Jesus' Mandate To The Church
Jesus Christ chose twelve men through whom to spread His teachings and to establish His Church in the world. He commanded His disciples to take the Gospel to all nations. This command primarily involved spreading the Gospel in lands which were under the rule of the Roman Empire. To obey Christ's command meant to endure harsh persecution, separation, and even death. Christ showed a tremendous trust in the disciples when He assigned such an immense task of world evangelization. Christ spent many months with His disciples, instructing, preparing, and encouraging them. He knew that He would soon be gone and the disciples must carry on his work and teachings. Christ chose the twelve to be His instruments through whom a world could be won for Him. Jesus said to the apostles, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you". (John 15:16)
The disciples which Jesus chose were ordinary men. They had no formal college education or special social distinction. It was to these men that Jesus commanded, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". (Matthew 28:19) This is Jesus' mandate to the Church! A mandate is a command, an edict, a statute, a commission. The 'Great Commission' has become the 'Great Omission' of the Church too often! But the 'Great Commission' is not an option; it is a mandate to every Christian! Notes Trueblood, "The ministry of Christ must be universal. It must be universal in three specific ways. It must involve all places; it must involve all times; it must involve all Christian persons, male and female, lay and clerical, old and young". He further says, "The non-witnessing follower of Christ is a contradiction in terms".
Every Christian has received the mandate to witness with the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ! But Jesus does not give such a strong mandate without providing the resources of strength and power. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the driving motivation for carrying out Jesus' mandate. God has entrusted a special message–a saving message–to all believers, and it is the creative Holy Spirit who shows the creative believer the manners and the methods in spreading this important message.
Making disciples is the main task of the Church. Everything we do and everything we teach must be evaluated to determine if the activity we are involved in or the subject we are discussing are helping to carry out the Great Commission. It is our job in the Church to produce committed members of Christ's Church.
"O God, I am a person under orders! I gladly accept your mandate. Never allow the 'Great Commission' to become the 'Great Omission' in my life. Help me to go to people as a shepherd goes after his lost sheep. If I remain in my Church and wait for sinners to come to Church, it is like 'chaining Christ to the pulpit'."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: All who have placed their faith in the living Christ are called to do the work of Christ–to make disciples! I commit myself to become a disciple-maker!
Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:38-41
Motivation For Witnessing
What is the motivation for heeding the mandate (command) of Christ to make disciples? Our motivation is the Holy Spirit who sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5). Without that special love–a divine-like love–we will not have the desire or the power to witness. Said Jesus, shortly before He ascended: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:4-5, Acts 1:8) Our Scripture reading for today (Acts 2:1-4) records the fulfillment of this promise. The significant thing about this passage is not the tongues, or the flames of fire, or the mighty rushing wind. The all- important and lasting truth is this: Those who wait for and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit shall surely be filled. Filled with love and power and boldness to witness.
Note the specific instructions which Christ gave to His disciples before He ascended: "Don't leave Jerusalem, wait for the Father's promise". (Acts 1:4) Before the disciple goes, he must wait. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength". (Isaiah 40:31) Says Barclay, "There are times when the Christian may seem to be wasting time, when he must wait in a wise passivity. Action without preparation must of necessity fail. There is a time to wait on God and a time to work for God". (Daily Study Bible, Luke, p. 312)
The disciples who waited were filled with the Spirit. The result? Great power in witnessing and in preaching. Peter, the very one who earlier had denied Jesus, was now Peter the Bold, preaching to the very ones who were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. The result of his preaching? Look again at Acts 2:38-41.
What explains the dynamic ministry of great soul-winners? Such power cannot be explained apart from the Spirit's baptism. This was the case with Dwight L. Moody. Says Moody, "One day in the city of New York–Oh, what a day! I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it. It is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. When I began preaching again my sermons were not different. I did not present any new truths, yet hundreds were converted. I would not go back to where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world". Do you want to witness with power and boldness? Then allow the Holy Spirit to fill your life with God's dynamic love!
"Father, you have commanded me to witness; now, empower me to witness. Open my mouth to speak boldly and unashamedly for you and for your cause. Motivate me with your kind of love."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation, of everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16, NIV)
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
What Is The Content Or Message In Witnessing?
'The Acts of the Apostles' (the Book of Acts) is really the 'Acts of the Holy Spirit'! Notes Barclay on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts: "The Holy Spirit was the source of all guidance … All the leaders of the Church were men of the Spirit … The Spirit was the source of day to day courage and power … The Christian's courage to meet the dangerous situation; the Christian power to cope with life more than adequately; the Christian eloquence when eloquence was needed; the Christian joy which was independent of circumstances are all alike ascribed to the work of the Spirit. In the first 13 chapters of Acts there are more than 40 references to the Holy Spirit. The early Church was a Spirit-filled Church and precisely therein lay its power." (Daily Study Bible, Acts, p. 12-13)
Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit since you became a Christian? Here are the steps: (1) Confess all known sin in your life, (2) surrender all known areas of your life to Christ, (3) believe in the Father's promise to fill you with His precious Spirit, (4) obey every known command in God's Word, (5) initially receive, by faith, the fullness of the Holy Spirit in your heart, (6) daily receive resources from God to live the Spirit-filled life.
Jesus commanded His disciples to go forth and teach all nations.
Throughout the Book of Acts we see the disciples beginning to carry out this commission. To understand the content of the disciples' teaching and preaching, one must go to the disciples' sermons as they are found in the Book of Acts. In summary form, we find the essence of preaching in the early Church. C. H. Dodd, a modern-day New Testament scholar, has pointed out the five main ideas that were communicated in the preaching of the early Church. Modern-day preaching which is patterned after New Testament preaching, has these same main ideas in it. William Barclay well summarizes these ideas.
(1) "The age of fulfillment has dawned; the Messianic age has begun. This is God's last word. A new order is being inaugurated, and the elect are summoned to join the new community." (Daily Study Bible, Peter, p. 167) For centuries, the Jewish people had awaited the coming of the Messiah. Christ, the 'Anointed One', came in fulfillment of this ancient dream. (Galatians 4:4-5) Christ the Messiah came, not only to redeem those who were under the Law–the Jews–but He came also to redeem those who were alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel–the Gentiles. Christ came, not to destroy Israel's earthly enemies, but to destroy man's universal enemy–Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15). Christ came to make provision whereby all can belong to His kingdom and community of love. The Messianic prophesies were perfectly fulfilled in Christ!
"O God, my witness for you is a Christ-centered witness. Your salvation of mankind is only made possible through the coming and the death of Christ. Pointing people to Christ, I point people to You! 'No one comes to the Father except through the Son–Jesus'!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As the Messiah, Jesus is the fulfillment of History's greatest dream — and Jesus is the fulfillment of my deepest aspirations!
The 'New Age' Has Dawned In Christ!
We are looking at the content of Biblical preaching, as demonstrated in the preaching of the New Testament Church.
(2) "This new age has come through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of which are in direct fulfillment of the prophesies of the Old Testament, and are, therefore, the result of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." (Daily Study Bible, Peter, p. 167; Barclay) The new age which God inaugurated is the age of grace which is expressed through God's universal invitation to salvation. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) "Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (Romans 5:18) "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11) "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forebearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, RSV)
Christ surrendered the glories of heaven to live a selfless life for mankind, through which he might inaugurate the new age of grace. Christ laid down his own life on his own accord, in order that he might become the perfect sacrifice for sin. Christ broke the bars of death through his resurrection in order to show his power over sin and Satan, and to demonstrate his power to make mankind victorious over sin. Jesus is the focal point of 'salvation history', through which all men can find life.
(3) "By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God, and is the Messianic head of the new Israel." (Daily Study Bible, Peter, p. 167; Barclay) Who are members of the new Israel? All those who are spiritual sons of Abraham, that is, all who truly believe in the object of Abraham's faith–God, who expressed Himself in the latter times in Christ .. Those who believe in, adhere to, and rely upon Christ are members of the new Israel–the family of God. God's family is composed of all humanity– male and female–and of all ages–past centuries and present century–and of all classes–despised and honored. All who truly have experienced faith in the Christ of the Ages! It is this blessed Christ who has been exalted to the right hand of the Father!
Witnessing that is not Christ-centered is off-centered! If Christ came from God, if Christ lived a sacrificial life, if Christ died a substitutionary death, and if Christ arose from the dead and ascended to the Father's right hand where He experiences glory and honor–if all of these assertions are true, then should we not seek to persuade all persons everywhere to bow their knees to Christ and to confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord?
"O God, my witness can be powerful, for I serve a powerful God whose power was conclusively demonstrated when he raised Christ from the dead!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Witnessing for Christ is lifes greatest responsibility and privilege!
Ancient Doctrine For a Modern-Day Witness
We are summarizing the core of apostolic preaching, as outlined in the sermons as recorded in the Book of Acts. These basic points serve as a guide and outline for effective and balanced witnessing today.
(4) "These Messianic events will shortly reach their consummation in the return of Christ in glory, and the judgment of the living and the dead." (Daily Study Bible, Peter, p. 167; Barclay) Christ came to earth the first time as the Lamb of God, meek, and lowly and submissive. When Christ returns to earth the second time, he will come as the Lion of Judah, creating terror in all who have rejected him. "For he (God) has fixed a day on which he will judge the whole world in justice by the standard of a man whom he has appointed." (Acts 17:31) The one by whom all men will be judged is Christ. Before him all men shall bow and to him all men shall confess that He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Before him all men will be judged according to the works done in the body. In this present age, right might go unrewarded, and wrong might go unpunished, but in the final age when God's plan for this earth will be consummated, God will judge righteously. The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be rewarded.
(5) "These facts are made the grounds for an appeal for repentance, and offer of forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life." (Daily Study Bible, Peter, p. 168; Barclay) Because God through Christ has inaugurated a new age of grace and has established his community of love which encompasses all mankind, and because Christ has offered his gift of salvation and will judge each man according to whether he accepts or rejects that gift, in light of all the foregoing facts, it behooves man to repent of his sins. One who turns his back on his sins and receives Christ, is offered forgiveness and is promised the Holy Spirit and eternal life.
To summarize: (1) God's purpose in history is to establish a new order of grace to replace the order of law, (2) God has inaugurated that new order through Jesus Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection has made it possible for all to become members of the family of God, (3) because Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God, He is the Christ of the Ages, forever contemporary and a very present help in time of need. Christ is not a historical remembrance but He is the present reality and personal Comforter (through the Holy Spirit), (4) Christ is not only the Saviour of all mankind, but He is also the Judge of all humanity, before whom all must give an account of their lives; (5) because response to Christ determines personal eternal destiny, it is imperative that all persons repent of their sins, and accept Christ's standards for their lives. To do so, results in a rich reward– present forgiveness and new life, and future hope and eternal life.
"Almighty God, thou art both a God of mercy and a God of justice. Mercifully You have provided a plan for mankind's forgiveness and restoration. Justly You will evaluate every person in the end, to determine the degree of response to Your Son who is Your provision for man's salvation. Help me to respond only to Your offers of mercy, that I may never have to reap Your just judgment for rejection!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'It is finished'–God has, through Christ, fulfilled His plan for human salvation! 'It is finished'–I will personally no longer struggle to save myself, but will trust in Christ alone for my salvation!
Ephesians 2:8-9. Romans 3:9-31
Contemporary Approach In Presenting The Gospel
The content of our witness today must be based on the message of the Bible. as preached in the early Church. But the method and approach in presenting that message must be adapted to the modern-day thought patterns and forms. The following is a most simple 'plan' to use in presenting the Gospel to an unbeliever.
(1) Fact of Sin. Notes C. S. Lewis. "A sense of sin is almost totally lacking. Our situation is thus very different from that of the apostles. The pagans to whom they preached were haunted by a sense of guilt and to them the Gospel was. therefore. 'good news'. We address people who have been trained to believe that whatever goes wrong in the world is someone else's fault–the Capitalists'. the Governments'. the Nazis', The Generals'. etc. They approach God Himself as His judges. They want to know. not whether they can be acquitted for sin, but whether He can be acquitted for creating such a world. I cannot offer you a water-tight technique for awakening the sense of sin. I can only say that. in my experience. if one begins from the sin that has been one's own chief problem during the last week. one is very often surprised at the way this shaft goes home. But what eve r method we use. our continual effort must be to get their mind away from public affairs and 'crime' and bring them down to brass tacks–to the whole network of spite. greed. envy. unfairness and conceit in the lives of 'ordinary decent people' like themselves (and ourselves)." (God In The Dock, p. 95-96; C. S. Lewis) We, as witnesses. must identify with sinners; we are not to judge them. but only to share Christ with them. We must say something like this: "If Christ can save a sinner like me. He can save you too."
(2) Seriousness of Sin. So many make 'light' of sin; consider that all 'make mistakes'; 'no one is perfect'; 'I am as good as that hypocrite in the Church', etc. Some rationalize their sins or seek to justify their sinful behavior or blame someone else for their wrong behavior or attitudes. When there is a failure to take personal moral responsibility for one's actions. there is'a failure in repentance.
(3) Insufficiency of Good Works. Even good actions are tainted with pride. "All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6) Pride is the 'mother' of all sins. Our good works are not good enough to save us. If we could save ourselves. there would have been no need for the coming and death of Jesus on a cross. It is because we were helpless that Christ came to save us. It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but because of what Christ has done. that is the basis for God's acceptance of us.
"Thou, O Christ, art all I want; More than all in Thee I find; Raise the fallen. cheer the faint. Heal the sick. and lead the blind. Just and holy is Thy name; I am all unrighteousness; False and full of sin I am. Thou art full of truth and grace." (From 'Jesus. Lover of My Soul' by Charles Wesley)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can only and always draw upon the exhaustless resources of heaven's 'Bank', if I always acknowledge my own personal moral bankruptcy!
1 John 1:9, Acts 16:31, Revelation 3:20
One Message Through Various Methods
In the last devotional, we said that pride is the 'mother' of all sins. Notes Demarary, "Man commits no wrong which is not traceable to pride; to put it another way, every sin man commits is the product of a desire to protect the ego or self. Murder, adultery, stealing, falsifying, and any and every sin that man has ever committed or ever will commit is the result of pride … It is an amazing fact that every sin does, in fact, issue from pride. If man commits adultery he does so to gratify self; he is doing what selfish desire dictates rather than respecting personality. If we covet we are aggravating the temptation to take what is not rightfully ours but something we imagine will make us happy. If we tell an untruth we are really 'covering up' to prevent humiliation." (Basic Beliefs, p. 51-53) For man to think that he can save himself, independent of Jesus Christ, is the chiefest manifestation of pride.
(4) Jesus Christ alone can save sinners. Because Jesus is sinless; He is God in human form. Because He paid the penalty for our sins, thus satisfying God's justice. Because He loves us supremely and is not willing that any person perish.
The above four points regarding God's plan for man's salvation, call for a simple but direct response from sinners. Man's response can be outlined as simply as 'A, B, C'. Starting with the 'c' step: 1 John 1:9. This is 'Confess'. The 'B' step: Acts 16:31. This is Believing in Christ. The 'A' step: Revelation 3:20. This is Acceptance of Christ into one's life.
Christ is the sole subject of witnessing. There are various ways to witness, however. Bishop Bastian notes four specific ways to witness effectively: (1) Informal and Spontaneous (Way of Life) Witnessing. Here are a couple of 'lead' questions to ask a person when you talk informally. "Do you presently have peace with God, or are you in the process of finding peace with God?" Or, "If you were to die tonight, would you know for sure that you were going to heaven?" Simply share honestly what Christ has done for you and how you found God. Don't preach. Don't judge. Point people to Christ, not to yourself or to your personal experience. (2) Organized Witnessing. This may be done through your local Church outreach programs. Some persons effectively use tracts–in letters, in restaurants, in motels, etc. One Church regularly hands out nearly 2000 devotional booklets, door-to-door in the neighborhood of the Church–on a quarterly basis. (3) Supplemental Witnessing. The witness of good deeds, demonstrating one's love for God and for people. (4) Unconscious Witnessing. "Undergirding spontaneous, organized, and supplemental witness. Holy people–saints–are never conscious of their own holiness, but their lives take on a quality which the world cannot help but notice." (Adventures In Belonging, p. 83; Bastian)
"Father, your 'plan of salvation' is both beautiful and profound. Help me to present that 'plan' to people both appealingly and simply. While adapting the methods, help me always to be true to the eternal Message–Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What the Holy Spirit has come to the world to do, I too will do–lift up Christ for all to see!.
Matthew 10:7-20, Isaiah 6:1-8
Obeying The Command To 'Go'!
In all the clang and clamour of the world's strife and chaos, the Christian can still hear the voice of Jesus echoing through the ages, saying, 'Go, teach, baptize, and make disciples in all nations'! Many earnest Christians are endeavoring to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Christianity has encircled the globe and many backward tribes now are even receiving the Gospel in their own tongue. Yet the world's population is expanding at geometric proportions. If every person is to be reached with the Gospel, every Christian must become an evangelist to herald forth the message of salvation.
The words of the Great Commission are repeated many times, both during the ministry of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, and in the message of the apostles as recorded in the Epistles. The Great Commission is the commission to 'Go' to all people with the Gospel. During the next few days, let us note (1) the Command to 'Go', (2) the Preparation needed for going, (3) the positive Results from going.
Note first the Command to 'Go'. Even in the Old Testament, the command to 'Go' and speak to people about God is given. When Isaiah had a vision of God and was cleansed of sin, he heard the voice of God saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Isaiah immediately responded, "Here am I; send me." (Isaiah 6:8) Ezekiel was commanded by God to warn sinners of the error of their ways, and to seek to persuade them to turn to God: "O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he does not run from his way, he shall hide in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul." (Ezekiel 33:7-9)
It is the will of Christ that every believer should go forth and bear fruit. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." (John 15:16) Fruitfulness depends partly upon our 'Going'.
Obedience at the point of Going is imperative, and good intentions without decisive action short-circuits God's will and could eventually bring outright condemnation. Read Matthew 21:28-31 carefully. The command of Jesus is serious and urgent: "And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." (Luke 14:23)
"Father, I realize now that the vision that transforms me (Isaiah 6:1-8), is a three-fold vision. First, I must see your holiness. Next, I must see myself in contrast to your holiness, which experience drives me to your cleansing blood. Third, I must see the needy people around me and 'Go' with your redeeming message to share the Good News. Give me your vision, for without that vision the people around me perish!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The love of God compels me to share the forgiveness of Christ!
Luke 10:25-37, Luke 14:23
What Is The Purpose Of Our 'Going'?
What should be the purpose of our 'Going'? The parable of the Good Samaritan gives us the answer (Luke 10:25-37). After telling about the compassionate actions of the Samaritan man, Jesus said, "Go, and do thou likewise." Expressing compassion is the purpose of going. Note the verbs of action–'Go' and 'Do'. Faith without works is dead. Faith demands expression. Right thinking and right doctrine are important, but both must culminate in right action, or good thinking and doctrine become barren. It is possible to contend for orthodox belief without involvement in practical redemptive action. Says Walter S. Kendall, "The Church with out a passion for souls is not a Christian Church, regardless of what it believes". A Church must be a soul-winning Church if it is truly a Christian Church. Listen to what Royal Nelson says, "The heart of the divine program is soul-winning, and the Church that is not a soul-winning Church has no more weight in the balances of eternity than a secular club".
We need not go to another continent to tell the Good News. We can witness at our doorstep and in our neighborhood. After Jesus healed a demoniac, the demoniac wanted to leave his home and travel with Jesus. "But Jesus would not allow this, 'Go home to your own people', he told him, 'and tell them what the Lord has done for you, and how kind he has been to you!' So the man went off and began to spread throughout the Ten Towns the story of what Jesus had done for him. And they were all simply amazed." (Mark 5:19-20, Phillips)
The command of Jesus to Go is given to all Christians. "A decade ago one could hear people say, after a session on soul winning, 'That's what we pay our preacher for'. There are four weaknesses to this theory: (1) It is un-Scriptural. The Great Commission was to all Christians. (2) It is impossible to have an evangelistic Church without having evangelistic people. (3) It is a physical impossibility for clergy to accomplish all of the tasks of evangelization. In this day they are burdened with a multiplied program of administration plus the constant crisis resulting from social breakdowns about them. (4) It is the ordinary layman who holds the ideal position to contact society as a whole." (GO, by Oelamarter and Kingsley, p. 27)
While the disciples were enjoying the Lord's presence in the Upper Room of Jerusalem, Christ said, "That the world may know. .Arise, let us go hence". Oelamarter imagines Peter thinking or saying something like this: "No, Master, let's stay here. Your words have blessed our souls tonight. Never has our fellowship been more precious. Speak on, tell us more; our souls are being fed. Besides, the hour is late and the streets of Jerusalem are dangerous tonight. Master, the Jews even seek thy life. Master stay here." (Ibid, p. 31)
"Father, I confess that so many times I have failed to 'Go' and share the Good News of Christ with needy people. Embolden me to share. Help me either to 'find' or to 'make' opportunities to witness. Broaden my 'circle of influence' for Christ. In order that others may know of Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "It only takes a spark to get a fire going." I will be that 'spark' for Christ!
Luke 10:1-2, Psalms 126:5-6
Going Out Into The Highways And Byways Of Life
Christ has called us to leave our comfortable abodes and our beautiful Churches, and to go out into the highways and byways of life, to lift men out of the abyss of sin, and to share God's love with them.
"I said, 'Let me walk in the field'. He said, 'No; walk in the town'. I said, 'There are no flowers there'. He said, 'No flowers, but a crown'. I said, 'But the skies are black, There is nothing but noise and din'. And He wept as He sent me back. 'There is more', He said; 'there is sin'. I said, 'but the air is thick And fogs are veiling the sun'. He answered, 'Yet souls are sick, And souls in the dark undone' . I said, 'I shall miss the light, And friends will miss me, they say'. He answered, 'Choose tonight If I am to miss you, or they'. I pleaded for time to be given. He said, 'Is it hard to decide? It will not seem hard in Heaven To have followed the steps of your Guide'. I cast one look at the fields, Then set my face to the town; He said: 'My child, do you yield? Will you leave the flowers for the crown?' Then into His hand went mine; And into my heart came He; And I walk in a light divine, The path I had feared to see."
(Christ And The Fine Arts, p. 714; George MacDonald)
David Livingstone, a Scot of lowly birth who was raised by humble but godly parents, went to work in a cotton mill at the age of ten, but, because of his love for learning, he went to night school and read such books as he could get a hold of. After a deep religious experience, he decided to become a medical missionary and received training in medicine and theology. Livingstone was challenged by a missionary to Africa, Robert Moffat, who said that from where he lived on any clear morning the smoke of a thousand villages could be seen where the name of Christ had never been heard. Livingstone went to Africa to evangelize in hundreds of native villages, some of which had never before been seen by a European. This great frontier missionary felt the heartbeat of Christ's love, and felt compelled to go and to tell of God's love.
"Father, help me to see myself as a 'missionary'–one who is commissioned to take the Gospel message to the lost around me."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I may be the only or the best Christian that someone knows! I will be a good witness for Christ!
Acts 1:4-8 Acts 1:12-14
Preparation For Going
We have looked at Jesus' Command to Go; we must now look at the Preparation needed for going.
(1) Make Sure You Are A Christian. One cannot begin to be concerned genuinely in the salvation of others if he himself is not saved from sin. Make sure you have personally accepted the saviour into your life by faith. He who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
(2) Confess All Unconfessed Sins To God. The Psalmist wrote. "If I regard iniquity in my heart. the Lord will not hear me". (Psalms 66:18) As a Christian. have you relapsed into sin or disobedience? What are some sins to which Christians are susceptible? Idle speaking, negligence in Church attendance, wastefulness in their use of time, indulgence in eating, negligence in daily devotions such as prayer and fasting, failure to pay the tithe to the Lord's Church, cooling off in zeal for the Lord's work. Each sin must be faced and confessed to God. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins." (1 John 1:9) "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
(3) Make Sure You Are Filled With The Holy Spirit. It is Bill Bright of Campus Crusade For Christ that writes. "From the moment of spiritual birth, the Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, not all Christians are filled (controlled and empowered) by the Holy Spirit." A Christian is filled with the Spirit when the Christian surrenders completely to Christ and by faith appropriates the gift of love.
(4) Make a Prayer List. Pray specifically and daily for individuals whom you would like to help lead to Christ. We ask and receive not because we ask amiss. One way to ask amiss is to ask for nothing specifically and everything in general.
(5) Determine To Put First Things First. Establish priorities. Determine by the grace of God that soul-winning will take first place in your priorities. For what is the Cross of the Christian? The cross, to the Christian, is bearing reproach and risking danger for the sake of sharing Christ with a needy and sometimes hostile world. Said Jesus to His followers: "Behold. I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in the synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." (Matthew 10:16-20)
"Father, you want to save all, and you want to use me as an instrument to save some. You want me to be a cleansed instrument–cleansed from all sin–and you want me to be an effective instrument–filled with your mighty Holy Spirit. Cleanse me and fill me, that I might be prepared to go!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has commanded me to do–witness–He will prepare me to be–a Spirit-filled witness!
Making Witnessing a Priority In Your Life
There are times when one feels a strong compulsion to witness. Said Jeremiah, "If I say, I will not make mention of the Lord, or speak any more in his name, there is in my mind and heart as if it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with enduring and holding it in; I cannot contain it longer." (Jeremiah 20:9) The disciples said to the authorities who tried to quiet their witness: "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard". (Acts 4:20)
It is important to witness, however, not simply on the basis of feelings or conscious desire, but systematically out of a sense of obedience, duty, and faith. This is not always easy, therefore one must decide that witnessing is so important that he will do it as a 'way of life', regardless of feeling or emotion. One may at times feel a definite leading of the Spirit to witness, but many times one will not feel that leading and therefore he must go ahead and witness out of a sense of mere obedience and faith.
Just as Paul prayed for courage to speak for Christ, so we too need to pray for courage to speak for Christ. "Pray also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:19)
Witnessing as a way of life is not always easy because it requires consistency and persistency. I asked former Bishop Kendall one time how long I should take the initiative in going to people to speak to them concerning their relationship with God. The Bishop answered that I should go back and go back to people's homes, regularly and systematically, continuing to express concern over a long period of time. Jesus never gave up on people. Wrote Paul, "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not". (Galatians 6:9) "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58) I heard of one man who received a witness from Christians for 19 years before he became a believer. After his conversion, however, he became a Sunday School superintendent of a large Church. Persistency paid off!
Don't wait until you find time to witness and to visit, for you will find little time to do it. Rather, make time to witness. Make it a priority in your life. This may mean scheduling a certain time each week to visit and to witness. It may mean giving up some activities that rob you of time that should be spent in sharing Christ with others. Campus Crusade For Christ for years has been encouraging thousands to take the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Spirit, and then leave the results with God.
"Father, help me to know in my mind the 'plan of salvation', to feel in my heart a compassion for the lost, and to determine in my will to make witnessing a priority in my life. Lift my mind, my emotions, and my will above the drift of mediocrity, and motivate me to give myself to the greatest job in the world–soul-winning!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "He that winneth souls is wise!" I will begin today to 'reach out in love' to the lost around me!
Romans 10:8-15, Galatians 6:9-10, 1 Corinthians 15:58
The Challenge Of Witnessing
We noted in the last devotional that witnessing as a way of life is not always easy. There are at least five reasons why this is so. (1) Witnessing sometimes is associated with cross-bearing and bearing reproach for Christ's sake. (2) Witnessing must be carried on consistently, out of a sense of obedience, both when we feel a strong desire to witness and when we don't feel any conscious desire or urgency to witness. (3) Witnessing must go on even when there is no quick, visible results. Man is trained to carryon activities only when there are immediate or quick results or rewards from his efforts. One however is successful in witnessing regardless of the tangible results. Notes Paul Rees, "Take the pioneer missionaries who were the trailblazers in world evangelism a century ago. Some of them, like the Moffatts and the Morrisons, went for years before they witnessed a single conversion among the pagan people to which they preached. Was theirs a stagnant, sterile life? Perish the thought! In them the fragrant graces that Paul calls the 'the fruit of the Spirit' were ripening. In them the intimacies which are possible between a redeemed soul and God were growing richer. In them a faith, which, to be sure, was sometimes drastically tested, was sinking deeper roots." (Prayer and Life's Highest, p. 67) (4) Witnessing is not always easy because it takes time, and therefore many Christians will have to give up less important activities to make time for witnessing. Although witnessing is a challenge, it is of utmost importance. Therefore, Christians must determine in their minds and wills to put witnessing first in their priorities, regardless of the cost. (5) You, as a witness, may not always see the results of your efforts. You may do the 'sowing' and someone else may do the 'reaping' of the soul. The 'sowing' is just as important as the 'reaping', even though the latter may bring greater excitement and 'credit' from onlookers–or from the person who was saved. You must continue to witness, however, even though you seldom have the joy of 'reaping'. "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)
I have seen scores and scores pray to accept Christ as their personal Saviour. I have had the joy of 'reaping'. But most, if not all, of those whom I have led to Christ, were the results of someone else's prayers, labors, love, and 'watering'. All of us believers have a part in fulfilling the Great Commission. Some' plant', some 'water', and some 'harvest'. But God alone gives the increase. I have led many to Christ, but I have never yet (and never will) 'save' one soul. Only Christ can do that!
"Give me the love that leads the way, The faith that nothing can dismay, The hope no disappointments tire, The passion that will burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod; Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God." (by Amy Carmichael)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My priorities are revealed by the way I spend my time. I will show my priority in witnessing by spending more time in witnessing.
Positive Results From Witnessing
We have looked at Jesus' command to 'Go' and witness. We have also considered the Preparation needed for 'Going'. We must now look at some of the positive Results of 'Going'.
(1) Bridges of Friendship Will Be Built. Many people are lonely and depressed and in need of friends. When you take time to visit with people, people are impressed that you are a person who really cares, and that you represent a Church that really cares. In being attracted to you, people will eventually be attracted to the Christ that you love and to the Church where you attend. When visiting people, relax and listen empathetically and converse enthusiastically. Try to read some Scripture and have prayer in every home you visit. Cultivate friendship.
(2) Souls Will Eventually Find Christ As Their Personal Saviour. If you consistently show concern for people, there will be many who will respond to the call of Christ and who will become genuine followers of Christ. The greatest privilege in life is to lead someone to a personal knowledge of Christ. "He that winneth souls is wise." Wrote James, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20, NIV)
(3) The Kingdom of God Will Be Expanded. The existence of a kingdom depends upon two factors–reign of a king and realm with subjects. God is the King. Christians are the subjects that compose the King's realm. Christ is very interested in the realm of God's kingdom being increased and expanded. This expansion comes when Christ receives the loyalty of another human heart. As Christians, we are given the ministry of reconciliation–influencing people to give their lives to Christ. To change the analogy, we are given the opportunity to be harvesters in the Lord's vineyard. When we go forth, we are going forth for an ultimate purpose–to harvest souls for Christ. We will not see this accomplished every time we go forth. Sometimes we will sow the seed of God's word. Sometimes we will water the seed with inner tears of intercessory prayer. Sometimes we will warm the soil of men's hearts through acts of thoughtful friendship. Sometimes we have the inexpressible joy of harvesting souls for the Saviour. "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I (Christ) say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." (John 4:35) "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalms 126:6)
"Father, just as there was 'great joy' in the city of Samaria when Phillip led people to Christ (Acts 8:8), so there will be 'joy unspeakable' when people find you as Saviour through my witness! 'Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee'. Then people who find You will rejoice exceedingly!"
AFFIRMATION FOR DAY: The results from my witnessing for Christ will be incalculably great! Only in eternity will I fully know of those results!
Acts 16:5, Acts 17:4, Acts 18:8
Witnessing Brings Spiritual And Numerical Growth
We are looking at the positive Results from witnessing.
(4) The Local Church Will Be Increased and Enlarged. A new Christian needs a place to fellowship and to worship. What more natural place is there for him to fellowship and to worship than in the local Church of the one who led him to Christ? As an outgrowth of visitation, and witnessing, and soul- winning, the local Church will grow spiritually and numerically.
Numerical growth in a local Church is desirable and is oftentimes a sign of spiritual growth. When one great pastor of a large Church (Dr. Lee Roberson) was once asked about numbers, he answered, "Sure I'm interested in numbers. One is a number. Too often ministers say they are interested in quality and not quantity. One soul is a number and I am interested in reaching as many souls for Jesus as possible." "Dr. Vick of Temple Baptist Church justified his emphasis on numbers by pointing to the Scriptures. He pointed to the fact that Jesus had twelve disciples, later in the Book of Acts there were 120 people, next an emphasis was made on 3,000 conversions and finally over 5,000 souls were added to the Church. Dr. Vick concluded, 'I place emphasis on numbers because the Bible does." (Ten Largest Sunday Schools by Towns, p. 134)
The great preacher Spurgeon told young ministers, "The man who isn't interested in numbers won't have them." If God wants one Christian, He wants more Christians. If God does not want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), then He wants our local Churches overflowing with new converts! Win as many to Christ and to your local Church as you can!
(5) Christians Will Be Fulfilled. Christianity is a "social religion", that is, it is a religion that can't be lived in a vacuum or aloof from people. During Wesley's search for spiritual reality, one counselor advised Wesley: "Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven? Remember that you cannot serve him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion."
A Christian who does not share becomes an ingrown, frustrated, static Christian. Nothing brings greater satisfaction and delight than sharing Christ with people, for such a person is investing not only in time but also in eternity. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." (Proverbs 11:30) Who are the wise ones? Soul- winners! What shall the wise–the soul winners–enjoy? "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3) For even a small investment of time in witnessing, the benefits are so great! Will you determine at this moment that you will allow God to use you as His witness?
"Father, how can people call on you if they have not believed in you, and how can people believe in you unless they hear about you, and how can they hear about you unless someone witnesses to them? Send me to witness lovingly and convincingly to someone today!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:15)
Receiving Penecostal Power For Living And Witnessing
What is meant by the 'Great Commission' of Jesus? Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The 'Great Commission' has become the 'Great Omission' of the Church too often!"
What does Elton Trueblood mean when he says that "the ministry of Christ must be universal"?
Where is the 'driving motivation' for carrying out Jesus' 'Great Commission' to be found?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Making disciples is the main task of the Church. Everything we do and everything we teach must be evaluated to determine if the activity we are involved in or the subject we are discussing are helping to carry out the Great Commission". Are there any activities (be they ever so 'good') which you are doing, either in your personal life or within the life or your local Church, which are not contributing to the fulfilling of the Great Commission, and therefore should be eliminated from your life?
What are the all-important and lasting truths which you learn from studying Acts 1:4-5, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:1-4, especially as these truths apply to your own personal life as a believer in Christ?
List the specific steps which a believer must take if he is to be 'filled' (and stay 'filled') with the Holy Spirit.
Describe the essence of the preaching of the apostles, as found in the Book of Acts.
What is a simple 'plan' that can effectively be used in presenting the Gospel to a modern-day unbeliever. (Share appropriate verses that can be used in presenting this 'plan' with unbelievers.)
Man's response to God's 'Plan of Salvation' can be described as simply as 'A, B, C'. What do each of these letters represent, and what Scriptures can you cite which accurately describe each of these three responses to God's 'Plan'?
What four specific ways can one effectively witness, according to Bishop Bastian?
Share Scriptures from both the Old Testament and the New Testament that show the Biblical imperative to all believers to go and share the Good News of salvation with the lost ones.
What, according to the example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) , should be our purpose in 'Going'?
Tell why you agree or disagree with Walter S. Kendall's statement: "The Church without a passion for souls is not a Christian Church, regardless of what it believes".
Receiving Penecostal Power For Living And Witnessing (Continued)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement by Royal Nelson: "The heart of the divine program is soul-winning, and the Church that is not a soul-winning Church has no more weight in the balances of eternity than a secular club".
List at least four weaknesses in the theory which says that the job of soul-winning is solely or primarily the job of hired professionals (preachers and evangelists).
How do you personally react to the following statement: "Christ has called us to leave our comfortable abodes and our beautiful Churches, and to go out into the highways and byways of life, to lift men out of the abyss of sin, and to share God's love with them".
What personal Preparation should one make before he attempts to go forth to share the Good News with others?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "It is important to witness, not simply on the basis of feelings or conscious desire, but systematically out of a sense of obedience, duty, discipline, and faith."
What does Ephesians 6:19 teach the believer who desires to be an effective soul-winner, in terms of his seeking the prayer support of his fellow believers?
What is one of the perils in life of the person who regularly labors to influence unbelievers with the 'claims of Christ'? (Note Galatians 6:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:58)
Tell why agree or disagree with the following statement" "Don't wait until you find time to witness and to visit, for you will find little time to do it. Rather, make time to witness. Make it a priority in your life."
What is your response to the following definition of witnessing (as taught by 'Campus Crusade For Christ'): "Witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Spirit, and then leaving the results with God". (Do you find it difficult to continue consistently to witness to unbelievers when, as a result of your earnest witnessing, you do not seem to see quick or visible results? According to the above definition of witnessing, can you consider yourself 'successful' in witnessing, even when you are 'turned down' or 'rejected' by unbelievers with whom you share a 'witness'?)
List at least five reasons why witnessing as a 'way of life' is not always easy.
Does the one who does the 'harvesting' of souls get more 'credit' or 'glory' than the one who does the 'planting of the seed' or the one who does the 'watering of the soil'? (Note 1 Corinthians 3:7-9)
List five positive results from 'going forth into the harvest field' to visit and to witness.