Pastoral Letter December 2014

And in this mountain

The Lord of hosts will make for all people

A feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow,

Of well–refined wines on the lees.

Isaiah 25:6

 

Dear Friends,

I have decided to continue the (new) tradition of contracting–out December’s pastoral letter to our old friend Pastor Charles Spurgeon. Here is an (heavily) edited version of a sermon he preached in December 1868. I have been deeply moved and blessed by this message. Please do read it through. May the Lord grant you and yours a very Happy Christmas and a blesséd New Year.

Good Cheer for Christmas

WE have nearly arrived at the great merry–making season of the year. On Christmas–day we shall find all the world in England enjoying themselves with all the good cheer which they can afford. Servants of God, you who have the largest share in the person of Him who was born at Bethlehem, I invite you to the best of all Christmas fare — to nobler food than makes the table groan — bread from heaven, food for your spirit. Behold, how rich and how abundant are the provisions which God has made for the high festival which He would have His servants keep, not now and then, but all the days of their lives!

God, in the verse before us, has been pleased to describe the provisions of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although many other interpretations have been suggested for this verse, they are all flat and stale, and utterly unworthy of such expressions as those before us. When we behold the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed — when we see Him offered up upon the chosen mountain, we then discover a fulness of meaning in these gracious words of sacred hospitality, “The Lord shall make a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow.” Our Lord himself was very fond of describing His gospel under the selfsame image as that which is here employed. He spoke of the marriage–supper of the king, who said “My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready;” and it did not seem as if He could even complete the beauty of the parable of the prodigal son without the killing of the fat calf and the feasting and the music and dancing. As a festival on earth is looked forward to and looked back upon as an oasis amid a desert of time, so the gospel of Jesus Christ is to the soul its sweet release from bondage and distress, its mirth and joy. Upon this subject we intend to speak, hoping to be helped by the great Master of the feast.

 First, then, we have to consider THE FEAST. 
It is described as consisting of the best of the best. They are fat things, but they are also fat things full of marrow. Wines are provided of the most delicious and invigorating kind, wines on the lees, which retain their aroma, their strength, and their flavour; but these are most ancient and rare, having been so long kept that they have become well refined; by long standing they have purified, clarified themselves, and brought themselves to the highest degree of brightness and excellence. The best of the best God has provided in the gospel for the sons of men.

One of the first gospel blessings is that of complete justification. A sinner, though guilty in himself, no sooner believes in Jesus than all his sins are pardoned. The righteousness of Christ becomes his righteousness, and he is accepted in the Beloved. Now, this is a delicious dish indeed. Here is something for the soul to feed upon. To think that I, though a deeply guilty one, am absolved of God, and set free from the bondage of the law! To think that I, though once an heir of wrath, am now as accepted before God as Adam was when he walked in the Garden without a sin; nay, more accepted still, for the divine righteousness of Christ belongs to me, and I stand complete in him, beloved in the Beloved, and accepted in Him too! Beloved, this is such a precious truth, that when the soul feeds on it, it experiences a quiet peace, a deep and heavenly calm, to be found nowhere on earth besides.

Meditate upon a second blessing of the covenant of grace, namely, that of adoption. It is plainly revealed to us, that as many as have believed in Christ Jesus unto the salvation of their souls, are the sons of God. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” Here, indeed, is a fat thing. What, shall a worm of the dust become a child of God? A rebel be adopted into the heavenly family? A condemned criminal not only forgiven, but actually made a child of God? Wonder of wonders! “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God!” To which of the kings and princes of this earth did He ever say, “Thou art my son”? He has not spoken thus to the great ones and to the mighty, but God has chosen the base things of this world and things that are despised, yea, and things that are not, and made these to be of the seed royal. The wise and prudent are passed over, but babes receive the revelation of His love. Lord, whence is this to me? What am I and what is my father’s house, that thou shouldst speak of making me thy child? This gloriously fat thing is also “full of marrow.”

Passing on from the blessing of adoption, let us remember that every child of God is the object of eternal love without beginning and without end. This is one of the fat things full of marrow. Is it so, that I, a believer in Jesus, unworthy as I am, am the object of the eternal love of God? What transport lies in that thought! Long before the Lord began to create the world, He had thought of me. Long ere Adam fell or Christ was born, and the angels sung their first choral over Bethlehem’s miracle, the eye and the heart of God were towards His elect people. He never began to love them, they were always “a people near unto him.” Is it not so written, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn thee”? Some kick at the doctrine of election, but they are ill advised, since they labour to overturn one of the noblest dishes of the feast; they would dam up one of the coolest streams that flow from Lebanon; they would cover over with rubbish one of the richest veins of golden ore that make rich the people of God. For this doctrine of a love that has no commencement, is the best wine of our Beloved.

How joyously does the heart exult and leap for very joy when this truth is brought home by the witness of the Spirit of God! then the soul is satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord. 
Equally delightful is the corresponding reflection that this love which had no beginning shall have no end. He is a God that changes not. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Where He has once set His heart of love upon a man, He never turns away from doing Him good. He says by the mouth of His servant the prophet, that He hates putting away. Though we sin against Him often, and provoke Him to jealousy, yet still, as the waters of Noah, so is His covenant to us; for as the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so He swears that He will not be wroth with us nor rebuke us. “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you.” Come, feed on this, you heirs of eternal life, for here are fat things full of marrow.

We should not, beloved, have completed this list if we had omitted one precious doctrine, which needs a refined taste perhaps, but which, when a man has once learned to feed on it, seems to him to be best of all—I mean the great truth of union to Christ. We are plainly taught in the word of God that as many as have believed are one with Christ: they are married to him, there is a conjugal union based upon mutual affection. The union is closer still, for there is a vital union between Christ and His saints. They are in Him as the branches are in the vine; they are members of the body of which He is the head. They are one with Jesus in such a true and real sense that with Him they died, with Him they have been buried, with Him they are risen, with Him they are raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places. There is an indissoluble union between Christ and all His people: “I in them and they in me.” Thus the union may be described:—Christ is in His people the hope of glory, and they are dead and their life is hid with Christ in God. This is a union of the most wonderful kind, which figures may faintly set forth, but which it were impossible for language completely to explain. Oneness to Jesus is one of the fat things full of marrow.

I cannot bring forth all the courses of my Lord’s banquet; one serving man cannot bear before you the riches of such a surpassing feast; but I would remind you of one more, and that is the doctrine of resurrection and everlasting life. This poor world dimly guessed at the immortality of the soul, but it knew nothing of the resurrection of the body: the gospel of Jesus has brought life and immortality to light, and He himself has declared to us of Jesus, that He that believes in Him shall never die. “He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet should he live.” Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Not the soul only, but the body also shall partake of immortality, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. We expect to die, but we are assured of living again. If the Lord come not, we know that our bodies shall see corruption; but here is our comfort, we dread no annihilation, that dark shadow never crosses our spirits; we dread no hell, no purgatory, no judgment—Christ has perfected for ever them that are set apart; none can condemn whom He absolves. The saints shall judge the angels, and sit with their Lord in the day of the great assize. To us the coming of Christ will be a day of joy and of rejoicing: we shall be caught up together with him; His reign shall be our reign, His glory our glory. Wherefore comfort one another with these words, and as ye see your brethren and your sisters departing one by one from among you, sorrow not as those that are without hope, but say unto each other, “They are not lost, but they have gone before,” for, “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” Here are fat things full of marrow, for ours is a glorious hope, and full of immortality. Our expected immortality is not that of mere existence, it is not the barren privilege of life without bliss, existence without happiness—it is full of glory; for “we shall be like Him when we shall see Him as He is;” we shall be with God, at whose right hand there is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore. He shall make us to drink of the river of His pleasures; songs and everlasting joy shall be upon our heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Thus I have set before you a few of the fat things full of marrow which the King of kings has set before His guests at the wedding feast of His love. 
Changing the run of the thought, and yet really keeping to the same subject, let me now bring before you the goblets of wine. “Wines on the lees—wines on the lees well refined.” These we shall consider as symbolising the joys of the gospel. What are these? I can only speak of those which I have myself been permitted to sip at.

One of the dearest joys of the Christian life is a sense of perfect peace with God. Oh, I tell you when one is quiet for awhile, and the din and noise of business is out of one’s ears, it is one of the most delicious things in all the world to meditate upon God, and to feel He is no enemy to me, and I am no enemy to him. It is beyond comparison cheering, musingly to feel, I love him. If there be anything which I can do to serve him, I will do it. If there be any suffering which would honour him, if He would give me the strength to endure it, it should be my happiness, though it caused me to die a martyr’s death a thousand times. If I could but honour my God, my Father, and my Friend, all should be acceptable to me. There is nothing between the Lord and me by way of difference or alienation; I am brought nigh through the blood of His dear and only begotten Son. He is my God, my Father, and my all, and I am His child. Some of us have tried the imaginary happiness of laughter; we have mixed with the giddy throng, and tasted the wines of the house of carnal merriment, but our honest experience is that one single draught from the cup of salvation is worth rivers of worldly mirth.

“Solid joys and lasting pleasures


Only Zion’s children know.”

A quiet heart, resting in the love of God, dwelling in perfect peace, has a royalty about it which cannot for a moment be matched by the fleeting joys of this world. 
Our joy sometimes flashes with a brighter light, but even then it is not less pure and safe. You may look upon this wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it moves itself aright, for there is no woe, no redness of the eyes reserved for those who drink even to inebriation of this sacred wine. This sacred exhilaration is caused by a sense of security. A child of God, when he has looked well to his Redeemer, and seen the merit of the precious blood, and the power of the never–ceasing plea, feels himself safe, perfectly safe. I do not understand the child of God reading his Bible and yet being afraid of being cast into hell. I can understand that the fear may cross his mind lest after all he should prove a castaway; but as he approaches once again to the foot of the cross, and looks up to Jesus, he feels that it cannot be. None were ever cast away who stood at the cross foot; for it is written, “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.”

We will place on the table one goblet more, of which you may drink as much as you will. We have provided for us the pleasures of hope, a hope most sure and steadfast, most bright and glorious—the hope that what we know today shall be outdone by what we shall know tomorrow; the hope that by–and–by what we now see, as in a glass darkly, shall be seen face to face. We shall say, as in heaven, as the Queen of Sheba did in Jerusalem, “The half has not been told us.” We are looking forward to a speedy day when we shall be unburdened of this creaking tabernacle, and being absent from the body shall be present with the Lord. Our hope of future bliss is elevated and confident. Oh, the vision of His face! Oh, the sight of Jesus in His exaltation! The word, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from that dear mouth! and then for ever to be with Him. Begone, cares, begone, sorrows; if heaven be so near, you shall not molest us. The inn may be a rough and poverty–stricken one, but we are only travellers, not tenants upon lease. This is not our place of resting; we are on our journey home!

I might also have shown you how absolutely peerless are the provisions of grace. There is no feast like that of the gospel, no meat like the flesh of Jesus, no drink like His blood, no joys like that which crowns the gospel feast.

I can say no more: the table is before you, and now we must pass on with great brevity to notice THE BANQUETING–HALL. 
”In this mountain.” There is a reference here to three things—the same symbol bearing three interpretations. First, literally, the mountain upon which Jerusalem is built. I do not doubt that the reference is here to the hill of the Lord upon which Jerusalem stood; the great transaction which was fulfilled at Jerusalem upon Calvary has made to all nations a great feast. It was there where that centre cross bore upon it One who joined earth and heaven in mysterious union; it was there where amidst thick darkness the Son of God was made a curse for men; it was there where sorrow culminated that joy was consummated. On that very mountain where Jews and Gentiles met together, and with clamorous wrath cried, “Let Him be crucified”—it was there in the giving up of the Only–begotten, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed, that the Lord made a feast of fat things. Everything I have spoken of is found in Christ. He is the resurrection and the life: in Him we are justified, adopted, and made secure; every drop of joy we drink streams from His flowing veins.

A second meaning is the church. Frequently Jerusalem is used as the symbol of the church of God, and it is within the pale of the church that the great feast of the Lord is made unto all nations. I am in the truest sense a very sound churchman. I am indeed a high churchman; a most determined stickler for the church. I do not believe in salvation outside of the pale of the church. I believe that the salvation of God is confined to the church, and to the church alone. “But,” says one, “what church?” Ay! that’s the question: God forbid I should mean by that either the Baptist church, or the Independent church, or the Episcopalian church, or the Presbyterian, or any other—I mean the church of Jesus Christ, the company of God’s chosen, the fellowship of the blood–bought, the family of believers, be they where they may, for them is provided the feast of fat things. Whatever outward and visible church they may have associated themselves with, they shall drink of the wines on the lees well refined; but the feast is only to be found where they are found who put their trust in Jesus.

There is but one church in heaven and earth, composed of people called by the Holy Ghost, and made to live anew by His quickening power; and it is through the ministry of this church that an abundant feast is spread for all nations, a feast to which the nations are summoned by chosen herald, whom God calls to proclaim the good news of salvation by Jesus Christ.

But, brethren, the mountain sometimes means the church of God exalted to its latter–day glory. This mountain is to be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. This text will have its grandest fulfillment in the day of the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Then shall the glory of the gospel be unveiled more clearly than at this present. Men shall have a fuller perception of the glory of the Lord, and a deeper enjoyment of His grace; while happiness and peace shall reign with unmolested quiet. Soon shall come the golden age which has been so long foretold, for which we cry with unceasing expectation. The Lord send it speedily, and His be the praise.

III. Thirdly, let us think of THE HOST of the feast. 
”In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things.” Mark well the truth that in the gospel banquet there is not a single dish brought by man. The Lord makes it, and He makes it all. I know some would like to bring a little with them to the banquet, something at least by way of trimming and adornment, so that they might have a share of the honour; but it must not be, the Lord of hosts makes the feast, and He will not even permit the guests to bring their own wedding garments—they must stop at the door and put on the robe which the Lord has provided, for salvation is all grace from first to last, and all of Him who is wondrous in working, and who does all things according to the counsels of His will. Out of all the precious truths which I spoke of at the beginning of this sermon, there is not one which comes from any source but a divine one; and of all the joys which I tried feebly to picture there is not one which takes its rise from earth’s springs; they all flow from the eternal fount. The Lord makes the feast; and, observe, He does it, too, as the Lord of hosts, as a sovereign, as a ruler, doing as He wills amongst the sons of men, preparing what He wills for the good of His creatures, and constraining whom He wills to come to the marriage–feast. The Lord provides sovereignly as Lord of hosts, and all–sufficiently as Jehovah. It needed the all–sufficiency of God to provide a feast for hungry sinners. No other than the infinite “I AM” could provide a feast substantial enough to supply the wants of immortal spirits; but He has done it. If God spread the feast it is not to be despised.

IV. Lastly, a word or two upon THE GUESTS. 
The Lord has made this banquet “for all people”. What a precious word this is! “For all people.” Then this includes not merely the chosen people, the Jews, whose were the oracles, but it encompasses the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, who by Jesus are brought nigh. Blessed be God for that word, “unto all people,” for it permits missionary enterprise in every land. Dwell on that word, “all people,” and you will see it includes the rich, for there is a feast of fat things for them, such as their gold could never buy; and it includes the poor, for they being rich in faith shall have fellowship with God. “All people.” This takes in the man of enlarged intelligence and extensive knowledge; but it equally encompasses the illiterate man who cannot read. The Lord makes this feast “for all people;” for you old people, if you come to Jesus you shall find that He is suitable to you; for you young men and ladies, and you little children, if you put your trust in God’s appointed Saviour, there shall be much joy and happiness for you—”For all people”? Methinks, if I were now seeking and had not laid hold on Christ, this word, “all people” would be a great comfort to me, because it gives hope to all who desire to come. None have ever been rejected of all who have ever come to Christ and asked for mercy. Still is it true, “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Some very odd people have come to him, some very wicked people, some very hardened people, but the door was never closed in any one’s face.

Why should Jesus begin hard dealings with you? He cannot, because He cannot change. If He says, “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out,” make one of the “hims” that come, and He cannot cast you out. There is another thought, namely, that between the covers of the Bible there is no mention made of one person who may not come. There is no description given of a person who is forbidden to trust Christ. I should like you to look the book through, you who dream that Jesus will reject you, and find where it is said, “Such a one I will reject; such a one I will refuse.” When you find such a rejecting clause, then you will have a right to be unbelieving, but till you do I beseech you do not needlessly torment yourself. Why needlessly sow doubts and fears? There will be enough of them without your making them for yourself.

Do not limit what the Lord does not limit. I know He has an elect people; I rejoice in it—I hope you will rejoice in it too one day; and I know that His people have this marrow and fatness provided for them and for them alone; but still this does not at all conflict with the other precious truth that whosoever believeth in the Son of God has everlasting life. If you believe in Jesus Christ, all these things are yours. Come, poor trembler, the silver trumpet sounds, and this is the note it rings, “Come and welcome, come and welcome, come and welcome.” The harsher trumpet of the law which waxed exceedingly loud and long at Sinai had this for its note, “Set bounds about the mount: let none touch it lest they die.” But the trumpet for Calvary sounds with the opposite note; it is, “Come and welcome, come and welcome, sinner, come! Come as you are, sinful as you are, hardened as you are, careless as you think you are, and having no good thing whatsoever, come to your God in Christ!” O may you come to Him who gave His Son to bleed in the sinner’s stead, and casting yourself on what Christ has done, may you resolve, “If I perish, I will trust in him; if I be cast away, I will rely on him.” You shall not perish, but for you there shall be the feast of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. The Lord bless you very richly, for His name’s sake. Amen.

Pastoral Letter November 2014

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3.3

Dear Friends,

A friend recently mentioned this verse, and I thought it was worth a little further examination. We are all very used to the ‘standard’ application of this verse, of course — which is that we should be careful about what ‘associations’ we make, as individual believers or as a church. For example, last week I was contacted by a local organisation seeking our support for a ‘worship experience’ they are hosting soon. The young lady seemed a little taken aback when I told her (gently) that I couldn’t pass her invitation on to the church here because we cannot agree with the beliefs of the group (which are, in fact, heretical and very dangerous). We cannot ‘walk’ with those with whom we do not agree on the essential and non–negotiable truths of the gospel. But there is a lot more to this verse, and I found it challenging to ponder.

What do we do to surround ourselves with Christian friends?

It is very true that we need to find ways to be friendly with those all around us, so that we might have gospel opportunities. We do well to heed Psalm One, and not to linger in the company of those who reject God, but sometimes we can be so introverted that we never come near enough to the ‘seat of the scornful’ to risk the temptation of sitting in it!

With all that said, we must beware the danger of spending so much time seeking to reach those around us that we spend no time at all with those who are one with us. Who will help you in your Christian walk? Your brothers and sisters in Christ! Who will encourage you, bring scripture to you, sympathise with you in spiritual battles and offer help? It won’t (usually) be your mate from the local amateur dramatic society or pie–bakers guild, will it?

We are on the road to heaven, and we need to make progress. We need those who will walk with us, not in the other direction or off to the side. This is especially important for people considering whom they might marry, but vital for all of us.

Perhaps, in the style of Jonathan Edwards, we would be well–served to make a resolution something like this: “Resolved: To be friendly, kind, and supportive to all we meet for the sake of the gospel, but to reserve our best efforts and our precious time for the assembly of the saints, and for true and lasting friendships with those who know and love our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Pastoral Letter October 2014

There shall be no night there – Revelation 22.5

 

Dear Friends,

The nights are drawing in once again, and soon, if you are anything like me, you’ll be longing for a little more light! The darkness makes us want to settle comfortably in our homes earlier every evening — and who can deny the comfort of being ‘tucked up’ by a warm fire?

Darkness is unsettling, it conceals dangers and can play tricks with our minds. In the Bible, darkness is originally associated with nothingness (Genesis 1) but it takes up a familiar association with God’s judgment, and with danger or threat very quickly. The Lord Jesus spoke of those who had rejected Him as being cast into ‘outer darkness’ (Matthew 8.12, 22.13, 25.30).

The future of the Christian believer is one that will leave memories of winter far behind, for we read in Revelation 22 of the city of God, and that there will be ‘no night there’ and that there is no need of any ‘lamp nor light of the sun’ because ‘The Lord God gives them light’. How could it be otherwise? We know that ‘God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1.5). He is not just the Creator of light, but He is light.

In recent days, we have seen a dear church member go to be with the Lord. We mourn, of course, but we rejoice greatly for her blessedness in the presence of God — and think of this — she will never be ‘in the dark’ again. It simply is not possible. God is light, and she is with Him. Remember that the passing cycle of night and day, and the seasons of light and darkness, all mark the certain passing of time. Every day brings us nearer to the land of light and life, and closer to seeing the Lord face to face!

We know that darkness is purely the absence of light. Night comes because the Sun is shining on another part of our planet’s surface, not because the Sun has stopped shining! Our Saviour is the ‘Sun of Righteousness’, and His saving, healing rays never cease in their radiance and strength. The light is shining constantly, even now, but for the time being we must be content with a partial experience of it, just as we settle for our daily dose of sunshine, however small it may become. Even on the darkest winter’s day, we know that the sun still shines. Dear reader, keep looking to Jesus. However long, or dark, the night of this life may seem, it will end in glorious day.

No more night… may this promise gladden your heart, because whatever darkness you may face, it will not last, and one day, it will be gone forever!

Pastoral Letter September 2014

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;

But much increase comes from the strength of an ox.

– Proverbs 14.4

 

Dear Friends,

Harvest time is upon us again, with our familiar services coming at the end of the month as usual. Our text this month is a proverb that has a rural, farming background to it.

The basic meaning of it is that everything around the farmyard will be clean and tidy without animals — no expensive feed needed in the trough, no waste to clear up. In today’s terms it would be like having a tractor with immaculate bodywork … but no engine. It might look good and cost nothing to run, but nothing will be achieved. Without the Oxen doing their work, the ancient farmer wouldn’t get very far, and so even though they were smelly, expensive to feed, and made a lot of mess, they were absolutely essential. You wouldn’t get very far trying to pull the plough along by yourself!

It can be quite easy to operate a church which appears to be ‘clean’. Things happen when they should, there are regular services, a smart church magazine perhaps, a building in good working order, and so on.

But we are seeking more than that, aren’t we? We are longing to see increase — that is, people being added to the Kingdom of God and those who are in the Kingdom already growing in grace and understanding. If increase is what you want, then things will get ‘messy’. We want a Pastor, well, he has to be supported, and that costs money. We want to see people reached with the gospel, well, we have to speak to them — we cannot leave it to others. That costs time, and effort. Regular attendance at church costs us something too, as does growing as disciples and helping others to grow. Sometimes, things can go wrong, and church discipline is needed. Again, it is costly to us, uncomfortable, inconvenient. It seems like it would be much easier just to keep the trough clean.

Make no mistake, we have a great need to see increase at Morton in the coming months. Do I mean greater numbers? That would be great, but I’d rather see people who are already here following Christ in Baptism, becoming members, spending more time in the Word, engaging in outreach, and most of all coming out midweek to pray. That’s real increase. Is it too inconvenient for you? Are you too busy? Increase requires effort, and it costs us something. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as Saviour then you’ll never want to pay, because you’ll have no motivation — but if you do, then His love will enable and empower you.

How is it with your soul? Whose kingdom are you trying to increase?

Pastoral Letter July & August 2014

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise

– Proverbs 11.30

Dear Friends,

For your summer contemplation I present a well–known text. At least, the second part of the proverb is well–known! It is a favourite of archetypal ‘babdists’ (Baptists!) of the deep south in the USA, who describe their churches as ‘soul–winning’ churches. By this they generally mean that they engage in what they see as evangelism, most usually door–to–door visitation. So this verse is taken up as a ‘badge of honour’, and only churches that follow the set pattern of ‘soul–winning’ are considered worthy.

I’d like to point out that this verse is speaking about each of us as an individual. Of course, it does apply to the ‘the church’, but we need to apply it to ourselves first. I’d also point out that the verse does not say ‘you are a wise person if you go and win souls’. No, it says, if you win souls, you are wise. What does it mean?

What does it mean to ‘win a soul’? If your own soul has been won, you will know! It means that someone has been saved from their sin, and turned from their godless life to follow Jesus Christ. How can a soul be won? Of course, only by God’s power at work in their lives, convicting them of sin and granting them repentance unto faith. God is sovereign, but man is responsible, as we have seen in our recent studies in John 3.

If we are saved ourselves, then we have a responsibility to be soul–winners. God uses feeble folk like us to accomplish His work, and we are always amazed at that. Does this mean that we should be out on the street pushing people into false professions of faith or emotionally manipulating people so that we can claim to have ‘won a soul’? Many churches do just this, and so long as a person repeats a prayer on a door step they count them in their statistics. This is the result of human pride and the need to feel a sense of ‘accomplishment’.

No, we don’t need to be like that. Look at the text — ‘the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life’. We are to be those whose lives are like a fruitful tree, bringing blessings to those around us by our conduct, example, and prayers. Then, when we have the opportunity to witness (which is the use of actual words, the good news of the gospel) then our lives will add credence to the words we say as folk see Christ in us. Let us seek to be soul–winners. It begins with the reality of our own walk with God, and continues with our simple communication of the gospel. Then, when sinners come to Christ, we may be proven to be wise indeed!