From the Archives: Looking Across the Years

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By Earl L. Martin

Fact Number One: We are all going to live all the rest of our lives in the future. Fact Number Two: There will be changes in that future. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, nor do I want to speculate. But I have here state two simple facts which no one can successfully contradict.

We would not bring back the past if we could, nor could we if we would. We would not hold the present if we could, nor could we if we would. Before I struck the key on my typewriter to make the letter t, the present will be gone and the future will be here. As a matter of fact, it is now almost half-past tomorrow. Time is fleeting. Our work is in the present, but the present is only a split-second between the past and the future.

Our future is not behind us, but ahead of us. We do not go back to anything, except in a sense we go back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not really go back, except to recall, to remember. Jesus Christ and his truth are eternal, and hence they are contemporary. We go forward with him, for he is a thousand miles out ahead of us. Yes, he is past, present, and future; he is Alpha and Omega. He is the one who was, who is, and who will always be. The principles of truth are ageless.

The truths of the gospel are not mere abstractions, but are personal and concrete. They were incarnate in Jesus our Lord and are personal in him. They must be applied personally and concretely. They must be applied in time, and that application must be timely. We learn from the past, but we do not work in the past. We learn from the past that our work is out there in the future, and that the future is in God’s hands.

This timeless gospel must be expressed in terms which are relevant to our times, in thought forms that are understandable by our times, by means and methods which are appropriate to our day. It must be fitted to the conditions and situations which are present situations if we are to meet the problems of the hour and if the issues of life are to be met successfully. In thus doing, we will be serving the present age and shaping the future. In thus doing, the great verities of the Christian faith will come alive.

The gospel is good news—good news about God and about man. These two—God and man—must be brought together in the perfect man, Christ Jesus, our Redeemer and Lord, the one in whom we are brought to God.

Yes, the gospel is news, and it is good. The story of Jesus and his love is an old, old story, but it is still news, more up-to-date than this morning’s newspaper. So give it out as if you were telling today’s story.

I am writing from the vantage point of maturity, with the perspective gained by more than forty years spent in the ministry of that gospel, more than thirty years of which have been spent in close association with Anderson College and Theological Seminary. Through these years I have had a keen interest in our other institutions of higher learning and in the educative process generally. I have participated in some small degree in almost every phase of our church activities. All this is history. Now, I refer to the uncontradictable statements made in the beginning of this article that, first, we are all going to spend all the rest of our lives in the future and, that second, there will be changes in that future. Recalling the past and looking as best I can into the future, I thank God and take courage. I find hope surging in my heart. I hope never to become pessimistic and cynical or embittered by life’s years, but ever be hopeful of the future.

When recalling the power of the gospel, my faith mounts. It is a faith in the power of redemptive love which brings hope and courage and inspiration.

Then, when I see the great number of consecrated young men and women who are regarding all life as a sacred vocation, and who are preparing themselves for God’s work, how can I but have faith and hope?

I have seen great changes (and I think they are nearly if not all for the better) in the half century of active participation in the work of this movement. We have made progress not only in superficialities and methodology, but in attitude and spirit and morale. We have done well in meeting changing times by adapting the message of changeless truth to meet changing conditions. In preaching and teaching emphasis, in missionary and evangelistic urge, in pastoral and counseling work, in private and public worship, and in our concern for children and young people, we have made marked progress.

…Sometimes I wonder if we of the elder group (and you can put the dividing line between older and younger wherever you will) fully realize the new age into which we have been catapulted. Not only are we different in age, but we are in a different age.

We can hardly comprehend guided missiles and automation, much less space ships and travel to the moon or Mars. Nor can we clearly conceive some of the new ideas and issues in realms of thought and action. Sometimes our judgments are already formed, and we are blinded by our prejudices. We have “always done it this way.” Like Peter, we are sometimes inclined to say, ‘Not so, Lord, I never have done this before.” Peter in so responding almost spoiled the plan and purpose of God in taking the message of the gospel to Cornelius.

Our younger leaders should be given a freer rein of thought and range of action. They should not be “fenced in.” They should be encouraged to think, explore, experiment, to formulate plans and programs, particularly in means and methods. All this should be done under the same Holy Spirit whom we believe has led our generation. Let those of us with more mature experience, gained in our many years of service, contribute out of that maturity of thought all that we can by way of guidance.

…Let us go forth with the same energy demonstrated by the first young church, and even our enemies will charge us with turning the world upside down. Let us be bold with daring zeal and enthusiasm, bold in an almost reckless abandon. At the same time, let us be creative and dynamic. Let us face this next decade and generation, steering our course by the living Word and the living spirit of God. If we do this, we will not be disappointed in our future.

Longtime pastor and educator, Earl F. Martin wore many hats in the Church of God, including author and contributor to Church of God publications. Text from Martin’s article originally published in the June 22, 1957, issue of The Gospel Trumpet.

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