I spent part of the morning outside the Davenport Police Department with my friend, Samuel. While there we met two lost men named John. With more than 13 years of street evangelism ministry under my belt, this was one of my more unusual encounters.
Project 10-19 at Davenport PD
Samuel Houston is 20 years old Christian young man who lives in Bremerton, Washington. He is in Davenport, IA, visiting the Jandt Family. Kevin Jandt is a deacon in my church. Prior to Samuel climbing into my car Monday morning, the total time we had spent together was the time it took to shake hands and introduce ourselves before the Sunday morning worship service began.
It’s my personal policy not to allow anyone I do not know join me on the streets for ministry. The work is simply too important to partner with someone having know idea what they believe and having no clue as to what they might say. However, it was easy to make an exception this time. Kevin spoke very highly of Samuel, and that was a good enough recommendation for me.
Samuel and I arrived at the Davenport Police Department at 8:30 AM to engage in Project 10-19 work. Knowing that Samuel had previously engaged in sign evangelism, I didn’t take much time briefing him about how I like to do things. We spent some time in prayer.
We stood on the northwest corner of Harrison Street and West 4th Street, just outside the police station. Motorists’ responses to our presence and the signs we held was very positive. Together we distributed tracts to several pedestrians who came by our corner. The time on the corner afforded Samuel and I the opportunity to get to know each other.
Meeting John the Younger
Samuel and I knew the weather forecast included intermittent showers. The forecast was soon validated as drops of rain fell on our faces.
Samuel and I had been on the corner for about an hour when a young man approached us. His name was John.
“Hey!” John said with enthusiasm. “What are you guys doing?”
“We’re out here showing support for the law enforcement community.” I answered.
“Yeah, but what are you all about? Tell me.” He inquired.
“Like I said: we’re here to show support to the law enforcement community. But our main focus is bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as we can, on both sides of the badge.” I said as I handed John a gospel tract.
“That’s great!” John exclaimed.
“Do you have any spiritual beliefs?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m a Christian.”
“And how did you come to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
John told us a meandering story of making a profession of faith early in life while living in Texas and then going off to Colorado Christian University to further his education. He alleged that while he was there and participating in some kind of school-related trip, members of the soccer team were caught with marijuana. This led to spiritual disillusionment and a drifting from the faith.
I asked John how he went from Texas to Colorado to end up in Davenport, IA. He told me that he met a girl while attending Colorado Christian University. She was from the Quad Cities area. John followed her back to Iowa after the two graduated from college. John also shared that he and his girlfriend of several years had broken up some time ago.
John said he tried several churches in the Davenport area, but he did not sense the Spirit of God in any of them. Then, about four years ago, he came upon a church in which he believed he heard the truth preached–a church in which the Holy Spirit was at work.
Enter John the Older
While John continued his “testimony” I noticed an elderly man walking toward us. He walked slowly, assisted by a cane. His name was John, too.
John the Younger immediately turned his attention to the elderly man. I handed the older man the same gospel tract I handed to the younger man.
“Why do you use a cane?” The younger man asked the older man.
John the Younger asked the question with a tone of voice that rang with firmness and disapproval. I don’t believe he was trying to be disrespectful to the older man, but it seemed clear to me that John didn’t believe the older man needed a cane.
Samuel and I glanced at each other. Although we had known each other for only an hour or so, I sensed we were on the same page. Something troubling was about to happen. We were right.
John the Deceived Deceiver
“I have a bad back.” John the Older replied.
“Where does it hurt?” The younger man asked.
The elderly man pointed to the left side of his lower back.
“Can I pray for you?” John the Younger asked.
The younger John prayed a brief prayer asking the Holy Spirit to heal the old man.
“How do you feel, now?” The younger asked the older.
“Better, I guess.”
“Can you stretch? Do you have more range of motion?”
The old man gently twisted and turned at his waist, slightly wincing as he moved.
“I can move a little better, I think.”
“Hahahahahahahaha.” John the Younger let out a long chuckle.
It was a sound I had previously heard, usually by someone on a Bethel Redding (or someone associated with the charismatic New Apostolic Reformation cult). I heard similar sounds more than 20 years ago when the damaging winds of the “Toronto Blessing,” “Kansas City Prophets,” and the “Pensacola Outpouring” blew through the small church my family and I attended. I’ve heard the sounds more recently coming from false prophets like Todd Bentley and his ilk during the false spiritual movement known as the “Lakeland Revival.” It was a sound I’ve heard many times over the years coming from deceived people and deceivers who have led themselves and others to believe they are “drunk in the spirit.”
“Do you know Jesus?” The younger man asked the older man.
“Yes.” The older man answered.
“Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart?”
“Praise the Lord, brother!” John the Younger exclaimed as he put his arm around the old man’s shoulder.
John the Older Hears the Gospel
When the two men separated I slowly stepped between them. My back was now to John the Younger. I put my hand on the old man’s shoulder.
“Friend,” I began. “I have to tell you this. This young man did not heal you. Your back is not healed.”
“I know.” The old man said, as he looked toward the ground.
I waited for the old man to make eye contact with me again.
“What you need more than a healed back is forgiveness for your sins. What you need is the gospel. You need Jesus Christ.”
With my hand still on his shoulder, where it would rest for the next several minutes, I proclaimed the gospel to the old man.
“This is what you need–what you need to believe.
“God the Father sent His son to earth in the person of Jesus Christ–fully God and fully Man, and without sin. He was born of a virgin, just as the Prophet Isaiah declared more than 700 years before His birth.
“Jesus lived a perfect life. As God-in-the-flesh, He never once violated the law of His Father–in thought, word, or deed. He lived in perfect obedience to His Father, fulfilling all righteousness. Just as He was perfectly obedient in life, He was also perfectly obedient in death.
“About 33 years into His earthly existence, Jesus Christ voluntarily went to a Roman cross. He died a death He did not deserve, taking upon Himself the punishment men like you and me rightly deserve for our sins against God. God the Father made Him, God the Son, who knew no sin to become sin on behalf of those who repent and believe the gospel so that they might become/receive the righteousness of God, through Him.
“Jesus died on that cross. He was buried. And three days later He rose from the grave. He is alive today and He will return at a time of His Father’s choosing. What God commands of you, John, is that you repent and believe the gospel you just heard.
“Jesus doesn’t promise to heal your back. God is more than able to heal your back. He is the Great Physician. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God hasn’t changed. But (pointing to the younger John standing behind me) this young man has no power to heal you. What he should have done is shared the gospel with you.
John, the promises of Jesus Christ are much better than physical healing and your best life now. Jesus promises to take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. He promises that if He causes you to be born again to a living hope you will be reconciled to your Creator; your sins will be forgiven; you will have the assurance of eternal life.
“Turn to Christ and live, John. Turn to Christ and live.”
“Do you understand what I just told you?” I asked the old man.
“Good. Make sure to read the gospel tract I gave you.”
“I don’t know how to read.” The old man said. “I will see my nurse today. I will have her read it to me.”
“Wonderful. What she will read to you is what I just shared with you.” I said.
I turned the tract to the back page and showed John where his nurse would find information about the church.
“John, if you would like to visit our church, please tell your nurse to call the number on the tract. We will gladly come and pick you up and bring you to church.”
“I would like that.” The old man said.
After a few more moments of conversation, and after the younger John ran to his car to grab a couple pieces of fruit to give to the old man, John the Older said goodbye and walked across the street.
I waited for the old man to slowly move some distance away from us before turning my attention to John the Younger.
A Rebuke and a Call
I was bothered, but not angry. The tone with which I would now speak to John the Younger would be firm and authoritative while, at the same time, pleading.
“What you did to that old man was wrong. It was not of the Lord. You led him to believe he was healed when he wasn’t. And you affirmed him as a Christian when you have no idea if he’s saved.”
“He said he asked Jesus into his heart.” John replied.
“Asking Jesus into one’s heart isn’t what saves a person.”
“The Bible says, ‘If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart…..'”
“Which gospel does he believe, John? Which Jesus does he believe in? You have no idea because you never communicated the gospel to him. You gave him a false assurance and affirmed him as a brother in Christ, having no idea what the man believed.
“John, no one is saved by praying a prayer and asking Jesus into his heart. The Bible says that one who believes with heart, having confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, is saved. Salvation is of the Lord. Repentance and faith are the first fruits of salvation.
“You didn’t heal that man’s back. You don’t have the power to heal that man’s back.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No you don’t, any more than you have the power to declare that man a brother in Christ. He had a pin in his back when he walked up to us. And he walked away with a pin in his back.”
While John the Younger ran to his car to grab the old man a couple pieces of fruit. I asked John how he hurt his back. He was injured in a vehicle collision. It was as a result of that injury that a pin was inserted in his back.
“Well, I’ve never actually seen anyone healed.” John admitted. “But I’ve seen things. What verse is it where Jesus says we will do greater things than He did?”
“The verse you’re talking about has nothing to do with signs and wonders, miracles or healings. 90% of Jesus’ ministry was conducted on a small swatch of land, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus wasn’t saying that people would do greater things than He did. How arrogant does someone have to be to think they could ever be greater than Jesus or do greater things than Jesus did? Jesus wasn’t talking about power. He was talking about scope. Jesus preached the gospel to a relatively small population, in a small area. Today, Christians can send the gospel to the four corners of the earth, in a YouTube video.
“John, you didn’t communicate anything resembling the gospel when you shared your testimony with us. Then, we watched as you tried to lead a man to believe he was healed when he wasn’t. And then you affirmed him as a brother in Christ having no idea what he believed or in whom he believed.
“You mentioned that you followed your girlfriend here, from Colorado. Was your relationship with her pure?”
“No. We fornicated for two years.”
John answered my very personal question, admitting to being a fornicator, with about as much remorse as a man who embellished his batting average in the 40+ softball league.
“But I repented of that.” John said.
“I was deceived.” John explained.
“You weren’t deceived.”
“I was ignorant.”
“You weren’t deceived, and you weren’t ignorant, John. A Christian man doesn’t bed a woman not his wife for two years. You weren’t deceived. You weren’t ignorant. You were wallowing in sin, and you loved it.
“You need Jesus.”
“I know. I need Him every day.” John said with a smile.
“No, John. You don’t need Jesus every day as if you’ve had him up til now. You need to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, now. Today. For the first time.
“I need you guys to pray for me.” John said.
“Look, John. There’s only one Lawgiver and Judge–only One who is able to save and destroy. That’s not a 53-year-old guy named Tony. That’s God. I don’t know your heart. But there is nothing you’ve said and done since walking up here that leads me to believe you’re a Christian, that you’re my brother in Christ. I believe you’re lost.
“And you need to stop going around and praying for people, giving them the impression you’ve healed them when you haven’t. You need Christ. You’re not following the Holy Spirit. You’re following a zeitgeist–a spirit of the age.
“You still want us to pray for you?” I asked.
John tilted his head skyward. He did not say anything for several moments.
I broke the silence.
“John, the fact that you hesitate just furthers my belief that you’re not a Christian. What kind of Christian hesitates when other Christians offer to pray for him?”
“I was waiting to hear from the Lord. I didn’t hear him say anything.”
“And you’re not going to hear Him say anything. You haven’t heard his voice before, and you’re not going to hear it today. If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible. If you want to hear God audibly speak, read the Bible aloud.”
“Can I share a testimony with you?”
“You don’t believe a word I’m telling you, do you?”
“The Bible says to test the spirits.” John replied.
“You’ve heard me proclaim the gospel. You’ve heard me speak the truth of God’s Word to you. If you don’t believe what I’m telling you, you’re not being led by the Holy Spirit. Any spirit that would have you question the truth is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit leads God’s people to all truth. The Holy Spirit always brings attention and glory to God the Son, not to Himself.”
“Can I share a testimony of healing with you? I have hundreds of them.” John said.
Samuel and I immediately caught the inconsistency in what John just said.
“Wait a minute.” Samuel said. “Just five minutes ago you said you’ve never seen anyone healed.”
“That’s right.” I said.
“I don’t recall saying that.” John explained.
“Well, we both heard you say it.” I said. “You need Christ, John. Repent and believe the gospel.”
“Will you guys pray for me?” John asked.
“I’ll pray for your salvation. But my prayer won’t save you, just as your prayer didn’t heal that old man. You must repent and believe the gospel, John.”
Samuel and I prayed for John.
“John, the gospel tract I gave you has information about my church on it. You are welcome to come visit us any time. I hope to see you again.”
We said our goodbyes. John walked to his car, and Samuel and I walked to mine. Samuel and I spent a few minutes in prayer before heading to our next evangelism location–the Bettendorf Police Department.