The Jews in the time of Christ were most meticulous keepers of the letter of the law. They were scrupulous observers of the dietetic regulations bequeathed to Israel. They were minutely exact about their tithe. They were ardent followers of the form of worship, and were exceedingly jealous for the temple service. Their prayers were frequent and very public, and their religious activities were multitudinous. They were tremendously concerned about externals. But all the while the inner life was starving and dying. There was outward conformity, but inner lack. There was form without the spirit. Pitiful situation! It is the greatest deception that can mock the human soul. And it is the greatest peril of the remnant church. Read it:
" The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was, that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth, often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory.
"The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it, therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth; but if it 'does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly minded, it is a curse to its possessors, and through their influence it is a curse to the world."—" The Desire of Ages," pp. 309, 310.
Conditions of Successful Fruit Bearing
Gospel workers must never disregard the fact that there are certain conditions to be recognized and complied with in order to assure success in fruit-bearing service. The most vital conditions are these: (1) The abiding presence of Christ in the heart of the worker; (2) The constant operation of the Holy Spirit, both in the daily life and through illutaination of the word of God; (3) Faithful teaching of the word; (4) Prevailing prayer; (5) A passion for souls which knows no bounds and will not fail nor be discouraged.
These conditions are clearly get forth in the word of God. " Lo, I am with you aiway, even unto the end of the world," is the assurance which the Saviour gave concerning His abiding presence; " Tarry . . . until ye be endued with power from on high," is warning against attempting to bear fruit with-cut the guidance and mighty working of the Holy Spirit; " Preach the word," is the summons to the true source of the message we are to deliver to the sons of men; " This . . . goeth not out but by prayer and fasting," guides into the audience chamber with God; and, "Give thyself wholly " to divine things, is the urgent call for whole-hearted zeal and earnestness.
With such explicit conditions for successful fruit bearing, it is but reasonable to conclude that the worker who conscientiously complies with these conditions will be rewarded with the truest and fullest success in his endeavors. And it should not be overlooked that these conditions, faithfully observed, will bring to the worker as great blessing as to those for whom he labors. There is always danger that we who labor for others may fail to appropriate to ourselves that rich blessing which we endeavor to impart.
Aside from the conditions which must be recognized, there are certain processes in fruit bearing which require due consideration. When the Saviour met Paul on the Damascus road and made known to him the divine call to the ministry, He specified what was involved in that call. He said: " To this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou bast seen Me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee."
And now notice the process by which spiritual fruit is developed: " I send thee," said Jesus, first, " to open their eyes;" second, " turn from darkness to light; " third, " from the power of Satan unto God; " then appears the bud of promise,—" receive remission of sins," which blossoms into the full and glorious "inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith." Acts 26: 16-18. The minister of God is dealing with processes entirely beyond the power of man to control, and it is his solemn responsibility to comply with the conditions through which the divine process in spiritual fruit bearing operates.
Placing full reliance upon the assurance of the Saviour when He said, " Lo, I am with you alway," the apostles went forth into the field to establish the principles of the kingdom of heaven, and witnessed the miraculous transformation which these principles wrought. So mighty was their preaching and so effective in fruit bearing, that the early church was represented as a crowned warrior going forth on a white charger, " conquering, and to conquer." The mighty changes wrought in the hearts and lives +of men and women whose ancestors for centuries had lived in the darkness of heathenism, is specifically referred to by Paul. The Thessalonians, he said, " turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." The Ephesians, he describes as walking " according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air," living in the lusts of the flesh, " having no hope, and without God in the world." In the midst of such conditions, the gospel seed was to bring forth fruit, and Paul, as the minister of God, recognized that he was to be the channel through which the miraculous process was to be accomplished. He writes, " I was made a minister. . . that I should preach . . . the unsearchable riches of Christ; . . . to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The genuine fruitage appeared, and Paul testified concerning the Ephesians, " You did He make alive, when ye were dead through trespasses and sins." " Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
The great spiritual achievements of the ministry in the first century of the Christian era were the result of the infilling and enduement of spiritual power which was experienced at Pentecost. This was the time of the "early rain," and the results were glorious. We read: " The church beheld converts flocking to her from all directions. Backsliders were reconverted. Sinners united with Christians in seeking the pearl of great price. Those who had been the bitterest opponents of the gospel became its champions." —" Testimonies," Vol. VIII, pp. 19, 20.
Although this greatly coveted experience is in the past, yet there comes to us the divine assurance that we are to witness and experience its repetition: " To us today, as verily as to the first disciples, the promise of the Spirit belongs. God will today endow men and women with power from above, as He endowed those who on the day of Pentecost heard the word of salvation. At this very hour His Spirit and His grace are for all who need them and will take Him at His word."— Id., page 20.
We all know right well that we need just what the church in apostolic days needed and received; but why do we not receive the promised blessing? Why are we content to go on year after year without that full endowment of power which ripens the fruit for the heavenly garner? May the divine Spirit create in our hearts a deep hunger and an intense yearning for the enduement of grace, blessing, and power, until our individual and united prayer shall be, " O Lord, send a revival," a revival of spiritual life, zeal, and power, " and let it begin in me."
In making this appeal for a more fruitful ministry, I am not unmindful of what the Lord has done and is now doing through His messengers. I rejoice in the great triumphs in the mission fields, concerning which we so frequently hear, and I wish with all my heart that such manifestations of power were more conspicuous in all parts of the world field. We who labor at the base of supplies for mission fields must not be satisfied with any less power and accomplishment than is being experienced in some of the fields abroad. The very increase of numbers in those great fields brings a corresponding increase in the demands upon us in the homelands. There must be continual and permanent growth in membership and in the spiritual efficiency of the membership, in order to adequately meet the needs — spiritual, financial, educational — so steadily developing in connection with advance and growth in mission fields. Spiritual fruit bearing depends upon absolute compliance with the conditions so clearly defined.
" It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel ministry so powerless. Learning, talent, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed, but without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them channels for the outflowing of the highest influence in the universe."-- Id., pp. 21, 22.
A.G. Daniells, Honolulu, T. H.