Acts 26:17-18 “‘I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”
How glorious can you get? This is the commission of every missionary, yet so few accept it. Actually, it is the commission of every believer! We fail to grasp the reality of what it means to be a witness of Jesus Christ, (Acts 1:8) and so fail to make disciples as Jesus told us to do. (Matthew 28:18-20) As a result, we fail to be genuine disciples ourselves, going along for the ride instead of actively participating in the process. I think a major part of the problem is that we fail to understand what it means to be “under the power of Satan,” and that apart from Christ, that is exactly where we and everyone else is. We can’t understand salvation if we don’t understand damnation. There’s an old fashioned word for you! We have lost a great deal as the devil has worked to eliminate it from our vocabulary. I’m reminded of a story I read recently of someone who prayed the Lord’s Prayer as they were dying, and at first found themselves in hell, before Jesus called them up to heaven and subsequently sent them back to earth. They reported that it was pitch black, and they heard horrible, agonized screams. They said, “Where am I?” and a voice replied, “Where do you think? This is hell.” The devil has mounted a full-force campaign to make us think that hell is a fiction, because he doesn’t want the fear of hell to drive anyone to God. As long as we think the worst that can happen to us is “the lights going out,” we aren’t going to have much incentive to deny the lusts of the flesh. (1 John 2:16) Without the fear of God we are total idiots, as we and everyone around us proves every day. (Proverbs 1:7) This is also behind the devil’s push to destroy discipline as a concept in raising children. When parents can literally be arrested for spanking their children, those children lose all sense of accountability, and that is exactly what the devil wants. Legalism is not the answer, and we are indeed saved by grace and not by works, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but without the awareness of right and wrong, we are hopeless.
This has been an issue all my life, and I think it is for everyone. I was incredibly blessed to have strongly believing parents who did their best to raise us in the fear and love of the Lord, but that lesson didn’t “take” perfectly, as I don’t think it does for anyone. I had plenty of love, but not enough fear! It took me a long time to understand that genuine love for Him requires obedience. (John 14:15) As a pastor and missionary I seek to raise up disciples for Jesus, but they all have the same struggle. Sometimes it takes a close encounter with the consequences of disobedience – depression, disease, or a host of other things – before people wake up to just how amazing God’s grace is. I am not to put people down, and I am always to speak a message of hope, but I must not sugar-coat the consequences of our turning our backs on God. I see people all around me, people I love and care about deeply, completely ignoring God in their daily lives, and I can only pray God’s mercy on them.
Father, thank You for allowing us to make this trip, and for Your guidance and support in it. It has grieved me to see how few people give You any priority in their lives, even though they may profess love for You. I do ask Your grace and mercy on us all, so that as many as possible may escape the clutches of the devil and come into Your life indeed, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!