Featured in the Spring 2021 issue of the Pentecostal Messenger, this article shares God's divine story, which began in the Garden and continues on in the hearts of every believer today.
March 1, 2021
Contending for Mission
Personally, I’m always up for a good story. The books and movies that grip me the most always tend to be those that keep me on the edge of my seat—the stories that make me think, take me and the audience along for the journey, and leave you longing for more. Perhaps that’s why I can’t seem to sit through those Christmas Hallmark movies my wife loves. Before we even hit play, I can already predict what’s going to happen! City girl goes home for the holidays, only to reconnect with the small-town guy she knew from high school… Here we go again. Sure, I’ll watch the movie if it means spending time with my wife, but honestly, I would much rather embark on an adventure with Frodo and Samwise or climb further up and further in with the Pevensie children in Narnia.
Ironically, you probably already know where I’m going with this. There is no greater story in existence than God’s story. His is one that is filled with excitement and anticipation, because every time we hear His story, we walk away feeling refreshed and renewed. His story is Gospel, and even though we already know how the story will end, we just can’t seem to get over how good it is. Now that’s the kind of story worth hearing and sharing over and over again…
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit ofGod was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light (Genesis 1:1-3).
In the first three verses of Scripture, we’re already acquainted with who God is: As Maker of Heaven and Earth, He is in the business of bringing form to chaos, filling voids, and dispelling darkness. You see, even from the very beginning, God’s mission was made clear; and the more we read of Him and the more we learn about Him, the more we grasp His unchanging nature.
From Genesis to Revelation, in the Old Testament and in the New, God’s story and God’s mission remain outrageously cohesive, motivated not by the Fall but actually by His decision to Create. What if the Fall was of no consequence to His divine plan? Not that He willed or desired it to happen, but merely that in the wake of sinfulness, He knew He might have an opportunity to write another chapter in His missional story—to not only bring form to earthly chaos but also to redeem human destruction, to not only fill physical voids but also the emotional ones, and to not only illuminate material darkness but also to open spiritually blind eyes.
Only a missional God can turn a Cosmic Problem into a Cosmic Solution. Only because He makes all things new can eating the fruit of a tree sow the seed of a snake-crusher.
As for your birth, your umbilical cord wasn’t cut on the day you were born, and you weren’t washed clean with water.You were not rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one cared enough about you to do even one of these things out of compassion for you. But you were thrown out into the open field because you were despised on the day you were born. I passed by you and saw you lying in your blood, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live! (Ezekiel 16:4-7a)
As the biblical narrative progresses through the Torah and on into the Books of History, God’s chosen people find themselves enslaved; and actually, they’re enslaved a lot. It’s kind of cyclical process with them. But time and time again, as Israel turns back to God and humbly submits themselves before Him, He is moved with compassion. It is here in the midst of Israel’s idolatry, spiritual prostitution, and whoredom where we learn that God’s story is intricately tied to setting the captives free and seeking justice for the marginalized and oppressed. His mission, being motivated by incomprehensible compassion, is therefore redemptive.
The text cited above communicates quite a vivid picture, I know. But the point is this: He chose you, not due to merit or any value you possess of your own, but solely because of His extravagant compassion and grace. In the New Testament, Paul says it this way, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Or if I might paraphrase: "While we were still lying there in our blood and afterbirth, Christ came down to join us." Stripping Himself of all dignity and royal privilege, the King of Heaven laid there amongst us, naked and bleeding, giving up His life in order that we might take up our own.
Finally the Cosmic Problem meets its Cosmic Solution. Because of Easter, all of creation is invited to participate in the same redemptive story and mission that involved breathing life into the dust. Only this time, the Breath of Life also targets the brokenness of the human soul, calling all who will to embark upon their very own exodus from slavery and entrance into eternity.
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions (Joel 2:28).
Following the ascension of the Son up into Heaven came also the outpouring of the Spirit to those in the Upper Room. Immediately, as tongues of fire appeared over their heads, the language barrier between heaven and earth was broken, and God’s redemptive mission revealed itself in all of its glory and splendor, to an extent perhaps unlike any other occasion since the very beginning. On that day, the void felt in the hearts of the 120 as they grieved the loss of their dear friend Jesus had been filled again by an Advocate and Ever-present Help. On that day, onlookers—Gentiles, people of all tribes and nations—gazed with curiosity and wonder as they witnessed order rise up out of the chaos of “drunkenness.” And on that day, the remnant darkness in 3000 souls was illumined by the authority and attractiveness of the Holy Spirit.
Now, fueled by the very same fire, men and women around the world have the privilege of exercising their spiritual gifts by prophesying, dreaming dreams, and seeing visions. Taking God’s mission upon themselves and enacting his compassion and redemption upon the earth, Christ’s followers continue to play a role in His divine story. Even 20 centuries later, unbelievers are still attracted to this Gospel; for it is through the prophetic utterance of the saints that “the secrets of [unbelievers’] hearts are revealed, and as a result, [they] fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you’” (1 Cor 14:25).
In the end, as much as I love engaging in a good story, no matter how hard I try and no matter how imaginative I become, I haven’t discovered any story on earth that allows me to physically transport myself onto the page or into the screen. God’s divine story, however, openly invites me (and you) to do just that. With our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we have each been assigned a unique role to play as members of His Church, chosen as His beloved bride and equipped as His global missionaries.
Truly, this cosmic story is a missional story. It is a story of redemption, of recreation, of restoring formlessness; and it is a story worth sharing because, by His Spirit, the Good News has been made attractive to all who hear it. So come now, let us go fulfill our roles in His Story, and in the process, perhaps we will even change the course of history.
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