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We want to accept personal responsibility for reaching some of earth’s unreached, especially from among the billions at the widest end of the Gap who can only be reached through major new efforts by God’s people. Among every people-group where there is no vital, evangelizing Christian community there should be, there must be one, there shall be one. Together we want to help make this happen.13
THE RICH YOUNG RULERThe biblical basis for a Christian Hedonist’s commitment to missions is found
in the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17–31):
As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And
13. David Bryant, In the Gap (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1981), 62. If you want to take a next step in understanding the global purposes of God, I would encourage you to consider taking the course offered around the world entitled “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” I would also encourage you to get a copy of Operation World, edited by Patrick Johnstone, which tells the state of Christianity in all the countries of the world and how to pray for them. I was also greatly helped by Johnstone’s The Church Is Bigger Than You Think. For my attempt to give a fuller account of mission theology, motivation, and implications, see Let the Nations Be Glad.
the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” This story contains at least two great incentives for being totally dedicated to the cause of Frontier Missions.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” This is one of the most encouraging missionary conversations in the Bible.
What missionary has not looked on his work and said, “It’s impossible!”? To which Jesus agrees, “Yes, with man it is impossible.” No mere human being can liberate another human being from the enslaving power of the love of money.
The rich young ruler went away sorrowful because the bondage to things cannot MISSIONS be broken by man. With man it is impossible! And therefore missionary work, which is simply liberating the human heart from bondage to allegiances other than Christ, is impossible—with men!
If God were not in charge in this affair, doing the humanly impossible, the missionary task would be hopeless. Who but God can raise the spiritually dead and give them an ear for the gospel? “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). The great missionary hope is that when the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself does what man cannot do—He creates the faith that saves.
The call of God does what the call of man can’t. It raises the dead. It creates spiritual life. It is like the call of Jesus to Lazarus in the tomb, “Come forth!” (see John 11:43). We can waken someone from sleep with our call, but God’s call can summon into being things that are not (Romans 4:17).
God’s call is irresistible in the sense that it can overcome all resistance. It is infallibly effective according to God’s purpose—so much so that Paul can say, “Those whom [God] called he also justified” (Romans 8:30). In other words, God’s call is so effectual that it infallibly creates the faith through which a person is justified. All the called are justified. But none is justified without faith (Romans 5:1). So the call of God cannot fail in its intended effect. It irresistibly secures the faith that justifies.
This is what man cannot do. It is impossible. Only God can take out the heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). Only God can draw people to the Son (John 6:44, 65). Only God can open the heart so that it gives heed to the gospel (Acts 16:14). Only the Good Shepherd knows His sheep by name. He calls them and they follow (John 10:3–4, 14). The sovereign grace of God, doing the humanly impossible, is the great missionary hope.
WHAT CHRISTIAN HEDONISTS LOVE BESTThis sovereign grace is also the spring of life for the Christian Hedonist. For what the Christian Hedonist loves best is the experience of the sovereign grace of God filling him and overflowing for the good of others. Christian Hedonist missionaries love the experience of “not I, but the grace of God that is with me”
(1 Corinthians 15:10). They bask in the truth that the fruit of their missionary labor is entirely of God (1 Corinthians 3:7; Romans 11:36). They feel only gladness when the Master says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). They leap like lambs over the truth that God has taken the impossible weight of new creation off their shoulders and put it on His own.
Without begrudging, they say, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). When they come home on furlough, nothing gives them more joy than to say to churches, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience” (Romans 15:18). “All things are possible with God!”—in front the words give hope, and behind they give humility. They are the antidote to despair and pride—the perfect missionary medicine.
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Notice three powerful encouragements in this text for frontier missionaries:
1. Christ does indeed have other sheep outside the present fold! They have been “ransomed…from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The children of God are “scattered abroad” (John 11:52). No missionary will ever reach a hidden group and be able to say that God has no people there.
This is precisely how the Lord encouraged Paul when he was downcast in Corinth and confronted with the “impossibility” of planting a church in that rocky soil.
attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9–10) In other words, take heart! It may look impossible, but God has a chosen people (the “other sheep” of John 10:16), and the Good Shepherd knows His own and will call them by name when you faithfully preach the gospel.
JESUS MUST BRING HIS OTHER SHEEP
2. This leads to the second encouragement for missions in John 10:16, namely, the words “I must bring them also.” Christ is under a divine necessity to gather His own sheep. He must do it. He must do it. But of course this does not lead to the hyper-Calvinistic14 notion that He will do it without using us as a means.
William Carey, “father of modern missions,” did a great service to the cause of Frontier Missions when he published in 1792 his little book entitled An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.15 God will always use means in missions. Jesus makes this plain when He says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). Nevertheless, Carey believed, as the Lord taught, that he was helpless and that it is really Christ who calls and saves and works in us what it pleasing in His sight (Hebrews 13:21). After forty years of spectacular accomplishment (for example, he translated the entire Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages), William Carey died; yet the simple tablet on his
grave reads, at his own request:
14. Iain Murray writes in The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1973), 47:
Hyper-Calvinism in its attempt to square all truth with God’s purpose to save the elect, denies that there is a universal command to repent and believe, and asserts that we have only warrant to invite to Christ those who are conscious of a sense of sin and need. In other words, it is those who have been spiritually quickened to seek a Saviour and not those who are in the death of unbelief and indifference, to whom the exhortations of the Gospel must be addressed. In this way a scheme was devised for restricting the Gospel to those who there is reason to suppose are elect.
This is an excellent book to show how Charles Spurgeon, the Baptist pastor in London in the latter half of the nineteenth century, held together strong (Calvinistic) views of the sovereignty of God with a powerful and fruitful soul-winning ministry. He fought against the hyper-Calvinists on the one side, and the Arminians on the other in a way I consider exemplary.
15. For a biography of Carey, see Timothy George, Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey (Birmingham, Ala.: New Hope, 1991).
The great encouragement from John 10:16 is that the Lord Himself will do what is impossible for “poor and helpless worms” like us. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.”
THEY WILL HEAR HIS VOICE
3. The third encouragement from this verse is that the sheep He calls will surely come: “I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” What is impossible with man is possible with God! When Paul was finished preaching in the city of Antioch, Luke described the result like this: “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). God has a people in every people group.
He will call them with Creator power. And they will believe!
What power is in these words for overcoming discouragement in the hard places of the frontiers! The story of Peter Cameron Scott is a good illustration of the power of John 10:16.
Born in Glasgow in 1867, Scott became the founder of the Africa Inland Mission. But his beginnings in Africa were anything but auspicious. His first trip to Africa ended in a severe attack of malaria that sent him home. He resolved to return after he recuperated.
This return was especially gratifying to him because this time his brother John joined him. But before long, John was struck down by fever. All alone, Peter buried his brother and in the agony of those days recommitted himself to preach the gospel in Africa. Yet his health gave way again, and he had to return to England.
How would he ever pull out of the desolation and depression of those days?
He had pledged himself to God. But where could he find the strength to go back to Africa? With man it was impossible!
MISSIONS He found strength in Westminster Abbey. David Livingstone’s tomb is still there. Scott entered quietly, found the tomb, and knelt in front of it to pray.
The inscription reads:
He rose from his knees with a new hope. He returned to Africa. And today the mission he founded is a vibrant, growing force for the gospel in Africa.
If your greatest joy is to experience the infilling grace of God overflowing from you for the good of others, then the best news in all the world is that God will do the impossible through you for the salvation of the hidden peoples.
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Peter began to say to [Jesus], “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, house and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
This text does not mean you get materially rich by becoming a missionary—at least not in the sense that your own private possessions increase. If you volunteer for mission service with such a notion, the Lord will confront you with these words: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).