God’s Love for Our Cities, Part 2
As I began this series, I first established foundational principles of the New Covenant which are ours through faith in Jesus. I then examined principles with Israel from the Old Covenant that are still applicable today in this New Covenant age of grace.
In this age of grace, God is reconciling the world to Himself.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:19 NIV
This does not mean there are no consequences to sin for individuals, cities, or nations. Persistent rebellion toward God and His ways permits the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus came to give humanity abundant life—but we must choose Him. Jesus loved sinners, the broken, and the wayward, and He still loves everyone today!
God desires to bless—not bring judgment. Yes, there are consequences to individual and corporate sin, but God desires foremost to extend mercy and grace to humanity through Jesus. Let’s begin with Adam and see God’s plan for humanity to steward with Him.
Man Would Steward Over Creation and the Earth
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen. 1:28 NIV
Adam was to subdue, have dominion (to rule over), replenish the earth (thought: earth must have been depleted!) Adam or humanity was to put things back in order on earth.
The first interaction that God had with Adam after breathing life into his body was to set him within Eden, to tend the garden … “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Gen 2:15 NKJV
Before the fall, God associated Adam with the garden, and it was there that He would come and speak with him. Adam was committed to the land (the garden) in which God had placed him and God was committed to Adam in the garden.
As followers of Christ, we are of the New Covenant. Part of our Kingdom assignment is to “tend the garden,” the city we are placed in. We are called to put things back to order in Tucson, or your city. We’re to find out what God wants, what is His agenda.
Here are a couple of examples of commitment. A homeowner is generally more committed to a city than someone who rents. They pay taxes, take care of their homes, and are generally in the home for a longer time than a renter. A renter doesn’t have the “pride of ownership” of the property. That’s not to say a renter doesn’t care for or take good care of the property—or value the city. But renting versus owning property is a different level of commitment.
Another example is the difference between a parent and a babysitter. A good babysitter is a Godsend. But they are not the parents! Parents of a child are completely committed to the child, whereas the babysitter is only partially committed for a short duration.
When we steward our cities as owners or parents, we are more vested and committed to the geographic place where God has placed us. When we properly steward our cities, blessing follows us.
The mission of the church is to preach the gospel, to lead the lost to Christ, to heal the sick, feed the poor, etc. The vision of the “local church” is our specific mandate to accomplish the mission Christ has given the universal Church.
Sin Affected the Land
When Adam and Eve sinned, it affected their relationship with God, with each other, to creation, and to the land.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” Gen 3:17 NIV
“Cursed is the ground because of you …” When Adam and Eve sinned, not only did God’s relationship to humans change, but His relationship to the land changed too.
God through His infinite wisdom and mercy provided not only for the redemption of mankind but for the land that had become cursed due to Adam’s sin. God used the cross, a sacred tree, to repair the breach between heaven and earth that came through the tree of knowledge.
Paul describes this truth:
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Col. 1:19-20 NLT
Reconcile all things or returned to their original state. Through Jesus, the 2nd Adam, God provided a way to restore man and to restore the earth. Adam removed obedience from the tree, but Christ returned obedience to the tree.
In Christ, you have been restored to God’s original intent—justified by faith through Jesus in right relationship with God. You and I are still maturing and growing into the image of Christ as we continue to yield to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, but in right relationship with God, as Adam and Eve were, before the fall.
We are called to enforce the reality of Christ’s redemption over the earth and society—to help restore our world to God’s original intent!
The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given (or assigned) to the children of men.” Psalm 115:16 NKJV
God didn’t give away ownership of the earth, but He did assign mankind the responsibility of governing it. The very fate of cities and nations rests in the hands of the righteous. He is looking to us to change the spiritual climate, and when this occurs, society benefits.
You are called to put things back to order in Tucson, or whatever city you live in. You’re to find out what God wants, what’s His agenda. When you commit to the place God has placed you in, blessings follow. Like Adam, we have an Eden to steward over.
Land is important to God, and He often sees people in terms of territory
God promised wayward Israel, “And I will assuredly plant them in this land…” Jer. 32:41 NKJV. He gave the children of Israel the Promised Land, and God places us in cities and lands to love and steward.
We typically think of Kingdom inheritance solely as spiritual, but it is also territory (land) that we are to steward over. “He will choose our inheritance for us…” Psalm 47:4 NKJV
If we want to see our city transformed, we must make a commitment to this community, to this land or region. It’s like a marriage relationship where there is no substitute for commitment. You’re either all in or you’re not—100% commitment is required for success!
You may not own property in Tucson, but the Lord is expecting you to take spiritual ownership of Tucson, or your city. To love your city, to cherish it, and the people of the city.
How can we expect to win a city to Christ and see a city transformed by His love and power if we dislike or worse hate the people because of their behavior?
We are to Seek the Peace and Welfare of Our Cities
Israel had sinned, rejected God, and judgment had come upon them. God prophesied to them that they would be carried away as exiles for 70 years, one year for each of the years the Sabbaths of the land were not observed (as I explained last week, see part 1).
But God declares this to them regarding the upcoming 70 years of exile:
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare (peace) will determine your welfare (peace).” Jer. 29:4-7 NLT
Think about this. The children of Israel are led away captive, and they are to bless their enemies, pray for the city, seek its wellbeing, and live their lives there!
Application is simple for us. Even if we long to be somewhere else, ask 2 questions:
- Who put you where you are?
- Why are you here?
There are only 2 answers to these: obedience or rebellion! Either God put you here, or you put yourself here. Obedience to God always brings ultimate peace.
The immediate results of obeying this principle are found in Jer. 29
- The Blessing of Increase. “Be increased there and not diminished.” Jer. 29:6 NKJV Choosing to set yourself firmly in the place where God has called you releases the blessings of increase.
- The Blessing of Peace. “Seek the peace of the city… for in its peace (welfare) you will have peace (welfare).” Jer. 29:7 NKJV There is a spiritual peace every city needs, deciding to seek the peace of the city you live in settles something in your heart.
In marriage, when the commitment is made: you are mine and I am yours, it settles something, and peace follows. When we commit to where God has placed us, and endeavor to pray for, serve in, and bless our community, peace follows. Blessings follow. Prosperity and increase follow.
Honor releases life. Honoring your city (past, present, and future) is important. We see examples of honor, for example, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 NKJV
There are long-term results of commitment. God will grant expectations for a future and hope!
Again, though they are headed into 70 years of captivity, God promises them a future:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Jer. 29:11-13 NLT
Is it possible the very direction and vision you are seeking from God begin with a commitment to where He has placed you?
Ask God for vision for your community. God will grant expectations for a future and hope! You will begin to see community in a new way (vision). You will pray from a place of faith, with expectation and hope for its future. As we have His heart for our city, our prayer life takes on new dimensions. God promises that we will find Him!
Will you and I be prepared to pay the price for victory over our cities? To commit where God has placed us? To pray, bless, and serve others?
There is a high price to be paid in personal discipline, prayer, and obedience.
Jesus came to reveal the Father, to atone for us, and to teach us how to live. He also came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has commissioned us to do likewise.
Business as usual is not good enough. God has much more in mind. Are our expectations of God too low?
Are we participating in the sin of unbelief when we entertain despair or indifference over the moral, environmental, social, and spiritual needs of our cities?
The power of the gospel has radically impacted the life of cities for nearly 2,000 years, but most importantly our cities must become places of harvest!
I’ll resume this series in two weeks; until then, pray for the peace and prosperity of your city!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “God’s Love for Our Cities, Part 2”