Zeal for missions
I was recently gripped by the heart-rousing, burning spirit which Charles H. Spurgeon had for the gospel and missions.
His spirit should awaken us from our sleepiness and slumber. Would to God that it would also waken the Christian church of our nation from her spiritual lethargy, deadness and worldliness!
Spurgeon said, ‘If there be any one point in which the Christian church ought to keep its fervour at a white heat, it is concerning missions. If there be anything about which we cannot tolerate lukewarmness, it is in the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world’.
The best and greatest story ever heard in this dying world is summed up in one short Bible verse, ‘For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’.
The importance of scattering good gospel seed and sharing the good news of the gospel with sinners everywhere is highlighted by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, in his parting words to the disciples as he commissioned them, ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’.
The Lord would have us know here three indispensable truths. First, how vitally important missionary work is both at home and abroad, near and far, amongst Jew and Gentile; wherever lost souls are found, not just in UK but in all the world.
Second, nothing is to be preached except one message only. It is not our message, the world’s or religion’s message.
What a mess it would be in, if it was religion’s message! I met a church minister recently. He had it all — white dog collar, shining black suit, fine oratory and scholarly vocabulary — but there was one thing he didn’t have and know, the truth.
As I tried to reason with him on what the Bible and Jesus said on the ‘same-sex marriage’ issue that divided his own church in 2011, he replied, ‘O it just depends what your interpretation of truth is!’
Astonishing! No, it is not a church’s message or any denomination’s message, but the one message that is able to turn the world upside down and transform the life of a hell-deserving sinner. That message is the gospel.
We are to ‘preach the gospel’! And, like the apostle Paul, we ought never to be ‘ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth’.
One word of this gospel is able, by the grace of God, to make a sinner ‘wise unto salvation’ through faith in Jesus Christ.
Salvation brings both joy and encouragement. As I spoke to one man on the Isle of Lewis last year, he said, ‘I recall a certain Saturday night during Christmas week, a few years ago, when you spoke to me about my need of Jesus Christ as Saviour. You also gave me a Bible and a little booklet called My friend: your soul is speaking.
I had completely forgotten about the incident. He went on: ‘I have not forgotten that evening. The booklet was blessed to my soul and I have been reading the Bible ever since. I am now a Christian’.
I was deeply moved by his testimony, which reminded me of this biblical truth: ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days … In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that’ (Ecclesiastes 11:1, 6).
Third, the Lord Jesus Christ would have us know that the salvation of this gospel is to be offered freely and proclaimed freely to all mankind, without exception: ‘to every creature’.
He calls us to ‘go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind … Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled’.
Thomas Chambers said that ‘in the offer of the gospel we must make no limitation whatsoever, because “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent”’.
We ought not to allow anything to prevent us from sharing the good news of the gospel. A missionary in Africa was once asked if he really liked what he was doing.
‘Do I like this work?’ he said. ‘No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat waste … But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not.
‘Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to “Go ye”, and we go because his love constrains us’.
It was the same constraining love for God and burden for souls that brought a Scottish teacher into contact with the China Inland Mission. After offering himself for missionary service, he was invited to meet Hudson Taylor for an interview.
But this teacher had a problem, and a big one at that. He only had one leg! ‘With only one leg’, Taylor asked him, ‘why do you think of going as a missionary?’
‘Because I do not see those with two legs going!’ was George Stott’s reply. He was accepted as a missionary and laboured for the gospel in China for 23 years.
One reliable source remarks on the remarkable spiritual legacy Stott left behind: ‘His efforts brought Christianity to the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, where the teaching had been unknown, previously. The oldest church in the city, Chengxi Christian Church, still stands as a testimony to his work among the people that he loved.
‘As a result of the ongoing influence of the message of Christ, first brought there by Stott, Wenzhou is known today as the “Jerusalem of China”, because in the whole of Wenzhou, which has six million inhabitants, there are more than 600,000 evangelical Protestants — 10 per cent of the population’.
The importance of handing out gospel literature cannot be overstated. One missionary once wrote: ‘If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, then error will be.
‘If God and his Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendency. If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will.
‘If the power of the gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of this land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end’. This was written in 1823!
Reaching the perishing with the message of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ is the only hope that sinners are left with, if they repent and believe the gospel.
The true story is told of a criminal called Charles Pearce who, in 1879, was sentenced to death in Portsmouth for a string of offences, including murder. As he was being led to the scaffold just before his execution, a chaplain walked by his side and read to him some Bibles verses.
As he spoke to him about God’s forgiveness and mercy, and Christ’s power to save him even at this late hour from sin and hell, the dying man turned to him and said, ‘Do you believe it? Do you honestly believe what you have just told me?
‘If I believed what you believe, I would willingly crawl across England on my hands and knees, even if it was covered in broken glass, to save a single soul from an eternity in hell’.
Donald J. Morrison
The author is a home mission worker for the Free Church of Scotland Continuing