“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2
What it means to be missional? So many people have misunderstood what it means, and have adopted a truncated view, assuming it refers only to our strategy for doing social justice acts in the neighbourhood. Previously, we considered how loving God with all of our hearts (worship and religious affections as witness) is a crucial part of joining God on mission, and this month we go a step further to consider how loving God with our minds is also an essential component.
We must always start with understanding God’s nature. We want to affirm the missionary nature of God (missio dei), believing that God reveals who He is to us in many ways in a desire to draw us into relationship with Himself.
Through the Scriptures
One of the ways God speaks to us is through scripture. Many have come to understand Christians as people of the Book, which is not the best way to see us. Instead we need to understand that God speaks to us through the Bible to help us to understand who He is and how He is at work in the world (His story).
As we walk through the scriptures, we see God constantly sending His word into the world in an effort to draw us closer. This starts in the very first sentences of scripture through Him sending His word and fashioning order from chaos. It continued as He sent His word to Abraham through covenant. The Israelites would become His people, blessed, and to be a blessing to all nations. Then through Joseph in Egypt and Moses as the one who would lead the Israelites out of slavery. God tells Moses of His name—I Am (YHWH)—which means a God who redeems, leads to life, for the sake of the world. In all, there are 220 times in the Old Testament alone that we hear of God sending His word among His people, to lead them back into relationship with Himself, and to be a blessing to other nations. This call was hard for the Jews. Think of their times of exile in Babylon, or when Jonah was sent to the Ninevites.
Through the Son
Of course, the greatest evidence of God sending His word is in and through His son, Jesus the Messiah. Indeed we have become a people of the Word—the Son of God, Messiah, King of the Kingdom of God. Jesus becomes the one who fulfills the name of God. He redeems His people, leads them to life, for the sake of the world. He is the One who not only died for our sins, for the sin of the world, but is also the One who returns the relationship between God and His people to its proper perspective: a theocracy instead of worldly political systems.
We so often remark that Jesus “looks like the Father,” but we must also remember that the Father looks like Jesus. Jesus was God sending His word into the world, so He could seek and save those who were estranged from Him.
Through His People – By the Spirit
God’s story has not come to an end. That’s good news. Is it possible that we have truncated the gospel, reducing it to a series of propositions? Have we inadvertently communicated that if a person gives intellectual assent to these propositions, they will “go to heaven?”
Now, because God is a missionary God who sends His word into the world, and we are made in His image, we too are now a part of God’s story. Because of Jesus, and now through the power of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, we too are sent by God into the world to bring this good news to all people.
If God reveals who He is, and what He is doing in the world to us, then our task must be to correctly understand Him, listen to what He says, and put this into practice. This is what it means to join God on mission.
In my next article, I’ll take a look at some practical actions we can take as we seek to love God with our minds.