The connection between passionate faith and mission
Jesus saved me.
I know some people roll their eyes at such a statement because it sounds too evangelical, too simple, too pithy…but it’s true. I was hopelessly and helplessly lost.
Not that my life was in shambles – I wasn’t on drugs, addicted to alcohol or involved in gang life. I was religiously aware. After all, I was raised in church, attended services, was involved in youth groups and attended a Christian high school.
But I was spiritually dead.
Culturally, I knew how to behave. However, anyone with a spiritual radar would have quickly discerned my lack of spiritual vitality.
The problem with being religious yet spiritually dead is that you possess spiritual information without application or implication, which can result in a deep feeling of hopelessness. Mere spiritual information isn’t a means of transformation, but of condemnation.
I remember having the “hell scared out of me” by movies like Thief in the Night, the precursor to Left Behind. My childhood faith was motivated by fear and created fear-based behaviour. I never understood what it meant to live a Spirit-filled life.
When Jesus saved me, it wasn’t from being a bad person. He saved me from being a dead person. I came alive through his Spirit. Jesus overwhelmed me with his love and goodness, and my life changed from the inside out. Faith moved from obligation to intimacy, from fear to joy. His love washed over me. His acceptance amazed me. His healing freed me.
A passion to share
The more I understand God’s heart for me, the greater my passion for communicating God’s love and truth to others. My passion is fuelled by my awareness of my sin and God’s unmerited transforming grace in my life. I realize I would be helplessly and hopelessly lost without Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf.
So, what’s the connection between passionate faith and mission? Missiologist Ed Stetzer was recently asked which denominations were growing. He said Pentecostal/charismatic groups were growing the most thanks to their belief in the power of the Holy Spirit and the urgency of their message.
“You grow when you think that what you have is so important everyone else needs it – even if there are already other churches,” said Stetzer. “Hence, charismatics see the need for more Spirit-filled churches and are driven by that.”
Paul reminded the Corinthian church that “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).
Christ’s love compels us – or, as the New Living Translation says, “Christ’s love controls us.” If we don’t understand our “lostness,” we won’t appreciate our “foundness” in Christ. Sharing Christ will turn into an act of obligation, rather than a response to God’s love and goodness.
If we minimize our sin, we minimize the importance and power of the cross, resulting in anemic faith and a weak witness. We lose our heart for Jesus and his work in our lives and the lives of others.
A number of years ago, I attended a prayer and fasting retreat with the Alberta conference. During one of our worship times, the Holy Spirit permitted me to feel what God feels for those who don’t know him. I began to weep uncontrollably and experience a pain in my chest that seemed unbearable. It lasted only briefly, but the Spirit’s gift to me in those moments has fuelled my passion to reach those who live apart from Christ.
Some people have asked why we’re focusing so much on reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ instead of other aspects of the gospel such as justice, humanitarian aid, peace and so on. All mission (evangelism, justice, peace, aid, etc.) is rooted in the cross and Christ’s saving work on behalf of humanity. We cannot elevate the ethics of Christ without first understanding our need for the cross of Christ.
Jesus didn’t come to improve society – he came to transform humanity through life in him. By dealing with sin and being filled with the Spirit, God’s people discover their true identity in Christ. We are then capable of being agents of Christ in all spheres of our world.
Are we compelled to be ambassadors for Christ in every kind of ministry endeavour because we’re convinced that Jesus “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”?