My heart is full of many things that I just experienced in having been across at least one ocean. And so as we have been thinking about the music this morning, my mind has been kind of spinning around about what’s on my heart to share with you. We sang as a congregation, “O, Zion, haste thy mission high fulfilling to tell the world that God is light,” and so forth and bringing them the message of salvation. I don't know whether Jack, I’m sure he did it on purpose, but knew what I was going to share; well I know he didn’t know what I was going to talk about this morning. But picking all of these hymns that emphasize missions and evangelism and sharing Christ and being available. The choir even song, “The Savior is waiting to enter your heart, why don’t you let him come in,” emphasizing the need for people to open up and invite the Lord Jesus Christ into their life.
And I think this is of the Lord. I had spent about five hours during the middle of the night Friday preparing a message. I was flying between Rio De Janeiro and Lima, Peru, in the dark of the airplane. There was only one light on, and it was mine, which I’m sure didn’t thrill at least the guy sitting next to me, but by then we had become good friends. And so I studied and prepared to speak to you on Ephesians chapter 3 because that was where we were in our study, and I finished that just before we landed in Lima for fuel and continued the journey and endeavored to sleep. But ever since I returned home, there were so many other things in my mind that I never could really focus on what I was supposed to say out of Ephesians. I am preoccupied with all kinds of things, some of them related to the experience in Brazil, some of them related to some experiences in my own life before that, and even some thoughts since I’d been back.
And last night as I was sitting down for just a moment to try to catch my breath preparing my mind, as I often do, I turned on the television set and there was a particular preacher on, and he made a statement that just triggered in my mind the final decision about what I’d say to you. This was his statement, “Whatever makes you sad is from the devil. Whatever makes you happy is always from Jesus, because all Jesus ever wants is for you to be happy.” Well, that was all I could take and I turned it off, and my heart was deeply grieved. I was by myself at the time and I just began to think over in my mind what a stupid statement, “All Jesus ever wants to do is make you happy.” And I thought about my own attitude and I thought about what God had been doing in my own life in the last month or so and what the Lord did in Brazil, and I thought that may be not only stupid, it may be opposite the truth.
Very often I am convinced, and maybe more so in recent days than I have before, but very often I’m convinced that our sadnesses are really of God, that God doesn’t necessarily always want us happy. The first thing I heard when I got off the airplane from my little daughter was that Tim Jack, one of our elders on our staff, his little sister had been killed with a gun; that didn’t make me happy. And then I heard Marcy tell me that Tim had preached the funeral and presented Jesus Christ, and I thought well that maybe was one way in which God somehow in His wisdom beyond our understanding wanted to bring someone into the hearing of the message of salvation. Who’s to say that sadness is from the devil and happiness if from Jesus? You couldn’t defend that biblically; it just isn’t so.
After I left Lima, Peru, I couldn’t sleep too well so I opened a book, the Bible; it’s a handy book. And I read the Beatitudes, and I meditated on the Beatitudes. Look with me at Matthew chapter 5 for a minute. I’m going somewhere; it may sound like I’m not but I am. I’m not sure where; the Lord knows. And I was reading and meditating on the beginning of the Beatitudes. “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain. And when he was seated, his disciples came unto him and he opened his mouth and taught them saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.’” And you know I never got passed those two verses; I meditated on those two verses for about two hours. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The humble, the people who recognize they’re destitute, the people who are devoid of resources, the people who hurt, the people who ache, the people who know they have no good thing to offer God, the unproud, the people who see in themselves the sin that marks them, the people that recognize that were it not for grace they would have nothing.
And then I read about the people that mourn, those that have deep sorrow over their sin, those that have deep agony over their inability to fulfill the will of God, those that hurt because of what they see around them. These are the really blessed people. And I guess it because my mind was so bathed in this concept of poverty of spirit, seeking nothing, recognizing inability, recognizing that you’re nothing, and this idea of mourning over your sinfulness and mourning over your failures and your frailties. And then as I began to mull over that and my mind just raced through all kinds of thoughts, I made the commitment in my own heart, “Lord, you got to make me more of a mourner.”
I think that while I was in Brazil for those two weeks, I had more tears in my eyes than I had had in a long time since before. I’m not the kind of person who cries very often, once in a while, but I had my heart grieved many, many times, and I guess I was ripe for Matthew 5. And I asked the Lord to make me poor in spirit. I asked the Lord to make me a mourner, to hate my own sinfulness, to hate my own failure, to hate my own humanness, to hate my own disabilities, infirmities, to hate my own self-will and pride and all of those things that stand between me and fruitfulness. And then when I got home and turned on the television and heard that guy say, “Jesus wants to make you happy,” just didn’t cut it, because it says here, “Blessed are they that mourn.”
Frankly, in recent days, the Lord has laid much sadness in my heart. I don’t want to just unload all my problems on you; this isn’t one big group therapy session with you the psychiatrist and me on the proverbial couch. But I feel because God has called me to be a pastor-teacher here and to be one of the shepherds of the flock that I have to speak what I feel is in my heart to speak. I don’t normally do this, you know that. I’m usually pretty rigid to stay with the text I’m dealing with. But the Lord really laid it on my heart, and I began to think over in my own mind that I’ve been very sad recently. Far and away the dominating thought that is in my mind having visited Brazil is sadness, not happiness. Now I’m not happy about what I saw there, and there are other things in my own life recently that have been very saddening things that have been things that have caused me to mourn and to grieve. And I began to think those things over.
This morning I didn’t even really jot down what I was going to say ‘til I was trying to eat an egg and think at the same time. And this is what I wrote down. Number one – I got to have an outline, you know that. Number one, I’ve been very sad over my own failures; I’ve been very sad about that. In the first place, I don’t understand why God even put me in the ministry. And I was reading this morning and I’d like you to look at it with me, 1 Timothy chapter 1, verse 12. And while you’re turning to 1 Timothy 1, I’ll tell you a little sideline. I got off the airplane down there; it’s about an 18-hour flight. I got off the airplane and I met Bill Keyes and they’d waited about two-and-a-half, three hours while Monte Brewer and I went through customs. And he said to me, “You know you’re preaching tonight?” I said, “No, I don't know I’m preaching tonight. You didn’t tell me that.” “Well that’s just how it is on the mission field,” he said. And then they laughed and they said, “No, we’re just kidding. You’re to go to the Igreja Batista do Ipiranga, which is the Baptist church of Ipiranga, which is a suburb of Sao Paulo.
And he said, “You are to just give a two or three-minute greeting to the people there and then we’re going to break bread and have the Lord’s Supper.” And I said, “Well I’d be willing to do that if I can stay awake.” And so I got there and it was really funny. I walked into this church and I suppose it seated 100 people and every single seat was filled; it was just packed. And the pews were a strange assortment of unrelated pieces of furniture. It was in a rubble area. In fact, you couldn’t even see it from the street; you had to walk down a little tiny alley just about as wide as two people shoulder to shoulder, and it sort of was there in the back among the bricks and the rubble down one of the cobblestone streets.
So I went there and he said, “It’s customary now that you would go sit on the platform next to the pastor,” whom I had never met in my life. So I went up there and sat there, and Monte sat with me. And then they were talking; of course, I didn’t understand anything. I know a little bit of Spanish, but I don't know any Portuguese. And then he said – he motioned to me, the missionary motioned to me and said, “It’s time for you to get up, he’s introducing you.” And I recognized my name and I got up. And he said, “The pastor will interpret for you; he speaks very wonderful English.” So I stood up prepared to share two or three, I hadn’t even taken my Bible out of my suitcase or anything. And the pastor put his arm around me and he whispered in my ear and said, “My dear brother, I am praying that this will be the longest two minutes of your life. I was told that you would be preaching the sermon, and I am unprepared.” I had never even been interpreted in Portuguese; I didn’t even know what was going on, but the Lord provided and we went on for 40 minutes. I want to hasten to add 20 minutes of me and 20 minutes of interpretation.
And he thanked me, profusely thanked me. And then we had the Lord’s Table together, and I stood at the door and said, “The one thing I was told to say, boa noche,” which means goodnight, and I said it about 150 times that night to everybody who walked up and looked at me. But I thought about the fact that here I am walking into a situation like that, people I don’t know, a church I’ve never been to, and yet the Spirit of God had prepared a way for me to minister. And I had this thought afterwards and I said, “Who am I to do this? Who? They don’t me. How do they know what my life is like? How do those dear people know that I can minister to them in the Word of God? Why did God ever give me such an opportunity as this?”
And I was reminded, look at it 1 Timothy 1:12, of what Paul thought. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me and that he counted me faithful putting me into the ministry who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious, but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” And then this verse, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” what’s the next line, “of whom I am chief.” And I thought about that, who am I? Do I have a right to minister at Grace Community Church? Is my life so righteous and so holy that I can be the spokesman of God? Let alone the right to walk into this little church down here where they would be expecting so much, where their hearts would be anticipating what I have to say and be the minister? Is my life what it ought to be? Frankly, people recently I have been saddened over my own failures.
Sometimes I have mused in the last few weeks over Isaiah chapter 6, where Isaiah said to the Lord, “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips.” And you remember how the angel took a coal off the altar and touched His tongue, and he was still able to say, “Here am I, Lord,” what, “send me.” I recognize my inability. I recognize my sinfulness. I recognize my failure, and yet it doesn’t change the desire that I have to be used. It’s just a saddening thing. You know in terms of this congregation, I have such a great love for you, and my whole soul and heart is yours, and I want so to minister to you. I want to build you up and I want to pass onto you all that there is that God could possibly give you through me. And yet sometimes I see the failure in my life to be all the man of God that I should be, and then I grieve because I feel like I then would restrict you from being what you should be.
I want to learn a little more about what it is to mourn. I want to learn a little more about what it is to be poor in spirit. I want to be faithful, more faithful than I’ve been in passed times to pray for you. I recently shared with the elders the fact that I felt a deep, deep burden about prayer. As I’ve been staying Ephesians 3, remember Paul begins by saying, “I’m going to pray for you.” And then he goes into that parentheses we’ve been studying, but then he comes back to his prayer. And as I looked through Paul’s letters, I was reminded again how he begins time and time again by saying, “Never ceasing to make mention of you in our prayers, praying for you that God would do such and such.” How that in Acts 6:4 the apostles gave themselves to prayer and the minister of the Word. And this is what’s in my heart to do, but frankly I haven’t been too happy about it because I’ve been saddened by my own failure to be all that I should be, because I realize perhaps better than you do the significance of Hosea’s word, “Like people, like priest.”
As I see my own life mirrored in the life of my children, I see my own life mirrored in the life of my church. You tend to be strong where I’m strong and perhaps in some cases weak where I’m weak. And so I have asked God in these recent days to somehow lift me passed the point of my infirmities so that you don’t get stuck there with me, 'cause I want to be the man of God that he wants me to be.
The second thing that I thought about that makes me sad is the power of sin. You know it just I was thinking this morning of John 11. Look at it for just a minute, and we’ll use it kind of as a basis and then I’ll say what I want to say about this. Jesus was called to Bethany because Lazarus had died. He had a great, great affection for Lazarus. He went to the graveside and he saw tomb; He knew that his friend was dead. And in verse 34 Jesus said, “Where have you laid him? Where did you bury him?” They said, “Lord, come and see.” And then the shortest verse in the Bible, verse 35, “Jesus sobbed.” Literally; very intense. He wept. And then said the Jews, “Behold how he loved him.”
Now what was it that made him weep? It was the consequence of sin. Jesus wept, because He saw the power of sin. He saw what it did. He saw its death power. And at this point, He’s already anticipating just a week away His own death. And that’s why it says in this text that His spirit was troubled within him, because he anticipated the power of sin. And this is the thing that should cause us the same kind of pain, when you see what sin does, how it binds and captures a whole world of people.
Monte and I were in Rio, and we had gone down the famous Rio beach, Beach Copacabana Ipanema, both of those famous beaches. And we then took a ride to the top of a promontory, a hill that stands towering above this magnificent city of Rio called Corcovado. And at the top of Corcovado was this monstrous statue of Christ; some of you may have seen it. There’s also one on the west coast of Latin America called The Christ of the Andes, but this is Corcovado. In fact, many of the little villages in Brazil put a Christ figure on the highest hill as a symbol of protection, this massive Christ figure. And we stood up there and we saw Christ you know towering into the sky. We came on down on the road just below where Jesus Christ was supposed to be protecting the city, and we came to a big pile of stuff in the middle of the road. So we stopped the car and we got out. And I said to John Quam who was a missionary there working with Bill Keyes. I said, “John, what is that?” He said, “That is a spirit of sacrifice.” And right in the middle of the road, in fact because of some superstition, spiritism in Brazil which incidentally dominates the vast majority of the population.
The spirit’s offerings must be made at the intersection of streets, something to do with the sign of the cross, some perversion of the cross. And there spread out was this monstrous thing that would’ve filled a platform like this, and there were funny little bowls with dead chickens that had been bled somehow and the blood was rolling out of the bowls. And it was all in perfect order, in other words, like it had been set out in symmetry. And between the dead chickens in the bowls were dead fish all laid in certain configurations, symbolizing certain things.
And there were bowls of rice and there were melted black and red candles with the black and the red all mingled together. And then there were great big cigars for the spirits to smoke. This huge thing, you know I don't know how many dozens and dozens of fish and how many chickens there were with this blood running all over everywhere. And candles and all this wax melted in funny ways. And my heart just grieved, and all I could think about was look at the power of sin that has captured these people. To imagine that that kind of thing could gain for them some spiritual end.
The power of sin. And then they say that Rio comes alive between 10 o’clock and three in the morning, and so about 11 o’clock we went out of the hotel right there on Ipanema. Our hotel was right on the beach, and we walked up and down for about two miles. The place was milling with an estimated one million people, about a two-mile area. And nothing but a string of sidewalk cafes serving drinks, and they were literally jammed, you could hardly walk, ‘til three in the morning. And this goes on every night. The power of sin to capture people. They have no idea what they’re living for. It made Jesus weep. And we couldn’t help but go back to the hotel with our hearts filled with grief. You know I felt just like the apostle Paul. I stood up on Corcovado and there was Christ supposedly embracing the city of Rio. That’s a joke.
I went up on the sugarloaf at night and saw that city sparkling, and it’s an absolutely incredible city to see; it’s gorgeous. And all the beauty of God’s creation and the wonders of that natural beauty, and then you come down and you realize that it’s just a total commitment to sin. It’s just destroying an entire civilization of people, and I felt like the 17th chapter of Acts. Remember that? Where Paul went into Athens and he was going to rest; he was going to take a vacation. In fact, they told us, “We want you to go to Rio for a couple days just to rest,” because I had preached, I don't know, 12 times in about four days, five days. And we were really tired, so they said, “Here’s a couple of tickets, go to Rio and rest.” But we saw like Acts 17 we saw a city given over wholly to idolatry and we couldn’t rest. And so we prayed for Rio. We prayed for Osmar. Osmar is a Brazilian who started a church in an apartment because there are no places to build a building there.
In one area called Ipanema Beach, which is I don't know, maybe a mile long at the most, there’s 400,000 people living in high-rise apartments. There’s no property for a church. There is no message there. There is no witness at all. And Osmar whose great heart aches for Ipanema and Rio started a church in his house. And so that night they invited us to come. And Monte and I sat down in the little house church. The people who meet in the apartment they asked us Bible question after Bible question after Bible question, and we prayed for Osmar that somehow God would help Him to touch 400,000 people in that little house church.
We saw a city given over to idolatry, sin. It’s a saddening thing, and I thought to myself, “We are so smug in our American culture.” You know we have got our theology so pigeonholed and we are so involved with each other in the fellowship that I wonder whether we ever really see what’s going on. And the sophistication of American sin causes it almost to be invisible, to us. We don’t get around like that. You know we don’t go where the world is; it’s not nice to go there, expose yourself to things. We lose the perspective of Jesus who went out where the publicans and the sinners were and touched their lives. So I’ve been sad lately. I’ve been sad over my own failures, and I admit them to you. But God by his grace is going to change my heart, and I think great things are ahead I believe so one day at a time for me, and I want to pass it on to you.
And I’ll tell another thing that makes me sad is the power of sin, and I saw it all over again, because you see you get culturally trapped. You know what I mean? In your own culture, you stop seeing it anymore. And I’m here and I’m protected by these great walls of Grace Church. I come wandering in here every day and it’s a whole bunch of Christians, and I go home and they’re all Christians at my house. And I go over here to a meeting with some more Christians. And all of a sudden, I’m slammed in the midst of a culture and I see spiritism, demon worship, godless materialism all over the place. And I can’t hide from it, and I have a whole new sense of the power of sin to capture men.
The city of Sao Paulo has 12 million people in it. And you know something, there is one skyscraper of 20 floors or more completed every day of the year 365 days a year. It’s going to be the biggest city in the world. And the little Igreja Batista do Ipiranga had 100 people in it, 100 people, one of the significant churches in the city. A whole city given to idolatry. Their gods are spirits, the dollar, or in their case the cruzeiro. Sex, that’s their gods. And I guess I saw that in a way I had forgotten and I should’ve seen it here.
Third thing that I thought about as I was thinking about what makes me sad was added to the power of the sin, and that is the lost. You know I not only saw what sin was able to do in capturing people, but I began to think of the individual people, lost people. And you know I felt a sense of terrible frustration, 'cause I couldn’t talk to anybody. But then you know what came into my mind, this is really amazing, I began to think, “Boy, this is great. This will give you an excuse for not witnessing. You can’t talk their language. You don’t have to say a thing, and nobody can blame you.” And I thought, “Man, where did I ever get a thought like that?” I should be running out saying in desperation with tears, “Find me somebody that can translate.” But you know we get so smug. We get so protective. We don’t want the world to mess with us. We don’t want to rub shoulders with them. We don’t want to open up our mouth and speak of Jesus Christ. I’ll tell you, the Lord gave me a new commitment to that. Boy, I tell you I got on my own hide. When I started hearing my mind say, “Well, this is great, MacArthur, you don’t have to witness at all here. Nobody will care, 'cause you can’t talk the language.”
Yesterday it was so much on my heart that I spent the time while I was watching my son play a baseball game talking to the guy sitting next to me about Christ, 'cause I was saying to myself, “Well, what are you going to do now? He knows English.” And when I got on the airplane – listen, everywhere you go the airplanes are all full of Japanese people, all over the world. They are moving. They are everywhere. The whole airplane we were on was packed; there wasn’t one empty seat on an 18-hour flight from San Paulo home. And you know there were probably about eight people on that airplane that spoke English, and I knew what would happen. I knew I would be on that airplane sitting next to two Japanese people for 18 hours who would be talking and talking and I would be going huh.
But you know what happened? The Lord be praised. He dropped one guy next to me, and every single person around me four seats in any direction was Japanese. Guy right next to me whose heart was wide open, and we had 18 hours to talk about Jesus Christ. He’s from la Canada. But I guess God gave me a new vision for the lost, and I thought of this, Matthew 23. I just I’ve said to the Lord so many times in the last few days, “Lord, I want to see things like you see them. I want to be like you.” And I thought of Jesus in Matthew 23:37, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he said, “thou that killest the prophets, stonest them that are sent unto these. How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and you would not. You would not. And he wept.” He cried over that city.
We were sitting at the table with Bill and Laurie Keyes, our missionaries from Grace. And Bill and I and Laurie all went to high school together. We played football and baseball, Bill and I; we went to seminary together too. We were sitting at the table and we were talking about how many people were in Sao Paulo and how are they going to be reached, and Laurie began to cry. And she just started to cry; she couldn’t talk. And I didn’t say anything, and I just kind of looked at Bill as if to say with my eyes is everything okay. And she said, “Oh, she’s just crying in the frustration of the lost people in the city.” And you know the Lord really spoke to my heart, you know she’s one up on you, guy. You know you haven’t gotten to that place where the Lord’s broken your heart over that yet. And she just went on crying, and she couldn’t talk. Silently in my heart I said, “Lord, help me to cry over the city that I’m in that’s lost, like Jesus did over Jerusalem.”
I’ve met missionaries. The second week that I was there I spent with 300 missionaries teaching them the Scripture from all over the place, from the big cities like Sao Paulo and Rio, which has seven million people, to the Amazon where one guy is working way up the Amazon with a tribe of naked natives. And all these missionaries some of them drove 60 hours to be there for the feeding of the Word of God for four days. And I spoke and I watched them hang on every word, and I watched them talk and share about how they could ever reach their people, how they could ever reach their people. And I listened to them tell me the troubles and the difficulties and the problems, and now the tribal work is going to be so difficult because the government’s going to kick all the Wycliffe people out, so they don’t want them translating any more scriptures in any more of those tribal languages. And they’ve restricted now any travel; people can’t leave and come back anymore. And any time a missionary wants to go out of the country he has to post a huge amount of money, because they don’t want people leaving. They don’t want to give any more missionaries permanent visas, so they have to come in for three months and then leave every three months, go out of the country and come back again. They were aching about how they were going to accomplish their work.
I met a man named Frank Cook; in fact, I celebrated his birthday with a great big birthday cake. Frank is 100 years old; he’s been in Brazil since 1911. He’s preached the gospel in 782 towns and villages. He buried his wife in 1934, and he’s still there preaching Jesus Christ. He’s 100 years old. And I saw the ache in his heart for the people, how are you going to reach the people? 67 years that one man has been preaching Jesus Christ in Brazil, 67 years. I tell you what, he talked, I listened, and I saw how the frustration was filling the hearts of those people as they wondered how they could ever accomplish a goal of reaching those people for Christ.
Then I was reminded of the fact that Jeremiah wept a lot. Do you know that? He was like just in a sense. In Jeremiah chapter 13 and verse 15, “Jeremiah cries out to the people and he says, ‘Hear and give ear and be not proud, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God.’” Jeremiah is crying to his people to give God glory, to respond to God’s Word, or else there’s going to be judgment he says, darkness and your feet will stumble on the dark mountains. And while you look for light, he’ll turn it into the shadow of death and make it gross darkness. And he says, “People, people, will you turn? Will you repent? Will you be not proud? Will you give glory to God, or else there’s this judgment?” And then you see his attitude in verse 17, “And if you don’t hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, and my eye shall weep bitterly and run down with tears.”
The lost! Millions of people without Christ! Millions of people to spend a Christless eternity in an eternal hell. And just a few little missionaries to reach millions of people so that they can become infinitely frustrated. And I guess in my own frustration I went up to the Italia building, the highest building in Sao Paulo, and Bill said, “I want to give you a vision of the city.” And so we took the elevator to the highest building in Sao Paulo; I mean you have never in your life seen anything like it. You think we’ve got tall buildings in Los Angeles? Listen, 10,000 times those many buildings is how many skyscrapers are in that city filled with people. And he said, “I want you to get a vision for this people, this city.” And I looked over that city and I couldn’t believe it, and I said, “Where do you start?”
And the answer came in my own mind, you start on your knees, that’s where you start. And Bill said, “When you go back,” – the last thing he said to me as he threw his arms around me and embraced me at the airport, he said to me, “John, will you tell the people? Will you tell the people what the need is in Brazil? Will you tell the people of the millions of Brazil who’ve never heard of Jesus Christ?” I said, “I’ll tell them.”
There’s a fourth thing I thought about that makes me sad, and that is false teachers; false teachers make me sad. I was up in the mountains with the pastors, hundred pastors from all over Brazil, key pastors, and also seminary students. There are three major seminaries: A Presbyterian seminary run by the Presbyterian Denomination in America, but it’s been nationalized. Baptist Seminary run by the Southern Baptists and it’s also been nationalized. And a Methodist seminary. And I said to some of these seminary students, I said, “How are the seminaries?” “Well,” they said, “that’s why we’re here, because we want to really know how to minister, because they don’t teach us that there.” Oh, in some cases they do; in some cases there’s some good men.
One pastor said to me, “You know I work on the side.” I said, “What do you do?” He says, “I do,” what do you call it, “fetal therapy.” I said, “Huh?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “It’s a wonderful new psychological technique.” I said, “Well what do you mean?” He said, “Well we have a man down here who’s the first man in the history of the church who’s ever properly integrated theology and psychology. And he just came down and he’s training all of our pastors in this denomination to do this, because this is how you heal people’s problems.” I said, “Well what is it?” “Well it takes about six hours and you get the person involved to get on the floor and ball up like they were when they were a fetus.” And I said, “Huh?” “And then you take pillows and pack them all around them so that they have the feeling they’re in the womb again.”
In my mind I was saying, “This is where I bail out, folks.” And then he said, “You see, because most of psychological problems are problems that began when you were a fetus, but when you were a fetus you couldn’t deal with them. But now that you’re an adult we regress you to being a fetus and you can deal with your problems there and correct your whole lifestyle.” Boy, I heard it all. This guy is a Christian; they flew this guy from England to tell the pastors that. I said, “Lord, it’s not tough enough to win people to Christ, to start churches and to get pastors, but then the devil comes in and teaches them all that garbage. And now they got people laying around the floor for six hours with a bunch of pillows around them trying to get back to when they were a fetus, straighten out all their problems.”
You know I’ll tell you, people, it gets a little old to fight the false teaching; I thought about that when I was watching that dumb television thing the other night, “Jesus wants you happy.” You know it’s bad enough we say, “Well we got a church and there’s a guy preaching.” Yeah, but listen to what the guy’s saying. Boy, no wonder the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 that I have not ceased for the space of three years night and day to warn you, that grievous wolves will move in among the flock not sparing the flock, and of your own selves shall false teachers arise leading you astray. Listen, we have to fight it all the time, and it’s heartbreaking. I get so tired of the false teaching; I get so tired of the bologna. And here you go to another country and you just they’re all over the place. You know running rampant in Brazil are the Moonies, Sun Myung Moon, capturing people. Mormon missionaries everywhere on their bicycles.
False teachers, they make it so hard, and they always seem to – you know they always seem to get the exposure. You know why? ‘Cause Satan runs the system, doesn’t he? So the system caters to the false and they just they splash all over the place. And these dear young men from the seminary they’d come up in the morning, and there was one guy. He was a neat guy; his name was Reuben. He interpreted for Monte while Monte was teaching him stuff all the days, and then I was teaching through another interpreter, wonderful guy. But these kids would hang around me all day long; we were walking around like a bee hive you know, just all the time. And poor Reuben you know he interpreted from dawn to sunset, while he would like to know, blah, blah, blah, see. Oh well. But now he would like to know blah, blah, blah. And they just kept asking question, question, question. What about the authority of the Bible? What about how do you build the church? How do you teach the Word of God? How do you make a sermon that really has power, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
You know when we’ve been taught such and such, is that true? No, that’s not true. All day long trying to unscramble the egg. And Audi Velosa, wonderful guy, Brazilian who is a graduate of Dallas Seminary who now works with Bill Keyes who is my interpreter. Super guy. A few months ago, he was landing in Sao Paulo, had a heart attack, 42 years old. The Lord spared his life, and the doctor finally gave him the approval to interpret when I got there; it’s the first time he’d done it since his heart attack. He was a little nervous, had to take an extra dose of his heart pill. Man, we had a great time. But Audi told me that the seminaries had almost all gone liberal, and that was his great heartache for the people that were being trained there. And so you can’t help but be saddened by false teachers.
Now I don’t want to seem totally depressed, 'cause I still have joy in my heart because of the Lord, right? And I have joy in my heart because I love you and I love my wife and my kids, and I thank God for every good thing he’s given. But I’ll tell you, you can’t just go through life with all of that; the party is over. And I think from time to time in my life the Lord jolts me into realizing that this is not a fun-and-games deal. And we get so smug here you know 'cause we’re all locked in the little box. Well there was another thing; I got to say this. There’s another thing that makes me sad, and that’s the messed-up church, the carnal church, the church where the people is teaching people to crawl on the floor and pretend they’re a fetus.
You know in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 4, Paul says, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears.” And he said to the Corinthians, that’s who he’s talking to, “You break my heart. You make me cry, and when I write I write with tears dropping all over the page.” I was in Copa Cabana, the famous beach in Rio, and I went to a church, the church there, a significant church. And I got up and I just opened my Bible; I didn’t even have a note or anything. I just flipped my Bible open and did an exposition out of Ephesians, 'cause that was on my heart. I just went verse by verse and shared with them the Word of God. When I got all done, I went back to the door and I was wearing robes. I don't know if Monte took a picture; you wouldn’t believe me. I had this big high funny thing on; it’s a very liturgical church that some American missionaries had started and they were from a liturgical background. I had red stuff hanging all over and gold stuff, and it was something.
But anyway, I was at the door you know greeting the people. And one dear lady came out and she grabbed my hand; she started to kiss my hand. She just kept kissing my hand. I mean that doesn’t happen around here. And then she kept kissing my hand, and then she looked at me and in broken English she said, “Oh, you taught us the Bible verses by verses.” She said, “You told us what the Bible means.” “Oh,” she said, “This is what I believe Jesus wants all the ministers to do. But you are the only one I ever heard do that.” Oh man, that just broke my heart. They’ve got denominationalism down there just like in America, but one of the heartaches is everybody’s in his own little box and they don’t even want to mingle. And the pastors aren’t learning to teach the Word of God. And those young seminary guys they were with us all week, and I would do one scripture exposition after another. And by the time the week was over, all they would ask me about, “How do you do that? Tell us the books to get. Tell us the way to do that.”
And Bill Keyes said it was probably one of the most strategic things that ever happened to the church in Brazil to take those hundred pastors plus all those seminary students and just let them feed on exposition of the Word for one whole week. And one guy is the pastor of Foursquare Church down there, one of the larges churches around, thousand people, at the end of the time threw his arms around me and hugged me real tight. Tears in his eyes, he said, “My life has changed this week. I want to give myself to teach the Word of God.” Now I’ll tell you my heart breaks over the church, because I go there and I see they got the church but the church isn’t doing it, and that’s why Osmar has a house church because the ones that are there they don’t do it. They don’t minister in the way that the Lord would minister if he were there.
Now I have this burden for America, you know so many churches. Some of you people are right here because you know the churches don’t feed you. Now I recently wrote an article for Moody Monthly on how to build biblical structure, how to build elders in your church. You want to hear something interesting? 1,400-plus pastors have written me asking if we’d help them to do that, 1,400 in the last month have written me right here at Grace Church. When I got home from Brazil, I had a stack of mail, that is not an exaggeration, that high from pastors who want to know how to put the church together the way God wants it. You know what that says to me? Somebody’s looking at us. You know those little Brazilian guys in seminary they said, “John.” Through the interpreter, they said, “John, could we come to Grace Church to see what happens in a biblical church?” I said, “How are you going to get there?” “Could somebody bring us there. We want to do it different. We want to revolutionize the church.” One guy said to me, “If I have to work for the money, I’m coming there to see.”
And I said, “Lord, I don’t want this responsibility. If we got everybody looking at us, we’re really on the hot plate, aren’t we?” And so as I was thinking about this, I was saying, “Lord, I pray with all my heart that you’ll keep Grace true and pure, Amen.” Listen, people, the eyes of the world are looking at us. I got a letter yesterday from Alaska, “Will you come and teach us how the church is to be?” I got a letter yesterday from Haiti, “Will you come and speak to the missionaries and the pastors of Haiti to show us the principles of the church?” I got a letter yesterday from South Africa, “Will you come to Cape Town?” The Anglican church needs revolution. I can’t go to all these places. But somebody’s saying we got to do it another way, and they’re looking here because we are committed to these things.
But people, I shared with the elders a few weeks ago, you know we are in a great danger at Grace Church 'cause we got everything going so good. I believe this is the most dangerous time in the history of Grace Church. We know how to do it. We can crank it out. We got the message, the materials, the books, the committees, we got it all knocked. And the whole of Christianity in America has that same problem. We’re so used to having experts on everything we are syphoned off on God. You know when a Christian has a problem, he does one of two things, goes and buys a book about a problem or go see a counselor who’s an expert on his problem, and he does not do the one thing he should’ve done, and that is get on his knees before God. One of the worst things that ever happened to the church is a proliferation of counselors that have syphoned people off on a one-to-one relationship with God. And we can do it right here at Grace Church. What do we need to pray for, we got our building? What do we need to pray for, we got our gymnasium? What do we need to pray for, we got our preacher and our staff and our everybody that does everything for us? And all of a sudden, we get up off our knees and we get into a bunch of activity, and one of these days we’re going to wake up and say, “We’re just like Laodicea. We’re rich and we’ve got it all, and we really don’t know that we’re lukewarm and the Lord’s going to spew us out of his mouth.”
And so my message to you this morning is you’re going to have to get sad before you get glad. And the reason I want to pass some sadness on to you is I think some of us have got to deal with some things in our lives. I look around the world and I see churches, and I think like Jesus in Matthew chapter 9 when he looked, and I’m sure he wept over the multitude because he saw them as sheep, what? Without a shepherd. And here God has given us so many shepherds, but we’re in the danger of getting so oriented to systems and so much methods we got great teachers and great this and great that and all. And we can lose the sight of the vision that we must depend on God every day.
If I could say one thing to you, I’d call you this day to account before God in your own heart that you give yourself every day of your life to great desire and earnest prayer before God that he would keep this church pure and holy, and that you as an individual not let the church or the books or the counselors or the experts substitute for your deep relationship with the living God. You know I can get up and preach before you, I know how to preach. I can preach before you in the flesh and you wouldn’t even know it. You wouldn’t even know it, because I know how to do it; I’ve done it. But I don’t want to do that, and you don’t want me to do that, do you? I don’t ever want to open my mouth from this pulpit unless I’m energized by the Spirit of God. And I don’t want this church to become a church that’s so wrapped up in methods that it loses God. And I want to call us back to the place where we start seeing a broken heart over the things that broke God’s heart and Jesus’ heart and Paul’s heart.
There’s so much more that I want to say but stupid clock, the bane of my existence. It’s just not a time for laughing; it’s just not a time for parties in the world. And you know what those people said to me? Bless their hearts. They said, “How many people you have in your church?” I say, “Oh, thousands.” “Could some of them come to Brazil? We need some of them who have your vision? Could you send us two or three of your staff members just for two or three months, could teach our pastors?” And we in America we’re stepping on each other to minister, you know that? Yeah, really. We got more useless missionaries in America than you can imagine. We’re spending a fortune in America in Christian hocus-pocus that’s unnecessary when the rest of the world doesn’t have anybody. Romans 10, I kept thinking of it last night. “How shall they hear? How are they going to hear, except somebody be sent?”
I said to Monte as I was saying goodbye to him and we put our arms around each other and we prayed, and he took off for Venezuela and I getting ready to come home. And I said, “Let’s pray that God will raise up people out of Grace.” Wouldn’t it be great if we just unloaded about 3,000 of them on the world? You say, “Well I’m very involved here, I don't know if I can do that.” Yeah, that’s just the problem. What really matters? What really matters? So I’m asking the Lord to do a couple things here. One, I’m asking the Lord to do a work in my heart and I’m asking the Lord to drive me back to prayer in a way I’ve never done before. I’m asking the Lord to purify this church. I’m asking the Lord to make us sad in our hearts over what we ought to be sad about and drive us to our knees. And then I’m asking the Lord to take a bunch of us and chase us all over the world, 'cause we’ve got something to offer.
I almost didn’t speak this morning 'cause I felt so sick last night and today. And then this morning I was reminded of Epaphroditus who was nigh unto death for the work of the Lord, and I figured well, I’m not exactly nigh unto death, I guess I can do a little more work for the Lord. And because it was so burning in my heart to say what I said that I just had to be here. But I want to close our time this morning with just a brief word of prayer with you, and I’d like you to just make it a commitment time, would you? We’ll just close a little different today. And I’d ask you to just open your heart to the Lord right now. I’ve stumbled around and tried to express the inexpressible, tried to say what maybe doesn’t have words. Trying to articulate a feeling is hard; I’m not that good with words. But I wish you’d just open your heart to God and say, “Lord, whatever you want to say to me from what John has shared, say it to me.”
Will you be honest enough with the Lord to say that right now silently in your heart? And then would you follow it up by saying, “Lord, make me obedient to what you say. If you want me to pray more than I’ve prayed, maybe that’s it.” I talked to a man down there who said, “John, 20 years ago I promised the Lord I’d pray one hour every day, and I’ve kept that promise.” What’s the Lord saying to you? What’s he saying to you about your life? Some of you people are preparing in seminary. Some of you are thinking about it. Some of you could go right now to assist in work around the world. People are in need. What do you count valuable? I don't know what the Lord’s saying to you, but listen and obey it.
Thank you, Father, for speaking this morning. And I just ask that I’m trusting your Spirit that what I shared this morning was what you wanted me to share. Do a work in my heart, Lord. Make me the man you want me to be. Do your perfect work in my life. In the lives of all the pastors and elders here, break us before you. Make us poor in spirit. Make us mourners. Make us hunger and thirst after righteousness, and we’ll give you all the praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.