“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2.8-10, ESV)
In the first blogger review that I read after the release of 10:10: Life to the Fullest, the author said that of all the topics that I wrote on, mission seemed to be the one that I was most passionate about. He’s probably right.
You see, there is so much about life with God that is amazing to me. It’s amazing that our sins can be fully forgiven and pardoned. It’s amazing that we have access to the presence of God. It’s amazing that we can have our identities rooted in the status of children of the King. It’s amazing that the Spirit of God transforms both our character and our conduct. It’s amazing that Jesus is a Good Shepherd who knows and guides his loved ones.
These are all truly amazing, and each are worthy of endless reflection. But from a personal standpoint, there is still something even yet more amazing: that God asks us to participate in mission. It is amazing to me that God invites us to declare and to demonstrate His love to the world. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that this is God’s one and only plan for making this love known in concrete ways rests on Christ followers who take seriously the call of mission.
If I were God’s public relations consultant, I would tell God that this seems like an ineffective strategy. Even on our best day, we as human beings seem to be quite limited in our ability to reflect the goodness and love of God. At our worst, we make God’s love seem trivial, relegated to a small number of hot button issues, and even at times appear impotent. Why would God build his outreach strategy around sending us?
Yet that is what God does. God invites us into and sends us on mission.
So what does it mean exactly to be sent on mission? And how do I discern my unique contribution?
Well, that’s part of the reason I wrote the book (shameless plug, lol). But in all seriousness, the passage at the top gives us a really beautiful picture to serve as a guiding vision. This is one of Paul’s most famous passages on faith, and he finishes his thought by saying, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
I love every part of that verse, and see each element as core to an understanding of mission:
First, Paul reminds us that we are God’s “workmanship.” ‘Workmanship’ is the Greek word ‘poeima’ (poy-ah-mah) which is where we get the English word poem. You are God’s poem – God spoke you into this world; breathed you into this world; sang you into this world. You are a creative masterpiece. That is a sermon in and of itself, isn’t it?
Second, Paul reminds us that we are created “in” Christ Jesus. I did a whole post earlier this week on the importance of the phrase “in Christ” as that relates to faith (click here to see that).
Third, we are created for good works, which God prepared beforehand. This is where we really start to see the idea of mission. God is love, God is active, and God is redeeming the world. We have been created to participate in that redemption, and faith “in Christ” is what actualizes that mission. As I say in the book, mission is what connects the eternal, supernatural work of God with our everyday acts of love.
Fourth, and finally, we are given this beautiful phrase: “that we should walk in them.” This is what brings it all together for me.
By grace we are saved, through faith. Faith then allows us “walk” intimately with God (see yesterday’s post about how significant the picture of “walking” with God is in the original account of the Garden of Eden.) As we walk intimately with God, God slowly reveals by faith what the good works are that have been designed uniquely for us. We then walk into and with Jesus in a life of mission.
Mission is a big word with a lot of facets, but this much always remains true: God has created you. God loves you. God has equipped you. God sends you.
That is the heart of mission. God is love, and God sends us to make that love known to others in big and small ways. You, me, us… we are the ones who make an invisible God visible to other people.