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God’s Plan of Redemption
The Holy Spirit also helps us to understand God’s bigger picture of redemption. This, I believe, is the second key that will help Christ followers to evangelize America. Relative to eternity, our lives on earth are but a breath or a vapor (Ps. 39:5), but, while we are on earth, God has called us to complete a specific mission. To be effective in completing the work God has set for each of us (Eph. 2:10), we’re called to live as aliens and strangers on earth (1 Pet. 2:11). And our faithfulness to the work He has given us will be rewarded through eternity (2 Cor. 5:10).
God has enabled me to understand this bigger picture through the demise of close family members. Through the brokenness caused by the death of my youngest son, Alex, in 2005, followed two months later by the death of my sister Jax, eternity has become very real to me. Scripture says God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccl. 3:11), and often brokenness will release this understanding. While it is certainly true that God wants us to glorify Him by living abundant lives here and now, we do that by having our eyes and hearts fixed on eternal things (2 Cor. 4:18), on the things above (Col. 3:1–3). Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Having an eternal perspective helps us to set correct priorities for our days on earth.
C.S. Lewis said,
If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, Wilberforce and the English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.2
In Acts 3 and Acts 4, we see how this perspective influenced the actions of the early disciples. In Acts 3 a man who has been crippled for forty years is healed in Jesus’ name as Peter and John are going into the temple. The city is in uproar on account of this healing, and Peter and John are dragged before the religious leaders. In Acts 4 I note some key statements. In verse 12 we’re told that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, and in verse 13 we’re informed that evangelization can come through uneducated, ordinary people who know Jesus! By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, everybody can and should be evangelizing.
In Acts 4:18 the religious leaders basically say to Peter and John, “Look, unless you stop speaking about Jesus Christ, we’re going to kill you.” And in verse 20 they respond with these amazing words, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Again, to paraphrase, they’re saying, “Kill us if you want, but what we’ve seen and heard is so incredible that we have to share it with other people, even if it means our losing our lives in the process!”
What did they see and hear that they were willing to die for? Well, we know that they saw and walked with Jesus on earth. They saw how He lived. They saw His example; they heard and saw what the kingdom of God looked like. They also saw Jesus die on the cross, and they saw Him alive again in His resurrected body. They saw that life does not end when our physical bodies die; there is much more to come! And of course they heard all that Jesus had spoken when He was with them. He spoke about the kingdom of God, and He also spoke a lot about the afterlife. He spoke about heaven, and He spoke about hell.
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