BY CHARLES WOODRUFF
And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: (Revelation 10:5-6).
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand (Revelation 22:10).
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
Here at the beginning of a new year, it is time to take inventory of some things. It is time to take stock of time itself. Time defines and limits man. It does not define and limit God. He lives outside of time. He is “the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15a). Time is under His control, and time will end someday. Time defines we mortals because people will say in passing “He is an old man.“ “She is a young lady.” “They are middle aged.” Time limits us because we say “I didn’t have time to finish the project.” It’s time for a change.” “ He served his time in the military.” So we are very much creatures of time, and limited by the constraints of time.
Some years ago I wrote an article titled Redeeming the Time, which was a message on Ephesians 5:16. I edited it recently and have it on my main blog if you would like to read it. I have preached many times from that text. It is so relevant to the proper use of the time God has given us to live our lives. We need to redeem or “buy up” the time for His glory. It is said that time changes things. From our human perspective it seems so, but one thing that time will never change is the gospel. The gospel, in essence, is a Person -- Jesus Christ. He is “The same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8b). Paul tells us that there is not another gospel. (see Galatians 1:7). In Revelation the angel has “the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth” (Revelation 14:6b). The gospel doesn’t change, just like God doesn’t change (see Malachi 3:6).
There are many things hard to understand in the book of Revelation, yet it is not meant to be a sealed book. In chapter one it is called the Revelation (Greek= αποκαλυψις, transliterated apocalipsis, or English= Apocalypse). It means a disclosure; a lifting of the veil. It is properly not the Revelation of the apostle John, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ which He gave to John. There is a blessing given to those who study this book, yet because there are so many symbols and shadows in the book, many avoid it altogether. Others have come up with elaborate and doubtful interpretations. As someone once said “After chapter three of Revelation the water gets over the head of the greatest saints.” That being so, there are certainly many “islands” in this water that we can see. Most all of them reveal Him whom the book was meant to reveal, Jesus Christ. It is mainly about Him. As I said, He IS the gospel.
Christians need to be about the Father’s business this year and every year. There is so much I did not accomplish last year, that without making a long list of resolutions (which I, like most of you, would probably break!), I resolve one thing: as God enables me, I want to exalt Jesus Christ this year as never before in all that I do. I want to preach this old gospel, and none other, in print, in person, online, in broadcasts and every way I am able. I do not want some new gimmick gospel. They old one is perfect! It will get the job done. It has, as far as its New Testament aspect, worked for 2000 years, wherever it has been preached in purity, and it will continue to do so until Christ returns.
I know many churches have abandoned the simple, unadulterated, gospel for programs and entertainment. They have largely thrown out the old hymns for slick, largely unscriptural songs, and semi rock, or even hard rock music. I’ll take the old gospel, and the old hymns and spiritual songs. Many who do not want to preach false doctrine will sing it in their songs. It may be a new century, a new month, and a new year, but the old gospel still works just fine. Declare it, brethren!
It is a new year, but we know not what a day may bring forth. We know not how much time we have on this earth, yet God can do much with little. Our efforts are no good unless He is in it. Charles Spurgeon, that most famous English preacher, lived to be only 58 years old, yet what a massive amount of rich material he left us in sermons and writings. Multiplied thousands God has been pleased to convert through his ministry while he lived, and likely far more since he left this world. Most of us have used his material from time to time. Some have preached his messages verbatim. That’s probably okay if God honors it, but at least acknowledge your sources. Be careful lest what you preach is simply a dead letter! If God is pleased to use any man, it is of His sovereign grace. We all “borrow” from each other. The main thing -- preach Christ!
I talked of Spurgeon’s short, useful, life. What about Robert Murray M’Cheyne? This blessed son of Scotland did not quite live until his 30th birthday, yet God has greatly used him. What about missionary David Brainerd? He was desiring to marry the daughter of Jonathon Edwards, that great American theologian and preacher. As his tuberculosis became more evident, he knew that although he loved Jerusha Edwards, they could never marry. Brainerd also only lived to be 29 years old, yet what a profound influence he had. Many were converted through his ministry, and William Carey, later missionary to India, was greatly influenced by him of the need to minister the gospel to every race. When Brainerd died, the man who would have been his father-in-law wrote the biography Life of David Brainerd. It is still in print. Read it, Christian, and you will likely be on your knees before God!
What of Jonathon Edwards himself? He died at age 54, yet left a great body of work that still influences so many today. He was perhaps the greatest American theologian ever.
Then there was his contemporary from England, George Whitefield, the mightiest evangelist of the Great Awakening. He only lived to be 55, yet was so used of God. Oh, just reading of all these men that God chose to use humbles me in the dust. It causes me again to realize how little I have accomplished in 65 years! Oh God, help me to be focused on thee! I am not saying we should never rest or relax, but perhaps we do that more than we need. We can rest with Him in glory!
Some Ultra Calvinist might dare to say “honoring all these men does not honor the Sovereign God.” Not so! God Himself honors some men He chose to use all through the Bible. Noah found grace. Moses was a meek man. Job was a perfect man. David was a man after God‘s own heart. Paul was a chosen vessel for the Lord. Some of the same Ultra Calvinists will certainly honor the founders of their group. All I am saying is God uses men and women, and I desire to be used to point men to Christ this year. No gadgets, no gimmicks. What about you? Please read what follows and be edified..
AMUSING THE GOATS
By W.F. Bell
C. H. Spurgeon is often quoted by Christians of all denominations. Here are some thoughts by Mr. Spurgeon on the subject of entertainment in the Church, which may not be too liked. Judge for yourself.
"The devil has seldom done a more clever thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them."
He then relates how entertainment and amusement in the Church was once viewed: First, "spoken against, then toned down." Secondly, it was "winked at, then excused." Thirdly, it was "tolerated, then adopted." Is this not the same downward trend we see today?
Spurgeon again: "My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in Scripture as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? 'Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.' That is clear enough. And it would have been added, 'and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.' No such words, however, are to be found."
"Then again, 'He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry.' Where do the entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people?"
"Providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all of his apostles. Short and sharp was the utterance, 'Let the dead bury their dead.' He was in awful earnestness!"
Let us hear loudly Spurgeon's prayer (and start praying it ourselves): "Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods."
As Thomas Brooks said about zeal, we would say about entertainment: "Zeal is like fire; in the chimney it is one of the best servants; but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters." Entertainment may have its place in the world, but it is a terrible master in the Church.
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