Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

The Great Commission # 1

Equally Loved

The Great Commission

by Dennis Pollock

Before the resurrected Jesus left this earth and ascended to heaven, He gathered His disciples to Him on the Mount of Olives. Matthew records the great charge He gave them, a command which transcends their generation and surely affects us today. Jesus declared:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing 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. (Matthew 28:18, 19)

It is interesting that during Jesus’ short earthly ministry, He focused entirely upon the people of Israel. With His amazing miracles and His unparalleled eloquence, He could have become an international figure in a very short time, had He chosen to go outside the borders of tiny Israel. But this He would not do. He felt deeply that His Heavenly Father had given Him strict orders to limit His ministry to the people of Israel, and never stepped a single foot across the boundaries that encompassed the land of Israel.

When a non-Jewish woman came to Him wanting deliverance for her demon-possessed daughter, Jesus’ first reaction was to declare, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He eventually responded to the woman’s request, evidently feeling this was one of those rare exceptions to the rule, but it is evident that Jesus knew His Father’s instructions well, and thoroughly respected them.

A New Day

However, He also knew that this ban on ministering to the Gentiles was only a temporary situation, and that the day would come when His gospel would be taken all over the world. In that beautiful passage in John 10, Jesus declares Himself to be the good Shepherd, and states: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). God is a God of order and the divine order has always been: “first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.”

But when Jesus told His disciples on the Mount of Olives that they were to go and make disciples, He made it very plain that the season for limiting their preaching to the Jews alone was over. The Jewish people had had their opportunity; now it was time for the gospel to go worldwide! By all means preach to the Jews, but by no means limit yourself to them. Go over into Greece, take journeys into Asia, preach to Ethiopians, Arabs, Egyptians, and anyone who will listen, and tell them that God so loved them that He sent His only begotten Son, and that if they will believe in Him, they will surely receive the gift of eternal life.

This simple charge to the followers of Jesus speaks volumes about how God feels about the various races and people of the world – He loves them all and wants them all in His family and His kingdom. Our God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the One who colored the white man white, the black man black, and the Hispanics brown, is no racist! Just as the gospel has no boundaries, neither does the incredible love and compassion of God.

In the Book of Revelation, John describes a vision he saw of elders falling down before Jesus, the Lamb of God in worship. They declare:

“You 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,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9, 10)

A Great Big, Diverse Family

children

Here we see the heart and the purposes of God in creating this earth, and in sending His Son Jesus to this earth. Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins, in order that God may have a people to love and to love Him throughout all of eternity – a people comprised of every nation, every tribe, every culture, every color found on the face of this planet. God desires a great big family that He may enjoy forever, and He wants lots of diversity in it.

When I was a boy I was a very finicky eater. I hated nearly all vegetables, and was not a big fan of salads. The only way my Mom could entice me to eat a salad was to use only one ingredient, lettuce, and to add French dressing to it. If the least bit of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, or any other vegetable was added, it would remain uneaten. It was a sad little pathetic salad, but in my immaturity I refused to try anything else. When I grew up I eventually became embarrassed to eat such salads, and forced myself to try a few vegetables, and other salad dressings. To my amazement they were quite good and far more interesting than my little lettuce-only salads. Today, if someone should serve me a lettuce-only salad I would not be the least interested. Variety is called “the spice of life” and it is surely also the best way to enjoy a salad.

In the body of Christ, God feels the same way about people. The last thing He wants in heaven is a people comprised only of white, middle-class Americans. He also wants Hispanics and Asians and Africans and people who speak languages that a Missouri boy like me could never comprehend.

The greatest antidote to the scourge of racism in our world is the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we see the incredible value God puts on the entire human race, any vestiges of racism lurking in some corner of our hearts will dissolve like a sliver of ice on a blistering sidewalk in the afternoon Texas summer sun. At one point in the book of Revelation God does something unprecedented: He dispatches an angel “having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth–to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people…” (Revelation 14:6). God’s love is so full and brimming over during this terrible time of tribulation for the people of the earth, that He must reach as many people as possible in as short a time as possible – and this message is not for a single nation or people group; this everlasting gospel is for people from every ethnicity, speaking all kinds of languages, possessing all sorts of cultural differences, and having many different skin tones. All people, everywhere must know that God loves them and has made a provision for them to be forgiven and receive the amazing gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

When the Spirit Fell

On the Day of Pentecost we read about in Acts 2, that amazing day when the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon the church, we find this inclusive nature of God powerfully manifested. It happened on a Jewish feast day, and there were foreigners from all kinds of different nations that had come to Jerusalem. According to instructions, Jesus’ closest followers, about 120 of them, were gathered together in an upstairs room, praying for the promised Holy Spirit. Suddenly the Holy Spirit showed up, with powerful manifestations accompanying Him. There was the sound of a “rushing, mighty wind,” and small flames of fire appeared over the disciples’ heads. They instantly broke out in praises to God, and the news quickly spread throughout the area. Men and women gathered around just to watch and hear the goings-on.

Many of these onlookers were visitors from other nations, and they were amazed by a very strange phenomenon. Although the disciples were all Aramaic-speaking Jews, they were praying and praising God in many different languages. Egyptians heard some worshiping in the Egyptian language, Arabs in their language, Asians in theirs, and many others as well. What was happening? God was supernaturally speaking to many different people from many different nations and languages, and telling them, “I want you in My family. This which is happening is not just a Jewish thing for Jewish people – this is a God thing for all people.”

And so it is today. There is a simple phrase in the Scriptures which would totally revolutionize the way we look at different people and people groups, if we could ever assimilate it into our hearts and spirits. It is found in a passage where the apostle Paul is encouraging believers to be careful not to offend their brothers and sisters through eating foods that have previously been offered to idols. He tells them, “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). The phrase I want to emphasize is: “the one for whom Christ died.” Here is the filter through which we must see all men, women, and children, from every nation and every culture. That nearly toothless African granny who sells ears of roasted corn on the streets is “the one for whom Christ died.” That illegal Mexican immigrant at your door, offering to mow your lawn, is “the one for whom Christ died.” Likewise the wealthy CEO, the Hollywood actresses who preen and thoughtlessly opine at the awards ceremonies, the plumber who fixes your pipes, the mechanic who works on your car, and the bank teller who handles your deposits are all ones for whom Christ died. A heart fully set on following Christ has no room for either snobbery or jealousy. We see people, all people, just as He does: possessing incredible value, and worthy of any sacrifice we need to make that they might be saved.

Cultural Differences

Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor

The grace of Jesus Christ carries a gentleness and humility, and refuses to haughtily condemn other cultures and ways just because they are not exactly like our own. The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, demonstrated this humility in his life and ministry. When he arrived in China in 1854, he was saddened by the little impact of most of the British missionaries he met there. Many of these missionaries were so thoroughly British that the poor Chinese, to whom they attempted to minister, could not identify with them. Taylor tried a different approach. He adopted the dress of the Chinese. He shaved the front of his head, as the Chinese men did, and allowed the back to grow long into a ponytail. He forsook western foods and ate the common foods that the Chinese did. In short, he came as one of them, while maintaining His Christian beliefs and morals. Many of his fellow missionaries thought he had lost his mind. But as a result he reached Chinese men and women in ways the others never could, and became the most successful missionary to China of his generation. Taylor wrote:

Surely no follower of this meek and lowly One will be likely to conclude that it is ‘beneath the dignity of a Christian missionary’ to seek identification with this poor people… We have to deal with a people whose prejudices in favor of their own customs and habits are the growth of centuries and millenniums… Why should a foreign aspect be given to Christianity? The word of God does not require it; nor would reason justify it. It is not their denationalization but their Christianization that we seek.

Hudson Taylor was following Paul’s principle of becoming all things to all men that he might by all means save some, and it brought tremendous results. But if we assume that our culture is vastly superior to all others, and our nation is the standard by which all others must be judged, we will never be fit to reach anyone other than those who think like we do, talk like we do, eat like we do, and play like we do. It is no more spiritual for us to eat hamburgers and French fries than it is for Indians to eat Tandoori chicken, banana chips, and chapati. It is no more pleasing to God for us Americans to wear Dockers and polo shirts than for Africans to wear brightly colored dashiki tunics or kaftans.

There is a Christian song which speaks of having “Our Father’s Eyes.” And when we go into the world to make disciples of all the nations, this is precisely what we must have. We must see people through the lens of the love of God, and value them as Christ values them. Then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will tell them of the Savior.

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