Open Air: A Five-Point Plan

In last week’s newsletter, I wrote: “I’ve watched a few videos of another open air preacher recently, someone who stands atop a rickety stepladder, shouting and pointing at individuals and telling them time after time that God loves them. Is that right?” Well, what’s the answer? The answer is that it’s wrong; and it’s wrong on so many levels that it would take me all morning to tell you why. Let’s not bother.

Instead, allow me to offer you five truths that ought to be brought to the attention of those that we encounter in the open air. You can apply them in any way you choose, adjusting your presentation to suit the personality that God has given you. But don’t sell your audience short. When push comes to shove, telling the truth is far better than lulling the gullible into a false sense of security - something that the supposedly evangelical Christian Church has been doing for at least as long as I’ve been alive.

Here they are, then: five truths - a five-point plan, if you like - that the gospel preacher needs to present. (With acknowledgements to Dr E. A. Johnston for his excellent advice.)

Truth Number One. You are ruined by sin. Everyone enters this world under a curse, with a poison in their bloodstream as a result of Adam’s fall. You are born with a bent towards sin, and the natural man “is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!” (Job 15.16) In Genesis, God tells Adam: “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life”. (Genesis 3.17) You need to know about your natural condition and your ruined estate, because if you remain unchanged you will certainly spend eternity in hell.

 Truth Number Two. You cannot save yourself. Salvation is in the hands of God alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2.8-9) If you are saved, it is because God gave you saving faith. Jesus Himself says: “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6.65) This is not what modern man wishes to hear - just as when those words were first uttered: “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” (John 6.66) Nevertheless, God is sovereign in salvation.

Truth Number Three. God is a God who must punish sin. Every person will be judged according to the strictness and severity of His law. The sentencing of the law must be carried out upon all guilty lawbreakers. Sin is the breaking of God’s law, and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3.23) God requires nothing less than perfection in those who will enter His holy heaven: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.20) At the judgment, your sin will find you out, and your mouth will be stopped, since “the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1.3)

Truth Number Four. You must repent. The modern gospel may insist that repentance is no longer necessary, but the bible says otherwise: God “commands all people everywhere to repent”. (Acts 17.30) Jesus begins His ministry in Mark 1.15 with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1.15) His disciples preached the doctrine of repentance, and Jesus warned in Luke 13.5, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Until you repent, you are in rebellion against God, and under judgment. You must lay down your arms of unbelief and surrender to Him. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51.17)

Truth Number Five. You must be born again. You must experience the supernatural act of regeneration, as God works grace in the heart of stone and makes it a heart of flesh (ref. Ezekiel 36.26), receptive to the things of God. Those who genuinely come to Christ experience change. Regeneration is a changed life, for the glory of God. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3.6-7) Salvation means that you are born again from above, and not through your own efforts. Your sin will be punished in one of two ways - either in your own person in hell for all eternity, or on a cruel and bloody cross in the person of Jesus Christ.

Come to Christ now as He calls you - come in repentance and faith, confessing that you are a sinner, and own Him as your Saviour and Lord. You must be washed in the blood and born from above, or abandon all hope of heaven, forever.