You're listening to A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.
Visit our website and learn more about Harvest Partners at harvest.org. with the Lord and are on fire for Him through thick and thin. How can we enjoy that kind of abundant life? Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie has the answer. We're on an inspiring journey through the book of Acts here on A New Beginning. Pastor Greg Laurie is helping us learn from our spiritual forefathers and see how the Acts of the Apostles show us how to live more rewarding lives here and now, 20 centuries later. Today, in a message called A Life Well Lived, Pastor Greg helps us consider the story of a young man in Acts chapter 7 that set a strong example for other believers to follow. It was an inspiring life right up to the very end.
This is the day, the day when life begins. A young man named Stephen was full of faith and the Holy Spirit and he had this great wisdom and though he was young, he was so wise but 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. The greatest tragedy is not a life that is cut short if we want to use that verbiage. The greatest tragedy is a life that is wasted. Jim Elliot was a martyr along with Nate Saint and others who went to take the gospel to a tribe known as the Alcas and they were killed by this tribe and in fact, Jim's wife Elizabeth went back and led the very man that killed her husband to Christ. So it was a story of redemption ultimately but Jim was a very young man when he died. He was only 28 years old and he had a little journal and in that journal he wrote these words and he found this later, quote, He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose, end quote. So Stephen, he looked for opportunities and he seized them. So now he's brought before the Sanhedrin. 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 is 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 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. God gave Stephen the grace he needed when he needed it.
You say, wow, if I were in this situation I wouldn't have reacted as Stephen did. I don't know that that's true. God will give you what you need when you need it.
Not before, never after. Because I can think of people I've seen that are suffering and I think, man, I would never be like that. I wouldn't have that kind of faith.
Why do you say that? The Bible says he's a very present help in times of trouble. So God will give you what you need when that moment comes. And that's exactly what he did for Stephen. Hebrews 4 16 says, God will give us grace to help in time of need. And so God gave him that grace. And what does Stephen see? Verse 56, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the place of honor at God's right hand.
Isn't that interesting? What keeps Stephen going? He sees Jesus.
What will keep you going? You need to see Jesus. You need to get your eyes off of your circumstances, off of your problems, and put your eyes on God himself. In Hebrews 12 the author says, lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily besets you and look unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith.
That's what will get you through the troubles you might be facing even now. But here's what is really unique. Is Jesus is standing. Have you ever noticed that every other time we read of Jesus in glory? He is sitting at the right hand of God. But here uniquely he is standing at the right hand of God. Why was Jesus standing? I don't know. He just kept sitting.
No. There is a reason. My opinion is he was standing in honor, welcoming the first martyr of the early church. As Stephen was standing for Jesus on earth, Jesus was standing for Stephen in heaven. Because Jesus said, if you will confess me before people, I will confess you before the Father. Jesus is saying, Stephen, I see what is happening here. I love you.
You are going to be with me in just a moment. Stephen saw that and it just changed everything. And he fell on his knees, verse 59, saying, Lord, don't charge him with this sin.
And he fell asleep. Wow. Is that not a perfect reflection of what Jesus did on the cross? When Christ was crucified, he gave seven statements. Each one is significant.
The order of them is significant. Statement number one, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Stephen says effectively the same thing.
Lord, don't charge them with this sin. And then we read, he said, Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit. This means that he knew he was passing into glory. And it is a reminder that there is no delay from the time we leave this world and go to the next one. When you close your eyes on earth, you open them in heaven. When you take your last breath on earth, you take your next breath in heaven. When a believer dies, they go straight to heaven.
This is what the Bible teaches. 2 Corinthians 5, 8 says we are fully confident. We would rather be away from these bodies and then we will be at home with the Lord. Coming back to the cross, remember that thief that was crucified next to Christ. And he says, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said, truly, truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. John Bunyan, the writer, said, and I quote, death is but a passage out of a prison into a palace.
End quote. When death strikes the Christian, they fall into heaven. God allowed Stephen's life to be taken because he had fulfilled his task. He had fulfilled his calling in his generation. Now here is the thing. None of us has a guarantee we will live a long life.
Coming back to Jim Elliott, another entry in his journal went as follows. And I quote, I seek not a long life but a full one like you, Lord Jesus. End quote. That is what we want. We want a full life. God determines the length of our life. We don't.
We think we do. Oh yes, but I am eating all the proper food, you know. And then there is some random dude who lives on hot dogs and makes it past 100.
You spent your life eating tofu and kale. But a full life, a meaningful life, that is what we want. Corrie Tynboom made this statement, quote, a life is not measured by its duration but by its donation. We all want to live long lives.
I mean, look, Stephen didn't have a death wish. He wanted to live life. No one loves life more than the Christian. Because as Paul said, to live is Christ. To die is gain.
We love life. But the Christian does not have to be afraid of death. Doesn't mean we want to die. But what it means is we will die. You wake up in the morning, what if this is my last day on earth? Then it is your last day on earth. So live it well. Live it right. Honor God.
And you go straight into glory. But the chances are it is not your last day on earth. You will probably have many more days on earth. But the point is it is all in God's hands. And a broad sense, life for the Christian never ends at all. Because Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. So are you living your life well? You know as you get older, you understand that verse that says we live our lives like a story that has been told.
What story is your life telling? Let me say a word to you that are young. It is so important to make the right decisions because in a blink of an eye you will be old. Like me.
But you will probably look much better than I look. But it is kind of shocking to think about how quickly life goes by. And that is why you want to make the right decisions now. Lay the foundation. Because the evening of your life is determined by the morning of your life.
Or the end from the beginning. Stephen, he had his life right. He was young but he lived it for God's glory. Ecclesiastes 12 says, don't let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.
Honor Him in your youth before you grow old and no longer enjoy living. So get your goals right and let your passion be for Jesus. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. We really enjoy hearing when Pastor Greg's teaching and preaching touch lives. Pastor Greg, I'm a junior in high school, was raised in church and saved at a very young age. But when I started high school, I fell away from the Lord. One day I heard you on the radio and your message helped me see that I needed to get my life right with God.
Which I did. Thank you for all you do in allowing God to work through you. It's a blessing to know that listeners young and old are hearing these messages and God is using His word to touch hearts. How have Pastor Greg's studies impacted your life? Would you let him know?
Drop an email to Greg at Harvest dot org. Well we're in the middle of Pastor Greg's series called the upside down life. And we're focusing on the example of Steven today from Acts chapter 7.
Now let me close with just a few quick points. If you're taking notes, number one, for the Christian walking in God's will, death will come at the appointed time. Again for the Christian walking in the will of God, death will come at the appointed time.
Not a minute before or after. The Bible says there's a time to be born. There's a time to die. So it comes down to this.
You are indestructible until God is done with you. So just relax. Don't panic.
It's organic. That means nothing. I don't know why I even said that. But you're okay. So don't worry. Jesus says who of you by worrying can add one moment to your life? Answer, no one. So don't worry about it. It's all in God's hands. Number two.
I already made this point but I'll make it again. The Christian does not have to fear death. Notice verse 59 says Steven fell asleep. Actually this was a violent death.
This young man was stoned. And it says he fell asleep. You know sleep is only used to describe the death of a Christian in the Bible.
It's never used to describe the death of a non-Christian. And I think the reason the word sleep is used is it's something well it doesn't have to be feared. Right? You know when you get older sleeping is kind of well take a nap. When you're older happy hour is a nap.
Right? You don't have to be afraid. Oh no I'm going to fall asleep.
Oh no. It's okay to fall asleep because you'll wake up. And he woke up in the presence of God.
Number three. In heaven all of our questions will be answered. Oh we have so many questions now. So many things we don't understand. Why did God let this happen?
I just was with a couple in our church who lost a member of their family. A young man unexpectedly. And you know the questions. I know these questions.
I asked these same questions when our son went to be with the Lord 13 years ago. Why did this happen? Why him? He was so young.
He had his whole life ahead of him. Why? Why? Why? Why?
Why? It's okay to ask why questions. Even Jesus hanging on the cross said my God my God why have you forsaken me? So ask away. Doesn't mean you'll get an answer but you can ask. But one day you will get an answer. And until that day we live on promises not explanations.
So don't spend too much time wondering why. Instead go back to who and what. Who as in who shall I turn to? You need to turn to God.
What as in what should I do now? You should seek to glorify God. One day your questions will be answered. One day your tears will be dried. One day all of these things will be resolved.
But until that day we must trust God. Never trade what we do know for what we don't know. There's a lot of things I don't know. You should have met me when I was 21. I was a young pastor and I knew everything. I had a verse for everything. I'd say you need to do this.
You need to do that. Now that I'm 51. See that's even funny.
Now that's sad. I'm older. You know my grandkids. Oh papa my birthday is coming. Man when my birthday is coming it's like oh no another birthday is coming. I don't look forward to birthdays.
Is that only true of me? When you're older it's like oh no. All those candles. It's so much work to blow them out. Too many candles.
And they're too expensive to have that many too. But all these things are going to be resolved one day. And all these questions are going to be answered. But until that day we want to live for God.
There's one other thing I want to close with. God can bring good out of the worst kind of bad. God can bring good out of the worst kind of bad. Now Romans 8 28 is a verse that is so beautiful and powerful. But it's often misunderstood. We all know it right. You want to take a stab at just saying it together without it on the screen. For we know that all things work together to those who love God and are the called.
Pretty good. Like 12 of you do. That's a great verse. We quote it. Now here's where we misunderstand it. We think maybe it means that no matter what bad thing happens to me. God will turn it into something good.
Right? That's not actually what the verse says. It says we know that all things work together for good to those that love God. You see there are things that happen in life that are bad things. They're tragic things. And they'll always be a bad and tragic thing. But despite that tragic thing God can still do something good. So it doesn't mean I need to say this bad thing happened so this good thing will happen.
No maybe it's like this. This bad thing happened. I don't know why this bad thing happened. I wish it had not happened. And one day maybe God will explain it to me.
But despite that I pray that God will bring good in my life as I've come through this tragedy with this house. It's a difference. There's a difference.
Everything doesn't have a tidy little bow on it. But with Jesus He will show me His purposes ultimately. Now how did this work out in the church? Well instead of stopping the church, the church exploded in a good way. You see up to this point the church is kind of hanging out in Jerusalem. Jesus said, You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be witnesses for Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the unemos parts of the earth. And they're like yeah that's cool but we're going to hang out in Jerusalem.
They're having a little holy huddle. But after they saw the courage of Stephen. After they saw him lay his life down as he did.
They went everywhere with the gospel. And there was one man that was reached this day and his name was Saul of Tarsus. And later on we're going to look at his amazing conversion story. So incredible.
I love this story. And I think that God used Stephen in a significant way to get through to Saul. He planted the seed so you could say Stephen didn't reach a lot of people. But the one he reached man that was one whopper of a convert. Saul of Tarsus later to become the great apostle Paul. So Stephen's life is short.
But it was full. And he was faithful to death and God gave to him a crown of life. And that's what he promises to all of us as we serve him. So let me close with this thought and then we're going to pray. If you died today would you go to heaven? You say well I hope so.
Look I want more than hope. I want to know. I know I will go to heaven when I die. Why? Because I'm a preacher?
No. Because I put my faith in Christ and he's forgiven me of my sins. Same way you're going to get into heaven. As I've said so many times heaven is not for good people. It's for forgiven people. You need to be forgiven. So if you're not sure if you're forgiven of your sin.
If you're not certain that you'll go to heaven when you die. I would like to have a prayer. And I would like to lead you in a prayer where you would ask Christ to come into your life. If you need Jesus in your life pray this after me right now.
Pray these words. Lord Jesus I know that I'm a sinner. But I know that you're the Savior. Who died on the cross for my sin. And rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin now.
And I choose to follow you. From this moment forward. As my Savior and Lord. Thank you for hearing this prayer.
And answering it. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Today on A New Beginning. Pastor Greg Laurie leading listeners in an important prayer. A prayer to receive Christ and have their sins forgiven.
If you prayed that prayer. We want to be the first to welcome you into the family of God. And we want to make sure you can get started off right in your new relationship with the Lord. So we'd like to send you what we call our New Believers Growth Packet.
It's free of charge and it will help lay a foundation for your walk of faith. Just ask for it when you call 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24-7 phone number. Again 1-800-821-3300. Or write A New Beginning Box 4000 Riverside California 92514. Or go online to harvest.org and click the words Know God.
Well Pastor Greg we have some time for your additional comments. You know so many of us subscribe to different streaming services. Like Apple or Amazon Prime or Netflix. And these things you know offer some value. But what about subscribing if you will to something that literally changes lives. What I'm talking about is becoming a Harvest partner. And we have an interactive relationship with you. Because when you say I'm going to support Harvest every month. You enable us to reach new people. Now I'll give you the same content for free.
I'll be upfront about that. But at the same time someone has to help us get this content out. Because there are expenses involved. But for our Harvest partners we have special communication. We offer you special gifts and resources that are unique to those that feel that what we are doing matters. So you of all these things you subscribe to they have some value. But when you become a Harvest partner that has eternal value. Would you join our team and help us reach more people with a life changing message of the gospel.
In advance let me thank you. It's a great investment of your resources. Yeah it really is. It's an investment that reaches beyond this life. Pastor Greg is looking for a thousand new Harvest partners to help with the extraordinary need right now. The need to reach our culture at such a pivotal time. In reality that's just a handful of new friends in each area where a new beginning is heard. Would you be a part of the team that makes an impact on our culture? The monthly amount is up to you. And right now we are thanking our new Harvest partners with a copy of Pastor Greg's book.
Steve McQueen The Salvation of an American Icon. So call us today at 1-800-821-3300. We can take your call anytime that's 1-800-821-3300.
Or go online to harvest.org slash partner. Well next time Pastor Greg highlights the lives of two men in scripture. To prove the point that no one is beyond the reach of God. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. A New Beginning is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. Helping people everywhere know God. If this show has impacted your life, share your story. Leave a review on your favorite podcast app and help others find hope.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-09 21:26:56 / 2023-03-09 21:36:31 / 10