This week, I had the blessing of being a part of a short term mission trip in Guatemala that merged three Churches. To restate one team member’s observation, it was spiritually filling, but physically draining. By my estimate, we shared the gospel with approximately 750 people between the ages of five to seventy-five.
On my flight back from Guatemala, I was seated nearby another group of Christians who were also returning from a mission trip. They were very excited about what they had done in the nation of El Salvador. Apparently, they spent a week building eco-stoves and installing them in homes.
As I listened, I smiled and attempted to be gracious during the conversation, but to be honest, I was annoyed. Now, I should be cautious, perhaps while they built stoves, they shared the gospel, I hope they did, for the eco-stove will not save them on the day of judgment, it merely sits as an unintended reminder of the lake of fire that awaits all men who remain in their sin.
This morning, as I continued to de-brief the trip in my mind, I thought of the words of Jesus in John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
In these verses, Jesus is referencing Numbers 21 which describes a time in Israel’s history, when Israel had sinned against God, and God punished them by sending fiery serpents to bite the people. This bite from the snakes was deadly. Simultaneously, God also commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. If the people were bitten by the deadly snake, they would need to look at the bronze snake and they would live.
In Guatemala (and all nations), everyone has been bitten by the Ancient Serpent, Satan. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). And just as in Numbers 21, God will punish us for our sin. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). But God is not just a God of justice, he is also a God of love. This love is found in His Son, “our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10).
So what do Guatemalans (and all men) need? Eco-Stoves? No, they need to know of the poison of sin that courses through their veins. They need to know that time is of the essence and the wrath of God could come upon them like a thief in the night. Ultimately, they need to have the Son of Man lifted high before their eyes, and hear the pleas of their fellow men to set their eyes upon Christ so that they may live. This is the light of the Gospel that leads to immortality. This is missions.