Missions and the Glory of God
It is with some difficulty that we move our thoughts from our worldly circumstances of the present to the eternity of the future. Even more difficult to think of eternity past, when a triune GOD chose to glorify Himself by creating our known existence, while knowing that it will fail. He created, so to bring salvation that He might further glorify Himself and His name. His plan of salvation through the sacrifice of His own Son brought glory to his name. However, we can get stuck on “salvation,” but we forget about His glory when people get saved.
Missions according to Isaiah 49:6 says:“ I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” The Psalmist may add
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth (Psalm 67).
The reason why someone’s native tongue is American English, and someone else’s is Vietnamese, Laotian or Yanowamô is evidence of God’s judgment. “Languages” exist because once upon a time a prideful humanity wanted to unite in glorifying themselves (Genesis 11:4-8) rather than God. Then in judgment of their pride God scatters people all over the earth in various dialects. Yet God is glorified when the “nations” are united together as one in Christ (Colossians 3:11). When we go to the nations we go in order to glorify God, and the nations are blessed by salvation.
As we consider missions to the nations the saying “it can be a greater distance to take the gospel to our neighbors than it is across an ocean” rings so true. However, when we get “stuck on salvation” but forget about the glory of God traveling across the oceans remains a mere thought. When the Gospel is proclaimed to the nations it usually begins within our neighborhoods well even before reaching the ends of the earth. We should never loose sight that God’s plan for missions is to glorify himself. Missions begin when crossing the threshold of my neighbor’s door with the goal to glorify God.
Religious communities are often magnets for judgmental and critical personalities. There is a plethora of church people who tend to have a pre-occupation with failures of others. Critical personalities tend to judge. They are critical toward people who they judge as “falling short of God’s perfect standards” yet they convince themselves they have attained some measure of success.Critical folk tend to find little fault within themselves. They will generalize their sin, yet blind to personal and specific failures. James dealt with this problem in the early church. James 4:11 reads “Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law” (HCSB).
James points out that those “critical” and “judgmental” personalities in churches are people wallow in self-deception, and my live with a false assurance of salvation. The problem is that they see themselves as “standard for measurement as emulators of God’s law. Yet, James 1:22-24 states we should instead be pre-occupied with being “doers” of God’s law.” However, the critical and judgmental see themselves fit to be judges of the law who are willing to measure the failures of others. James warns however, they are not “doer(s) of the law” but acts as self-appointed judge(s) of the law (4:12) which indicate that they are indeed self-deceived and merely practicing outward religion (1:26; 3:17).
Judgmental people gain great confidence from being “judges of the law” yet tend to be intolerant, impatient and critical towards people who don’t seem live up to God’s standards, like they do. Yet if they had an understanding of the Gospel, they would realize the gospel lays emphasis on personal obligation toward God law, but also regular failure necessitating the gospel. Gospel enlightened people know they can only imitate Christ’s obedience, yet never emulate it (i.e. match or excel). In imitating Christ, we are obeying God’s law and we will recognize our need for daily sustaining grace when we fail. In imitating Christ we will need his grace, in turn we will tend to “give” more grace to others, effectually becoming less judgmental and critical. However if we still see ourselves as “self-appointed judges of the law” (4:12) we will find no need for daily grace, no need for the Gospel, and no reason to give grace either. Therefore, James reminds “There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy” that is God. So who are we to be judgmental and critical toward others? (4:12).
False Assurance and Self Deception
. . . the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:7-10 NASB).
Often religious people somehow are oblivious of their personal sins. They fail to see their perpetual offense of a holy God. Yet they are acutely aware of the failures and sins of others. They are often quick to point out how they have been offended in their lives by those “sinners” around them. The Bible makes it clear, that these attitudes are signs of self-deception and a false conversion!
True conversion according to First John points out an unawareness of personal sin is a sign of self-deceit. The self-deceived generally minimize personal sins, but readily points to the sins of others. God says “If we say that we have no sin” or minimize our sins “we are deceiving ourselves” and “the truth is not in us” (1:8). True converts to the contrary have no problem to “confess [their] sins” because they know their God who “is faithful and righteous to forgive” (1:9) their sins and to cleanse them “from all unrighteousness” (1:9). True converts are honest about personal failures in keeping God’s perfect standards. However, in their honest self assessments they also know where to run to receive pardon and purification.
Therefore, as followers of Christ we are cautioned against denying, or even minimize our personal sinfulness. When we regularly transpose our sins to others who are “greater” sinners we may indeed be self-deceived and saving “truth [is] not in us” (1:9). When saved by the grace of God, we readily recognize our sinfulness but eagerly acknowledges our need for forgiveness, “cleansing” and “healing” (James 5:16).