Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Best Kept Secret, Chapter 1

[I'm blogging my way through John Dickson's book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More than our Lips.  Click on the title to order the book for yourself.]

Chapter One: "The One and the Many: Why Get Involved in Mission?"

Near the beginning of this opening chapter, John Dickson asks some helpful questions.  "Why do we reach out to others with the news of Christ?  What ultimately is the driving idea behind God's mission to the world?" (p. 26).  Take a moment and think about your answers to those questions.  Do we reach out because we feel guilty if we don't?  Do we share the gospel because we believe the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) is a command that applies to us?

The fundamental answer that Dickson talks about in this chapter may be surprising to some.  It is the most basic truth found in the Bible, and it is this: there is one God.  The theological word for this is monotheism.  From beginning to end, the Scriptures make it clear that there is only one God, and all other gods are the products of human imagination.  This one God created the world.  This one God reveals Himself in the Bible.  This one God came to save humanity in the person of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But why is monotheism so central in the idea of mission?  Dickson's answer is simple: "If there is just one God in the universe, everyone everywhere has a duty to worship that Lord" (p. 27).  Is this a startlingly new concept to you?  Certainly, we are accustomed to sharing the good news about Jesus because He has died for our sin and was raised from the dead.  Jesus will save all who come to Him by faith.  On the last day, Jesus will judge the living and the dead, and we don't want our friends, family, and neighbors to suffer eternal punishment. 

Those are all good and biblical motivations.  Yet, have we ever considered that, at a more fundamental level, there is only one God, and it is the duty of all creation (including human beings) to worship Him?  Man must serve, worship, honor, and glorify God simply because He is the one true God.  Dickson points to both Psalm 96 and Matthew 28 to underscore this truth.

In Psalm 96, the people of God are called on to "Declare his glory among the nations...For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods" (v. 3, 4).  So, the motivation is that God is great and is to be feared above all other gods.  This is why the message of His glory is to go out to the nations, and the desired result is that the nations would ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name (v. 8).  In other words, "there is just one God in the universe, [and] everyone everywhere has a duty to worship that Lord."

Then, in Matthew 28, as the risen Christ speaks the words of commission to His disciples, He gives them the driving reason why they should go.  He says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me...therefore..." (v. 18, 19).  The driving force behind the apostles ministry...and ours...is that all authority has been given to Christ.  There is no other divine authority to which man must submit.  It is the one true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ...He is the "one God in the universe, [and therefore] everyone everywhere has a duty to worship that Lord."  That's why disciples must be made...not to make the Christian religion bigger or better or more popular than any other religion.  Rather, it is because the message of Christ is the message of the one true God!

Let me finish with some sentences from pages 35-36.  Read these words, and be re-energized for God's mission to the world:
Why promote Christ to your atheist friend with a nice car and the self-confidence to match?  Not simply because he would be happier and more fulfilled with Jesus, but because in reality your friend belongs to the one true Lord (revealed in the gospel).  Why take the gospel to cynical retirees with a lifetime of worldly experience and a fat nest egg to enjoy?  Not simply because they will soon face eternity, but because right now they exist for the pleasure of the one true God.  Why reach out to the super-student with the first class honours degree and wardrobe of designer clothes?  Not simply because Christianity will make him more moral or productive in life, but because in reality she is the possession of her one and only King.  Why send out (and support) missionaries to Mongolia and Burkina Faso?  Not only because Asians and Africans need rescuing from God's judgment (as we all do) but because they too are creatures of the one Creator, and he alone deserves their worship.
 The people of the world do, of course, have all sorts of needs of their Creator - it would be strange if it were otherwise - but more fundamental than their felt need of God is the reality of their duty toward him, to "ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name" (Psalm 96:8).  This, above everything else, necessitates God's mission to the world.