August 25, 2016

Isaiah 56:7 “These I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”

The passage from verse 3 through verse 8 is enormously important, but it was overlooked by most of the Jews of the 1st Century. One person who didn’t overlook it, though, was Jesus. In one of the most dramatic moments of His public ministry He drove the merchants out of the temple and quoted the last part of this verse. (Luke 19:46) What many people today overlook is the specific part of the temple involved in that incident. The temple had three major precincts: the Holy of Holies, the Holy Place, and the Court of the Gentiles. Only priests could enter the Holy of Holies, and that with special precautions, and only Jews could enter the Holy Place, but the Court of the Gentiles was available to anyone who wanted to draw close to God. The Jews reasoned that if the outer court wasn’t labeled as “holy,” it was OK to do anything at all there. Jesus took strong exception and reclaimed it for the nations, as it says here. In our smallness of heart we tend to group into cliques, inflating ourselves by putting other people down. We don’t understand that God is big enough to love and value each of us individually; it is never a “zero sum game.” We have great trouble understanding that someone else being blessed doesn’t preclude our being blessed, and that makes us feel competitive with one another toward God. How foolish and sad! Because God is infinite, His love and grace are infinite. If anything, sharing that love and grace increases our own appreciation and enjoyment of them. Christians who are not evangelistic, much less missions-minded, cut themselves off from far more of God than they can imagine.

When I have followed my missionary parents to be a missionary myself, this isn’t an area where I could be called indefinite. However, I have had very spotty success in transmitting this attitude to others. Far too many seem to be totally satisfied with their personal assurance of salvation, not understanding that they are violating the Second Commandment: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” When we obey that fully, we desire our neighbor’s salvation as much as we desire our own, and we understand that our “neighbor” can be anyone on the face of this planet. Everyone is called to focus on specific things, and each person’s focus is going to be different, but if our focus is on ourselves to the exclusion of others, we have lost sight of God in the process. I have demonstrated that I can’t force this understanding into people’s hearts and minds, so I’ve got to keep speaking the truth in love, letting the Holy Spirit use my words to bring light to the dark places in people’s hearts. That includes evangelism on my part, and it includes waking believers up to the privilege and responsibility of evangelism on their part.

Father, this is particularly difficult in Japan, as You well know. The culture values intellectual and emotional privacy to an extreme, and talking about faith and religion is considered impolite by many. However, nothing is too difficult for You, (Jeremiah 32:27) and You desire the salvation of the Japanese people. Help me be fully available for however You want to use me to that end, for a massive harvest in Your kingdom, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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