To Resolve or Not Resolve
I wonder how many assemblies I have made New Year’s resolutions for 1964. Possibly none. Perhaps we don’t believe in them. But why shouldn’t we?
Would it be wrong to make up our minds that in the next twelve months, by the grace of God and in the power of His Spirit, we will make an impact upon our communities that they have never known ‘before? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to resolve that in 1964, we will thoroughly evangelize our neighbourhoods for Christ — in God’s way and for His glory?
The church at Jerusalem probably never heard of New Year’s resolutions. But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t decide right now to follow their example of community evangelism by a local church. What better time to start than now?
How did they do the job? What did they have that we don’t have? What was the secret of the success which brought thousands into the fellowship of the local church in a matter of days? We find clues in Acts 1:8. They had the power necessary for effective community evangelism, and their witness was consistently Christ-centred.
Just before His ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem. He promised them power, the power of the Holy Spirit. Subsequently we read that “with great power gave the apostles witness” (Acts 4:33). Stephen was described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost … full of grace and power… And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake” (Acts 6:5, 8, 10). In other words, the community evangelism of the church at Jerusalem was characterized by irresistible power.
Where is our power? No matter what part of the New Testament we read, it is clear that the Holy Spirit of God was working in power; the evidence of His presence and work was abundantly obvious. And if we don’t see the results of His powerful work today, we can rest assured He is not at work in our midst.
Are we as individual Christians filled with the Holy Spirit? Are we effective in personal witnessing? If not, we need not be surprised that our collective witness is also weak and ineffective.
How much time do we devote to the spiritual exercises that are essential for power-filled witness? How about daily prayer and reading of the Word? Do we set aside the requisite hours for these vital matters?
Are we practising the truths of Romans 6, John 15, and Galatians 2:20? Or are these purely theoretical doctrines? To what extent are we daily and hourly reckoning ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God? (Rom. 6:11). Are we abiding in Christ? Do we even know what this means and how it can be achieved? Am I willing in truth to say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”?
Unless we really experience these truths daily, we cannot hope to witness with power, either individually or as a local church. If we’re going to reach out with new resolve and vigour in the coming year, this is where we have to begin — with confession, fresh yielding, and a vital rededication of our hearts and lives to God our Saviour.
We need to notice also that when the Spirit of God was working in the church at Jerusalem, others were attracted. Do we fail to attract people to Christ? If so, we need to examine ourselves!
True, those who reject Christ will also reject His followers. But when the Spirit of God is exalting Christ through His people, at least some will be drawn from the world to the Saviour. And if we’re not drawing sinners to Him, let’s avoid the delusion of excusing our fruitlessness; let’s not say this is simply our lot as followers of Christ!
What happened in Jerusalem? “The multitude came together.” “There were added unto them about 3,000 souls.” “All the people ran together unto them.” “The number of the men was about 5,000.” “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem.” “The number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 2:6, 41; 3:11; 4:4; 5:16; 6:7).
If we don’t see such effects in our assemblies today, we can only conclude that the Spirit of God is not working through us in the way that He did through the believers at Jerusalem.
Are we content with such conditions? Or are we going to resolve that by the power of the Spirit of God, things are going to be different in 1964? Here’s a New Year’s resolution with unlimited possibilities. God Himself is interested. In fact, we can count on Him for all the help needed to carry out a resolution like this.
In addition to the power of the Spirit in their service, the church at Jerusalem had a Christ-centred witness. The Lord had told them, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8) and they were obedient to this command. Listen to Peter preaching: “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Throughout the record of the community evangelism conducted by the church at Jerusalem, we find the same thing over and over: their witness was pointedly and thoroughly focussed on Christ Himself.
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” “The God of our fathers hath glorified His Son Jesus.” “The name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” “The Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 3:6, 13; 4:10, 33; 5:30; 7:52).
The basis for a Christ-centred collective witness is a Christ-centred life on the part of each believer. Our personal Bible study should be directed to learning more of Him, His person and His work. Our lives should be Christ-like in every department — at home, at school, at work, in the community. The honour of Christ should be the explicit objective of all our lives and testimony.
Attendance at the Lord’s supper should be thoughtful and regular, not routine or sporadic. A prominent place should be given to the four Gospels in our personal devotion, conversations, Sunday school teaching, and Gospel preaching.
What proportion of our Gospel messages do we devote directly and explicitly to the person and work of Christ? How often does the preacher expound the Scriptures which declare who Jesus Christ is, what kind of a life He lived, what transpired at His death and following His resurrection?
It’s important to tell people that they are sinners in danger of eternal punishment. Exhortations to be saved are in order whenever the Gospel is preached. The dangers of making a false profession of faith in Christ need to be brought to the attention of careless types. But let’s remember that the important and indispensable part of every Gospel message is the person and work of Christ. These topics should invariably makeup the bulk of our evangelistic preaching. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32). Christ draws men to Himself, but this is possible only when they hear about Him!
Want a good resolution for 1964? One that God Himself is willing to help you keep? One that will not only transform our personal witness but also revolutionize the community evangelism of our local churches? How about this: Resolved that in 1964, I will do my utmost, in full dependence upon God and in the power of His Holy Spirit, to know Christ and to make Him known!