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God’s primary purpose for the world is that his name would be glorified as he is worshipped and enjoyed by all nations. But often we don’t commend and cherish God like we should because we cherish idols in his place. Only as we learn to repent of our idolatry and draw near to Christ in faith will his streams of living water flow through us – for his sake and for the nations.
“We do not commend him because we do not cherish him. Worship is both the goal and the fuel of missions.” – John Piper
Vision for the Glory of God
God takes pleasure in pouring out His blessings on those who will dare to align their life purpose more with His. This raises one of the most important and ancient questions of the ages: “What is God’s purpose for the world?”
Jesus gives us a wonderful glimpse into God’s overarching purpose for the world when he taught his disciples how to pray. Jesus said,
“Pray then in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be your name” (Matt 6:9-10).”
Here we learn from Jesus that God’s primary purpose in the world today is that His Name would be Hallowed or Glorified.
Here Jesus is echoing the Psalmist in Psalm 86:9 who writes, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.”
Here we learn that the purpose of God for the world is NOT merely that a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation would know His forgiveness. But that He would also be worshipped, glorified and enjoyed by all nations. In John 4:23, Jesus paints a picture of God the Father as One who is actually in hot pursuit, seeking after true worshippers from all nations.
Author John Piper builds the case that a truly biblical understanding of God’s mission in the world can only be ours when we understand that “Worship is both the goal and the fuel of missions.” Piper writes, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”
The only reason missions exists today is because there are still human hearts and conglomerations of human hearts, called nations, where the true worship of God does not yet exist.
So why is it that so few of us today have a vision for God’s glory that births a passion to see all the nations worship Him and be glad in Him? Why is it that most of us cringe and feel nauseated when we just think about commending Christ to our neighbor across the street?
Piper answers the question by writing, “You cannot commend what you do not cherish.” When you truly cherish something you can’t keep from commending it.
When you find a type of food you love-you commend it to others. The same is true of a great book, or song.
No one has to tell you to commend it to others. You don’t need to hear a series of messages to make you feel guilty and remind you of your duty to commend it. You commend it because you cherish it. You delight in it so you want others to delight in it as well.
And so it is in our relationship with God. If we are not commending Him–either across the street or around the world–let’s just face it, the reason is simple–it’s because we do not really cherish Him.
So what should we do?
One very important key to answering this question is found in Psalm 86:8, which reads, “Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.”
Here, in the same breath in which the Psalmist refers to the nations coming to God and worshipping Him, we find him referring to other gods, to the concept of idolatry, renouncing his trust in idols and affirming his trust in the only living God.
The true reason we don’t commend Christ more is because we don’t really cherish him. And the reason we don’t cherish him is because we’re cherishing idols in our hearts instead.
God has created us in his image as worshippers. This means we are always worshipping something, whether we realize it or not. This is why we should always see the essential character of our sin as heart idolatry.
Now the modern idols that capture our hearts’ affection today are not normally graven images of the ancient world. Idolatry is simply making something or someone other than Jesus Christ our ultimate source of happiness or fulfillment—our true source of security and significance.
For some it is approval, reputation, or what the world defines as success. For others it is comfort or control, pleasure or power. For some it is possessions, or sexual pleasure, or financial security or having a secure, meaningful relationships.
Idols can be good things like making good grades, even making a Kingdom impact, or being in a meaningful relationship. Whatever it is, without this we believe we cannot be happy and our lives will be meaningless.
Pastor and author Tim Keller writes: “Whatever we ultimately live for has great power over us. If someone blocks our idol from us, we can be enraged with anger. If our idols are threatened, we can be paralyzed with fear. If we lose our idol, we can be driven into utter despair.”
This is because the idols we worship give us our sense of value or vindication. And when we allow the affections of our hearts to be captured by such idols, the outcome is always the same- -a lack of cherishing God and cherishing His purposes for the world.
So how, practically, can we begin to cherish Christ more so that we can begin to commend Him to others with greater power? Through ongoing repentance and faith in the Gospel.
What do I mean by that?
In repentance we must learn to identify and keep turning away from those things that steal our heart’s affection away from God. We stop merely pursuing the Kingdom and start pursuing first and foremost the King. We stop merely pursuing the Truth of God and start pursuing first and foremost the God of Truth. In repentance we keep pulling our heart affections off of our idols.
And in faith we must learn how to keep placing those same affections on to Christ in worship. In faith we learn to see him as being more attractive than all our idols. In so doing God starts becoming more and more supreme in the affections of our hearts. Only then will the idea of evangelism and missions no longer be a dreadful duty but a life-giving opportunity for us to commend to others the reality of the love of the living Christ whom we cherish.
We learn from both the pages of Scripture and history that an awakening to world mission almost always begins with the heart-felt repentance from God’s people. People who are humble and courageous enough to admit that the fire that once burned brightly in their hearts for Christ and His Kingdom has grown dim.
These are the rare kinds of leaders who then stop seeing God merely as useful and begin seeing God as beautiful—those who understand that worship is not only the goal of missions but also the fuel.
Jesus said, “If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37,38)
As you begin to turn away from your idols in repentance and turn to Jesus Christ in faith–know that God has promised you will not only have your deep thirst quenched but streams of living water will begin to flow through you, not merely for your sake, but for His sake and for the sake of the nations.
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