Practical Ecclesiology Series | Selected Texts | Pastor Duane Smets
This week is an systematic theology sermon on the topic of mission. Isaiah 48:9-16 and Genesis 3:6-9 & 21 are looked at for exegetical insight. Special attention is given to God’s ultimate mission to glorify himself, how God is the first missionary and how the chief motivation for mission is the message of the gospel itself. This sermon was originally preached on February 20th, 2011 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.
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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
February 20th, 2011
Practical Ecclesiology: “Mission & The Gospel” | Selected Texts
I. The Ground of Mission
II. The Jesus of Mission
III. The Practice of Mission
For the past six weeks we have been in a mini-sermon series titled, “Practical Ecclesiology” where we have been learning about what it looks like to actually be the church. So far we’ve looked at six different areas: community, worship, ministry, marriage, family, and finances. Today is the last week of the series and we’re going to talk about mission…so the title of my message today is “Mission & The Gospel.” Next week we’ll be beginning our new study through the book of Jonah. We’re really looking forward to it and know it’s going to be a good time.
Now mission is not a new topic for us as a church. It’s something we talk about regularly. We finished off our study through the book of Matthew talking about mission as directly instructed from the mouth of Jesus. At least once a year we have a sermon that intentionally addresses mission. And then, there’s the fact that mission colors just about everything we do…we’re constantly thinking about things from a missional perspective. So mission is not a new topic for us as a church.
Yet it is an integral part of who we are as a church. We are a church who is on mission and really believe ourselves to be a group of missionaries. So today, here’s my goal…my goal is to help us ground mission in the Bible. To see how it comes from God to us so that we have a firmly rooted concept of what mission is, what the goal is and how we are supposed to go about it.
To begin with, let’s just talk about the word “mission” itself. What do we mean when we say “mission”? It’s become quite a common word. Businesses have a “mission statement” which describes their core values and goals. The military goes on “combat missions.” NASA has a “space missions” conducted from “mission control.” We’ve got the “Mission Impossible” and “Mission To Mars” movies. “Mission” torillas and tortilla chips and “Mission Federal Credit Union.” “Mission” is even a town up by Santa Barbara here in California. “On a mission” is a phrase surfers use to talk about looking for good surf. Mormons “go on their mission” where they ride around on bikes dressed up in white shirts. Mission is everywhere.
Especially here in San Diego. We’ve got “Mission Beach” “Mission Bay” “Mission Hills” Mission Valley” “Mission Gorge” and “Mission Trails.” Our city itself was really founded as a mission, named after a pastor from the medieval ages named St. Diego after they conducted what is recorded as the first Christian church service in California. That was in 1602.
So mission can mean a lot of things. What do WE MEAN when we say “mission”? The word itself comes from the Latin word “missio” which means “a sending.” But there is much more wrapped up in the idea of mission then just a blank sending out. There must be a purpose or a goal in any mission…a reason for the sending. As we’ll see, all mission in the Bible is purposed for a return, all sending is meant for a receiving. Biblical mission is like a boomerang, a charge goes out to in order to bring people back.
In order to see this we have to begin at the beginning. At the source of all things. So let’s start there and talk about “The Ground of Mission.”
The Ground of Mission
By now, if you’ve been around for the last six weeks hopefully you’re expecting me to immediately move to saying God is the ground of mission. And you would be right. What you may not automatically recognize is how. How does mission begin with God?
I said last week that one of my ongoing goals has been to try and get to begin thinking more God-centered than man-centered. To begin thinking first from the perspective of who God is, before we start thinking about ourselves. And again, this is especially true this week.
Here’s why. Instinctually I think Christians think like this…they hear the word “mission,” I could be wrong but I think most automatically jump to thinking that means converting others, or proselytizing or evangelizing or whatever word you want to use. If you ask why God wants this “mission” inevitably the answer is often something along the lines of because he loves us wants to save people or something of that nature. I bet a lot of you here, that’s where your mind immediately just went.
Now, I’m not saying those things are not true or that they are incorrect. What I’m wanting to point out is an extremely man-centered view of mission this is. If we took this idea at face value the kind of God we are imagining here is a poor pitiful lonely God in the sky who just wishes that somebody would like him…so he’s on a mission to get people to like him. It’s the Zuckerberg god. Nobody likes him so he goes on a mission and creates Facebook so he can get some friends.
So here’s the question. Is God, in the infinite span of all that he is…his majesty and glory…his divine wisdom and knowledge that reaches out farther than the expanse of the stars…his limitless power…his unequaled goodness and kindness and justice…in all that God is, do you really think the thing which chiefly excites and impassions God is us? Don’t you think there would be something wrong with God if his whole world as it were, was centered upon human beings? There must be something greater than us to ground his care for us in.
Open your Bibles to Isaiah 48. I’m going to read Isaiah 48, verses 9-16 and when I read it ask yourself this question: What does it sound like God’s mission is grounded in? Ask what it seems God is most passionate about in this text? (Read Isaiah 48:9-16).
Alright. So first hear the mission. Did you guys pick up on the mission language? Verse 12, “listen to me…whom I called.” Verse 13, “when I call to them.” Verse 14, “assemble all of you and listen!” Verse 15, “I have spoken and called him.” Verse 16, “Draw near to me, hear this.” And Isaiah’s words, “the LORD God has sent me.” That’s all mission language. There’s a sending out, a petition, a calling. So what is it grounded in? What’s the central focal point of this passage?
GOD! Mission begins with God and his extreme awareness of his own greatness. God is most passionate about God. Everything God does that we ever experience or come to know is ultimately about his chief superiority in all things.
Check it out. In verse 9, he says it’s for “his name’s sake” and the “sake of his praise.” In verse 11 he says it for his “glory” which he “will not give to another.” In verse 12 he says he is “the first” and the last.” So there are no gods but God. In verse 13 he declares his power, saying “My hand laid the foundation of the earth and my right hand spread out the heavens.” In verse 14, he issues a challenge, who else can declare these things. And then in verse 16, he says it has always been this way “from the beginning.”
When it comes to the Bible and the God of the Bible any concept of mission has to begin with God. All other definitions will fall short and ultimately end up in a warped view which in reality is really idolatry.
Charles Minser is a scientist who wrote a book on Einstein and his theory of general relativity. In it he says this, “Einstein had little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as basically a very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt they were blaspheming. He had seen more majesty than they had ever imagined and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt the religions he’d run across did not have prosper respect…for the author of the universe (cited in “Let The Nations Be Glad” by John Piper).”
It’s my goal not to be that kind of preacher but to always be one who declares to you the infinite greatness of our God. God is big and glorious and awesome in the truest sense of the word. So here’s my point or my definition of mission: Mission is God’s activity to bring glory to himself. He exercises it first in creation and second in redemption.
And this is what we find all throughout the Bible. When you open the Bible to the very first page what do you find? You find God creating and then commenting on it. He creates light and then he says, “it’s good.” He creates water and land and then he says, “I’m good.” He creates plants and trees and fruit and then he says, “it’s good.” Then he creates stars and says, “they’re good.” Then he creates animals and says, “I’m good.” Then he creates man and says everything he had made was “very good.”
You’ve got to get a feel for the radical God-centeredness of the Bible. He’s good. Mission. God’s activity to bring glory to himself. Why did God create anything at all? I don’t really know. He surely was not deficient or lonely in any way. But the one thing we can be sure of is that it pleased him to create.
After creation, God’s second main movement of mission begins. Redemption. For those of you who know the story you know what happens not long after God creates everything. Man, in his desire to do what he wants instead of what God said, sins and disobeys God’s commands.
Now look at this. Look at how long it takes for God’s second main movement of mission in redemption to take place. Genesis chapter 3. You can turn there in your Bibles and check it out with me. In verse 6, the man and woman disobey God and eat the fruit he told them not to eat. Then only two verses go by, verse 7 and 8 where we read of their guilt and shame, and attempt to cover and save themselves by making clothes out of fig leaves and then they run and hide from God. Only these two verses and then the mission of God. Genesis 3:9 “But the LORD GOD called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
Here God goes on mission and reaches out to the man and calls him to himself. God is the very first missionary in the Bible. God is a missionary God. The ground of all mission begins with him. He is on mission for his glory and will go to great lengths and extend great grace in order to get it.
He begins simply with this call to us, “Where are you?” Some of you here today are right there in the garden. You might find yourself in one of three places.
You could be there in the place where you are simply off doing your own thing, making your own rules and disobeying what you know is really true and what God really wants and expects. You like Adam and Eve are in outright rebellion. To you God calls, “Where are you? What are you doing?”
You might find yourself in that place today OR you may be in this place. You’re in the garden but now what you’re doing is making clothes for yourselves. Trying to save yourself. Trying to be a good person and just trying to make everything better. You like Adam and Eve turn to religion to try do things right so God won’t be mad at you. To you God calls, “Where are you? What are you trying to do?”
In our day, there’s often this third place you may also find yourself in…and we see it in the garden too. What often comes after rebellion and religion is this next phase and that’s where you run. You try and hide from God and from his people. You close yourself off and become hardened. And you just don’t want to really deal with anything. And to you God calls, “Where are you? Why are you doing this?”
It’s my prayer today that if you’re in one of those places that instead of resisting his call you would open up your hearts to hear his voice and the good news he has given and declared for sinners like you and I.
Where the story goes from here is no less than phenomenal. But let’s pause here check where we’re at. My main point here so far has been that mission is grounded in God’s desire to glorify himself and that God is the first missionary in the Bible.
The Jesus of Mission
Now from here I want to move on and talk about “The Jesus of Mission.” I wrestled a lot with what is most significant for us to hear today in a short amount of time because there about four different directions we could go.
We could talk about the Old Testament believers and how they were to reach out the peoples of the world as God’s light to the nations but how they didn’t do it and how we too like them have failed but through the gospel are changed and supernaturally empowered to reach people by Jesus’ Spirit.
We could move through the New Testament and see how Jesus, who is God himself, just like God is on mission for his own glory, constantly declaring and seeking it. So then as John Piper says, “Mission exists because worship doesn’t” and it’s thus our task to show and tell the glory of Christ.
We could walk through the recorded life of Jesus and see how he was constantly on mission as a missionary connecting with people and calling them to repent and return to God. In that we could discuss the value of making friends with those who are not Christians and with our words and our works explaining who Jesus is a way that the people we’re on mission for can understand it.
We could look at passages where Jesus clearly calls Christians to follow his missionary example and ones where he directly transfers the mission to us. If Jesus is our Lord and Master we are to obey him and follow his commands and he straight out told us as the Father sent him so he sends us (Jn 20:21).
We could go into any one of those four areas in depth and each one would fully suffice for our outline point, “The Jesus of Mission.” But as I was wrestling with this, I came across an article in Modern Reformation by Michael Horton, who’s a minister, author, theologian and professor over at Westminster Seminary. Something he said in this article struck me. Let me read it for you.
“Before there can be a mission, there has to be a message. Before we go, we must stop and hear – really hear – what has happened that we are to take to the world. Before there is a witness, there must be a person whose accomplishment is worthy of proclaiming even at great personal risk. Before there is evangelistic outreach, there must be an evangel. The gospel comes first. We must hear it.”
I read that and it struck me. The most important thing about mission is the message of the gospel. Without the message there is no mission. The best way I as a pastor could possibly get you fired up to go out and reach the world for Christ is not to just appeal to your guilt, not to just prove to you superiority of Jesus, not to just tell you to mimic Jesus the missionary and not to just say do it because you’re supposed to.
The best way I as a pastor can equip you to be great ambassadors for the gospel of Jesus Christ is to preach the gospel to you! Because I know that the more the story of who Jesus is and what he has done on the cross pierces through and grip your hearts the more you will simply not be able to keep yourself from mission. You won’t but be able to tell!
So what I want to do for “The Jesus of Mission” today is to share the gospel with you. And I’ll do it this way…through the story in Genesis we we’re already looking at.
We left off in the garden with God calling to the man where are you? The man and woman have disobeyed, rebelled, tried to save themselves and then they’ve hidden. God calls to them and here’s what happens next. First there’s judgment. God isn’t good or righteous or true if he just lets sin and disobedience go without punishment. So he hands down the sentence. Judgment for sin. I think you and I know deep down that if we got away with everything we know is wrong and ugly in our hearts and in the things we’ve done, that just wouldn’t be right. There’s judgment for sin and God is the judge.
So Almighty God hands down the judgment in Genesis 3. There’s some unique things for the guy and some unique things for the girl which are hard to hear and then perhaps the worst of all, he kicks them out of the garden. But not before he does one thing.
Look at verse 21 of Genesis 3. “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them.” Now what’s significant about that? Is God just being an annoying mom here, like “make sure you put a coat on because it’s cold outside” as he kicks them out the door?
No. This is big. Remember before all of this took place there was no sin and no death in the garden. Life was good. Like it’s supposed to be. Like we long for it to be. There’s no mention of any animals dying at all. Adam and Eve are eating plants and fruit. All the vegans are happy.
Then disobedience against God happens because man in his heart longs to be his own god. He gets caught and realizes no one can really be god except God. And then he tries to save himself making his own clothes out of the plant God gave him to eat.
God comes in, announces judgment but in the midst of the judgment gives them a sign of salvation. God apparently kills an animal and makes Adam and Eve clothes out of it. God makes and gives them the clothes. In that act God demonstrates that though there is sin and judgment he will save. At the cost of killing one of his own he makes and gives clothes to cover the shame and guilt of sin in order to save.
The two most amazing things about this story are the same two things which are so amazing to me about the gospel.
One, is that God initiates. It’s God who goes to Adam and Eve. They’re hiding, they’re rebelling and running. But God reaches out.
The gospel is always like that. There’s no reason God should reach out to us. We’ve defied him and turned against him, yet he graciously calls out. The gospel is unique in this…it’s only for sinners. If you don’t think you’re messed up are at odds with God or have your own selfish heart issues the gospel will never appeal to you. It’s uniquely for sinners.
Gospel literally means “good news.” And this is part of what makes the good news so good…that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or how many times you’ve done it. God still reaches out and calls out, “Where are you? Come to me.” God is always the initiator. It’s 1 Timothy 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
That’s the first thing. The second thing which is so amazing to me, is that God does all the work needed to cover sin. Just as God killed and made clothes in the garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, so he determined his son Jesus to be killed on a cross in order that our sins might be covered in his robe of righteousness.
God does it all. We don’t do a thing. The gospel is based on a historical and scientific event that occurred nearly two-thousand years ago on hill named Golgotha and I didn’t contribute to it one bit except for my sin. God did all the work. So how good of a person or how bad of a person I am or continue to be has zero effect on whether or not God will love me and save me. I don’t do a thing. God does it all.
It’s 1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is the gospel my friends, that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for sin. If you believe he died for your sin…then you’re a Christian. He has initiated to you, died for you, and given you faith in him.
You see I think there may be so many of you that think you’re a Christian because you grew up in a Christian home or because you prayed a prayer at some point. But none of that has anything to do with whether your a Christian or not. There’s other of you I fear have never really got the gospel. You think the gospel means being a good person and if you’re good enough God will like you. Or you think you’re just damaged goods and there’s no hope for you. All of those things run directly against the nature of the gospel.
The gospel says God initiates, to the worst of sinners and God does all the work to save through his son Jesus. And if that’s not amazing to you I don’t have anything else to give you and I never will. If you’re looking for something more you’re not going to find it. This is the best news we could ever hear. And this is the best thing we could ever give to the world.
There is nothing like a message like this. Every single other religion or self help idea or goal in life is completely dependent upon how well you perform or how good of a person you are. It’s all up to you. Only in the gospel do you have a God who died for you and simply gives you everything you’ve longed for and were made for.
Well I pray that grips your heart and moves you to not only put faith in Jesus but that it burns a hole in your gut to make some friends who you might share this news with.
The Practice of Mission
Okay. Each week in this sermon series I’ve given out some practical application points of the week’s topic. What I thought I’d do this week is just run through the last six sermon subjects in this series and look at them from a missional perspective.
1. Community & The Gospel. People are made and designed by the Trinity God for community and whether they realize or acknowledge it they long for it. So invite people who are not Christians into your life, spend time with them, quality time talking about real things and the gospel will naturally begin to shine.
2. Worship & The Gospel. There is something within us that knows we are made for something bigger and greater than ourselves. We’re naturally worshippers and only God is really worthy of it. So invite people to our worship service. Really. If you’re really into worshipping God and you’re not here for some ulterior reason, people will want to see what the big deal is.
3. Ministry & The Gospel. This one should be easy. Love your neighbor. Serve them. Serve the city. Do good deeds so that the great deed of Jesus death and resurrection might be given a platform to shine. Just go do stuff…do something. Go minister to people. I don’t care what it is as long as you do it out of a heart and love for Jesus. When people see that you’re willing to spend your time and energy and effort serving they will wonder why and hopefully the answer will be because you realize how much Jesus has done for you.
4. Marriage & The Gospel. Relationships in our city are a mess. Most of the city is either divorced or sleeping with people who they’re not married to. So instead get a spouse and enjoy being married. And help others see the joys and healing of a marriage based on Jesus who died for his bride. So husbands love and lead your wives and wives love and follow your husbands…and others will be ministered to as a result of you living that out.
5. Family & The Gospel. Every one of us are children and many of us are and will be parents. There are very few healthy families. So be gospel centered parents leading with the love and grace of the Father. Remember you are first and foremost on mission for your kids. In addition to that, love on the children who don’t have good or godly parents. Young boys need an example of a godly man in their life. Young girls need an example of a godly woman in their life. Encourage single parents and help out with their kids.
6. Finances & The Gospel. Just give money away that’s going to make people wonder and ask “why would you do that?” And then you talk about the riches of Christ. The Bible calls it “hilasmos” giving, hilarious or ridiculous giving. Use your money for the sake of building Jesus kingdom instead of your own because your own will burn down but Jesus’s is eternal.
Well, there’s a ton of other practical stuff we could talk about regarding mission, like the dangers of not having any friends who aren’t Christians and the dangers of having only friends who are not Christians. But instead of listening to me talk a bunch more, let’s do our final interview. This week I’m going to interview Ashley Freese. So Ashley why don’t you come on up.
Mission & The Gospel Interview
1. How long have you been Christian and how long have you been at The Resolved?
2. Could you put mission for us in your own words, how do you see it? What’s the goal?
3. How many people’s number do you have in your cell phone right now who are not yet Christians that you have either talked with or hung out with in the last month?
4. Do you see yourself as a missionary? How have you come to that?
5. What are some of the dangers you have experienced with mission? (i.e. examples of too much accommodation & not enough Jesus or too much detachment and not enough involvement)
6. What are some of the joys you have experienced with mission? (stories where you have seen the gospel breaking through)
7. Are there certain things you have learned about mission and found effective and important? (things you mentioned on the phone: missional repentance & living life with unbelievers)
8. What would you say to someone who has really isn’t on mission and doesn’t really know where to start?
9. Any last words of encouragement?
Here’s my conclusion for today. Real simple. Jesus died for our sins and rose again. He calls us to himself. Don’t resist. Don’t hide. Instead of running away run to him. Trade in your dirty garments and be clothed in his bright white righteousness. You’ve heard of his initiation this morning. Now is the time when we respond.
God is the missionary who has gone on mission for us. His message grips us and sends us out to bring as many as possible to come and worship at his feet here in this place. So let’s pray and sing and receive the gift of his body and blood in the bread and wine, his death for us. Let’s worship our God for He is good and glorious and worthy of all our praise.