God’s on a mission, stretching all the way back to Abraham, through Moses, Israel, the prophets and culminating in the coming of Jesus. God’s mission is that every single person will come to know him, be transformed and made whole through Jesus, become a part of his people and serve him. And eventually will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns and rule on this earth in righteousness and peace.
Let me say just two things at the beginning here about this. The way God chooses to accomplish his mission is through us; the church. That is, God doesn’t just do it himself, even though God is all powerful. No, God’s foreordained, predestined plan is to use his people to accomplish his mission.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, talking about the church, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are . . .”
God doesn’t use a powerful country, or an empire or any other kind of strength according to the flesh. God has chosen to use the church, weak and lowly as we are, but empowered by the Spirit, to bring to pass his purposes.
Second, speaking of God’s mission, God wants to use all of his people, not just some. A common misunderstanding of some church members goes like this, “We support the pastor who does this for us.” Pastors and leaders are to be involved in God’s mission, yes. But so is everyone in the church.
The proper understanding of this relationship comes out clearly in Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry . . ..” Here we see that Pastors and leaders are to equip you, the whole body, to do this work of ministry. And then notice the phrase a few verses down in v. 16, “when each part is working properly, (it) makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. This is the picture of a healthy church that is working at God’s mission, and God is working through them, enabling them.
What I am saying is that it takes a whole church to do what God is calling us to do here at New Providence. Are you ready to do your part?
Now, let’s look at –
Five key personal practices
– that will help us to be a part of God’s mission. These are practices or habits that put us into the flow of what God is doing around us. God is working all the time to complete his mission and we need to get in tune with what God is doing and join in. As we put these into practice, the goal is that they become second nature to us; just a part of how we live our lives.
1. Live your life in a way that glorifies God.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
God has already placed you in just the right place to be a light and a witness. You are involved in multiple networks of family, friends, coworkers, schoolmates and neighbors. God doesn’t need to send a missionary to these people, because he already has you there.
And the first task is to let your light shine, by the choices you make and actions that you take. Let them reflect Jesus – his way and his teaching. This is what people need the most, to see Jesus in us.
People aren’t very interested in talk, at least not without action. If we talk about our faith but don’t live it, we turn people away. But let me say just as quickly that you don’t have to be perfect to be a witness. It just means that when we do fail, we are to be humble, and make things right. This is also a witness of a different way of living.
Live your life in a way that glorifies God, or simply practice your Christian faith.
2. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost.
This is how Jesus operated. Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus was not like the Pharisees, who looked down on the lost with scorn and judgment. He had genuine love for them. This is why he came, as he said in Luke 19:10, “to seek and to save the lost.” Those whose lives are not together, who are overcome by sins of various kinds.
Jesus was motivated by compassion. And we need to be careful of our motives. We don’t join in God’s mission to try to make a big church; or to focus on numbers; or to have success that can be quantified in worldly term. We reach out because our love for others compels us to; because we share God’s heart of love for the lost. And in the end, that is the only thing that will lead us to give, serve and take the kind of risks that we will have to, to be a part of God’s mission.
We also need to guard our hearts against condescending, judgmental attitudes. We can’t be Pharisees and join in God’s mission. The very people you don’t like, judge and look down on might be who God wants you to reach out to. So, pray for God to give you a heart of love and concern for the lost around you. That God will transform your heart so that you can reach out in love to all that God brings across your path. We need to pray this often because of the human heart which easily falls into self-righteous, judgmental attitudes.
Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost.
3. Regularly pray for someone who is lost.
In Psalm 67:2, the writer prays for God to act, so “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” The nations here, are all those outside the people of God, who have no relationship with God. This is an example of praying for those who don’t know God yet, or God’s saving power – that they will come to know and experience this.
But we can also pray for specific people that we know, who don’t know the Lord.Ask God to put someone on your heart, someone even beyond an unsaved loved one, that you can pray for regularly. If you ask, and listen, God will give you someone to pray for. And then pray, “God make yourself known, work in their lives, draw them to yourself, open their eyes, speak to them, work in their heart.”
Regularly pray for someone who is lost.
4. Build relationships with the lost.
Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Jesus interacted with lost, and while he was with them in genuine relationship with them, he engaged them with the gospel.
Are we open to make space for new people in our lives? To reach out to the lost in our networks of relationships, or to venture into new networks that are beyond our comfort zones?
- Some of us only build relationships with other believers. We become insulated. But as Jesus said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” – Matthew 9:12.
- Some of us might feel our relationship capacity is full with our current family and friends. We feel we don’t have time for others. But God is calling us to make space for others, especially unbelievers.
Build genuine relationships with the lost. Love them and serve them.
5. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share.
Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” (NLT)
Again, God is at work all around us. And we need to have eyes to see what is going on, so that we can join in.
You may say, Pastor, “I don’t have all the answers.” Well, welcome to the club! No one has all the answers. All God asks you to do is to share what he has done in your life. Like Jesus said to the man that he cast a legion of demons out of in Mark 5:19, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Ask God to show you an opportunity to share this very week. And then keep your eyes open for it.
So these are five key practices:
- Live a life that glorifies God
- Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost
- Regularly pray for someone who is lost
- Build relationships with the lost
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share
These are all ways that you can join in God’s mission in your personal life; in all the places that God has put you with all the people that you connect with.
I like the sign over the door, You are now entering the mission field. And if we at New Providence are going to accomplish God’s mission, each one of us needs to do our part. And it starts in our personal lives.