by Jefferson David Tant
The prophet Jeremiah faced many difficulties in his life. God assigned him to speak to the nation and warn them of things to come, and implore them to repent and serve God, but Jeremiah was persecuted and vilified. This prompted him to just shut up and not bother to speak anymore.
“For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:8-9)
Jeremiah came to realize two things after he decided to shut up.
- God had commissioned him to speak His word, and
- the people needed to hear, no matter what their response was.
There was yet another prophet that God sent into the world, whose name was Jesus Christ. Luke tells us of an occasion when Christ went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19).
And how was the message he delivered to the people received? While some received His word well, we know that he was eventually crucified. After His resurrection, he called together His chosen ones and delivered unto them what we call The Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
We are all quite familiar with that passage, but have we really considered the implications that are included in the message? What were the apostles to do? They were to go and make disciples, but that was not the end of the charge. They were also to teach those whom they taught to do the same, which was to go and make disciples! Dear Reader, the mission of making disciples is the mission God has given to every Christian, but too often that is considered to be the preacher’s job. And yes, every preacher has that responsibility. Yes, he may have the responsibility to teach the congregation, and we know he is out in the community making contacts and teaching. But that community outreach is no more his responsibility than that of every person sitting in the pews!
We marvel at how fast the gospel spread to the whole known world in just one generation in that first century. And how did this happen? Consider what happened following the death of Stephen in Acts 7. “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).
We would likely agree that some of those who had been converted at Pentecost would have stayed in Jerusalem for a time as they wanted to learn more. But now it’s time to go back home, so at the persecution, that’s what happened. And what did they do when they went home? They “went about preaching the word?” And who was doing this? Not the apostles, for the text says they stayed in Jerusalem. We know that Peter, and later Paul and possibly others did go “into all the world,” but not at the start. It was the ordinary Christians who went home and spread the word to their neighbors, their grocery store clerks, those who cared for their animals, etc.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he made an interesting comment: “if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).
This letter was written some 30 years after Pentecost, and note that the gospel had spread to “all creation,” i.e. to the known world in one generation. No TV, no newspapers, no radio, no rapid travel, no modern means of communication. The answer? Ordinary Christians spreading the word. And there is a message for us. Do we have fire in our bones?
In the days of my grandfather, J. D. Tant, the later years of the 1800s were times of great gospel meetings. They might schedule two weeks of preaching and there were times when 25 or 30 might be baptized and they would then extend the meeting another week. In the mid-1900s, the Jule Miller film strips and Bible Correspondence Courses were very effective, and many conversations resulted. And today? With people glued to their TVs, connected to the internet, etc., and otherwise busy, gospel meetings are not attended as well, and it’s hard to get someone to commit to five nights to view a video Bible lesson.
Thus the question. Whose responsibility is it to seek souls? Who is to make the connection with the drug store clerk, the table server at IHOP, the next-door neighbor? You know the answer. It is you and me. In closing this writing, I refer to the old gospel song, “You Never Mentioned Him To Me.”
When in the better land before the bar we stand,
How deeply grieved our souls may be;
If any lost one there should cry in deep despair,
“You never mentioned Him to me.”
“You never mentioned him to me,
You helped me not the light to see;
You met me day by day and knew I was astray,
Yet never mentioned Him to me.”
Is there fire in your bones? Don’t put it out!