October 1986 – Vol.2 – No.4
In the last Evangel we began looking at concerns that motivate Christians to involvement in missions. Contrary to the opinion of some, these motives are not the mark of a missionary. They are concerns that ought to arise spontaneously from the heart of every believer, stimulating us to missionary involvement.
As noted last time, the first motive that usually comes to mind is a concern for the great need of man. Apart from faith in Christ there is no salvation in the day of reckoning (Acts 4:12). And apart from a knowledge of Him, there can be no faith in Him (Romans 10:14). The consequence is that multitudes of men have perished in their sins with no awareness of the only one who could deliver them. God does not view the fate of these men with indifference (Ezekiel 33:11)! And neither should we!
But if this one fact was not sufficient to give us pause, there is a second motive that is far greater than the first. As far greater, in fact, as its object is than the object of the first. For while the first motive arises out of a concern for men, the second motive arises from a concern for God and His glory!
This concern is reflected in some things the Bible has to say about “the name of the Lord.”
Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” In this verse we learn God’s name is to be praised through all our waking hours, from one end of the earth to the other.
Malachi 1:11 says, “For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations.” This enlarges upon what was stated before, revealing that God’s purpose for His name is to magnify it through all the earth.
Living in a day when the evangelical church is more and more man-centered in its perspective, many are surprised to learn that God has a mission that transcends even the salvation of men. Yet He does, and that mission is to magnify His name in all the earth. And once we appreciate the importance of that mission, we find a constraint placed upon us on the one hand, and a compulsion on the other, with respect to that most excellent name.
First, the constraint. Deuteronomy 28:58-59 says, “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses.”
Here the Lord had two instructions to give through Moses. First, to observe the law of God, which included among other things strong admonitions to hallow the name of the Lord. But so important in the sight of God was His holy name that of all the commands within the Law, He singles out for doubled emphasis the warning to honor and fear His name, and attaches to it a series of dreadful curses for failing to do so. It is no wonder the Israelites would not even pronounce the name of God, let alone misuse it!
Again we read in Leviticus 18:20-25, “And you shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her. Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God….You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.”
We are a little uncomfortable speaking of such things in a general newsletter. So heinous are the awful sins depicted here that we read in Leviticus 20 every one of them carried the death penalty! So awful are they that God was about to destroy a whole nation – every man, woman, and child – because as a group they were guilty of performing or tolerating these atrocities. So shocking are they that righteous people blush even to talk about them. Such things so horrible as infant sacrifice. So revolting as infidelity, and adultery. Even worse, homosexuality, bestiality… .and PROFANING THE NAME OF GOD! We hear it being done every day, and in God’s sight it is as horrible as the sin of bestiality!
There is more to profaning the name of God, however, than merely uttering it in a careless curse. For the literal meaning of the word profane is to make common. It is to take something very special, and make it a byword.
God is concerned with magnifying His great name. Our place is not to minify it! Yet how lightly we Christians sling the name of God about today! Such was not always the case. The Jews would not even utter the word, and we today need to be careful when we take the name of God upon our lips. God’s name is not to be linked with silly talk, jokes, or cute expressions for such profaning of the name of God is as abominable to Him as the sin of bestiality!
God demonstrates the holiness of His name in an event recorded for us in Leviticus 24. In a heated moment one of the people blasphemed the name of God. What that means simply is that he spoke God’s name in an irreverent manner. Have you ever been guilty of that? To the Jews, it was a serious matter in light of God’s commands just four chapters before. Now came the first offense. They went to God seeking to know what should be done. His reply? It was to take the offender outside the camp and stone him!
How many of us since then have been guilty of the same thing? We can be grateful God has not applied the death penalty for those who blaspheme His name as rigorously as He applied it in the first instance. But first instances, found in many places throughout Scripture, serve an important function. For they are a public example of God’s indignation with the offense committed.
If God always revealed the magnitude of His displeasure in the way that He did at these first offenses, men would be dropping right and left. But even though God does not immediately execute judgment when His name is carelessly and irreverently used, He has left us those examples as unending reminders of His anger.
We must not conclude that God no longer hears or cares. Rather, He is simply holding Hid judgment in reserve, to be poured out upon those who persevere in dishonoring Him until finally they have stored up the full measure of wrath that awaits them.
Having looked at the importance of God’s great name and the constraint upon our behavior which naturally arises from it, we are now ready to address its influence upon missions – namely, the compulsion that stirs us to action.
In Acts 9:15-16 we have recorded the word of God to Ananias, the man sent to Paul to open his eyes and show Him the way of faith in Christ Jesus. “Go, for he is a chosen instrumuent of Mine, TO BEAR MY NAME before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer FOR MY NAME’S SAKE.”
In these verses, spoken from the perspective of God, we see two things. First, God had a mission for Paul to fulfill. And second, that mission was going to have some consequences for Paul.
But note how God expresses each of these two facts. He does not describe Paul’s mission or the suffering it entailed in terms of what it would accomplish for man. He speaks in terms of what it would do for His name! As important as the former is, it becomes secondary in comparison to the surpassing glory of God’s name. And this difference in expression is the difference between a God-centered perspective, which has God as the focal point, and the man-centered perspective which only sees man’s salvation as the ultimate end of all things.
And this God-centered perspective was the way Paul viewed everything as well. At the beginning of Romans 1 he says, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.”
God had given Paul a mission to fulfill, and had equipped him with the grace and authority to do it. Notice that Paul does not describe the mission in terms of the benefit it would have to men, but what it would accomplish toward Christ, namely, obedience among the Gentiles.
And what motivated Paul to pursue this calling? What drove him on even in the face of beatings, scourgings, stonings, imprisonment, perils on land and perils at sea? It was that Christ’s great name might be exalted and lifted high among all the Gentiles. He does not say he endured these things for the sake of the Gentiles, but for the sake of Christ’s name.
To be sure, this was not the only motive Paul had, though it clearly is his perspective in these verses. There were other times when he told the churches he suffered these things for their sakes. Both motives were involved – for Him, and for them. But always in that order.
That’s the way it has to be. Isn’t this what Jesus was saying in Mark 12:29-31? Someone wanted to know what the greatest commandment was. Jesus said, “The foremost of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ This is the foremost commandment. And the second is like unto it. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Which is the foremost commandment? What, above all else, ought to be our theme in life? To love God! That takes the preeminent place! But though they only wanted to know the greatest commandment, Christ did not stop there. He gave them the second one, because though it is not the greatest, it cannot be slighted. And the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Both are to be a reality in the life of Christians, but there is clearly to be an order of magnitude difference between our love to God and our love to men. Is not this what Christ was saying in Luke 14:26? “If any man come to Me and hate not His father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus is not here commanding us to bitterly treat our family. He does not say to love our enemies and in the next breath tell us to despise those who nurtured and cared for us while we were still helpless to do anything for ourselves. He is using a figure of speech called hyperbole to make a point, and the point is this: to be a follower of Christ, our love for Him must take precedence over all else. Next to Him, our greatest love for anything, any human attachment, any concern even for ourselves, must be of vastly secondary importance.
But if this is the way it is, why do we keep appealing to Christians on the basis of man’s great need of salvation to motivate them on to missions? Is there not an even greater burden on the heart of God’s people to which we can appeal? Indeed there is, at least among those who are aflame for Christ. And that burden is a concern for the glory of Christ, because we love Him. Not only is that a sufficient motive for missions. It is the greatest motive.
Why do we hear so few missionary talks along these lines? We hear many stories of the desperate plight of people in bondage to heathen superstitions. “They carve their bodies, They sacrifice their babies. They mistreat their women. The fires of hell are licking at their heels and they do not know it!”
To be sure, these things ought to concern us. God deliver us from complacency in this realm too. But why do we not shudder to hear the awful news that “there is a place where people do not worship God! A dead and blackened spot upon the globe from which no praise ascends”?
Do you have this zeal for Christ’s glory? It is the first step in a life of usefulness to Him. And it is the motive that has undergirded the missionary movement for at least 3,000 years. Ever since David uttered the Spirit-inspired words of I Chronicles 16:24-25. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all peoples, for great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” May His theme become ours as well.