A popular question for many people has been, “what is my purpose.” Some naturally ask this question of themselves. It is not unusual for someone to wonder, “where did I come from and why am I here?” Others are counseled to ask this question for themselves. I just finished a book that was a New York Times Best Seller and the authors advised that one of the first things in any life stage is to ask, “What is my purpose?”
And still many others have had their interests peeked when the answer to this question is offered. There was a nation craze 10 years ago over the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It seemed like everyone was reading it. If by asking this question you look for the answer from the Bible, which is what Warren’s book sought to do, you’ll find that God did make you with a unique purpose. And one of the first things you discover from the Bible about your purpose is that it is absolutely connected to a bigger question, one I am not sure many ponder enough. The bigger question for us all is, “What is God’s purpose in the world?”
I wonder how many people ask the question, “What is God’s purpose?” Have you ever asked that question? Stop for a minute and think how you would answer that question. I wonder how many people in churches who come to worship God each Sunday are confident they know what God’s purpose is in the world today? What is He doing? What is God after?
What Is God’s Purpose?
The Bible teaches that God’s purpose is to uphold and display His own glory. Many, I would guess, have not thought enough about this. The word “glory” means widespread honor; magnificence; great beauty; something impressive; praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to God; to take pleasure in (Concise Oxford English dictionary).
God created the world to declare his glory (Ps. 19:1). In fact, He created us for His glory (Is. 43:6-7). Even the animals were made to glorify Him (Is. 43:20). We are chosen to be saved for His glory (Eph 1:4-6). We are commanded to do good works for his glory (Mt 5:16). We are to do everything for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Jesus suffered on the cross for His glory (Jn 17:1). Jesus said His ultimate aim for us is to see and enjoy His glory (Jn 17:24).
Throughout the Bible we are commanded to glorify God. We’re told to rejoice and give him the glory (Rev. 19:7); to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20); to tell of his glory among the nations (1 Chr. 16:24; Ps. 96:3). And if we do not glorify Him through obedience, He will be glorified through our disobedience. He used the hardness of heart of Pharaoh, the Egyptian king, saying multiple times; “I will be honored through Pharaoh” (Ex. 14:4, 17, 18).
To not glorify Him has consequences, and will be punished. Herod did not give God the glory and God killed him (Acts 12:23). And of the unrighteous He said, they did not honor him as God (Rom. 1:21). Therefore God gave them up to their evil desires. King Belshazzar of Babylon literally saw God’s writing on the wall and was killed because, as Daniel explained to him, God in whose hand is your breath you have not glorified (Dan. 5:23).
God Deserves to Be Glorified and Desires to be Enjoyed
There is much more that could be said of God’s glory. It is magnificent. It is impressive. It is beautiful. And because of His glory, God deserves widespread honor. In fact, in the new heavens and new earth, there will be no need of sun or moon in the city, for God’s glory shines on it (Rev. 21:23). He deserves to be worshiped. It is something we certainly should take pleasure in.
Psalm 67 verses 3 and 4 say, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” Have you ever thought that God desires for people to be satisfied in Him? To enjoy him? To be glad in him? We should enjoy him so much that we praise Him. In fact, “God is most glorified in us,” says pastor John Piper, “when we are most satisfied in Him.”
People are not satisfied with God, therefore He is not glorified
But that is not the condition of the people in our world, nor in the context of our passage, Luke 24. By the time the reader gets to Luke 24, God has already sent His Son Jesus into the world to rescue sinners. Not one person in history has been able to adequate return glory to God. No one has found their absolute satisfaction in God. There was no hope for humanity.
So God sent Jesus to become our hope. God became a man and lived among us in the world. And this God Man, Jesus, lived a full life in total satisfaction with His Father. Jesus glorified God with His life. Then He died a death only sinners deserved and He glorified God in His death. But He didn’t stay dead, He was raised to life three days later. His death and resurrection gives sinners hope. Sinners are forgiven when they rely on Jesus’ work and not their own for God’s favor.
That’s the context of Luke 24:36-49. Jesus is about to show Himself alive to His disciples the same Sunday evening of His resurrection. And in so doing, Jesus shows that missions is a significant part of God’s purpose.
God is fulfilling His purpose to be glorified by all peoples through missions. Missions is significant because God is serious about fulfilling His purpose. Everything He does should bring Him glory, to show off His amazing beauty. People being satisfied in God would lead them to worshiping Him, which would bring Him glory. A large portion of people in the world are not doing this, therefore missions is important.
Four things we need to understand about Missions…
1. Missions is necessary because humanity is not right with God.
One might ask, why should we do missions? Missions is needed because people are perishing and the gospel is their only hope. There are several keys to this truth found in this passage. Jesus said that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name (47). People needed to hear this because their sin has separated them from God. This is also why the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead (46).
Not to mention, even the closest men on the planet to Jesus were not convinced Jesus was who He said He is (36-43). Jesus knew their hearts were not right with God and asked, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (38). They did not recognize the Lord who lived with them for three years. They were troubled in their hearts about Jesus. They needed their minds opened to understand what is written in the Bible
People are going to hell and only Jesus can save them (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
The greatest missionary in the New Testament wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
People are sinners. They are unable to glorify God. So Paul is explaining, the gospel is not plainly seen by sinners—it is veiled. Therefore, they are perishing. This means, they are going to hell. Hell is real. It is an eternal place for sinners who do not to glorify God. And they cannot glorify God, because they do not understand the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They need to have their eyes open by God to the person and work of Jesus, just as the disciples needed to have their minds open to the Scriptures.
In Kosovo, God is not Worshiped and Enjoyed
In Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper writes, “Missions exists because worship does not.” He makes the point that we are not to be mission-driven, but God-driven, meaning, “Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” All over the world there are people and places where God is not worshiped and enjoyed, places where He is not being glorified. Missions is necessary because there are places where God is not glorified, where people are not right with God.
Two weeks ago our church announced that Providence is intentionally partnering with other missionaries on the ground in the nation of Kosovo, where there are few, if any, churches. It is a Muslim country where there are only 20 Christians for every 10,000 people. Our hope in targeting Kosovo is for God to be glorified in that nation by Him reconciling thousands to Himself.
2. Missions is the task of the church to proclaim the Gospel to all nations
What exactly is missions? This passage answers that question. Missions is the cooperative effort of the Christ’s church to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus tells them that what was written about Him in the Old Testament had to be fulfilled. These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me [in the OT] must be fulfilled (44). This shows us that according to Jesus, the Old Testament is not a Jewish book, it is a Christian book.
But that’s not all. Something else in the Old Testament had to be fulfilled: the proclamation of the Gospel to all the world, beginning in Jerusalem. From the beginning of history God saw His people being a blessing to all the nations of the earth. He said this to Abraham in Genesis 18:17-18 and 22:18. He also said it to Isaac (Gen. 26:4).
In Isaiah 66:18-20, God said, “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations…that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord.
So, it also had to be fulfilled what was prophesied in the Old Testament concerning God’s purpose for His people. God’s people were to declare God’s glory among the nations and bring many from all the nations to the Lord. This requires we proclaim the gospel.
It is a simple fact that Jesus could have come to them individually, but instead He waited until they were ALL gathered together (v33). Jesus was about to build His Church with these guys (Mt 16:18-19). You might say, they were the first church and Jesus the first pastor. They were being sent corporately to do the work of missions together by proclaiming the Gospel to all nations.
People must hear about Jesus and His work to be saved.
Belief in the Bible necessitates the work of missions in many ways. And we must not forget that it is necessary for people to hear the gospel in order to be saved. Paul explains this in Romans 10:13-17:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
It is a beautiful thing when people GO
One of my favorite memories in seminary was the International Missions chapel. At the end of the service, the preacher would call out those who God was calling to go overseas as missionaries. Tears would stream down my face as I watched countless people walk to the front. Singles, married couples, some with small babies, older people, younger people, all surrendering their lives to proclaim the gospel to the nations. Some were going to nations where they could lose their lives, willing to go and never come back. It’s a beautiful thing “to go” the Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
3. Missions happens when people become passionate about God’s glory
So when do we start doing missions? Missions happens when people become passionate about God’s glory, and with delight, go as they are commanded to bring the gospel to all nations in hopes that all will find their supreme satisfaction in God.
We begin by glorifying Jesus and proclaim His message…by His Spirit…from where we are. Then we go to places where He is not being glorified and continue to glorify and proclaim Him.
Jesus tells them to wait where they are for the promised power of the Spirit. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high (49). Passages like this, along with the Book of Acts, shows us that the possession of the Spirit is THE decisive mark of being a Christian (cf. Acts 10:44–48; 11:15–18; 15:8; 19:2–7). Therefore, it is correct to say we do missions when we become born again Christians.
This may require training and preparation for some things, but as soon as you have been given enough understanding to believe the Gospel and be saved, you can explain what you know to others in the power of the Spirit.
Where a passion for God exists, a zeal for missions will exist.
God has commissioned the church made up of Spirit-empowered Christians for the task of missions. Where a passion for God exists, a zeal for missions will exist. And the reverse is true. If hearing this does not give you a passion for missions, then you cannot have a passion for God. It amazes me that people can claim they love God if they do not have a desire to cooperate with fellow believers to do the work of missions. When you’re not passionate about God, you cannot be right with Him.
Six months after I became a Christian, my wife Mary, whom I was dating then, asked if there was something between God and me? What motivated her question was my loss of passion for God. When God first saved me, I was on fire for Him. But six-months later my zeal was fading. Shortly after our conversation, God revealed the idol of baseball in my life. I repented to God and got right with God. My passion for God soon returned.
God deserves our praise. Because of this, it is required of all peoples to glorify God. But people are not right with God because they are sinners and therefore cannot adequately glorify God. The truth is, they do not want to glorify God. But even if they did, no matter how hard they would try, they could not. They could not worship Him, and they could not enjoy Him. How can you enjoy someone you are not right with? How could you find joy in someone who has something against you, and vice versa? The reason many do not enjoy the Word of God (reading the Bible, or listening to it being taught) is because there is something between them and God. The reason many do not enjoy being around the church to worship God is because there is something between them and God. When we get right with God, a passion for Him follows. When this happens, missions can happen.
4. Get involved in seeking God’s glory among all peoples
So, how do we get involved in doing missions? Again, you do nothing until you have the gift of the Spirit. But think about what that means. “Even as the Spirit was present in Jesus’ conception (1:35, 41), earliest years (2:25–38), baptism (3:21–22), and ministry (4:1, 14, 18; 5:17), so the Spirit would come upon the disciples. Shortly the ‘baptism of the Spirit’ promised by John the Baptist (3:16; Acts 1:5) would take place as they became ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (2:4)” (Wiersbe).
When God truly saves us, a passion for God will enter and increase. And an increasing satisfaction in God will come over you. This will glorify God. David said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:4-5). Out of this passion for God’s glory, do what you desire, as long as it does not violate Scripture.
Pray for the nations and opportunities to impact the nations with the gospel. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16). According to Jesus, missions is necessary, therefore praying is necessary. Prayer was given specifically to accomplish missions.
Cooperate with your church in order to proclaim the gospel to the nations (Luke 24:47). It might be that your church would train you to become a full-time missionary to a people group that is not reached with the gospel yet. Or maybe you can join a short-term mission trip for a couple weeks where you will be given opportunities to share the gospel. And if you are unable to go, you can financially provide or encourage others to go on your behalf. Missions is a cooperative effort.
Nevertheless, my prayer is that we would become a people who have a passion for God’s Glory, and out of this, a passion for missions. God’s mission for His church is to proclaim the gospel to all peoples. If you are a Christian, my hope is that you will be convinced that your God-given passion must be to cooperate with your church in taking the gospel to places where God is not glorified and the gospel is not being proclaimed…for God’s glory.