The Lord lit such a fire in my heart for winning the lost that I felt like I was literally out of my mind. I began to see people through the eyes of eternity. I had such a weight on me for their souls, and it all came on me rather suddenly. It was in December 2005, the exact date I cannot remember, but it sort of fell on me like a ton of bricks. I was overwhelmed. Everyone that I saw I could only think about their lost soul. It all began one day as I was driving home from a hospital I was working at in New York. It was after eleven p.m. and I was driving by a bar that I was familiar with. As I drove by that bar I became acutely aware (like when you have acute appendicitis) of the number of people in that bar that were going to hell. It was so strong that the only thing I could think to do was to go in and preach to them. I was too scared to do that, it seemed so radical – do Christians go into bars and preach the Gospel? I could not shake the feeling of those souls in the bar. The next day I was driving to work and I drove by a restaurant and the same thing happened to me again – an overwhelming sense that there are lost souls in there – I should go and preach to them. I was too scared to do that – do Christians go into restaurants and preach the Gospel? That same night as I was driving home from work I drove by another bar and the burden became so great I just felt like I needed to go in there and proclaim God’s love for those people if they would only turn to Him with all their hearts. I quickly pulled my car into the parking lot before I changed my mind. I was so scared, but felt so compelled to go inside that place. I was so afraid that I left my car running for a super-fast get away. I stormed into the bar and began to preach about God’s love for them. One man at the bar turned to me and said “does Jesus love me?” I said “yes, he even loves you”. I then turned to get out of the bar as quickly as possible. I felt so stupid; I was in the process of telling the Lord that I would never do that again when a young woman followed me out of the bar. She was sobbing and said “why did you do that?” “Why did you come in there and do what you did?” I tried to explain to her that I felt like God told me to go in there. She then poured her heart out to me and told me how her father was a pastor and she had been running from God. Just a week or two earlier she had been in a car accident while driving drunk and was nearly killed. The car was totaled. She said that God had been trying to get her attention, and that He had sent me there for her. Wow! That was such an amazing experience; I still get excited when I think about that story. I found out about two years later that the man who asked me “does Jesus love me too?” was her boyfriend. The two of them got married and after a series of events in their lives they are now serving the Lord wholeheartedly and last I heard they had been baptized and were faithful in church.
The above scenario had such a profound effect on my life, a negative one! After that experience Satan began to toy with my mind. He began to make me think that the Lord would always lead me to do things in that same manner. Every time I drove by a bar I would feel a strong compulsion to go inside and preach the Gospel. I often obeyed the compulsion, but never with the same results. When I did not obey the compulsion I would feel an overwhelming sense of condemnation and guilt. It troubled me so much, for nearly a year that I was afraid to even leave the Bible School campus. My first semester at Bible College I basically stayed inside the building (also not healthy) the whole term. I had a break from Bible College and I sequestered myself in my house whenever I was not at work for fear that I would need to go and preach to people in strange places. Three times I crashed the karaoke mic at a certain bar. I would go up to the mic as though I was going to sing a song and then I would begin preaching the Gospel to the people, often with ridicule and mockery. I will never forget the feeling I had inside of me as I walked through the crowd to leave the karaoke bar and the DJ purposefully chose the song “People are Strange”. I felt like it was my theme song or something. Some people would listen to my preaching, but mostly it was strengthening a fear and confusion inside of me.
It was around this time that the Lord gave me a revelation that has changed my life and brought great peace to my soul. The revelation was such a paradigm shift – THE BURDEN OF THE LORD IS NOT THE SAME THING AS BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT! I realized that the weight of the lost that I felt on my heart every time I drove by a bar or a restaurant was the burden of the Lord. He was giving me a burden for the lost, but that was not the same thing as the Holy Spirit telling me that I should go and preach to those in the bars. What this did for me was give me freedom. I felt like the Lord wanted me to choose to make provision for evangelism, but He was not forcing me to do certain things at certain times all the time like I thought He was. There are times when the Lord will direct us or compel us to do something, but it is not the majority of the time. His leading does not come forcefully “Do it right now or else”, but is more of a gentle leading. I would say that only in extreme cases would the Lord forcefully lead us. Since I had this revelation, I do plan regular evangelistic activities, but it is my choice to do it. I carry the burden with me virtually everywhere, but I have liberty to witness to certain people, without feeling the compulsion to do it to everyone in everyplace. I paid quite a price for that revelation – I hope that it is valuable to someone else.
The Lord also brought me some wisdom from my pastor that I also employ which has nearly eliminated the Devil’s “guilt trips” in evangelism. If the compulsion comes to preach in a bar or a restaurant or in any privately owned establishment – I must first seek the permission of the owner or the manager in charge. I say “Lord, if this is really you leading me you can turn the heart of the owner/manager to give me permission”. This was John Wesley’s method, and also one used by Reinhardt Bonnke. I have found that this has nearly eliminated those “compelling/driving do it right now” experiences. There was one occasion where the owner gave me permission and I spoke to people about the Lord in a Tim Horton’s restaurant.
The Lord bought situations into my life where I could learn to balance my zeal with some knowledge – I hope this knowledge can help other young zealous evangelists in their quest to be obedient to their master and preach the Gospel to every creature.
– Pastor Justin