Acts 12:1-8. “About that time Herod the king stretched forth is hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. Because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread. When he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”
It seems that Herod was about to do with Peter that which he did with John the Baptist; bring him out on a plate for the Passover.
Verse 5: “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, the keepers before the door and prison. And, behold, an angel of the Lord came upon him, and light shined in the prison and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise quickly,’ and his chains fell off from his hands. The angel said to him, ‘Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals,’ so he did. He said to him, ‘Cast your garment about thee and follow me.’”
Here we have a wonderful type of the unregenerate sinner and his salvation. We see in verse 6, “And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers.” He was sleeping. The Bible tells us the sinner is sleeping. The sinner is in a dream world and understanding it’s dark and he’s alienated from the life of a God through the ignorance of sinning because of the blindness of his heart.
I’m sure you’ve had experience in dreaming. I know that when you dream, that somehow when you’re dreaming there’s a sense that what you’re seeing is real. I mean, you can float across the sky hand in hand with an elephant. When you’re dreaming it, it seems sensible…until you wake up in the morning and go to tell your wife or someone else and then you realize it was insane. It was a world of insanity. That’s the state of the ungodly. His understanding is darkened. He lives in a dream world and his philosophies of evolution and atheism, I mean nonsensical philosophies, philosophies that make no sense whatsoever seem real to them, until he comes under the sound of the call of salvation. “Awake you who sleep. Rise from the dead and Christ shall give you light.”
Like Peter, the sinner is bound with two chains. The chains are the chains of death and Hell. He’s in a prison of his own sins, bound with two chains; the chain of death and the chain of Hell. When I was a little kid, about 7, my brother took me to see a movie. If you want to scar a child for life, this is the movie. It’s called, “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” It was a story about French aristocrats who were taken and put in a car in the streets of Paris, right in the heart of Paris, and their heads were chopped off with a guillotine. I sat there, like a little kid, my eyes like saucers, terrified. Around the guillotine were the old, ugly hags; toothless hags. They’re so ugly that if they went to the beach the tide wouldn’t come in.
“With every beat of our heartbeat, is another drum beat of a funeral march. Life is just a little dash between two dates on a tombstone, it’s been well said.”
When a head lopped off into a basket, they’d knit another stitch on these scarves and these scarves they were kitting were about 15 feet long and horrified me as a little kid. As I grew up, I began thinking to myself, “Imagine being in a prison and being put in a cart and taken to the streets of Paris and taken to the square; waiting for the chopper to come. Imagine waiting on death row.”
As time went on, I began to see that as a state of humanity. We are in a prison. We are in a holding cell. We are under death sentence. The wages of sin is death. Did you know the number one killer in the US is death? Did you know that? Did you know that we’re all part of the ultimate statistic; 10 out of 10 die? With every beat of our heartbeat, is another drum beat of a funeral march. Life is just a little dash between two dates on a tombstone, it’s been well said.
What Jesus Did
The sinner sits in the prison of his sins. Some of you may have seen the wonderful film Ben-Hur, a great movie. While Judah Ben-Hur is a galley slave, he’s sitting in his ship. He’s totally innocent to the galley slave. Some of the rowers who are committed to the cause, what they do when they go into the heat of battle, they chain the prisoners to the ship so they’ll keep on rowing because they don’t want the ship to sink. Good way to get commitment from your crew. As they’re going into battle, the captain for some reason has a merciful attitude; a benevolent attitude to Judah Ben-Hur. He says, “Don’t put a chain through the link in number 41.” Ben-Hur can’t believe what’s happening as they go on to battle. Everyone else is chained to the ship except him.
As they went into battle, a ship comes along, crunches the side of the ship and it begins to sink. All the men just drop their oars and they begin pulling at their chains and ripping at their flesh because you’d rather lose a leg than drown.
Ben-Hur was totally innocent. He could have just got to the edge of that ship and dived off and swam to freedom, but he didn’t. He went for the guy with the keys. He throttled him. He grabbed the keys, unlocked the chain, and released the captives. And that’s exactly what Jesus did for you and I. He was the only one who was innocent; the only one who was not in the prison of his sins; chained to death and Hell. Instead of saving himself, he went for the guy with the keys.
He said, “I am He that lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. I have the keys to death and Hell.” Through His death and resurrection, He unlocked the chains of death and the tragedy is that the whole of humanity sits in ignorance in that ship, not knowing that the chains have been released; all they have to do is obey the gospel to be saved from that sinking ship.
When I was a brand-new Christian 22 years ago, I did not look like this. I was a surfer; I had my own surf shop. I think the idea with surfers is that you try to look as much like seaweed as you possibly can. I was there; my hair was down upon my shoulders. It was just like matted rope. It was blonde; a golden kind of blonde. I lost three brushes.
When I was a brand-new Christian, I had bright orange corduroys, bright turquoise shirt with big white flowers on it. That’s why it surprised me, I had been a Christian for about two or three weeks, when suddenly an elderly Presbyterian minister dressed in a suit, was 90 years old, came into my surf shop, put his hand out. He said, “I heard you’ve become a Christian. I just came to encourage you.” He shook my hand and left $10 in my hand. I liked that man. I liked him from the moment I met him. I was amazed because there was no generation gap; we were just brothers in Christ.
For two years I went around to visit him. We had some wonderful fellowship. One day his wife called and said, “George is about to die, would you come and be with him at this time?” This is at 92. I said, “Sure.” I went around and she was on her phone in the doorway of the bedroom, and the phone had a real loud ring because he was partly deaf. I went in and I had never seen George without his teeth and when I saw him I thought, “Boy, he’s left three weeks ago.”
I sat beside him and he said, “You Ray?” I said, “Yeah, George, it’s me.” I took him by the hand. He said, “I’m going to be with Jesus.” I thought to myself, “What a privilege I have of being here when a saint goes marching through to glory.” I sat with him for about twenty minutes. I began thinking thoughts, “How will he go, Lord? I mean, how will he go?” After twenty minutes, suddenly George raised his right hand to the sky, he said, “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’” I thought, “What a way to go.” Suddenly, the phone rang. He sat up and I was the one that just about died. He lasted another two years.
When he did die, I went to his funeral and they sang, “to God be the glory, great things He has done. So loved us that He gave us His son. He yielded His life in atonement for sin. And opened the life gate that all may go in.” We have a glorious gospel. Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel.
This May Sound like Blasphemy…
Listen very carefully because this is going to sound like blasphemy. Listen real close. The gospel does not awaken a sleeping sinner. Listen to Ephesians 5:14. “Awake you who sleep. Rise from the dead and Christ shall give you light.” The gospel does not awaken a sleeping sinner. The light comes after the awakening. Almost everybody in the United States knows that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Isn’t that true? They know the gospel. We celebrate the gospel at Easter and at Christmas. We know that Jesus Christ died for our sins, but look at verse 7 of our text. “And behold, an angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison.” Peter was not awakened by the light. Look at it. “He smote Peter on the side and raised him up saying, ‘Arise quickly!’ And his chains fell off his hands.” The light was not enough to awaken him. He had to be smitten. That word “smote” in Greek is “patasso,” and it means to sting as a scorpion; to strike with repeated blows. The angel just didn’t say, “Peter, wake up.” No, it was WACK!
“The gospel doesn’t awaken sinners. That is not the purpose of the gospel. The way to awaken sinners is with God’s Law—His Commandments.”
The gospel doesn’t awaken sinners. That is not the purpose of the gospel. The way to awaken sinners is with God’s Law; His Commandments. John Wesley said in the writing of the young evangelist, “Preach 90 percent Law and 10 percent grace.” What? 90 percent law, 10 percent grace? It’s like this. I’m a doctor, you’re a patient. You have a terminal disease. You’re going to die and you don’t realize it. I have the cure and I want you to take the cure. How am I going to handle this? I’m going to say, “Come in here, sit down. I have something serious to speak to you about. This is really serious. Sit down. You have a terrible disease.” And I get out a medical dictionary and show you the name of the disease, show you what the symptoms are, and I see you begin to shake somewhat. Then I get out x-rays and show the x-rays of this poison seeping through your body. I begin to see sweat come to your brow. I say to myself, “Good. He’s beginning to see the seriousness of the situation.” I talk to you for 10 minutes about the disease. How long am I going to have to talk to you about the cure? Not very long at all.
Knowledge of the Disease
The knowledge of the disease and its terrible consequences give you a desire for the cure. That is the function of God’s Law. That’s why Wesley said preach 90 percent Law and 10 percent grace. The Law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. That’s its function. Paul said, “By the Law is the knowledge of sin.” He said, “By the commandment, sin became exceedingly sinful.” By the commandment. 1 Timothy says the Law is good if it is used lawfully for the purpose of which it was designed. Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” That’s its function.
The Law brings knowledge of the disease of sin, but the gospel is the cure. You don’t awaken them with the cure; you awaken them with knowledge of the disease that will take the cure. You see, Law is the schoolmaster. You don’t shoot the schoolmaster after you graduate, do you? You shouldn’t. You say, “Hey, thank you schoolmaster. I hope you stay, schoolmaster, and do your job that others may also graduate.”
John Wesley is speaking of the smiting power of the Law. Firstly, he says, “The Law is given to convert the soul.” Then he says, “There have been one in an age who have been awakened by hearing that God was in Christ reconciling the world back to Himself.” That’s the gospel. One in an age. It is the ordering method of the Spirit of God to convict sinners by the Law. Let me give you a quote from a book America America. This is a quote from a man I’m sure you’re familiar with. It should be if you know history in the U.S. Dwight, or Timothy Dwight, the founder of Yale University, said, “Few, very few, are ever awakened or convicted by the encouragements or promises of the gospel. But almost all by the denunciations of the Law.”
Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer said, “I never knew but one person in the whole course of my ministry who acknowledged the first notions or motions of religion and his heart arose from offense of the goodness of God. But I think all besides who have come within my notice have rather been awaken to fly from the wrath to come by the passion of fear.” See what he’s saying?
Rolfe Barnard said, “The preaching of the gospel is but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals if it falls into the ear of the best man out of Hell who has not been awakened to his awful condition by the thunderings of the Law.”
You see, when the wrath of the Law is enforced, its demand for capital punishment makes the criminal anxious to be pardoned. That was Paul’s experience in Romans 7:7-13. I’d like to, with the help of God, share with you a few instances of how I, using God’s Law, smite sinners. And don’t do this if you want to stay in your comfort zone.
How to Smite Sinners
Firstly, if you want to witness effectively to sinners, relate to them first. Let them feel your sanity. Don’t just come up and blurt out spiritual things. “For the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; they’re foolishness to him. Neither can he know them because they’re spiritually discerned.” First the natural, then the spiritual. Follow the example of Jesus in John chapter 4. Relate to the sinner. I often do this just talking about the weather, talking about something topical and then bringing up Christian subjects like, “Did you see this?” or, “Did you get one of these?” And then give them a tract.
How do you get from bringing up a Christian tract and saying, “That’s a Christian tract,” to God’s Law? It’s as simple as this; you just say to them, “Do you think you’ve kept the Ten Commandments?” Just do it kind of casually. They’ll react probably by saying, “Yeah, pretty much. Maybe broke one or two.” Say, “Let’s go through them.” Say, “Have you ever told a lie?” They’ll usually say, “Yeah, one or two little white lies.” Say, “What does that make you?” They’ll say, “A sinner?” Say, “No, a liar.” They say, “Yeah.”
Say, “Have you ever stolen something?” If they say no, say, “You just told me you’re a liar.” This really does work. Say, “Come on, be honest, have you ever stolen something, even if it’s small?” They say, “Yeah.” Say, “What does that make you?” They say, “A thief.”
Say, “You know Jesus said if you look at a woman and lust after her, you commit adultery in your heart. Ever done that?” “Plenty of times.” Tell them, “By your own admission, you’re a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart and you have to face God on Judgment Day. We’ve only looked at three of the Ten Commandments. There’s another seven with their barrels pointed after you.” Then you just say, “Do you think you’ll be innocent or guilty on the Day of Judgment?” And they’ll say, “Guilty.” Say, “Do you think you’ll go to Heaven or Hell?” You know what they answer? Heaven. They do; they say Heaven.
So you say, “You think God is good and He’ll just overlook your sins then?” “Yes. That’s it.” “Try that in a court of law. You’ve committed rape, murder, and drug pushing. The judge says, ‘You’re guilty. All the evidence is here. Anything to say before I pass sentence?’ Say back to him, ‘Well judge, I think you’re a good man and you’ll just overlook my crimes.’ The judge would probably say, ‘You’re right about one thing, I am a good man, and because I am a good man and because I am good I am going to see that justice is done and that you’re going to be punished.’”
God’s Righteous Condemnation
The very thing that sinners are hoping will save them on the Day of Judgment, goodness, will be the very thing that will condemn them. Because God, because He’s good, will judge sinners on the Day of wrath. It’s very hard in such a gospel hardened society to bring a right understanding of God’s character and His nature. The average unregenerate person thinks that God is his friend. The modern gospel has painted the perspective of God being one of benevolence rather than wrath. One of being a friend rather than an enemy. The Bible says we are enemies of God in our minds for wicked works. “Whosoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” We’re enemies of God. His wrath abides upon us. A guy came up to my door just this evening before dinner trying to sell something, a young man. Took him through the Commandments and just as I had finished, there was a thunder roll in the background. I said, “Hear that?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “God’s angry at you.”
“The very thing that sinners are hoping will save them on the Day of Judgment, goodness, will be the very thing that will condemn them.”
Do you know the word hallelujah, which is so often bandied about especially in Hollywood and old movies that have a drunk saying, “Oh, hallelujah.” You know it’s not even mentioned in the Bible? The word is alleluia. Four times in the book of Revelation. It’s said by the angels when one of God’s judgments comes upon the earth. One of His judgments is poured out. You see, Heaven rejoices when justice is done; just like you and I rejoice when some murdering rapist is brought to justice. We say, “Good. They got him.” We rejoice even as sinners.
All Heaven rejoices when God’s wrath is poured out upon the wicked. His justice will be so thorough on the Day of Judgment. You say, “But doesn’t the goodness of God lead us to repentance?” Good idea to check that verse out because many of today’s Christians say, “Well the goodness of God leads us to repentance. We’re just to speak of God’s goodness.” That verse is in Romans 2:4. I think we’ll turn to it because I think it’s such an important scripture. If Paul is saying the goodness of God leads us to repentance, therefore we’re just to speak of His goodness, then he’s a hypocrite because he didn’t obey the command he was given. Look at the context of it, he’s not speaking of God’s goodness as a tool to bring men to Christ.
The Wrath of God
Starts off, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, who judged for wherein you judge another you condemn yourself for you do the same things. We’re sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them who commit such things. Do you think this, O man, that judge who do such things that you shall escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance of long suffering, not knowing the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” You see, it’s God’s goodness; His mercy, His character, His grace, that grants us repentance, that draws us to Himself. No man can come to the Son unless the Father draws him. Salvation is of the Lord. This scripture is wrapped in wrath.
“But after your hardness and impenitent heart, you’re treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath in the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Who “rendered it to every man according to his deeds”: to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek the glory and honor and immortality of everlasting life. But unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul that does evil, of the Jew first, and also the Greek.”
“Do I make sinners tremble because I don’t like them? No, it’s because I care for them and I know they must find a place of biblical repentance.”
And then it goes, “For as many that’s in the law shall be judged by the law.” Straight through it says, verses 17 and 18…Paul begins opening up the Law, the Ten Commandments, through verse 22 and 23. What he’s doing is, he’s not saying we’re to speak of God’s goodness to bring man to Christ. That would be so against what he’s doing at that particular point; so against what Jesus did. He always gave Law to the proud and grace only to the humble.
Listen to John Wesley. “The second use of the Law is to bring it unto life unto Christ you may live. It is true in performing both these opposites. It acts the part of a severe schoolmaster. It drives us by force, rather than draws us by love. Yet love is the spring of all.” Do you hear what Wesley is saying? That’s the motivation. Do I make sinners tremble because I don’t like them? No, it’s because I care for them and I know they must find a place of biblical repentance. Paul said in Romans 7:7, “I have not known sin but by the law.”
Faith and Obedience
To continue on this thought, turn to John 9:1-7. Jesus heals a man who was born blind. “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth. His disciples asked Him saying, ‘Master, who did sin? This man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither has this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God should be manifest in him. I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night comes when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When He thus spoke, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay. He said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam,’ which is being interpreted, ‘Sent.’ He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”
The question arises, why did Jesus put clay on the blind man’s eyes? He didn’t need to. This was the Son of God. The Creator of the universe manifest in the flesh. One whisper from the Son of God and every blind man on the face of the earth could be healed. Why did He use clay? There’s the normal interpretation that it was a test for the man’s faith. Think of it; remember Naaman the Syrian? He was tested the same way; he had leprosy, he went to the prophet, the prophet said, “Go wash off in the river Jordan. Bob up and down like a rubber duck seven times.” It was a humbling thing. If I wasn’t so proud I would show you what he had to do. I would bob up and down, but I would feel stupid. This is the captain of the Syrian guard, and when he went down for the sixth time and came up, his skin was like that of a baby’s. Faith and obedience.
The Blind Man
This was the same with this blind man. Think of the incident. Here we have this man that was born blind; he’d never seen. No doubt he had prayed every day of his life; “God, give me eyes. Let me see. Let these eyes work. Let me see light. Let me see color and beauty that everyone talks about.” One day he heard about Jesus of Nazareth and he heard that he was in town and he heard of the healings of blind Bartimaeus. Jesus did so many more because they couldn’t be recorded in the books. No doubt it had been blazed abroad, what He had been doing.
His heart was filled with faith as he stood there. Perhaps he whispered to his friend, “Is it really Him?” His friend said, “Yeah, this is the man from Galilee. It’s Him.” The blind man thought, “Wow. What should I do? Should I call out ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me?’ Will He touch my eyes?” While he’s waiting, filled with faith, he hears a spitting noise. So he turns, he says, “Hey, what happened?” The guy says, “The Healer Man just spat on the ground. Sorry.” Some things in life do leave a nasty taste in your mouth, I can understand that. Who doesn’t spit at some time or another? While he’s waiting he says, “What’s He doing now?” His friend says, “He’s making spit balls in the mud.” While he’s standing there wondering what’s going to happen next, he feels a smoosh on his eyes. He says, “What?”
At that point in time he could have been offended. Think about it. He could have said to himself, “Who does this guy think He is? I was born blind. Is the crowd having a good laugh?” But no, he obeyed the voice of the Son of God. He went to the pool and washed and came seeing. It was a test of his faith and his humility.
Here’s another thought and one I’ve had and really makes sense to me. The mud on the blind man’s eyes necessitated cleansing. He had no reason to wash until he perceived he was unclean. Without the mud on his eyes, Jesus could have said, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam,” and he probably would have said, “Why, Lord? I’m not unclean.” The mud gave him reason. It gave him reason, it gave him impetus to go and wash. When you and I take the time to apply the clay tablets of God’s Law on the darkened understanding of the sinner and he perceives his guilt, he perceives his uncleanness, then he has reason to go to the pool of the gospel to wash. Until he is aware that he is unclean, he will not go to wash.
The Law Exposes Your Dirt
Listen to what Spurgeon said: “No man will ever put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness until he is stripped of his fig leaves. Nor will he wash in the fount of mercy until he perceives his filthiness. Therefore my brethren, we must not cease to declare the Law, its demands, its threatening, and the sinners’ multiplied breaches of it.”
“When we take the time to draw back the curtains to the Holy of Holies and let the light of God’s Law shine upon the sinner’s heart, suddenly he sees himself in truth.”
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned, says the hymn writer, then I tremble at the Law I’d spurned, till my guilty soul imploring turned to Cavalry. It’s like this ladies, you’ll identify with this. You’ve got a nice wooden table in your living room. You dust it down. There’s no dust on the table. And then you go over and you draw back the curtains and let in the early morning sunlight. What do you see on your table? Dust. What do you see in the air? Dust. Did the light create the dust? No, the light merely exposed the dust. It merely showed you things in truth, and that’s the function of God’s Law. When we take the time to draw back the curtains to the Holy of Holies and let the light of God’s Law shine upon the sinner’s heart, suddenly he sees himself in truth. He sees we’re all as an unclean thing and all those righteous deeds are as filthy rags.
I sent a book to a friend. This friend of mine has always told me for the last eight years, whenever the opportunity popped up, that the Law was finished with and the Ten Commandments were basically useless. Of course I tried to suggest that the knowledge of sin could come by no other way other than by the Law. This was smothered in a sugary reference to love and grace, so I get quiet. I stuck my neck out last week and gave the book to a friend. The next day he handed it back to me. He was crying and shaking with emotion. He could hardly speak. He said, “I’ve just been born again.” It was the full impact of the power of God’s Law that struck him and wounded him.
A Christian Compromises Convictions
Matthew 6:24 says this: “No man can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other or else he will hold on to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Today our faith, and this challenges me, our faith is either in God as a sense of security for the future, and from that sense of security that we have because He’s our Lord, we have peace and joy. Or our faith is in money. Money gives us a sense of security and because of money we have a sense of peace and joy. You cannot serve God and mammon.
A Christian will bow to God as his Master. If God says something in His Word, we bow to the sovereignty of God. We compromise our convictions. If we have certain convictions about something, like maybe as a new Christian I could have said to myself, “I’m sure God doesn’t want to save me.” Think of those little lambs, cute little lambs. Then I read in the Bible, “For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving for it is sanctified by the word of faith and prayer.” Long live McDonald’s. Suddenly, the truth makes me free. I compromise my convictions because God is my Lord and I esteem His Word.
The sinner does exactly the same thing with his god, money. Money doesn’t talk; it shouts. In true money, a sinner will compromise his convictions. He will compromise his morals when money speaks. Now on a house, you will see a notice that says, “The comfort zone.” Often I have to break out of the comfort zone twice a week to go personally witnessing. I make myself do it. I discipline myself to go out and witness personally. I go to the local courts where people are sitting, waiting to face the judge. They have transgressed the law. They are hoping for mercy. They’re always prayerful, so it’s an excellent place to go and witness.
Money is a Vicious God
I met a guy in there who was very anti-Christian; very angry against God and didn’t like me too much either. I give him a wide berth. When I saw him I just go around and say, “Morning.” I witness to these two people. I was witnessing to them one morning and I saw Mr. Nasty talking to two guys and eying me. When I left, the whole three of them just looked intently as I walked passed. No doubt he was warning them about me as a fanatic. As I was leaving, as I’ve done with hundreds of cars, I put tracts under the windshield wipers. I just go. Don’t even have to touch them sometimes. As I go, the first car—this was in public, a lot of people around—Mr. Nasty and one of his friends, as I lifted the first windshield wiper and put the tract down there, he called out, “Hey, you! Don’t you put one of those blankety-blank things on my blankety-blank truck.” Took it off, put it in my pocket, got in my wallet there, opened it up. He said, “I told you don’t put one of those blankety-blank things on my blankety-blank truck.” Got out some money, put it on his windshield wiper, let it go and he said, “Oh, thanks.”
His god had appeared, so he immediately prostrated himself and compromised his convictions. That’s why I often give money away when I preach. Not in churches, but in open ears, so they stay there. We often have a fake funeral, and at this funeral, to begin it I say, “I’d like to give away some money.” I give away money to show three things. One: that faith without works is dead. The person who eventually comes and takes the money had to exercise faith. He didn’t just believe in them, he had to come see them. Two: it’s an apology that so many in the name of Christianity have taken so much when we should be here to give, not to take, in the name of Christianity.
The third thing is pride. People won’t come and receive the money until I keep doubling it, doubling it, and doubling it. They won’t humble themselves for a dollar, but they will for twenty. They don’t care what people think. I just say, “Well you’ll humble yourself for twenty dollars, God offers you everlasting life and the Bible says, ‘The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God.’ If there’s one chance in a million that Jesus Christ abolished death, it’s just good sense to look into it. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.”
Funerals and Fuming Folks
I often give away money at these funerals. I put 10 one-dollar bills in my wallet and I arrived in Louisiana, Baton Rouge. This young guy picked me up; very zealous young man. He says, “We’re doing a funeral tonight.” I say, “Cool.” “It’s great. We’ll have a rest and I’ll pick you up soon.” Went to the church, picked up 30 or 40 people from the local church, then we went and stopped at a Walmart. I says to myself, “Well I guess we’re going to buy something.” Nope. That’s where I was preaching. They stopped at a Walmart parking lot and set up for me to get on a soapbox and preach. I got up on the soapbox and I began preaching because I’ve been stopped by the police over a dozen times.
As I was preaching, I got up for five minutes, and a security guard come up to me. He says, “You’ve got five minutes.” I says, “You’re kidding. Five minutes? This has never happened before. Thank you very much. Another five minutes.” That’s 300 seconds and I’ve already had five minutes. So I kept preaching. Finished off, went to the local pastor, I says, “Pastor, that security guard came up and he gave me an extra five minutes.” He says, “Yes, I know. When I saw him come out I said, ‘See that preacher over there?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘See all the people around him?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘They go to my church and we shop at Walmart.’”
Then we moved to another place to do the funeral and as we’re setting up shop, as we’re just getting ready to preach, suddenly this van comes in front of us and pulls to one side about ten feet from me followed by a traffic officer on a motorbike with a siren going. He parks his bike and he gets off and he storms up to this van, pulls open the door just ten feet from me, grabs the driver and yells out real heavy obscenities—this is an officer of the law—slams him against the van, rips the guy’s wallet out, slams him on the top, says, “You thought you were smart, didn’t you?” He was fuming. Then he reached in and grabbed these other guys and said, “You laughed, didn’t you, when I told you stop?” Apparently these seven guys in the van had gone through a stop sign. Police officers said stop and they just smirked as they went passed them. They didn’t bother.
Having wisdom from above I said to the guys with me, “Don’t think we should do the funeral right here. This officer of the law is fuming, let’s go over there.” Went outside this dance area and a friend of mine got up on the soapbox and he began going through the Ten Commandments. As he did so, screams of young teenagers came out of this dance and began scoffing and mocking. I thought to myself, “What I’ve just seen in the natural I’ve seen in the spiritual.” You see, the Bible says the Law works wrath. Those young people didn’t obey the law, they mocked the law, and the law became wrath filled. So in the spiritual they were not obeying what the Commandments said. They were mocking the Commandments and all they were doing was Romans 2; storing up wrath that will be revealed on the day of wrath.
Then a manager came out of the dance and said, “What are you guys doing here? Get out of here.” I don’t think you need the church people frequenting that dance. So they couldn’t do that one again. We walked back, and as we were walking past those seven guys by the van, they were looking bewildered. I stopped, I says, “Hey. You guys okay?” One of them says, “Who are you?” I says, “I was here when the policeman, the officer of the law, did his thing. Pretty heavy?” Then he says, “Yeah.”
Love Opens Doors
Then I walked away and I went back to our group and a girl of the group says, “Did you witness to them? Did you witness to them?” I says, “No, I didn’t know what to say.” I really didn’t know what to say. I felt like this person who had come across seven young guys who had skinned their knees and they’re in pain and I came along to pour salt in their wounds. I really didn’t know what to say. I said, “Give me a moment.” I walked up to them and I said to the guy who was the driver, I said, “How much is the fine? How much do you think?” He says, “I think about 250 dollars.” I says, “Well, I’d like to help out.”
I reached into my wallet and got out the 10 one-dollar bills I hadn’t given away. As I went to hand it to him, I looked down and couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a ten-dollar bill that I didn’t know that I had sitting in the midst; you could see it sticking out. It looked like I was offering him a wad of money. All the seven guys said, “Wow. That’s really nice. You don’t even know us. Boy, that’s kind.” The driver says, “No, we just couldn’t take that, but boy that’s really nice of you. That really is.” That gave me license. It says in Scripture, “For so is the will of God, that by your well doing you’ll put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
They would not have let me witness to them when they were angry. That little show of love opened the door. I reached into my pocket and I got out seven pennies with the Ten Commandments pressed into them. I say, “Hey you guys, I’ve got a gift for you. One, two, three, four…” “What’s this?” “It’s a penny with the Ten Commandments.” I said, “Do you think you’ve kept the Ten Commandments?” “Yeah, pretty much.” “Have you guys ever told a lie?” “Yeah.” “You’re all liars aren’t you? Ever stolen something?” “Yeah.” “Ever looked at a woman with lust?” I said, “You’re lying, thieving, adulterers at heart.” I looked at the guy standing there. I said, “Were you scared when the law pulled you from that vehicle?” He said, “I was terrified.”
I said, “That’s because you broke civil law. Now you know you’ve broken the moral Law. If you think you are fearful, wait until God pulls you, rips you from the seat of the scornful and you stand before your Creator. The Bible says, ‘It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ Well we looked at three commandments, there’s another seven facing you. You guys got Bibles? You know that Jesus Christ died for you?” He said, “Yeah, we’ve got Bibles.” “Make sure you read them.”
The more I was talking, the driver began unstrapping something from under his sock. I said, “What are you doing?” He looked embarrassed. He had a plastic bag filled with whiskey strapped to his sock. The law had missed it when they frisked him. Believe me, on the day of wrath God’s Law won’t miss a thing.
The Nature of the Law
The Law is spiritual, the Bible says. That means, when it says the Law is spiritual, you can conspire within your heart to assassinate the President of the United States. That is against the Law, but civil law can’t touch you because it can’t see your thought life. You’re breaking the law, but it has no access into your heart. God’s Word is spiritual. It requires truth on the inward parts. It goes right down to the thoughts and intents of the heart. Every man will give an account of himself to God, will give an account of the thought life. If you hate, the Bible says you’re a murderer. If you get angry without cause, you’re in danger of judgment.
God’s Law did wonderful work that night. A little time after that, I was down at the local courts. I sat down. It was a cloudy day; there wasn’t many people around. I says, “Lord, please bring someone for me to witness to. If it doesn’t happen in five minutes, I’ll go home. About four minutes later, a couple came in and sat about twenty feet from me. I said, “No Lord, I just said one person.” I don’t like witnessing to couples. People aren’t so honest when they’re with another person. I was just done. I was going to leave, but I felt so convicted.
I walked over to them. I says, “How you doing?” I began to relate to them and brought up the subject of Christianity. I said, “You think you’ve kept the Ten Commandments?” The girl says, “Oh, yeah.” I said, “Have you ever told a lie?” She says, “Yeah.” “What does that make you?” She says, “A sinner.” I said, “No, no. A liar.” Her face looked repulsed. People don’t want to face sin and call it what it is. And then I talked about theft and then I turn to the young guy. I says, “You know, fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Every hair on your head is numbered.” You know what he did?
“God’s Word is spiritual. It requires truth on the inward parts. It goes right down to the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
He said, “That’s weird.” He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a book. It was a book of Bible promises. He said, “I was reading this in bed at 4 AM this morning.” I said, “Who were you with?” He said, “My girlfriend.” I said, “Fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He said, “I read those two scriptures you said this morning in that book of Bible promises.”
I says, “You know what you’re like? You two are like a little kid. His father gave a gift of twenty dollars to give him as a gift. It was in his wallet. The father couldn’t wait to give him the gift and the kid had gone into the wallet and stolen it. I said, ‘That’s what you’ve done with sex.’ It was a gift of God. You took something good and made it something bad. You need to repent, both of you and get right with God. Get married if you love each other.”
Should We Pray the Sinner’s Prayer?
I’m often asked, “Would you pray a sinner’s prayer with someone?” The answer is yes and no. For the reason turn to John 20:24. “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them,” this is when the disciples were gathered together after the resurrection when Jesus came. “The other disciples therefore said unto him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Except I shall see in His hands the prints of nails, and put finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas with them, in came Jesus, the doors being shut and stood in the midst, and said ‘Peace be unto you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger and behold My hand, and reach here your hand and thrust into My side and do not be faithless, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Then Jesus said unto him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.’”
Why did Jesus appear to Thomas on the eighth day? The answer to this…let me tell you, I’ve got three kids and I’ve seen my three children born. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. It was a wonderful experience. With our daughter, the doctor was late. My daughter was always like this, she’s always early. She likes to get things done and she arrived a little early and the doctor was late, so the nurse delivered the child. The nurse, not being too well up on things, cut the umbilical cord in slightly the wrong place, and consequently it kind of went like a hose gone wild. That’s an exaggeration. Blood squirted up from the umbilical cord right across the face of the nurse and all over her hands. We all just laughed because this was a joyous occasion. A life had entered the world; a child had been born. It was wonderful. The blood just spoke of life, joy. But imagine if the child had been still born. What a terrible thing, to take that little corpse and wrap it in a towel or something and just put it to one side and look at the mother and the blood wouldn’t speak of life, it would speak of death.
I’ve had one that I’ve birthed into the kingdom of God. I’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer with him. I’ve thought the life of God would be there, I thought it was joyous. I rejoiced. Suddenly, they fell away. I was stuck with a stillborn and it was such a distasteful experience to think the life of God was in someone and it was just death in my hands. I had been responsible. I did the delivery, so consequently, I am very, very, awestruck and fearful to have anything to do with the spiritual birth process because I want the life of God to be there.
Why did Jesus appear to Thomas on the eighth day? On the eighth day, a Hebrew child was circumcised. On the eighth day, they’ve now discovered, that that’s when the coagulating factor in the blood, the prothrombin, is at its highest. That’s when the body’s immune system is at its highest. There’s a right time for physical circumcision. There is also a right time for the circumcision not made with hands. In the natural it’s the eighth day, in the spiritual, with Thomas, it was the eighth day. Everyone must have their eighth day. You think back to when you became a Christian. You know it was God’s time for you. God drew you to Himself, granted you life, gave you understanding, and then saved your soul. Remember Jesus said to Peter, “Who do men say that I am?” He said, “You’re the Christ; the Son of the living God.”
“Blessed are you, Peter. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father, who is in Heaven.” It is better to be born of God. God must be in the salvation, for salvation is of the Lord. If we forget that every sinner has his “eighth day,” we’ll just go rushing around saying, “Let me help with the birth.” We’ll end up with stillborns, prematures, ones that can’t live because we haven’t left them in the womb of conviction. There’s a right day for sinners. Look at Acts 12:7 again. “And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison and he smote Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise quickly.’ His chains fell off from his hands.”
The Laborers Are Few
You see, the church is filled with people who say they’re Christians. They say they have gospel light, but the chains are still on their hands. They don’t reach out to the lost. Their hands don’t pull sinners from the fire. Probably the reason there is still chains on their hands is because they’ve never been smitten by God’s Law in the first place. Why is there so few laborers in the body of Christ? Jesus, He didn’t say, “Pray for revival.” He said, “Pray for laborers.” That’s what He said to pray for because the laborers are few. And saints, they are few in Christianity today. In an evangelical magazine, only one percent in a recent survey said they had a zeal for the lost. That is, 99 percent of the readers of an evangelical magazine have got no zeal for the lost. The recent survey also done by the Barnabus Search Institute, sixty-eight percent of born again Christians in the United States could not define the Great Commission. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
“Jesus, He didn’t say, ‘Pray for revival.’ He said, ‘Pray for laborers.’ That’s what He said to pray for because the laborers are few.”
Why are the laborers so few? Why is it when you say, “Church, you love God, let’s get together on a certain night. We’ll pray for the lost and then we’ll go out, give out tracts, and find people to witness to,” if you get five percent of today’s church, are doing “really well”? Why are the laborers so few? Recently I had an occasion deep in the heart of Texas to have dinner with my friend, Winkie Pratney, a fine author and Bible teacher who is also a New Zealander. He’s got good blood.
Because we were fellowshipping, this called for steak. Winkie cooked the steak and slapped it on my plate and when I cut into it, it was tender. Sue and I, for years, have wondered how you get tender steaks. We have tried with…bought a steak and says I’ll cook it slow. It’s tough. We cook it fast. It’s tough. I’ll try a different type of steak. It’s tough. What’s the key? I said, “Winkie, how’d you get this so tender?”
He says, “It’s real easy. You get a hot plate and you get a hot plate until it’s almost white hot and then you drop that steak for fifteen seconds on one side and then turn it over and then sear it for fifteen seconds on the other side. And what you do when you do that, is you seal in the juices. You seal in the tenderness.”
What Is It That Makes Laborers?
At 3 a.m. in the next morning it suddenly struck me what it is that keeps the tenderness within the heart of the Christian. I thought, “What is it that makes laborers? Why are there so few? Why is it? Why are the laborers, the ones that I know, so zealous? Are they kind of born with a boldness? An innate boldness that just, you want to go out and witness?” No. Because some of the most zealous laborers I know are very shy people. What is it that Spurgeon called “a deep tenderness that is in the heart?” You know why it’s there? It’s because they’ve been seared by the heat of God’s Law. That’s what produces the tenderness.
Think about it. We have someone who’s a sinner. He’s in a dream world. He thinks that God loves him and He’s pleased with his lifestyle and he doesn’t realize that the wrath of God abides upon him. He’s living in a dream world. He believes that man evolved from this, or he’s reincarnated, or perhaps there’s no God. He doesn’t really know. It’s just an unruled, philosophical rubbish going through his mind. Suddenly he’s confronted with God’s Law. He’s smitten with the Law. He suddenly realizes that God’s Law is spiritual. That God’s seeing his thought life. He’s seeing the darkness is no longer pure light. There’s not a word on his tongue that God doesn’t know altogether. That God’s seeing a filthy lust that’s considered to be adultery. He’s seen his hatred and his anger without cause and seen as a murderer at heart. He’s a liar and a thief. He’s been drinking liquor like water. He loves the darkness and he hates the light. If he comes to the light, his deeds would be exposed.
He’s worthy of Hell. He can see it. He’s like a man who finds himself in a desert. Think of it this way. Imagine if I came to you tonight, you’re sitting in the pew there, quite enjoying yourself. I come up to you and say, “Hey, let me give you this drink of water.” I grab your head and try to put water down your mouth.” You say, “Get out. I’m not thirsty.” You’d be offended, I’m sure. Then again, if you were crawling through a desert for three days and your lips were blistered and your tongue was swollen and you’re near death and I come up to you and say, “Let me tip your head back. I’m going to tip this water in.”
Your thirst from the heat of the sun, would cause you to be eternally grateful for the water that I’m pouring into your lips. That’s the function of God’s Law. It puts the heat of the sunlight and the wrath of God upon him and makes him thirst for righteousness. When the water of the gospel is freely given by God’s mercy and undeserving grace, it seals within his heart a gratitude that will burn for eternity.
Bring the Heat!
If you’re sitting amongst God’s people and you haven’t got that burning desire to live to God’s will and honor and evangelize and do the will of God, it’s probably because the Law hasn’t brought its heat to you. It’s very hard to bring the heat of God’s Law upon God’s people when they know the gospel. If you know the gospel, you know that God is tender, benevolent, willing to give, rich in mercy. Mercy rejoices over judgment. A knock won’t make you tremble because of the knowledge you’ve got. What actually happens is you’ve been deprived of the impenitence of gratitude and without it evangelism will not be a delight, it will be burdensome to you. My motivation for evangelism is gratitude.
“If you’re sitting amongst God’s people and you haven’t got that burning desire to live to God’s will and honor and evangelize and do the will of God, it’s probably because the Law hasn’t brought its heat to you.”
In Acts 12, we’ll look at that first. Look at verse 8 as we begin to pull this to a close. “And the angel said unto him, ‘Gird yourself and bind on your sandals.’” Saints, we’ve got to gird ourselves. Poor Peter heard this from the angel and he wrote it to us in 1 Peter 1:13. He said, “Gird the loins of your mind,” and that’s what we need to do. Get rid of the clutter in our mind and say, “Hey, let me see clearly what God’s will is.” He’s not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Bind on your sandals. Saints we need to get those gospel shoes and bind them on. Don’t let anything deter you from those…your feet being shod with the gospel of peace. He did so and he said to him, ‘Cast your garment about you. Put on your robe of righteousness and follow Jesus with all your heart.’
Let me conclude by asking this question. Would you sell your eyes for a million dollars? You think about it. Would you sell an eye for a million dollars? Imagine if I was a doctor and I had authority to give you a million dollars for one of your eyes. Tax free. We could take it out, replace it with another eye that looks as good as your old one. You get a million dollars, tax free, in your hands. Hands up, anybody that would sell an eye for a million dollars. Seriously, if you would, think about it.
Would you sell both eyes for twenty million? No way. Nobody in his right mind would even think for moment of selling his eyes. I mean, if you sold your eyes what would you do with the money? See the world? Saints, your eyes are precious to you. They’re merely the windows of your soul. Your soul, your life, looks out the windows of your eyes. Shut the shutters, you can’t see out. Your eyes are priceless to you, but they’re merely windows of your soul.
Jesus said, “You are to despise the value of your eye compared to the value of your soul.” He said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. For it is better to enter Heaven without an eye than to go to Hell with both your eyes.” He said, “What’s it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Of all the things you should prioritize in your life, it’s your eternal salvation. It’s not your marriage, it’s not your health, it’s not your vocation, it’s your eternal salvation because all these things are merely temporary. Your salvation is eternal. The salvation of sinners around us should be a priority in your life.
A pastor called me some time ago and he said—he was from Florida—he said, “I got to tell you something, Ray, I’ve never been really zealous for the lost until recently.” He said, “I just saw myself as a pastor and people had the gift of evangelism and my gift was teaching.” He said, “I pulled into a service station. I went to get some gas. When I was inside paying for it, God seemed to speak to my heart and say, ‘Tell that man about My mercy and My forgiveness.’” The pastor thought, “There’s too many people around here and I haven’t got time to wait.” He went back out into his car and he was going to drive off and he felt God speak to his heart again: “Go back and tell that man about My forgiveness.” You know what the pastor did? He said, “Lord I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll just pray. ‘Oh Father, bring a laborer across the path of that man.’”
That’s what he did. He just prayed that God would bring a laborer and he just drove off. He felt quite satisfied that he had done what he should. Two days later he found out that that man closed up shop, went home, and committed suicide. What a tragedy. Saints, we have an awesome task before us. My prayer is, “Oh God, teach me to number my days that I might apply in my heart wisdom.”