Happy Mission Presupposes Happy Christians
There is a kind of mission that can be carried out by miserable Christians, and though it may be doctrinally correct and carefully organized, it will only reflect the emptiness in their own hearts. Christians who don’t enjoy God can’t and won’t wholeheartedly commend him to others. If we fear that God’s love for us is reluctant or that his approval rests on our performance, we won’t feel any real affection for him, our service will be grudging, and the world will likely see through us. At the heart of happy Christianity is knowing God rightly, which means beginning all our thinking with Jesus Christ.
Step into the Light
Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). The truth of God is naturally hidden from the world in the closed loop of relationship between the Father and the Son, and none of us can guess our way in. Only the Son, the one who knows the Father, can open this knowledge to us. Anyone can come to know the living God and find rest in him, but it is uniquely to Jesus they must come.
In this concise version of God Shines Forth, Daniel Hames and Michael Reeves urge Christians to grow in their knowledge and enjoyment of God—as they know God more, they will be spurred on to authentic service through missions and evangelism.
John calls Jesus “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). Here we meet a very common scriptural theme: that of the Son enlightening us. Paul does the same in 2 Corinthians 4 when he speaks of “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (John 1:4). Indeed, he writes that “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (John 1:6).
Time and again, Scripture is clear that sinful humanity languishes in unknowing darkness, but that the work of Jesus is to be the light in the dark rooms of our hearts and minds, showing us the Father.
Source and Beam
Since Jesus is himself God—the eternal Son of the Father—he is God with us. Not an expert lecturer or detailed commentator we may learn from, but God in person, reaching out to us to be known by us.
The writer to the Hebrews describes Jesus as the “exact imprint” or perfect representation of God to us, and also “the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb. 1:3). To speak of Jesus as the “radiance” of God’s glory is to say that Jesus is not a light directed at some other subject, like a flashlight pointed at your shoes in a tent at night. Radiance, like the sun and its beams, speaks of something—or someone—that, by nature, shines out and gives light. In other words, it is not that God is hiding in the dark and we must enlist Jesus to help us seek him out. Rather, God himself is the source of that light that comes to us in Christ. Put another way, the light that shines on us in Jesus is the light of the Father. The Father and the Son are one being, one God. The eternal life of God is the Father begetting his Son in the Holy Spirit. What we see in Jesus is not peripheral to the being of God. No, the Father, radiating his Son, shines like the sun in the sky and, by those beams, communicates himself to us. In the radiance of Jesus, we not only are learning something about God but are receiving God himself.
Jesus, the Glory of God
Jesus is the glory of God: the very outshining radiance of his being Scripturally, glory has to do with the “weight” or “copiousness” of something—its sheer, unmissable presence, especially in bright, shining splendor. For Jesus Christ to be the “radiance of the glory of God” is for him to be the weight or the substance of God impressed upon us, beaming on us, given to us.
The Father, radiating his Son, shines like the sun in the sky and, by those beams, communicates himself to us.
When John went with Peter and James up the mountain and saw the Lord transfigured (Matt. 17:1–5), amid all the brightness and light, what is trumpeted most clearly is the Father’s complete approval of his Son. Nothing and nobody else could more completely unveil, display, and thus please God the Father. In Jesus, we see the very being of God shining forth on us. He shows us a God who is fundamentally outgoing, outshining, and self-giving. He wants to be known by us, to be with us, even possessed by us, so that we will call him our God (Jer. 31:33).
If someone were to ask us, “What is God like?” the answer must be “Jesus Christ.” And this is the beating heart of mission. God’s glory—his own naturally overspilling life, seen in his Son—is mission’s rationale and its motor. In whatever sense mission is about our going out into the world to make God known, it is only ever our being caught up in the already gushing tide of blessing that flows from the heart of the Father in the Son.
Those who bask in the sunshine of this loving and generous God are the happiest Christians and the happiest missionaries. Seeing in Jesus what our God is really like causes us to shine like him. We come to share his great heart’s desire that his love, goodness, and righteousness would bless all the world.
But we haven’t said all that must be said about the glory of God. We haven’t yet said everything that must be said about Jesus. There is a strange but brighter brightness we still need to unveil: his death for us.
This article is adapted from What Fuels the Mission of the Church? by Daniel Hames and Michael Reeves.
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