The Mission of a New Believer
If you’ve recently made a decision to put your hope and faith in the promise of Jesus Christ, welcome home. Armies of angels rejoice in heaven because another one of God’s children ended their wandering. As a body of believers on Earth, we rejoice also. You’ve gained hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ. Next time you go to church, look around you, breathe it in, marinate in the unbreakable bond that exists between those whose hearts and souls have been transformed by the saving grace of God.
You are in the middle of an important season. For maybe the first time, you are aware of God’s presence. You understand that life—your life—is more than some happenstance string of events that will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t keep your fingers crossed. Instead, God created this world to show us more of who he is. But it’s important for you to understand that, even though God knows you better than you know yourself (he made you with his own hands), you probably don’t know much about him yet. As with any relationship, only time spent with the Lord will show you what he’s like. With that in mind, make your quality time with God the most important thing. Don’t rely on others to tell you what He’s like; go find out for yourself.
Something else happens when we learn about God. It ignites the reversal of our condemnation that started in the garden. With every new thing we discover, we turn a bit more to face his glory full on. It lifts the veil from our eyes and refurbishes our soul to the way it was created to be. However, the power of that repossession has serious impact on our lives. In the book of Matthew, Jesus describes that impact to His disciples. He says:
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16.24-25)
Another version of the account in Mark says:
“...but for whoever loses his life for My sake and the sake of the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8.35)
When a life is reclaimed by the Holy Spirit, nothing about it can stay the same. Jesus calls it losing your life for the sake of Himself and the Gospel. He goes as far as to compare it to living your life with a cross on your back. Don't be fooled, Jesus knows what he's asking of you. Not only did he carry a cross, he was nailed to it. His request isn't put into gentle terms and He’s not downplaying its meaning. It is what it is—you're either living your life by God’s plans, or you're living it your own way. The first option won't be easy. Better, for sure, but not easier.
Then there’s the “and the sake of the gospel’s” bit that we can’t ignore. Why would Jesus add it to the end of his statement? It seems like doing anything for the sake of His name would be sufficient. Jesus is most likely pointing out the need for believers to ask themselves one question: How can I help others know God? It’s a wonderful, essential question to God’s mission of reclaiming His kingdom on Earth. In fact, as we learn about God, the need for others to know Him is overwhelmingly apparent. If we don’t tell others about God’s love for them, who will?
Someone shared the gospel with you—it makes sense to share it with others. There are exceptional cases, of course, and the Lord is certainly omniscient enough to bring someone to Himself without help, but Jesus left no room in His teachings for confusion about our responsibility to share our faith with nonbelievers. He doesn’t have to, but God chooses to use us in his plan to save the world.
Fortunately for you, the church has had over 2000 years to figure out how to answer the challenge of “and the sake of the gospel’s”. Here are a few ways the church uses believers to share the gospel:
We have an opportunity to provide for others in the same way that God provides for us. Your church will probably invite you to serve food at a homeless shelter, sort boxes of presents at Christmas, or participate in local food pantry. If you get that chance, take it. In an afternoon serving, you can show someone more about God than they might have ever experienced in their life. Just when they are about to lose hope—when they reach the end of their rope—you have the chance to deliver on God’s promise to provide, without asking for anything in return.
The book of Acts shows the early church’s global mission work. Although their “globe” consisted of a much smaller, localized area, their goal was to push the gospel to every corner of the earth nonetheless. In Acts, the disciples work in coherence with the will of the Holy Spirit. They enter regions that the Holy Spirit calls them to and stay away from the regions that the Holy Spirit forbids them from entering. By this spiritled determination, Acts 16:5 says, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” The spiritled global mission hasn’t stopped, and it’s something you can be a part of. Some of the greatest stories of God’s work come from the other side of the world.
Don’t neglect the opportunity to share the gospel locally, whether that’s within your own town, state, or country. You don’t need to cross the border to share the gospel. A teenager from a little town in North Dakota needs to know God just as urgently as a family in the Dominican Republic or a village in Sudan. There are plenty of mission organizations where you live, with a wide variety of missional focus. One organization might focus on sharing the gospel with the homeless, while others focus their time and energy with newlyweds or business professionals. Your church should also be organizing local mission trips that you can be a part of.
It’s important to know those options exist. The way God uses you to advance the gospel will probably fall into one of those categories eventually. However, we need to be careful by how and when we approach them. We must understand that those functions of the church exist only because believers are motivated by the Holy Spirit to go out and share what they know about God; they don’t exist because believers feel obligated to give back or guilty that they aren’t “more active in their faith”. Knowing God, and taking on his desire for the world, fuels the mission.
To know about letting the Holy Spirit fuel the mission, we can look at the story of the apostle Paul—the man who wrote much of the New Testament. Before knowing God, Paul spent his time killing Christians. He was highly regarded in the politics of the Jewish faith, and anger towards Christians was his chief motivator. The book of Acts gives us some description of Paul’s meeting the Lord.
Chapter 9 says he was headed to Damascus with letters from the high priest, giving Paul authority to bind any Christians he found there and return them to Jerusalem for trial. Along the road, an extraordinary light fell from the sky, knocking him and his men to the ground.
“And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.” (Acts 9.4-7)
This encounter initiated Paul’s faith in Jesus. It’s important to note that from the very start, Jesus asks Paul to trust him and follow his direction. Jesus said, ”But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9.6) He only instructed Paul to trust and follow him—nothing more than that. Paul had no idea what any of it meant, and certainly had no idea the course his life would take thereafter. He couldn’t see himself being a leader of global mission work or writing words that would last centuries. In fact, he physically couldn’t see at all. The light that appeared to him blinded him for three days. So when Paul entered Damascus, he was spiritually and physically blind to where he was and where he was going. All he could do was trust and follow Jesus.
The Mission of a New Believer
Paul says that he spent fourteen years in either isolation or in the company of those who were with Jesus. He didn’t do any healing. He didn’t lead masses to be baptized. He didn’t cast out a single daemon. He spent his time knowing God more. In his writings, Paul didn’t elaborate much on what those fourteen years were like, but they must have been grueling. The hardened shell of his former self had to be scaled away, piece by piece. And for a man who was in the business of killing Christians, it must have been a thick shell. How thick is your shell? How hard will it be to shed? This is your cross to bear. Pick it up and keep going. It will be difficult—painful at times. But as you begin to understand God’s love for you—as his mercy pumps into your veins—the load will become lighter. He gently takes that load and throws it to the side, producing the person He created; one that hears his voice and follows. He might lead you out of addiction, or to healing in a broken marriage, or to the furthest end of the earth. But for now, to get where He’s taking you, your mission is to know Him more.
Adam Duff is a graduate of the University of South Carolina where he received a degree in English. He has years of experience in helping local high school students know, understand, and love the Gospel of Jesus. He currently lives and works in Columbia, South Carolina with his German Shepherd puppy and plans to marry his wonderful fiancé, Rachel, in the summer.
Publication date: February 3, 2016