Soul winning is the work of the church. Jesus Himself said, "Follow
me, and I will make you fishers of men." The aim and object of every church
authorized of God is the salvation of the lost; and if we are not accomplishing
this, we have no right to claim to be, in any sense, performing our duty
as the church of God.
Some time ago in an association I heard a church letter read something like this:
Members received, none. Dismissed, none. Died, none. Married, none. Given to missions during the year, nothing. Paid pastor, nothing. Brethren, pray for us that during the next year we may hold our own.
Can anybody dare say that such a church is the church of God? It makes no difference what its name may be the church of Christ should be constantly leading souls from darkness into light. It is a band of believers, not keeping house for Christ, but multiplying in Christ.
The question now is: How can a church or an individual, powerless to win souls, be revived and set on fire with the soul-winning spirit?
This is a big question and one we cannot begin to answer in short space; yet there are some fundamental principles which we may lay down and which, if studied carefully, may bring forth much fruit along this line.
A CLEAN HEART
A clean heart is necessary.
David says in Psalm 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me"-not that He cannot hear.
Many Christians have been praying for soul-winning power and all the time remaining powerless, wondering what was the matter, when God simply had His ears closed against their cries because of their unclean hearts. Sin harbored-just holding it fast and unwilling to surrender it-how contemptible in the sight of God!
My friends, this is the secret of failure in many of our efforts to lead souls to Christ in our churches.
Look at Israel. They had just won a great victory at the fall of Jericho. God had told them not to take any of the treasures of Jericho; and so far as they knew, this command had not been violated.
Shortly after this victory God sent Joshua and his men up to capture Ai. They had no anticipation of anything but victory. But to their astonishment they were totally defeated, and Joshua, returning, fell down and began complaining.
Then God came to him, saying, "Israel hath sinned."
Joshua was ignorant of it, but God was not.
Finally Achan confessed his sin, that he had disobeyed the commands of God not to take spoils of Jericho. Now the host of God is ready for service. Another attempt to conquer Ai, and victory is upon their banners!
Brother, would you be a soul winner? Look deep down in your heart. Are you clinging to sin, one sin, a little sin, even the smallest sin? Are you unwilling to surrender it? Then cease your praying, for the Almighty ear will not hear you.
Would the church have soul-winning power, such power as God Himself is willing to give? Then let the church cleanse its membership and its methods. Is she clinging to unworthy men and women, afraid, perhaps, for social or financial reasons, to deal with them fearlessly in the sight of God? Or is she clinging to methods or forms or ceremonies that are not strictly in keeping with the will of God? Is she unwilling to listen to the voice of God and the Holy Spirit? If so, she need not expect to get the ear of God, and without the ear of God, power for soul winning is impossible.
Oh, that the church would heed at this point! Souls are perishing, and we are starving, yet God is ready to grant us the blessing.
THE JOY OF SALVATION
If we would be soul winners, there must be a joy in our hearts.
David, in Psalm 51:12,13, prays:
"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee."
He was not praying for salvation then-he had that; he was praying for the joy of salvation. It is no use talking to other people about religion unless we ourselves are rejoicing in Christ. The happy, cheerful face of the child of God impresses the world with its need of a Saviour. Graveyard religion has no place in service.
Hear me, my friends. Christ Jesus never came into the world to bring any such religion. His is a religion of joy and happiness and peace. God help the church to realize this great truth, that it may lay aside its graveclothes and put on the garments of life.
SINNERS ARE LOST
The church or individual, to have power in soul winning, must have a realization of the fact that sinners are lost.
In John 3:18 Christ says, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed"-not going to be lost then, but lost now. We all seem to have a kind of knowledge concerning this sad fact, but knowledge is not sufficient. There must be a keen realization on our part of the fact.
Some years ago I received, very unexpectedly, a telegram that my mother was dead. I shall never forget how it struck me. I knew it must be true because Father had said it, yet somehow I could not realize it. All the way home I felt there must be some mistake about it.
Upon arriving, I began to realize more and more what had happened. I entered the room of our house and met the loved ones who were weeping and sobbing. Then I entered the parlor where the coffin was. I took my stand by it and looked down through the glass lid upon her dead face.
Those lips that only awhile ago had kissed mine good-bye, were now white and cold. Those arms and hands that had only a short time ago encircled me, were now folded across her breast, as white and cold as marble. Those beautiful deep-blue eyes that had always sparkled with such joy and sweetness, were closed against me.
As I stood there and looked for a moment, it all came to me: "Yes, Mother is dead!"
Oh, my friends, what the church needs today is to be so filled with the Spirit of the Master that its great heart will see with Him that the soul out of Christ is dead.
May God grant that we may get a glimpse of all the lost souls away from Jesus; that we may be willing to sacrifice anything to rescue them and bring them to Him.
BRING THEM TO CHRIST
We have the power to bring sinners to Jesus.
James 5:20 says, "Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." What a great honor and privilege conferred upon us!
During the World's Fair thousands and thousands of people every day would crowd around that magnificent diamond of Tiffany's. It was the one great attraction, at least to the ladies. But oh, my friend, think of it. One soul rescued from sin is worth more than all the diamonds of the earth! We will see this in eternity, when we wake up and see what we are saved from and what we are saved to. When we see some soul that we have rescued and brought to Christ, when that soul is rejoicing with us in the presence of God in Glory, then we shall know, as here we have never known, the value of an immortal soul.
Oh, let us be stimulated to the work of soul winning! Do it any way you can. Write a letter and pray the Holy Spirit to accompany it. I have known many souls saved as a result of such work. Pay a visit. Distribute tracts. Speak a word. Go and have prayer. Do not wait for people to come to church: go after them, and in every way possible try to impress lost souls with your interest and zeal in rescuing them from sin and bringing them to Jesus.
People often ask me to give them a rule for soul winning. I always say, "Make your own rules, after prayer and Bible study; then you will find that you will make them only to break them."
No rule is the best rule in soul winning. Get filled with the Spirit, and He will direct, for this is His work.
AN AWFUL RESPONSIBILITY
God holds us responsible if we fail to try.
"When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."-Ezek. 3:18,19.
Oh, what an awful responsibility this is!
Dear Christian friends, have we been faithful? Have we done our part? Can we put our hand upon our heart today with these words ringing in our ears, look God in the face and not tremble?
Suppose it costs us sacrifice to do the work. Think of the blessing upon us and upon those whom we may lead to salvation.
A farmer in North Carolina once drove with two high-mettled horses into town. Stopping in front of one of the stores, he was about to enter when his horses took fright. He sprang in front of them and heroically seized the reins.
Maddened by strange noises, the horses dashed down the street, the man still clinging to the bridles. On they rushed, until the horses, wild with frenzy, rose on their haunches and leaping upon the man, all came with a crash to the earth.
When people came and rescued the bleeding body of the man and found him in death's last agony, a friend, bending tenderly over him, asked, "Why did you sacrifice your life for horses and wagon?"
He gasped with his breath, as his spirit departed, "Go and look in the wagon." They turned, and there, asleep in the straw, lay his little boy.
As they laid the mangled form of the hero in his grave, no one said, "The sacrifice is too great."
Some years ago in the Northwestern University near Chicago, a rescue crew was organized. Their purpose was the rescue of the drowning on the lake.
One day the news came that a magnificent vessel was wrecked just off shore. The young men hurried at once to the scene of the disaster and plunged into the angry waters to rescue those who were going down.
Soon all returned but one. Finally he came in bringing one man with him. Immediately he returned and soon brought another, then another, and so on until he had rescued ten.
During this time his mates had built a fire and were warming themselves, all the time trying to persuade the young hero against his conviction of duty. By the time he had brought the tenth man, he was completely exhausted and had to rest for awhile. Regaining sufficient strength, he again plunged into the water and brought another man. Now he was completely overcome.
It was a sad scene around his bed that night. While friends stood around weeping and his fellow students were regretting that they had not forced him to do as they had, he called one of them to his bedside and said in a low, subdued tone, just before he died: "Did I do my best?"
Instantly his friend said, "Yes, I should think you did do your best. You saved eleven, but you have lost your life."
"But," said he, "did I do my best, my dead level best?"
"Yes, you did your dead level best."
Then a smile seemed to come over his face as if to say, "Then I am satisfied to die." During the night he died from exposure.
O my friends, this will be something of our experience when we are in the presence of God in eternity: "Did I do my best, my dead level best?"
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