Today we are going to conclude our series called “God Is.” We have loved hearing stories from some of you about how your view of God has been stretched and deepened as a result of these messages. While I say today is our final message in this series, by no means have we preached an exhaustive list of the character traits of God… after all, we never even taught about the Love of God!
But we chose to teach on topics we thought were important for us to unpack and ideas we haven’t had as many opportunities to teach about. And like every good conclusion, to help you remember what you’ve learned, we want to briefly review this series up until today.
God is Infinite
I kicked off this series by teaching that God is Infinite. By walking through numerous scripture passages, I showed the Omni- aspect of God. If you remember, those were the big words we hardly ever use in normal language to express the infinite nature of God:
- Omnipotent – All Powerful
- Omniscient – All Knowing
- Omnipresent – All-Present in Space and Time
And the impact of this infinite nature of God is that we recognize his incomparable majesty – and we WORSHIP him because he is God — the One true God and no one compares to him.
God is Sovereign
We built on the idea of this Infinite God the next week when we tackled what I think to be one of the most challenging topics when it comes to God. And this is best expressed in the question “Is God in control?” There is inherently an issue with this when we look around and see evil in the world, or natural disasters, and when we personally go through difficulties. When we lose a job, our marriage falls apart, or we lose a child or grandchild, then we wonder, “where is God?”
The bible certainly affirms the sovereignty of God in verses like Psalm 115:2-3:
Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
But we saw that “sovereign” doesn’t mean God is meticulously controlling everything like pieces on a chess board. His sovereignty is his authority and it is directly tied to what we said about his infinite nature. Because God is omniscient, there is never a moment he says, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” And because of his omnipotence, he never says, “I wish I could have done something about that.” But because of his sovereignty, we know that nothing is outside of his control. We also know that he sees and knows and his inaction doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. We also know that he can and will redeem our suffering.
God is Holy
The third week we looked at how God is Holy. Leviticus 11:44 says:
“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”
We defined “holy,” not as a list of dos and don’ts, but as set apart and righteous. His holiness is something that sets God apart from everything, including us. This is also the first characteristic we studied that didn’t just apply to God. We are also called to be holy because God is holy. We should not become a bunch of holier-than-thou Pharisees, but we should simply surrender ourselves completely to God, looking to the model that Jesus lived for us in how we can be holy spiritually, while physically present in and around the world.
We concluded that our holiness is always derived from and dependent upon our proximity and relationship to God.
God is Jealous
Then we turned to the character trait of God that I might say is least understood… that God is Jealous. In fact, some people, upon hearing about God being jealous, wrongly assume the worst about him and walk away from him. And I totally understand this if we think about God being jealous like a teenage girl jealously guarding her new boyfriend. But this is the important thing we discussed about the word jealous – it really has two very different meanings.
- Jealous as Envy — Selfish and Sinful — Jealous of Others
- Jealous as Zealous — Mature and Others Focused — Jealous for Others
When we think of God’s jealousy, we must never think of him as having the envious, selfish jealousy for us. Why would he? He’s God — what do we have that he can’t get on his own? No — instead we must think of God as being zealous for us — he wants what is best for us, he wants to protect us, he wants to guard us from running to other lovers and idols which will harm us.
And when we realize that God’s jealousy for us is zeal, then we recognize that God’s jealousy is for our good. Instead of being upset by his jealousy, we feel loved, protected, and valued.
God is Gracious
And last week we looked at many verses that described God as a gracious God. That word is often accompanied by words like compassionate, faithful, slow to anger, abounding in love.
We defined “grace” as God’s loving-kindness to the undeserving. And we saw that God didn’t become gracious in the New Testament. Even though we may have thought differently, God was a gracious God in the Old Testament and continues to pour out his grace even today.
We saw that God’s grace is very necessary for us. We have a genuine need and there is someone, God, who is able and willing to meet that need. Despite your sin, the graciousness of God shows that he values you and seeks you. And this is seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God is Missional
Today we want to bring all these ideas together and wrap up by looking at God as a Missional God. Missional is not a word we use every day, but it certainly encompasses an idea that we are familiar with: Mission.
Businesses and organizations have mission statements like these:
Ikea: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
Walmart: “Saving people money so they can live better.”
Habitat for Humanity: “Seeking to put God’s love into action, bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
What do I mean when I say that God is a missional God? Does it mean he has a mission statement? Yes, in a way. He is a God that is on a mission. There is something he is purposefully working towards, to see come about.
If you’ve been around church for any length of time, you probably have already thought to yourself, “God’s mission is to make disciples of the nations. That’s what Jesus said. Matthew 28. We know this Brent. You guys preach this at least once a year. That must be what this is about.”
Yes, that is a part of the mission, but it is not the entire mission. God’s desire is reconciliation, for those whom he has created in his image to be able to live in relationship with him, for God to be known. And it didn’t just become his mission in the New Testament when Jesus was around. Even in the Old Testament, God made this mission known. In fact, it was the reason he called Abraham and made a covenant with him.
We don’t often think about this. We view the Old Testament and New Testament differently, thinking of the Old Testament as only being about the Jews as God’s chosen people and thinking of finally in the New Testament, God reaching beyond the Jews to others.
But when we go back and take a look, I think we will see something very different. Starting in Genesis 12, when God calls Abraham, listen to what he says:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” —Genesis 12:1-3 NIV
Did you catch that? “And all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Abraham and his descendants were blessed to be a blessing. They weren’t to hoard the blessings of God and keep them to themselves. God was going to use them to bless the other nations around them.
We could look at Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple when he prayed:
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple. —1 Kings 8:41-42 NIV
The Temple was to be a place where God’s name would be known. We could read of Jonah going to the city of Nineveh, a city of non-Jewish people, and for some reason God sent them a messenger to call them to repentance.
From the beginning, God has always been a missional God with a desire for all people, the entire world, to know him.
Motivation and Mandate for Mission
The world. That word is so large and used so often that it loses its meaning. And in one of the most famous passages in the Bible, it is used repeatedly to define the scope of God’s mission.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him —John 3:16-17
Do you see that? Four times we see written “the world.”
Yes — this very familiar verse is about Jesus sacrificing himself for each one of us, but more than that, it shows that God’s love, salvation, and plan for reconciliation is for the WHOLE WORLD. The problem is, too often when we read this verse, we think it’s about everyone we know. We forget that “the world” means THE WORLD. It means every person, from every nation, of every skin tone.
In the book of Revelation, we catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said he came for the world. From Revelation 7:9-10 we read about what will happen in the throne room of God:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God.”
Isn’t that an amazing picture? Every nation. Every tribe. Every people. Every language — all standing together to worship Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. This is what it means that God is Missional — he is for ALL the people groups in this entire world!
Now some of you might wonder what I mean by people groups, but that’s just a way that anthropologists distinguish groups of people across this world. Rather than thinking that everybody in America is the same because of the invisible land borders we live within — a people group boundary is defined by language, culture, religion, and caste. And when we divide people up by those barriers, this world has over 16,000 people groups! And Jesus came to save people from EVERY SINGLE ONE of those groups.
Here we see God, with a heart for the world, a desire for his name to be known among all the peoples. So, was there anything strategic behind what he was doing? Or was it just a random placement of people at various times with a wish and a prayer that his missional desire would come about?
Why would God spend so much time and effort to place the people in the promised land? Was it that much better than all the other pieces of land around? Yes, it was a good place to be, but more than that, it was a strategic place to be for someone who wanted to influence the world.
Israel was at the crossroads of the ancient world, lying between powerful nations like Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the north-south road connecting the two, running through the land God had given the Israelites. It put them in a position to do exactly what God called them to do: to make his name known to all the world. There was another trade route running east-west as well. Living here between trade routes, they had a tremendous opportunity to influence the world.
Unfortunately for them, the Israelites failed in their mission. They allowed other nations to stay in this land and exert pagan influence in the world. And they themselves were drawn away from God multiple times. They simply missed their opportunity to do what God had called them to do.
But even then, God’s mission heart was not squelched. In fact, he continued to move so that Israel would make his name known. And sometimes he did this in unpleasant ways. If the Israelites wouldn’t go and tell others, then he would send others in and take them to other places involuntarily.
They were invaded and shipped off to other nations in exile. And in their exile, God made his name known through people like Daniel and others who became missionaries, sent not by their own choice, but sent nonetheless, and used by God in great ways.
And we see this continued in the New Testament as well. Jesus said he wanted his people to go to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Some in the early church went, like Paul and Barnabas, but others were reluctant to go. So, God allowed hardship and persecution to come upon them. And the early Christians dispersed across the world, taking the message of Jesus with them wherever they went.
I think it is probably obvious where this message is heading. We see very clearly a God who has a missionary heart, not just for a select few, but for the entire world. And if God has a heart for the world, a desire for the world to know him, and he placed Israel in a strategic place to influence the world, wouldn’t he use us, you and me, placing us at strategic places in the world to influence the world…to make his name known today? And shouldn’t what motivates God also motivate us? Shouldn’t God’s mission be our mission? If people matter to God shouldn’t they matter to us?
In theory I think we all say yes, but in reality, there are some real barriers that keep us from this mission.
Barriers to Mission
Barrier 1 – Perception: Fear of what others will think
This is natural for all of us to feel. It really is human nature. We want to be liked; we don’t want to offend. We don’t want people to think of us as Bible thumpers. But the thing is, the message of Jesus is the ONE message that has the power to change a person’s life both now and for eternity.
If you struggle with this fear — then pray for boldness and for God to give you such a deep love for others that your fear of what they think will be overcome by your love for their souls.
Barrier 2 – Unprepared: Fear you don’t know how to be effective
Again, this fear is understandable because many of you have never been taught how to do this or have never watched somebody model how to tell another person about Jesus.
But here’s the good news about overcoming this barrier — sharing the message of Jesus is simple — just tell people how a relationship with Jesus has changed YOUR life! All of us can do that. We LOVE to talk about ourselves. And nobody can argue with you about your own story.
Barrier 3 – Self-Absorbed: Not concerned with those outside yourself
This barrier induces a feeling of guilt for some of you when you see it. But it happens. It is easy, over time, to allow your relationship with Jesus to become inward and personal, and to stop ever thinking about the role you play in telling OTHERS about Jesus.
If this is you, then hopefully this message has been a wake-up call. Your faith is not your own. God is on a mission and you are part of that mission. You can start by bringing somebody with you to church!
So, we see that even from the beginning God has been a Missional God and we should be missional people. God’s heart should be our heart. God’s desire is for all nations, tribes, and tongues to know him. People matter to God and they matter to us.
It is his desire to use us in this mission. Just like the nation of Israel, we have been blessed to be a blessing. We are blessed with life and health and resources, but ultimately we are blessed with a relationship with Jesus.
And just like the Israelites, we have been strategically placed. You have been strategically placed in your neighborhood, in your job, in this church, to be able to influence the world around you. The question is: will you?
Will we allow the barriers to keep us from making him known, from sharing what an amazingly infinite, sovereign, holy, jealous, gracious, and loving God he is? Will we live in fear or will we be willing to let others in on the greatest relationship we have ever known?
God’s mission has not changed. It is the same. And I believe that how we answer two questions will make all the difference in how we live. The first question is: How do you see God? Do you see him as we have talked about him over the last six weeks? Or do you have some God that looks more like you want him to look, a little more in your image?
Second question: How do you see the people of the world? Red, yellow, black, white? Do you see them as God sees them, not as numbers or a project to be worked on, but through the eyes of a loving God whose desire is for his name to be known and his people to live in relationship with him.
What lens are you looking through? Because the lens we use will determine our effectiveness in carrying forth God’s mission.