This is the fifth and final installment in our “Within a Yard of Hell” series. Over the last four weeks we examined what it means to be commissioned as The Well with a specific vision and mission for being a church that exists within a yard of hell.
We have been commissioned by our crucified, risen and returning Savior to make disciples who make more disciples within a yard of hell. Our commission is to literally be a special ops team that assaults the gates of hell for the salvation of lost people (Matt. 28:18 – 20; 16:18).
We want to be The Well within a yard of hell. Most of us here identify strongly with the woman at the well in John 4. We know what it is like to be the outcast, to be the prodigal, to be marginalized, to feel so ashamed of ourselves that we would avoid the religious crowd at all costs. But we also know what it is like to encounter Jesus in the midst of our deepest shame and guilt and isolation. We can say with the woman at the well and the people from her town that we believe in Jesus because we have heard his voice personally (Jn. 4:42).
Our vision keeps us moving forward when it seems like we are surrounded by the mushroom clouds of attack from our enemies: Satan, Sin, and Death. When the darkness closes in around us, our vision acts like a flashlight that points us in the right direction. We are a family of diverse, broken people who are being formed by the message of the gospel. The picture we see in the distance is the image of a transformed family, a mission-engaged family, a God-glorifying family (Rom. 12:1 – 2; 1 Cor. 10:31 – 11:1; Matt. 28:18 – 20; Acts 1:8).
We have a mission that is central to everything we do. We are like a wartime military brigade that actively takes back spiritual ground in the hearts and minds of lost people that have been controlled by the enemy for so long. We are seizing the kingdom of heaven by force (Matt. 11:12; 2 Cor. 10:3 – 5; Eph. 6:10 – 18), and the gates of hell look like a cardboard box (Matt. 16:18) under the crushing blows of our long-range missiles.
The tips of those long range missiles are made up of the substances of sharing the gospel, planting disciples, training leaders, and multiplying missionaries (Rom. 10:9 – 15; Acts 2:42 – 47; 2 Tim. 2:1 – 2; Matt. 28:18 – 20; Acts 1:8; Col. 1:28 – 29). Against this assault and with these missiles, the gates of hell are crumbling!
But there is one threat, or one opportunity left that must examine as we launch this full-scale assault on the gates of hell. The threat, or the opportunity (depending on how you look at it) is making sure we are fighting the right battle. We have to choose the right mountain to die on otherwise we begin to fight the wrong battle and therefore lose the entire war.
What battle are you fighting today? What mountain top are you attempting to take for the kingdom of heaven? What are your blind spots? These are questions that revolve around the topic of values. Values are like mountain tops that you are willing to die on. You fight fiercely to gain ground on these mountain tops. And those mountain top values are what unite us together in the pursuit of our vision and mission within a yard of hell.
Here at The Well, our elder team has identified three mountain top values that are interconnected like a small mountain range that we believe we are to fight for with every ounce of energy and resource we have. These three mountain tops are what we believe will unite us together in pursuing the vision and the mission that God has called us to. We will fight for the gospel, the family, and the mission. We value the gospel, the family, and the mission. The gospel, the family, and the mission are what unites us together in our war against Satan, Sin, and Death within a yard of hell.
#1: WE VALUE THE GOSPEL
What do we mean when we say that we value the gospel? And what does it look like to practically live out this value so that it’s not just mere words on a piece of paper?
Romans 1:16 – 17 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” So, when we say that we value the gospel, we will fight on the mountain top of the gospel, we are united by the gospel, we are saying that we are committed to the message of salvation for everyone who trusts in the work of our crucified, risen, and returning Savior.
1 Corinthians 15:1 – 11 says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
So, when we say that we value the gospel, we fight on the mountain top of the gospel, we are united by the gospel, we are saying that we are committed to preaching, receiving, standing upon, being saved by, and holding fast to the message of the crucified, risen, and returning Christ. By the grace of God each of us can say “I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (v. 10).
Practically speaking, we put our money where our mouths are when we apply the gospel to our own personal growth in continual repentance, to our ministry among the church family, and to our involvement in society. We must continue in applying the gospel to our war against sin within our hearts and lives. We must be motivated by the gospel to serve inside the sheep pen of the local church as we wash the filthy feet of other saints.
We must also wage war against all things unholy in our society as we stand against things like sexual slavery, racial, ethnic, social, and economic injustice, the murder of the unborn, and school systems that attempt to undermine the gospel with our children. When we say that we value the gospel, it begins and continues in our own personal repentance and then extends into our ministry within the church and then into our social involvement. We value the gospel at work in us personally, in the church, and in society.
#2: WE VALUE THE FAMILY
What do we mean when we say that we value the family? And what does it look like to practically live out this value so that it’s not just mere words on a piece of paper?
Acts 2:42 – 47 says that the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs 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 belonging 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.”
So, when we say that we value the family, we fight on the mountain top of the family, we are united by the family, we are saying that we are committed to being the church family we see in the book of Acts. When this becomes your value and your commitment, you will be united with other brothers and sisters in Christ who are devoted to sitting under the regular teaching of the Bible and you are practicing weekly fellowship, service, generosity, praise, communion, and celebration of the lost being saved and baptized in church gatherings.
Hebrews 10:23 – 25 says “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Again, if we say we value the family, we fight on the mountain top of the family, we are united by the family, then we are saying that we are committed to standing firm on our confession of hope in the person and work of our crucified, risen, and returning Savior.
And not only that, but because of our confession of faith, we are committed to gathering regularly with other brothers and sisters in Christ for the purpose of building one another up and encouraging each other to stand firm in the faith as we look forward to experiencing the promise of Heaven.
#3: WE VALUE THE MISSION
What do we mean when we say that we value the mission? And what does it look like to practically live out this value so that it’s not just mere words on a piece of paper?
In Luke 19:9 – 10, Jesus is spending time with a wee little man named Zacchaeus, a tax collector who reminds me of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, and right after Zacchaeus repents of his sin, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he [Zacchaeus] also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus’ mission was to look for the lost, call them to repentance, and offer them eternal life.
In John 20:21, immediately following the resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then in Acts 1:8 he tells the disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” These verses are like a baton pass in a race; Jesus is passing the baton of the mission to his disciples. He is essentially saying, “The mission you have witnessed me running here on earth is now your mission; I am sending you now, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue the mission my Father gave me to look for the lost, call them to repentance, and offer them eternal life.”
Furthermore, the apostle Paul explains exactly how to share the gospel with lost people in Romans 10:13 – 15 when he says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”In short, the mission we have been sent to do is to proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to every lost person we can find.
So, it seems, that if we say we value the mission, we fight on the mountain top of the mission, we are united by the mission, then we are saying that we are committed to searching for the lost, calling them to repentance, and offering them eternal life through the message of the gospel of the crucified, risen and returning Savior.
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).