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A Life Well-Lived | Staying Focused on Christ

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
August 16, 2022 3:00 am

A Life Well-Lived | Staying Focused on Christ

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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August 16, 2022 3:00 am

Remember back to your school years. You’re in class, paying attention to the teacher, but the cut-up in the front row, the class clown, starts to...perform. He’s miming what the teacher is saying. You try not to look, but you can’t help yourself. Distractions are powerful, aren’t they? And they’re everywhere. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. It’s the pathway of a life well-lived.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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You're listening to A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast supported by Harvest Partners. For more ways to deepen and challenge your spiritual walk, enroll in Pastor Greg's free online courses.

Sign up at harvest.org. What are you really passionate about? The Lord wants us to be passionate about Him, loving Him, serving Him, honoring Him. But Pastor Greg Laurie says it's too easy to focus elsewhere. We can be distracted by secondary things. They're not bad things in and of themselves. They're just not the main thing. The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. And people, the main thing is Jesus Christ.

That's where our passion needs to be. Remember back to your school years. You're in class paying attention to the teacher, but the cut up in the front row, the class clown, starts to perform.

He's miming what the teacher is saying. You try not to look, but you can't help yourself. Distractions are powerful, aren't they? And they're everywhere.

Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. It's the pathway of a life well lived. A new study shows that many Americans are suffering from what experts call digital distraction.

Right? And it's all because of this device I'm holding in my hand the phone. In fact, there was a Harvard study that was done and it revealed that people are experiencing digital overload. It's a defining problem in today's workplace. All day and night on desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even watches, we have so many messages and alerts that even when we want to focus, it's nearly impossible. And people, you know, when they're driving, it's like people are driving drunk these days, but actually they're driving while using their phone.

You know what it's like. Someone's in front of you in the light and the light goes green and they don't go and you honk and you go around them. They're looking at their phone or they're doing something else and we're very distracted by these things.

But this can happen among Christians as well. We can be distracted because here's what it comes down to. We're going to follow our passion in life. You're going to walk where you look. So if I'm looking this way, that's a direction I walk in.

You walk where you look. So here's my question for you in this message. What are you really passionate about?

I know the default answer is Jesus, but here's how I'm going to find out what you're really passionate about. I'll just look at your social media. Because the Bible says where your Instagram is, there will your heart be also.

Actually the Bible doesn't say that, but it says where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. But I can find out a lot by you. In fact now employers will look at the social media of a potential hire.

They'll go, oh this is a red flag or this is a problem or this person is really obsessed with cats or whatever it is that you post about the most. But that's where our passion is going to be revealed. And here's the problem. We can be distracted by secondary things. They're not bad things in and of themselves. They're just not the main thing. Because as I said before the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And people the main thing is Jesus Christ.

That's where our passion needs to be. Well the devil hates evangelism. The devil hates the church.

The devil hates followers of Jesus. So the enemy attacks the church. He tried two strategies that backfired. Strategy number one was persecution. So Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel.

They were told by the authorities to cease and desist. And instead of doing that they got together with the other believers and prayed for even more boldness to preach the gospel to even more people. Then the room shook and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then the devil tried to infiltrate the church through corruption.

Enner, Ananias, and Sapphira. The literal definitions of a hypocrite. Because as you recall a hypocrite biblically speaking is an actor. It's a person who is playing a part.

But this was dealt with swiftly in its short order. So now the devil comes with his third wave of attack against a church and I would describe it simply as distraction. So let's read Acts chapter 6. I am going to read verses 1 to 8. And I am reading from the New Living translation. As the believers rapidly multiplied there were rumblings of discontent. That's a fascinating verse right there. As the believers were multiplying rapidly there were rumblings of discontent.

The Greek speaking believers complained about the Hebrew speaking believers saying their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the 12 called a meeting together of all the believers and they said, we apostles need to spend our time teaching the Word of God and praying not running a food program. And so brothers select seven men who are well respected full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and will give them this responsibility. And then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and preaching the Word.

Everyone liked the idea. So they chose seven spirit filled men and among those men was Stephen and also Philip. And then we read God's message continued to spread and the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem and many of the Jewish priests were converted to. But Stephen a man full of God's grace and power performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.

We will stop there. So you can see just by reading those passages what the focus of the first century believers was. It was about prayer, Bible study, and evangelism.

Hey guys we are getting distracted. The apostles are saying we need to spend time studying the Word of God and praying so we can use the gifts that God has called us to use. And therefore we want to continue on in evangelism.

So let's get this resolved. And so that is what they did. And man they were having incredible success in reaching people. Three thousand people believed on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 4 another four thousand believed in Jesus. So when God is working the devil will always be attacking. And it is through division.

Look at verse one. As the believers rapidly multiplied there were rumblings of discontent. You know it is not even really important what they were complaining about.

In this instance they thought one group was being favored over another group. But really what it was about was selfishness instead of selflessness. What about me? When are we going to mature enough as a Christian where we realize it is not about me. It is about we.

Right? Not just me. We.

It is like us. Like it is not just how can everyone serve me. How can I be blessed.

What can I get out of this. But when are we going to mature enough to come to church and say how can I serve others. How can I be used by God.

How can I develop and use my gifts. This is the thing that sometimes we miss out on is if you want to know the secret of Christian living it is sort of upside down. And that is why I have called this series Upside Down Living. It is upside down in this way.

The way to up is down. Happiness is found in serving not being served. Happiness is not found in self-fulfillment but in self-denial. Jesus said hey you want to find your life then lose your life. If any man will take up his cross and follow me and lose his life then he will find it.

What does that mean? It means if you put God's will first in your life and pursue that you will find the happiness and joy that you really want. So the next time you feel like throwing in the towel why don't you take up the towel instead and wash the feet of others so to speak.

Because Jesus said it is more happy to give than it is to receive. So the apostles say look let's find some Spirit-filled men. And I find this really interesting is that they needed Spirit-filled godly individuals of wisdom to do the things that needed to be done. And I bring this up because sometimes people think if you are called to be a teacher or a preacher that is the highest calling. But if you are called to serve behind the scenes or do different kinds of work that is not as important.

Not at all. These men needed to be as Spirit-filled as anybody else did. These musicians that lead us in worship they need to be full of wisdom.

The Word of God. And they need to be Spirit-filled. But the people running the equipment they really need to be Spirit-filled.

I am kidding when I say that. Everybody needs this power. So we see some unique qualities in the life of Stephen that I want to identify. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment.

Whenever you send us a letter, text, an email, or post a comment on social media we read every word. Pastor Greg I want to say thank you for your series on anxiety and worry. Just recently I found out that one of the facilities I work at is closing leaving me and my co-workers out of a job.

I'm uncertain what this outcome will do to our family and our financial situation. Your series however on anxiety and worry has helped me to have more faith in God and know that He is in control of the situation. Thank you again for your ministry and for what you do.

It's encouraging to know that the resources at A New Beginning are helping listeners. If you'd like to share your story, call us and let us know. Call 866-871-1144.

That's 866-871-1144. Well we're taking a look at the life of Stephen during the days of the first century church. Pastor Greg titled today's message, A Life Well Lived. Here's another thing that will come out of this story is Stephen died at a very young age.

In fact he was the first martyr of the early church. And when we look at someone who dies when they're young we think of it as a tragedy and in fact in many ways it is. But it's interesting because Stephen's name means crown. Crown.

And an early death means an early crown. Let me illustrate. Let's say you were standing in line to go to Disneyland and let's say the line is like 45 minutes before you're going to get into the park and you're hot and you're sweating and you're miserable and all of a sudden the CEO of Disneyland comes out with Donald Duck next to him and he walks to you in the back of that line and he says you don't look like you're that comfortable. I'm going to take you to the front of the line and take you into the park. And Donald Duck says wah wah wah. And so you go. I guess three people woke up. What? What's happening?

So you walk in. Not a bad Donald Duck right? Donald's hard to do. When I have time sometime I'll have Donald Duck doing a worship song.

I actually have a couple. But I almost pass out when I do it and I don't know why. Something with making that sound. But here's Donald Duck getting angry.

Are you ready for it? Like that. That's it people. That's all you'll remember. What was this sermon about?

I don't know but he did this duck thing. So Stephen had certain qualities that God put in his life but he was called home to heaven early. But he made a great impact. Here's some of the qualities of his life.

I'm going to just sort of fly over these. Verse three tells us he was a well-respected man. Listen if you want to be used by God you need to be well respected. And that phrase well respected is translated into King James Version as a man of good reputation. This means that even non-believers spoke well of him. In First Timothy 3 7 we read people outside the church should speak well of a person who is called in to leadership.

Number two. He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. You know when we think of the Holy Spirit we think of power. We think of gifts. But let's not forget there's also the fruit of the Holy Spirit right?

Galatians 5 22 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Look I don't care how gifted you are. Can you be a patient person? I mean I appreciate the fact that you have an ability to speak perhaps. But can you be a loving person?

Can you be a kind person? We don't just need the power of the Spirit. We need the fruit of the Spirit too. Stephen also was filled with wisdom verse three.

And as you see in the message that he gave here in Acts 6 and 7 it was just filled with Scripture. And he had this great wisdom and though he was young he was so wise. I've met young people that I'm so impressed with their wisdom because they've studied the Word of God. They have this passion for Christ. And I've met older people who are just they're old fools.

They haven't learned anything in life. So Stephen was young but he was full of wisdom. Also I would point out he was faithful in the little things. What was his job? Wait on tables. Distribute food.

Do the menial work if you will. But because he was faithful in the little things God gave him an opportunity to do even greater things. So his enemies saw that God had gifted Stephen so they wanted to stop him. And Acts 6 11 says they persuaded men to lie about Stephen saying we hurt him blaspheme Moses and even God.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Stephen honored God. He glorified God. But they made these lies up about him. Let people make up lies about you. Jesus said blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven. Have you ever had someone tell a lie about you? Have you ever been slandered before?

Well let them be lies. Because he lived such a godly life they had to make stuff up. Here's another quality of Stephen.

He looked for opportunities and he seized them. So now he's brought before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was sort of like the Supreme Court of the day. But back in this culture they had religious authority but they also had secular authority. So they ruled in all kinds of affairs and issues of the day. These guys were the most influential people in the land. So here stands Stephen before this very distinguished group of individuals and he's thinking this is an opportunity for the gospel. Now if Stephen had played his cards right he could have gone home for dinner. But he thought no I want to reach these people with the gospel.

And I wonder and I can't guarantee this of course. But I wonder if he even zeroed in on one of those men in the Sanhedrin. Clearly the leader a young man named Saul and he thought what if God reached that guy? What if he became a follower of Jesus? Can you imagine what the Lord could do through a man like that?

We don't know if that was the case but we know Saul was there. So now Stephen gives this amazing overview of the history of the Jewish people and there's so much interesting detail in it. And then he brings it to Jesus and reminds him that they betrayed Christ. They crucified Christ. Well this didn't go over real well. We picked the story up in Acts chapter 7 verse 54.

Why don't you look at that with me. The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation and they shook their fists at him in rage. You know a message is not going over well when people do that.

When they shake their fists at you. But Stephen full of the Holy Spirit gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God and he saw Jesus standing at the place of honor at God's right hand and he told them look I see the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the place of honor at God's right hand. And then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting and they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And his accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they stoned him Stephen prayed Lord Jesus receive my spirit. He fell to his knees shouting Lord don't charge him with this sin.

And with that he fell asleep. Wow what a story. Look at the blind bias of these people that should know better. They knew the Word of God.

But verse 57 says they put their hands over their ears and began shouting and rushed at him and dragged him out of the city. Isn't it interesting how irrational people can be when you start talking about Jesus. You know you can talk about anything. They're like cool.

Have a little debate maybe. Boy you bring up Jesus and now they get all fired up and now they're upset and the veins pop out of their forehead. They get red and their voice is louder. They're upset. They're angry. Don't even talk to me about that. It's not real. I don't believe any of it.

Okay okay calm down. But why do they react that way. Jesus gave us the answer in John 3 20. He says they hate the light because they want his sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they'll be punished. The reason they don't like what you're saying is you're a bright light and a dark place. Think about when you're asleep. You have all the shades drawn and maybe your mom and dad come in. Time to wake up.

The sad thing is you're in your 40s. So your mom opens up the light shade and the light comes. Oh man you put your pillow over your head. You're not ready for the light. That's how people are when we talk about Jesus. But I love how it says Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. Listen when you're obeying God he'll fill you with the Holy Spirit. God doesn't pour his spirit on us just for the fun of it. Listen the gifts of the Spirit are not toys to play with. They're weapons to fight with and they're tools to build with. The power that God gives us is power with a purpose. Acts 1 8 says you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. For what purpose?

To be witnesses unto me. Think about a fire hose. You ever seen when the firefighters lose control of the hose?

It's flailing about water going everywhere. Then they get hold of that hose and they aim it in the direction of a burning house and think of the good they can do. So God gave this power to Stephen for a purpose to proclaim the gospel. I bring this up because sometimes people say you know I'm so dry spiritually.

Let me ask you this question. When was the last time you shared your faith with someone? See the gospel is designed to be shared not hoarded.

You're blessed to be a blessing. Proverbs 11 25 says the generous soul will be made fat and he that waters others will be watered himself. Now don't you want a fat soul.

Maybe not a fat body but you want a fat soul right. And so it says when you water others, when you give to others, when you serve others, you are watered. Get it. See we think no no it's all about me. It's about you doing this for me. Actually it isn't. It's about you doing something for someone else and the Bible says give and it shall be given unto you.

Pressed down shaken together and running over. As you give God will replenish you. I can tell you this from experience. There have been times I get up to preach and I'm not going to get up to preach and I'm not really in the mood. Can you believe that? And it's not because of you. It's because of me. It's maybe it's uh some I heard some news that's troubling or or there's some conflict of some kind or something's happening or whatever it is. I'm just not feeling up to it at that moment. I can tell you so many times I've started my sermon on empty and I've ended it on full.

I'm replenished. It's true. Now we say my life is so hard and you know maybe you need to just get out a little bit. Maybe go see someone that's really suffering. I don't know men.

I've got like a cold and it's a really bad one and then you go visit someone in a hospital with stage three cancer and all of a sudden your problem isn't very big is it? See I think we need to get perspective. And when you are obeying God, God will bless you and God will use you. And Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit.

And these members of the Sanhedrin were coming under the conviction of the Spirit because according to verse 51 they were resisting the Spirit. Which implies they knew it was true and they were saying no. I know what you're saying is true. That's why I'm putting my hands over my ears. That's why I'm screaming. That's why I want you to stop. That's why I'm shaking my fist.

I know it's true and I don't want to hear it anymore. It says in verse 54 they were cut to the heart. That could literally be translated they were sawn in half. Stephen was a true hero of the Christian faith. It was so Christlike in his actions.

Even when he was on his knees he stood tall. We're seeing Stephen gave us a godly example we can follow. And Pastor Greg Laurie has more from this message yet to come here on A New Beginning. You know Pastor Greg, every day we get such wonderful correspondence from our listeners. Yes.

Letters, emails, texts, social media postings. And many times the listener will mention they're a Harvest Partner. Yeah. And that just makes us smile because that means they're part of our family. Explain that. Well Harvest Partners in case you don't know are people that stand with us every month. You know so many of us listen to Christian radio and we listen to great teachings or we listen to our favorite Bible podcast and and they these things become a part of our life and sometimes we take them for granted. And so you know when they say hey help us financially we think oh well someone else will do it.

Well sometimes someone else doesn't do it. And so I'm asking you to be a partner with us. What does it mean?

It means that you make a commitment to stand with us financially every month. You decide how much that will be but every month as that gift comes in that enables us to plan for the future and think about new opportunities that are out there and many opportunities pop up all the time to reach more people with the word of God. Now look there's a lot of great ministries out there that are well worth supporting but let me just toot our own horn for just a moment. A unique thing about Harvest Ministries is we invite people to Jesus Christ all the time. You know if you listen that I'll end one of my messages with a prayer that a person could actually pray and did you know thousands of people pray that prayer with me every year. I'm not exaggerating thousands of people.

I've heard stories of people pulling off the freeway when they're driving their car and they bow their head and they pray that prayer. I've heard so many incredible stories so know this when you support Harvest Ministries you're not only supporting the teaching of the word of God but you're supporting the proclamation of the gospel and not just the proclamation you're supporting a ministry that believes in closing the deal and by that I mean we throw the net and we pull the net back in and we ask people would you like to accept Christ here's how to do it why don't you do it and then we send them a new Believers Bible. Do you believe that's an important thing for our nation right now?

I sure do. If you want to be a Harvest Partner here's Dave to tell you more. Yeah it's an opportunity to invest in something that matters for eternity and Pastor Greg is looking for a thousand new Harvest Partners to join us right now and working together to reach people in such a critical time. The world is a mess I'm sure you've noticed but it's the perfect opportunity to invite them to look beyond this world. A thousand new partners may seem like a lot but these studies are heard all over the country and it's really just a small group in each area that say yes this is important and I want to do my part. So can we count on you? We'll say thank you for becoming a new Harvest Partner with a copy of Pastor Greg's book Steve McQueen The Salvation of an American Icon. So call us at 1-800-821-3300 that's a 24-7 phone number 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org partner. Well next time more inspiration from the life of Stephen as Pastor Greg continues his message called a life well lived. Join us here on a new beginning with Pastor and Bible Teacher Greg Laurie. Hey everybody thanks for listening to this podcast to learn more about Harvest Ministries follow this show and consider supporting it just go to harvest.org and to find out how to know God personally go to harvest.org and click on know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-10 09:56:22 / 2023-03-10 10:06:42 / 10

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