OUR TRUE MISSION
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
Clear objectives are crucial to a military operation. While a battle may seem to have many purposes, usually one objective governs the actions of a whole army. Nazi Germany killed at least 20 million Soviet citizens in WWII, with some estimates as high as 40 million, but they never reached their ultimate objective – Moscow. Their mission to defeat the Soviets failed and they lost the war. But at least they had a clear objective.
Since WWII, America has fought two wars in Asia with no clear mission or objective. Not only were soldiers confused and dejected, but America on a whole was left damaged and demoralized. Entering into battle without a valid goal is ludicrous and criminal. Today, confusion reigns among the churches concerning what our mission is supposed to be during these Last Days of time. What is our objective? What are Christians and Christian churches supposed to being accomplishing?
A few weeks ago, someone was talking about how things were different on the "mission field." I knew this person was talking about ministry outside of the United States. But as this one spoke on about reaching the lost in other countries, I started thinking about the mission field right here in the United States. The question that would not leave me alone was whether reaching people for Christ was easier in the jungle or here in New England.
While it might be unwise to answer such a complicated question, it brings up the problems Believers have in America today. I hear stories of a missionaries in Brazil starting 11 churches in a year and seeing hundreds baptized. I know of a dozen churches in New England without pastors. From time to time I hear of a church that no longer exists, like the one that was in Natick, Massachusetts. Plus, the least amount of work is being done in the areas with the densest concentrations of people - the inner cities. While on a missions trip in Ireland, I was at a meeting with 6 missionaries. We started talking about inner-city ministries, and I heard one of them say, "I wouldn’t take my family in the city. I came to Ireland to protect my family." The other missionaries agreed that Ireland was a better place to shield their children from the powerful influences of our culture. What is going on in America, especially in the urban areas?
Some say these are dark days for the Church. I agree, but not for the same reasons expressed above. A large group of people said that the culture of traditional Evangelical Christianity has become boring and irrelevant. The old style of hymns, the old style of preaching, and the old style of worship can no longer compete with Jerry Seinfeld, the Superbowl, or even the Sunday morning talk shows. In entertainment value, our churches can no longer compete with our culture. In fact, our culture has become so powerful, it is hard to find a place on this planet without Coca-Cola, sitcoms, or that Titanic movie.
Many churches have reacted, making it their duty to rival the popular entertainment (which is our culture's greatest "achievement" and export). But that’s exactly why the Christian church in America is in such dire straits – our job is not to entertain. Dramas are fine, but they do not take the place of preaching. New music is fine, but our music was not designed to entertain the masses, but to show the praises of Jehovah God, and to teach sound doctrine. Much excellent discipleship can be realized through our traditional Christian music. Sadly, though, much popular church music does not teach sound doctrine; in fact, our current music does much to foster the dangerous heresy that Jesus is only Love. Much popular music actually instills much un-Biblical doctrine, which is made the easier to swallow since it is coming through the medium of music.
Richard, a friend of mine from college, introduced me to a game he liked to play with the radio. He would program my car radio to 6 different pop and rock music stations in Greenville, except one of them was a Contemporary Christian channel called "HIS" radio. He would hit the buttons and the station would come on and I’d have to guess which was sacred and which was secular. Not knowing CCM very well, I did horribly. I could not tell the different between what was Gospel and what was Gomorrah 90% of the time. The new Wendy’s burger joint in town only plays Christian Rock over its music system, but most customers don’t notice anything really different about the music. I am not saying that we can never use guitars or drums or that we have to sing only hymns older than 50 years, but we our music should be different – its purpose is not to entertain.
We will never entertain anyone into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The only way we are going to reach this world for Jesus Christ is by toughly loving them as Moses loved – as Paul loved – as Christ loved. The great commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Christ tells us to teach, or better, to make disciples. How did Christ make disciples? How did Paul make disciples? Look how much work the Lord Jesus put into Peter! See how He taught humility to the disciples by washing their feet! Read the books of Timothy and Titus to catch a vision of how the Apostle Paul loved his sons in the faith!
Can you imagine if every young man in America had a mentor like the Apostle Paul? Jesus, Moses, and Paul were all on missions of tough love. Likewise, our objective is to love others. Our mission is to love others.
1 Thess. 4:9 - But as touching brotherly love (phileo) ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God (God-taught) to love (agape) one another.
Paul says it plainly to the church in Thessalonica: "God has taught you to love each other." Our behavior is largely learned from others. We see this in toddlers in a big way. My baby brother watched me casting my hook into the pond with my fishing pole. Though I never actually walked him through the steps of casting, I saw him pretending to cast with his toy fishing rod. We imitate those we admire. When we focus our hearts and lives upon the Almighty God, we will love our neighbors as ourselves.
1 John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 - He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 - In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 - Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 - Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Why did God ever communicate with mankind? Why did He send His Son to die for our sin? Why has God not only saved us from eternal damnation, but also has made us co-heirs with Christ? His love caused all these things. "For God so loved the world…"
As we see from the Book of Exodus, God could have chosen many ways of representing Himself to mankind. He could have chosen a giant golden statue or a temple. Instead, the Lord gave Moses and Israel sacred words. This Word tells of all His goodness and greatness. Unlike the many wonders of the world that are gone or are disintegrating, His Word cannot be destroyed. Books can be burned, but God's ideas live on. Though many have tried to discredit and wipe out this record of God, He continually proves faithful in preserving it.
Moses saw the burning bush and returned to Egypt to be God's servant. An evil man named Saul encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and experienced Jesus' tough love: After knocking him off his donkey onto the ground, and after shining a brilliant light from Heaven on him, Jesus said: 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." [Acts 9:4-5]
In an instant, Saul's old, hard heart toward Jesus
was melted, and he acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior. But, more
importantly, Saul asked Jesus what He wanted him to do, thus recognizing His
authority over his life.
And, Paul became a man who evangelized a good portion of the Roman Empire. We live in a day and age when people talk about religious experience and how they felt so close to God. Any "experience" is worthless which does not produce action., does not produce spiritual fruit acceptable to Jesus Christ, whom we will meet on Reward's Day. Feelings, excitement, and experiences have become the purpose of many congregations. While we should be enthusiastic about what our God has done, our enthusiasm and feelings should be results of acting for God, not ends in themselves. Charismatics and those in movements like the Brownsville "revival" should carefully examine what they are doing and why. My fear is that many of the "experiences" are resulting from mere psychological techniques rendered upon hopeful masses -- "sound and fury, signifying nothing."
II. We show our mission through action.
"And indeed ye do (produce, act out) it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase (overflow in love) more and more;"
Paul knew that the Thessalonians loved others because their actions said they loved them. This love was not just feeling or sentiment, but was vibrant and moving. Christ tough-loved the people in this world and the world was changed. Paul demonstrated his large heart in his sufferings, journeys, letters, and relationships. If we say we love other but have nothing to show for that love, then we deceive ourselves.
We have spoken much of "tough love", so now we need to stop to define it. Tough love was epitomized by Jesus Christ, when He stood up to tell people how sinful, and rotten they were, but then turned around to give them the solution of His eternal Grace. Jesus did not shrink from telling it like it was in a person's life, but then He offered the only eternal solution. Christians today are shrinking from telling the Biblical truth that we all are inherently sinful, inherently very evil, and can do nothing to save ourselves. Christian leaders today are shrinking from teaching and preaching about sin, Hell, and Judgment, and are just teaching Love messages, which give the impression that, in the end, Jesus will allow everyone into His Heaven.
Tough love involves two steps: 1). Telling people the Biblical truth: they, along with the rest of humanity, are inherently evil and can do nothing to save themselves; and then: 2). Giving them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which tells man that Jesus paid the full penalty for their sin, and they can be as assured of Heaven as if they were already there, if they would just receive the Free Gift of eternal life.
Now, let us look again at Moses, who exemplified this tough love:
Exodus 32:31 - "AndMoses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Y Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
Moses was willing to be cut off from God for a people that frustrated him. Israel resisted nearly every command of Moses. They had physically seen God's power and His mighty works, but they refused to obey Him. The nation was sinful and ripe for destruction and Moses wanted to lay down his life for them. In our cynical and hard culture, we might dismiss such a proclamations as sentimentalism. But Moses is talking to Jehovah – he is not playing games. This is a grave plea from a man who loves his sinful people.
Paul similarly loved the unsaved Jews: Romans 9:3 - "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
Christ certainly loved us enough to die for our sins: John 10: 11 - "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
This tough God-love should be displayed to our wives, families, and parents. This tough God love should be displayed to our friends, fellow-Christians, and acquaintances.
But never is this tough God-love more completely displayed as when it is shown to those who oppose our Christ and who hate us.
Moses, in his righteous anger, threw down the stony tablets of the LAW. The same man was willing to die for Israel the same day.
Jesus, in His righteous anger, turned over the tables in the Temple. This same week He died for the soldier who pierced His side.
John 15:13 - "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Our churches are often not pictures of congregational peace and harmony. Business meetings in Baptist churches are more brutal than sessions of Congress. Cliques should never be tolerated – I’ve seen upper class families shun their poorer brothers and sisters. This should never be. Grudges should die. Racism should die. Pastors should never be forced by conspiracies. When the unsaved look at the nonsense and corruption within the church, they have no desire to be Christians.
John 13:35 - "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
We are so good at having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. We may have a big orchestra with a 100-member choir, but it is as useful as banging two garbage can lids together if we do not have love. Our priorities are so askew that I wonder if anyone is really reading -- or understanding -- their Bibles in some of these churches. Sadly, this question starts with many pastors, deacons, and Sunday School teachers.
Gandhi said he would never consider becoming a Christian because he never saw a Christian that lived like Christ. Our lives need to be attractive to those on the outside:
Our mission of tough love should never be forgotten. We can use all the current methods and follow every current trend. We could have the biggest ministry in town. We could have the best music in town. We could build seminaries and hospitals. But none of these things will make a difference if we have no love for our brothers and sisters and no love for those who don’t know Christ. Our Lord Jesus did not change the world by overthrowing the Roman Empire or destroying the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He changed the world by showing compassion to those in need, and in offering His "Good News", the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to a hurting and spiritually dying people. He devoted Himself to the lives of only twelve men. He died for the thief on the cross. We need to never forget our mission:
Our mission is to love others with the same toughness as Jesus displayed.