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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Author: Dan Cartwright

Dan Cartwright's Article

The Greatest Work in The World!

By Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe | 1972

There are many good things that a man can do in the world today. But I have a conviction that the greatest work any of us can do is to help lead people to Jesus Christ. You do not have to be a “full-time Christian worker” to be a soul-winner. In fact, many of our greatest soul-winners are dedicated men and women who hold “ordinary” occupations, but who use every opportunity to witness for Christ.

We use the word “soul-winner” so often, and yet I wonder if we really know what it means? Perhaps it would be helpful to us if we discovered from the Bible just what a soul-winner is and what he is supposed to do. As I was studying this subject, I was interested to find many pictures of the soul-winner in the Bible; and I want to share some of these pictures with you.

The soul-winner is a shepherd.

“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” (James 5:20).

James is speaking particularly about Christians who may stray from the truth, but his words also apply to the lost. If it is important for us to guide wandering believers back into God’s way, how much more important it is to guide unbelievers! We are shepherds, out seeking the wandering sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). If the lost sheep is left to himself, he will die; and if the lost soul is left to himself, he will perish forever.

Here is one reason society is in a mess: people have strayed from the truth. It was a gradual thing. First men questioned God’s truth; then they criticized it; then they ignored it; then they laughed at it. The world would rather believe lies than face God’s truth, in spite of the fact that these lies are leading men to death.

Jesus told the story about the shepherd who went out into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. What a beautiful picture of the soul-winner!

“But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how black was the night that the Lord went through,
E’er He found His sheep that was lost.”

The most important characteristic for a shepherd is love. The Good Shepherd so loved us that He laid down His life for the sheep. Do we love lost souls enough to search them out and share the Good News with them? Or are we so wrapped up in our own plans that we do not have time to think about the other person? We are supposed to be shepherds who help to guide the wandering back into the fold.

The soul-winner is a hunter.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” That word “winneth” has the idea of “catching, as a hunter catches an animal.” We are supposed to “capture” souls!

In many ways, the lost sinner is just like an animal. Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). What is a goad? It is the sharp stick that the farmer uses to prod his lazy animals. God was “prodding” Saul; He was treating Saul like a stubborn animal! The lost sinner is just like a stubborn animal: he wants his own way, and yet he does not realize that his own way leads to death.

Just as it takes love to be a shepherd, so it takes skill to be a hunter. It takes skill to “capture” lost souls. The hunter is careful not to frighten the animal. He is very careful not to permit his scent to be carried to the animal. I wish more Christians were that wise! Too often unsaved people “get the scent” from the church and know all the things that are going wrong! We Christians must be very careful not to get in the way of the wind, but to let the “wind of the Spirit” blow as He desires.

Hunters will use different approaches in capturing animals. Many different kinds of traps are mentioned in the Bible, because you cannot use the same approach with different animals. Too often you and I use the same approach with every lost person, and we wonder why we often fail. It takes skill to be a hunter, and it takes skill to be a successful soul-winner.

The soul-winner is a fisherman.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Christ called four fishermen to be disciples—Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And remember that fishing was not their hobby; it was their life’s work. To them, catching fish was not fun: it was a matter of life or death!

Do you know why Jesus called four fishermen? Because fishermen know how to stick with the job and get it done. You will rarely see a fisherman sitting around doing nothing. He is either casting his nets, or cleaning his nets, or repairing his nets. He is always wrapped up in fishing. So it is with the soul-winner: he is always involved in witnessing—and he stays at it! The most important thing about a fisherman is his ability to stick with it, because fishing can be a very difficult and disappointing vocation.

Too often, we “fishers of men” give up too soon. When the going gets tough, we decide to head for shore and give up fishing for a while. We sit around and discuss fishing instead of heading out to the depths to let down the nets! One preacher has suggested that most Christians have ceased to be fishers of men. Instead, they are owners of beautiful aquariums, and they spend most of their time moving the fish from one tank to another!

In Bible days, fishermen had three methods of fishing: hooks, spears, and nets. Peter let the hook down and caught the fish that contained the money for the taxes. If you plan to use a hook, be sure you have the right kind of bait, and be sure you stay alert so you know when the fish is there! It takes real skill and patience to use the spear, but this is a good way to get fish. Just keep your eye on the one you want, and spear him!

But the best way is the net, because you can catch more fish that way. It requires several men to use the nets; soul-winners must learn how to work together. To be sure, not every “fish” will be a good one. Jesus warns us that the net will contain all kinds of fish, some good and some bad (Matthew 13:47-50); but the presence of the bad fish is no reason for us to reject the good fish. Not every fish we catch for the Lord will be a true believer, but many of them will; and the more we try to catch, the bigger will be the percentage of true believers.

If we are going to bring souls to Christ, we must be like the fishermen that Jesus called: we must have persistence. Only God can give the catch, no matter how hard we may toil. And let’s remember that only God knows how big the catch is! Let’s not get so wrapped up in numbers that we forget how important one individual soul is to Jesus Christ.

The soul-winner is a harvester.

Jesus tells us to “look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35-38). It takes all kinds of workers to have a harvest: people to plow, people to sow and water, people to fight weeds, and people to reap the grain. But all of them are a part of the harvest! This is why soul-winners are compared to harvesters: we need to practice cooperation. Not compromise, but cooperation, a willingness to work together.

There is no end to what God will do for the Christian who does not care who gets the credit. The important thing out in the field is not competing for attention, but reaping the harvest. We are laborers together, and each one must help the other.

God has given us some marvelous tools for harvesting the grain: radio, television, literature, cassettes, computers, and a host of other tools. We are not to use these tools to impress each other, but to gather in the harvest. I fear that too often we harvesters are using the sickles on each other instead of on the grain! It is discouraging to see how one Christian attacks another Christian, or one worker criticizes another worker; and all the time the harvest is going to waste. One of the basic laws of the harvest is partnership: one sows, another reaps, but God gives the increase.

The soul-winner is an ambassador.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Imagine! We are God’s ambassadors! This certainly puts dignity into this business of winning souls! Instead of apologizing when we witness for Christ or make a visit in a home, we ought to act like dedicated dignitaries, sent by God—because that is exactly what we are! “As my Father hath sent Me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

As ambassadors, we have been chosen and commissioned; and our task is not to preach ourselves, but to represent the One Who sent us. “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We represent Him, and we carry His message of peace. When an ambassador is sent to a foreign country, all his needs are met by his government, and he is protected by their armies. So with us: God has promised to meet all our needs, and His protection is our assurance of victory. All that the government asks is that the ambassador be faithful, and that is what God asks of us.

God is not at war with the world, but the world is at war with God. Our task as ambassadors is to tell the world that God loves sinners, Christ died for sinners, and that men can be reconciled to God. One of these days, God will declare war on the world; but before that happens, He will call His ambassadors home! While we are waiting, let’s be faithful ambassadors, representing Jesus Christ in the way we live and the words we speak.

The soul winner is a fireman.

“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23). “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2).

The lost soul does not have to die to be in the fire; he is in the fire of condemnation right now! “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). Lost people are already living in the “suburbs of hell,” yet they think their life is wonderful! Our task is to pull them out of the fire, because they are unable to save themselves. In other words, soul-winning requires urgency.

Perhaps this is why many Christians avoid trying to win souls: it is a bit risky to put your hands in the fire! Certainly soul-winners get “burned” occasionally but it’s worth a few scars to rescue somebody from eternal fire. Sometimes the situation gets a bit “hot,” but we must keep right on witnessing, because God may use us to snatch some precious soul out of the burning. And God has promised to be with us when we go through the fire, so there is really nothing to fear.

The next time you look at a lost soul, remember that he is already in the fire of sin and judgment. The worst is yet to come! Sin has so numbered him that he does not even feel the pains in his soul, and this is what makes his situation so tragic. Oh, the urgency of it! We must reach into the fire and help to pull them out! As those angels took hold of Lot and pulled him to safety out of Sodom, so we must lovingly snatch the brands out of the burning, before it is too late.

The soul-winner is a witness.

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? And shall He not render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).

The picture here takes us back to an Old Testament Jewish village. Here is a man who has been condemned to die. The elders are taking him outside the village to stone him to death, and you see the man as they go by. And you know that the man does not deserve to die! You have the one piece of evidence that will save his life! What are you going to do?

Some of us might say: “Well, I don’t want to get involved.” Or, “It’s too late to do anything now.” Or, “Who am I to tell others what to do?” God says, “Excuses! Excuses that will cost a man his life!” As soul-winners, you and I must be witnesses who have honest concern. It must burden us that men and women are being dragged off to judgment! It must concern us that we have the one message of life that can save them! The time has come for us to stop making excuses! Christ has left us here to be His witnesses, and our witness is the only thing that can save sinners from eternal death!

What does it take to be an effective soul-winner? It takes the love of a shepherd, the skill of a hunter, the cooperation of a harvester, the dignity of an ambassador, the urgency of a fireman, and the heart concern of a witness.

Let’s ask God to make us the kind of Christians that He can use to win others to Christ. Winning souls is the greatest work in the world—the most rewarding work in the world—the work that God blesses and that brings Him glory for all eternity!

______________

“Copyright © Moody Church Media. Used with Permission. www.moodymedia.org

 

'Useless' Faith?

Is there such a thing as ‘useless faith’ from a Christian worldview? Does the Bible answer the question?

First of all, I think it fair to say that we (professing believers) almost always think about faith in a positive light, as does scripture. The Old Testament is full of men and women of faith. The New Testament tells us we are saved “by grace through faith”. On occasion, Jesus commended individuals for their faith. In the book of Hebrews there is a long list of notable men and women of faith, as well as heroic deeds that were the result of their faith in a great God.

So what’s this about “useless” faith? Is it even a ‘thing’ from a biblical perspective?

I suggest to you that it is, and that ‘useless faith’ is a serious topic at least twice in the Bible, once from the perspective of the Apostle Paul, and once from the perspective of James, the brother of Jesus, in the book bearing his name. The Apostle Paul addresses the topic from something the Bible claims is a historical fact, while James approaches it with human works in view.

For a look at what Paul had to say about “useless” faith, we need only take a look at 1Corinthians, chapter 15, his great treatise on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the final resurrection of believers:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:12-19)

Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who were denying the future resurrection of the dead, although it was being preached that Christ indeed rose from the dead, a fact attested to by witnesses.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul then states that if Christ has not been raised, his (Paul’s) preaching and the faith of Believers in Corinth is in vain (useless) (v 14), a point he reiterated in v. 17.

Moving on to what James has to say about “useless” faith, we’ll turn to James, Chapter 2.

 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.\

First Janes asks his listeners if want to be shown that faith apart from works is useless (v. 20) and then says very clearly that faith part from works is dead (v. 26). Clearly he is saying that faith without works is useless and dead, but in what context? We need only go back to an earlier verse (v. 14) to see that James’ conclusion is based on someone professing faith but never displaying works did not have saving faith. He is saying that if claims o having faith do not produce works, it was personal faith professed, but NOT saving faith possessed, and completely “useless”.

So yes, there is such a thing as ‘useless’ faith according to the Bible, from at least two perspective:

1.  If Christ died but was not resurrected, our faith and indeed Christianity itself is useless (1 Cor 15). This is a serious doctrinal issue.

2. If we say we have faith, but our faith does not result in works to the glory of God, we never had the ‘gift of God’ faith (See Eph 2:8-9) that actually saves (James 2:14-25). This is a serious personal issue.

So we all have good reason to follow some sound advice from the Apostle Paul:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5, ESV)

Are You Plugged In?

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

I’m asking because this last weekend I spent some time thinking about the years spent as a Christian serving on active duty in the Army’s Special Forces. How that scenario developed is another story for another time. Suffice it to say that when the Shepherd found the lost sheep and brought him back into the fold, the scenario was already in place, and I knew keeping my faith personal was not an option. But that’s not today’s story either.

This is about the question “Are you plugged in?” I ask you that because not being plugged in to Christian fellowship and Bible study can really stunt spiritual growth. We live in a fallen world surrounded by all sorts of influences detrimental to growing in our shared faith. We are also saddled with what some call a ‘sin hangover’, to use a somewhat crude analogy. It would be great if God just eradicated all of the sinful tendencies we have when we come to believe in Christ, but he doesn’t.

It goes without saying that if we are plugged into ‘power sources’ that can sustain us, we’ll not only be strong, we can be used of God in the furtherance of his Kingdom on earth. It’s the ‘plugging in’ part that I want to talk about. I don’t know about you, but I learned some things that were true when I was on active duty and are true now. They were true when I was single (living in the barracks or separated from my family because of travel), and true when our family was together. They are true now, for a couple of grandparents and empty nesters. Here are a few good principles, or rules to live by, or something in between.

  • Plug in! Connect to 1) on-base Chapel, local church, 2) Bible study or fellowship group, 3) one other believer, or 4) just a good individual Bible study. I would suggest all four, if possible.
  • Don’t wait to get invited to something, take the initiative, whether you are changing duty stations, on temporary duty or on a deployment. It says a lot about you and your desire to keep growing in faith.
  • When introducing yourself to a congregation or small group you visit, keep it simple and offer to serve. Don’t talk a lot about you have served in other places, or you might be considered a divine answer to prayer. Trust me. Be willing to serve, but take it slow.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this church or small group more about serving God, or getting stuff from God.
  • Listen more than you speak. You can learn volumes.
  • Keep a Bible handy and don’t leave home without it!

Just some tips from an old soldier. Experience is a great teacher. I assure you, NOT plugging in is always hazardous to your spiritual health. I also know that there are some of you that might be a bit apprehensive about getting connected when you find yourself in new or unfamiliar territory. CMF can help with that. We maintain a worldwide directory of CMF members, military friendly churches and other military ministries on or near military bases all over the world. There are also Bible study resources available online. Visit our Web page and look around!.

The Chief End of Man and the Purpose of the Church

The first question asked by the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?”. Some of us know the answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In the Catechism itself, there are nearly a dozen passages of scripture provided to support the answer.

If you visit many of today’s evangelical churches, or even visit their websites, you might come away thinking that the chief goal of most believers is to find one’s special purpose, dream destiny, or most fulfilling life while occupying planet earth. If you doubt my assumption, just listen to some of the sermons from the most popular broadcasters on Christian television, or visit church websites. Listen to almost any sermon/sermon series and what hear is all about you. Even when scripture is used to support a lot of these sermons, they still end up being all about you instead of expositing/exegeting/explaining the actual text of scripture.

And then there are church web site ‘vision statements’. I can’t tell you how many vision statements I’ve seem that set as a goal of the church to help you find your ‘purpose’, or discover your ‘destiny’ on earth. While you might find a ‘What We Believe’ section with sound statements of belief, sometimes you have to dig deep to find them. The church vision statement is often boldly stated on a home page while a belief statement is several layers deep. The church vision is clearly a higher priority than the core beliefs of the church. I suggest that what we believe is far more important than a ‘vision statement’.

While the find your purpose/dream destiny goal sounds great and definitely attracts people, is it a biblical goal for the church? What does the Bible have to say about priorities in the life of the church and in the lives of individual believers?

Interestingly enough, we have a particular passage that dates back to Pentecost, when 3,000 heard the gospel proclaimed, repented and believed in Jesus as the Messiah (were ‘saved’).

Acts 2:42 describes the principle activities of these new believers;

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (KJV)

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (ESV)
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB)

Note the three activities of these new believers ‘continued steadfastly in’ or ‘were devoted to’:

  • The apostles doctrine/teaching
  • Fellowship
  • Prayer

Is it a stretch to assume that all three of these activities glorify God? The purpose of the church, made up of individual believers, is described in Ephesians, Chapter 4:

" 11And he (God)gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are told that God gifted the church with apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers (sometimes called the five-fold ministry) for specific reasons:

“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all (saints/believers)) attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood ,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(emphasis mine).

Note for whom the gifts are given; “the saints”, believers in Christ. Note also that the gifts given to the church are “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” There is nothing here, or anywhere else in scripture (trust me) about the church existing for non-believers. There is also nothing here, or elsewhere in scripture, that even remotely suggests that those with the aforementioned gifts are to help folks in the pews (or theater seats) have their best lives now, discover special purposes, or achieve dream destinies.

Would it be a stretch to assume that the purpose of those so gifted might be to teach the ‘doctrine of the apostles’, the object of devotion for the new believers in Acts? I think not.

How does that translate to today – the apostle’s doctrine? A no-brainer? It must refer to what is contained in scripture, that which was inspired (breathed out by God)!  

So, getting back to the chief end of man and the purpose of the church. When the subject matter being taught by evangelical leaders becomes all about you, who exactly is being ‘glorified’? I’ll leave it right there.

Oh, there’s one other little thing. Something that Jesus said:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’.” (Matthew 16:25)

I’ll leave that one there too. Any questions?

_________________

P.S. If you don’t know much about church catechisms, here is a link that lists some, along with additional links to the actual texts.


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