The Next Great Step Getting Ready For The Coming Of Christ
Opening address of Fifth Annual Missionary Rally, May 27, 1920.
What is the next step in getting ready for the coming of the Lord? First of all, if we are going to step at all, we must find out which way is forward. Sometimes when the fire alarm sounds people know help is needed, but they run in the wrong direction. So many of the things the church of Jesus Christ has done on Earth through the years have been in the wrong direction, that it behooves the church of God to be very careful to know the will of God and which direction is forward.
Scientists tell us that 80 percent of coal is wasted. I believe it would be safe estimate to say that 80 percent of all of our Christian effort is not in the line of the will of God; 80 percent of the money that is poured out by the church at large and 80 percent of that which has been poured out through the centuries has not been in line at all with the will of God. We poured it out upon ourselves, thinking we would get blessing from it, but instead of getting a blessing we have gotten a curse from it. The average Christian life is not at all in line with God’s plan. Whenever a man finds the victory that is Christ, He will live the life that is Christ, and when he does, the Son of God, who came from glory to be born of a virgin and to suffer on the cross and die for others will bring into that man’s life the same compassion. We cannot let the heathen die if we are living a life of victory, for the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ will be in us crying out for the lost.
The average Christian does not love the heathen. I have many Christian friends who are not missionary in heart at all, I am conscious of it when I am with them, and it chills me to the marrow. When I talk to the average Christian about missions they begin to get dreamy and look as if I were woozy; and when you begin to talk about sacrificing they think you are crazy. If they could see the faces of some of those heathen light up with the joy and the light of Jesus Christ, they would be as crazy as we are to get the Gospel out.
I thank God it was in His plan to begin this missionary week with a Victorious Life Conference, that we might get into shape and hear a missionary message. Missions are a bore to the average Christian. He wants something to placate his own heart, and this wretched selfishness must grieve the heart of Jesus when His heart is out there loving those other men and women as much as He loves us. How it must wound Him that we do not take the story of His love to them, as He asked us to do.
The Peril Of Idleness.
I want to show you, by the Word of God, that the program of Jesus Christ is for us to quickly get up and go out to preach the Gospel to the end of the earth, and if we do not do it something of a curse will happen to us, and the heathen will not be the only losers, but we will be losers as well. If I am to meet a man in the ring in seven weeks, do I rest for seven weeks on a fine couch, having rich meals brought to me, conserving my strength? How many rounds could I go after that preparation? The only fight I could put up would be with a sofa pillow. Why will not rest make a fighter? I do not know, but it will not. What makes a man strong is giving out his strength, and as he gives he gets more. If the church of Jesus Christ does not go to the mission field she herself will become absolutely weak and powerless, without Holy Ghost power. This weakness will backwash upon her.
The life of Jesus is strong in the man who is a good soldier, who endures hardness, who sacrifices, bleeds and dies for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is sacrifice that makes the love of Jesus Christ blossom and bloom in your heart, and the moment you begin to pity yourself and pull back, asking for ease and laying up for yourself, just that moment spiritual things begin to wither. The life of Jesus is a life for others, so much so that he says, “He that would be great among you let him be servant of all.”
This spirit of holding back, of conservation and organization that brings up some spectacular thing called the church and presents it as some nice thing to look at, is not the church of Jesus Christ. The called out body of Jesus Christ is a group of martyrs, men and women who are witnesses, who give out the Gospel and let their lives flow out for Jesus’ sake. They are strong because of doing it, they are built up while they do it, strong in the virility of God.
Do you think a jail will stop the mouths of Christians? Bless your heart, instead of stopping them it opens them. Do you know what stops Christians’ mouths? Sofa cushions in churches have stopped more mouths for Christ than bars or lions ever did. When you preach to your persecutors in spite of their hatred, the love of Jesus Christ is manifested through you to them. The world cannot see Him any other way except as it sees Him through you.
If the church of Jesus Christ in our age wants to save itself, there is only one way and that is to absolutely lose itself for His sake. The man who has a shout that comes from his heels up through his soul and spirit and body and clear to glory, is the man who loses himself for Jesus’ sake.
I am not talking about the apostate churches. They are gone now, have been steeped in the ritualism and given up testifying, and have gone into social service. They are manifesting the fact that the life of Jesus Christ is not in them at all.
When I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, raising funds for the Salvation Army war-work, a high government official was speaking at one of the clubs, pleading for the building of ships with which to carry the American wheat harvest across the water. In another city a celebrated official of Australia told how England called to Australia for ships, wheat and cattle. The shipbuilders and the government of Australia ignored the calls for ships, but the farmers raised the wheat. The harvest came, and the great freight cars began unloading on the wharves until there were no more gunnysacks left. They had to make a wall of filled sacks around a hollow square and dump the wheat into that receiving reservoir, while they went to work to build ships with which to transport it.
But something happened. Little white mice got into the wheat. The white mice got a disease of ringworm around the eyes. They had sense enough to leave the place where they had contracted the disease, and went back into the cities, the villages and houses, and ringworm broke out among the people. The Health Department offered rewards for the bodies of dead white mice, and some of you saw the photographs of the mice piled up in the streets. The wheat was so diseased by the mice that it was rendered useless.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ never was intended to stay on any wharf; it never was intended to be piled up in brick and stone buildings. It was meant to go out into the highways and byways, that people might be compelled to come in, that His house might be filled. We have emphasized the organization and have minimized the organism—the church of Jesus Christ. We have talked about a body of people instead of about Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus intended us to take the Gospel to every man, and for every man to tell his neighbor, and to be a living witness. Instead of doing that, we began to imitate the lodges, letting people “join” the church, building denominations, looking at the outside phenomena and writing statistics in our books, boasting how much we did for this and for that, and we forgot the heart of Jesus Christ out there in the dark beating for the other men and women who had not heard of Him.
What has been the result? We have built great theological schools, and the “white mice” living inside got the ringworm, and the result is that we have higher criticism in every city of the United States today, and we are putting a price on their heads, but no rat poison avails for them, and we will have to wait for the judgment day for the tares to be separated from the wheat. We are responsible for it, and must take the medicine. This is the backwash for the church today.
While I believe in reiterating the Word of God, and in every kind of Bible teaching, the best antidote against criticism, against infidelity, the best antidote for any cold church on Earth is to become a missionary church and pass the Gospel out, and it will clear away all the false stuff. Higher criticism does not care for the heart of Jesus Christ, it is intellectuality with the ringworm, and hasn’t the compassion of Jesus and the desire to go out to rescue the perishing and care for the dying, snatching them in pity from death and the grave.
The plan of Jesus from the beginning has been for His followers to go to the uttermost part of the earth to carry the Gospel, and if we had done that He would have come back long ago.
A Crisis Hour.
In Acts, the 15th chapter, we have what I consider the most important dispensational division of Scripture in the New Testament. The brethren were having a Presbyterian Synod, or a Methodist Conference, or a Baptist Convention, or a Congregational Assembly at Jerusalem, and were discussing on the floor of the house a forward movement. They were not in favor of admitting the Gentiles into the church because they could not make Jews out of them.
We are facing a crisis in our day, and the question before us is, are we going on with the old “churchanity” thing, of social service, education and “Christianizing” folks, or are we going to pick up God’s method of evangelism and His missionary program, and give ourselves and our money and our prayer to obeying the command of our Lord Jesus Christ by taking the Gospel straight through the nations and the tribes until they are evangelized?
These men at Jerusalem started in with a few splendid arguments which emphasized “us” and excluded others. Then Peter rose up and said, “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe.
“And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
“And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
“Now, therefore, why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
In other words, he says, “Why do you want to put these folks under law when God has opened up grace, when we are all saved alike, black or white, Indian or African, Chinese or Japanese. American, English or Scotch, Irish or Welsh—the same blood of Jesus Christ cleanses them all? Why put us back under law? Our fathers could not keep the law. ‘But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.’”
He did not say, “They shall be saved even as we,” mark that. Souls were being so wonderfully saved among the Gentiles that Peter says, “We Jews will be saved even as they.” The Jews were holding back in hair-splitting arguments and a great multitude of Gentiles were being saved.
I say to you that before many years go by, if Jesus tarries, we will be asking folks to come from the missionary field to bring fire to America to save us from our deadness. Missionaries from China could tell you about General Fung in China, who was the means of a great revival among his troops and preaches the Gospel to his men. We haven’t a General in America or Europe and never have had to my knowledge, who would dare do what that Chinese General has done. The time is coming when, at our denominational conferences we will say, “The Lord is so wonderfully blessing them over there I wonder if we cannot get someone to come over and bring a chunk of fire to us.”
They were arguing about their old Judaism, and doing this and that while the blood of Jesus Christ was working miracles wherever men were witnessing for Him. Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, it explodes like dynamite, for “it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” The Holy Spirit, if a man will tell the Gospel can make it powerful and dynamic in any nation, in any tribe. But when you take a group of fifteen or twenty folks who sit around and gossip about things and never save anyone, just a bunch of seat-warmers, and expect the Holy Spirit to fall on them, you are bound to be disappointed. If you take a group separated unto Christ, and send them out, if they died in their tracks Jesus Christ will raise up native Christians to carry the story forward in power. The Gospel was never intended to have walls built around it, or to be shut up in a house like an idol-temple, and controlled by debate, and argument. If you take it out as Jesus commanded, it will keep on in its sweetness, and will have muscle and go and vim and virility. Christ, through the Gospel, has power to breed His kind.
The Holy Spirit was trying to show this group in Acts that they were having trouble trying to put the Gospel in a cage, as we do preachers in our theological schools, running them out as we would nails from a factory. The idea of training a young fellow to talk about Jesus and making him practice where to put in his gestures. The fact that he will stand that stuff shows he has no Holy Ghost initiative in him.
Peter rose up, filled with the Holy Spirit, saying, “You are trying to put a clamp on these people.” Trying to make the Gentiles like Jews is like David in Saul’s armor. The Gospel let loose works like it did on the fellow picked up by the Samaritan, and taken to an inn. There he stands outside, free, well fed, picking his teeth in his own language. The power of Christ is the same to the Jew and the Greek and all the rest.
The Letter vs. The Spirit.
If some of you have made up your minds to become big preachers, you are gone. If you want to preach a big Gospel, all right, but for the sake of Jesus, be little, and stop that awful wave of professionalism in religion that is preparing men to dress, and act and talk to suit the people, instead of urging them to be filled with the Holy Spirit to carry the message out where the people are, whether they like it or not. Hundreds of fellows sit around here waiting for an appointment, forgetting the missions are always open to anyone who can preach the Gospel, and that there are plenty of corners and soapboxes.
It is the “ringworm” among us that wants to make the workers all alike, conforming to certain forms and forgetting the power of the Holy Spirit that can make a man preach in power. Preaching the Gospel is a mighty simple thing, but the product of it is a marvelous, glorious, complex affair. God wants simple people to sow the seed as He told us to, and He promises to give the crop.
Peter started things off about the Gentiles. Then Paul and Barnabas quickly got the speaker’s attention and the floor of the house. The Holy Spirit—you see, turned the tide—slipped the discussion out of the fog and lifted over the sandbar the whole conference. The Holy Spirit grips the situation by putting two men on their feet to whom every man must listen. Not arguments now, but missionary facts from two missionaries who had hazarded their lives for Christ’s sake.
If we would turn some of our missionaries loose to tell the church of Jesus Christ in America what she ought to do, and they were free to be prophets, the church members would be surprised. When the missionaries come from the native churches they are shocked at our spiritual condition; they see the awful slipping that has taken place between furloughs.
The Life That Tells.
As Paul and Barnabas stood up the people had to listen, for they were not slick fellows, not fat, round bishops drawing a big salary, but Paul was a little weazened [sic] up man, with the marks of stripes across his spinal column for the Gospel’s sake.
When I look these missionaries over, with their clothing, their marks of sacrifice, I am ashamed of the church of our age, I am ashamed of myself, I am ashamed before God, at such matchless men, pouring out their lives, with not a cent, not a home, not a thing for old age, separated from their loved ones, sending their children back to school and doing without luxuries and even common necessities in some instances, while the church goes on in luxuries for herself. God will not hold us guiltless, God will not give us crowns for this awful inequality.
Paul and Barnabas had been shipwrecked, had been in jail for Jesus, and their words had weight.
I thank God this church has poured out its money in behalf of missions. That is all that has saved it in this apostate age. It is the only thing that will save any life or any church. Oh, catch the vision of missions! Ask these missionaries if they are sacrificing and they will blush because we have even mentioned it. They do not think they are sacrificing, and they would even go down on their knees and ask God for a harder time, in preference to what we enjoy.
When those first two foreign missionaries came back to the church they found the church fooling around splitting hairs over Judaism. Paul told them how God out there had been saving souls and performing miracles. The idea of a missionary having to come home and tell of miracles and wonders before he can get any money to carry on his work!
Think of men like Dr. Fish, a graduate physician, hearing the call of God to a hospital in China, with sixty thousand patients going through his hands, his only helpers an undersized native girl and two boys who can hold a bowl, and all the major operations he has performed with such a staff! Think of his hospital closed now during his furlough, to give him time to recuperate after seven or eight years on the field! Oh, may Jesus get hold of some of your lives. I would be ashamed to be a young fellow and stay in this country, if I could not look up and say, “Jesus, I am here because you have definitely commended me to stay here.” Thousands of young doctors will graduate this June with no place to work, and yet calling themselves Christians. Dr. Fish’s nearest white neighbor is fifteen days away from his city.
We have played with missions long enough. I plead with you in Jesus’ name, for your own sake and for the sake of the church at home to listen to Jesus’ voice. If we would get the vision of missions we would come together, even as France, Great Britain, Italy, and America fought side by side against a common enemy. In two weeks at the Fundamentals Conference you will find men on this platform, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, and others, and you will not be able to tell their denomination, because they stand together on the Word of God and its fundamentals, and will not recognize the schisms and divisions that are manmade.
If the church of Jesus Christ on Earth, His body can get the heart of Jesus, it will point them right straight out to the man of Macedonia, beckoning the whole church, “Come over, come over quick, and help us and I will come back as soon as you get the message out to the last one.”
Ringworm is an awful disease, for it spoils the eyes and ruins the vision. That is what the devil has done, the slickest trick in the world—gotten us to disputing about a hundred and one things, then chuckling to his imps “They aren’t doing anything, are they? Just having races around the barn and giving diplomas to the ones who get to the goal first. They are having great orations and discussions, but not getting the Gospel out. Don’t let them get the vision of missions, for if they do we will be put out of commission in no time.”
The story goes that the devils once had a convention about the folks preaching the fullness of the Holy Spirit. They were holding evangelistic meetings for seven weeks or ten weeks, and folks were becoming convicted of sin and finding a full Christ. “What are we going to do?” Satan asked. After ten days to plan one of the demons came back and said, “Those fellows stay long enough to really get something going, and sweep the whole community. We will suggest that they have a short five or ten day meeting, and they will get just as much collection and it will not be so hard on them.” “That’s a dandy,” Satan agreed. They started in with short meetings, but could not get the fire started in that time, while the collection came in all right. “Magnify that collection business,” chuckled the devil, “and the first thing you know they won’t have any revivals.”
I do not know whether that happened in hell or not, but I know it happened on Earth. They magnified the money, put social service and reformation into their methods, and eliminated the sacrifice and the persecution, and the Gospel, and they had the whole thing “salved.”
These are definite issues that we have to face. Oh, young men, get up and go. If you have to go on a tramp steamer, do it, but get there somehow. I started out seven years ago threw money to the winds and walked out on the streets of New York to preach, walking from town to town, until God brought me to this pulpit in Chicago. I am willing to walk out tomorrow and do the same thing. The joy of preaching the Gospel is the greatest joy on Earth. If you will let the Holy Ghost have His way, He has a thousand schemes where you haven’t one, that others might be saved. Stop waiting around, break through. Let the power of God get hold of you, in compassion for the lost. It will make its way like a mother will make her way through a gate to her child.
If you get the glorious vision of Jesus and his compassion for a lost world, you will go out and evangelize, and we couldn’t see you for dust. Your dust would be a much greater inspiration than your presence.
The Statement Of The Word.
After Paul and Barnabas had spoken, James spoke up, “Men and brethren, hearken unto me.” You ought to go to the Gentiles, not because these two missionaries say so, but “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name!” James refers to Simeon as a prophet, and is hammering in the last nail in the argument, that cannot be shaken by Pharisees or anyone else. “And to this agree the words of the prophets;” he continued, “as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down.”
When will you come back, Jesus? “After this.” After what? “After I have gathered out a people for my name.”
Can you find any stronger premillennial statement than that verse? That is the program of Christ for this age: gather out of all these places a people for His name. His program is not to “christianize” China or other countries, but to run through their cities preaching the Gospel, putting up a chapel here and there, leaving them to tell others, while the messenger runs a little further and a little further. When he has gathered out a people for His name, out of the Gentiles—not out of America, not out of Europe, but out of all races—then He will return and build again the tabernacle of David that has fallen down.
If that is not the program for the church of our age then I do not know what the Bible says. Listen to the commission in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” As brother Ramsey said, this is not “testifiers,” but witnesses, witnesses of His love, witnesses who can stand having their mouths slapped, stand stoning for Jesus’ sake, eat native food, witnesses of whom they will say, “What in the world brought that fellow out here?”
That is what made people believe in Christ. They said, “No man ever spake like this man. He can still the waves and raise the dead, and yet He is washing the disciples’ feet.” You are to be a witness with the reproduction of Jesus Christ in your heart. You can go and live your witness. We have nearly ruined this word by thinking every fellow has to be a fluent preacher; we have nearly ruined things by fluent preaching and rotten living, and the most fluent sermon on Earth is a holy life witnessing. I cannot preach one single inch above what I live. When my witness of what I am in Christ Jesus has ceased, then all the preaching falls to the ground.
Beloved, you may be a witness, because Jesus can live out his life in you if you will let Him, and the Holy Ghost will do His work in your life. He will teach you to talk, He will be with your mouth, and say to you as He did to Moses, “Who made man’s mouth?” and out of the fullness of your heart the mouth will speak. O, be witnesses unto Him in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth—gather out a people to the uttermost part.
If you want to know what the next step is in His program, it is a step out there with the Gospel, and a keeping on going out. When you have put your money into one station then build another, and when the last spiritual Peary plants his flag at the North Pole of God’s program for this age, and yells back to the Christian church, “I have reached the uttermost part,” the Lord Jesus will shake the air. The glory flags will flutter, and the missionary at the North Pole and the folks who prayed him out and the rest of God’s people will all rise in the air, and He will come back and straighten up the tabernacle of David, and straighten everything else that is crooked. There will be peace on Earth, good will among men. There will be so many Jewish missionaries and so many Gentile missionaries running around that all will then hear. Then the world will be christianized by Christ Himself. “Holiness to the Lord” will be on the bells of the horses.
If you want to do anything for the earth, bring Jesus back. If you want to bring Jesus back, go to the uttermost part with this Gospel. If you do not what will happen? He will have to cut it short and come back in awful judgment. He will soon judge the church and spue it out of His mouth. He raised us up to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and we have sat down with it and enjoyed it ourselves. God help you, will you give yourself to His program?