Being a modern-day open-air preacher in the United States carries a lot of unwanted baggage.
January 19, 2018
Ray springboards to the gospel by sharing an observation of a law of physics, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. With this law in mind, Ray tells the personal story of being stuck hanging from a high shelf having lost his ladder underfoot.
Recently I was reminded about physical law or a law of physics that goes something like this.1 Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. By that I mean if you push against a wall, a law of physics says that that wall pushes back to you with the same intensity that you push against the wall.
I was up a ladder when I was reminded of this law. Eight feet up the ladder. I had to pick up a piece of wood that weighed about 30 pounds. As I pushed the wood to the back of the shelf, this law kicked into action and saw myself and the ladder as one entity.
Suddenly that entity passed through me through the ladder, and the bottom of the ladder kicked out about 12 inches. So I found myself precariously hanging from the shelf about eight-feet in the air above a ladder that was about to fall. I thought, Oh, I could get injured any second!
I learned something about myself. I learned that I’m a very proud person, because I thought, You know, about now I should call out, ‘Help! Somebody help me!’ But I didn’t want to. The reason for that is that my staff would come running in and see me hanging from an eight-foot shelf and think, This looks stupid. What an idiot this guy is.2
So I looked around, and on my right hand, on my right side was a steel cabinet. And I thought, If I reach out from the shelf, I can put my foot on the cabinet to save myself. And that’s what I did.
We will not call out for help if we think we can save ourselves, because we’re proud creatures. And why should we anyway, if we can save ourselves? Now the Bible says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”3 And if you’ve not called on the name of the Lord it’s because you think you can save yourself. You say, “What do you mean, ‘Save yourself’? What are you talking about?”
You may not realize it, but you are hanging in a very precarious position. When you think about it, you and I are hanging from this life over eternity. Every one of us. And in an instant we can fall through death. In the back of your mind you’re thinking, “Yeah, if that happens…if there’s a God…if there’s a Judgment Day…if there’s a Heaven or Hell, I’ll be fine. My hope is that I’m a good person.”4
That’s how you think you can save yourself.5
What I’d like to do this morning is show you that what you’re hoping in is actually a parachute filled with holes. What you’re doing is extremely dangerous. What I want to do is show you there is no steel shelf or anything for you to put your foot on to save yourself.
So, you are trusting your own righteousness6 to save you on the Day of Judgment—and there’s going to be a Day of Judgment—and you think that you are basically a good person. Let’s see if you are. Let’s look at the Commandments and see God’s standard for morality.7 The first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”8 Is God first in your affections? Do you love the God who gave you life? You and I should. He gave us taste buds to enjoy good food. He’s lavished His goodness upon us. We’ve a free land to be in, and enjoy the pleasures of this life—good food and friendships, health, a mind to think with, ears to hear with, eyes to see with. You’re not some person in Africa, part of some famine, lying on the ground with flies crawling cross your face. God has greatly blessed you as a person. So you should love God and put Him first in your affections. Do you do that?
Some of you might say, “I do that. I love God.” Well, let me ask you a question: Have you ever used God’s name in vain?9 You say, “Yeah. Once or twice.” So you’ve taken the name of the God who lavished His goodness upon you, gave you life, and used it as a cussword to express disgust. Folks, that’s called “blasphemy,” when you use God’s name as a cussword.10
“Adolf Hitler’s name wasn’t despised enough to use as a cussword, and you’ve taken the name of the God who gave you life, and blasphemed Him.”
Adolf Hitler’s name wasn’t despised enough to use as a cussword, and you’ve taken the name of the God who gave you life, and blasphemed Him—which shows that you don’t love God.11 And the problem is this: You’ve probably created a god to suit yourself. The Bible says there is one God and He is perfect,12 holy,13 and righteous.14 The Bible says He’ll “by no means clear the guilty.”15 What you’ve done is transgressed the Ten Commandments, which say, “You shall not make yourself a graven image.”16 That means you shouldn’t make a god to suit yourself, either with your hands or with your mind.
Come across to the Sixth Commandment.17 It says, “You shall not kill.”18 You say, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody.” The Bible says if you get angry without cause you’re in danger of judgment.19 The Scriptures say, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.”20 The Seventh Commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.”21 Maybe you’ve not committed adultery, but listen to what Jesus said. He said, “But I say to you, whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.”22
Have you ever lied or stolen? The Bible says, “No liar will inherit the kingdom of God, no thief…”23 In fact the Bible says, “All liars will have their part in the lake24 of fire.”25 See, if you are trusting in your own goodness to save you, realize you’re not good. You’re like the rest of us. Your conscience is defiled,26 the Bible says. It even says you’ve got an evil conscience.27 What you do when you judge yourself is judge by a standard you don’t even judge other people with.28 That’s because your conscience is dead. You know it’s wrong to lie and steal and lust and blaspheme. So, on the Day of Judgment you’ll be guilty and the Bible says you’ll end up in Hell. That’s not God’s will.
Folks, the same Judge that condemns us the Bible says is “rich in mercy.”29 Even though we’re guilty, He’s provided a way for you to be forgiven. He’s provided a way of escape. He’s provided a way so that your case can be dismissed.
The way He did it was in becoming a human being in Jesus Christ, and giving His life as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. Jesus paid your fine in His life’s blood, so you could leave the courtroom on the Day of Judgment. The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”30
Folks, God offers you the gift of everlasting life. Please, today come to your senses.31 Repent32 and put your trust in Jesus Christ, and the Bible says you’ll pass from death to life.33 Thank you so much for listening. God bless you.
*This is a transcript of an open-air outreach.
- It is important to realize that these messages were preached to a ready crowd. I didn’t have to try to “draw” them to listen to me, as I was forced to do for so many years. To learn how to draw a crowd and hold them, as well as other tips, see The Evidence Bible. For actual open-air preaching footage, see our “Way of the Master” television program, Season Four: Mission Europe. In this 13-DVD series you will see actual open-air preaching in thirteen European countries. Both are available at www.LivingWaters.com.
- Use personal anecdotes. These are of interest to the average listener, especially if they are slightly humorous, such as me hanging from an eight-foot shelf, and being too proud to call for help. Another advantage of recounting something that happened to you is that it is easier for you to recall the experience.
- Acts 2:21
- Proverbs 20:6: “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness…”
- Your job (with the help of God) is to dash all hope, and the biblical way to do that is with the Moral Law. You must strip your hearers of every ounce of self-righteousness, by pounding out the Law. Put them up the river Niagara without a paddle, and let them hear the roar of the falls. Then they will take hold of the rope that is being thrown to them in Jesus Christ. They will never take hold of the Savior while they are allowed to believe they can save themselves.
- Romans 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
- This is what Jesus did: “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother’” (Mark 10:17–19). This is also what the apostle Paul did. See Romans 2:21–24.
- Exodus 20:3
- Exodus 20:7
- Never be afraid to make sin personal. Remember what Nathan did with David. The king had sinned against God, but he deceived himself by perhaps thinking that God didn’t require an account of what he had done. But look at how Nathan personalized the king’s sin: “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’ Then he said, ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.’” Nathan told David that he was personally responsible before God. He then pointed to the Commandments, and spoke of judgment, before he brought the good news (the gospel)—that God had put away his sin. That is the biblical order for your message. We must make our hearers understand that they have sinned against God before we give them the good news of the gospel. Look at David’s reaction to Nathan’s reproof: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” (Read the entire account in 2 Samuel 12:7–13.)
- When speaking of open-air preaching, R. A. Torrey said, “Don’t be soft. One of these nice, namby-pamby, sentimental sort of fellows in an open-air meeting the crowd cannot and will not stand. The temptation to throw a brick or a rotten apple at him is perfectly irresistible, and one can hardly blame the crowd.”
- Matthew 5:48
- 1 Peter 1:16
- 1 John 2:29
- Exodus 34:7
- Exodus 20:4
- Always keep in mind that the conscience of the sinner will bear witness with the Commandments. In his heart he knows that what you are saying is true. Romans 2:15 says, “…which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Just after Paul says this, he uses the Law to bring the knowledge of sin (verses 21–24).
- Exodus 20:13
- Matthew 5:22
- 1 John 3:15
- Exodus 20:14
- Matthew 5:27,28
- 1 Corinthians 6:9,10
- You may feel uncomfortable saying this. But the way to overcome the fear of man is to be overcome with the fear of God. Memorize 2 Corinthians 2:17: “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Preach with the understanding that you do so “in the sight of God.”
- Revelation 21:8
- Titus 1:15
- Hebrews 10:22
- “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3)
- Ephesians 2:4
- John 3:16
- This is what happened to the prodigal son—he came to himself: “And when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’” (Luke 15:17). The unsaved world is “insane” until it receives “the spirit of a sound mind.” It has been well said that it runs at Hell as though it were Heaven and rejects Heaven as though it were Hell. In a sense, it is suicidal. We, with God’s help, are to try to reason with them not to self-destruct.
- As you preach the gospel, divorce yourself from the thought that you are merely seeking “decisions for Christ.” What we should be seeking is repentance within the heart. This is the purpose of the Law—to bring the knowledge of sin. How can a man repent if he doesn’t know what sin is? If there is no repentance, there is no salvation. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
It seems that many don’t understand that the salvation of a soul is not a resolution to change a way of life, but “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). The modern concept of success in evangelism is to relate how many people were “saved” (that is, how many prayed the “sinner’s prayer”). This produces a “no decisions, no success” mentality. This shouldn’t be, because Christians who seek decisions in evangelism become discouraged after a time of witnessing if “no one came to the Lord.” The Bible tells us that as we sow the good seed of the gospel, one sows and another reaps. If you faithfully sow the seed, someone will reap. If you reap, it is because someone has sown in the past, but it is God who causes the seed to grow. If His hand is not on the person you are leading in a prayer of committal, if there is no God-given repentance, then you will end up with a stillbirth on your hands, and that is nothing to rejoice about. We should measure our success by how faithfully we sowed the seed. In that way, we will avoid becoming discouraged. Billy Graham said, “If you have not repented, you will not see the inside of the Kingdom of God.”
- 1 John 3:14