Some people [Christians and non-Christians alike] really have a problem with the idea of missions and evangelism. They find it to be intrusive and intolerant of others’ beliefs. I mean, how could we be so arrogant as to think that what we believe is correct and that everyone else has it wrong, and then to go as far as dedicating our lives to convincing the world of this one and only gospel?!
Timothy Keller, one of my favorite preachers, used this simple illustration in one of his sermons to help us understand the heart behind missions.
If someone I know is sick with the same deadly disease that I once had, and I know what they need to get well, the right thing to do is share with that person what it was that cured me. I wouldn’t want to keep the information to myself unless I am incredibly selfish and unloving! So if I know that a real encounter with Jesus will transform lives and save souls, how can I keep it to myself?!
There are others who know that missions is something of importance. They might even be able to enthusiastically quote Matthew 28:19-20 or Acts 1:8 where Jesus gives the command to “go.” But could they really tell us why it is important to be involved in missions? Do they understand why it is such a big deal? Do you?
There will always be a lack of commitment [in anything] if we don’t have a clear understanding of the why behind it. Reading through the Bible, one realizes that God started with the why behind missions. It’s all there in black and white [and red for those of us with the fancy Bibles that put Jesus’ words in red].
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? When God created the heavens and the earth, mankind was in perfect relationship with God, with others, with self, and with the environment. Imagine a world where it’s easy to spend time with God because he’s right there in front of you, where there are no conflicts with other people, no self-esteem problems, and no natural disasters. WOW! Right?! But when Adam and Eve sinned, they ruined God’s creation and these perfect relationships were broken. I don’t know if you realize this, but God totally could have just destroyed the earth at that point, but instead he initiated his mission to redeem mankind. WHY?! The only conclusion I’ve come to is that something about us being with him in heaven someday was worth it to him – worth the rejection he would experience from his people, the pain of watching us suffer the consequences of our disobedience, and the brutal death he would endure on our behalf.
Shall we continue with the story? In chapter 12 of Genesis, God called Abraham to GO so that all people on earth would be blessed through him. From Abraham came Isaac, from Isaac came Jacob [God changed his name to Israel by the way], and from the 12 sons of Jacob the nation of Israel was born. God miraculously rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and set them apart to be an example to other nations. They were meant to be a nation that would give glory to the one true God and attract others to him. But what eventually happened? Israel was influenced by the sinfulness of the other nations to the point of declaring that they wanted to be just like them, and instead of making God known, they rejected him and worshiped idols.
See, God wasn’t just concerned about Israel! He wanted them to assume their identity as his people and live accordingly so that others might come to know him as well!
Throughout the entire old testament you can see God’s concern for the foreigners among his people and his interest in reaching the nations. Thus, one realizes that missions is something that comes from the very heart of God, and it is based on his love for mankind.
Now here’s the best part, the missionary heart of God in its maximum expression: JESUS.
God himself came to earth as a man to make himself known and offer a way of salvation for all who would believe!
“For God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life!”
Now, what did Jesus’ ministry look like. He taught [individuals and multitudes], evangelized, he trained and prepared his 12 disciples, he healed the sick, and he set people free from demons…jews and foreigners alike. He entered the Jewish temples and he took time to talk to the Samaritan woman by the well. Seems like a good model for us to follow.
When we read Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says “go.” It is a command. We are commanded to go and make disciples of Jesus who obey his teaching. It is not optional! Most of us don’t like to be told what to do and we make what we want of these types of statements in the bible, picking and choosing the parts we like and ignoring the rest.
The work of redemption was finished on the cross, but the work of sharing this good news with the world was left to Jesus’ disciples…US!
Now, a better translation of “go” would be “as you go,” because the original verb is in the continuous tense. “As you go” implies constant movement to somewhere outside of your comfort zone, at the very least!
Acts 1:8 “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.”
Our lives as Christians should be proof of the existence of God! That is what a witness does. But the implications of this verse actually go a bit further than that. That word “witnesses” in the original greek is “martyr,” someone who is killed because of their belief in Jesus. Many of us want the power of the holy spirit in our lives, but are we willing to give our whole lives completely to Jesus!? To the point of death? Are we willing to die to our carnal desires and live according to what he taught? REALLY?!
We are called to take the gospel wherever we are. The book of Acts is the story of those who have gone before us and the new testament letters are our guide for the expansion of the Kingdom of heaven. What a privilege it is that God allows us to be a part of his plan of redemption.
When we realize that missions is something that originates in the heart of God, we begin to experience the joy of doing it in every moment of life no matter where we are. We GO because we truly know the love of the one sending us.
So my prayer for you is that you receive a revelation of this love that is so strong that it keeps you restless and motivates you to get involved in missions!