Not long ago I let folks know, via social media, that I was running low on giveaway bibles. This was some time after multiple supporters made donations of an amount that allowed me to purchase almost 1,000 bibles (English and Spanish). In less than a month’s time, due in large part to multiple outreaches I led during last month’s Shepherds’ Conference, the 900+ bibles I had purchased were gone–placed into the hands of people throughout Southern California. When I put out the word that my Bible stock was almost gone, one family stepped up and made a donation, which allowed me to purchase another 400 bibles. The bibles arrived at my home today.
The truck driver making the delivery of one pallet loaded with ten cases of “books” called me to let me know he would arrive at 12:14 PM. I thought he must have a really good GPS system to be that exact with his arrival time, especially in the greater Los Angeles area. I was skeptical, of course. But sure enough, the truck drove down my street at 12:14 PM. I’m easily impressed by such things.
The driver hopped down from the cab of the truck and introduced himself. His name was Javi. He was personable and looked to be about half of his 42 actual years of life.
As Javi maneuvered the pallet jack in the truck’s trailer, he asked, “Are these books?”
“Yes. They’re bibles.”
“Really? Are you a minister?”
“I’m a street preacher. I give these bibles away to people I meet on the streets.”
“Oh. That’s cool.” Javi said.
Javi loaded the jacked pallet onto the lift gate and slowly lowered the gate to the ground. He offloaded the pallet and put the pallet in the carport.
“I grew up Catholic.” Javi said.
“So did I”
“I went to a big church with my girl friend at the time, about three years ago. It was a big church off the 118. It was an experience. I liked it. The pastor was funny.”
My heart sank a bit as Javi continued to describe the church and his experience. I knew with certainty of which church Javi spoke. I have no doubt there are genuine followers of Jesus Christ who attend the church. I know this is true because I’ve met them. A few of my friends, whose salvation is not in question as far as I’m concerned, have attended, even served at the church in the past. But the church in question is not known for the gospel. Furthermore, there have been times over the years when the church (or at least members of its staff) have been better known for their opposition to public evangelism than for reaching the lost with the gospel. American Evangelicalism.
I said nothing to Javi about the church. I only acknowledged I was familiar with the church he attended.
“So, Javi.” I began. “Is it safe to assume that since you’ve attended church that you believe in God?”
“Yes. I believe in God.”
“What do you think is going to happen to you when you die?”
“I don’t know.”
“Nothing wrong with that. That’s an honest answer.”
“If you were to die today–and I don’t want that to happen–and God were to ask you why He should allow you to enter heaven, what would you say?”
“I don’t know. I’ve done some bad things in my life–a lot of bad things.”
“Okay. How about this. Would you consider yourself to be a good person?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“What is your definition of a ‘good person?’ According to Javi, a ‘good guy’ is…?”
“Someone who helps other people. Someone who is considerate?”
“Did you just describe yourself?”
“Yeah.” Javi acknowledged with a smile.
“And that’s what most people do. When I ask people on the streets to describe a ‘good person’ for me, they look into the mirror and describe the first person they see.”
Javi smiled again.
“But, Javi, the problem is this. God’s standard for goodness is moral perfection. Jesus said, ‘You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect'” (Matthew 5:48).
“No one can live up to that.” Javi said.
“That’s right. No one can. The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). You and I have both sinned against God. You’ve admitted you’ve done lots of bad things. If God gave you and me what we deserved for our sins against Him, we would both spend eternity in hell.
“Have you ever been inside a courtroom?” I asked.
“Yes I have.”
I then shared with Javi a “courtroom analogy” (something I learned many years ago from a man whose influence in my life has been great–Ray Comfort). I have shared this analogy with thousands of people during conversations and while open-air preaching.
“Javi, if the judge released you, would that be good news?”
“Yes.” He said with a chuckle.”
“What would you think of the man who paid your fine.”
“I would be indebted to him forever.”
“Well, let’s see if that’s true.”
I proclaimed the gospel to Javi.
I decided to go back over the “courtroom analogy” with Javi, this time changing the scenario.
“Let’s go back to that courtroom. This time, let’s say you broke into someone’s home late at night. As you’re going through the house, you notice pictures on the wall.”
“Right. Family pictures. Then, a teenager, hearing noise in the house, confronts you in the living room. You panic and you stab the kid. He dies.
“You are arrested and you confess to the crime. Now, instead of life in prison, the judge sentences you to death. Throughout the trial, you have this weird feeling that you had met the judge before.”
Javi interrupted. “I know where this is going! The pictures on the wall!”
“Yep. You got it. Javi, you killed the judge’s son. The man who just sentenced you to death is the victim’s father.”
Javi slowly dropped his head and looked at the ground.
“Javi. In this case, it’s not like our court system today. In this case, you don’t get 20 years of three hots and a cot (meals and a bed), all the pornography you can look at, and all the weights you can lift. As soon as the judge sentences you to die, they start to take you into the room where they are going to strap you to a table, stick a needle in your arm, and put you to sleep like a stray dog.
“But before you leave the courtroom, the judge stands up from his chair, takes off his robe of authority, and steps down from his bench. He looks at you and says, ‘You deserve to die for murdering my son. But I’m going to take your place.’
“Javi, ever time you sin it’s like driving a knife through the heart of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It’s as if you are murdering Christ over and over, again. But if you repent, if you turn from your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God will forgive your crimes against Him.
“The Bible says, ‘These things have been written so that you may know that you have eternal life’ (a paraphrase of 1 John 5:13, emphasis mine). Javi, you can know the forgiveness of God, the mercy of God, the love of God. You can know you will spend eternity with Him in heaven, if you repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”
Javi nodded his head. “I’m listening.” He said.
“Javi, is there anything, any sin in your life that you love so much that you just won’t give it up? Is there any sin you won’t give up today, knowing if you don’t repent and receive Christ you will spend eternity in hell?”
Javi looked skyward and thought for a moment.
“That’s a really good question. I’m going to have to think about that.”
“Do you have a Bible?” I asked pointing to the pallet of 400 bibles Javi had just delivered.
“No I don’t.”
“Can I give you one of these?”
Together, Javi and I tore through the plastic shrink wrap holding the cases of bibles together. Once we exposed the top of one of the boxes, Javi pulled his keys out of his pocket and used it to break the seal of the box. I reached inside and removed a Bible. Before handing it to Javi, I took Javi’s pen from his shirt pocket, signed the Bible ‘To Javi, From Tony,’ and wrote down my cell number and email address.
I handed the Bible to Javi. He opened it up to look at the inscription I wrote. “Thank you.” He said.
“A good place to start reading is the Gospel of John.”
I turned the pages in the Bible Javi was now holding to the Gospel of John. I dog-eared the first page so it would be easier for him to find.
“Javi. All I know about you is your first name. No salesman will come to your door.”
“I wrote down my number and email address. If you have any questions about what we’ve talked about, or if you have any questions about what you read in the Bible, give me a holler.”
Javi allowed me to snap the above picture before he headed to his truck.
As Javi opened the door and stepped up and into the cab, I called out to Javi. “Hey, Javi! I’m going to have more bibles delivered here in the future. I hope you’re the one to deliver them!”
“Me, too!” Javi said with a smile.
Javi drove away with only 399 less bibles in his truck. Javi delivered 400 bibles, and he received one.
My friend, Paul Washer, has often said, “Some are called to go down into the well. Others are called to hold the rope.”
While I went down into the well to have this wonderful conversation with Javi, the family that made the donations, which allowed me to purchase the bibles that Javi delivered, held the rope.
Those of you (churches and individuals) who regularly provide financial support to the ministry: you hold the rope.
Those of you who make donations according to the needs of the moment–needs like bibles, gospel tracts, and other evangelism-related equipment: you hold the rope.
Those of you who pray for me and my family, and for the ministry to which God has called me: you hold the rope.
You hold the rope.