Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission!
One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and says, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I remember this verse was used all the time to remind us that Jesus is omnipresent, he’s everywhere which means we’re never alone. You’re going through hard time? Jesus is with you. You’re lonely and having a hard time make friends, keeping friends? Jesus is with you! Having a hard time finding a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. Jesus is with you. Facing an impossible challenge? Jesus is with you! You’re not alone. He’s there to be with you, comfort you, and help you through whatever is standing in the way of your happiness, health, or safety. Yet is that the right way to view what Jesus is saying?
A number of years ago I was reading the context of this verse again, Matthew 28:16-20. For some reason I saw what I never saw before.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
His very next words are:
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission! He’s saying, “I’ve defeated sin and death through my death and resurrection on your behalf. I’ve created you, my church, to bring my salvation to all people. Go and make disciples, everywhere in the world, by baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I’ve told you. Oh, Don’t be afraid, go in confidence that I’m now in charge and have all power and I’m going with you. I’m never going to abandon you while you. I’m on this mission with you until it’s completed at the end of the age.”
Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Jesus is only with us if we’re “on mission” seeking the lost and making disciples. There’s other verses in the bible that talk about God being near to all people and actively present in the lives of those who look to him. However, this specific promise in Matthew 28:20 is given in context of mission.
We’ve started a new church in the last couple years, and are coming to the 1st year anniversary of our corporate weekly worship in September. Since God has called me back to faith, I’ve had a passion to see all people come to the God who has loved me and saved me. Yet in the last couple years, as we’ve given ourselves wholeheartedly to, and have reoriented our lives around, God’s mission, we’ve seen God everywhere.
Every day, I wake up or leave my house and it’s like I’m going on a crazy, epic, adventure. I say to God, “How are you going to show up today? What are you going to do to me, for me, through me for the sake of your kingdom?” What’s amazing is that we are seeing God everywhere as we go with his mission in mind. His fingerprints are evident all over the lives of the people we’re running into. It’s almost like we can see his hands bringing our little missionary band into encounters and relationship with the unbelieving, doubting, and hurting at just the right time. Why is this? Because he has all authority and he’s with us always in a special way when we’re seeking to see others know Him and grow up to be His disciples.
Some Christians live their lives thinking that God has privileged them, that the world and our culture should be fit to bless them and so they engage in the culture wars to make this a “Christian” or “Moral” nation. Some even wrongly believe that God simple wants to bless his people by removing their difficulties and pain and by blessings them with all sorts of good health, a beautiful spouse, a great career, etc.
One day the world will be perfect. Jesus will come down and save his people, his church. He’ll give us perfect health and perfect bodies as he takes away all sickness, pain, and death. He will give pleasure, comfort, security, and peace. He will give us the riches of his Father’s kingdom as we live with our Creator and Redeemer face-to-face. We’ll have everything we’ve truly ever desired and dreamed of because we’ll have him. We’ll have the best life that we could ever dream of because we’ll have him. Yet that’s not what we have now.
It’s almost as if our land has been captured by an enemy power. The true king has come out of exile. He’s liberated our town. We’ve seen him again face-to-face. He’s going to fight for us and His victory will be our victory. Yet he can’t stay. His mission doesn’t end with us. There’s others to be liberated but he invites us to take up arms and follow him. He invites us to join his mission. Those who stay in the village might see him from time-to-time when he returns between skirmishes or if the people are in danger again. Yet those who join him in battle get to see him every day. The get to see Him work and fight for them. They get to witness his awesome power as he fights for them and his passionate love and he sets captives free. This is the calling of the church, his people.
The World doesn’t exist for the Church. It will one day. Yet for now, the Church exists for the World. We exist for the mission. When we’re on mission we’ll see Jesus in ways we have never dreamed as we walk beside him and see him work in and through our lives for the sake of bringing the world back to him.
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