II Corinthians 3:2, Paul said, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men — YOU are the letters for Christ.” We leave here tomorrow and that is what we will be — letters for Christ.
We’ve already heard that the world doesn’t read the Bible but they do read our lives, and we are leaving to be letters for Christ. We have the privilege of conveying what a letter should be. A letter doesn’t speak, but it conveys a message that the writer wants others to know. That’s the kind of people we need to be. We want others to know the love of God and His purpose for them — we want others to know the fellowship we enjoy and the confidence we have in the Truth.
What do others read from our lives? A letter must have a clear meaning. Sometimes we hardly understand what some writers try to say or what their meaning is in the letter. We’ve heard about compromising, but compromising isn’t victory. It’s easy to compromise because it makes it easier for us, but I’m grateful for the teachings of Christ that clearly point out what must be a part of our lives.
We can be a letter that is read and is interesting and an encouragement to others. I’ve often received letters throughout the years that I find myself unconsciously reading over again because in it is something that warms my heart. It’s not just a family letter. Unfortunately, this art of writing letters is diminishing today and is being taken over by modern technology and devices. The outcome is that there are many more questions asked then answered. But still, the Lord’s people are a living testimony and we don’t want to fall into the pit of formality but take a real interest in people who have a warm message to share.
A letter must be sent, and we sometimes wonder why we are in the place we are in. It’s good to go from convention with the feeling that God has sent me out to be a witness — a letter. I can tell you the experience of my family and one of the many reasons why they enjoy a place in the Kingdom today. Many years ago, a young married woman in Auckland made her choice to serve God and her husband was not pleased. He knew if he didn’t get his wife away from this fellowship, he would never get her back to the woman she was. He sold the family home and they shifted more than 40 miles away and she remained true. For nearly 19 years, she got very little fellowship but she had the Truth, this proof, and she lived faithfully as a lighthouse in that district. That same year, my people came from Scotland and looked upon the life of that young woman and read her for many years, in sorrow and in death. Her husband’s death was the last blow and my people knew that woman had something they didn’t.
One time, a large earthquake struck that area and caused terrific destruction. My mother thought it was the end of the world, but she said, “If Mrs. Hopcroft is alive, I’ll hear her voice again.” It led to the gospel finally coming to our area. Our neighbour’s house was a few miles away but because Mrs. Hopcroft stood true, she was a letter read — and there was no compromising. She conveyed the truth and stood true. During those years, I can’t tell you now how many, many people still enjoy the Truth because of her. From that day on, that woman looked upon us as her children. It was a huge comfort to us to have her standing true in spite of her loneliness and opposition.
In that same city of Auckland, another family moved from South Africa and that mother had been brought up in the Truth but had gotten away from it. She started feeling her need again and began looking and looking for Truth. She saw one of our sisters in the city one day and watched her for two years before finally approaching her and asking her about her faith. She told us that if she had seen anything different in that woman, even in her dress, from what she had known in South Africa, she would have stopped looking. That woman was a true letter, a true witness. The outcome was she has professed, both she and her daughters. Living for others brings them and us great joy. That woman was oftentimes tempted to change her dress and other things but said, “I’m glad now that I didn’t compromise.” The outcome is now others can enjoy salvation too.
Verse 5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” I received a lesson from that verse. Paul didn’t have any confidence in himself but God helped him to be a letter, and an example.
Verse 6 says, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” This is what I want to be, an able minister of the letter and preach manifesting the spirit of Christ.
I’d like to tell you about another family in Japan who are true letters. This was an experience we had a little part in. It goes back 9 or 10 years now to another friend of ours, a very faithful man and a teacher at the university there. He had some surgery for cancer. One day, we went to see him and he had just gone home from the hospital. He caught a taxi home from the hospital and got to all the meetings, and afterwards would go back to the hospital again. His zeal was such an inspiration to us. Then the time came when he couldn’t teach anymore and thought, “What can I do to help the workers? I’ll try and make friends in the neighbourhood and maybe they will come and listen.” He was an English teacher so he invited a little group to his home and he spoke a few words of Truth to them at every opportunity. One lady in that group was very, very religious, and very, very zealous in her church, but she continued to come and listen. Later, we had a little part and I must say, I was happy when she didn’t come because every chance she had, she told us of her good works. This continued for some time until our friend died. His wife, also a teacher, continued to come and listen.
Then the time came when we were sent into that area and continued to teach English to that little group of people. We sowed a few seeds of the gospel and a lady who always attended started listening to our message more than to the English taught. After a while her husband said, “We would like you to come to our home.” He told us he was the secretary/treasurer of his church for 25 years and we began to encourage him to come to the gospel meetings and listen with his wife, and he did. He asked “Do you preach the gospel anywhere else?” We were using our little batch at that time, and said “We preach the gospel anywhere within this allotted area.”
The next time he came to the meeting he said, “My wife and I are 60 years of age and our family want to give us a big birthday party. We have no children but all our relations will be there. Alcohol will be served but will you come and preach the gospel to them?” Well, I had already said we would go anywhere and we had to go! The party was held in a big hotel in Osaka with lots of people coming. He gave his own testimony first of his experience and then said, “Now we are going to listen to these men. I believe they preach the gospel as it was from the beginning – and I believe they are true men teaching the gospel of Christ. I want you to listen to them.” I knew from his testimony that day that he was not far from the Kingdom. That day, he heard the gospel in his own language for the first time. I spoke quietly to the waiter and asked her for a Chinese tea as I didn’t touch the alcohol, and then I noticed that sometime during that evening that man had his drink exchanged, too. We had said nothing. This went on for some time but a few months later, that couple made their choice and were such a wonderful encouragement to us. What they had seen first in the life of one of our friends, who was really dying from a disease and who never gave up hope, inspired them. He just continued sowing little seeds for the gospel.
That couple went to the home of that man and his wife now (there was only the wife now) and were so thankful that that man remained true to his dying day, sowing little seeds along the journey. Another couple later asked us “Will you have meetings in our home?” That outcome has been that now there are over 30 people listening to the gospel because of one faithful person being a letter of Christ. Some of those people now are drawing near to the Kingdom. Some belong to a church group that are taken up with only good works but they’re getting over that now. Our responsibility is what Paul says, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament: not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
I will tell you also what one man told us. He said, “Many times our minister told us things that I couldn’t say, “Amen” to. His spirit and his life just seemed to cancel it out.” That is a warning to me. Is it the spirit or the minister? Paul said quite clearly, “The letter killeth.” They had been listening to the letter but they didn’t have the love! Now they have that love and that man said, “I count it a wonderful privilege to have a part in what we have heard from the beginning. Finally, after all these years I have peace.”
Paul spoke of the ministration of death in verse 7, “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away.” There was a glory and a beauty, something so wonderful about the law and the commandments that Moses received on the mountain. But there is something even far more glorious, and it’s the ministration of the spirit. Why? Because we go out to be a letter for Christ. It’s not what we are going to tell people, but it’s what we feel and see.
Verse 9, “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.” That woman in John 8, if anybody should have been condemned it was her, but those people brought her to Jesus and wanted to stone her. But Jesus waited, then kneeled down and wrote on the ground. He wanted to speak to her in a right spirit. That’s how we are. We can be too quick to condemn people and leave them without hope. Jesus had a message from God, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Are there any of us here that can cast a stone? That woman could have left too, as they all went out one-by-one, but she saw the power of Jesus and felt, “I’m sure there is hope for me.” That’s what the gospel should always be, not because of what we say but what we are. Jesus wasn’t disturbed or upset but said, “Everybody examine yourselves.” He asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” He gave her another chance — and that’s the gospel we want to preach. We don’t want to preach condemnation and harden people but I would like to learn better to have the spirit that Jesus had, the spirit of a lamb, who didn’t condemn her nor justify her either. That is all we have when we leave this convention – just another chance.
We want to be a letter that God can send. We might wonder sometimes, “Why are we sent where we are?” It’s to be a letter, to be a witness, to bring hope to a people. When the children of Israel went into the Promised Land and Joshua was guiding them, the whole land was divided by lot. They didn’t choose; some areas were fruitful, other places mountainous, and so on. I have had a lot of encouragement in this Work for we don’t choose where we are sent.
I’ll tell you my testimony about going to Japan. It wasn’t my choice and in all the years I have been in the ministry, not once have I ever chosen the field or the companion that I’ve wanted to be with. I can honestly say that. I can also tell you that not once have I ever wanted to leave this field for there are opportunities everywhere. As David said in Psalm 84:6, “Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.” That verse has encouraged me many times. The valley of Baca is a dry valley, a valley of tears. That’s the time for us to put our roots down, and our heart into the Truth and work to deepen our faith to prove that the Lord is with us. It takes work to put your own roots down in the difficult times, but it says the rain filleth the pools. Isn’t that what sustains us in our fellowship with the Father and His Son. It shouldn’t be changed or interfered with because of our surroundings – it’s our surrenderings! Whatever the experience, it’s good if we can learn to surrender and be satisfied, getting something into our experience from God so the rain will fill the pools. That’s the blessing, and if we work at our salvation and on our human connections, it’s doing our part. Rain is a blessing from heaven and it will be ours in abundance. This dry country here needs lots of rain before it could fill a pool, but that blessing became a pool.
Paul went on to say that even when Moses’ law was read and read correctly and effectively, it didn’t open their eyes because a veil was over their faces. They had been listening to the law but they still were blind. When you turn to Christ and what He has taught, you see things clearly. That’s what it tells us in the latter part of this chapter. Their minds were blinded. Verse 16, “Nevertheless when it (Israel) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away”—the bandage or veil shall be taken away. The spirit of the Lord is with those who do the things that Paul did with the same spirit he had — it brings vision.
You read that story of Philip and the eunuch in Acts 8 and what a clear picture it is of what we want to be, a servant in the spirit. The Lord spoke to Philip and said, “’Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.’ And he arose and went…” He could have asked why or even feel, “There are easier places where I can look,” but he didn’t doubt. He went, and what an encouraging experience! He found that eunuch, a man looking for salvation — and the Lord had heard his prayer. He was returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem where he had come to worship, and Philip found him in the chariot still reading. The spirit said to Philip, “Draw near to that man.” It’s possible to get so set in our ways and want things so orderly that we leave no room for the spirit of God to lead us. Looking back, it’s been the leading of the Lord’s spirit that has led His people to salvation. Philip drew near and he heard him reading, and asked “Understandest thou what thou readest?” and the eunuch replied, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” Or, “How can I unless I meet someone who’s going to show me?” He had been up there in Jerusalem and had a Bible and knew they were talking about the Bible and Jesus. But what happened? He saw it as the Truth and he knew he wasn’t baptised. He felt, “If baptism is part of Jesus, I want it.” “See, here is water; what, doth hinder me to be baptized?” And Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” At the end of that story it says he went on his way rejoicing. He never saw Philip again — Philip was only the messenger and the letter God used who was willing to go anywhere at any time and preach the gospel as it was in the beginning. He kept the right spirit.
This is the privilege we all have as we leave this place. I could tell you of so many others too, who have been letters proclaiming His way and truth to other people. It’s a joy to read a letter and to be a letter. May the Lord help us to be letters that Christ can send to others, so they too can enjoy salvation.