by Michael O’Halloran
The gospel reaches beyond geopolitical boundaries, international boarders, and racial bigotry. For it declares that Jesus and His Kingdom are sovereign and rule over the affairs of heaven and earth, both in this world and the world to come—for Christ’s Kingdom has no end! Christ absorbed God’s wrath for sinners and defeated death, as witnessed by His suffering and death on the cross, and completely by His resurrection from the grave. Moreover, we see Jesus seated in heaven at the Father’s side, and we have received the promised Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our citizenship into this eternal Kingdom.
Fact: Nearly 2,000,000,000 (27.9% of the worlds population) people live outside the echo of this good new found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Now, as citizens of an eternal Kingdom, why do we neglect the call and privilege to go into the entire world and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ? The answer is simple, yet very complex: we love our comfortable American lives more than the evidence of the empty tomb. Yes, the empty tomb speaks comfort to our weary souls that our sins are forgiven. As a result, we are justified before a Holy God. But it also speaks to us, as followers, lovers, and citizens of this eternal Kingdom that we are not bound by the fear of death. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead assures us that we will not be held captive by death’s grip, but we will pass from this temporal life into our eternal resurrected bodies, so we shall rule and reign with Christ in His eternal Kingdom!
The gospel message is simple: Jesus died for sinners. Jesus rose from the grave to save sinners, sinners from every tongue, tribe, nation, and people. The gospel of Jesus reached into our own lives, and the lives of our loved ones, and into the lives of our communities. But it doesn’t stop there. It also reached to the ends of earth. Shall we allow the fear of death and the love of temporal and fleeting possessions to hinder us from telling others that live in remote, dark, isolated, and scary places about the good news of Jesus and His eternal Kingdom? Allow the work of Christ, as inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak a word to you about the fear of death:
I would like to encourage us with a brief reflection on the final promise that Jesus gave to His 11 Disciples after he defeated sin and death: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). By laying aside the weights of comfort, materialism, and self-preservation, we advance the good news of the Kingdom to all living creatures, and in going, praying and sending, we are comforted with and promised the very presence of our risen savior!
Being actively involved in spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God calls for self-denial. Perhaps, the denial of purchasing that weekend convertible, or taking that additional vacation, joining that second country club, buying that additional cup of designer coffee, or renovating and expanding your home, so that those monies can be given to support those who have been called to be the front line soldiers of peace. Or perhaps, rising a few minutes earlier and turning off the TV at night to pray for those that are giving and going in the name of our King.
We, as those who have been rescued by God’s Holy Spirit, are to go to all nations willingly, we are to give our money generously, and we are to pray fervently, not to earn God’s favor, but we do these things freely because we have received citizenship into the Kingdom of God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for it is God who works in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure.
Finally, the Kingdom of God is advanced by preaching peace with God through the person and redemptive work of Christ upon the cross! This work was accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection from the dead.
Let me share a quote that might shed some light upon this subject of the Great Commission:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, and divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
The vast and endless sea is Christ, and the closer we are drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit working through the power of the gospel, the more we see the risen and eternal King and His Kingdom. This vision of truth will create in us a desire to see Christ’s glory spread to the ends of the earth. In Christ, God was reconciling a people for Himself from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation.
World evangelism (missions) is not primarily a prescription problem—for we have thousands of papers, conferences, and classes detailing strategy and how to contextualize without being offensive—it is primarily a proclamation problem. For our preaching and teaching must continually be pointing towards Christ and His redemptive work—the vast and endless sea—and in doing so we, the Church, will build a vessel of divine love, mercy, and grace that sails to the four ends of the earth.