Get More of God
Dilemmas make me anxious. I do not like being forced to make a choice between two important options. Usually it is for fear of missing out, fear of hurting someone, or fear of hurting your reputation. For instance, just this last week I accidentally double booked myself and had to tell a person I love deeply I needed to reschedule. Everything in me cringes when this happens.
And yet I see a dilemma in God’s word. I feel a pull between two different expectations that God has of me. The first expectation, or calling from God, is to draw near to him and experience an ever-deepening relationship with him through Jesus Christ. The second is to go far with the gospel for the purpose of making disciples in the places we live, work, and play.
Let me explain why this feels to me like a dilemma. In Ephesians chapter three Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus what he is praying for them; that they would grow in their experience of the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Jesus Christ. And he follows this up by saying that this occurs as the believer presses into Church. To say it another way, we grow in our joy in Christ as we give ourselves to the local body of believers. Our happiness is tied to our investment in the local church.
And yet Jesus has this stated mission that each one called to invest in personally, which is to go and make disciples of all nations by calling people to faith, bringing them into the church, and growing them in Christ.
In sum, the call of the Great Commission is presently chafing against my desire to gain more of the joy I find in God through his Church. And if the Bible did not resolve this dilemma for me I would be stuck at a crossroads, unable to function as a follower of Jesus.
Fortunately, the apostle Paul works this out for us in his letter to the Philippians. Early in the book he makes this statement to the believers in Philippi: “God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Think about that. Paul is experiencing the love that Jesus Christ feels for his bride. This word, “affection”, is so personal. I use the phrase, “I love you” often, and sometimes do so without giving thought towards how I actually feel about the person in the moment. This is because I know that I do in fact love that person, whether or not my emotions are present. But affection is different. Saying, “I yearn for you with affection” indicates that Paul is experiencing in his heart and mind something beautiful and powerful.
So how can Paul make this statement? How is it that Paul can love Jesus wholeheartedly and also love these Philippians with the affection that Jesus Christ has for them?
Without getting into the gritty details, I will highlight three realities that pertain to these Christians in Philippi.
First, these men and women have been redeemed by God through Paul’s ministry of the gospel (Philippians 1:6). God used Paul’s labor to awaken this group of people to faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And so, he is personally invested in God’s redemptive act in their lives.
Second, these men and woman are presently growing in maturity as redeemed people (1:6, 9-11). Their growth in Christ is a source of joy and affection for Paul.
Third, these men and woman have partnered with Paul in ministry (1:5). Notice that the work of making disciples has come full circle. The people that were converted through Paul’s work of gospel proclamation are now joining him in this ministry.
We can conclude from these things that just like with Paul, our joy in God is amplified as God works in the lives of those with whom we live, work, and play.
So here is your exhortation: Get more of God by going with the gospel. Enjoy him by participating in the Great Commission. And think intentionally about what this looks like for your life. If you work away from the office, pick a coffee shop and own it. Make it your place and get to know the owner and baristas. If you’re a college student, study in the commons at your school. And instead of finding an empty table, find one with someone sitting at it that you don’t know. If you ask to sit and study with the person, in most cases they will welcome it. If you own a home, be visible. Put your hangout space in the front yard. Hangout with your kids as they do chalk art along the sidewalk.
And lastly, connect with a group of believers that makes mission its aim. At Cities Church this happens in our community groups. This is the space where the realities of the love Christ has for his bride and the call to participate in the Great Commission meet. It is where you experience the joy of meeting with God’s people and the exhilaration of fulfilling God’s mission for your life.