A sense of doom and dismay has settled upon the hearts of people today. No matter where we travel, we find the specter of hopelessness. We see it in bold type in the news headlines. We see it in the deep lines that furrow troubled brows. We sense it in humanity’s futile search for fulfillment. We see it in the purposelessness of living. The very atmosphere seems impregnated with a stifling hopelessness that has robbed millions of the zest for living.
The greatest need in the world today is for spiritually mature Christians who are not only professing their faith in Christ but who are living it in their daily lives.
My task as an evangelist is to plant the seed as a farmer would plant seed in the springtime. The farmer cannot make the seed grow. He cannot generate life—this can be done only by God. So when the seed is planted in the human heart, if other conditions are right, God will make the seed grow, causing that person to mature spiritually.
The moment one receives Jesus Christ, it is the beginning of a new life. After going in the wrong direction, one turns around and moves in the right direction. The ultimate goal is that the Christian may be conformed to the image of Christ. The Scripture says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
After a person receives Christ, he or she may immediately face complications, dilemmas and problems never before encountered. A complete transformation has taken place inside, and adjusting to a new life is not always easy.
However, we do not make this adjustment alone. We are told in the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit immediately takes up residence within our heart to help us.
Still, some people have received Christ but have never reached spiritual maturity. They have been in the church all their lives, yet they have never become mature Christians. They are still “spiritual children” and “babes in Christ.” They know very little Scripture. They have little desire to pray, and they bear few of the marks of a Christian in their daily living.
Jesus Christ, of course, was the only person who ever revealed absolute spiritual maturity. He walked as a man should walk. He talked as a man should talk. His attitude and approach to life were mature in every sense of the word. He looked with holy eyes upon a sinful world but was not discouraged nor depressed by it.
He said to a despairing world, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To a world shrouded in darkness, He brought an armful of heavenly sunbeams, and by the light that was within Himself He rolled back the heavy clouds of despair that hung over a world that had lost its way.
The world’s specialists may employ all the diplomacy and skill at their command, but at best they reach only symptoms, and the cleverest of this world’s leaders have failed to diagnose the cause of our disease.
What mysterious drive keeps world powers at each other’s throats? Why is there so much intolerance toward those who do not dress, look, think and act as we do? Why will world leaders gamble with the lives of millions and keep the world dangling on the precipice of war? What diabolical force drives some juveniles, during what should be life’s most zestful and carefree years, to crime, lust and unbridled living? What power is it that breaks up homes and causes a man to leave his wife and children for some other woman? What is it that causes a man to pour his future out of a bottle and trade all that others hold dear for a few sparkling drops from the vine?
Consider one of the dilemmas a psychiatrist faces today. In talking with thousands of mentally confused people, he or she can often diagnose their ailments; but as one psychiatrist admitted to me, “I have a difficult time offering a curative.”
The Bible provides a curative. It is here that the Gospel of Christ comes in.
The Bible says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). We behave improperly because of sin.
Many object to the word sin. Admittedly it is not a pleasant word, but neither are the words cancer, leprosy or leukemia. They remind us of death. They bring despair. They rob us of hope.
But there is hope for those who are infected with the disease of sin. There is a remedy for sin. It is curable. Every trace of it can be removed, for God has provided something that can cleanse the vilest sinner and make him or her as pure as fresh-fallen snow.
The Bible tells of a bridge of faith that reaches from the valley of despair to the high hills of glorious hope in Christ. It tells us where we are, but beyond that, it tells where we may be in Christ. It says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:13, 16.) The cross of Christ is the bridge over which all must pass if they would stand in the courts of the most high God.
You may say, “I will resolve to do better. I will summon all my willpower and revise my way of living.” That is noble—but futile. A corpse could as well say, “I will through sheer effort rise out of this casket and be a living person again.” You need a power outside yourself, and that power springs from the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
Another may say, “I will join the church next Sunday and start taking communion.” You could, but all that must come after the cross. The divine decree is, “unto God by the cross.” We reach God by Christ. There is no reconciliation to God except by the cross. There is no permanent peace in the human heart except by the cross.
One of the outstanding businessmen of the city of Melbourne, Australia, having separated from his wife and family, was living with another woman and drinking excessively while his business was deteriorating. He came one night to our meeting and found Christ as Savior. A sense of release swept his soul. His tormented conscience was eased. His mind was cleared. With tears of joy he was received once more into his family. He told me later, “What resolution, religious pretenses, psychiatrists and doctors failed to do, Christ did for me in a few moments.” Then he made a statement I shall never forget. He said, “To be a Christian is exhilarating!”
United States Highway No. 1 is a beautiful stretch of road running through a dismal, dangerous swamp in the southern part of the country. In past centuries, many lives were lost in that swamp, which is infested with reptiles and alligators and pock-marked by quicksand. Suppose a driver were to ask his way through this great swamp and was told that Highway No. 1 was built at tremendous cost and sacrifice and was the only safe way to get through.
But the traveler, being of an independent nature, elected to cut overland in spite of the earnest warnings of danger. When the news would come out that the heedless traveler had been lost, you could only pity him for his folly. Anyone who would trade the safe, prepared way for an impassable course would be risking death.
Yes, life is a tangled mass of pitfalls and dangers. Everywhere lurk moral entanglements that threaten the soul. One thing is sure: We need outside help if we are to find our way to peace of heart and purposefulness of living. The Bible cries out that there is only one way to God, and that it is by the cross! It is at the cross that you find the source of spiritual maturity. It is at the cross that you find the power that works in us to do the will of God and to conform us to the image of his Son.
You cannot do it yourself. You cannot overcome the habits and break the chains that are binding you. You need help. You need Christ, and when Christ comes into the human heart, a process begins that the Bible calls sanctification. You begin to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ toward spiritual maturity. More and more you become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, His Son. According to God’s purpose, the ultimate goal for every child of God is to be conformed to that image.
Now of course you will not be fully mature until you are in the presence of Christ, but every day you should be growing as a Christian. But many of you haven’t even started to grow. You haven’t come to the cross. You haven’t repented of your sins and received Christ as Savior. You haven’t been born again of the Holy Spirit.
You need to start sometime. Why not now? Why not give your life to Christ and let Him change the direction of your life and start you toward spiritual maturity? This is the world’s need. This is your family’s need. This is your need. In fact, it is your only hope! ©1959 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: BGEA Archives