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No One Is Beyond the Reach of God | Choosing Between Life and Death

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
August 19, 2022 3:00 am

No One Is Beyond the Reach of God | Choosing Between Life and Death

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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August 19, 2022 3:00 am

In spite of the fact that eternal life is a free gift from God, paid for by Jesus’ death at Calvary, some accept that gift and some don’t. That’s startling to believers: “heaven or hell, take your pick.” “Yeah, I just don’t think heaven’s the right fit for me.” Today on A NEW BEGINNING, we’ll take a look at that choice and how people each make the choices that lead to life or death. Pastor Greg Laurie is presenting an enlightening series in the book of Acts called The Upside Down Life.

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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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Hey everybody, you're listening to A New Beginning, which is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners.

If this program has impacted you, I'd love to hear from you. So just send an email to me at greg.harvest.org. Again, it's greg.harvest.org.

You can learn more about becoming a Harvest Partner by going to harvest.org. Is Christianity just another religion? Pastor Greg Laurie says no. He explains a key difference between Christianity and other religions of the world. If you were to sum up religion in one word, it would be the word do. Do this and you'll reach nirvana.

Do this other thing and you might get to heaven. If you were to sum up Christianity in one word, it would be the word done. It's done, it's finished, it's completed because of the death of Christ on the cross. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace how sweet the sound.

Again you hear all the angels are singing. This is the day, the day when life begins. In light of the fact that eternal life is a free gift from God, paid for by Jesus' death at Calvary.

Some accept that gift and some don't. That's startling to believers. Heaven or hell, take your pick.

Yeah, I just don't think heaven's the right fit for me. Well, today on A New Beginning, we'll take a look at that choice and how people each make the choices that lead to life or death. Pastor Greg is presenting an enlightening series in the book of Acts called The Upside Down Life. I want to look at two men in the Bible that are placed side by side, Saul of Tarsus and Simon the magician.

One had a real conversion, the other did not. And this is a reminder that time will tell if a person is really a believer. Acts chapter nine, definitely one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Verse one, Saul was entering threats with every breath and he was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest who requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus asking for their cooperation and the arrest of any followers of the way. Underlying that phrase, the way, he found there he wanted to bring them both men and women to Jerusalem in chains.

This guy was heartless. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light fell from heaven and it suddenly shone down around him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Who are you, Lord? Saul asked. The voice replied, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Now get up and go into the city and you'll be told what to do. But the men who were with Saul stood speechless for they heard the sound of someone's voice but saw no one. I'll stop there. Don't you love that story? So here's Saul. He's like a wild animal. Verse one says he was uttering threats and this is an interesting phrase. It means he was ravaging people to destroy them. He was just filled with fury. In fact, Paul said in Acts 26, 11 when giving this testimony, a raging fury obsessed him. And if you were to have told Saul, hey buddy, before you get to the end of this trip, you're going to be a Christian.

He would have laughed in your face. I love this description of the first century Christians in verse two. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues asking for the cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the way.

Of the way. I mentioned to you before that the Christians did not get together and decide to call themselves Christians. They were called followers of the way. They called themselves followers of the way. No doubt based on the statement of Jesus in John 14, 6 where he said what? I am the, that's right, the way, the truth, and the life. So they were followers of the way.

They believed that Jesus was the way to God as we believe today. Well, most of us or some of us. How many of you believe Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God? Raise your hand. Okay.

That's good. Because this is a non-negotiable. And I bring this up because it's now controversial to say that. To say that there's only one way to a relationship with God and that is through Jesus Christ. And some would say well that's not right. I read recently that 70% of born again Christians were pulled and they said they did not believe that Jesus is the only way to God. My response is are you sure you're a born again Christian? How can you say that because it's so clear in scripture how this is a non-negotiable truth. Why do I believe Jesus is the only way to the Father? Because Jesus said so. Now it really comes down to that. Are we going to believe the Bible or not? I know it seems very open minded of you.

Maybe even compassionate of you. To say well all roads really lead to God. And really when you get down to it all religions really teach the same thing.

Which is your way of saying I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. Because if you take an honest look at the great religions of the world you will see they clearly do not all teach the same thing. In fact if you were to sum up religion in one word it would be the word do. Do. Do this and you'll find inner peace. Do that and you'll reach nirvana.

Do this other thing and you might get to heaven. If you were to sum up Christianity in one word it would be the word done. It's done. It's finished. It's completed because of the death of Christ on the cross. So you have a choice. You can go with done or you can go with do.

Do and do. Acts 4 12 says there is salvation in no one else. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. There were people of the way. Not our way.

Or a better way. They were people of the only way. So it's afternoon. The sun's probably shining. Saul's on his way to kill Christians. It's a good day in the mind of Saul of Tarsus.

Verse 3 says a light fell from heaven and shone around him and he fell to the ground. And then what he says Saul Saul why are you persecuting me? I love Saul's response. Who are you Lord? Who are you? And I know that Saul is probably thinking don't say Jesus. Don't say Jesus. Who are you Lord? I am Jesus.

That's echo. Who you are persecuting. And Saul said don't.

Obscure Homer Simpson reference in case you missed it. He realized that the very God he thought he was serving he was in fact opposing. And it's also interesting how Jesus says why do you persecute me? Jesus identifies with his people. When someone raises their hand against us they are in fact raising a hand against Christ himself. So if you're hurting I want you to know Jesus knows.

He's more than aware. Fascinating verse. Verse 5. Jesus says it's hard for you to kick against the goats. Now that's a statement that is hard for us to understand.

What does that even mean? A goat was basically a sharpened stick. So back in the first century instead of putting the pedal to the metal you put the goat to the ox.

Okay. A goat was a sharpened stick. You want the ox to go faster. You want to shift into second gear.

You give him a poke. Right. So this is the picture Jesus uses. You're kicking against the goat. So I'm prompting you to believe. I'm convicting you. You're fighting with me.

You're kicking against that. So what would these goads so-called be? I think the arguments life and death of Stephen was one of them. The way he died as I pointed out.

I think the spread of the gospel and the response of the believers were goals as well. Saul probably wondered how can these people suffer and die if it's all a lie. So Saul believes and we're going to have to put that in freeze frame. And we'll come to that later because now we're going to shift gears and look at the other character in our story. We have one who was converted. Saul of Tarsus. Now we have another who appears to be converted but in fact he is a poser.

Because things are not always as they appear. I was with Chuck Smith years ago and we did a TV show together. And afterwards we went into the little back room and they had a whole bunch of sushi out there. So there was some wasabi. You know what wasabi is? So you take a little bit of wasabi. You mix it up in the soy sauce and you dip your sushi in the wasabi.

So I'm there with Chuck Smith. He's looking at all this food and he's filling his plate with sushi. I said, wow Chuck I didn't know you love sushi. He says, I love sushi.

Great. And then he takes a big ball of wasabi. A big ball. And he pops it in his mouth.

I'm like. And he turns bright red. And tears are starting to come out of his eyes. And he just stands there. And then he finally swallows it and I said, Chuck you're not supposed to eat that. And Chuck says, I thought it was guacamole. Oh man.

It's brutal. But a great story. Thank you Pastor Chuck. Things are not always as they appear. That's certainly the case with Simon.

Simon the sorcerer. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. You know there's nothing like hearing the word of God and worshipping the Lord together. I want to encourage you to join us for something we call Harvest at Home. It happens every Saturday and Sunday at Harvest.org. You can join Christians literally from around the world as we worship and we study the word of God together.

So join us for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org. Well Pastor Greg has been focusing on the life of Saul of Tarsus. And now he contrasts it with the story of Simon the magician or Simon the sorcerer.

A little backdrop on his story before we read about it. Philip was in town and he was praying for people and miracles were happening. And it's a great time. Enter Simon the sorcerer. Acts chapter 8 verse 9.

We're going back now. Back to Acts 8 verse 9. A man named Simon had been a sorcerer for many years amazing the people of Samaria. And claiming to be someone great everyone from the least to the greatest often spoke of him as the great one the power of God. They listened closely to him because for a long time he astounded them with his magic. But now the people believe Philip's message of the good news concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result many men and women were baptized then Simon himself believed and was baptized.

He began following Philip wherever he went and he was amazed at the signs and great miracles Philip performed. So at first glance it looks like this guy Simon became a believer. So Simon the magician. He was probably steeped in occultism. But he probably had some pretty cool magic tricks up his sleeve that were nothing more than sleight of hand and trickery. We have a professional magician that attends our church over on Maui.

His name is Warren I went to one of his shows. It's incredible and Warren's a Christian and he uses his magic. And it's not literal magic but he uses illusion to make spiritual points.

It's very convincing. And I asked him after I saw his show tell me how you did this he wouldn't reveal how he did it. But I just tell you this when someone comes and wants to do a card trick I hate card tricks okay. Pick a card and just stop. I don't want to pick a card.

Go away with your cards okay. But whatever Simon did it was very impressive. It was very convincing.

So it might have been a combination of trickery illusion and devilish power on display. But whatever it was he had the people eating out of his hand. He was very popular. He was even called the great one.

You're the great one. Well he enjoyed that. Well along comes Philip and Philip wrecks everything. And he preaches the gospel and real power is now on display. Because there's no power that can compete with the power of the gospel. Because it's the power of God unto salvation.

So Simon had no magic trick to match this. So we read in verse 13 he believed and was baptized. Now was he converted? Well I don't know.

I kind of tend to doubt it for this reason. Because if you drop down to verse 20 we see that Peter showed up in town along with John. And they were performing miracles by the hand of God. And Simon said listen I want to buy this trick. This thing you guys are doing I want this in my repertoire.

So how much to buy this ability? Well that didn't play well. Peter says in verse 20 may your money be destroyed with you for thinking God's gift can be bought. You have no part in this and your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you of your evil thoughts. For I can see you're full of bitter jealousy and held captive by sin.

Wow. So it's a super serious charge that Peter is leveling at Simon. When he says may your money be destroyed with you. But wait it says he believed and was baptized. Doesn't that mean he was a Christian?

Not necessarily. It is my belief that he was not a believer at all. You know in a technical sense you could say the demons believe. And by that I don't mean that I think they're followers of Jesus.

They're the very opposite of that. But yet James 2 19 says you believe there's one God you're right. Even the demons believe that and tremble.

Oh foolish man don't you know faith without works is dead. Let's say I interviewed a demon. That would be freaky wouldn't it? Let's say I interviewed Lucifer himself.

The devil. If I were to ask Satan, Satan let me ask you a question. Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God? What do you think his answer would be?

Yes. How do I know that? Because in the temptation in the wilderness he said to the Lord. Since you're the son of God why don't you turn this rock into a piece of bread. He was not questioning that. Satan believes Jesus is the son of God. If I were to ask the devil do you believe that the Bible is the word of God.

What do you think his answer would be? Yes he knows it. As we already read in that verse the demons believe and tremble. That he knows it's true.

But obviously he's in rebellion against it. See Simon I think was faking a conversion because it was something he really wanted. But the Bible leaves the story open ended. He was told to repent. Did he repent later? I don't know.

Hopefully he did. But this much is true. You can say you're a Christian and not be a Christian. In John 2 we read that when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover. Many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did. But then this statement. But Jesus did not commit himself to them for he knew all men. Wait what? Many believed in him when they saw the signs but Jesus did not commit himself to them.

You could translate it this way. Many believed in him but he didn't believe in them. That's John 2. Right on the heels of that is John 3.

Amazing insight. And what do we read in John 3? Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night. And what happened with him? Well he believed. We know that later Nicodemus became a believer. But he had this conversation with Christ.

So that's a contrast. Hey many appeared to be believing but they were not believers. But here's this guy. The most unexpected guy. Nicodemus the leader of the Pharisees who actually did become a believer.

We have that same picture in this story before us. Here's a man who did not want to become a believer. The last thing he wanted was Jesus. His name was Saul. He became a true Christian. Here's a man that appeared to want to be a believer but he really did not.

His name was Simon. If you're a real believer you need to repent of your sin. That's what Peter said. He said you need to repent of this. And repentance doesn't just mean being sorry.

It means being sorry enough to stop. In closing I wonder if I'm talking to someone that's been kicking against the goads. And by that I mean you're kicking against the Holy Spirit. You're resisting the convicting work of the Spirit who's trying to draw you to himself.

Why? Well we get this idea that being a Christian. Such a drag.

Rules, regulations, absolutes. I want to just do what I want to do and go where I want to go and live the way I want to live and hang out with the people I want to hang around with. And then you go down that path and you see how empty that is and meanwhile Jesus is still calling you. Did it ever occur to you that God's plan for you is far better than your plan for yourself? I love that verse that I quote often. Jeremiah 29 11. It says, I know the thoughts that I think towards you says the Lord.

Thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope. Reminds me of a story I heard about a guy who was being pursued by an attorney. And this man was certain that that attorney wanted to serve him with a subpoena. So this guy made it his mission in life to evade the attorney. This went on for 13 years and that attorney was never able to make contact with this man.

Well the man got very sick and he was actually dying and he was in the hospital. And lo and behold they wheeled that attorney in right next to him. He was sharing the room with the attorney.

The man turned to the attorney and said, go ahead. Serve me the subpoena. I don't even care now. I am going to die. The attorney said, subpoena?

I have a written document telling you that you had inherited 45 million dollars. See that is us running from God. I don't want God's will. God wants to bless you. God wants to forgive you. God wants to guide you. God wants to use you. God wants to put supernatural gifts in your life and use you to change the world. What are you running from?

What are you afraid of? You should be running to him not away from him. And you could do that right now. There might be somebody that is caught in a cycle of addiction. And you have tried so many times to break free. This can be your moment where everything changes because of Jesus. Maybe there is somebody here that has been fighting with God and fighting with Christians. And that by the way is a losing proposition. Don't get in a fight with God.

You are going to so lose. As it has been said, your arms are too short to box with God. Just submit to God. His plan for you is good. He is not trying to serve you with a subpoena. He is trying to give you an inheritance. He is trying to bless you. He is trying to get you on the right course.

And maybe somebody here needs to get on that course. Jesus died on the cross for your sin. Paid the price for every sin you have ever committed. And he will forgive you right here, right now, in a moment if you will turn to him. Not a fake conversion like Simon.

A real conversion like Saul. Let's all pray. Father we thank you for your word to us.

We know it is true. And I know there are people here that need to get right with you. And I am praying that at this very moment your Holy Spirit will convince them of their need for Jesus and bring them to yourself. In Jesus name I pray. Amen. Pastor Greg Laurie with an important prayer. And if you would like to make a change in your relationship with the Lord today. Pastor Greg will help you with that in just a moment before this edition of A New Beginning concludes. Well Pastor Greg we know many of our listeners tune us in on a regular basis. And we would like to invite them to consider helping us on a regular basis. Isn't that right?

I heard somebody say if you are going to eat at the table you should help stock the refrigerator. Yeah very true. And you know there is a lot of effort that goes into producing this time of teaching you hear every day via radio or podcast. And it is something that is very important to us. And we know it changes lives. We know that people come to Christ as a result of listening to A New Beginning. And we know more are going to come to Christ.

But we can't get to them without your help. See this is an effort that we all do together as a team or going back to your analogy Dave as a family. Doing it together as a family so we can add more people to God's eternal family. So would you preferably consider investing in Harvest Ministries financially? In doing so you will become a Harvest partner if you offer to us a reoccurring gift. And what that means is you give us a gift each and every month. And that enables us to respond to opportunities that come our way to reach new people with the gospel. Listen here's our objective. We want to reach unexpected people in unexpected places with an unexpected message. So help us to do that and become a Harvest partner.

Here's Dave to tell you a little bit more. Yeah that's right. You can choose the amount of the gift you send each month.

It's totally up to you. And we have some special ways to say thanks to our Harvest partners each month. Right now we're sending Pastor Greg's book Steve McQueen The Salvation of an American Icon to our new partners.

With so much going on in our world right now you know with an alarming amount of tension and divisiveness and hopelessness. We want to reach out as far as we can with the hope of the gospel. And so we're inviting new Harvest partners to team up with us to meet the need. Can we count you in? Get the details at harvest.org slash partner. Or call us anytime 24-7 at 1-800-821-3300.

That's 1-800-821-3300. Well Pastor Greg you spoke today about having a relationship with the Lord. Yes. Someone can enter into that kind of a relationship with God right now can't they? Yeah they really can. That's the amazing thing. I think people are surprised that it doesn't take years to become a Christian. It doesn't take months. It doesn't take weeks. It doesn't take days.

It doesn't even take hours. You can believe on the spot. And I would like to lead you in a prayer where you can ask for His forgiveness. A prayer where you can receive Jesus Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord. So if you want Christ to come into your life. If you want Him to forgive you of your sin. If you want a second chance in life. If you want to go to heaven when you die. Stop what you're doing and pray after me.

These words. Lord Jesus I know I am a sinner. And I'm sorry for my sin. And I turn from it now.

And I choose to follow you from this moment forward. As Savior and Lord. As God and friend.

Thank you for loving me and calling me and forgiving me. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Amen. And listen if you have just prayed those words with Pastor Greg. The Lord has heard you and forgiven you of your sin.

The Bible says Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin. And cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And we'd like to send you some materials to help you begin to live this new life. We call it our New Believers Growth Packet. Just ask for it and we'll send it your way free of charge.

If you prayed for the first time today with Pastor Greg. Just give us a call anytime at 1-800-821-3300. That's 1-800-821-3300. Or write us at A New Beginning Box 4000 Riverside, CA 92514. Or go online to Harvest.org and click the words, Know God. Well next time Pastor Greg points out that we're living in a time when we can literally take the gospel to everyone on the planet.

We'll talk about doing that. Join us here on A New Beginning with Pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. The preceding podcast was made possible by Harvest Partners. Helping people everywhere know God. Learn how to become a Harvest Partner. Sign up for daily devotions and find resources to help you grow in your faith at Harvest.org
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-08 16:02:19 / 2023-03-08 16:13:00 / 11

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