REKINDLING THE FLAME FOR LOST SOULS
If you had the cure for cancer, would you let others die? If you could feed the hungry, would you let them starve? If you could save people that were in a burning house, would you turn away and let them perish? All of us would surely answer: "Of course, we would do all that we could do for those in desparate need of our services." Why would we help these people in these different circumstances? Because we love our fellowman and have compassion upon them in their difficult circumstances In fact, if we encountered those who were hurting or in danger, wouldn't we typically reach out to help them immediately? The next, obvious, question then is this: "If you would help save the lives and bodies of those in serious circumstances physically would we not be more desirous of helping those whose souls were in desparate need for help to save them eternally? I would hope that we would be MORE concerned about these than we were about the physical needs of others.
We have all heard these rhetorical challenges, but there's truth in the challenge, isn't there? What would it take to make us anxious to help those facing spiritual hazards as those facing physical ones? Which is truly more catastrophic (Matt. 10: 28)? We can all do better, can't we? Our lackadaisical approach --- in fact, our failure to react with urgency --- when we encounter the lost should lead us to do some real soul-searching: Do we really believe that people are lost and are in desparate need of hearing the soul-saving gospel? Are we really convinced that people are in desparate need of Christ? Do we really love them enough to try to save them? How do we develop the kind of heart that is compelled to help save other's souls?
Three Men: -- Scripture tells us the stories of men and women who had such hearts of compassion for lost souls. What was it that made them that way? Jeremiah declared: "But if I say, 'I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name; His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot'" (Jer. 20:9). When Peter and John were first taken before the Sanhedrin and ordered not to speak or teach about Jesus again, the replied without hesitation "Judge for yourselves whether it is right to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19,20).
Like Jeremiah, Peter and John, we talk about things we are passionate about. We plaster the name of our favorite college or professional team on our cars, and boast that our children are honor students at their schools. We engage in conversation with strangers about sports and hobbies, and never turn down the opportunity to share photos or talk about our children or grand children. You get the picture. There are things we love to do and talk about, and we do it seamlessly in everyday conversation and life. If we an be so conversant and transparent about such temporal things, why can't we be just as energetic about things eternal, spiritual things? The challenge for Christians is to develop a similar passion to save souls.
WHY? -- Why did God save me? The answer is simple: because He loved me (Jno. 3:16). He loved us first while we were still sinners, even though we did not love Him (Rom. 5:8; 1 Jno. 4:9,10).
Why should I help save others? -- The transforming power of the gospel should train my heart to love like God does. Because He love me, I should love others. In fact, my love for God is perfected, or made complete when I demonstrate love toward others as He has toward me. And if I don't love others as He loved me, then I truly do not love God (1 Jno. 3:14; 4:7,8,11,12, 19-21). Scripture explains in a number of places that we demonstrate love in a variety of ways, but we should not avoid an obvious conclusion: God loved me enough to save my soul from death, so I should love others the same way.
One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended was, "Go and make disciples of all nations" Paul encouraged Philemon, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith" (vs. 6). Paul eloquently instructed the same to Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:8-10 -- "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, but the power of God, Who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace."
Finally, Paul instructed the Christians at Rome: "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (12:11). The Greek word zeontes, which is translated "fervor," comes from the primary verb zeo which, according to Vine, means, "to be hot, to boil." It is the same root word from which we get the English word "effervescence." Many will recall the TV commercial years ago for "Efferdent," the cleaning product for false teeth. When dentures were dropped into a glass of warm water, with a couple of Efferdent tablets, the glass fizzed and bubbled over, while the announcer told viewere that the dentures were cleaned with "effervescent action." This same kind of zeal and "bubbling over" -- spiritual bubbling over -- is what Paul urged the church at Rome to keep. It is the same word and zeal used to describe Apollos in Acts 18:25. And it is the same zeal and hunger to help save others that should describe us! The challenge for Christians is to kindle within us a flame that cannot be extinguished -- a flame to save souls and lead others to Christ.
HOW? -- Remember that Peter and John told the Sanhedrin, "For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." What had they seen? What had they heard? The answer is the key to building a fire inside of me! The very thing that transformed them from frightened disciples into fearless voices for the gospel is the very same thing that will transform me!
Just imagine that you visited a funeral home, and while there you observed the deceased sit up in his casket, climb out and walk away. Isn't that an incredible story you would tell to others? You would exclaim it everywhere you went! It is that kind of faith in the resurrection of Jesus that should motivate us to share the wonderful news of the gospel to others.
If I am reluctant to mention Jesus to others, I need to revisit Calvary. I need to see my bloody Lord nailed to the cross for me and remember that what He asks of me is nothing compared to what was asked of Him. I need to revisit His empty tomb, and realize anew that resurrection is what awaits you and me, and all who long for His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). After that , what else is truly important in life?
1) Strengthen my faith and set my mind
on things eternal;
2) love those who desparately need the Savior, and
3) tell them how to find Him. Those are the things that will set me on fire. The next time I encounter someone who is lost, I should imagine that Jesus whispers "Go ahead, introduce Me." Will I answer His challenge? Will you?
By David Lanphear in Biblical Insights, Vol. 9, No. 1, Jan. 2009.
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