The Mission

 

THE MISSION

Christ’s final words after his resurrection and before his ascension to heaven were to his disciples. Called the Great Commandment, it is shown in Matthew 28:16-20.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” “

It is great in both scope, and importance. It is ambitious, as all great missions are, but to understand it, we must understand the One who gave it. He loves to love. We may not all be missionaries or preachers. We may not all be evangelists or teachers. We may not all write worship songs, and that’s great, because God has equipped us differently. God loves variety. It’s more effective in sharing the gospel. Ephesians 4 tells us that we have different  roles but, “from him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” We are different parts of the same body, all with different attributes, and we use the gifts He has given us for His glory, which frees us from the need to compare ourselves with others.

All Christians today are the eventual result of the obedience of those 11 disciples. Because they “made disciples of all nations,” we are now believers. We are the result of an ongoing spiritual set of dominoes. Others influenced and taught us the ways of Christ, and we have the opportunity to carry on that calling, and do the same.

The Great Commandment comes from the great Commander. In John 15:5 Jesus clearly states the important of communion with Him when he says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

You should have godly desires and goals for your ministry but what is God’s will for it? No matter how wise the advice you’ve been given is, or how much experience you have, always seek His direction and blessing. Remain in the vine. Don’t seek Him only when you start something new. Remain. Seek Him always. Don’t become complacent. We can not predict His next move. He may surprise you.

Attempting to build a church or  a ministry can become an idol. It can transform into an aim which has a foundation with impure motives, whether that be trying to be bigger or better than another church, or trying to use its growth as a measure of success.

Serving God is a tremendous joy and privilege. It should never be a task we dread, and if it starts to, we must be honest with Him. We all need the rest and refreshment He promises. We may start with noble intentions, but if we are not careful and not open to guidance and encouragement when necessary, ministry can easily become just another task to accomplish. If it doesn’t bear the fruit we expect it to, we may become frustrated and resentful towards others or even God, so we need to guard our heart and be honest. If you’re a leader, no-one expects you to be prefect. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to be worn out at times, but don’t suffer in silence. Don’t give the enemy something to work with. Be accountable. Take a break if need be. Ask for help. (You may be surprised at the willingness of others to assist you.) Rest. Enjoy life, but most importantly – spend time with Him. Remember, the church you attend, even if you’re the pastor, it’s not yours. Just like our money, our time, our marriages and even our bodies aren’t ours. All we have comes from the One who gave it all for us. Return it to Him. Work with God, not just for God.

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

John 15:14-17

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” “

Acts 1:6-11

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He Restores

He redeems

Don’t tell God what He can’t do, for He is able to prove you wrong. Moses received a calling from God, but then told Him the reasons why he couldn’t do it. Let’s look at this exchange from Exodus 4:10-11.

“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

God knows what He can do, and He knows what you can do with Him. Just because you’ve never been a great public speaker, or singer, or writer, or preacher, or teacher, or mentor or whatever, doesn’t mean you won’t be. Your past doesn’t dictate your future. David had no experience slaying giants, but that’s one of the greatest things he’s known for. Joseph had no experience running an entire nation, but he was the second in command in Egypt during the time it needed strong leadership the most. Paul was famous for targeting Christians and being a strict servant of the law, but then became a man who united the church and spoke of the power of freedom in Christ. Peter was known as a man of hasty and fear-driven decisions, and yet became an eloquent and bold speaker.

That last example is spectacularly described in Acts 4:13:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Wow. They were ordinary men, but all could see that they were people “who had been with Jesus.” May our lives be described in the same way.

You have gifts inside of you that need to be activated, or re-activated. Don’t let them lie dormant. Paul encouraged Timothy as a young leader of his church to “fan into flame the gift of God.” God tells us the same thing today, and everyday. What God desires is humility and willingness. He’s not looking for the most talented or best looking or influential. Like the prophet Samuel who looked at Jesse’s sons until finally choosing David (1 Samuel 16), we are reminded that God values and honours different attributes than the world.

” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” “

Don’t agree with what the world says about you, and don’t let your mistakes haunt you. God forgets them. So should you. The only things God reminds you of are His loving and truthful character. He is a God of second, third, fourth, etc chances. Like the prodigal son, we are never so far that God can’t see us and embrace us when we return to our identity and purpose in Him. He is our Redeemer and Restorer. You may have left relationships, ministries or opportunities in such a way that you can’t see any hope of restoration. Thankfully, God sees what we do not, and when we align our perspective with His, stand back and watch out, for His glory is coming!

In Ezra, we see how God moved the heart of king Cyrus to welcome back the exiled Jews to start building a temple to God in Jerusalem. Their enthusiasm only lasted so long however, and after opposition and focusing on building their own houses, rather than God’s, the project was abandoned. All that was built was the foundations. It was a forgotten monument to their forgotten Lord. Everyday for approximately 16 years, the people would’ve seen it, yet ignored it and considered it unimportant, compared to their own projects. However God never forgets His people or the mission He gives them. It wasn’t until almost 20 years after God first moved the heart of king Cyrus and the exiled Jews to start building the temple that it was finally completed.

Haggai 1:2-9 picks up where Ezra left off, and shows God rebuking His people’s wrong priorities. 2:4-9 show His faithfulness and encouragement, and for those of us who wonder if we can ever get back what we lost, may Haggai 2:9 offer you great strength. If we repent and obey, we will not only receive what we lost, but even more so.

“The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” “

And if still you doubt that God is a God who restores, just read the last chapter of Job.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:10

“The Lord replied to them:

“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you
an object of scorn to the nations.

“I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea
and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea.
And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.

Surely he has done great things!
Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!
Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.

The trees are bearing their fruit;
the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.
Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.”

Joel 2:19-27

Allow The Word To Work Within You

Allow the word to work within you

Sometimes we think of the word “return” negatively. If we buy something that we don’t like, we return it to the shop. However it can also be a good term, such as when we return home after a voyage.

Isaiah 55:10-11 tell us that the Word of God returns to Himself.

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

The King James translation says, God’s words, “shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Nothing God says or does is wasted. It is always for our benefit. The Word was given to us with a definitive purpose and we are blessed to have it. To live life without it would be extremely challenging.

So, if God’s Word doesn’t return to Him empty, it obviously returns to Him full, but full of what? Simply put, when we soak in the Word and let it do its powerful, enlightening work within us, we can offer up more of ourselves to God. The Word shines the light of truth upon the dark, concealed places within us – the ugly places that need healing. The more that the Word reveals within us that needs change, the more of our thinking and priorities we must give to Him.

It’s like a game of tennis, with an endless back and forth; a limitless loop of give and return. God continues to give us Himself in new ways daily, and we in turn give ourselves to Him. Our relationship with God is a lifelong series of God giving, and us returning. He gives us gifts, which we return to Him in service. He gives us grace, which we return in living with joyous freedom. He gives us love which we give to Him and others. He offers His Son, and we offer our praises.  We are chosen vessels, with the tremendous privilege of being used by Him for His glorious purposes.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

That’s very encouraging. The Bible is not like any other book, so we can’t treat is as such. It is not a textbook, or a novel, or a history book, or a how-to book. It is the word of God which works within those of us who believe it, and unlike every other book we’ve read (unless we travel in literary social circles perhaps), we actually know the Author! Its words give us direction, truth, freedom, wisdom and joy. We learn about Christ, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and those believers who have gone before us. In its pages, we are presented with the majesty of creation, the saving grace of the gospel, and the mysterious end of all things. 66 books written in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic), by about 40 different authors (including prophets, fishermen, tax collectors, etc) over approximately 1500 years – and it all points to who God is, and who we are in Him. That’s due to the fact that as 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” It has power beyond any book, and thus it alone has, and continues to, inspire endless books, songs, and sermons, let alone all the lives it has saved and transformed. We never stop learning from it, but we must examine the condition of our heart when we approach the Word. How many discussions and choices has the Word prompted within your life? How has it stirred you to do the right thing, and stopped you from doing the wrong thing? How many times has God brought a specific verse to your mind to help you, or someone else? How often do you meditate upon it? How many Scriptures can you remember compared to how many facts you can easily recall (sports scores, Hollywood gossip, etc)? How often do you actually obey the Word rather than just read or listen to it (James 1:22)? Is the Bible the first thing you read in the morning, and the last at night? Has your Bible been untouched for days, or weeks, only to be looked at when the preacher asks you to open it during a sermon? These are all challenging questions we must ask ourselves. The Bible is such a precious gift. It is a glorious representation of God’s character and story. People have been persecuted, tortured and killed for its translation and promotion. We must embrace it with joyful thanksgiving.

God deposits the Word inside our hearts for the purpose of it working within us, so it does not return to Him empty. That’s why when we pray for the preaching, teaching or reading of the Word, we don’t only pray for the speaker, but we pray for the listener. We need soft, humble hearts to let the Word dwell within us and do its work. We can reject it, or we can accept it. His truth may be challenging or convicting, but it’s also life. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), the choice of how we accept the Word belongs to us. We must not fight the Word when it settles in our heart, or dismiss it just because we find its truth inconvenient, uncomfortable or unpopular. Our sinful heart will always want to rebel, but we need to choose to allow the Word to fall upon a life that is willing to be transformed, and repent and change as needed.

With the work of the Word coming alive within us, it returns to Him having achieved His purpose, leaving us changed as we further reflect His likeness.

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.

I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.”

Psalm 119:97-105

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12