Sunday, January 15, 2006

Are you qualified?

Most people do not become missionaries because they are not qualified. The qualifications for being a missionary are quite stringent. While various mission boards require a college education or experience, this is not what I am referring to. The spiritual qualifications are the difficult part. In this message, I would like to present three very obvious but vitally important qualifications that God has for missionary candidates. If you have met these requirements, you might consider serving as a missionary.

God’s requires that you be saved.

The people of Peter’s day were mocking the fact that Jesus had not returned as he had promised. Today, almost two thousand years later, people still mock this fact from Scripture. They think that the promise was a hoax as it has not yet happened. But why has it not happened yet? Is there some form of unbelief or wonder in your mind? The truth is found in this verse. Time has little meaning to the Lord. We think of time as concrete. But with God a thousand years is like one day (2 Pet. 3:8). The real reason for God’s longsuffering is that he wants you to be saved.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. —2 Peter 3:9
He wants your rescue. As a God of love, he desires that you escape the punishment of Hell. God wants you to escape the judgment which you rightfully deserve. He does not want any of his children to perish. In fact, he will not allow it. God is lovingly drawing lost sheep to himself with the ultimate outcome being their salvation. Think of the hymn, “Rescue the Perishing.” We see the need for lost souls to come to Christ. This is the heart of God. He is lovingly calling out to those he is drawing, telling them that they must come to him to escape Hell.

He wants your repentance. What is it that keeps us away from God? It is our sin. And not only is it our sin, it is also our rebellious, fallen nature that keeps us away from God. Lost people want their own way. Because of this, they cannot come to God. But when God draws them to himself, the proper response is faith and repentance.

This repentance is a change of mind about our sin and God. It is realizing that God is right and we are wrong. A person who repents will forsake his sin and turn to God from it. Have you truly repented? Has God worked in your heart to the extent that you now hate your sin and want him only? Or are you clinging to your sin trying to be good enough to escape Hell? God wants your rescue but must also have your repentance.

Evangelist Steve Pigot spoke at a Northland Winter Camp Retreat during my college years. He likened the Christian life to the four bases in a baseball game. First base represents salvation while home plate represents service. Before you run home, you must tag all of the other bases. But most people want to score. Many church people see the glory of the home plate of service and want to run there first. But before you can serve, you must be saved.

Do you want to serve the Lord as a missionary? Do you want to see the Lord use you as an effective evangelist here and across the countries of the world? The first step is your salvation. If God will ever use you, you must first come to him through the shed blood of Christ. God wants you to be saved before anything else. Many of us have already been born again by God’s Spirit through faith in Christ and repentance toward God. Is there anything else which God requires before one can become a godly missionary for him?

God requires that you be set apart.

God desires that each of his children be set apart for him. In this passage Paul uses the words present and renew. Our bodies must be presented to him and our minds need to be renewed. Without this act of obedience there is no possible way that we can serve him. Even a saved Christian can become useless to God if his entire self is not set apart to God. If a Christian holds himself back from God, he eventually becomes unuseable to God.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. —Romans 12:1-2
He wants your body. The first thing that God wants you to set apart for him is your body. At first, this seems like an easy task. Just let God have your body. But consider the imagery that Paul gives here to this presentation. When an offering was slain and sacrificed to God, there was no going back. It died and was given to God. We, however, are called upon to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Each moment of the day, our bodies are to be given to God. That means that for the rest of your life, God wants you to be completely given over to him.

What does this mean? This means that you agree without hesitation when God calls you as a fair skinned redhead to serve him in hot and sunny Africa. The fact that you will need to own stock in a sun block company doesn’t make a difference. Your body belongs to God for life. If you burn to death in the sun or are called to the shade of the jungle, your body is his. God wants your body.

He wants your mind. God also wants your mind. It has been said that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But how can your mind be God’s? Some Mentor Christian School students have taken a test regarding their world view. By answering the questions, the test revealed whether they had a biblical perspective on life. The fact is that it is very easy to become like this world. That is why God tells us to give him our minds. Instead of being conformed to the image of the world, we are to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Each day as we filter our thoughts through the filter of God’s Word and prayer, we will be able to have the mind of Christ. No longer will we think worldly thoughts, instead we will be thinking the way that the Lord wants us to. A Christian college student named Steve was visiting a secular campus, when he was asked, “What does the Bible say about drinking?” He immediately quoted Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” How did he have this biblical mind set? It came only from spending time in the Word. Instead of being conformed to this world, he was transformed by meditating on the Word of God.

God wants your body completely given over to him. You need to give him your body without reservation. This applies to those with healthy bodies as well as those with great sickness. Your body needs to be the Lord’s. God also wants your mind. He wants you to be conformed to his thinking instead of that of the world. When you are doing these things, you are on the right track to be useful to the Lord. But there is one more step that you should consider before heading to the mission field.

God requires that you be submitted.

Before his death, Jesus made it quite clear that his followers must be totally submitted to him. He uses the imagery of a vine and its branches to illustrate his meaning. A branch gets its nourishment from the vine. There is no way for it to remove itself and continue to live. The branch must submit itself to that fact or it will die.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. —John 15:4-5
He wants your will. Someone who is abiding in Christ will be submitted to the Lord. His will must be given over completely. Have you ever thought that the one in charge was making a wrong decision? Have you ever questioned whether the session, your husband, parents, coach, teacher, government, or supervisor was making a wrong decision? All of us have thought that way before. When it comes to the Christian life, we must submit our wills to the Lord. We must follow his leading no matter what it is. If we attempt to do things in our own strength, we will fail. It is impossible to do the work of the Lord in our own strength. Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing.” So, with submitted wills we must follow whatever he wants us to do: “Not my will but thine be done.”

He wants your best. God wants your will, but he also wants your best. Often times we think of this fruit as being souls won for Christ or the number of people baptized or being discipled. But is that really the case? Perhaps a better way to look at it is the fruit mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. In Galatians 5:22-23, we read of the fruit that the Spirit of God desires to produce in our lives. As we remain submitted to the Lord, he will produce love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. We will become a better person as well as a more useable servant of the King. God wants your best and is willing to work in your life to make you better. But the only way this will happen is when you are submitted to him.

Conclusion:

As you read the biographies of great missionaries, you will see things that are common about their lives. Jonathan Goforth, D. L. Moody, John Paton, and many others all had been saved, set apart, and submitted to God. It was only then that God was able to use them in the harvest field of the world. If these things are true about you, be ready for God to use you here and elsewhere. God may call you to be part of the teen missions trip to Puerto Rico this summer. He may want you to go on a short-term mission trip as Amber Spence is doing. He may call you to be a career missionary on a foreign field. Or it may be that the Lord will use you right here in your own church and community. Whatever the case, your ability to be used by God depends on these three steps: salvation, sanctification, and submission. Are you qualified?

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