By W. Frank Walton
“Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14, NASB). Sinners must be converted or awakened from the sleep of spiritual death to rise to spiritual life in Christ (cf. Jn. 6:25). Being “enlightened” (Jn. 1:9; 8:12), we have the vision of faith to see what worldly people will not see (Matt. 13:16).
Paul continues his urgent appeal: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Spiritual alertness enables us, to grasp heavenly truths and responsibilities. Seize every fleeting opportunity for good! Treasure the value of time! We only pass through life once.
Today, there’s a life and death struggle for the souls of men. In the real war of the worlds, two kingdoms collide. Eternity is at stake.
A Tragic Reminder
The Titanic’s final resting place has been discovered on the bottom of the icy Atlantic. Sensational pictures have been taken; artifacts have been removed. Awareness of that tragedy has been renewed.
On April 4, 1912, the Titanic slammed into an iceberg, ripping a huge gash in its side. Only enough lifeboats for about 700 people were aboard. As the band played “Nearer My God To Thee” and the “unsinkable” Titanic sank, 1,513 people met an untimely death in the frigid Atlantic. How sad!
But the greatest tragedy is that most, if not all, of the passengers could have been saved! The Titanic sank in the vicinity of the ship, the Californian. After hitting the iceberg, the Titanic fired distress rockets for over an hour to receive help from the Californian, which was known to be in the area. Why didn’t the ship respond? The officers aboard were asleep! The young officer on duty tried to rouse the captain, but he refused to be awakened. An investigation reported that if the Californian had responded urgently to the distress signals, all 1,513 lives could have been saved.
A Spiritual Parallel Today
Today’s tragedy is that millions are lost in sin and will die, not just physically, but spiritually forever in hell. Within the last 5 minutes, over 1,500 souls have left this earth. Where will they spend eternity? ” ‘ Is it nothing to all you who pass this way?” (Lam. 1:21)
We need a “wake up” call from the Word to rouse us to action. The church at Sardis was “established” with a reputation for soundness (Rev. 3:1). But the Lord rebuked them for not following through in their work. “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of my God” (Rev. 3:2). We are the eyes, feet, mouth, and hands of Jesus in our generation. If we don’t awake to save the lost, it will go undone.
Too many “sound” brethren are sound asleep to the world’s distress signals. Turmoil, greed, immorality, broken relationships, etc. could be signals from the lost that they’re looking for something better in life, but they don’t know where to find it. We can’t be caught snoozing while the world, languishes without the soul-saving gospel and the more abundant life in Jesus. “Awake sleeper” to your spiritual mission! We are saved to save others. We’re taught to teach others “what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” (Mk. 5:91). Where is our Christ-like vision, compassion and urgency? We become better at those things we think about, value and practice the most. We need to put the “person” back into personal evangelism. We can equip ourselves, with the Lord’s help, and get involved in reaching, teaching and rescuing the lost. Awake to cataclysmic clash between light and darkness!
Modem Mediocrity In Evangelism
Do we really believe the world is dying without the gospel? Randy Reese, missionary in Japan, told about seeking support in a southern American church. One brother asked, “Why in the world do you want to go way over there and preach to those foreigners?” Randy replied, “Because they’re lost!” I guess they hadn’t thought about that.
To stir up intense, sustained interest in soul-winning, like that shown by Christ and the early church, in many brethren is like trying to lead cheers in a grave yard. There’s little, urgent response. Oh, we nod our heads that spreading the gospel is important and the church might send $ 100 a month to what’s his name some place over yonder. But is that enough?
We often hear, “People aren’t interested today like they used to be…. You can’t change folks nowadays . . . . It won’t do any good. . . . We tried a personal work class 10 years ago and it fizzled out. . . . Oh, they’re wrong and they know it, so why bother?” But evangelism has always been hard work, with, often little to show for the effort. Jesus had very few converts from his preaching in Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capemaum and Nazareth (Matt. 11:20-24; Mk. 6:1-6). We might talk to 10 people and quit, concluding that doesn’t do any good. Jesus preached and contacted vast numbers of people, but relatively few responded. Christ and his church faced great opposition, along with spiritual indifference and blindness, yet they were effective. Determined faith and zeal finds a way, not an excuse!
Perhaps our excuses are symptomatic of a lack of faith in the gospel’s power. The gospel is the message of the ages. It has much power to change the lives of sinners into saints. This joyous good news offers forgiveness and hope. It was designed for sinful, ungodly people.
Perhaps our lack of consistent, serious effort in personal evangelism is a lack of spiritual vision and urgency. Or, we might lack trust in the Lord to provide the increase. Providentially, he can open doors of opportunity for us to reach the sincere seeker of truth (Acts 18: 10; 1 Cor. 16:8-9; Rev. 3:8). Are we praying in faith for G6d to help open a door for the word? The early church did (Col. 4:3; Acts 6:4). We might have an “inferiority” or “grasshopper” complex (Num. 13:33) that we’re unable to do the Lord’s work before us. It could be plain, spiritual indifference and sinful laziness.
We might not be effective soul-winners because we’re so preoccupied with “brotherhood issues” that we don’t have much time for “God’s issue” of going into all the world with the gospel. While error should never be ignored or glossed over, it would be tragic to step over and ignore sin-sick souls all around us just to keep a critical eye on brethren all over the U.S.! Brother, if you want to fight sin and error, just look down your street or the community in which you live and there’s enough lost folk to keep us busy for a life time.
The early church didn’t get side-tracked or bogged down with “issues” so that they curtailed concentrating on the “issue.” When the circumcision issue disturbed some brethren in a particular area, Paul and Barnabas went to Jersualein to discuss this with affected saints. What did they talk about to brethren along the way? Were they consumed with the ominous circumcision issue? No. “They were passing through both Phenice and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to the brethren” (Acts 15:3). When they arrived in Jerusalem to discuss the issue, did it dominate their thinking so as to cloud their gospel vision? No. They first discussed with the brethren in Jerusalem “all that God had done with them” (Acts 15:4). We can’t put evangelism on the back burnerl We must remember the main thrust of our mission.
We would be quite upset if over 50 percent of all brethren didn’t take the Lord’s Supper or give weekly. There’d be articles aplenty to stem the tide of digression. But are we just as concerned that well over 50 percent of all brethren didn’t actively try to teach the gospel to anyone last year? What about this grave digression from the New Testament pattern where they “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4; cf. Col. 1:6; 1 Thess. 1:8; 2 Tim. 2:24)? Each one was committed to teach one (Matt. 28:20).
Rise and Shine!
Christians are “sons of light and sons of day . . . let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thess. 5:5,6). We can’t go to sleep on our watch, even though it’s easy to rest in our comfort zone of “playing church” and writing others off as not worth the effort to teach. By our guilty silence, the blood of untaught sinners will be on our hands. (Read Ezekiel 33:2-9 and shudder!)
Let’s awake and be alert to the urgent mission of evangelism. As a practical suggestion, there’s a new paper, Spreading the Word, which is exclusively devoted to teaching Bible principles of evangelism. If interested, contact Bill Tuggle, editor; 950 Glendale Ln., Nashville, TN 37204!
Let’s rouse ourselves to be fishers of men. With the Lord’s help, we can study, learn, grow and equip ourselves to be “able to teach” (2 Tim. 2:24). With the Lord’s help, we can make a difference in the lives of many lost sinners by “snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23).
Awake and Evangelize!
Give us a watchword for the hour,
A thrilling word, a word of power;
A battle cry, a flaming breath,
A call to conquest or to death;
A word to rouse the church from rest,
To heed the Master’s high request.
The call is given, ye host arise,
The watchword is EVANGELIZE!
To fallen men, a dying race,
Make known the gift of gospel grace.
The world that now in darkness lies,
O church of Christ, EVANGELIZE!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, pp. 460-461
August 4, 1988