Thriving under the supremacy of God’s Son
I’ve heard it said among believers: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” I suppose there is some truth in that. But at the close of this Perspectives journey I think you can see it would be much more appropriate to say it this way: “God loves His Son and has a wonderful plan for Him, to bring all the nations to His feet as Lord of all, and He loves you and me enough to give us a place in it.” Let’s investigate that promise more closely.
Caught up in the Grand Narrative
In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, four children playing hide and seek in a English country manor take shelter in an old wardrobe on the third floor, only to discover it holds more than just moth-balled coats. It is magical. The back of the wardrobe empties out into another dimension altogether – a land called Narnia. Immediately the four are thrown into the midst of a story already well underway, involving a conflict between the White Witch (who has made Narnia always winter but never Christmas) and a grand lion named Aslan (the Christ-figure in Lewis’ drama). Not only are they included in the story of Narnia, but they become key players as they follow Aslan, in delivering the inhabitants of Narnia from the witch’s spell and transforming the kingdom into all it was meant to be. Once they enter the wardrobe, their destiny becomes sealed with the destiny of Aslan!
The same has happened to everyone who has been “transferred from the dominion of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Colossians 1). We’ve been summoned to be part of a narrative far greater than we could have imagined – a larger purpose, a longer story, a higher calling, marching toward a grander horizon. We’ve stepped into something rooted in an ancient history, moving toward a nearly incomprehensible culmination, contending with a more formidable enemy, and fulfilling the most incredible task humankind could ever assume, one that invites all the earth into eternal transformations. Our story is about a Lion who reigns supreme, portrayed as a Lamb at the center of the throne of the universe. (Rev. 5)
From Heaven’s throne, Christ has never ceased directing a 2000-year-old global missionary advance among the nations. True to His universal presence, He meets us where He sends us. There is no place His ambassadors go where He has not gone ahead of them. With full authority, He sets the stage for our arrival before we get there. He works through us when we arrive. He sustains the impact of His reign long after we move on.
The Father has given His Son keys to countless doors, in cities and communities, among cultures and ethnicities, where Christ is not yet known. Those gates are just waiting to be flung open to Him. There are peoples poised by sovereign grace, even now, to be reached with His salvation. There is no place on the planet Christ cannot and will not lead His missionary Church in its victory parade (Mt. 28). He intends to fill the nations with the hope of the Gospel (Acts 1 with Col. 1). Sovereignly rearranging the affairs of mankind as needed, to bring everything to pass, the Father has set His heart on countless sinners yet to be drawn to His promises in Christ Jesus (See 2 Cor. 2, 3, 4)
With full determination, this mission-sending God has narrowed His sights on our generation. He sees more than two billion people still completely unevangelized. He knows there are multitudes who have no knowledge of who His Son is — who have no one like them, near them, to even begin to tell them. But He refuses to leave earth’s peoples in this hopeless condition. What is the goal of God’s story?—to achieve the most comprehensive glory for His Son, among the greatest host of humans, to the fullest extent possible, in a way that magnifies forever the triumphs of His salvation and the supremacy of His Messiah.
To avoid any spirit of trivial “triumphalism,” however, let’s be clear on one thing: Christ’s missionary story not only initiates harvest fields, it also instigates battlefields – just as the children experience in Narnia at the climax of Aslan’s return. Any war is costly, sometimes bloody. Skirmishes are lost and won. Not every moment in the service of Jesus’ Kingdom offers visible, unalloyed advances in His mission. There are Forces of Darkness opposed to God’s promises, ready to fight them, and us, to the death. This, too, is part of the narrative of Christ’s global cause in which we each play our part.
Still, we can boast in the undiminished hope our narrative proclaims. Though not physically present, Christ is right now actively subduing many of His enemies, dethroning principalities and powers in many places. Increasingly He is putting limits on their opposition to His dominion among the nations. Though the time of their full destruction awaits the Consummation, God’s Son is rapidly rendering them ineffective and unproductive. He is breaking their stranglehold on earth’s peoples. He is tearing down their strongholds against the Gospel. He is upholding His cause to bring saving hope to sinners everywhere (compare Rev. 12:1-12 with Heb. 12:25-29). The increased martyrdom of Christians over the past century alone, in unprecedented numbers, only serves to reinforce how decisively and effectively Christ’s redemptive mission is penetrating enemy territory.
World Christians: Out of the box and into the drama
Unfortunately, though every Christian is called into the thick of Christ’s global cause, many are not actively involved as God intended. Some are asleep, some are on retreat, while others are determined to make their lives count, particularly for the sake of some of the multitudes that await the opportunity to hear of Christ for the first time. Some are heading into the sunrise of Christ’s forcefully advancing Kingdom while others huddle in the shadows of unbelief. Some run the race before them setting no limits on how, where, or among whom God will use them, while others remain trapped in myths about who Christ really is, where He’s headed and what He is doing among the nations – myths that rob them of incentive to care about the unreached. Others are determined to make Christ’s global cause the unifying focus—the context—for all they are and do. They are willing to be broken and remolded to fit in His worldwide mission wherever they can make the most strategic impact. In turn, they’re growing to know Christ so much better as they live for His fame and reign.
Some Christians flourish in outwardly-focused discipleship while others seem satisfied to just sit in (what I call) “boxes of pea-sized Christianity.” Sincerity and doctrinal convictions may be similar for both. But it’s unmistakable when Christians live for the consummation of God’s redeeming purposes among all peoples. What shall we call this distinct group of Christians? For the moment, let’s call them World Christians.
A World Christian isn’t superior to other Christians. But by God’s grace, he or she has made a discovery so important that life can never be the same again. A World Christian has discovered the call of Christ to believe, think, plan, and act in accordance with a “plan for the fulfillment of the times, to sum up everything in Christ, things in heaven and on earth.” (Eph 1:9-10) By faith, World Christians have chosen to invest all they are and have in that larger purpose.
Some World Christians become missionaries who physically cross major human barriers to distant lands or cultures to bring the gospel to those who can hear no other way. But every Christian is meant to be a World Christian, even if you physically “stay” in familiar places to provide the sacrificial love, prayers, training, money, and quality of congregational life that backs the work of those who “go.”
World Christians are day-to-day disciples for whom Christ’s global cause has become the integrating, overriding priority for all that He is for them. World Christians are heaven’s expatriates, camping where the Kingdom is best served. They are members of God’s global dispersion down through history and out through the nations, reaching the unreached and blessing the families of earth.
The term “World Christian” may have been coined recently, but living as a World Christian is certainly nothing new. For example, many years ago a World Christian named John R. Mott — leader of the Student Volunteer Movement that began in 1886 and within thirty years had sent out 20,000 new missionaries while mobilizing nearly 100,000 lay people to send them – defined World Christians when he observed:
An enterprise which aims at the evangelization of the whole world in a generation, and contemplates the ultimate establishment of the Kingdom of Christ, requires that its leaders be Christian statesmen with far-seeing views, with comprehensive plans, with power of initiative, and with victorious faith.
For you see, World Christians are drawn to a passion for a Person – the supreme, sovereign and all-sufficient Son of God, for whom the purpose for our churches and our lives exists to begin with. World Christians long to be a part of a movement toward the glorious climax of history in Him. They sense that we’re on a mission that even now tastes of the powers of the age to come because Jesus Christ is in our midst. They have tied their true destiny directly to the hour when heaven and earth will be “summed up” in God’s all-consuming Son (Eph. 1 and Col. 1). They also seek to boldly share such a vision with fellow believers every chance they get, to help them become Person-driven, too.
World Christians follow Jesus daily with the exciting conviction that what He will be Lord of ultimately He is Lord of even now; that every believer is being led by Him in triumphal procession today toward the Grand Finale when He will fully triumph at The End. For them, the Christian life is so much more than a matter of contending for doctrinal purity (as important as that is). It has become for them the thrill of a passion for Christ that’s marked by “abounding hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13) Having encountered the Son of the Father who stands among them as the assurance of all the glorious things to come (Col. 1:27), they continue to dwell under the upraised hands of this Risen One – the One whose blessing has become their commission, which they joyfully serve before His ever watchful, majestic gaze (Luke 24:50-53).
Psalm 110: A biblical template for any World Christian
Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted or referenced Old Testament passage by New Testament writers. Why is that? Why, out of all the ancient promises, did the first disciples turn to this hymn time and time again? The answer is obvious. This one text spoke more clearly than most about who they understood their ascended Jesus to be at work in His Church. Here’s real “thriving under the supremacy of God’s Son”!
Psalm 110 pinpoints the single greatest reality unfolding around us today. Its drama interprets both the front page of our newspapers as well as the frontlines of our mission. It reinforces that peoples and events everywhere are being woven into Christ’s reign, whether they know it or not. No matter how far from the center of divine activity we may seem to be, Christ engages every human domain. He engages kingdoms of finance and commerce, entertainment and education, industry and labor, the arts and sciences, rulers and governments. There is not a square inch of any sphere of existence for which it cannot be said: “Christ rules over you!” All ambitions will soon be cut or culminated in Him.
History is not moving in a vacuum. At His footstool, Psalm 110 tells us, we can watch history pursuing one increasing purpose: to bring about the fullest possible expression of Christ’s supremacy, to the farthest bounds of earth, to the greatest extent ever envisioned by the Father. Nothing will ever turn this battle back at the gates.
Our hope in God stands strong because Jesus’ reign already stands strong. Installed as Messiah, His promised work of universal restoration is underway. His lordship is becoming increasingly visible among all peoples, as God works through His people. Because of Him the whole earth boasts wondrous potential for experiencing and expressing God’s glory. The Son’s victory procession is on the move across the planet, recruiting people from many tribes and tongues.
Therefore, wherever they live and whatever they face, World Christians can expect to walk daily in ever-increasing demonstrations of Jesus’ supremacy, by the power of His Spirit in us. No wonder Psalm 110 predicts: “Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.” In view of what He is up to, our enthusiasm for serving Him should be unbounded.
Taking our cue from Psalm 110, World Christians rise to serve him every day, willing and ready “from the womb of the dawn” to volunteer freely to be with Him wherever He is engaged. We serve the risen, living presiding Lord seated at the right hand on high. Ultimately, we aren’t trying to obey a “missionary vision”. We obey Christ Himself. We refuse to be give our allegiance to programs or projects or personalities that may be related to Christ’s global cause, but which often are at best Christ-like, and at worse nearly Christ-less, in their focus and impact. World Christians are determined to be Christ-ward – to give the preeminence to the supreme Son of God. We’re not merely copying Christ, or simply trying to do what he would do. Rather we’re determined to join in with what Jesus actually is doing, pressing His Kingdom forward in this hour as our ascended and crowned as King.
As Ephesians 4 reminds us, He ascended on high to fill (present tense) the universe – to fill it at this very moment with His presence, His sovereignty and His activity. For a World Christian the joy of living – of thriving – is experienced by how we join Him in the superior story being written right now.
Ultimately, maturing as a World Christian flows from the gracious work of Christ Himself! Always, our eyes must be fixed on Him, not simply depending on methods or processes. It is Christ who opens us up to catch His vision for the nations. He alone anchors us to that vision and then empowers us to effectively obey it. Like the hymn writer, all World Christians appeal to Christ: “Be Thou my Vision, Oh Lord of my Heart.” With the North African church leader, Augustine, every World Christian moves out boldly among the nations convinced that: “They who have Christ have everything. They who have everything but do not have Christ, have nothing. And they who have everything plus Christ have no more than they who have Christ alone.”
God loves His Son and has a wonderful plan for Him, to bring all the nations to His feet as Lord of all, and He loves you and me enough to give us a place in it. Therefore, it’s time to arise and thrive!