A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the 2014 Shepherd’s Conference and visit The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles. It was one of the best weeks of my life for a number of reasons, not least of which was the blessed time of fellowship shared among the Lord’s people. New friendships were formed and existing ones cultivated, including a very dear brother, Tony Miano. Through my time with Tony, I was able to meet several brothers for the first time, and I trust these will be lasting friendships that I will cherish forever. Such is the sweet fellowship and union we have in Jesus Christ.
Due to my family’s season of life, I do not have as many opportunities to preach as I used to. Suffice it to say that I was really looking forward to a few opportunities I would have during my week in LA. On the Tuesday before the conference, I met several brothers at UCLA including Tony, Chris Sippley, and Pastor Chuck O’Neal and his crew from Beaverton Grace Bible Church from the Portland area. UCLA is a beautiful campus, with an excellent platform to preach along the well-traveled “Bruin Walk” on campus. I was able to handle out around one hundred “Do You Know Him?” Gospel tracts, and had the privilege to meet a couple of believers on campus who belong to Grace Community Church. I also had the privilege to preach the Gospel for about 45 minutes, and it is one I will not soon forget.
I have not been met with too many hecklers since I began open-air preaching in early 2011. I only remember a handful that really sought to undermine or disrupt the preaching of the Gospel. One such person was a UCLA student who attempted to stop God’s Word from going forth at his school, determined to distract from the message and silence the preacher. This young man had already tried to stop Pastor Chuck’s preaching prior to me, and the student shunned Tony when Tony tried to reason with him. So he was already aggravated by the preaching by the time I began to herald the truth of the Scriptures, and concluded the only option left to silence the preaching was to act like a fool. He failed.
But what he did not fail in doing was break my heart. It was clear this man did not want to engage in a dialogue. He did not want to have a reasonable conversation. This was evident in his gyrations and tomfoolery. So here was a man who was hardened to hearing the truth. Here was a man whose foolish mind was darkened; a man alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in him, due to his hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:18). Here was a man who had been blinded by the god of this world so he could not see the light of the glory of the Gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). Here was a man who suppressed the truth in his unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Here was a man where the wrath of God was clearly revealed in him (Romans 1:28-32). Here was a man who by all intents and purposes, denied the God of the Bible. As such, before me was not just a man, but a fool (Psalms 14:1). And it broke my heart, because if he dies in this condition, he will fall into the hands of the Living God, and he will be crushed under His holy wrath forever.
By God’s grace, I did not answer the fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4). Instead, I did answer him according to his folly (Proverbs 26:5), and I used him as an illustration of what human depravity looks like. I used the fool’s antics to speak to the crowd that if they followed in this fool’s footsteps to the end, they too will face the same destruction destined for this poor soul. Because of his heckling, there may have been 100 people who stopped to see what was going on. These students were confronted with the truth and their position before God, and they were also confronted with the Good News that Jesus Christ came to save sinners from their sin and God’s wrath.
On my flight home several days later, I was reading a book that Chris Sippley gave me titled Counsel for Christian Workers, by Charles Spurgeon. At the conclusion of chapter 2, Spurgeon recollected a story about a man who once shed tears for his hecklers. It helped put things into perspective for me regarding hecklers in general and how we should treat them. I don’t know what will become of the student who heckled me at UCLA, but I do hope there might be something of a similar outcome as Spurgeon’s story below. I hope he might remember that I did care for his soul, despite his shenanigans. I hope he might remember that I loved him enough to tell him the truth, despite his hatred for the truth. I hope the same for any other students who witnessed that event. Here is Spurgeon’s conclusion of chapter 2 in his book, Counsel for Christian Workers:
‘Therefore,’ says the apostle, ‘knowing the terrors of the Lord we persuade men.’ Let not modern squeamishness prevent plain speaking. Are we to be more gentle than the apostles? Shall we be wiser than the inspired preachers of the Word? Until we feel our minds overshadowed with the dread thought of the sinner’s doom we are not in a fit frame for preaching to the unconverted. We shall never persuade men if we are afraid to speak of the judgment and the condemnation of the unrighteous. None so infintely gracious as our Lord Jesus Christ, yet no preacher ever uttered more faithful words of thunder than he did. It was he who spoke of the place ‘where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched.’ It was he who said, ‘These shall go away into everlasting punishment.’ It was he who spake the parable conerning that man in hell who longed for a drop of water to cool his tongue. We must be as plan as Christ was, as downright in honesty to the souls of men, or we may be called to account for our treachery at the last. If we flatter our fellows into fond dreams as to the littleness of future punishment, they will eternally detest us for so deluding them, and in the world of woe they will invoke perpetual curses upon us for having prophesied smooth things, and having withheld from them the awful truth.
Where words suffice not, as they frequently will not, you must adopt other modes of pressure…
…There have been cases in which, when everything else has failed, a tear, a tear of disappointed love, has done the work. I think it was Mr. Knill who, one day, when distributing tracts amongst the soldiers, was met by a man who curse him, and said to his fellowsoldiers, ‘Make a ring around him, and I will stop his tract distributing once for all,’ and then he uttered such fearful oaths and curses that Knill, who could not escape, burst into a flood of tears. Years afterwards, when he was preaching in the streets, a grenadier came up, and said, ‘Mr. Knill, do you know me?’ ‘No, I do not,’ said he, ‘I don’t know that I ever saw you.’ ‘Do you recollect the soldier who said, ‘Make a ring round him and stop his tract distributing,’ and do you recollect what you did?’ ‘No, I do not.’ ‘Why, you broke into tears, and when I got home those tears melted my heart, for I saw you were so in earnest, that I felt ashamed of myself, and now I preach myself that same Jesus whom once I despised.’ Oh, that you might have such a strong love for perishing sinners that you will put up with their rebuffs and rebukes, and say to them, ‘Strike me if you will, but hear me; ridicule me, but still I will plead with you; cast me under your feet as though I were the offscouring of all things, but at any rate, I will not let you perish, if it be in my power to warn you of your danger.’
May all of our hearts break when the Lord brings us hecklers. After you watch the video below, please join me in prayer for this man, that he might repent and believe the Gospel, and that “[he] might preach [himself] that same Jesus whom [he] once despised.”
At 22:27, I turn to Ephesians 1:3-14 to read the glory of God in our salvation. The heckler comes on scene at 24:00 until about minute 35:00:
Thanks to Pastor Chuck O’Neal for capturing this video. All videos of the preaching from that day can be found at UCLA Gospel Outreach
EDIT: Thanks to Todd Friel of Wretched Radio for doing an entire show on this incident from UCLA. Below are two clips from the Wretched TV episode: