As midnight approached student after student stood in response to God's word and a call articulated by John Piper in response to God's word. But, rewind four hours.
Wednesday evening was The World Service. An evening focussed on praying for the peoples of the world and an expectation that God would call many to short and long-term missions to the unreached peoples of the world.
Alex Banfield Hicks led the evening and shared his 'perhaps' with us, that God would send 250 into short-term missions in the next two years, and 500 to send them.
John Piper addressed us on "As the Father sent me, so I send you" from John 20v21.
Download the MP3s of John Piper's talks:
The World Service - As the Father sent the Son
The World Service - So send I you
His opening move was to say that Alex's numbers were the wrong way round. It should be 500 to go, or even 700. In fact, short-term missions should be a given for the crowd in front of him. He had been praying that God would have prepared a substantial number to go. He prayed that many would look back on September 3rd, in 30 years as the night that the deal was sealed for them to go to the nations.
Now to the sending of Jesus. Jesus and John were both sent from God, but differently. Jesus came as the word made flesh. That's sent. God incarnate. Ass the Father sent him... we're sent like Jesus. But we're also not sent like Jesus. Part 1 of the preach looks at Jesus sent. Part 2 on how we're sent. Key questions of what and why - what's the purpose of everything. That's the whole Bible. But we had 20mins. Isaiah 43v5-7 articulates it: people were created for the glory of God's name.
So, we should do everything to the glory of God. This is why John Piper wrote his article: How to drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God. Is this possible? The heavens speak of the glory of God. We've heard the rain. Let the SUN declare the glory too!!
But, some are sceptical - is God a megalomaniac? No, because he is God he must do this. If we made everything about us that'd be sin. For him it is righteousness. Romans 1v21ff defines sin - they did not glorify God even though he had made himself PLAIN. All did not. They looked and said I prefer TV, sex, food etc. I prefer friends, kids, preaching. Usually we say 3v23 is sin, 1v23 defines it. We lack glory because we do not glorify God.
What was God's response? Wrath - 1v18. The knowledge of God is plain but suppressed. Everyone knows that God is there but they supress that. But, if the Holy Spirit uses us they will see! Piper was itching to get ahead to us being sent.
Wrath is the problem but Romans 8 provides the answer. This is something too glorious for controversy but we must stand for it - and he again commended UCCF for taking a stand on penal substittion. God sent his son in the flesh to bear our sin. So sin would be condemned in him. Whose sin? Our sin. This is glorious news. Romans 10 shows that people must then hear of this news.
We then heard from four ambassadors, student workers from Russia & Ukraine, Latin America, Macedonia and Rwanda. Praying as we went along. Kosta Milkov of Macedonia reminded us that his country is small. There are only 30 CU members in the nation among 50,000 students. They are a small country but they are in the Bible. He joked that Diet De-Caf Coke is nothing dresssed up as something, but Macedonia is the real thing. He reminded us of the sober reality that an "evangelical is a traitor to Macedonia".
We heard movingly from Jonathan Clark who, with his wife Dawn, is the only IFES worker in Greece, and then from Phocas Ngendayo who until recently led the Rwandan CU movement, seeking the reconciliation of those divided people by the gospel.
Keith Walker of SIM gave every student a copy of John Piper's classic on missions, Let the nations be glad. Saying, he expects this to outlast the generation it was written for and still be read in 100 years.
John Piper resumed. His plea: That at the end of the evening he'd pray for those who knowthey are called to cross-cultural mission longterm, and for those who believe God is stirring them to that and that they seriously intend to do something about that. Second, for those who will intend to go on short-term missions in the next two years. And then for everyone.
Two ways we're not sent like Jesus, two ways we are.
1. Jesus was only sent to the Jews (Matthew 15v24), we're sent by him to all peoples. And that is peoples not political nations. Jesus was slain for the people groups - all 24,000 of them. We heard of the breakthrough at Lausanne in 1974 where Ralph Winter broke the previous assumption (and associated sense of the job being done) by demonstrating that it is ethno-linguistic groups not just geo-political nations that must be reached.
Piper defines an unreached group as one without a self-sustaining church.
2. Jesus was sent to make atonement. He propitiates wrath. But, we go to proclaim that (Luke 24v45-47) and we go to extned those sufferings by our own sufferings (Colossians 1v24, supported by Philippaisn 2v29-30).
The gospel is NEWS it must be announced. And though it sounds heretical there is something lacking - the presence of the suffering of Jesus. So we suffer. This is mission life, in the dry dust or in the mud. With mosquitos. With food and people you can't stand. They hated Jesus, they'll hate us.
It's a given that missionaries will suffer. It's not the cost. It's the strategy. God says, let the peoples look at my people.
But, how do you discern God's call? Romans 15v20-21. Paul burns with an ambition to preach Christ where he has not been preached. That isn't for everyone. Piper asks regularly whether it is him, but he stays at Bethlehem Baptist Church because thus far it isn't. For Paul, preaching to unreached peoples burned in him, irrestibly.
Then the call to respond. John Piper was taken back by the scale of response. From the back of the tent I'd guess maybe a 200 stood because they KNEW they had to give their lives to cross-cultural missions people. probably a further 400 joined them in being prepared to go short term in the next two years.