Transcript Lesson 2:
What will motivate God's people to finish the great commission?
Most of the exhortations for missions involvement seem to focus on the needs of the people. In an attempt to stir the church through compassion, people often get motivated to act out of a sense of duty or guilt. Do any of these sound familiar?
· Thousands of people every day are slipping into Christless eternities
· 34,000 children die every day from malnutrition and preventable illnesses
· There are thousands of unreached people groups without a church
· More Christians have been killed for their faith in the 20th century than all others combined
· Genocide, ethnic cleansing, illiteracy, homelessness, poverty, oppression...the list goes on and on (Dearborn 71)
Motivation to join God in missions shouldn't be driven by guilt or obligation. Motivation to join God in missions should come from a love for God and a desire to see Him worshiped in all the earth. Our hearts will never join the Moravians in saying, "may the lamb receive the full reward of his sufferings", if God is not first in our affections.
What if someone doesn't have a desire to see God's name exalted in all the earth?
It's possible that an idol has captured their heart. Idolatry steals away our affections for God and leaves us worshiping lesser things. If I love comfort, pleasure, convenience, and security more than I love God, then I will not be passionate about missions. If I love sports, leisure, the “American Dream”, and my family more than I love God, then I will not be moved with
God-centered compassion for the nations. I'm not saying that people who have these things cannot be passionate about God. But, if your life is not available to Him, and He's not first in your heart, then your ambitions will be driven by idols. Something besides God is in control of your heart. Piper tells us that a heart for God overflowing in true worship is the fuel for missions:
Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can't commend what you don't cherish. Missionaries will never call out, "Let the nations be glad!" who cannot say from the heart, "I rejoice in the Lord...I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name, O Most High" (Ps 104:34; 9:2)
Missions begins and ends in worship.
Of course it is possible that people don't understand God's global purpose. People can fail to see the message of Scripture. Sometimes it's because we approach the Bible as a self-help book assuming that it's ultimately about us. We look and ask questions like, “what does this passage mean to me?” without really considering what it means for God.
The Bible is basically a book about God. According to Steve Hawthorne:
When we turn to the Bible as a self-help book, we end up bored or frustrated with what seems to be a rambling collection of stories. (Hawthorne 49)
But when we see the Bible from God's viewpoint, the grand love story finally makes sense. We must see the Bible as one unfolding story. The story of his glory!
The truth of Scripture is that God is jealous for His name. He wants His name to be known in all the earth. God wants to be loved by His people and some of those people haven't even heard His name…yet. God can be loved only when He is known. If you trace the story of the Bible, you will see that God has been on mission to make Himself known. He wants His name to be famous in all the earth.
God, acting on behalf of His name, gained early worship from a man named Abram. Abram could actually be regarded as the first missionary. I say that because God called him to leave his home and go to a foreign land. We know of many failures Abram made in the new land. But the Bible records this statement for us:
He built an alter to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8)
Abraham established a public witness that would allow people around him to learn about the LORD. It is apparent that Abraham understood what was important to God. God wanted His name to be made known and Abraham sought to do just that.
In Genesis 14, Abram rescues his nephew Lot and some of the neighboring peoples from an alliance of Kings that captured them and plundered their goods. Abram rescued them and their possessions, and then in an act of worship, he offers a tithe to Melchizedeck, King of Salem and priest of God Most High.
17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand! And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
God was making His name known through this event as Melchizedeck gave God glory for blessing Abram. Abram in turn offers worship to God by giving the first recorded tithe. It might not have been the best method of evangelism, but if you notice in the text, it was actually the neighboring people's money that was used for the tithe. So in a sense, Abram was acting as a priest by offering worship gifts to God on behalf of the nations. Abram's heart seemed to be set like flint on magnifying the name of God. When the King of Sodom offered him their wealth as a token of gratitude, his response was,
I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ Genesis 14:22b-23
Abram wanted to make sure that the nations understood it was God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth who blessed him. So he refused to take their wealth.
In the story of the Exodus, we learn that God was delaying His final judgment on the Egyptians because the nations were in observance. Each plague was purposeful as God was strategically destroying the god's of the Egyptians while making His name known.
13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:13-16)
In their rescue, the people were saved but they began to grumble in the wilderness about their blessing. They didn't accept that their salvation was primarily about God. They had turned salvation inside-out; they thought their rescue was God's primary concern. Instead God was using the exodus as a way to draw the attention of the nations to Himself. Isaiah captures this for us:
11 Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, 12 who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, 13 who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. 14 Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name. (Isaiah 63:11-14)
Conquest of Canaan
The conquest of Canaan is one event that is difficult for people to understand. On the surface it might seem as though God was orchestrating a genocidal land grab rather than performing an act of love. But God knew that there was one thing that could pull the hearts of His people away from true worship and that was false gods. Almost every passage describing the rationale for ousting the peoples living in the land offers this reason:
God was at the point of establishing His name as great among the nations. He was doing so through His people.
The Lord told Moses to send men into Canaan to spy out the land. (Num. 13:1) The men came back and gave a report that terrified everyone and led the congregation into rebellion. They began to grumble against Moses and Aaron for fear that they would die by the sword. Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, tried to stop the rebellion saying:
if the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us. (Num. 14:8)
But the people still rebelled and the Lord was angry. The Lord was ready to wipe them all out and start over. He was going to make a great nation out of Moses, but Moses pleaded with God to show them mercy. But he did so not on the basis of the people but to keep from profaning His name among the nations.
13 But Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, 14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 16 ‘It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.’ 17 And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ 19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” 20 Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21 But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
Moses pled on behalf of the nation by reminding God that He had set a seal on this people and failure to bring them into the land would look bad on Him. Moses acted as the intercessor and God pardoned the people because of the reputation of His name. Then God makes the declarative statement, "all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD."
After entering the land, God sought to establish His name by way of The Temple. God had already made a statement of worship through Moses telling his people that once they entered their land they should:
destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods...you shall tear down their alters and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. (Deut. 12:3-4)
God wanted to establish His place of worship and He wanted it to be nothing like that of the false gods. What David began in preparation for the building of The Temple Solomon finished and the Temple was dedicated. The Temple was supposed to be a temple for all nations. In Solomon's prayer of dedication we can actually see how Solomon anticipated this,
41 Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. (1 Kings 8:41-43)
The New Testament
The theme of God acting on behalf of His name runs throughout the Old Testament. We have looked at only a few of the stories. There are many more. Once you begin to see this theme in Scripture you'll notice it over and over. This theme doesn't change when we enter the New Testament. God's long awaited Messiah came and He came making God known.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18)
When Jesus arrived He came seeking to bring glory to the Father. According to Steve Hawthorne:
Christ is the crescendo of the story of God's glory. At the end of all things, He will have bought and brought people from every tribe and tongue to honor the Father. It's no surprise then, to see how His every move was a part of pressing the story of God's glory toward it's culmination for all nations.
Jesus made the purpose of His ministry known:
I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. And what was the work? "I manifested Your name to the men You gave Me out of the world.” (John 17:4,6)
Jesus was close to His death and as the hour pressed upon Him He revealed an even greater glimpse of His purpose:
27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again. 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, An angel has spoken to him. 30 Jesus answered, This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
In the darkest hour of human history, God was glorifying His name. Jesus was sent to glorify the Father and manifest His name. He was to be lifted up so that He could draw all peoples to God. Jesus ministry was about the name. The early Christians also went out because of the name.
Early Saints Motivated by the Name
When you look at the motive of people who left everything behind for Jesus to serve Him in some form of missionary service, they were said to have left for His name. For example, after seeing the rich young ruler turned away by Christ because of his love for money the Lord said,
it's hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:24)
Peter asked Jesus:
Who then can be saved?" The Lord said, "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Then Peter responded, "See we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have? (Jesus response in v 29) "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my names sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:25-29)
Here we see an assumption by our Lord that when people leave...they leave for the sake of His name. This is what causes total abandonment of the world for God. A worshipful love for the name!
When the Apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, the Lord Jesus sent Ananias to him with this message:
"I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9:15)
Paul shares his life mission with us in Romans 1:5:
through him we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.
Toward the end of his life, being warned not to go back to Jerusalem he said:
What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready to not only be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 21:13)
The Apostle John, in similar fashion, writing about early Christian missionaries describes their commitment in much the same way saying:
they have gone out for the sake of the name. (3 John 7)
John Stott commenting about these missionaries and the Apostle Paul says:
So, we asked the question of “what motivates people to join God in missions?” Our thesis was that true worship would lead people to proclaim the name of the Lord and take His gospel to the ends of the earth. We said that people who love God will desire the things that He desires. When we examine the Scripture God's fervent passion for the exaltation of His name is revealed God longs for His name to be made famous in all the earth. It is apparent that Jesus believed people would go for the sake of His name. This was the motive of the early church and it should be our motive as well.
Let's conclude with an exhortation by John Piper:
God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of his name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with his, and, for the sake of his name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts, and join the global purpose. If we do this, God's omnipotent commitment to his name will be over us like a banner, and he will not lose, in spite of many tribulations (Acts 9:16; Rom 8:35-39). Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn't. The great commission is first to delight yourself in the Lord (Ps 37:4). And then to declare, "Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!" (Ps 67:4) In this way God will be glorified from beginning to end and worship will empower the missionary enterprise till the coming of the Lord.