Because Men and Women Are Lost
WE MUST respond to the Saviour's command to go and preach because there are men and women, boys and girls, out in the cold night of sin, dying without God and without hope. "Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," Paul says of men without God, "and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12).Recently I visited a former extermination camp near Linz, Austria. Here more than one hundred thousand men of different nationalities entered its gates never to leave again. I visited the cells where they were confined without help, without hope. I stood in the torture chambers where the hopeless, helpless wretches were subjected to all sorts of indignities and pain. I entered the gas chamber where thousands of these hapless humans met their untimely end without a chance. I peered into the cold forbidding ovens where the bodies of these victims of hate and torture were finally reduced to ashes. What a cruel picture of hopelessness—and too many of them, no doubt, died without God and without hope of the resurrection morning.
In a certain sense the sinner today lives in a great extermination camp. The judgment day of cruel reckoning will inevitably come. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), the apostle Paul reminds us. This is not the natural death we all may die as the result of sin. From this death there may be a glorious resurrection morn —a joyous reunion day for those who have accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord. But "the wages of sin is death"—a death from which there is no resurrection. It is eternal separation from God. Most of the world is composed of marked men and women, men and women with a price on their heads—and that price is eternal death! They are not all in heathen lands far across the sea. Thousands of them are on our own doorsteps right here in North America. Someone has calculated that there are more than one thousand dark counties in North America—counties where the Advent Movement has no established work. What a challenge to leaders in God's church in this great continent!
In our churches there are boys and girls, backsliders, and halting saints who, if they are not strengthened and helped, tomorrow may become statistics marking their departure from the church. What an evangelistic challenge to every pastor and evangelist throughout our North American Division! A tremendous responsibility rests upon each one of you men in this sanctuary tonight to redouble your efforts in reaching these millions of people on our continent. "If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand" (Eze. 33:6).
Paul reminds us that our responsibility in the coming judgment should compel us to redouble our evangelistic endeavors in this late hour: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11).
Because We Have a Message of Life
With millions of the lost about us we must broaden and quicken our evangelistic thrust because we have a message—a Christ-centered message of hope that will save them. Not only are the wages of sin death, but the blessed assurance is "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). Here is hope for the hopeless, help for the helpless, and salvation for the most degraded sinner. Eternal life—a life that measures with the life of God—may become a joyous reality to every soul who accepts Christ as Saviour, Lord, and daily example.
It matters not how far down into the depths of sin the transgressor may have gone. There is help and hope. As the apostle Paul has so truly stated: "Though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God his grace is wider and deeper still!" (chap. 5:20, Phillips).* We have a Saviour who can save to the uttermost, or as I heard one minister say, "He can save to the guttermost." The poet describes this blessed transaction thus:
On the mount of Crucifixion a fountain opened deep and wide,
Through the floodgates of God's mercy flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, poured incessant from above,
Heaven's peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.
This, brethren, is the core of our message! It is a solemn message of warning, but it is also a wonderful message of redeeming love and hope. Dare we fail to proclaim it with every ounce of power the good Lord gives us? It is our bounden duty. It is our glorious privilege. "The love of Christ leaves us no choice" (2 Cor. 5:14, N.E.B.).
What would be our reaction if a doctor refused to help a desperately ill patient? Or how would we judge a fireman who, seeing a helpless child screaming for assistance from the second-floor window of a burning building, refused to save the child from certain death? We must go! We must preach. "The love of Christ leaves us no choice." The divine imperative is upon us. Whatever the cost we must respond to the command of our Saviour. We must go! We must preach! Certainly we need to search our souls "in view of the parting instructions that the Risen Christ gave His followers."
Because There Is No Time to Spare
Finally, we must go when Christ commands because the hour in which we live is late—very, very late. Time is short. There is no time to spare. Probation is fast closing. Jesus and His angelic host will soon burst the eastern sky in a blaze of glory at His second advent. If Billy Graham and the evangelicals are speaking about "urgency," "this generation," and other topics indicating a belief in the soon coming of Jesus, how much more urgent should be the preaching and living of Seventh-day Adventist evangelists and pastors proclaiming the prophetic message God has given us! There is war in Vietnam, intrigue and trouble harass emerging Africa, hatred and suspicion keep the Middle East in a state of continuous ferment. We are fellow travelers with crisis, danger, fear, and death. Our world is going up in flames about us, and without God we are incapable of extinguishing the fire. Newspapers, radios, and TV's are screaming, "The end is near. Earth's probation is fast closing." As Billy Graham said, "We seem to be plunging madly toward Armageddon."—In Christianity Today, Nov. 11, 1966, p. 4.
What an awesome picture! What a staggering realization! What a challenge! What a ringing call to action for us as evangelists and other workers in God's remnant church. This is no time for any "business as usual" attitude or approach to our living or to our serving. This is no time to be casual in our contacts. We must be deadly in earnest about proclaiming this message in our generation. The time of talking is past. This is the day for deeds —the hour for action. How dare we fiddle while a world around us burns!
Revolutions Not Resolutions
The time of mere committee resolutions has past. Our office archives are cluttered with beautifully worded resolutions grown musty from disuse. We have enough committee actions to last until the last trump sounds. The time of resolutions is past. These are days that demand revolutions —revolutions of grace and power in your life and mine. Revolutions of latter-rain planning and action in every division, in every union, in every local conference and mission, in every Adventist church, in every. Adventist home—yes, in every Adventist life around the world. It is time for the fine resolutions of yesterday to come alive today and now. It is time for us to turn North America and the rest of the world upside down for God! The peoples of the world have tried socialism, capitalism, and Communism. Now is the time for them to try Adventism. It is your responsibility and mine, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to persuade as many as we possibly can to do just that—to accept and live this truth.
An Overwhelming Response
This, brethren, is the message of urgency that has been sounded around the world. The response has been tremendous. I am still receiving many letters each week from all over the world assuring us that division, union, local conference, and church leaders are responding to the challenge. One writes, "The Fall Council appeal has electrified our people in the Philippines." Another rejoices, 'The spirit of revival is sweeping our union, and I believe that we will see wonderful things take place this year."
One General Conference leader visiting in an overseas division recently wrote to me: "The men in this field are on fire with evangelism." A leader from Washington writes from another division: "This division has set a goal three times larger than ever before. . . . A new spirit is taking hold of our workers." Yet another leader from a smaller division writes saying their committee feels they can do no less in this late hour than to triple their membership during this quadrennium.
I deeply appreciate this wonderful dedication that inspires our leaders to set goals such as this, but as I wrote to them and as I have said in practically every large meeting the past few months, "There is no program in the General Conference to rush people into baptism." Let me repeat it so there will be no misunderstanding. "There is no program in the General Conference to rush people into baptism." But there is very definitely a program in the General Conference that challenges every department, every worker, and every member to make soul winning the first work in their planning. If we all do our part I have no doubt that the baptisms of solid, prepared people will follow.
I believe in setting goals. I believe it inspires workers and members alike to be working toward some definite objective. Goals keep the program constantly before our people, but we must not rush unprepared people into baptism. Our goal is, and should be, not merely getting men and women into the church, but getting them into the kingdom. The goal of your leaders in Washington today is to see the work of God finished and finished soon!
Well over half of our reassuring letters come from North America. There were four or five such in my mail today. And may I let you in on a little open secret? Elder Carcich, who, with Elder Dower and the Ministerial Association brethren, is leading out in this worldwide evangelistic thrust, telephoned me in Kansas City a few days ago with the good news that thirty of our General Conference elected staff have to date "signed up" to hold at least one evangelistic campaign during 1967! We hope, as General Conference leaders, to conduct efforts here in North America this year. In 1968 as many of us as possible hope to fan out over the world and hold efforts in other lands. In this way we will lend our support to the whole world field during these two years.
Spirit-Filled Workers Needed
We are confronted with a Herculean task—and with precious little that alone we can bring to its accomplishment. We cannot give from our personal abundance. As someone has said, "Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food. We do not offer out of our bounty but are simply guests at the Master's table, and as needy workers we call others to come." We all need help—desperately—NOW!
There is only one gift God can give us in such a climactic crisis hour. It is the same gift He gave to the early church. The apostolic church accomplished the task entrusted to them because they had Pentecost!
The tongues of fire fell. The power of the Holy Spirit came upon them. They went forth as renewed, revived preachers of Christ and they shook the world with their preaching.
We can do the same today if we have the same power! But nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church will accomplish the task. The price of that power is everything we have or are____ complete consecration. There must be no divided loyalties—it must be all for Christ! Brethren, with God's help, let us pay the price, receive the power, and finish the work!
From The New Testament in Modern English, © J. B. PhiThos 1958. Used by permission of the Macmillan Company.
+The New English Bible, New Testament. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961. Reprinted by permission.