[SEA 2017] Preaching the Gospel is Everyone's Job
Note: This post doesn't necessarily have to do with anything specific to this trip. These are just general reflections that are meaningful to me. I hope these reflections challenge and encourage you all! Oh, and sorry in advance for the long post, but I think it's worth your while.
As I prepare for the upcoming trip, one particular truth has been constantly ringing in my heart as of late, and it is this: the more I grow in the faith, the more I feel the urgency to make disciples of Christ during my time on earth. I always seem to find myself circling back to this reality.
Why do I say this, you ask? Look no further than 1 Corinthians 7.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. Form now on those who have wives should live as though they had none; those who mourn as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something; as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
I’ll admit it--this passage is bizarre. “Those who have wives should live as though they had none”? Is Paul advocating for a cheap, less-than-serious view of marriage? If not, then what in the world is he saying? And what does all this have to do with making disciples?
The crux of this passage lies not in these bizarre commands, but in the two statements that flank them: “the time is short” (v. 29) and “the world is passing away” (v. 31). What Paul is pleading with us here is that the world is passing away, along with everything in it. We really don’t have much time. There is an URGENCY with which we ought to live our lives--not to squander it on things that will perish in the end, but to invest in that which is everlasting. We only have one life, and we ought to make it count on the landscape of human history. Therefore, we cannot take such stock in our fleeting identities like married or unmarried, mourning or joyful, rich or poor. Ultimately, these things (yes, even the God-given institution of marriage!) are secondary and subservient to a more ultimate goal.
And so what is this single, ultimate goal? If all these things are fleeting and passing away, then what on earth is worth our time and investment?
It all boils down to this: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, and soul (Matt. 22:37). Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). And how do we do this? Preach the gospel. Make disciples of all nations.
In the Old Testament, the sign of blessing was children, physical offspring. But in Christ and the new covenant, the sign of blessing is disciples, spiritual offspring. In ancient Israel, women who were barren and unable to reproduce were considered cursed and cut off from making a name for themselves. But in Isaiah 56:4-5, the LORD declares that eunuchs (infertile men, or men who choose not to marry) that dedicate themselves to the work of the LORD will receive a name and legacy that is even greater than that which any physical offspring could bring.
So why am I bringing up marriage and children all of a sudden? My point here is that for the Christian, there is one practical pursuit that is better than any other pursuit. And it is to have our lives wrung out for the glory of God in helping others believe and cherish the same gospel that has saved us. Therefore, let us give our all to this end. Let us not strive for the type of Christianity that the American dream breeds, with its white-picket fences and 2.5 kids and 2.5 cars. But with whatever gifts we are given (single or married), in whatever season we are in (joyful or mourning), let us live to make disciples for the glory of God. That the nations would be glad. That our families and friends and neighbors would know and love Jesus Christ. The day of salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. We must leave our self-interested lives and go.
But Alex, that’s too radical. You’re a fool if you believe all this. You’re throwing your life away.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. - Matt 16:25
The funny thing is that you’re right. On this side of eternity, we are in every sense throwing our lives away. In the eyes of the world, we are absolute fools. But just like the woman with the alabaster jar, we are wasting our lives not into the gutter, but at the feet of Jesus. We are not coins that are spent on perishable treasures, but on eternally beautiful purposes. We are giving ourselves completely to the only one who is the culmination of everything we could ever hope for or want. When he appears, we will not have any more prayers of supplication because we will have been supplicated the very thing our heart ultimately desires--Jesus Christ (Jn 16:22-23). We will not need the sun, for His glory and splendor will be light for us (Rev 22:5). How my soul rejoices at our eschatological hope in Christ’s return.
Is there any other way to live? I’m sure Christianity doesn’t always look this radical.
I cannot with a clear conscience tell you that it is okay to live your life elsehow. I do not find such evidence in the Bible. As John Piper puts it, “people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there will not be there.” The point of Christianity is not to get to heaven. It is to be with Christ and to spend your life knowing Him and loving Him. And such a life will naturally breed more disciples.
In closing, what do we make of all this? I want to urge us all to quit viewing “missions” as some sort of optional specialty within the Christian life. The call to be a “fisher of men” is on every Christian’s shoulders. But hear me out because I’m not necessarily saying that the answer to all this is to attend more mission trips. Rather, let’s consider all the opportunities we have been given by God to make disciples. How are we being disciple-makers at home where we are prone to laziness and apathy? How are we being disciple-makers amongst our friends where our social reputation is at stake? Yes, this will be new to some of us. It will even be uncomfortable and awkward. But I truly believe that even our awkward, feeble attempts to share the gospel will be absolutely honored by the LORD.
And so with this in mind, let us gladly walk into this high, high privilege we have of making disciples wherever we are. No matter what happens in life, no matter what twists and turns appear, may our gaze be fixed upon Jesus Christ, the beginner and finisher of our faith. Let us respond to such a faithful God with a glad heart of obedience unto Christ. For the glory of God.