If you go on YouTube and search for “funny dad iPad gift,” you will find a video clip of a Dad who is using an iPad which was given to him as a gift from his daughter. The video clip is funny because the Dad has misunderstood what the iPad is and what it is for. Because of that, he uses the iPad in such way that not only does not fit with its intended use, it ruins it, and the Dad doesn’t have a clue about what he has done.
In many ways, we are very much like that Dad, except that we may be misusing something that is far more precious than an iPad. We may be ruining something which cannot be replaced, like an iPad, that is, our lives. Your life is far more precious than you know, for you were made for much more than this life on it own could ever offer. God created and redeemed you so you could be part of His Mission in the world, and without an understanding of the Mission of God and how we fit into it, we can fall short of stepping into all that God has for us in life. Even worse, we can misuse our lives and even ruin them and allow harm to come to those around us in the process.
Here at the church where I serve, Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, we don’t want to see people misuse their lives or fall short of all that God has for them in life. We want to be a church that helps the people of the Fraser Valley to thrive by reaching them with the Good News of God’s love and leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus. So that is why this post is the start of a series called the Mission of God’s People, which is based on a book of the same name by Christopher Wright. The hope is that this series will help people to more fully engage with the Mission of God and step into those divinely ordained moments and opportunities for which they were created, redeemed and uniquely gifted to fulfill. In this post, the focus is on knowing who we are in Jesus so we can engage more fully with God’s mission and live the fullness of life that He has for us.
We will be exploring this theme through a series of three questions, the first of which is “What is the Mission of God?” The Cambridge Dictionary defines “mission” as “the action of sending someone to a place to do a particular job.” To understand what God’s Mission is, let’s look at two passages from the Bible, one from the beginning and the other from the end. The first passage describes a promise that God gave after His very good creation fell into brokenness. He said to the serpent, who was really Satan in disguise, And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Bible scholars call this the proto-evangelium or the first mention of the Gospel, that Good News that God was going to send a future descendant of the woman Eve who would ransom all of God’s creation from the evil hands into which it fell and begin the process of renewing and restoring all things.
The second passage we will look at is from a Revelation that Jesus gave to a follower of His named John. Through a series of visions, Jesus showed John what is going on in the past, present and future in the heavenly realms. In chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, starting with verse 1, we read:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
These two passages describe the Mission of God for us. What God is going to do is get all of creation from Genesis 3:15 to Revelation 21, He is going to take this world from its broken and fallen state and bring it into a new reality where all the earth is not only restored and healed, it is also reunited with heaven to form the new heavens and earth where there is no more sorrow, death, crying or pain, where we will behold the wonder and beauty of God with our own eyes and we will live with Him there forever. That is the Mission of God and it is a Mission that He will accomplish.
The second question that I am inviting you to think about is “Who are you?” And the answer to that question is that you are a beloved, forgiven child of God. And we know that that is who you are because God is a missionary God.
God the Father sent His Son Jesus to fulfill the first part of God’s Mission which was to redeem, or buy back, all of creation. Through a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, God the Son became a little God-human baby in the womb of young peasant girl named Mary. That baby became the adult Jesus who taught people about the opportunity they had to enter into the Kingdom of God, that is, life under God’s rule and reign, through Jesus. Jesus not only taught about the kingdom of God, He also demonstrated what the fulfillment of life in the Kingdom of God will be like as He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised the dead.
Then, when the time was just right, Jesus entered into the ultimate battle between heaven and hell as He took upon Himself the cross that we deserve and invited all our guilt and shame to pour out its worst on him instead of us. And when our punishment was paid in full, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” then gave up His life and died.
We know that Jesus fully completed the first part of God’s Mission because on the third day that followed God the Father raised Him from the dead. Jesus’s resurrection is the sign which shows that the redemptive part of God’s plan for the world is now complete and now everyone who looks to Jesus in faith has the forgiveness, salvation and eternal life that He has won for us. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is a beloved, forgiven child of God.
But as wonderful as all this is, and believe me, it is wonderful, this was only Part One of God’s two-part Mission. Forty days after He rose from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven, He passed over from the dimension that this world is in into the dimension of heaven. One day in the future, Jesus is going to return to this dimension in a way that everyone will see. He will dispel all evil, recreate this world, raise us from the dead and recreate our dusty remains into new resurrection bodies that will never get sick, never grow old and never die. That’s when Jesus will be able to sit down and say to His Father, “Father, I have completed all that you have given me to do. Both parts of your mission are now complete!”
God’s Mission not only involves the redemption and renewal of all creation. It also requires the gathering of human beings into the family of God. To accomplish this part of His Mission, God the Father sent His Holy Spirit into the world.
In God’s Kingdom, it is all about the relationships and God knows that the ultimate relational value is love. Love cannot be forced. If you force someone to love you, it isn’t really love. Therefore, God has given every human being dominion over their own heart. God then pursues us and woos us into turning around to receive His love which then generates a response of love in us. This work of pursuing, wooing and turning us is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can speak directly to our spirit, but often the way that the Holy Spirit works is through ordinary things like the paper and ink of the words in the Bible, like the water of Holy Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion, and through broken and flawed human beings like you and me.
As people receive in their hearts God’s Words of love to them from the Bible, as they are washed clean of all their sin in the water of Holy Baptism, as they are nourished, strengthened and renewed by the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion, and as people are encouraged by the compassion, the love and the stories of God’s people sharing His love with others, the Holy Spirit works through all those things to give people the gift of faith and then help them to mature in that faith so that they grow to become more like Jesus.
You are beloved, forgiven children of God. But “What is the purpose of your life?” The answer to that question is found in John 20:21, where Jesus said to His followers on the day that He rose from the dead, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
God the Father has created you, Jesus has saved you, and the Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith and brought you into the family of God. And now, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is sending you into the world as His missionary to work together with all your sisters and brothers in Christ around the world in reaching people with God’s love and leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus.
But God does not send out without the resources you need to accomplish the Mission that He has given you. God not only sends you on Mission, He also equips you for Mission. God has given you a full Missionary Toolbox which He has packed for us so that we have everything that we need to engage with His Mission.
First, God gives us in our genetic makeup and our life experiences, both good and bad, just the right personal foundation that we need to have for mission.
Then God transforms us for Mission. As we receive the infinite love and acceptance of our perfect Heavenly Father, as we live in the unconditional forgiveness of our self-giving Saviour, and as we follow the all-wise guidance of our faithful encourager, the Holy Spirit, God transforms us into a new person who has been so healed and renewed by God’s love that all we want to do is love God with our entire being and love the people around us as much as we love ourselves. In other words, God gives us just the right heart for mission.
Finally, God equips us for Mission. He gives us special gifts and abilities which can be used in unique ways in His Mission of renewing and restoring all things. We read about these gifts in Romans 12: 6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6-8)
Imagine what it would be like if every Christian Church and every follower of Jesus was able to use the life, resources and gifts God had given them to fully engage with the Mission of God wherever God had placed them? We would be like yeast working its way through a large batch of dough and, even though we may seem to be small, insignificant and unimpressive, as God worked through all of us, we would change the world!
So where do we start? We start by resting in the One who gives us life, hope and peace. We rest in the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and then, as we nourished by that love, we then simply be the person God has created and redeemed us to be within the network of relationships that God has given to us so that His love and His redeeming, renewing and recreating work would go through us out into the lives of others.
The encouragement that I leave with you today is to know who you are in Jesus for you are part of something that is far bigger and far more important than you could ever even imagine, the renewal and restoration of all things. Amen.
(This message was shared on April 28, 2019 at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC.)