Mark 16:15

"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"

Gospel Meetings

I grew up in the little town of Algood, Tennessee in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Those were quiet times and peaceful times. A man’s word was his bond; neighbors looked out for neighbors; we never had a TV until I was in the seventh grade; never attended the movies, even though there was a movie theatre in Algood. Kids could play outside and walk to town by themselves with no fear. I never remember coming home from school and my Mom not being there. I never remember going to school without a home-cooked meal. As I said, those were good days.
One of my favorite memories especially now that I can look back, was Gospel Meetings. They usually began in early Spring and continued until Winter. My dad took us to these Gospel Meetings in Putnam, Jackson, White, and Overton Counties, etc. We attended almost all of them, sometimes multiple times. I grew up listening to Monroe Lawson, Basil Overton, Malcolm Hill, J. B. Gaither, Carson Burroughs, Marshall Keeble, John Renshaw, the Lemons brothers, and Ralph Kidd, just to name a few.
These meetings were usually very well attended and often times there would be large numbers of baptisms and restorations. The Gospel was preached with fervor out of love for the Truth and the lost. The truth about the church, God’s plan of salvation, and proper worship were subjects you heard over and over. Christian living was stressed including the truth about marriage, the sins of drinking, dancing, and immodest apparel.
In those days, if you had Malcolm Hill for a Gospel Meeting, you could count on a full house; often young children would sit on the pulpit or stand at his feet. In many of his meetings he had large numbers of responses, and the church would have responses from his preaching even after he was gone.
The Gospel Meeting was a tool in carrying out the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Since many smaller rural churches did not have preaching much except at “Big Meeting” time, many obeyed the Gospel during these meetings.
And don’t forget that air-conditioning consisted of raised windows, and paper fans furnished by the funeral homes in the area. Preachers would often get so hot that their suit would be soaked. Most men, even in those hot times, wore suits or at least a white shirt and tie.
I miss those days! Many congregations no longer have these meetings, and certainly that is their right. I do not believe Gospel Meetings today serve the same purpose that they did in the “good old days.” However they still are important tools to teach the church and to permit us to visit with brethren from other congregations.
When there are Gospel Meetings in the area, may I suggest that you take advantage of them. They provide the opportunity to hear preachers you will never hear otherwise, as well as an opportunity to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul M. Wilmoth

More on Drifting

J. D. Tant, Gospel preacher of bygone days, said, “Brethren, we are drifting.” Last week we looked at the warning against drifting in Hebrews 2:1-4. In this article we want to discuss some “currents” that are out there that may lead us to drift away from the safety of God and His Word.
First, there is the current of
time. A time in which we grow weary of doing good—a concern is expressed in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” If we are not careful as time goes by we can gradually lose some of the fervor and zeal of our devotion. It happened to the church at Ephesus, and it can happen to us (Rev.2:4-5). We may begin to rest on our past accomplishments, and cease pressing forward (Phil. 3:13-14).
Then there is the current of
popular opinion. The tides of modern opinion may easily persuade us (I Cor. 15:33). It is sometimes difficult to maintain the course when we are bombarded with secular humanism, false religions, and even “surface Christianity” offered as Truth. Such things may cause us to drift away from the simplicity and wisdom of the Lord (II Cor. 11:2-3; I Cor. 1:17-25; 2:1-2).
Another current that may cause us to drift is the current of the
flesh. Our warfare is not only without but also within (I Pet. 2:11; Gal. 5:16-17). The world has so much to attract us and allure us away from the great salvation. We need to study seriously Romans 12:1-2 and I John 2:15-17.
Another current is that of
daily affairs. Daily cares, anxieties, pressures, and duties can distract us. Jesus warned against this (Luke 8:14; 21:34). He taught the necessity of setting priorities (Matt. 6:33). Guard against being too busy to read, study, and meditate on God's Word (Psalm 1:1-2).
How do we prevent drifting away? The Hebrew writer says, “We must give the more earnest heed…” Imagine yourself in a canoe, in a river with a slow-moving current. Failure to pay constant attention leads to drifting. The drifting may be subtle at first, and by the time you realize it is happening it may be too late! Compare with drifting on a raft in the ocean's currents. Last-minute corrections may be made, but even then one may still run into the brush, crash into the rocks, or go over the falls!
So it is with salvation. We must remain diligent to the task at hand (II Pet. 1:5, 10). Diligence is “careful and persistent work or effort” according to the
New Oxford American Dictionary. There is absolutely no place for halfway commitment (Phil. 3:12-15; Matt. 6:24). Note that we must give the more earnest heed. We are to be more earnest than those who heard the word spoken through angels. We have a greater salvation offered and when more is given, more is required! (Luke 12:48). The same thing is taught in the parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). Are you and I more earnest in giving heed to what we have heard than those saints of old?

Paul M. Wilmoth

Drifting

Brother J. D. Tant, a preacher during the middle part of the 20th century, wrote about some of the discussions in which the church in those days was involved. He ended many of his articles with the words, "don’t forget brethren, we are drifting." It is inevitable that men who leave the paths of divine authority will "drift away” from God.
The author of the book of Hebrews was concerned about the spiritual well-being of recent Jewish converts. They were Jews who had become Christians. Thus, they were faced with tremendous social pressures to return to Judaism. The writer deals with this problem in two ways: (1) By emphasizing the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant. (2) By a series of exhortations for them to remain stedfast.
In this article we want to look at the first of several exhortations for them to remain faithful to Christ. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:1-4).
Why this warning about drifting? Because the danger of “drifting” is very real! It is possible for a child of God to drift so far away as to be lost. Otherwise, this exhortation is meaningless. He would not warn us if it were not so. It is possible for us to “drift away” from our salvation. We can certainly “neglect” our salvation (v. 3). We also learn that we can “depart” from God (Heb. 3:12-14). Later in this book, we will be told that one can “fall away” so far that it becomes impossible to renew them to repentance (Heb. 6:4-6). We can reach a point where “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26-27).
What do we lose if we “drift away?” We lose “so great salvation” (v. 3). Why is it the “great salvation?” Because of the things it offers us. Forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Acts 2:38), transformation of character by providing power over sin (Rom. 12:1-2; I Cor. 10:13), assurance of God's presence (Heb. 13:5), a clear and peaceful conscience (I Peter 3:21; I John 3:21), and a glorious hope of eternity (Col. 1:22-23).
Just as those Jews who neglected “the word spoken by angels” (the Law of Moses), lost their “promised land,” so there are also grave consequences today for those who neglect the “great salvation” spoken by the Son of God!
What about you? If you were once a faithful child of God, but have “drifted away” from God, why not consider beginning again? Judgment is sure (Heb. 9:27; I Cor. 5:10) and eternity is a long time. Think about it, repent and turn back before you reach the point of no return!

Paul M. Wilmoth

Danger of Following Afar Off

Effectiveness is often proportionate to distance. Some want distance between themselves and God. They do not want to appear as being “too religious,” however God is with them who are with Him (II John 9; John 14:23; I John 4:15). Peter demonstrates the danger of distance.
First we have Peter’s confusion of the Christ at Caesarea Philippi. As recorded in Matthew 16:13-19, after hearing what men were saying about Him Jesus said to His apostles, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter immediately answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Remember that confession, the truth of which formed the foundation upon which Jesus promised to build His church (vs. 17-19).
Next check out what Peter said at the Last Supper when Jesus told them, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered…” (Mark 14:27). Peter disputed Jesus’ words on that occasion, saying “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” (Mark 14:29). He said that he was ready for prison, or death if necessary (Luke 22:33). He had said earlier that he would lay down his life for Jesus (John 13:37).
Jesus predicted Peter’s fall. He predicted that “all” of them would be offended (Mark 14:27). He even told Peter, “Satan hath desired thee” (Luke 22:31). He added, “I have prayed for you.”
Following the arrest of Jesus later that evening Peter was forbidden of the Lord when he tried to defend Him with the sword. So Peter finds himself in quite a dilemma. He is between two forces—Christ and Satan. Fear says Satan—deny Christ. His conscience says Christ. Peter’s decision—follow, but from afar (Luke 22:54). But with Jesus, partial service is no service. It is all or nothing (Matt. 22:37; 6:24; Rev. 3:15-16).
Look at the results of Peter’s decision to follow the Lord but at a greater distance, “afar off.” How far, only God knows. I believe it is to be measured by attitude rather than feet. He lost the zeal of that confession he had made when he said, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.” Where is that vow of loyalty? (John 13:27). We also find him with the wrong crowd (Mark 14:54; Luke 22:55). He is now with the enemy (Mark 14:54). The effect our companions would have on us would later be stated by Paul in I Corinthians 15:33: “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.” Peter is now cold and indifferent; he lies, curses, and swears that he does not know Jesus (John 18:25; Mark 14:71). What a difference following from afar off made in Peter’s life and loyalty.
I am glad the story did not end this way. Jesus also predicted Peter’s redemption saying, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). When Peter heard the cock crow, Matthew records, “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” What a contrast with Judas! The weeping of Peter seems to indicate his repentance and we see him later being the first at the empty tomb (John 20:4), and entrusted with the Gospel on Pentecost to open the doors of the church and give the means of salvation (Acts 2).
What is the lesson we should learn from this? If the great apostle Peter could not stand stedfast while following Christ afar off, then certainly neither can we (I Cor, 15:58).

Paul M. Wilmoth