Well, it's just been wonderful to share with you in this special day as you launch - well, I know it's been launched for a while now in anticipation, but I suppose officially today as you move out into this next year ahead of evangelism. It's exciting to hear what you are intending to do, and I wish you God's blessing in that year ahead, and the time after it when I hope there will be reaping from the preaching of the word.
I want you to turn with me to a portion in the Old Testament, to Numbers chapter 11 please. Numbers chapter 11 might seem an odd passage to read from, considering 'Is Jesus Enough? The Necessity of Christ' - but all will become clear, I hope it will become clear, a little while later.
Beginning to read at verse 1 of Numbers 11: "Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire was quenched. So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the LORD had burned among them. Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: 'Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!'. Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its colour like the colour of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it. Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased".
Let's pray. I know we have been praying much - you can never pray too much. As we come before the Word, we want to have spirits that are receptive to the Holy Spirit's voice. So let's come and seek to attune ourselves now - I know it's been a long morning, and you have a lot to take in, but we do want now to really encounter God and to hear His voice through the Word. So let's come and turn our hearts toward Him: Heavenly Father, we do believe that Your great desire is that Your Son would be celebrated in our midst, and exalted and extolled. Lord, we would just do that, we would seek in the Holy Spirit to uplift the Lord Jesus Christ, to say that He is altogether lovely, that He is Your Beloved Son and He is our Wonderful Saviour, Lord, Master, Redeemer, and Friend. He is great, and greatly to be praised. Just as You have said: 'Behold Him, hear Him in whom is all My delight'; Lord, we would say today that we are well pleased in Him also. Yet, Lord, we ask now for the Spirit's help to have a greater capacity to behold Him, to appreciate Him, to be consumed by Him. O God, we need a touch from on high, we need Your breath, we need You to come and witness Christ to us, testify of Him. O God, we need You, we so need You to come and to minister to our hearts. Our churches need You, our province and our island needs You - O God, come, we pray, and meet with us now. In the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Is Jesus enough? Of course He is. He is sufficient, and He is enough - but I want to pursue the same line as I did with you in the last session. Yes, He is enough and sufficient on paper, even in sacred writ, but what about on the parchment of our lives? I think I'm right in saying, and I'm not speaking essentially doctrinally, but people generally don't have much of a problem with Christ, the popular persona. I mean, if you stop people in the street and ask them what they think of Jesus Christ historically, there is not an awful lot of people that would say anything bad about Him. But often the problem that people have with Christ is how we have represented Him, or how He has been misrepresented down through the annals of Christian history.
One prominent example of this is Mahatma Gandhi, some of you may know the story. Of course Gandhi was a Hindu, nevertheless he was an admirer of Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount in particular. On one occasion the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi. He asked him: 'Mr Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming His follower?'. Gandhi replied: 'Oh, I don't reject your Christ, I love your Christ - it's just that so many of your Christians are so unlike your Christ'. He actually went on to cite an incident, which I'll not go into, of racial abuse that he experienced when, as a student in South Africa, he attempted to enter a church. From that moment, Gandhi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church.
We do need to listen to such stories: 'It's not your Christ, but that many of your Christians are so unlike your Christ'. Now the big issue, I feel, is - and this is what I've felt the Holy Spirit moving me toward in these two messages: is Christ enough for us? That will have a direct consequence on whether or not we communicate Him as sufficient and as enough to others. Generally the world is not critiquing our sermons, it is not analysing our dogma, they are scrutinising our lives - and we must show Jesus is enough for us. Well, is He?
Look back at Numbers 11 here, particularly verses 5 and 6. The Israelites said in the wilderness: 'We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except' - and I want you to hear, I hope, the true intonation of the disdain in which they say, 'except this manna before our eyes!'. Now the context is that the mixed multitude have caused the Lord's people to be discontent with heaven's bread. I think the NIV translates 'mixed multitude' as 'the rabble', the word is 'the riffraff'. We're not 100% sure who these people were, but we know that they were worldly non-Jews - probably, some of them, Egyptians who saw that the God of Israel was for His people and moved out in the exodus with Israel. There may have been other Gentiles, but they went out with Israel in the exodus - and yet they still had their carnal attitudes and appetites, and it began to rub off on the Israelites. God's commentary on this incident is found in Psalm 78, and it says there that God opened heaven for them, for the Israelites, He rained down blessing from above. Men ate angel's food - imagine that! This manna... and yet now the bread of Heaven was no longer enough. They grumbled about God's provision, 'It's not enough any more'.
An almost identical situation arose when the Jews of Jesus' day grumbled about Him. I want you to turn with me to John chapter 6 please, verse 48. Our Lord is speaking, and He says: 'I am the bread of life', and now He alludes to Numbers 11, 'Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world'. 'The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, 'How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?'. Then Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you''.
There is no doubt that manna was a prophetic picture of Christ, and indeed in all these wilderness examples we have our warnings to the church. The apostle Paul told us that in 1 Corinthians 10: 'Do not complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come'. So Numbers 11 is for us, Numbers 11 is for the church. The typical teaching in manna is for New Testament, new covenant believers. What is the lesson? Israel grew tired of the heavenly bread, 'this manna'. I think encapsulated in that phrase is: 'It's not exciting enough! This manna is boring, it's a mundane, staple diet. We hanker after what we used to have in Egypt' - and they were not seeing the glory any more in the fact that Almighty God, their covenant keeping God was raining down supernatural food for them every day. They lost the glory.
Now, we will all say 'Amen' to this next statement: Christ is definitely not boring. But many Christians are boring, and many Christians are bored, and many churches are boring - and many of our people are sitting in the pew bored to tears. The question is: why? One simple answer alluding to this incident is that they no longer see Christ's glory, they're not seeing it, they're not getting a true Holy Spirit revelation of the greatness and the glory of the Christ of God - but to turn that around toward us and an application today: one of the reasons why they are not seeing it is that it's not being manifested in our lives and in our midst. They're not being helped to see it.
When you go to Numbers 21, they start complaining again about manna, and listen to what they say there: 'Our soul loathes this worthless bread!'. Such strong language! That led to dissatisfaction, not just in their own hearts, but it spread in their homes, among their children, to the wider family circle, and throughout the whole congregation - and if you know the wilderness story, you will know that there came a great falling away because of this incident. So I believe we can take out of this that when there is not a true manifestation of the life of Christ in us, in our churches, people will use substitutes instead - and there will come a great falling away. I think that's what we're seeing, to a large extent.
Look at John 6 again please, verses 55 and 56, Jesus says: 'For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him'. Eating is a very graphic symbol, isn't it? In the short term, what does eating do for us? It makes us satisfied. In the long term, it sustains life - and that is what we are meant to do in relation to our Lord Jesus Christ personally. We are meant to be eating of Him by faith, we are meant to be feeding upon Him. He says here: it is abiding in Him. Short-term we get satisfied in our spiritual hunger as we feed on Christ, but long term it sustains our lives as we go on in this Christian pilgrimage. But many of our people, let's face it, they have ceased feeding upon Christ - and because of that they have accepted substitutes. It has become the same in many churches: we feel that we have to offer more than Christ. I would say that we have been influenced by the mixed multitude. We feel that we must appeal to the worldliness of the masses.
Now, please don't misunderstand what I'm saying - I believe that by all means we ought to reach the lost, and I'm not speaking in any way against the things that have been mentioned already. But what I am saying is: whatever we are doing, it should never be at the expense of the power and presence of Christ. You see, this is really the essence of idolatry: a substitute for Christ, or a rival to Christ. The little book of 1 John is intriguing, I suppose the major theme overarching it is fellowship with God. I always used to be fascinated with the last verse, 1 John 5:21, 'Little children, keep yourselves from idols'. It seems to just jump out of the blue from nowhere, unless you truly understand that the biggest obstacle to fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ - which is eternal life, John 17 verse 3 - is any idol, any substitute, anything that would come between us and God. Not just something iniquitous, but something good, something moral, something positive - but something that is over and above Christ being central and sufficient. Of course in 1 John he talks so much about this spirit of antichrist - and antichrist is not just against Christ, antichrist is a substitute Christ, in His place.
My mind went to 1 Samuel 5, the story of the Philistines. You remember they captured the Ark of the Covenant, and they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod, and housed it in the house of Dagon - the fertility fish god. We read in 1 Samuel 5, I love this story, verses 2 to 4: 'When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by', beside, 'Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon's torso was left'. The story finishes that great fear fell on all the Philistines, so that no one ever set foot in Dagon's temple again - why? Because the Lord demonstrated that He would not share His glory with another.
Now we accept that when it comes to the panorama of false, heathen deities like the gods of the Philistines, the Hittites and the Amorites - but the question for us is: is Christ enough for us? Is He enough for the church? Is He unrivalled in our lives? The essence of idolatry is replacing Him with an 'it'. Let me repeat that: the essence of idolatry is replacing Him with an 'it'. Your 'it' could be an experience that you've had, it could even be your new birth. It could be a doctrine that you cherish. It could be a practice, denominationally or sacramentally. It could be a scheme of Bible interpretation. It could be your own denomination. It could be a form of service that you're engaged in. It could be a position or role that you have in the church. It could be a spiritual gift, or it could be an ability that God has given you - but we must always beware of replacing Him with an 'it'. The question we need to ask ourselves is: what is central to our spiritual lives? What is central to our churches? Is it Christ and Christ alone? Is the power of Christ being manifested in our personal lives, in our homes, and in our church communities?
Hanging in a Berlin gallery there is a most unusual picture by the artist Menzies, it is called 'The Unfinished Painting'. The artist was portraying the King and his generals, but so long a time had been taken painting in the details of the generals that the artist died before he had depicted the central figure, the King. There in the centre of this picture is a blank which should have portrayed the King. All the generals are in all their regalia and splendour, but the King is missing. Take Paul the apostle, what was central to his life? Well, Paul formerly had been occupied painting generals, hadn't he? His doctrines in Judaism, his traditions, the philosophies - but on the road to Damascus, what happened to him? Yes, he was converted, we might put that language on it - he had a revelation of the risen glorified Christ, and that changed everything! From that time on he placed Christ at the centre of his picture. He put it like that in Philippians 3: 'Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ'. Christ was central to Paul's existence: 'For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain'.
I challenge you: read his works. The next time you're reading through his epistles and so on, don't just note what he says, note what he doesn't say, note what he doesn't talk about. It's quite intriguing. There is very little biographical material in Paul's writings. He shares a little bit about what he was before his conversion, he touches on some of his sufferings - but you know the whole debate about was he, or wasn't he, married. I mean you would expect him to have mentioned that, just to clear up a few things for us, but it's not even there. There is nothing of his early childhood, there is nothing of his mother or his father, there is nothing of his academic achievements. All the space he can use up is taken with extolling Christ! When he's in prison you don't know the number of bars there are in the windows, you don't know how damp the walls were, or how hard the bed was, or what the meals were like - it's all Christ! When writing from Rome, you don't hear of the political situation in the Empire, you don't hear any commentary on the latest edict of Nero, he doesn't mention the attempted assassination of the Emperor or the slave uprising - all we find from Paul the apostle is Christ, the Chief Cornerstone, the Head of the Body who is far above all principalities and powers, who fills all in all! As we saw in the last session, he determined to know nothing among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
If Jesus is enough, and we profess that He is, we must make Him and Him alone central to our lives and central to our churches. There must be no competition. If there is something else in His place, or striving for preeminence; if there's someone else, for that matter, in His place; we must depose it, or him, or her, and enthrone Christ. The biggest obstacle in Christ's way in my life is David Legge. Ourselves can be the greatest blockage to that fellowship and that preeminence of Jesus, the Lordship of Christ. It could be sin, personal besetting sin that we have not overcome yet that is robbing us. It could be selfishness in a worldly sense, or even in the spiritual sphere - selfish ambition in the place of ministry. It could even be an agenda that we have in our churches. I'm not suggesting for one moment that this is what has motivated your year of evangelism, but I do know having moved around a little doing Gospel Missions that some churches - some of them have been Baptist churches - have been motivated to have a mission to unite a divided church. It doesn't work, and you'll kill the evangelist in the process! Neither must our evangelism be motivated by filling the church, or keeping the denominational end up. It must be for Christ and Christ alone - and I believe that unless it is the glory of Christ that is central, God will not give the increase! He will not share His glory with another!
The church motto was once hanging outside the door: 'Jesus only', and with the wind and the rain it got a bit tattered, and eventually it ripped off and the torn sign simply ended up reading, 'us only'. The bottom line is, some of us need to get out of the way. We all need to move over and give Him His pre-eminent place in our lives and in our churches. I mean, who would have wanted to be John the Baptist? I know you're all Baptists - but who would have wanted to be John the Baptist? A ministry that went downhill, that went the opposite direction of popularity. Who would have wanted to see the crowds deplete around you and go off - even it is the Son of God? He was man, he was flesh and blood - and then he ends up in prison! I don't know whether deep down in his heart he wanted Jesus to somehow come to his aid or help him, when he sent out the message by his own disciples: 'Ask Him is He the One, or do we look for another?'. Jesus went down the list of things that He was doing, the great miracles that testified that He was the Anointed Messiah - Isaiah 61 - that God had promised; and then Jesus finishes off the comment: 'And blessed is he who is not offended in Me, John'. I think He was saying: 'Whatever I do in relation to you and your ministry, don't let it become a blockage between Me and you'. Yet John was the one who said: 'I must decrease, that He might increase'. Is it any wonder Jesus said there was never a prophet like him?
Distinguished Bible preacher, the late, great Henry Jowett of London, once attended the coronation of Edward VII in Westminster Abbey at the turn of last century. He observed with interest the assembling of the congregation, the seating of princes, princesses, dukes, duchesses and others of lesser nobility, and how homage was paid to them as they came in and were taken to their seats. Then Jowett remarks: 'But then the king arrived, and all eyes turned away from those of lower rank and were fixed upon him. So', Jowett continues, 'literature, music, art, the sciences are worthy of our respectful attention, but when Jesus Christ comes into the heart He must be King, and all lesser subjects take their lesser place'. In our Christian lives we may have progressed somewhat, we may have matured, we may have certain knowledge, we may have gifts, we may have experience behind us, we may have wisdom. Even in our churches, we might have a lot of things going for us - and thank God for what we do have - but all of it is a distraction if Christ is not central, and seen to be central, and central in power and demonstration of that power.
Augustine said: 'Christ is not valued at all, unless He is valued above all'. Christ should be central, and alone in that pre-eminent position in our lives and our churches. Jesus must be enough for us if we wish Him to be thought of as enough by others. So is He central? I mean, is Christ central to your life, to everything that you do, everything that you are? Is He your meat, is He your drink, are you feeding upon His flesh and drinking from His blood? Are you abiding in Jesus Christ? Is He satisfying you? Short-term satisfaction of spiritual hunger, long-term sustaining of life so that it wells up within you as a fountain and flows out as a river to those around, touching lives and changing them? Do you see the glory of Christ? John Piper has that book: 'Seeing and Savouring Christ'. Do you see Him? Do you savour Him? Is He revealed to you by the Holy Spirit? Are you revealing His glory in your life, in your assembly?
I'm not against these things, know that. Many of the missions I'm doing are not traditional missions, and God is blessing, and God is doing great things. We do need to reach out, we do need to push the boundaries, by all means - but listen: we need Christ manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit, the risen Christ standing in our midst. Nothing else will do! Do you see when that happens: you'll not need a lot of other stuff. We do need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. You see, even preaching, it's God's ordained method, and we're not going to throw it out, just like we'll not throw out many of these ways of doing things - but it's not preaching as a method that saves people, it's God that saves people, it's God's Holy Spirit. That's why we can have a glut of preaching, as we have had for donkey's years, and see such little happen - we need God!
Andrew Murray said: 'We have no greater need than to know Christ better'. I think that's it. Maybe a year before a year of evangelism - if you will permit me to say this, and I hope it's not presumptuous to say it - maybe there has been a year, I don't know, of asking ourselves: 'Is Jesus enough for us?'. I know there's a few months left - so why not ask in these few months left: is Jesus enough for us? Why are we, perhaps, not experiencing a true revelation of Christ's life among us? Are their idols? Are their rivals?
Let me leave you with a story that might help you. I heard it many years ago, and it's been such a blessing to me. It's about a man and his wife, and their little daughter who stayed at the home of a friend. On the bedroom wall just over the head of the bed on which they slept, there was a picture of the Lord. It was reflected on a large mirror on the dressing table standing near the bedroom window, just opposite the bed. When the little girl woke up on her first morning there, she saw the picture behind her reflected in the mirror while she was still lying in bed. She exclaimed: 'Oh Mummy, I can see Jesus in the mirror!'. She quickly rose up to take a better look, and in so doing she brought her body between the picture and the mirror - so, instead of seeing the picture of Jesus reflected, she now saw herself. So she lay down again, and again she saw the picture of Jesus. She was up and down several times after that, with her eyes fixed on the mirror, and then she said: 'Mummy, when I can't see myself I can see Jesus; but every time I see myself, I don't see Him'.
When I can't see myself, I can see Jesus; but every time I see myself, I don't see Him.
Let us pray. I don't know what God is saying to you personally. I just know that this burden, this message, is something that is always before me - the love of other things, even good things, even ministerial, evangelical things, can come in the way. The first and great commandment is still the first and great commandment: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. Commandment number one is still: 'No other gods before Me'. Commandment number two is still: 'No graven images'. Our God is a jealous God, not out of some kind of gratuitous anger, but out of gratuitous love. He loves us, we are His darling, we are His bride, and He is jealous over us. He is jealous over our love and affections. The world needs to see Christ in you. The world needs to see, not hear - of course they need to hear it as well, but they need to witness a revelation of Christ in power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. Nothing else will do.
Lord, we have just delivered what we have felt You wanted us to bring. We just leave that now, and we pray that You will have Your way, and do what You will with this. Lord, we pray for each heart here today, each church represented, each community that is represented, each town land, even county. O God, have mercy on us, we need Your Spirit. Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy - and, Lord, give us eyes to see Him in all His beauty, give us hearts to receive the love of God shed abroad. O Lord, we pray like Paul prayed, that we would have eyes to see, that we would be given revelation to see what is the length, breadth, height and depth of this everlasting love that You have lavished upon us. Lord, help us to keep ourselves in the love of God looking for the mercy. Lord, we pray, we need a fresh dealing ourselves, we need to break up the fallow ground that You may rain righteousness upon us. Whatever You're going to do, if it's You Lord, it will not be worked up from our end, it will be sent down from heaven's end that You may rain righteousness upon us - for it is time to seek the Lord. Lord, let us plough up all those unused, hard, arid places in our hearts - break it up, that You may come with cool, refreshing rain and revive our hearts. Lord, hear our cry - we want our neighbours, and our loved ones, and our friends, our countrymen and women to know Christ - but, Lord, we need to know Him more, and we need to reveal Him more that they may see that we have been with Jesus, we have met Jesus. For His glory we pray these things, Amen.
Don't miss part 1 of this message: “Just Jesus Part 1 - The Sufficiency Of Jesus”
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Northern Baptist Association Conference in Dundonald Baptist Church, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Just Jesus Part 2 - The Necessity Of Jesus" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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