I was woken up by the sound of an alarm somewhere in my room, as the noise began to filter into my ears, a thought ran through my mind "Do I have to get up?" As I rolled over to try and find where my alarm was, I saw the clocked and realized that I had only had about four to five hours sleep. Instantly my brain began to create excuses on why I should stay tucked up in bed on this wet morning. But, my alarm was persistent, it kept on bellowing out its call to awake, so after finding the alarm I was finally awake enough to realize that I had to hurry, as I didn't have much time before I was due to leave for the Queensland Baptist Convention. Normally, I don't go to these kind of conventions, but today was the day in which Queensland Baptists were going to have a focus on evangelism, so it was good for me to attend.
The first speaker for the morning was Will Graham (Billy Graham's grandson), he spoke on "Integrity in the Pulpit" and I must admit it was a really good sermon, he focused on how as evangelists often times we can fall into temptation and sin, thus destroying our ministry, but more importantly when this happens we bring the name of Jesus Christ to shame.
After Will Graham finished speaking, to other guys spoke about evangelism. They said some interesting things, but I found myself disagreeing with the whole of focus of "socialize" someone into the Kingdom of God. After their session finished I was introduced to Will Graham by a senior Baptist evangelist. What struck me about meeting Will Graham was the fact that even though he was famous, he was a real humble and down to earth kind of guy. Which was really good to see, and when you spoke to him, you could tell that he was genuinely interested in what you had to say.
I had to leave the convention a little bit earlier, as I had to drive out west of Brisbane in order to pick up 1,000 tickets for the Will Graham evangelism rally that was being held that night. The plan was, that I pick up the tickets, then that afternoon I would go out into the Southbank parklands, and give away free tickets to those who were in the area, and as a result invite them to hear Will speak that night at the Brisbane convention centre.
At 3pm, it was raining, so Fitzy, Andre and I thought that it would be fairly hard to give away these 1,000 tickets due to the fact that no one hangs out in the parklands while it is raining. But, we headed over there anyway, and to our surprise we found the parklands to be jammed full of people. It turned out that there was a large "Save the Planet" festival going on, so we quickly began to hand out the tickets to those we encountered. Within 45 minutes all 1,000 tickets were gone, and many of those who took the tickets promised to come that night.
We then went back to the convention centre where we spent some time in prayer asking God to save souls tonight through the preaching of Will Graham. Since I was on the "people helper" (counsellor) group, I had to stay back till about 10pm in order to help out with those who responded to the gospel. But, before that we had to go once again through the training material to make sure that we were familiar with the material we would be giving to people. During this time, I once again go to see how humble Will Graham was, as while everyone was being instructed on what to do, he came into the back of the room and just listened. There was no "big" entrance like you see with many other preachers, but rather he just quietly stood at the back and listened. After awhile, he was called to the front, and then he thanked everyone for helping and prayed for us.
Since we were short on numbers for helpers, I assisted with ushering as well, and while I was doing that we noticed a good size group of young people come into the convention centre swearing like troopers. A few people around looked a bit shocked, but I was happy, and excited to see them. As they were a group that earlier that afternoon we had given free tickets to.
The night went well, and before the preaching there was some good music. Then it came time for Will to preach, he instantly connected with the crowd and then began to expound on the gospel of Christ. He spoke about how we as humans need to be in the Masters hands, and we need to be guided by Him, yet, the problem is that our sin has separated us from God. After this, Will then pointed people to the cross of Christ, and showed that it is only by Jesus that we can be forgiven.
At the call of salvation about 60 - 80 people responded. After I finished speaking to those I was designated to "counsel", Andre and I quickly left the convention centre and rushed to the Queen Street Mall to join the Operation 513 team.
As we entered the mall the first thing we noticed was that it wasn't busy, this was due to the rain, and as we began to walk down the mall, we heard the familiar sound of Andrew Hsu open air preaching. As usual Alex the Agnostic was there, then there were some other familiar faces in the crowd, Riley the Agnostic and also Josh the Atheist. Good to see the boys had come out even though it was raining.
After Andrew Hsu finished preaching it was decided that Andrew Caswell should preach, now Caswell and I are old mates, who have been working together for about four and a bit years. Yet, he is only new to open air preaching. He got up and brought the Word of God with a passion and a zeal, that I wish I could even have a small bit of. When Caswell spoke he spoke in away that you could tell that this Gospel was the power of God unto salvation!
While Caswell was preaching, I noticed this young bald man in the crowd going around to different people saying "Ask the preacher this question, he won't be able to answer". As I watched him do this, I noticed that those who would encourage to say something simply ignored him, and kept on listening. So, when the young man got close to me, I said "Why don't you ask the preacher that question?" He just looked at me, and seemed to be a bit embarrassed, so I said "Mate, I am a preacher, why don't you ask me the question, and I'll see if I can answer." The young man agreed, and his question related to ‘Who wrote the Bible & What about the Da Vinci Code?' I quickly answered his questions, and the whole time I was focused on getting to the gospel. So I asked him, "you have heard of Jesus, right?" He replied that he had, so then I asked, "do you understand why Jesus had to die on the cross?" The man said that he didn't. It turns out that this young man's name was Jacob, so I began to talk to Jacob about personal sin.
As I walked through the Scripture, and showed Jacob that he was a sinner in the sight of God, you could see his face change from one of arrogance to one of concern. He had realized that he was indeed in trouble with a Holy God. By now his friends were trying to interrupt, but by God's grace I was able to present the full gospel to him. Jacob took a tract, and thanked me for telling him about salvation in Christ. Knowing that he still had questions I asked, "Now, what questions do you have in regards to Christianity?" Again, he brought up about the Bible, and this time also about the historical Jesus. So I answered his questions (something his friends didn't like), and as he left Jacob said, "that makes sense, thanks for that."
It is encounters like that with Jacob that make witnessing on the streets so worth while. It was such an encouraging encounter to see a young man come to an understand of forgiveness in Christ. Later on in the evening, Andre came up to me and told me that he had just seen Jacob and his friends talking about the encounter, his friends were trying to make him forget our conversation, but Jacob just kept saying "What if the preacher is right?" Please pray for Jacob.
After this, it was my turn to preach, so I began by reading out a passage of Scripture, then expounding on what it meant. I spoke about how God is loving towards sinful humanity, in that even though we don't deserve His mercy, God still shows grace towards us in that He sent Christ to pay the price for our sins if we would believe.
During the preaching I noticed that Jacob was back listening, pray that God's word will take root in his heart.
Alex as usual fired up his arguments, and as usual they were flawed to the highest degree. Each week he comes back, and tries to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but God's truth will not be stopped!
While preaching on sin, Riley called out "People only believe in sin, because of that book!" So I asked him about those other religions that don't believe in the Bible, and why is it that they have a knowledge of sin. His reply was to state that because they had religious writings, and only religious writings produced that knowledge. Since Riley studies anthropology, I asked him, "Is there any culture or any tribe of people, that do NOT have a knowledge of sin or God?" He replied that every single culture, and every tribe had that knowledge. So now I asked, "Do all those cultures have a book or writings to tell them about sin and God?" He replied that they did not. To which I said, "So the knowledge of God, and of sin is built in to every single person? We all know there is a God, and we all know about sin!" Riley agreed, and at this Alex started to argue with Riley.
God has given light to everyone, we all know that we do that which is wrong, we all know that we sin against God. Perhaps, you are reading this and you don't think you are a sinner in the sight of God, perhaps, you think that if there is a Heaven, then you are good enough to get there, well lets see:
Are you good enough to go to Heaven? Let's see if you are a good person by the Ten Commandments...Ever told a lie? The ninth commandment says, "You shall not lie." Ever stolen anything? Have you ever used God's name in vain? That's called Blasphemy. Have you looked with lust (sexual desire) at another person? Jesus said, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." How many times have you been guilty of any of these serious violations? You, like the rest of us are a slave to sin. God's word tells us that all liars, blasphemers, the sexually immoral, thieves, etc. will spend eternity in hell.
The Bible says: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." The reason we die physically is because of sin, and this is also the reason we deserve to go to hell for all eternity, because we have sinned against God.
But, God loves His people so much, He sent His son Jesus to suffer and die in the place of sinners just like you. Then He rose from the grave defeating death! You can't earn God's forgiveness; it is God's free gift. To be forgiven of you sin, you must repent (turn from your sin) and trust that Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners. Then three days later He was raised from the dead, defeating sin and death. The Bible says: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Soli Deo Gloria!
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Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.
Brisbane Team (Day) (QLD)
Meets Wednesday afternoons 1-5pm in King George Square (near Adelaide St crossing).
Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.