Find out why there is such complacency in the church. The message of the cross (Christ crucified) has been crucified at the hands of modern evangelism. Take away the Law and you take away the righteousness of God.
Isaiah 42:8 says,
“I am the Lord. That is My name, and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.”
“I have for a long time held My peace. I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a travailing woman. I will destroy and devour at once. I’ll make waste to mountains and hills and dry up all the herbs, and I’ll make rivers coastlands and I will dry up the pools and I’ll bring the blind by the way that they knew not. I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I’ll make darkness light before them and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them and not forsake them.”
“They should be turned back. They should be greatly ashamed, they that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, ‘You’re our gods.’ Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind but my servant or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect and blind as the Lord’s servant? Seeing many things, but observing not; opening the ears, but he hears not. The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake. He will magnify the Law, and make it honorable.” I’ll repeat that verse again. “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake. He will magnify the Law, and make it honorable.”
“But this is a people robbed and spoiled. They’re all of them snared in holes and they are hidden in prison houses. They are for a prey, and none delivers for a spoil, and none says, ‘Restore.’ Who among you will give ear to this? Who will hearken and hear for the time to come?”
Drill Out the Decay
Every time I visit a dentist, I have to make a conscious effort to exercise faith in him. I don’t know if you’ve ever given it any thought, but when you go to a dentist and he checks out the back of your mouth, you really don’t know what he’s doing. You really don’t know if he’s lacking patience and just wants to earn a fast buck, so he drills a hole in your tooth, fills it up, and charges you there. You just don’t know.
I unwillingly have to exercise faith in my dentist. However, it is mutual. He has to trust me. What better illustration of faith can there be than for a man to put his fingers between my teeth? Now, when my dentist is feeling down in my mouth and his probing instrument touches a raw nerve in my decayed tooth, when he touches an area that decayed, and I know about it because of the pain, I suddenly find myself willingly putting my faith in him. That pain changes my attitude to him. My attitude becomes, “Man, I know there’s a problem. Go for it. Drill and fill.” Now, if God sees fit to use me as His probing instrument and I, by His grace, touch a raw nerve in your life, my prayer is that you’ll have the good sense to say, “Go for it, Lord. Drill out the decay of sin and fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit.”
The Message of the Cross Has Been Crucified
The message of the cross, Christ crucified, has been crucified. It’s been put to death at the hands of modern evangelism. The Lord God, the essence of that message, has been lost in the handles of time. Another law has been forsaken by the church. Listen to what God said: “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake. He will magnify the Law, and make it honorable.” God says He will magnify His Law and make it honorable.
Listen to Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers: “I do not believe that any man can preach of the gospel who does not preach the Law. The Law is the needle. You cannot draw the silk and thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the Law to make a way for it. If men do not understand the Law, they’ll not feel that they’re sinners. If they’re not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering. There is no healing a man until the Law has wounded him, no making him alive until the Law has slain him.”
“You cannot draw the silk and thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the Law to make a way for it.” – Charles Spurgeon
In our home in New Zealand, we had continual problems with spider webs. I’d go out and look around the house, specifically around the roof area. I’d notice spiders have left their webs every day. So I’d go out and look for the spiders. Couldn’t see the things. They were hiding. So what I’d do is brush down the webs, and before long, the spider webs were back there. Very persistent things, those spiders. But then I found out something really clever. I found that I could defeat the spider. I could outwit it. My brain was bigger than the spider’s brain. What I did was I snuck up on this spider and its web. The spider was hidden in a concealed area. I’d get a short stick and I would very quietly and gently and subtly tap the web. The spider says, “Ah, lunch,” comes screaming out, and that’s when I get him with the fly spray.
Now what happened is that I dealt with the problem. The webs were the causes. The spider was the problem. Now, the problems with humanity, the webs, are blatantly evil. The webs of anger, hate, greed, lust, deceit, envy, jealousy, pride, the webs of pornography, violence, murder, theft, racism. All these things are the web. But the spider is the human nature that hides within, concealed. Like the spider hides in the side, so human nature hides in the side, the very cause. The stick that brings the spider of the human nature out so it can be seen in truth and sprayed with the fly spray of the gospel is the Law of God.
I’ll give you another quote from Charles Spurgeon. He said, “The Law stirs the mud at the bottom of the pool and proves how foul the waters are. The Law compels the man to see that sin dwells in him and that it is a powerful tyrant over his nature. All this is with a view to his cure. God be thanked when the Law so works as to take off the sinner from all confidence in himself. To make the leper confess that he’s incurable is going a great way towards compelling him to go to that divine Savior, who alone is able to heal him. This is the whole end of the Law towards men.”
The Law Reveals Our Nature
Okay, let’s take a look and see how the Law actually works in revealing the spider of our true nature. Let’s look at Exodus 20, verses one to six, just three commandments of God’s Law. It’s a portion of the Scriptures each of us should know by heart. “And the Lord spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage.’” He was specifically speaking to Israel, but we know the Law was given to stop every man’s mouth to make the whole world guilty before God.
Then we’re given to verse three, the first of the Commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Then the second. “You shall not make unto yourself any graven image of any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My Commandments.”
Sadly, America is baptized in idolatry. According to the March 15th issue of TV Guide, 96% of Americans believe in God. The question that I have is, “What sort of god do they believe in?” It certainly isn’t the God of the Bible. You can’t tell me that there’s merely that 4% who buy the millions of pornographic magazines that are sold each week in this country. You can’t tell me it’s the 4% who are doing all the gambling, the killing, the raping, stealing, committing adultery, using drugs and alcohol, and aborting their children. Now, these things are also done by millions of Americans who believe in god, yet remain in their sins. Why? Because their god is nothing but an idol, a nonexistent god.
Primary Forms of Idolatry
A lawless gospel has given birth to lawless converts by the millions. Take away the Law and you take away the righteousness of God. When you do that, you take away from the nation the God of righteousness. Now let’s take a basic look, a gentle look, at some primary forms of idolatry. These are very basic forms. Take, for instance, pictures of Jesus. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little picture of Jesus. One, if you have a good likeness and I’d like to see it. Two, as long as you don’t pay any homage to that picture. If I have a picture of Jesus on my wall and a little kiddie walks into the house and looks up at the picture and says, “Hey, who’s that?” and I say, “That’s Jesus,” and that kids shows reverence, homage, or respect to that picture each time he sees it, then that picture becomes an idol to that child.
Take, for instance, this sanctuary, this building. If I look upon this building, this place, as peculiarly suitable for worship, a place to be held in awe, to be given special respect, then it becomes an idol. In truth, we should walk about our homes and workplaces with godly fear because God is with us in His holiness, in His righteousness, wherever we go. I don’t come into and go out of God’s presence as they come into and go out of this building. If I think I do, then I will give a special reverence to the carpet, the wood, and the stone of this building.
Take, for instance, the American flag. Now, I love the flag. I have raved about the flag on Bellflower Boulevard in Southern California. I love its color, I love its size, I love the way it moves and its majesty. In fact, if you come into our home, the second thing you will see in our house is the American flag. First thing you’ll see is the New Zealand flag. But listen, if I place my hand upon my heart and, in an act of reverence, give my heart to that flag, but not to God, then that flag becomes an idol to me. Take, for instance, the Statue of Liberty. What’s wrong with the Statue of Liberty? Nothing, or so I thought until I heard the United States spent about $20 million, I think, on a facelift for the goddess of liberty.
What’s wrong with the statue? Nothing, or so I thought until I saw the President of the United States standing in sober reverence, saluting that stone statue. As I heard the celebrations begin and the fireworks lit the sky, I heard the television commentator say, “She has given us liberty. She is a light to the world.” I tell you, my heart was grieved because I notice only one who gives America liberty. There is only one who is a light to the world and His name is the Lord Jesus Christ and He’ll not give His glory to another. He alone is the giver of life, light, and liberty. He alone says, “I am the Lord. That is My name and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.”
The Danger of Possessions
Take, for instance, material things, material blessings. I was sent a plane ticket to do some ministry and I don’t study the tickets. I just look at them as I need them. I stepped onto this plane and the airline had just changed the seating arrangements. I had to pass through the first class to get to the second class. As I looked at the sheepskin seat covers and the extra room and the little tables, the trays, and the drinks and the flowers and the extra food these people were given in first class, I thought to myself, “Disgusting. Class discrimination. Class distinction. This makes me sick.” I looked at my ticket and noticed that I was in first class. As I sat down on those sheepskin covers, I thought to myself, “This is nice.”
Now, in America, many of us are blessed with material things. But be so careful. The good things of this life can so easily crowd out the Giver of good things in this life. The cares of this age, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things can choke the seed. Learn how to hold on to the good things of this life with a loose hand. The apostle Paul said, “I’ve learned to be content, no matter what state I’m in.” Some years ago when the kids were little, we bought a color television set for their pleasure. I said, “Kids, I want to get you a television set so you can watch the cartoons in the afternoon.” When I came home from work the first day that we had it, I opened up the door and said, “Hi, kids. It’s me, your dad. I’m home.” There wasn’t a word. Dad’s homecoming had become a non-event, no longer being the highlight of their day. Instead, they were watching television.
So, I walked up and I just turned the set off. I turned to the kids and said, “Kids, I got that thing for your pleasure. I love you and I want to make you happy. But if that thing comes between you and your love for me, it’s going. It’s a wrong order of affections. You’re setting your love on the gift rather than the giver.” Now, why did my children have that attitude toward that television? It was a lack of understanding as to my desires regarding their affection toward me. This is God’s desire. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. That’s God’s attitude. That’s the Law. That is the essence of the Law. That’s the essence of all the commandments: to love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength, because you won’t transgress His Law one bit if you love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
The Reasonableness of the Law
Now, I ask you, is God’s Law reasonable? What have you got that you didn’t receive? The ears you are hearing with are God given. The mind you are able to think with is God given. The lungs you’re breathing with, the eyes you’re seeing with, the freedom, the liberty of your country, the color of the sky, the warmth of the sun, the birds, the flowers, the trees, the food, your children, your loved ones…all are given to you by the grace of God. The Bible says He left not Himself without witness in that He did good and gave us rain from Heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Martin Luther said, “If the greatest of the commandments is to love God with heart, mind, soul and strength, then the greatest of sins is failure to do so.”
Ingratitude is a gross sin. It is only reasonable that God should be the focal point of our affections. God is jealous for our love. In fact, James 4:5 says that God’s spirit within us yearns for us with a jealous love. Love so amazing and so divine demands my soul, my life, my all. If I love my wife, my children, my car, my money, my country, my ministry, or even my life more than I love God, I’m loving the gift more than the Giver. I’m an idolater, and idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God. I really don’t think it’s a matter of putting our material things on the altar. It’s a matter of getting on the altar ourselves. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. You keep your eyes on your Father’s business, and He’ll keep His eyes on yours.
Now, most of us would have heard of John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. I don’t know if you realize it, but he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while he was in prison. He was in prison, I think, for 13 years solely because he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ without a license from the church. Can you imagine the pain of being separated from your wife and children for so long, being cut off from the comforts of home? When John Bunyan refused to give up preaching, they put him in prison and said to him, “Mr. Bunyan, you can come out of prison whenever you promise to cease preaching the gospel.” He said, “If you let me out of prison today, I’ll preach again tomorrow by the grace of God.” They said, “Then you most go back to prison.” He answered, “I will go back and stay there if need be until the moss grows on my eyelids. But I will never deny my Master.” That’s devotion to the will of God. That is love in action.
Evangelism and Christianity
Now, if you were to ever look in the front of my Bible, you’ll see a statement. It’s a little quote. It’s something I made up and it says, “He who hasn’t the compassion to reach out to those who are still in their sins is probably in the same predicament.” Then in brackets, it’s got “too heavy” written next to it. I’ve written that because it’s not to be said from the pulpit because I thought it was too heavy. I’ll not say it from the pulpit. However, I’ll quote to you from Charles Spurgeon. Listen to what Spurgeon said: “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” I’ll repeat it again. “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” Now your argument is with Spurgeon, and not with me.
Ask me if I’m happy and I will probably answer you, “Yes and no.” I am happy I’m saved, but sad that the world is not. There’s a paradox about the Christian life. Jesus had a joy about His fellows. He was anointed with an oil of gladness about His fellows. But the Bible says He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Then how can I be happy when the worlds not saved? Do you think the survivors of the Titanic were happy while their friends and loved ones were sinking to their death beneath those icy waters? Should we, the survivors of the Titanic, or the wrath of God, be happy while the icy waters of death suck our loved ones and friends beneath its waves?
Listen to Robert Schuller: “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality, and hence counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise, than the often crude and uncouth and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” It may seem crude and uncouth to America’s most popular preacher, but I know what I’m called to do. To lift up my voice as a trumpet and show this people their transgression.
Woe Unto Me
About seven years ago, I’d been preaching in the local square back in Christchurch, New Zealand, probably for about six years. I came out of my office, I think it was winter, and it was very cold. There was a very icy wind blowing off the ocean. So, being six miles inland, I had thought to myself, “Man, this wind is going to be blowing across the square. It’s going to be so cold. It’s too cold to go in and preach the gospel today.” But I’d committed myself to going into town. So, I went in, and when I arrived there, there was an icy wind blowing all across the place. I looked to the other side of the square, and there was a rock band setting up to play. So I walked across and I said, “Man, how long until you begin playing?” He said, “20 minutes.”
I turned from that guy and I said out loud, “20 minutes? Hardly worth preaching the gospel!” Then I looked down and about four feet in front of me, there was a piece of paper just lying on the ground. I stooped down, picked it up, and my eyes became like saucers—it was a page out of someone’s Bible. 1 Corinthians, chapter nine: “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel.” I began thinking of the odds of that happening. The page number on the page that blew out of someone’s Bible was 1,063. I thought I’d never in my life seen a page of a Bible floating around. It was a windy day. That page of all the pages falling out and me finding it, of all people in our city, 350,000, just the minute I was saying, “20 minutes? Hardly worth preaching the gospel.” Man, I preached my heart out that day and it put a fire in my bones that’s still burning.
Once more, I know that I’m not only called to preach the gospel. But I know that I am not free from the blood of all men until I preach the whole counsel of God. You read the words of Paul. That’s the whole context of that verse. He said, “I am not free unless I preach the whole counsel of God.” What’s the whole counsel of God? It’s the whole gospel. Some time ago, I saw a television advertisement and I saw these two dummies sitting in a car. It was a simulated head on collision they were doing just to illustrate something. I thought this would be interesting. These two dummies were sitting in the car and they didn’t have seatbelts on.
The commentator said, “What goes through the mind of a person on the moment of impact if they’re not wearing a seatbelt?” Then you see the cars collide, the dummies come forward, and the steering wheel crushes their skulls and the commentator says, “The steering wheel.” It’s the steering wheel that goes through the skull if you don’t buckle up. Then it said, “Don’t be a dummy. Buckle up.” I sat there. I hardly could swallow my food. It did nothing but promote fear. I asked the question, “How could American television censors allow such obvious scare tactics on television?” I’ll tell you why. It’s legitimate scare tactics because it is a fearful thing to have a steering wheel go through your skull, isn’t it?
Now, when we preach God’s Law, the fury of the holy God abiding upon the sinner, when we say God is going to tear sinners from their grave, Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” It produces a legitimate fear for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Man, if you’re a drug pusher and you think, “Man, this is all right. I can make plenty of money,” and you’re taking the whole thing casually, and suddenly you find yourself in Malaysia and you look up and you see a sign: “Death penalty for drug pushing.” One day while you’re sorting out your drugs on your kitchen table, you hear the law knock on your door—you have a right to be fearful.
The Terrors of MacArthur Park
When we preach future punishment, we are preaching the fear of God. We must tell this nation that all her sins are spread before the eyes of the holy God and that the Law is knocking upon her door. That is the message we should be preaching to this sinful and adulterous generation. Now, if you do desire to open your mouth for Heaven, be sure of this: all hell will be let loose to make sure you keep your mouth shut. Let me share a blessing with you. About a month after we knew we were coming to live in Los Angeles, particularly in the city of Bellflower, I was traveling to do a series of meetings in another city. Like I said, I only look at the ticket and I don’t know who’s going to meet me at the airports.
I got off at this airport and a guy came up to me and he turned out to be an American. I noticed his accent was different and I said, “Where you from?” He says, “United States.” I said, “Really? We’re going to go and live in the United States. What part are you from?” He said, “Los Angeles.” I said, “Really? That’s where we’re going to live. What part of Los Angeles?” He said, “Bellflower.” I said, “Sit down.” I go, “Man,” (because I’d been saying, “God, where am I going to preach in Los Angeles? Where?”) I said, “Sir, I think you’ve got some advice for me.” I said, “Where can I preach in the open air in Los Angeles?” He says, “Ah. You could preach in MacArthur Park. In the 1960s, it was used as a lot of anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, a lot of open air speaking. You could go there and speak.”
I said, “MacArthur Park?” I said, “I heard of that.” When I was in my teens, a worldwide hit song came out called “MacArthur Park” that had very thought-provoking words. “Someone left the cake out in the rain, and it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have the recipe again. Oh, no.” So, the whole camp, I was singing and I was thinking, and then I got back to the city and then Monday morning, I got up in the morning and I was singing “MacArthur Park.” Now, I hadn’t heard the thing for about 15 years.
I was walking around the house, 6:30 through to about 7:00, and I turned on the radio to hear the news and I hear the last bars of a song and hear the disc jockey say, “Fantastic. Richard Harris, MacArthur Park,” and man, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I looked up MacArthur Park on the map and thought, “Yeah, it’s only about two minutes’ drive around that corner and down that freeway.” About three months later, I forgot about the MacArthur Park thing and I was thinking, “I wonder where you really do want me to preach.” I turned on the television and heard the same song for the second time in 15 or so years.
So, I came here with this confidence that I should go and speak in MacArthur Park, that famous park. So John and Dan took me there to the world-famous MacArthur Park. Saints, I was not too impressed. There’s just murder and rape and all sorts of sin just so openly. If you just want to see spirits in the eyes of people, go to that place. I took Sue there one day just to have a look around. Man, did she cling so close to me. It was well worth taking her down, actually. I took her away to do some shopping so that she would feel safe. But the whole place stinks of urine. Man, the public toilets, they are so foul. If they were located down the beach, the tide wouldn’t come in. It just stinks.
One day while I was preaching, I took my wallet out and a girl in front of me came up and said, “You should not have done that.” She said, “Watch your back.” In other words, “Man, you’re going to get stabbed for your money.” I now leave my wallet at home, but I preach with my back to a tree every day. Last week, somebody was stabbed to death in MacArthur Park and thrown into the lake. Yesterday, a guy was stabbed several times and taken to the hospital with a one in five chance of living. This morning when I arrived to speak, I found out that someone had been shot and killed this morning and the police yellow ribbons were still in that place.
A friend of mine took a camera to get some pictures of the crowd. He’s walking through with his camera. I didn’t see anyone else with a camera there other than my friend, and someone rushed up to him, this girl. She said, “I’ve been sent to tell you put that camera away or you’re going to end up in the lake with your camera with you.” She said, “This is the cocaine connection for Colombia.” Sometime ago when I was driving in there, I prayed, “Lord, just give me a compassion for these people. Really let me see them as precious jewels in Your sight.” You know when you pick up a precious jewel, you want to say, “Look at this,” though you pick it up with some sort of respect for the thing because you know its value. I said, “Lord, let me really handle these people with real care and respect because You value them. The soul is precious in Your sight.”
What’s Stopping You from Evangelizing?
So, that day, I went there with that attitude. As I began preaching, about eight people started listening and six people just meandered off. I was left with two guys sitting on a seat in front of me. I said, “Okay, they’re precious jewels in God’s sight.” So I poured my heart out. Now, for 20 minutes, I expounded the spirituality of the Law. I said, “If you lie, you transgress God’s Law. You’re heading for the lake of fire. If you even lust, you’ve committed adultery.” I opened up the Commandments and then I went through grace and that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us. I truly poured my heart out.
Then when I finished, I challenged them. The guy on the right walked up to me. He said, “Praise the Lord. I really needed that,” and walked off. So, that guy was a Christian. I had one left. I looked at the other guy and I called out to him in a longing tongue. I said, “Do you know the Lord?” He looked back at me and said, “Speak no English.” Now I laughed. But I was somewhat discouraged. To go 7,000 miles to speak to a converted person, to preach to the converted, and then speak to someone who hasn’t got a clue what you’re raving about is discouraging.
That night, I was praying and I turned the car radio on. I heard a pastor in a teaching session say really soberly, “Sometimes God will send you right into the midst of Satan’s territory. But that’s where God wants you to go, so go there.” I really felt God was speaking to me through it. So I said, “Okay, Lord. I’ll go back.” Now, sometimes the enemy is extremely subtle in his discouragement. Sometimes he’s not. One day, there I was standing on my soapbox and I was preaching. I was just beginning to wind down the message when a goose headed toward me, a rather large white goose. I thought, “There’s a goose,” and I just kept on preaching. It came right up to me and it began picking at my sneakers, pecking at the thing.
So, I just kept on preaching and, looking down at it, said, “What is it?” It pecked there for a good two minutes. Then it went for my lace and it pulled on my lace until the lace came undone. Then it went for my sock and it spent about 30 to 40 seconds pecking at my sock, moved up the sock, hit the flesh, I screamed, and leapt off. I had to get someone out of the crowd to come and shoo that thing away. Now, the next day, I’d been preaching for about 15 minutes when that ferocious beast started heading toward me again. Now, this time, it waddled up and I thought, “I am not going to stop.” So, I kept on preaching and I noticed it was pecking at my sneaker again. Then it went straight to the lace. It was an expert by now. It just went and undid the thing.
It spent one to two seconds on my sock, saw that the meal was close at hand, and went straight for the meat. Man, I screamed as it bit into my leg, leapt off the box, and God as my witness, that goose jumped up on my soapbox and wouldn’t get off. If you have ever wondered where Legion went when he left the pigs, he went into the goose at MacArthur Park. Let me ask you a really sobering question. What is your goose tonight? “What do you mean by that,” you may be asking. What is it that has taken your rightful place on the altar of your evangelical soapbox? What is it that is stopping you from being a true and faithful witness? Ask yourself: what is it that’s stopping you from being bold and fearless in your witness for the kingdom of God?
If God is first in your life, if you love Him with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength, nothing will keep you from reaching out to the lost, whether it be love of flag, love of country, love of liberty, money, or family, you will say, “God has called me to be a true and faithful witness and I’ll be damned if I’ll not do His will.”