IN our time, we've seen rock stars and music groups come and go. You may remember the eras of pyschedelic rock, punk rock, and more recently grunge rock. Now there is something called anti-Christ rock. Perhaps you've heard of the new band heralding this movement. They're called Marilyn Manson. They took their name from Marilyn Monroe and the mass-murderer Charles Manson. And they're packing arenas and auditoriums around the country!
Marilyn Manson is blatantly anti-Christ. Their latest record is titled "Anti-Christ Superstar," and the lyrics are blasphemous attacks on our Lord. As part of their stage act, they rip apart Bibles.
I realize that such groups fade like the grass. Even the Beatles -- the group who once said they were more popular than Jesus -- came and went. And I know Marilyn Manson will fade away as well. A few years from now, people who hear their name will ask, "Marilyn who?"
Yet something is happening among young people in America right now -- and I feel an urgency to address it. A few weeks ago, as Marilyn Manson was performing in Washington D.C., one of their road crew fell from a wall and was killed. Yet, the group simply played on. They continued the concert in spite of the sudden death of their crew member.
I bring this to your attention for a reason. I believe the anti-Christ lyrics of this group's music have become the language of our youth. Recently, I listened in horror as a group of teenagers and preteens discussed religion. Within minutes they had raised their voices and were shouting four-letter curses: "---- God, ---- Jesus!"
As I looked into their faces, I saw an angry rebellion I'd never witnessed before. Blazing in their eyes was a hatred for religion. An anti-Christ attitude had completely overtaken them!
Today young people no longer curse politicians, parents or society. They don't turn their anger against racism, poverty or discrimination. Nor is it enough for them simply to be antiestablishment. Now they have turned their fury against God and Christ!
A few weeks ago, I saw a newspaper photo of a group of Christian teens demonstrating outside an arena where Marilyn Manson was playing. This brave little band of believers was carrying signs protesting the group's blasphemous attacks against their Lord. I thank God such young people had chosen to stand up for Jesus.
Then, as I looked at the photo, I thought about the thousands of lost teenagers who passed by that little band -- mocking and hissing at them as they filed into the arena, turning on to the anti-Christ lyrics, glorifying Satan, and emerging with an anger against God. These teenagers are no longer satisfied with smoking pot, snorting crack, shooting heroin or indulging in sex. Now their ultimate rebellion is to curse Christ and his church!
Just a few blocks from our church building, I read some graffiti that I believe signifies this generation of young people. The messages read, "Don't slap me anymore, Daddy. Don't hit me. Don't kill me." Another scribbled phrase read, "My daddy hitted me and my sister Maria. He didn't know it hurted us, but he felt good." Many of our youth in America have been beaten, slapped, scarred all their lives. And now they have become a lost generation!
I believe bloody riots are coming soon to all major American cities -- and they will be ignited by teenagers. This godless generation is already shaking an angry fist at God, giving themselves over to an anti-Christ spirit that has been unleashed from hell. Soon they will rage at welfare cutbacks. They'll determine to take everything by force, knocking out store windows and burning everything in sight.
These young people have been robbed of all moral concepts. They've been told there is no God -- that nothing even hinting of religion belongs in our public life, our schools, our courts, our government. And in place of religion, they've been handed condoms and the phone numbers of abortion clinics.
Now we're facing payday. We're reaping the evil our society has sown. We've raised up a generation that hasn't just written off the church, but that hates it with a seething rage!
I Was Struck by Something Else Recently,
as I Walked Up Broadway During Rush Hour
As I looked into the faces of the passing crowds -- people of all nationalities and walks of life -- a thought struck my soul like a thunderclap: "They are all lost! Almost every person passing by is going to hell. This society is damned!"
I realize this might come across as harsh or presumptuous. You might think, "Surely some of those passersby know the Lord. They've had to hear the gospel somewhere, somehow."
Certainly many in that massive crowd had seen or experienced religion of some kind. After all, no one these days can flip TV channels without seeing Christian television. Yet much of what airs on Christian TV is an abomination: multimillionaire preachers begging for more money; soft preaching that has no anointing or convicting power. Only a few on TV now present a true gospel. And, as a result, few people today have heard a pure gospel -- a convicting, sin-delivering message!
You might respond, "But surely some of those passersby were churchgoers." That is true. I'm sure many had gone to church, at least on Christmas or Easter. But the majority of churches today are dead, lifeless, lacking the power to chase away a single demon. There is no real gospel in their services -- no biblical truth to set people free from sin.
With every block I walked, I was hit again and again with the thought: "They're lost. They're going to spend eternity without Jesus!" Finally, I tried comforting myself with the thought, "But our church has seen thousands of people converted. Times Square Church is one of the largest congregations in New York City -- and we do a major work of evangelism. We're reaching some of these lost, hurting people."
But still, something nagged at my soul. I had to acknowledge before the Lord: "Oh, father -- I don't have the burden I once had! I don't weep the way I did when I first came to New York City thirty-five years ago. I'm grateful for all you've done within the four walls of our church. But in my heart, I know I don't have the same fire!"
In 1958, Gwen and I were living in tiny Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, a town with a population of about 1,500 people. In those days, I would walk into the woods near our home and weep for hours over the souls in New York City. I owned a little green Chevrolet, and each week as I drove it to the city to minister, I wept for the entire three-hour drive. Sometimes I had to pull off to the side of the road, because my heart was so broken for the lost. I'd stop the engine, walk into the woods, fall on my face and weep.
After Gwen and I moved our family to Staten Island, I rode the ferry to Brooklyn every day to minister -- and I wept all the way. The other passengers thought I was crazy. Some even offered me comfort and solace. But I knew had the heart of the Lord, and I wept and cried all the more.
Today I preach in one of the most beautiful theaters in the world, the historic Mark Hellinger Theater. I deliver messages to a hungry congregation, who come from all over the tri-state area to hear sermons on every possible subject in the word of God. I love the work of this ministry, and I thank God for letting me be a part of what he's doing in New York City.
Yet, I wonder how many people in our congregation -- and how many readers on our mailing list -- feel the way I felt walking up Broadway. I had to stop and ask myself: "How long has it been since you wept for the lost? Do you still have the Lord's burden to reach them with the gospel?"
I ask you: Are you able to work alongside your colleagues, greet your neighbors, talk to your unsaved family members -- and never once be concerned for their souls? Is your mind occupied with simply surviving -- providing for your family, protecting your children? Are you no longer burdened, witnessing, reaching out to the lost and dying world?
Jesus Told Us His Mission on Earth
Was to Save the Lost!
"For the son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Christ said, "I came into this world for one reason -- to reach and save lost souls!" Yet this was not only Jesus' mission. He made it our mission as well: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
Jesus was speaking here to a small band of believers -- about 120 people who had gathered in the upper room. And what an impossible task he laid before them! Think about it: At that time, Rome ruled the world. And he was commanding his followers, "Go to Rome and tell proud, egotistical Caesar there can be no king before me. I rule over all creation! Go to Athens, where paganism rules, and preach that I am the only way. Go everywhere that philosophies, ancient religions, false gods and superstitions rule -- and preach my cross and resurrection.
"Go to foreign nations, live with the people and study their languages. Lay hands on the sick, cast out devils, proclaim the good news. Go to the very seat of Satan, and preach the power and victory of the risen savior!"
We have to realize -- Jesus was talking to ordinary, insignificant, uneducated men and women. He was placing the very future of his church on their shoulders. That little band of believers had to be overwhelmed. Can you imagine the conversation that must have taken place once their master ascended to heaven?
"Did I hear him right? How could poor, ordinary people like us start a worldwide revolution? We're penniless -- the offscouring of society. How could anyone treat us with anything but disdain? The Romans are beating and killing us. And if they treat us that way here in Jerusalem, how will they treat us when we get to Rome, witnessing and preaching?
"How can we possibly take the gospel to a world that so hated Jesus they killed him? He was despised, rejected, the song of drunkards. Yet we've been commanded to preach him as Lord and king!
"And how does our Lord expect us to go into all the world with the gospel, when we don't even have enough money to go to Jericho? How are we to learn languages, when we haven't been educated or equipped to do that? Does he really expect us to go to the heathen in the northern nations -- wild mobs from Europe whose armies plunder and kill mercilessly? This is all impossible!"
It was indeed an impossible mission. Yet our challenge today is just as daunting! The Bible tells us each succeeding generation grows worse and worse. And as I think of ancient Rome, Athens and Nineveh, I realize those societies didn't have all the exotic, sinful lusts and temptations our generation faces. They didn't have ungodly television, filthy movies, porno magazines, computer sex.
We face other impossible odds as well: Our government has essentially tried to outlaw God. Our media is liberal to the point of godlessness. Wall Street grows increasingly greedy for more money. There is a tidal wave of homosexuality. And now we're seeing the rise of a generation that curses the Christ we preach!
It Is Time to Acknowledge That
America Is Lost and Going to Hell!
When the apostle Paul looked out at the idolatrous multitudes in Athens, his spirit was moved. Likewise, as I look out my apartment window every evening, gazing upon the masses in Manhattan, I experience what Paul felt. I see many beautiful buildings -- from the midtown skyline to the Statue of Liberty -- yet they all appear as tombstones! They're full of the walking dead -- multitudes of people who are dying and going to hell. I have to cry out daily, "Lord, we need you. We can't do anything to reach these people without your guidance and power!"
Jesus knew everything his church would be facing today. He knew about all the impossibilities, the overwhelming opposition, the many obstacles. And he knew exactly what would happen to our society -- that there would be a moral landslide, that humanity would wax worse and worse, and that an angry devil would spew out a river of hell against Christ's church.
I believe Jesus' words to his helpless disciples apply to us today: "Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye...until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
Jesus was saying, in essence, "If you try to evangelize in your own strength, you'll fall on your face in a short time. You can't do anything for me unless you're full of the Holy Ghost!
"I know the battles and obstacles you face. And I'm going to give you a power greater than any in the universe. You'll be able to stand up to kings, princes, governments. You'll have authority over demons and principalities. But this power must come to you from on high! You can't plan it, you can't strategize it, you can't do anything to make it happen. You are simply to sit still and wait. I will send my Spirit to you. He will come and fill you with my power!"
Jesus never would have sent these disciples out unless he knew that the power given to them would be more than sufficient to meet every need and opposition. He knew that these were the same men who had run in fear when the soldiers came for him. They were the same ones who had gone fishing instead of obeying him, because they were afraid to take a stand. They were timid, fearful, unskilled, untrained men. Yet Jesus knew that these men -- when fully yielded to the Holy Ghost -- would work miracles, put demons to flight, overcome every opposition!
Indeed, when the Spirit fell upon the disciples, they became fearless. As they went forth to the temple to witness, the Holy Ghost made their words cutting, convicting -- like swords piercing to the heart. They preached the gospel with power and authority -- because they had Holy-Ghost fire within them!
Suddenly the crowds were afraid of them. In just a short time, some five thousand people were saved. Even priests were converted. And further outpourings happened in nearby villages, in distant cities and even among Gentiles.
The best part of this unbelievable scene is that the church got all of its direction from the Holy Ghost. Nothing happened until the disciples had shut themselves in with the Lord and fasted and prayed. When they did this, the Spirit came and began to direct their every move.
Yet, something else happened in this scene that is very important. The disciples were to take the gospel to every nation, every people -- yet Jewish tradition forbade them even to touch the clothes of a Gentile. How were they supposed to bring the good news to people with whom they weren't even allowed to associate? It seemed like an impossible command. Even the Jewish converts held to these prejudices.
Yet the widespread proclamation of the gospel began only when the Holy Ghost took over. The Spirit visited Peter during his daily prayer time on a rooftop: "The voice spake unto (Peter) again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [unclean]" (Acts 10:15).
He told Peter, "Don't dare call unclean what I have sanctified and made clean. Now, go downstairs, because there are some Gentiles knocking on your door. I want you to go with them -- and preach to them about Jesus!"
The Holy Spirit had solved the prejudice problem overnight. He opened up the Gentile world to the gospel simply by speaking to his followers. It was all clearly directed from heaven!
Yet this stands in contrast to much teaching in the church today. All my life I've heard pastors and evangelists say, "The only thing needed for you to go to the mission field is a need. And the need is there -- in Africa, Asia, South America. So, get up and go! Take the gospel to the nations, as Christ commands."
But I believe unless you're full of the Holy Ghost, you shouldn't dare go! If you don't have his direction, you have nothing to offer. And whenever you act without the Spirit's direction, the result is human folly.
The powerful first-century believers received all their marching orders from the Holy Ghost himself: "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed,
and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed..." (13:2-4).
These believers prayed, "Lord, which city should we go to? And when? How? Once we arrive, how should we reach the people?" They never made a move until they first got alone with God and fasted and prayed. And the Holy Ghost answered them by giving clear direction!
I ask you -- how much more do we need the Spirit's direction today? Our bookstore shelves are lined with an abundance of how- to books: how to prevail in prayer, how to strategize for evangelism, how to do spiritual warfare. But none of these books will do us any good if we have not spent time on our knees!
It Is Always Easy to Move Ahead
in Our Own Wisdom, With Our Own Plans
When I first moved to New York City, I had more plans than anyone could imagine. I have spoken and written often about some of these silly plans.
On one occasion I obtained a huge Land Cruiser from Oral Roberts, a vehicle built by General Motors for a half-million dollars. Its side opened up like a clam, with a ready-made stage for a choir. The bus looked like it had landed from Mars!
I thought that contraption would help our ministry attract the lost. The first time we used it, we parked it in front of a church in Brooklyn, where a revival had taken place one hundred years before. We started singing and preaching, and soon a big crowd gathered. I thought, "This is it! We're going to see another great ingathering of souls."
But all the people did was look at the Land Cruiser. By the time our service ended, only two people stood listening to us. As we packed up to go, I thought, "Lord, what happened? Why didn't this work?" I later sold the vehicle to a man in Yonkers, who charged people fifty cents to go through it as a tourist attraction.
Another time I decided, "What we need is a portable street pulpit -- something with a telescopic flagpole, a speaker in the middle and altar rails. We'll make fifty of them, or maybe a hundred. Then we'll put them on the street for our rallies."
I was going to unveil my inventions at a rally at Glad Tidings Tabernacle on 33rd Street in Manhattan. But the problem was, the design for such a pulpit made it too heavy to carry. And it was expensive: I could only afford half of one. On the night of the unveiling, I had only a fraction of my new evangelistic invention. I was totally embarrassed!
I also invented the collapsible flip-top box. It was an evangelistic pack that looked like a cigarette pack (in fact, a cigarette company took the idea and capitalized on it). When the top flipped open, inside were five gospel tracts I'd written. But that project turned out to be another disaster. I ended up $25,000 in debt with it.
Finally, in desperation after all these debacles, I spent time in prayer, seeking God with tears. I cried, "Lord, you know I have a burden for this city. I've got to do something. Yet everything I've tried fails. What do you want me to do?"
The Spirit answered, "Stop all your foolish plans, David. You never talked to me about any of these things. Now, spend time with me. If you want my burden, you've got to get hold of me!"
I did just that. And out of the experience came the most simple yet successful evangelistic efforts our ministry ever attempted. The Lord directed us simply to go to the streets with a microphone and a flag and preach Jesus. Once we started doing that, the crowds came, and people began getting saved left and right.
When the Holy Ghost is leading you, you don't have to strive in your flesh to have his burden. No Christian should ever feel burdened to find new ways and means to reach lost souls. The Holy Spirit knows the heart and burden of the Lord -- and he will give us his burden and strategy if we'll simply seek him!
On the other hand, I know of many churches that are satisfied just to have prayer meetings. The people pray faithfully for hours on end. Yet they never expect to actually move out and win the lost.
Beloved, prayer is not enough! You can belong to a prayer group -- but if your prayers aren't about receiving power to witness, you'll end up focusing on your own problems. And you'll forget about the world outside, which is headed for hell!
The More Diligently We Seek the Lord --
the More We Ask Him for the Holy Ghost --
the More We Will Be Given!
"He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3:5).
Paul says that God measures out the Holy Ghost to us -- and he does so not according to our works, but according to our faith in him.
Jesus is the only person who ever had the Holy Spirit without measure. Yet there have been many men and women -- in the Old and New Testaments, and throughout history -- who were given a great measure of the Spirit. Such believers have always known they don't have to strive to weep holy tears over a lost, broken world -- because the Holy Ghost does the weeping in them!
Our part is simply to pray: "Holy Ghost, you know everyone in my circle of influence who is under conviction -- because you're the one who convicts them! You see every tear that falls in the quiet of the night. And you know everyone who's desperate and crying for help. I am your instrument. Fill me with your burden, and lead me to those you have prepared."
God wants to empower us for one reason -- and that is to get us into the streets, filled with his word and led by his Spirit. He wants us to be able to speak a word direct from heaven -- a piercing, convicting message that has the unmistakable fire of the Spirit!
Yet, I ask you: Does something stir in your soul over the lost? Are you burdened for those in your circle of influence? Or do you focus endlessly on your own needs? If you don't know Christ's heart and have his burden, you can never expect to be used of him!
This Message Is Not Meant to Condemn You --
But to Awaken You!
Each of us can ask in faith for more of the Holy Ghost. We can ask him to burden us, weep in us, lead us, speak to us and through us. He is waiting to lead us -- to reveal to us the father's ways!
Our circle of influence may not be China or Africa. For many Christians, the work of eternity will center on family, friends and coworkers. Yet the requirements are just the same: To reach the lost, we have to ask the Lord to move on them with conviction -- and to prepare our hearts with a timely word.
If all who read this message would allow the Holy Ghost to make this word real to them -- to seek him for his burden and guidance -- there is no telling what kind of harvest the Spirit might reap. The truth is, the greatest works for eternity are done not in mass crusades, but with one saint reaching one lost soul. Yet that happens only when every saint gets the burden of the Lord!
Offer yourself to the Holy Ghost right now. Call on him; fast and pray. Ask him to lead you to those he has convicted and prepared to hear his word. Then trust in his guidance and power to do the miraculous. He will do it! God wants to save many in your family and in your circle of friends and acquaintances!
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