A PASSION FOR SOULS
By: Evangelist Jesse M. Hendley
In Luke the fifth chapter, verse 10, we have the record of one of Peter’s great crises (he had many, as you know) when the Lord Jesus said to him,
“Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
This is not the first time Peter really came in contact with the Lord Jesus. You remember, he met Him down in Judea when his own brother brought him to the Lord (John 1:28, 40-42), but he had gone back to his fishing nets in Galilee. Peter was saved in Judea, he loved the Lord, but he was not winning souls. The Lord came to him and gave him a blessing, and then Peter said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord.” I have often wondered why Peter said that. I believe it was because he realized he had failed the Lord. He had not seen all that God had wrapped up for him in the very beginning of his conversion. Jesus said, “Fear not; from henceforth [from this moment on] thou shalt catch men.” Peter fell on his face and repented and said, ‘Lord, I am a sinner.’ He became a great soul winner after that. Oh! it is a great time in any man’s life when he confesses he has been careless about souls, and when Christ says to him, “From henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
God Wants Fruit
It is important for us to see that if we are going to win souls to our Lord we must get cleaner and cleaner and cleaner. The reason that God cannot save any more souls through my life and yours than He is saving is that we are not clean enough.That is the teaching of John 15. When a branch brings forth fruit, He cleanseth it in order that it may bring forth more fruit. God is always hunting for fruit in our lives. Paul wrote to the Romans and said, ‘I want to go to Rome that I may have some fruit.’ And, facing death, he said in his letter to the Philippians, “For to me . . . to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour” (Phil. 1:21, 22). Paul could not imagine his staying down here without fruit. It is said of John Bunyan that he remarked on one occasion, “I can stand anything, if I can just have fruit. If I can see men turning to God, then I am happy.”
Matthew Henry is quoted as saying that if s person labored for forty years and brought just one soul to Jesus that person’s life has not been wasted. But oh, beloved, what about these Christians who do not win any souls?
Ashamed to Die
A boy in Atlanta was dying. He had been saved one year, and now he was dying of pneumonia. When I went to see him he was crying. I asked,
“What are you crying about, Fellow? You are saved.”
He said, “Yes, I’m saved, preacher, and I’m not afraid to die, but I am ashamed to die.”
I said, “What do you mean when you say you are ashamed to die?”
“Well,” he said, “I have been saved a whole year and I haven’t won anybody to Jesus. I am asking God to let me live long enough to win just one soul to Jesus.”
He thought it was a shame to die after having lived one year without winning any souls to the Lord Jesus. How long has it been since you have won a soul to Jesus? Have you ever won a soul?
Now another passage that I want to read to you is Matthew 9:36-38 the words of our Lord concerning a passion for souls.
“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
We notice first of all that Christ had a passion for souls. ‘When he saw the multitudes, he had compassion on them.’ When our Lord was dying He had time to win a soul to Himself. Everywhere He went He was in the business of winning souls to Himself. “He MUST needs go through Samaria.” Why? There was a poor sinner up there that He had to win to Himself. ‘Zacchaeus, make haste, come down; out of that tree, for today I MUST abide at thy house’ (Luke 19:5). Why that “must”? Because Zacchaeus was a lost soul that Jesus must win to Himself. “I MUST preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43). Why that compelling “must”? Because men are lost! He wept over the city of Jerusalem. Jesus looked beneath the exterior; He saw people lost and perishing and going to Hell. I tell you, beloved, He had a passion for souls. That was the characteristic thing about the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are to have a passion for souls too. How we need tears today; tears and heartaches and sorrows for others! Dr. Dale of Birmingham said that D. L. Moody was the only man he knew during his day who had a right to preach on Hell, because he did it with a sob in his voice and tears in his heart. I tell you, beloved, all of us ought to be preaching Hell just like that. We ought to be speaking the truth, but we ought to be speaking it in love. We ought to be speaking it with a sob in our voice and a tear in every word.
Paul had a passion for souls. You remember the record in Acts, chapter 20, where he said, “Remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” and again, “I. . . have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house. . . repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” The man Paul had a great passion for souls. All of the great soul winners down through the ages have had a great passion for souls.
I love the prophet Jeremiah. He is called the weeping prophet. But I am always reminded that he was not weeping for himself; he was weeping for a lost nation. He was able to say, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep night and day for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1).
I love the book of Lamentations. I love to read it because it is not just Jeremiah speaking; it reveals the heart of God. It is the sob of God going through the heart of His prophet for a lost world.
Passion is a borrowed thing, beloved. No man naturally has a passion for souls. It is Christ in the heart who creates that passion and pours Himself through that soul for those who are lost.
All Soul Winners Have Been Men of Tears
A friend in Atlanta told me that when Billy Sunday came to Atlanta, the editor of the Christian Index, went up to see him in his hotel room and said,
“Mr. Sunday, will you tell us the secret of your marvelous success in getting men to God, getting men saved?”
He said that Billy Sunday just walked to the window, looked down at the street, pointed to the throng walking down the street, and said, “They are going to Hell! They are going to Hell! They are going to Hell!”
That was the secret. He believed that men are lost, he loved them, and he tried to win them. Down through the ages it has been like that. All the great soul winners were men with a passion.
A biographer of Robert Murray McCheyne says, “In seven years, he led more souls to Jesus than any other man I know anything about in England.” Think of it, beloved! Seven years! What a thing to say about a man! Oh, I would rather have that than to be the king of all the earth. That is the man I envy most–not the man with the most fame, or with the most money, but the man who has led more souls to Jesus than any other man.
Somebody estimated that D. L. Moody prayed with 75,000 people besides preaching his great sermons and doing other marvelous work. Sometimes I think I will take that number, 75,000, and put an exclamation point after it, then a question mark, and hang it on the wall in the front of my church as a constant challenge to us all. What a wonderful thing to go into God’s presence having dealt personally with 75,000 people! Why the question mark? To ask what I am going to do about it. What are you doing about it? Souls are dying, souls are perishing. We are to go out and bring them in.
All the great soul winners have had a passion. Spurgeon had a passion. All the rest of them down through the ages have had a passion. And today, the men who are winning souls to Christ have a passion for souls. They care! They are concerned! They want to win them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I remember telling the story of Hadley and how he became ashamed of his tears and lost his power; and how he asked God to give them back, and then how God did give back his tears and his power. I told it in a certain church. At the close of the service a lady came to me. She said,
“You remember telling about the man who lost his passion and lost his tears and lost his power, and then went to God and got it all back again?”
“You know, I used to have that passion for souls. I would sit at the back of the congregation and weep as the pastor preached and gave the invitation. But finally I got ashamed of it. I looked around and did not see anyone else weeping. I became ashamed of my tears. Then I lost my power. I got down on my knees and said, ‘God, give me back my tears!’ And preacher, my husband is down there tonight in the line confessing Christ as his Saviour and Lord.”
She got back her tears and with her tears, her power. Beloved, we are not going to have power with God and power with men without concern. We must have a passion to win them.
Where to Win Souls
Now, where are we to win souls? The answer is, EVERYWHERE!
In the Church
First, we can win them in our churches. Recently I was sitting on the platform in my church and a lady walked down the aisle and right up in front of me before the whole audience while we were singing. She said,
“Will somebody pray with me?”
I said, “Yes, come and follow me.”
Back to the study we went, and down on her knees before God she repented of her sins. Then she got up, walked back before the audience and said, “I have been choking all afternoon. I just knew I had to have Christ. I couldn’t stand it when you began to sing those songs. I had to be saved before the invitation was given. I just had to come.”
Oh, beloved, the power of God was there. You could tell it. I want the power of God so that men anywhere and everywhere can be convicted of their guilt. God wants to give that power! He wants us to have a passion so that souls will want to be saved.
In the Community
After a service the other day one of my friends introduced me to a couple of his neighbors. He said, “Brother Jesse, these are two of my neighbors; they are lost, and I want them saved.”
I said in my heart, “Praise God, you have been fishing.” Down on our knees we went, and they repented of their sins and accepted Jesus. The man who brought those two to Christ is not a learned man, but he had been saved from a miserable drunkard’s life, and from a wretched existence. He is one of the greatest soul winners I have ever met. He is winning men right and left..
Through the Radio
We ought to bring them in. We ought to win them by every means we possibly can. We ought to use the radio. I had the joy of preaching over Brother Epp’s great program in Lincoln, Nebraska, recently. A few days later, a lady in his office said to me, “Here is a little note from a woman who sent you a dollar.” I don’t know why she sent me that dollar, but my soul was thrilled to read, “Preacher, this morning God spoke to me while your voice was coming over the air. I have never been convicted like that. I saw I was lost. I went down on my knees and glory filled my soul. God forgave my sins, and I am saved.” It gives me a greater thrill than anything in this world when God speaks through my poor lips a word that brings a dead soul to life! I would rather see men come to Christ than to own the world. The nearest to Heaven I ever expect to be, this side of the gates of pearl, is while kneeling with a lost soul, or when I learn that someone has come to the Lord Jesus Christ. When I am preaching, I am wondering whose heart God is touching. I know that He is doing it. He has promised that His Word shall not return void. While I am preaching the Word, I believe He is saving souls. If I have sweated, prayed, labored, and prepared, I believe God will work. So while His Word is being proclaimed, I wonder who is being saved. Oh, we ought to win them.
On the Streets
We ought to win them on the streets. They say that D. L. Moody did not hesitate a minute to drop to his knees and pray with people on the sidewalk, on the street, in railway cars, or anywhere that he met a soul. We need some of that holy boldness–not flashiness, not foolishness, not display. God forbid that we ever do things to be seen of men. You know what that means, hypocrisy. But along with the matter of hypocrisy, we need to watch about this matter of timidity, the fear of speaking to lost souls whenever or wherever the opportunity presents itself. Some have a fear that is not wholesome, a fear that the early church did not know anything about nor give evidence of. The other day a man said, “Brother Jesse, I know a fellow whom you led to Christ, and he is now preaching.” That always gives me great joy to know that a man has been not only saved through our testimony, but that God has also led him on to preaching the Word. My friend continued: “This young fellow told me that one day you saw him on the street and simply asked him if he were saved. He replied, ‘No,’ and you said, ‘Brother, let’s pray.’ You bowed your heads and had a prayer, and he accepted Christ and went his way.”
I do not remember that experience. I would not know the man if I saw him, but he is out preaching the gospel. When my friend told me this, I said, “Oh, God, forgive me for being such a terrible sinner as not to speak to and pray with more people everywhere and anywhere about the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are to win souls for Jesus!
In Lincoln, Nebraska, Brother Cox of the Salvation Army was telling me of the greatest revival in which he had ever been. He said that the preacher was not an ordained minister. He was a miner by the name of Pete. That is all he was ever called. Pete knew only two things: God and his Bible. That was all. Everywhere he went, he took the Lord and his Bible. He witnessed to everyone he met about the Lord Jesus Christ. Pete would pray for the miners before they went down the shaft. Some of the fellows did not like it. Finally they said, “We will do our best to keep Pete from praying for us.”
One day down in the mine Pete received a note from the superintendent saying, “Come up here, I want to see you.”
He knew what it was about. He prayed with the fellows before he came up the shaft. When he walked into the office, he beat the superintendent to the draw. He said, “Are you a Christian, Sir?”
The superintendent said, “I didn’t have you come up here to talk to me about that.”
Pete said, “Brother, there isn’t anything in all the world as important as this question.” And he just waded into him with the Word of God. Soon tears were rolling down the superintendent’s cheeks as he saw himself lost. The passion of Jesus swept through Pete’s soul, and he said, “Brother, let’s pray.” Down on their knees they went, and the superintendent repented of his sins and accepted Jesus and was gloriously saved. When they got up, Pete said,
“What was that you wanted me for?”
The superintendent replied, “Oh, it wasn’t anything much. Let’s forget all about it. You go on back to the mine, and if any of the fellows bother you, let me know.”
Brother Cox continued, “I brought that man to Kansas City, and it was the greatest revival I ever had. It was not his preaching from the pulpit. That man just talked to everybody he met, not excepting anyone. All he did was say, ‘Are you a Christian?’ He would talk to them on the streets, in the homes, in the church–anywhere, everywhere.”
Beloved, I believe that that man is revealing something of the radiance of the early church. The early church had enthusiasm. The wide world was shaken because the early Christians believed something, and believed it so earnestly that they talked about it day and night. My greatest sin, I believe, is the sin of silence when I ought to be speaking. We ought to be speaking to everybody. We ought not to take it for granted that anyone is saved. Rather, we ought to take it for granted that everyone is LOST until they tell us with burning lips that they know the Lord Jesus.
One thing ought to give us heartache, and that is the fact that opportunities to speak for Christ come our way-never, never to return–and we pass them by! That one fact distresses me more than anything else. Oh, if I died tonight I wouldn’t be too sorry about not reading my Bible–I have tried to do that, and I want to do more of it. I wouldn’t be too sorry about praying–I have tried to pray. I am ashamed of my prayer–life, and want to do more of it, but I have tried to pray day by day. And I have tried to do some other things. But I am ashamed that God has brought me in contact with precious, Hell-bound, dying souls to whom I have not spoken about the Lord Jesus! They have passed on into the night, and those opportunities will never come my way again! Oh, beloved, we ought to win them everywhere!
Why We Should Win Souls
The next thought is, Why win them? I want to suggest two things. First,
Because They Are Lost, because they are in sin. They are lost. I don’t know of a better reason to win them.
A girl came to me in one of my meetings and said,
“My daddy is coming tonight. You will see him sitting in the front row. I want you to pray that he will be saved.” Then she started to cry.
I said, “What is wrong?”
She said, “Dad and Mother lived in Detroit. They were sweet folks, they never did wicked things, but they just left Jesus out of their lives. The other day a terrible accident happened, and Mama was killed. Dad is broken up, and he is coming here tonight. I want you to pray that he will be saved.”
All during the service I noticed him as he sat over to my right. When I gave the invitation, that man came to God. That man did not need a sermon. When death struck his wife and tore her from his arms and hurled her into eternity, he had the biggest sermon he will have. He wept as he came to God. The people were shaken to the very foundation of their souls as he stood and said, “I am glad I am saved tonight, but it is too late for my wife. We waited too late.”
I just wonder if there are not many souls going into eternity as that soul did, souls to whom someone could have earnestly witnessed. I wonder if anybody every seriously and earnestly, with the love of Christ burning in his soul, spoke to that precious woman about her last condition. We ought to bring people to Christ before it is too late.
I believe that people who die without Christ are in Hell when their hearts stop beating. I believe they will be there forever! That conviction drives me on and on, and I pray God that it will until the Lord comes.
A hundred thousand ‘souls a day
Are passing, one by one away,
In Christless guilt and gloom.
Oh, Church of God, what wilt thou say
When on that awful judgment day
They charge thee with their doom?
The next reason why we should win the lost is this: if we do not,
God Will Require Their Blood at Our Hands
In Ezekiel 33, we read, “O Son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”
That is a terrible passage, isn’t it? “His blood will I require at thine hand.” Blood required! It is a terrible thing to stand before God with the blood of precious souls on our hands.
An English clergyman came downstairs to the breakfast table one morning. Evidently he had had a sleepless night, and his wife asked him,
“What is wrong with you?”
“Wife, I had a terrible dream last night.”
“What was it?”
The husband, who had not been winning souls, said, “I dreamed that we came before the judgment seat of Christ, and as the Master looked at me, He said, ‘Where are the souls of the servants in your house ?’ I bowed my head and said, ‘I don’t know, Lord.’ The Master asked, ‘Where are the souls of the children in your house?’ And I bowed my head again and said that I didn’t know where the souls of my children were. Then the Lord said, ‘Where are the souls of the people in your congregation to whom you have preached Sunday after Sunday?’ And I had to answer, ‘Lord, I don’t know where they are.’ Then I saw Hell opening and I fell into Hell, and there were the souls of my servants, there were the souls of my children, there were the souls of my congregation whom I had not faithfully warned. They were all gnashing their teeth and cursing me because I had not faithfully warned them about going there.”
Then the man dropped dead, right in the presence of his wife, and went into eternity.
Housewife, what of the souls of your servants?
Mother and Daddy, what of the souls of your children?
Brother preacher, what of the souls of your congregation?
The greatest preacher I know anything about, after three years in Asia Minor exclaimed, “I am pure from the blood of all men!” I cannot say that, can you?
Perhaps you say, “Do you mean, preacher, that Paul talked to EVERYBODY?”
I do believe it. This is the word of Scripture. This is the Word of God, and every word of God is pure. Paul said, “I am pure from the blood of all men.” I will not believe that he failed to inquire about the spiritual condition of ANY PERSON with whom he came in contact. I believe that he warned every person he met.
On the fly leaf of my New Testament I have a sentence that burns my soul every time I see it. It is the word of a dying preacher who did not know that he was dying. He said, “When I get up off this bed, I am going to have a soul winning ministry.” But he died! He had not been winning souls, and now his ministry was over. Too late!
Days are passing. Opportunities are PASSING.
I was in a prayer meeting where the Spirit of God was greatly felt. Suddenly a man began to sob as he prayed, “You know, Lord, how last week I met a friend I used to run around with in sin in the days before I was converted, and I talked to him about everything but his soul, and today he committed suicide!”
Blood required! I know how this man felt. Just after I was saved, I was asked to go to the hospital to see a man who was unsaved and critically ill. I delayed three days, intending every day to go, but I waited too late. Oh, the condemnation I felt when I learned that the man died while I delayed! My sleep was troubled that night. I might have won his soul from Hell to Heaven. Christian, souls are dying while you delay!
“Blood required.” What does that mean? When a man murders another man, the dead man’s life is required of the murderer! He is responsible for his death. It is charged up to him. He is held guilty in the matter. When God requires of us Christians the blood of lost souls whom we have not warned, does that mean that WE are responsible for their going to Hell? YES! What else can it mean? We shall be held responsible in the matter. We shall be held guilty:
But oh, the unspeakable comfort of a Christian who stands before the Lord, knowing he has been a faithful watchman to warn lost souls of sin and the devil and Hell, and has been a true witness for the Master!
On the other hand, what will be the unspeakable shame and agony and horror of the UNFAITHFUL watchman who, knowing the horrible doom of the lost, did not lift his voice to warn and plead for them to flee from the wrath to come, but let his loved ones and friends and neighbors slip into Hell–LOST FOREVER!
On your deathbed will the shrieks of lost souls you have failed to warn torment you? Will you see their ghastly faces and hear their bloodcurdling wailing and gnashing of teeth and realize you might have saved them from such a horrible doom?
No wonder the faithful Paul cried, “I am pure from the blood of all men!” No wonder faithful George Fox could happily die, crying, “I’m clear, I’m clear.” Christian, are you clear from the blood of all men? If you have failed in warning sinners, will you determine just now, “I’ll not die in remorse with God requiring of me the blood of the lost! I’ll begin today to witness and warn everybody around me”?
(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)
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