It is reported that a Christian minister of another group recently made the statement that Seventh-day Adventists are losing their momentum, settling down, as have other denominations after their initial "big push." We do not know the source of the above purported statement, but it is cause for serious reflection. Would it not be helpful to analyze penetratingly what God would have Israel do in this twentieth century? And having determined what is vital, should we not lay stress upon it?
We need not search through musty archives or consult men of renown in order to know what is the will of God for this people at this time. A thoughtful visit to Calvary will be of greater help than anything else in bringing into focus His will. As we kneel at the foot of the cross, praying and seeking, our hearts are stirred and our perceptions sharpened as we hear once again the commanding words of Jesus, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you al-way, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:19, 20).
Here we find in a few words what we might term the Lord's command to total evangelism. Does this not include every believer living the truth and sharing it, the church using all the tools at its disposal in giving the entire message to the whole world in the power of the Holy Spirit, in this generation?
That which is vital for today is only that which has always been vital—total evangelism. This is the very heartbeat of the church.
The enemy is always on hand to divert us from that which is vital to the church. It is he who tempts us to major on minors. He throws up before us barriers to discourage us. He presents problems to confuse us and conditions to dishearten us. But, even as Moses was instructed to tell ancient Israel to "go forward" (Ex. 14:15), so we are instructed:
The word which the Lord has given to me for our ministers and our churches is "Go forward."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 417.
Today we need Red Sea obedience.
At the foot of Calvary's cross, who can treat lightly the wishes, yes, the commands, of Christ? Christian champions and millions of martyrs were motivated by the commands of Christ and constrained by His love unto death. The heroism of some brave men on the battlefields of this earth shames some of us Christian soldiers. Their commander was human; ours is divine.
Theirs were fleeting objectives; ours, eter nal. Though some commands meant cer tam n death, they obeyed.
It is said that when the gallant six hundred were bidden to ride into the jaws of death at Balaclava, they looked at each other significantly and obeyed. Each read his fellow-soldier's glance to mean: "A mad act, ending in our death; but English soldiers always obey."—Preachers' Homiletic Commentary, on Exodus 14:3, p. 279.
What would be the result of Red Sea obedience to our Lord's command to go forward in total evangelism?
If Christians were to act in concert, moving forward as one, under the direction of one Power, for the accomplishment of one purpose, they would move the world.—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 221.
Why Total Evangelism Is So Vital Now
Total evangelism has always been the heartbeat of the church, but it is especially so in this twentieth century. Review some of the reasons why we must go forward, at this time, "on the double":
1. It is for the good of the church. Let us always remember that "the Lord could carry forward His work without our cooperation. He is not dependent on us for our money, our time, or our labor."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 261. God issues no commands but for our good, and this command to "go forward" is no exception. He who is "out of breath pursuing souls" will not only have no time to apostatize but will grow in grace! He who sacrifices self for the work will champion it with his talents, time, and prayers.
The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing. but planning work for them.—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 49.
The Spirit of God will not seal the indolent for heaven!
2. The world needs Christ! Think of the areas that must yet be reached—those great cities where the crowded multitudes make them like human ant heaps; countries with their millions among whom we have no organized work, nor even workers! And yet "many are gasping for a breath of life from heaven."—Evangelism, p. 559. The religious population of the world shows 70.9 per cent non-Christians. And the Christian population (29.1 per cent) consists of 16.2 per cent Roman Catholics, 6.3 per cent Orthodox Catholics, and 6.6 per cent Protestants.
3. We are in the eye of the storm. In the center of a hurricane there is a calm area called the eye. Could it be that the work of the church at this time is in the eye of the satanic storm? God has graciously granted us a moment of respite. But the devil would like us to take our ease, to purr with satisfaction over our enlarged tents and numbers. But "while the angels hold the four winds, we are to work with all our capabilities. . . . Everything will be placed to obstruct the way of the Lord's messengers, so that they will not be able to do that which it is possible for them to do now. We have warnings now which we may give, a work now which we may do; but soon it will be more difficult than we can imagine."—Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 21, 22. We need to go forward quickly, for that which is not done in the eye of the storm must be done in the periphery.
4. Calvary is scorned and Sinai is scoffed. In Luther's day "relic religion" was rampant. Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, Luther's prince and friend, was a zealous collector of relics. By 1509 his collection listed 5,005 particles. By 1520 it had grown to include 19,013 holy bones. Those who viewed the relics on All Saints Day (November 1) and made the stipulated contribution, might receive from the pope indulgences for the reduction of purgatory, either for themselves or others, to the extent of 1,902,202 years and 270 days. In utter contempt Luther exclaimed on one occasion:
"What lies there are about relics! One claims to have a feather from the wing of the angel Gabriel, and the Bishop of Mainz has a flame from Moses' burning bush. And how does it happen that eighteen apostles are buried in Germany when Christ had only 12?"—ROLAND H. BAINTON, Here I Stand (1950), p. 296.
If Luther in his day felt so keenly regarding the downtrodden truth of God and the flouted grace of God, how ought we to feel today!
The very contempt that is shown to the law of God is sufficient reason why His commandment-keeping people should come to the front and show their esteem and reverence for His downtrodden law. . . . When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should our zeal be the warmest and our courage and firmness the most unflinching.—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 136.
Who can but admire Martin Luther's fearless conduct in face of the spiritual degeneration of his day? "I must take care," he said, "that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood."—Here I Stand, p. 174. "This is not the time to cringe," he wrote Staupitz, "but to cry aloud when our Lord Jesus Christ is damned, reviled, and blasphemed."—Ibid.
6. The rapid rate of turnover in population urges us on. So much happens within the tick of the clock. So often the angel of death stoops to swing his sickle.
A hundred thousand souls a day
Are passing one by one away
In Christless guilt and gloom;
Without one ray of hope or light,
With future dark as endless night,
They are passing to their doom.
And practically every time the heart beats, someone is born into the world.
7. It's 11:59 by the devil's clock.
Satan sees that his time is short. He has set all his agencies at work that men may be deceived, deluded, occupied and entranced, until the day of probation shall be ended, and the door of mercy be forever shut.—The Desire of Ages (1940), p. 636 Miss. ed., p. 626).
These are only a few of the reasons why it is imperative for us to go forward to total evangelism now! But are they not enough?
Total Evangelism Means All Living and Giving the Truth
Realizing this urgency of going forward, we must all be electrified into action. We must present the stinging challenge to the church. We must fan into flame that first love, stir the embers whenever they have grown cold, and make a bonfire out of the dead ashes!
Cease wondering why you came;
Stop looking for faults and flaws;
Stand up today in your strength and say,
"I am a part of God's great cause.
However full the world,
There is room for an honest man;
It had need of me or I would not be,
I am here to strengthen the plan."
To move forward we have been provided with tools, tongues, talents, treasures. Is there one thing we yet lack?
The world will be convinced not so much by what the pulpit teaches as by what the church lives. The preacher announces the theory of the gospel, but the practical piety of the church demonstrates its power.—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 260.
God cannot use unconverted lives to convert lives. If there is any little Satan's patch in our soul's garden with a sign for God to keep off, until that sign is taken down and thrown away and that patch plowed and resown, we had better not begin.—ROSERT G. LEE, in How to Lead a Soul to Christ.
Sometimes we are fearful our church members will "do something wrong," so we hesitate to delegate responsibility to them. Really, now, it's quite surprising how God can and does impart fitness to every man and woman who cooperates with divine power! A person need not come from a race of bookworms in order to win souls. His vital need is a clean soul on fire for God. Let his mental storehouse be stocked with the Word of God. God promises: "I will bless thee . . . and thou shalt be a blessing" (Gen. 12:2). Moses declared: "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them" (Num. 11:29).
Think of it—every medical doctor, every farmer, every person in the professional and nonprofessional fields, is called upon to do his part in the program of going forward in total evangelism. God first blesses him that he may bless others.
What joy, what unity, what power, when all the members of the church are concentrating their efforts on soul winning! Among those who rally around the cross there will be no fatalities at the base of erupting ecclesiastical-political volcanoes.
"Going forward," then, includes every member living and giving the truth. In order to do this, each one must have true concern. This is where some powerful preaching and praying by pastors will help. Regarding Luther, Spurgeon said: "He spoke with thunder, for there was lightning in his faith."—Spurgeon's Lectures to His Students, p. 214.
Think of the concern that Moses had—he was willing for God to blot him out if only Israel might be saved. Think of Paul's concern—he counted all things but loss that he might know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. Moody had concern—he could not go to sleep at night if he had not spoken to someone that day about the salvation of his soul through Jesus Christ.
Luther had concern. When banished to Wartburg, he lamented:
I did not want to come here. . . . I wanted to be in the fray. . . . I had rather burn on live coals than rot here.—Here I Stand, p. 195.
When the church has that kind of concern, it will feel that it cannot do enough! When that kind of concern motivates the church to action, literature will be distributed "like the leaves of autumn," and practically before the ink is dry.
The real character of the church is measured, not by the high profession she makes, not by the names enrolled upon the church book, but by what she is actually doing for the Master, by the number of her persevering, faithful workers.—Christian Service, p. 12.
Total Evangelism Means Using All the Tools at Our Disposal
God's heart is moved with pity for sinners. He gave His Son to save them. He means for all the world to know of salvation full and free.
The Lord has made every provision that the uplifted Saviour may be revealed to sinners.—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 66.
Certainly the printing press is one of those provisions! Thank God for those wonderful colporteur evangelists who daily distribute thousands of books, not only that they may make a living, but that others may live—forever! Think of the blessings of our evangelistic magazines, our Bible courses, our tracts.
Think of radio! "Wherever you go—there's radio." One of the thrilling events in heaven will be when those influenced to come to Christ through radio ministry will be asked to stand. What a multitude!
Thank God for the television ministry. What a power! Who would have thought, a half century ago, that the day would come when, by means of electronic devices, a minister could be "projected" right through the walls of homes into living rooms, there to talk quietly and earnestly with millions of people about Jesus.
Even as Christ once walked through closed doors, so today, by means of television, He walks through doors closed to the call of the evangelist or the knocking of the pastor.
Think of the institutions that have been brought into existence to expedite the work of God in these last days—institutions of learning, publishing houses, health institutions.
All these are instrumentalities of God to cooperate in the grand work represented by the first, second, and third angels, the work of warning the inhabitants of the world that Christ is coming the second time with power and great glory.—Ibid., p. 18.
These things are all tools "lent us of heaven to be used in doing the work assigned us by the Lord for those who are perishing in ignorance."—Evangelism, p. 704.
The end is near, and for this reason we are to make the most of every entrusted ability and every agency that shall offer help to the work.—Ibid., p. 440.
Without these powerful tools, the early church took the message to every creature in the world (Rom. 10:18 and Col. 1:23). Now—with time running out, population increasing, problems multiplying, probation soon to close—God has given us these tools to speed the task. What was done without these tools can now be done with them —with God's blessing.
Total Evangelism Includes Giving All the Message
Our task is not to peddle platitudes or to harp on the strings of our own ideas. The apostle Paul declared, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16) and "we preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23).