Apparently even those closest to Jesus were clueless about the idea of reaching out to the whole world with the gospel. Those first disciples were aghast when Jesus merely reached out for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman at the well one day. We may think that we are more sophisticated about the concept of worldwide evangelism today, but God still knows we are all works in progress in this area.
As a matter of fact, God is trying to make it easier for us to disciple the nations. Have you ever considered that having immigrants in our midst makes it easier for them to be reached with the gospel? We may very well have foreigners living right next door. Instead of us going to their country, they are being hand-delivered to us by God. But are we taking advantage of this opportunity as fully as we should?
Unfortunately, the threat of terrorism hangs over the air, making some of us timid in our witnessing. In an effort to protect our country, do we strive instead to keep foreigners out? Does the fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion in North America alarm us as Christians, or does it challenge us to do more to introduce others to our beliefs?
We can’t do that by wrapping ourselves in a protective cocoon, we must still go out and teach, just as Jesus commissioned us to do in Matthew 28:19, 20. The first disciples faced dangers on every hand by their global efforts, and so must we.
Memory Text: “‘…For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.'” Isaiah 56:7 NKJV
God’s intent for our discipleship is very clear. All nations must be reached before the end will come. (See Revelation 14:6–it must go to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.) Salvation is not for one group of people, and never has been, even in Old Testament times.
Sunday: The Prophets Foretold
Many of the prophets were clear that God designed Israel to be a righteous and prosperous nation that would draw other nations to them, seeking to join God’s ranks. And Israel was not only to welcome them, but to embrace them as part of their family. Unfortunately, the Jews were complacent about their witnessing tasks. They didn’t trust God to protect them. And let’s face it, their exclusive behavior ultimately drove foreigners away, instead of attracting them.
Doesn’t this sound like what is happening in many so-called Christian nations today? Where we once were proud to help other countries, we now pull back and only want to protect ourselves and our borders from these foreigners who threaten our national identity.
Even if we can’t make a big difference in the nationalistic fever that rages around us, we can make sure that we are still doing all we can not to partake of these unhealthy sentiments by tangibly reaching out to ALL neighbors in need within our sphere of influence.
Discussion Questions: If Israel was striving so hard to protect itself from the dangerous, pagan tribes on its borders, how did the practice of idol worship slip in and derail God’s plans for them so often? [intermarriage with unbelievers, alliances with other nations, etc.]
Can we protect our Christian values by isolating ourselves from the world? What did Christ mean by being in the world, but not of the world?
How can Christians remain undivided, when so many are on opposite sides of the political fence? Is this not another barrier Satan has created to hinder the Lord’s work? What do you suggest be done to counteract this divisiveness?
What’s the difference between nationalism and patriotism?
Monday: Woe Unto Thee!
One train of thought that permeated the Jewish nation was the idea that salvation was a birthright, handed to them from their forefathers. The need for a personal relationship with God was taken for granted, and often totally ignored. God would save them for no other reason than their parentage.
But wait a minute. Christians today are no less guilty of this mistake. Those who have grown up in a Christian home, no matter what denomination, feel that, as long as we comply with the “activities” of our religious parents, we will automatically be accepted and saved in the Kingdom of God forever.
The story is told in Luke 17:11-19 of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus as they were passing through Samaria. Only one returned to thank and praise Jesus, who responded with this statement: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were they not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” v. 17-18 NKJV
Perhaps we should all value our avenues to Christianity more. God desires our praises and heartfelt worship the same, regardless of our upbringing or heritage. There are advantages and responsibilities to be shared by both groups–those who are born into it and those grafted in later.
Discussion Questions: What advantages do you see for those who have grown up in a Christian home?
- the Bible and spiritual concepts may be easier to understand,
- prayer and corporate worship are an established habit,
- trials are easier to go through the longer you have been a friend of God,
- you have a network of Christian friends to support you
What responsibilities come with being a lifelong disciple?
- you must humbly accept your advantages and spiritual gifts and use them to fulfill the will of God,
- you must not assume that you are above any temptation others have,
- you must not neglect to nurture your personal relationship with the Father
Tuesday: “We Would See Jesus”
John 12:20-32 reveals a time during Passover when some Greeks approached the disciple Philip (perhaps because of his Greek name), with the request, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
It seems these faithful men were wondering if God still cared about them, even though they lived in another country. Jesus reassured them with these words, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” v. 25 KJV
Notwithstanding, Jesus honestly told them that there was a cost, not just for Him, but for all His followers. He said in v. 25, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” KJV
We can understand this deep statement better by following the cross references and seeing it expressed in other verses in the Gospels:
- Matthew 10:39 “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
- Matthew 16:25 “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
- Luke 17:33 “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
Discussion Question: What does it mean to hate our life in this world? How should we express this hatred?
Wednesday: Breaking Down Barriers
When the Pharisees accused Jesus of having a devil, they also accused Him of being a Samaritan. (John 8:48) And John 7:35 says that these same Pharisees accused Jesus of going to and teaching Gentiles, as if that were some awful crime too.
Jesus’ story for them about the good Samaritan, who stopped to help someone in need, was to illustrate that God honors character above ethnic origin. But we must be cautious about defining those in need as only those with character.
It was the kind Samaritan who had character. He didn’t question the ethnic or cultural background of the man laying by the side of the road, any more than he questioned whether he was a man of character. And this is the kind of assistance and mercy Jesus consistently showed to those He helped, saints and sinners alike were blessed by Jesus’ presence.
Discussion Questions: If you have ever traveled to a foreign country, what was it like to be an outsider?
Although there is some discomfort in not knowing a language or culture of a country you might be visiting, try to imagine what it would feel like to have the local citizens despise your presence there. Describe the different barriers that might exist, especially if you were attempting to live permanently and become assimilated into the new country.
Thursday: The Great Commission
Several verses identify the global mission field that Jesus referred to in what has become known as The Great Commission.
- “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.” Romans 15:12 KJV
- “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 KJV
- “And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” John 11:52 KJV
The Jews only recognized two classes of people: themselves and Gentiles. But this was and remains a typical mindset. For instance, the Greeks viewed all non-Greeks as barbarians. Unfortunately the concept extends beyond cultural identities into the religious world. (You’re either Catholic or non-Catholic, an Adventist or a non-Adventist, etc.) You can understand why a self-denying, self-sacrificing attitude is necessary for any missionary to survive and accomplish the work the Jesus has laid out for us.
We are hearing more and more of globalism or globalization these days, a process that is shrinking our planet and encouraging more international cooperation among nations. Although we might be opposed to the possibility of the entire world coming under one political influence, we might also see the benefit of ease with which the gospel can spread across the globe.
Discussion Question: We can all help the church’s worldwide mission by donating all we can to its cause, but why and how must our involvement go beyond our financial giving?
Summary: “People with a worldwide message are not well-served if they believe God only cares about them, that He is only returning to save them. We have to understand that God longs for us to reveal His love ‘to every nation, tribe, language and people.’ (Revelation 14:6 NIV)” ~The Teacher’s Comments in the teacher’s edition of the quarterly, p. 120
Challenge: Typically, we’ve always been told that we can do two things without going to the mission field ourselves: support them with our finances and pray for them. And as important as these are, there are other avenues to advance the cause without going overseas.
- Your Sabbath School class or other small group might pool their finances to support a student missionary or missionary family in some other part of the world, sharing their stories when you get together.
- Learn all you can about other cultures and nationalities, especially those who might be residing in your hometown as immigrants or refugees.
- Discover the needs of those populations in your midst and engage your church or Sabbath School class, if possible, in meeting one or some of those needs. (provide food, clothing, blankets, used furniture, kitchen utensils, etc.–or offer to teach English, provide transportation, etc.)
Next Week: Discipling Spiritual Leaders