The Death of Christ

The Death of Christ

The Death of Christ

The first of three Convocation messages devoted to basic Biblical doctrines. Condensed from the keynote address by

Dr. Robert E. Coleman, Professor of Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary
President, Christiao Outreach

As I was in the dining hall tonight, the place was crowded, and shortly after we sat down at the table, a young man was seated beside me. He looked at the Junaluska news, noticed the roster of speakers for the night, turned to me and said, “I wish Bishop Hunt was preaching tonight. I’ve heard him preach before.”

Well, I assured him that he was not the only one wishing that Bishop Hunt was giving the keynote address this evening. I’m so grateful for the singing, for Glen Draper and these wonderful Lake Junaluska Singers. When they started to spend a little time praising the Lord and getting those dry bones to moving around, I felt lifted in my spirits. Surely it characterizes Methodism to sing. It was said of those early Methodists that you could recognize them just by walking through the streets and listening to the sound of singing from their houses. They had something to sing about! They knew that victory was theirs through Jesus Christ, and this confidence always characterizes the Church. We should be by nature, incurable optimists. For whatever the circumstances in the world, we are victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s thrilling to read through the Book of Revelation and I is ten to the shouts of victory around the throne of God. Terrible judgments afflict the earth, but whenever the action shifts to Heaven, there’s the sound of singing. Ultimately this is the only language that will endure, and we should live in this reality now.

In one of these scenes, in the 12th chapter, vs. 11 and 12, we hear a loud voice saying in Heaven, “Now is come salvation and strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ, for the accuser of the brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. And they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Now while rejoicing in this victory, let us not be naive. As the passage indicates, we have a great adversary. There is a demonic conspiracy in this world, and all the hosts of evil are arrayed against the Church. This power will seek to destroy every influence for gooq. As long as we live on this planet we are engaged in a holy warfare. There are indications in the Scripture that this conflict will increase in intensity as the end of the age approaches. Jesus said that false prophets will arise, who would show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive if possible the very elect. There will be tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world. Wars and intrigue will fill the earth. Hate will bind the hearts of men. No one will be secure. And as moral integrity breaks down, apostacy in the Church will become popular. And those who do not conform to the spirit of the age will be hard pressed. Some will be martyred.

But here is the precious truth—we shall overcome! The Church will be triumphant! For as we read, Satan is a defeated foe. The great deceiver is cast down. Indeed, in the council of eternity, it is already an accomplished fact. “Now is come salvation and strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ.”

General Booth of the Salvation Army, in writing to his daughter once when she was discouraged, advised her to get her eyes off the waves and fix them on the tides. Indeed, we must remind ourselves of the same thing. However tempestuous the waves, the tide is coming in. And some day the battle will be over. Even now we can celebrate the victory. How it is won is seen in this Heavenly vision from Revelation. In this Scripture passage are the distinctive marks of a victorious Church.

In the first place, they overcame by the blood of the Lamb. Now here, in one concise statement, is the heart of the Gospel. “Except there be the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). As John Wesley was dying, he was heard to whisper, “There is no way into the presence of God except through the blood of Jesus.”

Blood is referred to in the Bible 460 times. And if all related terms were considered, there would scarcely be a page in Scripture which does not have some allusion to the concept. We are told that when ·Jesus comes again, He will be clothed in garments bathed in blood and His Name is called the Word of God. The blood is the scarlet thread which weaves the whole scope of revelation together into one harmonious whole. It is the substance of life given and received. It is the emblem of inviolable trust and the seal of the everlasting covenant. It is the means of our justification, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification and every other benefit of the Cross. For it speaks ultimately of the self-giving sacrifice of God’s eternal Son for the sins of the world.

For centuries God’s people had been approaching Him through the blood of the sacrificial offering. The worshipper took an appropriate animal, laid his hands on it to let it symbolize his life. Then he, or a priestly representative, slew the victim with a knife. And as the blood poured out on the altar, it typified God’s judgment upon all that was unholy. And yet, at the same time, the blood revealed God’s desire to be reconciled to the creature of His life. And when it, too, expressed the heart-cry of the worshipper, the blood conveyed the assurance of God’s pardon and peace. It bore witness to the Heaven and to the earth that there was reconciliation. That atonement—at-one-ment with God was effected.

Of course, the Old Testament sacrifices were but the promise of the perfect blood sacrifice to come. They spoke of that day when God Himself would offer His own blood on the cross. Had the sacrifices of Israel made a lasting reconciliation, they would have ceased to be offered.

No sacrificial ceremony could be accomplished without some offering of blood. Even individual offerings had to be repeated as the occasion demanded. God honored the sacrifices of believing Jews, but it was only by reason of the promised Savior to which they all pointed.

No sacrifice was more anticipated by the Israelites than the Passover. The offering of the lamb, on this occasion, brought to mind their ancient deliverance from bondage in Egypt, even as it also prophesied the day of complete restoration. It was during this feast, while the Paschal lambs were being offered in the Temple, that Jesus was led outside the city gate and nailed to the cross of Calvary. The cross was then lifted with its quivering load and dropped into a hole.

There for three hours hung the bleeding body of the Son of God. The blood ran down His pierced hands and feet, forming a red pool at its base. He was despised and rejected of men. Numbered with transgressors who hung on either side. We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, afflicted. Only a few times did He speak, and then only briefly, His voice almost lost amid the jeers and cries of His tormentors. But as His breathing came harder, His body convulsing in pain, He lifted His voice and cried, “It is finished!”

As He spoke, the veil of the Temple was torn in two pieces and fell in a great heap on the marble floor. This signified that all that had been foreshadowed in the sacrifices of Israel had now been consummated. That which was in the eternal heart of God from eternity, when the Lamb (His Son) was slain in this pulsating moment of time, was now revealed. And salvation was accomplished for all men, for all time.

Brethren, we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as with silver or gold, from the vain tradition of our fathers. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without spot and without blemish.

It’s alright to talk about Jesus’ great ethical teaching, and even to exalt His exemplary life of obedience. But insisting upon the blood as being absolutely necessary for our salvation is an offense to the egotistical mind of man. No wonder the moralistic Jews rejected it. The cross was, to them, a stumbling block. And to the philosophic Greek, who worshipped the highest intellectual aspirations of man, it seemed foolishness. Let us not imagine that we are exempt from the same temptations to diminish the importance of the Savior’s blood.

The new doctrinal statement does not seem to affirm it very distinctly. The blood has been taken out. In striking contrast to our Articles of Religion and the standards of doctrine established by Wesley, Christ’s sacrifice is interpreted primarily as a moral influence working for our redemption. The force of the cross is directed man-ward, not God-ward. Certainly, there is this appeal of suffering love in the cross. But it is essential also to appreciate the aspects of propitiation, whereby God’s holy wrath against sin is appeased and His justice satisfied, in the death of His Son for us. Apart from this aspect of the atonement, Wesley has said, Christ died in vain.

I’m not suggesting that the new pluralistic position of our church openly denies this truth. I’m not questioning the motive. I’m only observing that the cross and the blood are muted. There is no clear affirmation of this distinctive Gospel witness.

I do not contend for any particular theory of the atonement. The Scripture simply stresses the fact that Christ died for our sins. Not just as an example, but as our substitute and ransom. He accepted in His body the judgment of our sin. He paid it all. His act of love broke the bondage of death and hell. A perfect atonement was made for the human race, and to every believing heart His blood now offers a salvation that is free and full.

At the time of the Civil War there was a band of organized outlaws called Quantrell Raiders. They operated along the frontier, where law enforcement was at a minimum. They would sweep down upon an unsuspecting village, plunder, ravage and ride away before help could be summoned. The situation became so desperate that some citizens in Kansas organized a local militia. It was determined they would seek out these desperados and upon evidence of guilt they would be executed immediately.

Not long after that some of these outlaws were captured. Their guilt was determined and the sentence read. As the firing squad was forming, some people gathered to witness the execution. Suddenly one of the spectators rushed forward, pointing to one of the condemned outlaws. “Let this man go free. He has a wife and four children. He is needed at home. Let me take his place, I am guilty.”

It was an extraordinary request. But at the insistence of this man it was finally granted. He was permitted to go and take the place of the condemned criminal. When the command to fire was given, he fell with the others into the open grave.

After the ordeal was over, the redeemed outlaw came back to this awful scene of death. He uncovered the grave, found the body of this friend, put it on the back of a mule, took it to a little village outside Kansas City where he gave his friend a proper burial. Then he erected a memorial stone which I understand can still be seen in that little cemetery. And on it was inscribed these words, “He took my place. He died for me.”

Ladies and gentlemen, in a much more profound way, that’s what happened when Jesus poured out His blood on Calvary. He took our place. We all turned to our own way. We were all under the sentence of death. And yet in God’s amazing grace, Jesus came forward and offered Himself to God as our sacrifice. That’s why we feel like Wesley, “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise. The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace. He breaks the power of cancel led sin, he sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me.”

This is the message and the song of the Church! And the way the Gospel comes to the world is mentioned as another reason for the triumph before us. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. You see, the victory of the cross must be proclaimed. The blood that brought us to God cries out for all to come. And to keep this message to ourselves would, in effect, repudiate its efficacy for the others. God gave His Son for the whole world, that whosoever believes might not perish, incredible as it may seem. God is pleased to use the foolishness of the spoken word to save those that believe.

Have you ever thought about it? He doesn’t work through the angels; rather, he works through the instrument of human personality, through the word of testimony, to get out the good news of salvation.

Not long ago I heard of a girl from Asbury College on her way to Cincinnati on the bus. She was reading her Bible and the man next to her commented that he had never seen anybody read the Bible before on a public bus. This gave her a wonderful opportunity to share her faith, to tell why she loved Jesus. When she finished, the man said, “I’ve never heard anybody put it like this. You know, I’ve got a buddy on this bus. He sure needs to hear just what you told me.” He suggested that perhaps they exchange seats. The girl consented gladly; it gave her another opportunity to tell of the wonderful love of Jesus. She was almost finished when an elderly man in the front turned and said, “Would you mind going over that last sentence again?”

By now a lady on the other side of the aisle was becoming interested and noticing that many were concerned, she asked if they would like for her to speak so everyone could hear. They nodded, whereupon she rose, walked to the front of the bus, turned around behind the driver, and as loud as she could lift her voice she told everyone that Jesus loved them, that she loved them. And that He was the Savior of all who would come to Him.

About this time the bus pulled into the terminal at Cincinnati. But before the driver opened the door, he turned and said, “Young lady, is there anything else you’d like to say?”

Well, bless her heart, all she could say was “Hallelujah! ”

When you have the shine on your face and the ring in your heart, this aching world will listen when you shout Hallelujah!

The relationship between the triumph of the Kingdom and the word of testimony is seen in Peter affirming his faith in Christ. You recall that at Caeserea Philippi he declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This pleased Jesus, and He said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

We immediately jump to the conclusion that the orthodoxy of that statement is the foundation of the Church. And certainly, it must be there. But if Peter had kept this faith to himself it would never have been known. He had to affirm it. He had to proclaim his faith in Jesus Christ. This is the Rock. This is the foundation of the Church. This is evangelism. It is the proclamation of the Gospel. We shall overcome by the word of our testimony. And here every Christian has a task. It’s not a question of what our gifts or our callings may be, whether you are a pastor or a school teacher or a housewife. We’re all priests of God. We’re all involved in the ministry of His Body, which was given for the redemption of the whole world. Just as Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He has sent His Church. Significantly, when Jesus described the events during the last epoch of the world, He promised that this Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached in all the world for a witness—then the end would come. This Gospel will be heard eventually by every creature as can be seen in that vast throng, singing in Heaven. We are told that they come from every kindred, every tongue, every tribe, and every nation. The Great Commission of Jesus is already fulfilled.

Evangelism is the priority around which all our resources should be directed. Certainly this is the consuming position of historic Methodism. Not just to raise up a witness to historic truth, but to proclaim that truth in a fervent spirit and to evangelize the world in this generation. Certainly this is the commission which has been given to us al I. But let us note it has a cost. This is seen as the third reason for the victory of the Church. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and because they did not love their life even unto death.

It can be translated, “and by not loving their own lives they were willing to die.” As one cannot bear testimony to the gospel of the blood without coming under its demands.

Interestingly, the word, “witness” can also be translated, “martyr.” It is clearly a life totally offered to God. Half-hearted commitment can never be reconciled with the sacrifice of Him who has done all for us.

Some time ago I entered a church and noticed over the door an inscription taken from the 100th Psalm, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.” And as I reflected upon those words I realized they were certainly appropriately given, for that is the way we should always come into His presence, with praise. Then I remembered, right before that it is said, “We are the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” There was only one reason why sheep would ever be taken out of the pasture, led through the gates of the Temple and into the courts of the holy Temple. The only reason they would ever approach God is to offer themselves as a living sacrifice on the altar.

The Bible is talking about us. We are the sheep of His pasture. And we should understand we must identify with the Lamb of God. It is only by His blood that we can come into the presence of a holy God. And yet by faith in His blood we can commit ourselves to offer all that we are on His altar. There’s a recklessness about it. As Paul put it, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die unto the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).

What difference, then, does it make for we are His. How can you defeat such a man? He has reckoned himself already dead, the flesh with its passions and lust was crucified with Christ.

In the year 320 A.D. a vain effort was made to impede the growth of the Christian Church. The Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Lisinius, decreed that all civil servants must offer sacrifice on an altar to the local gods. This order included the military as recounted in the writings of Basel of Cesarea.

One cold winter morning the order was read to the 12th legion of Rome, stationed at Sebasti in Arminia. The soldiers were called upon to demonstrate their loyalty to Caesar, with a prescribed offering. There were 40 Christians in the ranks of the Legion, men from Cappadocia, who informed the captain that they could not sacrifice on pagan altars. The commander was dismayed. Dare these men defy the Emperor? Yet knowing they had proved their bravery in the field of battle, not wanting to inflict punishment upon them, the captain ordered the Christian soldiers to be placed in confinement until they could reconsider their decision.

That night in a guarded encampment the 40 Cappadocians comforted themselves by reading the Scriptures and singing hymns of praise.

The next morning they were brought again and commanded to worship the pagan gods. Again they refused.

“We have made our choice,” they said. “We shall devote our love to God.”

At this the captain grew angry. He ordered the men bound over in custody of the jailer to await the arrival of the commanding general who would pass sentence. During the period of imprisonment the soldiers often could be heard singing hymns of praise. After a week, the general came. He informed the men that if they would not obey the decree of the Emperor they would be delivered over to torture. Undaunted, the Christians replied, “You can have our armor and our bodies as well, we prefer Christ.”

At 9 o’clock the following morning the sentence was pronounced. Their arms were to be bound, ropes placed over their necks, and they were to be led to the shore of a nearby frozen lake. And there at sundown they were to be stripped and escorted out onto the ice. But because of their high reputation for valor, the general had ordered that they be given the privilege of recanting at any time. The Roman bathhouse stood on the shore. It was readied for any of the men who were prepared to renounce their faith and to offer sacrifices on pagan altars.

Bitter wind swept over the lake surface as the soldiers were driven out shivering in the dusk. Guards were posted around the shore, among them the jailor in whose custody they had been kept during the days of confinement. And then one of the 40 Christians lifted his voice out on the lake and he began so sing, “40 good soldiers for Christ, we shall not depart from you as long as you give us life. We shall call upon Your Name whom all creation praises, on Him we had hoped and we are not ashamed.”

The men took heart at this song and together raised their voices lustily while the ice chilled the soles of their feet. But as the hour of midnight approached, the songs grew more feeble.

Finally they could scarcely be heard by those on the shore. But then a strange thing happened. One of the 40 was seen emerging from the darkness of the lake, staggering toward the shore. The guards posted there were dozing. Only the jailor was awake, his eyes peering out into the darkness, his ears straining to catch the mumbled prayers of the dying Christians. 40 – 39 good soldiers of Christ, came a thin, quivering voice from the distance. The jailer watched the man fall to his knees and then crawl to the heated bathhouse.

At that moment something happened in the heart of the jailor. What it was, only he and God would ever know. But the guards reported hearing a great shout that jerked them awake. And rubbing their eyes they saw the jailor rip off his armor, then run to the edge of the lake and there, lifting his right hand, he shouted, “There are 40 good soldiers for Christ! ” And then, as he marched out on the ice, he began to sing, “We shall not depart from You as long as You give us life. We shall call upon Your Name whom all creation praised. On You we have called and we are not ashamed.”

That’s the kind of dedication that has overcome this world, a joyous commitment to follow Christ at any cost. Whatever external sufferings it may entail, the victory is within the heart through identification with the cross. Our understanding of its claims will certainly deepen as we walk with Him. But at any time we should be willing to obey all that we do understand.

It is this daily abiding of the cross by which we know the triumph of His resurrection.

We are indeed free men! Thanks be unto Him who has given the victory. And when the battle is won on the inside, then we can face the battle raging in the world on the outside. And indeed, regardless of the circumstances, we know that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. That’s why we should celebrate. For the Church is victorious and we can join the angels and the archangels and the seraphims and the cherubims and sing praise unto Him who is worthy, who was slain, who has redeemed us to God by His blood.

Now has come salvation and glory and the Kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ, now the kingdom of Satan has already been overcome. He has been cast down and we are victorious. The Church is triumphant through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and because we loved not our lives unto death.

Aren’t you glad that you belong to such a triumphant body? Oh, we need to celebrate! And this victory should characterize our life and our devotion.


The Death of Christ

Many Hearts are with You

Many Hearts are with You

A warm episcopal welcome

By Earl G. Hunt, Jr., Resident Bishop Charlotte (NC) Area, United Methodist Church

We are honored and privileged and delighted to have you meeting within the boundaries of the Charlotte Area, the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. I bring greetings not only as the Resident Bishop of this area, but also as the president of the College of Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

When I pastored in the city of Atlanta many, many years ago, I had a dear old parishioner who was a widower. Every time I went to visit, he served me a memorable refreshment: a collard greens sandwich, without relief of mayonnaise. It was a sore trial, imposed on the fidelity of the pastoral spirit of a Christian minister. But the reason I remember this dear old gentleman is because of something that he said to me again and again: “I knowed you was coming because you was so long about it.”

Anybody who is even vaguely familiar with the trends within the Christian community ought to have known that a resurgence of interest in evangelical religion was coming—because it was so long about it.

I have already told you how welcome you are: now as a bishop of the church, I want to make three very simple observations. I trust these will find their way appropriately into the context of this high and holy and significant Convocation week.

First, our plight (that is, the plight of the Christian Church) is in many ways a plight for which we, ourselves, are primarily responsible. I’m aware that there is a kind of apocalyptic secularism round about us. This has created a climate in which it is difficult to think spiritual thoughts or to do spiritual things, but there are some other factors, not as far removed from the preachers as the lay people of the church. For example, there has been an overemphasis on organizational structure. Organization is essential, but it ought always to be kept to a silent minimum.

There has been a doctrinal dilution- a failure on the part of the Church to articulate the great truths about God, about His Son, about His Holy Spirit, about human sin, about salvation, about prayer, about judgment, about eternity. As a result we have produced a generation of spiritual pygmies instead of religious giants.

There has been an eclipse of preaching, but I thank God that it seems to be in the process of vanishing! I have never noticed that my Charlotte area churches have had serious attendance or budget problems when there was a messenger of God standing in the pulpit week after week, saying something in a language that the people could understand, about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Before we blame the times totally, for the problem in which we find ourselves, we ought, as honest men and women, to take a long look at those things for which we ourselves are responsible.

Second, the tides of the hour are with the evangelical movement. My dear friends, you have no idea how favorable the climate of the church is for those concerns in which you are interested. You have no idea how friendly the viewpoint and how great is the anxiety of the bishops about these concerns. I could go down the roster of episcopal leaders and give you name after name after name of your own bishops whose hearts are with you all the way.

However there are three perils that give me grave anxiety as I confront my own deep commitment to the evangelical cause—and as I view yours. The first of these is false doctrine. There isn’t anybody as badly mixed up in the Christian community as an evangelical Christian who is basically wrong on some of the things he believes. The charismatic movement has brought so many signs of hope to our move-in history. But it has also brought possibilities of real peril for those who misunderstand the truths of God about the Christian experience or the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

I spent yesterday in Winston Salem with one of God’s great gentlemen, Dr. John R. Church. We were having dinner together and he said to me, “In this whole business of the modern tongues movement, we have to be very very careful to discern that which is of God, as opposed to that which is of the devil.”

He went on to say something which I, personally, believe to be extremely basic and important-that our safest course in determining the truth about the Holy Spirit is to follow the classical Biblical, Wesleyan position on this great doctrine. It is a corrective for some of the contemporary misinterpretations of this truth. We have to watch false doctrine.

Also, we have to guard against having only a superficial social consciousness and conscience. The time is past (if indeed it ever existed) when real religion could flourish apart from a redemptive ministry to the great agonies of mankind. You cannot live as a Christian apart from the problems of racism, poverty, and the moral revolution in our day. Where these great issues exist, God expects His children to take stands for righteousness. My friends, the only evangelical movement that can survive and bless this generation is the evangelical movement that has, without apology and with great courage, a forthright Christian position on the great social issues of our day. We mustn’t wear it as a veneer; we must acknowledge it as a part of the timber of our faith.

And then there is the age-old peril, the religious sin of pharisaism. I live with it every day. I realize that I’m so often right on things, don’t you? It’s very hard for me not to be judgmental where you’re concerned, when you don’t see it my way. Oh, God needs to give to every born-again Christian a fresh outpouring of the gift of humility. We need to remember that judgment is the prerogative of the Almighty, and not the privilege of His child. This pharisaism, it turns off the world we want to convert, before the world ever has a chance to hear the message of the Savior.

Three perils. This is the hour of evangelical religion, but these three things haunt us.

Finally, Heaven will bless this week, and this great movement within the United Methodist Church, if there is always integrity, and if there is always a compassion in the enterprise. That means that our proper objectives are the glory of God, the good of His Church, and the salvation of human beings. That’s all. That’s all. No self-glory, no self-aggrandizement, no vengeance upon a structure or a church that somehow did us wrong, just the glory of the Heavenly Father, and the strengthening and the good of the church, and the salvation of human beings.

If our hands and our hearts are pure, we are as certain to receive Heaven’s blessing as we are sitting here tonight.

Let me close with a text. Over in the book of Judges, 5th chapter, 20th verse, there is one of those great, startling sentences of Scripture. Across the years it has spoken to me and ministered to me as a Christian man. It’s part of the triumphant chant of a woman named Deborah, the warrior prophetess of Israel.

You remember the story—Sisera was the captain of the hosts of the King of Canaan. And it was Sisera who was leading the forces against God’s people. Suddenly Deborah cried out that the very stars in their courses fought against Sisera.

This is one of the great truths of the Christian faith. There’s something in God’s universe, there’s something in the very nature of His creation, that means all of the forces that He ever made ally themselves on the side of His righteousness. And so we do not stand alone! We do not battle in solitary agony. The stars in their courses fight for us. It’s still His Church, my friends. Not yours, not mine. It’s still His Church. And the stars in their courses fight for the causes of God.

The Death of Christ

The Knowledge of God

The Knowledge of God

“To me they cry, ‘My God, we Israel know the Lord.’ Israel has spurned the good; the enemy shall pursue him, (Hosea 8:2,3).” On first glance it would appear that these two verses are unrelated, since they seem to contradict each other. But on further study of the context, it becomes clear that irony is intended. All of Israel’s claims to the contrary, she does not “know” God.

What, then, does it mean to know God? If Israel does not “know” God, who does?

The English verb “to know” has two connotations (among others). Thus, you might ask a group if all those present know some nationally prominent person. Probably the majority would answer “yes,” meaning “I have an intellectual acquaintance with that person—I know who he or she is.” But if you were to ask whether anyone in the group really knows that prominent person, probably no one would answer “yes”—meaning that no one present has had an experiential acquaintance with him or her. No one really knows that person.

In the great majority of cases the Hebrew word yadac “to know” has only the latter connotation. We English-speakers may think of the knowledge of God as something primarily intellectual, philosophic, or apologetic. Not so the Hebrew! The knowledge of God was forged in the fires of conflict and testing, of disobedience and punishment, of repentance and grace. He knew God and God knew him.

The primacy of this experiential content is beautifully illustrated in the language of the sex relationship. The Hebrew text says literally that a man knew his wife. This is no euphemism. Rather, it means precisely what it says. Two people in the most intimate, personal, revealing ways give their bodies and their personalities to one another. And they know one another. In those moments of passionate, unreserved giving, one tastes the reality of commitment. This- is one more reason for the preservation of the sanctity of sex, as well as its freedom within the prescribed bounds: it is a type or illustration of the relationship between God and His own. So once again, when the Bible speaks of knowing God, it is speaking about an experience, not an abstraction-an experience not unlike holding a live electric wire.

Examples of this concept appear throughout the Old Testament; however, those from Hosea and Amos will suffice. One of the most poignant of the prophecies is that of Hosea. The touching interplay between the prophet and his unfaithful wife and God and unfaithful Israel is unforgettable. Hosea’s many allusions to marriage and sexual embrace are not by chance.

It is precisely because of her lack of knowledge of God that Israel will be exiled (4:1). She has not sustained such a relationship. The God who knew her in the wilderness (13:5), she has forgotten.

But as Hosea’s writing and, indeed, the whole Bible indicates, to sustain such a relationship is difficult. This is no cut-and-dried affair. This is the One who is truly Real, before whom all my tinsel is evident. This is the One who is truly Love, before whom all my apathy is made· plain. This is the One who is truly Holy, before whom my stained clothes are seen to be what they are. To allow myself to be enclosed in that embrace is to be unmade, to be remade. It is to feel my too-reluctant spirit heated white – hot, pounded, hammered, stamped into that unattainable image. It is too much! His designs are too great!

How much easier to backpedal, to sidestep, to propitiate Him with services, with sacrifices, with the reciting of creeds, with abstinences! Somehow we must find ways to keep Him happy without letting Him at the blueprint of our lives. We will show that we know God by doing all the religious things He likes so well. And God says, “There is no knowledge of me here (4:1,2,6).” What are religious deeds? Show me My nature in you (6:6)! I hate your religiosity (Amos 5:21-26)! Knowledge of God may indeed result in religious acts, but not before it has issued in a life which breathes the breath of God (Psalm 51).

Jeremiah speaks in a similar vein (9:25a). How easy it is to trust in externals, in religious practices, in our marks of circumcision. But where is the circumcision of the heart? Where is that knowledge of God, that consuming relationship with God, which issues in goodness, gentleness, justice, righteousness? (Micah 6:6-8). Where is the knowledge of God?

The Death of Christ

Archive: Jesus is Our Head

Archive: Jesus is Our Head

Condensed from an address by Kenneth W. Copeland Bishop, Houston (Texas) Area, United Methodist Church

At press time we learned the Bishop has gone to be with the Lord in glory.

Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body. This is the message Paul is affirming without any reservation whatsoever. The Church has been at its best at those times when it has been most committed to this irreversible truth. When the Church fails to be the Church, when it fails in its witness to the world, it is because it fails at the point of recognizing and responding to Jesus Christ as Head of the Church.

Today the divine call is for the Church to see with the eyes of Christ, to hear with the ears of Christ, to think with the mind of Christ, to love with the heart of Christ, to heal with the hands of Christ and to speak with the voice of Christ. If I read the mind of this Convocation correctly, I believe that is why we’re here. And what we believe the mission of the Church is all about. I believe this truth is absolutely basic to everything we talk about, hope for, pray and work for with respect to the renewal of the Church. What does concern us is that the Church will make a vivid and vital rediscovery of Jesus Christ as its Head and recommit the message and mission of the Church to His will in our day.

There is far more in these verses than any one human being can fully comprehend. However, it is both our duty and our privilege to examine what Paul is trying to say here under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

First, Paul is proclaiming the supremacy of Christ, the preeminence of Christ. The Layman’s Bible Commentary paraphrases part of verse 18 in this manner: “Christ is the source of the Church’s life, since He rose first from the dead that others might rise through Him. Thus in all things, in Church as well as universe, He shows Himself supreme.” How very important this is—and always has been—to any adequate understanding of the Church and its witness in the world! In the days of His flesh, our blessed Lord confronted His disciples with this question, “Who do you say I am?” On the answer to that question, the Christian and the Church either stand or fall. Nothing else matters very much if that question is not answered correctly, within the limits of our own humanity and the limits of our faith. No creeds, no activism, no philosophy, no resolution, no dialogue, no restructuring of organizations, no church program nor policy will avail much which does not arise out of a firm conviction that “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

It makes a great deal of difference who we believe Jesus Christ is. Here is the profound and decisive difference between the Christian faith and all other religions. It separates them not in degree but in kind. Religions are man’s search for God; the Gospel is God’s search for man.

The Revised Standard Version has it that “in everything He might be preeminent.” Everything! “For in Him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.” The Greek word translated “fufness” means totality. That is, the totality of divine powers chose to make their abode in Him. This phrase, therefore, claims full deity for Christ.

There’s a difference between divinity and deity. Not many people debate the divinity of Jesus Christ. Divinity is an attribute of God. Therefore, love is divine. Truth is divine. Beauty is divine. The Christian home is divine. The Church is divine. Divinity is an attribute of God, but Deity is God. The incarnation is the one great irreversible fact of history. God revealed Himself in the human dimensions of Jesus. Witness the question of Philip, for example, at the Last Supper, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8). Jesus answered, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father…”

Dr. John Lawson is Professor of Church History at Candler School of Theology. In his book An Evangelical Faith for Today, he said, “The evangelical must insist that a further essential to the Christian system (without which the whole falls and upon which there can be no compromise) is that our Lord is the unique, divine incarnation in the full historic sense of the word. He’s the divine son made man, fully human, fully divine, one real Person, the permanent union of God with His handiwork, and the personal entry of God into the history of this world.” Let us reaffirm our unquestioned belief in the supremacy, the preeminence of Jesus Christ. The effectiveness of the Church’s witness in the world, in both the personal and the social dimensions of human life and society, depends upon the full acceptance of this truth, and our obedience to it.

Another great truth which comes to us from this Colossian passage is the power of Christ. It’s not accidental, my dear friends, that the Great Commission of our Lord is predicated by Jesus’ affirmation that all power had been given to Him, both in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Then follows His promise that He will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.

The intimacy of His divine companionship and the promise and provision of His power are set within the context of mission. Now let us add to the promises inherent in the Great Commission, the promise that He gave His disciples just before His Ascension to the Father: “You will receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you will be witnesses unto Me in all Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The greatest need of the Church today is this power Jesus promised us we could have. Yet perhaps no dimension of the Church’s life and ministry is quite so misunderstood. It is popular, relevant and contemporary to talk about power structures within the Church. It’s also popular to demand a “piece of that pie.” For some, it is the “in” thing to organize our own power structures to fight the established power structures, fighting fire with fire. The end result is that all of us are severely burned in the process, and the Kingdom of God grinds down to a slow walk.

I hold no brief for persons who seek to dominate the program and the progress of the Church. I do not believe in dictatorships of any kind, whether of bishops or boards, of pastors or presidents, of lay or ordained persons. It would be presumption of the worst sort for any one of us to assume that he or she could take over the powers of the Head of the Church. One thing is clear: we’re on a dead-end street if we believe that’s the way to become empowered. The Church cannot grant power to persons. I want to say this again because you’re going to have to think very deeply at this moment The Church cannot grant power to people-that is, the kind of power Jesus was talking about, and the kind of power the Church must have to be the Church. The Church itself does not empower persons, it cannot empower ordained or unordained persons, laity or clergy, women or men, youth or age, white or nonwhite, rich or poor. The Church does not empower; only the Holy Spirit empowers.

The Church does, however, have the right and responsibility to grant authority to certain persons to speak and act in the name of the Church, in the pursuit of its witness in the world. The discipline of our church spells out these areas of authority and responsibility given to ordained and unordained persons, and we’re cautioned in Christian conscience to give a good account of our stewardship of this authority. However, at no point in the Discipline nor in the practice of the Church does the Church promise it can empower any one of us.

The power I speak of here, of course, is that power that Jesus promised would come—the power of redeeming, reconciling, recreating love. In relation to this power our lord affirms three great truths. First, He possesses it: “All power is given unto Me.” Second, He promises it: “You will receive power.” Third, He provides it: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

A bishop cannot increase a minister’s power by moving him or her to a larger parish. A person does not suddenly come into possession of this power when elected and consecrated a bishop. The opportunity to serve on some board or agency of the Church may give a person an enlarged opportunity to let the power of God flow through him or her in different and sometimes more creative channels. However, serving on boards and agencies of the church does not, in itself, grant a person spiritual power. Neither can spiritual power be gained by a struggle or a shrewd manipulation of the minds and wills of other persons for our own selfish ends. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. This is the pathway to power, the only pathway.

It should be clear to those who read the Scripture and study the experience of the Church that the Holy Spirit is a gift from the Father. Read those precious promises in the 14th, 15th and 16th Chapters of John’s Gospel, where Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit’s coming. Let me just pick out phrases: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another to be your Advocate.” And then again He refers to the Holy Spirit “whom the Father will send in my name,” and still again, “when your Advocate is come whom I will send you from the Father,” and then again, “When He comes, who is the Spirit of all truth.”

These are promises of a divine gift from the Father, not of something one earns, works for, deserves, or for whom ritual preconditions must be met. The Holy Spirit is a gift! The power of God is a gift!

However, He must be received through faith; in confidence that He meant what He said, and He will do what He promised. That He initiates the offer of Himself, that He stands at the door and knocks, that He will come in if we but open the door, that He will sup with us and we with Him. Blessed, blessed promises, indeed!

The Holy Spirit comes as a gift from the Father and must be received through faith. Then He will abide in our hearts, and in the Church, and empower us and the Church as we obey Him. Jesus declared that the standard at the judgment would simply be “inasmuch as ye did it or did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren, Ye did it or did it not unto me.” Here are both the personal and the social, the individual and the corporate, both the local and the world-wide implications of the Gospel. These have never been separated; they are dimensions of one Gospel, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.

We see in this picture of Christ as the Head of the Church, not only preeminence and power but also His place in the unity of the believers. Paul emphasizes Christ’s headship of the Body, His Church, in his Colossian Letter, and emphasizes the individual responsibilities of the various parts of the Body in his 1st Corinthian Letter, Chapter 12. Three things need to be said quickly about the different parts of the Body as this truth applies to the Churches. First, the parts of the body have different functions and different responsibilities. The hand can do many things the foot cannot do. The foot has individual responsibilities other parts of the body cannot perform.

So it is with the Church—not only with different persons of the Church but with different ministries and different congregations. The gifts of the Spirit differ. Some are given the gift of prophecy. Others have the gift of proclamation, others the gift of teaching, others a diversity of responsibilities. This we come to call “pluralism,” at least in some applications of the term.

However, the individual parts function only as they remain within the Body. In his Corinthian Letter, Paul emphasizes the fact that a body is not one single organ but many. And no single organ is the whole body.

No Christian has either the right or the authority simply to “do his own thing” without regard to what it means to the Body. Pluralism is one thing; polarization is another. The one cooperates toward a common goal and brings all the diversities together, making its own distinctive contribution toward that end. But polarization is divisive, hostile, and ultimately destructive.

This truth needs to dawn anew and afresh in our hearts this day, my dear friends. We need to pray for renewal of the sense of belonging to each other. Let us, in the name of God, cease this cold war that exists among us.

The Head is the center of unity for all the parts. For 2,000 years the Church has read and reread our Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed that they might all be one, even as God the Father, and Jesus Christ the Son are one.” I do not speak here of organic union, even though I could do so without apology, for the United Methodist Church and its predecessors have long been in the forefront of discussions of organic union and actualizations of union. We’ll continue to dialogue with our Christian brothers and sisters in other denominations about these possibilities.

However, far more important than organic union is the unity we already have in Jesus Christ. No reshuffling of the structure can compensate for the rejection of that unity. No amount of mergers can substitute for unity in Christ. And I’m sure that those who are most committed to the ecumenical movement believe this as much as we do here tonight.

We need not unite in customs or cultures. The Church of Jesus Christ does not require its members to have political or philosophical sameness. No race has any right to attempt to swallow up another race or subordinate its culture. However, all of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ had better learn what it means to come together in the Spirit of Jesus Christ and work together under one banner of His redeeming love-and we’d better do it pretty soon or the forces of evil will destroy us before we know what’s happening to us. It is only “in Christ” that there’s no East nor West, no North nor South, no bond or free, no male or female. Equality is in Him, unity is in Him. And when any two of us come close enough to touch Him, we’re close enough to touch each other. The saints have done it; God’s people can do it again.

Finally, it seems to me that Paul’s picture of Christ as the Head of the Church has to do not only with his preeminence, His power and His place as the center of unity, but also with His peace. Here the apostle is speaking about a cosmic Christ. Let me quote it again, “His is the primacy over all created things. Through Him God chose to reconcile the whole universe unto himself, making peace through the shedding of His blood upon the cross” (Colossians 1:20).

He charges us to be ministers of that peace and reconciliation. If – you read II Corinthians in the New English Bible, you will read these words, “The love of Christ leaves us no choice.” He’s the author of peace in the inner life, for He brings the peace of God to dwell in us through faith. He’s the author of peace between persons by breaking down the middle wall of partition that we’ve allowed our selfishness to build. He’s the author of peace in our world through His lordship of all of life. It remains now for us to let him do his perfect work through us and through the Church, His Body!

The Death of Christ

Archive: Christ Above All?

Archive: Christ Above All?

condensed from an address by United Methodist Evangelist Ed Robb, Abilene, Texas

I think I would like first of all to give you a word of encouragement. I travel all over the United States, around the world. In recent years and the last two or three years particularly, I’ve seen the Spirit of God moving as I have never seen before in my lifetime. And of course many of you have found this true also.

But another thing that encourages me is, more and more, I am seeing the Spirit of God working in the United Methodist Church. And I believe that this great Good News Movement has made a significant contribution toward that end. I believe that great things are going to happen yet in the United Methodist Church. I am seeing more evangelicals in positions of leadership and taking part in the structures of the church than I have ever known in my 26 years in the ministry. I am encouraged about this. I believe that there is a place for those of us who call ourselves conservatives in the United Methodist Church. I believe there is a place of leadership for us. I believe we have a contribution to make within the United Methodist Church.

I was ordained a good many years ago, and when I was ordained, I knew that the leadership of the United Methodist Church was dominated by liberalism. This would be the case of almost every man here tonight who is a United Methodist minister. Is that not right? You knew it was a liberal church.

But I have found a freedom to serve my lord in the United Methodist Church. I have never had a district superintendent or a bishop who has tried to tell me what to preach.

I also want to say this. I have been told for many years, that United Methodism is an “inclusive” church, a pluralistic church. I believe it is. And I appreciate this fact. There is room for me. But if this is a pluralistic church, why can we evangelicals not have representatives on the faculties of the theological seminaries of United Methodism? I would guess that a great percentage, if not the greater percentage, of money that is being given to United Methodist institutions is being given by evangelicals. By conservatives. I want to know why—if we are an inclusive church—we do not have our representatives within the institutions of our denomination? Recently a United Methodist institution had two vacancies in the department of religion. I submitted the names of five competent Ph.D.’s who had degrees from prestige schools. But not one of them was chosen. I ask you why. I ask you, United Methodist leaders, Give us a chancel Give us a place of expression. Give us a part in the decision-making processes of United Methodism.

If we do not have representatives in the religion departments of our colleges and our theological seminaries, you are going to see the money and the students going elsewhere.

We have come to St. Louis to give witness to the Church and to the world, “Above All Christ.” This is an attractive slogan. It is a proper theme for a Convocation of evangelical Christians. For we affirm that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (II Corinthians 5:19). The only God that we know is the God that has come to us in Jesus Christ. All other great religions are founded upon a system, upon ethics, upon philosophy; the Christian faith is founded upon a Person, Jesus Christ. He is our message. He is our hope. He is our religion. He is our salvation. He is our God. It is to Him that we owe our allegiance. We worship Him. We adore Him. We come to St. Louis to praise Him. He is our King. The best definition I ever heard for Christianity is this: Jesus Christ. He is our faith. So we say, “Above All, Christ.”

Now what does this affirmation imply? It’s easy to have a motto, a theme. But if we really mean it, what does it demand of us? “Above all, Christ.” If we are going to put Christ above all, it is going to require courage. But I have discovered that when you really follow Christ, unapologetically, without reservation, He gives you the courage.

General William Booth was standing before a Methodist Conference, asking for an appointment as evangelist. They voted “no” and Katherine Booth stood up in the balcony and she cried out, “No, never! No, never, William.”

William Booth walked out of the conference without any security, but obeying God—and founded the great Salvation Army.

If we are going to put Christ above all, we will likely be controversial. This Convocation is controversial. This Movement, as most of you know, is controversial. But any vital movement is going to be a controversial movement. And any person who takes a clear stand for Jesus Christ is likely to be a controversial person. We are likely to challenge the status quo. And there’s too much vested self-interest, too many anxious to preserve the status quo.

We look back at such great men of the Church as Martin Luther. But don’t you ever forget that in his lifetime Luther was controversial, a most hated man. I see him standing before the Diet of Worms. They demand that he recant his Protestant faith, and Martin Luther cries out, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Today John Wesley is universally respected, but it was not always so. He was invited to preach at Oxford University, and in the afternoon after his sermon he wrote, “I preached at Oxford today, but I fear it was for the last time. He was almost right; it was 30 years before he was invited back. They thought that they had invited a frustrated priest, but instead a flaming evangelist came to the campus. They did not want that; he was controversial.

The prophets of God, by their very nature, are controversial. They challenge the status quo. They probe our conscience. They make us uncomfortable. The Church has a history of killing her prophets—and then 300 years later canonizing them. We love dead saints, but we don’t care for living prophets. But I would that God would raise up in our time the prophets of courage and boldness who would die to declare the truth of God.

If we are going to put Christ above all, then we are going to have a compassionate concern for the hurts, the heartaches, sins, and the suffering of this world. Oh that as Christians, as evangelicals, we would be moved by the suffering of the world! It hurts me when my liberal friends are making a greater impression upon the world about their concern and about their care than you and I are making. We must carry a burden for the lostness of the world, if “Above All, Christ” is truly our theme. We must love the unlovely and the lonely, if we are truly going to be followers of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals are not going to make the impact that we want to on the Church and the world by witch-hunting for doctrinal heresy or by political manipulation. I have never read in the history of the Church where revival or renewal have ever come that way, have you? If we are going to experience renewal, and if God is going to use us in the Church today to glorify Christ, to bring needed reform in the Church, it is going to be because the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ is in us. Not only that we are orthodox. Not only that we believe the Book.

Hardnosed fundamentalists seeing a heresy behind every bush are a most unattractive people. There is nothing so dead as dead orthodoxy. Evangelicals maneuvering for political power tend to become like those they are seeking to replace.

I recognize the need of working through the structure. I recognize the need of participating in conference debates. But let us remember this: we have never yet had a revival because of a victory at General Conference. We have never seen renewal come to the Church because some individual was elected bishop. Revival and renewal follow Pentecost. When we have a Pentecost, then we are likely to see change in the Church. When you and I make a full surrender, make a complete dedication, when we have a new baptism with the Holy Ghost, then we are likely to have revival. Then we are likely to see changes at General Conference. Then we are likely to see some great men raised up by God, elected to the episcopacy, to lead us forward in a mighty way. It follows Pentecost, it does not precede Pentecost.

I challenge you today, fellow evangelicals, fellow United Methodists, fellow Christians, to put “Christ above all” in stewardship. I’ve been hearing something lately that disturbes me greatly: “God’s children deserve the best.”

When I was in Chile a while back, I was preaching at a community called Libertad. A humble, frame, unpainted Methodist Church. It was 40 degrees and they didn’t have heat in the building. They had no organ. They didn’t have a piano, and they had little rough benches that people sat on. I’ll always remember the day I walked up to that little church. There, standing in the mud, in the rain, in 40-degree weather, was a little 10-year-old Chilean girl barefooted. When I go back to Chile, I’ll tell that little girl (and the tens of thousands like her all over the world) that American evangelical Christians deserve the best. I’m sorry we couldn’t send you any shoes. I’m sorry we couldn’t help you paint your Church. American evangelical Christians deserve the best.

I was in India last year. We went up to a typical Indian village. And we went into a typical Indian village home. Open fire with no chimney. Two dark rooms with no ventilation. Seven children sleeping on the cow dung floor beside their father and mother. Two water buffaloes, their most prized possession, in that same room sleeping with them there. Their annual income was $60.00. When I go back to India, I’ll tell them that American Christians deserve the best.

A prominent author recently said that any Christian minister who has more than two suits is a hustler. There’s just enough truth in that statement to make me feel rather uncomfortable. Does it you?

“Above all, Christ” … in stewardship. We have professed the faith, but we have not always lived it. We have talked humility, sacrifice, but our hearts have shrunk from them. We have lived to see militant atheists stagger us with the utterness of their self-giving.

Have you read Dr. Sangster’s The Pure in Heart? It’s a great book. He tells of Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers, an editor of Time magazine and a former communist. One of the grand jurors asked, “Mr. Chambers, what does it mean to be a Communist?”

He answered that when he was a Communist he had three heroes. One was a Pole, one was a German Jew, and the third was a Russian. He said the Pole was arrested for taking part in the Red terror of Warsaw. When he was put into prison he requested that he be given the job of cleaning the latrines of the other prisoners, for he said, “It is a Communist philosophy that the highest and most developed of the party must be willing to do the lowliest of tasks.” This is one of the things it means to be a Communist, Whitaker Chambers said. His second hero, a German Jew, was arrested for participating in a revolt. He stood before the military tribunal; the judge sentenced him to death. Eugene Levine said proudly, “We Communists are always under the sentence of death.” Mr. Chambers said, “That, too, is what it means to be a Communist.”

He said his third hero was a Russian pro-revolutionary who had been arrested for his part in attempting to assassinate the Czarist Prime Minister. He was sent to Siberia. He wanted to bring to the attention of the world the awful conditions of Siberian labor, so one day he drenched his body in gasoline and became a living torch.

Whitaker Chambers said, “This, too, is what it means to be a Communist.”

While we have been talking about commitment, while we have been playing church, while we have been mouthing the words, while we have been going through the motions, the Communists have become more committed and they have conquered more than 1/3 of the world-while we have been in retreat.

I’ve got a minister friend with a large church. One day one of his inactive members called him and said, “I’d like to come by for coffee.” While they were drinking coffee, the layman said, “Do you happen to have a pledge card?”

Now if you want to make your pastor happy, just ask for a pledge card! The pastor gave him a card and the man signed the pledge for $600 a month. The pastor was rather astounded. He said, “Would you mind telling me why you made this generous pledge? You haven’t been giving anything to the church.”

The layman said, “I’ve been successful at making a living, but I’ve been a failure at making a life. I have a son who has a rather meager salary, but he is giving $600 a month to the cause of Communism. I cannot allow my son to outgive me.”

Are we going to allow a pagan world to outgive us? To out love us? Are we going to be committed to Jesus Christ? Are we truly going to put “Christ Above All” in our lives?

I have been studying some conference journals. They reveal some interesting facts. I have discovered that churches with evangelical pastors have the best record in missionary giving. Their Advance Special record is impressive. I have also discovered that these same churches have a better evangelistic record. Evangelicals have the motivation to win the world to Christ.

Lest we smugly wrap the robes of self-righteousness around ourselves, we should look more closely at the facts. I have a liberal friend of whom I have been most critical. The other day I was visiting with him and discovered that he goes to the jail every Sunday to share Christ’s love with the prisoners. I have not witnessed in a jail in years. Also, I learned that he has been actively involved in the black churches of our city. Before we throw stones we had better examine ourselves.

Have we put “Christ Above All”?

Some time ago I read a novel about a young married woman who was having severe personal problems. She had a brother who was a renowned priest. Someone suggested that she discuss her problem with her brother. “Oh, no,” she said, “I could not do that. He is too busy with important things like ecumenicity to be bothered with me.”

Is that the story of some of us? Have we been so busy with important things like church renewal that we have no time for persons?

I know an evangelist who has traveled around the world preaching the Gospel. He has preached from some of the great pulpits, coast to coast. Last month he was working in his yard. Two young boys, aged seven and three stopped and visited with him. He asked them if they went to church.


He asked them if they knew who Jesus was.


They lived across the back alley from the evangelist—I am that evangelist.

Are we witnessing? Are we witnessing where we are?

If we are serious about putting “Christ Above All” we must carry Him out into the world. Too long we have proclaimed the Gospel from the captivity of the sanctuary! Too long we have been satisfied to convince the convinced! Too long we have moved in the isolation of a Christian ghetto! Are we frightened by the world? Are we inhibited by the world? Are we insecure in the world? Is our concept of the Kingdom of God and the duty of a Christian too limited?

Some time ago I was in the home of a Presbyterian elder. Some friends called and asked him to go to the precinct convention of his political party the following week. He answered that he did not have the time because he was going to a Christian meeting that particular night.

I submit to you that the political convention might have demanded his Christian concern more than the committee meeting scheduled at his church. The Kingdom of God does not stop at the front door of our churches. Our faith demands involvement in the world, in the name of Christ.

Three years ago last January I was in Kansas City. One afternoon I was having coffee with three young ministers. One said to me, “Ed, last summer I was in Chicago at the Democratic Convention and participated in the demonstrations.”

I said to him, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

He answered, “Ed, I have chosen the way of radical obedience. I am completely dedicated to Jesus Christ.”

I felt rebuked. For while I disagreed with this young man very much, I had to respect his dedication. He was willing to put his reputation, his ministry, his future, his very life on the line for what he believed. And where were most of us moderates and conservatives? At home watching our color television sets in the comfort of our air-conditioned homes, wringing our hands and crying out, “What is the world coming to?”

Some time ago I received a magazine with a statement by Jonathan Edwards on the cover. I liked it so well that I pinned it on my clothes closet wall. This is the statement. ” Resolved, to live with all my might while I do live.” I like that, don’t you? I see so many people vegetating, not really living. There are so many who are carefully protecting themselves. I want to live with all my might!

So I have changed the statement and made it my own. It now has been painted by an artist, is framed, and hangs on my study wall. It reads: ” Resolved, to live with all my might for Christ, while I do live.”