RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–When we seek God, when we seek his great passion for the peoples of the earth to know him, he inevitably confronts the selfish attitudes many of us — particularly American Christians — bring to the faith.
Yes, we are individually loved, blessed and saved by grace when we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. But God’s passion is not just about us and the blessings we covet. It’s about the world and his burning desire to redeem the nations for his glory. It’s the sick who need a physician, Jesus said, and the lost who need a shepherd.
We need to remember what God told the prophet Isaiah more than 27 centuries ago about his passionate vision for history. His agenda extended far beyond restoring unfaithful Israel, for through Israel would come a Servant and Savior for the world:
“He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be my Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a Light to the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth'” (Isaiah 49:6 NASB).
Like Israel, we need to learn anew that God doesn’t exist to serve our whims and desires; we exist to serve him! Believing the opposite — consciously or otherwise — is an easy heresy for Christians to fall into in our self-centered, individualistic materialistic culture.
However, as International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin writes, “Jesus counters our egocentric theology with His explicit expression of the Great Commission in Luke 24:46-47: ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations….’ God will choose to bless us only as we are intentionally committed to His purpose of exalting Him among the nations.”
The prayer of Psalm 67 puts it quite simply: “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us — that Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all nations” (67:1,2 NASB).
Worship is the ultimate task of the church. A passion for God begets a passion for the world when we begin to see it through his eyes of love.
One of the most exciting characteristics of today’s younger Christians is their entrance into missions through the “portal” of praise and passion for God. Many of them seem uninterested or unaware of traditional denominational programs. Yet they arrive at the door of the International Mission Board and other missions groups asking to be sent to the darkest, most gospel-starved places on earth.
“A new generation of Christian young people is focusing on the unreached in restricted areas almost oblivious to the cost,” observes IMB overseas chief Avery Willis. Why? They want to exalt the Lord anywhere and everywhere he is not yet being exalted. They have connected with his passion.
Bridges, whose column appears twice-monthly in Baptist Press, is a senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.