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We're turning to John chapter 20, John chapter 20. Of course, we've been looking these nights at 'God's New Thing'. We looked at it in 'Isaiah's Day' on Thursday evening, and 'Messiah's Day' on Friday evening, and then on 'The Day of Pentecost', the last days, on Saturday night. This morning we were along the same theme, talking about whether or not we will be 'Welcomers Of The Next Move Of God' - which, I believe, perhaps might well be the last outpouring of the Spirit before Jesus comes. Tonight I'm really following on a little bit from that, although it's a different subject matter to an extent. The title really is: 'Where Is Jesus Now?'.
As we look at John chapter 20, we find that Jesus has risen from the dead. Here in verse 19 - we're only going to look at one verse initially - we read this, John 20:19: "Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you'".
Now let's pray. Here's what we're going to pray: that Jesus would be in the midst. Alright? So you pray that with me, won't you? And that, when He is here, He speaks. Now we do want His peace, but we would like to hear a bit more about what He has to say to us tonight - and there is a message from the Lord. So let's say: 'Lord, be in our midst, and speak now to me' - would you do that? Whatever your circumstances are, let's pray that.
Father, we come to You in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus, and we thank You for the sonship that we have. We thank You that we are joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that means that whatever is in the will for Him is ours - and that's just amazing! We bless You, Lord, that whatever comes to Him comes to us, because we are now related to Him, and related to You through Him. Lord we pray now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that You will just completely and utterly activate that relationship to an extent tonight where we will be totally and utterly aware that we are in the electric power of God this evening, and that the truth of God, prophetically, is being spoken into our lives, and that You're moving - and not just informing us, Lord, but You are transforming us, that You're actually touching us and making a difference. Now, Lord, there are so many things that the enemy would bombard our minds and our spirits and soul with in order to block out, there are so many claws that he has at times to snatch away the seed of the word. We pray tonight that You will protect Your word, Your prophetic truth that comes forth, that You will use it - and that You, even this evening, as we believe You have been birthing things in our lives and in this church over the last number of days, that tonight You will again birth a new thing. Lord, we ask you to come, Lord Jesus, and stand in the midst, and speak as only You can. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus we pray these things, Amen.
Well, in John 20 verse 19 the disciples have locked themselves away from the outside world. Isn't that very, very graphic in its instruction for us tonight? In many respects, today's church has done the same thing: they are hiding from the world. Those, effectively, who need us the most, we can so often be ostracising ourselves from them. There is no doubt an identifiable centuries-old pattern of isolation in the church. We have locked ourselves away from those who are the broken, the most needy, and at times the untouchables. One commentator asks the question why this so often has been the case in church history, and this is the answer that he gives: 'I think it is because we have just enough of God's life to survive and maintain our lifestyles, but not enough to venture out boldly into the world as ministers to the hurting, like Jesus'. I think he's right. We have enough on our own to get by, to get blessed, to get saved, to get prosperous (in whatever way we might want to apply that), but we haven't enough to actually take it to an overflow whereby it touches people around, so that these rivers of living water don't just spring up within our own spirits as a well, but actually outflow as a raging torrent to touch people in the world around us.
This particular commentator goes on to say: 'The early disciples went into survival mode, a siege mentality' - we know all about that here in Ulster. After Jesus left their physical sight, they actually became so fearful - we read it here in this verse, fear of the Jews - they locked themselves away, and effectively what they were doing was: they were underestimating the power of God and the fullness of His plan for their lives. That is what we do when we isolate ourselves and ostracise ourselves from those who are outside the precincts of the church. In fact, these early disciples had no idea what God was going to do in changing the world through them. Isn't it staggering? When you think of the motley crew that they were, what a hodgepodge of a bunch, a mixture of different backgrounds and abilities and intellects and social classes - and yet God took them and filled them with the Holy Spirit, and effectively, Acts says, turned the world upside down by these ordinary men and women.
Now we touched this morning on endtime truth a little. Sometimes endtime prophetic teaching can be used in order to isolate and stump the influence of Christians today over those who we might call 'outside'. It's often for fear, the same motivation that was here in verse 19, it was for fear of the Jews that these disciples were locked up in this Upper Room, and sometimes it's for fear of what's going on in our world - how dark the days are. We talked this morning about the approaching storm of judgement, the clouds that are gathering as we speak, and sometimes that can cause us - out of fear - to retreat into our bunkers. There are those who have an apocalyptic and very negativistic mindset when it comes to the outlook.
Now don't misunderstand me: there isn't much to jump for joy about around us, if you've got your eyes wide open. But when the mantra becomes: 'Well, let's just be faithful to Jesus until He returns', or 'Hold the fort, for I am coming', 'Everything is going to get worse and worse, therefore what's the point: let's just fasten the things that remain, and hold onto what we can, and batten down the hatches and try our best to weather this storm'. What so easily can happen is that we focus on the signs of the times, and we actually miss the signs of the harvest! We talked about it this morning: I believe there are days of unprecedented trouble that we are heading for in this world. Judgement is not coming, judgement has already begun. But I also believe that the Scripture, as a parallel, teaches the truth that there is, before the second coming of the Lord Jesus, a time of unprecedented blessing, an endtime harvest, an outpouring of the Spirit that will fulfil Acts chapter 2 and Joel chapter 2 - that in the last days, God will pour His Spirit upon all flesh.
Do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples in John 4:35? 'Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!'. Rather than looking up, gazing into heaven, idly looking for signs in the sky - and Jesus prophesied that there would be those, but He never told us to put our focus on those. Rather than looking up to the sky, as some people do, for Jesus just to rapture us out of the mess that we're in - and don't misunderstand me, I believe in these biblical truths, but we've got to make sure that our motivation is correct. We are meant, Jesus said, to lift up our eyes for another reason: to look on the harvest and see that it is waiting to be gathered, and that's why we are here, and that's why He is tarrying - because He's not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto repentance. Do you understand? That's what it's all about: the harvest needs to be gathered!
Where are your eyes? Do you need to lift up your eyes and see the fields that are white? Let's face it: have you ever thought about John 4:35? I mean, if it was obvious to the disciples that the fields were white unto harvest, surely He wouldn't have needed to point it out? Some believe that this wasn't actually a literal harvest of crops, but, in fact, if you look at the context of John 4, there was a whole crowd of Samaritan people who were coming at the behest of the woman at the well, who was converted and got water whereby she would never thirst again. So as this crowd of Samaritans heard about this Man that told this woman all things that ever she did, 'Was He not the Christ?', and words whereby they could be saved; this great crowd of Samaritans were approaching to Him, and many believe He was saying to the disciples: 'Lift up your heads and look, here is the harvest!'.
Where are your eyes? The approaching storm can cause you to look down at your boots, and that's what fear will do. You notice it was fear that paralysed the disciples in verse 19. Can I say something to you, as someone who has been well acquainted over the years with fear: fear is never, ever to be a motivation in guidance for the Christian. You never do anything, or don't do anything out of fear - ever. The only fear that matters and cancels every other fear out is the fear of God, and if you fear God you will fear no one and nothing else. I'm not saying you'll not struggle with it, but you certainly never obey the voice of fear in the guidance of the things of God. But some people are looking up into the sky - and I'm not saying Scripture doesn't command us that we should waiting and watching - but often there is an escapism when it comes to prophetic, endtimes theology; where we are actually blanking out what is around us. Some are looking to their boots in despondency, some are looking to the sky just to get a quick exit out of all this mess, but Jesus actually instructs us: 'Look around you and see the need that is there, see the harvest, this is why you're here, this is why I've left you!'.
These same disciples, of course, later on, would be enquiring about prophetic matters. They were interested in it as well, who wouldn't be? Look with me at Acts chapter 1, of course our Lord has risen again and He's just about to ascend back to His Father in heaven. In verse 6 of Acts 1: 'Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?''. Now there is no doubt about it - and someone just reminded me this morning - how Israel is key. Israel is God's sign to the nations, and we need to take good care at looking to what is happening to the nation of Israel. These were Israelites, these were Judaeans who were asking this question: 'When will You restore the kingdom?'. Listen to the answer: 'He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth''.
Now, what is Jesus saying? 'It's not for you to know all the nitty-gritty details about how the Kingdom is going to come in its full consummated way. You will discern the times, you will know some of the seasons by the signs and indications that I have given you, but your job is - having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit - to get the job done of bringing the harvest'. Surely that needs an 'Amen'? That's your job! Wait till I tell you: if you are Pentecost people, you've got a grave responsibility upon your head, because that's why the Holy Spirit was given - so that you would be witnesses to the uttermost parts of the world. If anybody should be a witness, it should be those who believe in the present-day power of Pentecost. Wait till I tell you: if you are prophetic person - what I mean is 'endtimes prophetic', and you're interested in the second coming of Jesus, and you can't wait until He returns - stop gazing into the heavens looking for Him, and get the job done down here!
We are to be witnesses, that was Jesus' answer to 'When will all these prophetic things happen? When are You going to restore the kingdom of Israel?'. 'It's not for you to know, but when the Holy Spirit comes you will take the Gospel to the four corners of the world'. This really tallies with something that Jesus said in Matthew 24. There in verse 14 listen to what He said: 'This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come'. So if you want to hasten the coming of the Lord Jesus, get preaching the Gospel to every creature, to every tongue, tribe, and nation, to every people group - and there are thousands upon thousands that have never heard. This is what we were chosen for, this is the purpose and destiny of God in our lives. We hear so much bandied about about destiny, 'What is your destiny? Don't miss your destiny!'. This is your destiny: you are predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son, Christ, that you should stand in line with carbon copies of people who are duplicates of Jesus, so that others would see Christ and trust Him.
We were chosen for the bearing of harvest fruit, and this is what the Lord's return is to motivate us to. Can I say, at the end of this 40 days of fasting and prayer, that this is actually what true fasting is all about. This is what true fasting is all about. Can I read to you again, and I know I read it this morning from The Message, but I'm going to read it to you tonight from the NIV - you can follow it, it's Isaiah 58, in your own version, but it might be better if you just listen to it in the NIV. This was a group of Jews who were fasting, and God castigated their fasting because they were fasting for the wrong reasons, the wrong motivation. Then He talks to them about what His type of fast is, His chosen fast. You listen carefully, Isaiah 58:1-12: 'Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out' - that's a good thing, to seek God out, isn't it? 'They seem eager to know my ways' - wow, Christians eager to know the ways of God would be great today, wouldn't it? - 'as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God'. So there was duplicity here, they were making out that they were seeking God, but they were not obeying His commands. 'They ask me for just decisions' - 'Now, God, You have to be just, You have to be fair' - 'and seem eager for God to come near them'. is that not what we want: 'God, come among us, we welcome You'. ''Why have we fasted', they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'. Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?'.
Do you see what's happening here? Oh, they want God to act on their behalf, they want God to pull His finger out and do something, they want God to be just and fair and move on their behalf - but they are not prepared to be just and fair and do righteousness in His eyes, or for that matter in anybody else's eyes. The Lord goes on: 'Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings'. Amen!
Listen: God is not interested in your fasting, He doesn't need your fasting if it's only empty religious ritual, if it's filled with hypocrisy and duplicity, and you're asking God to do things you wouldn't be prepared to do yourself. If there is unrighteousness in your life, do not say: 'Lord, Lord', when you don't do the things that Jesus says. As I said this morning - get the recording if you weren't here - God wants a fasted life. Now He does want us to give up food on occasions in actual literal fasting, but He wants us to live fasted lives, sacrificial lives - not a fasting just to get something out of God as a means to an end. Listen to what Isaiah says: it's not even to be to get God near, but to keep the world far - no, no, no, that can't be. God's chosen fast is fasting that indicates a life of sacrifice for the world, for God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son.
Can I say: here, I believe, is a key in the spiritual realm. For me this is profound, it mightn't be for you - but I believe this is a spiritual key that is missing from a large section of the church today, particularly in the West. Motivationally we might say the Great Commission has become 'the great omission'. Let me explain what I mean. We wonder at times why - those of us who believe in the miraculous and the supernatural - why we are not seeing that supernatural miraculous power evidenced the way we would like. Now, let's be honest: we would love to see more gifts of the Spirit ministering when we are ministering in prayer, we want to see more works of miracles, we want to see more answers to prayer, do we not? We want to see more results from our praying, we want to see more people saved, we want to see more people healed, we want to see renewal and restoration and revival - do we not? We want to see more results for our fasting, but could it be that both motivationally and logistically we are wrong? Now let me explain this: motivationally and logistically we are wrong. Motivationally: as James says, we have not because we ask not. You say: 'Well, you couldn't say that of us, we have been asking' - but then James goes on to say, 'And when you do ask, often you ask that you might consume it upon your lusts'. In other words, you're asking for selfish motivations.
Motivationally often we are selfish, because we're not living for others. We want to see the miraculous for ourselves, we want our own lives to be blessed, we want our own families to be touched, healed, and saved - that's not wrong, but what is wrong is if we do those things at the exclusion of those who really need a touch from the Lord. Logistically that means things are wrong as well, because we are isolated - like the disciples in that upper room - we are where we are not meant to be. We are meant to be taking God's love and power to the needy - and this is the key that I believe is a great omission, that we can be doing things, and praying prayers, and fasting for the wrong motivation. Logistically we are in the wrong place doing what we are doing.
So let me talk, in these closing moments, about our great omission. Could it be that we have been selfish with the love and grace of God? Could it be we have been selfish with the power of God? Could it be that we have been selfish with the supernatural? In other words, we haven't taken it where it is meant to go. I believe this is a key - now, please hear what I'm saying, this has come to me months ago as revelation, and I've never put it into any sermon yet. I've spoken to a few people, a few individuals in a little group, but this is coming - I believe - fresh from the Lord: one reason why we aren't seeing more of the supernatural is because God is withholding the blessing, because He promised it when we go. What did He say in Acts 1:8: 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and then you will be witnesses to Me'. Does He gave this power in order that we just get a feel-good buzz, and have a great roll on the floor, and a wonderful time? Is that what it's about? Or is it about the masses of perishing people that need an anointed witness?
Matthew 28, the Great Commission, 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; and, lo, I am with you always' - the 'go' and the 'lo' come together. He will be with us as we go. In Mark chapter 16 He said to them: 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover... and they went out'. He told them to go, and this would happen; and so they went, 'and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs' - because they went, God went with them!
A very famous modern Christian author puts it like this, listen carefully: 'Many have understood', or misunderstood, we might say, 'why God has covered us with Himself, thinking it is for our enjoyment only. But we must remember, in the Kingdom of God' - this is profound, listen - 'we only get to keep what we give away'. Wow! We only get to keep what we give away, so if we won't give it away, we don't get to keep it! He goes on to say: 'If we don't take this to the world, does He leave us? No, but perhaps this phrase will help to clarify this point, 'He is in me for my sake, but He is upon me for yours''. 'The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and you will be witnesses to Me'. He goes on to say: 'Our debt to the world is an encounter with God. I owe it to the world to have a Spirit-filled life'.
Do you hear what I'm saying? There's a New Testament pattern that has been lost since the church, really, was institutionalised, round about Constantine's time, maybe a wee bit before. It continually is a cycle where people get out of the way of the commission, and it becomes the great omission. But it is being restored in our world, and it needs to be restored again in our province - what is that? A church without walls, a church without boundaries, original Christianity of the Acts of the Apostles. What happened in Acts chapter 2? What happened to these believers huddled together out of fear of the Jews in the upper room? What happens? Jesus says: 'Peace be still', but, boy, when that sound of a mighty rushing wind comes in it's not very peaceful, and all of a sudden the dry bones start to shake, and flesh comes upon it, and God is breathing into this new Temple - and what happens to the disciples? Where are they? The upper room. Where do they finish? The Holy Spirit flushes them out onto the streets, so that everyone hears in their own language the wonderful works of God.
That's what the Holy Spirit always does - and I question any revival that is claimed, and out from it is not the fruit of evangelism and world missions. It has often been the catalyst for revivals around the world, through history, and it certainly is one of the offshoots of it. I think I may have said to you before that in the Acts of the Apostles, I'm led to believe there are 40 miracles, and 39 of them were in the marketplace - does that not say something? Brother Alan, when he heard me mention that, gave me other figures from the Gospels of our Lord Jesus. The figures I have been given are that He had 132 contacts in His life and ministry: six of them were in the Temple, four were in the synagogue, and 122 were on the streets. Does that not tell us where the heart of God is? We want the presence of God to be manifested in our church - Amen? But you know those wee bracelets, 'WWJD', 'What Would Jesus Do?'. We need to ask that question - but a better question would be: where would Jesus be? Where would Jesus be today? I'm going to take it even further, this is my question: where is Jesus now? Where is Jesus now?
You say: 'He is in heaven', that's not what I mean. Bodily He is in heaven, but listen to this, listen to what He says in Matthew 25 that will be a litmus test in this judgement of the sheep and the goats. He says: ''I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me'. And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me''. What is Jesus saying? 'I am the hungry, I am the poor, I am the broken, I am the sick, I am the destitute, I'm out there'. That's often the way it has been in scriptural history, did you know that? Did you know that when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and Moses was leading them - and he had so many headaches he must have been pulling his hair out, I don't know if he was bald, but I'm sure he must have been by the end of it all - so frustrating, a stiffnecked and rebellious people. There is one point at which Moses wants to get God down into the situation - isn't that what we want? In Exodus 33: 'Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp'. He had to get outside God's people to get God down - and I'm telling you, that's been a trend throughout revivals in history, where people have had to go out of the establishment because it was so rotten.
Of course, the author to the Hebrews takes up that very very theme, and he says to us as Christians, Hebrews 13:13: 'Therefore let us go forth to Him', Jesus, 'outside the camp, bearing His reproach'. Do you know who these people where he was writing to? Jews who were starting to take the collywobbles, getting cold feet about leaving Judaism to follow this 'false messiah', as far as the Jews were concerned. The writer was saying: 'No, you've got to, you've got to bear His reproach, and go outside the camp and identify with Him' - but it would be outside the camp that the fire would fall upon them.
Unless you think this doesn't apply, there is another locked room in Revelation chapter 3 - it's the church at Laodicea. If ever there was a picture of the Western, materialistic, affluent church today, it's it. Increased with many goods, in need of nothing, and yet we are blind, we are naked, we're destitute. There Jesus Himself pictures that He is outside the church door, a locked door to Jesus - and He's knocking to get in. Where is Jesus now? I'm not applying this, of course, to this church - but, for a lot of churches, He's outside the door. Where is Jesus now? He's outside the camp. Where will we meet Jesus? Will it be sitting in a holy huddle, continuing to pray for God to come down? I'm not despising that, you know I believe in prayer and seeking God's face with all my heart, but that is not enough. We might as well go and join a monastery, that is not enough. We need to go outside, because that's where He is - that's where you'll find Him. You can sit here until kingdom come, but you need to go outside.
I was at a concert not that long ago in the Waterfront Hall, and Stuart Townend was bringing some praise, and he introduced what's a relatively new song for him, that made a great impression upon me and deeply influenced and formed my thinking about this whole message. It's called 'The Streets of the City', you may want to look at up on the Internet when you go home. Listen to the chorus of that song, speaking to Jesus:
'For You live in the streets of the city,
You stand with the weak and the needy,
You walk with homeless and hungry and poor.
And Your hands are the hands I am lifting,
Your voice is the life I am living;
Your love longs to meet them, but how will they know,
Unless I am willing to go?'.
Where is Jesus? Not, 'Where would He be today?', where is He? He's out there, He is waiting for you to come and work with Him. Now I have got a confession to make - confession is good for the soul. This is really what called me into ministry at the beginning, was a passion for souls - I'm not saying I had a great passion, it certainly wasn't, it certainly isn't today - but I have felt lately the need, for some time in fact, to, like Jesus said to the church in Ephesus in the Book of the Revelation, do the things that you loved at first. I'll be honest with you, I've tried over the last 6 to 8 months, or year, to get some things happening - and mainly through Portadown House of Prayer - some initiatives, and some of you have been very glad to try and help in that. I've had really good intentions, but do you know what I've discovered? Our lives - mine, I'm putting my hands up - are so tied up, and so ordered, even at times there are spiritual things and activities that we are doing that mitigates again and again against us going out, and getting our sleeves rolled up and our hands dirty in reaching the lost. Because of that we need to be radical and ruthless, and I need your help - because I need a gee up, a kick up the you know what - I do! We can't do it alone, nobody can do it alone, but we need to do more. I have a vision for seeing the streets of Portadown filled with people praying for healing, praying for deliverance, and seeing it because you're taking it to where it's meant to be - among the people - not being afraid. I'm not talking about being quacky or wacky, and turning everybody off because you're eccentric, but I'm talking about being loving, compassionate, and bold, and touching people with love.
But we need to get radical. One man has put it like this: 'If we really want more of God, then we must change our lifestyle so that His manifested presence will increase upon us'. So I'm asking you tonight: will you get radical? Do you believe in hell? Do you? Be honest, come on, do you? We don't like that one - I don't really like it. It would be nice to airbrush it, and the theologians are doing a great job of doing that - they're getting rid of hell. But, you know, we can do it by default by just not talking about it, not thinking about it, not contemplating it. C.T. Studd, that great missionary to India and Africa, said: 'Some would live within the sound of church and chapel bell, but I would rather run a rescue shop within a yard of hell'. Where is Jesus now? Where are you now? Where am I? All dickeyed-up, squeaky-clean, our little services and programs - and I'm not despising worship, you know - but are we taking this life, this power, this grace where it's meant to be? I believe if we do that, it will be a key and catalyst to revival.
It was with the Salvation Army - thank God for the Salvation Army, Amen? Thank God for General Booth. They were radical, they're still radical! Some of the stuff they do! What were they not like then? What? They wrote caricatures of General Booth, with the big beard and the hooked nose and all in the papers. They laughed at him, they castigated him, they mocked him - and the more they poked fun at them, the more God blessed them! But he was a man of passion for souls, and he was a man of vision. What I’m going to show you now on video is a modern adaptation of a vision that General Booth had. It really encapsulates everything that I have said here tonight. Please prayerfully watch this, and let it touch your heart.
[BEGIN VIDEO TRANSCRIPT - this video is used under licence from the producer, and is available for purchase from Vertical Hold Productions]
I had a vision. I saw a dark and stormy ocean. In that ocean I thought I saw multitudes of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning. And out of this dark angry ocean, I saw a mighty rock that rose up with its summit towering high above the stormy seas. And all around the base of the rock I saw a vast platform. On this platform, I saw with delight a number of the poor wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean. And I saw that some of those who were already safe on the platform were fervently helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach safety.
But something puzzled me: although they had all been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what was equally strange and perplexing to me was that most of these people did not even seem to have any care - that is any agonizing care - about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes.
But then I saw something wonderful: I saw a Great Being from above come straight from His palace, right through the dark clouds, and He leapt right into the raging sea among the drowning people. There I saw Him toiling to rescue them, until the sweat of His great anguish ran down in blood. He was continually crying to those already rescued, to those whom He had helped with His own bleeding hands, to come and help Him in the painful and laborious task of saving the lost.
But the strangest thing of all was that those on the platform to whom He called, were so taken up with their trades and professions, and money saving and pleasures, and families and community, and gatherings and religions - and arguments about it - that they did not respond to the cry that came to them from this Wonderful Being who had Himself, by His Spirit, gone down into the sea. And so the multitude went on struggling and shrieking and drowning in the darkness.
And then I saw something that seemed stranger than anything that had happened before in this very strange vision. Those whom this Wonderful Being cried out to, to come and help Him in His difficult task, were always praying and crying out to Him to come to them! Some wanted Him to come and stay with them, and spend His time and strength in making them happier. Others wanted Him to come and take away various doubts and misgivings they had concerning the truth of some letters which He had written them. Others wanted Him to come and make them feel more secure on the rock - so secure that they would be totally sure that they would never slip off again. They used to meet and get as close to the rock as they could, and looking towards the mainland (where they thought the Great Being was) they would cry out, 'Come to us! Come and help us!'. But all this time, He was down among the poor drowning creatures, crying to them in a hoarse voice, 'Come to Me! Come, and help Me!'.
And then I understood it all. It was plain enough. That sea was the ocean of life - the sea of real, actual human existence. Those multitudes of people struggling in the stormy sea, were the billions of sinners from every race, language and nation. That great sheltering Rock was Calvary, the place of the cross. The people on it were those who had been rescued from sin and hell, and who professed to be followers of Jesus Christ. That Mighty Being who was called to them from the tempest was the Son of God, 'the same yesterday, today and forever', who is still struggling to save the dying multitudes about us from this terrible doom of damnation, and whose voice can be heard above the music, machinery, and noise of life, calling on the rescued to come and help Him save the world.
My friends in Christ, you are rescued from the waters, you are on the rock, Jesus is in the dark sea calling on you to come and help Him. Will you go?
[END VIDEO TRANSCRIPT]
Let's all pray. Where is Jesus? He's outside. As General Booth saw it in his vision, He's calling for us to help Him in His work of saving men and women, and boys and girls.
Now I want to make a number of appeals right now, and the first I want to make - because I like to give this as an opportunity at any time if I possibly can - is if you're one of those billions of humanity that is out, lost in the wild stormy sea, and you're not saved, and you know you're not right with God, you're still on your sin, you've never repented and believed - but you want to be saved right now. If you're here this evening, while heads are bowed and eyes are closed, would you acknowledge your need of Christ, and your need of being saved right now, just by raising your hand where you're seated? Is there anyone? God has spoken to you, even though this has not been particularly a Gospel meeting, you've felt the power of God and the need, the conviction of your sin. No matter how young or how old you are, just slip your hand up and put it down again, and I will see it, and we will pray for you and pray with you. I'll give you another opportunity - is there anyone?
Are there any backsliders, and you know that you have become preoccupied with the things of this world? You've been anaesthetised to spiritual realities, maybe even some of the signs of the times we talked about today are already eluding you, you're not seeing it clearly because you're cluttered up with the love of other things. You need to come back to the Lord in repentance. There were quite a number of folk this morning who did that, is there anyone else tonight - and its outstanding for you, and you want to return to the Lord, any prodigals here, or just any cold, passive Christians and you need to be on fire again? You need the power of the Holy Spirit in your life - is there anyone? Just raise your hand where you're seated, God bless you. Is there anyone else? God bless. Anyone else up in the gallery or down below?
Are there those who realise their need of the unction to function in this manner? You know, I've been around evangelical circles for quite a while now, and there is a lot that is done by way of soul-winning and evangelism that is flesh. That which is of the flesh only produces flesh. I'm not in for ramming things, the Gospel tract, down a person's throat or bombarding them - it has to be Spirit-led. But is there anyone here tonight, and you realise that you've been devoid of some of the power of the Spirit in order to be witnesses, and you want to ask God tonight for that - would you just raise your hand, just where you are? God bless you, God bless, God bless.
Finally, and this is a big one - and I don't mean this in the sense that we aren't all witnesses, and we aren't all to go gossiping the Gospel, and be everyday missionaries for Jesus. But we talked this morning about a woman called Anna who, after seven years marriage, was widowed, and she devoted probably around 60 or so years to prayer and fasting in the Temple, waiting for the move of God, the next thing to come, Jesus. Some would have construed it was a wasted life, like Mary's alabaster box - but nothing that is broken and poured out at the feet of Jesus is ever wasted. Is there anyone here tonight that, in the definition of that term 'wasted', would say: 'I'm going to waste my life on Jesus, and I'm going to win the lost for Him'? God's call is on your life to be a missionary, to be a preacher, to be an evangelist, maybe there is a prophetic insight that we talked about - is there anyone here, young or old, and you would raise your hand to stand and be counted, to say: 'I will go if You send me, Lord'? God bless you! God bless you!
Now we're not looking for token gestures, we're not into that, this is a life thing - OK? God bless. This is a life thing, don't vow a vow to the Lord that you cannot repay - just don't do it! Don't even go there! But if you're serious: God bless you, God bless you. There are potential missionaries in the making here tonight! Maybe I'll throw another one in: it's all right going to Peru, what about Portadown? What about Portadown? What about the shopping queue, in the post office, at the butchers, in the office or the factory floor? Portadown needs you, Christian. Jesus needs you to work with Him in what He's already doing. I believe He's speaking to people, I believe He's giving them dreams and visions, I believe that, I believe He's bringing conviction upon them - but there is nobody to follow through and speak the word, there is no evangelist.
You pray your prayer, OK? If you're not saved and you want to get saved, cry 'Lord, save me now', and believe that Jesus died for you and ask Him to save you. The backslidden: confess your sin, and He will forgive you, and surrender to Him as Lord and renounce Satan and all his works. Those of you who are dedicating your lives to the Lord for service, you tell Him that: 'Lord, I lay myself on the altar, here I am, send me'. Those of you who, when the time comes, will rise up for Portadown, for our people, you pray to the Lord and tell Him: 'Lord, I'm willing to do what You asked me. I might not feel able, but I'm willing if You give me the strength and the power'.
Lord, I thank You this evening that You have given us a vision of Yourself, Lord Jesus. You've shown us where You are with Your nail-pierced hands, You're drawing people to Yourself outside. Forgive me, Lord, forgive me for not going outside the camp, outside the door, for locking myself up. Maybe I'll have You in the midst, maybe I'll have Your peace - but, Lord, there are people perishing outside without hope. Lord, would You give us a fresh passion for lost people - and, as Your coming approaches, Lord Jesus Christ, give us perseverance to endure to the end, rescuing the perishing, caring for the dying, snatching them in pity from sin and the grave. Let me look at the crowd as my Saviour did, till my eyes with tears grow dim; let me look and pity the wandering sheep, and love them for love of Him. In Your mighty name, Lord Jesus Christ, who bled for us, we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Portadown Elim Church in N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Where Is Jesus Now?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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