A man is clutching desperately at a rope which is swinging from a tree limb. It is dark! Several minutes ago he was robbed by some thieves who were waiting in ambush as he came through the deserted part of the country. After being, waylaid, he was told to catch hold of the rope, awl later it was given a big swing. To loosen his grip meant that he would fall to his death, he was told, in the great gully below.
His soul was filled with horror at the awful doom impending. He clutched despairingly the end of the swayizg rope. But each dreadful moment only made his fate more shre. His strength steadily failed. At last he could hold no longer. The end had come! His clenched fingers released their convulsive grip—he fell —six inches to solid earth, waiting at his feet!
It was time for the robbers to get away. When he let go, it was not to his death, but to the safety which had been waiting him all through the night and his episode with terror.
Could it be possible that bçcause of fear, or what-have-you, we are chained to an old idea, an old tradition? Could it be possible that we have held on to the "rope of a particular idea" so long that we are chained and cannot change? The longer a church, or individual, remains with a convulsive grip on the past, or upon anything other than God, it becomes more and more stiff, so to speak—or, in other words, retarded, because it is not exercising its members.
Could it be possible that there are retarded churches in our association, churches living in a coma? Despite the great achievements being made by all our churches in their own local contexts, we are retarded!
How God is trying to kindle love- among our members! I believe that the basis for any kind of therapy among our members is found in Romans 13:10: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." The form in which love exists, one said, will determine the form in which it will find expression.
Just how can we make progress in our discovered state and case of being retarded? Simply this. If just a handful of people (you present this morning) will see the need, will see the ultimate result, will see the opportunity, will say as did the disciples of old, "Sir, we would see Jesus," THEN our churches will begin to move. Perhaps at first just a small stir. But with this therapy, greater movements are promised.
An arm of help to the helpless, it will begin to move. With this therapy, a leg of witnessing will be seen; a mouth movement of "I Love to Tell the Story" will be heard, and our ears will be clean of sin to hear the sweet, soft voice of our loving Saviour, saying, "Come, get up, follow thou me." Will you accept this challenge?
So, in such an endeavor, from Chapter 13 of Romans may I submit unto you:
I. Remove Sleep and Pajamas, verses 11, 12
II. Put on Some Shoes and Clothes, verses 13, 14
Remove Sleep and Pajamas"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer to us than when we be- believed."
"The time"—not just the time abstractly, sometime in the future, but their time. The time in which they lived with all its moral import, its critical place in the working out of God’s design.
"To awake out of sleep:" No Christian should be asleep. But, as we look around us, we see that in our sleep we contribute to retarded churches. We are drowsy and at times have to get our bearings because we have been out of personal contact with an issue, opportunity or cause. Just as the father who hears his baby crying in the middle of the night, who is also aware that Mother i5 taking care of the other child, has to get his bearings. it is 2:00 a.nt.—time to help, but when he is aroused he is drowsy, may even walk in the wrong direction.
The ordinary life of a Christian is drowsiness compared to the activity that it should possess. One commenting on this verse stated: "The verse sets before us the awful tendency to sink down, as did the ten virgins, into slumber and sleep—into a state of spiritual sleep in which no Christian duties are effectively done." My, the laity’s laziness! The problem of ever keeping believers in the attitude of wakeful expectancy.
We are retarded! We are living a stifled witness. Could it be said that we make up 16 churches and 40 winks—we’re loitering on holy ground, with an urgent message. Or, in modern-day terminology, we are letting grass grow under our feet. We are dilly-dallying, we are riding at anchor, resting on our oars, and sleeping like a top, while the world falls into a bottomless pit in eternity.
We are told to know the season and not be ignorant of the time. Jesus clearly rebuked the Jews of His day when He said, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, straightway you say, there comes a shower; and so it come& to pass. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, there will be a scorching heat; and it comes to pass. You hypocrites, you know how to interpret the face of the earth and the heavens; but how is it that you know not how to interpret this time?"
The Messiah was there—they knew it not. Why? Because they did not apply themselves to know die time they were in. "If the Jews even then were called hypocrites by our Lord for applying their God given discernment to die signs of the weather, and neglecting to apply it to spiritual things, and so going on blindly to judgment; how much more this should arouse us who have so much greater light and knowledge, in view of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the certainty of our Lord’s coming and our uncertainty as to the day and hour!"
Truly we do have greater light—we have light to see that we need no longer hold to a retarded position in the darkness, for in the light we have (from God’s Son) we see that to let loose will place us on our feet for Him. "For now is our salvation nearer" means that it may be only six inches.
We must wake up and remove the sleep, for in our sleep there are those who are tumbling to their destruction. Like the father who took his little girl on a picnic and became drowsy and dozed, only to awake and find his daughter gone.
He called and looked frantically, and finally noticed that just beyon(L some brush was a cliff, and then below, his precious daughter in a crumpled form. Her death—because of his sleep. My friends, it is time for us to awake out of our sleep.
"The night is far spent, and the day is at hand!" The proclaiming of the Day of the Lord was seen in practically all of the twelve minor prophets. They lived in great anticipation. Do we? Or (10 we acknowledge the possibility of such, and then turn over for a cat nap? ‘Let us cast off, therefore, the works of darkness." An old colored preacher in New Orleans said that this meant to remove your pajamas—remove your night clothes (these are the works of the darkness) —for the day has dawned. The Christ has appeared.
The word itight in the New Testament is used to denote night literally, the starry heavens, and then it denotes a state of ignorance and crime. For us, there can be no true ignorance, for we know the state wherein we lie. Matthew 15:8: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." in other words, we are paralyzed, so retarded that we can give only lip-service unto Almighty God.
May we remove our sleep and remove our clothes of relaxation and garments of lounging for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
Put on Some Shoes and Clothesand let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on die Lord Jesus Christ.
"To walk" is an expression to live. Paul said, as recorded in Ephesians 6:15, "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace."
One would not think of taking a walk therefore make preparation, which is die With our shoes must also come clothes. Jesus. This is a foreign expression to us, without shoes; let us Gospel of our Lord. Put ye on die Lord but with ancients it was common. To put on a person was to become like that one in his ideas and acts and in an attempt to copy his spirit.
This is truly Anierica’s disguise. We call ourselves Christians. So do the people of Haiti. The difterence between the two is as night to day. Their Christianity is alive. There are no churches hi living comas. No .retarded churches. Every church has many missions.
To put on Jesus is to put Him on permanently. not to be taken off at will or for the sake of convenience. To ?tlt on the Lord Jesus is basically done in our profession of faith and in the act of baptism. While it is true that the baptismal waters cannot reach or affect the inner soul—thus making it mandatory for salvation—there is a clothing of the outer body with water. And in this ordinance of the New Testament Church, we are identifying ourselves by faith with Christ in His death and resurrection. This is not our full wardrobe, but it is the starting point. For you ladies, it is the basic dress. We are clothing ourselves in the disposition of the Christ, anti thus are alive t God. rhe accessories of faith, love, hope, peace, etc., are added.
As one said, "Every time we perform an ethical act we put on the Lord Jesus more fully. Rut the principle of all such acts is the spirit of Christ dwelling in us. anti it is the essential antagonisin of the spirit to the flesh which determines the form of the last words."
Put on the whole armor of God. One would not think of going outdoors in the morning half-clad—so, with what is available from God, put on the whole armor of God.
Dress up with some faith and a "yes" to the seemingly in surmountable difficulties that arise from time to time as a church or as an association. There should be no fear in the daytime. This should give encouragement to retardation. Many have never moved in various areas because they have been told they cannot move. Or they are prisoners of their fear. For Christ’s sake, remove these fears; release your rope. If a project arises in your church, be it the beginning of a mission, changing the time of a meeting, beginning a Baptist Evening Fellowship for all ages—if it seems impossible, remember, "With God all things ARE possible." There are opportunities which have gone by many of our churches because there were those who said, "My, it just can’t be done—it’s impossible for us to undertake!"
Speaking of insurmountable obstacles, I read last week where needy miners and settlers in British Columbia were engaged in stripping an old abandoned fort of its lumber, electrical appliances, and plumbing, and in the act made a tremendous discovery. It had to do with the jail of the fort. There were mighty locks, heavy doors with two-inch steel bars covering the windows, BUT the walls were cardboard, of clay and paper. They were painted to resemble iron. The prisoners would brush against the heavy doors, grip the iron bars covering the window1 but never bother the walls. Yet, the walls only resembled iron bars set in clay and mortar. Nobody ever tried to escape, for they thought it impossible.
My point is this—there are many Christians on Boards in our churches who are just like these prisoners. They are afraid. They will not push against any barrier that would hinder them to freedom into the way and will of God. Satan cannot do anything to a child of God, eternally speaking, but he loves to put barriers of papier-mache in the path of believers. So, in the paths of our churches, in the name of progress, there are these barriers. When, by faith, if an attempt had been made and a push exerted, they would have fallen.
The world is sunk in the night of heathenism and sin. Yet the morning light is dawning of the Gospel. For the Son of righteousness has arisen.
Let’s wake up as an association, as churches. Let’s put our Christianity into practice. If we have it in our heart, then let us find expression on our lips and in our actions. This is a "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is an "as much for others as for ourselves."
FIRST—Let’s wake tip and respond to God’s call, remember. ing that this, my friend, said Jesus: "if you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me."
SECOND—Let’s wake up and get moving in every phase of our total church program, for the Master. Let’s increase our enthusiasms that for some have lightened some areas of church organization. Let’s extend our ministry by our witnessing and inviting people to God’s House.
Members of 16 churches—remove the winks—increase the works—remove papier-mache barriers and be not content to be a sleeping giant. Let’s wake up to major needs.
If we would but respond to God’s call and begin such therapy, we would stir—we would see moving the arm of help to the helplessness. We would see the lip movement of "I love Jesus," the leg movement of witnessing, but only when our ears are clean of sin—the little sins that so easily beset us.Ecclesiastes 3:1: "For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose ..."" Knowing this," as Paul said, "it is time to wake out of our sleep."
Sixteen churches, let’s remove the winks and increase the works.
Sixteen churches, not retarded but reclaimed.
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