The question that I want to ask this morning is, “How does our mission statement and idea work in conjunction with this vision we believe God has laid out for us, namely, to be a channel?” I want to answer this question by looking to the text that drove this idea into our hearts several months ago.
Let me remind you of the purpose for which we believe we exist, our mission, which is “To present every man complete in Christ, being empowered by His Spirit and sustained by His grace, in order that God may be glorified above all things.”
Now, let me break this apart and show you where in this text of Scripture each segment of this mission statement is found.
To present every man complete in Christ…
Verse 29 reads, “And for this purpose also I labor…” Therefore, we see that Paul has a purpose, a vision. What is it? It is found in verse 28. “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, in order that we may present every man complete [perfect, mature] in Christ.” This purpose which Paul gives for all his labor and striving is that he may present men complete in Christ. So it was Paul’s mission.
Then look at verse 22. “Yet He [Jesus] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” On man’s end, the purpose of Christ atoning for their sins was that He might present them holy, blameless, and beyond reproach [i.e. complete/mature/perfect]. So it was Christ’s purpose toward men as well.
Therefore, if Paul and Christ had a similar purpose and vision in ministry, then we should make it ours as well. And we have. But there is more to our mission statement.
…being empowered by His Spirit…
We then add that everything we do toward this purpose is to be done as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. This also is shown in this passage. In verse 29, Paul says, “And for this purpose also I labor, according to His power, which mightily works within me.” And we see that Paul labored toward such a purpose in the strength which God supplied through His Holy Spirit.
Also, in 1 Peter 4:11, the Scripture reads, “Whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies …” Therefore, we are commanded that whatever we do is to be done by His the strength which Jesus Christ provides through His Holy Spirit.
…and sustained by His grace…
We also note that our purpose is not only to be accomplished in the strength which God provides but as we are sustained by His grace. This has a two-fold built-in reminder for us. 1) It reminds us that we are to remain humble before Him, because we are who we are and can do what we can do only because of His grace, and 2) it encourages us that his grace will be there until our purpose reaches completion on that final day.
Was this an important concept in the Scripture? Yes. In every one of Paul’s letters He begins and ends with a phrase. The phrase with which he begins every epistle is “Grace to you” (Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Phil. 1:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:2, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3). And the phrase with which he ends every epistle is “Grace be with you” (Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 16:23, 2 Cor. 13:14, Gal. 6:18, Eph. 6:24, Phil. 4:23, Col. 4:18, 1 Thess. 5:28, 2 Thess. 3:18, 1 Tim. 6:21, 2 Tim. 4:22, Titus 4:22, Philemon 25).
In this epistle to the Colossians we find the phrases in 1:2 and 4:18, respectively.
Why would Paul write that? Was it some kind of literary thing he thought just sounded neat and wanted to put? I don’t think so. Rather, I think he was communicating an idea that he thought was crucially important to remember in everything you do in life. The idea is what we have just mentioned: that it is only because of God’s grace to you that you are who you are and able to do what you can, and also, that when you are overwhelmed with the challenge that lies before you and think you are unable, you can hold on to the fact that God’s grace will always be with you.
Therefore, this phrase is in our mission statement not simply to take up space and sound fancy, but to remind us of the truth of God’s grace: toward us and with us.
… in order that God may be glorified above all things.
And finally our purpose yields itself to the ultimate purpose: that God may receive glory. We ensure this happens because of the very nature of our purpose.
If we are constantly recognizing our dependence on the grace of God, then we will be reflecting glory to God in everything that we, through that grace, accomplish. Also, this is the result of working according to His power. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “Whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” And when men are presented before the Father, it will be because they are “in Christ” and to His glory that they will be found perfect or complete.
Therefore, once again, our mission is “To present every man complete in Christ, being empowered by His Spirit and sustained by His grace, in order that God may be glorified above all things.”
Let me elaborate a little more on why we (and Paul) use the word, “complete” as opposed to simply “converted” or something to that effect. The reason is this: salvation is a lifelong process that begins with a sinner placing his faith in Christ and ends with the believer standing before God, complete in Christ.
One mistake we make often, (and I’ve made often) is that we think of salvation as being very punctillar. That is, we think of salvation as simply occurring at one point. I might say for example, “I was saved on Nov. 22, 1987.” However, Scripture seems to view salvation as a process that stretches over one’s entire life, going from initial saving faith to the end. One person has said, “I have been saved, am being saved, and will be saved.” And I think such a statement is accurate.
Therefore, if someone has believed on Christ at some point in the past, it will show in the individual continuing to believe on Him until the very end. Let me show this to you in our passage this morning. Look at verses 22-23. Paul writes of Christ, “Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard …”
He says that Christ “has reconciled you” (perfect tense) and yet will only present you holy “if indeed you continue in faith.” So, what he’s getting at, I believe, is that salvation is not simply a past point, but a continual process throughout one’s life that is brought about as a gift of God’s grace to us through faith (also a gift from God).
Do you remember in Brownsville, when I mentioned William Carey, the Father of modern missions? In Carey’s situation, there was a truth that was incorrectly understood by an individual. As Carey stood in the midst of the congregation, he said that he wanted to go preach the gospel to the people of India to which one man responded by telling him to sit down, saying “If God wants to save those people, He will save them.” Carey responded by going to preach the gospel, believing that God would save them through his preaching of the gospel.
It was true that if the people were going to be saved, then God would be the one saving them, but it is also true that God uses men speaking the gospel as the means by which God saves men.
Now think about Paul in Acts 18. He was attempting to preach the gospel to the Corinthians (before they were converted), and they were unreceptive and were beating him and throwing him out of the city. Then God tells Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”
What’s interesting about this is that the command God gives Paul is to go on speaking the gospel. And the reason He gives is, that He has (present tense) many people in this city. Isn’t that similar to the situation with William Carey. If God tells someone that He has people in a city, then that means that the individuals are going to be saved. They are going to be called by Him to Himself for salvation. But God doesn’t tell Paul that, implying, “Therefore, you should just quit because I’ll do it.” Rather, He tells him to, therefore, keep on speaking the gospel.
Why? I believe because He understood that though salvation is the work of God, He uses His people to accomplish that purpose. In other words, if you share the gospel this afternoon with a man, and he makes a genuine profession of faith, it was because God saved him, giving him gifts of faith and repentance, but it will also be true that God worked through you to call that child to Himself.
Now, let me go back to the thought that salvation is a continual process. If an individual is truly converted by God and they believe on Christ for salvation, then what is true about the individual? One thing that’s true is that if the individual is truly saved, then he or she will endure until the end. He or she will be raised up in that last day.
John 6:38-40 reads, “For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on that day.”
Therefore, all who are truly born again will be raised up on that day. And if Scripture says that only those who endure to the end will be saved (which it does) then we can, therefore, say that all those who are truly born again will endure to the end because Christ, Himself, will endure them to the end and raise them up on that final day.
So, it is the work of God that gives men faith and saves them, and yet men come to God by deciding to come to Him (which all of us who are Christians did). And it is also true that men who are saved must endure until the end, but they will be endured until the end by God. Then it is also true that though the complete process of salvation is the work of God, we have a responsibility in it.
Why is it then that we do not focus on God using us to bring salvation to someone (in the sense of completion)? For I think Matthew 28:19-20, among other passages, demands it.
We must, and we will, do it in the manner that Paul did, and in the manner that Christ did: through teaching, prayer, admonishing, and more. For only if men are heading toward completion in Christ will they be equipped for the ministry in which God will use them. But, if we are going to be a channel, then we need to be willing to be used of God, seeing the big picture and purpose for which we are striving. If it were simply conversion in a puncitillar sense, then we should all just focus on people making a profession of faith. And our whole service should be geared around speaking to lost men, and that’s what many churches do. Therefore, we have a situation where 100 people may make professions of faith and yet only 10% of them are found to be enduring a few years later. And we claim they are saved when Scripture says a good tree is known because it is bearing good fruit.
Rather, we should focus on completion, seeing the big picture of salvation until the very end.
Therefore, because salvation is a continual process, then every time that I preach to those who have made professions of faith and I speak something that calls you to love God more and to continue to live by faith in His grace, then it is a “salvation” message.
Our individual and church-wide purpose needs to be, “To present men complete in Christ, being empowered by His Spirit and sustained by His grace, in order that God may be glorified above all things.” And I praise God that He has led us to that very purpose.
We will return to this passage next week and look more exactly at what this entails for us. May God’s grace be with you this day and this week. Amen.