Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Pursuit of Short Term Missions by Byron Porter

It's a blessing for me to be able to share this essay with you from a dear friend of mine, Byron Porter. Byron practices what he preaches; he went to the Dominican Republic this summer to share the Gospel there and faithfully shares the Gospel here in the DFW area. Thanks, Byron, for allowing me to post this here. --Jon Speed

Our Pursuit of Short Term Missions

by Byron Porter

In short term missions, we honor Jesus and glorify God by reaching out to the lost. These are people who think they are basically good, not personally responsible, and not held accountable for sin. God is not pleased with the death of the wicked and delights in their salvation. God is glorified (and rightly so) when a hardened sinner is regenerated and heralds the mercy obtained through the gospel of Jesus Christ. How beautiful it is to see sinners converted and how beautiful are the feet of those who share the gospel of God's divine mercy and love toward us, who do not deserve it.

When I was in junior high school, a prayer was said stating that if we (the speakers and hearers) were there at Jesus' time, we would not have crucified Him. The problem with that statement, even though seemingly heartfelt and well intentioned, is that it contradicts with what the Bible says; the entire world is guilty. If we fail to recognize our fallen condition, we elevate ourselves in self-righteousness. We are the ones who put Christ on the cross with our personal sin. We are responsible. How unfortunate to think otherwise, but this is precisely what our world has bought into. However, Christ still came to die for us and we are lost without this perfect display of His love.

A wonderful statement was made in a book that I just finished reading called "The Love of God". The book says, "The tone of God's invitation is not a tone of anger—it is a tone of tenderness. In his invitation is kindness, a desire for friendship and a longing to erase the enmity which now exists between the Lawgiver in heaven and His yet impenitent and unreconciled creatures." God is good, and ready to forgive and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Him (Psalm 86:5). He is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 145:8). God does not love us for what we are, but He loves us in spite of what we are. As a result of this process of being humbled we can be born again. This is the message of short term missions.

So now we are tasked to deliver what Mark 16:20 describes as the “sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation” and we have three helpful yet necessary things to consider. The first to keep in mind is that God gives those He has soundly saved a passion for the lost, at least in the smallest degree. Consider this quote by Charles Spurgeon, "Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that." But, as we are freed from sin's control we yearn to share the gospel, yet we know that no one can come to Christ unless God draws them to Himself. Short term missions can aid you here, in being aware and avoiding spiritual complacency which hinders our growth.

This leads us to the second consideration in short term missions, which is our outlook on the world. We must have a biblical worldview to be able to see and respond through Christian eyes. It is not necessary to be a biblical scholar to give the gospel, but there is so much in this world to influence and distort our perception of truth. Before my conversion, I was familiar with the Word of God and full of theological knowledge, but my heart was blinded by willful unbelief. I was a theologically informed false convert. God has given us the truth about our origin, condition and future in His Word. That truth only becomes obvious when He removes our spiritual blindness.

A third thing to have on hand is a working knowledge of the gospel, at least on a foundational level. We must give the bad news about man's sinful condition (his transgression of God's law) before the good news of the gospel can make sense. Short term missions allow us to show folks they can be freed from the enslavement of sin. Let's point to Jesus, as Luke 1:79 says, that He is, "…to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Jesus sends us out as heralds of the gospel or “light bearers” as the Bible puts it. We are called forth simply to plant the seed.

Listen to what A. W. Tozer says: "Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man. Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him. We pursue God because and only because He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him." And God uses us in short term missions to pursue and save those who are lost.

Going on a short term mission is to have a desire to share the hunger and thirst for God with the lost. In pouring out your lives into the lives of others, God pours out His spirit to fill you, enabling you to do more of the same. This is another facet of spiritual growth in action. Let's not focus on man and his felt needs, but primarily on God and His glory. Do you have that desire (remember Spurgeon’s quote)?

Short term mission trips are a chance to glorify Him and to show how God has been patient with you in commanding repentance and faith in Christ. It is all to make His name great among the nations. Though this is not contingent upon us, we participate in reaping great benefits. It is a sure thing that someone will be saved, even if you see no immediate results, because we know that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will come to Him through Jesus' atonement. In the end, short term mission trips are not primarily for the love of men, but for adoration of God and that His Son receives the full reward for His suffering which He so rightly deserves.

Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society said, "In the mission field, everyone is a potential brother or sister in Christ. God saved us for son-ship and we worship Him out of gratitude." I encourage you to go on missions; knowing that it will cost us all something individually. We are called either to go into the well or hold the rope for those who do. What is it costing you? Are you praying, giving or going? What is your pursuit?

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