And so why does God change us? Just so we’ll be good company in heaven? No, at least in part, it’s about mission.
Notice the emphasis in John on “send” and “sent” (62 occurrences in the ESV!) That has to be important.
Very typical is —
(John 12:49 ESV) 49 “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment– what to say and what to speak.”
Jesus was sent by God on a mission — to speak a particular message from God, the truth or the gospel.
In turn, Jesus sends others, with a blessing —
(John 13:20 ESV) 20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Jesus specifically planned for a sending that would survive his ascension. Because Jesus would be in heaven, the world is called to receive those whom Jesus sends.
(John 17:18 ESV) 18 “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
(John 20:21 ESV) 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
The mission of those sent by Jesus is the same mission that Jesus is on — that is, to reveal the gospel of truth.
Dozens of times, Jesus speaks of himself as the one whom God sent. His sending by God defines his mission on earth and explains his actions. Jesus’ point is that you can’t know him without knowing his sent-ness.
The same should be true, of course, of Jesus’ followers. We should be equally defined by our mission — what we’ve been sent to do. We aren’t lawyers or accountants or repairmen who sometimes do church things. We’re people sent by God on a mission to live and spread the gospel. We are witnesses to the truth because we know Jesus and have experienced his presence and his love.
Hence, we are saved, not to be God’s company in heaven, but to further the work of Jesus on earth. Heaven is for later. Today, we experience Jesus’ Glory and are transformed by the Spirit into spiritual beings in the image of the Messiah as we do mission — as we accept our place as people sent by Jesus on mission and equipped by the Spirit to serve in mission.
Our mission is not to conduct the flawless Sunday morning assembly. It’s to worship in Spirit and truth 24/7 — as we further the mission of God. (It’s just so much easier to get the rules right for one hour a week, you know — and that’s why we define down “obedience” as something like “never use an instrument on a Sunday morning,” as though that might be a challenge worthy of God’s own Spirit!)
No, no, no! The point of Christianity is to be true to the purpose for which we’ve been saved and sent. We preach endlessly about our salvation and heaven and all that — what God gives us — and we make our part — our mission — somehow secondary, optional, and not necessary.
But God left us on earth for reason after he saved us. He could have given us our resurrection bodies immediately and pulled us straight up to heaven. But he preferred to leave us here, to serve alongside Jesus and God in bringing about the redemption the world.
Hence, as we’ve covered many times, because unity with God and Jesus is the intent, we become kings and priests in God’s kingdom! But we aren’t despots and dictators. We become kings like God — a king who washes the feet of Judas and lets a wretch like Pilate hang him on a cross. That’s true kingship, because that’s the nature of God — and to which we’ve been called.