Foundations:#4- Breaking Down Our Mission: Love God3
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do"
Psalm 11:3 (ESV)
This is the fourth blog in our series and this is a continuation on the last installment on "Letting Jesus Define Redeemer's Mission". Before reading, it would be beneficial to read the last post if you have not already, which can be accessed here
In our last post we began to break down the Foundational piece of having a clear, biblical, Gospel-Centered mission along with the importance of the church knowing the mission and of course the critical aspect of actually living it out beyond it being mere words on a page.
This will be the first of three posts that break down the three aspects of our mission and aims to look at each foundational aspect. So, clearly stated:
"OUR MISSION IS TO LOVE GOD, TO MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS AND PLANT GOSPEL-CENTERED CHURCHES"
The threefold aspects of this mission are:
- Growing together as a church in our love for Jesus
- Making disciples, motivated by helping people see how deeply they are loved by Jesus
- Reproducing by starting new Gospel Communities and planting new churches as an outgrowth of discipleship and a natural overflow of wanting to see others fall in love with Jesus
Today we tackle the first piece of this: "Loving God"
It sounds so basic. Perhaps it should be. A younger version of me might have been inclined to take this piece for granted. Not because I would not have seen it as important. Quite the contrary. I might have taken it for granted because I see it as so important and so foundational that I may have fallen until the faulty assumption that people who called themselves Christians and who chose to be a part of a reformed-bible believing-Gospel preaching-Jesus exalting church would have all shared love for God as their primary motivation. I would have assumed that this was a mutually agreed upon presupposition.
Well, as I enter my 13th year as a pastor, I have seen more than enough to prove to me that this is something that we ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT PRESUME AND THAT IT NEEDS TO BE STATED, CLEARLY, OVER AND OVER. It's not just observation that has made me see the importance of explicitly stating this truth, but just a clear and simple reading of the bible shows that Jesus did not presume that just because someone was under good bible teaching that they were in love with God.
If someone is not in this for the love of God why bother? Faulty motivations abound. I could write an entire series on "Faulty Motivations" and just from a cursory reading of the Gospels supplemented by years of observing "seeds that spring up for a season and are choked out" (Matthew 13:1-23) could give more content than I would know what to do with. Self-deceptive motivations such as the need to be praised by man, the need to self-justify, the idea that we can self-atone for our guilt, the desire to use the church as a means of power, finding identity in religious actions accomplished "for God" rather than finding identity in what what accomplished on our behalf "by God".
I do not pretend to be the most knowledgable or most experienced Christian out there, but I have seen these faulty motivations in every level of ministry, whether it be the motivation to get someone out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church or the motivation to make someone move across the world to plant a church- and literally everything in between.
This is why we MUST make love for God and understanding the depth of our being loved by God the primary building block, the foundational piece, explicitly stated, taught on, reinforced and held high. It is not a foundational piece in the sense that we state it, build on it, and move on. NO! It is the foundational piece that holds all other foundational pieces together and it is the foundation of every step we take. It is our guide post. Everything must be tied to it. Everything must come back to it. Everything MUST have a clear, unbroken line connected to the love of God and the Glory of God. Any breaks in the clear connection to this unshakable and primarily important motivation undermines the whole foundation and leads to a sure toppling of everything else that was built.
If you don't believe me, take a look at the liberal mainline denominations who made "cultural relevance" their motivating factor rather than holding steady on a Gospel-fueled love of God. They have knitted the noose that they used to hang themselves. Everything that they have built since stepping away from the true-motivation has been more absurd than the previous building block and they've arrived at a place that looks nothing like the church that Jesus gave His life to purchase, and in reality, if we are not fueled by God's monergistic love for us, and our gratitude-filled loving response to the Gospel then we are no more a church than the local Elk's Club, Rotary or any other organization.
It is the Gospel that makes the church unique, and it is a loving response to the Gospel that motivates us to gather in the name of Jesus.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength" (Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37). What greater foundation can we have than starting with what God-Incarnate refers to as "The Greatest Commandment"?
It is so important that after Jesus calls this the Greatest Commandment in Luke 10, and after giving a parable that we know as "the Good Samaritan", He then gives another story that most people do not realize is contextually connected to the Great Commandment in Luke 10:27. It is a very familiar passage. The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). We see someone who was VERY busy doing for Jesus, but in the process she forgot the love motivation, and slipped into "doing for Jesus" without being fueled by "love for Jesus". We see Jesus demonstrate that He prioritized this Great Commandment more than being merely words. He actually tells her to slow her roll, and to step back and choose "what is necessary" (Luke 10:42).
He wanted her to be a lover, a worshipper and to find her identity and her purpose in a love motivation rather than her service becoming her identity and purpose.
He has a similar interaction with the Ephesian church in Revelation chapter 2. He commends them that they are biblically sound, doctrinally astute, servant minded. All great things. BUT, but they left the love motivation that they had at first (Revelation 2:4). By steering away from the love motivation, it cast a shadow on everything else that they were doing. The only conclusion that Jesus could give them was to repent. Repent. Return. Re-engage the motivation that caused them to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel to begin with. You could sum up God's counsel to churches that have left the love-motivation in "4 Re-words":
So, what does this mean practically? It means that if these words are going to be more than a mission statement, that they have to be a filter, a grid that we view everything through. It means that EVERYTHING we do as a church, we should ask, "Is this motivated by the love of God?"
- Is this fueled by a response to God's amazing love?
- Is our desire in "doing for God" motivated by gratitude for what has "been done by God"?
- Are we taking time in our planning, serving and doing to say, "I love you Lord, and this simple act of service is just an outpouring of the love that I have for you, which is the only real response to Your enduring, irresistible love for me?"
- If we are motivated by the love of God, then are we content with God getting all of the glory? Do we seek to "share" that glory or to keep back a little piece like Ananias and Saphira?
- Can we trace a direct line between the love of God and all that we do for God?
- If we saw that we had a different motivation, would we be willing to repent and start over?
None of us will do this perfectly. We live in a fallen world, every inch of which has been stained by sin and the fall. We do not always realize how deeply we have been and how deeply we actively are loved BY God. So, when that piece is out of place, when we lose sight of the fact that all that we are is because we are loved BY GOD, we stumble in our motivation of being fueled by love for God. But a faithful church will ask themselves the hard questions and constantly seek to realign themselves when they discover lesser motivations.
At Redeemer, we want to celebrate the glorious Gospel truth that a group of rebels and misfits have been loved by God even when we were at our least lovable, and that God did not choose to love us because of anything perceived as lovely within us- He loves us because God is love and He chose to make us vessels of His love. Our mission is to operate out of that place of being loved, and to in turn, be lovers. Not as people seeking approval, but as those who are already loved and approved and are set free to love.
May the love of God fuel everything and anything we do as a church, for His glory and for His namesake. Amen