Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: mission

Adam wasn't from Eden

When I was studying for last week’s post, I found something in the text that I hadn’t noticed before.  I have read or heard the Creation account numerous times, but I had missed a certain detail about Adam’s beginnings:

Genesis 2:7-9, 15
Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed.  The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.

So looking at these verses – we find that Adam was created out of the dust from the ground in one place and then was taken east to where God had planted the beginnings of what would become the famous “Garden of Eden”.  Adam’s creation location also comes up after Adam and Eve disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  After God kicked them out of the garden, look for where Adam and Eve went:

Genesis 3:22-24
The Lord God said, “Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove the man out…

When I finally noticed these references to Adam’s land of origin, I began thinking about the God’s theme, throughout the Bible, of choosing individuals and people groups for specific service – and that their origins do not negatively impact the kind of work God has for them.

To be clear – I’m not talking about “salvation” here.  God didn’t “save” Adam when He took [him] and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.  (Nor was Adam “unsaved” when he was kicked out)  God was calling Adam to a specific type of work and service, and this call-to-work theme repeats itself countless times in Scripture.

Look at what God told Abram when He called him:

Genesis 12:1-3
The Lord said to Abram:
Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

God had a mission for Abram – start a new nation in a new land.  And from one of Abram’s descendants, a nation would be chosen to serve.  God corporately called them to work:

Exodus 19:5-6
Now if you will carefully listen to Me and keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.

Paul also mentioned Israel’s purpose in the beginning of his letter to the believers in Rome:

Romans 2:19-20
and if you are convinced that you [being a Jew] are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and truth in the law…

There are numerous examples of God calling on individuals (Noah, David, Jeremiah, Paul) and corporate groups (Aaron’s priestly family, David’s kingly descendants, Jesus’ 12 disciples) to do specific work.

While I do not know what specific work you may be called to, or even if you’re not sure if God has personally given you a “specific mission”…know that we, corporately as believers, have been chosen by God:

2 Corinthians 5:19-20
That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us.  We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”

I’m certain that your backstory doesn’t begin in Eden.  But it doesn’t matter how your origin story began – we have a job to do.  God has called us to work, so let’s get to it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Remembering in order to persevere

We all have special moments of truth in life.  These drive-a-stake-in-the-ground moments happen when we discover or decide something to be true, and we choose to change the direction of our lives because of them.  These moments include times like taking vows when getting married, signing to purchase a home or vehicle, and when we accept Christ as our Savior. 

Based upon these declarations, we confirm to ourselves and others that, going forward, we will take action that is dependent upon this truth.  In our three examples above, we are confessing that we choose this person as our spouse above all others, that we’re going to pay off the loan, and that we’re trusting Christ for eternal life.

When times get tough – marital problems, financial issues, spiritual doubts – we can look back to those special moments of truth, remember what we said we would do, and then draw the strength from our initial resolve.

Timothy had moments like that, too.  Given the struggles he was going to face as he dealt with the melting pot culture of Ephesus and the abundance of false teachings, he would need some encouragement.  Paul instructed him to find encouragement in what he already knew to be true.

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of eternal life,
to which you were called
and have made a good confession
before many witnesses.

However, this is more than a “you said you would” moment…Paul didn’t want Timothy to think he was the only one.  So, he also gives Timothy an example to remember and lean upon:

1 Timothy 6:13-15
In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, point blank, if He was the King of the Jews (John 18:33).  And when asked, Jesus didn’t shy away from stating his mission.  Earlier, when He was struggling with the impending pain and suffering and death, Jesus’ high priestly prayer was about relying on God the Father.  When He would struggle later as He hung on the cross, Jesus quoted scripture to help Him stay on mission.

Paul’s point is that Timothy, too, can stay on mission…he can keep the commandment to fight the good fight and take hold of eternal life in the here and now.  No matter what life throws at him, and no matter the opposition this young leader would face in Ephesus, Timothy can look back to his own good confession of who Christ is in his life…and find the strength to complete his own mission and calling.  Just like Jesus did.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Called, by God's will

Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.

Paul is an apostle…by God’s will.  He didn’t choose this for himself.  God appointed him to specific service.  An apostle is a delegate or messenger.  Someone who is an apostle has a specific function – that person is chosen by Christ to be His ambassador. 

Notice also that Paul doesn’t identify himself as a believer by God’s will.  Trusting Christ for eternal life is something that Paul chose to do; however, the work we do in God’s family is something that God chooses for us.

There are many examples of God choosing both groups of people and individuals for specific service to Him.  Moses told the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 7:6
For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God.  The Lord you God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

Even then, from among the Israelites, God chose the Levites to serve as His priests.  God also chose individuals who would be the leaders, judges, prophets, and kings for the nation.  Some served faithfully (Joshua, David) but others struggled in their appointed positions (Samson, Jonah).  Even though none of them were perfect, each person God chose had a specific responsibility toward the people.  They were to aid the people in fulfilling God’s desired purpose for the nation of Israel:

Exodus 19:5-6
Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.

When the nation of Israel was in right relationship with God, they became a shining example to the rest of the world.  The groups and individuals which God chose for specific service were to help guide the nation toward this end.

Paul sees his apostleship in the same light.  He also sees that Jesus calls others in the church family to specific kinds of service:

Ephesians 4:11-12
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son

We all have our roles, and Paul is doing his part.  As an apostle, he has specific insight from God to share with those in Colossae – which we can also benefit from as we read his letter.

Whether you find your calling in the list above, or you are one of the saints being trained in the work of ministry, God has work for us to do.  By God’s will, some of us work to build up the body and some of us work to minister to those outside of the body.  Either way, we have the opportunity to partner with the Creator of Everything in His most important mission.

Do you know what service you are called to?  If not, ask God to show you.  His answer might surprise you…but you can trust that He knows where you belong.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Prayerful preparation

When the disciples were unable to cast out a demon (even though they had done so on previous occasions), Jesus was able to step in and heal the afflicted boy.  Later on, Jesus addressed the source of their ineffectiveness.

Mark 9:28-29 After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”  And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

There was always something that bothered me about the whole scene, because prior to casting out the demon…Jesus didn’t pray.

An account of this situation is given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke; however, each retelling of the events say nothing about Jesus praying prior to rebuking the demon and ordering it to come out of the boy.  In the several stories recounted in the gospels, Jesus would give thanks to God or look to Heaven before performing a miracle…but in this instance, when He says that casting out the demon requires prayer – there is no record of a prayer being offered.

This situation has left me puzzled for a while.  After making as many observations as I could, interpreting the text as well as I could, and then even thinking about the apparent contradiction for some length of time…I was still stuck.  It’s at times like these (only after exhausting our own personal abilities), that it is acceptable to consult a commentary.

Several commentators didn’t address my question – you’ll find that some writers don’t want to talk about the difficult or potentially controversial passages.  However, the few commentators that I did find willing to discuss the passage made an interesting point, that perhaps I’m thinking to narrowly when it comes to Christ’s prescription of prayer in order for the disciples to cast out the demon.

Since Jesus didn’t pray before commanding the demon to leave the boy, prayer is evidently not a one-time evocation of God’s power and authority.  Jesus’ own prayer life modeled one of complete dependency on the Father.  This incident would have been a powerful lesson for the disciples, teaching them that they would need to constantly rely on God in order to achieve any mission He would give them.  This type of reliance would be both evidenced by and maintained by their prayer time with the Father.

The same rings true for us as well.  When we maintain our reliance on the Father is when we are able to achieve the mission He’s given us.  When we are challenged, there will be no need to invoke God’s authority by making a loud, thunderous prayer, rather we will already be prepared to act because we know the One we’re relying on.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Prayer and victory

At one point during His ministry, Jesus had a mission for his disciples. 

Mark 6:7,12-13 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits…So they went out and preached that people should repent.  And they were driving out many demons, anointing many sick people with oil, and healing.

Sometime after they returned, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray.  While there, Jesus was transfigured and the three with Him saw him speaking with Moses and Elijah.  However, another scene was unfolding with the nine disciples who were left down below.

Mark 9:14-18 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them.  All of a sudden, when the whole crowd saw Him, they were amazed and ran to greet Him.  Then He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”

Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You.  He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak.  Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.  So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”

Jesus then casts out the demon and heals the child.  However, consider what has to be going through the minds of the nine disciples…What did I do wrong?...Why is this time any different from before, when Jesus sent us out two by two?...Did I approach the demon correctly?...Did I say the right thing?  These guys were dumb-founded while the crowd around them rejoiced at the miracle healing that Jesus had performed. 

In the ancient world, magicians would seek to hit the right combination of sayings, motions, and use of instruments to cast out demons.  It was all considered a matter of technique – and that’s likely what the nine disciples were arguing with the scribes about before Jesus arrived.  Their inability to cast out the demon bothered them so much that they had to find out why it didn’t happen.

Mark 9:28-29 After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”  And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

Jesus’ answer is both unexpected and instructive.  While the disciples were looking for something that they could do so they could cast out the demon, Jesus instead points them to how they can rely on the One who truly is casting out the demon.  Everything Jesus has demonstrated and taught them about prayer was God-focused, not self-focused.  The disciples were unable to have victory in this situation because they were looking to themselves for power, rather than looking to God.

I find this very instructive…there have been times when, by God’s grace and power, I’ve escaped from habitual sin or a sin-soaked situation.  However, when that same problem arises later, my first thought is something along the lines of “I’ve got this. I beat this before, I can do it again.”  Unfortunately, that’s when I am most prone to failure.  Previous results do not guarantee future victories.  That is because victory only happens when I am trusting in God’s strength and not my own.

Prayer is the way we stay connected to God.  God-focused praying ensures that we have the correct perspective on God as well as the situation at hand – so that when the battle is brought to us, we will act in His authority and power.  This isn’t just a one-time infusion either, instead each time we step out to do our God-given mission, we need to recognize that our authority and power flow from God.

Keep Pressing,
Ken