|Rev. Dr. Movses B. Janbazian (July
26, 1945 - September 25, 2000) was
born in Anjar, Lebanon. He is a graduate of
Haigazian University and the Near East School of Theology. In
1998 he was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree
conferred upon him by Haigazian University. Among Rev.
Janbazian's many areas of service, he was the founder of the Armenian
Evangelical Social Service Center of Trad (Beirut),
Lebanon. Rev. Janbazian served with The Armenian Evangelical
Churches in Damascus (Syria) and Zahle (Lebanon) as well as a
missionary-minister to the Armenian Evangelical Central Church of Sao
Paulo, Brazil, and as the visiting pastor of the First Armenian
Evangelical Church of Montevideo, Uruguay. In 1980, Rev.
Janbazian was called by the Armenian Missionary Association of America
(AMAA) to serve as the frist Field Director of the Association.
In 1987 he was appointed as the Executive Director of the AMAA.
Rev. Janbazian has served as president and secretary of the Armenian
Evangelical World Council.
published in the AMAA News, May/June 2000.
Being Obedient to The Heavenly Vision
Rev. Dr. Movses B. Janbazian
"Being Obedient to the Heavenly Vision." This is the theme of the 15th Biennial Convention of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA). The words are taken from one of the Apostle Paul's statements made at his defense before King Agrippa.
Upon the completion of this third missionary journey, Paul encounters fierce opposition in Jerusalem. The Jew of Asia Minor accuse him of disobeying the law of Moses, defaming the chosen people of God and desecrating the Temple of Jerusalem. They are about to kill Paul when Roman soldiers arrest him, and after lengthy interrogations take him to King Agrippa to defend himself.
At the climatic point of his testimony given before King Agrippa, Paul tells about a heavenly vision he has seen. He explains how, after that vision, he changed and became a new person, and how Jesus Christ called him and commissioned him as an apostle. Then he concludes his defense by saying, "I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision." (Acts 26:19)
"Being obedient to the heavenly vision" is a most appropriate theme for a convention of churches that sincerely seek to shape their vision for a new millennium. Heavenly visions are not like visions created by human beings. They have a timeless and universal quality. Heavenly visions are like the Word of God; they last as long as the heavens. Paul’s vision was not a figment of his human imagination. It was a heavenly vision, and that is why it is a timely vision for us and our churches now, and it will be a timely vision for all Christians and churches in the years and millennia to come.
But what was Paul’s heavenly vision? Jesus, whose followers he was persecuting, appears to him and tells him: "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:16-18)
What Paul is told in that heavenly vision is a perfect summary of what Jesus does and wants to do in every man, woman and child in the world:
This is the heavenly vision! This is God’s vision, His salvation plan for all mankind - every human being in the world saved and incorporated into the body of Jesus Christ! What a glorious vision!
The contrast of this heavenly vision with the reality of the world underscores the miserable condition of mankind. Human sin has alienated people from God, for one another and from everything in God’s creation. People live and act without any sense of accountability. They often prefer expediency over morality; deception over truth; personal profit over justice; violence over peace; greed over generosity; indifference over compassion; hatred over love.
Then, too, the contrast of Paul’s heavenly vision with the miserable condition of mankind highlights the urgency of the central mission of the church of Jesus Christ. God has called the church and commissioned it to work primarily for the fulfillment of His heavenly vision for the world. The church is sent into the world to serve as an extension of Jesus Christ’s preaching, teaching, forgiving, reconciling, liberating and healing ministry; "....to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the broken hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18,19); "....to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10); "....not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) The church is given the commission to "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) This is the mission of the church through which God plans to end the misery of mankind.
But the problem of many Christians and churches is not their lack of awareness of their mission. The problem of most Christians and churches is their lack of obedience to their heavenly calling.
Paul was not disobedient to his heavenly vision. That is why he became a blessed person and brought blessings into the lives of others, generation after generation, century after century, throughout the world.
In his testimony, Paul also reveals the way he showed his obedience to the heavenly vision. He states, "I declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance." (Acts 26:20)
In his book "Our Guilty Silence," J. R. W. Stott suggests, "Either we have no compelling incentive even to try to speak, or we do not know what to say." Paul knew what to say, and what he said is a simple and clear summary of the gospel message every Christian and every church ought to proclaim:
This is the message Paul preached in obedience to the heavenly vision; and this is the message we ought to proclaim as individual Christians and churches in obedience to our heavenly vision. Repent! Turn to God! Perform deeds that demonstrate your repentance!
The sad fact is that most ministers and churches say and do many things in the name of their mission and vision, but neither their words nor deeds show any meaningful articulation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They preach, and they organize all sorts of activities, but their preaching and their activities are void of the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. And that is the reason why they are not blessed, nor do they become a blessing to others.
The word of God states, "Where there is no vision the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18) Do we have any vision for our families, churches, and nation?
Fortunately we do not need to reinvent the wheel. The vision - the heavenly vision that came to Paul - has been offered also to us and our churches as a heavenly mission and a divine promise: The gospel of salvation and forgiveness of sin preached to every human being; "....this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations." (Matthew 24:14) All we need to do is accept it as our vision and mission, obey it, and pursue it with the sure knowledge that its achievement will bring good to ourselves, will bless other people and will glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.