Thursday, December 27, 2007

When Believers Organize on Activities & Activism

By Jim B @

We are living in days when the practical aspect of Christianity is being emphasized almost exclusively by some Christians. It is the day of activism and of activists. The world has never been so busy in trying to deal with its various problems; and the same is largely true of the Church. The practical, activist type of Christian is suspicious of a teaching which he thinks will make people sit down in isolation and wait for experiences. 'They never do anything else', he says, 'they are not practical Christians; they are not involved in all the usual activities'. Such an argument is based on sheer ignorance, not only of the Scriptures, but also of Church history. For the fact is that the men who have been busy in the service of their Lord and Master, in the long history of the Church, have always been those who have known Him best and who have rejoiced most of all in His love.

Written in the middle of the last century,
this excerpt from
Martyn Lloyd Jones'
Exposition of Ephesians - Chapter 3
is a timeless 'must-read' for today's church

Let us start with the supreme example. What was it that made the Lord Jesus Christ Himself do all that He did? He tells us repeatedly that it was that He might glorify His Father. It was for that reason that He came from heaven to earth, endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, and went steadfastly to Jerusalem and to the Cross. He claims in His high-priestly prayer as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel: 'I have glorified thee on the earth' (v. 4). His one motive was to show His love to His Father and the Father's love to Him. But the same is seen subsequently in the lives of His people.

Examine the case of the apostles and especially Peter, who had been so nervous and so cowardly, so afraid of being put to death, that he even denied his Lord. But after his baptism with the Holy Ghost and after he had really come to know the love of Christ, when the authorities commanded him to stop preaching, he answered them saying, 'We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard' (Acts 4:20). Having come to know this love of Christ, Peter had to tell all others about it. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that 'The love of Christ constraineth us' (2 Cor 5:14). He could not refrain, Christ's love was pressing him and urging him on. There was never a busier or more active man that this great Apostle. This was not only because he was an active man by nature, but because the love of Christ was energizing him and giving him a compassion for sinners. Whatever might be happening, whether bonds and imprisonment or freedom, he must go and fulfill this ministry and tell the whole world about the love of God in Christ Jesus.

But this experience is not confined to the Apostles. I have referred previously to Count Zinzendorf, and his statement about 'his one passion'. We read concerning him that one day, while looking at a picture of the crucified Christ, he said, 'Thou hast done that for me; what can I do for Thee ?' That is the explanation of his subsequent career. In many ways he was the founder of foreign mission work, sending missionaries to Greenland fifty years before the founding of the London Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society, and others. It was his knowledge, his 'comprehending' of the love of Christ that drove him on, and many others with him. Nothing stands out more prominently in the life of George Whitefield than his consciousness of the love of Christ. He knew it to an exceptional degree and you will find that it was always after he had had some exceptional experience of Christ that he was given unusual enlargement and liberty in his preaching, and that men and women were broken down and melted before his holy eloquence and his portrayal of the love of God in Christ Jesus. Charles Wesley knew it equally well, and so writes:

Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
With boundless charity divine!
So shall I all my strength exert,
And love them with a zeal like Thine.

This has been true of God's greatest servants in all ages, in all centuries, in all places.

Perhaps the greatest danger confronting the Church and Christian people today, is that instead of realizing that the supreme need of the moment is this knowledge of the love of Christ, we spend our time and energy in organizing activities. We have made of activity an end in itself. We say we must be 'getting busy'. And in a carnal manner we are attempting to do God's work. But how little happens! It is not surprising. We are forgetting the true motive and the energizing power. We should not work as Christians simply because it is good and right for Christians to work. The motive is all-important. We must work because of the love of Christ. We must not work because we decide to do so or because we are told that now we are converted we must 'get busy'.

Our motive must not be to fill the churches again. That is a travesty of the New Testament picture and manner, as is the whole idea of training people to be witnesses and to do personal evangelism. Everything today has to be organized, and the impression is given that no Christian can witness without undergoing a course of training.

The answer to this modern idea is to discover what has happened in past centuries, and especially the first. There were no training classes and examinations and diplomas in those times. The secret of the early Christians, the early Protestants, Puritans and Methodists was that they were taught about the love of Christ, and they became filled with a knowledge of it. Once a man has the love of Christ in his heart you need not train him to witness; he will do it.

He will know the power, the constraint, the motive; everything is already there. It is a plain lie to suggest that people who regard this knowledge of the love of Christ as the supreme thing are useless, unhealthy mystics. The servants of God who have most adorned the life and the history of the Christian Church have always been men who have realized that this is the most important thing of all, and they have spent hours in prayer seeking His face and enjoying His love. The man who knows the love of Christ in his heart can do more in one hour than the busy type of man can do in a century. God forbid that we should ever make of activity an end in itself. Let us realize that the motive must come first, and that the motive must ever be the love of Christ.

I end with the question which I asked at the beginning: To which of the circles do you belong? Are you pressing your way right into the center? You may have seen people in a crowd, when the Queen or some other notable person is passing, trying to push themselves forward in order to have a front-line view. The same thing occurs at various games. There are those who always want to be in the front to have the best view. Are we pressing into the innermost circle? Are we seeking the Lord's face? Are we coveting the knowledge of His love? The Apostle prayed for every single member of the Church at Ephesus that he or she 'might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the length and breadth and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge'. How tragic it is that any of us should be living as paupers, out on the cold street, while the banqueting chamber is open and the feast prepared.

Let us search for the knowledge of the Lord in the Scriptures and read about it in the lives of the saints throughout the centuries. As we do so, we shall never be content until we are in the innermost circle and looking into His blessed face.

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