God’s Mission Becomes Our Mission

I. INTRO

Last week we turned an important corner in the life of this church with our Sacred Assembly.  Today, I’d like for us to consider the mission of God’s Church – and more specifically this church, Southside Bible Fellowship.

By way of introduction, God has a MISSION, a MEANS, and a METHOD.

1. What is the MISSION of God?

God’s mission is the manifestation of His own glory.

“For the earth will be filled

With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,

As the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

What is God’s glory?  God’s glory is the shining forth of the perfection of all of God’s attributes.

God’s supreme desire is that He might be known and enjoyed above all things.

God seeks to be recognized as supremely worthy, supremely splendid, and supremely valuable. God’s glory is sensed when we feel the reality of His presence, goodness, and superiority.

2. The MEANS of God’s mission is Jesus Christ and the work He did on the cross.

We call this the gospel.  God creates, calls, rescues, redeems, saves, restores, restrains, and grants — all to the end that we may find our true comfort, joy, and delight in Him.

The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures, from Satan, sin and its effects to the Father and each other through the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension — and future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit for God’s glory and the Church’s joy. (We see summary statements of this throughout Scripture – both Old and New Testaments.)

To be “gospel-centered” means to both see and live out this narrative as the central theme, or singular story line, of the Bible.  It is central. It is singular.

The gospel stands at the center of God’s redemptive plan, and in it we see Him most clearly for Who He is and what He has done.

3. The METHOD of God’s mission is you and me – the Church.  In a nutshell we (the Church) are all called to live as missionaries in our current life station and cultural context.

Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – all our social networks.

If you were preparing to be a missionary in Malaysia what activities would best prepare you?

We are to begin the discipleship process BEFORE conversion.  (This is where most churches get it wrong…think about it – we start discipling our kids before they’re converted…)

II. BODY

Having identified God’s MISSION, MEANS, and METHOD I would like to spend the rest of our time considering the mission of the church – and specifically this church – SBF as we enter into a new season of ministry…

The mission of the Church universal is: To glorify God by making disciples through embodying the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s mission and the mission of His Church are inseparably linked. If God’s mission is to be glorified through the redemption and reconciliation of a people, the Church’s mission must orient around the glory of God and seek to glorify Him through redemption and reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The mission of the Church is highlighted in these verses. As those who have been reconciled to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are now ambassadors of reconciliation to a lost and broken world. We plead, urge, implore, reason, pray, serve, preach, teach and gather to see God glorified through reconciliation.

We also see the mission of the church in the more familiar Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

A suggested mission for SBF: To glorify God through making disciples.  We will accomplish this through:

  1. Gospel-centered worship
  2. Gospel-centered prayer
  3. Gospel-centered community
  4. Gospel-centered service
  5. Gospel-centered mission.

1. Gospel-Centered Worship

All of life is worship. Every thought, word, desire, and deed involves the ascribing of worth and value – glory. Each attitude, affection and activity is an expression of our allegiance, whether to our Creator or His creation. God is alone worthy of our worship.

Worship is related to every area of our lives. We are called to eat, drink, speak, think, and work to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 – whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”). Worship cannot be narrowed down to a particular time and place as if God does not claim authority over certain aspects of our lives. There are no neutral desires or deeds; everything is an expression of worship.

Gospel-centered worship is to be pursued in every facet of our lives as we consider how all encompassing the gospel is to us. Gospel-centered worship is nurtured through:

The gathering of God’s people in a weekend worship service. Within this venue, we worship God by remembering the gospel through preaching, teaching, singing, praying and celebrating the ordinances of baptism and communion. Each presents an opportunity for the church to receive, remember, respond and rejoice in the work of our great King.

Gospel-centered worship also means that we orient our lives (between Sundays) around learning how to worship God and bring Him glory through our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Again, 1 Corinthians 10:31 becomes our holy objective – whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”

1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 145:1-21, Isaiah 43:6-7, Colossians 3:1-17

2. Gospel-Centered Prayer

Turn with me to Exodus 33:15-18 –“Then [Moses] said to [God], “ If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!

What we have here is the greatest request we could ever make of God.  It transcends any other request that we could ask of God.

It’s an unrelenting desire to engage the presence of God.

If you want to know the real you, listen for what you pray for involuntarily.  Listen to the spontaneous prayers that irrupt from your heart.

Moses’ prayer is a reflex of the heart.  It reveals what he REALLY wants.

What is it that you involuntarily pray for?  What is the unrehearsed outburst of your soul…

God loves it when we address Him in prayer as the END and not simply a MEANS.  If you’re like me it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing God as the MEANS to our true desires instead of seeing God as the END of all our desires.  We seek God for jobs, for relationships, for good health, for material things – and all those are good yet the ultimate value is God Himself.

The prayer that most delights God is the prayer that makes Him our most passionate desire.

Jonathan Edwards concluded the most essential difference between a Christian and a moralist is that a Christian obeys God out of the sheer delight in who He is. The gospel means that we are not obeying God to get anything but to give him pleasure because we see his worth and beauty. Therefore, the Christian is able to draw power out of the contemplation of God (i.e., prayer). The moralist will usually only come and petition God for things…

Gospel-centered prayer, is making God the END and not the MEANS — rather than anxious petitioning.

3. Gospel-Centered Community

We worship a triune God, Who has eternally existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In identifying the tri-unity of God, we recognize that God is communal. The Godhead has perpetually dwelt in perfect harmony, unity, joy, and love. Bearing the image of God, we are called to reflect this reality. We are called to be communal creatures imaging the community of our Creator.

Though each Christian has a personal relationship with God, that relationship is not individual or private. The Christian faith is not intended to be lived in isolation. We were made for community – relationship with God and with each other.

The local church is not merely a place that we attend but a people to whom we belong. The Bible calls us members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) with the expectation that we contribute to the body for the glory of God and the good of His people.

Gospel-centered community is a radical call amid a culture of mere attendance and casual involvement. It involves mutual love, care, consistency and authenticity as we seek to adorn the person and work of Christ with our lives. Where these elements are lacking, we have moved away from gospel-centered community and into the realm of social clubs.

Gospel-centered community is primarily expressed through Community Groups that meet during the week, or Sunday School classes that meet before the service on Sunday mornings. Groups are not perfect and those who participate in them will find them messy at times. However, our hope is that group members will be radically committed to reform from within. This takes time, prayer, effort, patience, love, trust and hope.

Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 3:12-13, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

4. Gospel-Centered Service

Gospel-centered service is motivated by the reconciling work of God and seeks to extend His grace and mercy to others for His glory and not our own. It is an expression of love and stewardship of grace marked by humility, generosity and hospitality and empowered by a passion for the glory of God.

Service can and should be pursued in various ways by all recipients of varied grace. Those who have been impacted by the gospel have countless opportunities – both formal and informal – to serve others by greeting at the doors of the church, following up guests who will be visiting our church, volunteering to work with our children and youth, teaching, singing, serving communion, giving financially to the needs of others, opening their homes to their neighbors, etc.

John 13:1-20, 1 Peter 3:8-11, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15

5. Gospel-Centered Mission

We are used to thinking of mission in terms of funding and sending missionaries to work in other countries to share the plan of salvation with unreached people groups.

If there is an unreached people group in the United States, it is New Englanders. A recent Gallup poll placed the six states of New England in the top ten least religious states in the nation.

Those in New England who attend evangelical churches hover between 1- 3% of the population. There is a higher percentage of evangelical Christian churchgoers in Mormon Utah than in New Hampshire!

Gospel-centered mission is the recognition that each one of us is sent by God as a missionary into our own sphere of relationships – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – where we boldly promote the gospel through collaborative expressions of mercy and generosity.

We serve a missionary God: The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends us.

Let me just say that I am more of a fan of mining the vein of our current relational sphere than I am into organizing what we’ve known as “street witnessing.”  And I am more of a fan of initially engaging our relational network through learning how to listen.  In our culture at this moment in history, we will earning the right to speak through first of all learning how to listen.

2 Corinthians 5:11-2, Matthew 28:18-20, Mt. 4:19; John 20:21; Acts 16:20; 17:6, and to make disciples of all nations Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8

Gospel Shaped Core Values (Overview of Acts 1-2 developing some key core implicit values)

I.     INTRO – Sermon notes from May 8, 2011

A.  Diagnostic weekend – June 9th-12th.

B.  A team of about 7 people will be here to interview as many people from Southside as they can

C.  There will be an all-church meeting on Sun, June 12th where an initial oral report will be presented.

D.  We’ll be asking a lot of you that weekend to come in for an interview and then attend the all-church meeting to participate in the report.

E.  Why study Acts?

  1. Intro Acts Series: The Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1 – Part 1 (Acts 1-9).
  2. We will be in Acts 1&2 for the next 3 weeks.
  3. In addition to the themes covered in the first few chapters of Acts (that Dana spoke about last week), I can think of at least 3 similarities between Acts 1 and SBF…
  • The Christ followers were a people in transition…as we’ll see, things didn’t turn out the way they expected.
  • In the midst of some anxiety and disappointment, they began to connect the dots and run with a vision they never expected.
  • A relatively few people (120) blossomed into a church that reached its full redemptive purpose.

F.    7 Refocusing questions that we will address here at Southside during this transition season:

  1. Who has God shaped us to be? (Core Values)
  2. Why do we exist as a church? (Biblical Mission)
  3. Where is God leading us in the future? (Fresh Vision)
  4. Whom has God called us to reach? (Ministry Focus)
  5. Which ministry model best facilitates our vision? (Building authentic community)
  6. What ministry goals can we believe God for?
  7. What is our plan for ministry for the next 2-3 years? (Strategic map)

G.    What’s a Core Value?  An enduring belief, a preferred choice.  Core values are the essence of a church’s identity.

  1. Those few, select distinctives that are non-negotiable.
  2. Where is Southside’s God-given potential for greatness?
  3. There is a difference between stated values and practiced values.  Stated values are often religious values that people/churches think they should
    have.  Practiced values are the unique distinctives that a church is actually doing.  Practiced values ask the question, “What are we currently doing that has the potential for greatness?”
  4. There is a difference between implicit values and explicit values.  Implicit values are implied values – while they may be clearly formed or articulated, they are not stated.  Explicit values are definitive and clearly stated.  Churches, with explicit, practiced values know who they are and who they aren’t.  All opportunities for ministry are evaluated in the light of God given values, mission, and vision.

H.   Today we will look at some of the practiced, implicit values that launched the church in Acts.  These implicit values are salted through the first 2 chapters.

I.   We can think of it like a football game – we don’t know what play they called in the huddle, but when they run the play we find out what play was called.

II.   BODY

A.    Implicit Values of Acts (Alternatively known as The Church I Would Join)

1.     They were Kingdom Focused — Acts 1:3 (NAS) “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  

a.     The Kingdom of God – Quite simply is: The rule and reign of God.

  • The KOG is our destination.
  • Jesus established the Kingdom at his first coming and will consummate the Kingdom at his second coming. Jesus reaches into eternity and pulls it into the present – and stakes it into the ground with the Cross.  “We live in the presence of the future.”  “The already and the not yet.” 
  • As we live in the presence of the future there is paradox (seeming contradiction).  We are saved, but working out our salvation; we are sanctified, yet being sanctified; we are healed yet being healed. It’s both present and future
  • One of the most dynamic aspects of the present reality of the KOG, is that within it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead is made available to us.  The Greek word is dunamis – the same word we get “dynamite” from – and which we find in Acts 1:8. 
  • The Church is the fruit of kingdom activity.
  • The demands of the Kingdom are that we repent; we are to place God first, and follow him at any cost.

b.  Kingdom is a gospel word – along with the Cross and Grace that form a theological construct to help us see the under-girding of the gospel throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation:

  • The Cross – Speaks of the Atoning Work of Jesus Christ
    • This is shorthand for the “5-Fold Christ Event”: 1) Virgin Birth, 2) Miraculous Ministry, 3) Degrading Death, 4) Victorious Resurrection, 5) Missional Ascension of Jesus Christ. 
    • Apart from the atoning work of Christ, we would be forever guilty, ashamed, and condemned before God.
    • The way of God is suffering/humility – and then glory.  This is what baptism is supposed to be about – I will die to my previous life and come alive to God – and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Grace – The unmerited favor of God.  Acceptance is given to us freely at God’s expense.  Martin Luther calls it, “the great exchange.”
    • It’s important that we understand there is common grace and saving grace happens when we take up residence within the KOG.  
    • Definition: All that God is, lavishly poured into you. 
    • Jonathan Edwards speaks of grace as, “the very Holy Ghost dwelling in the soul and acting there as a vital principle.”[1]

2.     They were Humble, Prayerful, & Unified“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying…14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”   Acts 1:13, 14 (NAS)

a.     Humble prayers of confession and repentance before/with God and one another.

b.     Corporate prayer leading to intercession – reminding the Lord of His word/promises.

c.     Unity is a fruit, not a goal

3.     They were Holy Spirit Empowered

1:4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5forJohn baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

2:1,4And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

a.     John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

b.     Eph 5:17-21 –  17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [we apparently need to be continually, or regularly, filled with the HS – Why?  Because we leak!]

19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

    c.  Two points

  • (Jn) We are to seek to live in the healthy tension of spirit and truth.
  • (Eph) HS infilling occurs when our hearts are worshipful, when we are grateful, and we walk in mutual submission.

d.  John Piper: “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” (Supremacy of God In Missions)

4.  They delivered Contextualized Gospel Presentations16No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel”   Acts 2:15,16 (TLB)

5.  They engaged in Honest/Straightforward Gospel Presentations – Acts 2:23, 36…

23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.”

6.  They were Outward Focused (Missional)“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”   Acts 2:41 (NIV)

a.     There is a missional refocusing going on in the Church today.
b.     We are all called to be missionaries.  The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit send us.
c.     Changing metrics…

7.     They were Intentional About Discipleship and Authentic Community (They lived Community in the context of Discipleship) – Acts 2:42-47

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  44And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;  45and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  46And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

8.     As a result of living out these values – they were Fruitful

a.     “A sense of awe,” or a healthy fear of the Lord (v.43)

b.     Wonders & signs (v.43)

c.     Community (vs.44-47)

  • Identification
  • Equality
  • Unity
  • Enthusiastic joy
  • Praise
  • Favor with all the people
  • Salvation’s (v.47)

III. CONCLUSION

A.   What does it mean to be Gospel centered? (Or, Christ centered?)

B.    My experience is that the North American Church has lost, or squandered, much of the power – and the breadth of the Gospel.

  1. I have been reminded recently that the Gospel is not advice – it is news.  It is, in fact, the ultimate Good News. Sunday mornings are not the place to give advice.
  2. Gospel-centered ministry is rooted in remembrance.  On Sunday mornings we are to remind one another primarily of what Jesus Christ has done, not what we must do.

C.    Many of us have tended to view the Gospel a message that we responded to many years ago – and then moved on from.  Yet the Gospel is more like an ocean.  It is deep, and wide, and vast.

  1. We are called to view, and engage, and respond to the gospel with every passage of Scripture we read, or study.
  2. I would suggest that the essence of Christian maturity is when the Gospel itself gets worked in – and through our lives.
  3. Here is my goal for you – and for Southside: My aim is that you would experience Jesus (my goal for you is experiential) as the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe – and as the source and the content of your real hope and joy. Two things are necessary:
  • God’s liberating truth
  • God’s liberating grace.

4.  What is the evidence of salvation?

  • Fruitfulness
  • What is your deepest desire?
  • True Christians have conflicted desires to be sure.  True Christians struggle, and sin, and mess up – to be sure. Yet, the deepest desire of the true Christian is for Jesus and the unfolding of the gospel.
  • Non-Christians – and you could say false Christians also have conflicted desires, yet their deepest desire is for themselves, or for ease, or comfort – something other than the person of Jesus Christ.  (The simplest definition of idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing.)

Next week: Persistent and Passionate Prayer (Acts 1: 13-14).


[1] Jonathan Edwards, TREATISE ON GRACE.