RUNNING TOWARD GOD
God calls us as his church, First Baptist Tallahassee, to be a community of believers who follow Jesus together in doctrine and practice, knowing him and making him known. Our God-given mission as God’s church is to follow Jesus together until that is the case for every single person we can reach. It begins among ourselves. In other words, we are to love, pray, minister, serve, worship, disciple, and be on mission until we all know Jesus as our Savior and King and are making it known with our words, deeds, and lives that he is Savior and King.
Yet, that is just the beginning of our mission. For as we do that for one another we must be reaching out to others beyond ourselves, to bring them to Jesus so that they too can know him and make him known. So, we must love, pray, minister, serve, worship, disciple, and be on mission to help every person in Tallahassee know Jesus as our Savior and King and make it known with their words, deeds, and lives that he is Savior and King.
Of course, that is not quite the entirety of our mission. As we are called to reach Tallahassee, we are also called to reach the ends of the earth. We are called to do this not only as we partner with other like-minded churches, but also by sending out short-term and long-term missionaries, planting churches, and taking the gospel everywhere we can.
This vision and mission ought to be before and behind everything we do as a church. From how our pastoral staff prioritizes and serves, to what our committees and deacons do, to how we worship and teach and preach and serve, what our budget reflects, and how we go out on mission.
However, if we are to grab ahold of God’s vision and be on mission for him, we must know, worship, and follow God for who he really is. We must begin to grasp his overwhelming love and grace for all people everywhere. We must understand what he means when he proclaims that he is a reconciling, saving God. We must run toward him by running toward his word.
We always have to be careful we aren’t making God into our image — a counterfeit idol who fits our preconceived idea of who God ought to be. We can do this by imagining that God is a God of all justice and no mercy, or of no justice and all mercy. We can do this when we substitute our word and wisdom for his word and wisdom. God is both just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus Christ. It’s only when we begin to comprehend and live into his gospel that we will be Spirit-filled, Christlike women and men who live for him.
One of the books of the Bible that God uses to open up our hearts and help us know and live on mission for him is the book of Jonah. For the next few months, we are going to take a break from the Gospel of Mark and spend some time together on Sunday mornings in the book of Jonah. Jonah is a short little book of only 48 verses in length; you can read the whole thing out loud in either Hebrew or English in under five minutes. Despite its length, it’s one of the most well-known, loved, and discussed books in the Bible.
The book of Jonah is very artfully crafted, with a lot of little nuances and a careful structure. Designed to help us see a few wonderful and necessary truths: that God loves all people of all races, that he is working to save a people from all tribes, tongues, and nations, that our mission is to take the gospel to all people, that in order to do that, we must recognize and turn from the sinful attitudes we have toward others and toward God himself, and that God is completely just and completely merciful. Jonah is an anticipation of how God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God in one person, who labels himself the ultimate Jonah (Matt 12:41), so that we could be saved.
Coming to know and follow God in Christ through the Spirit begins for us as it did for Jonah. Hearing and believing his Word, then running toward him to live for him, instead of away from him and his presence.