How does Jesus expect us to behave as ...

Christian Servants of Our Lord and King

Question: "What do you see as the future for the United States?"

Reply: "If you put the USA up against the Scriptures, we're in trouble. I think we're very close to the judgment of God. The problem of America is not the unbelieving world. The problem of America is the people of God. You see, right now there are just as many divorces in the churches as outside the churches. There are just as many abortions inside the churches as outside the churches. There's only a one percent difference in gambling inside the churches as outside the churches. George Barna did a survey of 152 separate items comparing the lost world and the churches, and he said there is virtually no difference between the two. So we have brokenness in the churches [and] no reconciliation.

"How then should we live? This is a long answer to a short question, but it depends on the people of God. ... it's God's people who hold the destiny of America. Don't fuss at the world. It's acting just like its nature. We've got to be salt and light again. We've got to have an observable difference."

Dr. Blackaby of the "Southern Baptist Convention", May, 22, 1999, as reported by James Dobson of "Focus on the Family".

Arthur Ingram, 1927: If I only had one sermon to preach I think I should concentrate the mind of my congregation upon the touching picture of our Lord standing above the hungry multitude; everybody is making to Him suggestions, some of them very foolish ones, but He is quite calm Himself, because "He Himself knows what He will do." (John 6:6)

Now, the reason why I think this is such a striking picture is because we believe that the same Person who stood above the multitude in those far-off days stands above the multitude to-day. With all our difficulties in London [England] with regard to housing the poor, feeding the great population, and above all spiritually feeding them, it is our great comfort to think that our Lord is as near to us to-day as He was to those people years ago, that He takes as deep an interest in them, and that though we are much perplexed as to what to do, He Himself "knows what He will do," and therefore I should take for the text of my one and only sermon the last two verses of the 29th Psalm, verses 9 and 10: "The Lord sitteth above the water-flood, the Lord remaineth a King for ever."

Now let us see what this means in detail. Notice the whole point is that it is not some vague God who is above everything, but the actual Person whom we read about in the New Testament and whom we seem to know so well. It is said of Jesus Christ that all authority has been given unto him in Heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18), and therefore it is Jesus Christ Himself who sits above the water-flood and remains a King for ever. Now, first of all, what does this not mean and what does it mean?

I. What does it not mean?

(i) It does not mean that we are not to use our brains. It is a common delusion that if we are Christians we are to think as little as possible, that if we think too much we shall lose our faith. Whereas what we want people to do is to think and read a great deal more than they do. As Francis Bacon (1561-1626, Essays, 15) says, "A little knowledge inclineth man's mind to atheism, but much knowledge brings his mind back to religion." He cannot therefore read or think too much about religion. We must investigate all the reasons why we should believe, face all new discoveries, in science, history, or higher criticism, believing that "we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth" (2 Cor. 13:8).

(2) We have to use our hearts. It is said that St. John when he was a very old man used to be carried into church, and that all he was able to say was, "Little children, love one another." He could not have said anything more to the point, for all our difficulties in life to-day spring from want of Christian love. It is want of confidence in one another among the nations which hold matters up at Geneva; it is want of confidence between employer and employee which produces most of our industrial troubles; in parishes it is jealousy between workers which upsets many a parish; and how many homes, which would otherwise be happy, are made miserable by the want of true love! And therefore we have to use our hearts.

(3) We have to use our hands. It is not always realized that, as Mr. Holland so forcibly said to us at the Guildhall at a great missionary meeting, we are the only Body Christ has on earth. We are actually His hands and feet, and if we don't stretch out our hands, according to His plan, He can't stretch out His hand. If our foot doesn't move, He cannot go. If our lips do not open, He cannot speak; and therefore hands and feet and lips must be freely used.

(4) We have to use our wills. It is almost amusing, if it were not sad, to hear those who disown religion pose as the only people who use their wills: "I will be master of my fate, I will be captain of my soul," as W.E. Henley (1849-1903) says. But as a matter of fact every Christian has to use his will to the uttermost. The boy who stands up at his Confirmation and says "I do" has got to put all his determination into keeping his promise. None of us will ever conquer our besetting sin without exercising the power of our wills. The sad reason why we are not better is because we do not really will to be, and therefore brain, heart, hands, and will have to be used just as if there were no Lord sitting above the water-flood.

II. But now comes the second question: Where does religion come in? What does this picture of our Lord standing above the multitude really mean to us? Let us take each one of those four points one by one.

(i) Take our brains. It means that when we have thought and read and reasoned and asked the advice of our friends, we have one more glorious privilege, we can kneel down, and look up and say:

Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.

In other words, we can have what the Prayer Book calls "the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost." It is the task of the Holy Spirit to take of Christ and show Him to us, and thus we have conveyed to our minds the advice of Him who knows what He would do. This is such a priceless privilege that it is perfectly astonishing that so many do not avail themselves of it. It seems almost mad to start a day on which we have so many decisions to make without asking for the guidance of this Divine Guide.

(2) Then take our hearts. Mere good-nature soon comes to an end. Our limited supply of human love is nothing like enough to solve the problems of the world. I met in Japan a lady who has worked for thirty years among the lepers. Do you suppose that it was merely human love which has carried her on for so long? Where religion comes in, is that it enables us to place our poor hearts alongside of the heart of the Good Shepherd, who is still the Good Shepherd, although he is King. Our hearts therefore can beat with the throb of His heart, and we can love with His love. "I can't love those people naturally," said a priest to me once; "Then you must love them supernaturally," I said in reply. Nothing is more striking than the way in which a man or woman's capacity for loving increases as time goes on.

(3) Then we turn to where religion comes in as we work with our hands and feet and lips. The promise is given that we shall not work alone; the Lord, we are told, was working with those first disciples, and was "confirming the Word with signs following" (Mark 16:20). When I was alone for nine years working in East London and finding comparatively few respond at first to my efforts, that was my great comfort. Christ asks my work, but not my success. I have to do my best, but He takes the responsibility Himself. This is the comfort of every lonely worker throughout the world.

(4) Then when we come to our wills, religion comes in in this way. When the young boy or weak girl make their promise and then ask for help to keep it, there comes down upon their wills a great strong Hand (1 Kings 8:42) which closes round their wills like a bar of steel, and in that new power they can do what they could not possibly do by themselves. This is why we see young boys and girls standing firm under difficulties which seem, humanly speaking, bound to overwhelm them.

III. Let us see in conclusion how this affects various parts of our lives.

(1) It affects our prayer life. If the very Person who said, "Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find," (Matt. 7:7) is at the center of all things, then it becomes absolutely certain that prayer will be answered, because the very Person who tells us to pray will give the answer to that prayer.

(2) So, again, notice the encouragement it gives to intercession. We are told that our Lord ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25), and therefore our weak intercessions get swept into His all-prevailing intercession. As the hymn says:

What, fallen again? yet cheerful rise,
Thy Intercessor never dies.

(3) See what an inspiration it is to a life of service. If Christ, according to His plan, cannot do without us, then we must be up and doing. It is only a glorious privilege to offer our hands and feet and lips for His service.

(4) And lastly, it ought to take away from us all fear of death. Death to us, as it was to St. Paul, ought only to be "to depart and be with Christ, which is far better" (Phil. 1:23). And therefore you see my one sermon would promise to me, and also, I hope, to others, strength and hope and grace in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Sermon by Arthur Foley Winnington Ingram, Anglican Bishop of London, England, 1927


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