category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 5

Thursday,  December 3

Psalm 85; Hosea 6:1–6; I Thessalonians1:2–10

On October 16–25, 2010, the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the history of Christianity took place in Cape Town, South Africa. Four thousand delegates from 198 countries participated in the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Thousands more joined virtually through social media platforms. The Congress was flooded with powerful and persuasive messages. But an exposition that really stood out to me was about “Confronting Idols,” by Christopher Wright, a world–renowned British scholar. Without mincing words, Wright declared that the greatest obstacle to God’s loving and saving mission in the world is the people of God: “Not persecution, not resistant culture, not other religions, but God’s own people.“ Far from sugarcoating his statements, Wright asserted: “What hurts God most, it seems, is not just the sin of the world but the failure, disobedience and rebellion of those whom God has redeemed and called to be his people, his holy people, his distinctive people.” Then he lamented over the idolatry of God’s people that hinders world missions, challenging believers to make a “radical return to the Lord.” I stood in the back of the auditorium while listening to Wright’s plenary address. Ten years on, I still carry that lingering conviction in my heart.

Today’s biblical passages unpack how important it is for God’s people to experience revival as they participate in God’s reconciling work in the world. Psalm 85 yearns for restoration, a pleading with God to hold his divine anger and to revive his people. Listening again to what God says is hard when souls are spiritually dry. Also, God’s people may find it tough to “rejoice again” unless their thirst for God’s “steadfast love” returns. In Hosea 6:1–6, the prophet invites God’s people to seek spiritual renewal: “Come, let us return to the LORD, for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (v. 6; NIV). Thus, the condition of the heart precedes any action: not sacrifice, but to desire steadfast love; not burnt offerings, but the knowledge of God (v. 6). I Thessalonians 1:2–10 highlights the impacting witness of Thessalonian believers when they “became examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 7; NIV). Having lived out their faith, God’s word “sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place” (v. 8). Paul employs the metaphor of a resounding bell, noting how the believers’ “faith toward God has gone out.” These people “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (v. 9), in anticipation of Christ’s return.

I journey back to Cape Town to hear once again the powerful message that continues to resonate with me over the years. Idols, Wright asserts, “pollute the mission of God,” whether these are idols of power and pride, of popularity and success, or of wealth and greed. The biblical solution is HIS: Humility, Integrity, and Simplicity. Wright’s clarion call ten years ago summarizes today’s passages: “Before we go out to the world, we must come back to the Lord.”

Terry Casiño
Professor of Missiology and Intercultural Studies

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