Sermons

November 3, 2019

Christ Magnified in His World Through Servants Satisfied in His Worth

John Piper | Philippians 1:18-26

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.—Philippians 1:18b–26

Last week Pastor Jason referred to some old missionary wells that God had dug in the early 1980s in this church which are still springing up with amazing missionary life and power. A dream and plan like the 25 by ’25 vision (including engaging 25 new people groups with the gospel of Christ)—they don’t come out of nowhere. Not one church in a hundred has a vision like that! It comes from a leadership—pastors and elders—who are drinking at the wells of God’s global glory.

So I praise God that, even our leaders have been embattled with serious local skirmishes for kingdom truth and Christ-exalting obedience, nevertheless they have not stopped drinking at the wells of God’s global glory. 

Declare his glory among the nations,
     his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
     he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
     but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
     strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
     bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
     tremble before him … (WHO?!)’ all the earth!
(Psalm 96:3–9)

This church does not worship a tribal deity.

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15–16).

Every mountain, every ocean, every nation, every people, every person was created for Jesus Christ—to reflect and magnify his glory. And he did not only create every person for this. When the human race, and every people and every person fell in sin, Jesus came into his creation as the God-Man and died and rose and reigns to save condemned rebels by bearing their punishment and providing their righteousness. And he lays claim, therefore, on the worship of every group, every person. And while there are people groups in the world where that worship does not exist, missions does—or should!

So praise God that our leaders have not stopped drinking at the wells of Christ’s global glory.

I don’t think I need to dig any new biblical wells here. So what I am going to do is go back with to one of the earliest wells and push the leaves off the surface and get down and drink with you, and watch what happens.

When I say, “watch what happens,” I don’t mean merely in these Sunday services today. Because for almost 40 years the way God has worked is this: In the years before one arrives at Bethlehem, in the years that one spends at Bethlehem, in the months and days leading up to Global Focus, in any given year, God is at work, in very mysterious ways (which we will talk about in a few minutes) to lead some people—young and old—to the conviction that they should spend the foreseeable future of their lives in cross-cultural missions. And for almost 40 years this second Sunday of Global Focus has been the moment where we as a church invite those people to bear witness to their own conscience and to the church that they believe God has been at work this way in their lives.

So at the end of the service, on all three campuses we will invite three groups of people to walk to the front in that witness and let us pray for you.

1) Any Global Partners who are home and in any of these services on each campus. Our people need to know who you are. 

2) Any who are presently in the nurture program and hoping to be sent out by Bethlehem for vocational cross-cultural missions. 

3) We choose our words carefully: any who sense that God is leading you toward vocational global missions [not short term], and who intend to pursue this leading until the Lord directs otherwise, and who would like prayer for confirmation of this leading and for guidance (this excludes all faithful, obedient senders, and all who only plan (wonderfully!) on a short term mission, and it does not imply infallibility about your sense of call at this time). You are simply saying, I believe God is leading me toward vocational, cross-cultural mission.

Now let’s go to the well. The very first sermon that I preached at Bethlehem—my candidating sermon, January 27, 1980—was taken from today’s text in Philippians 1. In that message God dug a well down to the water-table of this truth: Christ is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in him, especially in our suffering and death. 

And today in Global Focus we are simply drawing out this implication: Christ is magnified in his world, through servants who are satisfied in his worth, especially in their suffering and death. In other words, the peoples of this world will come to magnify (glorify, honor, worship) Christ through his servants who are so satisfied in his worth that this soul-satisfaction carries through every missionary sorrow. Let’s see this in the text.

Philippians 1:20

. . .  It is my eager expectation and hope [this is Paul’s expectation, hope, passion, aim in life] that [negatively] I will not be at all ashamed, but that [positively] with full courage now as always Christ will be honored [magnified, glorified—his reason for creating and saving Paul, and you!, fulfilled] in my body, whether by life or by death.

What that verse established in 1980, and establishes today, is that Paul’s great passion in this world was that Jesus Christ would be glorified through his bodily life. That his life would count for Christ to be magnified, be seen and known and trusted and loved as the greatest treasure in the world. As he says in chapter 3, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

And we know he meant this globally because he said in Romans 1:5, his ministry was “for the sake of Christ among the nations.” And he said in Romans 15:20, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named.”

Now the question becomes, how does Christ come to look magnificent in us if we live or if we die? The next verse begins the answer. Verse 21, Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or death, “for [because] for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Christ will be magnified, honored in my death because for me to die is gain. That almost makes sense. But there’s a piece missing. That piece is supplied in the second half of verse 23 (here’s the reason that for Paul death is gain): “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” 1:23b).

Now the argument makes sense: Christ will be magnified in my death, because I will experience death as gain, because I will be with Christ. Christ will be magnified in my death because Christ is more precious to be than life.

So here’s my paraphrase to bring out the meaning of this ever-nourishing, mission-empowering well that God dug 40 years ago: Christ is most magnified in Paul when Paul is so satisfied in Christ that the loss of everything in this world is called gain, if it brings him more of Christ. Or, to keep it simple and relevant for us: Christ is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in Christ, especially in our suffering and death.

It is in the hardships and dangers and risks and losses and suffering of the missionary life where the all-sustaining, all-satisfying greatness of Christ shines most brightly in the soul of the missionary servant of Christ. Hence the title of this message: “Christ Magnified in His World Through Servants Satisfied in His Worth.”

The great purpose of God in creation and redemption and missions that Christ be magnified as supremely great and beautiful and valuable in all the peoples of the world. That’s the great purpose, or goal. And the essential means to that great goal are human souls who see the glory of Christ and are more satisfied by his greatness and beauty and value than in everything else in this world. And the great bridge between that purpose of Christ magnified in the world, and that means of souls satisfied in his worth, is called missions—missions that herald the “unsearchable riches of Christ”—crucified, risen, reigning and shining into the human soul and satisfying the deepest longings of everyone who believes.

And it is not incidental that the bridge—the missionaries, the global partners—are embodiments of Christ magnified through souls that are so satisfied in Christ that this soul-satisfaction carries through every missionary sorrow.

Paul said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). What does that mean? I means: My missionary trials become an embodiment for the world of how they were loved by the suffering Christ. He completes Christ’s afflictions not by making them better, but making them visible. No missionary hardship is accidental or in vain. The bridge between the magnified Christ and the satisfied soul, is a missionary embodiment of a soul satisfied in Christ through suffering.

It’s a dangerous and glorious calling. Our missionaries have been in jail, they have been under gunfire, they have lost children, their parents and siblings have died while they’re on the front lines, they have suffered demonic attacks and depression and PTSD. It’s not something you do to make your life easy.

So my closing question is: How does this happen? How does a sending soul satisfied in Christ become a going soul satisfied in Christ? You know there are only three kinds of Christians: senders, goers, and disobedient. If you are indifferent to God’s global mission and don’t want to be engaged as goer or sender, you need to wake up. The world has lulled you to sleep.

But my question is: how does this happen? How does a sender become a goer? Right now there are about 110 families and singles as part of our church who are vocational global partners, missionaries—the bridge. But here’s the mystery: Once they weren’t! Once they weren’t! And now they are. Which means that many of you listening to be right now as senders are going to be goers. Yes, you are! ....

The mystery of how God creates goers out of sender is very great. It is beyond human calculation. The very fact that you are sitting here in your relations and your situation, given where you were born and all you’ve been through, is a stupendous mystery. How much that in five years, you may be serving Christ 10,000 miles from here.

But as great as the mystery is, I’m going to venture one suggestion for how God does it. Namely, in a church where Christ is consistently portrayed biblically as the greatest treasure in the world, and the hearts of the people, year by year, are finding deeper and deeper satisfaction in the glories of Christ, in that atmosphere particular passages of Scripture are more likely to take hold of particular souls and become compelling divine missionary guidance.

Why do I say that? In Romans 15:20 Paul says that he is gripped by an ambition to get away from places that have lots of access to the gospel and preach where there’s access. And if we ask: Where did you get that ambition? One might answer: Well he got on the Damascus Road. Jesus told him directly: Go to the gentiles. 

But that’s not the explanation Paul gives. Here’s what he says, “I don’t want to build on another man’s foundation, “but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (Romans 15:21). He connects his personal ambition—his particular calling—with a passage of Scripture that doesn’t have his name on it. It’s just a general passage.

So here’s my suggestion. As Christ becomes more and more precious to you—more and more satisfying to your soul—it is not unlikely that God cause some Scripture, some truth, to have your name on it. You won’t act impulsively. You won’t disregard counsel and gifting. But you won’t be able to shake it either. It will come back to you again and again. And sooner or later, you’re going to go. 

So here are the groups I am going to invite to come as each campus leader directs after I pray.

1) Any Global Partners who are home and in any of these services on each campus. Our people need to know who you are.

2) Any who are presently in the nurture program and hoping to be sent out by Bethlehem for vocational cross-cultural missions.  

3) We choose our words carefully: any who sense that God is leading you toward vocational global missions [not short term], and who intend to pursue this leading until the Lord directs otherwise, and who would like prayer for confirmation of this leading and for guidance (this excludes all faithful, obedient senders, and all who only plan (wonderfully!) on a short term mission, and it does not imply infallibility about your sense of call at this time). You are simply saying, I believe God is leading me toward vocational, cross-cultural mission.

Let’s pray.

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