Category Archives: Great Commission devotionals

God sent you because he loved the 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.

So try this as one application:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his son/daughter, [your name here] in and for His unique Son Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Jesus should not perish but have eternal life.

Blasphemous? Misleading? Lets look at it.

  1. First of all, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to make amazing claims for Christians that Christians themselves might be tempted to reserve for Jesus alone. One of my favorite examples:

    Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

    That’s Jesus speaking to the Church in Thyatira. Psalm 2 prophesies Jesus and you! Go figure.

  2. Jesus presented Israel with a calling that he took on himself as Israel’s King. Jesus’ self-designation, “Son of Man” was itself first used for Israel (Psalm 80). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explicitly called on hearers to be true Israelites (“sons of your Father in heaven,” “city set on a hill” [Jerusalem], “Do not even Gentiles do the same,”)by turning the other cheek–a path that he followed to the cross himself. He called on his hearers to take up their crosses and follow him.

  3. After his death and resurrection Jesus renewed this call on his followers to accept his own mission (albeit in a new and derivative way to his own work), “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

  4. And the work of the Church in going to the nations is described as Jesus going to the nations: “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” Thus we read in Ephesians 2 how Paul describes the Gospel going to those who never witnessed Jesus in the flesh. The evangelists going out is Jesus going out.

So God loves us and sends us in Christ’s mission. He gives us for the sake of the world–our part of it, at least.

Repost: we are God’s outreach

In Gene Wolfe’s excellent tetrology, The Book of the Long Sun, Patera Silk receives a vision from the Outsider that his predecessor’s prayers for help have been answered. He is the help. But this means he must not expect help. The help is him.

This seems symmetrical with what we need to realize about reaching modern culture. God reached modern culture by calling us. If we need to reach modern culture that defeats the entire point.

Your mission field includes your mouth, hands, and feet

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

So you work outward from your point of origin to the end of the world, taking dominion.

Or is it that simple?

Maybe there was another element of Adam’s and Eve’s commission. Consider the language that James uses:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

I have quoted all of chapter 3 because I want to point out that the reference to wisdom is important and rooted in Proverbs. But for now look at the references to animal domestication. Dominion over the body is described as the ability to “bridle.” And then dominion over speech is described as being “tamed” and compared to taming animals. Adam’s charge to rule the animals applies to his own body. Here is a similar concept from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Again, the quest to take control of the world translates into a quest to take control of one’s own body as a part of that larger quest. In fact, the more literal reading would be “I pummel my body and make it my slave.” That is a pretty violent way to take dominion.

But that is part of what wisdom is about. The Commandments tell you what kind of speech is sinful, but Wisdom tells you it is best to train your mouth to be quiet. They are about going beyond simply a list of what it right and what is wrong and cultivating a kind of disciplined character.

The Great Commission includes in discipleship: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Any time you teach your children or any other Christians what God commands, you are participating in the Great Commission. Any time you read the Bible yourself you are teaching yourself more about what Jesus has commanded. Your job is not just to witness to others; your job is to witness to your hands and feet.

The Bible aims at a glorious city. But to help build that city your own body needs to become a better ordered civilization.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Proverbs 16.32).

A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25.28).

You already know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (First Corinthians 6.19). You can think of your habits of work and speech as your construction project. God has made you a king with a grander commission than Solomon’s mandate for mere gold, cedar, and stones. Build wisely and create your tower or be complacent and build a ruin:

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Proverbs 13.3).

Whoever keeps [i.e. guards; perhaps even "bridles"] his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21.23).

So when the Proverbs exhort you to diligence in work, they haven’t failed if you don’t build wealth or extend your dominion in an obvious public way. If you master yourself, God will glory in your work and will say “Well done.”

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied (Proverbs 13.4).

The New Testament authors exhorted their readers to be diligent–and it wasn’t about becoming wealthy. I’ve already quoted the apostle Paul, so here is Peter from his second epistle:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Do you want to change the world? Then change yourself. Do I think you have to wait until you are perfect? Of course not. But I do think that God will give you opportunities to master if he sees that you are mastering yourself. He who is faithful over a little will be set over much (Matthew 25.21). And even if he does not, you are still better off.

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
than a rich man who is crooked in his ways (Proverbs 28.6).

RePost: Why “Jesus is Lord” is good news

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me….”

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him (Romans 10.9-12).

Why does Jesus make such a big deal about his authority?

This is the obvious premise of the Great Commission. It is the foundation of our mandate to be missional. But I suspect that for many of us it doesn’t make a great deal of sense that authority can be the basis of good news. Authority and “lordship” is associated with a multitude of commands that must be obeyed. “Lord” almost ha the connotations in our mind of a “master” in a system of slavery.

But we’re forgetting what different kinds of relationships involve authority. Yes, authority can be wielded by a political tyrant or an abusive prison guard. But without authority we could not have a loving father, a caring mother, or an interesting and exciting schoolteacher. We can occasionally meet people who, due to horrible circumstances and sins growing up, have a problem referring to God as Father—though for many of us that is not an issue. We associate a father with love and protection and guidance. Without real authority, a father could only be a shadow of himself. His authority is part of what makes him a father and enables him to care for and protect his son or daughter.

We need to apply this to kings and lords, because Jesus is both (First Timothy 6.15; Revelation 17.14; 19.16).

The problem is that as post-enlightenment Westerners, it is natural for us to think of kings as belonging to the same class as slave-master. Our democratic heritage means we react emotionally to the title “king” in a way similar to the way abused children might react to the title of “father.” But in the Biblical world, a king is more like a parent who has authority in order to protect and provide for those to whom they are bound. We get a hint of this attitude in Isaiah’s prophecy that the nations will eventually care for Israel. “Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers” (49.23).

In the Bible, true kings risk their lives for their people (First Samuel 17). They feed them (Genesis 41.46-57; Second Samuel 6.19). They belong to them (Second Samuel 19.43). The idea that kings only give orders is a modern myth. They protect their people.

And that is why it is precisely Jesus’ universal lordship that provides salvation for all who entrust themselves to him. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.” Thus, Jesus’ chain or reasoning, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Notice, by the way, that affirming the resurrection is tied to the confession that Jesus is Lord, according to the Apostle Paul. Jesus’ statement that “all authority” had been given to him was based on the meaning of his resurrection. As Peter preached later, in the second chapter of Acts, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v. 36). As the one who has conquered death for us, Jesus is now the king of the universe. Because he is the king of all, all people can call upon him to deliver them from all evil, including death itself.

Far from being a tyrant or bully, Jesus as Lord is our liberator—the rescuer of everyone who places their hope in him.

Lord Jesus Christ, King and elder brother, I thank you that you have rescued me from sin and death through your own death and your triumphant resurrection. May you always move me to welcome your leadership and protection in my life. In your name I pray, Amen.

B. B. Warfield on the Golden Age

There is a “golden age” before the Church – at least an age relatively golden gradually ripening to higher and higher glories as the Church more and more conquers the world and all the evil of the world; and ultimately an age absolutely golden when the perfected Church is filled with the glory of the Lord in the new earth and under the new heavens.

“The Millennium and the Apocalypse,” p. 664.

Why “Jesus is Lord” is good news

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me….”

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him (Romans 10.9-12).

Why does Jesus make such a big deal about his authority?

This is the obvious premise of the Great Commission. It is the foundation of our mandate to be missional. But I suspect that for many of us it doesn’t make a great deal of sense that authority can be the basis of good news. Authority and “lordship” is associated with a multitude of commands that must be obeyed. “Lord” almost ha the connotations in our mind of a “master” in a system of slavery.

But we’re forgetting what different kinds of relationships involve authority. Yes, authority can be wielded by a political tyrant or an abusive prison guard. But without authority we could not have a loving father, a caring mother, or an interesting and exciting schoolteacher. We can occasionally meet people who, due to horrible circumstances and sins growing up, have a problem referring to God as Father—though for many of us that is not an issue. We associate a father with love and protection and guidance. Without real authority, a father could only be a shadow of himself. His authority is part of what makes him a father and enables him to care for and protect his son or daughter.

We need to apply this to kings and lords, because Jesus is both (First Timothy 6.15; Revelation 17.14; 19.16).

The problem is that as post-enlightenment Westerners, it is natural for us to think of kings as belonging to the same class as slave-master. Our democratic heritage means we react emotionally to the title “king” in a way similar to the way abused children might react to the title of “father.” But in the Biblical world, a king is more like a parent who has authority in order to protect and provide for those to whom they are bound. We get a hint of this attitude in Isaiah’s prophecy that the nations will eventually care for Israel. “Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers” (49.23).

In the Bible, true kings risk their lives for their people (First Samuel 17). They feed them (Genesis 41.46-57; Second Samuel 6.19). They belong to them (Second Samuel 19.43). The idea that kings only give orders is a modern myth. They protect their people.

And that is why it is precisely Jesus’ universal lordship that provides salvation for all who entrust themselves to him. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.” Thus, Jesus’ chain or reasoning, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Notice, by the way, that affirming the resurrection is tied to the confession that Jesus is Lord, according to the Apostle Paul. Jesus’ statement that “all authority” had been given to him was based on the meaning of his resurrection. As Peter preached later, in the second chapter of Acts, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v. 36). As the one who has conquered death for us, Jesus is now the king of the universe. Because he is the king of all, all people can call upon him to deliver them from all evil, including death itself.

Far from being a tyrant or bully, Jesus as Lord is our liberator—the rescuer of everyone who places their hope in him.

Lord Jesus Christ, King and elder brother, I thank you that you have rescued me from sin and death through your own death and your triumphant resurrection. May you always move me to welcome your leadership and protection in my life. In your name I pray, Amen.