Growing up I loved my family. It seemed to me like every ounce of blessing we received was shared. Generous and hospitable were a few words to describe my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. Sure we had our issues like all families due but the generosity I witnessed was more than just giving. It was fueled by something much more than altruism. My great-grandparents had experienced the gospel in such a way that it had to work it’s way outward. They couldn’t just keep their experience on their chests. They wore it on their sleeves.
Now before I go any further I would like to explain what I am NOT saying.
I am not saying that we as Christians shouldn’t have each other over for dinner! I am NOT saying that we should only love sacrificially for those outside the church.
This example of my family is used only to show what good Christian hospitality and generosity CAN do for the gospel. It is not a rebuke on generosity in the church.
It was common to see new faces in my family’s home week in and week out. And I’m sure this is not uncommon even to our church families today. I got to meet missionaries from around the world talk about the fruit of God’s kingdom. I got to hear the stories of travel and God’s providence and grace. No doubt most of you have heard the same. But I have been struck! So much of my life has consisted of inviting Christians in, that I am afraid that my gospel has become insular. One built on denominational preference and debates over whether or not babies should be baptized. Is the worship actually too loud?(probably but I’m not going to give in to those geezers) I’m afraid that I have become so engorged with theology, piety and Christendom that I have forgotten one the purpose for which Christ has saved us.
I was recently reminded so eloquently of a passage in the bible that speaks to this in a sermon preached by pastor Art Azurdia, on John 17:14-20. In this sermon I was reminded of the direct link between Jesus’ atoning work on the cross and our partnership in HIS mission.
“So often when asked about mission we turn straight to the great commission, (Mark 16, Mathew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, John 20). It is made clear in these verses that Jesus commissioned his disciples to GO, but when we look at John 17 we not only see Jesus praying for this mission, but that this mission is in direct relationship to his work on the cross. Lets read it and then I will give just a few observations. This is Jesus praying,
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus wants His disciples to be IN the world. In verse 15 he asks the Father NOT to take them out of the world. Rather, to protect them and sanctify them. We are not to retreat from the world. But we are to be right smack dab in the middle of it.
Jesus’ mission is our mission. In verse 18, we see that in the same manner God sent Jesus, Jesus sends His disciples. The disciples did not get given some lesser task. Jesus is not praying for the disciples to create programs for reaching the poor or children. He did not send them to build auditoriums where they could be safe from the world. He sent them to glorify God and make him known.
All of Christian life comes from Jesus, through his power, and sanctification in truth (v19) and extends outward for one goal! “So that the world may believe that you have sent me.”(v.21)
Jesus was sent into the world, and his presence not only changed minds about him, but it brought about sociological change. The mission of God is not about building churches up its’ about breaking barriers down! Jesus wants us in the world because through Him we actually have power to make changes. Beginning with the heart of those dead in sin, so that they may glorify God and make him known in all of life.
Therefore, I urge you to rethink your mini Christian conventions and debates on theology. Re think your stance on raising your children away from the public. Re think your politics on helping those in need and start living IN the world. We have the God of the universe praying for our protection! Lets be bold. Lets stop just having Christians over for dinner, and start taking dinner to the world!