“Missions exist because worship doesn’t”

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Ps 97:1). “Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps 67:3-4).

But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!” who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoice in the Lord…I will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High” (Ps 104:34, 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.”

–John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993/2003), 17.

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You can stop striving

“though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:4–11 ESV)

Of all people, Paul had reason to place his confidence (faith, trust, reliance) in his own spiritual accomplishments and heritage, but he exchanges it all for a righteousness that is through faith (v9).  Paul’s pedigree was perfect and his ability to execute external religion was pristine.  Most of Paul’s resume falls on deaf ears to us.  Imagine the person who was born into a family with godly parents, who prayed a prayer to receive Christ as a youngster, attended church every time the doors were open, went to every youth camp and was practically perfect in executing all of the “externals” of Christianity.  They tithed, had a quiet time regularly, memorized scripture, went on mission trips, fed the poor and served dutifully.  Their identity, like Paul’s, is in where they came from and what they did instead of whose they were.  This was Paul, tirelessly attempting to earn a righteousness that was freely offered through faith.

Don’t brush over this.  Is this you?  Are you trying to do all the right things in lieu of completely relying on the finished work of Christ on your behalf?  Do you feel as though you need to obey flawlessly for God to love & approve of you?  Do you think that you need to add something to the righteousness that Jesus has given you in order to be pleasing to God?  Whenever we offer up our goodness to God as a reason for Him to love and approve of us, it evokes a repulsive action from the Creator of the cosmos (Isaiah 64:6).  Relying on our own righteousness is repulsive to a holy God who freely offers a righteousness that is by faith alone

Paul had a shift in what he relied upon to please God.  He now considered all of those externally “good things” as rubbish when compared to knowing God.  All things – religious performance, family heritage, moral striving, his own goodness – are now considered loss, indeed more than loss they are now rubbish, trash or dung when laid against the requirements of God.  This is the only appearance of this Greek word (skubalon) in the New Testament – it is dung or excrement – which is more than just worthless, it is repulsive.  Paul had shifted his reliance from himself & his ability to obey to Jesus and His perfectly obedient life & sacrificial death.

Paul says that all of his previous striving and pedigree were now loss.  But this is really no loss when compared with the gain that we have in Jesus:  right standing before God not based upon our abilities, heritage or performance, but by trusting solely in the finished work of Jesus.  The goal of this great exchange is to know God.  We get reconciled into a FAMILY relationship with the Creator!  Paul wants to follow Christ and taste what He tasted so that he can know the Savior more intimately v10-11.  This is the beauty of the Gospel, a good, holy and sovereign God has made a way to redeem His children to Himself – and this not based upon anything that we do, but on the undeserved favor of God.  If you’re a Christian, then you are forgiven, adopted and loved – not because of where you come from or what you do, but because of your older brother who has freely provided God’s forgiveness and approval for you.

Contentment is not the goal, it is a byproduct of the goal

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13 ESV)

Paul is grateful for the Philippians’ gift to him & for their partnership in the gospel (1:5), but he has learned a contentment that transcends his external circumstances.  To be content means to be OK with the lot that we have in life or with the means that have been afforded to us, regardless of whether they are slim or plentiful.  However, we normally associate lacking contentment with being in need.  For most that are reading this, that is not the case – we have more than enough.  Paul said that he had learned the secret of finding contentment whether in abundance or in need.  So why is contentment, even when all of our basic needs are met, so difficult to obtain & experience?

Contentment looks different in abundance and in need.  When in need, there must be an abiding trust that God will provide all that is required for life.  This is a trust issue in the sovereign goodness of God.  When living in abundance, contentment is also difficult; it involves seeing Christ as more beautiful than anything else that is vying for our attention.  Becoming content is tied back to abiding in Christ and thinking on things that stir worship in our souls (4:4-7, see here & here).

When in abundance the risk is to treasure and look to created things as objects of our worship.  When we worship created things, we are looking for them to satisfy the deepest longings of our soul – something that they are incapable of doing because they were not designed to hold the weight of our worship.  Contentment, at its root is a worship problem.  When we have abundance in our lives – there are many shiny, new things to distract us from Ultimate realities.  When we latch on to all of the things around us as “necessary” things to make our lives worth living then we will never find contentment.  We will always be looking for the next gadget, car, house, spouse, accomplishment, pay raise, toy, relationship, experience or whatever.  But, the man who can learn to not place his trust in worldly wealth and can enjoy all things as a gift from God is a fortunate man: “as for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 ESV).

We might think that the remedy to our discontentment is to sell all of our worldly possessions and move over seas to serve God.  This is not the remedy, this is just transferring the problem to a different venue.  You trusting in created things more than the Creator of all things is not a function of what you have, it is a function of what you believe is most worthy of your worship, praise & adoration.

So how did the apostle become content in all things?  Paul saw Christ as more glorious, more worthy, more spectacular than anything else the world had to offer (3:7-11).  The work is not to lower the value or allure of the things that compete for our affections – this will prove a fools errand as most can attest to.  The real secret of contentment is not in lowering other things, but in seeing Christ more clearly – seeing Him as so far above anything else that we are willing to joyfully exchange all things to have Him.

We need a yearning in our soul (like Paul had) that considers everything as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.  This is a supernatural act, this is not something that we muster up, this is something that is Holy Spirit wrought.  This puts us in a place of utter dependance upon God to do what only He can do in our souls.  This goes back to a place where we intentionally quiet ourselves and pray desperate prayers like, “enlighten the eyes of my heart, quicken my mind, help me to see things as they really are, make your kingdom come in ME, I do believe – help me with my unbelief.  Help me to taste and see that you are good, that in your presence is deepest satisfaction and that your steadfast love is better than life.”  Contentment is not the goal, it is a byproduct of the goal – which is to know the good, sovereign, Lord of the universe.  To lack contentment in one’s life is merely symptomatic of a deeper, heart problem; contentment is not the problem, the object of our worship is the problem.

A profoundly practical way to build belief

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8–9 ESV)

The post from yestereday, beating fear, anxiety & worry involves a transference of trust, was about how we must build belief in the fact that God is good, sovereign and faithful if we wish to overcome fear, anxiety & worry in our lives.  Today, we will explore a profoundly practical way to begin doing that.  The Apostle transitions from telling us not to worry (because God is in control) to telling us to fill our lives with things that inspire a worship of God instead of our idols.  This is an incredibly practical thing that we can do.  Far too often, we read this verse as a precaution to avoid thinking or exposing ourselves to immoral things – that is not the intent at all!  This is an admonishment to find things that stir one’s affections for Christ.  These are true, gospel saturated truths that evoke worship in the soul – this worship then overflows in to service.  What kind of things?

  • True things – seeing things as they actually are.  Jesus is true (Matthew 22:16, Mark 12:14), God is true (John 3:33, 7:18, 8:26, Romans 3:4), Jesus’ flesh & blood is true food and true drink
  • Honorable things – serious, reverent, holy, dignified, honest
  • Just things – righteous, right, upright, virtuous, observant of divine & human laws
  • Pure things – holy, morally upright, blameless, innocent, chaste, exciting reverence
  • Lovely things – friendly, affectionate, sentiment & feeling, acceptable, pleasing
  • Commendable things – worthy of praise
  • Excellent things – virtuous, praise worthy, moral goodness
  • Praise worthy things -things that evoke worship in your heart

THINK on these things.  To think means to take a mental inventory, esteem, to take an account of and treat accordingly, reckon, run debits & credits, meditate, weigh, understand, count (accounting term), reason, regard, remind, understand or consider. This is no fleeting thought, what is in view is a disciplined effort to take a mental inventory of things that are right, things that stir up our affections, things that cause us to worship.  This is only done with intentionality.  There are so many different things vying for our attention nowadays (ie Facebook, Twitter, politics, athletics, activities, hobbies, relationships, family, friends, work, and the list goes on and on) – good things – it is the rare person that has disciplined himself or herself to drive out the distractions and dwell upon transcendent, ultimate, eternal things.  It is easier to open up the computer, turn on the TV or run to the next activity than it is to still ones heart and mind and beg the Almighty to do what only He can do – irrigate our dry parched soul.  Being intentional will never irrigate our souls, it merely places us in proximity to the waterfall of God’s grace, we still must dependently and desperately beg for His divine intervention.  Being still is a hard fought discipline.

What do you dream about?  What fuel are you feeding your fantasies?  What sermon are you preaching to yourself when no one is there to hear it?  What you dream about, fantasize about or preach to yourself shapes your life, emotions and actions.  “If I only had that, if my life was more like hers, if I had a family like them, if my marriage looked like theirs, or if I was wired like him.”  These things are idols, these things are false gods that we often place our trust in for deliverance, these hopes and dreams will never enable you to walk freely.  We need to think upon greater things and beg God to root out these idols in our hearts.  We must pray for God to enlighten our eyes, quicken our hearts and give us a desire for Him and Him alone.  To be free, we must be willing to let go of our heart’s idols and desperately grasp a hold of God and God alone.  We must come to a place, like Habakuk, where God alone is enough.

How do we begin to do this?  We should use our time (especially our discretionary time) and be disciplined in our minds.  The Apostle apparently believes that what we meditate upon, fantasize about and spend time turning over in our minds has a profound effect on the way that we feel, what we do, and how we behave.  This is a more expanded version of 2 Corinthians 3:18:  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).  This is a call to think more about the manifest glory of the Almighty – to see Him as who He really is.  Spend time thinking about and mulling over the trueness of God, the holiness of God, the righteousness of God; find things (ie nature, Olympic competition, children, etc) the stir up your affections for a big, true, holy, loving, just, good, gracious God.  It is not easy nor natural – there is no secret formula, but nothing in our faith is easy, natural or formulaic – our faith is supernatural.  BEG GOD FOR HELP!

Beating fear, anxiety & worry involves a transference of trust

The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5–7 ESV)

If you have been a Christian very long then you have undoubtedly read this verse, memorized this verse, had this verse quoted to you or clung desperately to it in the midst of difficult seasons in your life.  How many times have you said (out loud or to yourself), I have prayed about it, but I am still just as nervous about this situation as I was before – maybe even more so!  Maybe the Apostle is not giving us a “secret formula” or “silver bullet” for beating anxiety.  So what hope is there in becoming less anxious if this verse does not seem to help?  We need to dig a little deeper to understand what surrounds this verse so that we can better apply it in the context of the broader letter and apply it in our lives.

You know you aren’t supposed to be anxious (Jesus said it in Matthew 6:25-33, 10:19; Luke 10:41, 12:11, 12:22, 12:25) and Paul says it here in Philippians.  So how do we begin to beat anxiety?  To word translated “anxious” literally means “troubled with cares” or “to seek to promotes one’s interest” (Thayer’s Greek-English of the New Testament).  Beating anxiety is not as a easy as praying a prayer, as if it were a magic incantation.  What the Apostle is laying out for us in this passage is a transference of affections.

First and foremost, beating anxiety and fear is built upon the gospel truth that God is faithful, good and able (3:20-21) to do what He has promised.  The Apostle starts this passage by looking back at this reality by writing, “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).  Remember, Jesus is coming soon, rest in that promise.  When we are anxious, it is a sign that we are struggling to believe that God is good, that He is really in control of all things or that He will be faithful to do that which He has promised to do.  This is reminiscent of Jesus’ admonishment not to worry in Matthew 6:25-34.  Why should we not worry?  Not merely because it is unprofitable (worry won’t add a single hour to your life).  No, the primary reason that Jesus is telling us not to worry is because God is in absolute control of everything!  The birds and lilies know it, and so should we.  Fear, anxiety & worry begins to loose its grip on our souls as we grow in our belief that God is in absolute control and that He is working good for those who love Him.

This happens by prayer – not just short prayers, but a deep wrestling in the soul with the Creator of the cosmos.  A wrestling that will ultimately deliver us from our own self centeredness.  There is a transference of affections from us and our wants to the One who is faithful.  All of this connects to a trust in God that yields rejoicing.  The root is a trust in the good and sovereign nature of God – believing this is the work that we must do.  The byproduct is a truly supernatural peace that transcends our own ability to understand it, reminiscent to Jesus promising rest for the weary soul in Matthew 11:28-29.  This transference of trust and reliance is especially true in the midst of severe difficulty (Paul writes this from prison) and Romans 8 boldly proclaims:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v18), “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (v28), “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v31).  Wrestle in prayer to believe that God is good, that He is sovereign and that He is faithful; the more that we believe this gospel truth, the less anxious we become.

See A profoundly practical way to build belief.

Frustrated & Fruitless?

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:4–5 ESV)

The Apostle once again brings rejoicing back in to focus.  Rejoicing (joy) is a deep contentment, an abiding joy, a soul level happiness that is not dependent upon our circumstances – it has at its root a dependent trust in and reliance upon a good and sovereign God.  All Christians know that they are supposed to be joyful, after all if is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  So why are so few Christians really joyfully?

We may think that it is our responsibility to manufacture joy (and many other traits like love, patience, compassion).  But it is not our responsibility to produce these traits in our lives – we cannot and will not ever be able to manufacture these.  Most Christian’s wear themselves out trying to produce them.  Simply put, we lack the resources on our own to produce good things in our lives.  Joy is a byproduct of something deeper – it is the fruit of something that is happening inside.

So how do we become joyful like the Apostle is admonishing us to be?  Our lack of joy indicates a deeper problem.  We all know, that we can’t just make ourselves joyful.  Lacking joy, indicates a lack of faith (trust) in God which is often times manifested in our believing that we know what is best (though we’d never say it) as if we have ultimate vision and perspective on things or that God is not really after our good.  Do you see that?  We think we are privy to how things really work.  We think we have things all figured out.  We think we know what is best.  We are not convinced that God is really after OUR good.  Our work (and it is work) is to believe that God is good and that He is able to do all that He has promised (Philippians 3:20-21).  The more that we believe this and draw near to Jesus in utter dependance, the more He will produce wonderful things in our lives.  Your role is dependance and faith, His role is producing beautiful things – don’t get those backwards or you’ll be frustrated and fruitless.