Love Found a Way
I want to base what I say to you, what I believe God would have to say to us all, upon 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
In that verse the Apostle Paul opens his heart. He reveals to us in those few simple words the secret of all that made him a man of God. As a Christian, he was living an undivided life, which had only one supreme objective: that others might be one to Christ.
This man had achieved Christian maturity; his life was utterly at the disposal of his Lord, and through his testimony multitudes were won to our Saviour. He understands that the only reason why God has not removed him straight into His presence is that through him souls might be saved. Here is the secret of the passion that was in his heart, of the flame that burned through his life, that charged his words with heavenly power and authority. “As though God were beseeching you through me,” he said, “I pray you in Christ’s name be ye reconciled to God.” Those words absolutely glow with love, with burden, and with concern for the salvation of souls without Jesus.
We were thinking in a previous message of the great commission which the Head of the Church has left to His people, a commission which has never been altered or revoked. He addressed them all face to face and said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” As we consider that great commission in relation to our own testimony, I want to take the theme a stage further. Let us ask ourselves why the Lord Jesus Christ gave His Church this specific job to do.
I am sure that my Bible teaches that you and I are more important to God than the work we do for Him. The supreme objective in the mind of our God in redeeming us through the precious blood of Jesus Christ was to take the clay that had been ruined in the hands of the potter, lives that had been spoiled by the enemy of our souls, and shape us until one day He presents us in His presence perfect and without flaw.
That is God’s redemptive plan for every one of us, to make us like the Lord we love. Therefore it is not surprising that He should choose a task for us which would assist in the accomplishing of that object. The commission which He gave to every Christian is that each of us should make known the name of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, for that is the greatest maturing factor in Christian character. “Go,” He says, “into your home and your office and live for Me and witness for Me. In the very act of doing so you will become like Me.”
That was true in the life of the Apostle Paul. He had made winning others the supreme objective in his life, with no other side issues whatsoever. And the result of it was that this man achieved Christian maturity as perhaps few others ever have.
Let us examine for a moment how and why this is so. What is the normal Christian life, as reflected in the Word of God? The one fundamental thing which distinguishes a Christian from a non-Christian is that the Christian possesses life. This life is not simply the development of what he was by nature, but life that he has received as a gift from God. God has given to us eternal life, and that life is in His Son. The normal life of the Christian is therefore the life of Jesus Christ lived out in him by the indwelling of His Spirit, and revealing the beauty of the Lord our God to the world. There is nothing complicated about it; it is intensely simple in its essence.
But all life must express itself. Spiritual life must express itself spiritually—not only morally, but also spiritually, for a man may be moral without being spiritual. All spiritual life has to do with God, and His work for a lost world, with His concern for the salvation of our fellow men.
He has given to us, within each one of us, a fountain of life that will spring up into life eternal, bubbling up, irrepressible. “For,” said the Lord Jesus, “He that believeth in Me, up from his inner man shall flow rivers of living water.” The essence of spiritual life is love. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God’s love was expressed in that it laid itself down in sacrifice. And then He dared to look into the face of men whom He had won for Himself, and said to them, “Go ye into all the world: as the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. I send you out with the passionate flame of my love simply burning in your heart, and because you love Me so much you can’t help it.”
The inevitable mark of Christian testimony is love. The evidence of a man being born again is that he cries to God to take his whole personality and channel it into some great objective and use him to the salvation of another. It may be unusual, God forgive us, but it is, in the mind of the Lord, normal.
You remember how Paul begins in 2 Corinthians 5, by speaking with tremendous assurance concerning life and death, saying to his readers that if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, he has a building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. He has no fear of the last enemy of mankind. He knew perfectly well that he loved and worshipped the Victor over the grave, and therefore he knew with absolute confidence that one day he was going to see his Lord.
How eagerly he longed for the day. Most of us like to possess life, and we do everything we can to preserve our life down here. We say we want to get there, but we do hang on to human life, don’t we! Not so the Apostle Paul. “How wonderful,” he says, “I am willing to be absent from the body and to be present with my Lord. I am longing for that day.”
Then suddenly Paul remembers that when he stands in God’s presence, he has to give an account of that which he has done in this body. He must appear before the judgment seat of Christ and answer there, not for his sins—they were dealt with in the person of our Substitute at Calvary—but he has to answer for his service and his witness.
Some day we all must answer to Jesus Christ Himself as to our obedience. And Paul realized that he will have to give an account of his missionary work, his personal witness, how he had loved men, how patient, how kind, how gentle, and how Christ-like he has been.
“Knowing therefore,” he says,” the terror of the Lord—knowing the fear of this judgment in my own soul, knowing that this is why I am allowed to live, that I may persuade men. This is not something I do as a duty; it is because the love of Christ constrains me; He has altered completely my whole outlook upon life and ministry and service. I do not regard men after the flesh; my one concern for them is that the God who, in Christ, has reconciled me to Himself would reconcile them to my Saviour.
“In the light of that judgment where I must give an account to Him of my service and of my testimony, the evidence that I am a new creature is not what I have believed,—not the sermons I have preached, not the churches that I have organized, but it is how I have loved the people that once I hated, and how far I have gone that I might save a soul from hell.”
When you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He will say, “Do you remember, ‘Even as the Father sent me, even so send I you’? What have you done, where have you gone, to whom have you spoken? How much have you loved? Where is your gentleness; where is your meekness; where is your tolerance; where is your kindness? Where are your tears; where is your burden?”
I preach this word not for you only, but for myself, for the ministry of my brethren, for the ministry of the whole Church of Christ in this 20th century. For I discover that it is only a small percentage of professing Christian people who have any burden at all. Time and time again, in fundamental circles of the Church, our passion, our love, our concern are all burned out arguing about doctrine. The only people in the world who have the message that can save a soul are not going out with it because they are quarreling among themselves.
How desperately few there are who really care. How can we ever recapture the love, if we ever had it, the crying, the longing of Jesus that took Him to Calvary. And back of it all is the fact that so few people really bear the load in prayer. Prayer is the Church’s vital breath, the Christian’s vital breath, and I believe that if the Master Physician put His finger upon the pulse of our churches today He would find it beating very feebly. It makes me bow my head in shame when I begin to see that my church is losing out and my people are not caring, for I know the prayer life of the church is too often the barometer of the prayer life of its minister.
At an annual meeting of the China Inland Mission a year or two ago, one of the missionaries who had been brought back from China was giving a testimony. I shall never forget one thing she told us, how she went with a burdened heart to one of the Chinese leaders and said to her, “My dear, we have to withdraw, we cannot stay to your advantage or to ours. How are you going to manage when you are alone? The pressure of communism and the pressure of circumstance is going to be terrific.”
And that dear Chinese lady said to her, “Miss Thompson, the pressure from without is tremendous, but I want you to know that the pressure from within is greater.” How much of that Divine pressure on your spirit do you feel today?
The most urgent need for this church in 1954, and for every church, is that we will get back to the New Testament commission that Jesus left us, “As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” And in saying that, He showed them His hands, His feet, and His side, and He said, “My child, it has cost Me this, how much is it going to cost you?” The Lord Jesus offers to us no more and no less than Winston Churchill offered to the people of Britain after Dunkirk: blood and sweat and toil and tears. It is not revival meetings that are needed, it is that the people shall be gripped by the Holy Ghost and recognize that Jesus’ words are spoken to you, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”
“How is it then,” you say to me, “That we are so cold and indifferent, and why is it that we do not care? Must I wait until I feel like speaking to somebody?” By no means. You can go out from this service today resolved to obey Him, to witness for Him, to live for Him, and the thing that you think you cannot do you will be able to do. The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ, who dynamites me!” Let a man go out in spite of a sense of his own indifference, tell the Lord about it, then go straight to men who don’t believe and begin to witness to them concerning the Lord, and I’m telling you the love of God will begin to flow into his life in a way that he never knew before.
When that thing grips the heart of a Christian, do you know what happens? When the love of God comes in, all the trouble making goes out. Let the love of God in the Holy Ghost fill your life in answer to your consent and to your own desire to be used by Him, and you will discover that you will begin to love people with whom you have quarreled for years. Then the whole church is lifted up onto a new level of love and power and unction. That is what the world wants to see, not our arguing about theologies, but our loving Him with all our hearts.
One other thing happens when a church catches fire like that. The financial stream is always small under the pressure of human mechanics, but always great under the pressure of the love of God. Where a church concentrates on one supreme objective, and gets into its life afresh the passion of the New Testament, every financial problem is solved.
Will you answer this question personally to God? Do you consent today to live the normal Christian life: that is, the love of Christ constraining you by His Holy Spirit? Remember, it is not a question of winning others with the help of Jesus, it is Christ Himself doing the work through yielded hearts. It is not a question of talent or equipment or education, but of a heart burning because the life of the Lord Jesus whose passion for the lost led Him to Calvary is lived out in it. I beg of you, test the reality of your Christian experience, not by what goes on in your head, but by what goes on in your heart.
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ,” said Paul, “as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be reconciled to God.” Do you believe that is for you? Has this challenge come to your heart? There are two alternatives. Either you go on as a disciple, or you go back as a deserter. Which are you going to be today, disciple or deserter?