Archive for August, 2010
In his book on missions, titled, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, John Piper suggests that, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.”
At first this idea that missions (and evangelism) is not the ultimate goal of the church may shock some; yet, I suggest that we cannot understand the necessity of missions and evangelism until we understand the priority of worship. Once we understand that worship is the ultimate priority of every believer and every believing community, then we will see that worship is the goal and fuel of evangelism and missions, and we will gain a genuine passion for both. Let me explain.
Genesis 1:26-27, teaches that we were created in the image and likeness of God to image or reflect God’s glory—this is worship. Essentially, we were created to worship. However, Adam’s sin marred God’s image in humanity, for every one of us participated in Adam’s sin with the consequence that we too bear Adam’s guilt (Romans 5:12). Thus, we are no longer able to reflect God’s glory truly and faithfully, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). A quick look at headlines evidences human sinfulness; instead of worshiping the one, true and living God, we prefer to worship those things which He created, including ourselves (Romans 1:18-32).
The good news of the gospel is that the Father is seeking genuine worshipers, those who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). To worship in spirit means to worship God out of the overflow of the Holy Spirit in us. To worship in truth is to worship God on the basis of the truth of who Jesus is for us. Thus, spirit and truth worship engages both heart and mind as transformed by the Spirit of God through the power of the gospel.
Here’s the point! There are people in this world who presently do not worship God through Christ. Their hearts and minds are geared toward self-worship or some other distorted worship. Since the Father is seeking genuine worshipers to worship Him, then we must join the Father on this mission. And since the people who presently do not worship God truly can only become genuine worshipers by a transformation of heart and mind that comes by the Grace of God through faith in Christ, then our mission is to declare the truth about Christ (the gospel) to the uttermost parts of the world, beginning right where we live (Acts 1:8). So, missions/evangelism is really joining God in the gathering of worshipers who have been transformed by the truth of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.
You see, the ultimate goal of the church is worship, and the worship of the living God on the basis of the truth of Christ is what should fuel and drive our missions and evangelism efforts. This is our mission!
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Mark Dever interviews Carolyn McCulley on women, Christianity and feminism. I just finished listening to it this afternoon, and as a father of five daughters, I found it very helpful.
I’ve posted a few thoughts on organizing your reading lists over at the 9Marks blog.
If you have noticed that my blog posting has been sparse lately, it’s because we are on vacation. So far it has been a relaxing vacation AND fruitful! I have shifted my reading focus from research during my sabbatical to more edifying reading during vacation. Right now we are at the half point of our vacation.
On our first week, we were able to go to Daytona Beach. One of the treats of this leg of our trip was spending time with some neighbors from Indiana, the Harts. We were privileged to get to know the Harts as our neighbors in Madison, Indiana. We have five girls and they have three boys. The day we moved in next door to the Harts, their boys ran in the house when they saw all the girls and vowed never to leave their house again. Subconsciously, they became part of the He-man woman haters club. Over the four years we lived next to the Harts, our girls and their boys became the best of friends. The sweetest part of our relationship with the Harts was the time we spent together and the joy of knowing the Lord allowed us to minister to neighbors. We were privileged to attend the baptism of mom and dad Hart.
A sweet providence during this leg of the trip was a special visit by Greg Wills and company. The Wills (minus Cathy) were in Key West and they were driving through Daytona. We were so blessed to get to spend and evening and morning with the Wills as they were passing through! Clearly, one of the lessons the Lord has reminded me on this vacation is the joy of deep friendships with loving and godly people.
This week, I have taken a personal stroll down memory lane as we have been at my parents. My dad was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday because of a leg injury that did not heal. When we arrived in Avon Park, we went immediately to see him at the hospital. This was the hospital that facilitated our move from Puerto Rico to Florida, for this was the hospital that had offered my dad the job of comptroller in 1973. It’s been many years since he had worked there, but it was a stroll down memory lane.
Another memory has been noticing the houses around Lake Olivia where family and friends lived while I was growing up. Each morning I would go out for a run and remember. No more family or friends live in these houses; in fact, I know no one who lives around the lake anymore. So much has changed, but the memories remain.
The highlight of our time in Avon Park has been visiting with my parents, grandmother and other family members. My daughters have the privilege of knowing and interacting with their great-grandmother and her sisters and brother. We spend some time in the nursing home visiting with my great aunt and uncle, then visiting another great aunt in her home. Last night we were in my parents bedroom – all of us – with my grandmother, just remembering and laughing. Lesson two – the great joy of family!
The Lord reminds us that we were not meant to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Consequently, the Lord has given us marriage and family and friends. He has given us one another, and we are to live in community, sharing life together. These have been great lessons. I love my family; I love my friends, and I can’t wait to rejoin my family and friends called High Pointe!
When we look at Scripture, it’s clear that to be a Christian is to be a whole-hearted follower of Jesus Christ. In Luke 5:27, Jesus noticed a tax collector named Levi and commanded him to follow Him. When Jesus says, “Follow Me” we must follow! And to follow Christ we must be willing to leave everything behind (Luke 5:28). This is what Levi (Matthew) did, and this is what it means to follow Christ.
Notice that there is a cost to following Christ. Jesus said it is foolish to follow Him without counting the cost (Luke 14:28-30). It seems that some today want to follow Christ, but they simply have not counted the cost. What is the cost of following Christ? Let me highlight only three from Luke’s gospel:
Following Christ may cost you your life (Luke 9:23-26). Christ demands your life. In the same way that He lived His life with a focus on His cross of death, so too we who follow Him must be willing to live our lives for His glory and His gospel, realizing it may cost us our lives. This is the reality that Paul spoke of when he said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Following Christ may cost you your family and friends (Luke 12:51-53; 14:25-26). It’s hard for some to understand that our relationship with Christ comes before all other human relationships. Only when we realize this will we truly be able to love those around us. I was the first one to follow Christ in our family, and it created great turmoil. My parents were angry, but realizing the riches of God’s grace, I had to follow Christ. To have followed my parents’ desires would have been to reject Christ and be condemned to eternal damnation. Nevertheless, in God’s great grace, my entire family came to faith in Christ six months later. Thus, though following Christ cost me my family for six months, what I gained was much greater: brothers and sisters in Christ for eternity (Luke 18:29-30).
Following Christ may cost you your possessions (Luke 18:18-27). Jesus warned His disciples about how hard it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven: not because God is opposed to wealth but because wealth tends to become people’s master. Jesus warned, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
The issue of following Christ is not that it WILL cost you these things; the issue is that it MAY. It’s not about having to give these things up when you come to Christ; it’s about being willing to forsake everything to follow Him. Are you a follower of Christ? If not, then what is keeping you from following Christ: fear, friends, family, wealth? “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own life” (Luke 9:25)?