Jesus is the most significant gift and message of love ever given: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..." Jesus wanted us, his disciples, to make sure all the people of the world received that message, so he sent us to share it with them in word and deed!
I sat in the packed and humid auditorium in Bangkok, Thailand. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sang at the top of my lungs. The tears were not from the chicken, hot peppers, and rice I had for breakfast from a street vendor — the two orange crush sodas had taken care of that. What caused my tears, what held my heart, was the moment.
We sang, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love!" I sang in English. Most around me sang in Thai. People from over twelve nations were worshiping together. Each sang in their native language in four-part harmony. Rather than being confusing or merely noise, the singing was overwhelmingly beautiful. Even more touching, this was not a special occasion. Other than being the Lord's Day, what made it special was that though we were different in culture and language, and skin color, we were one family. We were bound together by our shared love for Jesus. The Holy Spirit made us family without borders!
This experience was a mini-taste of heaven. John describes heaven in the book of Revelation with these words:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!
Jesus challenged his first followers to take his message of hope, new life, heavenly power, and one family to the whole world. The Lord explained his plan in these words:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
This clear, but breathtakingly simple, yet inclusive, plan was used on a city level ("Jerusalem"), a regional level ("all Judea and Samaria"), as well as a whole world level ("ends of the earth"). The Lord wanted his followers to share their great news about Jesus and the kingdom of God using this strategy:
We see this plan in action as Luke traces the spread of the great news of Jesus from Jerusalem to all the areas around Judea and Samaria. Then, they reached out all over the Roman Empire. You can map the progress by the great cities of that time: The Jesus-focused message spread from Jerusalem to Antioch to Ephesus and then to Rome.
We can become so familiar with this story that we easily forget how impossible Jesus' parting words had to seem to those first disciples. The Lord only had a small group from the backwaters of Galilee. These few followers watched their Lord leave them. They were not influential. They had few financial resources. They were powerless by the world's standards. They were simple, ordinary folks, at best!
However, this little group of ordinary people knew, loved, followed, trusted, and spent their lives being shaped by Jesus (Acts 4:13). Jesus' resurrection inspired their hearts to embrace their Lord's words as he left them (Acts 1:8). So, these ordinary people did the extraordinary: they lived Jesus' words into reality.
Two thousand years later, in a place so far from my earthly home, the beautiful country of Thailand, I experienced the reality of Jesus' grand vision. I was reignited and motivated to continue carrying out the here, near, and far plan of our Lord. Since that experience, my world has been bigger and smaller because I am part of a family without borders!
In a world frequently more fractured by race, political party, culture, language, country, and ethnicity, followers of Jesus have an incredible opportunity. With internet access, social media networking, and modern travel, our world is much more accessible to us than it was to those few folks on the mountain watching Jesus return to the Father. So, dear friend in Jesus, the real question for us is whether or not we are committed to both living out the mission of Jesus ("to the ends of the earth") and the vision of Jesus ("a great multitude...from every nation, tribe, people and language") in our time. Yes, we must commit to this mission and go here, near, and far. Yes, we must commit to this vision and love all people in all places. Why? Two reasons crucia0l to our authenticity as followers of Jesus:
- "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16). If our Father loved the people of the world so much, how can we not love them and go to them with the message of Jesus?
- "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). If our Father has called each of us — with all of our differences — into his family, how can we not love each one whom the Father has called into our family?
Here, near, and far is our mission as we live out his vision for us to be his loving family without borders!
Today's message is part one of an eight-part series called 8GHT — Eight Truths that Turned the World Upside Down!
- Jesus Isn't Finished with Us Yet!
- Its All About Jesus
- All Seekers Are Welcome Here
- What Time Is It?
- The Revolutionary Power of Witnesses
- A Family Without Borders
- Jesus' Power to Get It Done
- Don't Just Stand There!
Special thanks for the use of the Jesus related images in this series to Free Bible Images and The Lumo Project. Those pictures associated with the ministry of the apostle Paul are courtesy of Boettcher+Trinklein Television Inc. © All rights reserved, from ToTheEndsofTheEarthMovie.com.