March 23, 2011

Blessing the Nations

I think that the Dahlgren kids are ready for our Perspectives class to come to an end soon.  Most evenings over the past 11 weeks when our kids have asked, “What’s happening tonight?”, they have heard us say, “We’re studying for our class.”  The class began as one of the steps we needed to do to be best prepared for serving with ReachGlobal in France, but we both now consider it as one of the most perspective-changing, Bible-challenging processes we’ve ever encountered.  Through hours of reading and plenty of assignments, we have learned so much about God’s complete plan for our lives as Christ-followers.  All of the Bible studies and classes we’ve attended somehow have not impacted us in the same way as this ‘movement’.  How is it that we’ve never understood His call for our lives like this before?

This week’s readings were some of the best so far.  Rick Love, the author of “Identity With Integrity:  Apostolic Ministry in the 21st Century”, shares the following passage:

Modern apostles increasingly avoid the use of once-cherished terms like “Christian,” “missions,” “missionary,” and “church planting.”  Negative meanings have accrued to these terms and as a result, in our attempts to bring blessing to the nations, we are too easily misunderstood.  In our zeal to fulfill the Great Commission, we have often misrepresented the way of the cross.  We have depersonalized the ministry of reconciliation.  We have failed to model the peaceable way of Jesus.

I think the scriptural theme of “blessing the nations” could be the best way to describe our core apostolic mandate.  We may find that this phrase, or something like it, could replace the term “missions.”

The mandate to bless the nations began with Abraham.  God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) provides the biblical foundation and the proper heart attitude for ministry.  Here we find God’s loving purpose to bless all nations.  Here we see God’s global purposes for humanity.

In the Old Testament, “blessing” refers to God’s gracious favor and power bestowed on those who respond to him by faith (Gen 15:6; Ps 67).  The blessing of His favor draws us into relationship with himself, resulting in peace, well-being and salvation.  The blessing of his power affects the practical realities of every dimension of life.  Thus, blessing is both a relational term and a power term.

This promised blessing finds its fulfillment in Christ.  In Christ, we find the fullness of God’s loving favor.  In Christ, we discover the demonstration of God’s liberating power.  Paul highlights the relational and powerful dimensions of blessing in Christ most explicitly in Galatians (Gal 3:5,8,9,14).

Implicit in the Abrahamic blessing, I think we find our mandate as well as our message.  Paul makes this clear in Galatians 3:8, “The 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.’“  Thus, our core message of the blessing which is in Christ aligns with our core mandate to bring Christ’s blessing to all nations.

Another powerful paragraph in Rick’s article reads:

One of the greatest ways to discern the core message of your life is to answer this question:  What message am I willing to die for?  In my case, I would rather not die for being affiliated with a mission agency or for my country’s foreign policy.  Frankly, I am not willing to die for the religion of Christianity.  But by the grace of God, I would be willing to die for Christ and for the right of everyone to know of Christ’s love.

What a great summation of the basics of God’s ultimate call for each of our lives!  
·         We are to bless all nations. 
·         Are we willing to die for Christ? 
·         Do we really believe everyone has a right to know of Christ’s love? 
·         Who will go?

Here we are… send us!

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