When I started writing this post I could hardly decide what to title it. There were several perspectives I could write from; the post could’ve been called “Relationship & Responsibility”, or “Covenant & Kingdom”, or “Worship & Mission”. Each title conveys a slightly different perspective on our relationship with God and how that relationship affects the rest of our lives.
I want to start by briefly looking at how our relationship with God changes us.
When we come to know Jesus we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters, we are given a new identity.
Part of the groundwork of our faith is that our Father has adopted us, given us a new name, and given us a new family to be a part of (Eph. 1:3-14). The best part about this new identity is that we don’t have to do anything to earn it, it’s a gift given to us through Jesus, and that’s grace. Therefore, instead of living our lives feeling like we have to do certain things to earn God’s love (which we tend to do a surprising amount of the time), we are freed to live out God’s purposes for our lives because we already have God’s love. When we live this way, offering our lives back to God because of our God-given identity, it’s worship.
Like the title of this article implies, there’s more to our relationship with God than this, God also gives us a mission to live out.
When our relationship with God is restored we are given a new purpose for our lives.
Because we are now a part of God’s family, and we are in direct relationship with Him, we are also given responsibility by our Father. This is seen throughout both the Old and the New Testament. From the very beginning Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship with God and they also were given the responsibility to rule in the Garden (Gen. 2). Additionally, God’s covenant with both Abraham and Moses (extending to the people of Israel) also included relationship and responsibility (Gen. 12; Ex. 19). God graciously initiated a restorative relationship with a sinful people while simultaneously setting them apart for His purposes on the earth. He repeatedly told the people of Israel “I’ll be your God, and you will be my people.”
This idea doesn’t end in the Old Testament, we continue to see it in the New Testament, specifically through the life of Jesus. God makes THE way for His people to return to relationship with Him by sacrificially dying in their place and making a way for all who believe. His invitation to receive salvation is also an invitation to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and participate in God’s plan to redeem the world.
Relationship with God is alway married to mission with God.
So, what’s the problem? Why am I writing about this? The reason I’m writing is because I see a lot of Christians (including myself) living with a significantly unbalanced life in these two areas. Some of us spend 95% of our time focused inward. We read, discuss, study, sing about, and contemplate the finer points of our relationship with God to the extent that we have very little, if any, time to engage in God’s mission. Don’t get me wrong, all of those activities are good, but they are not the end in themselves. If we aren’t careful our spiritual lives will become a like a stagnant pool, all of the water flowing in but very little flowing out.
Conversely, I see others of us (younger Millennial’s in particular) so engaged in God’s mission on earth that we neglect the church and often our relationship with God to do the “real work” of ministry. In many ways I applaud the authenticity and passion that this group of brothers and sisters live with, yet, I fear there will not be enough relationship to sustain these efforts over a lifetime. I believe that God has always intended for their to be BOTH worship and mission, relationship and responsibility in the lives of His people. Sure, there will be seasons where we spend more time on one side or the other, but a prolonged neglect of relationship or mission by God’s people will certainly result in disfunction.
The disfunction that I’m speaking of often looks like this. . .
Do Things –> Create Our Own Identity –> Try to Earn God’s love
The end result of living our lives this way is frustration, striving, and lack of satisfaction in our relationship with God. We feel this way because we are living backwards, opposite of how God intended for us to live. Instead of living out of the identity God has given us, we live our lives trying to earn an identity for ourselves.
When we learn to rest in our identity as sons and daughters of God, we become secure in our relationship with Him, therefore, we feel freedom to engage our world in a different way.
When we live the way God intended we live a new-found freedom. First, we’re freed to enjoy the sweetness and satisfaction of the grace of God in our lives. Our worship to God shifts because we’re freed from trying to earn something from Him and we can focus wholeheartedly on blessing Him. Living lives of obedience to the Father is no longer a daunting list of to-do’s, but an opportunity to glorify God. Second, we’re freed to consider how we can engage in God’s mission in our world. Since we are no longer striving to earn relationship, we find that we have a greater capacity for other people. We also have the spiritual capacity to think and pray about how we can be light in the dark places around us. When we live our lives this way we see worship and mission come together beautifully as one.
This leads each of us to a few final questions, “Am I engaged in both relationship AND mission with God?” Which side of this do you and your community tend to overemphasize? What would it look like to balance out worship and mission in your life and community?