By Eli Stutzman
March 1, 2014
"The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."
This was Jesus' message in Luke 10 to the seventy disciples as He sent them out: heal the sick and preach the good news. Those few words were not hard to remember. Nothing about repentance or salvation was said at this time. Thus began the sending of groups of people to speak the gospel to those outside of their community.
I recall when I first heard what God was doing in foreign lands. Missionaries told of things taking place among those not living in North America. We had never imagined such things. One outstanding story described how people gathered for worship in China. Since China is a Communist country, anything to do with religion was frowned upon. It was quite dangerous to be a believer. It was common for those who taught and preached to be arrested, disappear, and never be heard from again. Arranging Sunday services was dangerous, as the authorities merely waited until believers assembled, and then swooped in and arrested them. The Christians began to pray and something very unusual happened. Believers would hear from the Holy Spirit, telling them to be at Mr. K's house or some other place at 6:00 AM. This completely baffled the authorities as the place and time was constantly changing. I asked myself, does God still do that?
We hear many stories of people in Islamic countries meeting Jesus in a dream. Their lives are changed so dramatically there is no doubt that they have met the real Jesus. Life often becomes difficult after such an event, but they persevere. God is on the move, and I want to be part of it.
Since I was young I have heard many such missionary stories. I want to be part of a church that has a vision for reaching out. It's about God changing lives.
Here in North America we face very little opposition, but things are changing. It seems our people are uncertain about what we are to say or of what God will do in our behalf. We are not convinced of the power in the name of Jesus Christ. I have heard people say, "We have so much work to do to get our own lives in order that you can't expect us to serve." Well, if the good news about Jesus is doing things to get right with God, then indeed this expression is valid. But the gospel is not about what we do, but what has been done for us. Sure, works will follow, but God has the plan, not us. First, people will need to hear and believe as Romans 10:13-15 states:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on 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? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Many people speak of loved ones who have died as being in heaven. But we know heaven is not an automatic destination for everyone. Sin is in the way. Sin leads to death as Romans 6:23 states. First we need to know that sin makes heaven impossible to inherit. Sin must be dealt with. We cannot vote people into or out of heaven, even with a 100% vote. No church has such power. God sets the standard, and we cannot get around it. Therefore the human race has a severe problem. No one is perfect; we inherited a sin nature from our fathers. Every nation on earth has this problem.
When God spoke to Abraham, he said that all nations will be blessed by his offspring. See Genesis 22. In the days of Jesus, the gospel was first proclaimed to Jewish people only. No one outside was yet invited take part in the new covenant. Only when the apostle Peter preached the fairly short message to Cornelius and his family and friends did the church expand to include non-Jewish people. Cornelius was Roman, and Jews were not supposed to even enter Gentile houses. The wall that kept Gentiles out was now broken down. And I am glad it was. Otherwise none of you reading this would have a chance of getting into heaven. What God has called clean, do not call unclean.
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