• JWool

The Progression of Missional Involvement

Is the mission of God part of your life? Or is your life part of the mission of God? You know the Sunday school answer, but which one is it really for you? In your walk with the Lord, the hope is that you go “all in” on developing the character traits that reflect Jesus Christ. The hope is also that you go “all in” on the mission God is accomplishing through his people. It is the one story that will matter in a billion years, so everyone relates to it in some form. From what I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of those around me, there are various levels of involvement in the story of God’s mission to redeem people from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Below is a progression of questions which may help you to identify where you and your disciples currently stand in relation to the mission for which God has left you on this planet.

Lost or Saved?

The first category is self-explanatory. Have you had an experience with Jesus Christ? Are you walking in relationship with God? If not, what is stopping you from surrendering your life to the King? It is the new creation that becomes an ambassador in God’s kingdom, so you must first be made new! Jesus speaks of the mission in Acts 1:8, saying that you will become his “witnesses”. It is impossible to be a witness to something you yourself have not truly experienced. Perhaps one reason you are not involved in the mission is because you have no experience with Christ to share. If this is you, start by turning to follow Jesus!

Temporary or Eternal?

If you have been saved by the grace of God and are walking with Jesus, are you now focused on the temporary or the eternal things? I’m not asking which one you should be focused on; I’m asking which one you are focused on. Does the “here and now” consume your thoughts and time? Or is your heart meditating on eternity? There are many examples in scripture in which the people of God are focused on temporary things and are distracted from what God would have them do. In the book of Haggai, God rebukes his people for neglecting the work of rebuilding the house of the Lord:

“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Haggai 1:4

They were distracted with the cares of their temporary lives, and he withheld blessing from them:

“Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.” Haggai 1:9

Jesus also describes people who are focused on temporary things when he tells the parable of the sower:

“And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Mark 4:18-19

These folks are not focused on bad things. They are simply focused on temporary things while the eternal things are offered to them. Do you find yourself consumed with the cares of this life? Do you find yourself desiring other things? What does your heart really want? If you look at the week ahead, is your life marked by activities that will matter when you finally look into the eyes of Jesus? Or is it more ordinary and temporary than that?

Activity or Identity?

If you are walking in relationship with God and are focused on the eternal things, is the mission of Jesus still just an activity for you to participate in? Or has it become your identity? We make disciples of all nations not only because it is something we do; it is who we are in Christ.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

You are an ambassador for Christ. Everything else in your life is less important. Mere participation in Christ’s mission while still living in the paradigm of your own life’s story is not enough, even if your own story is aimed at pleasing God. Jesus calls us to take it a step further and make an identity shift. Hopefully, this constitutes more than just “involvement in outreach” in the same way that the president of the United States is not just “involved in politics”. Someone who hasn’t quite made the identity shift yet will often:

1) Reduce disciple-making to an activity, program, or key leader (even if they have an eternal focus and are heavily involved)

2) Treat the mission as something that only takes place on trips or overseas (even if they have an eternal focus and go on as many trips as possible)

The point is this: Before your identity shifts, missional activity has a start and stop time. When your identity shifts, the purpose of the kingdom of God becomes who you are. You become consumed by it each and every day, and you don’t stop meditating on it or pursuing it. It’s one thing to claim this identity, but what does it look like to truly live in this identity?

If you were dropped onto this planet by Jesus and he said to you, “Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear or anything else. Just seek the kingdom of God. Go make disciples of all nations until I return.” What would you do? Is what you are doing with your life right now the strategy you would use to accomplish this? The person who truly makes the identity shift is constantly seeking to adjust their life to answer “yes” to this question.

Peace or War?

It may seem that there is no higher level of involvement in God’s mission than aligning your identity with it. But there is still more to give. Imagine you are a soldier, but you haven’t gone to war. Your identity is “soldier”, but the urgency of a wartime state has not taken root. Instead, you are a soldier living in a peaceful land with no war to fight. But a soldier in a war is aware of an end goal and is actively running toward it. Are you willing to live in a state of war? When fighting in a war, there is no consideration of self. You are there to fight, and there isn’t time to busy yourself with other things. There is an urgency that calls for sacrifices beyond what is generally accepted in other circumstances. The purpose is greater than any one soldier, and every soldier is ready to die to see the purpose accomplished. If the gospel message is true and Jesus deserves a bride complete with every nation and tongue, then “war” is the reality in which we live. A soldier living in wartime in the kingdom of God is:

1. Willing and ready to lose his life for the gospel

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” Revelation 6:9-11

2. Focused on the war and not consumed by civilian activities

“Share in suffering as a good solder of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4

3. Unwavering through persecution

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:19-22

4. In love with something much greater than his own life

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11

The reality is that your identity can be firmly rooted in Christ and the pursuit of his kingdom while still becoming entangled in civilian pursuits, concerning yourself with the cares of your own life, and lacking a willingness to die. But why wouldn’t you want to go all in? The great news about this kind of war is that God’s ultimate purpose will be accomplished. His plans will not be thwarted. He will not lose. In earthly wars, soldiers are willing to die for a cause knowing that they will never get to enjoy the result of their efforts and sacrifice. But in the war of the kingdom of God, those who die fighting know they will win and be resurrected to enjoy the very thing they were striving toward! So why is there anything to fear? Could it be that we are too attached to our lives in this world? Is there anything in this world you are unwilling to leave behind? Why not go harder after Jesus? Live only to see the purpose of the kingdom accomplished! If Jesus is worth more than life, then do not hold back! Focus on the eternal things, shift from activity to identity, and live in the urgency of a war that you know will end with your perfect Savior and Master coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory!

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