For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. — Corinthians 9:19–23
Rise Up, O Saints of God
The United Methodist Hymnal Number 576
Text: William P. Merrill, 1867-1954
Music: William H. Walter, 1825-1893
Rise up, O saints of God! Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O saints of God! The Kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O saints of God! The Church for you doth wait,
her strength unequal to her task; rise up, and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up, O saints of God!
This week I have thought long and hard about growing the Kingdom of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes with passion and commitment about saving people from God’s wrath (Romans 1:18-32) and winning people for eternity with Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:17-19). He understands that in Christ he has been forgiven of sin and set free for abundant living (John 10:10). Nevertheless, he chooses to restrict his freedom and deny his preferences, in order to grow God’s Kingdom. He goes so far as making himself a slave to those he meets, because his deepest desire and purpose in life is to win persons for Christ. He is willing to extend himself, deny himself and adapt to the needs of others … all for the purpose of being Good News in their lives.
I must pause here and ask three questions:
* How real is God’s wrath?
* Do we fear falling into the hands of the living God?
* Does weeping and wailing and the gnashing teeth for eternity without God strike terror in our hearts?
The early Methodists lived with a keen sense of the certainty and consequences of God’s wrath. They prayed daily and shared the Gospel often, warning neighbors to flee the wrath to come. Today we seldom hear anyone speak of judgment or of God’s wrath, however, rest assured it is as real and certain as it was in Paul’s day or John Wesley’s day.
I believe winning people for Christ demands a strong conviction of God’s coming wrath and deep appreciation for God’s grace expressed in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Being willing to deny our interests and become concerned and involved in the interests of others takes the grace of God.
Many of our churches in America are declining rapidly, because few Christ-followers today are willing and able to be slaves for the Gospel. Paul loved Christ and treasured the Gospel. He found great meaning and joy in seeing sinners saved from God’s wrath and won for the Kingdom. He ends the passage above by stating that this mission brings assurance that he truly is a Christ-follower and a partaker of the Gospel.
I urge all to make sure they are in Christ. Sins confessed, selfishness repented of and lives surrendered to Christ as Savior and Lord. This however is not the end of discipleship.
We must be filled daily with the Holy Spirit, become sanctified for the purposes of God, and grow more and more Christ-like in our character and conduct. Enjoying the Gospel and sharing the Gospel will soon become our top priority, just like it did for Paul.
Please join me in being done with lesser things and committing the rest of our earthly lives to honor Christ and help save others from God’s wrath and win them for God’s Kingdom.
Reach the Rev. David Player, First United Methodist Church senior pastor, at 580-482-0795 or [email protected]