GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 645 • May 23, 2021
SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Number 12
WHEN THE LORD SAYS GO, DOES HE MEAN ME, OR SOMEBODY ELSE?
Read Isaiah 6:1-13; note especially 6:8. Isaiah, a man who by his own admission was “unclean” – living among and serving other unclean persons, saw in the temple a vision of the holy and exalted God being attended by angels. When he cried out about his undone status he was cleansed of his iniquity. Then he heard God speak of the need for a messenger who could be sent to the lost people of the nation identified with Him, people who in their present condition were far from God and perhaps irrevocably lost to Him. “Whom shall I send (to them) — who will go for us? Lord God, will the mission be difficult? Exceedingly, since the people are hard-hearted and not inclined to listen, heed, or apply God’s words to themselves. How long will the mission last? Indefinite – success is uncertain; only a meager remnant will return. Isaiah, cleansed and reaffirmed , said, “Here I am. Send me.” He was willing to go. He wanted to go. He volunteered for the work to be done. Would you have volunteered? As an uninspired person, not specially empowered by God you probably would have to decline. But if you were Isaiah would you volunteer for his mission?
Saul of Tarsus who became apostle Paul was also confronted with a divine vision Acts 9, see also Acts 22—26), not as dramatic or as extensive as that of Isaiah, but in due time he was instructed, cleansed, and commissioned to take the message of Christ to the non-Jewish world – a mission that was anathema to the Jews. Would there be hardship and difficulties? Undoubtedly. How long would the mission last? Paul’s lifetime and beyond, until the Lord’s return. Paul accepted and spent the remainder of his life preaching the Lord’s gospel – at great cost to himself but not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). Since you are not inspired and taught directly, and empowered as Paul was, you could not be expected to accept his mission But if you were Paul would you accept his mission? Imagine how many mistakes we would make, how many wrong turns we might take if we were uninspired, not directly enlightened or empowered.
Who will go? George and other surrogates are in short supply – seldom to be found when called. We are all tempted and often inclined to let somebody else take the blame for our mistakes or failures. We are easily persuaded to let somebody else take our place in a distasteful or difficult job. “Let George do it” (or anybody else who is willing). It’s another way of “passing the buck,” shifting responsibility, getting off the hook. I confess that I would often be glad to “let George do it” if I could find him. But if there really is a George, he must be hiding out, probably waiting for me to do it. Surely there is no place in our Christian commitment for shifting our own responsibility to somebody else, or blaming somebody else for our own faults and failures. Why doesn’t the church grow? Why are there not more people coming to Christ and to his church? Is it because George is not doing his part? Or is it because I am not doing my part? When we try to get someone else to do a job, whatever the job is, it seldom gets done. An executive is a person who knows what needs to be done and assigns some to do it.
What about that matter of reaching out to others with the gospel of Christ (we call it evangelism)? We may be excused from traveling far from home, to foreign countries. But whose responsibility is it to reach our friends and neighbors, and our own family members? When Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) he replied, “Lord, here I am. Send me.” He did not say, “Lord, don’t send me. Send George, or Bob, or Ted, or Alice – anybody but me.” Paul didn’t say, “Lord, send Peter or any of the other apostles – send anybody else, but don’t send me.”
We easily find excuses, hoping to exempt ourselves from a difficult task – age, health, limited ability, not quick-witted under pressure, limited finances, or other limitations. We may want to think the Lord doesn’t really mean it when he says to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” – or do any other work needed by the church – that He means us. But God’s commands are just that, commands and not suggestions or hints – not always a request for volunteers. There are surely times when we should say, “I am not Isaiah or Paul, or George, but if I’m able to do the work that needs to be done I will do it.”
YOU CAN’T BE CHRIST OR PAUL BUT YOU CAN BE AN ANDREW OR A BARNABAS, OR EVEN A MACEDONIAN.
Who was Andrew? Andrew may be all but forgotten. What was his great accomplishment? He brought his brother Simon, who became apostle Peter, to Jesus – and seems to have played “second fiddle” to him for the rest of his life (John 1:4042), Andrew found a boy with the resources the Lord needed for feeding others (John 6:5-14). Andrew brought Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22) – not restricted to bringing “his own kind” but foreigners too. Andrew could lead others to Christ because he himself had chosen to follow Christ. You can lead a man to Christ, but… Like leading a horse to water, you can lead one to the water of life, but you can’t make him drink. You can lead him to the water of baptism, but you can’t make him accept it. Things that move one person may not move others at all. Like Andrew, you can lead others to Christ and Christ can do all they need, and more too, if they will allow it.
Who was Barnabas? What was his greatest accomplishment? Barnabas was not his real name but was rather a nickname given to him by the apostles (Acts 4:36). but it speaks volumes about the man and his works for the Lord. It is literally son of exhortation and encouragement – he was a great encourager, exhorter, and helper of others. He helped get Paul accepted and worked for a long time with him (Acts 11:19-30). The apostle Paul is remembered and revered. Barnabas is sometimes considered an “also ran,” remembered mostly for his work with Paul.
There is greater need in the church today for Andrew and Barnabas than for Paul. Apostles are not needed because their gifts are not needed, their works have all been done and are not re-doable. The law is given and preserved. There will always be a need for those who will point the way that has already been certified (John. 14:6). There will always be a need for those willing to encourage and reassure others in reaching their potential for Christ. Apostles, including Andrew and Paul, were chosen by the Lord and accepted the position assigned them. But Barnabas was in many respects a volunteer who gave himself to the service he was able to give. Do you feel drafted – conscripted for service in the Lord’s army, or did you volunteer, an enlisted person?
The Macedonian Christians gave more (did more and enabled others more) than could have been expected, even more than they were able to do – they just gave themselves to the Lord first of all and then gave what they had to Him — the results were amazing by any reasonable standard (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
NEED FOR WORKERS CONTINUES TO EXPAND AND GROW.
Here’s a riddle for you. If placed single file in one line what would be more than 800,000 miles long, reaching around the earth 32 times, and growing 20 miles longer with each passing day? Answer: the line of people in the world today who are without Jesus Christ with no real hope of salvation. Should we invite them all to come to Christ? Does he have room for everybody? Can we find or make a place for everybody? For an answer, read Luke 14:22-24. If we do what the Lord commands there will always be room, a place for them.
Our efforts to reach others with the gospel of Christ are sometimes limited by physical facilities: not enough space in the classrooms or auditorium, not enough teachers, not enough Bibles, lesson guides, or songbooks. But in the invitation Christ wants extended in His name there is no such limitation (Mark 16:15-16, Mt. 28:18-20. Millions have accepted Christ and His gospel, but there is still room for more.
- There is room in the Lord’s heart for all who will come to him. John 3:16, Romans 5:7-8
- There is room in the Lord’s power for all who will come to him. Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 7:25
- There is room in the Lord’s church for all who will come to him. Acts 2:47, Colossians 1:12-20
- There is room in the Lord’s heaven for all who will come to him. John 6:37 and 14:1-3
The way which the Lord offers to all is only by the Lord’s cross. There is room at the Lord’s cross for all who will come to him. There is room at His cross for you.
Having come to Christ yourself, along with Andrew and Barnabas you can find those who need Christ and bring them to Him too.