Loving God and Loving People, Fulfilling the Great Commission.
I have served as the Director of Domestic Ministry at Global Year now for two years. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to see student after student surrender a year to the Lord and serve as missionaries in some of the most-unreached areas of the world. We are certainly at the forefront of spiritual warfare. Satan has attempted to hamper them and us in many ways, but God has been faithful to sustain us and glorify Jesus through it all. In a way though, I look up to these students that serve through Global Year. It takes incredible courage and faith to go to a country you've never been for such a long time, to learn a language in a do-or-die situation, to have the boldness to witness to members of other faiths, and to exemplify the character of Christ all the while facing some of the toughest struggles of their lives. They are certainly heroes in my eyes, but they are certainly not the majority of American Christians.
Sadly, over the past two years, I have met more young adults who cannot explain the Gospel in their own words. These are not unsaved members of our society; these are Christ-professing teenagers and young adults, many of whom have attended church their entire lives. This reality is now the norm. Sharing their alleged faith in Jesus Christ is seen as taboo. Following the waves of postmodern culture, their religion is a private matter for self-reflection alone. Religious views are now improper subjects to discuss. I want to propose that this absence of religious discussion is not due to a seemingly politeness to those who disagree with Scripture, I think it's because they don't understand the Gospel themselves. There are plenty of controversial topics that are discussed today without apology: abortion, vaccines, etc. Being controversial is easy these days, opinions are frequently exhausted, especially through a screen. Giving some credence to the disconnected nature of friendships these days, there is still a void of Gospel conversations taking place even amongst the closest of our unbelieving friends.
So, with that being the case, I don't want to go a single line forward without making sure you understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: God created you perfect, but you fell into sin - claiming to know better than God's design and commands, and acting upon that. This sin, now engrained into who you are and everything you do, cannot be removed by your own effort. Without God's help, you are destined to spend eternity in hell after you die because of this sin. Even now, the wrath of God is upon you. However, God has made a way for that to change. God's grand plan to save you was to enter into our world as a man. That man is Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life (because He is God in the flesh) and died in your place on the cross. If that wasn't enough, He rose from the dead the following Sunday morning. This is a historical fact which no sane person can deny. The right response to all that Jesus has done is to repent of our sins and to have faith in Jesus Christ to save you. When you do this, your life radically changes. The Holy Spirit comes to live within you and to make you more like Jesus. The rest of your life is characterized by growing closer to the Lord and living more like Jesus. You are constantly reminded that you are not enough, but that Jesus is. I can't say all your problems will go away, but the peace of Christ which exceeds all understanding will become more and more normal. This will continue on until you die or Christ returns, whichever comes first. Even though you might die, you will immediately be present with Jesus. One day in the future, Jesus will actually return to this earth to execute judgment and establish God's reign over the earth completely. All who have died trusting in Jesus for salvation will resurrect bodily just as He did that first Resurrection Day, with those alive at His return meeting Him in the air in their transformed bodies. Every person who has not trusted in Jesus for salvation will be sent to hell forever - a place you don't want anyone to go to.
My friend, have you recognized that God is the Creator of all things? Have you seen that your sin has separated you from Him? Are you in awe of the fact that despite your unworthiness, God has extended mercy your way in the Person of Jesus Christ? Do you wish to be reconciled to God through His Son? Romans 10:13 states that "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Call upon Jesus to save you. He hears you. It's the first step in the right direction. He will meet you right where you are, just call upon Him. Becoming a Christian is the first step in a lifetime of believing in and following Jesus Christ.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, before I go any further, does that message grip your heart the way it did the day you first believed? If you had an unsaved friend, and you were the only Christian they knew, would you be able to clearly and passionately share the Gospel with that friend? Does your life and presentation of the Gospel help show its truthfulness? Or would you be shy and uncertain of what to say? If it's the latter, you're not alone, but that's not an excuse for not making some changes immediately. I want you to understand the gravity of the issue here. We are God's only means of sharing the Gospel to the lost around us. There are no angels picking up our slack. God is not writing the Gospel in the sky. If we are unfaithful in sharing the Gospel, people around us have no chance of being saved. You don't need a preacher or evangelist to do what you should already be doing. If you have a relationship with an unbeliever, God orchestrated that for the express reason of you sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. You should view every person you know as an actual Christian or a potential Christian. Their response is between them and the Lord, for no one comes to Jesus unless God has done a work in their heart. But it is absolutely our responsibility to share the Good News. If we don't, we sin. The one who neglects to share the Gospel is disregarding their duty as a Christian and missing out on one of the greatest joys there is in this fallen world: seeing people come to Jesus.
To add insult to injury, it has never been as easy as it is today to share the Gospel. Any phone can turn into a Bible with one click of an app. The language barrier is almost non-existent thanks to translation apps and platforms such as Duolingo to learn the basics. We can now communicate with people across the world instantaneously. But really, these are superficial connections. How is your neighbor? Have they heard the Gospel? What about that one relative every rolls their eyes about? How about the quiet person at work? That one girl at school with the loud mouth? Let's start with those closest to us, because that's exactly where God has us right now.
The real reason evangelism and discipleship has suffered in recent history has to do with the influence of the outside, unbelieving world around us. Especially in western culture, each person is told they are unique, special, and independent; that no one has control over us other than ourselves. Our culture thrives on breaking away from discipline, finding our own path, and doing what makes us happiest. As long as we are at peace within, everything is okay. This is a deadly, Godless way of living which leads to destruction. This self-centered life is promoted by Satan himself, and many in the church are beginning to drink to Kool-Aid. But this is understandable, for it is clear that fewer and fewer professing Christians read Scripture devotionally or take prayer seriously. These are now clichés at the end of sermons or easy advice from other Christians who don't care to get in the trenches with those who are suffering. The content of our worship music and preaching is now meant to comfort those who don't feel good about themselves rather than to glorify the God of Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ. I don't believe I'm blowing this point out of proportion. I think we are in serious danger of derailing the entire purpose of church and the Christian life if we don't correct ourselves soon. If we have surrendered our lives to Christ, how can we still claim so much autonomy just as the world does? It seems we are acting and thinking just as our unsaved friends do, but with a dash of Jesus when uncertainty or hard times come around. Do you wish to see Jesus Christ glorified through your life? Or, if you're honest, do you just want Jesus to do what you wish He would do so that you can be comfortable and happy? To be clear, this is not a 'do better' message. This is a repent and re-focus message. God has to replace our self-centered focus if we are to honor Christ's command and to be bold in sharing the Gospel.
Big Statements from Scripture
My opening line (Loving God and Loving People, Fulfilling the Great Commission) comes from a few passages of Scripture that I take to be "thesis statements" of the Bible. We Americans like brevity. (Kudos for reading to this point!) So these key passages give a clear insight to God's answer to the question of what we are supposed to do until Jesus comes back. The key passages I'm talking about are Matthew 22:36-40 (also stated in Mark 12:30-31 and Luke 10:27) and Matthew 28:18-20 (also stated in Luke 24:46-48).
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matt. 22:36-40 NASB
The first key passage is a situation in which Jesus responds to someone who asks Him what the greatest commandment is. Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, states that the entire instruction of God up until that point is summed up in loving God with everything in you and loving your neighbor as yourself. The application is clear: to love God properly, we must make Him primary in our hearts, our souls, and our minds. He comes before us in every aspect of life. Secondly, we love our neighbor as ourselves. We do not neglect ourselves, so we cannot neglect our neighbor also. These are two big ideas which are furthered clarified throughout Scripture as to how to live out, but the second key passage presents another clarifying big picture.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matt. 28:18-20 NASB
Keeping Jesus' previous words in mind and remembering that they are the greatest commands, we now view Jesus' words after His resurrection in a proper context and mission: to make, baptize, and teach disciples. A disciple is someone who learns from another and lives as they live. Jesus is the one who is learned from and mimicked. This command is established upon Jesus' authority and is closed with a promise of His presence until His return. The Gospel begins with you and is forwarded on to everyone you meet who hasn't heard. You don't just explain the Gospel, you also invite them to submit to Christ as the Lord of their life. You baptize them as they do submit to Christ and teach them His commands as He gave them to us in Scripture.
While this passage is rightly used to encourage international missions, it's just as applicable on your street, at your school or work, and even in your own family. No Christian is exempt, and every Christian is qualified to fulfill their role! Your context is right where you are right now, and now is the time to start being faithful to obeying these commands. We love God by recognizing Christ's authority and leadership. We love others by leading them to Jesus and sharing the Gospel. All of this takes place right where you are and continues wherever the Lord should lead you. I would not expect any real growth in your Christian walk unless these commands are being obeyed. Remember, it is God who produces the fruit of our labor, but it is our duty to labor. This truth leads me to three ideas which every Christian must get behind to be faithful to these commands. After that, I have three things you can begin doing today.
1. A God-centered reality.
Rather than viewing the world with you or another person as the center of it, remember that God was present prior to anything else existing. He is the One who created the heavens and the earth. He determined that everything was good prior to the fall into sin. Scripture is the story of creation being redeemed; a story in which God is the main character. It is safe to say that God is still the main character this very day. He forever will be. Therefore, our lives are best viewed as being parts of the story in which God is glorified and worshipped. Our story is the story of God being praised. Our salvation is a testimony of God doing what only He can do. It is the work of the Holy Spirit forming us into the image of Christ to the glory of God the Father. His Word dictates what is right and wrong, so we conform our lives to His standard to glorify His ways and design. We do not seek our own unique path, but join in the work of what He has called us and every Christian to: taking the Gospel to the lost.
2. A Great Commission purpose.
Too much emphasis is put on individual calling and plans. This is not to say that these don't take place, but that the overarching call to evangelism and discipleship can be neglected if not careful. God sends some to Africa and sends others to small town USA. Location and vocation are secondary, faithfulness to the Great Commission is crucial. Whether you are led to missions, the military, or college, the Great Commission is what you are there for. Whether you make six figures or receive welfare checks, your income is meant to support Great Commission efforts. This could be giving to missionaries and even using funds to bless those in your church with special requests. You have been given resources: time, money, skills, etc. All of these are gifts of God given to you for the express purpose of taking the Gospel further.
3. A life making much of Christ.
You can solve world hunger, give every homeless person a house, and provide clean water to every city; but if you forget to make Christ known and exalted, you are failing. It is good to give food, water, and shelter, but no one is safe or cared for until they look upon Jesus Christ and name Him King of kings and Lord of lords. Until Christ is one's treasure, their life is meaningless and empty. This is not an over-exaggeration, this is the message of the Bible. Eternity rests on what each person says of Jesus Christ - is He a liar or a Savior? Those of us who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good ought to live differently than the rest of the world. We reject the empty glories of this world for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. We do this to show the joy that is present as one walks with Christ. Trials and hardships surely come to those who are faithful, but these times present opportunities to make much of our Lord and King. He must increase; we must decrease. We are called to count these struggles as joy, for Christlikeness is being formed in us.
What can I do today?
Please know that prayer is the real work of ministry. Nothing can happen unless God is at work in us and through us. With that, I want to challenge you to pray more 'thank you' prayers. I mean thank you prayers that do not have your personal requests at the end of them. Proclaim that God is over all creation, that Jesus has won the victory over sin and death, that God is all-powerful and perfect in all His ways. Have the faith to say some prayers and know that God knows your needs and will provide for them. When you do make your requests known to Him, ask God to exalt Jesus Christ through your life. Pray for the lost around you by name, ask God to open their heart to the Gospel. Ask God to give you opportunities to share the Gospel with them. Ask the Lord to prepare you to share and to defend your faith at any moment. Ask the Lord to keep you from the temptations of laziness, selfishness, and busyness. You can expect God to answer these requests as they align with Jesus' desires and purposes (ie. asking for things in Jesus' name).
Be bold and have that conversation with the ones God places on your heart to pray for. Be ready to present the Gospel at any time by being friendly to those you come in contact with throughout the day. You grow in confidence by knowing the message you wish to share thoroughly, so find Scripture passages which help in presenting the Gospel effectively. Because our culture doubts any supernatural events, you may have to start at creation. You will only improve if you devote time and attention to Scripture, both in your own walk with Christ and in being a faithful communicator of the Gospel. You'll have answers to their questions, or at least know where to start looking for them. Your goal is to help lead the one you witness to to understand the message of the Bible and to seek after God who wrote it. By God's grace, you might lead that person to trusting in Jesus and repenting of their sin.
Discipleship is really teaching others to obey Christ as you have learned to do. If there are believers in your home, church, workplace, or school, God has given you a community of believers to grow in faithfulness with. Take the initiative to give time to this community and take the responsibility of praying for them regularly, confessing sins and temptations to one another, and diving into the Word together. Collectively commit to sharing the Gospel regularly and hold each other accountable to doing so. Know this: it is impossible to grow closer to Jesus by yourself. Growth only takes place together, so don't neglect attending church and doing life with those there with you. Be a part of a small group. Make family worship in your home a regular occasion. Meet the needs of those around you who are waiting for Christ to return like you are. This is what we see taking place in Acts, and it should be the defining characteristic of our lives until Jesus returns.
What can I do around the world?
Global Year is a ministry which seeks to challenge 18-25 year olds to give a year overseas where the Gospel is unknown or very few are working to share the Gospel. We believe American Christians in this age group are the most equipped and able people to go to the unreached. By God's grace, we have seen over 1,000 conversions to Christ in the 20 year history of this ministry. If you are Christian, 18-25 years old, and want to take the Gospel where it hasn't gone yet, find a team at globalyear.org and apply!
If you're outside of our age range, you can still be a part of what we do. We send career missionaries to be the foundation of our yearly teams. If you love students and have a heart for their growth in the Lord, we need you! We are praying that the Lord will provide leaders to the many open doors around the world He has presented to us. All of our staff raise their own financial support to make this ministry possible. We ask those wishing to join our support teams to commit to giving on a monthly basis. To meet our staff and join a support team, visit globalyear.org/staff.
If you sense a call to missions, we would love to support you in fulfilling that call. Have you ever really considered being a missionary? With God's glory and purpose present, let's take the Gospel where it hasn't gone before. Let's begin today, in our own homes to the ends of the earth.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
Luke 10:2 ESV