Letter from Our Youth Director
A Letter from our Youth Director
As long as Christ’s church has existed it has been engaged in a mission. Though a bit different in its practice and application, throughout the Old Testament, and since the calling of Abraham to follow and worship the Lord alone, Israel was engaged in a mission driven by the same purpose. In fact one of the most amazing truths about this mission, revealed to us by Christ’s own word, is that before the foundation of the world God in his infinite wisdom and power has been engaged in a mission (John 17:5). The mission for today is as it has been for all eternity.
But what is that mission? What drives it? Who charges us with it? And what does it mean to be engaged in it today?
What is a mission?
Let us start to unravel these questions by first endeavoring for a definition of the word itself. Dictionary.com actually provides 19 different definitional usages of the word mission.
Among these are:
1. Any important task or duty that is assigned, allotted, or self-imposed
2. An important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction
3. A sending or being sent for some duty or purpose
4. Those sent
Kevin DeYoung in his book What is the Mission of The Church helps narrow these prospects by saying, “At its most basic, the term mission implies two things to most people: 1. being sent and 2. Being given a task.”
A mission therefore, is made up of sender, sent, and purpose and removing any of these elements takes us out of the realm of a mission. You cannot be sent by no one. You cannot send no one. And those sent are meant to do something, and not everything.
The First Missionary
Going then on this working definition, Scripture has a few extraordinary things to tell us about the one who first carried the title missionary. In order to answer any of the above questions it is paramount that we first come to recognize the primacy of the First Great Missionary and the pattern that has been established for all who follow.
One of the most commonly referred to and recognized passages in all of Scripture starts with the beautiful phrase, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”(John 3:16). John says this almost exactly in another passage with a key nuance.
“In this the love of God was made manifest to us, God sent his only Son into the world…”(1 John 4:19)
As we recognized above, Jesus, the Son of God, has from eternity been engaged in a mission. He was sent by the Father with a particular purpose. As an obedient “Sent One”, he has been accomplishing that purpose in the fullness of time. It is this purpose that drives all of Christ’s actions from the creation of all things(Col. 1:16) to the incarnation(John 1:14), the healing of lepers(Luke 17:15) to the casting out of demons(Matt.17:18), and from the cross(John 19:30) to the resurrection(Luke 24:6). That purpose should be recognized in two major ways:
The Purpose of God’s Mission
1. Exalting the Glory of God
God’s passion is for his own glory. In all of his manifold beauty, God rejoices in the exalting of who he is. He is entirely other and categorically different from all of his creation. The manifestation of this reality is what we recognize as his glory. This glory he will not give to or share with any other(Isa. 42:8). The glory of God is supreme to all. His deepest motivation for any and all things that occur is to be exalted in parallel correspondence. The Son, in a prayer which we are blessed to listen in on, explains that having accomplished the work which was given to him to do, the Father was glorified(John 17:4). As he continues, he asks that all who have been given to him may see the glory which has been given to him as well.
While we should surely conclude Jesus’ divinity from these passages, it should also be clear that every one of his actions listed above (and for that matter, all he has ever done) have clearly exalted God’s glory in a way unfailing and unfading. Sinner’s turning from their sin and being clothed in the righteousness of Christ directly results in recognition of God’s glory. All who look to the cross in hope for the forgiveness of sins will not fail to exalt God in his glory.
2. Extending the Love of God
God is love(1 John 4:8). From eternity past God has existed with the defining characteristic of love. The sending of The Son by The Father makes us wonderfully aware of this truth. Like all fathers who give gifts of love to the ones they love, within the same prayer from John 17 we find Jesus claiming a people who The Father himself has given to him(v. 24). Jesus mission then, also revolves around a central purpose of loving those given to him.
Alongside so many amazing scriptures, 1 John 4:19 and John 3:16 work side by side to make clear that the giving and sending of The Son are to demonstrate God’s great love for us. A love for us ever-extending from that relationship of eternal love.
The Second Great Missionary
How are we then to see this glory and this love? Of all observations that we should make of the world today, what is clear should be a great lack of recognition of the glory and love of God. To be honest about your own early life and my own as well is to assuredly admit that the glory and love of God were not anywhere on the priority list. Were we to be honest enough, we should agree withPaul as he quotes a few Old Testament passages in Romans 3:11-12 to say, “no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together…”
Here we must recognize the second great “Sent One”. The Holy Spirit. In the upper room, with his disciples on the night he was to be betrayed, Jesus gives a promise that is of infinite value and a carrier of hope. “I will ask The Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth…”(John 14:6) Promised to God’s people back in Ezekiel, this Spirit would be the one to turn our hard hearts into ones capable of grasping God’s glory and love(Eze. 36:26). Sent by The Father and The Son, The Spirit comes to those who were given to The Son. Through the glorious means of Christ’s Gospel, the Spirit enacts the new birth of a Christ-worshipping, sin-convicted, Gospel-extending adopted child of grace.
From the beginning of the church in the 1 st century AD, Christians have understood clearly that the Gospel does not come to us as a gift of stagnation. Thomas Schirrmacher says it this way, “It is a central element of the biblical view of missions that the sender becomes one being sent, and the one being sent becomes a sender himself.” In fact, even our word apostle comes from the Greek term “apostolos”, which the disciples who walked with Jesus called themselves. “Apostolos” means messenger. This tells us that the very identifying term of the first Christians was to refer to themselves as “Sent Ones”.
Christ’s Church is not made up of one person or one person islands. It has been the intention of Jesus to uphold our fellowship in unity and love. We are to do all things as one body because we are saved by one God (Eph. 4:5). This unity is to be instructive, encouraging, and purposeful! How incredibly blessed we are that we might continue together through the power of the Spirit to accomplish the goal of our salvation. How much more then shall we rejoice and join in the effort of sending the church throughout the world, exalting the glory and extending the love of God. Sent senders as we are, Jesus lays out for us a blueprint of how this should occur.
“Go therefore…”(Matt. 28:19) Had the apostles and disciples of the early church refused to obey this command of Christ, this article would not be written and you yourself would not care to read anything like it. “Going” is a key step in the accomplishment of God’s missionary purpose, but the “where to go” is also laid out for the Church local and abroad. We’ve talked much about the idea of a people given to The Son by The Father. It is important that we recognize what an incredible statement we have in that the words “Go therefore” are followed by “and make disciples of all nations”. The book of Revelation explains the promise of where those people will come from in a new song sung by angels and elders in the throne room of God. They sing,
“Worthy are you [the lamb who was slain, Jesus] to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”(Rev. 5:9)
The reality of the Kingdom of God is that it will absolutely without question be made up of people coming from every corner of the Earth, down to the smallest unknown tribe of people. Furthermore, as seekers of God’s glory and love, we are told that it will not be until after this Gospel is proclaimed in all of these places (and his people are gathered up) that the end will come(Matt. 24:14).
Though we are confident in this saving and sending God’s ability to cause all of these things to pass, it should be with great desire and urgency that we take up this mission. If the Church possesses the great truth of the Gospel and the vehicle of salvation is through the preaching of that truth, then with Paul we must stand and say, “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?”
We conclude then, that from the beginning God has been involved in the mission of exalting himself in glory and extending his eternal love in all that he does. Through the power of the sent Spirit, we are given the new life that is in the sent savior Jesus Christ. As he builds his Church upon the Gospel that is his death, burial, and resurrection, he multiplies our faith in the sending of his people to the nations. It is the duty of the Church to be engaged in this mission as we work with him who is redeeming his people. It is our joy to continue this work until the last day when we see him come in glory again.