The following message from Pastor Greg Laurie is made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. To find out how to know God personally, go to knowgod.org. K-N-O-W, knowgod.org.
Hey, would you do me a favor? Share this message with someone who needs to hear it. God wants everybody in heaven, but he's not going to force anyone to go there. Pastor Greg Laurie points out God gives everyone an opportunity to avoid judgment, but too many choose their own way, then blame God. The road to hell is paved with excuses.
Hell is therefore a prison in which the doors are first locked from the inside by us, and therefore are locked from the outside by God. So who said who where? It's really up to us. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Oh, can you hear how the angels are singing? This is the day, the day when life begins.
We can have a steady diet of donuts and burgers, then blame the giant carbohydrate conglomerates for our weight gain. We can speed and blame the cop for our traffic ticket, but at some point we all need to take personal responsibility for our choices. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out no one goes to hell by accident. God gives opportunity after opportunity to choose the path that leads to heaven. Today we'll examine the clear choice where we spend eternity.
This is the day, the day when life begins. You know, one of the criticisms of the church for many years was, you know, I don't like all these hellfire and brimstone preachers. I don't like to hear that sort of thing. And, you know, in a way I see that point.
But here's my question. When's the last time you saw a hellfire and brimstone preacher? This is a subject that many pastors avoid. Now understand, I'm not advocating hellfire and brimstone preachers if by that we mean, you know, condescending, self-righteous, sweaty, weird people yelling at people.
Okay? But if by that we mean someone that tells the truth about both heaven and hell, well maybe we could use a few more of them. Now I'm not saying that we're going to be talking about hell now every week. It's not like come to harvest all hell all the time.
No. We're not going to do that. But we're not going to avoid the topic because I think we make a huge mistake when we say I don't want to discuss this subject. Because, as I pointed out before, Jesus spoke more about hell than all the other preachers of the Bible put together. So Jesus, the very author of grace, spoke about hell more often in a vivid, blood-curdling manner than anyone else. It must be a crucial truth. If Jesus took the time to address it over and over again, then clearly it matters.
So we need to know more about it. Now we're going to look at Luke chapter 16. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the afterlife.
A look at what really happens when a person leaves this life. This story that Jesus told, this true story I might add, tells us what happened to a believer and a non-believer. So Luke 16, let's read together, starting in verse 19.
There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen, and he lived each day in luxury. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. Drop down to verse 22. Now I'm reading from the New King James Version.
The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. Abraham said, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise, Lazarus, evil things.
Now he is comforted and you are tormented. And beside all this, beside, between us, there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. Then he said, I beg you therefore, Father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, and he may testify to them, lest they come to this place of torment. Abraham said, They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them hear them. And he said, No, Father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded that one rise from the dead.
So we'll stop there. We learned a few important things about hell, and if you're taking notes, you might want to write these down. Number one, in hell, people suffer. I know that's a hard thing to wrap your mind around, but it's taught in Scripture. The rich man spoke of torment, indicating suffering is a real thing in the hereafter.
The word torment is used four times in the text of the story. When nonbelievers die, they don't go to purgatory. There's no such place as purgatory. Nor do they go into a state of soul sleep.
That doesn't exist either. Nor are they reincarnated as a higher or lower life form, depending on what kind of life they've lived. The Bible says it's appointed unto a man to die, and then comes the judgment. Now, ultimately, first of all, they go to Hades, but ultimately, they go to a place called the Lake of Fire, spoken of later in the book of Revelation, and that is after the great white throne judgment.
Now, of course, the first question that jumps into our mind is the obvious one. How could a god of love send someone to hell, right? I thought God was loving.
Why would he allow something like this? Okay, let me respond with this statement. Is not God giving people what they really wanted?
C.S. Lewis put it this way. Quote, there are only two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God, thy will be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, thy will be done. All who are in hell choose it without self-choice. There would be no hell. End quote.
So you're really choosing this. Timothy Keller put it this way. Quote, people only get in the afterlife what they have most wanted, either to have God as savior and master, or to be their own saviors and masters. Hell is simply one's freely chosen path going on forever.
End quote. You know, we wanted to get away from God, and God in his infinite justice sends us where we want to go. So we say, I don't want God. I don't want Jesus. I don't want heaven. I don't want forgiveness. Okay, you're just basically charting your own course toward a final judgment.
Number two. Once you are in hell, you cannot cross over to heaven. So you can't pray for a person or do anything to get a person out of this place.
It's done. Physical death is a separation of the soul from the body. When we pass from the visible world into the invisible world, it's a one-way trip. Now, for the believer, it marks our entrance into paradise and the presence of Christ. For the non-believer, it marks their entrance into Hades or hell. Number three. You're conscious there and fully aware of where you are.
You're conscious there and fully aware of where you are. Notice this guy mentions his brothers. Verse 28. I have five brothers, and I want to testify to them so they don't come to this place of torment. You know, so he's kind of angry. He even seems angry at God.
Hey, I didn't know about this place, and this isn't fair. And I want to go warn my brothers. And Abraham effectively puts them in this place. Verse 29. Abraham said, they of Moses and the prophets, let them hear then.
Notice the rich man did not say, we're having a great time, and I'm glad my brothers are coming, because we're going to party, because you've got to fight for your right to party. The beastie boys told me that. You're not going to party in hell. There's going to be torture and eternal separation from God. Yes, he says, but what if one goes to them from the dead? Then they will repent. Would they? Let's say someone died, and we could do a legitimate resurrection where God brought them back from the grave.
Would people believe as a result of that? Well, it happened to a guy named Lazarus. Not this Lazarus, another Lazarus.
Remember? Lazarus died. He had been in the tomb for multiple days. In the immortal words of Martha, King James, he said, Lord, by now he stinketh.
That's King James 4. He was decomposing. He was long gone. And what did Jesus do? He went to the tomb of Lazarus. And he said, Lazarus, come forth. And Lazarus was restored to life. Man, what a drag to be Lazarus. You've been in heaven like three days now.
It's awesome. And the Lord says, uh, I have some bad news. I'm going to have to send you back. And you have to go back now.
Why? Because Jesus is calling. You better get back there. It's a good thing Jesus didn't just say, come forth, because if he had just said, come forth, everybody in every grave all around the planet would have burst out simultaneously.
He had to be specific. Lazarus, come forth. You know, wrapped in bandages, kind of awkward help. And they unbound him. And he was alive. So then we come to the scene in the Bible where Jesus is with his disciples.
Martha is serving. Mary's made the food. And Lazarus is there.
I mean, can you imagine how amazing that conversation would have been? So, Lazarus, tell me a little bit about the afterlife. He was alive. He was a man brought back from the dead. So everybody believed, right?
No. The Pharisees started plotting about how to kill Lazarus. Oh, great. He gets to die twice now.
But my point is simply this. Here was a man brought back from the grave who was alive in front of them and they wanted to kill him. Why? Because the world doesn't like to see resurrected people. The world doesn't like to see people transform with the power of God. The world doesn't like it when somebody who's been a heroin addict or an alcoholic say, I've been set free by Christ. The world doesn't like it when someone who's been in a gay lifestyle says, God is transforming and I've left that lifestyle and I'm following Jesus. Oh, they don't like to hear that story.
They want to silence people who tell that story. And that's why we must tell this story to as many people as we can. Because Christ can bring people back to life again. Yes, physically. But without question, spiritually. And really the spiritual resurrection is even more significant than the physical. Because even if you were brought back from the grave, you're going to die anyway. So now you have to die twice. And as I said last time, no one in heaven if given a choice would choose to come back to earth again. We can be sure of that.
But now of course the most obvious example. Who else do we know that rose from the dead? Jesus? Jesus rose from the dead. And he was crucified. He was beaten beyond human recognition. His body was so traumatized. Isaiah said you couldn't even tell he was a man. But yet here was Jesus walking among his disciples.
Preparing a meal for his disciples. And then of course he ascends to heaven. But the point is, did everyone believe after Christ rose from the dead? Some did, but many did not. So even if someone came back from the grave, a person would not necessarily believe.
Yeah. So this is what the Bible teaches. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment.
Hey everybody, Greg Laurie here. We are personally inviting you to join us for what we call Harvest at Home. It's a Bible study. It's a worship service. It's church in your home.
Maybe you're not able to get out to your church right now. If so, join us for Harvest at Home. People are listening in from around the world. And listen to this. We have seen thousands of people make a commitment to follow Christ.
So join us this weekend for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org. Well today, Pastor Greg is presenting an important message about the judgment people choose when they don't choose to come to God through Jesus Christ. Let's continue.
Now let's make this personal. Who's going to go to heaven and who's going to go to hell? It's really up to us. But if we believe biblical teaching, here's the reality. Jesus said, Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are that go that way, but narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it. You decide what road you're going to get on.
You decide if you're going to be on the broad way, the easy way, the popular way, or you decide if you're going to be on the narrow way of following Christ. And God wants everybody in heaven, but He's not going to force anyone to go there. The road to hell is paved with excuses. Hell is therefore a prison in which the doors are first locked from the inside by us and therefore are locked from the outside by God.
Let me repeat that. Hell is a prison in which the doors are first locked from the inside by us and therefore are locked from the outside by God. So who sent who where? Did God send you to hell or the person that ends there?
No, they went there of their own volition. And not only did they go there of their own volition, they practically had to climb over Jesus to get there. Because here's Jesus who says, I don't want you to go to hell, and I'm going to pay the price on the cross so you don't have to, and I will forgive you of all of your sin, and all you have to do is believe in Me and turn from your sin. Well, I don't want that.
Well, please. And He pleads with us. And throughout our lives, the Holy Spirit calls us and reaches out to us, and we say no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
And then our hearts get hard and harder and harder. So if we end up in this place, really, who sent us there? We sent ourselves there. God tried to keep us from going there. But God has a much better plan for us, and that, of course, is heaven. Jesus effectively faced hell for you on the cross 2,000 years ago. Jesus entered the darkness that you might walk in the light. Jesus was forsaken that you might be forgiven. Because what did He say on the cross? My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?
What was that all about? That was the moment, many believe, when all the sin of the world, all of your sin, all of my sin, all of our sin, of all humanity, past, present, and those to come, was placed on Christ. And He was temporarily separated from the Father as He bore our sin. He did all of that for us so we don't have to go to hell. The gospel is a universal declaration that hell is not God's desire for anyone. For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Look, God loves you, and He invites you, but if you don't want to go to your Father's house, you don't have to, and He won't make you.
Sometimes I think we wish He would, but He won't. He gives us a choice in the matter. He says, I set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life that you may live. Here it is, your choice. Narrow road, Broadway, life and death, heaven or hell, it's up to you. I'm asking you to choose heaven. I want you to choose heaven. I want to welcome you in heaven, but if you don't want to join me in heaven, then you chart your own course. And that final day is going to come, and it's going to be, well, a very final day. And so the first thing that comes to my mind is, I want to make sure that if there's anyone I know that is not a believer, that I go and give them the gospel.
And, you know, I think we're reluctant to bring hell up because it really might offend them. You've got to tell them the truth, right? It'd be like going to the doctor, and you're very sick, and you're getting ready to go on a vacation, and you want the doctor to give you a clean bill of health.
You want him to say you're good to go. And the doctor runs tests, and he knows you're in trouble. Go home for surgery tomorrow, and he goes, oh, go on your vacation. Take a month off.
It's all good. What kind of a doctor is that? He shouldn't be a doctor.
He needs to tell you the truth. So I think we're the same way sometimes. Oh, yes, believe in Jesus. It's so wonderful to forgive you of all of your sin, and you'll go to heaven.
It's awesome. Well, what if I don't believe in Jesus? Oh, no big deal.
It's a big deal. Well, I'm not going to say hell. Why not? Jesus said hell. The Bible says hell.
Explain it. Explain that God doesn't want people to go there. But I think there's a point where we should warn people about judgment.
Otherwise, we've not declared the whole counsel of God. I'm so glad I'm not going to hell. And I'm so glad you're not going to hell because I know that probably everyone here believes in Jesus, but there might be a few of you that don't.
And here's what needs to happen now. You decide where you'll spend eternity by what you do with Jesus Christ. He died on that cross for you. He paid the price for your sin, and He rose again from the dead, and now He stands at the door of your life, and He knocks, and He says if you'll hear His voice and open the door, He will come in. So here's my question to you in closing. If you died tonight, where would you go? Well, I'll go to heaven. And why do you say that? Because I'm a good person.
No, you're not. What else you got? I bought Girl Scout cookies the other day. That's nice. What else you got?
I'm very careful when I take my trash out to recycle, and I keep the garbage separate. Okay, what else you got? Well, I was baptized. That's nice.
What else? There's only one correct answer. I turn from my sin and put my faith in Jesus. You're good to go.
You're good to go. That's the right answer. Jesus. Jesus. None of that other stuff. None of it.
Not all that religious stuff. Doesn't matter. Do you have that hope? And if you don't, do you want it? You can believe in Him right now. You're saying, are you telling me that despite the life I've lived and the bad things I've done, that if I were to say to God right now, I'm sorry for my sin, are you actually telling me, bald preacher? Are you saying to me that God would forgive me of every wrong I've ever done and I can now go to heaven?
Yes, I'm saying that. Because God says it. And it can happen for you. But you must come to Him now. We're gonna pray, and I'm gonna give you an opportunity to ask Christ to come into your life and know that you'll go to heaven when you die. If you don't know this, this is your moment to get right with God. Let's pray. Father, we pray now for everybody here and everybody watching and listening wherever they may be. And I pray, Lord, that as we've talked about a difficult subject but a true one, that you will help people to see this is no game, this is no joke, this is the most important thing of all, where we'll spend eternity. And I pray for every person who does not know you that you will help them to come to you and believe in you. In Jesus' name I pray.
Amen. Pastor Greg Laurie, with an important word of prayer. And if you know you need to make a change today in your relationship with the Lord, Pastor Greg will come back to help you do that in just a moment before today's edition of A New Beginning wraps up. To hear today's study again, just go to harvest.org or use our Harvest app. You can stream the message for free or for a CD copy, call 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24-7 phone number.
Again, 1-800-821-3300. Well, Pastor Greg, we're so happy to make available your brand new book called Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. And in it, you talk about some of Billy's early days preaching and how sometimes it didn't go very well.
And you said in the book that you've had a few times when you first started that didn't exactly make the highlight real. What would you say to a young person who feels called to preach and teach but they're just wondering if they have what it takes? Well, I would say I think of the words of the Lord to Moses who had something of a speech impediment and tried to get out of being called to represent him. And the Lord said, I'll be with you. And I think you just have to take steps of faith and be willing to leave your comfort zone to let God use you.
And nobody starts out perfectly. And Billy had his hardships and challenges and difficulties. One time he got up to speak and pretty much took every sermon he had ever come up with and give them all at one time and it was over within like nine minutes. And it reminds me of one of the times I spoke in front of Billy. They asked me to be on his board of directors. And I was there at a table and there sat Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows and other legends of the Graham team and they asked me to do a little devotion.
And all I remember is going into an altered state of consciousness. I mean, here I've stood in stadiums and preached to thousands of people but I've never been more intimidated than I was speaking in front of Billy Graham himself. And he was very affirming and very encouraging but he was Billy Graham. And when you're starting out serving the Lord, if you're a preacher or just sharing your faith, you're gonna make mistakes but that's okay.
You know, just give it your best shot and learn from your mistakes and press on. And that's what Billy did. And in fact, he became a brilliant orator, the master communicator, but he never lost touch with who he was, a farm boy from North Carolina. And God raised him up to be the greatest evangelist not only of his lifetime but in my opinion, the greatest evangelist in human history. So that's why I wanted to write a book about him and it's called Billy Graham, The Man That I Knew.
By the way, that title came from Franklin Graham. I've written other books on people you may have heard of like Steve McQueen and Johnny Cash. I wrote a book called Steve McQueen, The Salvation of an American Icon. I wrote another book called Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon. So it was my intention to call this book Billy Graham, The Making of an American Icon. Franklin said to me, Daddy would not want to be called an icon.
I said, really? He says, no, you shouldn't call it that. You should instead call it Billy Graham, The Man That I Knew. And I said, that's a good title. So we had already done the cover art and it was on its way and we redesigned it and were able to change it to this title and he was a man I knew and I got to know him well and he never disappointed me.
And that's quite a thing to say but it actually is true. Well, it's a landmark biography on Billy's life with exhaustive, painstaking research that literally took years. In spite of how well Pastor Greg knew Billy personally, he found out so much more during that in-depth research. And you'll benefit from these deep insights so we hope you'll get in touch for your own copy of Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. We'll send it to say thank you for your donation of any size. Your donation makes a huge difference, not only in being able to bring these studies your way but also reaching out with the gospel, just as Billy Graham did.
We saw more than 150,000 decisions for Christ in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. And it's because listeners like you said, yeah, Greg, I want to help that kind of outreach happen. So thank you for your investment right now and to thank you tangibly, we'll send you a copy of this brand new biography, Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. Just write a new beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California 92514 or call 1-800-821-3300. We're here to take your call around the clock.
So again, dial 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org. Well, Pastor Greg, a couple of moments ago, you talked to the importance of coming to the Lord to have our sins forgiven. If somebody listening right now wants to do that, could you help them?
Yeah, I can do that, Dave, I'd be happy to. In the book of Isaiah, we read these words, seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near, let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous man their thoughts, let them return to the Lord and he will have mercy on them and to our God, for he will freely pardon. Listen, that's God's word to you. And let me address this to the person who has never asked Jesus Christ to come into their life.
Why don't you do it now? That verse says, seek the Lord while he may be found. God has touched your heart today, perhaps, and you've thought, I need this relationship with the Lord. One of these days, I'm gonna make that commitment to Christ. No, don't wait for one of these days. This is the day.
This is your moment. Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he's near. Listen, God is near to you and he is ready to come into your life. And there's another part of this verse when it says, let us return to the Lord. I want to also extend an invitation to you that have fallen away from your faith. You've fallen away from the Lord and you need to make a recommitment. So if you want Jesus Christ to come into your life, if you want your sin forgiven, if you want to go to heaven when you die, or if you've fallen away from the Lord and you want to return to him, pray this prayer with me. Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I also know that you are a savior and I need your help. I need your forgiveness. Come into my life and forgive me of all of my sins.
I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Be my savior, be my Lord, be my God, and be my friend. Thank you for hearing this prayer. Thank you for answering this prayer. In Jesus' name, I pray, amen.
Hey, I want you to know on the authority of scripture, if you just prayed that prayer and meant it, Christ has heard you and he has forgiven you. So God bless you. 1-800-821-3300 That's 1-800-821-3300 Or go to harvest.org and click the words, Know God. Well, next time, more from Pastor Greg's series, The Afterlife and the Eternal. We look at angels and demons next time here on A New Beginning with Pastor Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. The preceding message from Greg Laurie was made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Sign up for Pastor Greg's free daily email devotions at harvest.org.
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