Mission of God

Immigrants, Refugees, and the Gospel

In this moment, according to the UN, there are more than 20 million refugees who have been displaced from their home and who find themselves in another country looking for refuge. Beyond this, there are another 48 million people that have been displaced from their homes, but are still living inside of their own home country.

That is a lot of people traversing into other countries around the world! Through terrible circumstances including war and religious or ethnic persecution, not to mention significant poverty, the people of the earth are on the move.

God’s Heart

God has a heart for the immigrant and the refugee. The displaced people of the earth have a special place in God’s heart and God routinely commanded his people, the Jews, to welcome the foreigner, showing love to the foreigner, even if they weren’t of Jewish background and religion. Here is an example of God’s command to his people:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19

We also have the story of Ruth, who was herself an immigrant as a Moabite woman returning back to the homeland of her husband’s family. She was welcomed, along with her mother-in-law Naomi, and protected by Boaz, ultimately becoming part of the Jewish community, even though she herself was from another nation.

And we can see that Jesus himself was a refugee. Joseph, his human father, at the direction of the angel who told Joseph to flee from Bethlehem when Herod gave the order to kill all of the baby boys two years and younger, took Jesus and Mary to Egypt where they remained until after Herod died and the danger to Jesus’s life had ended, they returned back to Israel where Jesus grew up in Nazareth.

The Boundary Lines are Moving

As the Apostle Paul was preaching in Athens, he said something very interesting to those in attendance at the Areopagus that day, something that I believe we can connect to this discussion about reaching immigrants and refugees. Here is what he said:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Acts 17:24-27

I want to focus on the second half of what Paul says here. He explains that God marked out the appointed times in history for each of the nations and that he also marked out the boundaries of their lands. And there was a specific reason for this: Through these times in history and through these boundaries, the people would seek God and find him.

But what does this mean? How is it possible that appointed times and boundary lines could be a means through which the people of the nations could find God?

God has always worked through his people on the earth. The scriptures talk about the fact that the people of Israel were God’s chosen people. They also had boundary lines to their land, the land of Canaan that God promised to Abraham and was finally fulfilled when Joshua took the people of Israel into the land. The boundary lines that were set up for God’s people to be connected to those around them, and ultimately to the rest of the world, allowing the people access to know God through his people.

So what about the immigrants and refugees? How does what Paul says connect to the situation that we find ourselves in today? Paul explained that there are appointed times and boundary lines for the nations. Is it possible that this is an “appointed time” for the nations? Or that God is using newly drawn boundary lines for the people to reach out to God and perhaps find him?

I believe that the answer to that question is Yes. Why? Because today, as noted above, there are millions and millions of people leaving their home countries to find refuge and a better life in other places. They believe that these are places that they can go to find safety or to create a better financial situation for themselves, but I believe that God has something else in mind. Paul says that these appointed times and boundary lines are intended for a purpose: That the people would reach out to him, and perhaps find him.

Now, I cannot say that God is causing the wars, nor the persecution, famine, or poverty. I don’t believe that. But I do believe that God is using these terrible circumstances such that, as people move, their “boundary lines” are moving as well. Because of the difficult situations that they find themselves in, the “appointed time” for these people is now. Many of these people are moving from places in the world where the Gospel has not been allowed to be spoken into other parts of the world where there is freedom of speech, and where there is religious freedom to choose to follow Jesus – a choice that many of these people have never had before.

A Kingdom Perspective

I understand that this isn’t always an easy conversation, especially from a political perspective. In Italy, Greece, and Spain, there are boats that are routinely arriving from north Africa bringing people from across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. In America, people coming from Mexico and all across Latin America. In Turkey, people from Syria and other parts of the world. And we could go on and on, so I understand that the politics of immigration are difficult with people angry on many sides of the argument that the governments allow the immigration to even take place. There are financial issues, cultural issues, religious issues, and much more…

However, I want to suggest that we consider a different perspective. For those that call themselves Christians and follow Jesus, I believe that we must take a perspective from God. From the perspective of the Kingdom of God, how should we approach the people that are entering into these countries that are receiving the immigrants and refugees?

To answer this question, let’s imagine that Paul is right. Let’s immagine the possibility that God has decided that this is the appointed time for the Syrians to hear the Gospel and come to faith in Christ. Or that this is the time for the people from Afghanistan who have moved into other parts of the world. This is the time when God wants to change the course of history for these people, so as thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of these people move into other locations, into countries where they have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and become a disciple of Jesus Christ, even repeating it to their friends in family members around them, or possibly to people even back in their home countries through telephone or internet networks… Could we imagine that, for those of us who are living in these receiving countries, that God wants to use us to expand his Kingdom amongst the people that haven’t heard the Good News before?

I believe that this is precisely what is happening, that this is an historic time where God intends to bless those who are hurting. It may be that they will be blessed with a new country, a new home, and a new place to live, but most of all, I believe that God intends to bless these people with his presence, bless them with the knowledge of his love for them, a love that he has already demonstrated through Jesus Christ. This is the time that God wants to use this movement of peoples to bless them. As God’s people, those that have been adopted into his family through the grace and mercy that has already been extended to us, let’s not miss this important time in history when God is working and is calling all of us to work alongside of him!

Mission of God

From Entry to Multiplication

We recently studied how the Apostle Paul entered into Pisidian Antioch and left with a great result of the local disciples sharing the word of God throughout the region. Here is what we discussed.

First, we read Acts 13:13-52 and then asked five questions, answering the questions separately and then discussing our separate responses between us back in a group setting. Here are the questions that we asked along with my ideas for each of the answers:

Where do Paul and Barnabas go when they entered into Pisidian Antioch? Why do they go there?

Paul and Barnabas enter into the synagogue. There are probably a few reasons that they do this:

  • Paul believes that the Gospel must first go to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.
  • They know that there will be Jews in the synagogue who are interested in learning more about the things of God.
  • They are wanting to tell the Jews about Jesus and start the process of making disciples. Paul and Barnabas believed that this would be an optimal place to start that process.

What does Paul speak about in the synagogue? Why does he speak about this?

Paul starts his narrative of the Israelite people with the exodus from Egypt and continues to tell the story that the Jews would already know. However, he doesn’t leave them there. Instead, he continues the story with the part that they don’t know by speaking about John the Baptist, who called people to repentance, and Jesus, explaining that he fulfilled the scriptures that the Jews read in the synagogue on every Sabbath day.

By speaking in this way, Paul starts with what the people already know. He tells them the story of the Jews to get them thinking about their own past, but then he tells them the rest of the story and explains that the future has come, even now. Jesus Christ is the Messiah that they have been waiting for. He has been here already and now they must follow him!

How do Paul and Barnabas spend the majority of their time while they are in Pisidian Antioch? How do you know? Why do they do this?

In verse 43, it says this:

When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

Acts 13:43

While the text records what Paul said as he preached in the synagogue, taking up the majority of the space on the page in chapter 13, the majority of the time that Paul and Barnabas spend in Pisidian Antioch is spent in encouragement, and presumably in teaching and discipling the new believers who are now following them.

Paul and Barnabas know that they don’t intend to stay for a long time, so they needed to make disciples who would stay there in that city and continue the work that they started. Of course, they couldn’t have known that they would soon be persecuted and chased from the town as a result of the jealousy of the Jewish leaders, but their strategy has been to enter into the new locations, preach and make disciples, and continue on to the next location, leaving behind disciples that will continue the work of spreading the Gospel.

As a result, to follow through on this strategy, during the rest of the days of the week outside of the time that they are preaching and teaching in the synagogue, Paul and Barnabas are spending their time discipling the new believers.

Where do Paul and Barnabas go after the Jews refuse to believe and send them out of the synagogue? Why do they do this?

Paul tells the Jewish leaders that, because they have not considered themselves worthy of the Gospel, they will now go to the Gentiles.

Paul understands that the Gospel is for everyone. Previously, the Jews were God’s chosen people and believed that God was only the God of the Jews. They didn’t realize that God wanted to use the Jewish people to reach the rest of the world, bringing the nations to him. Paul understands this and so, while he went to the Jews first with the good news of Jesus, he also went to the Gentiles to take the message also to them. By sharing the message that the Gentiles can know God through Jesus Christ, Paul brings God even more glory, unifying these different groups of people under the lordship of Jesus.

What was the positive result of Paul and Barnabas’s work in Pisidian Antioch? How did that happen?

Paul and Barnabas won new believers from amongst the Jews and the Gentiles and then continued to encourage and teach these new believers, leaving behind disciples of Jesus. This resulted in verse 49 which says that the word of the Lord spread through the whole region!

Put it into practice

At the end of our time and then in the following meeting, we focused on two questions that we wanted each person to consider, develop an answer, and respond to:

First, we see that Paul evangelized and then took those disciples and continued to teach and encourage them. How can we develop a strategy to do the same? How can we connect our evangelism to our discipleship efforts?

Second, how can we teach and disciple others to learn to do the same?

Mission of God

The Expansion of the Gospel

In the book of Acts, we can see various examples of the expansion of the Gospel. Some of the examples seem more positive, meaning that the people are being obedient to Jesus’s call to be his witnesses and make disciples among all nations, while others seem to be negative examples, meaning that God will allow persecution and use it to accomplish his purposes.

Recently, we looked at a couple of examples of how God accomplished his plan.

Negative Example

Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Here is what he said:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes and then they will be his witnesses there in Jerusalem, then a little further out in Judea, a little further yet in Samaria, and then finally to the ends of the earth. This was Jesus’s plan for his disciples and his intent.

But approximately three years later, we have yet to see the disciples move out much beyond Jerusalem. It seems that they are still there in Jerusalem, working diligently, but not fully fulfilling God’s plan and Jesus’s command to move beyond Jerusalem, out of the city and to the ends of the earth.

It isn’t until chapter 8 that we begin to see this happen. Stephen has been arrested, having been falsely accused of blasphemy at the end of chapter 6, and then in chapter 7, we see him present his defense before the Sanhedrin.

By the time we reach chapter 8, the Jews have stoned and killed Stephen for blasphemy and a great persecution breaks out in Jerusalem. The church is broken up and scattered into the surrounding areas, most notably Judea and Samaria.

From there, we see that some from the church go south and an important official from Ethiopia believes in Jesus and is baptized, while others go north and start a new church in Antioch of Syria where the people would first be called Christians.

So what is happening in this situation? We see that God’s word goes out among the nations, just as Jesus said. Specifically, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’s word that the believers go into Judea and Samaria, but the Gospel will go even further as it moves into Africa as well as to the north into Syria, and ultimately launch discipleship movements amongst peoples of what is now Turkey, Greece, and several Eastern European countries.

In short, God uses the persecution amongst the believers in Jerusalem to disperse them into the places that he told them that he wanted them to go in the first place!

Positive Example

Now let’s look at a positive example. In Acts 13, we see the Apostle Paul go to the regions of Phrygia and Galatia in what is now central Turkey. Paul preaches in the synagogue in Antioch Pisidia and makes some disciples, but is persecuted and not allowed to speak in the synagogue again. In the end, Paul is run out of town, but not before he makes a number of disciples who go on to spread the good news of the word of God throughout the region. Here is what it says happened at the end of Paul’s initial time in Antioch Pisidia:

The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.

Acts 13:49

We don’t see that Paul continues to preach in the region, so how does the word of the Lord spread throughout the region? The new disciples are sharing with others! They are telling of what they have heard and have believed.

Now let’s look at who Peter addresses his first letter to as we see him write to the believers later in his life:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia

1 Peter 1:1

This is amazing because the church has not only been telling others in their local city, area, and region, but we see that there are now believers throughout the entire area of what is now Turkey, including Pontus and Bithynia, regions where we don’t know of Paul or any of his leaders ever going. Great news! It appears that the church is continuing to fulfill the Great Commission where they are, expanding and reaching their own “Judea” and their own “Samaria”. In this way, God’s mission and Jesus’s commandment are both being fulfilled.

In the end, we can see that God is accomplishing his mission to reach all nations and fill the earth with his people who will, themselves, carry God’s message and plan for redemption to all people.

Mission of God

The Kingdom of God

God’s plan, from the beginning of time to the end, has been to create a place on earth where he reigns and his people follow him. Let’s start at the beginning and work through each of the steps along the way.

First, the Garden of Eden was a place that God made and where he could be found, a perfect garden where he placed Adam to care for it. In Genesis 2, it says:

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:8-9

So from the beginning, we see that God creates a place that he gives to man. In this place, God gives them the rule to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but aside from this, the man’s job is to take care of the garden and live in God’s presence, going on to multiply and spread across the face of the earth. Great!

Of course, this doesn’t work out, and instead man rebels against God, doing what he was commanded not to do, and as punishment is then sent into exile outside of the Garden of Eden, outside of God’s presence.

Nation of Israel

Later, we see that God chooses the nation of Israel as his people. God tells them that he will be their God and they will be his people. However, again, God’s people do not trust him and instead rebel against him in several ways, even asking for their own kings like the other nations around them. God allows this to happen but yet, nothing changes. Kings come and kings go, but the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, continue to rebel against him. As a result, the people are once again sent into exile:

So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured.

He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.

2 Kings 25:1-10

The Jews are now in exile which God has allowed, and even brought about, for their wickedness and evil, forgetting God and his commandments.

For a few hundred years, God continues to call the Israelites and speak to them through his prophets until the prophet of Malachi when the prophets cease and God remains silent for about 400 years, even while the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans come to conquer the Israelites’ land.

Jesus the King

Then one day, John the Baptist appears in the wilderness preaching a message of repentance, calling the people to turn from their sins, to consecrate themselves, and to prepare for the Lord to come! What an incredible turnaround. The Lord is coming? The Israelites believe that the Messiah is here to liberate and release them from their oppressors, and Jesus even speaks of a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

But this Kingdom is not a political kingdom. Jesus isn’t here to overthrow the Roman oppressors. He begins to describe the Kingdom of God in a very different way than what the Israelites are expecting. For example:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-11

Jesus speaks of a different kind of kingdom where the poor in spirit come into the Kingdom. Those who are persecuted because of righteousness come into the Kingdom. Those that are meek will be the ones who will receive the inheritance of the earth.

So what type of Kingdom is this? The announcement of the existence of this Kingdom seems to be Jesus’s primary message, and yet he isn’t – and doesn’t – establishing, or reestablishing the nation of Israel. The Jewish people remain under Roman rule for a long time after Jesus returns to heaven, and even under other nations afterward.

Jesus came to announce and establish the Kingdom of God, ending Satan’s hold on both the Jewish people as well as the Gentiles, the non-Jews. By returning from the dead, Jesus shows that he has defeated death and we can do the same through faith in him.

But that is not the end. Jesus said that he would return. In Matthew 24, Jesus says:

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 24:30-31

So Jesus has established, once and for all time, the Kingdom of God here on the earth. But it has yet to be fully fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is also yet to come as Jesus returns to gather his people and bring judgment upon the earth. When he does this, Jesus will not only gather his people, but he will create a new heaven and a new earth and God will again reign as the king over his people. Those that follow him will be part of his Kingdom forever.

From our perspective, we are living at a very interesting time. The Kingdom of God has been established, and yet it has not been fulfilled and come onto the earth completely. At this point, as the Church, we are waiting for the Kingdom to come, waiting for the King to return.

If you want to learn more, make sure and check out this video about the Kingdom of God:

As we did our study, we walked through a series of additional scriptures and questions. Here is the study that we did:

General Mission of God

For His Glory

This is the third lesson in a series on the mission of God. I started previously with a series of thoughts initially on the image of God filling the earth and then wrote the lesson itself over on the Search Party site.

From there, we moved on to underline the idea that God’s mission should fill the whole earth. That means that God’s redemption is available to everyone. God wants everyone to return to him, to be with him as he originally intended.

Now, we want to ask and answer the next questions such as, “Why is God doing this? Why is he going to all of this trouble?”

Created to Glorify God

Let’s start with a scripture in the book of Isaiah:

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ”

Isaiah 43:5-7

Through Isaiah, God is saying that his people will come from the ends of the earth back to him. Those people whom God made and that called by name, he is now calling all of them back to himself.

But God says something interesting in the midst of calling the people back. He gives the reason WHY he created them. He says that he created them for his glory.

As God’s people, created in the image of God, we are created for a purpose. That purpose is to give God glory.

Killed to Glorify God

Now we move forward in the book of John to see if this is also Jesus’s perspective. Does he also believe that his purpose is to give glory to God?

At the end of Jesus’s life, he begins to teach and prepare his disciples for his death. As he speaks about his death, he admits that carrying out this mission even is difficult for him, but he wants to bring glory to the Father:

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

John 12:27-28

Jesus’s overriding concern is that God would be glorified. Even if he is troubled; Even if it means difficulty or pain for him; Even if it means that he would lose his life, the most important thing is that God would be glorified. This is the overriding purpose for God’s people: To give glory to God.

What about me?

So let’s apply this to each of us. What does this have to do with me? If I believe in Jesus and am one of God’s people, what is my purpose?

As you probably have guessed by now, we must also live our lives to bring glory to God. Take a look at what apostle Paul said in the book of Romans:

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”

Romans 15:8-9

In this passage, we see that there are two purposes for Jesus to become a servant of the Jews. Paul says that he did it so that the promises that God made would be fulfilled and that the Gentiles would glorify God. In this case, God’s credibility is upheld in that his promises are fulfilled. However, we see again the purpose of the people: that they give glory to God!

This, therefore, is also our purpose. We have been made to give glory to God. But how? How do we give glory to God?

We don’t need to look any farther than the way that God’s story finishes. God brings all of the nations back to himself exactly as we saw in the prophecy above from Isaiah. God said that all people, including both the Jews and the Gentiles, would come to him to give glory to him.

And that is exactly what happens:

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:8-10

Believing in Jesus and following him is not just about avoiding Hell. Instead, following Jesus is all about bringing glory to God. We bring glory to him when we join God in his plan and his mission to bring people from the ends of the earth to worship him.

To believe in Jesus and follow him is a first step, but there are many other steps to follow to be his disciple and follow him, all for the purpose of bringing God glory!

Study Questions

We actually ended up doing the study a little bit differently than what I wrote above. Instead of going through each of the scriptures, we actually worked through the concept in a different way this time. Here were the steps we went through:

Part 1

What do you thank God for this week?

What do you need prayer for this week?

How did you obey God from our last meeting?

Part 2

What does the word “glory” mean? What does it mean to give God glory?

Read Isaiah 43:5-7.

What is this scripture talking about? How would you summarize it?

This is what we were made for: To give God glory!

Cat vs. Dog Metaphor

Who considers themselves to be a cat person? A dog person?

How does a cat think? A cat thinks, “You pet me, you feed me, you love me.  I must be God.”

But a dog thinks differently. The dog thinks, “You pet me, you feed me, you love me.  You must be God.”

Is the point of the story of the Bible about you, or about God? Try these statments:

Jesus left the Father’s glory for…MeThe glory of the Father
He suffered for…MeThe glory of the Father
He died for…MeThe glory of the Father
He’s gone back to heaven to build a mansion for…MeThe glory of the Father
He’s interceding for…MeThe glory of the Father
He lives for…MeThe glory of the Father

Part 3

So if we understand and believe that the point of our lives is to give glory to God, and then if we understand that we also can have a tendency to make the story about God instead of me, what should we change? For example, here are a few questions we might ask ourselves:

  • How should my prayer life change if I live to give glory to God?
  • How should I spend my time if I live to give glory to God?
  • How should I spend my money if I live to give glory to God?

Does God accomplish his plan? Read Revelation 5:8-10.

Who is there around God’s throne?

What can I do this week to join God’s plan and give him glory?

Who can I share this lesson with this week?


I’ve worked through the Perspectives class several times and have heard Bob Sjogren share on this topic several times. He has been a great influence to me regarding this subject. I recommend checking out this whole video to hear Bob teach this subject. You will see that a portion of what Bob teaches has been included in this lesson.
Mission of God

Among All Nations

Last week, we started a new study on the mission of God, considering how God originally made man in his own image and commanded them to spread out across the face of the earth. We contrasted this with the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and asked the question: Has God’s mission changed? What do we see to be similar or the same between this initial command to multiply and fill the earth and that of Jesus to make disciples among all nations?

You can go back and read that post using the link above, but in summary, we found these two ideas to almost be exactly the same. This means that God is on the same mission today that he has been on since the beginning!

This week, we continued with our study of God’s mission, working to understand more about with whom, or among whom, God is working to accomplish his mission. To do this, we borrowed a component of a study from Frontiers called Embark and looked at 9 different scriptures, moving from the beginning of the Bible to the end to understand how God’s plan has remained the same regarding who he intends to reach and bring to himself.

As in the last lesson, we’ve also included the questions from the study. Feel free to skip ahead to the full list of Study Questions from the meeting.

As we read these scriptures, we asked a simple question: What do these scriptures teach us about God and his plan for the world? Let’s walk through them one at a time.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ”

Genesis 12:1-3

In this first scripture in the book of Genesis, we can see that, from the beginning, God chooses this man Abraham to give a blessing. But that blessing also comes with a promise that others will be blessed through him. So we can see that God intends to use people to bless others on his behalf. Even more than that, we can see that God intends to bless ALL people on the earth through Abraham. Through this one man, the blessing of God will arrive upon everyone!

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

exodus 9:13-16

Now we skip forward to the story of Moses. He is now confronting Pharaoh telling him that God says that he must let his people go out of Egypt. God’s desire is that his people will worship him, and to do this, they must leave Egypt. Moses is commanded to give a warning to Pharaoh that he should either let the people go or face a punishing plague such that he couldn’t even imagine, even wiping them from the face of the earth.

God also says that Moses should tell Pharaoh that he has put him in this position to show his power and that his name would be proclaimed in the earth, something that many people continue to even do today as we talk about this story.

He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:9-10

David writes this Psalm talking about the power and strength of God while also worshiping him as a God who brings peace among the people. For this, David says that God calls us to be still and know that he is God, that he and his ways will be lifted up. He will be worshiped and exalted among all of the nations on the earth.

And now the LORD says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD
and my God has been my strength —
he says:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:5-6

The prophet Isaiah points forward to Jesus, talking about how he will restore the tribes of Israel (Jacob) once again bringing them back to himself. But Isaiah also explains that, for God, this isn’t enough. He will also make him a light for the Gentiles. In other words, all other people as well, not just the Jewish people. The Jewish people had been God’s chosen people with their heritage line coming down from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God had promised blessing for Abraham, but the blessing wouldn’t only be for Abraham. This blessing would come to all people. Now, Isaiah is pointing forward to Jesus to show how, from the Jews, the blessing of God would come upon all of the other people on the earth as well!

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.

malachi 1:11

Once again, the prophet Malachi confirms God’s plan. He will be the last of the prophets and he reminds the people that God’s name will be great among the nations. This is one of the final messages before God goes silent for 400 years without more word from him to the Jewish people until Jesus arrives on the scene.

Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

luke 2:27-32

Now we move into the story of Jesus. He has just been born within the last few days and has been taken into the temple for consecration and circumcision before the Lord. A man named Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and prophetically proclaims God’s plan for Jesus in front of everyone. He says that Jesus is God’s salvation for all nations and a light for the Gentiles. He even says that this child is the glory of the Israelites. Why would that be? Because Jesus is a Jew and comes from the Jewish people, just as we understood that he would as we learned about God’s blessing of Abraham above!

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

luke 24:46-48

At this point, Jesus has died on the cross and has been resurrected from the dead. He now appears to his disciples and explains to them what has happened. He says that the reason for his suffering and death, and for his resurrection on the third day is that forgiveness of sins is to be preached to all nations. It is now possible for all people to come to God because Jesus paid for the sins for all of them. This starts in Jerusalem, but extends to all people!

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

Galatians 3:8

The Apostle Paul, writing a letter to the churches in Galatia, explains that they don’t need to follow the law of the Jews as the Judaizers have told them that they must do. Instead, he says that it is through faith that the Gentiles would be saved. God would make the Gentiles right with him (justify them) through their faith in Jesus. Paul says that this has been God’s plan since the time of Abraham right up to the present day.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

revelation 7:9-10

Finally, we reach the end of the story. All of the nations with their individual tribes and languages are gathered around the throne of God. God, in his varying persons, is being worshipped by all of the nations for having been saved by his great love and sacrifice.

Answering the Questions

So we have gone through each of the scriptures above, but now let’s answer a couple of questions that we also posed to the folks in our studies this week:

What does this teach us about God and his plan for the world?

In summary across each of the scriptures above, I think it is fair to say that God has been working out a plan to bring blessing to all people everywhere. He started this process through Abraham and continued to work out his plan until it was finished at the end.

But what does this word “blessing” mean? Is God talking about financial riches? Great relationships? Power? No, this is not it. In fact, we often see that the people who have been blessed by God experience the opposite. They may experience suffering, persecution, and many trials.

Instead, I think that we see a significant part of the answer to this question in the final verse from above. It said, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” God brings salvation to all people. He saves them all. Not just the Jews, his originally chosen people. Not just certain people. But all that will place their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice for their sins.

I said that this, the salvation that God has given, is a “significant part of the answer” because, while this is the greatest component, we do experience great joy as we see God carrying out his plan, both in us and through us for the benefit also of other people.

What does this mean for me? What does this teach me about my part in god’s plan?

As God is carrying out his plan to redeem all nations across the world, to bring salvation to everyone, we see that God uses his people to complete the task. So I need to understand where I stand in joining God within his plan. He is bringing salvation to all nations. Am I willing to go to my neighbor who is from another country to get to know him and share this word of salvation with him? Beyond being willing when God calls me, will I actually do it? If God brings someone to mind, will I meet them and share with them, committing to working to making them a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Study Questions

Here are the questions that we used in our training studies this week:

Part 1

What do you give thanks to God for from this last week?

What do you need prayer for in this week?

How have you obeyed God in this last week?

Who did you share with last week?

Part 2

Read this list of scriptures:

  • Genesis 12:1–3
  • Exodus 9:13–16
  • Psalm 46:9–10
  • Isaiah 49:5–6
  • Malachi 1:11
  • Luke 2:27–32
  • Luke 24:46–48
  • Galatians 3:8
  • Revelation 7:9–10

What do these scriptures teach us about God and his plan for the world?

What does this teach me about my part in God’s plan?

Part 3

What change does this make in us? What do you want to do in response?

Who can you share this with this week?

Mission of God

The Image of God Should Fill the Earth

Back in 2009, shortly after taking a new job and moving our family from St. Louis to Denver, I started to wonder whether or not we should have moved to China to help run an orphanage that we had become familiar with in 2006, around the time that we had adopted our daughter Ellie, also from China. These two locations, where Ellie was from and where this orphanage was located, were unrelated, but it certainly seemed to be interesting timing.

We met some new friends in Denver and explained a little bit of this story and they told us that we should really consider taking the Perspectives course to help us begin to consider what God may want to do in our lives. That started a journey, driving back and forth from Denver to Colorado Springs each Sunday evening, to ultimately bring us here to Catania where we live and work now.

The Perspectives class starts with a Biblical background, taking 5 weeks to establish a Biblical perspective for God on a mission and why, Biblically speaking, we should, as Christians, be part of this mission that God has been working to unfold since the beginning of time. Here is an outline of the Biblical section from the Perspectives course site:

#1. The Living God is a Missionary God
God’s purpose is three-fold: against evil—kingdom victory; for the nations—redemption and blessing; and for God—global glory in worship. God’s purpose revealed in promise to Abraham. Exploring God’s purpose for the nations: Blessing to the nations described.

#2. The Story of His Glory
Exploring God’s purpose for Himself: How God has been steadily unfolding a plan throughout all nations and generations to bring about His greater glory, ultimately drawing to Himself the worship of all the peoples. Passion and prayer for God’s glory.

#3. Your Kingdom Come
Exploring God’s purpose regarding evil: How God has accomplished a defeat of evil powers in order to open a season of history in which the nations can freely follow Christ. The kingdom of God as the destiny of all history. Christ’s mission seeks a hindering of evil to bring about a sign of the coming peace of the kingdom of God. Our prayers contend with evil in order to bring about the transformation of society with Christ’s kingdom in view.

#4. Mandate for the Nations
Jesus shows great strategic interest in Gentiles; wise strategic focus by initiating a global mission on a few disciples among the Hebrew people. The Great Commission and the ways of God’s sending in relational power. Dealing with the ideas of pluralism (all religions the same) and universalism (all persons saved).

#5. Unleashing the Gospel
The first followers of Jesus: obedient in costly, foundational ways. The climactic act of the book of Acts is the freeing of the gospel to be followed by Gentiles without Jewish traditions as a requirement. A foundational act of God which speaks to the situations where the gospel is hindered today. Strategic suffering and apostolic passion.

Biblical Vision for God’s Mission in Italy

As a team, Search Party partners with local partners to see movements catalyzed amongst unreached people groups. We have developed training materials and even a full, field-based training course for missional workers who desire to work among the unreached here in Italy, but in talking together, we realized that we should consider going further in the development of training materials specifically for Italians who could, just as easily as us, reach out to the unreached who have come from the 10/40 window to live in Italy.

Also, aside from the fact that the nations are here, and despite the fact that Italy could generally considered to be one of the more “reached” countries in the world given its Catholic history, there is as much if not more need than ever for missional thinking and work here in Italy by the Italians. The nations are on their doorstep who could be reached by Italian believers. Their fellow countrymen need the Gospel as well as the country continues to decline into pure secularism. And beyond all of this, it is important that the Italians participate in reaching the “ends of the earth” by sending workers, something that many have admitted to me that they have not participated in.

Going back to Genesis

So this leads me to the question… what to do? I’m sure that there could, and should, be a much larger answer to this question, but for now, we happen to be at the doorstep of multiple new connections with Italians here in Catania that we are working to mobilize in new ways. To do this, we’ve wondered what we should do, and discussing it with one of my teammates last night, it seemed that going to the mission of God is probably the right first step.

The mission of God starts directly in the first chapter of Genesis. God creates Adam and Eve and gives them a command. Here is that part of the story:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ” And it was so.

Genesis 1:26-30

So where do we see the mission of God in this passage? There are at least a couple of important things for us to point out here:

First, we see that God creates mankind in his own image. What does that mean? An image is a representation of the actual object. For example, if I take a picture of the piano that I am sitting next to now, I have created a representation of the piano. It isn’t the piano itself, but that photo represents the piano, allowing me to easily show the piano in a picture to other people.

In a similar way, God makes man and woman in his image. We are made as a representation of God. We are not God, but we are made to represent him as his own image, here on the earth. We can see that God gives his image to both the man and the woman. They are both made in the image of God, made to represent him.

There is a nice video from the Bible Project which explains this concept further:

The second thing that we can see here is that God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth. In other words, make babies! A lot of them! 🙂

God wants his image to propagate across the face of the earth. His image should be everywhere. Those that bear the image of God should fill the earth, and even represent God by subduing the earth, ruling over everything in the sea, in the air, and on the land. Of course, there is a responsibility for the earth that is implied here, but the more important point is that God wants his image to be spread everywhere.

God’s Mission

So we can see God’s mission spelled out from the very beginning. He wants his image to fill the earth. He wants men and women, those who carry his image and his name to go throughout the earth. This is the mission, and it is the same mission that is repeated over and over throughout the scriptures. We’ll later see this with Noah, with Abraham, with the people of Israel, and even with Jesus.

The Great Commission is essentially announced right here, immediately in the very first chapter of the book of Genesis. What did Jesus say as he sent his disciples on the Great Commission?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

God tells his disciples that they are to make more disciples, who will in turn also be obedient to the commands of Jesus and make disciples themselves. They are supposed to make more people who would bear the image of Jesus, doing the things that he commanded them to do.

Jesus returns back to the original plan, to the original mission that God gave to Adam and Eve, announcing it again for his disciples. This is the same plan and mission that he expects all followers of Jesus to continue and carry with us today.