I remember taking a group of young disciples to a gospel presentation by weight lifters performing various feats of strength. It was kind of cool! I have to admit, as a former college football player who grew up thinking Christians were kind of wimpy oddballs who didn’t have much of a social life, to see physically strong men who were Christians, ripping phone books in half and breaking concrete blocks, was kind of intriguing.
It was followed by a message at the end, “Being strong is just an avenue to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus died for you sins. Ask Him to come into your heart so you can be forgiven, avoid hell, and go to heaven when you die.” This is the end of many typical gospel presentations, but is that all there is?
I asked the young disciples what they thought when it was over. They were very fired up. “He said nothing about committing your life to following Jesus or joining with His people in serving His purpose.” It was vastly different than the first message of the early church ” with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40).
What did Peter say as he kept on exhorting to “be saved from the perverse generation?” It can be seen in how they responded as they were “added” and “devoted” to God’s way of life among His people (met daily “in the temple” and “house to house”) sent as missionaries to the culture around them as they made an impact as missionaries to the culture around them (Acts 2:41-44).
The young disciples with me said, “The only way these decisions are going to last, and the only way they are going to effectively engage His purpose is if they join with His family together on His mission.”
His Purpose is Bigger than Just “Me” getting something from Him
Unfortunately these types of presentations have reduced the great story of the Bible to a message about God and me! Why does the Bible tell us the story of Israel? Why are there so many letters given to the church? Why do we have all the laws that were to govern God’s people in their common life together? Why does the Bible contain the numerous prophetic messages to the whole people of God?
It is because the story of the Bible shows us the journey of God’s people as they engage in His mission for them. It is a story about His family moving together on His mission. It is about His people being commissioned to be salt and light for the glory of His name and the good of this world. It began in the garden with the first family; continued through twelve brothers who became families that became a nation, Israel; and finally through His church which is God’s family baptized into Jesus. The Bible contains the story of God’s people, chosen by Him as His possession, to fill the earth with a people who reveal His fullness/glory as they engage in His mission.
1Pe 2:9-10 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
Eph 1:22-23 MSG …At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. (23) The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
Eph 3:10-11 MSG Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known… (11) All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus.
The outpost of heaven
One writer referred to the church as, “not something additional or optional. It is at the very heart of God’s purposes. Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under His rule (His Kingdom) as they move in His mission to the earth. It would be a glorious outpost of the kingdom of God, an embassy of heaven.” Paul expresses this thought of “citizens or a colony of heaven” in the book of Philippians 1:27, 3:20. When explorers put stakes in the ground they were claiming the land for the Kingdom they represented. The church is like God’s stake in the ground, an outpost that by its very existence declares, “God is king here.” J. I. Packer has summed up the church’s mission this way: “The task of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible as we live God’s values and presence among us in front of a watching world.”
God’s family of Spirit filled disciples together on mission
The Bible begins with God’s family on His mission. Adam and Eve were called on the mission to “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, etc.” The Bible ends with God’s people gathered around His throne at the great family event “The marriage supper of the Lamb” Rev 19:9 21:9. Throughout the pages of the Bible is the story of God’s family pursuing His mission. Through all the successes and failures this theme is worked out.
The only way the family nature of the Godhead will be displayed in the earth is as His church walks as the family of God and participates in His mission. It takes both aspects of “Family’ and “Mission” for His people to fulfill His plan. Everything we do on this earth will either be building, encouraging, and strengthening His family (relating with God and each other), and engaging with that family in God’s mission (testifying/evangelizing the demonstration of the Gospel).
There is no idea in the Bible about being a “me and Jesus” part time Christian whose extent of activity is occasionally attending a corporate meeting. We are to get out of the meetings and into the everyday life of building God’s Spirit filled family of disciples as they move together on His mission to the earth.
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