As you know, the world is a dreadful mess and we are called to help. This series of posts is based on the premise that the way Jesus changed the world is the best way for us to do so. Thus we have been noticing how he ministered so we can model our efforts after him. We have also been pointing ways the ministry of Empowering Subjects is seeking to follow Jesus’ approach to changing the world.
Previous posts (beginning here) have indicated the need to follow Scripture, rely on God’s working, focus on Christ and follow his strategy of increasing the number of workers. Today we will notice the importance of the workers being authentic. Those of us who would be workers in Christ’s harvest field must ourselves be utterly devoted to him and in the process of being transformed into his image.
Jesus was clearly “all in” on his message and ministry. None of us could ever say “if anyone has seen me he has seen the Father” (John 14:9), but he could. He was God and he perfectly displayed what God is like (John 1:14; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3) and perfectly represented him.
Even though we will always fall short, this principle is true of us as well. We must be on our way to becoming like Christ and God. If we cleanse ourselves from “dishonorable” purposes, it will set us apart for honorable purposes and good deeds and make us instruments that are useful to our Master (2 Timothy 2:20-21). Though God can do whatever he wants, he delights to work through holy vessels.
What we are, matters. Outreach and evangelism are not merely what we do; they are what we are. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. You are the aroma of Christ. The light of the gospel has shone in our own hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6) and we are now in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Luke 6:40).
This transformation gives us the spiritual fitness to be co-workers with God. We already noted that the mission belongs to God and he is at work in it (see post). Being authentically transformed by God enables us to be his co-workers (2 Corinthians 6:1). If we are “the real thing,” then the ministry we do will also be the real thing—an authentic work of God. We are not merely trying to baptize people or increase our membership. Rather, we are wanting to be partners with God, working toward others being delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of his Son where they can have forgiveness and redemption (Colossians 1:13-14). We are wanting people to turn from idols to the living God and wait for his Son from heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). We want to see people be enlightened, taste the heavenly gift, share in the Holy Spirt, and taste the good of God and the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:4-5). We want to be involved in people being born all over again, from above (John 3:3, 7; the word means both “again” and “from above”). The opportunity to partner with God in this great mission comes to those who are themselves in the process of being changed into the image of God through Christ.
Outreach and evangelism are not merely what we do; they are what we are.
Our transformation depends in part on our own hearts. We must be open to God and willing to be transformed by him. The power for change, however, comes from God. It is his Spirit who transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we stop resisting, rebelling, despising, and grieving the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, and instead follow his godly desires (Galatians 5:16-18), we are increasingly transformed into his image (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). We cannot be holy on our own. It is the work of the Spirit to sanctify us (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; “sanctify” means “make holy”).
When I read (or write) descriptions like this of the amazing work God wants to do in us, I inevitably feel inadequate. Clearly we will fall short of this ideal (1 John 1:8, 10). Because of this, we will also continue to need God’s mercy. Thankfully he is rich in mercy and has plenty for us. We need to continually strive for a healthy balanced between submitting to God’s sanctifying work in us through his Spirit and relying on God’s mercy when we fall short. His mercy will keep us from giving up; his Spirit will keep us growing up.
Several good things will emerge from our own process of transformation. We already noted that it will make us an instrument useful to the Master. It will also make us into an increasingly good illustration of what it looks like to give one’s life to Christ. Conversely, it will cut the ground from under those who would conveniently dismiss Christianity due to hypocritical Christians. It will also give us a more resolute focus on what really matters in the world and more motivation and earnestness to speak about it.
One of my favorite passages about the motivation and earnestness is Peter and John’s courageous reply to the authorities who ordered them to stop talking about Jesus: “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20; for more on this passage see here). As we humbly and prayerfully continue to explore and listen to Christ, we, too, will see and hear the message to the point that we cannot help speaking about it. Outreach that is born in this way is truly authentic, blessed by God, and powerful.
Empowering Subjects does not merely teach a method of evangelism or outreach that we can use on people. It seeks to draw us into a way of life with God where he can use us with people. It facilitates this by inviting us to submit to Christ as King on an ongoing and ever-increasing basis. We ourselves are increasingly drawn into the message and way of life in the kingdom, as we seek opportunities from God to pass it on to others. God desires and the world needs more of this kind of workers.
For more on how Empowering Subjects is seeking to equip people to be authentic workers in God’s kingdom, see here.
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