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The Great Nation of Ishmael

“And unto Ishmael, I have heard you, so behold, I will bless him and will cause him to bear fruit and I will make him exceedingly great. He will bear twelve princes and I will give to him a great nation.”

(Genesis 17:20)

Because of God’s promise to Abraham, God blesses Abraham’s firstborn and allows him to build a nation. Like Jacob, from Ishmael we are told that 12 princes would come (see Genesis 25:13-16 for the list of Ishmael’s twelve sons). These sons would grow in stature and influence and founded many of the nations that surrounded ancient Israel and which are even today seeking to destroy the rest of those who descend from Abraham. These, of course, are ultimately the current Islamic nations.

So why did God permit the rise of Islam? Couldn’t God have just cut off the line of Hagar as he did with Keturah (Abraham’s wife after the death of Sarah)? Indeed, God could remove all of the obstacles between us and glory, yet God uses those obstacles to refine us and to mature us in our faith. Islam is also designed to be a reminder to us of the grace and mercy of God. Their religion is law, law, law and it is as contradictory to the Christian faith as light is to darkness. If man’s natural bent since the fall were not legalism, Islam would have no appeal.

As we look at the political landscape of the world around us, one may be quick to wonder if life indeed would be easier if the Muslims were not a threat. Not only has there been centuries of warfare between Christians and Muslims but that warfare has been coupled with terrorist activities. In additions, Muslims are immigrating all over Europe and America and some are suggesting that one day these once Christian nations will be under Sharia Law.

So, indeed, what is the solution to this great dilemma that Christians are facing today? The answer is the same, beloved, as it has always been: be bold in your witness of the Gospel. Part of the reason that Islam, Humanism, eastern Mysticism, and other false religions are making such headway into the thinking of lands who have once been dominated by Christianity is that Christianity no longer dominates in the public square. We have sadly turned inward and have decided to focus more on building buildings, running programs, and having a following than in making disciples of all nations. Can you imagine what America would be like if we were so bold with our testimony of the Gospel that everyone who came would end up converting to Christianity? If that were the case, we would be excited about more Muslims immigrating from the Middle East because that would mean that they would soon be becoming Christian. Even many pastors have become defeatists, acting as if they are serving the church in Sardis, strengthening what is about to die, rather than engaging and breaking down the gates of Hell. God has given us the armor and weapons of warfare to do so; will we not use them?

Beloved, we have been called by our great captain to engage the enemy, let us do so with vigor and with boldness and proclaim that we will not lay down our arms before the foe because the war has already been won by Jesus Christ upon the cross. Let Christianity once again be on the march because it is through Isaac and through Christ that the promise is given, not through the other children of Abraham.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

Forward into battle see His banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;

On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!

Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;

Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,

But the church of Jesus constant will remain.

Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;

We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,

Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.

Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,

This through countless ages men and angels sing.

–Sabine Baring-Gould

Sent into the World as Christ was sent into the World

“Just as you sent me into the world, I also send them into the world, and for them, I sanctify myself in order that they also might be sanctified in Truth.”

(John 17:18-19)

This statement that Christ makes is very simple to understand, but very difficult to apply and live out because of the ramifications that it means for those of us who are believers.  “Just as,” Jesus says, the Father sends the Son, so the Son sends the believers.  The simplest way to understand this is to see this as a call for us to evangelize the world.  Yet, there is much more to what Jesus is teaching, for we must ask in what way did Christ enter into the world?  In turn, how are we to live out being sent in the same way?

Jesus came into the world in humility for the purpose not only of showing the people the Truth, but also to die—to be a sacrifice, holy and true, for sinful people.  Thus, Jesus sanctified himself so that he would be prepared to be a sacrifice for his people.  Thus, if we are to also be sent into the world as Christ was sent into the world, we need to be prepared to be sacrifices for the gospel, not living for ourselves or for selfish gain, but living humbly for the glory of God and to call others to Christ.  Thus, Paul calls us to become “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1-2), being wholly committed to the sacrifice taking place (the Old Testament animal sacrifices kept nothing back, but were wholly committed to the altar—so too was Jesus, so too are we to be!).  Wealth, reputation, status, and privilege should not only be seen as God’s blessing to us, but also be seen as a tool toward advancing the end of the Gospel, not simply to make ourselves comfortable.

So, as you look at your life, how is it that you will sacrifice all for the Gospel?  What are the things that are holding you back from being sent into the world as Christ was sent into the world?  And how are you sanctifying yourself so that you can be a faithful and true living sacrifice to the glory of God?  These are dangerous questions for most of us to ask, because if we ask these questions honestly, God will call us to change in one way, shape, or form.  In addition, if we seek to live this out, God will call us to step outside of our comfort zones and stretch—but stretch to what end?  Think of things this way, Jesus called 12 Apostles (11 originals plus Paul) and those twelve men—wholly committed to the Gospel and to being led by the Holy Spirit—turned the world on its head.  Think of what God might do if confessing Christians today would be willing to be wholly committed to the claims of Christ that are upon them.  We would stop just “doing church,” but we would demolish the strongholds of this culture and turn this world on its head once again to the glory of Jesus Christ.  The church has largely embraced the devil’s temptation of comfort and has largely become impotent; let us see what would happen if we embrace Jesus’ prayer for us instead—the world, and our own lives, will never be the same.