The Driving Force Behind Missions
by Ron Pearce
There are few absolutes in the world, but this is one—the Bible clearly states that only those who know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will have eternal life in Heaven. Anyone not making this choice will spend eternity separated from God’s presence—in Hell. These are the facts from the Word of God and they are indisputable.
Empower Ministries International and many other missions organizations are based upon this foundational truth. When an individual has a clear understanding of this fact, it then becomes the engine that drives a passion for missions and ministry in their lives until the day they pass into eternity.
Concern for Lost Souls
What a tremendous hour to be alive in human history! We are witnessing the unparalleled expansion of the Church on a global scale, even in the shadow of widespread terrorism, wars, and persecution of the Church, which is also unmatched in history. Jesus’ promise to build His Church in the face of all satanic opposition is being fulfilled. Millions are turning to Him as Savior each year in countries that previously were impervious to the Gospel. It is a privilege to be part of this great end-time harvest.
Sadly though, there are Christians (or at least churchgoers) who are separated from the mighty move of God transpiring throughout the world. They coast through life, attending church and hopefully maintaining some sort of spiritual relationship with God. But, the passion and excitement they once had for Jesus and the Christian life are a mere memory. Instead, their passion comes alive in the pursuit of personal advancement and their excitement is ignited by what they possess.
The peril of those who do not know Christ as Savior slips by them in their quest for an immediate fulfillment of happiness.
If these words have struck a nerve in your spirit, then the following message is a word of encouragement and hope for you. To have a cause—to be on a mission for God—is the absolute fulfillment of life on this earth as God intended it.
Where Missions Began
Most people assume that “missions” was launched with the utterance of the Great Commission or with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
But it is my firm belief that “missions” was born prior to this. Actually, only one week before Jesus was crucified on the Cross. It was then that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was then that Jesus approached the city from the east, and He wept over it and impassionedly cried out to the people of Israel with these words:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
Reaching the lost with the Gospel cannot be driven by a command or a formula. It begins with a heartfelt cry for those who are blind and heading towards eternal destruction. Missions is as much an emotionally driven compulsion as an intellectual issue. When we truly see the plight of our neighbors across the street, or across the world as Jesus did, then the Holy Spirit will spark a fire within us that will continue to burn unabated. It is a godly fire that contains both passion and compassion. It is only then that we can no longer sit still and remain complacent.
The Common Thread
We read of the great missionary pioneers—Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, William Carey and many others—and see in the story of their lives and ministries a common thread that kept them focused and motivated. Many criticized them for working too hard, but the passion they possessed to see people accept Christ pushed them on. They understood the judgment and eternal punishment awaiting those who do not commit their lives to Christ, and they labored tirelessly, following Jesus’ example.
Our Lord taught His disciples what motivated Him in ministry; what energized Him through the hard times. It was nothing less than the Holy Spirit. He was empowered by the Spirit of God who came to rest upon Him beginning at His baptism. Following that event, He remained focused and sustained by His driving passion for the lost, while being empowered by the Spirit. He taught us that physical food sustains our bodies, but spiritual food feeds and energizes our souls.
But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”
Jesus tied these four concepts together: spiritual food, the will of His Father, the Father’s work, and the Great Commission.
This is important for believers to grasp—evangelism is the will of our heavenly Father. If Christians do not actively participate in winning the lost, we will starve spiritually. The will of His Father and the work of Jesus were the same—to save sinners. That needs to be our motivation as well.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Jesus foresaw what lay behind the curtain of death. He knew the peril that His creation faced and was focused on this one objective of providing salvation through His life, and death on the Cross. Nothing could deter or distract Him although Satan tried repeatedly.
Lessons from the Temptation of Christ
At the beginning of His ministry and immediately following His baptism, Jesus found Himself in the wilderness of Judea, enduring 40 days of fasting. After this ordeal, He was physically weakened to the point of total exhaustion. It was then that Satan presented to Him alternatives to the sacrificial death that He knew lay ahead, described in Luke 4:1-13. Likewise today, Satan offers “alternatives” to the Body of Christ. Jesus realized His decision and potential compromise would affect the well-being of billions of souls for all eternity. In the exact same way, we too must understand that our decisions and our level of commitment have far-reaching ramifications that affect the lives of all those around us and around the world.
1. Seeds of Doubt
The devil began by taunting Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus responded by quoting Scripture because the Word of God is the only foundation we have in this world for understanding what truth really is. By responding as He did, Jesus was exposing Satan’s guile and distortion of the truth. Likewise, if believers are to withstand temptations and stay on God’s course for their lives, they must rely on the Scriptures to be their guide. The Word of God is always the believer’s final authority on what is true and false.
Satan’s goal was to plant seeds of doubt—Are you really the Son of God? Today, the devil continues to sow seeds of doubt, lulling people into a state of apathy saying, “You don’t really believe that some people will go to Hell, do you?” If the devil can convince Christians that Hell does not exist, then the motivation for missions also does not exist. Truth can only be understood by knowing Jesus, the One who knows what lies beyond the grave. The more that Christians study and fully understand the Word of God, the greater will be our firm conviction that Jesus was telling the truth about life and death issues, and that there is no other way to Heaven but through Him. The more we, as a North American Church, eagerly devour and digest the Word of God, the less effective the devil’s seeds of doubt will be.
2. Distorting the Nature of God
In Christ’s second temptation, Satan attempted to put Jesus in a situation to test or question God’s love and care for His Son. In the same way, Satan attempts today to have Christians question the overall plan and rules which God has laid down for mankind. The most pervasive and deadly modern doctrine that distorts the nature and plan of God, one that is crippling the ongoing work of the Church, is the teaching of Universalism. This belief states that God cannot send anyone to Hell because of His overwhelming, all-consuming love. Followers of this teaching believe that those who accept Christ will be saved and those who don’t accept the Son as Savior, having some other religious belief, will equally be delivered from eternal pain and suffering.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This teaching totally nullifies the work of the Cross and invalidates any mission activity. Why preach salvation in Jesus alone (Acts 4:12) if everyone will be saved, regardless of our actions or inactions? The teaching of Universalism is not scriptural and has the potential to rob believers in Christ of any purpose for their lives and ministries. We must never test the Lord by questioning His unconditional love or His judgment of sin.
3. Wealth, Comfort and Fame
Satan tempted Christ a third time by offering Him all the wealth of the kingdoms of the world. Without hesitation, Jesus refused his offer. And there is a tremendous lesson to be learned from this encounter. Jesus rejected the offer of power and riches because He was convinced of His mission to save the lost, and was committed to fulfilling it. He would not be diverted from His course by worldly enticements. He would not take the easy way out and circumvent the Cross. Whether a person is rich or poor, famous or just the “average Joe,” each of us is faced with temptations of wealth and power at varying levels. The real question is “How do we, as Christians, handle the blessings of God that Satan puts before us as temptations?”
Today, Christians are struggling with the distractions of wealth and position, and not only in North America. In the large urban areas of China, where the economy is booming (as is the growth of the Church) and the attainment of wealth is paramount, young Christians, who are flocking to the cities for employment, are also being caught up in Satan’s deception. They struggle in their faith because the enticement of materialism is so strong. This is by far the greatest stumbling block for the Church today in any country. But we must respond as Jesus did. Only a life fully convinced of the spiritual riches of God housed in Heaven can overcome the temptation of physical riches here on earth. Only a believer with a bondservant mentality of gratefully accepting whatever material blessings the Master provides—either big or small—will be able to conquer this temptation.
Jesus was not sidetracked by these inducements of the devil and neither should we be. He experienced victory over the enemy by standing firm on God’s Word. With a clear and unwavering goal of redeeming sinful humanity, He set out to fulfill His mission in life with great joy.
Discovering a Clear Direction
My last year of Bible school in Saskatchewan, Canada, began in the fall of 1973. Every Friday evening, the entire student body was required to attend a missionary meeting. But on one particular night, a man of God delivered an address that changed many of our lives dramatically. The man was Dr. L. L. King and his sermon was called, “The Lostness of Man—One Motivation for Evangelism.”
The students and staff hung on every word as he spoke with passion and conviction. The Holy Spirit was present in a powerful way to drive home the message and place a decision before us. It was like God revealed His heart to us that evening. From that moment on I knew what my life was about. Any questions I had regarding my purpose and direction had been answered in that one hour. I vividly remember walking out of that chapel with a burden that I determined I would never put down until I entered Heaven. It was on that day that this verse came alive to me:
Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
Luke 9:23 NLT
I had studied the biblical theology concerning the saved, the lost, the resurrection, and the judgment. But as Dr. King expounded on these subjects that evening, the message cut me like a knife. My understanding was enlarged as if the eyes of my spirit were open for the first time. The vivid imagines he shared have never left me. More powerfully than any other sermon I had ever heard, it summarized the desperate and hopeless plight of the lost. Following are some of the realities that came alive to me that evening—the truths that forever impacted my life.
Understanding the Eternal Situation
God’s Word is crystal clear. There will be a resurrection and a judgment of the saved and the lost. Heaven and Hell are realities and the choices we make on earth will impact our lives for eternity.
…an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
…there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
These words laid the foundation for Dr. King’s message and he built upon them, creating an unforgettable word picture. He stood motionless behind the podium, a seemingly unassuming man, but the conviction in his heart released a passion in his voice that intensified with each new point.
“The unsaved will be punished eternally in a place called Hell,” Dr. King said firmly. His voice quivered as he noted the various words the Bible uses to describe Hell. One is Gehenna, used 12 times in Scripture to provide a picture of the place of suffering. Gehenna started as a lovely valley south of Jerusalem, but ended as a place of waste and desolation; a garbage heap where children had been offered as burnt sacrifices. Dr. King clarified the reality of what Hell will be like with these words:
“If, therefore, the bodies of the righteous will be glorious, then those of the wicked will be repelling. Indeed, the profligate, the drunkard, the debauchee will bear a natural penalty in their bodies no less than a moral penalty in their souls. That tongue which in this life was employed in mocking religion; in cursing and swearing; in lying, backbiting, and boasting will need water to cool it in eternal flames. The same feet that stood in the way of sinners and carried them in their ungodly activities shall stand in the burning lake.”
It was a vivid and frightening picture. A deafening quiet filled the chapel as the audience held its collective breath. Dr. King continued, driving home the fact that the judgment for unbelievers will be forever. There is no recovery, no halfway place of possible redemption. The loss is permanent and eternal.
“The unsaved man will have forever lost the grace of God—His unmerited favor and proffered mercy. It will be irretrievably gone and that forever. He will never hear another Gospel message. The church, prayers, and moving hymns will be past. Godly parents, children, husband, or wife will be missed; their company and faces never to be enjoyed again; the haven of rest exchanged in favor of an everlasting lake of fire and an abode of woe; a glorified body lost, and in its place an unredeemed body of sin, corruption, disease, and filth. He could have mingled with the saints in that fair celestial city, but now he mingles with beings filled with every imaginable evil. Time was when he could have been a child of the Heavenly King, but now he is a vessel of wrath fit only for eternal torments.”
The usual sounds that accompany 250 people leaving an auditorium were absent that night. Though speechless, the silence was broken by sobs as the Holy Spirit continued His work. For many of us, the die had been cast. The motivation and urgency to reach the lost had irrevocably pierced our hearts. We knew then that without a doubt, our lives would be devoted to the spread of the Gospel, from that day forward.
A Clear Motivation
When a disciple of Christ reads the Scriptures explaining the endless future of unsaved lost souls, the message should send a cold chill through their bodies. This is what I have clearly described in this message. It is also the prime, motivating force behind missions.
Why was Jesus committed to going to the Cross? Why are missionaries willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel? Why do national pastors work tirelessly to plant new churches? The answer is simple! Because people are dying without Jesus, and we need to share with them the story of God’s love immediately. The clock is ticking and for many—there is no tomorrow.
It was not the nails that held Jesus to the Cross on Calvary. It was His passion and compassion for the lost. He constantly kept before Him the image of those for whom He was laying down His life. He paid the ultimate price so you and I could escape the punishment we deserve, and enjoy the delights of our Father in Heaven.
Every morning I wake up to the reality of this situation. The realization of the plight of the lost has changed my life and countless other servants of God worldwide. Empower Ministries International was constructed upon the truth of this message. There is an urgency that grips each of us at Empower—an urgency to reach the lost at any cost. We continually commit ourselves to labor in a focused, effective, and efficient manner in order to save as many as possible and accomplish the task that has been set before us by God.
In the world today, we are witnessing the greatest turning to God in history. Millions of people are awakening to the realization that Jesus is the answer to life. But who are these people and why are they turning to Christ now?
These are people that realize their false religions are empty. They have been eagerly seeking to know the Creator of this world, but they just haven’t known where to find Him. They have been wandering through life, fully aware that they are sinners and hoping that someone will show them the way to find God. The clearest way I can describe their plight is this:
They knew that they were Lost—and they were Scared!
The truth and horror of what awaits those who do not accept Christ must shake Christians to their very core. In Dr. King’s words, we must understand the Lostness of Mankind in order to embrace our mission in life. And, as believers, that reality is the driving force behind missions.
All Scriptures from The New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.
© Ron Pearce
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