Tag Archive | Great Commission

The Missional Mandate for Christians

As followers of Jesus, Christians have a missional[1] mandate (Matt. 28:18-20). Christians are pupils and apprentices. We follow Jesus and we do as He did. We give our lives away in love and we tell people about the good news of Jesus. To be a disciple is to be missional. We are not true disciples if we are not missional.

We lovingly engage with the people around us. We do not shut ourselves off in “God ghettos,” we do not create Christian castles. Jesus said that we are to be lights in a dark world (Matt. 5:15).[2] Paul said we are not to leave the world (1 Cor. 5:9-11) but be messengers of the King in the world (2 Cor. 5:20).

So, we as followers of Jesus…

Leave the “bubble”

We remove excess emphasis on Christian bubble activities and programs and instead spend time relationally engaging together with peers, neighbors, and coworkers. We are intentionally in the world. Jesus intentionally went to the world, He left heaven. He incarnated Himself (Matt. 1:22-23; Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:7).

We follow our King and we enter the world in love (Matt. 5:13-16; Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:12 cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-10; Jn. 17:15-16).

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A few thoughts on loving our neighbors…

God is a missionary God. God sent prophet after prophet and even sent His own Son (cf. Matt. 21:33ff). And now Jesus the Son is sending us into the world (Jn. 17:18). The task was dangerous for the prophets and deathly for Jesus. We shouldn’t expect anything less (Christians are the most persecuted group in the world). We were sent into the world, not a Christian conclave. And we were sent into the world not to win the world over to our side but to love the world, to love our neighbor. To implore the world on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). 

We are not to hide in Christian castles, build castles, or lob missiles at the outside world from our castle. The commission from Christ did not include a castle, it included sacrificial—boots on the ground—compassion. God showed His love for us through the amazingly tangible incarnation and cross. There is a sense in which we too can give love flesh.

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Living to Share the Gospel

As we read in Philippians we see that Paul lived to share the gospel. That’s what he was all about. Even when he was imprisoned for sharing the gospel he said, “It’s okay. It actually worked out quite well because I was able to tell the prison guards about Jesus.”

Paul lived to share the gospel. But what made him live like this? He hadn’t always lived for the gospel so what changed him? And what perhaps needs to change in our own lives so that we will live to share the gospel of Christ?

As I was preparing to write this I struggled because this portion of Philippians (1:12-18, 27-30) seems irrelevant. It seems disconnected from our everyday life. So, I was trying to think of some angle that I could share to make it relevant and I was struggling to do so. I was thinking that if I were talking about procrastination, lust, or something else then that would be relevant.

As I continued to think about it, however, I realized the problem is not with the passage. The problem is with us, with me. The passage doesn’t seem relevant because we don’t share the concern that Paul had, and that the Bible has. We, I am afraid, our deficient in our devotion to the gospel.

Sharing the gospel and our…
Our Deficiency
This first point comes from my own mouth and mind and not directly from Philippians. However, upon reflection, I think it is important that we consider our potential deficiency.What is our deficiency? Or, what would make this passage seem irrelevant?

I fear we (myself included!) get used to the gospel. It ceases to amaze us. We take it for granted. Paul’s letter to the Philippians was likely written 30 years after his conversion but we see that he is still amazed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) and later on he says everything is rubbish compared to Christ (3:8).

Our deficiency is our deficient view of the gospel. We esteem it of low worth. Until that deficiency changes we won’t delight in sharing the gospel and we won’t carry out our duty of sharing the gospel. So, briefly, what is the gospel?

Philippians 2 talks about Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, made Himself nothing and humbled Himself to die for us, even by death on a cross. 2 Corinthians 8:9 reminds us of the wonder of the gospel: our Lord Jesus Christ, though He was rich, became poor, so that we by His poverty might become rich. This is the good news of the “great exchange.” Jesus, God in flesh, took our filthy sinful stains upon Himself on the tree; and He gave us His beautiful robes of righteousness.

The apostle Paul understood that and that’s why he said everything—everything!—is rubbish compared to Christ. We too need to understand that. It makes sense logically but often times it hasn’t worked itself into the nooks and crannies of our lives.

So, we see the need of cultivating a heart of worship, a heart that is amazed by the gospel. As John Piper has said,

“No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into our worship where there is no passion for worship.”[1]

It is when we taste and see that a restaurant is good that we tell others about it. It is the same with the gospel. We need to “taste” that it is good. We need to know understand that the LORD “has done gloriously.” Look at Isaiah 12:1-5:

“I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation… Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.”

It when we taste the God’s goodness that we say, “Let this be known in all the earth!”

Sharing the gospel and our…
Our Devotion (Phil. 1:12-18)
In a letter such as this, it would have been customary for Paul to explain how he was doing. It would have been natural to discuss his physical conditions.[2] I expect Paul to say something like:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, especially for the gift you gave me. That was really helpful. However, as you know I am in jail for preaching the gospel and I am fresh out of funds. I don’t have a lot of food and my sneakers are worn out. It’d be great to get some help. I am also very tired as my bed is very uncomfortable and the blanket they gave me is terrible. The guards also keep me up late. They like to play cards and their cursing is terrible…”

However, Paul says nothing like that. Actually, we’re not even really told about his physical well-being, let alone the state of his sneakers.

Yet, imagine how difficult it must have been for Paul. One commentator has said, “For a traveling apostle to be put in prison must have seemed like a concert pianist having his hands tied behind his back.”[3] Yet, Paul was not complaining.

Why is this the case? Certainly, Paul had material concerns. There are times when Paul let his material needs be known. For instance, he asks for his coat and books (2 Tim. 4:13). Paul surely had physical/material concerns but they weren’t main concern. We see Paul is concerned with the gospel and its advancement.

Paul’s good is wrapped up with the gospel.[4] Even though he was locked up he could rejoice because it “served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12).[5] Paul made known to his guards that he was in jail for telling people about Christ. It was such a big deal that it got around to a bunch of people, “the whole imperial guard,” it says (v. 13).

“The soldiers were used, of course, to the ‘gospel’ of Caesar—the supposed ‘good news’ that a new emperor had taken the throne, bringing (so he claimed) peace and justice to the world. Now here was someone out of the blue announcing that there was a different ‘gospel’: that Jesus of Nazareth had taken the throne of the world, and was summoning every man, woman and child to bow the knee to him.”[6]

The guards were interested in hearing Paul’s story because they probably thought Paul was crazy at first. After all, they must have thought, who worships and confesses as King and Lord a crucified Jew?!

Yet, upon further discussion with Paul, they would have seen that Paul was not a lunatic but rather quite sane. If what Paul said about Jesus was true it would make sense that he would be willing to be imprisoned for Him (the guards themselves had suffered for their own king). Further, in light of Jesus being the King and Lord, it makes sense that Paul was encouraged, even in prison.

We see also the impact that Paul’s example had on the Philippians; they were emboldened to “speak the word without fear” (v. 14). How might our boldness help others to be bolder in sharing the gospel? You never know, God may use you to stir up a revival.

Perhaps the most surprising thing we see is that Paul even rejoices when people “preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (v. 15) and “out of selfish ambition” (v. 17). So, we see Paul had a delight in the gospel that bled out into the way he thought about the sharing of the gospel. Paul was passionate about the gospel and desired it to be shared. He had written previously, in Romans, that “he was ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it was the power of God for salvation to all that believe” (Rom. 1:16). Paul continued passionately and boldly unashamed.

So, what are your aspirations? To make money? To travel? To find a new job? To be in a relationship? To do well in school? To be successful in life (however, you define success)? “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.”[7] Our central concern should be the gospel and its advancement.

Sharing the gospel and our…
Our Duty (Phil. 1:27-30)
In Philippians 1:27 Paul tells us about our duty. Paul says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul is telling us that the gospel is amazing and calls us to life change. We cannot understand and be impacted by the gospel without being changed. When we taste the sweetness of the gospel then we begin to be moved to desire to live our life in line with the gospel. We begin to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27). We even begin to see it as a good thing if we suffer for the sake of Christ (v. 29).

Paul’s form of ambassadorship changed but not his purpose and duty. Paul was an ambassador in chains (Eph. 6:20).[8] This is the case for us too. We might serve in different locations and different circumstances but we are still called to be ambassadors for Christ wherever we are. So, the specific call and circumstance might change but we are all called to share and care about the gospel.

When our devotion to the gospel of Christ is waning and deficient we need to work at cultivating a heart of worship. Because not only is the gospel a delight but we also have a duty to share and care about it. We are called to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27) and notice as we stand side by side and encourage each other we can stand firm not and not be afraid of our opponents (v. 27-28).

A Few Questions:
1. What did you find encouraging and what did you find challenging about this post?
2. How is our view of the gospel sometimes deficient?
3. The gospel is the most amazing reality in the world but sometimes it may seem irrelevant. What does that say about us and our focus when that is true of us?
4. What are you tempted to care about more than the gospel? What is your “good news”?
5. Do you care about the gospel? Do you share the gospel?
6. How might your boldness help others to be bold in sharing the gospel?
7. Is it true we should have a devotion to Jesus and His gospel? Or, is it legalistic to say we must be devoted and that we have duty?
8. What would a devotion to the gospel look like in your everyday life?
9. Why would we be devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ? What would motivate us in that way?

____________________

[1] John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), 40.

[2] Paul’s letter “is thoroughly transformed by the gospel” (Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 106 cf. 108).

[3] N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters, 89.

[4] “This passage shows us that when our joy is connected to the advancement of the gospel rather than to our physical condition or to the responses of other people to us, it remains firm, even when these circumstances stand against us” (Frank Thielman, The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, 66).

[5] We see that “God works not merely in spite of but through adverse circumstances” (Ibid.).

[6] Ibid. Cf. D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, 23.

[7] D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, 26.

[8] John Stott, The Message of Philippians, 72.

We Must Make Disciples (Part I)

The goal of the Great Commission is not just for someone to pray a prayer, rather the goal is discipleship. The emphasis in the Great Commission is not on “go,” but on “make disciples” by teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded.[1]

 “The participle [“go”] is probably better translated ‘when you go’ or ‘as you go’”[2] and thus it is a command for all of us in all the phases of our lives to make disciples. “The commission is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in another country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple.”[3]

We can read the Bible because faithful men did not let the chain of discipleship be broken; even with great distress and peril to their lives. But the question is: are we going to be faithful? Are we going to pass on the gospel and the message of radical discipleship? Or are we going to be the weak link? Will we make disciples as the Great Commission commands?

The fields are white for harvest and God promises that if we ask Him for laborers He will send them; however, we must be faithful to teach them. Gospel work is not meant to be done by one person. We are called to work together and make disciples who in turn, make disciples themselves.

If there was a lot of work to be done in harvesting a field, wouldn’t it make sense to recruit help? Would not more work get done with many hands? Many hands make light work or, at least, more work accomplished. It is not only thoroughly biblical to make disciples, it is also logical.

Imagine a farmer was given the task by the king of the land to sow enough seed and harvest enough crops to feed the entire kingdom. How foolish would it be if he sought out to sow the seed and bring in the harvest all by himself? He would fail miserably. Even if he worked terribly hard he would still not be able to cultivate enough food to feed the entire kingdom. The farmer needs fellow laborers but he must also equip them for the task. He must teach them and give them tools.

What would the king’s response be if the farmer failed to bring in enough food because he failed to recruit or equip the laborers he did recruit? The king would surely be outraged. The farmer would be found unfaithful because he did not train the labors so that he could complete the task. Will we hear this same indictment from the King?

Ezekiel 33:6 warns against the watchman that does not blow the trumpet and warn the people that the sword is coming. If we have the gospel, we are responsible to share it. We are responsible to warn men and women of the sword of God’s wrath which is to come. We are also responsible to share the blessed hope that we have in the cross of Christ by which that wrath of God has been diverted from us to Jesus.

Not long after Ezekiel cautions those who would not warn against the sword to come another warning is issued. A warning against those who would not feed God’s sheep, “Should not shepherds feed the sheep?” (Ezek. 34:2). The implied answer is, yes, they should. That is what shepherds do; they feed and take care of sheep. Later it says,

“You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up… So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for the wild beasts” (Ezek. 34:3-4).

That is the horrible result of a shepherd not taking care of and feeding his sheep. They become food for beasts. It is an eye opening picture for us. Imagine being a shepherd in a field and lapsing for one moment only to awake and find one of your sheep slaughtered, bloodied, ripped from limb to limb. Just a short lapse and a wild beast has destroyed what has been entrusted to your care.

We, the mature in Christ, not just pastor-shepherds, have been entrusted with being Christ’s under shepherds and faithfully caring for and feeding His flock. God wants us to be faithful and present every member of his body (every sheep) fully equipped lacking in nothing built up into Christ which is the head (Eph. 4:12; 15). 

Although, most believers will not hold the office of pastor and may never teach from a pulpit,[4] everyone is responsible to grow up in the faith and thus be able to teach, disciple, and minister to others (Eph. 4:11-13; 15; Col. 3:16; Titus 2:2-4; 1 Peter 4:10-11). Stephen is also an example of this (Acts 6:5; Ch. 7) and Timothy was taught by his grandmother as a child (2 Tim. 1:5). In Titus it says that older women are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children (2:3-4).

It is not just official pastors that these warnings from Ezekiel come to. It is all those that are called to faith in Christ, God’s royal priesthood. The sheep must be fed. Who will feed them? The call for discipleship has been issued to every believer. Each Christian must play their part.

Will you? Will you be faithful to make disciples?

_____________________

[1] That, however, in no way negates the fact that we must make disciples of all nations: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the utter most parts of the world (Acts 1:8). See for example: Lk. 24:47, Matt. 28:19 (“all nations”), Rom. 1:5 says “for the sake of his name among all the nations,” and Ps. 96:3 says, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”

[2] Colin Marshal and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine (Kingford, Australia: Matthias  Media, 2009), 13.

[3]Ibid., 13.

[4] See qualifications for shepherd/pastor/elder: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11. Everyone is to strive to meet the qualifications even if they are not called to be in the office of pastor. 

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