February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”—Jeremiah 29:4–7 (NIV)
Around 590 BC, an evil empire known as Babylon invaded Jerusalem. Due to this invasion, God’s people were removed from their country and brought to a place called Babylon. They were now living alongside the people that displaced them and destroyed their home—and every sinful, evil thing you can think of was happening in Babylon. They were now under the rule and reign of the Babylonian empire. It was pagan and antagonistic towards followers of God, and I’m certain they were homesick and missing their old life. Doesn’t that sound like a familiar place?
An entire nation with the same beliefs and convictions is now living in an foreign empire known for its evil and sin. How should the people of God live among those who want nothing to do with the Lord? The people of God had 3 choices (Timothy Keller’s “Gospel in Life”):
1) Keep their faith, run from the city
Because living life with those who live differently can be difficult, we can be tempted to only have relationships with people who think like we do, live like we do, vote like we do, and believe what we do. Sometimes people refer to this as creating a “holy huddle.” This can sometimes feel like the best option because we desire mental safety and security, but it will eventually isolate us from those who need Jesus.
2) Leave their faith, run into the city
Sometimes Christians might be tempted to leave the teachings of the Christian faith in an effort to blend into their world. Instead of imitating Jesus, they seek to imitate the world around them. Mirroring others’ beliefs and behavior can feel tempting because it removes the relational tension if we quietly shift away from God. This can feel like another safe option because it fills that need for relational security. However, this option also isolates us from being on mission with God.
3) Keep their faith, run into the city
The Israelites desired to live away from the evil Babylonians, but God essentially said, “No—you’re going to live among them.” The people of God were told to learn their language, raise their kids in the city, and live life in the city. They weren’t supposed to dwell in a holy huddle, and they weren’t supposed to leave their faith to blend in. They were called to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” God called the Israelites to live a missional life instead of an insular, safe existence. Here’s the truth: The safest place to be is where God has called you.
The well-known missiologist, Lesslie Newbigin, said the best place for God’s people to join Him on mission is “not within the walls of the Church but in the daily business of the world.”
God has sent you into your family, your job, your neighborhoods, and your city for a specific reason. He isn’t sending you to form a holy huddle so you can merely blend in with the world around you. The reason He sent you into every sphere of your life is so you can join Him on a unique mission to reach those around you.
Pause: Where has God sent you?
Practice: Think of ways you can bless others and then pick one and do it!
Pray: God, I believe You are a missionary God—You always run after lost people. Help me to have a missional vision for my life. Give me a new way to see my job, my relationships, and my neighborhood. I believe You are at work in my city and I desire to join You in that mission. Open my eyes to opportunities to accomplish Your mission through me. Amen!
Jimmy Purchase serves as the Groups Development Director at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Church Planting from Capital Seminary & Graduate School. He has been in full-time ministry since 2006, has helped plant two churches, and is passionate about seeing South Florida changed by the gospel of Jesus. Jimmy and his wife, Erin, have been married since 2008 and have three children.