The Person of the Call and the Fellowship
May we have a further word of prayer: "Lord, when we pray, it is our way of saying we cannot do without Thee. There is nothing that we can do without Thee. We are wholly dependent on Thee, Lord, and we acknowledge it, and we are very conscious of it. If there is to be anything of eternal value in this time, it must be Thyself Who is doing it. We also lift our hearts to Thee in a humble, earnest dependence; and, we say to Thee, Lord, You speak and give us to hear Thee, deeper than the voice that Thou dost use as Thine instrument, for Thy Name's sake, Amen."
Before we come to the actual message which I feel the Lord has given, there are one or two preliminary things that I would like to say. I think you will agree with me if you know anything about conditions today inside Christianity and outside it, the greatest need of our time is a reappraisal of Christianity, a new apprehension of what we come into when we come to Christ. There has been much lost, very much lost, of the true nature and essence of Christianity, and there has been much distortion, resulting in confusion. I repeat, the need of our time is a re-presentation and understanding of what it is we have come into when we come into Christ.
This is an age of cheapness. Get it as cheaply and as quickly as you can, with just as little cost and tiresomeness. "Get it quickly: get it easily." That thought governs the whole world system. Everything is now aligned to getting it done easily and getting it done quickly. It is that way in your kitchen, your scurrying, your household affairs, and in every other realm. What is true in the secular has now become very largely true in the spiritual. The standards have been terribly lowered. Bigness has substituted greatness. Greatness, the true meaning of the word is no longer considered. Oh, how we hear, "Big, oh yes, the bigger, then assuredly that is the most successful," but this is absolutely contrary to the Bible, to all gospel. It is like that.
Ease and easiness, lightness, glamorousness, excitement, emotion: this is the order of our day. This hurrying that we are speaking of comes so largely into Christianity: and the result is that we have quite a poor type of Christian.
Now, you may despise the Puritans, but the devil, someone has said, has made great capital out of using that word, "puritan," by way of discrediting something that was very vital and deep, strong and foundational, for the foundations were well laid in those days. Perhaps it is a good sign that today such people as the Moody Press are reproducing the writings of the Puritans. A very good sign! There is a bringing back of that substantial teaching of past generations. Reproducing, that is a good sign, perhaps indicating a direction at least.
I am very glad that there is a manifest outreach, especially on the part of young people, for reality. They are tired and sick of unreality. That is a very good thing indeed if only they find reality and do not go in for the substitutes that are today being retailed so lavishly, the substitutes which seem to be real and are an illusion.
Well, you have, therefore, today a superficial kind of Christianity: it is shallow. There is very little stamina about it. As soon as things become difficult, contrary, and seem not to be what was expected, people begin to back off. Their expectation was a false one. Things are not what they expected and are getting rather hot and rather tiresome and rather exacting; and then, as the Scripture says, "in the last time many shall fall away." The stamina is not there: there is no power of endurance. The public looks very good and very pleasant where, for a little while, it is address that seems to attract, but it easily wears out. It does not last. That is a condition of our time, a lot of noise and a lot of show.
There is a fear of seriousness and a fear of death. The slogan today is "Are you happy?" Even amongst Christians, the question is one of "Are you happy?" Well, perhaps there are two ways of thinking about that; but let me say at once, and I have young Christians very much in mind as I am speaking, that if you are going on with the Lord, you are going to have some unhappy days. Is that too bad to say right at the beginning of a conference?
I was at a conference once, and a large number of Christian ministers was there. We had a week on the Cross, and it was a devastating week. In the end, an appeal was made for testimonies as to what the week had meant to these men, and one very excitable man got up. Everything for him was wonderful, marvelous, terrific. It was tremendous. He sat down. Presently, a man got up onto the platform, and he said, "Wonderful? Happy? Why, I have just been shattered, smashed to pieces. My whole life has been taken down to be made all over again." That man counted for God after that. You understand what I mean?
So, while we are going to be joyful in the Lord, sometimes there is a large gap between being happy and joyful. "Happy" depends upon "hap": "Joy" goes on whatever "happens." Well, this is something that I must say at the beginning: there is a need of a recovery or reappraisal of the true nature of that into which we have come when we have come into Christ.
Now, we are going to begin and take a brief statement in the Scripture as the basis of these considerations. You will find it in the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 9: "God is faithful, through Whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." "CALLED," underline the word, "called," into "fellowship with His (God's) Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."