Monday, February 14, 2011

Being Sent

Recently I was teaching on the book of Romans and coming to chapter 10, I was struck by the importance of being sent.
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:13-17

Many times we use this passage to emphasize the importance of preaching to spread the Gospel and that is valid and important. Really, though, to start at preaching is to forget the first link in the chain – which is being sent. John the Baptists ministry begins as stated in John 1:6, “there was a man sent from God…” The message He preached which opened the hearts of many to receive the coming Christ – so much so that many of Christ’s disciples started by following John and some of the seeds he sowed were still bearing fruit 20 years or more after his death (Acts 18:24-19:5). All of this was made possible because he was sent from God.

In order to be sent from God one must first be with God. John’s message was received in his time with God and he went in God’s power because in a real sense he was sent from God. Isaiah’s largest portion of ministry followed his having an encounter with God and being sent from Him (Isaiah 6). It is as a message is received from God in our time spent with Him that we can be sent with it out into the world.

Looking at history even secularists see fitted men with tailor-made messages for the times that they lived in. The Reformation was the result of a man with a message – Luther with justification by faith – prepared for his age and with circumstances to aid in its spread all prepared by God – in this case the invention of the printing press and the invasion of the Turks are the two main ones.

In the midst of the dissolution of the Roman Empire and barbarian invasion, men like Salvian were sent to reprove the sins that brought God’s judgment, and to bring a message of hope that as the Gospel was planted in these new nations it could bring more fruit than it had in the Roman Empire. In so doing he not only fulfilled a need in his own day, but supplied pulpit material for generations of French preachers, including Bossuet and Saurin.

In his youth, John Wesley was the inheritor of two previous generation’s prayers and burden for revival, and strove to preach and live rightly, but it was only after his own personal experience of the saving power of Christ that he was made fit to be sent in the true sense and when he was sent the results began to follow. It is also worth noting that shortly before his conversion experience his father had told him on his deathbed to seek for the assurance that is God’s gift to the saved and to seek until he had it, he then told Charles Wesley that though he would not see the revival he had long prayed for, yet Charles would. Sometimes the hopes and prayers of several generations can be awaiting the man who will meet with God and be sent from Him.

The word we often translate as “sent” is apostello in Greek, which has the thought of not only being sent out but also being separated. Paul could write In Romans 1:1 that he was set apart for the Gospel of God. To be sent in the fullness of the meaning of that word, implies a wholehearted giving of oneself to the mission with which one is entrusted. John’s sending involved not only preaching, but also a lifestyle unique to him (not prone to be imitated either) that reinforced the message he preached. Paul’s lifestyle also opened doors for him as he was willing to be a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles. To be truly sent thus involves more than even obtaining the right message from God and being willing to speak it, but also living in a way that drives the message home and opens the hearts of the hearers. The Hebrew prophets of old, especially Hosea, Isaiah and Ezekiel, were their message in many instances, and more modern men like Hudson Taylor have done similar things in comparatively recent times.

Let us be sent so that we may preach. As we preach people may hear, and as they hear they may believe. As they believe they will respond, and we will see a harvest. May God send forth labourers into His vineyard! Amen.