Well, let me welcome you baptists to Valleydale Church. We’re glad you’re here. We’re honored to host the Alabama State Convention, or the Evangelistic Conference, I’m sorry. We’re glad you’re here. This has been a conference that over the years, I’ve been so honored that you have invited me to speak at the Evangelism Conference. I was trying to think tonight, I think this may be the sixth time I think I’ve spoken at the Alabama Evangelistic Conference. So I’m honored to do that. I’m glad you’re here.
I hope you’ve got a copy of God’s word. And you’ll take it tonight, open it to Acts 15. Just get to Acts 15 and I’ll catch up with you in a moment. If you were to leave that cosmopolitan city of Beirut, Lebanon and go to the Northwest, or if you were to leave Damascus, which you have no business being in right now, and you would go to the Northwest. You leave Beirut, you go to the Northeast, you leave Damascus, you go to the Northwest, you will come across a major ancient city right on the fringe of the Bekaa Valley. It is called Baalbek.
It is an ancient city and it is the place of the ruins that are called the unfinished temples of Baalbek. There the Romans continued to build what would become the largest temples that the Roman empire would build anywhere. Far larger than anything that they built in Rome. It covered 5 million square feet. They built a rock stone platform of 5 million square feet.
And they built those buildings there, one to Jupiter, Zeus, the God Jupiter, the God of power. One to Venus, who in Greek she was Aphrodite. Romans called her Venus the goddess of sex. And then one to Bacchus, that you’ll see. Coming up, another picture there that great temple there to Bacchus, the God of wine. Sounds like America, doesn’t it? Power, sex and alcohol.
Well, they built those literally on the edge of their empire. Do you see that stone, that stone is the largest stone ever quarried by man, and ever tried to move. That stone weighs over 1500 tonnes. We really don’t know how the Romans did it. They would quarry pink granite down in Egypt, they would float it up the Nile, put it out into the Mediterranean and then up the coastline to Lebanon. And then they would take it across country, over the mountains, and that’s how they built this unusual place called the unfinished temples of Baalbek.
It was on the fringe of their empire. It was the Julian Emperors that did this, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, those empires that poured unbelievable amounts of money into this. Now, the question is this, why would they build that on the fringe of their empire? It was built on the edge of their empire with the Parthians. The Romans could never defeat the Parthians. The Parthians could never defeat the Romans. And the question is, why did these Romans pour so much money? Why would they commit so much of their manpower of these Roman legions to build these massive temples in that part the world?
Well, I’ve got a map that I want you to look at. You see this map, you look down, you see Jerusalem. You just begin to go North, you come to Tripoli right there, you go on up and do you see right above Syria there, the word Syria. Do you see the name of a city called Antioch. And they were first called Christians in Antioch. And they were winning so many people to Christ that it had an impact on the thinking of the Claudian Emperors of Rome.
That Rome said in some kind of way, we have to check what is happening with these Christians. It was out of Antioch that the mission of the church began. It’s out of Antioch that Barnabas and Saul would go and the gospel would spread around the world. It was those Christians in Antioch that had essentially nothing.
They had no cell phone, they had no libraries, they had no means of travel except to walk or to get on a boat somewhere. And it goes, how did they win so many people to Christ in a day when they had absolutely nothing. And why is it that the church today with every kind of piece of technology you can imagine, and we are losing when it comes to winning people to Jesus Christ.
That’s why I want you to go to Acts 15. Acts 15, you’re gonna come to the second missionary journey of Paul. And what I want you to see this evening is this, is I want you to watch now because Paul is going to take the gospel on the second journey back to where he had been. And you’re going to see several things in this text that will give us an idea of what we need to be doing. Not just in the church but literally in the world as well.
We’ve lost the sense of our call. I don’t know any other way to put it. I’m not happy to say that but we’ve lost a sense of call to take the gospel. We’ve lost any passion to take the gospel to a world that is lost and dying and headed, literally, headed the hell. We’ve got what I call missional drift. We don’t even know what our mission is anymore. We come up with all kinds of clever phrases and all kinds of clever statements, and we throw them out there and nothing ever seems to motivate anybody. And I just feel like we have essentially become a drift as the church in the West. As the world literally unravels in front of us, the church is just drifting.
I don’t know if you remember back to 1968, I have to always think about who I’m preaching to. But in 1968, the Swiss, they owned the watch industry around the world. 90% of the profits made off of watches around the world was made by the Swiss watch companies. They had designed the greatest timepieces in all the world. They were historically the great watchmakers.
They invented the second hand, they invented the waterproof watch. They invented the watch that they could take it. I was reading some advertisements out of the 50s. Before Hillary had climbed Mount Everest, they would take it up into the Himalayas. They would have these deep sea divers plunge to the bottom of the ocean with these watches, never lost a second. They were the greatest watchmakers in the world and they had all the business.
That was 1968, by 1980, now get this, less than 20 years later, about 18 years later, they were down to only 10% of the watch business of the world. What in the world happened? Well, what happened is called the Quartz. They went to the Swiss watchmakers and they said, “Listen, wouldn’t you like to take this movement right here, “this Quartz and put it in your watches.” And the Swiss watchmakers looked at it and they said, “It doesn’t have a mainspring.” And they said, “You don’t need a mainspring “when you’ve got a Quartz.” And the Swiss said, “No, we don’t think we’ll take it.” And by 1980 of the 62,000 watchmakers in Switzerland, 50,000 had already lost their job because they misunderstood their mission. They thought they were in the mainspring business. When the Japanese showed them what the Quartz was all about. It’s called Seiko. That’s where we are as the church today.
We’ve come to the place where we’ve lost our sense of mission. I know some churches that think they’re in the hymnbook business. How many preachers have heard that and going through, well, I don’t know why we don’t sing out the hymn book anymore. What difference does that make in the whole kingdom of God? We’re not in the recreation business. We’re not in the retreat business. We’re not even in the Sunday School business. We are supposed to be in the gospel business, taking the gospel to the world. The church that will have influence and an impact on this culture will be the church that is committed to taking the gospel.
That’s what you find Paul doing in chapter 15 of Acts. Number one, and I’ve just got two points. And you believe that, don’t you? I’ve just got two points this evening that I want you to see. Number one, look at this. I want you to see that an evangelistic pastor will have an influence on his church. That’s exactly what I see in Paul here.
You remember how Barnabas went and found Paul and brought him to Antioch so that he could help disciple the believers there. All you got to do is go back and just read how Barnabas went, found Paul, brought him there, he was Saul at that time. And there they’re discipling the church together. And then they are called, in fact, back in 13:2 while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting.
Notice, they were not rocked back in their recliner watching reruns of Bonanza. They were ministering, they were working. They were out there among the people in Antioch. And the Holy spirit said, “Set apart from me “Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them.” And out of that, you have that first missionary journey. Now we spend a lot of time on the first missionary journey.
You get over to chapter 16 and you’re gonna see the third missionary journey. We spend a lot more time on that. What we don’t do, is we spend very little time on the second missionary journey. We’ll look at how it comes about, 15:36 of Acts. After some days, they had done the first missionary journey. They had gone through up Asia Minor. They come back to Antioch. After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return.”
Now I’m just gonna stop there and I wanna do something technical and tell you that is a hortatory subjunctive, right there. Now I tell you that for a reason, the reason is this, it is not just a casual, hey Barney, why don’t we go back and see these folks? Why don’t we take another trip again? It was not a casual nudge to Barnabas saying, “Hey, let’s just go back where we’ve been. “Let’s go back and see all these folks.” This hortatory subjunctive, right here means literally, that means it’s an exhortation. It means it has some emotion with it. It means that here is Paul looking at Barnabas saying, “Get up, let’s go, let’s go back to the.”
Look at what he says, “Let’s go back and visit “the brethren in every city in which we did,” what? “Proclaimed the word of the Lord.” Let’s go back to each one of these places. Let’s go back to where we planted a church and let’s go back to see how they are doing. You know how I translate that, let’s go back and see if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Let’s go back and see if they are sharing the gospel. Let us go and return, and they did.
And they did two thing, or Paul did. They did two things. This is why we don’t really look at this, this whole second journey of Paul. Because beginning in verse 37 down through about 40, what you find, is you find a division now between Paul and Barnabas. And that makes us uncomfortable and we don’t like to deal with it. And if I had an additional 15 minutes, I would, but I don’t, so forget it.
Paul is gonna take Silas, they’re going to leave and I want you to watch and what they’re going to do. They’re going back to proclaim the word of the Lord, again. That’s what it states right here. Let’s go back there. The intention is let’s share more so that we will see more come to Christ. Let’s check on these churches and see how they are, if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And so they leave and they do two things. Number one, you find them doing, I think, evangelistic education. I think they go back to these churches and they begin to train them and they begin to teach them.
So in verse 41 of chapter 15, you read, he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia. Here it is right here, strengthening the churches. Now that’s an important word. He’s strengthening these churches. He’s going back and he’s fortifying what was said earlier. And I think what he’s doing, is he’s teaching them to take this gospel out. You come to chapter 16, you know that these chapters and verses are not inerrant. And here it breaks, it’s a bad place to break but should have been at 16:6. But look down in chapter 16. He comes there and it says in verse 5, so the churches were being strengthened.
That’s what they were doing, they were strengthening the church. They were going back through and evangelistically educating these people to take the gospel into the world in which they lived. Now, that’s an interesting word, strengthening. In fact, let me take you back to the 3 chapter of Acts, where it’s used by the Holy spirit. Luke, as he writes about Peter. You remember Peter and John going up to the temple and they were going up in the ninth hour to pray. And as they were going up to that temple there was a lame man there, who’d been lame from his mother’s womb. Who was carried there and he was set down every day at the gate of the temple, which is called beautiful.
And Peter and John walk past him and Peter fixes his eyes, or the man fixes his gaze on him. And Peter says to him, “Look at us, put your attention here.” And he began to give them his attention expecting to receive something. What Peter does is he reaches down and he grabs his hand. And when he grabs his hand, he says this, “I don’t possess silver and gold, but what I do have “I give to you in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, “walk.” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up and immediately in his feet and his ankles, they were, stereoo, strengthened, fortified. There was something there that happened. And it’s an ingressive aorist which tells me that is immediately as he spoke that, this thing took place.
He grabs this man and he tells him to stand and as soon as he does, the man can sense and feel that something changes, that there is a strength that is there that was not there before. Let me tell you something, pastors, if we are evangelistic and we teach this to our people, I am telling you, it will do that to them. It will strengthen them and give them the courage to go out and share the gospel. If you’re not going to be evangelistic, number one, what in the world are you doing in the ministry?
I don’t know anything else in the word of God, any clearer than the fact that what I’m to do in my life personally, and in the ministry as a pastor, than to go out and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. And I am to be teaching my people at Valleydale. And I’ve got a lot of my people here and somebody could stand up and say, “Hey, but you don’t do that.” I’ll give them a chance right now. Now, I’m gonna tell you what they will say, they’ll tell you, that’s what I do more than anything else. That’s what I try my best, not only to teach, but to model for these folks, is go share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now there was that evangelist education but now there comes an evangelistic encouragement. You’ve got to encourage people as well, not discourage them. You only come to church to be encouraged, not discouraged. Amen. Well, that’s what’s going to take place. They’re going to encourage these people in this whole area of salvation. You say, and where do you see that? 16:4. This is what they’re telling them. They’re passing through the cities. And they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem, for them to observe. Now, every bit of that I can tell you up front, dealt with the doctrine of salvation.
Back in chapter 15, if you go back to the beginning of it, there were these Judaizers that had come up into Antioch. And they came up into Antioch and they looked at these Jews, and they looked at the Gentiles and they said, “Listen, racially you’re different than we are. “You’re gonna have to be circumcised. “You can’t be saved until you become a Jew first.” “You’re gonna have to go get, and by the way, “listen, there are certain rituals and certain ceremony “and certain things in the in the law of Moses “that you’re going to have to observe, “if you’re going to be saved. “It’s not just Jesus alone, it’s Jesus plus circumcision “plus ritual, plus ceremony, then you can be saved.”
And so the church in Antioch comes to Barnabas and Paul and they say, “Listen, you got to go to Jerusalem. “You got to go up to Jerusalem and you got to tell this, “we’ve got to have some resolution here.” How is a man saved? Is a Gentile saved like a Jew? Now we’ve got to have a word about that, so they go up to Jerusalem. They get to Jerusalem and Peter stands up and Peter begins to tell them. Now think about this, there was the Pentecost of the Jews that we know about in Acts 2. Then there, he goes to Cornelius’s house and you’ve got the Pentecost of this Gentile who is racially different than Peter, and Peter preaches, and he sees the Holy spirit fall on Cornelius.
And then he gets to the people that nobody cared for, the Samaritans, and you’ve got the Pentecost of the Samaritans. And Peter said, “I was there every time the Holy spirit. He fell on the Jews, He fell on the Gentiles and He fell on these half-breeds over here called Samaritans. And the fact of the matter is God doesn’t care who you are. He saves everybody the same. Hurray for Peter. Then Paul and Barnabas start saying, “Hey, we just got to tell you what what’s happened to us. “We’ve watched God work among these Gentiles. “We watch God work among these people that are not Jews, “these non Jews. “We’ve seen the miracle of God. “We’ve seen the power of God in the midst of these people “just the same way we’ve seen it among the Jews.”
And then lo and behold, big daddy weave gets up. James, James gets up, the half brother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And he says, “Brethren just listen to me, “let me tell you something.” And he begins to tell them, this is what you go back and you say to everybody. Just go tell them, cook their steaks really well, stay away from immorality, we know that they’re saved just like everybody else. And so they go to each of these churches and they begin to share with them what they had shared when they came back to Antioch. Look back to 15:31, when they read what had been said down in Jerusalem. Look at this, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. They went telling everybody back in these churches, let me tell you something, you don’t have to follow all this legalism, all this ritual, all this ceremony, you need to just put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
In fact, the word encouragement there is paraklesis. Compound word, it sounds familiar to the noun, parakaleo, who is the Holy spirit. Para alongside, kaleo, to call. One called alongside, here are the preachers coming alongside the people in the congregation, encouraging them. You’ve been saved. This is how you’re saved by your faith in Jesus Christ. Now you go and share that with somebody. Encouragement. Kirkwood was up here talking about encouragement just a few moments ago. Listen, this has been a difficult year. I get letters every day or email or text from some preacher somewhere, every day, discouraged about what’s going on and what’s going to happen. Well, number one, I can tell you what’s going to happen is going to be this, ultimately Jesus is coming back. That’s all I need to know. He’s coming back, I’m saved. But we need encouragement. I don’t know if you know that right here in the city of Birmingham, the PCA, Presbyterian Church in America was formed. Did y’all know that? They had gotten tired of all the liberalism in the mainline Presbyterian Church. And they formed here in Birmingham and they had nothing.
I think somebody gave them a gift of like $90,000. And they had about approximately $90,000. Well, they hired or they appointed two missionaries. One was a female, the other was a guy by the name of Dick Dye. And they appointed Dick to be a missionary for the Presbyterian Church in America, and they sent him to Acapulco. Now that’s the mission assignment I keep waiting for you all to give me. Now, I believe I can handle that. Well, he left and he left with no assurance of any kind of support, any kind of pay. He got there, he had a very small little apartment but he started every single day, faithfully going out, knocking on doors, sharing on street corners, sharing the gospel and winning several people to Jesus Christ. And they would come and worship in his little apartment but they soon outgrew it. And so he set out to find a place where they could worship but he couldn’t find anywhere. Nobody was willing to rent them any space.
There was nothing that was available there in Acapulco. Nothing that he could afford anyway. And he became increasingly discouraged. But every day, he walked out that front door, he looked up. Now you’ve heard of the Christ of Rio, that great statue of Christ that stands there over Rio de Janeiro. But have you ever heard of the cross of Acapulco? There is a huge cross up on a mountain that overlooks the entire city of Acapulco. And every morning, Dick would go out of his door, he would look at that cross. There was an encouragement that would come and he would go back to trying to win people to Christ, and to find a place where they could start a church. But he became so discouraged, months in, he just decided I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna quit, I’m gonna give it up.
But he said, before I leave I’m gonna do one thing. I’m gonna go up there to that cross, that’s given me so much encouragement. I’m gonna find who put that thing up and I’m gonna thank them for it. When he got directions up to the cross of Acapulco and he got up to the top of the mountain, and he discovered it was an entire resort up there. A German Christian had built this resort on that mountain in Acapulco, and had erected this massive cross that was up there. And so when Dick Dye gets there, sees that it’s a resort, goes into the lobby, goes to the counter, looks at the lady and he said, “Ma’am, I would just like “to meet the owner of this place.” And she said, “Well, listen, do you have an appointment?” And he said, “No, I don’t.” She said, “well, I don’t think he’s gonna see you. “He’s a busy man. “In fact, he doesn’t live here, he’s from Germany.
“He happens to be here at the time, “but I don’t know that he’ll be able “to work you into his schedule today or tomorrow.” She said, “Why do you wanna see him?” He said, “I just wanted to come and tell him, thank you.” And so the lady said, “Well, wait a minute, “let me go and just see “if I can get back there to him, myself.” She’s gone for a few minutes, she comes back out and she says, “Come on and follow me.” She took him back to that owner of that resort, who’s sitting behind a desk. Dick Dye said, he walked in and he walked over to the desk and he stuck out his hand and he said, I’m a missionary that’s here and I just wanted to tell you, thank you, thank you for putting that cross up, over the city of Acapulco.
Dick Dye said, that big German man collapsed into here chair, put his head down on his desk, and said the man began to sob. Dick said the man wept so much that he said, I finally reached over and put my hand on him to see if there was some kind of way I could comfort him. And he thought, what in the world have I done? Just coming to say thank you for that cross. And he said, the man finally gained his composure, regained it and looked at him and said, “You don’t know how much grief I have had “by putting that cross up. “Nothing but complaints. “Nothing but people coming and telling me “how offended they are that I’ve put that cross up. He said, “You are the first man ever to come “and say, thank you.” He said, “Now tell me who you are and what do you need.”
Dick Dye said, “Well, I’m Dick Dye, I’m a missionary here “but I’m headed back home because I can’t find a place “for my church to meet.” The German got up from behind his desk and he said, “Follow me.” And he said, that sounded biblical, so I thought I would follow him. And he said, “I followed him back over to another building. “And he opened a door and through that door “was a perfectly beautiful chapel.” And he turned around and he said, “When I built this place, “I not only erected the cross, but I built the chapel. “And this coming Sunday at 10 o’clock “your church meets right here rent free.” Now, here’s one man discouraged. Here’s another man discouraged all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And when they come together, one man to encourage the other, the other man to encourage him by giving him a place.
Now, let me tell you something. You guys need to be doing that with each other. You don’t need to wait for somebody in your congregation, pastor. You don’t need to wait for somebody at denominational headquarters. You pastors, here tonight, need to seek each other out and you need to pour into each other’s life and encourage each other. And when you do, encourage each other to share the gospel. It was the week before Christmas, the year 2015, I was in a meeting that morning with missionaries out of Israel. And a text message came across my phone that caused me to jump out of my chair and to ask these missionaries, would you please, excuse me, I’ve got an emergency.
I called Jeff Stoll, who was the head of our communication there in Jacksonville at the time. And I said, “Jeff, tell me what has happened.” A man on our staff by the name of Anatoly, a Ukrainian, had been shot in front of his wife, his daughter and his little grand boy and was dead. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I couldn’t believe it because the first thing that ran through my mind was when was the last time I saw Anatoly. He was the engineer that took care of our heating and cooling for all of those 11 blocks, that million square foot facility we had down there in Jacksonville. He took care of all the heating and all the cooling. A case of mistaken identity by a gang. They show up at his door, kick the door in, walk in and shoot him in front of his family.
The reason I was so startled and stunned, was that in my heart, I knew I had never asked him about his relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, I’ve been to Ukraine three times. I’ve taken 50 pastors and their wives to Ukraine. We would bring on 50 pastors and their wives onto the boat with us. We would sail down the Nepa river. I would preach in churches, I would preach on street corners, I would preach off the side of the boat. And when we were on the boat, we would train these pastors. I’ve been to Ukraine three times and here was a Ukrainian that worked on my staff, and I never once asked him, do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? We need to encourage each other to share the gospel.
From that time to this, nobody works on my staff that I’ve not asked the question, tell me about Jesus Christ in your life. Let me give you the last thing and I promise this will be short. You believe that too, don’t you? The last thing is this, is listen, an Evangelistic Church will impact the Culture that it’s in. We’re watching that happen here. God’s blessing this church in an unusual way and God’s blessing it because more and more of our people are going out and sharing in this community.
We’re pouring more of our resources into this community, so we’re earning the right to go and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Look at what it says, 16:5. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and they were increasing. Look at this, in number daily. Now, hold on to that because it stated that way several times in the book of Acts. Go back to 6:7, and you read the word of God kept on spreading. And the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem. Get over to chapter 9 and look at verse 31. You’re gonna see it again there. So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria, enjoyed peace being built up, going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy spirit, it continued to increase. Look on over to 12:24. And it says there, the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. And then you come to it again, over here in chapter 16, where it says the churches were being strengthened in the faith, increasing in number daily. Now, how do we as Baptist count our conversions. Yearly, yearly, and it’s no problem for the statisticians to do that. There’s no problem for them to, let’s just save it up for the end of the year. And we’ll send in about this time every year, we’ll send in how many people were saved in the church because it’s not that big of a number for us to have to worry with on a monthly basis. Listen, they couldn’t do it on a yearly basis. They couldn’t do it on a monthly basis. They couldn’t do it on a weekly basis because the church was increasing daily.
Every day, people pouring into the body of Christ, pouring into the church of Jesus Christ. Why? Because an Evangelistic Church will impact its community. There’s nothing like personal evangelism. I’ve told this story and I’ll conclude with this. I don’t know how many times, but I’m gonna tell it to you, because it proves the point of what we need to be doing, personally. I was to preach at Mid America a number of years ago, Dr. Whitmire was my minister of music, at that time. He’d led music for Dr. Rogers for years. And then I had the privilege of serving with him for a long period of time and love him to this day. We were going up to Mid America, he was gonna do the music, I was going to preach couple of days there in chapel. And so he got to the airport before I did.
I pulled into the airport, as I’m making my way down to the gate, he calls and he says, “Pastor.” He said, “Are you close?” And I said, “Well, I’m running down there “as quickly as I can.” He says, “I don’t think you’re gonna make it.” He says, “They’ve canceled our flight, “put us all on another plane to Atlanta “because of the storm that’s coming in “and they’re about to shut the door.” And they did. They shut the door before I could get there. And I went to the little girl at the desk and I said, “Listen, is there another plane to Memphis “early in the morning? “Please tell me that there’s one.” She says, “There’s a six o’clock flight out. “American will fly out of here. “We’ll take you straight to Memphis.” I said, “Please tell me there’s a seat on that.” I said, “I’m supposed to be on that flight you all canceled. “And you moved everybody over here.” She said, “I’ve got you squared away. “I’ve got you checked in, you’re good. “Just be here an hour before time.”
So I got up the next morning. I had my suit on because as soon as I landed they were gonna pick me up, take me straight to chapel and I was gonna preach in chapel. And so I got there. You’re on one of those little planes, I declare they designed these things in North Korea to torture people in. This is how we can torture Americans right here. And they put you in a seat that is way too small for your seat and too hard. It’s harder than that floor right there. While I’m sitting in that thing and this is my prayer, Lord, let me have the seat next to me. Let me have the seat next to me. Please be good to me today.
Well, the plane fills up except for one seat seat, seat next to me. And I’m rejoicing in the Lord. When the biggest Marine you’ve ever laid eyes on, walks into the doorway of that jet. He was huge. You know what I thought when I saw him, I thought of that old James Dean song, or Jimmy Dean song. “Every morning at the mine you could see him arise, “stood 6’6, weighed 245.” Man, he stepped into the doorway, there was no sunlight that even came in around him. Now this guy was not fat, this man was big. He was huge, huge. Had on his fatigues. And he came in and I’ve just got my head down and I’m thinking, Lord, no, why? And he looks at me and he said, “Sir, I’m in that seat.” And I thought to myself, you’re not gonna fit in that seat and this seat together.
So I got up, I stepped out of the way and he stepped in, and he wedged into that seat and I got in beside him, and we take off and I look at him and I said, “Listen, are you headed home? “You’re going home, you’re done, your tour is over?” He said, “I’m headed home for two weeks, “it’s my wife’s birthday “and then I got to go back to Afghanistan.” And I said, “Well, brother, all I want to tell you is this. “We love you, we pray for you.” “You’ve got people that pray for you, you’ll never know, “you’ll never meet and God bless you. “Thank you for what you do.” And he was most appreciative, very grateful.
And I’m sitting there with my Bible and he said, “Can I tell you what I do?” I said, “I’d love to hear it.” He said, “I guard those that they bring in “off the battlefield, I’m in charge.” I said, “Brother, they don’t need anybody else but you. “They send everybody else home, just leave you there. “You got it covered, I guarantee you.” He said, “I guard those that come in.” He said, “These are the hardest of the hard. “These are the Taliban “and all of these guys that they bring in.” He said, “That they’re out there shooting our people.” He said, “But I wanna tell you something.” He said, “We don’t mistreat them.” It was almost like a personal plea for me to believe him. And I said, “Listen, I believe you. “I am sure there’s a rotten apple somewhere “in every batch, but I believe you.” He said, “You’re reading that Bible.” He said, “We give them the Quran.” And he said, “We don’t disrespect them, “we don’t disrespect their Holy book.”
I told him, I said, “Again, thank you for what you do. “I believe you.” And then he looked at me and he said this. He said, “I suppose the Quran is a lot like that Bible.” And I said, “Oh, is that right?” I said, “Well, can I ask you some questions?” And he said, “Sure.” I said, “Have you ever read the Quran?” He said, “No.” I said, “Have you ever read the Bible?” He said, “No.” I said, “Well, I’ve read both, “let me talk to you about that.”
I said, “Allah says this, joy not, “for Allah loveth not those who joy.” I said, “But listen to what the word of God says “in John 15. “These things I’ve spoken to you “that my joy might be in you “and that your joy might just be full.” I said, “There’s one God who says I don’t want you to joy “because I don’t love it. “And here’s another that says, “I’ve given you my word so that you’ll have joy. “And I want you to have joy that just overflows.”
I said, “Let me give you a second thing.” I said, “What about eternal security?” I said, “Because the Quran will tell you, “no one knows until they die, “whether they will go into paradise.” I said, “Muhammad himself said he had no idea. “If he would make it into paradise. “If his good deeds would outweigh his bad deeds.” There is no certainty of salvation. I said, “But now listen to the word of God. “1 John 5 says this, these things I have written to you “who believe on the name of the son of God, “that you might know, you have salvation.”
I said, “Well, let me give you the best one of all, “nowhere in the Quran, will you ever find it saying “and Allah loves you personally.” I said, “That’s an offense.” I said, “If you find an Imam and you even ask him about, “he’ll be offended at that” To think that Allah would stoop to loving a man is just beyond acceptance. I said, “But now listen to what the word of God says. God is . God is love. I said, “The word of God also says, we love Him “because He.” You know that. You’re familiar with that verse. I said, “Well, let me give you the third thing, “best of all. “For God so loved, the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have ever lasting life.”
You know that verse. You know enough gospel to share it. You know enough, you just quoted me enough gospel to share it with somebody. Because all I had was John 3:16 out of a red Gideon New Testament sitting on a cot in the mountains of North Carolina, and a guy handed it to me and said, “Read this verse and put your name in it.” And at 12 years of age, I came to Jesus Christ. That day, 34,000 feet. I looked over at that Marine and I said, “Now I’m gonna pray a prayer.” And I said, “I want you to pray it with me. “And if you’re willing to pray this prayer with me “you just put your hand.” And that man’s hand engulfed my hand. And I held his hand and I prayed. And right there, in that plane, that Marine gave his life to Jesus Christ. And he looked at me and he smiled. And he said, “Isn’t that a coincidence “that I would be on this plane and sit beside you.” And I said, “No, sir, it’s not a coincidence. “It’s the plan of God for your life.”
Bow your heads with me. Father, there’s a world out there rich in the things that this life offers, and is empty, it’s all a space. Lord, there’s a world out there that gropes in darkness that desperately needs to hear that there is a God, and He is a God who loves them. Help us as pastors to model this for our people and forgive us for not doing it, and help us as churches to share it with our communities, for the glory of God. Amen.