Recall to Reality
A. G. Anstice, Newport
Among the familiar texts of Holy Scripture perhaps few are better known or more popular than Roman 1. 16, " For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth ; to the Jew first and also to the Greek." It is quoted repeatedly in our prayer-meetings and it is almost certain that every gospel-preacher has at some time or another taken it as the text for his message. Yes—but do we really believe it ? If we do—how can we excuse the lack of concern at the comparative ineffectiveness of much of our preaching ?
The gospel is the power that God uses in the salvation of men, and if we are not experiencing this manifestation of power, the failure is obviously with ourselves. Yet when the lack of power has been recognized it has too often been the tendency to resort to innovation instead of self-examination. Enterprise, of course, is not to be despised but innovations cannot make the gospel more effective—it has ever pleased God by the foolishness of the thing preached to save them that believe (1 Cor. 1. 21, K.V.M.). Instead of finding plausible excuses for our failure we would be wiser to face the fact that, as it cannot be in the gospel, it must be in us as the channels through which the gospel comes.
Surely it is evident that certain conditions are indispensable if our preaching is to be effective—we venture to suggest at least three—Preparation, Power, Passion. Ere the Lord ascended up into Heaven He said to His disciples " but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high," Luke 24. 49. This tarrying period was not time wasted ; on the contrary it was lime profitably spent, for we read that they " were continually in the temple praising and blessing God " (v. 53). Again. " when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place," Acts 2. I.
Preparation. Life is so full and active today, and especially so for the servant of the Lord, that it is necessary at times for him to " tarry awhile." What gracious thought and provision are revealed in the Lord's words to His disciples, " Come ye yourselves apart and rest a while," when many were coming and going and they had no leisure so much as to eat, Mark 6. 31. It is generally recognized today, in every sphere of life, that a period of rest and change is necessary at times so that vitality may be renewed and the body braced up, to face again the varied demands of life. This being undoubtedly true in the spiritual realm, it may be the Lord will call us to ' tarry a while ' so that, in the resting period, we shall receive fresh enduement and be enabled to go forth in the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit. Also in this " tarrying " it will be our Messed privilege lo sit down under His shadow, and great will be our delight as Me unfolds to us the riches of His grace, enriching us in the knowledge of Himself, and in wisdom and understanding, so necessary to all who would serve the Lord effectively. We shall then be ready for the final stage of our preparation. Renewed in heart and spirit, the love of Christ constraining us (2 Cor. 5. 14) and the power of Christ resting upon us (2 Cor. 12. 9), we shall be energized to go forth again in His Name.
May we know this preparation tliat brings to us spiritual refreshment, change of strength, and a going forth in the energy and power of the Spirit of God.
An excellent illustration of, and instructive lesson in, " preparation " is given us in 2 Chron. Chaps. 34 and 35.
Ch. 34, v. 31 " And the king (Josiah) stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord." The result ?
Ch. 35, v. 4 " Prepare yourselves "
6 " Prepare your brethren "
10 " So the service was prepared "
16 " So the service of the Lord was prepared the same day."
Power. We all desire to see the evidence of God's power in the gospel-meeting, but whilst it is possible to be in such a healthy spiritual condition that we can experience it, on the other hand it is solemnly possible to limit God's power: In Acts, chap. 2, we find a company in united fellowship and as Peter lifts up his voice he has the full Support of the other Apostles. Can you wonder that 3,0(10 souls were saved ? Genuine conversions too ! for " they continued steadfastly." You say " But that was Pentecost." Listen again to the inspired word : " the gospel of Christ IS the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Two things seem linked together in connection with divine power. They are prayer and praise. How they prayed ! How much the Apostle Paul coveted the prayers of the saints! Effective and fervent prayer. How the Lord notices the praying soul ! " Behold, he prayeth," Acts 9. 11.
Reference has already been made to those who were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God, but in Acts lti. 25 we find two men doing the same in a dismal prison. They have endured ignominy, shame and physical suffering sufficient to break the stoutest heart ; but not so these two men, for we read " and at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God." Something was bound to happen and it did ! A jailor and all his family were saved that night and knew it. What rejoicing in Heaven and on Earth ! Again we find prayer and praise linked together in Phil. 4. 6, where we read " Be careful for nothing ; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." We have everything lo praise God for. and in such a manner that others may see and know our joy in the Lord. Long centuries have passed since the Psalmist wrote " And He hath put a new song in my month, even praise unto our God : many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." Psalm 40. 3. We too, have a new song to sing, and it is to " Him who loved us and gave Himself for us." Praise gives wings to prayer.
But a third and essential link is necessary if we arc to experience the Divine Power in our midst. There must be the Lord's presence. In Math 10. I, it is written " lie gave them power." In this particular case it was the power to work miracles, but that same power is needed if the miracle of salvation is to be performed. How blessed then to read His own words and to remember that they were spoken as He gave the Great Commission to His disciples " All Power is given unto Me . . . Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature ". . . . and . . . . " lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," Matt. 28. 18 and 20.
May we know much of this spirit of earnest prayer, fervent praise and the presence, in power, of the Lord.
Passion. We think of (his word in the sense of " strong emotion." " Ah !" says someone, " that is of the flesh, it must be kept under ; it must be crucified." Before you take this drastic step and bur}' it out of your sight as something very terrible, consider a few Scriptural illustrations which show what is meant by the words " strong emotion."
Lam. 3. 51 : " Mine eye affecteth mine heart." What was this ? Acts 17. 16 : " Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city given wholly to idolatry." What was this ? Rev. 5. 4 : John says " And I wept much." What was this ? Who can read the Gospels and not be profoundly impressed as they consider the infinite compassion of the Lord Jesus ? It is recorded of Him that when He saw the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd, He was moved with compassion towards them. Consider again the journey into Jerusalem as mentioned in Luke 19 : " And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" (v. 41). And yet again at the grave of Lazarus, " Jesus wept." These are but a few of the Scriptures that reveal to us the depth of divine feeling for men in their great need.
He who created us made us so that we may be reached and touched, and, in turn, may reach and touch others, but it may be that we require a. renewed vision to save us from apathy in the presence of appalling need. We need to see the Lord in the glory He had with the Father before the world was ; to see Him as He comes " The Lord from Heaven " and is made in the likeness of men ; to see Him as He humbles Himself and becomes obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. To see Him now exalted at the Father's right hand, and made a Prince and a Saviour. To see the fields as He saw them " white already to harvest." And with such a vision to be deeply moved and constrained to yield ourselves unreservedly as labourers in His " harvest field."
With such a vision and with renewed consecration we shall surely rise to the opportunities that arc ours in making known this wondrous message, which is the Power of God in the salvation of men. How we long to see once again men. women and children, deeply wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, brought to an end of themselves and gladly opening their hearts and lives to the Lord Jesus, confessing Him as Saviour and Lord, and in " newness of life " giving evidence of the reality of their salvation.
If we rise to the opportunities set before us we shall certainly reap the harvest. For it is written, " He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him," Psalm 12fi. 1>. Yes, the gospel of Christ IS the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Having been refreshed and strengthened, may we go forth with a Darning desire to proclaim this soul-saving message.
Oh, for a passionate passion for souls !
Oh, for a spirit that yearns !
Oh, for a love that loves unto death !
Oh, for a fire that burns !
Oh, for a prayer-power that prevails !
That pours itself out for the lost!
Victorious prayer in the Conqueror's Name !
Oh. for a Pentecost !