Hell’s Best Kept Secret III ~ July 08, 2018 ~ Romans 5:6-11
When I heard this message – I have literally, no word of a lie, listened to this sermon on a CD at least a dozen times, I just love it. It changed my whole perspective on evangelism, and I really wanted to share it with you. Now, by the time I got done slicing and dicing it, it’s probably 35-40% mine anyway, but I don’t wanna pass it off as if I came up with it. It is from Ray Comfort.
So, to bring those who missed the first two installments up to speed a little bit, in the 1970s a gentleman by the name of Ray Comfort discovered, to his horror, that 80-90% of all those who were making a decision for Christ, quickly fell away from the faith. And he believed, through process of elimination, it was because modern evangelism’s message had devolved into “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and he will give you peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness!” which is neither biblical nor effective, obviously, because the numbers bear that out. 80-90% of people latched on to that message at first. “Aw, yeah! If I have Jesus I’m gonna have peace, joy, love, happiness, and lasting fulfillment in my life!” It’s a good pitch, and they grab it! But after they grab it, they find out that their life is not full of peace, joy, love, happiness and lasting fulfillment, so they get angry at you, because you told them Jesus was gonna make their lives full of peace, joy, love, happiness, and lasting fulfillment. They take off the Lord Jesus Christ, they throw it down on the ground, and they will never put it on ever again. That’s what he discovered was happening.
He, through his research and prayer and discernment, it was revealed to him that that’s not the message. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and he’ll give you peace, joy, love, happiness, and lasting fulfillment.” It was instead, “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.” Psalm 19. So Ray began to use the law – specifically THE law, the Ten Commandments – to lead people to a point where they recognized their need for repentance. Once they understood they needed to repent, then he would share the gospel with them, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, as I mentioned last week, uses the same approach. This wasn’t an original idea of Ray’s. When we looked at the Samaritan woman at the well and that story, we saw how Jesus did evangelism. He started in the natural. He just walked up and asked the woman for a drink. It’s hot, he was working on the fourth floor with Phil, no air conditioning. So he asks for a drink. Then, he begins to intentionally move towards the spiritual. He starts talking about not just water, but this living water. Piques her interest. Then he shares the law, because she mentions – he says, “Go and get your husband.” And she says, “I don’t have one.” And Jesus says, “Yeah, you’re right, you’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with now, you’re not even married to!” Seventh commandment. So he hits her with the law, and then reveals to her the Good News. He is the promised Messiah. So that’s the plan, the method. Natural, then the spiritual, then the law, then the Good News. That’s how Jesus did it, that’s how Ray Comfort began to do it.
He begins meeting someone, he starts in the natural. He talks about the weather. “Man, it’s hot, isn’t it?” He may talk about sports. “Gosh, it’s kinda great that the Red Sox are up by two games, isn’t it?” He’ll tell some jokes, start some humor, get to know them a little bit, open up a dialogue. Try to get this person to understand I’m not a nut! I’m just a regular guy! And then, he deliberately swings from the natural to the spiritual. He likes to do this using gospel tracts, and I showed you this gospel tract last week. Pulls out one of these and says, “Which one of these is bigger?” Which one? Red? Which one’s bigger now? Which one’s bigger? Actually, they’re the exact same size. It’s an optical illusion! And he says to them, on the back is the gospel, how to get saved. And they’re like, “Wow! That’s kind of cool!” Oh yeah, for those listening to the recording later, they are the same size!
He says, “You can keep this.” Obviously, the message on the back with the gospel and how to get saved, you want that to go with them. So they’re like, “Oh, wow, that’s kind of cool!” And he says, “I’ve got another gift for you.” He reaches in his pocket and he pulls out a pressed penny with the Ten Commandments on it. Now, Ray’s ministry Living Waters has a machine that does this. They buy nice brand new pennies and they feed them into the machine, and the machine presses the Ten Commandments on it. It’s legal, it’s not considered defacing currency, it’s classified as art. So he pulls it out, “I’ve got this for you.” “Oh, what’s that?” “It’s a penny, Ten Commandments on it. I did it with my teeth. I did the “I”s with my i-teeth, but they “e”s were difficult.” See, humor (or at least an attempt at it!)
Now, what he’s doing with these gospel tracts is he’s putting out a feeler to see if this person is open to spiritual things. Because some people are not. Some people are just angry, bitter, unpleasant atheists, and if they are not open to spiritual things, you’re not gonna have any effect on them. Don’t beat your head against the wall. The Bible says, if they’re not ready to accept Jesus, wipe the dust from the bottoms of your feet and move on. You cannot argue anyone into the kingdom. You’re putting out a feeler, are they open to spiritual things? You know the old saying, right? “You can lead a horse to water…” You have living water! The living water of Jesus Christ to share with folks. And you can bring it to them! But you can’t make them drink. That’s up to the Holy Spirit, ok?
But that’s not usually what the reaction is. The reaction is usually, “Hey, thanks, that’s really cool!” So you see, first the natural – couple of gospel tracts, a penny, some humor – and then you slide into the spiritual. Ray asks, “So, what do you think? Have you kept the Ten Commandments?” And they usually say, “Yeah, pretty much.” So he says – and I use it too, I stole it from Ray – “Well, let’s try something. Let’s go through them, let’s see how you do. Have you ever told a lie?” “Uh, yeah, one or two.” “What does that make you?” And they get a little panicky. “Uh, a sinner?” “No, no, no. Specifically what does that make you?” “Well I’m not a liar!” “Well, how many lies does it take for you to be a liar? You have to tell ten and a bell goes off and all of a sudden, confetti and everybody knows? Isn’t it true that if you tell one lie, just one, it makes you a liar?” “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” “Well, have you ever stolen anything?” “No, never!” “Oh, come on now. You just admitted to me that you’re a liar. Have you ever taken anything, no matter how small it is, that wasn’t yours – you knew it wasn’t yours and you kept it anyway?” “Yeah, I guess I have.” “What does that make you?” “A thief.”
Then I say, “Did you know that in the Bible, Jesus says that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28. “Have you ever done that? Have you ever ogled a woman as she walked by, or watched any pornography?” “Yeah, plenty of times.” “Well, friend, then from your own admission, you’re a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart. And just like me, you are one day going to have to face God on judgment day. And we’ve only looked that three of the Ten Commandments! There are seven others with their cannons pointed right at you! For instance, have you ever used God’s name in vain?” “Yeah, I’ve been trying to quit that.” “Do you know what we are doing when we do that? Instead of using a four-letter filthy word beginning with ‘s’ in order to express our disgust, we use the Lord’s name instead. That’s called blasphemy.” Exodus 20:7 says:
“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”
“… you must give an account on judgment day for every word you speak.”
Matthew 12:36. We are not supposed to take God’s name in vain.
Now, the law also says you must not murder. Now this is where you usually have a good reaction, because most people haven’t murdered anyone. So they get excited, they’re like, “Yeah! I’m gonna get one!” “Now I’m assuming that you’ve never murdered anyone, right?” “No, no, absolutely not.” And I say, “Well, the Bible says Jesus raised the bar. Jesus said if you hate someone it’s the same as murdering them. Have you ever hated someone? I know, me too. You’re probably not all that happy with me right now.” But that’s the wonderful thing about the power of God’s law. You see, God has taken the time to write it upon our hearts. Romans 2 says:
… God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.
Conscience. If you have a conscience, it’s because God’s law has been written on your heart. Conscience means – con means with, science means knowledge. Put those two together, you have ‘with knowledge.’ So when this guy lies, and lusts, and fornicates, and blasphemes, and commits adultery, he does so with knowledge that it’s wrong. He knows it is, instinctively, because he has a conscience. We all do. No one sins accidentally. We know exactly what we’re doing before we do it, while we’re doing it, and after we do it, and if you don’t believe that, you’re lying! God has given that light to every man and woman.
See, our goal is not to go out and tell people that they’re horrible sinners and we’re perfect angels. No! we are all swimming in the same soup. But we have a life jacket, right? We have a life saver. That’s the difference. They don’t even know they need a life jacket. They’re not even sure what drowning is, no one’s ever explained it to them. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get them to understand, “you’re drowning! Here’s a life preserver!” But you gotta convince them that they’re drowning first.
So after this line of questioning, finally you ge to the two big questions. “So, when God judges you by the law (Ten Commandments on the day of judgment), would you be found innocent or guilty?” Now, they’re not stupid, so they know that, connecting all these dots, the only logical conclusion is, “Well, I guess I’m guilty.” Ok. Me too. To which I then reply, “Well, if you’re guilty, would you go to heaven or hell?” Now, again, sometimes they panic and say, “Um, heaven!” “Really?” Because they have heard the modern gospel. So I’ll ask, “Why do you believe that? After all the things you just confessed, yourself, that you said you did, that you said you were guilty, but you’re still gonna go to heaven? Is it because you think God is good and he’ll overlook your sins?” “Yeah, that’s it. God is good and he’s gonna overlook my sins.”
Really? Well, let’s try that in the court of law. You have been convicted of selling drugs, of kidnapping, of murder. Very serious crimes.
The judge says, “You’re guilty. All the evidence has been presented, the jury has heard it, they’ve come back with a verdict – you’re guilty. Have you anything to say before I pass judgment?” And you try that one, “Well, yes judge! Your honor, I would like to say that I believe you’re a good woman and you will overlook my crimes.” And the judge would probably respond, “Well, you’re right about one thing: I am a good woman. And because of my goodness, I’m going to see that justice is done and you are punished.” You see, the very thing that sinners hope will save them on judgment day, the goodness of God, is exactly the thing that will condemn them. God cannot let guilty, unrepentant sinners go free. If he did, there is no such thing as justice. Because God is good, he must punish sinners. He has to, or there is no such thing as justice. Now this guy, the light is slowly beginning to turn on. Why? Because the law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. He is starting to see a connection between his sin and God paying his fine through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Things are starting to line up.
Romans, chapter 5, I forgot to pray, but that’s ok, we’ve had a lot of prayer this morning. Verse 6:
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
The lightbulb is starting to go on. We broke the law, he paid the fine. It’s that simple. Everybody loves the part, part B. He paid the fine, he paid the fine, he paid the fine. Awesome! But that can’t be our message! He paid the fine… we have to have people understand, you broke the law! That’s why he paid the fine! We can’t skip that first part. Too many Christians, too many pastors do. You broke the law; however, if you acknowledge that, if you confess your sin, if you repent, if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, God will forgive you. You have his word on it.
Then, on the day of judgment, when you face God, he will say, “Case dismissed. Your fine has already been paid.”
John Wesley – you may know him from his hymns, he was a prolific hymn writer, tons of his hymns are in our hymnal – John Wesley once said to a bunch of evangelists, “Preach 90% law and 10% grace.” 90% you broke the law, we broke the law, 10% he paid your fine. Now, you may think, 90% law, 10% grace, that’s pretty heavy, isn’t it? That’s pretty depressing. Couldn’t it be like 50/50? Think of it like this. I’m a doctor (not yet), you’re a patient. You have a terminal disease. I have a cure, but it is absolutely essential that you are totally committed to this cure. If you’re not 100% committed, it will not work. So how would I handle it? Perhaps like this.
“Come in, sit down, I have some very serious news for you. You have a terminal disease.” I can see you begin to shake. I think to myself, good, good, she’s beginning to see the seriousness of the situation. I bring out charts, I bring out x-rays, I bring out blood results, I show you the poison flowing through your body. I speak to you for ten minutes about this terrible disease. How long do you think I’m gonna have to talk to you about the cure? Not long. After ten minutes, I say, “By the way, here’s the cure.” You grab it and gulp it down. Can’t get it in your body fast enough. Why? Because your knowledge of the disease and it’s horrific consequences made you desire the cure.
You remember a couple weeks back I started with this illustration about being on a plane. So you’re sitting on the plane, remember? And you’re sipping your coffee, and you’re eating your cookie, and you’re watching the movie. It’s a good flight, very pleasurable, when suddenly you hear:
This is the captain speaking, I have an important announcement. The tail section of this plane has just fallen off. We’re going to crash. It is a 25,000 foot drop. However, there is a parachute under your seat, and we would appreciate it now if you would put it on. Thank you for your attention, and thank you for flying this airline.
And you say, “Man, I am so glad there’s a parachute here,” and you put it on and say, “Holy, moly!” and you look around and there’s a person sitting next to you who is still eating their cookie and sipping their coffee and watching the movie. And you say, “Excuse me, did you not hear the captain? We are going to crash! We’re 25,000 feet in the air! Put your parachute on!” But they turn to you and they say, “I really don’t think the captain means it. He’s quite the professional. I’m happy as I am, but thank you.” You do not turn to this person and say, “Please! Please please please put on the parachute!” and you try something like, “If you put on the parachute, it will be better than the movie!” That’s not gonna work. That doesn’t make any sense. The parachute is not about making the flight better, it’s not about making the movie better. It’s about the 25,000 foot jump they are soon gonna have to make! That’s not how you do it! Instead, you say, “Excuse me, ignore the captain if you wish, but if you jump without a parachute, because of the law of gravity, SPLAT. You’re done.” When they understand they will have to face the consequences of the law of gravity, you’ll never get that parachute off their back. Because they know, now, their very life depends on it. The saddest thing today, if we look around we will see plenty of passengers even inside a church enjoying the flight, delighting in the pleasures of sin for a season, because they’re banking on the goodness of God to let them off.
It doesn’t work that way. God is good, and God is just. Instead, ask these folks, “Excuse me, did you hear the command from our captain about salvation? Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” And if they say, “Oh, I really don’t think God means it, God is love! Besides, I’m quite happy as I am, thanks.” We don’t respond with, “Please! Please please please put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Hey, he’ll give you peace, joy, love, happiness, and lasting fulfillment! There’s a God-shaped hole in your heart that only he can fill!”
We don’t want, “If you have a marriage problem, if you have a drug problem, if you have an alcohol problem, just give your heart to Jesus!” No. Now, all of those things may be true, but that is not the reason you come to Christ. Instead, take a moment of prayer: “Oh God, give me courage.” And then tell them about the jump! “Hey, you know, each person is destined once to die, and then comes the judgment. Just like me, friend, on judgment day you will have to give an account of every single word you have ever spoken. If you have lusted, you have committed adultery. If you have hated someone, you have committed murder. And if you die in your sins, because God is good, God will have to give you justice.”
Now, some people misunderstand what I’m saying. I am really not talking about hellfire preaching. That is not what I’m doing here. Hellfire preaching produces fear-filled converts. Using God’s law produces tear-filled converts. If someone comes to Jesus because he wants to escape the fires of hell, but in his heart believes that God is harsh and unjust and unforgiving, it’s because the law hasn’t been used to show them, “No, we broke the law. It’s not him, it’s us.” If we don’t get people to understand that, they won’t understand mercy or grace. It will seem like foolishness to them. They don’t believe they need mercy or grace, they haven’t done anything wrong. They will display no gratitude toward God.
You see, I used this in Bible study the last time we met. Justice. Justice is getting what you deserve. If you murder someone, you deserve the death penalty. That’s justice. Mercy is NOT getting what you deserve. You killed someone. Instead of getting the death penalty, we’re gonna show you mercy and give you life imprisonment instead. Grace is getting what you DON’T deserve. You murdered someone, you repented, we’re gonna forgive you and set you free. That’s the difference between justice, mercy, and grace; and once we have been forgiven, we should be filled with gratitude. Gratitude, not fear, should be the prime motivation for evangelism. One has to know that they have sinned against heaven. One has to understand that they broke the law, that God is omniscient, he knows everything, even our thoughts. Because on the day of wrath when we all stand before God, he is going to reveal all of our secret sins, all of the things we have done in darkness. And once those things are revealed, he will have every right to pick any one of us up and throw us into hell. We would deserve it. That would be justice.
But he doesn’t do that. He offers grace. While we were still sinners, God sent Christ to die for us.
Once we realize this, who wouldn’t fall on their knees before the blood-stained cross and say, “God, you did that for me? I am so grateful, Lord. I would do anything for you! I will delight in doing your will.” That’s how we do evangelism, because then, like the woman who knew she had to face the consequences of the law of gravity, they will never take their parachute off, because they know their very life depends on it.
Now, let me see, a couple minutes left, if I can condense all that I’ve been sharing as I draw it to a close. For many years, Ray Comfort open-air preached. He fought off the enemy with a feather-duster – the feather-duster of modern evangelism. “Come to Jesus Christ and he’ll give you peace, joy, love, happiness, and lasting fulfillment!” And he thought it was working, because people were coming. But 80-90% of them fell away. One day, he says, it was as though God asked him directly, “What are you doing?”
We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
2 Corinthians 10:4. “Here are ten great cannons! Use this weapon, not a feather-duster!” And when Ray began to use the ten cannons of God’s law, no longer did sinners scoff or mock. No, they understood what God did for them. They lifted up their hands and they said, “I surrender all, all to Jesus I freely give!” They were converted because the law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.
Sadly, still, modern evangelism says, “Jesus Christ will give you peace, joy, love, lasting fulfillment and happiness.” But that is not what makes true converts. If we really care about someone’s – anyone’s – eternal destination, what makes real converts? The law of the Lord. Unfortunately, it is hell’s best kept secret, because no one preaches it today. No one talks about it, it’s uncomfortable. Some people get angry. Pastors don’t have the hootspah (that’s Jewish) to tell the truth. The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.
But just think about it for a minute. It’s completely backwards to preach the cure – repentance, Christ – without first preaching the disease! Helping people realize! I mean, it seems foolish to them. “Drink this, it’ll make you feel better.” “But I feel ok!” However, once they understand they do have the disease, they will eagerly, enthusiastic, willingly, and gratefully receive the cure – Jesus Christ.
So that’s what I’m gonna be doing this summer. I invite you to come help me, at least go through the training, I will let you know when that begins. We are going to be taking to the streets of Hartford and revealing to folks hell’s best kept secret, and bringing them into the arms of Jesus Christ, the cure.
Would you stand and pray with me?