The following reflection came to me this week via a post written by my son, Matthew Armstrong. Matt is a passionate church-planter, a faithful evangelist and a young man who teaches me a great deal about faith and obedience, probably much more than even he realizes. When I read this I decided to share it. Enjoy his insights gleaned from a "fresh" reading of Genesis.
On January 1, I started a new Bible reading plan. Actually, it's an old plan that I have done several times, but I had stopped doing it last year. In any case, I have been reading in Genesis about Abraham. It's cool how you can read God's Word many times and continue to see new things in it. It is a rich treasure trove for us as Christ-followers.
What I have been thinking about is how God called Abram, changed his name to Abraham, and blessed him abundantly. He gave him (for the most part) peace with his neighbors, a beautiful and loving wife, two sons (including Isaac, the child of promise), and great wealth. And all this doesn't even take into account that Abraham had an amazing relationship with God who came to visit him in the form of a human being to personally speak with him. Abraham was blessed-very blessed, in fact.
But God didn't bless Abraham just for Abraham's own sake. He blessed him so that he could be a blessing to the world. Check out these words from Genesis 22 (God speaking to Abraham): "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me" (17-18 TNIV).
God is promising Abraham that all nations on earth will be blessed through Abraham's offspring. Since I was a kid, I was told that this referred to Jesus. Being a Jew, Jesus was Abraham's descendent, and clearly Jesus died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Obviously, the world was blessed beyond all measure by the coming of Jesus to forgive us our sins, to make us right with God, and to give us spiritual life. I do not want to diminish the importance of this in any way, but what I have been thinking about is simply the idea that we, like Abraham, are very blessed, and so we must be a blessing to the world.
If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have spiritual riches beyond belief. So many of you reading this (and me for sure!) are blessed with wonderful families and fulfilling jobs. In our nation, we have abundant financial blessings (Even when we feel poor, we have so much more than the rest of the world!). Why would God give us all these blessings? Clearly, he loves us outrageously. When I look at my own self, I don't know why such an awesome, holy God would love me, but he does. But I think that, like Abraham, God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to all nations. We are blessed so that we can bless the world.
So, I am asking myself this question: Since I have been so blessed, how can I be a blessing to the world? First, I can point all people to Jesus who is the source of all true blessing, but then I can fight injustice and oppression. I can lead toward freedom and wholeness. I can give generously until it actually costs me something (i.e., it changes my lifestyle). I can choose to personally know people who are orphans and widows, people who used to live on the street, or be held as slaves. I can pray with Jesus "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." What is God's will? He wills that none should perish but all come to life-real life-through Jesus. So, I can lift Jesus high and share his love and Word with everyone I can. He wills that people be free, so I can fight injustice, slavery, and oppression wherever I see it in the world. He wills that starving children with no clean water be cared for, loved, fed, and given clean water. He wills that we overcome evil with good, hatred with love, and greed with great sacrifice.
Like Abraham, we as the Church are called to be a holy nation. We are set apart by God to both be blessed and to be a blessing. Would you join me in asking God how we might become more of a blessing to a hurting, pain-filled world? I'm tired of the status quo, and I want to believe that God can use his Church to truly bless this world and to see Jesus' prayer for God's kingdom to come to be answered.
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I agree with you John. I think the old somewhat presumptuous question of What Would Jesus Do can be more missionally and incarnationally understood as What IS Jesus Doing in the place where I am and how can I participate in that? Good stuff.