The World Needs Grace
2 ¶ Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison– 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 5 ¶ Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
We seek to be missional in our approach to those who are outside of grace.
Paul, in how he handles his imprisonment and in his words to the church at Colossae, sets forth a picture of what it means to be missional (Intentionally committed to engage those who do not know or misunderstand Jesus.).
What drives his life is captured in the words – “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.”
There is something that has captured his imagination (the mystery of Christ – the gospel in all its wonder of his incarnation, death, resurrection, exaltation, and consummation). But not only has it captured his imagination, it has become a deep conviction worth suffering for. And, despite the suffering, the message is so important that he asks not for freedom or justice, but for open doors for the Word that speaks of this ‘mystery of Christ.’
It is this experience of the gospel that is at the heart of being missional. ‘Missional’ begins when the wonder of what Jesus has accomplished becomes the ‘pearl of great price’ in your imagination.
When the most intriguing thought you have is that of Jesus Christ, when your mind constantly returns to that one great delight of a Merciful Savior, when your conviction deepens that He alone has power to save, when you are sure that the advance of the gospel is worthy of your suffering, you are on your way to becoming missional.
Paul began this great epistle with a gospel-driven missional focus. Listen to the beginning words:
3 ¶ We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing–as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
What a wonderful portrait of the life giving gospel as it bears fruit and grows – both qualitatively in the lives of believers and quantitatively in the number of those who believe.
What does it look like, when the gospel impacts our lives in a missional way?
That Missional commitment will be reflected in at least three ways.
Outward focused prayer
Watchfully – praying with eyes wide open. Too often we are willingly blind and deaf men and women seeking to avoid the cry of the city around us. Being watchful will make us aware of the tragedies of people’s lives apart from grace. That tragedy may be the empty soul of success or the empty soul of being alone.
Thankfully – Outward focused prayer is compelled by gratitude for the gift of God’s grace. Gospel thankfulness will enable us to be watchful without becoming envious of or angry at those who live apart from God’s grace.
Evangelistically – He prays for an open door for the word, that I may speak as I ought (a necessity). Our prayer should be that God would further the advance of the gospel through us, despite the adverse circumstances we may be in (ca. Paul in prison),
Outward focused living
Outside of what? Of Grace – they may be inside the church, they may insiders in much of what we call important in life – but they are outside of grace.
Wisely – i.e living life by God’s design as He has ordered it, beginning with the dear of the Lord (Prov 1:9). This means
living with the following tensions:
- We are in the world not of the world, i.e. we engage the culture without being absorbed by the culture (John 17).
- We are a new community but not an isolated one – we live within the culture but always ‘cross’-cultural in that our identity is ‘we are in Christ’ – Gal 2:20
- We are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20) and ambassadors on earth (2 Cor 5).
We live wisely toward outsiders because we want them to become true insiders.
Sacrificially – ‘making the most of every opportunity’
Older translations, such as the KJV, bring to mind the metaphor of redemption being used. Redemption reminds us of the cost of having something.
Also, the Greek word used here for time views time, not simply as chronological succession of moments, but time as specific moments within that succession, hence the ESV translation “opportunity.”
Certain opportunities come along in life for both personal and corporate ministry that must be responded to in that moment. And, often that costs us something.
“Opportunity is like a fleet horse that pauses for one moment at one’s side. If you do not mount it in that moment, you will forever, here the clatter of hoof-beats, down the corridor of time.”
We do not want to sit back and mourn over the lost opportunities to make a difference for Christ. We can’t go back. We simply ask forgiveness and learn something about our own self-centeredness and reluctance to sacrifice for His kingdom.
Today there are opportunities at this moment, at this very hour, both here in Philly and across the world.
As a church, our special opportunity is to reach the nations of the world throughout the city with all of its density, diversity, and depravity.
Outward focused speaking
“conversation always full of grace” – This is speech that manifests God’s fullness in or lives. Too often Christians are known as being judgmental and condemning. Grace-filled speech comes out of a life that knows it own sin and its own experience of grace. Why be grace-filled? Because God has been full of grace toward you.
“seasoned with salt” – the idea of salt in this context is not preservation, but bringing out the good quality of something – to make it tasty. We have the responsibility of seeking God’s grace to enable our speech to become palatable.
An answer is a response to a question? Perhaps this is where we fail in communicating the gospel. We do not listen to the questions that the world is asking and therefore do not answer accordingly. Let me say that the answer to all of the world’s questions is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to show them how Jesus Christ relates to their questions.
Peter put it this way:
1 Pet. 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
“Grasping the external propulsion of God’s grace is crucial to our understanding of mission. It means that mission is not a duty (something we ‘should do’) but a natural overflow of the gospel’s work inside us. If you aren’t motivated to love, serve, and speak the gospel to people, the answer isn’t to ‘just do it.’ The answer is to examine your heart, repent of sin, and discern where your unbelief is short-circuiting the natural outward movement of the gospel. As the gospel renews your heart, it will also renew your desire to move out in faith into the relationships and opportunities God places in your path.
To put it simply, the grace of God is always going somewhere—moving forward, extending his kingdom, propelling his people toward love and service to others. As we learn to live in light of the gospel, mission should be the natural overflow. God’s grace brings renewal internally (in us) so that it might bring renewal externally (through us).”
Bob Thune and Will Walker, The Gospel-Centered Life (World Harvest Mission, 2009), 46.
Description of the Missional Church (from http://www.friendofmissional.org/)
- The missional church is a collection of missional believers acting in concert together in fulfillment of the missio dei.
- The missional church is one where people are exploring and rediscovering what it means to be Jesus’ sent people as their identity and vocation.
- The missional church is faith communities willing and ready to be Christ’s people in their own situation and place.
- The missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people and adopt a missionary stance in relation to their community.
- The missional church will be engaged with the culture (in the world) without being absorbed by the culture (not of the world). They will become intentionally indigenous.
- The missional church understands that God is already present in the culture where it finds itself. Therefore, the missional church doesn’t view its purpose as bringing God into the culture or taking individuals out of the culture to a sacred space.
- The missional church is about more than just being contextual, it is also about the nature of the church and how it relates to God.
- The missional church is about being — being conformed to the image of God.
- The missional church will seek to plant all types of missional communities.
- The missional church is evangelistic and faithfully proclaims the gospel through word and deed. Words alone are not sufficient; how the gospel is embodied in our community and service is as important as what we say.
- The missional church understands the power of the gospel and does not lose confidence in it.
- The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light.2
- The missional church will align all their activities around the missio dei — the mission of God.
- The missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.
- The missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.
- The missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.
- The missional church will always be in a dynamic tension or paradox between missional individuals and community. We cannot sustain being missional on our own, but if we are not being missional individually we cannot sustain being mission-shaped corporately.3
- The missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.
- The missional church will be totally reliant on God in all it does. It will move beyond superficial faith to a life of supernatural living.
- The missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.
- The missional church gathered will be for the purpose of worship, encouragement, supplemental teaching, training, and to seek God’s presence and to be realigned with God’s missionary purpose.
- The missional church is orthodox in its view of the gospel and scripture, but culturally relevant in its methods and practice so that it can engage the world view of the hearers.
- The missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week.
- The missional church will be a community where all members are involved in learning “the way of Jesus.” Spiritual development is an expectation.
- The missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.
- The missional church is a healing community where people carry each other’s burdens and help restore gently.
- The missional church will require that its leaders be missiologists.