You cannot introduce people to Jesus if you do not know Him yourself.

introduction

Jesus gave Christians very clear marching orders:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

We can test our general obedience by asking ourselves if we are making disciples or not.  But We can only introduce people to Jesus if we know Him ourselves.  We can only teach people to know, love and obey Him as much as we know, love and obey Him.

Now, to be sure, there are times when God uses people who do not know Him to preach the Gospel.

“Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…”

– Phil 1.15-18

Paul was aware that there are people who preach the Gospel for the wrong motives, out of selfishness, envy and strife.  These people likely do not know Jesus.  But Paul does not care about their motives but rejoices simply that the Gospel is being proclaimed.  But these people cannot make disciples.  Preaching the Gospel leads to making converts, not making disciples.

To make a disciple is to teach one to observe all that Jesus has commanded us.  But we will only be able to teach that which we have developed as discipline for ourselves.  How do you have a daily quiet time?  How do you fight sin?  How do you encourage the body?  How do you share the Gospel?  How do you pray?  How do you love on God?

You will only be able to obey God by teaching others to do these things to the extent that you do them yourself.

So how are you doing today?

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God will make a way.

God will make a way

We often find ourselves in situations where we are unsure of the answer, the way out, the solution.  There was a song made popular many years ago by Dan Moen called “God will make a way”.  I find myself humming that tune when I am discontented, when I long for more, when I do not know the best decision in a situation.  We claim verses like Jer. 29.11 (which were not written to us directly), believing that God will bring about our best and make everything turn out all right.

Yes, God absolutely will make everything turn out all right.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

– Rom 8.28

But sometimes God’s “all right” is not how we would want it.  God has a purpose and a plan for humanity and all of the universe in existence, and that is to glorify Himself through taking the Gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation.  Once that work is completed, He will return (Matt 24.14).  Jesus gave final instructions as He was leaving the Earth, and they were simply:  Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20).  That is the work which God is about, and that is the work which we should be about – which we must be about if we want to be obedient to God.

After Jesus had raised from the dead, He spent forty days with his disciples and others, teaching them about the Kingdom of God.  Before He left to go back to Heaven, the disciples asked Him if it was now that He would take over the world, if it was the end.

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

– Acts 1.7-8

Jesus told the disciples that they would be His witnesses around the world.  As He was giving this instruction, however, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Gathering 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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

– Acts 4.1-5

So the disciples had followed Jesus, watched Him be killed and then witnessed Him as resurrected.  For forty days Jesus taught them intensively on the Kingdom of God and He told them to stay put in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, but after receiving the Spirit they were commissioned to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.  Acts then accounts the coming of the Spirit and the beginning of the movement there in Jerusalem.  Thousands of people were coming to faith every time there was a mighty work and preaching.  The disciples were being put in jail.  Stephen was stoned to death.  And the Church was multiplying.  But everyone was still in Jerusalem, preaching to the Jews.  And Jesus had been very clear with His instructions.  So what happened?

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting [Stephen] to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.  But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.  Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.  Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.

– Acts 8.1-5

Jesus instructed his followers that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.  When the Church did not take the initiative to get out and go, God raised up a great persecution that caused the believers to scatter.  And to where did they scatter?  Judea and Samaria (8.1)  God made a way.  He made the way.  He moved people in mass numbers throughout the known world, and they went around proclaiming the Good News!

Would you consider it good news?  If you were living your life, working your job, being a comfortable, happy American who went to Church on Sundays and the city rose up against your church and you had to flee for your life with nothing but whatever you could squeeze in your car, would you flee to the next state and preach the Gospel?  If Jesus cost you your job, your house, your family, your livelihood, would He still be good news?  He was to the believers in the first generation of the Church.

Is your Church working towards fulfilling the Great Commission?  Has God commanded you and yours to do something?  He will make it happen.  He will cause situations to bring it about, one way or another.   Our good, which God is causing, is not necessarily that we have a job, that we have healthy children, or a nice house.  It is not necessarily that we get what we want.  Our good is joy, eternally, with and in Him.  So let’s get moving before He has to disperse us.

We must obey God rather than men.

evangelism

Often times we consider obedience as blatant morality.  We have pep rallies in our churches and small groups, banding together under the motto:  “We obey God and not man” and part of that obedience is submitting to the authorities that God has put in place over us (1 Peter 2.13).  We imagine the day that speaking about Jesus will be against the Law, but all-in-all we live comfortably because the government does not ask us to do anything that goes against what God forbids, or forbid us from doing anything that God commands.

Or does it?

The separation of Church and state was instituted because of the power that the Roman Catholic Church held in the Roman Empire and throughout much of Europe.  The United States was founded (in part) so that people could have freedom of religion and escape the dominion that was un-Biblical.  This is a good thing.  We, as Christians, understand that salvation comes by faith.  We cannot force someone to have faith, and we know that it is God alone who gives faith.  So, if we had a government that attempted to force faith on someone, it would go against the commands of Jesus.  We preach the Gospel, and God causes the growth (1 Cor 3.6-7).

There are issues that are arising which are slowly infringing on Biblical commands, like abortion and birth control.  The government does not force us to have abortions or to use birth control which might go against our conscience, however.  It is attempting to make room for a variation of beliefs within our society and (I believe wrongly) assuming that the option is mankind’s right, and Christians must make provision for it.

But consider with me the primary command that Jesus has given us and the laxity with which Christians approach it.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Jesus’ final words were, “Go and make disciples”.  The disciples themselves prayed continually for boldness to preach the Gospel.  Everywhere they went they were talking about Jesus and following Him.  Everywhere they went people were coming to faith because they shared the Gospel and showed signs and wonders to back it up.  The Holy Spirit even supernaturally moved Phillip to meet a man on the side of the road to share the Gospel, and after he baptized him, took Phillip back.  Jesus said do it, and they did it.

We, however, by-and-large, are not doing it.  We have been indoctrinated that religion is not appropriate for the workplace, so we hope that our outstanding morality and happy faces will be enough.  We want people to think, “There is something different about him”, and leave it up to the observer to ask.  We are not going and making disciples, we are staying and waiting for the lost to try to be found.

And we are completely comfortable doing so.

In fact, we think it is the right thing to do!  We do not want to force our thoughts on someone else, we do not want to try to answer a question that someone is not asking, we just want to be a listening ear and only say something if someone asks.  And when someone asks, we are afraid that we do not know the right answer, so we chicken out.

The disciples went out and preached Jesus.  They were arrested and thrown in jail.  Then the Holy Spirit took them out of jail, without the guards knowing, and the next morning they went to the temple and started preaching and teaching again!  They did not go into hiding.  Then they were arrested again, and beaten.  They went back out preaching more, and even rejoiced that they got to suffer a portion of what Jesus had to endure.

But yet we go in to work and the moment Jesus crosses our minds, we squash the thought because we might get fired for talking about Jesus.

I challenge you today to consider Jesus’ final words.  Go and make disciples.  Everywhere, all the time.  Not just at church, not just in your free time, all the time.  And take the position:

“We must obey God rather than men.”

– Acts 5.29

Is your job, security, or position more important than obeying God?  You must do your job and preform your duties as unto the Lord, but we have been commanded to preach the Gospel always.  With our words.  Actions are not the Gospel, the story of Jesus is the Gospel.  God has promised to meet all of our needs and to take care of us, and if it so be that we lose our jobs because of Jesus, He will take care of us.

Over My Dead Body.

road to hell

For what are you living?  What are your life goals?  When was the last time you visited your five-year, ten-year and fifteen-year plans?  When was the last time you laid your personal ambitions down and asked God what He would like to do in and through you?

When you meet with your financial adviser, he will ask you what your goals are.  Our answers usually center around retirement, education, job security, providing for a family and the like.  We need money to do all of these things, and it is his job to help us make and keep as much money as possible to meet our goals.  But what if we considered God’s counsel and input more valuable than that of our financial adviser?  What if we sought to understand His heart and asked Him what goals and ambitions would honor Him, momentarily and eternally?

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.

– Ps 24.1

Everything in the world belongs to the Lord.  He made it, He is sovereign over it, it is His.

“For every beast of the forest is Mine,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the mountains,
And everything that moves in the field is Mine.”

– Ps 50.10

He has the resources to provide and take care of His children forever.  Therefore Jesus commanded His disciples,

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matt 6.25-26, 33-34

So if we are instructed to trust God with the future, with our physical welfare, and with our daily needs, on what does He want us to be focused?  Dying words, last words are always of utmost importance and Jesus’ final words were what we know as “The Great Commission”:

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

– Matt 28.19-20

Make disciples.  He wants us to be concerned about making disciples.  Not just converts, but finding people who believe and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus taught.  He commanded us to love our enemies, to serve the poor, to preach the Gospel to a lost and dying world.  It’s really quite simple.  Do you have a heart for the lost?  Charles Spurgeon said,

“Have you no wish for others to be saved?  Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

How can he make such a bold statement?  Because,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

– 1 John 4.7-8

If you do not love others, if you are indifferent about the eternity of your family, friends, neighbors, and the world, then you do not know God.  God is love.  And if we know Him, then we love others.  And if we understand our sin, embrace salvation and look forward to an eternity with God, then the loving response is to desire that for others.  It should be our life’s greatest ambition to bring as many others as possible into the kingdom with us.  Spurgeon also said,

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies.  And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay.  If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

– Charles Spurgeon

Let’s reevaluate our life goals, and weigh them against Scripture.  Let’s invite God to take over our five-year plans.  Let’s obey what He said to do and trust Him because He owns everything anyway.  We cannot add a day to our lives, but He can clothe the fields with flowers and feed the birds; He can care for His children.  So let’s get busy about making disciples, and let’s lay down – to the point of death, if necessary – in sinners’ path on the way to Hell.

How do I know if I am called?

world

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Jesus spent three years teaching His disciples.  He taught them how to live, how to pray, how to be strong, dynamic, obedient and faithful disciples.  At the end of His Earthly ministry, after He completed the plan of salvation by dying on the cross and raising from the dead, His final words, His last command was, “Go and make disciples”.  Basically, “Go, do what I did”.  Jesus left Heaven – He left comfort, He left His role as God and king, He left everything and humbled Himself becoming a man, made disciples for three years and then sent them off to multiply the work.  The apostles obeyed.

When you die and arrive in Heaven, do you long to hear the words,

“Well done, good and faithful slave.”

– Matt 25.21

I do.  I certainly do not want to stand before my Savior, my God and the judge to defend why I disobeyed or neglected His commands.  And it is on that foundation that I wonder why we as the body, as a church and as individuals willfully ignore and disobey this commission and command of Jesus:

We cannot all go.  I do not feel a calling to the mission field.  I am not smart enough.  Somebody has to stay behind to send and support.  There is no open door.  I don’t know how to do it.  Someone else will do it.  I pray for the missionaries.

God said, “Do not lie” (Ex 20.16).  When you are walking through your day, do you only tell the truth when you feel like it?  Do you get to lie because someone else will tell the truth?  Do you need an extra, spiritual, warm fuzzy feeling to enlighten you that God intended for YOU to not lie and tell the truth?  Or is it clear that since He said it, since He wrote it in His word that it applies to you too?

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22.39).  Does that mean I have to love my neighbors?  Does that apply to you?  Or do you spend hours wrestling with God and “digging into His word” to see if the commandment applies to you?  Do you pray, “God if it is your will that I love my neighbor, give me a sign”?  Or do you think that perhaps, since He said it and wrote it down, that it is understood as instruction for all believers?

Christians over-spiritualize the call to ministry.  Some people have been given the gifting and abilities to preach.  Some people have been given the gifting and abilities as evangelists.  But everyone who knows Jesus, who loves Him, and who has learned to be a disciple is commanded to make disciples of all the nations.  Period.  There is no way around it.  Yes, that does mean that someone has to make disciples in America, in South Korea and other Christian and post-Christian cultures around the world.  That is a very real part of the ministry of the local Church.  We are always only one generation away from a non-believing world.

However.  God did not save hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Americans for us to all sit around, erect monuments to our wealth, wow the worldly culture with flashy lights and entertainment and to pat one another on the back for donating our old used clothes to the poor.  God also did not save us to recluse ourselves into respectful, quiet, reverent communities.  God radically called us from death into life, taught us how to be discipled, how to disciple one another, and to get out into the world of darkness preaching His name.  We are called to get our hands dirty.

My denomination is big on percentages and shock-value.  I live in Denver, CO and we tell ourselves all the time, “Denver is only 6% evangelical inside the city limits and 8% as you work your way out”.  We comfort ourselves by stating that we are living in a mission field!  It is one of the least-reached cities in the United States!  Yes, that is true.  Yes, there is a huge need here in Denver.  But you know what?  There are five churches in my neighborhood.  I pass eight churches in my 4.4 mile commute to work every day.  There are people groups of millions of people all around the world who have never heard the name of Jesus, who are thousands of miles away from the nearest church and Christian and who have absolutely no access to the Gospel.  They do not fight about prayer in school because their schools are all Muslim and they pray five times a day to Allah.  They do not wonder what God has to say about homosexuality because they do not even know that there is a God, that there is salvation available, and that He might have moral and ethical expectations of us.

2.9 billion people.

Thousands are dying every day…

Going to Hell, without ever having heard the name of Jesus.

But, it’s not my responsibility because “I don’t feel called”, and “I haven’t had an experience where God laid a people group or mission on my heart”.

You have been called.  If you are a Christian, Jesus called you in Matt 28.  He called you corporately as a body, and He called you individually.  You might have a specific calling to make disciples in your family, community or country, because America is a nation.  It is included in “all nations”.  But Jesus did not call 99% of us to disciple the same people.  It should be the norm to go, not to stay.

It is a misnomer and disservice to the missionary endeavor to expect an inexplicable “love for the people”.  On occasion you hear stories of missionaries being called to the field by God supernaturally placing the name of a people group, a vision of a city, or passion for a specific tribe in their hearts, but this is not a Biblical model of calling and example that we need to expect for God to take us somewhere for service.  Paul was given a vision one time, in all of his missionary journeys to go to Macedonia.  The rest of the time he went through open doors and where he wanted to go.  He stayed where people were receptive to the Gospel and moved on when they weren’t.  He only knew that he was called and appointed to reach the non-Jews.  Basically the entire world.

We do not go primarily for a love for the people, we go for a love for God.  This is first a foremost a matter of obedience, and one that is enacted out of love and thankfulness for the salvation we have so freely been given.  We never know what our receptivity will be in a foreign place.  But God will walk with us, guide us, comfort us, sustain us and give faith to some people from every tribe, tongue and nation.  And He wants to use us as His mouthpiece.  The people may be wonderful people.  We may love their culture, we may desire to be more like them in many ways.  Or they may be terrible people.  They may annoy us and the culture make no sense to us.  But we do not go or stay based on our feelings or reactions to the people and culture.  We go and stay based on the commandment of Jesus:  Go, make disciples of all the nations.

Do not get caught up in the frivolity and emotion that is so often surrounding the missionary effort.  It is an extremely exciting decision to make and there will be highs and lows emotionally, but we do not base our decision for obedience on our feelings.  Missionaries are not super Christians, they are obedient ones.  Going to a foreign country, however, does not mean that you are necessarily being obedient!  You must proclaim the Gospel and disciple those who believe.  Being a businessman in Albania or providing electricity to tribal peoples in the Congo does not make you a missionary; making disciples does.   Jesus did not command us to “take clean water, medicine and electricity to the world”, no, He said, “go make disciples of every nation”.  Everything else is periphery.

So, do not ask yourself today, “Am I called to go?”  Rather, ask yourself, “Am I confident that I am called to stay?”  Jesus very clearly told us to go.  You ought to be extremely confident of your disciple-making role at home if you choose to stay.  How do you decide where to go?  If God has not supernaturally placed in your heart a vision or passion, then look to see where your church is already active.  If your church is not already involved somewhere, then get a copy of “Operation World” (or check out the “Joshua Project” online) and find out where the greatest need is.  Something will prick you, and you will get excited.

Let’s work towards obedience and know with confidence that we will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Secure your own mask first before helping others.

oxygen mask

“If cabin pressure should change, panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks; reach up and pull a mask towards you.  Place it over your nose and mouth, and secure with the elastic band, that can be adjusted to ensure a snug fit.  The plastic bag will not fully inflate, although oxygen is flowing.  Secure your own mask first before helping others.”

– Pre-flight safety demonstration, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

I have been flying a lot lately, and have listened to the safety demonstration for the gazillionth time in my life.  The last line of the oxygen mask instruction has caught my attention lately, however.  (Have I mentioned that I was in a plane that hit the ground so hard that the oxygen masks fell during landing?)  We, in the west, live with certain Christian undertones in our society that we do not even realize are Biblical at their core.  Holding the door for strangers, letting them go before you as you enter a building, for example, is a chivalrous action that stems from the great commandment:  putting one another before yourself.  Taking care of our neighbors.  The Good Samaritan Law is a law whereby we expect and require one another to stop and help someone who is in need!  This, obviously, derived its name from the story in the New Testament of the Good Samaritan who stopped and helped the man who had been beaten and robbed.  Many non-Christian cultures do not have these idiosyncrasies or tendencies.  Most Asian cultures to not wait in line for service, and individuals push and elbow their way to the front of lines.  This is not considered rude for them, it is just how their cultures function.  They do not hold the door for strangers.

That being said, the instruction given on an airplane sounds a bit selfish at first glance.  Harsh even.  If you were flying with your child, would you let him suffer an inability to breathe while you fumble with this contraption that is wildly bouncing in front of your face, attempting to tighten it over your nose so you can breathe?  Or would you see the panic on your child’s face and do everything that you can to get him air as he is hyperventilating in terror before securing oxygen for yourself?

In contingency and kidnapping training, individuals have to be taught to protect others.  Many married men are embarrassed that in a moment of panic they do not naturally jump to the defense of their spouse or children.  Gun shots fire and we hit the ground.  It has to be a learned trait to put one’s self in between danger and another person.  The natural “fight or flight” response is not selfless.

So what?  I know this is a pretty silly analogy, but as I contemplated the variety of implications this mindset could have if applied broadly, it reminded me of one of the most difficult passages in Scripture:

“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…”

– Rom 9.1-3

Paul was the best Jew out there.  He kept all the laws, he had the pedigree, he went above and beyond in his piety and everyone knew him.  When Jesus called him and transformed him, he was set aside as the apostle to take the Gospel to the non-Jews.  But Paul loved the Jews, and he often testified to them as well.  And in this passage of Scripture, we catch a glimpse of his heart for his own people:  he loved them so much and was so grieved over their lack of salvation that he wishes he could trade his salvation for theirs.  He would give up eternity with Christ if it were a direct exchange for their salvation.

Now that is remarkable love.

Is that affixing his oxygen mask before helping others?

Well, yes.  Actually it is.  We all know that such an exchange is an impossibility.  If we have faith, if we trust and love God, we cannot turn off our faith, trust and love and accredit it to another’s account.  And to reach a point of desiring to do so, as Paul did, one must first fully understand the nature of sin, wrath and judgment and grace that lavishes forgiveness, acceptance and salvation on undeserving souls.  One must have his own oxygen mask fully secured and be enjoying the benefits of breathing the oxygen where none is available otherwise in order to desire for another to have it.  Spiritually.

Paul, after he met Jesus on the Road to Damascus, went away for three years to study the Scriptures with no other teacher than Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Then he finally went to Jerusalem where he stayed with Peter for fifteen days and met James, Jesus’ brother, but from there went on his own way again (Gal 1).  He spent years securing his own mask.  And he did not even realize that was what he was doing!  He was called, set apart and humbled to repentance, and it was his only desire to be alone with Jesus and to learn everything he could about Him.  He hungered for Jesus and he fed on the Truth.  After becoming mature in knowledge and practice, he  then endeavored to help others put on their masks.

It was the outpouring of being masked that caused him to desire to be unmasked.

A more appropriate picture of Paul’s heart would be him taking off his oxygen mask to give it to someone who did not have one.

But a mask is offered to all of us, and once we are breathing God will not turn off the oxygen flow.

Have you been radically saved from the grasp of sin?  From the sentence of death and damnation?  Have you been made a new creation in Jesus Christ and given an oxygen mask that pumps out spiritual life into your once dead body?  The more you mature and enjoy Jesus, the more you begin to desire to see others saved.  And if this is so, then it is time to start helping others get their masks on!  You know how, you have yours on.  If you know and love Jesus Christ, the issue is no longer if you should help someone else before you help yourself, because Jesus has already helped you.  He breathed life into your dead, lifeless body.  And while you cannot breathe life into another, you can testify how to get the air flowing!  Jesus saves.  But He desires to use us in the salvation process as the mouthpiece:

“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

– Rom 10.13-15

Are Missionaries Super-Christians?

All cultures have measures of greatness.  Some function by birthright, some are by personal achievement, some by financial success, appearance or happiness.  And even within the Christian community there is a tendency to compare ourselves to one another, wondering where exactly we stack up.  Many who are raised in the church are trained (or tempted) to think that the greatest form of Christian service is vocational ministry.  The devout become pastors, and the super-devout become missionaries.

Right?

We do the same on a micro-level, too, in observing people in different lay roles within the Church.  The “prayer ministry coordinator” of course is extremely spiritual and never struggles with prayer.  But the Sunday School teacher (or small group leader), seems to know every verse written in the Bible.  We often ask, “where is my place amidst all of these Spiritual giants?”

Paul made a statement that can help us define our understanding of the variety of expressions of faith within out congregations:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

– Rom 12.3-5

He uses the platform of our personal faith to discuss the fact that we are different parts that make up a whole.  He goes on to talk about gifts and then instructions for how we are to all act in utilizing those gifts in a God-honoring way.  But the foundation is that we are to have sound judgment in understanding both ourselves and one another, by understanding and evaluating the measure of faith each one has been allotted by God.  God has given me a measure of faith and He has given you a measure of faith.  They may not be the same.  They also may not exemplify themselves in the same way.

We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10.17).  We also know that faith is a gift from God (Eph 2.8-9), and that without it it is impossible to please God (Heb 11.6).  Faith is understanding our sinfulness, the deserved punishment for that sinfulness, the offer of undeserved salvation through the work of Jesus Christ and the satisfaction in His presence and holiness here on Earth while looking forward to the future salvation of eternity by trusting His promises and not our own efforts.

So does the greatest exemplification of faith mean serving in ministry?  Or moving overseas as a missionary?  By no means!  Or as Paul says, “May it never be!”  Some of the most devout and faithful people I know are in American businesses, rocking their companies for the Lord through their testimonies and example, and using their income and gifts to lavishly serve the Kingdom.

Many extremely broken people go to seminary and enter the ministry because they are trying to find answers, they are trying to get emotionally fixed or they are trying to earn merit with God.  Many healthy believers enter corporate, for-profit America and live faithful lives day in and day out in the marketplace.

There is, however, an honorable call to the ministry.  It is to be approached carefully as we are promised that they will be judged with a more severe judgment at the end (James 3.1).  It is a responsibility that will be weighed heavily.  It is better to not teach than to teach poorly and lead some astray – in terms of the judgment we receive from God (Matt 18.6).

As believers we all have the same responsibility:  To serve God by making disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20).  We do that in our daily jobs and activities:  if you are a stay at home mom, if you are in the business world, if you are a teacher, if you are a pastor or if you are a missionary.  That is our goal.  If your measure of faith is to serve God making disciples in the business world, then your responsibility to Him on the last day will be just that.  If you consider your efforts less and try to do someone else’s role, you will fail and be held accountable.  If your measure of faith is to serve God internationally as a missionary, then you will be held to that standard.  He has given you a faith.  He has given you gifts.  And He has given you a calling.  The most Spiritual are those who understand God and themselves and best utilize their skills, passions and abilities to make disciples wherever God has planted them.

I do not say this to minimize the call to ministry or missionary effort.  The Church as a whole has been called to the world, and we are grossly failing the call.  As America pushes on full-steam ahead to a post-Christian society, millions around the world have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.  Not even once.  If God has enabled you, you should go.  For this is your measure of faith.  And faith grows and increases as we blossom in maturity.  Go.  Out your front door.  Down the block.  To work.  To Church.  To a foreign land.

Let’s git er done.

But remember that it is by the faith granted to you, not for merit, not for honor and not because you are a Super-Christian.  It is because you love God, you believe His Word, and you want to see His Kingdom come!

GIT-R-DONE