Embracing Your Mission

Embracing Your Mission

Aug 28, 2017

Pastor Nate Crandall

The Connecting Church

Milton, WI

This spring at Pastors Conference I was asked to share my devotional method with the other pastors. The reason I developed this particular method was not for use by church members or other pastors. I did it for me. It seems like I’m always getting distracted from the most important relationship in my life, and I wanted a way that would help me to stay on track with the Lord.

In fact, you could say that my life has been a series of getting distracted from God and coming back. I remember when I first studied the life of Abraham in depth. It seemed like Abraham was always wandering away from the land God gave to him and doing dumb stuff. Then he would always return, and pitch his tent in the land of God’s promise and call on God — between the house of God and the heap of ruins.

It seemed almost like the setting of a horror movie. I felt like yelling to Abraham, “Don’t do it!” And I remember thinking, “How could Abraham be so foolish?” Yet, this has been the story of my life. I have been way too easily distracted from my Lord. I have been as the song says, “Prone to wander” and “Prone to leave the God I love.”

Even Abraham, the great father of our faith, was prone to wander, and he didn’t even live in the internet age! Abraham was blessed by God so that he could be a blessing to others. However, because he was distracted from his call, he failed on being a blessing several times.

The king of Egypt didn’t feel blessed when all the women in his household couldn’t have children. Hagar and Ishmael didn’t feel blessed when they were kicked out of Abraham’s house and were in fear of starvation. Jesus rightly compared us people to sheep. Without a shepherd we wander away from all the things that are good for us.

I wonder if you feel the same about yourself. Along the way of life, distractions come along and throw you off. They might be good things — but when Jesus, who is our life, is not the source of our daily living, isn’t the well that sustains us, then those distractions will turn into detours and the detours will end up in dead ends and destruction.

Does it feel like, instead of humbly coming to the Lord, you fight with a spiritual deafness to His calling? Do you feel the pressure of living in a world that wants to have it all but you don’t? Do you want to live for God but just don’t want to go to Africa?

You face it. I face it. Distractions in this life pull us away from the kind of life that God has planned. Instead of life on mission we just have life. If we are going to live a life on mission for Jesus, we must not get distracted from what’s most important. Here are three things we must do to maintain our focus.

Embrace all of God’s word

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Rightly divide the truth. These words of Paul to Timothy, a young pastor, apply to us all. Certainly if a pastor is to rightly divide the truth, the outcome of his ministry would be that the church family will rightly divide the truth also.

Why would we be ashamed? Because we haven’t been diligent to honor God’s word and to teach all of it as the Lord commanded us to. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) If we aren’t embracing all of God’s word then we are disobeying the command of the Lord.

Now this takes courage in the face of those who oppose the truth. Peter and John were threatened by the Jewish ruling council and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. They refused and continued to tell others the message of Christ even when persecution and jail and death began to reign down on them. Instead they responded by calling out to the Lord, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29).

It takes diligence in the face of popular false teachings that run rampant in the larger body of Christ. These teachings, like internet fodder, get replayed and reproduced and find their way into our thinking. This is what Paul warned Timothy about. “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer.” (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

These profane and idle babblings are not neutral. They hit home and lead to more ungodliness. Like a cancer they spread, and so like cancer they must be cut out. Paul says to shun them. Move away from them. Do not give them a foothold in our heart because the end of these false teachings is to destroy people’s faith.

We are messengers of the gospel. We are those who proclaim truth. But what if our message loses its truth quotient? Like Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14) The one weapon that we have to bring precious people whom Jesus died for out of the darkness is the truth. We cannot be used for God’s business if we don’t carefully, diligently carry His word. No ambassador lasts long if he speaks his own thoughts instead of what his president has directed him to say.

The great issue of our time centers on the truth of marriage. We have taken up this issue in the last few years, and this year it comes to a fine point as we decide about a possible change to our statement of belief. There are many truths in the scripture that are not in our statement of belief which we follow, and I would say that there are some truths in our statement of belief that we don’t follow well. I share no opinion tonight as to whether or not this statement on marriage should be added to our statement of belief. This is outside of my purpose.

However, what is smack dab in the center of my purpose this evening is the truth that marriage, according to the revelation which we all say we hold in the highest esteem, is between one man and one woman. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) If we rightly divide the word of truth on this issue of marriage we will see that the truth and loving people in the name of Christ go hand in hand.

I’m passionate about telling my kids the truth of Christ because I want them to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. I tell them the truth because I want them to know what the fullness of life which God has designed is all about. I’m also passionate about sharing my love for them. I’m not going to love my kids and then later on down the road bring them to the truth. These things cannot be separated because if you love you will share the truth. If you don’t share the truth in love, then you don’t have the truth in you either.

The scripture says that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) This means both grace, which is the manifestation of his love, and truth at the same time. When the Bible says that they will know we are Christians by our love it is not saying that truth is absent in that love. It simply means that as those who have been born again by the Spirit of Truth we are drawn toward our Heavenly Father whose very nature is Truth and Love.

This is rightly dividing the word of truth. Yet, in our world we hear profane and idle babblings about marriage. From those who believe marriage should include those of the same sex we hear things like, “God wouldn’t want us to be apart because we love each other.” Or that those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman are bigots and evil.

Instead of shunning the profane babblings of same sex marriage, many of the people of God have embraced it — and this is to our shame. If we are going to be used by God to advance His mission on this earth then we must cleanse ourselves from this shame by turning in repentance to Him. Then we may become as Paul says to Timothy, “a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21) If we are to be used in the work of the Lord in His mission on the earth then we must embrace all of His Word.

Embrace the leadership of the Holy Spirit

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13)

The Spirit leads us into all the truth. Properly understood this does not mean only the knowledge of the truth but the practice of the truth. To be led into the truth is to let go of the deceptions that drives our lives away from God’s purposes. Many people quote the words of the Lord that knowing the truth will set you free. However, that’s not what Jesus said. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) The freedom that we all desire is dependent on our remaining in His word. It’s not just knowing the truth but abiding in the truth.

Jonathan Edwards was the famous preacher during the Great Awakening in the early part of the 18th century in America. He wrote extensively about the work of God during this time. One area he specifically focused on was how to determine if what was happening in a person’s life was due to the work of the Holy Spirit or another spirit. In his book, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Edwards highlights on “mark” which is especially applicable in our study today. “And therefore, if by observing the manner of the operation of a spirit that is at work among a people, we see that it operates as a spirit of truth, leading persons to truth, convincing them of those things that are true, we may safely determine that it is a right and true spirit.” I call it simply a devotion to the truth. This devotion to the truth is what God was doing in David in his Psalm of repentance after his adultery with Bathsheba.

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Psalm 51:6) We see that when confronted with his sin, David was more concerned about the truth than he was about covering it up. Rather than continue to hide it, David openly repented, even giving us one of the most powerful psalms of truth and grace.

When the Holy Spirit nudges us to deal with the lies we are holding onto in our inner being, it is the devotion to truth that will set us free. This battle over the truth is what determines our reality. If we don’t embrace the leadership of the Holy Spirit in this manner, we will not be purified from the sin that so easily entangles us.

There is a difference between forgiveness of sin and being purified from sin. Forgiveness is done by God’s command. Being purified is to be separated from the impurities of sin, evil and deception that have crept into our lives or have never been purged from us in the first place. Being purified only comes with our willingness, diligence and courage to bring the light into the dark places of our lives.

When we are unwilling to look into the darkness of our hearts and bring the light, that sin keeps us from being used in the way that God has designed us. Sin robs us of our most precious commodity — time. Time is not a “thing” in heaven. Time is a thing now. Now is the time that we have to be on mission with Jesus.

One of the things that the Lord said about our heavenly Father was that He prunes us so that we will be even more fruitful. To paraphrase Paul’s words to Timothy, if we are cleansed or purified from the things that bring God dishonor, we will be set apart to be used in the work of the Master. This requires that we embrace the leadership of the Spirit as He leads us into all the truth.

Embrace the heart of God for the unsaved world

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Our world is confused about love. When the world says, “I’ll love you forever,” it means maybe for a few years until something better comes along. But God is clear about love.

He defines it for us as unconditional, not dependent on our behavior but only on His decision. He also demonstrates it for us in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

The extent of God’s love is something we should think deeply on. It required that God respond to the dire situation that we humans faced. So the perfect love of God looked at the condition of humanity which is described in Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The perfect love of God looked closely at the condition of the human heart and saw that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” (Jeremiah 17:9) The perfect love of God looked at the status of his creation and recognized that we were dead in our “trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

So the perfect love of God willingly, happily gave himself, humbled himself to the lowest of all humanity by taking on his body the sins, all the sins of his creation. Although he deserved none of the consequences of sin, he received all of them in his body on the cross. The weight of our guilt, shame, grief, regret, fear, pain, sorrows — all of these were not a barrier too high for the Lord to cross over. The power of love as God defines and demonstrates it is greater than any obstacle that would seek to stop it from reaching its objective.

Such an obstacle that we face is fear. Fear has so bound up the saints of God that we have allowed it to keep us from loving the people that God has strategically placed in our lives. But the Bible speaks of a different kind of love for us. It speaks of a stronger love, one that does not allow any barrier to dissuade it from carrying out the mission of Christ.

1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” To be perfected in love is to be made complete. It is to love in the way that God loves. If we loved people like God loves them, nothing would keep us from our mission to bring them good news. The fears that keep us from speaking out and acting in the name of Jesus and on behalf of his mission would not be large enough because the love of Jesus would compel us to break through those barriers.

Because God’s love was so great, He broke through the barrier of sin through the cross. If our love is to be like God’s love in its expression, we must follow that same path. The path is called “death to self,” and only those who have been riveted by the love of Christ for them will be able to stay on that path until it comes to its completion.

Perfect love follows Jesus in his willingness to sacrifice, to be pressed to the limit and beyond, for the sake of others —others who may have no wish to be so loved. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear is unable to stand in the presence of perfect love. It doesn’t mean that perfect love does not confront fear. It is in fact surrounded by fear, but under pressure it doesn’t break. It stands firm. If we are to follow Jesus on His mission

to seek and to save the lost then it will be because we have embraced God’s heart for the unsaved world.

What would it look like if we were to embrace all of God’s Word, the leading of the Spirit and the love of God for a sinful world? We would be characterized by the mission of Jesus. We would be known as those whose life is on purpose instead of by accident. We would be laser-focused on the purposes of Christ.

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