by Rick Pidcock
When I was in third grade, my dream was to one day become a missionary to India. Unfortunately, however, my intentions had nothing to do with the supremacy of God or the Great Commission. Instead, I thought, “Since India is called India, it must have Indians living in it. And if there are Indians, then there most certainly must be cowboys. So if I become a missionary to India, then I will be able to play Cowboys and Indians all the time!”
Of course, over the years God began to show me that missions was about something much more than playing “Cowboys and Indians.” And as I began to grow more in my knowledge of the gospel, I began to see some comforting truths that I hope will bring some encouragement to you as we all are called to be missionaries to our communities.
Quite honestly, missions is a rather intimidating topic to discuss. It is an even more daunting lifestyle to live. Just consider for a moment a few statistics. In 1998, Patrick Johnstone published a book in which he stated, “We reckon that there are now nearly 13,000 distinct ethno-linguistic peoples in the countries of the world. About 3,500 are still pioneer fields for mission endeavor. The indigenous Church is either non-existent or still too small or culturally marginalized to impact their entire people in this generation without outside help. Of these probably about 1,200-1,500 peoples have either no indigenous church at all or no residential cross-cultural team of missionaries seeking to reach them.”
These statistics are only dealing with areas that are completely unreached. There are billions more that have never heard the gospel that reside in the very cities in which we live. As a believer, statistics such as these can be rather discouraging. And yet, there are a few aspects of the gospel that I think will profoundly change the way we view missions.
1. God will fulfill the Great Commission.
“This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world
as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” –Matthew 24:14
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number,from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” –Revelation 7:9
J. Campbell White once said,
“Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.”
I think that quote very eloquently points out that the ultimate joy we can experience on this earth is the joy of working with God to fulfill His kingdom purposes. Christ promised us in Matthew 24 that the gospel would be proclaimed to every people group before the end comes. Then, through the vision of John in Revelation 7, we see chosen ones from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne of God, worshiping Him.
These promises guarantee that God will fulfill the Great Commission. Whereas total evangelism will never take place, missions will be fulfilled. God is not going to save every person. But He will fulfill the Great Commission according to these two passages.
This should give us great confidence as we seek to reach our communities, our nation, and even the unreached people groups of the world. The statistics may seem daunting. But our Savior is fulfilling His mission.
2. God will irresistibly draw His chosen ones.
“Even when we were dead in our trespasses,
God made us alive together with Christ.” –Ephesians 2:5
“Those whom God called, He also justified.” –Romans 8:30
Yesterday I posted the following quote from John Piper. He said,
“I cannot pray for the lost without [the doctrine of irresistible grace]. I have tried time and again to imagine what I would ask God to do for a hardened, resistant neighbor if I did not believe in irresistible grace. Every prayer I come up with sounds like a joke. “God, provide my neighbor with some allurements to faith, but don’t make those allurements irresistible.” “God, work–work in my neighbor’s heart, but don’t work so much that he feels an overwhelming urge to believe.”No! I will not pray like that! On the authority of God’s Word, here’s what I’m going to say to my neighbor: “God, give him a new heart! Reach in there and take that heart of stone and yank it out! Put a new one back in so that he loves to believe. Ravish him with your glory. Put irresistible inducements in front of him. Save him! Don’t let him go to hell.”
Before salvation, we were dead in our sins. A dead person cannot make himself come alive by anything he wills or does. As the old saying goes, “He is as dead as a door nail.” And yet, Ephesians 2:5 says that God makes us alive. He breathes the new life of faith into hearts that once were dead.
While God has given a general call that whoever comes to Him will be saved, He only gives a specific effectual call to those whom He has chosen to be His children. Romans 8:30 says that everyone whom God has called with an effectual call has been justified by God.
A lot of people tend to shy away from the doctrine of irresistable grace. And yet, everybody prays, “God, save my grandfather. Save my neighbor. Save my child.” In essence, we all pray as if we believe in irresistable grace. We are just too theologically afraid to actually say that we believe in it.
We would never pray, “Please show yourself somewhat attractive to my friend so that hopefully my friend will have the good sense about him to figure out that he is dead, needs you, and then excercises faith as a dead man to be made alive.” Yet, ironically, that is the theology that many of us hold to.
God has clearly stated that everyone whom He calls will be justified. A dead man cannot resist the breath of life that is breathed into Him by God. With man, it is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.
Once again, our response to this truth should be confident joy that God’s purposes will be fulfilled. He is drawing men to Himself. And He chooses by His sovereign grace to allow us to take part in it.
3. God will gather His elect.
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” –John 10:16
“And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” –Acts 18:9-10
In his book, Desiring God, John Piper makes three observations about these passages. First, he says, “Christ does indeed have other sheep outside this present fold!” Christ has a chosen people that are not in the fold yet. But He is calling them in.
Second, he says, “Christ is under a divine necessity to gather His own sheep.” Jesus Himself said this in John 10:16 when He said, “I must bring them also.”
Third, Piper says, “The sheep He calls will surely come.” Jesus said in John 10:16, “They will listen to my voice.” It is a guarantee. The sheep that Christ calls will listen to His voice. They cannot resist the voice of their Shepherd. He will gather His sheep to Himself.
What a wonderful opportunity we have to participate with Christ in spreading His hope and gathering in His sheep!
“As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” -Acts 13:48
As the apostles preached from city to city, they could do so confidently, knowing that all whom God had appointed to eternal life would believe. God never fails. He never fails in His sovereign plan for our daily lives. And He never fails in His sovereign plan for the salvation of His elect.
God is not like a junior high boy who asks every girl in the school to “go out with him,” only to get turned down 99% of the time, leaving Him wallow in His failure to convince them of their need for Him.
Many believers choose not to believe in these truths. They say, “If that is true, then there is no reason to witness!” But in reality, because we know that God will fulfill the Great Commision, irresistably call His chosen ones, and gather His sheep, we can be confident that He is a God Who is completely sovereign, with utmost authority and power, Whose purposes cannot be vetoed or overturned by man, and Who does all things to magnify Himself to be supreme.
Rather than shying away from these truths, we should run to them as the irresistable, fathomless treasures that they are. We should ravish in them. And we should go forth in confidence and thanksgiving as God’s messengers to bring His people in.