Go Forward, Christians!
John A. Broadus was chairman of the department of preaching and president
of the Southern Baptists Theological Seminary back in the days when it was fashionable
among Baptists and other Christians to distrust education.
One day, Dr. Broadus was visiting in an association out from 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 then a mule."
Dr. Broadus whispered to a friend nearby, " You have just seen the Lord perform a miracle.
The Lord answered that prayer even before it was asked."
Some years ago on television a comedian defined middle age as the 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.
A football coach reports that another coach was out recruiting football players who are
"agile, mobile, and hostile".
In the midst of all of this is the church.
The word that Jesus used most often to describe the divinely conceived and divinely created
body called the church was the Greek word, "koinonia."
Christ gave His life for the church, and Christ longed for the members of His church
to first love Him, then love one another with this dynamic, Christian kind of love.
This means that it is a sin for any member of the church to speak disparagingly
and to cause a division within the Christian family of the church.
Sometimes, people speak too quickly before they have the facts.
Then, after the injury has been done, it is too late to call back that hasty word for that
Christ 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 brother's eye
and forget 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 Christ.
We must exercise judgment upon ourselves, and seek to correct our own faults than
to be so quick to criticize or judge a another person.
Christ intends that the members of the church should be gracious, and the fellowship
should be a Christ-like fellowship, and that ever member must control their impulses to anger,
to comparison, and to criticism.
The members are called to strengthen the Christian fellowship, and never to weaken it.
This also means that the members are not to exercise hasty judgment and be quick
to compare and criticize.
It means that the members are to encourage each other, 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
This love is the New Testament kind of love.
This love is not filial or erotic, but it is a God-like 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 everyone his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, 'Be of good courage.'"
Here is the secret of the church of the Lord Jesus: the members love the Lord,
they love one another, and they encourage one another in the work of the Lord.
And there are people all around us who need Jesus, and we must love them
and tell them that God loves them so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus, to die for their sins.
All through the history of Israel there were three basic elements.
There was the camp.
There was the world around the camp.
And there was the small expeditionary force that led the congregation to go forward.
Israel began its national existence as a camp.
They were a poor, pitiful, handful of nomads huddled in the desert for protection.
The camp always meant two things to Israel.
It meant a sacred place for them.
And it meant a safe place.
The camp was so sacred that the offering for sin was made outside the encampment.
Leviticus 9: 1-2: " 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."
" The flesh and the hide he burns with fire without the camp." (Verse 11)
The camp was also the place for safety.
Neither wild animals nor wild enemies could capture the people inside the camp.
Guards surrounded them on either side.
Each time that camp had to be moved, armed men went before them and behind them for protection.
In the history of Israel there was always this sacred and safe camp.
The camp influenced the history of Israel, and the world around them also influenced them.
Whether they were friends and intermarriaged 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 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 out cisterns,
broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2: 11-13)
The camp, the world around, and a redemptive expeditionary force always was the tiny group
of people with vision.
They always wanted to go forward.
They tried to probe the people out of their lethargy and to stabbed them out of their sleep
with the dynamic words, " Thus saith the Lord."
They would lead them to follow God's will.
Remember Joshua and Caleb.
Remember Gideon and others always ready to sacrifice, ready to go, ready to serve the Lord!
This is a vivid picture of the need of our churches today.
For many people, the church is the camp, the sacred place, and the safe place.
The church is 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, study 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.
There is little physical or emotional danger when the church gathers together.
The air is peaceful, the music is beautiful and inspirational, and the feeling of security and safety
is ours when we enter the doors of God's house.
But the church must never be so sacred that we forget to give a warm welcome to the stranger
in our midst.
It must never be so sacred that we neglect to give a kind word and a friendly smile to others.
There is also a danger in the safety of the church.
A comfortable religion is a dangerous religion.
A comfortable religion calls for compromises; it dilutes the gospel into a weak lemonade;
it makes Christianity into a sham and a pretense.
Christianity is not a mathematical formula where you multiply, divide, add, and subtract,
and always get the same answer.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the dynamic discovery of a Friend, and there are
new depths to be fathomed, new insights to be gained, and new horizons to be conquered!
We are 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 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.
And the world around us is filled with worldliness.
Worldliness is a subtle menace that creeps into our thinking when we least expect it.
" The weather is too bad to go to church"
" I worked so hard last week
that I need a day off from church." 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 Christians fail to come to God's house,
fail to study His Word, and fail to give to God that which is His and fail to give their witness
about Jesus to those without Christ.
David Brainerd, who at the cost of his life carried the gospel to the American Indians,
had the right attitude toward the things of this world.
Hear what he said in his private journal, April 25, 1742:
" Farewell, vain world, my soul can bid you adieu; my Savior 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 unaccommodated,
and unsoiled by this world.
Paul says that we are not called to be conformed to this world, but we are called to
transform this world.
So, we have the camp and the world around us, and we, as Christians, must also have
power expeditionary force.
As Christians, we must march forward outside the camp to reach people, singing the songs
of Zion, caring the sword of the Spirit, and blazing 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 life blood that the Word of God
might be proclaimed, and that people would be won to Jesus Christ.
Ringing down through 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."
We, as Christians, must go forward without the camp witnessing to those who are lost in sin
without Jesus, care for the unlovely, crash through the gates of worldliness
and 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 lift it 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 banner of the cross."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L White