David Platt opened up Revelation and put before me (Nathan) a Sovereign God that you can put your faith in for Tuesday afternoons and devastating phone calls. He stirred me to be jealous for the nations that are His possession. He reminded me that apart from Christ I would weep, but with Him I can rejoice. He left me to wonder at a God, so big, so beautiful, so majestic, that I stood amazed that I get to be a part of His Sovereign plan to bring in His people for His glory. Listen/watch and wonder at a God so Sovereign that you can trust Him for Future Grace. If you want to read a summary of the message, it’s below the video.
One Overarching Truth
A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions.
Three Underlying Premises
This will clarify where we’re going, and maybe even disarm you a bit from objections that may already be rising in your mind and your heart.
(1) Local ministry and local mission are totally necessary.
I am not saying tonight—or advocating at any point—that we should neglect local ministry, in the local church or the local community.
(2) Global missions is tragically neglected.
The northern part of Yemen has 8 million people. That’s twice the population of the entire state of Kentucky. Do you know how many believers there are out of those 8 million people? 20 or 30. There are more believers in a Sunday School class in your church than in all of northern Yemen. Over 2 billion people in the world today are classified as unreached—which means more than “unsaved” but that the gospel is simply not accessible to them.
(3) Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead the way in global missions.
Over 6,000 people groups with over 2 billion people in them are not yet reached with the gospel. This is a problem not for mission boards and mission agencies to address—this is a problem for every pastor and every local church represented in this room to address.
Four Theological Truths From Revelation 5:1-14
(1) Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand.
Revelation 5:1, “I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll. . . .”
Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy:
Almighty God, just because he is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see. Twentieth-century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. . . .
Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. We commonly represent Him as a busy, eager, somewhat frustrated Father hurrying about seeking help to carry out His benevolent plan to bring peace and salvation to the world. . . .Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his hearers, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support.
I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.
(2) The state of man before God apart from Christ is utterly hopeless.
Revelation 5:2, “I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.”
The scroll contains the grand purpose of God in the world. And the silence of heaven testifies to the sinfulness of man. No one is worthy, and John is weeping. There is no hope apart from Christ. The state of the unreached in the world: they haven’t heard of God—and yet they have heard him and seen him (cf. Rm. 1:18-23). They only have enough knowledge to condemn them, but not to be saved.
But you ask, what about the innocent man in Africa? That’s easy – the innocent man in Africa goes to heaven—the only problem is that he doesn’t exist. There are no innocent unreached people in the world. They are guilty before God and thus they need the gospel! There are over 2 billion people in this world at this moment whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell forever. But there is hope!
(3) The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.
“One of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5).
Throughout history, from the beginning of time, men have come and men have gone, women have come and women have gone, all of them, the noblest of them, the kindest of them, the strongest of them, the greatest of them—all of them have fallen prey to sin. All of them—every single man and every single woman—a slave to Satan. All of them—generation after generation, century after century—every single man and every single woman succumbed to death.
But then came another man—unlike any man or woman before. This man did not fall prey to sin; He possessed power over sin. This man was not enslaved to Satan; He was enslaved to righteousness. And this man did not succumb to death; He triumphed over death.
How? By suffering as a lamb.
He was marred / despised / rejected / stricken / smitten / afflicted / wounded / chastised / oppressed/ pulverized in our place—and all who hide under the banner of his blood will be saved. The Lamb of God has not only endured death in our place; he has defeated death by his power. He bears the scars of death, yet he is sovereign over death. The consummation of the kingdom comes through the crucifixion of God’s Son.
(4) The atonement of Christ is graciously, globally, and gloriously particular.
“Four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed/purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Rev. 5:8-10; cf. Eph. 1:4-11)
Our obedience to the Great Commission of Christ is incomplete if we just make disciples. Our commission is to make disciples of all the nations, of all the peoples. Particular atonement drives global missions. So if we believe Revelation 5:9 (if we believe that Jesus died to purchase people from every tribe and tongue and nation), then let us go to every tribe and tongue and nation. Why? Because we feel guilty that we’re reached, that we have all these resources? Aren’t we just “guilting people” into going overseas to the unreached? We feel bad so we go? No.
What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt, it’s glory—glory for a King.
Four Implications of What We Should Do
(1) Let us lead our churches to pray confidently (for the spread of the gospel to all peoples).
Tell them Matthew 24:14. Tell them that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Tell them that, and then lead them to pray for the end to come. Ladd said this verse is “the single most important verse in the Word of God for the people of God today.” “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”
(2) Let us lead our churches to give sacrificially.
God gives his people worldly wealth for the spread of worldwide worship. The sovereign God of the universe has willed for us to be wealthy for the sake of his worship.
(3) Let us lead our churches to go intentionally to all peoples.
We need to have short-term, mid-term, and long-term missions. There’s no question that we see Timothy-type people in the NT and Paul-type people in the NT. God calls Timothy-type people to stay in a church (among the reached) and shepherd the body. God calls Paul-type people to leave the reached and scatter to the unreached.
(4) Let us lead our churches to die willingly.
A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions. Pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.
Romanian pastor Josef Tson recounted a time he was being interrogated by six men. He said to one of them:
What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. This is an encounter between my God and me. . . . My God is teaching me a lesson [through you]. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God. Every day I saw those six pompous men as nothing more than my Father’s puppets!
During an early interrogation I had told an officer who was threatening to kill me, “Sir, let me explain how I see this issue. Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Here is how it works. You know that my sermons on tape have spread all over the country. If you kill me, those sermons will be sprinkled with my blood. Everyone will know I died for my preaching. And everyone who has a tape will pick it up and say, ‘I’d better listen again to what this man preached, because he really meant it; he sealed it with his life.’ So, sir, my sermons will speak ten times louder than before. I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.” After I said this, the interrogator sent me home. Another officer who was interrogating a pastor friend of mind told him, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.” I stopped to consider the meaning of that statement. I remembered how for many years, I had been afraid of dying. I had kept a low profile. Because I wanted badly to live, I had wasted my life in inactivity. But now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the Gospel, they were telling me they would not kill me! I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted, knowing I was safe. As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.
So, let us be finished and done with puny theology that results in paltry approaches to missions in our churches. Let us believe deeply in the sovereign God of the universe who holds the destiny of the world (and our lives) in the palm of his hand. Let us see the hopeless state of man before God apart from Christ, and let us lead our churches to pray, to give, and to go to unreached peoples with the greatest news in all the world.
We have been saved by a graciously, globally, gloriously particular sacrifice, so let us lead our churches and let us give our lives—let’s lose them, if necessary—for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and the accomplishment of Christ’s commission.
And let’s not stop until the slaughtered Lamb of God and sovereign Lord of all receives the full reward of his sufferings.
(HT: Justin Taylor)