A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
SESSION 6: THE CALL TO LOOK OUTWARD
Recap: Last week we addressed the call to look inward by examining the spiritual growth of the individual soul as well as tending to the spiritual growth of the parish at large. Today we will look at the call to go out into the world, faithfully proclaiming the Gospel message.
That Christians are called to look outside of the church is an assumption readily made by various denominations and churches of widely differing theological convictions. Churches typically agree that they should look out to the world. Where they differ is in response to these two questions:
1. Why should we look outward?
2. How should we look outward?
Discussion Questions: What do you think? What scripture would you use to support your conclusion? What are some good motivations for looking outward? Could there possibly be bad motivations?
THE “WHY” OF LOOKING OUTWARD
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Rom 1.1-6)
Discussion Questions: Who is Paul? What was Paul set apart for? Is it something new that God is doing or something old? What is this thing that God is doing about? What did it give us? What did it accomplish? Why did God do it?
Scripture teaches that there is nothing that has occupied God’s interaction with humanity more than the time of the fulfillment of the “good news” concerning his son. It was planned before time (Rom 8.28-30, Eph 1.4, 1 Pet 1.20, Rev 13.8), prophesied in the O.T. (Gen 3.17, 2 Sam 7.12, Psalm 22, Isa 53, Zech 12.10), and experienced in history (Mark 1.15, John 12.23, Acts 2.1). So too the above quote from Romans shows us that God is ultimately concerned with the proclamation of His Gospel. He not only sets apart men specifically for the work of proclaiming the Gospel, but he also orchestrates history to accomplish the Gospel.
THE “WHO” OF LOOKING OUTWARD
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3.16-18)
Discussion Questions: Who looks outward? Why? What are the “stakes”?
Look up Matt 28.18-20, Rom 1.14-15, 1 Pet 1.1-2; 3.15,
Discussion Questions: Who looks outward? To do what?
HOW SHOULD WE LOOK OUTWARD?
I believe Scripture teaches us to look outward in three key ways. First and foremost our attention and skills must be devoted to supplying the world with the one thing that it cannot get anywhere else. That is the saving knowledge of the Gospel clearly communicated to needy sinners. I hope that this case has already been clearly made. Secondly, I would say that we look outward by developing a lively inner life that people become covetous of. It may sound paradoxical, that developing the inner life of the church strengthens the outward focus, but I hope to make that clear by the use of two verses.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.34-35).
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and sins were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2.42-47)
Discussion Questions: Is a Christian community able to reveal Jesus to the world? Is a Christian community evangelistic? Why? What might some roadblocks be to having an evangelistic Christian community?
Finally we are called to look outward in deeds of mercy and justice. It is important to remember that God’s ultimate concern is eternal life, which begins as we come to know him in Jesus. And yet, significant emphasis is placed on looking outward in deeds of mercy and justice.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5.14-16)
Discussion Questions: How do you think we let our light shine in the world? What “good works” might Jesus be talking about? What is their ultimate purpose? Are they able to save?