This past week I received a book in the mail that was printed in 1918 -- just a month and a week past being exactly one hundred years ago! The book contains the addresses presented by various people at the Philadelphia Prophetic Conference in May of 1918. As a lover of history I had to read through it to see if what was said then was relevant to today. Much of it was, of course, since it centers around the Bible. Yet because it took place the year WWI ended, eleven years before the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, and about 20 years before the outbreak of WWII, some of the applications of the Bible were obviously dated.
I particularly enjoyed the presentation of one Pastor Herbert Mackenzie, a former missionary to Africa who "retired" to take a church pastorate in Cleveland, Ohio. This message, entitled, "Does This Truth Paralyze or Energize?" focuses on Matthew 24:14, "This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come," and the command in II Timothy 4:1 to, "preach the word in season and out" in view of Christ's appearing and His kingdom. I hope you might find encouragement through it as well. Enjoy.
"Jesus has said unto us, 'Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.' In light of this war, we all recognize our duty as citizens to to do our best for our country, and for the world in a crisis as grave as the one which we are now passing through. We also recognize we have a Leader (Jesus Christ) who is leading us on in a spiritual conflict; that we have a commission which must be obeyed and completed in order that He may come again and receive us unto Himself.
Doctrine always decides duty. It does matter what a man believes... Doctrine is the plan of teaching that precedes the plan of duty... The doctrine is intended to be the inspiration that gives us the impulse and impetus to obey all the commands of our Lord... A man asked me not so long ago what was the greatest thing he could do for God. I said, 'The greatest thing that you can do for Him is to do what He is doing.' That is what God wants for you and me to do. To long for that for which Christ is longing. And Christ is longing to see a completed body; a body that must be drawn out from all the people of the earth. Those who know the Lord's purpose do not need to be given any personal appeals. I have never asked any individual for a dollar for missions in 20 years. Men whose hearts are touched by the promise of the Lord's return need only to be informed of the need and are satisfied to give their best to the Lord, for they live in the light of the gleams of the coming glory...
The Word of God instructs us concerning the plan of God for our service. Somebody has said that Judaism and heathen religions have respect for boundaries and are content to leave everyone else alone. But the man who knows the plan of God is not willing to leave anyone alone. It does not matter how near or far away the man may be who needs the Gospel. I have come to the conclusion (by examining my own heart) that we can never be like Christ until we love the world. Christ loved the world, and no man can begin to be like Him until in some measure he too can say, 'I love the world'...
In the first chapter of Acts Jesus says to His disciples, "But you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth." And those disciples knew what he meant by 'witnesses.' For that word witness (marturos) means 'martyr-testifiers.' Those men knew when He uttered that word that this testimony which they were called to give, this witness which was to be their work, was to be of more value to them than their own lives. There are boys, perhaps your boys, your brother, your friend, who will lay down their life, or are willing to lay down their life, for their country in this war. Yet there is something wrong with you, and with me, if our lives are worth more in our sight than the witness for Christ which He has left to our trust...
Years ago (in the early 1890's) I was traveling through Central Sudan. I found that from the west coast clear up to Lake Chad about 40 tribes were waiting for the Gospel. Only one tribe of the 40 had the complete record of the Scriptures. Forty tribes in ignorance (of the Word), in idolatry, in superstition, steeped in paganism -- with a thousand Moslem teachers and traders sent out to convert them from paganism to Mohammedanism. All that in comparison to one Christian missionary sent out by the entire church of God. I walked 17 miles a day for 7 days without finding a trace of any person who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Scores of villages waiting, waiting, WAITING -- while you and I are enjoying the fullness of His blessing, sitting at His feet and looking into His blessed face. My time (because of my age) has gone. I want, however, to say this. Somebody has spoken here about rewards. Somebody has said in this conference something about taking a crown and laying it at His feet. I know of no other way of securing a crown to lay at His feet than by gaining it in the work of soul winning; of making known to the world the glories of His cross.
There was a moment in the life of the Lord Jesus when He stood before that earthly judge, took the curse from beneath our feet, and permitted His enemies to take those thorns and entwine them into a crown and place it on His brow. He loved us enough to take earth's curse from beneath our feet and to lift it to His blessed brow. Oh, what a delight that some day we may be able to take the crown which He has placed upon our heads and consider that the highest that He can give to us for our service, is only worthy to be placed at the feet of Him whose shoe latchet John tells us we are unworthy to loosen."
Sudan is still a place which needs to be reached with the Gospel, as are many other places in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia -- not to mention (due to the changes in the spiritual climate since this book was published in 1918) the former strongholds of the Christian faith -- Britain, Continental Europe, Canada and the U.S. What he pointed out then is still true today -- "there is something wrong with you, and with me, if our lives are worth more in our sight than the witness for Christ which He has left to our trust..." If we would be willing to die in the service of our country, but not in the service of our Lord, something is terribly wrong deep in the recesses of our soul.
The truth of Matthew 24:14 still stands before us: "This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come." Will the hope of seeing His appearing, and His kingdom, motivate you to do all you can to join with Him in doing what He is doing? Will it move you to share the Gospel and carry out the task laid upon the whole church -- the task of taking the Gospel to the world we are called to love as Jesus loves it?
Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff