In the first message we saw that there is one gospel of salvation — one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), one way to the Father (John 14:6), one name by which all must be saved (Acts 4:12), one event in history where God dealt decisively with the universal problem of human sin and divine wrath (Romans 3:23-26; 5:12-21) — the slaughter of the Lamb of God 2,000 years ago to purchase eternal life for everyone in the Book of Life of the Lamb that was slain, so that none would ever worship the Beast, or anything else that would keep them out of heaven.
In the second message we saw that the one supreme, all-pervading, all-unifying passion of a saved soul in a not-yet saved world is the glory of God shining through that one gospel and creating an indestructible joy in the face of fiery trials, so that the Christian life is described as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Two Amazing Implications
We closed the second message by saying that this has two amazing implications for our lives. These two implications lead to the one supreme mission of your life.
First: There is a Great Intersection
The first was that God’s zeal for his glory and his zeal for our joy are not separate passions. They are one, because the supreme joy of the Christian is joy in the glory of God, and when you enjoy something supremely you show that it is supremely valuable and glorious.
In his last night Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27–28). In other words Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s purpose to be glorified in the gospel. For this purpose I have come to this hour of my death: Father glorify your name. That is the purpose of my dying for sinners — the glorify the greatness of your great name.
But clearly Christ died for our everlasting life and joy in God. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). And what do we find when we come redeemed into the presence of God? Psalm 16:11, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In other words Christ died so that we would be satisfied joyfully forever in the glory of God. And he died to glorify the Father. And these two aims are not separate aims, because the way that God is glorified in us is by our being satisfied in him. His glory and our joy rise together. When you are supremely glad in God, God is supremely glorified in you. That’s the first amazing implication from what we have seen.
Second: You Need to Care About Your Joy
The second implication is that therefore, you dare not be indifferent to your joy. If you treat joy in God as if it were marginal, or as if it were mere icing on the cake of Christianity, a non-essential add-on, then you treat the glory of God as marginal, as a non-essential add-on. God is not glorified by the heart that finds him unsatisfying. Therefore, you should live with all your might for the rest of your life to maximize your joy in God. You should fight for this with all your heart. God’s glory, magnified by your heart, hangs on whether you find him supremely satisfying. Especially when you find him satisfying in the midst of fiery trials so that you can say: I am “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” in the glory of God (2 Corinthians 6:10). Gladness in God in a collapsing world makes God look great.
The Mission of Every Christian
Implicit in those implications is the God-appointed mission of your life — why you are on this planet, why God gave you life. The specifics of your gifting and your vocational path are not implied here, but the ultimate aim — the single, supreme, all-pervading, all-unifying aim — of your life is implied in these implications.
The one supreme, all-pervading, all-unifying mission of your life is to joyfully and sacrificially declare and demonstrate that the glory of Christ is more precious than life, and thus to help all people — including all the ethnic groups and all the religions of the world — discover the glory of Christ as their only hope of true and everlasting joy.
So I’m arguing that this mission is built in to what it means to be a Christian. It’s not something you get to choose or reject as a Christian. The very nature of the One Gospel and the One Passion include this mission the way a healthy orange tree includes oranges. You don’t choose this mission as one Christian option among others. It’s what it means to be a Christian.
Clarification by Contrast
I don’t want you to take my word for this. I’ll try to show you from God’s word so you can see it for yourself. Before I do just a couple things that sharpen the context into which I am speaking.
On December 4 the president of a large Christian University stood before 10,000 students and said,
I’ve always thought, if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in. . . . I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. And let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.
I’m challenging you — I believe God is challenging you — with a different mission. Those words fundamentally distort the mission Jesus gives to his people. You are called to live in a way that shows that the glory of Christ is more precious than life. But those words, from that president, cultivate a mindset that says, anyone who expects to kill me for being a Christian can expect to find a bullet in his chest before I get one in mine. I don’t think this will communicate to the world that the glory of Christ is more precious to us than life.
On December 10 the Vatican released a new document called “The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable.” In it they said, as official Catholic teaching: “The Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.” In other words, missionary efforts to try to win Jews to believe in Jesus as their Messiah, and as the Son of God and Savior are denounced. We should not do them.
This is even worse than telling 10,000 students to get their guns so we can “end those Muslims” before they end us. That is appalling enough. But this is worse, because it says, Jews who reject Jesus can be saved. But the Bible says, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). And Jesus himself said to Jews, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). If you don’t honor the Father and you don’t have the Father, because you reject Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, then you are not saved. And the Roman Catholic church is saying that the church should not try to reverse this situation. De facto they are letting them perish.
But I am challenging you — I believe God is challenging you — that your mission is to help all people — including all the ethnic groups and all the religions of the world — see and savor the glory of Christ as their only hope of true and everlasting joy. I’ll state the whole thing again:
The one supreme, all-pervading, all-unifying mission of your life is to joyfully and sacrificially declare and demonstrate that the glory of Christ is more precious than life, and thus to help all people — including all the ethnic groups and all the religions of the world — see and savor the glory of Christ as their only hope of true and everlasting joy.
Your mission is not to stay alive. And your mission is not to tell other religions that all sincere roads lead to heaven. Your mission is to gladly make people glad in God through Christ, even if it costs you your life. And to do it by declaring (by your words) and demonstrating (by your life) that the glory of Christ is more precious than life. This, I’m arguing is the biblical fruit of everything we have seen so far. Let’s turn to the Scripture and see if this is so.
Declaration and Demonstration
Start with the word “declare.” Your mission is to “declare that the glory of Christ is more precious than life.” Turn with me to 1 Peter 2:9.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This is addressed to Christians — those who believe the one gospel and share the one passion of joy in the glory Christ. Why has God chosen you? Why has God given you personal access in his royal court? Why has he set you apart as holy for himself? Why has he taken you for his treasured possession? Why has he called you from the darkness of death and unbelief into the marvelous light of life and faith? Answer: “. . . that you may proclaim his excellencies.” That is, that you may declare his glory. God saved you — in every dimension of salvation — that you may declare his glory. God has opened your eyes to the greatness of his glory, and given you delight in his glory, so that you might declare his excellencies — the wonders of his glory.
And, yes, they are so beautiful and so indestructibly satisfying that they are more precious than life. We know this because of what Jesus said in Luke 21:12-13, “You will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” To what? To “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” To the glory of Christ. And then Jesus told them what this would cost them. “Some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:16-19).
Bearing witness to my glory may cost you your life. But take heart, you will gain your life in losing your life. Because to love my glory is life — forever. So your mission in life is to joyfully and sacrificially declare that the glory of Christ is more precious than life.
Now turn to the word “demonstrate.” The one supreme, all-pervading, all-unifying mission of your life is to joyfully and sacrificially declare and demonstrate that the glory of Christ is more precious than life. Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 8:1-2.
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
So here we have not primarily a declaration, but a demonstration, of joy Christians have in the preciousness of Christ. Paul had come to Macedonia (that would include the city of Philippi), and he had preached Christ (we know this from the book of Acts). And verse 1 says that God poured out great grace on his ministry. People were converted to Christ. And the amazing effect of the gospel is seen in verse 2. “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” Paul was taking up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. That’s what this generosity refers to.
Notice four things. First, this generosity was enormous. Paul calls it “a wealth of generosity.” Second, notice that this generosity overflowed in spite of extreme poverty. Third, notice that this generosity overflowed in spite of a severe test of affliction. And fourth, notice what this wealth of generosity was an overflow of, namely, their abundance of joy. “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”
Joy in what? In whom? Not in money. They were poor. Not in comfort or security. They were in a severe affliction. In what? In Christ. In the glory of the grace of Christ (verse one), who is more precious than money and comfort and security — and life.
This is what I mean demonstration. Your mission is not only to declare that the glory of Christ is more precious than life, but to demonstrate that it is. And that means joy in Christ when money and comfort and security — and life — are taken away. When joy in the middle of affliction and poverty makes you oveflowingly generous toward others, people are going to wonder: If you’re not hoping in money, and if you’re not hoping in comfort in this world, and if you’re not hoping in security (a gun in your back pocket), then what are you hoping in (1 Peter 3:15). Whatever it is — or whatever he is — it seems to be more precious to you than life.
That’s your mission. Say it with words of truth, and show it by sacrifices of love — that the glory of Christ is more precious than life.
And as long as there are people in this world who do not join you in this joy, the aim of that declaration and demonstration is found three verses later than what we read about the excellencies of Christ in 1 Peter 2:9. Verse 12: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
The Aim of the Mission
The aim of our declaration and demonstration of the glory of Christ — who is the image of God — is to help people glorify God — to help them see and savor the glory of Christ as their only hope of true and everlasting joy. We want our gladness in God to become the gladness of the nations.
So I need to draw out one last dimension of our mission. Our aim in declaring and demonstrating that the glory of Christ is more precious than life is not limited to any one ethnic group or religion. Ethno centrism and racism are excluded by our One Gospel, and our One Passion, and our One Mission. We want Muslims to share our joy in Christ with us forever. We want Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Sikhs and people from ever ethnic group and every race and class to join us finding the glory of Christ to be supremely satisfying.
When heaven sings over the glory of Christ, she sings like this (Revelation 5:9-10):
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
Our One Gospel — undomesticated, jagged, suited for the best and worst of times: the Lamb of God slain for the sins of everyone written in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8) before the foundation of the world, and corresponding perfectly to everyone who believes in him. You will be found in the Book according to how you respond to the Lamb.
Our One Passion: the glory of Christ — the glory of God — as the supreme, all-permeating, all-unifying treasure in all treasures and pleasure in all pleasures, so that we can say in this groaning world, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Giving rise to our One Mission: The supreme, all-pervading, all-unifying purpose to joyfully and sacrificially declare and demonstrate that the glory of Christ is more precious than life, and thus to help all people — including all the ethnic groups and all the religions of the world — see and savor the glory of Christ as their only hope of true and everlasting joy.
May God do this in us by his Spirit and his word.