The Vision of Jesus
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. There was always something drawing me up: like a tractor beam, some force compelled me to get to the tops of the mountains where perspective is different. The view of the horizon is no longer blocked; the valley comes into sharp relief, and beyond it, the mountains roll gently into the distance like a wavey blue sea.
Life happens in the valleys, but perspective is gained on the mountaintops. It's no surprise that the transfiguration (Mark:1-10) - when Jesus unveiled his glory to his disiples - happend on a mountain top. But as soon as they went down the hill, they encountered demonic interference (Mark 9:14-17). Life is like that: we live amongst pockets of darkness and need to get up to the mountain-tops to gain persepctive.
In the Bible, we see the vision of God for his people described by four key voices: Jesus, John, Peter, and Paul. Jesus had a vision of making disciples; John had a vision of the church gathered in worship, Peter had a vision of a diverse community, and Paul had a vision of living on mission. Together, these form God's vision for his people, the church.
Calling people to follow Jesus.
In Luke 5:27-28, we read the first encounter between Jesus and Levi (Matthew). Levi was a tax-collector, which means he was a collaborator with the foreign occupiers, the Romans. Jesus saw Matthew - he saw that Matthew could be more than he was, different from what he was, and that he had a destiny in God. That's why Jesus told Matthew, simply: 'Follow Me'.
Jesus calls us to share this vision, this destiny of what people can be if they are following Jesus. To be a disciple - to follow Jesus - means that we have a new Lord (Jesus), a new direction (following Him), and a new purpose (his mission). A disciple is a whole-hearted follow of Jesus who lives on Jesus' mission. As a church, our mission is to empower people to follow Jesus into their God-given destiny.
John was entrusted with an amazing vision - a glimpse into heaven (Revelation 7:9-10). What he saw was worship - people from every nation, tribe, people and language gathered around the throne of God, worshipping Jesus.
When we talk about worship, it's much more than 'going to church'. First, worship is a life lived for God (Romans 12:1) and second, a church gathered with God for celebration and encouragement. When we gather for worship, we celebrate God (Psalm 18:2), Christ (Revelation 5:12), and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, I Corinthians 14:26).
When we gather for God's glory, to celebrate Christ, and to encourage each other, the church of Jesus is built up.
Sometimes we want to gather with people just like us; God, however, gave Peter a vision of a diverse church that was not based on ethnicity or cultural preference (Acts 10:9-15). When we use the word community to describe the church, we mean that we share a life lived together - in Christ.
Paul emphasized the sense of together when he described the church as a body in Romans 12:5: 'In Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others'. We don't have the luxury of affiliating only with people like ourselves; God is building us into a body that represents him well in our community.
For some people, mission is something they embrace after they've been following Jesus for a while. Not so with Paul. When repented and believed the good news through his dramatic encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-9), Jesus gave him a mission (Acts 26:16-18). The purpose for which Jesus appeart to him:
- to appoint you as a servant and witness I am sending you
- to open their eyes (Gentiles)
- so that they may turn from darkness to light
- so that they may turn from the power of Satan to God
- so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
That's a reasonably comprehensive mission, and it fits Jesus' own mission statement: 'I have come to seek and save the lost' (Luke 19:10). Jesus himelf links us in with his mission when he says: 'As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you' (John 20:21).
Pulling it all together
In summary, we can say that We exist to honour God by empowering people to follow Jesus in worship, community, and mission. It may not be as glamorous as John F. Kennedy's vision of putting people on the moon, but it's much more important. Like Jesus, God has called us to call others to follow Jesus so that they can experience the life, love, forgiveness, and healing found in Christ. And we do that as we gather for worship, live life together in Christ, and intentionally go on mission to our friends, co-workers, and neighbours.
Life is like that: we live amongst pockets of darkness and need to get up to the mountain-tops to gain persepctive.