Well it’s a privilege to get to share with you from God’s Word, just a passage of Scripture that has really been soothing to my soul as I learn more about myself and as we do this work that we are calling missions. It’s good to know what our motivations are. It’s good to know more about who we are as people. It’s good to know that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come and Your will be done,” that that’s also a conversation with God that is very much like an invitation that God is using us in the world to be co-creators in the world and to image His glory and to let the whole earth be filled with His glory and that we have something to do with that.
I went to RTS to get an education on that stuff and it stayed up here. And I know that a lot of you can follow with me that we learn a lot of stuff and it’s that whole divide between the mind and the heart and how it actually sinks into our heart and how we can translate it in a way that our heart can really wrap around it and understand it and say, “Yes, this is what I’m doing in the work of the kingdom.” For me, the work of the kingdom has not been as much – I’m really bad at writing newsletters, so if you were getting newsletters from me a lot in the beginning, you haven’t gotten newsletters from me a lot. And a lot of that is because I’m lazy about it. A lot of it is because the majority of the kingdom work that I see is just not anything that you normally would write about.
There’s a guy in our neighborhood; his name is John Jones and he’s seventy-five. And when I walked into his yard one day to look at his garden, he was in his garden, working the garden, and he’s done it for years, for thirty years. And he was immediately skeptical of me. And he’s a better anthropologist than probably most people in this room, even me. And he was very skeptical and he was like, “What do you want from me? Where’s your badge?” Like, “Where’s your badge? What are you selling? How are you, basically, going to take advantage of me to where - ?” And I talked to him; I told him my name was Scott Moore and this and that and we talked about a garden and how I wanted to plant a garden next to my house so we could have guys working the garden. And he was still a little skeptical. Well two or three weeks later, he came up to me at the community center and I didn’t recognize him because he didn’t have his gardening hat on. And he tapped me on the shoulder and goes, “I want you to know my name’s John Jones and I want you to know that I’m sorry.” And I said, “Why are you sorry?” And he goes, “Well I did my research. I looked you up.” And he goes, “You didn’t tell me you were a pastor!” And I’m like, “Well I didn’t think that that was important!” And he goes, “Well I don’t like pastors!” And I’m like, “Well I’m glad I didn’t tell you I was a pastor!” And for years, for the last two or three years, he and I have built a wonderful relationship and there’s nothing that overjoys me more than to go sit underneath his carport and just talk and listen to him talk. And to watch the joy that comes on his face when he knows somebody’s actually listening because I do enjoy listening to him.
And I wanted to make one of our kids in our afterschool program to have a garden that they could work and keep and create with and I didn’t have anybody to do it. And I wasn’t going to do it. I’m a pastor, not a gardener! You know it’s like, “I don’t know how to do this!” And so I was looking at him and I was like – and he was turned around doing something – and I said, “Man, I want to get a garden in the back of the church so these kids can have something to do and I’m just really looking for somebody like, retired, and who knows how to garden.” And he’s shaking his head like this the whole time and I never said anything about it again. I shook his hand, I left, and about four hours later I’m studying at my desk and he calls me and he goes, “Would you get your butt back out here in the back of the church so we can build this garden?”
I want you to feel what you’re feeling in your body right now. It’s called joy. Because it’s a story of how two people who are very diverse, who are very traditionally disconnected, are connecting and having fun with one another, and out of that joy we begin to create. And out of our creation together we can look back and say, “Man, this is really good. These kids get to pick collard greens.” Do you feel it? Because that’s what John tells us is our reason for missions. Salvation, yes, but salvation for what? Somebody asks you, “Why are you sharing the faith with me?” You say, “Well because I want you saved. I want you to spend eternity in heaven.” “See you later.” But John says, “No, we are proclaiming these things to you,” if I can read it:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” – and here is the “so that,” the reason – “so that you too may have fellowship with us.”
What I just gave you a story about was a story of fellowship that the Gospel makes possible.
“And indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
Joy! The reason for missions.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we ask that not that You would be kind to us because You are already kind, but You, by the work of Your Spirit, would allow us to believe it in the depth of our soul for just a few moments as we hear from Your Word, so let it be. Amen.
So as we talk about our motivations for missions, let’s just go ahead and stop pretending and let’s go ahead and confess that we are a people in our day and time that are not very good at defining and even naming or even knowing our motivations for anything. Can we just rest by acknowledging that? Everybody say, “Amen!” If anybody asks you – this is how you’re going to stump me; this is why marriage is frustrating for me. My wife is like, “You did this; you did this. Why’d you do it?” I can talk forever, but why are you doing this? What are the motivations of your heart? And you can almost know for certain that when a person just gives a one word answer, this is the motivation, this is why I’m sharing my faith, “Because I want you to be saved,” this simple reason we can almost know that we don’t really know what’s going on down there, in the depths of our soul, what’s really driving us. And here’s why. Because we’re not robots. We’re not binary programs where our motivations are always this or that. We are very complex creations of an almighty, intimate, good God and we are very complex. On any given day at any given time, our motivations for doing anything are very complex. Could you agree with that?
The Reasons Why I or We Do Missions
Ed asked me to talk to you about the reasons why I do what I do. If I were to tell you the reasons why I do what I do or why we do missions, I’m going to tell you things like, “Well, because I want to be the man. And it’s really cool to do ministry in a neighborhood like ours.” Because I love stories and I love feeling the joy of spending time with John Jones. Because I love God’s Word and I love to teach it. It’s what I’m made to it. Because, you know what, it provides an ability for me to have a sense of purpose and things like that.” The man different motivations. But the motivations, what I’d like to do today, just help you at least and help us to go deep beyond down into our soul and discover and even question and investigate the motivations for why we’re doing missions. And what I love about the Word of God is that He tells us what our motivations are and that, “Look, there’s a joy that you feel.” He’s not asking you, “If you want to be a good missionary go out here and get ahold of this and spend all this energy and resources to go and be that so that you can be a great missionary like everybody we’re reading books about.” No! What He’s saying is that deeply woven into the fabric of your being is your reason for missions. And you only need and I only need to be liberated. The motivation for missions is already there. You told me that when you lit up when I told you a story about joy.
A Relational God
But it’s in the fabric of our being because we are created in the image of a relational God. What I love about our doctrine of the Trinity and what I love about the truth of the Trinity – and I’m on the examinations committee in our presbytery and I always ask the candidates this question – “What is the practical implication of our doctrine of the Trinity, our Three in One?” And what I love to hear and what I love to communicate is that it just helps me describe the longings of my soul to be in relationship with people. It helps me understand why I struggle with loneliness. It helps me to understand why disconnection feels so hard. It helps me to understand why connection feels so good because Jesus in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17 talks about, like, “Father, I desire that they whom you have given me,” and I’m paraphrasing this by the way; I don’t memorize well and if you’re like me, I rejoice with you because I have a hard time memorizing! But something like this, “I want them to be, all those that you have given me, I want them to be with me where I am so that they might behold my glory, the glory that you gave me before the foundation of the world. Why? Because you loved me.”
The Fellowship of the Trinity
And so we get a window into the relationship, the fellowship of the Trinity when the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father who loves the Spirit who loves the Son. And are you ready for this? They love and they are loved. They enjoy and they are enjoyed. And then all of a sudden when in joy and in that love, what do they begin doing? They create. And, “Let there be light. Let the earth be filled with plants and birds” and all of these awesome creatures that they make. And then, “Let’s celebrate after we make all of these things and say, ‘It’s good. It’s good. It’s good.’ And then we make man in our image. Let us make man in our image. Let’s form Adam,” Genesis 2, “out of the dust.” And God breathes life into him like a father, a parent breathes, and just that intimate knowledge of and giving life to a person.
And so you’ve got love and then joy flows on the highways of love. And then out of that joy you have creation. And after creation and co-creating, right, there is a celebration. “It is good. It is very good.” And then He puts the man in the garden and says, “Be like Me. And if you want to be like Me you’ve got to be relational. It’s not good for you to be alone. So be in union with Me but be in union with her. Work the garden.” And man, when you work a garden – has anybody ever grown watermelon, for instance? Like if you work that garden, it’s going to take over your hard and it’s going to grow all over the globe. And then, “Be fruitful and multiply.” That naked and unashamed. That intimacy that’s creative intimacy. And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. This is the one in whose image we are created.
Man’s Relations With God
This describes my little girl’s longing when I’m trying to get some rest and I tell her to go play with play-doh she tells me, “Daddy, I want you to play with me!” I’m like, “Okay, I don’t want to play right now; go color.” “Daddy, will you color with me?” Nobody wants to create alone. Nobody wants to color alone. We all want to be in fellowship and we want to look another person in the eyes and we want their eyes to light up and do what our eyes are doing. That’s called connection; it’s called fellowship. It’s called attunement. When we weep, we want others to weep. When we rejoice, we want others to rejoice. It’s called “You’re with me.” That’s why the prepositions in Scripture are so great when we talk about redemption in Christ, with Christ. It’s God always closing the gap, drawing near, and we’re created in this God’s image. Isn’t that great? And so it’s this relationship.
Man’s Fall From Grace
But then we see that there is a rupture in the relationship. Do you know where I’m going? In Genesis 3. And the rupture comes on the heels of the serpent. It says, “Then they were naked and unashamed.” And then it says, “The serpent, who was more crafty than any other beast of the field.” And the word, “naked” and the word, “crafty” in Hebrew, there’s just a slight difference in vowel pointings and so what you see here is that there’s nakedness, there’s vulnerability. And then the serpent comes in with his craftiness. In other words, he’s acting like he’s vulnerable but there’s hiddenness to him; there’s darkness in him. He didn’t come and with a threatening, predatorial look, gaze; he came with an endearing gaze. “Did God really say? Oh, you surely won’t die. For God knows that when you eat of the fruit you’ll be like him.” And then drawing her in, getting her thinking critically in her mind, and then the hiddenness comes around and stabs her in the back. And then in that fall, all of a sudden man and woman knew that they were naked and they began covering themselves. They began hiding.
And here’s the most tragic part. It’s that God comes and walks through the garden and instead of His children coming and running up to Him, they run away. All the prepositions, all the movements of God toward, and now all of a sudden His creation, His children – away. Now if you’re a parent, some of you parents know the pain of approaching your children with kindness and they don’t trust that you’re kind and they run away from you and hide. You know what that pain feels like. And the older our children get and the more we feel that the more painful it gets. Amen? So imagine God who delights in His creation, the creation that is very good, like an intimate Father that He is, moving toward Adam in the garden and instead of Adam going, “Yes, I love you!” in fellowship and in enjoying one another, Adam runs away from Him. And He says, “Where are you?” What hard words to say – “Where are you?” And Adam said, “Well, I heard you coming and I was naked.” In other words, “I was vulnerable, therefore I was afraid.”
Hiding From God
So somewhere it got lodged in the mind of Adam that this God, there’s hiddenness in Him! “I can’t be vulnerable with Him because if I’m vulnerable with Him and if I’m not hiding those parts of me that I’ve deemed bad or if I’m not hiding my fallenness, then He will not approach me with kindness but it will only be with contempt. And so I hid myself. I covered myself.” And now there’s distance in the relationship. And if all of us are honest, it’s the reason why we stay superficial in relationships. Amen? It’s because we don’t fully trust the motivations of others when we get into a relationship. It’s scary. I’m drawn to you because we’re created in the image of the same God but you’re different than me. So if we get into a relationship, I don’t know if you’ve got darkness in you; I don’t know if there are hidden motivations in you. I don’t even know my own motivations so this could go wrong.
And do you see how this tension, now all of a sudden man and woman, they are left being the critical judge of the world that’s coming to them? We’re vulnerable in a world and in relationships that cannot be trusted to be good. Somehow that was their belief. They were tempted by Satan and they believed it and they sinned, they took, and they ate. So here are the beliefs of their heart and here are the beliefs of our heart – “I’ve got to critically judge everything and everyone as being either good or bad for me. Therefore, I need to manipulate it to ensure my own protection and my own fulfillment in this world. I’m alone. I’m an orphan.” And this is the life we build. These are the fig leaves that we build. We hide and we manipulate. We are awesome manipulators. So subtle manipulators. We love people in order to be loved. That’s manipulation, right? We are really good because we want people to be good back. It’s an “if-then.” It’s, “If I do this, then you do this. If you get close to me then you might hurt me, therefore I’m not going to get close to you. I’m going to hide from you.” It is the ongoing chess game that our wheels are always turning in what we’ve been duped into thinking is the game of life and we’ve got to stay protected and we cannot be vulnerable.
But here is the problem. Our longings to love and to be loved, our longings to be in fellowship and enjoy people and to be enjoyed by people, our longings to work with people to create goodness and to create something that’s purposeful and valuable, and our longings to celebrate once that happens, to be celebrated, they all remain. All of us have those longings in our heart, those deep longings in our heart. Amen? Okay, I’m going to try that again and look, you’ve just got to sound like my church just once. Amen? Yes! I needed that connection! I needed it! I needed your eyes! I needed your words! I needed something! See, I’m being vulnerable with you. I needed that. I was starting to feel a little disconnected up here. I’m already tall enough, alright?
We Must Repent
So our motivations now move from joyful connection and love to fearful protection and promotion and self-gratification. And this is where a lot of our motivations for missions come out of. So how do we step out? How do we move out? Well, this passage tells us the key. And it’s first to repent. Now when I say repent I’m not talking about an 180-turn. I’m even going to qualify the term; call it relational repentance. Because repentance isn’t, “God is over there with a critical, condemning eye and I need to, in my isolation repent, and therefore He comes close to me.” That is what most of us believe. We try to – you know, you can’t manipulate Him closer that way. Rather, it is what? It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Repentance always comes after we have seen and beheld the kindness of God. That we know that if we confess our sins He is what? “Faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” What kindness are we talking about here? How can we get from hiding and doing everything to stay away from people to stepping out and being vulnerable and offering ourselves for that communication and that joy and all of those things, those wonderful things that we were created to do? We first have to know that our relationship is secure with the Father. And it’s secure because He came to us.
Christ Made Himself Hearable
And that’s what John gives us here. “That which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands.” He says it over and over and over again. In other words, this isn’t just some theological truth; this is the existential and the situational truth that Jesus made Himself seeable. God in Christ made Himself hearable. Do you know how painful it can be to be heard and not listened to? Most of us never communicate our deep longings because no one listens. Amen? And so our longings are like, “Man, I wish you would hang that towel up. I wish you would wash the dishes,” or something like that. No, that’s not really the desire. The desire is, “I really wish you would value me. I desire that.” But we can’t hear it.
Jesus stepped out. He made Himself seeable. He made Himself hearable – able to be misunderstood. Seeable – able to be made fun of and mocked and ridiculed. He made Himself touchable. And that word in the Greek is gropable, like a blind person in the dark clinging onto something. Which means He made Himself killable. He made Himself subject to the actions of human beings who are crafty, who are hiding, but who are also intrigued by His beauty, who want to lay on His chest but who also want to try to kiss Him and stab Him in the back. That is our vulnerable Christ. He comes to us not with condemnation but with kindness. And so to repent, to go beyond the mind – literally metanoia; to go beyond the mind, after the mind. After the critical mind where it’s “If, then; if, then; if, then. If I do this, then this” – going to the deep parts of our soul to where our longings reside and that’s where the repentance takes place as we surrender our motivations and our wicked motivations and our craftiness and our darkness.
Jesus Makes Himself Seeable to Us
How can we do that? Here’s the reason why we can do it. This is what I love about this passage. “This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaimed to you, that God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” In other words, when Jesus makes Himself seeable to you, when He approaches you with kindness, He, unlike the serpent, has nothing in His back pocket. There’s no darkness in Him. There is no wicked motivation that He’s drawing you close only to hurt you. Therefore, you can trust that everything in His providential ways that come to you – are what? For your good and for your transformation. For our good and for our transformation. We can make ourselves vulnerable in a world upon which and over which God is providential because we can trust that there is no darkness in Him. Even in a painful world. Amen! That is the Gospel. Therefore, we can move forward without fear. He’s paid for our sins. Any pain and any of the suffering that we’ve been through and all of us have been through, any of the betrayal that we’ve been through and relationships that make it very difficult to get into relationships anymore, we can trust that it is for our good. Why? Because He’s paid for us. He’s atoned for us. It’s not His condemnation. Only His kind eye over us now.
So when Christ comes we can say, “Man, I love you.” And He can say to you, “I love you too.” And you can say, “Man, I want to be enjoyed by You.” And He says, “Well it’s in your confession, son. You were created to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever, but you were also created to be enjoyed by Me forever and I enjoy you, my little boy.” Isn’t that wonderful news because we want to be enjoyed and He enjoys us. And therefore we can move forward with others. We can walk in the same way in which He walked – vulnerable. And here are missions. Are you ready? We can make ourselves heard. We can make ourselves seen. We don’t have to live with the fig leaves anymore. We can make all of us seen. In missions, it’s not perfection. The best stories in missions are stories of failure. Right? And how can that happen? Because when we walk in the light, what does John tell us? The blood of Jesus the Son cleanses us from our sin. Isn’t it so wonderful? We can make ourselves seen, we can make ourselves heard, so that when we go up to somebody and we say, “I just want to share my faith with you,” and they ask, “Why?” we can say, “Well, that’s a loaded question. I have probably some selfish reasons because I’ve been in relationships before and they haven’t turned out well and so I’m a little hesitant, but there’s something about you and your life that I want to know more about you and I want to be able to share. And the only way that I know that over time we can get below the surface of things, into our heart, is that both of us need to know that we don’t have anything to be afraid of, even when we get nasty with one another.”
Isn’t that great? That’s our motivation for missions. We can move forward with vulnerability. Because He enjoys us, therefore we can enjoy others. Amen? Let’s pray.
Father, we ask that You would bless the preaching and the hearing of Your Word. Father, we thank You that You are so kind to us. Help us to trust as we continue in this service and as we move forward in our day. In Jesus’ name, amen.
© 2017 First Presbyterian Church.
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