Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are You Mission Minded?

Reading: Ezekiel 2 – 3   
Ezekiel was being sent on a mission. I am sure glad I have not been sent on the same mission, because as we see in this chapter it isn't going to be well received (Ezekiel 2:3-4). However, in this sending of Ezekiel, I believe we can still learn something about the nature of our own obedience to the mission, and our own obedience to the Gospel. The Gospel does call us to obedience, but it is an obedience of faith and must flow from our confession of the Gospel (Romans 1:5; 16:25-26; 2 Corinthians 9:13).
In Ezekiel 2:1-2, Ezekiel is told to stand up and the Lord will speak. So the command is clear to Ezekiel: Stand up! Yet, notice how he obeyed: As the Lord spoke, the Spirit came into Him and raised him to his feet! Through the ministry of God's Word and Spirit, Ezekiel was empowered to respond and obey God's command. This was not an obedience of Ezekiel's will power, but an obedience of faith. Yet, that doesn't negate the fact that Ezekiel was told, “you must not your what I give you...” (Ezekiel 2:7-8).
There is no contradiction to say that Ezekiel must respond and obey while also saying, Ezekiel's response and obedience would come through the empowering of the Spirit that comes with the very word—command in this case—that he was to obey. We find in the Gospels a similar pattern. Jesus says, “Follow me.” And, evidently, the very words themselves empower the obedience of the recipient (by the Spirit), for we read, “At once they left their nets and followed him....and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9) The Word of Christ empowered by the Spirit of Christ empowers the obedience it commands.
Ezekiel 3 continues relating Ezekiel's commission. Many expositions of this chapter immediately jump to our commission and look at similarities.1 No doubt there is something to be gained in reminding ourselves of the importance of communicating the message and the implications for others when we don't. Nevertheless, I suggest it is wiser to begin with the differences between Ezekiel's commission and the New Testament commission to the believer.
We are often prone to see the lack of receptivity of the audience to which Ezekiel is being sent, and quickly assume we are being sent to an audience with the same lack of receptivity. Ezekiel was not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel; not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words he cannot understand. Why? Because if he were, they would listen. (Ezekiel 3:5-7)
Beginning with the day of Pentecost, we are being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language (Gentiles). And the receptivity is demonstrated on that first day as 3,000 were added to their previously meager number of 120 (Acts 2:41). It is worth noting that the first sign of the new covenant era and new covenant commission is that of tongues—the obscure speech and difficult language (indeed in this case a supernatural ability to speak a language the speaker did not understand; at times a language the hearer did not understand) (Acts 2:4-12). And while the Gospel was first preached to Jerusalem, and Judea, it was here that those scattered people of God from all over the empire were the first converts. Even though the greatest resistance to the Gospel in the book of Acts would come from the Jewish people, there was almost an uncontrollable influx of Gentiles (see also Acts 10:44-48).
[I cannot help but notice the comparison between Ezekiel's vision and being told to eat the scroll and go speak to the house of Israel and their lack of receptivity (Ezekiel 3:1-7), and Peter's vision of Acts 10:10-17, his being told to eat and the receptivity of the audience such that it shocked even Peter (Acts 10:45).]
As we have been studying the book of Isaiah on Sunday mornings at Gulf Coast Community Church, we have noticed the difference between Isaiah's commission of Isaiah 6:8-13, and our own commission described in contrast in Isaiah 52:7 — a different message, and a different outcome. Our message is not the message of captivity that Isaiah (and in different words, Ezekiel) brought. Our message is good, peace, salvation; the Kingdom of our God has come and begun to reign! Ours is a message that God is no longer holding the sins of the world against them, but invites them in through Jesus Christ. And the nations have been given as an inheritance to our Lord and King, the resurrected Jesus Christ. Share the Gospel with faith! Hear this word from the Gospel of Christ, obey it as these very words, by the Spirit, empower bold proclamation of Christ. That is mission-mindedness!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1I've done this myself.

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