We should expect that unsaved adults should be reached and converted through the assembly testimony, that the attendance at weeknight meetings should be steadily maintained, and that the standard of preaching should be such that the congregation is aroused to deeper interest in the things of God. In some cases, however, things are sadly parallel to Judges 2. 7, 10, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel … and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel”. We suggest, among others, four underlying causes, and what can be done to effect an improvement.
We persistently cry “Come ye” into the hall, the special meeting or the tent mission, but there should also be a response to the Lord’s desire that His people should go to others, by being constantly on the look-out for openings to reach, to talk to and to make contacts with those completely outside, whether by distributing Christian literature, going from door-to-door, or visiting the parents of Sunday School scholars.
Such methods have not ceased to avail in the spread of the Gospel message. For example, last year three brethren and a sister, with occasional help from others, printed and despatched nearly two million Gospel leaflets. The address printed on the back of many of them brought in 150 enquiries during the year, and these are only the known results. Surely such work is gloriously worth while!
Far from this expression being old-fashioned, the Scriptures say, “Love not the world,, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world., the love of the Father is not in him”, 1 John 2. 15; “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”, James 4. 4; “Now we have received,, not the spirit of the world …”, 1 Cor. 2. 12, and finally the solemn words of the Lord Jesus, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me”, John 17. 9. The Christian cannot have the same associations, pursuits, interests and pleasures as the world which crucified his Lord. Such separation cannot be unnatural, pedantic or narrow-minded, since it is the Christian’s only alternative, though perhaps it is painful to loving souls desiring to be at one with all.
Ecclesiastes 7. 16, “Be not righteous over much; … why shouldest thou destroy thyself”, can hardly apply here. Through worldliness, the Christian’s testimony can be completely vitiated and rendered ineffective. When Lot sought to warn his sons-in-law, he failed completely because he had never taken a separate position; they did not take him seriously, and “he seemed as one that mocked”, Gen. 19. 14, so they perished in the fearful destruction of the cities of the plain.
There are many things that we affirm that we believe if we are challenged by another Christian, but do we act as if we do? For example, 1 Peter 1. 8, “Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”, is a description of normal Christian experience far removed from lukewarmness and a display of pleasure in worldly things more than in Christ. Again, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”, 1 Cor. 2. 9, is not only gloriously true, but also something to be acted upon. Again, does our testimony among our unconverted relatives, friends and neighbours indicate that we believe Hebrews 9. 27, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”? Watchdogs that cannot bark or sleeping sentinels who cannot sound the alarm are symptoms of failure in responsibility. Yet it is a dreadful thing to have lived with people for years, and never to have warned them of the fate that awaits them if Christ is not their Saviour.
Scripture never gives the impression that any man can preach, that a glib tongue and a superficial knowledge of the text of Scripture is sufficient, or that a successful business man is bound to be a good preacher. The efficient housewife makes sure that her family daily enjoys a variety of good food, well-prepared and well-cooked. Her convictions are that just anything, anyhow, will not do! The same applies to the regular spiritual food for the Lord’s people. Local assemblies will thrive on good food, and the saints will come along in good numbers for more.
The scope of a teacher goes much beyond that of a preacher. The teacher is a man, not merely able to quote the text of the A.V. word-perfectly, but with a sound and balanced knowledge of the things of God displayed practically in daily life. He should be acquainted with various good versions, and some teachers will be able to learn to read the New Testament in Greek, and possibly the Old .Testament in Hebrew too. A translation is limited, and there is an advantage if a teacher can personally refer to the original without displaying such knowledge necessarily from the platform. Similarly, a teacher should have a sound knowledge of Biblical doctrine, together with a background of the history and geography of Palestine, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Moreover, instruction should be easy to listen to, informative, interesting, gripping, inspiring,, unforgettable, converting and edifying.
If we sought improvement in these four directions, amongst others, we should more faithfully fulfil our mission to “shine as lights in the world”, and see “signs following”; God would be glorified and the Lord Jesus exalted.
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