♣ Christ: Our Vision before Mission
Posted by Shade of the Moriah Tree
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and whoever captures [wins] souls is wise” – Proverbs 11:30.
MANY ASSUME THAT the greatest commandment, commission or the Christian’s first duty is to go into the entire world and preach the gospel, but in actuality it is not; the most imperative and pivotal calling is to love God with every fibre of our being (Matthew 22:36-39); everything else stems from that, never the other way around.
Much of today’s activity in the Church isn’t necessarily Christ-centred that ensures a balanced and sound evangelism resulting in bearing good fruit that lasts. Of course, any organisation (religious or secular) can accelerate in growth that appears successful from the outside; a tree will either bear good or bad fruit. So just because we expend all our energies and see results does not always equal success, no matter how phenomenal the outcome of our labours may be (Matthew 7:21-23). The angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner that repents because they see the grace of God working unto salvation, but how different that is to the way in which many believers react today; we automatically presume that one is genuinely saved because they say the ‘sinners prayer’ before witnessing the fruits of repentance. No sooner than they are ‘saved’ the pressure to evangelise takes the dominant note. There are countless unsaved missionaries who are convinced they are doing the work of God, just as there are ministers who have never been called of God to enter such a field. There are numerous missionaries who have been driven by sympathetic impulse to evangelise in foreign countries rather than being led by God to stay at home. As Oswald Chambers said, “The need is not the call, but the call is the need.” Placing emphasis on the ‘need before the call of God’ accounts for the widespread subtle danger of the social-gospel which is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Oswald Chambers encapsulates exactly what the social-gospel is: “Missionary enterprise on the line of education, and healing, and social amelioration is magnificent, but it is secondary, and the danger is to give it the first place. The temptation is more subtle today than it ever has been, because the countries of the world are being opened up as never before [and don’t forget that Chambers spoke these words almost one-hundred years ago]. It sounds so plausible and right to say – heal the people, teach them, put them in better surroundings, and then evangelise them; but it is fundamentally wrong. The cry ‘Civilise first, and then evangelise’ has honeycombed itself into missionary work in every land; and it takes the Spirit of God to show where it is in direct opposition to God’s line. It is putting men’s needs first, and that is the very heart and kernel of the temptation Satan brought to our Lord. Our Lord’s first obedience was not to the needs of men, but to the will of His Father. We must beware of putting anything first that Jesus does not put first. The testimony of missionaries over and over again is to the effect that when once evangelistic work is put in the second place, it is the devil who gets his way, not God. The introduction of civilisation, without the emphasis on living the life hid with Christ in God, tends to increase the power of evil because it covers it with a veil of refinement. ‘The heathen shall know that I am the Lord…when I shall be sanctified [in you] before their eyes.’ The only reason for a Christian to go out to the mission field is that his own life is hid with Christ in God, and the compulsion of the providence of God outside, working with the imperative call of His Spirit inside, has wedded itself to the command of Jesus – ‘Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations.’ The awakening force spiritually will not come from the civilisation of the West, but from the lives of the lonely, obscure missionaries who have stood true to God, and through whom the rivers of living water have flowed.”
I have often heard it said that the proof you are bearing fruit manifests in how many souls you lead to Christ, but that is an error that can cause unnecessary heartache to those that are genuinely converted. A Christian may spend the majority of his or her life witnessing to the lost and see no ‘results’, nevertheless, seeds are sown. Another Christian may follow upon such work and see the fruits of salvation; one plants, another waters; one sows, another reaps (John 4:37; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
To go into all the world and proclaim Christ is the inevitability when one is rightly related to God; you never have to force it, “He who believes in Me, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). It is not necessarily something that is organised, forced or mechanical (although some planning does come into it); it is the outflow of what is already inside (through regeneration), just like Jeremiah with the fire shut up in his bones; he couldn’t keep it contained just as with Paul when he said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”; there had to be an outflow and that is to be the compelling motive to all of our witnessing for Christ.
Some of the best moments, when witnessing to others, are when those moments come around spontaneously. Situations where I had previously deemed impossible to share my faith with one particular person, God had opened those doors in a wonderful way to where I know, without a shadow of a doubt, He had indeed sown seeds in the heart of that hearer.
If we are truly walking with God, sharing (conversing) about the life of God will take place as natural as anything else. You will speak with conviction and authority. Have you noticed that in situations where you have spoken certain truths, without knowing their power, that it has fallen on deaf ears, but when you speak from a perspective of having encountered and known such realities, you find that your hearers are listening attentively? If we know the truth, then the results are freedom and others will tell in a heartbeat whether or not we are free; there is nothing worse than listening to a person speak on freedom while hearing the ‘clanking of chains’; it is the epitome of hypocrisy. John Hyde known as ‘Praying Hyde’ once said, “The stench of self [our old self-life] will frighten souls away.” It is not so much what we say that people pay attention to but more so when we are silent, going about our business, unconscious of people watching us, that makes all the difference; it is there that others see us for who we really are and whether or not our life matches our profession.
There are many believers that talk the Christian jargon, but there is a note of reality seriously lacking; there is no authenticity and no genuineness which is a main cause to bringing the gospel message into disrepute. And that is very much the case today where the gospel is being preached while lacking the power of God in its delivery and proclamation. Why rejoice when God does not give unction? Where are the preachers today who dare not get up from their knees in prayer, imploring God until they know the power of the Holy Spirit resting on them? It’s no good taking for granted that as soon as we open our mouths God will take care of the rest. Either we are filled with the Holy Spirit or we are not. Of course, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but what has happened to Paul’s exhortation: “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)? That is not past tense (a one time for all) but present tense; we are to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit. You will notice that when Peter, for instance, stood up to speak, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, not just on one occasion, but also when he was gathered with all the other disciples – and such occasions took place after Pentecost (Acts 4:8 and 31). The Scriptures imply that this filling was not an infrequent occurrence. You will also find this in the biographies of Howell Harris, Daniel Rowlands, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. There are accounts when men who have preached for years were suddenly endued with power and boldness; they had never known such unction before. They had preached the same doctrines before, but this time under the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here is an excerpt from the biography of Duncan Campbell that many need to heed seriously these days instead of foolishly relying on all their learning and natural oratory skills only to regurgitate truths they have ‘snatched’ from a textbook:
“Duncan often quoted Paul’s words: ‘The letter killeth. But the Spirit giveth life.’ He was afraid lest he should ‘help the devil to damn souls by quoting Scripture in the energy of the flesh’.
The dream of a Puritan preacher who saw the devil proclaiming the Gospel on the street corner was a personal reminder to Duncan of this dangerous possibility. The Puritan astounded at seeing such an unexpected evangelical orator, asked:
‘Aren’t you the devil?’
‘But why are you preaching the gospel? I thought your business was to damn souls, not to save them.’
‘Yes,’ replied the devil, ‘but I have discovered that the best way to achieve my ends is by preaching the gospel without the anointing of the Holy Spirit.’”
A pastor of days gone by once advised a new minister by saying, “Before you talk to a soul about God, talk first to God about that soul.” There is wisdom in keeping our mouths closed at times (particularly in a secular working, education and family environment) instead of rushing in with our Bible texts and theological dogma like a ‘bull in a chinaware store’. It is one thing to go through the motions of ‘reaching’ souls and perform our witnessing quota for the day as if that is the done thing, but a completely different scenario when we are being used of God in a particular situation to open up the heart of another as the Lord did with Lydia (Acts 16:14). It takes nothing less than great spiritual sensitivity and a very close walk with God if we are to truly win souls.
This leads to the main point which is of utmost importance, that our greatest purpose, far above witnessing to others, is our relationship with God. Are we earnestly desiring and striving to love God with all of our being? Are we guarding our hearts so that He takes pre-eminence in our lives, over all our desires and dreams? This is not insinuating that we become absorbed with a self-centred ‘contemplation of God’ to where we cut ourselves off from society. On the contrary, if we are truly pursuing God, then we shall inevitably reach souls for God. We will do our utmost to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading wherewith comes wisdom in knowing how to deal with each and every person – “…he who wins souls is wise.” It will be in our great interest to pray for those with whom we know to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we are real with God in every area of our lives, He will be real with us, so much to the point that others cannot but see His light in us.
We have often heard it said that sin comes under two categories: the sin of omission and commission (the wrong things we shouldn’t do as well as the right things we neglect or refuse to do). There is no justification or excuse for a Christian to keep their light hidden; it goes beyond laziness and fear if we are not fulfilling the Great Commission (as many label it) mentioned in Matthew 28:18-20 and that is if we have lost our First Love. Christ is to be our vision before any mission. Without that in place we shall never be effective witnesses unto Him.
Posted on September 12, 2013, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, authenticity, bad fruit, Christ: Our Vision before Mission, church activity, Daniel Rowlands, devotional, Duncan Campbell, education, Ephesians 5:18, evangelism, first love, genuineness, George Whitfield, good fruit, growth, healing, Howell Harris, John 4:37, John 7:38, John Hyde, Jonathan Edwards, loving God, Mark Anthony Williams, Matthew 22:36-39, Matthew 7:21-23, missionaries, oratory skills, phenomenal, prayer, praying Hyde, profession, proverbs 11:30, sin of commission, sin of omission, sinners prayer, social amelioration, social gospel, spiritual sensitivity, success, sympathetic impulse, the Great Commission, the greatest commandment, unction, witnessing for Christ. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.