November 21, 2017

The Greatness of the Gospel

Chuck Phelps

The gospel is “good news.” It is the good news of God. God sent His Son, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, into the world to bear our sins in His body on the tree (Isaiah 53) so that we might be reconciled to God through Him (2 Cor. 5:18). In a world filled with bad news, the Christian carries good news that needs to be shared faithfully, prayerfully, and lovingly.

Spread the Gospel Faithfully

Havenwood is the name given to a retirement community run by the United Church of Christ (Congregational) in Concord, New Hampshire. For the past five years, I have hosted a Saturday morning Bible Study at the Havenwood Home.

Our Bible Study began in a small, poorly lit room located in the basement level of this large, heavily populated complex. Just a few people sat in a circle when we first gathered, but I discovered that three remarkable individuals were in attendance. There was a gentleman by the name of Phil. Widowed for nearly 40 years, Phil was in his 95th year. As a young man, working with the Salvation Army, Phil worked as an usher for Gypsy Smith when the Evangelist conducted his crusades in Boston decades earlier. Now Phil was ushering his neighbors to come and hear the gospel.

A second resident in attendance was a dear Christian lady by the name of Grace. Grace was 92. She had never married. For years Grace labored as a missionary to children in the north woods of Maine. It was evident that Grace wanted to continue carrying the message of the gospel to the aged residents of her retirement home. A statuesque, white-haired bachelor by the name of Louis also came to our inaugural meeting. Louis was 91 years young five years ago. His beautiful baritone voice seemed unaffected by age. In his youth Louis traveled with a gospel quartet, shared his testimony as a laypreacher, and organized Sunday schools. I’m sure that everyone at Havenwood could hear the joy in Louis’ voice on that first Saturday when he declared his testimony in song, “Be not dismayed what’er betide, God will take care of you.”

Phil is now being ushered by the angels through the streets of gold, but Grace and Louis continue faithful in ministry with me at Havenwood. Though they are in their 97th and 96th years, they show by their faithfulness that there is no greater privilege, responsibility, or mystery in life than to proclaim the gospel of Christ. The faithfulness of these prayer-warrior evangelists has filled the Center’s newly built chapel to capacity. On a typical Saturday over 50 will gather to hear the gospel preached and to hear Louis sing. Some have been saved. Many have been strengthened. God has been glorified, and I have learned through the example of three senior saints to be a vigilant witness. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16) regardless of his age. As Louis says, “Preach Christ, Pastor. He promised to draw all men unto Himself.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel who has the ability to do so; and more, he not only has the right, but it is his duty so to do as long as he lives” (Lectures to My Students, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981, p.19).

Spread the Gospel Prayerfully

When Ford Porter turned 25, on the 5th of February in 1918, he was impressed of God to begin a practice of praying each morning. (It was a practice that he would continue for the next 68 years.) It was winter in Indiana. The temperature was five below zero. As Mr. Porter began climbing the stairs into his attic, he carried a pillow upon which he would kneel when he prayed. He placed the pillow very near the chimney and fell on his knees. Then, he prayed, “Oh God, give me a ministry that will reach souls for Christ, encircle the world, and be carried on long after I am gone.” He had no idea how his prayer would be answered.

Fifteen years after Mr. Porter began his practice of daily prayer, the Lord put a burden on his heart to place a gospel tract in every home in Princeton, Indiana, where he now pastored the First Baptist Church. Ford began to look for a suitable piece of literature. Not being satisfied with the message of the tracts that he examined, he decided that he would write a tract of his own. He sat down and wrote a tract that he entitled, “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation.”

After praying over his manuscript for several days, he carried it to his friend, Dale Skelton, owner of the Standard Printing Company. Pastor Porter placed an order for 2,000 tracts to be printed. Mr. Skelton suggested that printing 5,000 tracts would not cost much more. “No,” said Mr. Porter, “there are 1800 homes in Princeton ,and I want to put one in every home. Two thousand is all I’ll ever need.”

As the Lord would have it, Mr. Porter was able to distribute those tracts in Princeton. The leftovers were used as inserts in some of Mr. Porter’s personal correspondence. As Christian friends received letters from Ford, they began to write requesting additional copies of the little tract. Soon Mr. Porter was back at Standard Printing asking that more tracts be printed; first 5,000, then ten, then ten more.

Today, “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation” is available in 108 languages. Over 500 million copies have been printed. Multiplied thousands have trusted Christ as Savior because of the message contained in Mr. Porter’s little leaflet.

In Romans 10:1, Paul says that “his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” Ford Porter’s prayer to God for Princeton, Indiana, and the world continues to be answered through a simple tract that has been profoundly used of God. The power behind the power of the gospel is the power of prayer.

Success

I tried to win a soul for Christ;
How earnestly I pleaded
That he had sinned and gone astray
And Christ was all he needed.
I begged him to forsake the world,
Repent and be forgiven —
I tried to coax him to the Lord,
To woo him into Heaven.
And then I realized that Christ
Longed for him more than I,
That He alone could make one care,
Who cared enough to die.
Upon my knees I fought the fight —
My friend was born again that night.

—Barbara E. Cornet

Spread the Gospel Lovingly

Henry Moorehouse was born in 1840. Dubbed the “puny lad from Lancashire,” Moorehouse was a cocky little bantamweight prizefighter who battled men when he was in the ring and alcohol when he was not. By the time Henry was 19, he was a “has-been” fighter who had been knocked out once too often by the bottle. Moorehouse had no money, no future, and no hope.

One night, Henry Moorehouse, the washed-up prizefighter, stood in the darkened hallway of his boarding house. His blood was filled with alcohol, his mind was filled with pain, and his hand was filled with a pistol. As he stood in the hallway building up the necessary nerve to end his short life, Henry unexpectedly heard a voice. Upstairs, someone’s door was opened. Henry could clearly hear someone talking. As he listened, he heard words that gripped his desperate soul. The upstairs resident was reading the story of “The Prodigal Son.” Convicted in heart by what he heard, Henry’s arm dropped to his side. Moorehouse put his gun away deciding to live another day.

A few weeks later Henry was in the basement of a warehouse in Manchester. There he met a Christian firefighter. The firefighter opened the Blessed Book to Romans 10:9-10. How precious the words were to Henry Moorehouse as he heard the faithful witness of the Spirit of God for the first time. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Here was a message that could melt the hard heart of Henry Moorehouse. The “puny lad from Lancashire” believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Henry had no one to tell him more of Christ. He knew of no church to attend. Henry acquired a Bible and began reading it on his own. Within four years Moorehouse was so saturated with Scripture that folks from near and far were sitting spellbound before him as he preached.

It was while passing through England that D.L. Moody met Henry Moorehouse. Without much thought or much sincerity, Mr. Moody said, “If you ever come to Chicago, we will have you preach for us.” Upon returning to Chicago, Moody received a letter from Moorehouse. “I have come to New York,” Moorehouse reported, “I will gladly come and preach for you.” Moody tersely responded, “Call upon me if you ever come west.”

A few days later another letter from Moorehouse arrived. Henry wrote, “I will be in Chicago next Thursday.” Moody did not know what to do. An invitation without substance was now being received sincerely. Dwight gathered the officers of his church together and said, “There is a man coming from England, and he wants to preach. I am going to be absent Thursday and Friday. If you will let him preach on those days, I will be back on Saturday and will take him off your hands.”

When Moody returned on Saturday, he was eager to hear how his flock had responded to the young man from England. “How did they like him?” Moody asked his wife. “They liked him very much, but he preaches a little different from what you do,” she responded. “He tells people that God loves them. I think you will like him.” Flabbergasted, Moody quipped, “I’m sure I will not!” (After all, how could the great evangelist enjoy a man who did not preach as he preached?)

When Moody went to hear the young Moorehouse, his heart was moved by the love of God expressed by the little minister. Moody invited Moorehouse to continue his series of messages. Moorehouse preached seven nights on the love of God as expressed in John 3:16. On the seventh night he said, “I have been trying to tell you how much God loves you, but this poor stammering tongue of mine will not let me. If I could ask Gabriel how much love God has for the poor lost world, all that mighty angel could say would be that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”

It has been said that Henry Moorehouse was “the man who moved the man who moved millions.” He moved Moody’s heart with seven messages that centered on the greatness of God’s love as revealed in the gospel message of John 3:16. The gospel is most moving when it is shared lovingly.


Dr. Charles Phelps is the pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2002. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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