Monday, January 5, 2015

One Word

If you had only one word to answer the question, "What does the Church say to the world?" what word would it be?


Or perhaps "Repent?"

In Revelation 22, the church, the lovely bride of Christ, does have a single powerful word to say, "Come."

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (Revelation 22:17)
"Come" is the word that the Spirit says as he calls all the world to receive life.  "Come" is the word in the mouth of those who have heard the word of God.  And "Come" is the call of the church. 

Of all the church's many missions, this is the most crucial. As much as it will not do for the church to proclaim any less than the full counsel of God on any matter moral or doctrinal, this corrective proclamation is not THE mission.  The mission is to beat the bushes and invite the world to come.   

And Jesus illustrated this powerfully. He spent a lot of time preparing the disciples to become the teaching, praying, evangelizing leaders of the new church.  He sent them out in pairs to announce the kingdom (Luke 10).  He preached and interpreted parables for them so they could remember and share his words (Matthew 13).  He took some of the most promising evangelists (think of Andrew calling Peter or Phillip challenging Nathaniel to "Come and see!") and made them apostles (John 1:35-51, Matthew 10:1-15).  And before he left them, he gave them a mission: to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to obey the commandments (Matthew 28:18-20).  Jesus spent 3 years with his disciples teaching them to make disciples: he called them to call to the world: Come.

'Whosoever will let him take the water of life freely' - - 1180947 
The word from John's Revelation, come, hearkens back to previous invitations.  Jesus offered the woman at the well in Samaria the water of life free for the asking (John 4:10-15). It was the same offer that the Lord made to his people in Isaiah 55:1-5: "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost..." (Isaiah 55:1). Isaiah further promised that when the Lord's house was established the people who accepted the invitation would invite others with these words, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." (Isaiah 2:3 see also Micah 4:1-4).  Not to mention the many invitations of the Psalmists to come to worship (Take the 95th Psalm for an example).

Yet "come" is a word we hear to rarely these days.  I don't know if we are so dismayed by the moral decay around us that all we can shout is "DON'T!" or if we are so terrified of the weight of negative public opinion that all we can whisper is "repent?"  Perhaps we simply have lost our willingness to believe that those around us are thirsty.

Coming to live in America far north of the Bible belt, I was aware of the discouraging stereotype. In your neighborhood too the odds can be daunting.  We call "come," and many will say "no thanks," and a wealth of excuses will follow.  God has been rejected before, and he continued to invite those who have nothing to offer a place at his table (Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:16-24).

So to how many people do we need to smile and mention our faith, our church, our Savior before one person becomes a Christian?

Does it matter?

I would never suggest that it is anything less than imperative, a life and death situation, that the church be as persuasive as possible.  Souls are literally at stake.  Yet we must accept that our mission is to call; others decide how to respond.  God was rejected by the people he redeemed. Jesus himself had his call unanswered, his person rejected, his love thrown away (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 8:31 Luke 22).  Surely we are no better than our Master; we will be rejected sometimes too.

Yet if we were once thirsty, if we received that water without cost, if we are part of the church and the Spirit of God lives inside us, we have no choice.  We must accept the church's great mission and call to the world, "Come!"
But how?  That is the subject for upcoming posts.  We'll be talking about the fundamental things we need to understand about evangelism, practical "quickstart" guide to evangelism and sharing the personal stories of some sisters who came to God as adults.  It's not enough to feel guilty for not evangelizing enough; we have to follow through and act!


No comments:

Post a Comment