“For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your Name.” Again it says, Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” And again, “Praise the lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to Him, all you peoples.” And again, Isaiah says, “The root of Jessie will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
As we focus in on God’s call upon our lives together as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the instrument through which He proclaims the Gospel of grace to this broken, sinful world, it is vital that we begin with a vision of all that God has called us to become as recipients of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to receive such grace as the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 15:8-13. This grace awakens us to that which is given us in Christ. Joy, peace, love, and hope are ours as we are immersed into the Spirit of Christ. This is the precious gift God has given us in Christ. In receiving it we find ourselves also immersed into the purposes of the Lord. We must “Deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.” (Mark 8:32) At its heart this purpose seems to be calling us to a life in which we sacrificially begin to follow our Lord in His lifestyle of love for this lost world. The question is how do we do this? What does it look like in our lives? Here Michael Haykin in the final chapter of his wonderful little book The God Who Draws Near gives us some wonderful illustrations from Baptist history to help to live out this life.
“Reflect on these three examples — all taken from the Baptist tradition.
First, that quintessential nineteenth-century Baptist, C. H. Spurgeon, who at the age of twenty-five and not long after he had been called to be the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, solemnly resolved: ‘God sparing my life, if I have my people at my back I will not rest until the dark county of Surrey [which lay to the south of London, where his Church was located] be covered with places of worship.’
Andrew Fuller, the respected eighteenth-century theologian and pastor, echoed similar sentiments when he declared that the ‘true Churches of Jesus Christ travail in birth for the salvation of men. They are the armies of the Lamb, the grand object of whose existence is to extend the Redeemer’s Kingdom.’
Finally, John Bunyan, the seventeenth-century pastor and author of the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress, who was deeply admired by both Spurgeon and Fuller, once said that the ‘great desire’ of his heart was
‘to get into the darkest places in the Countrey, even amongst those people that were furthest off of profession; yet not because I could not endure the light (for I feared not to shew my Gospel to any) but because I found my spirit leaned most after awakening and converting work, and the Word that I carried did lean itself most that way; Yea, so I have strived to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation, rom. 15:20. In my preaching I have really been in pain, and have as it were travailed to bring forth children to God; neither could I be satisfied unless some fruits did appear in my work; if I were fruitless it matter’d not who commended me; but if I were fruitful, I cared not who did condemn.’” (Haykin, The God Who Draws Near p. 85-86)
Such sacrificial love and vision when it is genuine only comes about as a result of real dependant prayer as we seek to walk into God’s vision for our world. What has He put into your heart that you would pray for and sacrificially love so that Christ would be formed in them? Is it a person, or a people? Is it a community or a nation? It is my desire that we begin to pray together that the love of Christ might be spread to the ends of the earth.