CHRIST IS OUR STRENGTH
HYMAN J. APPLEMAN, D.D.
I. MASS EVANGELISM 3
II. PREPARING CHRISTIANS FOR REVIVAL 17
III. BACK TO THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR POWER 29
IV. THE SUFFICIENCY OF JESUS CHRIST 43
V. THE LIVING LORD 50
VI. THE RECORDED JESUS 62
VII. THREE BIG FOOLS 69
VIII. BACK TO CHRIST FOR OUR MESSAGE 84
Christ is Our Strength by Hyman Appelman
‘‘And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matthew 28:18-20.
That we are living in a most critical hour is a platitude. The evidences of it abound. The forces of Tophet have organized in what some of us believe to be one mighty concentrated attack against the things of God and of good. They have taken over the high and the low. The best-laid plans, not of mice, but of men, have gone agley. The institutions, the organizations, the principles that were considered as steady as the North Star, as steadfast as the unalterable mountains, have come to naught as though they were no more than so many castles in Spain. They proved to have been built on air, hot air.
But the world has faced times such as these before. There have been other dark hours. Other generations have been swept by the winds of iniquity and corruption. Other generations have been bowed down by the weight and the burden of hell-born terrors. Other generations have seemed to come to the end of all their resources. There have been other times when the churches of God faced adversaries, contended with obstacles that seemed to be insurmountable. But always, and even when the enemy came in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord raised a standard against him.
It behooves us therefore to clear channels for the activities of the Holy Spirit. If history has any sort of a message, it is that in times such as these, the Holy Spirit has driven back the hosts of the Adversary through sweeping revivals of religion. Christian and secular history will abundantly verify this contention. Evangelism then becomes the weapon in the hands of God and of the people of God for a defensive as well as an offensive campaign against the myrmidons of Tophet. It has been proved in Heaven and proved on earth. It is of this invincible weapon of spiritual warfare that we want to speak. Let us discuss it from the standpoint of its Meaning, its Motives, its Means and its Methods.
THE MEANING OF EVANGELISM
The meaning of evangelism is written across the pages of Holy Writ. Its examples abound in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in Christian history, in the experience of each of us. The word “evangelism” itself means the proclamation of good news, especially the good news of some battle, of some campaign, of some victory won. In the Christian sense, it means the proclamation of the gospel, the glad, good news of an incarnated, atoning, resurrected, second-coming Saviour who has conquered sin and Satan, death and the grave, time and eternity. The public preaching of the pastor and of the evangelist is evangelism. The painstaking explanations and illustrations of the Sunday-school teacher are evangelism. The passionate pleadings of the personal workers are evangelism. The house-to-house witness-bearing of the warmhearted Christian is evangelism. The printed page of the orthodox, evangelical, fundamental press is evangelism. The anxious distribution of the religious tract is evangelism. The sacrificial self-abandonment of the missionary in teaching, in preaching, in healing is evangelism. There is, therefore, hardly any avenue of active Christian service that cannot be included under the term “evangelism.” Every effort aimed at the salvation of perishing souls is recognized in this all-embracing word. I am sorely afraid that in the mind of the ordinary rank-and-file Christian the term has been limited to mean the occasional revival meeting scheduled on occasion in the routine program of the church. Evangelism is the work, the foundational, the fundamental work of all Christians everywhere, at all times.
Mass evangelism goes one step farther. It is the concerted attack of a church, or of churches, or of any given group of Christians, on sin and Satan entrenched in a community or a city. It launches a church or a group of churches in one spear-point onslaught on the Serpent. It sends out scores, even hundreds, to harvest, to bring in the sheaves to the feet of the Master. This is the climax of all evangelistic effort. It is the acme of every sort of evangelism. It is the most challenging work of the church. It furnishes the most effective proof of the divinity of our blessed religion. It serves most mightily to manifest the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is most discomfiting to Satan. It puts hell into mourning. It teaches the angels new songs wherewith to glorify the Son of God. It revives Christians, strengthens churches, silences the bitter tongues of the gainsayers. In every sense of the word, it is eminently worthwhile. Without it, our organizations, our endeavors, our efforts, our undertakings are emasculated, effeminate, pink-tea, slap-on-the-wrist, Miss Nancy propositions. With it, the world-wide vision of the church is brought to bear on problems that fundamentally are the same in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the islands of the sea.
Moses specialized in mass evangelism. Elijah magnified it. Ezra used it for the glory of the Lord. Jesus was the supreme Master of it. Peter exulted in it. Paul majored in it. Whitefield and Wesley saved the English-speaking world with it. The blessing of God on it gave Charles Finney fifty thousand souls in the city of Rochester, New York, alone. Had Moody contented himself with a local church program, had he been satisfied with what so many of us preachers seem to consider sufficient to-day, there would have been no bringing of England and America closer to God. A galaxy of star bright names, even in the day of some of us, Billy Sunday, R. A. Torrey, J. Wilbur Chapman, Paul Rader, M. F. Ham, Sam Jones, Gipsy Smith, are proof abundant that the Holy Spirit honors mass evangelism as He honors no other work in the Christian calendar. With all my soul I believe that mass evangelism is the force that can, and, by the grace of God, will stop the tidal wave of infidelity, of immorality, of indifference that is deluging our land. At least, let us try it, let us give it the chance that it so definitely deserves.
THE MOTIVES FOR EVANGELISM
The motives for evangelism that constrain us to this endeavour are as wide and varied as the whole earth, as inclusive as the needs of men, as lofty as the love of God, as deep as the pit of hell, as long as eternity, as broad as time. There is first the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone has well said, “God had one Son, and He made Him a preacher of the gospel.” Jesus Christ sent out His disciples not as generals, not as educators, not as reformers, not as statesmen, not as financiers, but as humble witnesses to the saving grace of God. They were to tell the story of a crucified, risen, resurrected Saviour offering abundant, eternal, free salvation to all mankind on the simple terms of repentance and faith. Surely, the Son of God knew and knows the basic, ultimate needs of a soul, or of a world of souls, better than we. His Commission has never been abrogated or changed.
The Redeemer sent the Holy Spirit into the world to empower the children of God in and for the task of witness-bearing. He was to anoint them and appoint them, to energize them and employ them as fishers of men. The further duty of the Spirit was to convict a world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment. All this is part and parcel of the divine task of evangelism. We are never more in the plan of God, never more in the purpose of Christ, never more in the program of the Holy Spirit than when we engage in mass evangelism. Was not Paul anointed to bear the name of the Lord Jesus Christ “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel”? Does not Charles G. Finney tell of the spiritual experience that retained him as a pleader for the cause of Christ? Have we not all read of the baptism from on high that flooded the soul of D. L. Moody and used him as a magnet to draw men to the cross?
The church was established as the evangelizing agency of the Kingdom. The chief reason for the existence of the church is that it might be a recruiting station for the armies of Prince Immanuel. Within its walls, in its services, the saints were to learn the message of salvation, to be inspired by its ordinances, its rituals, its songs, to go afield to batter down the gates of hell, to rescue precious souls from the doom and damnation, the curse and condemnation of their sins. A church that is not evangelistic cannot be in the full sense of the word evangelical. A church that is not striving with all of its interests for the salvation of immortal souls, no matter how fundamental its doctrines, how orthodox its practices, is backslidden, disobedient, dishonoring, and dishonored.
There is the second motive in the great need all about us. It is true that this world materially is a vastly different place from what it was in the days of the Saviour and the apostles. Government, science, culture, society, education, home life, material advantages, travel, communication literature, are all different. But, basically, in the matters of the soul and of the spirit, we are in exactly the same place in which Adam and Eve found themselves when they were driven out of the Garden of Eden. Satan is present, raging up and down the earth. Sin is prevalent. Worldliness is the curse of the day. Souls, souls, immortal, eternal souls by the myriads, are speeding on the road to everlasting destruction. Our compassions must be moved when we contemplate the terrible thought that, after nineteen hundred years of Christianity, the vast majority of this world’s inhabitants are lost, lost, lost! There is no hope for them outside of the message that is intrusted to us, outside of the gospel of which we are the stewards.
The third motive is that every other effort of the individual Christian, of the local church, of the great denominations is not sufficient to turn the tide, to do the job. Do not misunderstand me. Not for a single second would I be guilty of minimizing the wonderful contributions, the sacrificial, heroic accomplishments of the churches of the land, and of the world. Not for anything would I belittle the work of the conventions, the associations, the institutions of our various organized activities. Thank God for the Christian colleges, for the great seminaries, for the God-blessed Bible schools that dot our earth. Glory to God for the thousands and the hundreds of thousands of souls that are swept into the kingdom annually by these various agencies. But they are not enough. There is something lacking. We are reaching most of those in our Sunday schools, those immediately connected with the families in our churches, and a few, very few outside of this circle, but there are unchurched multitudes who never darken the doors of our sanctuaries.
The fourth motive is that God has signally honoured mass evangelism in the past. Would anyone contend that this world would have been better off had John Wesley remained the rector of some local church? Would anyone quarrel with George Whitefield for turning his back on his Church of England ordination to give himself to the itinerary of an evangelist in England and in the colonies? Would anyone have had D. L. Moody remain with his Illinois Street Church in Chicago, leaving the world alone? Can anyone conceive of the bitter sin Billy Sunday would have committed had he been contented to live out his life in a local charge? Should R. A. Torrey have stayed with the Moody Church and the Moody Bible Institute and turned his back on the call of God to circle the globe? Ponder these men and their lives and labours carefully, prayerfully. Will it not be agreed that their mass evangelism ministries added something to the work of Christians and churches everywhere God used them, and brought untold blessings and victories which otherwise might not have been achieved? So, then, do not these dreadful times in which we live, do not these unchurched, unheeding, unheeded multitudes call for another mass evangelistic venture?
THE MEANS FOR MASS EVANGELISM
The means to be used in mass evangelism are in our hands, within our reach. There is, first of all, the Bible, the blessed, eternal, inerrant Word of God, the power of God, the revelation of God, the Bread and the Water of life. It has never lost its attraction. Its promises are still yea and amen in the Lord Jesus Christ. Men are still hungering and thirsting for it, some consciously, some unconsciously. It is still the best seller in the flood of every sort of literature that is pouring from the presses of a reading world. It still works its miracles of transforming grace in the hearts and lives of its devotees. It is still the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. It is still the Sword of the Spirit. We have the same Bible that Jesus and the apostles used, with the holy New Testament added to it. We have the same pages that opened the will of God to the early seekers after truth. We still have the same blazing words that thundered from the lips of a Savonarola, of a John Huss, of a Martin Luther, the burning warnings, exhortations, appeals, that changed the course of empires. The Bible is pre-eminently the Book of and for mass evangelism.
There is, second, the church. Bear with me, if I seem in the very slightest to be critical. That is not my purpose. No great revival has ever started in the church. Jesus and the disciples were pushed out of the Jewish Church. Luther and his group were forced out of the Catholic Church. Wesley, Whitefield, their coadjutors, were pressed out of the Church of England. William Booth seemed to be too enthusiastic for the branch of the Methodist Church to which he belonged. D. L. Moody was compelled to organize a group of his own.
Billy Sunday’s greatest campaigns were held in halls, in tabernacles, in tents, in all sorts of outer places. It should not be that way. With all of my soul, I pray that our churches, the churches of today may be different. One of the chief purposes of this chapter is to plead with the churches to open their doors to mass evangelism, to plead with the churches to forget their differences, to unite in this one grand undertaking, the carrying out of the Great Commission, in a great way. This is the time for it. There never has been a riper, more opportune moment. We are all of one mind in the matter of our believing that the greatest need of America and of the world today is a Revival of religion.
Let us then discard our prejudices and unite our forces, that the Holy Spirit of God may have a real weapon of warfare in His mighty hands. The world is waiting to see what the Lord can and will do in this our day with a church that is wholly surrendered to evangelism, with a group of churches banded together in the sacred bonds of compassion, aiming towards the one purpose of evangelizing.
There is, third, the newspaper, the religious periodical, the secular magazine, the radio. The press seems to be as a whole closed to the religious, to the spiritual, unless it spreads the yellow news of some preacher’s defalcations, of scandal, and crime across its front pages. It is very rare that a secular magazine features aught of the things that concern Christianity. Even the great majority of our religious periodicals are taken up with the activities of the various churches, with the appeals for missionary or church contributions. It is not usual to find a sermon directed to the unsaved. The radio is being monopolized by the commercial, the educational, the political, the recreational, and the social gospel. Any man now on the radio, especially on the chains, will tell you how much more difficult it is becoming to obtain time for real, New Testament, soul winning-appeal. It would be different in mass evangelism. The weight of the groups of churches organized into one voice would make the lords of the air stop and consider. Newspaper space was easily obtained in Philadelphia, in 1942, when thousands of people, representing hundreds of churches, wrote in, phoned in, visited editorial rooms and asked for recognition. On top of all of that, should the Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer, honor the plans of God’s people and really interest and win the multitudes, the newspapers, the magazines, the radios would be constrained to take note of these mass movements affecting entire communities, cities, states, even nations. I speak from some experience.
THE METHODS TO BE PURSUED
The methods to be pursued in mass evangelism are as old as the preaching of the gospel. They have not been changed. They cannot be changed. They must not be changed. The need is the same. Souls without Christ are still in their sins, on the road to an everlasting hell. The gospel is the same. It is still contained in the facts that Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, died for our sins, that He was buried, that He rose again the third day. The conditions are still the same, repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. These features cannot be modified. They stand on the unshakeable foundation of God’s inerrant revelation. Perhaps we need a restatement of these facts in modern, twentieth century terminology, but, beyond that, for the sake of our souls and the souls of multitudes of others we dare not trifle with them. With the gospel in our hearts, with the assurance of salvation in our souls, with the message of the cross on our lips, we must carry on and out the Great Commission that has been passed on to us. The methods that the Lord Jesus Christ used, the methods that were so successful in the lives of the apostles, the methods that have made their mighty impact throughout the ages, must be our methods also.
First, we must AGONIZE in ceaseless prayer. We must tarry before God in endless supplication. It is as true today as it ever was that, no prayer, no power; little prayer, little power; much prayer, much power. Jesus taught us the lesson, the value, the importance of prayer. The disciples illustrated it for us. Whatever else might have been the case with the giants of Christianity, prayer marked every one of them. Whatever their similarities, whatever their differences, on this one thing they all agreed, that prayer moved God, that in answer to prayer God moved the world.
We must agonize for ourselves, that our own sins be forgiven, that our own lives be on the altar, that our own souls be charged with the Holy Spirit, that our own minds be throbbing with the Word of God, that we ourselves be instruments of righteousness in the hands of the Master. We must pray for each other. Instead of bickering, scolding, criticizing, fault-finding, we must pray for each other. Instead of minimizing each other’s virtues and magnifying each other’s faults, we must pray for each other’s faults and praise each other’s virtues. Instead of using microscopes to find out differences between us, we must diligently search out the great verities on which we agree and abide by them in brotherly love. Instead of spending our time belaboring each other while the devil, in high glee, divides to rule, we must unite on the fundamentals, and as one army, with one purpose, one aim, attack the strongholds of Tophet.
We must pray for the unchurched and the unsaved multitudes. We all believe that God answers prayer. We all believe in the promises of the old Book. We believe that prayer changes things. The promise still is: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.” Therefore, let us pray so hard, so long, so often, so ceaselessly, that no man, no woman, no child, no soul, anywhere in America, in all the world, can truthfully say, “No man cared for my soul.” Yes, we must agonize.
Second, we must ORGANIZE. This is a day of organization. Every line of human endeavour is organized, most lines highly organized. The children of this world know well the power in organized masses. The wets beat the drys because of their superior organization. The unions have been able to wrest rights and privileges from the hands of capital because of their tight organizations. The Nazi Panzer divisions overran Europe because of their advantageous organizations. We must learn this lesson. “In union there is strength,” is a platitude only too well known to each of us. Let us apply it to evangelism.
Let us organize every activity of our local churches, the Sunday school, the young people’s groups, the women’s work, the Brotherhood, the finances, the preaching services into the one spearhead of soul-winning. There is no other program that will so vitalize the church. Win souls and your auditorium will be filled. Win souls and your finances will increase. Win souls and your prayer meetings will be well attended. Win souls and your Sunday school will grow. Win souls and your church members will forget sin and worldliness in this passionate, breathlessly exciting task. Win souls and the pulpit will flame with zeal for Christ and for the souls of men. Win souls and the sermons will come red-hot from the throne of God. Win souls and the community, the city, the country will be constrained to turn aside to see this wondrous sight of a church aflame for the Lord, yet unconsumed.
Let us organize our evangelical churches in groups, a local community or an entire city, and attack this divine task. We may not all agree on the form of baptism. We may not all agree on the procedure in the Lord’s Supper. We may not all agree on the minutiae of ecclesiology. We may not all agree on every detail concerning the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We may not all agree on everything concerning the manner of the work of the Holy Spirit. We may not all agree on denominational affiliation and connections. For as long as this world stands, until the Lord Jesus Christ appears, until we shall know even as we are known, there are bound to be differences of interpretation. But on these two things we can agree: lost men need Christ; Christians need consecration. These two things are the very heart of mass evangelism. If we really love the Lord Jesus Christ; if we really believe the Bible; if our hearts are really moved for the souls of men, nothing, absolutely nothing, stands between us in the matter of organizing into massed onslaughts on Satan, into massed harvesting of souls.
Third, we must EVANGELIZE. I believe I have said enough about it. Permit me to press it a little more into your hearts. We must evangelize personally.
Whatever our churches may do, we must do personal work on all occasions. Whatever program our denomination may pursue, we must continually and continuously give ourselves to the task of fishing for men with hook and line. Whether churches get together in gigantic ventures, we ourselves cannot, dare not, must not, use anything as an excuse to keep us from going after the lost.
We must evangelize in the local churches. Nothing that I have suggested in this appeal should be considered as taking the place of the local, one-church revivals. Look about you. Study Christian statistics. Consider the churches over all the land, regardless of connection or affiliation. It is a burning, irrefutable fact that the glowing, growing churches are the going churches which believe in and practice evangelism. The great majority of them major on annual, or even more frequent, revivals. God’s blessing is on them. The churches which are losing their crowds, growing cold and powerless, regardless of their oft-repeated excuses and alibis, have started on their downward path because they have relegated revival campaigns into the experiences of the past. Try it, brethren! Give God this chance. It will work because it has worked. If your church is slipping, call on God and give yourself into His hands for an evangelistic campaign. See your people come back. See the prayers begin to rise in holy incense to God. See the crowds come flocking to your churches. Hear the shout of new-born souls. See the cobwebs of dulness and unconcern brushed out of the way. Watch the blessed Holy Spirit come in and take charge.
The world will not be touched by small attempts. This is the day of great adventures. The masses are used to the gigantic, to the superlative. They are thinking in terms of millions, even of billions. The individual can go just so far, and it is not a very long distance in view of the terrain to be covered. The one local church can go quite a bit farther, but it will not, because it has not made much of an impact on the myriads. With all my soul, I believe that engaging large numbers of churches in community-wide or citywide enterprises will startle, stir, and, by God’s grace, save the crowds who now are so utterly, so hopelessly untouched and unmoved. There is nothing to be lost in such a program. Watch out for such objectionable features as money-pulls and as high-pressure methods in preaching, in the appeals, in the invitations. What can be wrong with such an unselfish essay, when the sole purpose is to crown the Lord Jesus Christ Lord of all in the hearts of many? These meetings will pay for themselves in every way. They can do no harm. They will do incalculable good.
How much longer shall we wait? Hell is threatening to devour the world. The forces of evil have banded together to destroy every vestige of the holy, the righteous, the honest, the pure, the honourable, the virtuous, the decent. Are we going to let them have the field uncontested? Are we going to grant them the victory without a battle? Are we going to try to stop them with a skirmish here, a small pitched battle yonder, the defense of a beleaguered sector somewhere else? No, a thousand times no! By every drop of Christ’s precious blood, by every promise in the Holy Word, by every memory of every martyred hero, by the blazing torch flung to us by the stalwarts of the cross who fought the bitter war to the glorious victory, we are going to combat Satan to a standstill. The promise still is that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. The promise still is that we shall inherit the kingdom. The promise still is that Prince Immanuel, our Commander in Chief, shall have the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for His possession.
I beseech you, let us call America to a holy crusade. Let us Agonize. Let us Organize. Let us Evangelize. With some such intense and intensive program as suggested in this humble message, let us marshal our forces, and as an army with conquering banners let us go out to war and to win.
Christ is Our Strength by Hyman Appelman