Go Without The Camp!
John A. Broadus was chairman of the department of preaching and president of the
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary back in the days when it was fashionable among Baptists
and other Christians to downgrade and distrust education.
One day Dr. Broadus was visiting an association close to Louisville when one of the brethren thought
he would cut down the president of the seminary by praying very fervently:
"O Lord, please make me ignorant, make me ignoranter than a mule."
Dr. Broadus whispered to a friend a nearby:
"You have just seen the Lord perform a miracle.
The Lord answered that prayer even before it was asked."
A comedian on television defined middle age as a time when the broad mind
and the narrow waist change places.
The tragedy is that this condition affects people of all ages.
Today we live in the most unconsidered and unbridled, divided and disagreeing world in history.
One football coach reports that another coach who was out recruiting football players
who would be "agile, mobile, and hostile."
In the midst of all this is the church.
The word that Jesus used most often to describe the divinely created body called the church
was the Greek word, "koinonia".
This word has just one meaning -- a Christian fellowship.
Christ was and is willing to risk the outcome of His eternal kingdom to a group of Christians
called His church because Christ loved the church.
Christ gave His life for the church, and Christ demanded an expected the members
of His church to love Him, and then love one another with this dynamic, Christian kind of love.
This means that it is an actual sin to any member of the church to speak despairingly
and to cause a division within the Christian family of the church.
Sometimes, people speak too hastily before they have the facts, then after the injury
has been done it is too late to call back that hasty word or that discouraging remark.
Jesus teaches us that every christian should guard his tongue and his thoughts carefully.
Jesus asked such pointed questions as:
"Why do you consider the splinter in your brothers eye and forgets about
the 2' by 4'in your own eye?
Why are you so quick to judge another?"
We must compare our life to the life of Jesus Christ.
We must exercise judgment upon ourselves, and seek to correct our own faults
than to be so quick to criticize or judge another person.
Christ intends the members of His church to be a gracious, Christ-like fellowship,
and expects the members to control their impulses to anger, to competing, to comparison,
and to criticism.
Members are called to strengthen the Christian fellowship, but never to weaken it.
This means that the members are not to exercise hasty judgment.
It also means that members are not to be quick to compare and criticize.
It also means that the members are to encourage each other, and to love one another
like the love of Jesus who died for us.
As Christians, we do not necessarily have to like every person, but we do have to love every person.
This love is the God-like love.
This is not filial or erotic, but it is that kind of New Testament love.
This love is where we try to put ourselves in the other person's place,
and seek the best for the other person.
Isaiah walked with kings.
One day this princely prophet was given the vision of the ideal fellowship.
In Isaiah 41: 6 God describes His dynamic group of people by saying,
"They helped every one his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, 'Be of good courage.'"
This is the secret of the divine church of the Lord God.
The members love the Lord God, and they love one another; and they encourage one another
in the work of the Lord.
There are people all around us who need Jesus as their Saviour.
It is time that the church should go forward for Christ.
Missions should take on hands and feet and achieve victories as we lead people to Christ
in our church, in our nation, and in our world.
Throughout the history of Israel there were three basic elements.
There was the camp.
There was the world around them.
Then, there was the small expeditionary force that led the congregation to go forward.
Israel began its national existence as a camp.
It was a poor, pitiful, handful of nomads huddled in the desert for protection.
The camp always meant two things for Israel.
It meant a sacred place, and it also meant a safe place.
The camp was so sacred that the offering for sin was made outside the encampment.
Leviticus 9: 1-2 said: "And it came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called
Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel; and he said unto Aaron,
'Take thee a young calf for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish,
and offer them before the Lord.'"
Verse 11 says, " The flesh and the hide he burnt with fire without the camp."
The camp was also the place for safety.
Wild animals nor wild enemies could capture the people inside the camp.
Guards surrounded the camp on either side.
Each time the camp had to be moved, armed men went before and behind them for protection.
So, in the history of Israel there was always this sacred and safe camp.
The world around Israel also influenced their history.
Whether they were friends and intermarriage with the Israelites or whether they were enemies
and sought to kill them, the people around them had a powerful influence on the Hebrews.
The pagan gods, the gross immorality, and the crushing injustice of their neighbors seeped
into the lives of the Jews and poisoned their happiness.
The Israelites became not only in the world, but also of the world.
Jeremiah's speech for God in Jeremiah 2:11-13 has become famous:
"Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods?
But many people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit
My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters,
and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water."
The camp, the world around them, and a redemptive expeditionary force always had
a tiny group of people with vision who prodded the people out of their lethargy
and stabbed them out of their sleep with the dynamic "thus saith the Lord",
and led them out to follow God's will.
For instance, think of Joshua and Caleb.
Then, consider Gideon and others who were always ready to sacrifice, always ready to go,
and always ready to serve the Lord God.
This is a similar striking picture of the need of churches today.
For many people the church is the camp, the sacred place, and the safe place.
Certainly, the church should be a sacred place.
We can pray to God in other places.
We can feel His presence in times of danger and distress; but somehow when we meet
in the church with fellow Christians, and sing the songs of Zion, and search God's Word,
and think His thoughts -- we know that we are in a holy atmosphere.
The church is also a safe place.
Usually, we are in very little physical or emotional danger.
The air is peaceful, the music is beautiful and inspirational, and the feeling of security
and safety is ours just for entering the doors.
I am sad to say that the church in many places in our world are not safe places.
I preached in one country where were two men with machine guns on each side of the front door,
and they were there for every service.
It is said to say that there are many Christians in our world who are not safe
when they meet together the name of Jesus.
We must pray for a day to come when that is not true.
But the church was never be so sacred that we forget to welcome the stranger in our midst.
It must never be so sacred that we neglect a kind word and a friendly smile.
There is also a danger in the safety of the church.
A comfortable religion is a dangerous religion.
It calls for compromise,
It dilutes the gospel into a weak lemonade.
It makes Christianity into a sham and a pretense.
The religion of Jesus Christ is the dynamic discovery of a Friend.
There are new depths to be fathomed.
There are new insights to be gained.
There are new horizons to be conquered!
We're not invited to enjoy a plush velvet chair where we can be "at ease in Zion."
We are challenged to walk hand in hand with Jesus Christ who requires
our last full measure of devotion and dedication and obedience.
The church is certainly the camp, and we also have the world around us.
The world around us is filled with worldliness.
The world is a subtle menace that creeps into our thinking when we least expect it.
Things such as: "The weather is too bad to go to church"...
"I worked so hard last week that I'll just stay home today" etc.
Worldliness is giving priority to the things of the world rather than to the things of God.
With these and other pitiful excuses many people stop coming to God's house,
and stop studying His Word, and stop giving their tithes and offerings to God;
and stop giving their witness to those without Christ.
David Brainard, who at the cost of his life carried the gospel to the American Indians
had the right attitude toward the things of this world.
Here is what he said in his private journal, April 25, 1742:
"Farewell, vain world, my soul can bid you adieu; my Saviour taught me to abandon you.
Forbear to entice, cease then, my soul to call; tis fixed through grace -- my God shall be my all."
Christians must live in this world, but they must remain accommodated
and unsoiled by this world.
Paul said that we are not called to be conformed to this world, but we are called
to be used of God to transform the world.
So, we have the camp, and we have the world around us, and we, as Christians,
must also have our expeditionary force.
Christians, we must march forward outside the camp to reach people, and sing the songs of God,
and carry the sword of the spirit, and blaze the banner of God across the blight of this world.
The Hebrews, the early Christians, Luther, the reformers, and Christians down through
the years -- all suffered without the camp giving their lifeblood that the Word of God
might be proclaimed and people would come to know Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
Ringing throughout the centuries comes the clarion call to you and me of Hebrews 13:12:
"Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood,
suffered without the gate.
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp."
As Christians, we must go forward without the camp and witness to the lost and dying of Jesus,
and care for the unlovely, and crash through the gates of the worldly and be used
to build the kingdom of Christ that never shall end.
"There's a royal banner given for display
To the soldiers of the King
As an ensign fair, we lifted up today,
While as ransomed ones we sing.
Marching on, marching on
For Christ count everything but loss!
And to crown him King, toil and sing
'Neath the better of the Cross."
Sermon adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White