Guest post from Ben Doster, who recently traveled to the Middle East on a short-term mission trip! Interested in going on a short-term trip? Check out our 2017 Short-Term Trip opportunities, with more to be added soon!
Hey Mercy, the season of Advent, where we await the birth of our savior, Jesus, is finally upon us. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we’re on the heels of our “Jonah and the Great City” sermon series. It’s Christmas time, but I’d be remiss if I glossed over what we learned from our walk through the book of Jonah the last five weeks.
Jonah isn’t a story about a man who was swallowed by a big fish. No, it’s a story about a merciful God’s redemptive grace and salvation for a broken, lost, sinful, unreached and wicked people. It’s a story that points us toward missions that should reorient our hearts to God’s calling upon our lives to live sent (Matthew 28:16-20), which means we need to be willing to go wherever he tells us to go and do whatever he tells us to do. We carry the hope of Christ that brings people from death to life wherever we go.
That hope is found in the message of the gospel – Jesus in my place. He saw us dead in our sin and in need of a savior to reconcile us back to God, so he left his throne, put on flesh, lived the perfect, holy and sinless life we failed to, was despised, rejected, beaten, mocked, crushed by the people he came to save, took our sin, our cross, our shame, was separated from his father, died the death we deserved and rose again to defeat sin, death and the grave to restore us back to right relationship with God. Jesus brought God to us, which is good news because we couldn’t reach him on our own. That’s why we celebrate Christmas.
Carl F.H. Henry, a believer in the 20th century said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” People are the instrument God chose to use to take the gospel to the lost and unreached. We’re in the midst of a war for the souls of men, women, children, moms, dads, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, orphans, the homeless, widows, prisoners, unwed mothers, high school dropouts, refugees, Muslims, Hindus and all other sorts of lost and unreached people who were made in the image of God. Eternity is at stake for more than two billion people who don’t know Jesus as Lord and savior. They are either going to spend eternity in paradise at the feet of Jesus, singing his praises or in Hell apart from Christ, where they will experience a joyless, never-ending torment and separation from God.
That should break the heart of every believer who claims the name of Christ and should push us to radical obedience to Jesus’ command to go (Matthew 28:16-20). How are people going to know about the great lengths Christ went to save them if we don’t tell them (Romans 10:14-15). The harvest is great, but the laborers are few (Luke 10:1-2).
That’s why Jesus is the hero of every story we tell our kids, why every sermon is centered on the gospel, and why we tell folks who are thinking about joining our church family at Starting Point gatherings to get or update their passport. It’s why we challenge our covenant members and those thinking about joining us to put their yes on the table, or why we ask people who are getting baptized if they believe Jesus has done everything necessary to save them and if they’re willing to do whatever he tells them to do and go wherever he tells them to go.
Mercy had the pleasure of sending teams to partner in the mission of God with church planters and missionaries in New York, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Kenya and the Middle East, and we’re going to take several short-term trips next year. Spots are going to fill up fast, so jump on the application soon!
You could have the opportunity to share the love of Christ with people from all over the world in New York, the gypsy community (social outcasts) in Eastern Europe, Hindus in South Asia, students and others in Kenya and Muslims in the Middle East. You will see God’s mission is much bigger than just what’s going on around you here. Christ didn’t die and rise again so you could comfortably enjoy “The American Dream,” which is a lie from the pit of hell. He bids us to come and die (Mark 8:34-35).
I’ve been to New York, Kenya and the Middle East, and have talked with friends who went to Eastern Europe and South Asia. What all those places have in common is they are filled with lost and unreached people, whose knowledge of God is just enough to damn them to hell. They need us to go to them, and tell them about Jesus, his love for them and what he did to save them. He is making for himself a people from all peoples, who will one day worship before his throne.
Most recently, I went to the Middle East, where I saw the stronghold the enemy has through
Islam. It influences and effects every aspect of the lives of the people there. It’s a layered veil of spiritual blindness that has deceived those people for over a millennia, which is why we must go to share the truth with them.
It doesn’t have to be the Middle East. Just put your “Yes” on the table, and go wherever you feel called to go or wherever God gives you the opportunity. We have the light that illuminates the souls of man, and darkness cannot overcome it. So, what’s keeping you from going? Or like Scott Urbanek said in his sermon Sunday to wrap up our Jonah series, “Why should you stay?” You’ve been called to go. Get in the game, and join the mission.
But let’s be real, if you’re in Christ you’re called to take the gospel wherever you go. For many, that looks like you getting on a plane and taking the message of grace and truth to a lost and unreached people in a foreign land. However, for some that means giving your resources, sharing the gospel with your neighbors, co-workers, friends, or engaging the refugee community here in Charlotte with the hope of Christ. God is bringing the nations here. You’re called to live sent and be on mission in whatever you do and wherever you go.
We learned through Jonah’s story God wants cheerful obedience, not heartless and begrudging obedience. He wants us to serve and go with willing hearts. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He only went, because God made him. An attitude like that creates bitterness in one’s heart. We’ve been shown radical generosity that we didn’t deserve to receive, and we have lasting joy because of what Christ has done for us. That should push us to
leverage every aspect of our lives for God’s glory and for the sake of the call.
That’s the difference between Jonah and Jesus, who is the truer and better Jonah. Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord, while Jesus was obedient to the Father and endured the cross with joy (Hebrews 12:2).
In Isaiah 6 the Old Testament prophet Isaiah had an encounter with the one, true, living God through a vision, where God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah’s response was one of cheerful and willful obedience when he replied, “Here I am! Send me.”
Are you willing to go wherever God asks you to go and do whatever he asks you to do? If so, great! We’re ready to send you out on the next flight to an unreached people. If not, why? You weren’t just saved for yourself. You were saved to make disciples who make disciples, so live sent and go.