Sharing Christ’s Word in Obedience
Samuel Zwemer once remarked, “If evangelical Christianity is reducible to a successful communication of a valuable experience, we need no theology of missions. But the New Testament makes perfectly clear that the aim of Christian missions is the fulfillment of a Divine Command ….”Samuel M. Zwemer, Introduction The Biblical Basis for Missions, Moody Press. This Divine Command, known as “The Great Commission,” is found in each of the first five books of the New Testament.
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.’ Matthew 28:18–20 (NASB)
And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’ Mark 16:15 (NASB)
And He said to them, ‘thus it is written … that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations…’ Luke 24:46–47 (NASB)
Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ John 20:21 (NASB)
But you shall 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 1:8 (NASB)
The words of our Lord in Acts take on even greater impact when we realize they were His very last words on earth. While this may seem incidental to some, the subject was evidently important enough to Jesus to occupy His final thoughts.
There is in these great commission scriptures an unmistakable command—Go. As Loren Cunningham reminds us, “Go means a change of location.” Jesus’ promise that He would be with us to the end of the world is linked to His command to “Go.” The extent of Christ’s “Go” in our lives depends solely on His purposes at any given time. Every true Christian understands “he is not his own” and that therefore personal plans are not to detain us against Christ’s call. Many times when we say we don’t feel a leading, we are really saying we don’t have a feeling.
Our absolute obedience to Christ is a manifestation of our absolute love for Him. We don’t go into the world proclaiming the gospel in order to impress each other with our dedication. We do not go out of a sense of sterile obligation. But neither do we go primarily because we feel such compassion for the lost. No, we do not go for their sakes—we go for His sake, because Jesus Christ deserves to have what He died for. As His servants, we obey His commission of love to go to the ends of the earth in search of a bride. No nation or city, village or island must be forgotten, no street or field overlooked. She is everywhere, and He wants her. We must fetch her.
Sharing Christ’s Love As Our Purpose for Living
Proverbs tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). The Hebrew word for perish in this scripture is para, which literally means “to cast off restraint.” The picture this suggests is marvelous. Our vision consists of the revealed plan of God for our lives during any given period. God’s plans are not, as some appear to think, coloring books in which He supplies a general outline and we fill in the detail according to our discretion. A God-given vision is pregnant with detail. The general outline is there, but He also supplies us with detailed instructions regarding the colors He wants.
I am frequently approached by confused believers beset with discouragement and frustration. I generally get around to asking, “Well, what is your vision?” More often than not there is no answer—and that is the answer—for where there is no vision the people perish (cast off restraint). Let me illustrate it this way: The will of God for our lives, the specific, tailored purpose for our lives, our vision, becomes as it were the walls of a conduit or pipe. As such, it performs a constraining and a restraining function. Characteristically it channels our life’s energy and flow to a prescribed end, while at the same time prevents our thoughts and energies from dissipating arbitrarily and prematurely into useless stagnant puddles.
The frustrated Christians had become stagnant puddles. They weren’t going anywhere. Because they had no vision, they had cast off the restraining qualities of the will of God. Their life’s energies were spewing out of gaping holes in the pipe. When God desires to accomplish some task through them and turns on the faucet, nothing happen—there is no longer any water pressure. Instead of allowing the will of God to channel their lives in an energetic, purposeful fashion, they have become shallow, stagnant pools of aimless inactivity.
I’ll Keep God to Myself
It is impossible for men to ‘settle’ in the world completely without God. Although proud of its successes and attainments, the world sees, every day, more clearly the provisional and insufficient nature of its civilization. On the verge of having its foundations shaken to the core, it thirsts as never before for the true Light.
But the most surprising fact in modern spiritual life must be considered our indifference toward this thirst, Our own too-easy consent to the division existing between the Church and the world. We refuse to recognize that this external division is supported not only by the ‘willfulness of the world,’ but also by our own stagnant Christianity… is it not we ourselves who have helped to reduce the meaning of the life of the Church to an ‘intimate little corner’ of piety locked away with seven locks from the life of the world? Evgeny Barabanov, “The Schism Between the Church & The World,” From Under the Rubble, Bantam, p. 186.
This is a picture of the ultra-sophisticated, twentieth-century shrine. It is Sunday—the feast day of the fellowship. All across the land we gather to spend our time and count our blessings. Huddled together in our insulated environments we take great care to avoid letting the heat out, or the cold in. We only want warm bodies, it’s much too difficult to warm a cold one. How vividly I recall an incident shared by Floyd McClung, so indicative of our demise. A pastor delivered the following account:
A couple days ago on my way to the Church I noticed a pathetic-looking young girl. She was standing forlornly in front of a halfway house which had evidently been closed. It was a bitterly cold day and she was shivering in her scanty clothes. Probably she wasn’t much over 16 years old and yet, there she was cradling a dirty, little baby in her arms—-obviously looking for help. My heart was touched as I drove by.
We simply don’t want to bring a draft into our warm fellowships… but our hearts are touched.
We have gotten used to ‘owning’ our Christianity and keeping it to ourselves, to not sharing it, as if it were an accidental inheritance. Ibid., p. 187.
Thus we have the Fraternal Christian Club, a place to be among one’s own. Fellowship becomes the excuse we use to keep God to ourselves. The Bible tells us, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). That spirit was ‘to seek and to save that which was lost.’ Where do we get the idea that we can close the sheepfold to all but the warm, attractive sheep? What was Jesus really saying to Peter (and to us) when He closed the book of John with the words “Feed my sheep”? (John 21:15–17). The popular interpretation is that Jesus’ sheep represent only Christians. Perhaps we ought to look again.
“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
“The world might rather take offense at the Church for keeping the secret of salvation to itself and being unable or unwilling to speak about it in accessible language.” Ibid., p. 188. This possessive, self-indulgent mentality that so subtly, yet so powerfully grips the Church today, will one day be judged.
A Bride’s Discretion
Overfed and underbred
the Church has gone astray
a harlot’s bed the prophets said
would hasten her decay
what does she care
about an empty chair
at a wedding feast he’s planned
values rotted garments spotted
the bride has spoiled his day
She revels in her merrymaking
doesn’t care his heart is breaking
won’t someone speak to her?
her children do the same
clutching lies they roll their eyes
disdaining thought of blame
they spend their worth
in pursuit of mirth
mortgaging empty souls
all that’s left from Satan’s theft
are orphans with their shame
Who would’ve dreamed
she’d give him up
to taste the wine
from Satan’s cup
is there nothing we can do?
Destitute the prostitute
has left her brood alone
her body’s fruit will follow suit
in bolting heaven’s home
but she cannot conceal
what time will reveal
they’re illegitimate posterity
in willing him part
they sealed their hearts
forgetting his home is a throne
morality has no creed
the congregation of the nation
relinquishes her lead
a careless choice to lose one’s voice
while hell is growing bold
but all that mattered
drowned in chatter
as ecumenicals agreed
She revels in her merrymaking
doesn’t Care his heart is breaking
won’t someone speak to her?
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways. Jeremiah 2:32–33
The Church is in her Babylonian captivity, and as Israel could not sing the songs of Zion in a strange land, so Christians in bondage have no authoritative message to declare. A.W. Tozer