Some of what I will share with you today will be familiar. And that for two reasons:
- Back in July I taught on this topic of joining in God’s mission.
- And since then, I have refocused the teaching and have been putting it up on the screen before our services for the last several months.
I want to share it in this form, this morning as we relaunch, as it were, our efforts to connect with our neighbors and others.
I am taking a cue from Peter when he says in, 2 Peter 1:12 – “I intend always to remind you of these (things), though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” And so I am here this morning reminding you of some things.
As we read the Bible we come to understand that God is 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 be transformed and made whole through Jesus; that each person will become a part of his people and serve him, and eventually will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns and rules on this earth in righteousness and peace; when he makes all things new. And God’s mission is to be our mission, for we are his people; it’s to be our priority.
The title says, “disciplines” of joining in God’s mission. And that’s because –
It takes work!
– to accomplish God’s mission. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Here Paul is talking about how he and Apollos are both working together on the same team, fulfilling God’s mission to the world. And notice the language that’s used. Paul speaks of “planting” and “watering;” that is, farming language. He says in v. 6 – “I planted, Apollos watered.” This continues in vs. 7 and 8. And then in v. 9 he says of himself and Apollos that they are “God’s fellow workers.” Being a part of God’s mission is real labor and it is hard work and toil.
And so what I am sharing with you are seven disciplines for joining in God’s mission. These are practices that we have to work at for sure, but they allow us to be used by God to accomplish his mission in this world.
1. Let your life be a witness to others
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14, 16
And who wants to hear people ‘go on’ about a topic when you know full well that they don’t put those things into practice themselves? The way you live your life is foundational. No Christian is perfect, but we must be about the business of living the Christian life ourselves, to join in God’s mission. And then if you fail, be a model for others about how to confess, repent and get back on your feet.
Our lives are our most basic witness to what we believe about God and the saving work that he is doing through his Son, Jesus. Let your life be a light to this. Be disciplined in your walk with God.
2. Build relationships with the lost
Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners – Luke 15:1-2. He engaged those who needed God’s love and grace. As he said in Matthew 9:12 – “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
And we must also relate to those who need God’s saving grace, and not just fellow believers. But this takes time to invest in people’s lives. It means making room for them in your life – beyond your family and current friends to love them and to serve their needs.
And everyone is so busy today! Will we make the effort? Will we make the time? This takes concerted effort.
3. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” – Matthew 9:36.
We need Jesus’ compassion in our hearts. This should be our true motivation. We should not be motivated by just getting people to come to our church. Who knows where they might end up? This church won’t be right for everyone we relate to. The point is that we care and love those we relate to and seek what is best for them.
We also need Jesus’ compassion because we easily fall into self-righteousness. Some people’s struggles and failure we judge and then we hold them at a distance. But Jesus has compassion on each of us no matter what our struggle; and we have all failed God terribly.
This will stretch us; but it’s the same grace that allowed us to be saved and to be a part of his people. And so we must give it to all.
4. Regularly pray for someone who is lost
Pray for God’s will, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” – 1 Timothy 2:4.
Ask God to bring about his will that all people be saved. This is what prayer is all about. As Jesus says in the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer brings about God’s heavenly purpose here on earth.
Ask God to put someone, or several people on your heart. Who does God want you praying for regularly?
5. Be alert for opportunities to share
“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.” – Colossians 4:5-6
God is working all around us, and we need to open our eyes so we can join in and contribute to God’s work in the lives of others. God wants to work through us. So we need to hear and be led by the Spirit.
Ask God to show you even this week, someone to get to know; someone to share with.
6. Invite people to be a part of the kingdom
Jesus said, “Go out to the highways and hedges and urge people to come in, that my house may be filled” – Luke 14:23
I recently gave a whole message on this passage. So let me share with you a short video on inviting people, focused on Easter.
Who can you invite???
7. Welcome with love all who come
“Don’t forget to welcome outsiders. By doing that, some people have welcomed angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2. To be hospitable means to be warm and friendly, to make room for someone, to include someone among us.
Let me share this with you again: According to the experts a person decides if they like a church and will come back within their first 11 minutes, which may well mean even before the service starts.
So we need to be a warm and welcoming church. And we need to be proactive about this.
Again I say This is work! It can be hard to make sure your own life is right, to relate to new people, to be stretched to act with compassion, to pray regularly, to keep alert during the day for opportunities to share, to invite and to welcome. That’s why I am using the language of “disciplines.” These are things we do that are good, but don’t necessarily come naturally to us.
We have these kinds of disciplines in many areas of our lives. So, for instance, if you are in school you need to do things like attend class, study and finish your assignments, if you want to be a good student.
And with all disciplines, the point is that they become second nature, so that we don’t even think about it. They just become a part of who we are. We become people who are compassionate toward those who don’t know Jesus. We just regularly pray for those who are lost. We become inviters and welcomers and so forth. This is the goal.
Let me end by saying –
It is God who gives life
Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, because it also makes the point that, even with all our work, in the end it is God who counts, for God gives the growth.
“6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
God is the key. Nothing we do apart from him will yield any results; nothing of eternal value. But God does ask us to do our part because he wants to work through us to bring new life and growth.
So during this year that we have set aside to focus on connecting with neighbors and others let’s each one join in God’s mission and work hard at it. And let’s each pray that God will move among us to bring new life and growth.