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The Profile of a Cosmopolitan Christian

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“THE PROFILE OF A COSMOPOLITAN CHRISTIAN”

 

(I Corinthians 9:16-23)

 

“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.  What is my reward then?  Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

 

 

Note that there are several sets of dominant words in the text, and they occur in “flurries,” or in sections of the text.  In verses 16-18, the dominant word is “Gospel,” which occurs six times.  In verses 19-22, the dominant word is “gain,” which occurs five times.

 

The text for this study is verse 22b, which contains another dominant word, the word “all.”  This word occurs three times in this tiny fragment of a verse.  Actually, the word “all” occurs again in verse 23, but it is hidden in the King James translation.  The KJV says, “And this I do,” but the word translated “this” is the Greek word “panta,” which literally means “all things.”  And the word is emphatic in the text, which means that it bears heavy stress in communication.  Paul said, “And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” It is around the word “all” (particularly in verse 22) that we will build the message.

Let’s begin by making a distinction between two kinds of Christians.  Both of these “travel

incognito” in large numbers in today’s church.  One group could be called “provincial Christians,” and the other could be called “cosmopolitan Christians.”  Provincial Christians are very narrow in focus, restricted, petty, confined, and small-minded.  They are always hung up in self concerns — self-survival, self-growth, self-interest, etc.  They are part of the “personal piety” cult of modern western Christianity.


Cosmopolitan Christians, on the other hand,  are easy to identify.  They seem to be “stand-out saints,” but they are merely New Testament Christians.  Vance Havner said, “Christians today are usually so sub-normal that should they become normal, everyone would think of them as abnormal.”  The cosmopolitan Christian is so unusual in today’s church that he is often regarded as abnormal.  A cosmopolitan Christian is large-hearted, big-spirited, all-embracing, non-threatened, tactful, sensitive, and versatile.  He has a world-sized heart.  He has allowed God to swell his three-cornered heart until it is as big as the world.  He is a true “ambassador for Christ,” a diplomat for the Kingdom of God.  Paul is the classic example of the cosmopolitan Christian, and his personal testimony in I Cor. 9:22b is the classic statement of such a Christian.

Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  “All things . . . all men . . . all means.”  The outline will follow these three “alls.”

I.  A PRINCIPLE TO BE PRACTICED

 

The first “all,” “I have become all things to all men,” indicates that there is a principle to be practiced by all Christians.  You see, it is God’s intention that every Christian be a “world citizen,” a cosmopolitan Christian.  If he is to be such a Christian, he must join Paul and practice this principle.

Of course, the Greatest Model for this “all things” lifestyle is Jesus Himself.  He was not a man, but He became a man in order that He might by any means (!) save some. 

 

Study Paul’s words carefully.  At first examination, many people think they sound like moral and spiritual compromise.   This is true of many great doctrines of Christianity — until they are properly understood.  For example, a proper understanding of the doctrine of grace would lead a legalistic, immature Christian to think that that doctrine is an encouragement to sin, a license to sin.  Even so, a provincial, small-minded, immature Christian might charge Paul with compromise here (and especially when he studies the illustrations Paul uses from his own ministry — verses 19-22a).  However, the principle Paul follows is that of accommodation without compromise.  He practiced involvement in the world without entanglement with the world.  To use Jesus’ words, he was “in the world, but not of the world.”  Jesus said, “The field is the world” (Matt. 13:38).  The Christian is to walk and minister in this field — without putting down roots.  One wise Christian leader said, “Every  person needs two conversion: first, the conversion of the sinner, a conversion out of the world; but then, the saint needs a second conversion, a conversion back into the world.”  This “conversion back into the world” needs to be properly understood and wisely implemented.  Paul’s statement in our text is a great example of both the understanding and the implementation of it. 

Paul gives three illustrations of this principle of accommodation without compromise in the verses immediately preceding our text.  The first illustration is in verse 20, which says, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law.”  This doesn’t sound like much of an adjustment.  It doesn’t sound like a great victory, for the simple reason that Paul was a Jew.  So why does he use such an illustration?  It seems automatic that Paul the Jew would have no trouble adjusting to Jews.  But remember that this is an illustration of a principle that all Christians are to practice. 


Write in the margin of your Bible beside verse 20 this Scripture reference: Acts 13:14-43.  Read and study this passage carefully, because it is the perfect picture of verse 20 in action.  Acts 13:14 says that Paul and his team “came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day.”  So they were clearly and exclusively among Jews on this occasion.  The rulers of the synagogue “read the law and the prophets” (the Old Testament), and then asked Paul and Barnabas if they would like to speak.  Paul stood and preached his longest recorded sermon on this occasion.  The sermon first presented an historical review of the nation of Israel from the Exodus to the life of David (verses 17-25).  Then, he used this Old Testament background and preached the Christian Gospel to them (verses 26-39).  He concludes the sermon by warning his Jewish hearers not to ignore what they have just heard (verses 40-41). 

What is the purpose of this illustration?  Why does Paul summarize such action as an illustration of the principle to be practiced?  How is this to be applied today?  The answer is crucial.  Every Christian witness will meet today the kind of persons Paul met in the synagogue in Antioch that Sabbath day.  This is the kind of person who acknowledges the existence of God and admits that the Bible is the Word of God.  So the witness has a great foundation of theistic faith to build on.  He does not have to lay that foundation; it is in place when he begins his witness.  When I am with such a person, I do not need to use apologetics about God or the Bible.  I can begin immediately to build the superstructure of Gospel witness, having the advantage of a foundation of Gospel information in the individual.  So we might paraphrase verse 20 of our text in this manner: “When I am with people who have a foundational theistic belief in the existence of God and acknowledge the Bible to be God’s Word, I speak from their understanding.”

In our day, we must be discerning about when to begin with Scripture as common ground in personal evangelism.  Many non-Christians in our culture still have what might be called a “Christian memory.”  They respect the Bible as God’s message of salvation because of some Christian training they received as children.  With these persons we can use the Bible in our witness for Christ.  But a growing majority of non-Christians do not respect the Bible as God’s Word and will not permit the Christian to use it in his witness to them.  What do we do then?  Paul modeled an approach to them, also.

   

Paul reveals this approach in his second illustration ( verse 21): “To them that are without law, (I become) as without law, (not being without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law.”  In the margin of your Bible beside this verse, write this Scripture reference:  Acts 17:16-34.  Here, the setting is strikingly different.  Paul was in Athens, Greece, and his audience was made up of Gentiles.  These Gentile Greeks had no Biblical background, no basic understanding or belief of foundational Biblical concepts.  In fact, they very likely would have been resistant if Paul had begun from a Biblical base.  Here, Paul’s task was considerably more difficult, and his incredible skill as a cosmopolitan Christian witness is evident.  His procedure is a model of cosmopolitan Christianity in action, and it should be studied carefully and at great length by every serious Christian.


Paul was deeply disturbed about the pervasive idolatry he saw in Athens, and knew that he must find common ground from which to speak to the pagan Athenians.  He knew also that they would not be impressed with an overt presentation of the Bible.  So, when the opportunity came, Paul began with a conciliatory introduction in which he acknowledged their practice of religion (which they were very proud of).  Then, Paul stated a world view which would be common with most Athenians: God is Creator of all things, and man is created in God’s image and dependent upon Him.  To support these premises, Paul drew from their own culture, citing references for theism from their own literary sources.  This is the perfect picture of a cosmopolitan Christian!  Paul skillfully argues “ad hominem,” from man upward to God, from the lesser to the greater.  In support of his argument, he quotes two Greek poets, Epimenides (600 BC!), and Aratus (315-240 BC!).  Are we to think of Paul as a classical Greek scholar?  Possibly, but probably not.  We probably should think of him as a Christian who is so motivated to communicate the Gospel that he went to the public library in Athens (I have been there, and visited the public library to try to imagine what Paul did!) And researched the Greek writers to support his presentation.  His argument was basically this: “You have traditionally believed as a people that man is dependent upon God (verse 28a), and that man is made by God and in His image (verse 28b).   Since man is ‘the offspring of God,’ and since man is clearly not made of gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s creativity,” neither is God.  So this representation of God by gold, silver, wood, or stone idols is absolute misrepresentationFrom this point, Paul moved into a forceful presentation of the Gospel, calling on the Athenians to repent and trust Christ. 

We could say that Paul had to do some pre-evangelism in Athens.  He simply could not begin preaching the Gospel to the Greeks right away without jeopardizing their hearing.  He needed to find a context in their culture within which to make the Gospel witness.  Again, he was typically cosmopolitan.  He drew from the local well of Greek culture to substantiate basic theism, and from that base, he solidly preached the Gospel of Christ. 

Can we not see at this point why there are so few cosmopolitan Christians today?  Most Christians are culturally sterile.  They are so ignorant of the mentality and lifestyle of pagans in their society because of their own church confinement that they would have no common ground on which to communicate with them.  You see, our secular society (including the secular media) reveals and describes the lostness of man just as the Bible does.  The felt needs of man are the same in the Bible and in our culture.  Those needs commonly take the shape of frustration, boredom, fear, loneliness, guilt, meaninglessness, materialism, etc., etc., whether we are reading the Bible or the newspaper, whether we are watching “Christian television,” or “secular television.”  Christians simply must wake up to life, and carry the Gospel into all of it!

Secular reviews of today’s cultural art, music, and literature clearly reveal that man is struggling with the very problems that are dealt with in the Bible and in the Gospel.  The isolation of secular culture from the religious community only serves to show that the problems are not invented by the religious community — they are common to all men!  Today, anyone who reads the newspaper or  news magazines, anyone who watches television, should realize that every area of man’s life — economics, politics (!), education, art, music, literature — is a showcase of man’s lostness, and thus offers a perfect platform for the cosmopolitan Christian to present the Gospel.  Today’s agnosticism, atheism, and secularism afford the perfect opportunity for the same kind of “cultural apologetics” which Paul practiced when addressing the intelligentsia of Greek society on Mars Hill in Athens.             


Then, Paul uses a third illustration in our text.  This one is the most difficult of the three.  Some commentators have been so bold as to say that Paul was definitely wrong here.  I personally believe that this charge is very unfair to Paul, and reveals rather our proscribed narrowness in the at-large evangelical community.  Beside I Corinthians 9:22a, write this Biblical reference in your margin:  Acts 21:17-40.  Again, this passage should be read and studied with careful and prayerful attention.  Paul had returned to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey.  He went before the elders of the Jerusalem church (probably all Jews) to report how the Lord had used him to bring a large number of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.  The elders gave a mixed reaction to his report.  They apparently tried to truly glorify God for the victories won, but their praise was mixed with some anxiety.  Some serious charges had been brought against Paul from the Jewish community because of his ministry to the Gentiles.  Many Jerusalem Jews had become Christians while Paul was on his journey.  It was reported to them that Paul was discounting the law of Moses, and they were upset, probably for several reasons.  One probable reason was the bias they retained from their Jewish background.  Another possible reason was that they felt that Paul’s message might prevent other Jews from becoming Christians. 

The elders expressed this concern, and then they made a peace-making suggestion, a “compromise” between the Gentile emphasis and Jewish respect for Moses’ law.  They suggested that the only way Paul could restore the integrity of his ministry in the eyes of the Jews was to observe the law publicly.  He could do this by paying the expenses of four men who had taken vows in Judaism, even going so far as to sit with them in the Temple for seven days.  Paul agreed to do this, in order to defuse the charges against him, and to be able to continue to preach the Gospel to the Jews.  Do you remember the adjectives I used in describing a cosmopolitan Christian?  “Sensitive, versatile, tactful . . . ” Paul was surely all of those, and more!  The point, once again, is that his method was accommodation in culture and personality to the persons he wanted to reach without any compromise whatsoever of any theological truths or imperatives. 

Who is this “weak” person in verse 22?  He is the person who either has no convictions at all because he is too morally and spiritually weak to formulate any, or he blusters with legalistic convictions, which is again an advertisement of weak character.  I heard of a man who hated cigarettes.  He hated them so passionately that, every time he saw anyone smoking — anyone, friend or foe, acquaintance or stranger — he would rush up to them, snatch the burning cigarette out of their mouth, throw it down on the ground, and stomp it out with his foot.  Well, the man finally died of foot cancer!  I am not debating the validity of his conviction.  I am questioning the strength of his character.  The “weak” person is the one who debates every moral issue, and reaches no conclusion.  Or, his actions may be strong to cover up weakness of character.  This matter is carefully discussed in the “meat offered to idols” issue of I Corinthians 8, 9, and 10.  Also, in Romans 14.  Here, Paul says that he met the weak person where he is, and tried to reach him with a wise presentation of Christ and His Gospel.


Donald McCullough honored this principle when he told this story in his book, Finding Happiness In the Most Unlikely Places: “When Dave Allen had persuaded Robbie — a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair — to attend summer camp, he got himself a wheelchair, and for the entire week kept himself in it so Robbie wouldn’t be alone, so Robbie would have at least one friend who knew firsthand the struggle of a toilet stall and the strain of a rocky trail and the pain of watching other kids play volleyball.”  There is the principle in practice!

Paul repeated the same principle in chapter 10, verse 33 (I Cor. 10:33), when he said, “I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”  Where did Paul get such a philosophy of evangelism?  Surely he got it by observing the Divine pattern of evangelism in action.  Because Paul clearly understood the purpose of the Incarnation of God in Christ, he understood God’s strategy of evangelism.  As Jesus “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:8) and took the form of human flesh to carry out His work of reconciliation, so each Christian must be willing to empty himself and identify with sinners so that he can declare the message of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:16-21).  Just as Christ penetrated humanity without being assimilated by it, so each Christian is to penetrate human society without being assimilated by it.  This is the principle which every Christian should practice.

II.  A PEOPLE TO BE PURSUED

 

The second “all,” “I have become all things to all men,” indicates that there is a people to be pursued by all ChristiansThe people to be pursued are identified twice, once in verse 19, “Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more;” and once in our text, “I have become all things to all men.”  “All men.”  Our prospect list includes all men. 

According to Jesus and the Bible, every saved person this side of Heaven should be concerned about every lost person this side of Hell.  As a Christian, I am to be compassionately and actively concerned for the best person, the worst person, the first person, the last person, the least person — all lost people — on earth. 

Whether I am motivated by Christ’s example, Christian compassion, the Commission of Jesus, or any other motive, lost people should be my lifetime project.  Every lost people should be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel.  Oswald Smith often asked, “Should anybody on earth have the right to hear the Gospel twice until every person on earth has heard it once?”  Every man should have the opportunity to say an intelligent and faithful “Yes” to Christ. 

Biblical evangelism is nothing less that the whole church bringing the whole Gospel to the whole world. — to “save some” (verse 22).  “That we might gain the more” (verse 19).  Years ago, I wrote down a preacher’s outline.  I have long since forgotten the preacher and the occasion, but I still have the note on which I wrote the outline, and the outline continues to challenge me.  The text is verse 22.  The four points are: l. To save all is impossible.  2. To save some is imperative.  3. To save any is expensive.  4. To save even one will be eternally impressive.  Read the list several times.  The preacher’s outline paraphrases Paul. 


One outline calls for another!  The theme is “What New Testament Evangelism Involves.”  The points are: l. New Testament evangelism involves more people than the pastor.  2. New Testament evangelism involves more places than the church property.  3.  New Testament evangelism involves more procedures than preaching.  4.  New Testament evangelism involves more power than human performance.  This outline surely echoes the Book of Acts!

A cosmopolitan Christian, like Paul, will live with the continual awareness that there is a people to be pursued.  

III.  A PRICE TO BE PAID

 

The third “all” of our text, “that I might by all means save some,” indicates that there is a price to be paid if we are to become cosmopolitan, or New Testament, Christians.  This line has been variously translated, “that I might at any price rescue some,” or, “that I might at all costs gain some.” 

How much am I willing to pay to see someone saved?  Don’t hurry here.  How much am I willing to pay to see someone saved?

Some years ago, I read the moving story of Damien de Vuester, the Roman Catholic priest who went alone into the leper colony on Molokai Island to reach the lepers for Christ.  He bathed their sores by hand, and ministered to them “hands-on,” knowing that he was jeopardizing his own health and life with each new touch.  For many years the unquenchable flame of this strong man’s spirit gave new hope to those who had been without hope.  He practically built the physical facilities of the entire colony single-handedly, including a church for worship, where he preached and ministered every Sunday.

At one point, Damien wrote, “The average of deaths among these poor people is as least one a day.  Many are so destitute that there is nothing to defray their burial expenses.  They are simply wrapped in a blanket.  As far as my duties allow me time, I make coffins myself for them . . . . As for me, I make myself a leper, to gain all to Jesus Christ.”  Here is the spiritual identification of the cosmopolitan Christian.  Then, one day, standing before the altar of the church in the leper colony,  quietly and unostentatiously he began to address his listeners, not as customarily, “My brethren,” but slowly and significantly, “We lepers.”  Thereafter, when he spoke to them, he referred to them as “my fellow lepers.”  Sometime later, Damien died, a disease-ridden leper.  This is the material cost which may follow the spiritual identification of the cosmopolitan Christian.

Immediately someone will object, “But surely I, as a normal human being, can’t be expected to make such a sacrifice of my life.”  James Denney, the Scottish theologian, answered this objection in these words, “The man who has nothing to die for actually has nothing to live for, because he does not know what life is.”  Admittedly, such illustrations as the Damien story are highly dramatic, but if you think they are too dramatic and beyond the ability of average people, check the passages in the New Testament which refer to the persecutions and sufferings of normal Christians.  Especially look at Paul’s list in II Corinthians 11: 23-30.


In a college biology class, a professor announced that “Self-preservation is the first law of nature.”  A young Christian student responded after the class to his professor, “That may be so, but self-sacrifice is the first law of grace.”  His assessment is surely true, according to the New Testament.  However, this New Testament standard is well-hidden in our society, and even among Christians.  Self-help, self-enjoyment, and self-gratification are the goals of the masses, and Christians often seek the same goals as the masses.  God once said to His people through the prophet Jeremiah, “This is what I have against you — you have not troubled yourself on My behalf.”  Would He not same precisely the same thing to us today?

A wise man once said, “Never play leapfrog with a unicorn!”  Conformity to the world has a great cost for a Christian.  Nevertheless, the Christian often caters more to the culture of his world and to the comfort-demands of his flesh than to the standard of Jesus Christ.      

Remember, “all men” are at stake, and if I am to be used to “save some,” I must give consideration to the “at-any-price” phrase in the contract. 

Another great missionary name of modern Christian history is that of William Borden.  “Born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” he gave away his inherited fortune and ignored the credentials of a Yale University education and went to Egypt as a Christian missionary.  However, he hardly had time to serve before he was smitten with a fatal disease.  A man of calm poise and deep and happy commitment to Christ, Borden phrased as his motto, “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.”  “Borden of Yale” was a cosmopolitan Christian. 

Perhaps the greatest single “missionary society” in the history of the Christian movement was the Moravian community of Herrnhut, Germany.  The Moravians were established by a young German nobleman named Count Nikolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf.  Though his community colleagues later called him “Lutz,” he was not allowed to forget from birth that he was a count.  He was tutored and trained, disciplined and cultured, for future service in the court.  However, God’s sovereignty was seen early in his life when he was sent to study under a staunch Christian Pietist disciple, Hermann Francke.  At age 15, Lutz could read the classics and the New Testament in Greek, was fluent in Latin, and “French was as natural to him as his native German.” 

Zinzendorf completed his studies in Wittenberg, and then went out on a “grand tour” of Europe.  At one stop, he visited the renowned art gallery in Dusseldorf.  While viewing the famous “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the man”) painting of the crucifixion of Christ, he was arrested by the inscription beneath the vivid painting: “This I have done for thee; What hast thou done for Me?”  Zinzendorf said later that then and there he committed himself “to do whatever He leads me to do.”  Within three years, Zinzendorf had offered refuge to a group of ten persecuted Moravians on an estate which he had purchased.  Within two more years (in 1724), a group of 90 Moravians had settled there, and in two more years, their numbers had reached 300.  Because of background differences, lingual differences, and economic differences, there was a lot of argument among the members.  Zinzendorf corrected this by moving himself and his family into the academy building at Herrnhut, and in the manner of a pastor, he went from house to house counseling with each family from the Scriptures.  By the summer of 1727, the hearts of the residents had melted and they cried out in unison for spiritual blessing.  The people were led in deep repentance by Zinzendorf himself, and the one-hundred-year-miracle-impact of the Moravians was under way. 


In 1731, Count Zinzendorf was again conscripted by the sovereignty of God.  Though he was not often involved in affairs of state any more, he attended the coronation of Christian VI in Copenhagen, Denmark.  There he met Anthony Ulrich, a black man who had just come from St. Thomas Island in the Danish West Indies — and a new Christian.  Zinzendorf listened intently and compassionately to Ulrich’s pleas for someone to go to St. Thomas and tell his African people of Christ.  Zinzendorf hurried back to Herrnhut, awakened the Moravian community, and shared the St. Thomas burden.  “The air was electric with a first-century type of zeal and eagerness.  For months, Zinzendorf had been training a number of the Moravian brethren in writing, medicine, geography and theology — for just such a time and demand as this. 

The very next day, two of the Moravian trainees — Leonard Dober and Tobias Leupold -- volunteered to go to St. Thomas.  Plenty of time was given to test their commitment, and one year later, Leupold had been replaced by David Nitschmann.  Dober was a potter and Nitschmann was a skilled carpenter.  On August 18, 1732, in a midweek service which reached enormous emotional heights (they sang 100 hymns!), the congregation commissioned the two men to serve in St. Thomas. 

           The next day, the two men signed on with a freighter traveling to the Danish West Indies, and worked their passage to their new assignment. When they arrived, the owner of the colony of African slaves there would not permit them to enter the colony, claiming that the people in the colony did not have souls.  Broken-hearted, Dober and Nitschmann prayed all night on the beach of the island — then, early the next morning, they sold themselves into slavery to minister to the African slaves in the St. Thomas slave colony.  Two years later, when a relief force of new missionaries arrived from Hernnhut, they found 30,000 new Christians because of the work of these two men.  One mission historian wrote of Dober and Nitschmann, “There were not two men in the world more fitted for their task.  Each had a clear conception of the Gospel and each possessed the gift of ready speech.”

Zinzendorff, Dober and Nitschmann are classic examples of the willingness of the cosmopolitan Christian to reach “all men” — “at any price.”  Karl Barth called Zinzendorff “perhaps the only genuine Christocentric of the modern age.”  Another called him “the rich young ruler who met Jesus — and said a wholehearted ‘YES’ to Him.”  The departure of Dober and Nitschmann from Hernnhut in August, 1732, signaled the birth of the modern missionary era in the Christian church.  Today, roughly two and one-half billion people wait unevangelized over the earth.  Who will follow in the train of men such as these?  Who will say with Paul, “I have become all things to all men, that I might at any cost save some?”

I once heard a missionary say, “If your Christianity has never cost you anything, it is very likely that you don’t have any.”  I must face this embarrassing question, “What has my Christianity cost me?”  Further, “How much am I willing to pay to see someone saved?”

IV.  A PRIZE TO BE POSSESSED


The larger context of this passage clearly indicates that there is a prize to be possessed by a cosmopolitan Christian.  But the prize is a surprise!  We might think that it would be some great reward that would heap praise and approval on such a Christian (and surely the New Testament teaches that there will be such a reward).  But here, the prize is in keeping with the serving life of the cosmopolitan Christian.  Since he has lived for Christ’s glory and for the sake of others, the biggest reward he can receive is the satisfaction of knowing that he did just that!  The only prize that is really necessary for a true disciple is to know that he has been a credit to Christ and His cause.

Jesus first stated the “Christian contract” with these words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Three “steps” are defined in this statement.  We simply cannot follow Him without first showing fidelity to the preceding two steps.  I have found that these steps cannot be taken by focusing on them.  This leads to morbid introversion and self-obsessed piety.  We take the first two steps by becoming so thoroughly dominated by the third one that the others become happy vocations.  We gladly deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Him.

One of the greatest missionaries of our century buried his life in the jungles of Africa, serving Christ by ministering to the nationals there.  He had great capability in several vocational fields, and could have had great success in civilized society in any one of those fields.  In his last years, he was asked if he regretted the sacrifice of his life.  His reply was that of a cosmopolitan Christian: “There was no sacrifice.  I am one of the greatly privileged.”

When the famed “Cambridge Seven,” seven great British athletes who gave their lives in radical commitment to Christ and the Gospel, toured English universities many years ago, speaking about Jesus Christ and the claims of his Gospel, one student editor wrote, “When they moved among us, the very content of the word ‘sacrifice’ seemed reversed; when we heard them speak, we wondered if we could afford the cost of compromise.”

One of the great heroes of British military history was Lord Horatio Nelson, an admiral in the British navy.  Nelson was the personification of heroism as he led his fleet to victory after victory on the high seas.  When the fleet returned from a voyage around the world on which they won resounding victories for England against great odds, it was evident that his sailors were severely depreciated by the hardships of voyage and battle.  Some were dismembered by battle wounds, some were crippled, some were blind, others decimated by disease.  As a group, they were sadly disfigured.  Someone said to them, “We know the salary was not enough motivation, and the voyage was extremely difficult.  We know, too, that the spoils of victory were not sufficient to command such sacrifice.  So what was your motive?  Why did you do it?”  The reply was common among Nelson’s men: “It was reward enough that we were with Nelson!”  I stood beneath the elevated Nelson statue high above busy Trafalgar Square in London and recited this story to myself.  Then I asked myself, “Is Jesus not worth at least as much from His followers?”

                       

SPIRITUAL LIFE MINISTRIES

Herb Hodges - Preacher/Teacher

3562 Marconi Cove - Memphis, TN 38118

901-362-1622     E-mail: herbslm@mindspring.com

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