I want to begin with two quotations. The first is by C.S.Lewis, from Screwtape Letters:
We have a tendency to think, but not to act. The more we feel without acting, the less we will ever be able to act and in the long run the less we will be able to feel.
That is precisely what is happening to the church of Jesus Christ today. For so long, we have not acted on what we have said that now we no longer feel it. That is why the people who really want to do something today are mostly young people. The older generation felt for so longeven to the point of tears without action, without revolutionthat now they no longer can act. For 19 years I have preached the Word of God in over 1,500 churches in 30 nations, and I have seen this as the universal disease, exactly what C.S.Lewis describes. It frightens me. It is what I have tried to speak about in my book, Hunger for Reality. The double life is something we have got to think about at this convention. If you get a feeling for mission; if you get a feeling for Turkey, or Bangladesh or Bombay; if you somehow feel you want to do something, but you dont. Then next year when you come to a missionary conference youll feel less and some day youll feel so little you wont even bother to come. Thats how the process of degeneration sets in.
The second quote is by J.B.Phillips from Ring of Truth: Here is the first and most deadly casualty in our modern pattern of thinking. We do not seriously believe God is willing to penetrate the inner springs of human character and begin a solitary revolution there.
This unbelief is our incalculable loss. Two thousand years ago something similar was written by James, in the first chapter of his Epistle: Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets, but doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.
What powerful words! Words that should challenge us to become spiritual revolutionaries for Jesus Christ! That will happen when we allow Gods Holy Spirit to begin changing our lives on the inside. As J.B. Phillips said, . . .allowing God to get right into the inner man.
Now it is very important to understand what I am going to say. We know about the miracle of the new birth, praise God. Have you been born again? Are you sure? Do you know the reality of life-changing, heart-changing faith? It is the only faith the Bible talks about. My Bible tells me nothing about the kind of faith that causes the hearer to raise his hand and say I believe in Jesus, but doesnt make any change to his life. Do you have a revolutionary faith? I hope so. But just as the new birth is a miracle, I am convinced that spiritual growth also is a miracle. We Must Grow!
One of the first countries I worked in was Spain. It is less evangelized than Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu etc. My first son was born then. When he was small I used to throw him up in the air and catch him. In a few more years he may be taking daddy in his hands! That is the miracle of growth. I believe the need of spiritual growth is often neglected in our thinking. We preach the new birth. We preach various blessings and crisis that can take place after the new birthand many seem preoccupied with that subject today, but we neglect the doctrine of spiritual growth.
Peter says, Grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. There is no substitute for spiritual growth. The new birth has to be followed by a process or it will soon become an abscess. Oh, how important it is to understand the need for consistent, continual spiritual growth. And it is because people are not growing that they are not going to the ends of the earth. Before God can thrust you out, he wants to build you up. The great need of today is for intensive spiritual training, whatever way you may get it.
A Training Program
On the ship M.V.Logos we had a training program called the Intensive Training Program. It involved supposedly 14 hours a day of hard work. Each trainee had to read 3,000 pages of Christian literature, listen to so many sermons, 100 tapes, distribute tracts, speak to 100 people about Jesus Christ, spend a quota of hours in the ships engine room and doing some of the dirtiest jobs on board, and achieve a dozen other goals. Of course, they had five months to do it. We proved that this program works. It is not a guarantee of spiritual life, because only Jesus gives spiritual life; but it can be a tremendous help to people, who for too long have lived undisciplined lives. I want to be very honest. I learned this from Billy Graham, my spiritual father, that unless you are ready for a disciplined life then forget your Christian commitment. You can get blessed in this meeting, you can be filled with the Spirit, but if you dont learn something of daily discipline, youll never amount to anything for Jesus. I have had young people all over the world tell me, that their problem is that they do not have disciplined lives. Discipline means doing what you know you should do rather than what you feel like doing.
Feelings and Faith
I have Himalayan feelings that go up and down like a lift! Sometimes I feel so committed to Jesus Christ. Do you ever feel that way? I love musicChristian music, powerful words as Larry Norman and others sing them. I feed on the stuff. When I hear it I feel like shouting, The world for Christ! Lets go out on the streets. Lets win souls! My feelings soar. Any of you ever had that experience? The next morning, at 6:00 a.m., a brother knocks on my cabin door and I wish I could choke him! I love sleep. Good old-fashioned sleep! And this fellow has the nerve to knock on my door at 6:00 a.m. and get me out of bed to run with him one mile. Hes mad! I feel totally depressed in the morning. But I have discovered that God gives victory over feelings.
We need to get up in the morning, and whether you run a mile or not thats up to you. But get into Gods Word, get on your knees and get with the Lord before you go out and face people, whether you feel like it or not. I have found that this is a very big thing in my life.
Now, somebody knocking is not enough for me. I have the arrangement with this brother that when he knocks he stands there until he sees me. Otherwise, that summon means nothing; I will just ignore him and go back to bed. But he waits. (The man with this job is 62 years of age and hes got more energy than most people on the ship in their twenties and thirties.) I cant leave him standing there; I have to get up. I open the door, and I want to tell you if you have to look at me morning after morning, eyeball to eyeball, youd better get prayer supporters!
Well, I am not depressed every morning of course. I find if I go to bed early it helps. But my feelings are low. I dont want to read the Bible. I dont want to pray. Ive been doing it for 19 years and I have read it all. Do I have to read it again? Thats why I need a method for breaking my depression. I strenuously exercise my body and run that one mile every morning. (Some mornings I do other exercises; some mornings, to prove I know liberty, I sleep.) I find 90 percent of the time that, when I have finished that mile, my depression has gone.
You can have other methods, but whatever they are you have to learn to overcome living by feelings. There is nothing wrong with feelings. If you feel wonderful, fine. I often do. But you cant trust feelings. You cant put confidence in feelingsit must be in Gods Word. The Lord himself said, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. He doesnt say, If any man comes after me and feels like taking up his cross. . . . The vast majority of Christians I believe, are having a great problem because they have never learned how to deal with their feelings.