Thursday, March 7, 2013

Missions and Experiencing the Presence of God

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to share about the history and theology of Missions with a congregation that I have had a long relationship with. At the end of the presentation I offered them the opportunity to get involved in the advance of God's Kingdom among the nations. I presented the same four choices that were given to me at the end of the Perspectives course--Pray, Give, Advocate and Go.

Usually after speaking I spend the next couple days agonizing over the things that I said or didn't say (while at the same time being grateful that the Holy Spirit can use what was spoken much more effectively than I could ever dream). In the case of this presentation, I regretted what was not said. I spoke about the Great Commission of Matthew 28, and the command of Jesus to go and make disciples of all peoples (ethno-linguistic groups) and I shared that Jesus promised to be present with those involved with this work; but I wish I had lingered at that point longer.

Being on mission with God is one of the most blessed states to be in. I missed an amazing opportunity to testify to this--to how God has grown my faith, hope and love over the past several years in service to Him. It is also critically important to place the command aspect of the Great Commission clearly within a Gospel framework--something I didn't do. I would hate for people to become further burdened down with a legalistic view of God rather than seeing the amazing opportunity that God has given us to know Him better through allowing us to partner together with Him in His ministry of reconciliation.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

The command to go and make disciples of all nations comes with a promise--the presence of Christ and power to accomplish this mission. This promise is answered specifically in the indwelling person and power of the Holy Spirit. It is critically important to understand that God's mission is accomplished by His power and presence. Apart from divorcing the Great Commission from the Great Commandment, there probably is no greater omission in the average missions presentation.

Inviting people to participate in missions is inviting them into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Many people in modern Western Christianity struggle to feel the presence of God--I have heard many people complain that they do not feel close to God. One reason for this I believe is that so few people are on mission with God. Jesus' presence is promised to those who are working with him to accomplish the Great Commission.

We know that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere all the time (Psalm 139:7-10)--but there is an special increase of His presence when we are gathered together (Matthew 18:20), praying (Psalm 22:3) for the sake of His mission (Matthew 28:20).  If you want to experience God in a greater way, join together with other believers and pray for the advance of God's Kingdom among the nations. Take a step out to share your faith with someone who doesn't know Him, and you will come to know Him better. 

One of my favorite verses is Philemon 6 which says, "and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ." That is, Paul was praying for Philemon, that in sharing his faith with others, he would more deeply understand the promises of the Gospel! It is common knowledge that if you want to understand something better you should try teaching it to someone else--in teaching we better understand what we already know. The same is true for the Christian life, very few of us take opportunities to share our faith with others, and thus don't grow into maturity.

If you are spiritually dry and desire to enter into a deeper experience of God's grace and love, share the Gospel with someone, pray for a missionary, learn about a people group that doesn't have a Christian witness among them, partner financially with those ministering among the unreached. The desire to know and experience Jesus more should be the motivation for being involved in His ministry of reconciliation.

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