What Are We Doing for the Work of God?
What is our “why” in missions? Why do we seek to do all that we do in the name of missions? Knowing our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful we should not sweep over this question lightly. Rather we should spend prayerful time trying to give an honest answer before the Lord.
I recently shared a short devotion with a group of brothers and sisters who have banded together to plant a church. The questions we sought to answer involved our motivation for evangelism. On what basis are we moving forward wherever God has placed us in Africa? On what basis are we going to pay the price that believing in Christ demands us to expect? It might cost us time, comfort, money or death, but it’s what Christ meant by “no one can come after me unless he takes up His cross and follow me.” It cannot be a sense that “I want to give something back to the community,” or a vague “it’s the right thing to do.” It cannot even merely be “because the Bible says we should do it.” I will argue later that the Bible does not only tell you what to do but how and why you should do what you do. All of this must be in place for our mission to be God’s mission. The wrong “why” will only take you so far and will in no way please the One whose work we are seeking to accomplish.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of the carefulness with which he approached church planting: “according to the grace of God as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10). In line with that he warns all who continue with the work to be very cautious of how they engage in God’s work of building His Church, because all that we do shall be one day judged (1 Cor. 3:12-17). The context here no doubt refers to the content of their proclamation. Paul argued for Christ and cross centered preaching (1 Cor. 1:18-31, 2:1-5) and in the text we are considering argued that the foundation that was laid was “Christ.” But that is not all that will be judged on that great day. In the next chapter Paul again refers to this day and points us to something else that God will look at: “therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (I Cor. 4:5). Then each one will receive his commendation from God. Why we are doing what we are doing is of cardinal importance.
But it might be tempting to respond with an objection—“I’m not sure I want to get myself involved with spreading the Gospel or building the Church of Christ.” The brief answer is that you don’t have a choice—you are already in the business; the task comes with the salvation package. You can’t have a swim and not get wet. The great commission wasn’t addressed merely to the disciples in Matthew 28:20. All who the disciples taught were to be taught all the commands of Christ, which would include the command to go and make disciples. We see this happening with those that they taught in Jerusalem (Acts 11:19-21). Paul also expresses his confidence in the believers at the church at Rome regarding their ability to “admonish” each other (Rom. 15:14). The word used here means to “instruct.” 1 Corinthians 12 teaches that we are all part of the body. In Ephesians 4:15-16 we learn that through the things we “speak” to one another we are to build up the body. Many other references could be given to prove the point but I trust that these suffice. The task has been squarely laid on our shoulders. To do it badly will cost us; not to do it at all will cost us still more (Matt. 25:27).
So we go back to our question—what is our “why” as we seek to engage in this work? The answer is that we delight in seeing God glorified through the salvation of sinners. This salvation begins with election (Eph. 1:4), manifested in our justification (Rom. 3:26), ongoing in our sanctification (1 Cor. 3:18) and will be consummated in our glorification (1 Pet. 1:7-9; Rom. 8:28-30).
It becomes apparent that the only way that we can avoid wasting our lives is when we turn to the big picture. We were created for God’s glory (Rev. 4:11; Col. 1:16;Isa. 43:7). But we all rebelled against our Creator and glorified the creature in His place (Rom. 1:21, Jer. 2:13). This naturally attracted the wrath of the one and only glorious God who will not share His glory with another, and whose glory demands that all such inconsistencies be set right. God, who in eternity past foreknew all this, chose to bring Himself glory by saving out of these rebels a bride for His Son. This He did by pouring the wrath that they deserved on His Son (Eph. 5:25-26). Thus they would be free from the penalty, power, and eventually even the presence of their sin (that which glorifies anything else in place of God according to Rom. 1:21; 3:23; Jer. 2:13) and thus be set free to delight in the glory of God (Psa. 16:11; 34:8; Isa. 55:1-2; John 4:14, 23; 17:3;Heb. 9:14; Phillip. 1:20-21; 3:8). As a result, we who are in Him have finally tasted that for which we were created—true eternal satisfying pleasure in God rather than fame, earthly wealth, or sensual sin.
Pursuing the glory of God must become our singular purpose (Phil. 1:20-21). God has chosen to glorify Himself by saving sinners (Eph. 1:6,14, 17, 2:4-7). This He is accomplishing through the Church (Eph. 3:10). So when we seek to see a local assembly born in Africa, what we are seeking is to see God glorify Himself by bringing salvation to people—a salvation which He began in eternity past and will bring to a glorious end when He returns for His Bride. “Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…” (Rom. 1:5).
This glorious task must be our single passion. If someone would ask us why we would live such a life, we must answer with the Apostle Paul: “if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Kenneth Wainaina Mbugua graduated from CABC in 2009. He is a pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Nairobi, Kenya.