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Sign up at harvest.org. Repent and be converted, and times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. Repentance is a vital, necessary part of entering into a genuine relationship with the Lord. But what does it mean?
Pastor Greg Laurie explains today. Don't live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds.
Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves in the armor of right living as those who live in the light. Prerequisites. Students certainly know what those are. Those are things that have to come before other things.
Before you can take English 201, you have to take English 101. Well, today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us explore any prerequisites in making a genuine commitment to Jesus Christ. If heaven hangs in the balance, we want to make sure our hearts and minds are sincere, fully accepting the Lord's invitation.
Today's message serves as the finale to our studies in Acts. So we are introduced in this story to what we could describe as an almost Christian. His name was Herod Agrippa, and he was listening to the Apostle Paul. And really, as we read now what Paul says, we learn how to share our faith with non-believers. Acts 26, verse 1, Agrippa said to Paul, you may now speak in your defense.
And Paul, with the gesture of his hand, started his defense. I'm very fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders. For I know you're an expert on Jewish customs and controversies.
Now listen to me personally. Okay, now drop down to verse 9. This is Paul's testimony. I used to believe I had to do everything I could to oppose the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many of the believers in Jerusalem to be sent to prison. I cast my vote against them, and they were condemned to death. Many times I had them whipped in the synagogue to get them to curse Christ.
I was so violently opposed to them, Paul says, I hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands. So one day, I'm on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, your majesty, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
It's hard for you to fight against my will. I said, who are you, sir? And the Lord replied, I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. He loved to tell the story because it built a bridge, and that brings me to my first point.
When you want to share your faith with someone, find common ground and build a bridge to your listener. Notice what he says in verse two. I am fortunate, King Agrippa, you are the one here in my defense. Now that could sound like flattery. He also says, your majesty, hey, he's just having respect for the guy. I know you're a king, I know you're a ruler, and I want to reach you right now with the gospel.
There were reports, historically, that Agrippa was having an incestuous relationship with Bernice, his sister. So Paul called him out, hey, dude, I know about what's going on with you and your sister. What's wrong with you? You see, this is where we get sidetracked as Christians, is we're talking to someone that's living a different lifestyle than we are.
Maybe they're gay, maybe they're living with their boyfriend or their girlfriend, maybe they're strung out on drugs, maybe they have an alcohol issue, and so we start right there and going after that. No, listen, that's not the place to start. The place to start is with Jesus. Start with Jesus. Start with Jesus. When Jesus met with the woman at the well who had been married and divorced five times and was living with a guy, he didn't go straight to that and say, I know you're a wicked, immoral woman.
Rather, he said, hey, gesturing to her water pot, if you drink of this water, you'll thirst again, but if you drink of the water I offer, you'll never thirst again. He's appealing to their inner thirst, and sometimes we unnecessarily alienate people at the outset instead of building a bridge to a person. Tell your story of how you came to Christ.
Don't get the cart before the horse. The main message to these people, to all people, is Jesus, and of course, Paul uses this personal testimony to build that bridge. Here's the great thing about your story. It's a great way to preach to a person without preaching at a person. Does that make sense? In other words, as I tell my story, as I heard a guy say, Jesus said, you're for me or against me. So instead of me starting with a sermon, I start with my story, but in effect, I am kind of preaching to them. So it's showing them I wasn't always the way I am now. Christ has changed me.
That's the place to begin. Acts 26, verse 18. Look at this. He says, to Agrippa, God has called me to preach the gospel, which means to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, and then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God's people and be given an inheritance. Two big things must happen for you to not be an almost Christian, but for you to become a real Christian. Number one, you need to have your eyes open. You need to have your eyes open. The Bible speaks of a spiritual blindness that every person has. We're told in 2 Corinthians 4, the good news we preach is veiled from anyone.
It's a sign they're perishing. Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the eyes of those that do not believe, and they're unable to see the glorious light of the good news shining upon them. They don't understand the message we preach about Jesus, who is the exact likeness of God.
So listen. When you're talking to a nonbeliever, pray this. Lord, open their eyes. There's nothing I can say to open your eyes. There's nothing I can say to make a nonbeliever believe. I've had people come up to me and say, Greg, what is like the hack here on getting a person to come to Christ? What is the, you know, the one thing you can say that will cause everyone to believe, like evangelists, like have that in a card in their back pocket or something? No, I don't.
I'm just like you. I just proclaim the truth. But I pray that God would open their spiritual eyes. In fact, Paul even says in Ephesians 1 18, he prays that the eyes of the heart would be open because Satan has blinded people. So first, we pray, Lord, open their eyes. So when you came to Christ, your eyes were open. What does that mean? There came a moment, it may have happened in a flash, where all of a sudden you realize this is all true. It happened for me, I've told you before. At 8 17, I'm looking at the Christians, I'm thinking they're crazy.
I don't even know why I'm there. And something was said. And all of a sudden, I just thought, this is all true. It's all true.
And this is what I've been looking for. That's having your eyes open. But that doesn't mean you're converted yet.
It's possible to have your eyes open and still not believe. You can say, I know it's true. I know Jesus is the way. I know there's a heaven. I know there's a hell.
I know we need to repent. Great. Have you done it?
No. Well, listen, you're close. And you're closer than you were before. But you need to have your eyes open, number one. And then number two, you need to turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.
That's what Paul says. Turn from darkness to light and the power of Satan to God. Only God can open your spiritual eyes. Only you can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Romans 13 says, the night is almost gone.
The day of salvation will soon be here. Don't live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds.
Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves in the armor of right living as those who live in the light. This is what it means to repent. See, this is the missing element in the so-called conversion of a lot of people. They've never repented of their sin.
Well, I believe in Jesus. Oh, I love Jesus, they say. But then they continue living in sin. But the Bible says, repent and be converted and times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. Repent. Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery who He forgave.
He said, repent and sin no more. Reminds me of a church that needed a new paint job. So they called a local painter, would you come and paint our church?
So the guy said, sure. He showed up, whoa, it's a little bigger than I thought it would be. He thought, okay, I have to spend this much of materials, this many hours to do it. And then he thought, you know, if I thin the paint, I could do this for less money and make more personal profit. So he poured a bunch of paint thinner in his paint and he's painting it and he's up at the very top.
He's finishing off the steeple with this thinned out paint and suddenly there was a bolt of lightning from heaven that struck him and he's hanging on by one hand and he hears a voice from heaven say, repaint and thin no more. What is repentance? Sometimes we confuse repentance and remorse. Remorse is being sorry you got caught.
Repentance is being sorry enough to stop. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Hey, I don't know if you know about this, but we have a weekend service called Harvest at Home exclusively for people that are tuning in literally from around the world. Listen to this, we even have Harvest groups where you can get into a small group with folks from all around this planet of ours and study the Word of God.
So join us this weekend, Saturday and Sunday for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org. You've joined us for an important study from Pastor Greg titled The Almost Christian. Pastor Greg continues now. So let's go back over this. To be a real Christian and not an almost Christian, number one, turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God after you've had your eyes open. Now what happens if you do that?
Ah, look at this. God gives you the forgiveness of your sins and an inheritance, verse 18. Let me go back to what I said earlier, there's some things only God can do.
Only God can open your eyes, only God can give you the forgiveness of your sin and an inheritance, but only you, only I, only we can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. But the forgiveness of sins, how amazing is that? To have your sins forgiven and forgotten. God promises in Hebrews 8 12, there's sins and iniquities, I will remember no more. God doesn't just forgive us our sins, He forgets our sins. He doesn't hold our sins against us. How do I get my sins forgiven? Verse 1 1 9, if I will confess my sin, He's faithful and just to forgive me of my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. So He forgives me, then He gives me an inheritance.
What does that mean? That means I'm adopted into God's family. I mean, if all God did for me was forgive my sins, that would have been more than enough. But then the Lord says, now you're my child. I've adopted you. I haven't received a spirit of bondage again to fear, but one of adoption whereby I cry, Abba Father, the Bible says.
So it's relationship that He gives me, access to His throne, access to His presence. Years ago we were doing one of our crusades and I forgot my Bible in my hotel room. So I said to my son Christopher, well, go get my Bible.
I forgot it, please. And so he rushes to the hotel room, he gets the Bible, he shows up at the crusade, says, I need to give this to my dad. They say, well, you don't have the credentials to get back there. He goes, he's my dad. No, I don't know who you are. How do I know he's your dad? He pulls out his driver's license, Christopher David Laurie. Look, I'm his son. He asked me to, look, his name is on the Bible, Greg Laurie.
I need to bring the Bible to my dad. Sorry, and then someone told me, I said, no, let him in. So this is the crazy thing. The usher said no, but the father said come. Guess where I'm going with this. By the way, I had that usher killed, but that's. No, God forgave me, it's all right.
No, I'm joking, I didn't. Well, the usher was doing his job a little too zealously, let's say, but we come to the father. Father, I come to you at the job and say, you can't come in here. You don't have the credentials. No, you say, he's my father.
Get out of the way. You have access to Jesus Christ, you see. That's the inheritance. That's the inheritance, and it will take all eternity for us to grasp all that God has done for us.
Ephesians 2 says God will point us to the future ages and give us examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us as shown in all he has done for us. So when you get to heaven, you don't know everything. You're gonna learn new things in heaven. Heaven's gonna be amazing. It's gonna be an adventure. There'll be things to do. There'll be places to go. There'll be new things to learn, and so for all eternity, we'll learn more and more about the amazing things that God has done for each of us.
What do I need to do? Have my eyes opened, turned from darkness and light, from the power of Satan to God, then I receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance from God. What an amazing promise. One last thing I'll point out about Paul's message, and then we'll wrap it up. Paul preached the crucifixion of Jesus. Look at verse 22, Acts 26. I teach nothing except what the prophets of Moses said would happen, that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead. He's saying this to a grip.
Hey, I'm here to tell you Jesus Christ died on the cross, and he rose from the dead, and that's our message to a lost world. Festus seemed irritated by Paul. However, a grip almost seems to be convinced. Verse 24, Festus shouts, Paul, you're crazy. Too much study has made you insane. Paul replies, I'm not insane, most excellent Festus. He's still respectful.
I'm not crazy, sir. In fact, I'm speaking the sober truth, and then he zeroes in on Agrippa, and he says, King Agrippa knows all about these things. I speak frankly. I'm sure these events are familiar to him.
They were not done in a corner, and then he says to King Agrippa, verse 27, King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do. People probably guessed.
No one speaks to the king like that. Paul does. Hey, I know you know this stuff.
I know you know it's true. In a way, he was setting a trap for Agrippa. If Agrippa said, no, it's not true, that would cause the very people he had to interface with to turn against him, but if he said it was true, he was falling into Paul's trap, so he says this, again, verse 28, do you think you could cause me to become a Christian so quickly? Listen, for some people to come to Christ, it takes years, years. I know people who have prayed years for their children, years for their spouses, years for their parents. I prayed for well over 30 years for my mother to come to Christ, and she finally did one month before she died. It took years. It took hours to reach my father who adopted me, Oscar Laurie. I literally spent a few hours telling him what Christ had done for me, and he accepted Christ. It takes years with some.
It takes hours with others. That's up to God. Our job is to just faithfully give them the message, and then Paul responds in verse 29. Listen, quickly or not, I pray to God that you and everyone here in the audience might become as I am, except for these chains.
And Agrippa the governor and Bernice his sister and all the others got up and left. Ah, so close, but so far, the almost Christian. What are the takeaway truths from this message? Number one, God wants us to share the gospel because he's called us to do so.
He has put you where you are, just as he put Paul where he was for a reason. And the most important part of that message is Christ in him crucified. Number two, it's not enough to just be exposed to the truth. We must act on it so we can have our eyes open, but we need to turn from darkness to light. Three, as we share the gospel with people, we need to build bridges, not burn them, and give them the gospel. And four, we must realize that only God can open the spiritual eyes of a listener.
We just have to do our part. I wonder if I'm speaking to somebody right now who just had their eyes open. Now maybe you were sleeping and literally your eyes open, I don't know. But I'm talking about your spiritual eyes. You've heard these things I've said before, but all of a sudden, boom, you just went, this is true.
Why have I not done this yet? Maybe I'm talking to someone who believes Jesus is the son of God. You believe he died on the cross.
You believe he rose from the dead. You believe there's an afterlife, a heaven, even a hell. You believe all these things, but you haven't taken the next step and turned from your sin. You're still living in your sin. This could be the day when everything changes for you.
And the day when you are forgiven of your sins, and the day when you receive this inheritance that God has for you. If you've never asked Jesus to come into your life, if you're not sure if your sin is forgiven, maybe you've been going through life thinking you're a believer, and maybe for the first time you've realized that maybe you actually aren't. Maybe you've been pretending this is your moment to get right with God. This is the moment to be forgiven of your sins.
And if you need to do that, you can do it right here, right now. Let's pray. Father, speak to every heart. And if they don't know you yet, let this be the moment they believe. If you would like Jesus Christ to come into your life, if you would like him to forgive you of your sins, if you would like to know with certainty that you will go to heaven when you die, if you're ready to turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, then pray this prayer after me. Just pray, Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior who died on the cross for me, and rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin now, and I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus' name, I pray.
Amen. Pastor Greg Laurie with an important prayer today. And we hope you'll get in touch with us and let us know about the decision you've made today here on A New Beginning. And we'd like to send you some follow-up resources to help you build a strong foundation of faith as you go forward. We'd like to send you our New Believers Growth Packet. It's free of charge, and it'll help you as you take your first steps. Just ask for it as you call 1-800-821-3300. You can reach us anytime or on the clock.
Again, at 1-800-821-3300. Or, go to harvest.org and click on Know God. Well, Pastor Greg, we're making available your fascinating book on Revelation. But I've got to think the first time a pastor decides to teach from the book of Revelation is a little sobering, you know, a little intimidating.
Do you remember the first time you dove in? Yes, it is all the above. It's an overwhelming book. It's a book that's filled with imagery.
It's a book that's filled with statements that are not always easily understood. But I think as you begin to piece it together and understand that studying the book of Daniel is a great help in understanding the book of Revelation, understanding the format of it, understanding the purpose of it, it suddenly comes into focus for you. You know, just take the word revelation. By the way, it's revelation singular, not revelations plural. I bring this up because people often say, well, I've been reading revelations. Well, it's revelation. But revelation means to unveil. So God's not trying to hide things from us.
He's trying to unveil, reveal things to us. You know, it's interesting, Jesus in Matthew 24, in what we call the Olivet Discourse says, when you see the abomination of desolation happen, then we read, let the reader understand. So Jesus is talking about end times events.
And there's that little detail, let the reader understand. So why would Jesus say that if he didn't want us to understand Bible prophecy, and how it applies to us today, I believe we're living in the last days, I believe Jesus could come back at any moment. And I believe we need to be ready. And the book of Revelation will help us to live a life that is prepared for the return of Christ. So we have a beautiful hardcover book commentary on the book of Revelation. And it's simply called Revelation, a Book of Promises. And I'm so excited about this, because this is going to help you understand this great book of Revelation, and how Bible prophecy applies to you. So I hope you'll order this book that we will send to you for your gift of any size. And whatever you send, we will use to enable us to continue to teach the Word of God here on our radio broadcast, A New Beginning, and also to proclaim the gospel and call people to Jesus Christ. So order your copy of this book, Revelation, a Book of Promises, and we'll send it to you for your gift of any size.
Yeah, that's right. It's such a rich book. In fact, it even promises a special blessing.
No other book of the Bible does that. And we'd like to send you this resource to thank you for your donation right now. Hey Dave, let me jump in really quick. And not only are we offering this book, Revelation, a Book of Promises, but we have this really cool graphic bookmark that we have put together that gives you a timeline of end times event. So you probably wondered, okay, I know I've heard about the rapture and the tribulation period and the Antichrist and the second coming.
What happens when? Well, this very beautiful little visual bookmark sort of lays it out for you. That's included in the book you're talking about right now. Yeah, that's right.
It comes automatically. So get in touch with your donation today, and we'll thank you with a copy of Revelation, a Book of Promises. Just call us at 1-800-821-3300.
That's 24-7, phone number 1-800-821-3300. Or go online to harvest.org. Well, next time we move ahead into a fascinating study of the life of Elijah. It's a series called The Power to Stand. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Warren. Just go to harvest.org.
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