This year's conference title was Finish The Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples, and I'll be honest - for the first time in five years, I thought about not attending. I've been on a short-term missions trip and absolutely encourage anyone else to consider serving in this way. But this conference was largely about long-term missions - giving your life over to spreading the Gospel of Christ to people groups in remote areas who have never heard the Word.
I don't feel called to leave Missouri - much less the U.S. - to spread the gospel. I just don't. But I do love a good church conference, so I signed Warren and I up once again to make the trek to Piper's stomping grounds. Besides, there's something in me that loves the tradition of making this eight-hour drive to Minnesota, to annually breathe new vitality into our tired spiritual lives.
I'm so glad we went, because turns out there was something I needed to be reminded of again, in a way I hadn't really grasped quite so broadly.
We are all sent.
What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that the God who called Abraham out of his home country and sent him to a foreign land (Genesis 12:1-4), the God who called Isaiah and sent him into a lifetime of ministry that would bear little or no fruit (Isaiah 6:1-8), who sent Jonah to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-2, 3:1-2), who sent John the Baptist to be His herald (Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 1:67-79), who sent Paul to be a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-49)...this is the same God we worship. This God also sends us. He calls us, and then He sends us.
Maybe that sounds like an obvious statement - "Of course it's the same God we worship!" - but think about that for a minute. All through the Bible, God is calling His people to Himself and sending them out into the world to do His will, for purposes only He fully knows, and oftentimes into situations that many of them would never have chosen - except for the fact that they were sent by God Himself.
Saturday evening's conference speaker was Ed Stetzer, an author, missiologist and president of LifeWay Research. He spoke to the idea that Charles Spurgeon most concisely articulated when he wrote, "Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter."
We all have a mission. That is, we all have a part to play in the total redemptive activity of God as He fulfills His plan this side of heaven.
Paul Tripp would undoubtedly agree with this statement, as he said in his book, Broken Down House, "All of life is ministry." There is no part of your life that God doesn't call you to use for His kingdom purposes.
As I listened to Stetzer Saturday evening, I kept thinking, "Why is it, then, especially in our American culture, that we tend to think of our faith as something very personal, something designed to simply 'do' for us?"
We think of what Jesus did for us through His life, death and resurrection as the means by which He saves us from eternal lostness. We think about His resurrection as proof that one day we too will be resurrected and live forever with Him. These are certainly true statements.
But we often stop there, don't we? We thank Him for the unspeakable gift of grace He offers, forgiving us our sins and accomplishing for us that which we could never do on our own. Then we take this gift, tuck it into our front pocket and head off to do whatever agenda item seems to be most pressing in our lives. The call to believe in Him often stops right there with us.
But if you look at the God of the Bible, His call on the lives of believers doesn't end there. Rather, it's the beginning of something new. From there He sent them out to be a part of what He is doing to redeem others.
And He sends us out, too. You may be like me, and not feel any holy compulsion whatsoever to minister outside of your hometown. There's nothing wrong with that. But you are sent. God sends us all out into our neighborhoods and restaurants and businesses to represent Him in some way.
He sends us out to be a part of His kingdom plan in the lives of those around us who are perishing. We don't have to leave Columbia, Mo., to find someone who desperately needs to hear the gospel, or to feel the love of Christ shown to them through our hands. But we do have to leave our comfort zone. We do have to leave behind the habit of thinking of our faith as secondary to what is on our calendars, and to honestly begin to ask God to speak into our lives and point us where He wants to use the gifts and abilities He has given us for others.
Is God sending you somewhere? If you believe that Christ died for you, and you've put your faith in His death and resurrection, you've been called. But where are you being sent? Wherever that might be, are you ready to say, "Here I am, Lord. Send me."
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."