Rod Benson, Moore College staff devotion, 6 February 2023
We all face challenges and uncertainties in life. We feel the impact of our past, our family of origin, our environment, the choices we make, and a range of events that can sometimes seem overwhelming.
For many of us, the Covid pandemic was a profound and unforeseen challenge. Remember those early days of alarming health news, employment uncertainty, failing supply chains, and stockpiling toilet paper? What were your fears? What did you stockpile? For me, it was coffee beans, milk and cheese.
In a crisis, and out of one, it can be hard to find peace, hope, and purpose. Who can I trust? Why am I here? Where can I find the structure and security for a good life?
I want to encourage you to make three commitments in 2023:
- To truth: the authority and reliability of Scripture, the living word of God;
- To the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed by God in Scripture;
- To the mission of God that defines the purpose of the gospel.
In 2006, theologian Chris Wright published a book titled The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. It’s an excellent book. Wright shows how the Bible is the product of God’s mission, and the manual for it. He expounds what the Bible teaches about the God of mission, the people of mission, and the arena of mission.
It almost sounds like the words of a former Moore College lecturer, who often spoke of “God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule”!
We see a beautiful glimpse of the mission of God in Luke’s account of the time immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In Acts 1:8, the first church is about to spring into vibrant life, and Jesus reveals to his disciples that the first and most important task of this new community of faith, founded by Jesus, is to witness. They are to be his witnesses. The mission of God involves proclaiming a message.
We learn the scope and focus of that message as we encounter the speeches of those disciples recorded by Luke. Peter’s speeches, for example, paint a dark but familiar picture of human nature and declare that we cannot save ourselves and are doomed.
The good news is that a new era has dawned (see, e.g., Acts 2:16; 3:18, 24), fulfilling what was promised by Jewish prophets.
Peter’s speeches in the Book of Acts show us that the heart of this good news is the profound significance of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
This son of a carpenter from Nazareth is a “Prince” and a “Saviour” (Ac 5:31). He possesses the divine titles “Lord” and “Christ” (Ac 2:33-36). He is God’s special servant (Ac 3:13).
One day, God will right every wrong when he sends his Son Jesus back to our world, to bring an end to the world as we know it, and to judge “the living and the dead” (Ac 3:21; 10:42).
This is the mission of God.
But there is more. Those who hear the message are urged to repent of their dark and bent ways, to trust in Jesus for salvation and rescue from the coming wrath of God (e.g., Ac 2:38f; 3:19, 25f; 4:12; 5:31; 10:43; cf John 3:36; Col 3:6).
Those who believe the message are saved and “united with Christ.” They begin the journey of discipleship, becoming more like Jesus, with the prospect of one day sharing “the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world” (Gal 2:20; 2 Pet 1:4).
This too is the mission of God.
The assumption in these speeches in Acts is that those who listen to God’s word, and respond to Jesus in trust and obedience, will join the new community, grow daily in their knowledge of Jesus, become more like Jesus, and share the task of witnessing to others about Jesus, the gospel, and the mission of God.
Why was such a costly, complex and cosmic mission necessary? What problem does it solve? The problem is that, despite our nature as God’s beautiful and flawless creation, we choose to exercise our “free will” to rebel against God, and are incapable of saving ourselves and returning home to God.
The answer to the problem lies in the mystery of God’s holy love, the excellence of his justice, and the gratuitousness of his mercy and grace. The mission of God is accomplished through Jesus, and Jesus is not merely a moral exemplar but our Saviour from sin.
The New Testament uses various words and phrases to describe the good news of how Jesus accomplishes the mission of God as it relates to our salvation. I will briefly mention four:
- Justified by God: the death of Jesus becomes our death, and his resurrection to new life our resurrection. Our identity is no longer shaped by guilt and failure but by the perfect life and love of Jesus.
- Redeemed: we are delivered from our slavery to sin, and a new allegiance with God and a new freedom to serve him become possible.
- Reconciled: we experience real peace with God; we are no longer at war but forgiven, adopted into God’s family, with all its blessings.
- United with Christ: a magnificent phrase that captures all these blessings and describes the process and goal of our salvation.
Who is Jesus? Why was he born? Why did he die? Why did God raise him from the dead? Why did Jesus ascend to heaven? Why will he return? All of it is to accomplish the mission of God, announced in the gospel, and declared in the Bible. We are God’s witnesses, sharing the message.
A proper Christian view of the world is the outworking of a grand universal narrative. In his epilogue to The Mission of God, Chris Wright says,
The Story tells us where we have come from, how we got to be here, who we are, why the world is in the mess it is, how it can be (and has been) changed, and where we are ultimately going. And the whole story is predicated on the reality of this God and the mission of this God. He is the originator of the story, the teller of the story, the prime actor in the story, the planner and guide of the story’s plot, the meaning of the story and its ultimate completion … It is the story of the mission of God, of this God and no other.
As Christians, our lives are woven into the tapestry of this great Story. At Moore College, we are engaged in telling the Story, and we enable and empower its telling and retelling in Sydney and around the world.
Pray with me.
God our Creator and Redeemer, your unwarranted love and grace astonish us. We thank you for giving us life, light, and true purpose. We long for the day when you bring your mission to its completion. Help us to be faithful to you until that day.
We thank you for Moore College, and for the contribution each of us makes to its work. Strengthen our faith, and deepen our commitment to the truth of your Word, to the gospel of Christ revealed in your Word, and to the mission of God that defines the purpose of the gospel.
We bring our requests before you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, and for your glory. Amen.
Rod Benson is Research Support Officer at Moore Theological College, Sydney. He enjoys writing, preaching, cooking, and reading fiction, theology and philosophy. This talk was presented as a staff devotion at Moore College on 6 February 2023.
 Downers Grove: IVP, 2006.
 Page 533.