Contributors including David Platt, Louie Giglio, and John Piper join forces to compel Christians to cross cultural and linguistic barriers to reach the unengaged and unreached people groups with the gospel.
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About the Author
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God; Don’t Waste Your Life; This Momentary Marriage; A Peculiar Glory; and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
David Mathis serves as the executive editor at desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church, and adjunct professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary. He writes regularly at desiringGod.org, and he and his wife, Megan, have four children.
Read an Excerpt
THE GALACTIC GOD WHO INVITES US INTO HIS GLORIOUS PLAN
While in Kigali, Rwanda, I visited a Catholic church on the outskirts of the city that serves as one of the many genocide memorials. I knew the story of Rwanda, but stepping into that place was more significant than I could have guessed. It wrecked me emotionally, and I don't think I'm going to get put back together for a while.
WRECKED IN RWANDA
Perhaps you've read the story, whether the account by the Bishop of Rwanda or any of the various historical accounts. This happened in our lifetime, by the way, when we were all busy doing something else. In this particular church I visited, ten thousand men, women, and children had come for refuge thinking that the church would be a safe haven, only to be sold out by the leadership there, locked in by the militia, and systematically slaughtered over a two-day period. When you walk into this empty genocide memorial, you see victims' clothing piled on pew benches, and in a memorial grave behind the building, many of their bones are still on display. They want the bones to be seen and not forgotten.
As I walked away and processed so many things, on many levels, what I had to face at the bottom of it all is that this world is messed up at an astounding magnitude. But that's not the end of the story. At the bottom of all the mess, there is a God. There is a God, one God. One glorious God. An amazing, beautiful God beyond our wildest dreams and our wildest imagination. And that God has chosen to invite us close to him. In the midst of the mess, he has invited us into life with him through his gospel. Then he has chosen — crazy as it may seem — to link arms with us, in some sense, and give us all marching orders, if you will.
CHRISTIANS ARE NOT AT THEIR LEISURE
Christians are not at their leisure — that's the heartbeat of what I sense God wants me to bring in this chapter. We are not at our leisure. Rather, we are under the mandate of the grace of God — grace that found us, restored us, redeemed us, breathed life back into our dormant lungs, and brought us back from the grave for a purpose. And that purpose is that we would, with everything in us, become an amplifier of the beauty of Jesus among all the peoples on this planet. This mission is crystal clear.
There is no room for negotiating with God in taking up a book like the one you have in your hands. There should be no, Oh, I'm just going to read this and ask the Lord to speak to my heart and see if he might want to nudge me toward his mission endeavor. That's not an option here. There is not going to be one category for those called to the nations and then a second category for those who don't feel this is their particular thing. If we're in Jesus, all of us are in one camp, and it's the camp called "the gospel of grace." And when you receive it, you become a participator in God's global purpose. When you truly embrace the gospel, you immediately become a participator in the beautiful plan of God, whether you realize it right away or later on (maybe while reading a chapter like this).
FEET ON A ROCK, READY TO TELL
The psalmist says it like this in Psalm 40:1–2: "I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." He heard my cry. He heard me. And what did he do? He acted. He came down into the pit I was in. He reached out and he lifted me up. And he set my feet on a rock.
Far too many Christians put a period right there and say, Isn't that awesome? I was in such bad shape, and Jesus reached down and brought me out. And look what he did. He put my feet on a rock, and that's awesome. But there's more to it than that.
The gospel in Psalm 40 is the full gospel. It goes all the way out. It produces proclaimers of the story of redemption. Psalm 40:3: "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD."
"He put a new song in my mouth." So if you're not singing, you may not be saved. Psalm 40 says that he put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to my God, so that many — not merely one person in the course of my lifetime, but many — many would hear and believe, putting their trust in the Lord. There is a ripple effect to the gospel that's inevitable. There's a ripple effect to true grace. It doesn't lead us to only sit and contemplate what happened to us. It leads us to proclaim what's happened to us — and what can happen to anybody and everybody on the planet.
FROM GLOBAL TO GALACTIC
The speaking assignment given to me originally was "The Global God Who Gives the Great Commission." I love that title, and I carried it in my head for a while. But toward the end of the journey, I modified it a little. I thought we could take a step back from "the global God" and think more about the galactic God. Global is way too small for the God we worship. God is bigger than we think he is. No matter how big you think he is, he's bigger. We barely have a clue as to the magnitude of whom we're dealing with.
And even galactic is too small, because galaxies are an idea that God had. I love the saying, "The universe is one of God's thoughts." True, and amazing. And I've tweaked the title to be "The Galactic God Who Invites Us into His Glorious Plan."
A FOCUS ON GOD
So let's begin this book on finishing the mission by focusing on the God who is inviting us into it. Isaiah 6 has been in my heart as I've prayed about what to say here. Isaiah 6 seems to say it all. When you have a vision, as Isaiah had, about who God is, that's all you really need. If you see what Isaiah saw, that should do it. There doesn't need to be any application at the end of a pure vision of the glory of God. When you get a vision of who God is, of his magnificence and splendor, you don't need somebody to come along and give you three steps to take. When we have a true vision, even a fleeting glimpse of the glory of God, it absolutely wrecks us but in a good way. The Spirit of God then leads us through a process of reclaiming the wreckage and putting us back together again and on a new track, the track of his glorious plan.
It seems that it all happened in a very small window of time for Isaiah. He saw the Lord. He saw him high and lifted up, not low and watered down. He saw that just the hem of the Lord's robe filled the temple. That's glory. And Isaiah saw worship happening there as these marvelous angelic beings, crying out one to the other, back and forth antiphonally, echoed the praises of God. It's not recorded here, but perhaps in the moment, Isaiah realized that worship was happening with or without him. Worship didn't begin when Isaiah showed up. It was already going on. And worship doesn't begin when you and I decide to sing a song of praise. Worship happens wherever God is present.
"WHO WILL GO FOR US?"
Here Isaiah saw something that wrecked him to the point that he said, "Woe is me!" (Isa. 6:5). He knew he was a sinner. He didn't need anybody to tell him what kind of trouble he was in. He knew that he was done. He was finished, he thought. Carry that as you read verse 6. Isaiah thinks he is on the brink of being finished when one of those beings comes flying from the altar toward him. But to his surprise, instantly transformation came — by the mercy of God.
Then he hears the voice of the Lord: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (v. 8a). Who would ever have expected that such a powerful and majestic God would ask such a question? Who knew that he would see fit to give Isaiah such a vision, wreck him in his own sinful condition, have the searing grace of God burn into his life, and then immediately have him overhear such a shocking question? Just talking among ourselves in a triune conversation here: "Who will go for us?" Isaiah hears the question. What? What do you mean? You're sending somebody? Somebody's going somewhere? "Here am I! Send me" (v. 8b).
I love the immediacy of Isaiah's response. There was no whiff of "Well, let me go home and pray about what God has for me." Let me save you the time. Let me ask you three questions: (1) Have you seen this God? I'm not asking if you've heard about him. Have you seen this God? (2) Have you ever felt that desperate and been touched with that kind of grace? (3) Did you hear God when he said, "Whom shall I send?" Did you hear that? Because you can't be near the cross and not hear God say it. This world is messed up on a magnitude that is staggering. People are lost, and God cares. And he's asking you, right now, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"
Let's back up a few steps and just think about God for a minute. Think about who's asking the question. I don't know if you've ever had someone say, "Can you move your car?" and you say, "Well, who's asking?" What an arrogant kind of me-centered world we live in. "I might move the car. Who's asking?"
So here's what I want to do in this chapter: look behind the question "Whom shall I send?" at who's asking. The question is being asked by a galactic God, who will absolutely blow your mind — a God who is being worshiped right now, I'd like for you to know, by the whole universe in the arresting fashion of the vision of Isaiah 6.
I just want you to know that the worship of God didn't start with you or with your church and its weekend gatherings. God isn't banking on our worship. He isn't saying, "I hope they sing me some songs, because I really need some worship." Seraphim are calling out, back and forth, to each other. "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory" (v. 3). God is being worshiped because he is God, and the whole created universe — in some way, shape, or form — is echoing praise to him. He is a galactic God, and the whole universe is his unrivaled symphony, and that universe is praising him like nobody's business.
HELP FROM HUBBLE
Because I want to help us grasp just a little bit of the staggering magnificence of this God whom we're dealing with (and who's asking the question "Whom shall I send?"), let me point you to a few of the amazing discoveries we're making in astronomy. The Hubble Telescope's "Ultra-Deep Field" is able to snap for us a photograph of ten thousand galaxies.
You may not be used to doing this while you're reading, but pause for a moment and check this out online. Google "Hubble" and "ten thousand galaxies" and take a good look. Those are galaxies, each one of those little dots that you see on there. And if the resolution were high enough, and your eyes were good enough, you could see an innumerable number of these galaxies — each one the size of our Milky Way galaxy or bigger — all different shapes and sizes. Some of them look like a toothpick. Some of them look like a piece of jewelry. Some of them are spiral in shape, like our own galaxy.
Here's what blows my mind: Scripture says that God spoke and the universe came into being. Psalm 33:6: "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host." Psalm 33:9: "He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm." So God, merely by the use of his voice (so to speak), made a universe, and this particular image given to us by Hubble, orbiting almost 350 miles above the earth, would be like you or me looking through an eight-foot-long straw up into the sky. That's how small a portion of the night sky is represented in this photograph. And we're looking at ten thousand galaxies — just that little portion. The God whom we worship is the creator and sovereign over such mind-boggling stretches of space and astronomical beauty.
He is the one who is asking, in case anybody wanted to know, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" If you say, "Well, who wants to know?" — the Creator of all this is the one who wants to know. The galaxy-breathing God is asking.
I could point you to another image. It's from the constellation we call Virgo. This one is called the Sombrero Galaxy. Google "Hubble" and "Sombrero Galaxy" and get a look. This galaxy is relatively new to us because only recently has Hubble brought the universe so close to us. The Sombrero Galaxy is staggering. It's 29,000,000 (twenty-nine million) light-years away. Pause and try to process this for a moment. A light-year is how far light travels in one year. And light is super fast. It's moving 186,000 miles a second.
By the way, we once thought that light was the fastest thing in the universe, but now we're not so sure about that. Science isn't as buttoned down as everybody wants to think it is. Don't think I am anti-science. I love science and scientists, but we shouldn't act like science is a sure bet, because nobody has yet figured out everything God did when he spoke a word and the whole universe came into existence.
So light travels 186,000 miles a second. If you do that for a year, you travel 5.88 trillion miles. A trillion is almost pointless for us to even talk about. It's beyond our ability to fully grasp. But that's a light-year, and get this: if you go twenty-nine million light-years (in the right direction!), you come to the Sombrero Galaxy. Do the math in the margin if you'd like. That's twenty-nine million (29,000,000) times 5.88 trillion miles (5,880,000,000,000).
And if you've already gone online to see the Sombrero Galaxy, you've seen how it looks so innocuous — like a Frisbee coming right at you. Some call it the flying tortilla. From our vantage point, it sits on a six-degree plain. So we get a beautiful view of it from Hubble. But don't be fooled; this galaxy is enormous in scope, and it contains an estimated two hundred billion to three hundred billion stars. And you may never even have seen it before now.
So what's it doing out there if we didn't know about it until recently? It's doing what it was made to do. It's praising God in its immensity and beauty. What a tribute to someone so amazing — even the word amazing seems so hollow in this case — as this God that we worship. He has a whole galaxy that is just a tiny part of the symphony of the universe that brings him praise.
WHY THE UNIVERSE IS SO BIG
A lot of astronomers are perplexed, honestly perplexed, as to why the universe is so big. It's so big that now we're spending gobs of money looking for other life forms in the universe. There is a big push right now to assume that there must be some other life forms in this mind- bogglingly massive universe. There must be more habitable planets in such vast reaches of space, they say. It's way too big, if it's just a place for you and me. To which I respond, I totally agree.
If the universe was created simply to house humanity, it sure seems oversized. But if these perplexed astronomers knew the right reason for the existence of the universe, they wouldn't struggle. If they knew the universe's primary function wasn't to house humanity but to magnify its Creator, then they would discover it's not too big at all. It's just about the right size to give praise to God. And that's what the heavens are doing, along with the angels, while you're reading this chapter.
Let's go to Psalm 148, and then come back to the question we're posing, Whom shall I send?
FROM HEAVENS TO HUMANS
Psalm 148 begins with three powerful words — "Praise the LORD!" Now you'd think, after 147 psalms, you'd have your head around that idea. But the psalmist is still making the point. It seems right to have the exclamation point there. There's some horsepower in this statement. And look at what the psalmist says next:
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts! (vv. 1–2)
This is the way it works with God. He likes to first remind us of things that are bigger than us (heaven, heights, angels, hosts) and then bring it down to our humble estate. Look at verses 3–6:
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
But he doesn't want you and me to be left out of the praise. So he says, "Praise the LORD from the earth ..." (v. 7), inviting us into his chorus — a chorus already being sung. By whom? The psalmist is not just waxing poetic when he mentions the sun and moon and stars. It's not just a literary maneuver; it's really happening. In God's universe, stars don't just shine; they sing.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Finish the Mission"
Copyright © 2012 Desiring God.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Remember, Jesus Never Lies David Mathis 13
1 The Galactic God Who Invites Us into His Glorious Plan Louie Giglio 29
2 The Glory of God, the Lostness of Man and the Gospel of Christ David Piatt 47
3 Christ, Courage, and Finishing the Mission Michael Ramsden 67
4 From Every Land to Every Land: The Lord's Purpose and Provision in the Lord's Prayer Michael Oh 83
5 To Our Neighbors and the Nations Ed Stetzer 111
6 Let the Peoples Praise You, O God! Let All the Peoples Praise You! John Piper 135
A Conversation with the Contributors 149
Appendix: What Next? Disciple a Few David Mathis 169
Subject Index 184
Name Index 187
Scripture Index 189
Desiring God: Note on Resources 192
What People are Saying About This
“Finish the Mission issues a clarion reminder of God’s enduring passion to glorify himself by blessing all nations on earth. The gospel and mission are inseparable. A clear understanding of the mission of the church is absolutely essential in today’s fast-changing global environment.”
—Steve Richardson, President, Pioneers-USA
“What will it take to finish the mission? Gospel seed must fall into the ground and die. Lord Jesus, through these heart-exposing pages, would you thrust out thousands of risk-taking disciples to the ends of the earth? May this compelling admonition jolt the church out of complacency and into the gathering of your sheep from among the earth’s peoples.”
—David Sitton, President, To Every Tribe; author, Reckless Abandon and To Every Tribe with Jesus
“God defines marriage and God defines mission. Finish the Mission is a vital proclamation of an emphasis that even evangelicals dodge—mostly out of embarrassment. Putting God’s opinions above all others, the authors portray well God’s rescue operation to the peoples who still have no friend to help them comprehend the Easter story. As John Piper says, ’We’re concerned for all suffering, but especially eternal suffering.’ Serious disciples will take these declarations seriously.”
—Greg Livingstone, Founder, Frontiers; Coordinator, Ministries to Muslims, Evangelical Presbyterian Church