One fact that the Lord continues to drive home for me and I believe for us as a local church is that the work of the kingdom gets done through prayer long before our hands begin to have great effect.
As Jennifer and I were packing up our little apartment at SWBTS in Fort Worth, preparing to be sent from Northwood Church in Keller, and preparing to drive little 6 month old Gabriel back to Rome, the Lord gave me this passage in a missiology final exam. Yes, the Lord can speak in final exams!
Ezekiel 36:37-38 (ESV) Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. 38 Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
The Lord invites his people, who have been devastated by the invading armies that the Lord sent as judgment for idolatry and all manner of rebellion, but he also promised to restore a remnant to the land who would carry on his mission. So, the Lord sends Ezekiel to them with this message to ask him for his things in regard to their restoration.
Now, Israel is not the church, but the church under and in Christ, is the Israel of God, and this passage is a Christian passage. It teaches us that prayer is effective and that one of God’s means of getting work done is through prayer.
This text also taught me, and it teaches us together, that we are to ask the Lord for three beautiful things: 1. Increase in people. 2. Increased people who are like flocks of animals as jerusalem during her appointed feasts. 3. Holy people increased for the purpose of being sent.
- God wants to grow his church through people coming to faith in Jesus. So, lets ask him to increase us by people believing in Jesus.
- God wants to not only grow a people, but he wants the people to be holy. Flocks for sacrifice had to be holy sacrifices. They could not be the lame and leftover. The sacrifices had to be the first and best. This sacrifice showed that the people trusted the Lord to provide above what they would give. The good news is that in Jesus, he makes us holy. God exchanges our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. And he calls us to live that out by continually turning from sin and making no provision for sin in our lives. God wants us to increase our practical holiness because we live in and appropriate Jesus’ righteousness in us.
- God wants these holy sacrifices to be on mission. He is not simply interested in growing our churches so they can be bigger than the church down the road. He want to increase us so that we can send more. Why? Because he gave us the Great Commission to fill the earth with the knowledge of Jesus. Why can’t TRC do that? We have. We can continue. We can increase it.
So, as for me, all sermons I preach, I’m going to lead us to pray for these three beautiful missional truths.
Love you all!