Michael Youssef - An Open Door
I've received numerous letters, e-mails, correspondence, verbal messages, communications of people who have said, "Thank you for not compromising the message of Christ. Thank you for not going along to get along and water down the message. We know it's not popular, but thank you". Well, that's not all of the story. I've received also notes, verbal words of criticism, and attack for the same reason. Some have said I am harsh and unbending. Others have said that I lack compassion and understanding. Others have said, "Why do you have to see everything in black and white? Can't you see the gray"? Some listeners have written to me and said how angry I make them when they listen to me on radio.
I remember one particular message. A lady said, "My husband gets so angry every time he listens to you". Well, that's good news, because I often say dead people don't kick. He's got life in him. She said, "Because of that stubbornness of yours and insisting that only Jesus can take people to heaven, that only salvation comes through him alone". Many people don't know why I would rather incur the wrath of viewers and listeners than be a sell-out. They don't know my experience growing up, which has helped shape what they call stubbornness and total commitment to non-compromising of the Word of God. They don't understand my global and historic perspective. They don't know that growing up in the Middle East under severe persecution, I have seen what happens to compromise.
As a boy, I heard a slogan repeatedly. Everywhere I went, I heard the slogan, a slogan that I have never dreamed in my wildest imagination be repeated 40 years later, not in the Middle Eastern streets, but in the European streets and American streets. And the slogan went something like this, "Once we finish Saturday," meaning Israel, "we're gonna turn on Sunday and finish you off, Sunday," meaning Christians. I grew up hearing that Islam will dominate the world sooner or later, that Islam would enslave the infidels and the decadent West, that Islam will turn every church into a mosque. As a boy, I thought this was just propaganda, this is just wishful thinking. Surely, that could never happen. And I dreamed of escaping, as a young boy, to the freedom of West. And God, so gracious, to whom I am thankful, that supernaturally did take me out, and I was able to escape.
And as soon as I learnt to speak English, I began to write, back in the '70s and in the '80s, to warn the Western world of what is coming and what is happening. And then, God began to burden my heart that the answer is not fear, is not anger, is not retaliation, it is not frustration, but proclamation, proclamation of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, uncompromisingly. And as I look back in the past 20 years of broadcast ministry, I am so grateful to God for giving us all these opportunities that I have never sought or went after, that he had provided every one of those opportunities. I am thankful to God that he founded a church, and I know people say Michael founded the church, but God founded this church.
As many of you know, I really came along for the ride, reluctantly. God founded this church, and I'm so thankful to him that he founded a church with a global vision. I am thankful to God that he has given us partners who understand the challenges of the times in which we live, difficult and severe as they may be. I am thankful to God for giving us friends and supporters who understand that the only answer to the challenges that we are facing and the more difficult challenges that we will be facing, that the only answer is the gospel, not the gospel of accommodation, not the gospel of syncretism, not the gospel of compromise, not the gospel of pandering, not the gospel of wanting to be accepted at any price, no, but the gospel of the truth of that Jesus and Jesus alone can save men and women, boys and girls.
Beloved, you have to understand that I was supposed to be dead a long time ago. When the devil, I guess, could not get me aborted, he tried typhoid. When typhoid wouldn't kill me, he tried hepatitis. When hepatitis didn't kill me, he just gave up. And the reason I'm alive today is a miracle of God, and for which I am so thankful to the Lord. And I remember back then, I remember I made a vow to God that as long as he gives me a breath, that I will proclaim him and his truth of his gospel until my dying day. Whether people love me or hate me, whether they accept me or reject me, whether people agree with me or not, it makes no difference.
I want you to turn with me, if you have your Bibles, to Revelation chapter 3, verse 8. Only one verse. Jesus is speaking to the church in Philadelphia in Asia Minor, and he said to that wonderful, magnificent church, "Behold, I have set before you an open door, that no one can shut. Behold, I set before you an open door, that no one can shut". Now, even the dearest and the nearest friends that I have for all these years have seldom heard me say what I'm about to say, and that is I believe that I have today a prophetic word for the church of Jesus Christ, not outside of the Scripture, but consistent with the Word of God. There is a Word from the Lord to believers all over the globe, and the Word is this, as the Lord had spoken to the church in Philadelphia, he is speaking to the church today, and he is saying:
"I know that you are facing challenging times. I know that you live in frightening times. I know that you live in times of widespread apostasy in the church. I know that you live in times when it's all about you. I know that you live in times where the church is opting to worship a God who hardly resembles the God of the Scripture. I know that you live in times where leisure and entertainment is more important than my work. I know that you live in a time where the church would rather entertain than proclaim. I know that you live in times where comfort and security are more important than my gospel. I know that you live in times where the majority of people seem to be oblivious to the danger that is surrounding them, the danger that is lurking on every side. I know that you live in times where people care more about their feelings than the truth of my gospel. I know that you live in times where people are focusing on more on their past hurts, and on past rejections, and on their past pains, and their past feelings than my future kingdom. I know that you live in a time when people, church leaders, are more anxious to bless and sanction immorality than eternity. But behold, I set before you an open door that no one can shut".
Listen to me, in dangerous times in which we live, more and more, what I've heard as a boy in the Middle East is now being proclaimed in Brussels, and in Paris, and in London, and the European capitals. But don't worry. Don't worry. It is coming to America. It's coming to America, unless we wake up in time. In the midst of all this, Jesus is saying to his church, "Behold, I have set before you an open door, that no one can shut". That, truth be said, I personally never dreamed of having the opportunities and the open doors that God has opened. I never sought them. I never went after them.
In fact, many times, I've prayed to God to close those doors. I never would have dreamed that we would be here 20 years later. All I did back then when God saved my life so many times is I said, "Lord, I'm yours. Whatever you want, all of me, I belong to you. Nothing will be left for Michael Youssef. All that I am is yours". That's all I did, and he opened these doors. And I know probably some of you are saying, "Michael, we've got enough troubles in our communities. We've got enough troubles in our country. We've got enough problems right here. We don't have to worry about somebody over there. We need to hunker down and just worry about America".
Listen, I worry for all of you, because I know more problems than you do. When Jesus said to the disciples to go to Jerusalem, and Samaria, and the outermost parts of the world, he knew that the temptation for them to stay in Jerusalem. He knew that. He knew that without that global vision, Christianity would wither on the vine. And within 20 years, we've had read in the history books about this Jewish cult called Christians who have died. And that is why, in the book of Acts chapter 11, the Bible said that God literally sent persecution to the believers in Jerusalem so they'll be forced to be scattered all over the world so that they can take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. Why do we have to wait until something drastic that happens to take advantage of the doors of opportunity that God has given us.
"Behold, I have set before you an open door that no one can shut". I was very reluctant to get on radio. I said, "We're too busy. We got so much going on". I certainly was reluctant to go on television. I thank God for those of you who had the vision before I did. I have never thought in my wildest dreams that we would have the program in 20 languages, in 20 major languages of the world, covering 3.9 billion people. I would never have dreamed of a television program. I certainly never thought that we would have our own dedicated satellite channel to reach into those areas of the world that are so desperate for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I never thought that those countries where they've been killing Christians and burning churches, that in those countries where Christians are suffering, in those countries where young girls get abducted from shopping malls and then forcibly marrying non-Christians, those are the countries and those are the areas where Christianity is illegal, that God, in my wildest imagination, never thought he's gonna give us 24/7 satellite channel to preach the gospel to that part of the world. We stand at a crossroad of history. We really do, and we can walk through these doors of opportunities that God has opened for us, that Jesus has opened for us, or we can look at our current economic conditions, and take counsel of our fears, and do nothing.
We have the choice. I know the temptations that we all face, and the temptation we all face, and we are all susceptible to being impacted by our material society, by our materialistic thinking. We underestimate and we don't even think about the power of God that can use a widow's mite in a way that we could never dream of. Why do we have to wait until we face a crisis? Why do we have to wait until we face trouble to realize that the kingdom of God must come first, not last, that the crumbs do not go to God, but the first fruit? Why do we have to wait until we get to a crisis to realize that the formula for success in the Christian life was given to us by Jesus? He said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and then all of your problems are gonna be met". All of your needs are gonna be met.
But we focus on our needs, and then let the kingdom go by the wayside. We are reversing Jesus' formula. No wonder so many people are in trouble. Listen, I know that God can do his work without any of us. Listen, I can tell you this, every waking moment I am conscious of the fact that God can do his work without me. In fact, he can do it better. But when we don't obey and go through the open doors that God has given us, we are the losers. Not God, not his kingdom. He's going to do his work. When Jesus said, "All authority has been given to me, therefore go," he is saying, "I give you my authority. I give you my strength. I give you my power," for he who's in you is greater than he who's in the world. So we can either take that authority or refuse it.
You know, history is littered with tragic stories of opportunities that have been missed by Christians. History tells us that when Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was wanting to know more about Christianity, he understood Judaism somewhat, and he wanted to know more about Christ and about Christianity, and he was searching and invited the bishops from the surrounding areas to come and tell him who Jesus is, what Christianity is all about.
And that little bit of history said that these bishops, right in his presence where he was sitting, began to fight, and argue, and debate among themselves about the divinity of Christ. And finally, he just sent them away and he decided to come up with his own brand of understanding of who Jesus is, what Christianity is all about, and today over a billion people in the world today stand as a monument to the colossal failure of those church leaders. An opportunity was missed, never to return again. Fast-forward 20 or 30 years, a church in North Africa.
Most of you know who St. Augustine is. He comes from the church of North Africa. The church has flourished for the first 600 years in North Africa, and was growing in leaps and bounds. Some estimates said 80% of the population were Christians. Thousands upon thousands of churches, and yet they came under the spell of a heresy called Montanism, and that heresy said that the Bible is not closed, that God can still speak with authority today, that God can give new revelations to somebody and they'll be just as equal as the Bible, that the Bible is not a closed book, that the Bible is not the canon, meaning the measuring stick by which we measure everything. And that heresy spread like wildfire throughout North Africa after glorious time of church flourishing there.
And when the Muslim invaders came from Arabia, the people said, "Is God speaking authoritatively? One religion is good as the other". Beloved, listen to me. Universalism destroyed Europe and opened the door for Islamic takeover, and universalism will do the same here. Always precedes a major disaster. Wake up. An opportunity is gone. Thousands of churches turned into mosques in a very short period of time.
Fast-forward 600 years. In the year 1271, when Niccolò and his brother Maffeo Polo, this is the father and the uncle of Marco Polo. I know some of you kids thought Marco Polo is just a game you play in the swimming pool. There is a real person named Marco Polo. And when these two brothers went east and they met with Kublai Kahn. Kublai Kahn at the time was ruler over China, and over India, over major part of the east. He was a powerful ruler. And when he felt attracted to the person of Jesus Christ, as he heard about him from his visitors, here's what he said to his visitors.
He said, "You go back to your high priest and you tell him to send us 100 men, learned and trained in your religion, and I want them to come to our country, and I will be baptized, and my noblemen and my barons will be baptized, and their subjects will be baptized, and there will be more Christians in this land than in Europe," and when they returned to Europe, they did nothing for 20 years. And 20 years later, they sent 2 or 3 missionaries. Too little too late, and a door of opportunity was missed. Can you imagine if back then, Christianity dominant in Asia? Can only imagine. Can only imagine. And Jesus is saying, "Behold, I set before you an open door, that no one can shut".
Will you go through it with me? Will you go through it with me? I can't do it alone, you know that. Or will you ignore it, continue to focus on our challenges, and our problems, and our hurts, and our pain, and our difficulties? When Jesus said, "Here's a formula to take care of your pain, to take care of your problems, to take care of your need. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and these things will be added to you". Will you walk through them with me or will you let our grandchildren look back and say, "Why? Why haven't you done something? Why didn't you act when you could"?
The most amazing thing about this particular letter that Jesus brought to the church in Philadelphia, this was not a church that caught into heresies and all that. They were doing some good things, and he commended them for it. That's the great thing about our Lord. He saw the good and he commended them for it. But he did not stop there. He did not say to them, "It's enough that you have kept my Word. It's enough that you have not compromised my name," or "It's enough that you have kept the truth," or "It's enough that you have remained biblically sound," or "It's enough that you have refused to compromise," or "It's enough that you have good fellowship with one another," or "It's enough that you have encouraged one another," or "It's enough that you are growing in the knowledge of the Word".
No, good as all of these things may be, important as all of these things may be, and while Jesus commends them for all these things, he went on to say, "Now, I want you to impact your culture for me. Now, I want you to impact your society for me. Now, I want you to impact my world for me". The opportunities for us to be sharers of the good news will not last forever. In fact, we have a very small window of opportunity. And as we've seen from history, once they've gone, they cannot be repeated. And Jesus said, "Behold, I have set before you an open door".