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Delight in God Must Be the Fuel for Mission

By Koa Sinag

Delight in God Must Be the Fuel for Mission

Foundation of Mission

The foundation of all our mission is our knowledge and enjoyment of God.

Yes, I may be born again, but I may not yet be a good missionary. I may have the right intellectual conviction about God’s goodness but be unmoved by him. I may know just what to say and how to say it in my gospel presentation, honoring the Lord with my lips while remaining far from him in my heart (Isa. 29:13).

Our delight in God is the main fuel for mission.

A Good Theologian Is a Good Missionary

John Calvin knew well the vital union between knowing God and mission. Sending missionaries all over the world from Geneva, he first gave them a solid theological foundation. “He believed that a good missionary had to be a good theologian first.”1 Indeed, a good theologian is a good missionary, and a good missionary is a good theologian. Those people who know God most deeply and satisfyingly will be the best at winning hearts into the kingdom; and those most thrilled at the prospect of taking the gospel out into the world are those most captured by the beauty and goodness of the God of the gospel.

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This is nothing more than the teaching of Jesus in John 15, who calls his disciples to abide in him, “the true vine,” if they would bear fruit (John 15:1–4). The only fruitful branches on the vine are those which abide in him, or specifically abide in his love (John 15:9). Fruitful mission is certainly an activity: it requires going out and speaking up, and yet it can only be as the fruit of branches that have first learned to abide. Our happiness in Jesus’s love is his priority for us, even above our sense of being useful to him; in fact, our fruitfulness depends on it.

The Glorious Ones

The Lord says:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14–16)

When Christians enjoy union and communion with the Lord, they are transformed into his likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). Where the Lord is present with his people, his very own light and life shine out.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth. (Ps. 50:2)

The light and glory of the church are no secondary light and glory but Christ himself.

When I Am Weak

Mission fueled by the fullness of God is able to deal with the weakness of its missionaries. Wounded soldiers, struggling saints, and stumbling preachers are not dismissed from the Lord’s army, because they are not expected to be full in and of themselves. In our suffering, our battle with sin, and our lack of experience or boldness or eloquence, we are nonetheless invited to delight ourselves in the Lord and find fullness in him. Paul’s experience with weakness led him to know Christ’s power in him so deeply that he was content not to feign personal strength but to renounce it: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Even in our sin—our frequent denial of the Lord and of our new life in him—we are not finally empty but know the fullness of God. His mercies never come to an end, and his compassion does not fail (Lam. 3:22). The same Son of God who gave himself for us on the cross is, even now, a sympathetic high priest who continues to intercede for us as we struggle with temptation (Heb. 2:14; 4:15; 7:25).

Blood and Glory

This matchless love and grace to such empty ones is a fullness that takes us beyond ourselves. Adopted by a perfect Father, united to his glorious Son, and indwelt by the Comforter, Christians are able to take to the spiritual battlefield of mission with happy, humble selflessness. Suffering in Jesus’s service is something we are frequently told to expect. Paul writes, “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29), and this is, in fact, a participation in Christ’s own sufferings, which are a gateway to resurrection life (Phil. 3:10–11). Peter says that “if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). On the cross, our captain has gone before us into the fight and has already conquered Satan, sin, and death. He has shed his blood and shown his glory. He has shown us a love that cannot be quenched, even by death (Song 8:6). We cannot lose!

Mission fueled by the fullness of God is able to deal with the weakness of its missionaries.

Outside the Camp

In the law, the camp of Israel and her cities were to be kept ceremonially clean, and all that was defiled had to be ejected. Outside the camp was the only fit place for throwing out ashes and waste (Lev. 4:21); it was the colony of those afflicted with infectious diseases (Lev. 13:46) and the venue for the execution of blasphemers (Lev. 24:14). Yet Jesus went out from the center to prostitutes and tax collectors, lepers and Gentiles. Without being infected or compromised, he embraced them, welcomed them, and saved them. In fact, he himself “suffered outside the [city] gate” on the cross to make his people holy (Heb. 13:12). Because he is so full of purity and holiness, he was not diminished by touching death and disease, but his life blazed out, cleansing and healing, delivering, and making whole. He drove out not just unclean spirits but death itself.

Our own mission now is to “go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Heb. 13:13). Made alive, filled, and sanctified in Christ, we do not hide within the “camp” of the church but reach out. This outward stretching of the church, matching that of her Lord, is the extension of his kingdom and blessing into the world, his light shining, and his goodness spreading. Christ’s church always moves into the world with a holiness that can bless, purify, and give life.

A Band of Brothers

Finally, this outward, selfless posture of the church in mission extends to those we find alongside us in the ranks. In a people filled with Jesus’s all-embracing glory, there can be no room for tribalism, competition, and hidden agendas. If I am delightedly filled by Christ, then I will happily march out shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters.

If I believe that I am brilliant but you are weak, I will trek out alone without any care for you. But if I know my own wretched sinfulness and emptiness, I will be honored to go together with you. I will see Christ in you and feel amazed that I can count you a fellow laborer in the gospel (Phil. 2:25). Then, with honesty, humility, trust, and mutual encouragement, we will go out in mission as a happy fellowship.

Deep Down Delighting

Healthy, robust mission is never an accessory to knowing God. It is not an activist project that must be added to our enjoyment of him in salvation. Mission that is to be full and not empty flows only from the satisfaction we experience in Jesus Christ.

The fullness of God given to us in salvation sends us out in mission, but even as we go, we are drawn toward fullness too. Our present delight in God magnetically leads us toward the day when we will know his love not in part but in whole. The victories we see in mission as his kingdom advances anticipate the day the whole earth will see his glory.

Notes:

  1. Frank A. James III, “Calvin the Evangelist,” Reformed Quarterly 19, no. 2 (2001): 8.

This article is adapted from What Fuels the Mission of the Church? by Daniel Hames and Michael Reeves.



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