Tag Archives: mission

If You Follow Jesus

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Jesus calls us to follow Him. By His grace, mercy, and love, Jesus comes to us and for our good and His glory, wants us to pursue Him. I can’t overemphasize here how graceful and loving an act it is for Jesus to ask us to follow Him. It is what we, as people who have become rebellious against Him, need most. Meaning in life cannot be found apart from God. So how wonderful it is that Jesus is sent to us to rescue us from ourselves. To follow Christ is to find what it means to be truly human.

So what happens when we follow Christ? Where does Jesus lead us? No doubt we become like Him in character, but I want us to think about another aspect of where following Christ leads. To do so, consider the story of Jesus calling His first disciples in Matthew 4…

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Jesus told these first disciples that if they follow Him, they will become fishers of men. They will, like Him, be about seeking and saving that which is lost. I love what Douglas John Hall said about following a crucified Messiah. He wrote:

Discipleship of the crucified Christ is characterized by a faith that drives its adherents into the world with a relentlessness and a daring they could not manage on the basis of human volition alone.

In other words, following Christ is going to compel you to go into the world. It’s going to push you to go to where those who hurt.

So as you go deeper in your walk with Christ, you are going to go deeper into the world. You are going to have your eyes opened to see those around you as Jesus sees them. And you are going to offer to them the call of Jesus to follow Him because only in doing so, will our mission, purpose, peace, fulfillment, and meaning of life come together.

Change The World?

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We are told to change the world! Jesus told us that we are “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” We must therefore, let our saltiness preserve and our our light shine. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” so we must “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:13-16).

What I wonder however, about the mandate to change the world is whether we really know what it means and what it looks like in our hum drum day to day living?  Another question I have is whether we are actually commanded to change the world. That discussion will have  to occur on another day.

In Michael Horton’s fairly new book, Ordinary, he is worried that our call to change the world is actually becoming something we hide behind. He writes, “Changing the world can be a way of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us, to glorify him and enjoy him and to enrich the lives of others.” In other words, we can become enthralled with a social justice cause in some other country that we bypass the people God has placed in front of us everyday.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about justice around the world. We should be. It’s important. But what I think Horton is worried about is that in our desire to be change agents in the world, which always appears to be in some place other than where we live, we lose sight of doing good to the people around us. It’s like a group of students leaving on a mission trip to India for two weeks while driving by an apartment complex comprised of people from India just two blocks from where they live. Again, not saying we shouldn’t go to India. Just wondering if we are aware of those that God has placed right in front of us.

I’m thinking that our context of what it means to change the world, therefore, needs to be adjusted. The reality is that the lady who scans my groceries at the nearest food store could be struggling financially with health bills. Our next door neighbor could have a struggling marriage. The school we pass each day to and from work most likely has children that are neglected at home. The list could go on and on and I think you see the point.

Could it be that changing the world is truly about taking notice of your day to day life and realizing the opportunities that God has placed around you? Granted, praying for our neighbors and children in our local schools may not be near as glamorous as doing so overseas,  but since when has doing good for the glory of God been about us anyway?

Let’s look around some today. Miracles might not happen. The person you decide to smile at and be nice to may not reciprocate. It may just be another one of “those” days. But continue to be open and remember that many times, if not all, God uses the ordinary to do something extraordinary.

 

When Does Theology Cease To Be Theology?

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When does theology cease to be theology?

Just as the church ceases to be the church if it is not missionary, theology ceases to be theology if it loses its missionary character. We are in need of a missiological agenda for theology rather than just a theological agenda for mission; for theology, rightly understood, has no reason to exist other than critically to accompany the missio Dei. So mission should be the theme of all theology

-David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 494

Speak & They Will Hear, Believe, & Call

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For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

These words from Paul present an incredible promise and an incredible challenge. Let’s think through what Paul is saying…

  • If people call on the name of the Lord, they will be saved.
  • But how will they call on one they have not believed in?
  • And how can they believe unless they hear?
  • And how can they hear unless someone tells them?
  • So we must go and speak!

Do you see the promise? If anyone calls upon the name of the Lord they will be saved. A few verses earlier in Romans 10, Paul writes that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).

God is working. He is saving those who call upon Him. When we as Christ-followers go and speak the gospel, then people hear. And when people hear, they will believe. And when they believe, they will respond and call upon the Lord for salvation.

God is calling people unto himself and saving them. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  He did not come to be served but to offer his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) and gave his life for us (Gal. 2:20). How marvelous is the grace of God!

But alongside such a merciful promise is our challenge as Christ’s disciples to make the gospel known. People will respond and believe, but they will do so only if they are able to hear. And how do they hear? It’s by our speaking.

Our calling is to “make disciples” (Mt 28:16-20) and to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world” (Acts 1:8). We have been given the ministry of reconciliation therefore, “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20).

We are a sent people, by Christ’s authority, to make known the glorious mysteries of the gospel. We can be confident as we go that as we speak, people will hear, believe, and respond. And when they call on the Lord, they will be saved.

Let’s not be ashamed of the gospel therefore, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). Let’s be bold with all kindness and gentleness and patience and love and go and speak the gospel. And as we do, let’s remember the promise that God will save.

 

 

 

God, It Is Your Cause I Long For

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Sovereign God,

Thy cause, not my own, engages my heart,
and I appeal to thee with greatest freedom
to set up thy kingdom in every place
where Satan reigns;
Glory thyself and I shall rejoice,
for to bring honor to thy name is my sole desire.

I adore thee that thou art God,
and long that others should know it, feel it,
and rejoice in it.

O that all men might love and praise thee,
that thou mightiest have all glory
from the intelligent world!!

Let sinners be brought to thee for thy dear name!

To the eye of reason everything respecting
the conversion of others is as dark as midnight,
But thou canst accomplish great things;
the cause is thine,
and it is to thy glory that men should be saved.

Lord, use me as thou wilt,
do with me what thou wilt;
but, O, promote thy cause,
let they kingdom come,
let thy blessed interest be advanced
in this world!

O do thou bring in great numbers to Jesus!
let me see that glorious day,
and give me to grasp for multitudes of souls;
let me be willing to die to that end;
and while I live let me labour for thee
to the utmost of my strength,
spending time profitably in this work,
bot in health and in weakness.

It is thy cause and kingdom I long for,
not my own.

O, answer thou my request. 

(from The Valley of Vision)

One Of The Greatest Mission Fields

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Today’s university campus is one of the greatest mission fields. It is a place of transition and questioning. It is a place where major life decisions are made as students learn to become adults. And it is a place where each year there is a continuous influx of new students.  You never stop meeting new people.

The college or university campus is also a place where a diversity of cultures gather. In fact, when you walk on today’s college campus, you encounter the world. Some have called it the Great Commission in reverse. Instead of us going to the nations, they are coming to us!

Philosophers J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig  reiterate the fact of the importance of today’s college campuses. They believe they are “the single most important institution shaping Western culture.” They write:

It is at the university that our future political leaders, our journalists, our teachers, our business executives, our lawyers, our artists, will be trained. It is at the university that they will formulate or, more likely, simply absorb the worldview that will shape their lives. And since these are the opinion-makers and leaders who shape our culture, the worldview that they imbibe at the university will be the one that shapes our culture. If we change the university, we change our culture through those who shape culture.[1]

Reaching a college campus, therefore, is exponential. To impact a student on a college campus is to impact his/her family and home, his/her future home and family, and every city and community he/she will reside throughout his/her life.

Reaching today’s campus however, is bigger than just impacting Western culture. As mentioned above, since the world is coming to today’s college campus, then to reach the campus is also to reach the world. To reach an International student is to make an impact on his/her family and his/her country. We must open our eyes to realize that the world is coming to us via the college and university campus. And the majority of those who are coming from around the world are un-evangelized.

Just imagine the impact that could be had upon the world by reaching today’s college campus. If we go about making disciples who make disciples on today’s universities, then as students graduate and spread throughout the world, so does the gospel.

I hope you pray for college and university campuses. And if you live near one, I hope you invest in that campus. The ripple effects of doing so could usher in a tidal wave.

[1] J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for A Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 2.

Does True Fellowship Involve Mission?

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As I have been reading through Philippians, my idea of what it means to have “fellowship” or “community” with other believers has deepened. Paul writes:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me (Philippians 1:3-7).

In this passage, “partnership” and “share” is the word koinonia,  which is often translated as “fellowship.” Today, we sometimes equate fellowship with the idea of enjoying coffee or a meal with fellow believers. It is warm friendship.

However, koinonia is much more than that. D.A. Carson writes that “the heart of true fellowship is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision. There may be overtones of warmth and intimacy, but the heart of the matter is this shared vision of what is of transcendent importance, a vision that calls forth our commitment.”

Christian fellowship therefore, is “self-sacrificing commitment” to the gospel. The reason Paul was thankful for the church in Philippi was because they, like him, had a deep commitment to the gospel and as a result, longed to see it spread. This is why they supported Paul financially and gave sacrificially to him along with the believers in Jerusalem (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

For both Paul and the Philippians, the “fellowship” they experienced was due to their commitment to the spread of the gospel. They shared in the grace of God together and such grace pushed them outside of themselves to the mission of God in which they experienced true fellowship. And I might add they experienced true joy as well.

So the question we must ask ourselves is: Can true fellowship or community exist outside of mission? Kent Hughes does not think so. He writes:

But if you are looking for true fellowship, give yourself to the gospel at home and around the world. Serve together with others in women’s Bible studies, children’s ministries, youth ministries. Do short-term missions. Join mercy work to alleviate suffering in places like the vast area devastated by Katrina. Take the good news to the poor. Join a band of brothers and sisters to pray for the world. This is how you will experience genuine Christian fellowship. 

I hear many Christians today longing for community and I wonder if we might be pushing them in the wrong direction? We make sure everyone is in a small group hoping that fellowship will emerge when maybe we should be helping people understand how they can work with others in carrying out the Great Commission.

I am not against small groups as I think they can serve as a catalyst for true fellowship in the gospel. Jesus led a small group and it ended up changing the world.

Bottom line: I think we need to examine what it means to have true community. If we have divorced it from the mission of the gospel, I think we are missing out on the vibrant fellowship that Paul experienced with “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.”

 

Be Careful Of Succeeding at The Wrong Things

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Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.

How scary it would be to finally arrive at the pinnacle of your life dreams and goals only to realize that they amount to nothing.

It would be like thinking you are going on vacation to visit the Grand Canyon only to realize, as your GPS declares “arriving destination,” that you entered in the wrong coordinates.

So what really matters? Paul writes…

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

-Philippians 1:12-18

What Paul most rejoiced in was the fact that the gospel was proclaimed. And for him, that was all that mattered. Why? Because for Paul, the gospel was truly a matter of life and death. It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

Consider the words of D.A. Carson concerning this passage…

Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations. Our own comfort, our bruised feelings, our reputations, our misunderstood motives–all of these are insignificant in comparison with the advance and splendor of the gospel. As a Christian, we are called upon to put the advance of the gospel at the very center of our aspirations.

What are your aspirations? To make money? To get married? To travel? To see your grandchildren grow up? To find a new job? To retire early? None of these is inadmissible; none is to be despised. The question is whether these aspirations become so devouring that the Christian’s central aspiration is squeezed to the periphery or choked out of existence entirely. 

What really matters? Is it not the spread of the gospel?

You must be careful not to succeed at the wrong thing. You must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).