Missional Living #5: Go Forward by Grasping Your God-Given Identity, Purpose and Permission in Christ.
Missional Living People Go Forward by Grasping their God-Given Identity, Purpose and Permission in Christ.
(This writing is longer as a foundation needs to be set to undergird the principles being discussed.)
Our Father is a a father to the fatherless- regardless of who they live with or without, their nationality or skin tone, language or any other defining thing- He knows no partiality- the thought of it contradicts His very being, yet with us, it is not so. We must strive to put it aside, to attain to seeing the soul as God does, to value our fellows in humanity as being worth as much as ourselves, for no other reason than that we all bear His image, and are endowed by our Creator with His likeness.
God help us- help us not to go to the least of these because they are less, but because we simply follow You and Your love into places others would forget, ignore, and abandon; places where You would crown many sons and daughters, who will reign with us as equals in eternity. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Missional Living People are asking the Kingdom questions about local and world events. We live in an awareness of so little that is really happening around us. We are listening to a thousand voices, yet really perceiving very little information. We can talk to one another about the most current event according to social media or our favorite news channel, but can we address what is happening in the Kingdom of God? What I hear in most conversations has more to do with trying to find people that agree with us than how it is that God might use us in the thick of it. Are we asking the Lord how to respond- not just in an agree or disagree fashion, but in a genuine sense of willingness to act, to move upon what is broken in the world in collaboration with a restoring and redeeming God that has not resended our call to be His ambassadors?
Going through the course of this world with a mentality of seeking to live a peaceful and quiet life sounds good. It sounds safe. It sounds like comfort. The idea clashes a bit, however, with the very nature of being a disciple-maker. You will not follow in the footsteps of Christ without making some waves, upsetting some apple carts and getting some negative responses. The context of the passage deserves a closer look.
"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for King's and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." 1 Timothy 1:18-2:7
Wage the good warfare, pray for everyone, don't forget those that rule over us, as their actions lead to open or shut doors in international perspective. God desires them to be saved just as much as anyone else, and come to believe in the gospel. We are appointed to spread that Gospel and make disciples, to teach them in faith and truth around the world.
Missional Living people are not risk averse. No more excuses then. The Christian life is not about finding a safe place to raise your family, detached and uninvolved in the world, separated out to not only be not of it but also practically not in it. We did not learn Christ this way, nor do we deepen or develop faith in this way. I am amazed at how adamantly I hear so many Christians speak of a dignified, God-honoring life, who can quote the Scriptures and speak much of Jesus, yet who really have very little of His heart for the lost world that surrounds them. There is a fear-driven lifestyle in modern American Christianity that loves to sound big on issues they are having little effect upon, and it is a mask of opinionated bravado that hides a risk and suffering averse culture that is not in fellowship with the majority of Christians worldwide.
The American church has great influence. How we do church services has impacted the church culture of millions. Where we have extremely little affect is the persecuted church, the underground society of believers, those struggling to make disciples in anti-Christian communities. Our attractional model church has very little magic to work on the masses in these spheres- the spheres where coming to Christ means crossing a line, stepping into risk, plausible suffering, and the loss of much here and now.
While I used to preach angrily at the American church for apathy and complacency, I have since grown to understand there is a great lullaby being softly and tenderly played out over our pews that is the incredibly manipulative work of our enemy who is at war against us. I believe the enemy has long recognized that America is different than any nation on earth, and he knows how to play the long game. No other nation is more poised to have an impact for God's Kingdom than the United States of America. That is not mere patriotism on my part. We are a people that will go to war for just causes. We are a people that have a history of self-correction into civil rights, abolishment of slavery, due process and inalienable rights given by our Creator for every man and woman. We are a nation that set out with a motto of "In God we trust." No dictator instigated these things over us, but through a system establish to both lead and represent its people, we Americans chose to be a nation under God. As Christians, it is hard not to feel quite proud of our country for its undeniable (although often tested) Christian foundations and heritage.
However, our story is also filled with injustice, evil and murder as well. As we are also a people that will fight to take what we want, to make sure we have our way, and we have led the planet in giant leaps backward into sin in our influence over sciences, philosophy and human rights. This writing is not about our history though. It is about our future. I will not take time to delve into details regarding what we have done as a nation in the name of expansion, production, or preservation. What I want you to gain from the observation is that there has been an only sometimes seen but always at work enemy opposing the foundations of our nation, its people, and especially its Judeo-Christian values.
The enemy is the Father of Lies. This title given to Satan by our Lord is followed by him being a "murderer from the beginning". The murder of God's people- His likeness- His image bearers- His delighted upon creation- the object of His affection- this has been on the Dragon's mind "from the beginning". Like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, our enemy has always roared as he sought. His pattern is repetitious. His schemes are not new. His craftiness and deceptive abilities however are magnificent. (Don't stone me yet)
Missional Living people do not dismiss the enemy as nothing, but are increasingly informed by a biblical understanding of his schemes, strategies and seductions. You have to recognize the brilliance of his plot, the genius of his battle strategy. Satan has had full on attacks against the Bride throughout history, making much war against the saints. These vicious slaughterings of believers did not arrive over night though. The enemy weaves through those in power, through false doctrines and through great deceptions. He plays much less of a gladiator arena game against the Church as he does Mission Impossible. Masks, covert operations, spies among us, misleading, throwing people off, frustrating plans, attacks that cripple the ability to move forward and get our eyes off of Christ and His mission- this is his style against the American Church. And it works. In a land of plenty, that can produce much for the world, you produce greed and create self-betterment rationales that lead to making the church where people want to be, are entertained, are "helped" in their personal lives, marriages, parenting, finances, BUT are not equipped to make disciples, funded to serve as missionaries, trained in the Word or much less encouraged to fulfill their own God-given purposes for bringing the Kingdom of God into the broken areas of the communities in which they live. In fact, in many cases, if that community becomes uncomfortable and you feel that not enough of a representation is interested in all your church has to offer, you just move the church. You don't move the people to reach the community. You move the church into a community that is predominantly like you, appreciates you, will attend you, will support you, and will further YOU, the local church, so that YOU can grow into a bigger local church. This is reportedly done so that we can do more ministry, be more effective, and reach more people.
The enemy has so manipulated our thinking that we see nothing wrong with it. We don't hear hypocrisy in pursuing the growth of the local church while being averse to really equipping our members to make disciples- and hold them accountable to do it. We have been duped. He got us. The lion was roaring but we still climbed into his mouth. It is our common enemy that I am angry with. The average church goer (I believe) knows that something is wrong with the picture but can't quite put their finger on it. Something is just off. There is a buzz of frustration in the air. Our cues to say amen are followed through and we celebrate the things we can quickly identify as being the work of God in our midst, but we feel that the work of God should be more evident, shouldn't it? For so long, I found myself looking at the church from the pulpit knowing we were ALL asking, "Is this it?".
Our enemy, our common foe, that serpent, has found what tickles our ears, what satisfies us JUST ENOUGH to keep us coming back, feeling like we are participating in the Kingdom, and what duties we should fulfill in order to also feel good about ourselves or even just to fit in with a group of people somewhere that will accept us and be a safe place for our families to grow up together with. The reasons we are attached to church vary, but whether there are candelabras lit or chandeliers that swing in your local church, how are the lost in your community and around the world being saved and coming to the knowledge of the truth through the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all? What about the ACTUAL MISSION? Not all the sub and secondary missions, but the main mission? What about the Father's heart that "desires all people to be saved"? Are we in sync with Him? Are we co-laboring with Him therein? Missional living people keep themselves in check with such questions about the mission itself.
Still, this is where we have to watch another scheme of our enemy- self-righteousness, legalism, and so much pride can creep in here. The enemy would also have us amen the need for people to make disciples, while we remain clueless as to how and aren't doing it ourselves. Missional living people remain humble and teachable, always in a posture of learning.
Until we are engaging the world in the footprints of Jesus, yielding our lives as living sacrifices, how can we expect those who do not know Him to recognize any difference?
Right now in the world, there are thousands of volunteer workers that are stepping up to the plate, to do things that aren't "safe" or comfortable, in order to do some good, right wrongs, and leave the world a better place. They recognize they have more than others, and want to give some back. They see that there are needs they can meet, and seek to find a way to help. Some people are giving a month, some a year, and others are living an incredibly simple lifestyle abroad, giving up much in order to give much. As Christians, we think of such folks as missionaries and sacrificial saints, who deserve honor and respect. What is the backstory of those who don't profess our Jesus though? Why are they doing what we label "Christian work"?
I have enjoyed meals and the company of men and women who are more skilled in responding to international crisis than I will probably ever be, who sacrifice much to be on the front lines, yet care very little for faith, who make no pretense about not believing in God. We should be careful in reserving "good works" as the tell-tale sign of salvation. If this were the case, there would be no need to be reminded that all our works of righteousness are as filthy rags. We would not be in need of long passages dedicated to eradicating the pursuit of good works as the means whereby we would obtain grace. Can a man's works save him? The Scriptures tell us no. Can a man's life be filled with good works and he still be adamantly in rebellion against submitting to the Lord in his heart? Undoubtedly, yes.
What a shame it is that we find ourselves so quick to dismiss the one who shames us by comparison to the great works he does on earth, for the fact that he does not claim our Messiah. This is uncomfortable ground for us. We do not wish to mix light and darkness. We feel we cannot work alongside another unless it is solely for the outcome that the Gospel is preached and souls are saved. What of the lost souls already serving? Who will come alongside them and both speak and live out the Gospel before them, speaking the truth in love, while being teachable and humble before their expertise? Missional Living people aren't diverted from the mission by the crowd Jesus puts them in or alongside.
Creation theology has relevance to today. Our acceptance of the biblical account in Genesis, and it's recurrence throughout Scripture produces the conviction that everyone in the world bears the image of God, is made in His likeness in that we feel, think, make decisions and are also more spiritual than we are physical, that we are to live in eternity with Him, and that we reflect not only the handiwork of our Designer, but also are each a reflection of that which He is in this world. Our worth is determined in this likeness, being set apart from all the rest of creation as what would be in fellowship with our Maker. Our purpose and passions, when untainted by the flesh, and pointed in parallel with His activity in the world, reveal that we are cause agents for more than just social good, but for revealing the King of the Kingdom to the world around us. The fall of man kicked us into an oblivious state of mistaken identity, false purposes centered on self and a sense of entitlement to design our own futures and secure our own destinies.
However, some men and women are simply not far from the Kingdom. They happen upon passions and interests, talents and pursuits that reveal to us a closer sense of likeness to what our Heavenly Father cares for and would ultimately use to work supernaturally through them to reveal Himself to the world, to reveal that the Kingdom of God is among men, and to offer mankind the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
They just don't know it yet.
They just don't know that they are reflecting the heart of their Creator, Designer and God. As we come alongside in cooperation, God can and often reveals through us why it is that they too possess such a longing to push back the darkness, not because man is basically good, but because we were designed and created to both be in fellowship with our maker and reflect His identity, nature and character to one another on earth. The fall into sin and the curse of death tainted many things, but never our design or purpose.
Unfortunately, there are a very many on planet Earth that are living in opposition to their Creator's good intentions, being deceived. The full extent to which is incalculable by any superficial observation, but it is apparent that when mankind lives in violation of God's laws as simple as the Ten Commandments, that they are not fulfilling their purpose. It should be stated herein that mere vocation or eductation and the like are not intended by the use of the word purpose, although these things play their part. No, by purpose, one should think in terms of who more than what. One might say, "I am a doctor", but this is what a person does and was educated to perform more than who the person is. One can be a doctor and an adulterer, or a pastor and a thief. These are the things we have chosen to do with our lives- things that tell others about ourselves and give others a sense of who we are, but only a sense. Missional living people never assume much about a soul based on their title or occupation.
We need to learn to think in deeper terms of identity than what we have layered upon ourselves, like shirts and coats that become the outfit by which we wish to be remembered, when it is the person wearing them that makes the difference in the lives of other people. God intended, for instance, that the kindness He exudes from His being be evident as more than something we do when it suits us, but a part of our identity- that we are kind because our Creator is kind, and thus it is our purpose to show kindness. Fill in the attributes of God to this equation of self-evaluation, and we discover that there are many things we are to both be and do that result from being fashioned after our Designer. It is not so much that God "worked" for six days and therefore we are to take the job offer on the table, as it is that God designed us to be satisfied and fulfilled when we labor and can call it "good".
When the person and example of Jesus is in view, we find the God-man living in a perfect harmony of identity and purpose, knowing what it was that He had come to do, even though much of His earthly ministry brought great opposition. He walked knowing He had full permission to do whatever His Father willed- had designed and purposes for His identity to carry out on earth. He knew that He had come to fulfill His Father's plan. The question for us comes to view here in that we are too often found wrestling with what God's will is, seeking to understand our next steps, wanting to have the seeming crystal clear clarity of Christ to know what every day was supposed to be about, where to go and who to minister to. We want a daily set of cue cards.
Missional Living people gain direction through abiding in Christ. Remember though that wrapped up in the God-man's identity, purpose and permission was the relationship He had to His Father. He was not unintentional about abiding. He had limited Himself to experience our need to seek the Father, and demonstrated how to go about it. Through the recorded lifestyle of Christ we find that what Jesus did with His life (His purpose) came out of a nearness to His Father that solidified Who He really was and is (His identity) (This is My Son...), and when a man knows these two things because he has come to know the Maker and Designer of them so well, he lacks no confidence to act upon them to the full extent (permission). He will make choices in line with the discernment of God. He will take risks that are no longer risks to him because they coincide with the activity of the Holy Spirit.
Missional Living people understand that God's will for us is a freeing thing. The person that is constantly growing in the identity, purpose and permission that stems from a deepening connection to the heart of his Father cannot but become increasingly on mission to reveal the Kingdom of God among men in this world, regardless of station, status or situation in which the Father has placed him. That man or woman will grow in Christ-confidence, regardless of what circumstances of employment or education develop, or what difficulties come against them. The continually abiding believer spends much less time trying to make the right decisions in life, as they do eagerly taking on the next point of ministry that they see and hear their Father presenting them, urging them toward, as if He were cheering them on exclaiming, "Go forward!"