Soul Surgery: Part 9
Part 9 of a 9-part series by Pastor Alan Redpath given over the course of 1959.
Conservation In Soul Winning
The days immediately following the conversion of a soul is where the personal worker frequently and lamentably fails. During this time the new convert is exposed to the most powerful and insidious attacks of Satan and at this time above all others he needs shepherding. There are the haunting remembrances of perhaps a sinful life, of inconsistencies which still appear and of habits of which he is ashamed. The emotional upheaval which may have taken place at the time of conversion has subsided. Even the feeling of the presence of Christ seems to have been withdrawn and temptation is more powerful than ever. His problem now is how to maintain life in the Spirit and not succumb to the flesh and to the attacks of the enemy. This will only be possible as he learns the need for his spiritual as well as for his physical sustenance and development.
In shepherding a young convert there are two extremes to avoid. The first is ignoring him altogether and leaving him to his own devices. The second is smothering him by the imposition of our own personality until he comes to regard the personal worker as a prop. In Acts 13, the closing portion, we have an excellent example of converts left to stand on their own and being filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Having said this, however, it is important that the convert be guided into the following experiences:
No matter how active the life of a new convert may be, without prayer his life is ineffective. Adequate time for prayer is probably the most difficult thing to accomplish in the Christian life. If we are too busy to pray, we are like the manufacturer who becomes too concerned with output to bother about the power which is running the machinery. The Lord covets the devotion of His child more than He does His service. We simply cannot let the latter interfere. You may do less, but you accomplish more. In prayer the believer breathes the fresh air of faith that defies every temptation to doubt and fear. In prayer we become assured that while we may fail God, He never fails us. Though we may at times feel no comforting sense of His nearness, we know that He has not withdrawn Himself from us. Rather perhaps we have begun to live by faith rather than by feelings. We cannot guarantee that the stars will shine more brightly when the convert leaves the meeting at which he met God. We can, however, guarantee that Christ will always keep His promise and therefore the convert will find something real and dependable to rely upon. Prayer is the thing which will lead the convert away from mere documentary evidence of the reality of Christ to a heart experience of His presence.
The conditions of answered prayer are as follows:
- A pure heart and right motive. Psalm 66:18 and James 5:16
- It must be according to the will of God. I John 5:14–15; John 14:13
- It must be in the Holy Ghost. Jude 20; Romans 8:26
- It must be with thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- It must be with perseverance. Ephesians 6:18
- It must be in faith. Hebrews 11:6
And life must be nourished if it is to survive and grow. The Word of God is the food on which the spiritual life now lives and the Holy Spirit within leads into all truth. The new convert, then, must learn to feed day by day on the living word of God revealed in Scripture. And for this he will need welcome, friendly guidance.
I heard of a man who was saved in an evangelistic campaign some time ago and was told he must read his Bible daily. But he was then left to shift for himself. Just a young man at the time, he began with the first chapter of Genesis (as so many do) and intended to read the Bible through in daily portions. He read faithfully for a number of weeks and then one day threw his Bible across the room with the remark that he didn’t believe a word of it. He is now a middle-aged man with a family, but from that point to the present hour, his life has proclaimed his later belief that the Bible is a myth and that there is no God. He has been absolutely impervious to every attempt of Christian friends to move him once more in the direction of the Christian faith.
Now had this man been wisely guided in the very infancy of his Christian experience, his faith would have grown instead of being starved to death through lack of spiritual sustenance. We must be ready with practical suggestions for progressive Bible study adapted to the mind and temperament of the one for whose building up in the faith we are responsible in the sight of God.
There are various methods of Bible study one can suggest:
- Read the Bible through each year by the method of Scripture Union or other such systematic methods.
- Reading chapter by chapter with questions and answers.
- Study of the biographies in the Bible e.g., Adam, Moses, Jonah, David, Paul etc.
- Study of places in the Bible e.g., mountains, rivers, trees, etc.
Following his conversion, the convert must also be taught the simple principles of the victorious life. He must understand that while conversion has brought him forgiveness of all his sins, his conversion has not in itself brought victory over the principles of sin unless he rightly understands the dual nature of the Christian life. To be born of the Spirit does not of necessity mean to live in the Spirit. The understanding of oneness with Christ, identification with Him in death and resurrection, the principle of victory through the indwelling Lord are all essential lessons for the child of God to learn at an early age in his Christian life.
Another area in which the new convert needs guidance is in the matter of friendships. He must understand that God has commanded his children not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. To do this he must understand the difference between fellowship and mere contact with unbelievers. While he may no longer have fellowship with his unbelieving friends, he must also realize that unless he has contact with them he will never win them. He must nail his colors to the mast and take a strong stand among them. He must realize, too, that he cannot continue his old friendships and expect to “be a good influence” in their midst. A bad apple rots good ones, and “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Leaven is evil, not good.
Amusements also present a problem to the new convert and are a matter in which he needs careful guidance. He needs to know the difference between amusement and recreation.
In this matter there are several tests which must be applied:
- Is this thing to the glory of God? 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Can I ask God’s blessing upon it? Proverbs 10:21
- Is it a stumbling block to others? Romans 14:21
- Has it the appearance of evil? 1 Thessalonians 5:22
- Is it a weight which hampers my spiritual grown? Hebrews 12:1
Only if the particular matter answers these questions aright can the new convert judge whether it is right or wrong in the sight of God.
Finally, the new convert must be set to work winning others. This is one of the surest safeguards against his experience becoming unreal. Even prayer and Bible study alone can become burdensome if they are regarded only as a means of our own spiritual development and not also as fundamentally and inevitably the means to winning others. Whatever I receive from the Lord, I am responsible to pass on to others. The central pivot around which the Christian life revolves is not self, but others. Thus to the fresh air of prayer and the food of the Word must be added the exercise of witness. This is the only way to live a normal, healthy, growing Christian life.
One excuse we often use for failing to follow people up, either before or after conversion, is the fact that we have been separated from them or they from us. But here enter the great possibilities for correspondence, and much can be accomplished if the writing and sending of the letter is born and followed in prayer. I consider it a sacred responsibility to answer personally letters received following a service at which people have received a blessing. You may never really know the person to whom you write, but a courteous letter, an attempt to deal with possible problems, the enclosure of good Christian literature all mean a tremendous lot in the life of the new Christian.
I believe that the ultimate measure of the blessing we see in our work of conservation and spreading the Gospel can only be the measure of our full appropriation of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. The coming of our Lord brought to Earth a new humanity with a passionate love for individuals irrespective of race, creed or station. A new fellowship who looked on all other men as their fellowmen for whom Christ died, was born. The debt that such a fellowship owes to its Lord can only be discharged as they pass on to others the same privileges of freedom and deliverance and hope that have come to them through Christ’s death and resurrection.