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By Mark Chen

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2004-05-16

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:11-15

"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." (2 Corinthians 5:11-15)

Why do we go for evangelism? Some people say it is expected of us as Christians to go for evangelism, and rightly so, it is. Others say that God desires us to do so since he has given us the Great Commission - and that too, is correct. Some others would also say that going for evangelism is an expression of our understanding of God's heart for the lost - and so too, these people hit the mark dead on. All these reasons are correct as motives for evangelism. And so, we should have these motives. But reality is something else, isn't it? 

History is replete with great evangelists. Last century saw the ministry of John Sung; the previous century saw the power of God through DL Moody; and the century before that, Jonathan Edwards. But besides the Lord Jesus Christ, the great evangelist in history would no doubt surely be the Apostle Paul. What was his motivation in evangelizing? 

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:11-15, explains what his motivation was in ministering the Gospel to the lost. He says in verse 11 that it is the knowledge of "the terror of the Lord" that causes him to persuade men. What does the word "terror" refer to? Was Paul moved by compassion and pity for the lost knowing the fate that awaited them? Perhaps. Was Paul moved by the displeasure of God with him if he failed to preach to the lost? Perhaps. However, this is not the only meaning of this phrase. In this phrase, Paul explains his main motivation in evangelizing - it was his Godly respect for the awesomeness of God's character. Because of this Sovereign and Mighty God, because of this Just and Holy God, because of this Gracious God who had saved him, because of this Giver of Rewards; Paul felt compelled to evangelize out of deep grateful reverence and expectation of God's pleasure with him. And so this caused Paul to take with proper seriousness his responsibility to witness. Whether a Christian evangelizes or not shows his reverence and regard for God. 

While verse 11 tells us what our motivation should be, verse 12 tells us what our motivation ought not to be. Paul says here that he does not witness in order to be commended by or praised of men. He does not evangelize that men might comment on how good he is and how holy he is. To be motivated for our own glory is completely despicable. But often times this is said of those who are very zealous for evangelism - how they are enthusiastic because they want the praise of men. And this exact same charge was used against Paul, and so in verse 13 he had to explain that the reason why he was so enthusiastic, or "beside ourselves," was because of God. We must be enthusiastic about this work and we are enthusiastic because of God. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us such joy and enthusiasm in the work of the Lord.

Charles Spurgeon's enthusiasm for evangelism is seen very clearly in a sermon he preached, entitled "Christ's People - Imitators of Him," where he said, "Christian, do you love that cause (i.e. the cause of evangelism)? Is the name of the dear Redeemer precious to you? Would you see the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ? Do you wish to see the proud man humbled and the mighty abased? Do you long for the souls of perishing sinners, and are you desirous to win them, and save their souls from the everlasting burning? Would you prevent their fall into the regions of the damned? Is it your desire that Christ should see the travail of his soul, and be abundantly satisfied? Does your heart yearn over your fellow-immortals? Do you long to see them forgiven?" His enthusiasm was Godly - he was motivated by not only a reverential fear of God, but also by deeply spiritual reasons. Whether a Christian evangelizes or not shows his excitement for things spiritual.

Paul was enthusiastic and eager for this work because, as is seen in verse 14, it was the love of Christ that constrained him to preach. But what does this mean? Does Paul preach because he loved Christ or does he preach because Christ loves men? If we see the rest of the verse, which talks about Christ's work for sinners, we can conclude that the love of Christ refers to Christ's love for sinners that he died for them. So this recognition of Christ's love so moved and controlled Paul that it was spilling out of Paul. This caused him to evangelize. However, this phrase points to something else. Not only was Paul motivated by Christ's love, but he also had Christ's love for the lost. Such a man, who identified so closely with Christ, could not but have the same heart and feelings as his Master. 

Spurgeon, in his sermon "The Great Sin of Doing Nothing" says that "the very essence of our religion lies in love, and one of the first-fruits of it is to make us care about the salvation of our fellow-men. We owe everything to the grace of God, and, if God has given us grace in our own hearts, and saved us with the precious blood of the Only-Begotten, how can we sit still, and allow others to perish? Surely it is an intolerable disgrace to any one to profess to be a man of God, and to have no care about the souls of others, while they are perishing by millions." Whether a Christian evangelizes or not shows the level of his love for Christ and for those whom Christ loves.

So what the reality of our evangelism scene is reflects the reality of our church - how spiritual and mature we are. It's a scary thought. If a Christian apprehends the glory of God, is incited to zeal, and is filled with an over-spilling love for souls, it is a sign of his spiritual maturity, isn't it? He lives not for himself, but for Christ (as verse 15 tells us). But if a church is not excited nor overcome by the love of Christ for the lost, does it not mean we are living for ourselves? This is deductive reasoning. It is not a rebuke, it is merely a fact. What is the reality of our evangelism scene? As much as this pointed question is asked of those who read it, it is also asked of this writer. Truth, if searched for diligently and honestly, is plainly evident and even easy to obtain. But often we are clouded by myriad of excuses. But only when the bare nakedness of our spiritual inadequacies is exposed and the poverty of our souls recognized can we truly have a glimpse of the joys felt by those who truly fear God, enjoy the Spirit, and love Christ. Those who have these things, those who have a heart for the lost must be the most joyful people in the world. 

So how do we gain these things? How do we gain a heart for the lost? It is firstly to know God's heart. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 tells us that God desires that none would perish but that all would come to the knowledge of Christ and be saved. And to gain this heart, we need to understand the value of a soul. The one lost piece of silver out of ten and the one lost sheep out of a hundred, once found cause great rejoicing (Luke 15:3-7). The soul is of infinite value to God that he would leave the ninety and nine to look for that one lost sheep. We must also understand the condition of a lost soul in order to gain a heart for the lost. The lost soul is destined for judgment (Hebrews 9:27). In his sermon "Conversion," Spurgeon illustrates the condition of the damned: "The only music you will hear will be the sighs of the damned, the shrieks of fiends, and the yellings of the tormented. O may God in his mercy snatch you as brands from the fire, to be trophies of his grace throughout eternity!" Frightful.

A Christian who does not have this heart of Christ for the lost is either not living a holy life or is still a babe in Christ. For as we grow in Christ-likeness, we ought to have his heart. If you have this heart already, one way to develop it is to pray for unbelieving friends and family, to be involved in their lives and struggles, and to preach the gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). However, this heart can disappear in a fraction of the time it took to cultivate through a life given to passing pleasures, superficial experience and relationship with Jesus, pre-occupation with personal ambition, prayerlessness, and encumbering and entangling sins. 

Definitely, the Christian waxes and wanes in his delight for souls. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. When we are encumbered with sin and prayerlessness, the joys of soul-winning no longer remain joys, but are burdens. But if a church consistently remains like that, what is the reality of the spiritual state of its members? Following is an article (author unknown) of what reality is. May it be used of God to spur us on - Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Teachers, Leaders, Parishioners - to do the work which befits our calling as God's elect.

The Parable of the Fishless Fishermen

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry. Year after year these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Continually they searched for new and better definitions of fishing. They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing. 

These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called "Fishing Headquarters." The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn't do, however; they didn't fish. They organized a board to send out fishermen to where there were many fish. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in far-away streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived. 

Also the board hired staffs and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about. But the staff and committee members did not fish. Expensive training centers were built to teach fishermen how to fish. Those who taught had doctorates in Fishology, but the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. Year after year, graduates were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters filled with fish. 

Further, the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. A speaker's bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing. Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded, and were sent to fish. But like the fishermen back home, they never fished. Some also said they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. 

After one stirring meeting on "The Necessity for Fishing," a young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fishermen. He was also placed on the Fishermen's General Board as a person having considerable experience. 

Now it's true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen's clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?"

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who didn't catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25