Community

You are like salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to be thrown out and walked on.

 You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden,  and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lamp stand, where it can give light to everyone in the house.  Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16

You cannot be a city on your own.

I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. Now I tell you to settle there and build houses. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. Get married and have children, then help your sons find wives and help your daughters find husbands, so they can have children as well. I want your numbers to grow, not to get smaller.

Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be. – Jeremiah 29:4-7

To be a follower of Christ means to serve others regardless of their faith journey.

Light is a metaphor of promise – blind people come and see! The salt metaphor declares that following Jesus is important to keeping culture from degrading. We are to stand for truth and guard orthodox belief and practice which will lead to opposition.

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The definition of mission

The cultural mandate, which is often referred to as social responsibility, goes as far back as the Garden of Eden.

 God gave them his blessing and said: Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth. – Genesis 1:28

We are held accountable for the well-being of God’s creation.  In the New Testament we are told that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. The concept of neighbour, as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches includes all of humanity.

With the evangelical mandate, humans had been alienated from God.  God’s nature was made clear by the first words He spoke —

The Lord called out to the man and asked, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:9

God immediately began seeking Adam.

 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them?  And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news. – Romans 10:14-15

Bearing the gospel which brings people from darkness to light is fulfilling the evangelistic mandate.

Prioritization of evangelism however best reflects the New Testament doctrine of mission and that is Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and we move out in Jesus’ name to do the same.

This is rooted in the Great Commission which appears in all four Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,  and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. – Matthew 28:19-20

What is a disciple? A disciple is one who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, a new creature in Christ. and who is known by their fruit.

Is setting goals and placing strategy based on the Great Commission a way of expressing faith? It is putting substance in things hoped for.

We are to strategically go into the world, preach the gospel to every person and make disciples of all nations – panta ta ethne.  God is not willing that any should perish.

A steward is entrusted to fulfill great responsibilities – we are stewards of the mysteries of God – a parallel expression of the gospel.  What is the gospel for? It is the power of God for salvation. Stewards are to be found faithful and successful.

In other words, if we are investing resources of time, personnel and money in programs which are supposed to make disciples but are not, we need to reconsider them and be willing to change the program if needed. Jesus’ parable suggests hat if the fig tree does not bear fruit after an appropriate lapse of time, it should be cut down and the ground used for something more productive.

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Our first priority

And this good news[a] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14

God’s desire to reach all peoples and persons is obviously pat of His purpose for His Kingdom to come on earth.  He looks toward the time when all the nations of the world will declare His glory.

We look confidently forward to this time.

 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord
    and of his Messiah,[a]
and he will reign forever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15

 The apostle Paul was specifically sent to the non-Jewish people groups.

 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you  to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ – Acts 26:17-18

Is it possible that we have become so tied up with our measurements of evangelism, social reform and economic growth that we have forgotten that God is primarily in the business of expanding the reign of His kingdom and conquering Satan?

For our[a] struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.– Ephesians 6:12

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God’s Spirit implants His standards

We must learn to faithfully listen to the Word of God – for as we do, God’s Spirit will enlighten us —

 Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[b] – Romans 12:2

The Spirit uses the Word in this way to bring individuals and communities to Christian maturity.

The role of culture and community in conditioning our understanding of sin is seen in Romans 14.  In the Roman church some people were vegetarians because they had formerly worshiped idols by eating sacrificed meat.

Paul responded that it is not the act itself that is important, but the underlying character of one’s relationship with God.  A person must do what he or she believes is pleasing to God.  Different people will choose to take different and maybe even opposite actions to please God.  This is why Paul taught that it is wrong to be contemptuous of those who follow rules that seem irrelevant to us; we should not feel more spiritual than those who don’t follow our own ideals of Christian behaviour.  Put another way, each of us is answerable to God.

Instead of teaching biblical principles, the human tendency is to substitute rules about foods, ceremonies, rituals, times and places.  Paul responds —

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. – Romans 14:17-18

As more and more people become believers, a non-national missionary can help the group to discover God’s will for them and of course a national missionary has no difficulty at all.  They will both direct new believers to the Word of God where they will work out their salvation —

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling – Philippians 2:12

 

 

God’s Love Washes and Renews

THE CHRISTIAN CONFESSION OF FAITH