The worker's task and responsibility is vastly broader and weightier today than in the opening decades of this message. Then men labored in a Bible-believing, Christ-confessing age, and a goodly percentage of the church members of the nominal communions were still converted people. It was usually these converted folk who were called out by the threefold message to the acceptance of truths they had unwittingly trampled upon before. In spiritual life their fellowship with the living Christ was simply deepened.
Moreover, those days were just at the beginning of the seventh and last period of the true Christian church. Before the rise of this movement, the popular Protestant churches constituted God's true church in the world. The cleavage between Babylon and Laodicea was not so wide and sharp as now. But nominal Christianity's falling away has advanced at a fearful rate in recent decades. Modernism, with its desolating blight, has already changed the face of the religious world. Higher criticism has destroyed the faith of the populace in the divine origin and very authority of the Bible. Evolution, with its insidious animal philosophy, has destroyed belief in an omnipotent Creator, upon whom we are all dependent as sustainer, and to whom accountable as judge. The social gospel has nearly dispensed with the apparent need and experience of regeneration. As a malign result, there are comparatively few converted people in the nominal churches.
Within our own ranks in times past, those who stepped out to join God's unpopular truth were mostly converted people. Their beliefs and practices had to be corrected, and this was their chief defect. But conversion is not transferable to someone else, not even to our children. It must be individually experienced. The world has changed. Our youth must have more than the inculcation of correct doctrines to become real Christians. And our converts from without now come from strange and varying backgrounds. So the inroads of the world's changed attitude have not been without their impress upon us.
Therefore we can no longer, in our work for the world, and even for our own children, confine our efforts chiefly to the correction of erroneous doctrines and wrong religious practices. Such things are easily futile and valueless, unless there is a genuine conversion undergirding all, and unless this initial, regenerative work is followed by continual, living fellowship with Christ. Characters must be fitted for meeting our soon-coming Lord. It is this essential relationship that must never be separated from our so-called special and distinctive truths which the world brazenly flaunts. We shall ultimately become the only real Christians witnessing for Christ in the world, and our witness must be complete. Such is our solemn responsibility in these latter days of the message.
But such responsibility can be truly discharged only by those in whose lives there is a glowing, glorious realism, a living, abiding experience. Otherwise it is only a hollow mockery. Minds can perhaps be intellectually convinced of the doctrines, prophecies, and practices by unconverted messengers. Yet such is not normal nor excusable. But how can an unconverted worker lead others into a spiritual fellowship that he does not himself have? For an unconverted preacher or Bible worker theoretically to present conversion and the deeps of the consecrated and the victorious, life made possible through the indwelling of Christ by the Holy Spirit, without personal experience therein, is but to stage a hypocritical farce. It is offering strange fire. Such is our solemn accountability.
Our distinctive message today is fatally defective withbut its spiritual heart. So the situation constitutes a mighty challenge to us as workers. And it presents a glorious opportunity. A living, glowing experience is imperative, and is awaiting us. Anything less is insufficient. And any other presentation of the message, however convincing intellectually, is but partial and inadequate. What is our individual response to this challenge of the hour?
L. E. F.