(C&MA Great Commission Fund tour from Feb 27 – Mar 10, 2004, in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Richmond, Virginia)
Mk 10:28-31 (Mt 19:29; Lk 18:29-30) Then Peter began to say to [Jesus], ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’
Peter here is responding in amazement to what the Lord Jesus had just spoken before as to how difficult it is for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. Because rather than giving up all for the reality of God and His Kingdom, they are trusting in themselves and in their own wealth or wisdom or power. Jesus answers that anyone – not only the apostles, but anyone – who forsakes those things most valued in their lives or in the estimation of the world for His sake and the gospel’s will be rewarded both now and forever, with persecution between now and then along the way!
A missionary is a “sent out person”. Therefore, it is a calling; it is obedience to the Lord’s call upon your life to go wherever He chooses to send you. All believers are called to be witnesses of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but not all are sent out with the specific purpose of taking the gospel to people outside of our own lands and culture, and to establish in the faith those who obey the gospel. The answer of Jesus to His disciples gives equal status to anyone who forsakes home, family, or lands for the Kingdom of God’s sake. Leaving all does not necessarily imply rejection or condemnation by either side. Persecution, which all believers who live godly in Christ Jesus will experience, does mean being rejected, even hated and despised, because of believing in and belonging to Jesus the Messiah.
Still the challenge to take the gospel to all peoples remains: For whosoever shall call upon the name of [the Lord Jesus Christ] shall be saved. 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? And how shall they preach except they be sent? (Rom 10:13-15a)
Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, is the penultimate “sent out one”: sent by God the Father (Is 48:16; Jn 17:23) to gather the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and whosoever else will repent and believe the good news. The first missionaries were Israelis and Jews – the apostles of the Lord Jesus sent out by Him. We could go even further back and say that Jonah the prophet was the first missionary, being sent by YHVH to Nineveh to call them to repentance from evil towards the true God, in order that they be blessed and not destroyed.
Being called by God – and that is really the essence of the matter – to go to other lands and peoples with HIS message of salvation is not a call to lukewarmness. The Christian life is grounded upon absolutes, upon truth. Who is Jesus Christ? We must know Him for who He is to bear God’s good news and to withstand the attacks of the enemy against the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He sent. It is a continual dying to self that we may live unto God –even more, that God would manifest His life in and through us. Is this not the exhortation to offer our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God? To be God’s person to go for Him to tell the people about His Son is a call to persevering faith. Therefore it must be obedience mixed with faith in GOD’s Word to you, or else the missionary will not endure the hardship associated with such a high calling away from his or her “safe” environment. Our Father in Heaven knows us, and will not give us more than we can bear, but He will mature us and perfect us through giving us more than what we thought we could do!
I want to use my wife and myself as examples to hopefully help some of you to understand what I’ve been saying here: As an unbelieving Jew, I went to Israel twice, but did not want to live there. I did not consider the State of Israel my home, despite its importance to me as a Jew. My first time I went as a tourist, and I liked the land and the history very much, but not the people! But these were my people anyway! The second time was in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, and I worked as a volunteer on a kibbutz. This time I lived and worked with Israelis. I began to understand why they were like they were, but I still could not condone what I considered a harsh approach to life. I was still very much an American in my upbringing!
When I was saved seven years later and became a believer in Jesus as Lord and Christ, God changed my heart and spirit. He TOLD me to go to Israel, and it immediately became home (on Earth). I could not wait to get there despite my previous misgivings. Everything had changed because of God and Jesus coming into my life and speaking His Word by the Holy Spirit. In other words, I (we) are not living in Israel simply because I am Jewish, but rather as one sent by God back to the land — which He promised to give to the fathers and to their descendants — with the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Randi, my wife, is not Jewish; had never been to Israel or studied the Hebrew language. She grew up in a church which relegates Israel to past history and Jewish people to Christ killers without hope of redemption, at least not as Jews. Yet when she recognized that what happened to me was truly of God, she obeyed by faith the will of God to not only commit herself to me as her husband, but to live in Israel. God also gave her to know that His purposes for me included her! She will be rewarded more than me, for she has given up for Christ’s sake more than me. At least I had a natural kinship with Israel and her people; whereas for her, it was completely foreign and strange.
Through obeying God, both Randi and I have been strengthened and encouraged by the Lord against the pulls of the natural bonds of family back here in the U.S. to tempt us to mind the things of man rather than of God. And Jesus has proven His word true for us: Randi’s oldest brother, a radiologist, disapproves of our living in Israel, where only the “bad Jews” live, and to demonstrate his disapproval, he once told her that he will not offer any financial assistance, as that would imply consenting to our decision. So God gave to Randi (and me) another brother, also a Dr. David, a radiologist – a Jewish believer from N.C., who built a house in Beer Sheva because, he told us after we first spoke with him, God told him to. We are living in it now for the past seven years at a very brotherly rate! Randi’s father has expressed his own dislike and disapproval of our life of faith, by taking the ultimate step just last month of disowning and disinheriting his only daughter because we allowed our oldest daughter to enter the Israeli army as a civic obligation. God, praise His Name, is our Father, and He does not forsake His children!
Giving up “all” for Jesus to be a missionary in a foreign land and culture, with foreign, strange, sometimes unfriendly and hostile people, in conflict zones, with antichristian religions and laws (e.g., against evangelism) is not an excuse for immoral living, as if the “going out” is sacrifice enough and outweighs every sin and shortcoming. Your going is supposedly an act of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore only doing one’s duty – not even something for which He has to thank you. Our lives as Christians, and so as witnesses of the Holy and Righteous Creator and Redeemer, is to grow and mature in that calling and setting God places us. We are not to carry His name in vain, but to reflect His beauty of holiness in our lifestyle and in attitudes and motives of our hearts.
Not all are called to be sent out, but all believers can be partners in the great commission, perhaps through prayer, free-will giving above and beyond tithing, “adopting” a family serving abroad, volunteering to spend time abroad to help a busy family with housework or child-care, etc. etc. Remember that King David established the custom in God’s army after the battle at Ziklag (1Sam 30:21-25): that all who participated in the time of the battle shared in the spoils of victory – combat soldiers, supply personnel, kitchen help. We, too, are in the Lord’s battle against Satan and evil. The victory is already won on the cross: Jesus is the Victor, and is willing to share all that is His with us who are joined with Him!
Some plant, others water, but God gives the increase and brings in the harvest by his holy angels. Pioneers labor and break new ground; others follow and enter into their labors; fullness is at a predetermined end, praise God! We are all one in Messiah Jesus, and the honor is His to receive. We can receive nothing except that it is given us from Heaven. Let us never forget and always remember that it is Jesus who is the Savior of all persons, especially of those who believe. Not only are we called to labor for His sake and the gospel’s until He comes, but also we will not accomplish the incredible command to take the gospel to all nations within the prescibed time. That does not phase God! He will even send out angels to proclaim the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the Earth before the hour of judgment is come, so that as many as will will repent and believe unto salvation (Rev 14:6-7).
GOD WILL GET IT DONE! EVERY KNEE WILL BOW AND TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF THE FATHER!