For the past few months I’ve been working on a seminar presentation about gospel-centered discipleship. It is part of a series of seminars some local churches are doing on the Great Commission.
In my preaching I’ve been addressing sanctification in the epistle of the Colossians. But with April here, our congregation is having a Missions Month. So I won’t be preaching. I am praying that God will stir up our hearts for missions.
Sometimes we struggle with putting these two things together. Some focus on mission as ultimate. Others see sanctification as ultimate. Obviously, some people have other views of what is ultimate (theological purity, worship, social justice etc.).
God’s glory is ultimate. God’s glory is to be revealed in sanctification (being conformed to Christ!), mission (seeing people come to faith in Christ), worship (worshiping Christ), social justice and theological purity. When we make one (or more) of them ultimate we get into the petty bickering that distracts us from doing what we ought to be doing in all its fulness.
For my seminar, I’ve been reading Following Jesus, The Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship by Jonathan Lunde. Overall it has been a good read (I’m about 2/3rds thru it). I was intrigued by that “covenantal discipleship” idea. There are many good things about the book. One critique I have is that he makes mission ultimate.
But he rightfully sees a relationship between sanctification and mission. He points out how they were related in the OT such that Israel’s holiness was intended to make here a light to draw others to faith in the one, true God.
Obviously we see them joined in the Great Commission- which must be seen within a covenantal context (the whole point of Matthew is to see Jesus, the son of Abraham and the son of David, as the fulfillment of God’s covenants with Abraham and David). Mission is intended to produce obedient Christians. Obedient Christians are on mission as salt and light. They are inter-related instead of one having priority over another.
In this context he quotes from Christopher Wright’s book The Mission of God:
“… the ethical quality of life of the people of God is the vital link between their calling and their mission. God’s intention to bless the nations is inseparable from God’s ethical demand on the people he has created to be the agent of that blessing. There is no biblical mission without biblical ethics.” (pp. 369).
“The world will see no reason to pay any attention to our claims about our invisible God, however much we boast of his alleged nearness to us in prayer, if it sees no difference between the lives of those who make such claims and those who don’t.” (pp. 380.)
Much of the weakness of our evangelistic methods here in the West have to do with this. We are enculturated whether liberal or conservative or fundamentalist. The ways in which we are enculturated are just different. Liberals tend to be enculturated sexually and in line with other progressive social transformations as well as pluralism. Conservatives tend to be enculturated with their individualism, selfishness, success and greed. Fundamentalists are often just as self-righteous as the average unbeliever resting in his “innate goodness”.
There are different ways in which those groups are being disobedient to God. And each of them either keeps people from being on mission, period, or being effective while on mission.
The Church needs to regain its distinctive, biblical calling to be a humble and holy people. We need to forsake the cultural idols that blind us as well as bind us. We need to leave our “little red wagons” (to borrow a phrase from Celtics legends Red Auerbach and Bill Russell) that carries our agendas. If we concern ourselves with the glory of God we will begin to seek holiness, mission, justice and theological purity so we may glorify Him who is righteous, just, Truth and sent us as He sent His Son to save sinners.
One step in the right direction would be to reconnect mission and sanctification instead of playing them against one another.