* A sermon preached at Andrews University.
IF YOU want to know how God prepares a minister, study Isaiah 6:1-9. This is a representative experience. God prepares a minister in the same way that He prepared Isaiah to be His spokesman. Ellen G. White, after quoting Isaiah 6:1-9 in full, says: "This representation will be acted over and over again [in the lives of those who are consecrated]."—A Manual for Canvassers, p. 19.
It may be enacted in you this very night if you will do your part. This experience seems to consist of six successive stages, or phases, represented by six words—revelation, self-renunciation, transformation, commiseration, dedication, and authorization. There seems to be a perfect balance in these. Three of these—self-renunciation, commiseration, and dedication—represent what you will do for God or toward God. The other three—revelation, transformation, and authorization—represent what God will do for you if you will do the other three. If you do your part, God never fails.
The first item in this experience is "I saw also the Lord." This is vision, or revelation. How important it is that you and I should see Jesus. The Good Book says, "Where there is no vision the people perish." It was a vision of Jesus on the Damascus road that marked the turning point from Saul, the greatest persecutor, to Paul, the greatest apostle.
The sum total of our task as ministers and laymen is to reveal Christ to a lost world. But never forget this—let this sink deep into your inner consciousness—you cannot reveal Christ to any soul until Christ is first revealed to you. A revelation of God to your own soul—this is where all evangelism begins. Do not attempt to do evangelism unless you can begin with this. Take the apostles, those mighty preachers of the gospel. They had this personal experience and they taught out of that background. They said, "We saw, we heard, we have experienced. We are His witnesses." God isn't looking for lawyers to defend Him. He needs none. He needs no defense. God is looking for witnesses—people who can tell of His saving grace and what it has done for them.
The apostle Paul was motivated by a twofold vision. First, he had a vision of Christ on the cross. He said, "I die daily. I am crucified with Christ." It was a personal experience. He wasn't preaching theory, he wasn't preaching theology, he was preaching from experience. He had the cross of Christ erected in his own heart every morning, and he kept that cross there all day long.
Second, he had a vision of the ransomed souls who would stand at last around the great white throne of God through his labors in cooperation with the Spirit of God. Paul held an evangelistic campaign at Thessalonica. He raised up a strong church. Later he wrote two letters to his converts there. Notice in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20 "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy." He looked forward to the second coming of Jesus when he would join those converts who had accepted the gospel through his labors at Thessalonica. Paul was spurred on by this twofold vision. Most of us would think that if we were in prison, tied with a chain to a soldier, it would be time to stop preaching. Did it stop Paul? No! He won some souls right in Caesar's household.
Think of this. The measure of a real man is what it takes to stop him. Paul bore witness, although he was a prisoner. To his dying day he was spurred on by a vision of Christ on the cross, and the vision of having as many people as possible stand around the great white throne. I believe that every minister, young and old, ought to be dominated by the same twofold vision.
It is interesting to notice how Paul stresses this matter of Christ being revealed in him so he could preach Christ. In Ga-latians 1:15, 16, he gives us a little information as to how he entered the ministry. He says, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me." For what purpose did God reveal His Son in Paul and to Paul? The apostle says, "to reveal his Son in me that I might preach him among the heathen."
No man can preach Christ until Christ is first revealed in him. This is the real basis for being a preacher. It is very important that young men starting out in the ministry have a correct idea of what it is to be a preacher. God reveals His Son to you in your personal experience, so you can preach Him to lost souls everywhere.
Some young people attend college without any vision. They find their studies more or less drudgery, because a task without a vision is drudgery. Some people have plans that are up in the clouds. They never get down to earth with something practical. A vision without a task is only a dream. What you need while in Emmanuel Missionary College and in Andrews University is a task with a proper vision, for a task with a proper vision brings victory.
Without the proper vision there will be no real soul burden in your service. Without a real soul burden there will be no real sacrifice, there will be no wholehearted effort. Without sacrifice and wholehearted effort you will not have true lasting success. And without true lasting success there can be no eternal reward.
The Bible shows that no man or woman ever gets the proper moral vision until he or she is brought face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ in actuality. I often think of that last intimate talk that Jesus had with His disciples. You will recall the amazing request that Philip made. He said, "Show us the Father and that will suffice." I think I can feel the tug of disappointment in the heart of our Lord when He looked at Philip and said, "Philip, have I been so long time with you and you have not known me?"
How is it with you? Have you followed Jesus five years, ten years, fifteen years or more, and yet you don't know Him as you should? Would Jesus call my name tonight and say, "John Shuler, have you been a minister for all these years and yet you don't really know Me?" To what extent are you allowing Jesus to reveal Himself in you every day here on the campus? Are your words, your actions, even your looks, the outliving of this indwelling Christ?
Psychologists say that no man can find his place in life until he first finds himself. Christianity goes away beyond this. Christianity says that no man can find his place in life until he first finds God. Life begins with God. This is the way it was with Isaiah. Isaiah did not find himself until he first saw God. He said, "I saw also the Lord." Then what? "Woe is me! for I am undone: . . . mine eyes have seen the King."
Notice that a revelation of Christ to the soul leads to self-renunciation. This is the way it was with Isaiah. Just as soon as he saw God, then he renounced himself. There is only one way that we can have a true knowledge of self. Says Ellen G. White, "In one way only can a true knowledge of self be obtained." What is that one way? "We must behold Christ." We must see Christ, and when we do, "we shall see our own weakness and poverty and defects as they really are."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 159.
In Testimonies to Ministers, pages 264, 265, we read, "The existence of sin is un-explainable; therefore not a soul knows what God is until he sees himself in the light reflected from the cross of Calvary, and detests himself as a sinner in the bitterness of his soul." The life of Jesus Christ is the mirror of divinity. The character of Christ shows us our moral and spiritual defects. He is the perfect Pattern. When we look to Him we see our own moral and spiritual weakness.
Every time I contemplate the purity of Jesus, the patience of Jesus, the meekness of Jesus, the love of Jesus, then I sense my own undone condition. When I see Jesus in all His loveliness, then I am ready to renounce self. This is the way it was with Isaiah. When he saw the Lord, then he said, "I am undone; . . . mine eyes have seen the King."
Notice that self-renunciation leads to divine transformation. When Isaiah sensed his own undone condition and renounced himself, then came the inflow of God's transforming grace. The words were spoken, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy" sin is purged."
So it is with you and me. When I see Jesus, so pure, kind, loving, meek, humble, unselfish, obedient, then I see how far short I come. Then I reach out to Jesus and say, "Lord, make me clean." "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps. 51:10). Then comes the inflowing of His transforming grace. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
Notice that this transformation leads to commiseration. It leads to pity and sympathy with the lost. It brings a burden to work for souls. This transforming grace of God upon the heart always brings compassion for the lost, and like Paul we should live, not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us.
When Isaiah had the revelation of himself and experienced the transforming grace of God, then he became aware of a voice. "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
The first impulse of a renewed heart is to tell others what a wonderful Saviour he has found in Jesus. Evangelism is the first law of regeneration. "Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. No sooner does he come to know the Saviour than he desires to make others acquainted with Him."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 102.
The evangelistic urge is synchronous with the new birth. Then notice that commiseration, the burden to work for lost souls, leads to dedication to the task. When Isaiah sensed the need of the lost, then he responded: "Here am I; send me." When we sense this need, then will come our dedication and we will say like Isaiah, "Here I am, O Lord, send me."
This kind of human dedication leads to divine authorization. When thus prepared, Isaiah dedicated himself to the task, then from the Omnipotent God came that little word of two letters, "Go." The Word of God is powerful. Make no mistake about it. All the power of God is wrapped up in His Word. He speaks, and it is done. He commands, and it stands fast. He said in the beginning, "Let there be light," and there has been light ever since.
When God says, "Go," to a prepared man or a prepared woman, there is all the power that you need in this "Go" to help you to do what God wants you to do. He said to the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, "Take up thy bed and walk." There was power in those few words to enable that helpless man to do the rising and the walking, and to carry his bed. Jesus walked up to a tomb where a man had been buried four days. He said, "Lazarus, come forth." There was power in those three words to cause that dead man to come back to life and to walk forth from the tomb.
The lesson to you, young man, is to be God's prepared young man. When He tells you to go and work in Kalamazoo or give a Bible study, or conduct a Community Bible School—there is power in that "Go" to enable you to do it.
It is by revelation, self-renunciation, transformation, commiseration, dedication, and authorization that God prepares men to be His ministers. The college and the university are doing an important and needful work in preparing men for the ministry, but unless the men have the experience represented by these six words, the college cannot make them real ministers for God.
A man who has this kind of an experience can do the impossible. When God says to that man, "Go," all power in heaven and in earth is pledged to enable him to do the going for God. If a man has this kind of an experience, he can slay a giant with a few small rocks, as did David. If he has only a stick of wood, a rod, he can divide the Red Sea as did Moses. If he has a band of only 300 men and those men do not have anything but a trumpet in one hand and a pitcher in the other with a candle burning inside it, he can defeat an army of 300,000 as Gideon did. If a man has this experience, he can stand up before the multitude and preach, and 3,000 souls will come home to God in one sermon as in the case of Peter.
A minister one day visited the John Wesley home. He was taken over the house, and finally the guide came to the prayer room, where this man of God had spent so many countless hours breathing out prayers to God. The minister asked the guide to leave him there alone for a few minutes. The guide did so and closed the door. But he looked through the keyhole to see what this man would do. He saw him get down on his knees and heard him say: "Lord, you sent a great revival through your servant John Wesley. I do thank you for what this man has done, the many, many souls that he won, and how he brought revival to England." As the guide watched, tears began to roll down the minister's face. Then he heard him cry out, "Lord, do it again, and do it in me."
We ought to read Isaiah 6:1-9 on our knees. Then pray, "Lord, do it again, and do it in me." And the Lord is ready to do it. I appeal to every young man and every young woman. Wouldn't you like to tell the Lord that you want Him to do this again and do it in you?