In recent weeks, our "From Now to Eternity: the Church in the Last Days" sermon mini-series in Revelation has caused me to do some thinking. I read passages like we've preached in chapters 4 or 5, and I think to myself 'come quickly, Lord Jesus!' Couple this with the news we see, and I long even more for the Christ to make all things new. Particularly the passages containing the letters to the churches cause me to pause and realize that our Savior has left us here with a purpose, a Great Commission in fact. I think as we long to spend eternity in the glory of God, it hastens us in our mission to make disciples while we still have the chance. As we catch glimpses of an eternal ecstasy, it ought strengthen our resolve to evangelize between now and then. Here's why: if we want to share in the everlasting joy of being co-heirs with the Messiah, we should want others to join us!
It would take a pretty sorry believer to take hold of the free grace of God, turn around, and actively deny it to others. That's a pretty uncontroversial take. My next opinion might be a bit more controversial. When we gather in our holy hudles, enjoy learning and studying together, return to the comfort of our own homes, and neglect our Christian responsibility to make disciples of all nations, we are passively - and perhaps quite unintentionally - doing just what we abhorred above. May God have mercy if we aren't willing to step outside out comfort zone and serve our neighbors. May God have mercy upon us if we are too busy enjoying "doing church" to get out of the building and "be the church!"
I pray that my toes are not the only ones being stepped on right now. The Holy Spirit has convicted me recently in this issue, because of several current events. Let's think about the Great Commission in simpler and more digestable context: within Stokes County. We're a predominantly middle and upper-middle class, white church. What if God leads us to own the lostness of the poorest neighbors in our county? What if God leads us serve neighborhoods around Walnut Cove that are nearly exclusively black? I'll confess to you, I'm already outside my comfort zone in several ways. What if the federal government uses Meadows as a hub for a relocation program for refugees from Cuba? The presence of signage and businesses alone catering to Spanish speakers might drive some of us crazy! What if Dry Hollow were set up as a hub for the relocation of Afganis fleeing the Taliban? Are we willing to cater to these new neighbors, serve them, and love them, sharing the good message of salvation in Jesus' name? Even if these hypothetical refugees were American-friendly and even served our military personnel as translators, it would be a difficult blow to our comfort level.
I type these words to challenge you in your current comfort zone. These are hypothetical situations, but it may very well prove a realistic possibility in the months to come. I want to challenge us all, because I have been greatly convicted in recent days. First, I have been greatly convicted about my own willingness to take for granted the liberties we share in this great Union of states, specifically the religious liberties we are directly given in our Constitution's first amendment. We have millions of brothers and sisters across the globe that share no such liberties, and they practice faith and obedience to God's Word at tremendous personal cost. Second, I am convicted about my own neglect of King Jesus' Great Commission. It's pretty easy for me to spend a day in my office doing "church work", go home, put my feet up, and have never done anything of Kingdom value. I need to better steward my time so that I can be meeting more people, cultivating new friendships, and having conversations about spiritual things.
Third, my soul has been wrecked in this sermon series because of the cost of my own salvation. It's pretty easy for me to desire - in theory - the evangelism of our Afgan friends being tortured by the Taliban. It's a bit more difficult for me to desire the evangelism of that Islamist soldier. It's a bit more difficult for me to desire the evangelism of the communist leaders in China actively engaged in the genocide of their own countrymen. It's a bit more difficult for me to desire the evangelism of the Castros. O that I might take to heart that I am no more worthy of God's grace than these. I don't deserve to hear and respond to the good message of salvation any more than them. It is only by God's merciful love that I was born here to parents that brought be to church, taught me to pray, and instilled biblical values in our home. May we never allow our desire for biblical justice to eclipse our desire for souls to be saved and lives to be changed. May we never grow complacent thinking that God's good news is for those of us that are "better". May we never allow our love of country, or cultural comforts, to stifle our love for others, or our willingness to reach them with the great Good News!
Behold the Lamb, behold the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
For sinners crucified, o holy sacrifice, behold the Lamb of God, behold the Lamb!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds