The text on which this evening is built is John 20:21. Jesus is ready to leave now and go back to his Father, and he says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And so, my first talk will be on “as the Father has sent me,” and then near the end we’ll do “so I am sending you.”
I think short-term missions are a given for you — just a given. I mean, I’m not saying long-term missions or vocational missions. I just think short-term missions are a given in the twenty-first century for all Christian people who live in a mobile society. So you know that, as far as my prayer goes, I think all of you should do short-term missions.
And secondly, I do believe that God has been preparing a substantial number in this group to give your entire life to crossing a culture, to take the gospel to a people group that do not yet have a self-sustaining church. And I’ll say more about that meaning for missions. But if you find yourself in that category, know you’re on my mind, you’re on my heart, and I would like in thirty years or twenty years for you to look back on this day and say, “That was the night I crossed the line. We just sealed the deal that night with everything that was happening there.”
So those are my two broader longings and prayers.
Mission of the Son
As the Father has sent me . . .
The sending of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John is not like the sending of John the Baptist. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (1:6). There was a man named Jesus sent from God. Those aren’t the same, are they? And the reason we know they’re not the same is because the Gospel begins:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (1:1)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)
That’s the sending that Jesus is talking about. “As the Father sent me from his eternal glory, divine reality with him forever — never created, never coming into being — reflecting all that the Father is — person, one with God — mysteriously sent, incarnate in a human being, a Jew named Jesus of Nazareth who had flesh and blood — really human, really man, really God. There’s the sending. And he says, “As the Father sent me.”
So that creates huge problems. I mean, we’re not God. So in my second talk, I will deal with two of those issues of how we are not sent like Jesus and how we are sent like Jesus. So all I want to do now is to unpack for a few minutes the purpose and the reason for that amazing sending.
God was from all eternity Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — for mysterious reasons that nobody can fully comprehend. He creates a universe in order to display the fullness of his glory and create a people who could enjoy that glory and magnify that glory forever and ever. And something happens that creates the necessity for the sending of the Son into that creation, into that world. Now what was that, and why did he come and what did he do? That’s the whole Bible, but we’ll pack it into fifteen minutes or so.
All for Glory
First, God created you, and everything else, and everybody else, and all the universe, for his glory. I’ll give you one verse for that. I could give you dozens.
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:6–7)
I’m just going to put as a banner over the universe: God made this and everything in it, from the beginning, in order, not to make himself more glorious (he can’t be made more glorious than he is), but in order to make his glory visible, perceivable, enjoyable, admirable in the minds and hearts of creatures created in his own image. He didn’t have to do it, but he did it. He created us that we might magnify and reflect his glory. That’s why the universe exists.
So you read in 1 Corinthians 10:31 the text that my dad quoted to me probably more often than any other verse that I can remember:
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
That is simply is taking the big macro purpose of the universe and turning it into a daily, practical mission or duty. So there you have the design of creation and the duty of creation, if you want to call it that. You were created for his glory, now live for his glory — whether you eat or drink. That’s amazing — even eating and drinking. I wrote an article one time called “How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God” because if we’re going to say that verse, we need to have some idea of what in the world it means to drink Diet Coke to the glory of God? Is that possible? I hope so.
The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)
Even the rain and the sun. Lord, let the sun declare the glory of God. We’ve seen the glory of the rain. Thank you very much. I’m sure the farmers appreciate it.
Whenever I say this (and I love to say this wherever I go), that God created everything for his glory, including us, the reaction among skeptics and many Christians is that it sounds megalomaniacal, like God is really into himself. If I said, “The reason I’m here tonight is to display my glory,” you would think that’s sin, and it would be, because I’m not God. Now let me just give you one or two sentences about what could be hours of discussion.
The reason that that’s not evil in God is because God is infinitely glorious and to put his glory on display is good for us. If God were to conceal his glory from you, the very joy for which you were made would be constricted and confined and limited. You were mainly made for the joy of admiration — not mainly the joy of sex or mainly the joy of eating (both of which are totally legitimate in their right place), but mainly the joy of admiration. And not just the admiration of the skies, the mountains, and the glorious things of the universe, but the admiration of God himself. And if he didn’t display that to you, you would not be able to enjoy it.
And therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the highest act of loving people. For you to do self-exaltation is not an act of loving people because you should point them to God, not yourself. That’s the act of love — not yourself. So that’s the first way to set it up.
Now what happened? God made this universe and sin came into the universe, and with sin came death and futility and the horrors of the world that we see. What is sin? We need to get a definition of sin in front of us here because what we’re moving to is: Why did he send the Son? What’s this all about, this first sending?
Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. (Romans 1:21–23)
Everybody, all the nations, have seen God in creation. We were made to glorify God. That’s why they were made, that’s why you were made, that’s why all the students in the British Empire where made. But we reject him. They were offered through creation: “Here’s my glory. Know me. Love me and join me. Find in me your total and complete satisfaction and fulfillment and admiration.” And they looked — Eve looked, Adam looked, you looked — and said, “I prefer television. I prefer sex. I prefer food. I prefer fame. I prefer friends. I prefer my wife. I prefer my kids. I prefer preaching.” That’s the meaning of sin.
The verse we usually go to for sin is Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Do you know what’s behind the translation “fall short of the glory of God”? Lack is the word: “All have sinned and lack the glory of God.” I think the meaning of the word lack in Romans 3:23 is defined by 1:23. Romans 3:23 is explained by 1:23, and what 1:23 says is they exchanged. They were offered the glory of God. They considered its value, its beauty, its wonder, and they said, “No, thank you. I have other agendas in my life. The glory of God is not fascinating, not interesting, not satisfying. It’s not what I’m made for. I’m made for making it up the corporate ladder” — or whatever.
That’s sin. Sin is exchanging the glory of God for anything — whether it’s ministry or murder. So that’s what happened. Everybody fell into that condition. There’s not a human being on the planet that is not like that. Nobody loves God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. We have all fallen short of what we were created to be.
Came to Deliver
And now the question is: What was God’s response to that? And his response, given his character, was twofold not single. His response, according to Romans 1:18, is wrath. He’s very angry about this.
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
And what’s the truth they suppress? That they were made for God’s glory. That God is supreme and more glorious than all the values of their life. They’re just constantly pushing that down and holding it under their subconscious. For evangelism encouragement, these verses here are amazing.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God. (Romans 1:19–21)
Everybody on your campus knows God; they’re just suppressing it. They can’t suppress it if the Holy Spirit uses you to just get through one time. There’s God-awareness down there. They’re made in his image. They’re made to give him glory, and they all have gone the other way, and traded off his glory for another, and God is very angry with them, and he loves them very much.
So John 3:16 puts the two together. We know that verse, but maybe we don’t read the next ones,
For God so loved the world, that he gave [this is sending] his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned [that is, does not stay under wrath], but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16–18)
And that takes us over to John 3:36:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
He came to deliver people from his wrath. He sent his Son to deliver them.
In Our Place Condemned
Now, how did he do it? How did the sending of the Son solve the problem of the wrath of God? That is the main question for all of us in evangelism and what we want to share. And the answer is given in lots of places, but let’s just go to Romans 8. One of the big controversies that the UCCF and other parts of evangelicalism in Britain is what I’m about to touch on here (and I don’t really want to make this controversial because it’s just too glorious to be controversial and it’s really sad that it’s controversial.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3)
Now just bank on that for a minute, camp on that for a minute. In whose flesh did he condemn sin? Christ’s flesh. He sent his Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” The reason it says likeness is because Jesus’s flesh wasn’t sinful; it was perfect. Now he condemned sin in Christ’s flesh as he died. Whose sin? Ours. That’s what we mean by substitution. That’s what we mean by penal substitution — condemnation substitution.
You’ve got glorious news. God sent glorious news into the world. His bad news is: “I’m really mad at this world.” His good news is: “I really love this world.” And the piece that puts the two together is: “I’m going to send my Son, and instead of condemning all the world, I will not condemn anyone who’s in my Son. Instead, I will pour out all my condemnation that belongs on them on him, and when he dies, it’s settled for those who will join him by faith.
Sent in His Stead
What do we have to do to connect with the sending of the Son, so that the wrath will not fall on us? And the answer is given in these verses. I’ll just read them and then I’ll pray and stop.
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9–13)
And then these next verses forge the link to the next part.
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? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14–15)