"Evangelicalism's emotional detachment from the pain and peril of this lost world"
Good evening to you all again, it's good to be with you once more this Saturday evening. Psalm 126 please, just two verses from it, and then John's gospel chapter 11 and one verse from it. Psalm 126 verses 5-6: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him". Then John chapter 11 please, verse 35: "Jesus wept".
Last night, if you were here, we looked at the title of 'When Hell Freezes Over' - Evangelicalism's modern aversion to the doctrine of eternal punishment, and the evangelistic consequences of that. I'm not going to repeat anything really, apart from the two major points - and that was: we found first of all that we must rediscover the truth of hell; and then secondly we saw that we must allow the rediscovery of hell to motivate us again to world evangelisation. Tonight I'm taking as my title 'Tiny Tears' - and, as you can imagine, I'm not going to talk about a child's doll, but I'm taking that as a title because I believe that Evangelicalism has come to have an emotional detachment from the pain and the peril of the lost. Very few tears are shed for those who are without Christ.
An evangelist tells the story of visiting Francis and Edith Schaeffer in their Switzerland home in L'Abri. After dinner one night the conversation ranged over several profound theological subjects, and suddenly someone asked Dr Schaeffer: 'What will happen to those who have never heard of Christ?'. Everyone around the dinner table was waiting for some great theological answer, a weighty intellectual response - and none came. Instead, he bowed his head and wept.
You see, that is the reaction that the reality of hell - that we considered last night - requires of us: to bow our heads and weep. Yet it is so lacking. I know it is lacking in my life, and I imagine that you're no different. R. Dale once said of D.L. Moody that 'he had the right to preach about hell, because he so clearly did so from a weeping heart'. Do we have weeping hearts when we attempt to speak to others about their need of Christ?
I stumbled across a website on the Internet on the subject of mental health, and it was talking about tears and weeping. It said that crying is our first language - as babies we cried to let our parents know that we were scared, or hungry, or tired. It was our way of saying 'I need help right now'. It listed two purposes of crying: one, it announced that something is hurting us; and two, it is a mechanism to release the pain of whatever is hurting us. One, it announced that something hurts - does it hurt to us to know that people are lost? Do we shed tears to release that pain because of the hurt that it causes?
Albert Smith, a Christian writer, said: 'Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on'. M. R. DeHaan said: 'A tear is the distillation of the soul, it is the deepest longing of the human heart in chemical solution'. Herbert Lockyer said: 'Tears are liquid prayer'. So we might well ask the question: why it is then that the church seems to be suffering today from 'dry-eyed syndrome'? Whether it's in the pulpit - and I'm as guilty as any - or in prayer meetings, or in private: if tears are an expression of our emotions, therefore it can only be the conclusion that we reach that Christians have become emotionally detached from the pain and the peril of the lost. We have allowed our tear ducts to become cauterised by the spirit of the age, whether it's materialism, pluralism, atheism, post-modernism - eternal realities are no longer real enough to make us want to cry over them!
Now when we look to this book, we find that all the great men of God in it - and indeed in Christian history - who saw a great work done for God, were broken spirits with wet eyes. Men and women whose hearts were broken! Jeremiah compared his weeping as a fountain, a river of tears - the expression insinuates that his whole head had become water because of his weeping for the nation. We come to the New Testament, and Paul the apostle four times described himself as 'serving the Lord with all humility and with many tears'. But of course there is no greater example than the Man of Sorrows Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ - a life, I believe, that was saturated in tears, though we only read of a number of occasions. We read of Him weeping over a sinful city in Luke 19: 'And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it'. We read of Him tonight in John 11:35, and He is weeping over sin's wages - for the wages of sin is death, and a very close friend of His, Lazarus, had died. He is weeping over what sin has done to humanity. We read of Him in Hebrews 5 and verse 7, weeping over sin's sacrifice: 'Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared'. He was weeping in Gethsemane over the sacrifice that He was about to pay for our sins. He wept.
It seems today that if the church in general isn't freezing in intellectualism, it is frying in emotionalism - and yet even with those two extremes, there are few, it appears, who weep over lost souls. We are more moved at times over a dead dog lying in the street, or a child lost in the woods, than we are about millions of people heading to hell. If we're going to see revival in Ulster, and if we're going to see it in Ireland, and if we're going to see people thrust into the harvest field from this place, we are going to need to see brokenness! Like the brokenness of the prophets, like the brokenness of the apostles, like the brokenness of Christ Himself, like the brokenness of our forefathers - they knew it! We need to discover again the weeping way of our Lord: that they that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. 'He', or she, 'that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed', the word of God, 'shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them'.
This was the way of Murray M'Cheyne, an old Scottish Presbyterian minister. His old sextant had the privilege of showing some tourists around his church in Dundee, and his manse. Some of these American tourists asked the sextant to show them how his old master used to study and preach. So he took them into the manse, into his study, and he said: 'Now sit down and put your head in your hands on the desk, put your face in your hands and let the tears fall - for that is the way my master studied!'. Then a little bit later on he brought them into the church, and he went up into the pulpit and said: 'Now lean over, lean way over, stretch out your hands to the congregation, and now let the tears fall - that's the way my master preached!'.
It was the way George Whitefield sought to win souls. One who knew him well said he hardly knew him go through a whole sermon without weeping. His voice was often interrupted by tears, sometimes so excessive as to stop him. He said: 'You blame me for weeping, but how can I help it when you will not weep for yourselves, though your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction? For aught you know, you are hearing your last sermon, and may nevermore have an opportunity to have Christ offered to you'. What a great soul winner George Whitefield was.
It was the way Colonel Clark of the United States preached. R. A. Torrey, the evangelist, recites - I'm just giving it to you as he gives it to us - 'One of the mightiest soul winners I ever knew was Colonel Clark of Chicago. He would work at his business six days every week, and every night in the week all year round 500-600 men would gather in that Mission Hall. It was a motley crowd: drunkards, thieves, pickpockets, gamblers and everything that was hopeless. I used to go and hear Colonel Clark talk - and he seemed to me one of the dullest talkers I have ever heard in my life. He would ramble along, and yet these 500-600 would lean over and listen, spellbound, while Colonel Clark talked in his prosy way. Some of the greatest preachers in Chicago used to go down to help Colonel Clark, but the men would not listen to them as they did to Colonel Clark. When he was speaking, they would lean over and listen, and be converted by the score! I could not understand it. I studied it, and wondered what the secret was - why did these men listen with such interest? Why were they so greatly moved by such prosy talking? I found the secret: it was because they knew that Colonel Clark loved them, and nothing conquers like love. The tears were very near the surface with Colonel Clark'. What a statement! The tears were very near the surface with Colonel Clark. 'Once in the early days of the mission, when he had been weeping a great deal over these men, he got ashamed of his tears. He steeled his heart and tried to stop crying, and succeeded - but lost his power. He saw that his power was gone, and went to God and prayed, 'O God, give me back my tears'. God sent him back his tears, and gave him wonderful power with God and with men'.
Do we not need to pray: 'O God, give me back my tears'? If ever we had those tears! Is there more that we can do than just ask God to give us tears back? Well, I think there is. That mental health website I was looking at describes how, when we grow into adulthood, we are pressurised by others to bottle up our tears, not express ourselves - whether we think, as men, that it's not manly, or it shows weakness in some way. Of course, as you probably know, that's not a healthy thing - the best thing, at times, is just a good old cry. It's not spiritually healthy not to be able to shed a tear. They suggest on this website, on a human level, that to get yourself crying you need to sit there and watch a soppy movie or something like that, or watch Bambi - and everybody seems to cry when Bambi's mother gets killed. Those are crocodile tears, aren't they? That's not what we're looking for, we're not looking for theatrical tears - and so often we can think of things that hurt us in our minds, and we can start to blurt, and it's got nothing to do with lost souls that are dying.
It was Dr William Chapman who suggests a way whereby we can stir up concern and brokenness in our hearts. He simply says: 'Take your New Testament and go quietly to a quiet place, and read a sentence like this, 'He that believeth not is condemned already''. Chapman says, 'Think about that for 10 minutes. Put your boy over against that verse. Put your wife there, your husband, your little girl. Then take another verse, 'He that hath not the Son of God hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him''. He says: 'I know that a soul thus burdened generally gains its desire'.
Charles Finney, who saw great revival in the United States, urged seekers after concern to look, as it were, into a telescope into hell - now if you want to do that, Luke 16 is the best place to start, for that's where the Lord Jesus gives us a telescope into hell. 'Hear their groans', he says, 'Turn the glass then upwards, look into heaven and see the saints there in their white robes, hear them sing the song of redeeming love - and ask yourself: is it possible that I should prevail with God to elevate the sinner there?'. 'Do this', Finney says, 'and if you're not a wicked man, you will soon have as much of the spirit of prayer as your body can sustain'.
Now Paul had that. Turn with me quickly to Romans 9 to illustrate this. Verse 1: 'I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed', damned, 'from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh'. He spoke of it again in Galatians chapter 4 and verse 19, though he was speaking to believers, he was expressing the travail that was in his soul. He says: 'My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you'. There is a birth process, birth pangs that need to be experienced by the church and by the child of God, if people are going to be born again at home or on the mission field.
When we read the words of Paul, it's as if the heart of Christ dwelt in his own bosom. Let's face it, none of us in and of ourselves have any love that is worth anything in God's eyes. The love we are talking about here is agape love, it is a supernatural love, it's something that is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the heart of Christ in our bosom, as it was for Paul - and it will transform human relationships, it will pay the price that David and Rachel have done in their family to go and tell others, it will love the unlovable. It will enable us not to be indifferent any longer, for it is the heart of Christ!
Now how do you know someone else's heart? We celebrated 10 years married, but I know there's a lot of people here many more years married - but you know how it gets: you learn to second-guess one another, don't you? You grow to know the person, you know their heart - the only way to get the heart of Christ is to be intimate with Him, to spend time with Him. His burden becomes your burden. That's what Laodicea was asked to do, individuals in it that is, in Revelation 3 and verse 20: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me' - that's communion. I speak reverently, but what the Lord is describing is you sitting down and - we would have a cup of tea with each other and share burdens from our hearts - and He wants to do that with us! The only way to get it is meeting with Him.
We need brokenness over lost souls, and the only way we can get it is communing with our brokenhearted Saviour. Winners of souls must first be weepers for souls. John Henry Jowett said: 'We can never heal needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion. We must pity if we would redeem. We must bleed if we would be ministers of the saving blood. The disciple's prayer must be stricken with much crying and many tears. The ministers of Calvary must supplicate in bloody sweat, and their intercession must often touch the point of agony. True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice'.
Tiny tears have been a mark of the church for too long. Evangelicalism's aversion to the doctrine of eternal punishment, and its evangelistic consequences, has born within us an emotional detachment from the pain and peril of a lost world. George Bernard Shaw was no Christian, but he spoke the truth when he said: 'The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them'. If true soul winning is to be revived, if missionary endeavour in our country is to be revived, we must rediscover true spiritual brokenness - that they that sow in tears will reap in joy - for tears are God's glue that makes the gospel stick, tears are the oil that lubricates the wheel of world evangelisation: tears at home for missionaries abroad, tears of preachers, tears of Christians for their lost souls in their families and friends.
Someone has said: 'Tears win victory. A cold, unfeeling, dry-eyed religion has no influence over the souls of men. Either you don't really believe in hell, or you are culpably callous' - there's no in between. You either don't believe in this place, or your heart ought to be broken for those who are going there.
I benefited in my teenage years from a group called 'Young Life' - they used to be called 'The National Young Life Campaign' - they have a very distinct hymnbook. There's a lot of hymns, soul winning hymns, in it that I don't find in many other hymn books. One of them - you might know it, some of you - goes like this, and I'll leave you with these words:
'With a soul blood-bought and a heart aglow,
Redeemed of the Lord and free,
I ask as I pass down the busy street,
Is it only a crowd I see?
Do I lift my eyes with a careless gaze,
That pierces no deep-down woe?
Have I naught to give to the teeming throng,
Of the wealth of the love I know?
As I read in the Gospel story oft,
Of the Christ who this earth once trod,
I fancy I see His look on the crowd,
That look of the Son of God.
He saw not a number in might or strength,
But a shepherd-less flock distressed,
And the sight of those wearied, fainting sheep
Brought grief to His loving breast.
Dear Lord, I ask for the eyes that see
Deep down to the world's sore need,
I ask for a love that holds not back,
But pours out itself indeed.
I want the passionate power of prayer
That yearns for the great crowd's soul,
I want to go 'mong the fainting sheep
And tell them my Lord makes whole'.
And here's the chorus:
'Let me look on the crowd as my Saviour did,
Till my eyes with tears grow dim,
Let me look till I pity the wandering sheep,
And love them for love of Him'.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lifeboat Mission in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Evangelicalism's Evangelical Emergency' series, entitled "Tiny Tears" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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