Jesus Meets Us Where He Sends Us
How God’s Son Goes BEFORE Us Into the World
in Order to Open Ways for Us to Serve Him
Part 5 of a 5-Part Series
[Editor’s Note: You can catch up on the previous four blog posts in this series by following these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. So far, we’ve discovered that every day the living, reigning Son of God goes before those who belong to him—he breaks out ahead of us—in directions that transform how we walk with him right now. He goes BEFORE us into the FUTURE, into the HEAVENS, and into the PROMISES. With this post, David Bryant fills us with solid anticipation about how Jesus makes our lives count for his global cause.]
Wait a minute! Where on earth are you headed?
Put another way: Where in the world is Jesus taking you?
As we’ve discovered in the previous blog posts in this series, for everyone who belongs to him, King Jesus always remains out in front of us, calling us, drawing us, leading us—taking us forward. He goes BEFORE us—today and every day.
Even more accurately, we might say he continues to lead his people outward without limits—north, south, east, west—as we continue to follow him to the end of the street . . . or to the ends of the earth.
His global cause is an adventure you don’t want to miss out on! And you can join it increasingly, starting right where you live. I want to share with you its many possibilities and show you how your Master will get you on board, involved in his “Mission Possible.”
The great news is that our risen, ascended Lord not only intends to send you into the world for his sake but also will be there waiting and ready to meet you when you get to wherever he takes you. He precedes you to open up new ways for you to serve him once you get there.
Jesus’ initiative among his followers can be pictured by a famous statue that dominates the skyline in Madison, Wisconsin. It doesn’t take long for casual visitors to discover the golden lady atop the dome of the magnificent legislative complex in the center of the state’s capital city.
There in the heart of this university town she stands, elevated so everyone can see her even blocks away, clothed in brilliant gold leaf, her one arm stretching straight out, her forefinger pointing toward the West.
Locally, the effigy is known affectionately as “Miss Forward” because that is the state motto for Wisconsin—just one word: “FORWARD!”
It’s as if day after day the regal lady stands above the daily bustle below, persistently urging her “subjects” to keep moving forward on all fronts that make up life in Madison—academic, political, economic, commercial, social, cultural.
Similarly, God’s Son, the glorious Head of the Church, invites everyone who dwells under his scepter to embrace his compelling call to move forward—to choose to take off with him without qualifications on where he sends and leads us or on how he uses us once we get there.
We set no limits on when, how, or where. We are open to following our Savior anywhere he places us among some of the nearly three billion people (near us and far from us) who have no real knowledge of Jesus and no one like them, near them, to tell them—unless he takes us to them.
Mark it down: Christians have the grandest of all privileges, which is to invade the world with the Savior of the world, to follow him into the world, and to spread his good news throughout the world as we help fulfill his kingdom’s agenda.
We’ve seen so far in this five-part series of blog posts that wherever our Lord goes before us, we can safely and eagerly follow him—onward (into the future), upward (into the heavens), inward (into the promises); and now, outward (into the world). In other words, forward.
“Boy, Have I Got a Terrific Mission for You!”
From the first moment he called his disciples to join him in his plan for the nations, the Master laid down one prerequisite and added to it one guarantee:
(1) They must follow him, wherever that took them and whatever it cost them. They could no longer stay where it was soft, predictable, manageable. “Where I am there must my servant be also” (John 12). No turning back. No holding back.
(2) In turn, he promised he would so profoundly transform them that they could enter his mission not as fishers of fish (which many were) but as “fishers of people.” In other words, he would open for them an ocean of possibilities to “fish” for him—to bring others to him and into his saving reign—doing so eventually right to the ends of the earth (Compare Mark 1 with Acts 1).
Near the close of his earthly ministry, on Resurrection Sunday, Jesus amplified their future mission when he reassured them in their fear, as he breathed the Spirit of God into them: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 21).
The disciples were terrified about their fate when Jesus appeared to them. Instead, standing in the flesh before them, he proved to them that he had triumphed over death itself—their greatest enemy, their biggest fear, and their largest barrier to any kind of mission into the world. Then, it was sort of like he said to them, “Forget your fears! Boy, have I got a fantastic assignment for you guys to carry out for me for years to come way beyond the confines of this upper room!”
And how did the Father send the Son?
On more than one occasion, Jesus claimed he did only what he saw the Father do first and spoke only what the Father spoke first.
In the same way, Jesus was promising his disciples that the success of the Church’s mission would depend on him as he would go before his followers in word and deed, clarifying the approaches for them to serve him.
After all, this was precisely how his own redemptive undertaking was completely dependent on his Father going before him, time after time opening the way for him to serve his purposes by the power of the Spirit (Compare Luke 4 with John 5).
In other words, Jesus promised these newly commissioned change agents—and all of us believers with them—that as they traversed the nations, no matter where he sent them, he would go before them, he would lead the way for them. He would also arrive there ahead of them, to meet them once they showed up, in order to deploy them, work with them, and minister through them.
That meant there would be no location where they could go to serve his global cause where he would not already be fully involved—not a square inch of planet Earth where his reign would not precede them to open the way for them to serve him.
As a contemporary proverb puts it, “Christ meets us where he sends us.”
From the outset, the Gospels present us with a Jesus who is always in motion! That’s precisely who he is today as well. He is forever pressing to take new ground in his unending “road trip” to bring to completion the ongoing, cosmic purposes of his redeeming reign.
For you see, Jesus is not only the ultimate revelation of God, he is also is the ultimate revolution of God.
He boldly takes us, his followers, into the world to serve him in outreaches we might not have imagined or dared to expect, often among people different than we are, and in places where we would never have dared to tread on our own.
Except for the fact that Jesus already has gone BEFORE us.
Have you heard him lately crying out to you, “Forward! Outward!”?
As we seek to obey and follow him, it might help us to dig deeper into this powerful expression of his spectacular supremacy today.
How does he go before us into the world? I see at least thirteen roles he plays as he leads the parade.
Jesus Assumes as He Goes Before Us
Into the World to Open Up Ways for Us to Serve Him
These 13 roles represent 13 different angles for looking at and thinking about how Jesus serves us and employs us in his global cause by going before us. In the end, all the roles really form the same role because they are carried out by the same Person.
1. Shepherd. Even in the passage about the Good Shepherd, Jesus indicates clearly that he intends to lead his flock out of familiar pens into wide-open spaces in search of even more sheep to hear his voice and join his fold. We read in John 10:
The shepherd walks right up to the gate . . . He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . . they follow because they are familiar with his voice . . . You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd (MSG).
2. Farmer. Jesus plants and tends “crops” and then places workers to harvest them.
We see in Matthew 9 that the fields are more prepared to be harvested than we imagine. The only thing lacking is enough laborers to be (his words) “thrown out” (the literal meaning of the Greek word is even more explosive in its implications)—that is, thrust into the midst of flourishing fields made ready by the One who reigns as Lord over the harvest and prepares the way to send forth the laborers.
3. Sower. The second of two parables about a sower in Matthew 13 demonstrates how Jesus makes a way for us to serve.
In the second account, he tells us the “field is the world,” the sower “is the Son of Man,” and the seeds are “the children of the Kingdom.” Observe: The sower flings out his followers into any part of the world he chooses so that they can bring forth a harvest there. Wherever he sends them, the soil has been prepared to receive what they’ve come to do. Paul reinforces this truth in Ephesians 2:10 (NIRV, emphasis added):
We are God’s creation. He created us to belong to Christ Jesus. Now we can do good works. Long ago God prepared these works for us to do.
4. Forerunner. Because he has all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus promised his newly commissioned disciples that wherever they found themselves as they traversed the nations, he would be with them (Matthew 28).
That means we can be sure that there’s no place his ambassadors go where he does not precede them, set the stage for their arrival, eagerly work through them when they get there, and then remain to sustain the impact of his salvation long after they move on to replicate their mission somewhere else.
5. Predecessor. Our mission to earth’s unreached peoples is not a fool’s errand, because wherever we go, Christ has already gone ahead of us to open the way for us to serve.
Paul reminded Athenian philosophers that in God’s presence all of humanity “lives, and moves, and has their being.” Therefore, it follows that all people (whether they know it or not at this moment) live and move and have their being under the reign of and in the presence of God’s Son—before we ever reach them to tell them of his saving work.
Wherever we go, therefore, our job is to help people see, believe, and enter into a kingdom that is already bearing down on top of them.
6. Door Buster. Jesus breaks through barriers, opening entryways for any outreach into which he calls his people. To the church in Philadelphia he declared:
What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open . . . I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut (Revelation 3, NIV).
Since the Father has given his Son the keys to death and Hades (Revelation 1), we can be sure he holds all the other keys needed to unlock barriers for the gospel’s advance into cities and nations, making it possible for his people to enter in to proclaim his name, spread his fame, and increase his gain.
Frequently, Paul experienced Jesus doors opening ahead of him; so it became for him a major prayer focus filled with expectations:
I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But . . . a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me (2 Corinthians 16, NIV).
Pray for us that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4, NIV).
7. Facilitator. Christ went ahead and prepared the way for Peter’s initial outreach to Gentiles. We read in Acts 10 that Jesus first prepared the heart of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, so that he was ready to take the gospel seriously. Next, Jesus visited Peter through a vivid vision, which was repeated three times, urging him each time to eat ceremonially unclean animals. This reassured the apostle that going into Gentile territory was thoroughly proper because his Lord had gone before him to open the way for him to reach them.
The results were so amazing that when the church leaders in Jerusalem demanded a full report, Peter responded like this:
So I ask you: “If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?” Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life” (MSG).
8. Preemptor. Often, New Testament witnesses discovered that people’s hearts already had been made tender by the Master before they connected with them and gave them an invitation to believe in Jesus.
In Pisidian Antioch, for example, after being rejected by the local synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row, Paul was delighted that “outsiders” (Gentiles, who were the least likely to respond) had been prepared beforehand to put their faith in Christ.
When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God – they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region (Acts 13, MSG, emphasis added).
9. Entrepreneur. The Church’s exciting challenge is to seek God’s face for the Spirit to reveal where Christ has opened hearts and then make God’s creatively opened places our priorities too.
In Acts 16, for example, we find that on two occasions Paul and his team probed for an opening for missionary work in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to go. Instead, God gave Paul a vision of a Macedonian man pleading with them to come there. Immediately they obeyed. In just a short time, Jesus brought them to Lydia in Philippi “whose heart the Lord had opened.” She became the first convert in Macedonia—the beginning of a tremendous harvest for Christ’s kingdom throughout that entire region!
10. Regulator. Going before us into the world, Jesus not only builds the roadway for us to travel but also determines the perfect timing for us to move forward on it to serve him.
For example, a few years after not allowing Paul to enter Asia Minor, Jesus finally brought him back to Ephesus. Now, amazingly, many there were ready to hear the message, as miracles flowed from the throne! We read:
Each day he talked with people in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years. So all the Jews and Greeks who lived in Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord . . . They held the name of the Lord Jesus in high honor. Many who believed now came and openly admitted the evil they had done. [Those who practiced] evil magic brought their scrolls together. They set them on fire out in the open . . . The word of the Lord spread everywhere. It became more and more powerful (Acts 19, NIRV, emphasis added).
11. Coach. Before we’re even aware that people are ready to hear and believe the gospel, Christ has gone ahead of us to make them ready. He knows exactly where unbelievers are in their spiritual growth and so he can equip us and teach us the best ways to reach them.
For example, in Corinth, Paul initially found so much resistance that he was ready to leave and travel to the next city. But Jesus opened Paul’s eyes to how he had gone before him to make Corinth ready for the gospel. Paul just needed to let Jesus take charge. We read:
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Keep on speaking. Don’t be silent. I am with you. No one will attack you and harm you. I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed there for a year and a half. He taught them God’s word (Acts 18, NIRV, emphasis added).
Consequently, Paul experienced one of his most effective times of ministry ever in Corinth.
12. Drum Major. Christ marches ahead of us into the nations, leading us in his vast victory parade.
Borrowing from the familiar scene of Caesar leading captives taken in battle back to Rome in chains—with Caesar riding at the head of the procession of conquered slaves, and all of the city celebrating the victory—Paul so described King Jesus going before the apostle and his team in similar fashion, opening the way for their mission for him and marching them into it. He wrote:
In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance . . . This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No . . . We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can (2 Corinthians 2, MSG, emphasis added).
13. Champion. In Matthew 16, Christ promises to lead his church up to and through the gates of Hades itself in order to extend his kingdom. He guarantees that no barriers will constrain or prevent this advance.
Sometimes he may lead us through very dark valleys to accomplish a specific assignment; but be assured, there is no resistance or sacrifice we face that he has not previously engaged and from which he has not already emerged victorious.
He championed our service for him, now and forever, the moment he took on our flesh, absorbed our judgment, broke through the tomb, and ascended to the throne with all authority—all authority not only in heaven but also throughout the nations where he sends us.
Let Go! Grab Hold!
Then, Make That Your
Everyday Approach to Life
The pastor of the world’s largest church told me he often looks to Matthew 11:12 as one explanation for their growth over the past 50 years from fewer than a hundred people to 800,000 members today. The verse reads:
Since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing with force. And forceful people are taking hold of it (Matthew 11, NIV).
The application the leader shared with me? As his people have increasingly heard the stories of Christ’s sovereign, saving initiatives on their streets, in their cities, and among the nations, they have grown in personal eagerness to participate with him in his work. As a result, more and more they have become a “people of force” as they grab hold of Jesus and where he is headed and then enter into what he already is doing.
In other words, we become a “people of force” the moment we let go of everything else, forcefully grab hold of the King and his kingdom, and allow him to lead us forcefully forward. We do so disregarding how “risky” it might seem at the moment. There are never any “risks” with him!
Think of a circus trapeze artist high above the crowd. Picture her swinging back and forth, holding fast to her trapeze bar, dangling over the center ring. Suddenly, she lets go of the bar. The next moment she’s suspended in midair, reaching for the hands of the acrobat on the other swing. Once they securely connect, from that moment forward, her immediate future is wrapped up in the destiny of the other performer. She has no choice. She’s going where he’s going. His direction and his speed of movement become hers as well—but only as long as she holds firmly to him.
Similarly, God calls believers to let go of the familiar, the seemingly safe, the supposedly predictable, and to thrust themselves into the arms of his Son—to be wholeheartedly engaged with him, to hold fast to him, to move forward where he is headed in order to help fulfill his global cause.
The pastor’s perspective on Matthew 11:12 recalls the motto of one of the most famous missionary endeavors in Church history—really, the motto is a paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:12:
Our Lamb has conquered!
Let us follow him.
Those two sentences formed the marching orders, one might say, of one of the greatest missionary endeavors in church history: the Moravians.
The Moravian outreach emerged from what historians call the “Moravian Pentecost” in August of 1727. As a result of a powerful work of God’s Spirit at that time, a community of about 200 religious refugees experienced a “Christ Awakening.” Then look what happened!
Sheltered on the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf (located in modern-day Czech Republic), they immediately moved forward on three fronts:
(1) They instituted a 24/7 prayer watch (called “The Lord’s Watch”) that continued around the clock for 100 years!
(2) As they prayed, they spawned revival teams that were thrust out to encourage Christians about a Christ Awakening in other nations of Europe.
(3) Eventually, they helped to launch scores of missionaries to serve Christ among unreached people groups across the globe—often at great sacrifice, even by martyrdom.
Why? It was because the Moravians were convinced of two things: Christ is utterly and victoriously supreme (“The Lamb has conquered!”), and since Jesus as Lord of all is advancing his kingdom worldwide, there was no better response than to declare, “Let us follow him.”
They were eager to get behind the One who was going before them as he opened up a way for them to serve him, calling others to join them (“let us”) in that great adventure.
Surely, we today should look toward no less. Take action for no less. Call others to no less.
Learn more about the Moravian movement here.
Study more about all the ways Christ goes BEFORE us by viewing, free of charge, Session 6 of The Christ Institutes Video Series.
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.