Meditation on the importance of world evangelization.
Every year we have a North American Baptist Missions Conference and I serve on the committee that plans the conference. And every year, as we plan the activities, we ask questions like, “How can we make the conference effective? How do we want the conference to affect us? How can the people in our churches be more concerned with missions? How can the people of our churches be more involved in missions?”
These are not just academic questions to me because I am concerned with my own heart that I might be more affected by mission work and more involved in mission work. The notion of world evangelization is not at the bottom of God’s agenda. It is the first item on God’s agenda. It is the reason Jesus died on the cross … to secure a people for the glory of God for all eternity. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).
To bring to God a people from every nation on the earth and every language and every tribe is the reason Jesus died and rose again. So if world missions … and by that I mean evangelism and discipleship, both local and distant … if world missions is not the main agenda of my life or the main agenda of our church, then our agenda is different than God’s agenda. Of course, God does not call everyone, individually, to go to a far off land. But if we are not called to such a life, we must be concerned about using our money to send someone else to those lands. How else can we obey the command of Matthew 28 that commissions us to go make disciples of all nations? Someone has to go to the Muslims in Afghanistan and someone has to pay for that person’s going. We all have to care about the world wide spread of the gospel and we all have to be involved in it.
It is easy to give lip service to the idea of missions, but not really care about it. It is easy to send our money to the mission boards of our missionaries without really being emotionally engaged in what those missionaries are doing. Our perpetual problem is that our hearts are too small and our perspective too introspective. The key to being thrilled with world evangelization is being completely thrilled with God’s glory because that is the ultimate goal of missions.
Matthew 12:18-21 describes the work of Jesus in wondrous terms. Matthew quotes an Old Testament prophecy to show us that the nature of Messiah was what the Old Testament foretold. Here Matthew quotes Isaiah 42.
Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,Isaish 42:1-4
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not qunch,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.
Twice in this passage the Gentiles are mentioned (Mt 12:18, 21). The purpose for the coming of Christ is global. The reason why Jesus came to earth as the Servant of the Father is to gather, not only the Jews back to God, but to gather a people from every nation and tongue to God (cf. Isa 49:5,6). Why is God intent to gather together a people for Himself? Because this will be an everlasting display of honor to God, an eternal demonstration of His mercy and glory. And forever and ever God’s glory will be displayed in His people and they will enjoy the infinite pleasure of knowing Him and of His presence.
When we become consumed with the grandeur of the living God … when it becomes our reason for living … when everything we do is for the glory of God (the promises of marriage, the raising of our children, the use of our money, the way we use our spare time, the way we talk to each other, our study of our Bibles, the time we spend in prayer) … when everything we do we do within the context of God’s glory and realize that everything is made for that purpose, then we will love missions. We will see missions as one of the wondrous things God is doing in our world for His honor for all eternity and we will be thrilled with the idea.
We are not more consumed by the enterprise of global missions because we are not more consumed by the wonder of the absolutely matchless splendor and beauty and wonder of God in our own hearts. Beloved, when the notion of living for the glory of God gets a grip on us, it changes the way we view missions. And even though we cannot all go to a foreign country, we become interested in what our missionaries are doing and we write them with concern and we read their letters with great interest. We pray for them.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”Rev 7:9-11
That is the goal of missions … and that is the only motive which can so ravish our souls that we love the enterprise of world evangelization. The work of missions is not only our duty … it is our marvelous pleasure.
Praying for the nations,