EDITOR’S NOTE: Nov. 29-Dec. 6 is this year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention. The Week of Prayer, with the theme “Because of Who He Is” from Psalm 96:3 (HCSB), undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $175 million.
David Platt is president of the International Mission Board.
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Why should every Christian say to God, “I will pray however You want me to pray, give whatever You want me to give, and go wherever and whenever You want me to go”?
Why should each person say, “I will go to my neighbor, and I will go to another nation?” And, “I’m willing to go to an extreme place difficult to navigate geographically and politically, such as Syria or Somalia”?
Why should every single Christian say that? Why must every Christian say that? Consider four reasons based upon Isaiah 6:1-13:
We have an incomprehensibly glorious God
Our God reigns. During the time of Isaiah, King Uzziah had reigned over Judah 52 years. The king had been the only ruler that a generation of Judeans had ever known. But when he died, his reign came to an end. In contrast, Isaiah had a vision of “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1, ESV).
Like Uzziah, kings, presidents and leaders have come and gone throughout history, but only one King remains. God’s reign knows no end.
In Isaiah’s vision, the Lord is surrounded by angelic attendants (seraphs). Their name means “burning ones.” The angels are all-consumed and ablaze with the worship of God. Myriads of heavenly beings circle the throne of God, shouting and singing praises to God without ceasing. They’re doing that now!
What are they singing? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord” (Isaiah 6:3). His holiness is all encompassing; the extent of His majesty is terrifying to behold.
God being holy doesn’t just mean He is sinless. He also is without equal (Isaiah 40:18, 25 and 45:5). And, “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). The beauty of a sunrise, the resounding echo of thunder and the vastness of a mountain range all give us a glimpse of the glory of our Creator.
We are a sinfully lost people
In response to seeing a vision of the fullness of God’s glory, Isaiah says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
We might think that we aren’t so bad, but we have no clue as to the seriousness of our own sin. Man-centered perspectives view sin as a small offense to be excused, not warranting full and infinite punishment. But the magnitude of sin isn’t determined by how small or large we perceive it. The magnitude of sin is determined by the majesty of the One who is sinned against.
One sin, the initial disobedience of Adam and Eve to the command of an infinitely holy God, brought condemnation to all man and continues to affect the entire world today (Romans 5:12-21). At its core, sin is a personal affront to God, and it leads to the most important question in all the universe: How can sinful people stand before an incomprehensibly great God and not receive infinite punishment?
We have a scandalously merciful Savior
In other words, how can a holy God say to a guilty sinner that he is innocent? That doesn’t seem fair. But by His great grace, and in His great plan, God has made a way for us to avoid the punishment we deserve. God wills to show us mercy, so much so that He chose to provide the atonement for our sin. How is this possible?
In Isaiah 6:6-7, the live coal from the altar of sacrifice is a picture of what is to come. It’s a picture given throughout the Old Testament (Leviticus 16; Isaiah 53:4-6) that points to Christ. He alone would endure the penalty for sin in our place, and He alone has made a way for sinners to be able to stand innocent, to be made righteous, before God. This a scandal of infinitely significant proportions: through the sacrifice of His Son on behalf of sinners, God has made a way for our salvation!
We have an indescribably urgent mission
How shall we respond to such mercy?
“Whom shall I send … and who will go for us?” God asks. And Isaiah responds: Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). The grace of God isn’t designed for casual acceptance. It compels us to abandon plans, dreams, possessions, priorities, treasures and pleasures in this world. Our King is worthy of so much more than nominal, casual, cultural Christianity. He is worthy of absolute submission to His person and absolute surrender to His purpose: Declaring His glory and His Gospel to the ends of the earth, particularly to the unreached.
The unreached are people who have never received the good news of the Gospel and currently don’t have access to this news. This includes more than 2.8 billion people around the world.
Why must we urgently pursue them? Why must we take the command of God to go to all people more seriously? Why must we stop giving only our spare time and leftover resources to this task?
Because their partial knowledge of God is enough to condemn them to hell (Romans 1:18-32). Every unreached person in the world has some knowledge of God, whether it’s a man in an African jungle, a woman in a remote Asian village or a nomad in a vast desert. Even if they haven’t heard the Gospel, they have seen evidence of God. Every person in the world stands guilty of sin before God — which is why they need to hear the good news of the Gospel.
This means there are more than 2.8 billion people in the world today who have enough knowledge of God to show them that He is incomprehensibly glorious. But that’s all they have! They are sinfully lost without the rest of the Gospel. We must take it to them!
And we must go to the unreached because the Gospel of God is powerful enough to save them from hell and admit them to heaven, to one day be within the presence of the high and holy God.
Ultimately, we go with urgency to the unreached because the glory of God is good enough to satisfy them forever. There is coming a day when we will see His face and join in the chorus that surrounds Him, proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy!”
This is why we must say, without condition and regardless of cost: Here we are, Lord; send us.