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Building Whole Nations of Disciples

But nation building is not something accidental or incidental. It is not just a by-product of the necessary involvement of all sectors of society. Rather, nation building is very much in accordance with God's intent for the life of the world.

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God is very much at work in the life of the world today. God still has His eternal plan for all peoples. Though nations and peoples have consistently tried to seek their own way to happiness and fulfillment, it is only in God that they will attain such. Throughout history, nations have risen and fallen. When will the nations of the world realize that true happiness Will only come when they turn to God?

The Lord foils the plan of nations, frustrates the designs of peoples. But the plan of the Lord stands forever, wise designs through all generations. Happy the nation whose God is the Lord, the people chosen as his very own. (Psalm 33:10-12).

God's way: discipling nations

Consider the Great Commission as stated in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This appears to be very much like the Great Commission in Mark, indicating the call to global evangelization. But there is a nuance. Jesus speaks not of evangelizing the peoples of the different nations, but of making disciples of the nations themselves.

The Israelites were very much aware of and looked forward to what God intended to accomplish. Their psalms proclaimed their fervent prayers for God's will to be done. The psalms reflected the hope in their hearts and were a profound manifestation of their understanding of God's intent.

All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the Lord; all the families of nations will bow low before you. (Psalm 22:28)

God is king over all the earth; sing hymns of praise. God rules over the nations. (Psalm 47:8-9)

All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name. (Psalm 86:9)

say among the nations: The Lord is king. (Psalm 96:10)

The nations shall revere your name, Lord, all the kings of the earth, your glory (Psalm 102:16)

When all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the Lord. (Psalm 102:23)

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Give glory, all you peoples! (Psalm 117:1)

All the kings of earth will praise you, Lord (Psalm 138:4)

Daniel had a dream where he had a vision first of four succeeding world kingdoms – Babylonian, Median, Persian and Greek. Then he had a vision of the heavenly throne of God (the Ancient One), who sits in judgment over the nations. Then he saw one like a son of man, who “received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.” (Daniel 7:14). Who would serve the Lord in the messianic kingdom? Not just peoples, but whole nations!

Discipling nations is how God intends to make a tremendous impact on the peoples of the world, and thus firmly establish His kingdom on earth. God Himself, through the prophet Isaiah, said, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” (Isaiah 66:18).

And so the sixth aspect of authentic evangelization is that it must make disciples not just of individuals, but of whole nations. In our evangelistic thrust, we should not only seek out individuals to share the good news with, but we should also be mindful of winning the whole nation for God.

The nation of Israel

There will always be outstanding persons or Christian groups in the different countries. The secular world can dismiss such as exceptions to the general condition of Christians. But the witness of a whole nation would be explosive. A whole nation under God that will be a light to the world? Indeed, the whole world will sit up and take notice. It has already happened before.

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Millennia ago, God raised up a people. They were slaves in Egypt. God delivered them through Moses, and entered into a covenant with them. These were the Israelites. In the covenant at Mount Sinai, God said to them:

Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

God gave them the ten commandments together with other laws to govern their way of life. God told them that they would be rewarded if they obeyed, and punished if they disobeyed.

If you live in accordance with my precepts and are careful to observe my commandments, I will give you rain in due season,….. and you will have food to eat in abundance,….. I will establish peace in the land,….. I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous, as I carry out my covenant with you…… Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people (Leviticus 26:3-12)

But if you do not heed me and do not keep all these commandments, if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and breaking my covenant, then I, in turn, will give you your deserts. I will punish you with terrible woes (Leviticus 26:14-16)

This is still God's way today. He calls, forms and enters into covenant with His people. He calls them to be holy as He is holy. If they obey, they are blessed. If not, they reap the consequences.

Through the years, the relationship of Israel with God was at times up and at times down. Often they were a stiff-necked people. The high point of God's blessings upon them was during the time of Solomon, son of David. Solomon “surpassed in riches and wisdom all the kings of the earth. And the whole world sought audience with Solomon” (1 Kings 10:23-24).

Israel's call was according to the eternal plan of God. The psalmist says that “the plan of the Lord stands forever, wise designs through all generations. Happy the nation whose God is the Lord, the people chosen as his very own.” (Psalm 33:11-12).

God had blessed Solomon with wisdom and wealth. He “uttered three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five” (1 Kings 5:12). Unfortunately, he also “loved many foreign women…..and had seven hundred wives of princely rank and three hundred concubines” (1 Kings 11:1-3). And tragic for him, “his wives turned his heart” (1 Kings 11:3). He turned to idolatry. So God said to him: “Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom…..” (1 Kings 11:11). From that time on, it was all downhill.

When Solomon died, the kingdom was split under his son Rehoboam and his servant Jeroboam, who had rebelled against him. There were a further succession of kings , some of them good, but ultimately Israel was dispersed. Assyria conquered and deported the Israelites in 721 B.C., and Babylon conquered and deported Judah in 597 B.C. Israel as a nation had ceased to exist.

Looking to other nations

But “the plan of the Lord stands forever” (Psalm 33:11), and so God's design for evangelization through discipling nations still remained. And thus, through the centuries, God looked to raising other nations.

God raised up Ireland as a missionary-sending nation. St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in 432 A.D. The Irish accepted Christianity and the nation eventually became overwhelmingly Catholic. In the mid-400’s, Irish monasteries flourished. And through the years, Ireland sent out many priests as missionaries to many different countries of the world.

God raised up Spain as a world power starting in the A.D. 1000's. The Romans, who conquered Spain and made her part of a Roman province called Hispania, brought Christianity, which became the official religion of the province, as it was in the Roman Empire, during the late A.D. 300's. During the period from 1851 to 1978, Roman Catholicism was Spain's state religion. In 1492, Spain sent Christopher Columbus on the voyage that took him to America and during the next 50 years, many Spaniards flocked to the New World. Spain built up an empire that included much of western South America and southern North America, as well as lands in Africa Asia and Europe. From the early 1500's to the late 1700's, Catholic missionaries carried the faith throughout the Western Hemisphere. The Spanish missionaries covered much of Latin America and a large territory from Florida to northern California.

God had His plans for Australia. In the year 1606, Capt. Pedro Fernandez de Quiros gave this continent the name “Australia del Espiritu Santo” or literally “Southland of the Holy Spirit.” In the Bible, Hebrew names not only indicate character but also the destiny of those granted a particular name. What should have been the destiny of Australia? Sir James Stephen wrote about the “mission to establish a Christian, virtuous and enlightened state in the centre of the eastern hemisphere and within reach of the Chinese, Hindu and Mohammedan nations which surround him…” There were instances of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the nation. For instance, a powerful revival came to Melbourne during the mid-1800’s where every house in Melbourne was visited twice: “God's people were in earnest, the Holy Spirit was given His way… and believers greeted each other with: 'The big revival has begun. Glory to God.’ Attendances totaled a quarter of a million each week when the population of the whole of Victoria was only one million.” From the start, Australia had been the scene of missionary activities, with many having the conviction that the churches of Australia of every name had a special missionary call.

Church renewal occurred in France in the 1600's. St Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva, inspired many Christians by his piety. St Vincent de Paul devoted his life to serving the poor, and founded the Vincentians, an order of missionary priests. Ste Louise de Marillac was one of many saintly women who helped restore a sense of charity and deep religious feeling to both convent and Catholic family life.

Several French clergymen founded religious institutes that helped inspire a new emphasis on spirituality in the priesthood. French missions extended from Quebec and the Great Lakes in the north, through the Mississippi Valley, and south to Louisiana.

The United States of America was formed in 1776 after colonists declared their independence from British rule. The Americans dedicated their new nation to the principles of democracy, freedom, equality and opportunity for all. More importantly, America was one of the few countries in the whole world that was established under the guidance, direction and banner of Almighty God, to whom was given all praise, honor and worship by the great men who formed and fashioned her pivotal foundations. In fact, on the aluminum cap atop the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. are displayed two words: Laus Deo. This is Latin for “Praise be to God.” Population grew rapidly, including many Catholic immigrants mainly from Germany and Ireland from 1790 to the mid-1860's, and from Italy, Austria-Hungary and Poland from 1870 to 1900. The USA became a land of enormous wealth. During the 1900's, the USA became one of the world's strongest military powers. Pentecostalism started in 1901 with revivals in Topeka, Kansas. The Jesus Movement became popular in the mid-1900's, spreading rapidly throughout the nation and to other countries. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal started in Duquesne University in 1967, and also spread rapidly and widely. Catholic missionaries in other lands were more than 8,000 in the 1970's.

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Failing to respond

These countries are just examples of how God raised up Christian nations and gave them influence to change the world.

God called these nations and intended to use them powerfully. But someway, somehow, they faltered. Some turned away from God. Others did not grasp the fullness of God's plan for them. Others recognized what God wanted to do but did not go all the way in allowing themselves to be God's instruments, in responding fully to God. And of course, the evil one has always continued to try to thwart God's intent, and unfortunately has had a very high success rate in turning many nations away from God's plan. And thus many of these countries today, though still nominally Christian, are quite secular. Some, like the USA, even lead the world in the dark areas of abortion, contraception, pornography, divorce and same-sex marriage.

Whenever such nations would begin to turn away from God's intent, God would be patient. But eventually, if the nation persisted in its way, God would also have to move on, since His plan for the life of the world needs to be accomplished. As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, “Sometimes, again, I promise to build up and plant a nation or a kingdom. But if that nation does what is evil in my eyes, refusing to obey my voice, I repent of the good with which I promised to bless it.” (Jeremiah 18:9-10).

This was the case with Israel. When the Israelites made a golden calf and worshiped it God said to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.” (Exodus 32:9-10). God was ready to discard His chosen people because of their unfaithfulness and start all over again, still with Moses. Moses was however able to convince God to give them another chance, and God relented.

There were times when Israel prospered because the Israelites were obedient to God. But there were more times when they violated their covenant with God. During such times, they reaped the consequences. During the apostasy of King Joash the prophet Zechariah said to the people: “God says: ‘Why are you transgressing the Lord's commands so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the Lord, he has abandoned you.’” (2 Chronicles 24:20).

Eventually, for continued unfaithfulness to the covenant, Israel lost the anointing.

So God moves on, continually looking for that fitting and obedient instrument, continually assessing a nation’s responsiveness to His call. Indeed, “From heaven the Lord looks down and observes the whole human race, surveying from the royal throne all who dwell on earth. The one who fashioned the hearts of them all knows all their works.” (Psalm 33:13-15).

And then God finds such a people, then He will anoint it just as He did Israel. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6). God wants to renew the face of the earth. God wants to unite the world under Christ. In order to do that, God continues to search for a people He can use, for a new Israel, that will be His light to the world.

Now the Philippines?

Could it now be the turn of the Philippines? Or perhaps the Philippines has long been called, but simply has not responded?

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Spain first came to the Philippines in 1521, gave the land its name (Las Felipinas) in 1543, and established its first permanent settlement in 1565. Thereafter, most Filipinos, except in the south, were converted to Catholicism. The Philippines has been a Christian nation for almost half a millennium.

This is not an accident of history but is in accordance with God's plan.

And so it is that the Philippines has been recognized by the Church as having a prophetic calling to be a light in Asia . It is the only significant Christian nation in Asia (A second Christian nation in Asia is East Timor, just established in 2002). It is an island of Christians in a sea of pagans. There must be a reason why God allowed Spain to bring Christianity to the Philippines centuries ago. If God's plan is indeed to unite all in Christ, then its instrument for doing so in Asia must be the only significant Christian nation there.

Consider also that the Philippines is one of only two Christian nations today that have no legalized divorce. The other is Malta.

This is important. The importance given by the Philippines to Christian marriage and family life is crucial to God's anointing. Long ago, God gave His chosen people, the Israelites, the ten commandments. The fourth commandment is this: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16). Did you grasp that? The key to long life and prosperity is honoring your father and mother. But how can one honor his father and mother if they are no longer together? More often, though through no fault of their own, children have grown up to hate their divorced or separated father or mother, having felt total abandonment.

Later, Paul would reiterate the same principle. ”'Honor your father and mother.' This is the first commandment with a promise, 'that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.”' (Ephesians 6:2-3). This is God's eternal promise.

Filipinos today still honor their father and mother by rejecting divorce and desiring to keep the family intact by keeping their parents united in holy Matrimony. Filipinos today do not put their aged parents in old folks homes, but care for them if necessary in their own homes. Filipino children today still live out a traditional respect for their elders, especially their parents.

But the Philippines today is far from being a light to others. In fact, it is in darkness. There is massive poverty, widespread crime and corruption, oppression of the poor and weak, injustice in the courts, economic stagnation, insurgency, environmental degradation.

Many good Christians cry out to God. The poor cry out to God. But given that the sorry conditions have persisted, some are tempted to think that God has abandoned the Philippines. The complaint of the prophet Habakkuk seems quite appropriate for our situation today.

How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not intervene. Why do you Jet me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. This is why the Jaw is benumbed, and judgment is never rendered: because the wicked circumvent the just; this is why judgment comes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

This is a very fitting description of life today in the Philippines. There is a lot of violence – domestic violence as well as gang fights as well as armed violence by both the military and insurgents. There is verbal, physical, psychological and sexual violence. There is a lot of strife – whether in the home or in politics. There is clamorous discord, when workers who disagree with management or citizens who disagree with government take to the streets to noisily air their grievances. There is much circumvention of justice at the expense of the poor.

Filipinos have also been oppressed through the centuries. It suffered under Spain as colonizer, under the United States as colonizer, under Japan as war occupier, and even under its own leaders under dictatorship and corruption.

The Filipino people have suffered tremendously. They are still suffering.

But perhaps this is not totally cause for grief, but also for joy, anticipating what God intends to achieve through suffering and pain. Just as God dealt with His people Israel, perhaps God also deals in the same way with Filipinos.

Now I beg those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these chastisements were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation. It is, in fact, a sign of great kindness to punish the sinners promptly instead of letting them go for long. Thus, in dealing with other nations, the Lord patiently waits until they reach the full measure of their sins before he punishes them; but with us he has decided to deal differently, in order that he may not have to punish us more severely later, when our sins have reached their fullness. He never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people. (2 Maccabees 6:12-16)

But many Filipinos cannot recognize God's discipline nor wait for God's vindication. And so many have given up hope for meaningful change. Many Filipinos themselves have voted with their feet, choosing to leave the country and go to greener pastures. Fully 10% of Filipinos are living outside their country.

How then can such a nation as the Philippines be a light to the world? How does any nation for that matter become a light to the world? What needs to happen in the life of a nation for the world to take notice?

A nation as light to the world

Most of the nations of the world are in bad shape. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. And when we speak of wide, we speak of a gaping, yawning chasm! Consider that the combined income of the world's richest billionaires, only about 300 individuals, is equal to the combined income of 2.7 billion people who make up almost half of the population of the world! Mind-boggling! And heart wrenching.

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If present trends continue, in the year 2020, the world population will reach 8 billion, of whom some 6.6 billion will live in the underdeveloped world, where there will be 3 billion poor, plus 840 million who are starving and hundreds of millions who are unemployed or, at best, underemployed. In addition, 2.5 billion will not have adequate housing and 2 billion will have no access to clean water or a commercial energy supply. The overwhelming majority of these marginal inhabitants will live in more than 550 cities with populations over 1 million and some twenty megalopolises of more than 10 million inhabitants. These cities will be chaotic, polluted, full of unemployed workers and plagued by delinquency.

This grim scenario is already the case with the Philippines. Its capital, Manila, is one of the so-called megalopolises, with its current population of 12 million, and still growing. Manila is full of squatter colonies, crime-ridden, polluted, with chaotic traffic, and lots of unemployed and underemployed. If the situation in the Philippines can change radically for the better, the nations of the world, especially the many other poor ones, will certainly stand up and take notice.

A nation can only become light to the world if it rids itself of its cover of darkness. Such a nation can attract others only when the world sees a nation that is united, at peace, and prosperous. Unity, peace and prosperity will be signs of being set apart, given the disunity, strife and poverty in most of the world. To be set apart is to be holy. To be holy is a manifestation of God's anointing and blessing. Thus God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “Thus the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.” (Ezekiel 36:23b).

This was the case with God's chosen people, the Israelites. At the height of the kingdom of Israel, Solomon had unsurpassed wealth and wisdom, and the whole world sought audience with him. One such visitor was the queen of Sheba. This was what she encountered.

When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon's great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the holocausts he offered in the temple of the Lord, she was breathless. 'The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,' she told the king. 'Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes, I have discovered that they were not telling me the half. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard. Happy are your men, happy those servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord, your God….. (1 Kings 10:4-9)

Don't miss the effect Solomon's wisdom and wealth had on the queen of Sheba. She was breathless!! Why wouldn't she, when she couldn’t even at first believe the reports about Solomon and his kingdom because these seemed so impossible, only to find out for herself that the reality was even double what had been reported!

And don't miss the result of her awe. She acknowledged and blessed the God of Israel!

Indeed, the nations began to know that God is the Lord!

The Philippines as light

Therefore, when the poor are helped to regain their dignity as children of God and supported to become agents of their own liberation, when the rich care enough to share their resources with the poor, then the result will be that there will be no one in need. When the needs of people are met, there will be much less impetus for crime or insurgency. As such there will be peace and order.

When all sectors of society take part and unite in helping the poor and underprivileged, this is the beginning of solidarity.

When the poor regain hope for the future, and are given tools with which to work productively, they will be empowered. With their great numbers, this translates to economic power. When properly directed, this can lead to prosperity for the nation.

When a massive work with the poor is done, when they become aware of their rights as citizens, when they become a collective force in their own communities and beyond, when they can no longer be easily manipulated by unscrupulous politicians, this will affect the political and environmental realms. This will lead to justice.

It will not mean that every Filipino will become a Christian. But it will mean that all Filipinos will be united irrespective of religion, political affiliation, social status or economic standing. They will be united in the service of their fellow citizens and in the development of their country. And they will experience true peace.

This is why Christian ministries has issued a call to faith and patriotism. In making disciples of nations, these two need to go together. It is a call to love God and nation. It is essentially one and the same call. A Christian is a disciple who proclaims the good news. God's intent is to proclaim this good news through nations. Thus a Christian lives out his faith by building up his nation, so that its light can shine to the world.

We must believe in this vision, that it comes from God, and that it will reach fruition in the fullness of God's time.

For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. (Habakkuk 2:3)

As the miracle in the Philippines through Christian ministries (and beyond) unfolds, the nations of the world will stand in awe, and will bless the God who brought the Philippines from darkness to light.

“But you are a 'chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises' of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were 'no people' but now you are God's people” (1 Peter 2:9-10a).

This is destiny.

Society | Religion | Christianity


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