Things may have been this way forever, but it certainly seems that in today’s cultural climate, the church is known more for what we are against than what we are for. I would even argue that within most churches the culture is more negative than positive. Dhati Lewis calls the following idea “anti-vision” and “vision". The idea seems to be to teach what we need to change in our lives to become faithful Christians (anti-vision), rather than teaching all the things God actually wants us to do and take part in (vision).
When I finally realized that God was not simply calling us to stop doing things but He was also calling us to start doing things, my life changed completely. Yes, God is calling us away from some things but, He is also calling us to some things. James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” God is calling us to both resist and submit. We are to submit all of our life; not to run away from something, but to run to something: Christ!
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus is speaking to the disciples, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is the proactive vision Jesus gives to his people: God is mobilizing an army to attack the gates of hell! The church isn’t just meant to abstain from the world, the church is meant to be on the offensive for mission. Jesus uses the picture of a gate in Matthew 16. Gates are defensive, they protect whatever is inside. When an enemy approached a city, the farmers outside the walls would retreat to the city gates. A city would do everything within its power to keep enemies out of their gates, because the enemy knew if they could get inside the gate, the people are vulnerable and easily defeated. But this isn’t what God called us to be. He didn’t call the church to be a city with walls not letting anyone in. He calls us to seek out the lost.
This is what we see in the story of Joshua (Joshua 6:1-21). Moses was tasked with delivering God’s people to the Promised Land but once word came back that they would be defeated, he neglected God’s command to him. He was overcome by the idea of the enemy and it took 40 years for God to allow Joshua to defeat the city of Jericho and take His people into the Promised Land. The church is not the city of Jericho under attack in the story of Joshua. The church should be, like Joshua, mobilizing an army of disciple-makers to attack the enemy and darkness, and Jesus promises that even the gates of hell won’t be able to stop His church! Moses’ generation missed out on the promised land because they chose comfort and safety. God is calling us to be like the generation of Joshua and Caleb, to choose trust and faithfulness. We have been called to rally the people around us around God’s vision for mission.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Keith preached from Luke 10:1-16 and challenged us to live as Sent people. The Holy Spirit has been pressing on my heart since then and one of the things He has been telling me is to believe that our God is for me and that He will protect me. Jesus said, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3), because He knew this wouldn’t be easy. BUT God didn’t call us to do what is easy. He calls us to be faithful. He calls us to believe that He is who He says He is.
The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) ends the same way the gospel began, with a promise of presence. He is for us. We can go into battle knowing that our God is good and that He is for us. We are called to make disciples. We are called to share the gospel with our neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, and acquaintances. But we weren’t called to do it alone. Our God is for us. Our God is the great Shepherd protecting His sheep from the wolves. I am committing this year to live on the offensive, constantly looking to share the gospel. Would you commit with me?