Never before in history have so many Christians combined their efforts in an organized manner to get Christ's own gospel to a troubled world. Great progress has been made — but there is yet much more to accomplish. Millions have never yet heard so much as a whisper about God's great master plan of salvation. Many don't even know who Jesus Christ is! The vast majority of mankind has no idea that God may soon intervene in the affairs of men and bring about a Utopia of peace and universal harmony. That's good news — and you can have a vital part in bringing it to this sick and dying world!
SPEAKING of true Christians, Jesus said: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men Light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16). Jesus taught that Christians have a responsibility to the world out of which they are called. They are to be — like Christ Himself — a light that "shineth in a dark place." Jesus did not expect us to have a self-centered, self-serving religion. Rather, true Christianity involves an outgoing concern for all of mankind. God did not call Christians to be an isolated community of withdrawn religious hobbyists. He called us out of this world's sins — but not out of the world itself! Jesus, in the true "Lord's prayer," speaking of Christians, prayed to God the Father: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). Christians separate themselves from the ways of this world — from its evil and its sin. But God does not wish us to physically separate ourselves from society. We must still function within the mainstream of life as a light and an example to this world. Jesus said: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (John 17:18). And what was His object in doing so? Verse 20 of the same chapter tells us: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Christ sent Christians into the world to be a light in order that others might also believe on Him! And how? "Through their word...." Jesus was speaking here of the light of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. This is the greatest gift Christians can bestow upon this suffering, pain-wracked world! It is a light that Satan the devil would love to snuff out. He hates the light of Christ's gospel and has attempted to thwart the preaching of that message from the very day Jesus set foot on this earth. The Apostle Paul, writing around the middle of the first century A.D., said: "The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (II Cor. 4:4, The New International Version). The King James translators rendered the above-mentioned verse "... lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ... should shine unto them." And truly that gospel is light — and it is glorious! It is the burning, glowing, white-hot light you and I have been charged to bring to this darkened earth! It is a gospel of hope and of salvation — both physical and spiritual. It is a message of peace. It is at once a plea and an announcement. It has Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, at its very heart and center. It is a call to repentance and a warning against sin. We have been called, collectively, to be ambassadors for Christ — to advertise to this society a way of life which, if followed perfectly, would bring about universal peace, happiness and ultimate salvation. That is the duty and the responsibility of all Christians. Satan would like to convince you that this is not the responsibility of Christians. He would like you to focus your attention on yourself — your needs, your wants and desires. He likes to introduce you to an orgy of self-indulgence and sensual satiation. He would like you to find fault with the Work of God — so much so that you would become disenchanted with it. If you're looking for faults, you'll have no difficulty finding them. God is working through human instruments just like you and me. We all have our faults, don't we? We all make mistakes. We all sin. Even the great prophet Elijah was a man of "like passions as we are" (James 5:17). If the devil can focus your attention on the faults of men, then the glorious light of the gospel can easily be snuffed out. Fix your attention rather on the message of salvation and hope. Think about the incredible profundity of the truth of God — of His great plan of salvation. Think about Christ and His coming Kingdom. As Paul put it: "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2). Consider the enormous responsibility borne by each child of God. We have a gospel to preach.
You Have an Important Part
There are many ways that each of us can effectively have a part in preaching the gospel and fulfilling our responsibility to this world. Notice the words of the Apostle Paul: "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body [the Church], as it hath pleased him" (I Cor. 12:18). Each of us has been called for a purpose. We each have a part to play in spreading God's message and way of life to this earth. God has given the ministry special abilities in preaching, knowledge and wisdom, faith and other gifts (I Cor. 12:8-9). But each member of the Body of Christ has something to contribute also. Sometimes we may think that because we do not have a conspicuous public role to play that we are unimportant. Nothing could be less true. God tells us: "Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary" (I Cor. 12:22). God does not call someone unless they are important to the functioning of the Body of Christ. Every person who has a part in this great Work is necessary to God. That thought should be tremendously encouraging. Let's consider now some specific ways by which each of us can play an important part in fulfilling the Church's responsibility to be a light to the world.
1. Ambassadors for Christ
Speaking of Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth: "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ..." (II Cor. 5:20). This is not only true of the ministry, but of all Christians. Each individual is a one-man embassy representing the Kingdom of God! Paul stated that we represent another government — another kingdom. In a sense, Christians have dual citizenship. The Apostle Paul used his Roman citizenship to advantage when it was necessary (Acts 22:25-26). But he also wrote: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20, NIV). We are now registered as citizens of God's Kingdom in heaven, as well as with the governments of this world. Jesus Christ will return to this earth and bring that Kingdom with Him. That is why Christians pray: "Thy kingdom come...." As advance representatives of God's way of life on earth, we have an important responsibility. We must be certain to set the right example of Christian conduct and behavior. Paul gave specific instructions to the Church at Colosse on just how they should conduct themselves toward non-Christians: "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace [graciousness], seasoned with salt [i.e., interesting], that ye may know how you ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:5-6). Christ does not want you to cram your beliefs down other people's unwilling throats! Rather, he said that Christians ought to use wisdom in dealing with those who do not yet believe. He spoke of answering others — not preaching at them. Preaching is primarily the job of the ministry. Each individual should not take it upon himself to assume the role of preacher — God knows whom He has placed in the Body to fulfill those responsibilities. Some have actually been turned away from the truth by overzealous but unwise Christians who have been too forceful in wanting to share the truth with others. No one can come to Christ unless God specifically calls them and draws them (John 6:44). Peter elaborated on the point made by Paul about knowing how to answer others: "But sanctify [set apart] the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (I Peter 3:15). When your good example and way of life arouses the curiosity of another, he or she just might ask you for an explanation. A Christian is always prepared to explain his beliefs and practices to those who ask — but in a spirit of meekness and humility. God's people should study their Bibles regularly and be familiar with the Book which shows the way to salvation and eternal life. Never before has there been a greater need for earnest, searching Bible study among the people of God. If you will study your Bible diligently — daily — you will begin to find the answers! And having them is part of being a good ambassador for Christ. Your language, manners and dress also play a big part in creating the right image of Christianity. Can a person be attracted to God or to the gospel by the foul-mouthed cursing of a whiskey-breathed sot drunk? Obviously not. Does crass, boorish, loudmouthed discourtesy in public place do anything for the cause of Christ's message? Not at all. Christians should practice what they preach. Paul wrote to the Church at Rome: "Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?" (Rom. 2:23.) Violating God's laws brings dishonor on God and on His Church. A good ambassador lives the way of God! Strive at all times to bring honor upon the Church and Work of God, and — in due time — God will honor you!
2. Pray for God's Work
Undoubtedly, this is the most important thing anyone can ever do for the Work of God. The Apostle James wrote that the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). Don't sell yourself short in this vital area. Paul constantly reminded the churches to pray for the work he and his companions were doing in spreading the gospel to the world of that day: "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Col. 4:2-4). Nothing could be more important at this critical juncture in history than that God would open more and more doors for the preaching of the true gospel! Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has been experiencing just such door-opening in his contacts with leaders in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. The potential for preaching the gospel is tremendous in these areas. This world needs a powerful witness before the earth-shattering return of Jesus Christ to usher in the Kingdom of God! Millions in Britain, Canada and the United States have not yet heard Christ's own gospel. And what about the atheistic nations of Communist China and Russia? Hundreds of millions of human beings on this earth — created in the very image of God — have no idea who Jesus Christ even is! How great the need for the preaching of the gospel to grow and expand and blanket this earth with the most powerful and meaningful message it has ever heard! Your earnest, faithful prayers for this great Work can make all the difference in the world! The prayers of God's people are like sweet incense rising before the throne of God (cf., Rev. 8:3-4) — they bring powerful results! You can add your fervent and faithful prayers to the thousands of others which rise before the throne of God daily for the successful preaching of Christ's own gospel. Nothing could help the Work of God more.
3. Financial Support
At the present time we are living in a time of traumatic worldwide economic crisis and possible collapse. Some 51% of the people in the United States believe we will experience another 1930s-type depression in the near future, according to a recent Gallup Poll. Inflation is running rampant all over the economic face of the earth. Nation after nation is attempting to find some economic cure-all which will revitalize the national economy — but to little or no avail. In the meantime, the Work of God must go on. The gospel must be preached. We say — in the spirit of the Apostle Paul — "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (I Cor. 9:16.)
The costs of paper and printing equipment continue to rise along with all other costs. Everyone is pinched by the viselike grip of rising costs. Unions continue to strike for higher and higher wages, pushing the costs of almost all manufactured products up. Easy credit continues to take its toll on the national pocketbook. The price of oil rises steadily as the oil-producing nations exercise their newly recognized economic power. The price of meat rises as the cost of feed and other grains soar. Every household in the Western world feels the pinch of inflation. The experts are divided (as usual) when it comes to finding tangible and quick solutions to the economic ills of a financially sick world. But the gospel must still be preached! The Word must get out while there is still time. Yet the cost of good radio and television time is rising along with the price of everything else. The Church of God has a worldwide ministry which serves tens of thousands of brethren in hundreds of local church congregations. Personal appearance campaigns are now being conducted worldwide by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong and many other evangelists and ministers of the Worldwide Church of God. The Big Push in reaching this world is now well under way. We cannot allow the Work to flounder and falter at this critical point! The people of God must rally around the Work and support the preaching of the gospel in every possible way — including financially. The Apostle Paul showed the Church that he and the other apostles had the right or authority to function full time in the service of God at the expense of the Church. He said: "This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don't we have the right to food and drink? Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with. us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas [Peter]? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain'" (I Cor. 9:3-9, NIV). In verse 12 Paul says: "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?" Here is plain evidence that the Work of preaching the gospel was to be supported materially and financially by the membership of the Church in the days of the early apostles. It is the same today. For over four decades now a tithe-paying membership, and tens of thousands of zealous co-workers, have supported this Work of God. Following a practice which may be traced back to patriarchal times (Gen. 14:20-22; 28:20-22), members of the Worldwide Church of God have set aside a tenth of their incomes for the monetary support of God's Work. As God consistently blessed the ancient Israelites for giving, so God has poured out His blessings on those New Testament Christians who have voluntarily chosen to practice this God-given principle. This Work started out very small — like a grain of mustard seed — but today the message of God's coming Kingdom and of eternal salvation is going out on millions of watts of radio and television power. The Plain Truth and Good News are reaching several million readers each and every month with strong, information-packed articles. Plans call for more and more personal appearance campaigns around the world in the months and years to come. The Correspondence Course is now reaching tens of thousands of people around the world in several languages. More baptizing tours in Africa, India and Southeast Asia are even now being planned. Hundreds of local church congregations have been raised up around the world with several hundred full-time elders serving the ever-growing needs of these dedicated and converted brethren. The Work of God is now a major, globe-girdling undertaking. But, in a sense, we've only just begun. So much is left to do. Millions must hear that message before it's too late! We cannot sell the truth of God — but we must pay to preach it! This is made possible by the thousands of loyal co-workers and members who have tirelessly supported the Work for many years now. Many have made great personal sacrifices to assist God's Work — and God will not forget it. We are informed by Paul that "... God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb. 6:10). That's a promise from the living God! Those who support the Work of God — the Church of God — by whatever means (prayers, physical service, example, financial support, etc.), will be abundantly rewarded by God Himself in due time. Now it is more critical than ever that true Christians everywhere rally around this last-ditch effort — the crusade for sanity — and support, aid and help the Work of God! Now — more than ever.