Personal Devotion Essential to Outreach

    Jesus, Jacob, Moses

    Go hide thyself – Go show thyself

    Suez Canal

    [Explain the meaning of the plumier - Explain what it is and what it is not]

“Outreach”: To reach out father than usual, to extend oneself. The second important word in the phrase is “devotion.” Devotion, in its highest form, means dedication, consecration, loyalty, and faithfulness. Devotion means to apply oneself - one’s time and energy to one purpose or person. Brethren, when this first love, this agape love, for Christ is missing, then the spiritual power of the individual is greatly impaired. The effectiveness or the non-effectiveness of our outreach is measured by our love for Christ.

The title given in our address this evening expresses, in a very pertinent way, that personal devotion (holiness-homage-godliness) to Christ is essential before there can be an effective outreach into the world. The aforementioned is not the meaning most of us have of devotion. We talk of our devotions as meaning the short time we spend daily in reading and prayer. The real meaning of devotion is much deeper than this.

There are many brethren who are devoted to the Word. They are faithful and loyal to it. There are others who are devoted to the Lord’s service. They are consecrated to it. There are still others who are devoted to prayer. They are dedicated to the prayer-life. But, there are comparatively few who are devoted to Christ.

Every spiritual believer deplores the lack of fruit in the lives of many in their fellowship. In other groups and in other places souls are being saved. What is the reason for this? We are putting our service for Christ above one love for Christ. In other words, we have become preoccupied with past accomplishments, present works, and future plans, more so than with Christ Himself. We are so busy serving the Lord that there is no time left for loving Him. If God were to describe the spiritual condition of many assemblies, He would write, “Thou hast left thy first love.”

From the Scriptures, let us now see that it was only they who spent many hours of intimate fellowship with Christ who were used in reaching out to the world around.

Mary of Bethany: Each time we read of Mary she is at the feet of Jesus. In Luke 10:39 she is sitting, listening, and learning. In Luke 11:32 she is prostrate at His feet, weeping. In John 12, she is bowing, anointing His feet, worshipping. This is the kind of devotion that the Lord honors. He can use a sensitive soul like this. He can make use of one who has sat enthralled in His presence, listening and learning from Him. God will use the person who prostrates himself and mourns and weeps for sinners and erring saints. The Lord will honor the works and life of the one who bows at His feet and pours out his heart in worship. Success in the pulpit depends on travail in the closet.

In Matthew 26:13, the Lord said of Mary; “Truly I say unto you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her.” This outpouring of Mary’s love has been spoken of throughout the world for almost 2,000 years and Christ has been magnified as saints in all generations have sought to emulate her example of worship.

How many of us know the sublimity, the excellence and the grandeurs of sitting-listening, learning, weeping, anointing, and worshipping the Lord alone in our homes and in our hearts? This attitude and the devotion to Christ, this dedication and sensitivity is what it is going to take to open the windows of heaven and call down the blessing. Unfortunately, most of us only know a tearless, passionless, and soulless ministry.

David Livingston wept for years for Africa and with God’s help opened up its bleeding heart, stopped slavery and won many to Christ. John Welch, an evangelist of last century, soaked his pillows as he pleaded for the dying souls of men. Andrew Bonar, one of the godliest men Scotland ever produced, wept with godly compassion as he saw his fellow Scots reject the Christ of the Gospel. 

Do we mourn as we consider the anguished and distressed condition of North America?

Do we weep over the lost around us?

Do we grieve from a tortured heart over the many who have turned their backs on Christ? 

Let me say, at this point, that there is a place of greater power than being at the feet of Jesus. John was the disciple whom Jesus loved in a special way. But more uniquely, he was the one who leaned on the Savior’s breast; of no other person was this ever said. John gained and maintained this place of intimacy through personal devotion to Jesus Christ. He possessed a love which demoted everyone and everything to its rightful place. John maintained his first love for Christ till the day he died in exile.

The result of this personal dedication of himself - his time and energy to Christ - was the unsurpassed excellence of his writings. Millions, upon millions of people have been won to Christ through his Gospel. Multitudes of God’s people have been sustained through his epistles. The world has yet to experience the shocking, terrifying and horrendous events of the Apocalypse. It was to John that was given the unique privilege of revealing Jesus as the Son of God. He also knew Him to be God (see John 1:1).


Let us now consider the cost of this personal devotion to Christ.

Consider the Lord. Before Moses was ready to deliver Israel from Egypt, he had to pay a price. There was his renunciation of the world. He forsook Egypt. Then there was his seclusion from the world: 40 years in the wilderness. During this time of separation, dedication, and consecration, the Lord broke him, molded him, and made him into a vessel prepared for the Master’s use.

Moses reckoned that the recompense of the reward was greater riches than the pleasures and treasures of Egypt. Beloved, if there had not been on Moses’ part; wholehearted devotion to God, the surrender of self-interests the dedication of his life, he could not have qualified as God’s man to deliver Israel.

To be fruitful in our service we must spend long periods of time with the Lord, we must forsake all and follow Him. [Describe how Moses got his shining face]. Paul is another example that personal devotion and sacrifice is essential to fruitful outreach. “Paul was a chosen vessel, to bear the Lord’s name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” Before Paul could reach out to the world with the Gospel, the Lord had to work in his life. To accomplish this he was led by the Lord into the Arabian Desert, where He revealed Himself to him and prepared him for his future service. In the solitude of the desert Paul communed with God, like the Psalmist his soul thirsted for the Lord, he longed to know the Lord. His whole being cried out for the living God, “As the deer panteth after the water brook.” The Lord rewarded Paul’s love and devotion by pouring Himself into him.

There were tremendous repercussions in Paul’s life. Self was crucified, prestige was reckoned as garbage, human intelligence was jettisoned—he suffered the loss of all earthly attributes and possessions in order to win Christ and gain the excellencies of the knowledge of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3). The result of Paul’s devotion – dedication – and consecration was the revelation of the heart of God—the establishing of the missionary pattern for future generations—and a fruitful ministry among both Jews and Gentiles.

Many of God’s effective servants while travailing in the presence of God have found themselves being broken and crushed under the mighty hand of God. This is a very necessary experience; before God can use us, He must break us. He must hone the precious, but rough, stone. He must hide us, cleanse, purge, and purify us to make us a polished shaft or arrow. God can use no other.

“A broken and a contrite heart, God will accept.” God can only use broken things. For example, Jesus took the little lads lunch bread and broke the bread; then and only then could it feed the crowd. Mary broke the alabaster box containing the precious ointment; only then was the Lord glorified, and its fragrance filled the whole house.

Jesus said, “This is my body which is broken for you.” Because His body was broken at Calvary there is salvation for lost men and women.

George Whitefield, one of the most successful evangelists of last century said “I have spent whole days and weeks prostrate on the ground in silent and vocal prayer.”

Jacob spent a whole night alone with God. Gideon’s men were the broken vessels.

There are two more instances which stress the truth that devotion to Christ and love for Christ are essential to reaching out in fruitful service: (1) The message to the Church at Ephesus, and (2) “I have somewhat against this, thou hast left thy first love.” This last verse discloses the rest of church and individual failure—heart departure from Christ. This church had lost its first love for Christ. They were sharing the love which they had reserved for Christ, with others, and with other things. Beloved, when first love for Christ is lacking, then the spiritual power of the individual life is gone.

Things may appear outwardly to be in good order, but the omniscient eye of God sees the real state of the heart. Describe the eye that burns like a furnace and penetrates into the deepest recesses of the heart. “The eye, which with a look can break the heart.”

The Ephesians still had affection for Christ. They liked Him very much. This condition was severely censored by God. Though they were doctrinally sound and functioning in a scriptural fashion, though they had judged evil and were actively engaged in the Lord’s work. They were ineffective and were in danger of having the lamp stand removed.

This is the state most of us are in today. We need to repent, but we don’t. This has resulted in God removing the lamp stand from our lives. The cooling of agape love is, despite the flurry of activity, the forerunner of apathy - an ingrown lack of vision and ineffectual outreach. Many today, are sinning as the Ephesians did, by putting their service for Christ above that love for Him. 

Brethren, how many of us here love Christ with a self-denying love? Or with a love that abandons all for Him? The Lord asked Peter, “Lovest thou Me?” In today’s language that would mean: “Do you love Me with all your heart?” or “Do you love Me more than anyone or anything in the world?” Beloved, devotion and love for Christ is more important than anything on earth. It is more important than the love of the Word, service, or prayer.

How would we fail tonight if the Lord were here in person and asked us personally, “Do you love Me more than anyone or anything in the world?” Well, He is here and is asking each of you if you really love Him. He is saying, “Do you love me more than your profession? Career? Ambition? Do you love Me more than your acquaintances, your friends, your father, mother, children and wife?”

It is only when we can say unreservedly, “Yes Lord, I love you with agape love. I love you with my whole heart. I love you more than anyone or anything in the world,” that the Lord can flow through us in N.T. power to the world around. Our lack of agape love, our lack of devotion, dedication, and consecration to the Lord accounts for our lack of fruit in our outreach to the lost and erring.