Our Mission, from God’s perspective
© C. O. Bishop 8/15/14 THCF 8/17/14
Communication is frequently billed as a critically important factor in any relationship as well as any endeavor or business. And yet it is frequently set aside, with someone tersely saying “they don’t need to know that!” Many conflicts could be avoided through clear, careful communication…sent and received. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus is referred to as the “logos”—the Word—the ultimate communication of God. And we do need to know that!
Hebrews 1:1 states that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” and then it goes on to demonstrate that Jesus was and is God’s greatest communication of Himself to Mankind. That is “given communication”…but there has to be a reception, of course. When we receive Christ, we have believed God—received His communication. When we obey his word, we are demonstrating faith: received communication again. John 1:11, 12 state that the Word “Came unto his own (Israel) and his own received him not, but to as many as received him to them gave he power to become the children of God”. The Jews refused to believe, as a nation. But the ones who did believe were born again, and received the Holy Spirit to indwell them forever. The Word was made flesh. God communicated in human form. He had sent burning bushes, signs in the creation, judgments, prophets, visions and dreams…all by way of communication. Finally he showed up in person, God in the flesh: Jesus himself—God’s best communication. Communication is critically important…let’s look at some of the different kinds:
Here in Ephesians 6:18-24, there are four kinds of communication listed:
- Prayer—communication from us to God
- Witnessing—communication from us to unbelievers—with the stated standard being to “make known the mystery…”
- Sharing with believers—feedback—prayer requests, sharing answered prayers—both joys and sorrows, “that ye may know…” (By the way, this is to be distinguished from Gossip. This is “…so that ye may know our affairs”. Gossip is crossing over into talking about other people behind their back…one must learn the difference.)
- God communicating his peace, his love and his living Grace to the believers on a day by day basis.
All four of the above forms of communication are to be part of the daily Christian life. All are part of the job we are given to do. So what’s the job?
What is the overall Mission of the Church—our reason for existing?
The Great Commission is literally our “marching orders”, and world evangelism is the only job assigned to the Church. Everything else is how we are to carry out that assignment. Consider: everything else we are commanded to do could be done better out of the world than in it. Does anyone really believe they are better at “loving one another” now than you will be after you are finally rid of your old sin nature?
But the job of being an ambassador can only be done here in this life. And that is what we are left here to do. So how does each of the types of communication fit into the overall job?
Prayer: Communication with God
There are many passages that tell us how to pray, how often to pray, how not to pray, etc. Paul makes some specific commands or requests, here, though: He says that we are to pray for the brethren continually, with all supplication and perseverance. He asks prayer for himself, too, and I think it is important to see exactly what it was he asked prayer about. Notice it had nothing to do with his finances, his work, his home, his health, etc. It had only to do with his doing the job God sent him to do. He asked that “utterance may be given”—that he would be able to communicate the Gospel. He specifically asked twice that he be allowed boldness, so that he could speak as he ought to speak, and that he could “make known the mystery of the Gospel”.
Has it occurred to you that if you did not give someone enough information that they could make a decision for Christ then you did not “make known the mystery of the gospel?” Sharing the Gospel with unbelievers has to be centered on the desire to feed them the bread of life. If you are afraid to give them the whole truth—bad news and good news, then ultimately, you are not giving the good news. We need to pray this same thing for ourselves.
Is it OK to pray for our physical circumstances? Sure it is! But how you pray reveals a lot about your priorities. If the main things we are praying for are good health and good income, then in truth, how much do we differ from the folks who are actively preaching a “prosperity doctrine”, teaching that if you are right with God, he will make sure you are healthy and wealthy? (Here’s a clue: that is a false teaching, and our prayer life reveals that we really kinda think that way ourselves.) Paul’s prayer life, on the other hand, is very instructive. He only prayed for the physical well-being of others a few times, and the one time we know for sure he prayed for his own physical well-being, God told him to knock it off, saying “My Grace is sufficient for thee!”
But we are definitely commanded to pray—for the leaders of the lost world, for all believers, and for the lost. We are permitted to pray for our own needs as well, so long as we realize that not all hard times are outside the will of God. Some suffering is a gift from God. We need to be in full submission to God. But we are told to cast our cares on him, to pray without ceasing, and to pray, believing that He hears us.
Evangelism: Communication with a lost World
What about evangelism? We already talked about it a little, but the fact is, it is supposed to be part of every believer’s life. We are ambassadors for Christ. How will an ambassador of a country function if he is not making contacts for his nation, as his job dictates? or for God, in our case? We are sent as the messengers of eternal life. We are to share the bread of life, the water of life, the free gift of God’s Grace. Every bit of that requires communication. Can the communication be non-verbal? Certainly it can! But it cannot all be non-verbal. At some point the Grace that your unbelieving friend, co-worker or family-member is seeing in your life has to be explained!
Peter said in 1st Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” That requires verbal communication. And the Lord simply says “be ready”…it’s gonna happen. That is part of the job…it’s part of the Christian life.
Remember that though the goal is to reach the World with the Gospel, it still requires meeting the unbelievers one by one, as a rule. You meet them where they are, and you feed them where they are hungry. You go beyond the “normal” world standards for generosity and kindness, and you share the reason for your faith at every opportunity.
Fellowship: Communion—sharing with other Believers
Who do you like to “hang out with”, and why”? Who are your real friends? And when you are visiting with other believers, do you ever include the Lord in your conversations? Or is He shut out until Sunday? Can you really be carrying out the mission of the Church if you are not also fellowshipping with other believers around the person of Christ?
I remember reading in an account of Paul Fleming (one of the founders of New Tribes Mission), how, prior to the founding of New Tribes, he had gone to the foreign field with another organization. He was fervent in his desire to reach the lost, and excited about the opportunities that seemed to surround him. At a get-together of the missionaries on his team, he unrolled a map and began chatting with a group of men about a tribe that he had heard of in the back hills of that country (Malaysia, as I recall). He did not get far before one of them shut him down, saying, “Fleming, let’s not talk shop!” He was shocked and dismayed to discover that to the rest of the group, yes, certainly, this was “the job”, but to them it was “just” a job; they did not want to talk about it “on their own time”. What does this suggest about the reality of their servant-to-master relationship with Christ? Evidently it was not a reality. This was their “day off”.
I telephoned a pastor, once, mid-morning, on a Monday, enthusiastic about something in the church. He answered the phone and angrily reproached me for calling him “on his day off”. I was shocked, and disappointed, but I quietly apologized, and finally said, “I don’t have a day off.” He called back later and apologized for his response, but I later came to realize that the first response had accurately reflected reality. The second response was only covering his social error. It was “just a job” to him.
We do need to be aware that not all Christian communication is of God. I have frequently heard communication that is really obviously gossip, but prefaced with “Let me tell you this so you can pray about it…” Know what? God says he hates gossip! Be careful that your communication is of a sort that would honor God and edify the rest of the believers. Do make a point of sharing your own prayer requests and those that are public information…just be wise about what gets discussed. It is easy to cross over into gossip.
Notice that what Paul shared with them through Tychicus was information about himself, “…so that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts”. Was Tychicus talking about Paul? Sure he was…at Paul’s direction, and with the express intent of sharing the results of their earnest prayers on his behalf, and the work that he was doing. The result was not “fun stuff to know and tell”, but rather joy and comfort for the believers. It was exactly the information that Paul would have told them if he had been personally present. Tychicus was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. (By the way, he was the scribe who wrote the letter, as Paul dictated, and the one who hand-delivered it as well.)
We share with others freely when we know that they are faithful brothers and sisters. Paul said Tychicus was a beloved brother and a faithful minister. That is why he was entirely comfortable with Tychicus speaking in his behalf. I have had people who I barely knew, and with whom I had virtually no relationship, let alone a secure one, enticing me to share very personal information about my private life. I firmly but respectfully told them that I did not think that would be profitable. I later found out that my hesitation was well-founded—that individual ultimately proved to be a gossip, deliberately using against other people things that were supposedly shared with him in confidence, as a pastor. That is a sad story, but all too common among believers. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap, either on the “telling” end or the “listening” end.
Received blessing: God completing the circle and communicating with His people
So, how does God communicate with the believers? We know he does so through the written word, and via the Holy Spirit, but the things Paul prays for here are gifts from God, communicating His love and blessing to the saints:
Paul prayed for peace, and love with faith, for the brethren. All three are to be taken in this context as having to do not with salvation, but rather the blessings associated with walking in obedience and fellowship with God. In the first place, the fact that they were “brethren” precludes any thought that he was praying for them to achieve peace with God. That peace was achieved at the Cross, and was eternally theirs the moment they trusted Jesus as their savior.
The grace Paul prayed for, in this passage, for the believers, as well as the peace, and love with faith, are all the necessary commodities by which we are to live the Christian life. We walk by faith. We walk in Love. We experience the peace of God, as we daily experience the ongoing living grace of God.
Paul gave a benediction, directed at believers, but narrowing the field just a little. He said “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” If I interpret this to simply mean that because my new nature can do no wrong, and that it surely loves Jesus completely, then I might conclude that it only says “…because you have a new nature, as a believer, the Grace of God is always with you.” And, in a way, that is certainly true. But I tend to think that Paul is saying something a little more direct and with deeper implication: I think it is a promise of God’s living Grace upon and with every believer who actually walks with God. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” I really doubt that any of the disciples said, “Heh, heh! Well, you know, because we have a new nature that can’t sin, we are always obedient at heart…”
No, God takes sin seriously, even in a believer’s life…in fact, more so, in a way: while the punishment for my crimes against God was carried out at the Cross, there are still consequences for sin, and rewards for obedience. God specifically says that he disciplines his children.
So the promise here is actually narrowed a bit—all the promises in chapter one were positional in nature—they are true of us simply because we are born again. But this one, like others, is conditional. It is conditional upon consistent obedience and a sincere agape Love.
It is interesting: the English word, “Sincere”, comes from the Latin word “sincerus”, which literally means “without wax”—untainted, unadulterated. But there are about six different Greek words from which the translators got the English word “sincere”—and none of them mean “without wax”. None carry precisely the same idea as the English word. In this particular case, the Greek word is “aphtharsia”, meaning “without corruption”. So, Paul was certainly holding out a promise that had a condition: Agape love is not “mushy feelings” or even fondness: it is an act of the will whereby the person doing the loving acts in a manner that is entirely in the best interest of the person (or principle) receiving the love. Look at 1st Corinthians 13…every single example given in defining Agape love is not related to feeling at all, but rather an action.
So what does it mean to “Love the Lord Jesus Christ without corruption?” If you saw a marriage within which one party was surreptitiously cheating on the other, or at least constantly getting dangerously close to adultery, wouldn’t you see that as corruption in that marriage?
Think about how frequently you teeter on the edge of sin, or even plunge into outright rebellion and sin, because of anger, or greed, self-gratification, laziness, or whatever. When we choose to go our own way, we are putting our own selves above God; our own desires above His. That is precisely what Paul is quietly warning against. He is holding out a special promise for those who put Jesus first in their lives, across the board, without hedging. It is worth pursuing, and it is possible to attain, or he wouldn’t have offered it. I suspect it is a “get out of it what you put into it” arrangement: “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7-9 read it) Please give this some serious thought, and consider how you can claim this promise in your own life.
Lord Jesus, help us to purify our hearts and to love you without corruption. Amen!