His own people
He spoke to a woman
He talked about the nitty gritty of her sin
He presented Himself to her as the Messiah

“The woman left her water pot and went her way into the city,” declaring all that Jesus had told her to the people of the town. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman which testified…and many more believed because of His own word” (John 4:28-40). I look forward to worshipping alongside this unnamed woman...and I can't help but wonder what the ripple effect of her boldness to share all that God had done for her has produced? How many more “Samaritans” will be present before the throne because this little town of Sychar believed!

Gentiles from Caesarea
Acts 10

The apostle Peter heeded the Holy Spirit’s command “to go” where he had never gone before. That act of obedience took him to those he believed to be “unclean.” But it was there, in Caesarea, that Peter declared the truth that states: “God is no respector of persons” (Acts 10:34-35). God had many things to teach this “missionary” and much of it he “learned on the way!” One step at a time.

He promptly followed the Spirit’s leading
He traveled to Caesarea trusting God completely to unfold His will (he didn't wait till it was fully revealed)
He shared his testimony of the vision he had with Cornelius and the others gathered together
He gave the gospel in its entirety

“The Holy Ghost fell on them which heard the word” and they were baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10: 44-48). I am particularly moved by Peter's willingness to listen and follow the Spirit, without so much of a hestitation. He trusted the Spirit completely—even as God shook up his “little known world” and asked him to immediately step out of his cultural and theological box. “Just step out,” God basically said, “and trust Me to show you where to walk, who to talk to, and what to say!” There was a mission to be done and Peter chose to be used by His Savior to perform that mission...and because of that willingness, the Gentile church was born. A small group of believers (small enough to fit in Cornelious' house) will be among the throng in heaven worshipping our great King—all because one man dared to follow the Spirit's command!

Greeks from Antioch
Acts 11:20-26

Unnamed men of Cyprus and Cyrene (possibly converts under the missionary service of the church in Jerusalem) were the first to take the Good News to Antioch. There these men spoke to the Grecians, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ—“and the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed” (Acts 11:21).

Men left their towns to carry the Word to those who had never heard
They preached Christ in the strength of the Lord alone
The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to exhort the new “Christians” (they were first called Christians in Antioch)
Barnabas enlisted the help of Saul—there they stayed for over a year—and “assembled themselves with the church and taught much people” (Acts 11:26)

It was from this church that Saul and Barnabas were sent out for missionary service—this body was formed, matured, and reproduced. The time that elapsed from being evangelizing...was pretty short. How exciting to think of the many that were saved, because of those missionary journeys.

I look forward with anticipation to the day I will worship with this special group of believers—all because “ of Cyprus and Cyrene...when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.”

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

to be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Good timing, for you writing this: In a discussion with a Muslim woman, she declared that Jesus only came to the "lost sheep of Israel"... and I determined to pinpoint times when He had reached out to Gentiles and share them with her. Thanks for gettting me started and thanks for your thoughts... blessed as always, Deana! :)
    Love you so much!