“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jud 1:20-25)
I’ve been in and out of Latin America countries on a number of mission trips. This time we were among the Mayan Indians in the mountains of Belize. Walking down a mountain trail with some of our group, I noticed that an old Indian gentleman had stopped at the side of the trail to let us pass. That’s when it happened.
I stop and said to the old Indian, “Sabes tu que Christo te ama?” The elderly gentleman put his hands over his face and began to weep. I could hardly believe my eyes. My Spanish was so meager that I felt at a loss. I assured him of God’s love. His eyes were still wet with tears as we parted. (I slaughter Spanish fluently.)
Now my heart was broken. How can one simple statement have such an effect on any one. But now I also understood why the Holy Spirit impressed me to use that phrase. The love of Jesus is the message of the cross. The old Indian did not need to hear a message of condemnation. He lived in a state of condemnation. He needed to know that God really truly loved him.
Fear controlled lives
These Indians were steeped in idolatry. Fear controlled their lives. They had mountain gods, and witches, and dark spirits at work in their lives. As I preached that evening in the open building I was aware of the oppressing spirits. The darkness felt so strong that I left the building for a moment just for fresh air. Yet the message had to go forth, and it did. More people were added to God’s holy kingdom. Was Satan mad? You bet. Could he do anything about it? Not a thing in the world.
This was only one of some instances where the Lord had me speak to the Latin-American people about God’s love for them. There were more moments. We were in a barrio (village) south of Reynosa. I had a Mexican-American singing group with me. We walked through the barrio inviting the people to a service that evening. A wealthy Christian woman had made her courtyard available for our use.
The courtyard filled up. This time I am startled but for a different reason. I had never seen physical conditions of that nature. One person literally had tumors hanging from her body. I asked the Lord what He wanted me to say. He said that I was to tell them three things. First, tell them that He loved them. Then tell them that He wanted to heal their lives. And finally tell them that they must learn to walk in His ways and not in the ways of darkness.
That barrio saw our first church raised up in Mexico. It was all a result of telling the people that Jesus Christ truly loved them. We also saw a deaf-mute in a wheel chair speak for the first time. On a later trip to the village the people told me that the deaf-mute was singing in the school yard. (He wasn’t in the village on that trip.)
Speak as an ambassador
We were again in Honduras in a village near the border of Guatemala. It was during the time that war was going on in El Salvador. (We could hear the cannons firing.) Again I ask the Lord what He wanted me to say. He said, “Tell them that you come as an ambassador from the kingdom of God and that you have a message for them from the King.”
The building packed out. Men were in the windows and bunched up around the entry area. Children pressed to the front. Mothers with their babies filled the seating. No seats were left. It happened again. The moment I said, “I come as an ambassador from the kingdom of God, and I have a message for you from the King,” it became totally silent. You could hear a pin drop.
What message did I have? You guessed it. I preached to them about God’s love through the cross. It happened again. At the end of my message, and old Indian gentleman stood up, began walking to the front. He was coming to meet his King. He heard. He believe. He came. The altar area packed with people. The kingdom was enlarging.
I have many more such stories about the power of the gospel and of God’s love. We were in another mountain village in Honduras. I began to preach the message of the cross. At the end of the message I saw the crowd parting. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on an elderly woman.
What was happening? The elderly woman was a witch who had held much sway over the non-Christian people of that village. This night it was to be different. She was coming to meet her King. She heard the message that God loved her too.
The gospel is the message of God’s love
Shall I go on? I stood behind the casket of a young man who had died. It was at one of the larger churches also in Honduras. Again I preached the simple message of God’s love. And again the people lined up across the front. They were presenting themselves to the King. He accepted them all.
I think you are getting the picture. What is it we need to understand? It is this. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about the love of God, it is no gospel at all. The gospel is good news. It is happy tidings. Why would God send His Son into the world to die for our sins, if it was not because He loved us so much. There is no other gospel.
It is the gospel of God’s love that melts the human heart. Yes, judgment has its place in the message. Sin must be dealt with. For those who reject Jesus Christ, the message must become clear on the issue of judgment. But the message must be imbued with the purpose of the cross. The cross is the measure and message of God’s love.
The Gospel is like a caged lion
Yes, I’ve seen times where mockery was clear. We were holding meetings at a banana plantation. This time the crowd had a strong mixture of homosexuals. Their intent was to keep the gospel from going forth. They began mocking me as I preached. Then in a moment of time everything became suddenly silent. The presence of the Lord manifested. This always happens when the King has something to say. I don’t know how many came to the Lord that night. I certainly hope the bondage of homosexuality was broken over the people.
Yes, my son Nathan has been shot at and has had rocks thrown at him while doing mission work in Latin America. Yet in all this he helped start thirteen churches in the most troublesome areas of south Mexico. Nathan and his missionary buddy, Joel, were not black-top missionaries. They went where the black top stopped. They went on donkeys, and then further on foot. Was it worth it? A thousands times more. Eternity will tell the story.
Don’t miss the point
If it seems that I am bragging in any of this, please be sure that you are missing the point. This is to testify to the love of God. Any boasting to be done is to be directed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have seen the power of God’s transforming love in the most sinful of lives. Never can I take credit for any of this. I will always love the statement Charles H. Spurgeon made when he was asked to write a defense of the gospel. He said, “The gospel does not need to be defended. It is like a caged lion. Turn it lose. It can take care of itself.”
Does all this mean there is no judgment to come, that there is no eternal damnation, that we should just overlook sin? Never. Eternal judgment is also part of the gospel message. Judgment is coming much more swiftly that we realize. This is why the brother of Jesus gave us our instructions. Listen to them again.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
Perhaps I do have another point after all —
It disturbs me greatly when I hear of preachers treating sinners as though they were dogs, and abusing God’s people as though their lives had little value to God. Who is the man who would abuse the very ones that God loves so deeply? Jesus did not tell Peter to beat His sheep. He told Peter to love them, to care for them, to feed them.
My point is that God has given us a message. The message is the message of the cross. One thing must always be made clear. The people need to know that Jesus loves them. He loves them enough to come and live with them, in their heart, and all the days of their life.
Jesus is a great Savior. He is a Savior that finishes what He begins. This is why the Bible says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.
Think about it.
Here is your song for today. Let it reach into the deep of your heart. It tells why I preach the gospel. – ‘Yes, I Know,’ by the Gaither Vocal Band.