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"That I May By All Means Save Some"

(1 Corinthians 9.22)

"Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men," called the Master to Simon and Andrew, as they were casting their nets one day by the Sea of Galilee. Note how Mark puts it, p]ease. " I will make you to become." It is evident that this was a task which could not be learned in a day. It had taken years for these men to become the clever fishermen they were; how much more then the work of fishing for men. Training and preparation are required in most walks of life, and this comes only by study and practice. We must not expect that the service of the Lord will call for anything less. How were Peter and Andrew equipped for their divine calling? " Come ye after Me," He said, " and I will make you ..." He is the Divine Instructor. And who better could make His followers into fishers of men, than lie whose love for men brought Him from the throne above to share their toil and tears, and then to give Himself upon the Cross that they might be won for ever? Young disciples, in this, as in all else, lie bids us learn of Him. Often we find the Lord Jesus dealing with individuals. Let us see what we can glean of His methods that will help us in our work. A few suggestions are:

(a)Acquire a friendly and approachable attitude. Starting a conversation is possibly the most difficult part, but a smile always helps-and smiles cost nothing. The Master was wonderfully approachable; none feared to come to Him. His kindly interest drew even the children to His side. Philip, the apostle, was another such. It was he whom the Greeks sought out when they wanted to see Jesus. An evangelist tells of a train journey one day when he was offered a sweet by a fellow-passenger, and unthinkingly refused, only to find that it was most difficult afterwards to open up conversation. We must be on the look-out for points of contact. "Give Me to drink," the Lord Jesus said, and that simple request served to open up a conversation which led to the woman, and many others too, drinking the water of life.

(b)Listen carefully to the other person, hearing what he has to say first. He will then be far more ready to listen to us when our turn comes. "The man that heareth shall speak unchallenged" (Proverbs 21.28). Indeed, only by listening to the person's story can we decide how best to make our approach. Most doctors get their patients talking; it aids diagnosis. Remember how the Lord Jesus encouraged the Samaritan woman to talk until He had drawn out from her a confession of her past life, and then He revealed Himself as the Messiah, the One strong to save.

(c)Keep clear of arguments. Some people love to argue, but we must not be drawn, for souls are not won that way. Someone has said, You may win an argument, but lose a soul," and it is souls we are out to win, not arguments. How often the Pharisees tried to draw the Lord Jesus into an argument but always without success, for He silenced them with a word.

(d)Endeavour to understand the person requiring help, and to put yourself in his position. This is important if we would win his confidence. This may apply particularly in lands where the customs and mode of life are different from our own, but at home also we should train ourselves to understand others and appreciate their point of view. "This man understands me" will be the quick response, and we all know how heart-warming it is to feel that someone is interested in us. This very point the apostle presses home in 1 Corinthians 9 where he says, "I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some." He was prepared to get down to men, to look at things from their angle, and so he won them for Christ. Perhaps he learned it from Ezekiel, who came to the people of the captivity, and he says, "I sat where they sat" (3.15, R.V.M.). Once again, the Lord Jesus is the perfect Example, for " His understanding is infinite." He could as well understand the rich young ruler, putting His

finger immediately upon the cause of the trouble, as He could the woman of the city who wept her way to His feet. "Friend of publicans and sinners" the Pharisees called Him in scorn, little realizing how true a description it was, or how sweet to those who love Him.

Reverting to the raising of the son of the great woman of Shunem, after Elisha had prayed he stretched himself upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands ... and the flesh of the child waxed warm." Not a pleasant task, but only thus could the child be warmed back to life. And again he "stretched himself upon him... and the child opened his eyes." Do we long to see sin-darkened eyes and hearts being opened today? Hearts that have been long cold in sin warmed to the love of Christ? Oh yes, we do, and we shall, if only we are prepared, as the prophet was, to get down to men, where they are, so close to them, that the warmth of the love of Christ in our hearts will warm them towards Him who alone can give them life.

Not all, of course, are so befouled with sin. There are others whose lives are almost beyond reproach, and they also need to be pointed to the Saviour. The noble of this world, the mighty, the educated; how should they be approached? Is not this a task which calls for special qualifications? Strangely enough, no!, for in Christ "are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden," and the man of God finds himself completely equipped, if Christ is dwelling in his heart through faith.

(e)Speak faithfully of sin, but always in a God-fearing way. This is a subject on which we may feel reticent to speak, but we shall need to be faithful if we would give help. Sin is at the root of all men's troubles, and until they recognize their sinner-need, how will they look to Christ as Saviour? Governor Felix trembled as Paul reasoned with him of "righteousness, and temperance, and the judgement to come," but it was for his good. "A true witness delivereth souls " (Proverbs 14.25). Oh, let us not fail to be true

In Acts 20.21 the apostle helpfully sums up his message under two headings, "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Repentance must come first, but that change of mind will only be brought about as the heart is convicted of its sin against God.

(f)Speak to convince the mind first. In the synagogue Paul " spake boldly for the space of three months, reasoning and persuading as to the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 19.8): reasoning, as to the mind; persuading, as to the heart. It is of no use urging persons to believe unless they are clear in their minds what they must believe. When the mind agrees, then we can look for the word to be received into the heart. A careful reading of John 3 indicates that the Lord Jesus worked this way with Nicodemus. In verses 1 to 8, they are speaking face to face; verses 8 to 8, mind to mind; from verse 9 onwards heart to heart.

(g)When turning to appropriate passages of Scripture it is helpful if the enquiring one reads himself the verses aloud. He needs to feel that the word is to him personally. How careful we should be to remember that in the end it will be, not by our exposition (used of God though that may be), but by some word of God that he will be saved! "Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10.17). And again, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1.18). The word of God is living and active. 2 Thessalonians 3. 1 speaks of it "running." Such is its activity. Privileged indeed we are that we arc called to work with it.

(h)Guard against trying to force a decision, but when the heart has responded to the message, it is often helpful to kneel together and encourage the new-born soul to call upon God for himself. This helps to bring the assurance of eternal life. Hearing, believing, calling is the precious order in the birth of a soul. "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10.14). That is where our part comes in. And then the word, "Behold, he prayeth."

These are but a few points ; others will occur to the reader. But when all has been said, our fruitfulness in winning souls will depend upon our abiding in Christ.

"As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; 80 neither can ye, except ye abide in Me" (John 15.4).

Yet how easy it becomes when we abide in Him! No effort is required. With the Husbandman to cleanse, and the very life of the Vine flowing through, the branch cannot but bear fruit. And the wonderful outcome, for which we all long is

"Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit " (John 15.8).

Nor is it on earth alone that the Lord will be glorified, for throughout eternity we shall shine to His glory, as Daniel 12.8 shows, "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."

This is the soul-winner's promise. Surely such a prospect will stir our hearts to greater endeavours to reach some for Christ. Not to all is this privilege granted. "Must I go and empty-handed?" sadly asked a dying young man of his friend. He had been saved only a month, most of which had been passed upon a sick bed, and with life fast ebbing away, he longed for the chance of reaching some for his Saviour. What of you and me, dear reader, with health and strength, and life before us (if the Lord will)?

"Must I go and empty-handed? Thus my dear Redeemer meet?

Not one day of service give Him, Lay no trophy at His feet?

The following extract is from a statement made by an atheist, and surely what he writes in unbelief comes as a challenge to those of us who love the Saviour.

"Did I firmly believe, what millions of Christians say they do ... I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross ... (The gospel of Christ) would be my first thought in the morning, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I would labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of eternity only. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and upon the souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own soul?

To the task, young Christian! Around us men are dying without a hope to cheer the tomb. Some whom our lives touch today may tomorrow be languishing in eternal burnings. And we could have spoken to them. Let us give ourselves earnestly to the task, for the night cometh, when no man can work. We cannot afford to be careless, can we, when all around the precious souls of men are perishing the very souls for whom the Saviour died. Let us count no sacrifice too great if thereby we might gain some. 'In diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord." And when we bend the knee with a troubled soul, and hear him call upon God for mercy, our hearts will be filled with Christ's own joy.