Missional Grace: Finding Purpose

Missional Grace:  Finding Purpose

 “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:24

 In his book, Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life, James Coleman writes: 

 With the advent of the space age, man (sic) is confronted with a new perspective of time and space, and the problem of finding meaning in his existence in a universe in which the earth and even the whole solar system may be no larger in relation to the whole than an atom is to the earth.

 At the same time, materialistic values—based on the belief that scientific progress would automatically lead to man’s happiness and fulfillment—have proven sadly disillusioning.  As a result, many people are groping about, bewildered and bitter, unable to find any enduring faith or to develop a satisfying philosophy of life.  Despite their fine automobiles, well-stocked refrigerators, and other material possessions and comforts, the meaning of life seems to be evading them.  In essence, they are suffering from existential anxiety—deep concern about finding values which will enable them to live satisfying, fulfilling, and meaningful lives.

Think about that phrase existential anxiety.  Those two simple words point to the age-old fundamental questions of human existence: 

Who am I? 

Why am I here? 

What is my purpose in living? 

These are not just individual questions – they are congregational questions.

Coleman writes from the perspective of a secular scientist of the mind (a psychologist).  Yet he could have as easily been writing a theological dissertation on the effects of sin on the human psyche.  Disconnected from God, the search for meaning becomes even more pronounced, while the answers to that search always seem just beyond our grasp.  Part of our challenge, as we seek to “undo the disastrous effects of human sin on God’s good creation,” is to share with the world THE SOURCE for finding the meaning and purpose of life. 

 That’s the churches mission. 

Sometimes fulfilling it will require words.  We will preach the gospel.  We will be vocal in our support of those suffering injustice.  We will write letters, send notes, post blogs, teach Bible studies. 

 At other times it will be actions.  We will feed the hungry.  We will house the homeless.  We will educate the unemployed so they can be better equipped to find jobs.  We will visit the homebound and nursing home residents.  We will help mom’s and dad’s become better parents.

Pause for a moment and discuss the cause that has brought your missional group together. 

 What specific need(s) does your group feel a specific sense of Christ-inspired passion to address?

In what way might the use of WORDS playing a part in addressing this needs?  …actions? 

Okay, so you know WHY you are gathering.  You know the need – the disastrous impact of human sin you feel Christ wants to address though you.  Now remember that you engaged in this ministry for no other reason than that the love of Christ compels you.  He is our life and the source of our missional faithfulness.  Our ethic is always “grace-based.”  It proceeds from and is returned to Jesus, author and finisher of our faith.

That’s what Paul was saying in Acts 20:24.  The central task of his ministry—and the overarching mission of the church—is that of “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Human sin impacts people in many ways.  The church is called to respond to these adverse impacts of sin, as we indicated, though both word and deed.

At its core, sin is expressing one’s independence from God.  In the biblical story of the fall of humanity, the root of the temptation was to “become like God” (see Genesis 3:5).  Of course, that just wasn’t going to happen.  So, when Adam submitted to this temptation, it was his declaration of independence from God.  The problem is that human beings were not created to live independently from God.  We were designed to life from God, out of God’s provision of Himself, to meet our every need. 

That’s how sin produces in us this sense of existential anxiety.  Sin rejects any sort of dependency on God and sets us up as independent agents.  But since the effects of sin are bigger than we are – we end up engaging in a search to find something or someone to grant our lives that sense of meaning that has been lost when we chose to disconnect from God.  Some folks seek meaning for their lives in things like family, religion, or career achievement.  Others may turn to things that are physically unhealthier, like chemical addiction or the fulfillment of certain sexual fantasies.  Still, the root problem remains because the solution is still in the flesh (the term flesh in the New Testament usually refers to what we might call the self-life—life lived independently from God).  The bottom line is that any fix that is not rooted in becoming reconnected to God through grace will only exacerbate the problem.  

God’s solution was to offer us the chance to become reconnected to faith in Jesus Christ.  When a person puts their trust in God’s grace through Christ, they are not just asking for fire insurance.  They are declaring their dependence on God.  When that happens, the life of Christ becomes their life’s source.  The life of Christ animates their spirit and grants them a new identity.  Living, then, becomes a process of discerning God’s will and discovering God’s provisions. 

The New Testament has a great deal to say about what happens to us (how our life is changed) when we are “in Christ.”  Read the selected verses below and discuss as a group what they say about how we are changed as people who find their life’s source in God’s grace.  Discuss also how this might influence our understanding of our missional purpose.

Romans 5:1

 Romans 8:1

 1 Corinthians 2:12-15

 Ephesians 1:3-8

 Colossians 2:10

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