Sunday morning, I began a sermon series at East Point on the “Mission of God.” I think I’ll post my sermon notes each week for those of you who are interested. Here’s part one:
Do you know why we’re here?
Abraham did. Joseph did. Moses did. Jesus did. Paul did.
God had a plan, and all these people are examples of people in Scripture who fit into that plan and knew it.
Do you know why you as a person are here?
Do you know why East Point as a congregation is here? What is our purpose? What is our mission? What, as a church, are we trying to do? Do we have a unified vision of where we fit in God’s plan? In case we aren’t sure, today we’ll start looking at what our mission should be according to the Scriptures. And when this series is over, we should be able as a congregation to begin talking in detail about what our mission looks like in our community and how that gives great meaning, purpose, and direction to each of our lives.
Knowing your mission is critical. You’ve heard the saying, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time,” right? So we know that we need a purpose, goals, an idea of what we want to become and achieve. But it isn’t enough to start with what we want.
“Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission–God’s mission” (Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God, 62).
God isn’t just giving us something to do to keep us occupied. In Lk 19:10, Jesus said, that he came to seek and save the ________ [lost]. He didn’t come to babysit the saved. Now, it’s true that he did spend a whole lot of time with those we might call the saved, but what was he doing? Was he babysitting them? No! He was preparing them, training them. And for what? For a mission.
Here, at the very beginning, as we work through a process of understanding what our mission is, it is essential that we hear this point clearly: our mission is not church-centered; it is God-centered. That’s a huge difference.
That means that we don’t set a course and pursue a mission like companies, corporations, and civic groups do. We don’t pick a goal based simply on our wants, needs, or even our strengths. Someone else plots our course for us. And who do you think that is? [God]
We the church are not a corporation, a civic club, or a sports team, even though we have some similarities. The bible more often describes us as a family. And that is helpful, because in the days of the bible, families had leaders. And God is the Father of our family. And He anointed a leader who sets the agenda and maps out a path for his family. It’s not me, it’s not the elders. It is Christ who God made head of the church. (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:18)
And why did God do that? Why make Christ the head of the church? So that we’d be led in the right direction. So that we will reach the goal. Isn’t that what a leaders does? And what is the right direction? Not just toward heaven but toward God. It’s not just about a place to go, but it’s about the created rejoining the Creator. It’s about being part of God’s new creation when he shares his richest blessings with all his faithful children. It’s about being part of the great victory of God at the end of days.
We know there will be a great victory by God over sin and death. We have faith in his power to do what he’s promised, in large part, because we believe that our God is the Creator of all things.
God defines the mission for his people. And if we want to understand God’s mission, then we must begin by understanding what it was that God was doing “In the beginning.” Look with me at Genesis 1:1-2:3 (read vv. 1-5, summarize the rest, and then read 1:26-2:3)
Why did God create the cosmos? Why did God put us here?
If you read the next two chapters in Genesis, you learn that God walked and talked with the people he put in the Garden, in that great paradise. God wanted to live with us and to share his blessings with us. Many people think that God wants people to fall down before him for eternity singing his praises. And so they have this unfortunate, incorrect view of what would be a self-centered, ego-centric God. And that’s not our God. Our God is the one who walked and talked in Eden with his people. He knew them, he loved them, he provided for all their needs.
But we also know for those first chapters in Genesis that those first humans sinned. They were cast out of paradise and out of the presence of God. And it looked for awhile like God’s mission to live in an intimate relationship with his people, sharing with them his great blessings, like that was all over.
But God wasn’t finished. God was just getting started in his mission. He wasn’t willing to give up on us. He loved us too much. He’d made us, and we were his.
And so the great narratives of the Bible tell us about how God continually fought this battle to bless us and to overcome our failings. How God’s promises weren’t always believed, how humanity was all too often faithless, and yet how God was always faithful. How he never forgot his covenant promises to people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, and then to a teen-aged girl named Mary.
He promised Abraham that through his seed all nations would be blessed. He promised Moses and Joshua that he would gather together a people for himself. He promised David that his descendents would forever rule on his throne. And he promised Mary that these great covenant blessings would be fulfilled through the baby that would soon be growing in her womb.
The bible tells it like this… Luke 1:26-33
Do you hear that? It’s the mission of God!
And after Jesus was conceived and then born, “And when the time came for their purification…. (reading Luke 2:22-38).
Here he was, the Messiah! The one who would save his people and bring the Gentiles into the household of God! The one who would bring to completion the covenant promises of God. The one who would save us and give us hope and purpose and mission.
A mission that John, the gospel writer, knew had begun long before Jesus was born into the world. John knew that even Jesus’ mission was not his own but one that had been initiated by His Father in the beginning. And so like the opening verses of Genesis, the book of beginnings, John begins his gospel like this…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:1-18 ESV)
Jesus came to bring God’s mission closer to completion. His coming has brought us one giant leap closer to a full, unhindered life with God as it was intended in the beginning of creation. And in his life, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, and his current reign at the right hand of God, Jesus indeed shows us the Father and helped make clear while in the flesh the purpose and mission that he entrusts to us and to all people who follow God.
In the upcoming weeks, we’ll flesh this out and see what specifically it means to carry on a mission initiated by God for the blessing of his creation.
Jesus came to us and died so that we could go to God and live. If you want to join God’s mission, you must begin by being born again. You must have a new beginning, and you can have it by faith in Christ. Come and repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Come now as we stand and sing.