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A Twisted Family Tree | Christmas and Imperfect People

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2022 3:00 am

A Twisted Family Tree | Christmas and Imperfect People

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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December 24, 2022 3:00 am

Not even Jesus’ family was a perfect one—but that shouldn’t be a shock. Instead, it should be a reminder that Jesus came to save. Pastor Greg Laurie helps us see God's grace in action and connect what we learn to the story of Christmas.

Pastor Greg's Christmas message LIVE

Notes

God gives second chances!

Read: Matthew 1:1–7, 15–16

Jesus’ story is not about God helping perfect people but saving lost people.

In this genealogy, which is really a key part of the Christmas story, we have God, in His mercy, doing for sinners what they can’t do for themselves. Reminding us that Jesus came to heal broken lives and restore shattered hopes.

David

Matthew 1:1

Luke 1:32

Tamar

Matthew 1:3

Rehab

Ruth

Bathsheba

Mary

Matthew 1:16

Read: Luke 1:26–29

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” —Luke 1:28

Mary was troubled, or literally agitated.

A truly spiritual person will not boast of their accomplishments.

The more spiritual you are, the more aware you will become of your own sinfulness.

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” —Luke 1:46–47

Joseph

Luke 1:27

God the Father, in Heaven, chose Joseph to be a stepfather, or father figure, for Jesus on earth!

The angel of the Lord came to Joseph, too.

The whole first chapter of Matthew speaks of the grace of God.

There will never be another Joseph and Mary.

Then again, there will never be another you!

God is preparing you for a purpose in this life, and He is preparing you for the afterlife.

  1. That God’s grace may be richly displayed.
  2. We have the genealogy of Christ so the focus would be on Jesus and not His family.
  3. That we might have hope for our future, and the future of our family.

Christmas is all about redemption—taking messed up families and making them right.

Scripture Referenced

Mark 3:21

Matthew 1:20–21

Ephesians 4:32

Hebrews 7:25

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Watch Pastor Greg's Christmas message: harvest.org/live

Learn more about Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries at harvest.org.

This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

Support the show: https://harvest.org/support

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Welcome to Harvest Riverside. Welcome to all you that are watching online as well. So the title of my message is A Twisted Family Tree. And I want you to turn to two passages. Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapter 1.

Matthew 1 and Luke 1. So, quick poll. How many of you have finished your Christmas shopping? Raise your hand. You're all done. You're done. You're done. How many of you have not started your Christmas shopping?

Why is it always men? Oh, there's a lady though. Okay. Surprising. Yeah. Okay.

Well, it's getting close. How many of you are going to travel for Christmas? You're going to go somewhere. May God have mercy on you.

No, not really. But it's challenging traveling right now. How many of you will be home for Christmas?

Raise your hand up. That's the majority of you. Well, if you're going to be home, you might be having family over. How many of you are getting together with family for Christmas?

Okay. Do you have weird families too? Guess what? Everybody comes from a weird family and probably is a part of a weird family. We all have that obnoxious uncle, that twisted cousin, and grandpa's getting crazier every year.

Right? That's not only you. That's all of us.

And then there's other issues sometimes. Maybe mom and dad got divorced. So you got to go visit mom and her new husband and dad and his new girlfriend.

And so instead of it being the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas can turn out to be the most stressful time of the year. You say, well, I come from a dysfunctional family. Yeah, well, we all do.

Okay. I came from one and I'm the head of one now. So welcome to the club.

That's the way it is. You know, the big thing right now among a lot of people is tracing their family tree. People want to know about their ancestry and their roots. I read that 26 million people have taken an at-home ancestry test. Have any of you done that?

Like 23 and me? Yeah, I wonder where my roots are. There's a guy that attends our church. He's actually a genealogist. And he did a little research on my family tree, tracing it through my grandfather and my grandmother, Charles and Stella McDaniel. And there were a few surprises.

I did find this out, and I kind of like this part. I am related to Johnny Cash, okay? So I'm the man in black too, see? Except Johnny had better hair than I have. And you know, because I did a book about Johnny and we just did a film about Johnny. By the way, our film, when it debuted, was the number four film in America and across the country.

900,000 people watch it in a theater around our nation. So anyway, as it turns out, this genealogist told me that my great-grandmother, who's named Lutetia Cash, came from the same Cash family that Johnny came from, emigrating from Scotland. I also found out I'm a distant cousin of Steve McQueen. And I wrote a book about him too, and it's crazy. I didn't know this when I wrote these books. And not only that, I am related to Billy, and more specifically, Ruth Graham. And so I wrote books about all these people not knowing any of this. I wrote a book about Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon, Steve McQueen, The Salvation of an American Icon, and a book called Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. Then I found out I'm also related to Walt Disney.

Now I want to get some passes out of this, because it's like $1,000 to go to Disneyland for one day now. But not all my ancestors are impressive. I also found out that Benedict Arnold is in my family tree.

Oh great. The traitor. Also, John Dillinger and Jesse James. Okay, so John Dillinger was a killer.

That's Jesse James there, an outlaw. And then I found out I'm related to this guy. Check this guy out. His name is Nettie Cash Fowler. Look at this guy.

He has a knife and a gun. That's one of my relatives. So I don't know if your family tree is messed up, but mine is for sure. We all have some heroes and zeros in our ancestry. And you might be surprised to know that Jesus Christ had a pretty messed up family tree. There were some rogues in the gallery, if you will. Some prostitutes, a liar or two, a cheat, an adulterer, and even a murderer.

Yeah, you heard me right. The family tree of Jesus was decorated with notable sinners. And so he knows about relatives that might embarrass you, right?

You're not the only one there. And so here we look at this amazing genealogy here in Matthew chapter one that traces the roots of Jesus Christ. And I'll tell you why this is important in a moment. So go to Matthew one, and I'm starting in verse one. The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, underline that, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac begot Jacob. Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, another important name, Tamar.

Perez begot Hezron and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amenadab. Amenadab begot Elvis. Elvis begot, I just wanted to see if you're listening.

Okay, there's no Elvis, I inserted that. Nahshon begot Solomon. Solomon begot Boaz by Rahab, I'd underline that. Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, another important name. Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the King. David the King begot Solomon, who had been the wife of Uriah. Interesting, she's identified as the wife of Uriah.

We'll come back to that. That would be Bathsheba. And Solomon begot Rehoboam. Rehoboam begot Abijah. Abijah begot Esau.

Now drop down to verse 15. Eliad begot Eleazar. Eleazar begot Mathen. Mathen begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.

This is important. There are some pretty surprising names in the family tree of the Messiah. Jewish genealogies did not generally include women. For instance, in Luke's genealogy of Jesus, there are no females, but Matthew includes five.

Who are they? Timah, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and of course, Mary. Some of these women were known for their immorality, specifically Timah and Rahab, and yet they made it into the most exclusive genealogy in all of human history, reminding us of this simple fact. Jesus' story is not about helping perfect people, but saving lost people. He too had a pretty messed up family tree, and in this genealogy, which is a key part of the Christmas story, we have God in His mercy doing for sinners what they can't do for themselves, reminding us that Jesus came to heal broken lives and restore shattered hopes. That's why He came, to save His people from their sins. He didn't come for perfect people. He came for flawed people. He came for sinful people. He came for people just like you and just like me.

Remember the message. You will call His name Immanuel, for He will save His people from their sins. So let's look at the first character and really the most notable, David. Matthew 1-1, he's the son of David. Now, we did a whole series on David called The House of David, not long ago. But as you recall, David was the second king in the history of Israel.

Saul was the first. David was his shepherd boy when the Lord called him out of obscurity, living in Bethlehem to become a giant killer. And he faced off with the nine foot six inch Goliath in the Valley of Elah and defeated him, and he became a folk hero to the people. He eventually ascended to the throne and became the beloved king of Israel.

He's uniquely described as the man after God's own heart, the sweet psalmist of Israel. But of course, there's another name that enters the narrative of David, Bathsheba. David is best known by two other names, David and Goliath and David and Bathsheba.

Goliath was his greatest victory there in the battlefield. Bathsheba, his worst defeat in the bedroom. And then he, after committing adultery with her, tried to cover it up and eventually had her husband, Uriah, who's mentioned in this genealogy, sent to death. So David suffered for his sin. He had to face the consequences of his behavior, seeing it reflected in his own children.

But yet, he becomes the most important part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Where did Mary and Bethlehem go when there was a taxation required? They went where? Where was Jesus born? Three of you knew?

Come on, people. Yes, Bethlehem. Why Bethlehem? Because both Mary and Joseph were connected through their genealogy to David, so they went to the boyhood home of their descendant, and that's where the Lord was born.

And Christ began his public ministry. He was identified as the son of David. Luke 1 32 says, He'll be great. He'll be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. When blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was coming, he cried out, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.

So why do I bring this up? Because this man David, who blew it, who made a mess of his life, had it all redeemed, and he was entered into this amazing genealogy. And God can redeem you. And God can redeem your name.

And as I've said before, God can bring a message out of your mess if you turn it over to Him. How many of you have heard of the Nobel Peace Prize? Raise your hand. How many of you received the Nobel Peace Prize? Nobody?

Yeah, I didn't get one either. Well, it's a prize awarded for someone that works for the cause of peace. But that is not what Alfred Nobel was known for prior to that. As it turns out, this man, Alfred Nobel, was reading his newspaper one morning and was shocked to read his own obituary. A mistake was made, and they told the story of his life and his death. And Nobel was shocked to realize that the only thing he was going to be remembered for was being the inventor of dynamite. And that was already being used in warfare at that time, and Nobel thought, I don't want to be remembered as the man who invented dynamite. I bet many of you didn't even know this about him. So when he decided to form this peace prize that would be given out for people that work for peace, and now it's known as the Nobel Peace Prize, and that's how we know him. See, he changed his reputation.

He changed the meaning of his name, and you can do the same. Then we come to Bathsheba. So we have David, who is redeemed in this story, and Bathsheba as well. It's worth noting she's not even identified by name but simply as the wife of Uriah, reminding us of the horrible story.

Yes, David was wicked in preying upon her, but she also bore responsibility in this act of adultery, but yet she was brought into this amazing genealogy. So I bring this up because I'm talking to somebody who's made a mess of their life. And you say, it's over for me. There's no future for me. There's no hope for me.

I've done this thing and nothing good can ever come out of it. But yet God says in scripture, he can bring beauty out of ashes, right? He can bring good despite the bad. So you have to turn that over to the Lord. And then that brings us to Mary, the mother of Jesus, mentioned in verse 16. In contrast to some of these other women in the story who are known for their promiscuity, Mary was known for her virtue. And truly she was a very godly young woman. This is not an insignificant thing because Mary lived in Nazareth.

Now we don't understand what Nazareth was known for. Certain cities have certain features they're known for. We call Paris the city of lights. We call Israel or Jerusalem the city of gold. We call New York the city that never sleeps.

We call Las Vegas, what do we call it? Wow, you seem to know a lot about that city. If there was a description of Nazareth, it would have been Sin City. Nazareth was this little place that was a stopover from one place when you're on the way to another. So more than one young woman found herself pregnant outside of wedlock because Roman soldiers would come through Nazareth. That is why when Jesus called Nathaniel and Christ was identified as Jesus of Nazareth, Nathaniel said, can any good thing come out of Nazareth, right?

So now you understand the meaning of that statement. It's a city known for its sinfulness, but it was a place that you didn't go to, it's a place you went through. It was sort of the Barstow of the Bible. Does anyone go to Barstow? I think we stop, we get some gas, get something to eat, right?

So you pass through. So I bring this up because in this place, a nowhere town, a nowhere place in the middle of nowhere, God handpicked the woman that would be the most privileged woman who ever lived. She was not a princess, she was not a woman of great wealth, but the Lord said this is going to be the woman who will bear the Messiah. She's the only person who ever lived, or I should say the only woman who ever lived that both bore Christ in her womb and later in her heart.

An unknown girl living in an unknown place that brought about the most known event in human history. Here's what happened when Gabriel came to her. Look at Luke chapter 1 verse 26. In this sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed or engaged, to a man whose name was Joseph in the house of David, the virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.

And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and considered what manner of greeting this was. By the way, it was a big deal when an angel like Gabriel showed up. We only know the names of three angels in the Bible. There's Michael the archangel, no doubt the highest ranking of all the angels. There's Gabriel, possibly an archangel, but certainly an important angel that appears in both the Old and the New Testament.

And there's one more, can you guess? Lucifer, that's right. Satan, also known as Lucifer, was once a high ranking powerful angel.

He rebelled against God, he led one third of the angels with him in rebellion. And these fallen angels are now what we call demons. And so Gabriel shows up, so it's a big deal when an angel shows up, it's even a bigger deal when Gabriel shows up. And he says, Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women. Now sometimes this is misunderstood because some would pray, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, as though grace is emanating from Mary. Grace did not emanate from Mary, grace was extended to Mary. If we strip away the King James English, effectively what Gabriel said to Mary was, Hello Mary, hi Mary, what's up Mary, how's it going Mary? It was just really a common greeting that was used in that time. Hail sounds more like an act of worship, but it wasn't that at all.

And what did Mary do? It says she was agitated or troubled. This comes from the Greek word freakouto. We get the phrase freakout, no I made that up, that's not true.

But she did freak out a little bit. Like wow, why is an angel in my house talking to me right now, what is this all about? She's thinking, I've done nothing to merit this. Hey Mary, how's it going?

God has chosen you. Do you think Mary sat around in the synagogue and when they read that passage that a virgin will conceive and bring forth the son, that she thought, that's me for sure. I've always known I'm the girl God's gonna pick, I seriously doubt that.

Maybe she did, but I don't think so. If Mary had lived her life out, she would have found a nice Jewish boy, they would have gotten married, they would have raised a family, and we would have never known her name. But God went to this obscure place, effectively in the middle of nowhere, and handpicked this young woman to have this great privilege to bring forth the Messiah. Sometimes it's said that Mary was born of immaculate conception. In other words, she did not sin.

That's not what the Bible teaches. Mary was a godly girl, she was a virtuous woman, but she was a sinner like the rest of us. In fact, after it was announced to her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she said in what's sometimes called the Magnificat, or Mary's Psalm, in Luke 1, 46, my soul exalts the Lord and rejoices in God my Savior. You see, Mary needed a Savior like everybody else. But I want to talk about one last character in the Christmas story, and I think he's the unsung hero, and that would be Joseph. We talk about Mary, we forget all about Joseph. All the songs out there about Mary, I don't know many about Joseph. Mary, did you know? There's no Joseph, did you know?

But think about this. Just as surely as God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, God the Father handpicked this man named Joseph to be the father figure on earth for Jesus. He must have been a special guy. I think God said, I want a man's man to raise my son.

I want a man that knows how to put his back to a task. But what was Joseph? He was a carpenter. He was a craftsman. He chopped down trees. He framed houses.

He built furniture. He was a man that worked hard, and he was the man that would be that father figure, if you will, for Jesus as he grew up. Now, we don't know what happened to Joseph because he disappears from the story. Mary was there throughout the ministry of Christ and was even president of the crucifixion. And even at the day of Pentecost, but Joseph most likely died.

But he was a heroic man because think about what it would have been like to be him. So Mary comes to him and says, honey, I know we're going to get married soon, and I've got some news for you. I'm pregnant. Oh, you know. And what's he going to think?

You're pregnant because you were involved with someone, and the engagement's off and the marriage is off. And she goes, wait, honey, it's from the Holy Spirit. I'm the fulfillment of the prophecy. Yeah, right. That's what he thought. But because he was a good man, he didn't want to humiliate her. He was going to just do this quietly and just move on.

But what happens? An angel of the Lord comes to him in Matthew 1-20. While he's thinking about these things, we read, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit and shall bring forth the Son, and you will call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Joseph could have said, I believe it all, but no thank you, because the guys down at the worksite are never going to believe this.

And I don't want to deal with that humiliation. Understand this. Joseph went through life being thought of as being married to a promiscuous woman, which was the very opposite of the character of Mary. And even Mary herself went through life being thought of as an immoral woman. On one occasion, the Pharisees said to Jesus, well, at least we weren't born of fornication, which is another way of saying, hey, at least we weren't born out of wedlock like you. If we would have read, and Jesus killed them all, it would have made sense.

But you see, this is the reputation they had to live with. Joseph could have said, no thank you, I don't want to do this. But to his credit, he stood by Mary. So really the genealogy of Jesus Christ is a picture of grace, showing God extending grace to people and using unknown people. God chooses nobodies to become somebody, to tell the world, to tell everybody about Jesus. I bring this up because, look, there'll never be another Joseph or Mary. Those positions are taken and securely tied to your nativity sets, right?

That's a one-off deal. But there'll never be another you. God has a special plan for your life. God is preparing you. And whatever you have gone through in life has been preparation for what is still ahead. God is preparing you for your life in this planet and in the life to come. So He either did it or He allowed it. And He can use you in a powerful way as well.

You see, it really comes down to the Christmas story not being about God helping perfect people, but saving lost people, doing for sinners what they can't do for themselves. Every one of us can touch our world. We have a world we live in. We have a sphere of influence. We have a family. We have friends.

We have neighbors. We have people that we work with or go to school with, people we engage. We can impact our world.

God's preparing us for that moment. One way we can impact people is through our prayers. Another way we can impact them is through our giving. Pastor Levi Luskill gave a great message last Sunday about this. And I'll quote him. He said, quote, there's always a price to be paid for people to be reached, but there is a privilege that comes with that, end quote. See, you get to be the answer to someone else's prayer who comes to Jesus. Well, your generosity gets the message out to people who have never heard it before.

Listen to this. It's not our job to feed the 5,000. It's our job to bring the loaves and fish. Only God can multiply it. Only God can take what we bring him and use it in a powerful way. But, you know, you think about the feeding of the 5,000-plus women and children. Why did Jesus need to use someone's existing food?

He's God. He could have spoken a word and In-N-Out burgers would have rained on the people, followed up by Krispy Kreme donuts. But he says, well, I need some food to work with.

Well, there's this kid here. He's got his little lunch box. Oh, look, he has some loaves and fish.

Okay, give me that. And he takes it and multiplies it. We bring the loaves and fish. God does the multiplying. You know, as we look back in 2022, we have to thank God for all that has been accomplished.

Listen to this. We saw 91,000 people, 300, 91,300, make a Profession of Faith to follow Christ. Now, that's 1,500-plus from our church.

And all the rest came as a result of our radio broadcast or our television show or some movies we've done and online and Harvest at Home. And that's just amazing. So when you invest in the work of this ministry, you share in that. That's why at the end of my message, we're going to receive our second to last Sunday offering. So this is an opportunity for you to say thank you to the Lord. So let's wrap this message up. A twisted family tree. What do we learn in this message?

If you're taking notes, here's number one. We learn that God's grace may be richly displayed. When you look at the stories of these four women and men on the list, you focus on the grace of God, not on their sin. God could have brought up their shortcomings. He could have brought up their sin. But He didn't. He just included them in this genealogy, showing God's kindness and grace extended.

Now think about this. Now Christ has been born in the manger of Bethlehem. Who will the message be delivered to? Who will the angels tell first? How about Caesar in his palace in Rome?

How about Herod sitting on his throne in Jerusalem? How about the religious leaders? Now the angels go and tell shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.

Now because this story is so familiar, we don't get what that means. We don't understand how a shepherd was viewed at this time. Shepherds were looked down upon. Shepherds were not favored. Shepherds, a testimony of a shepherd was not even allowed in a court of law.

So it would be like telemarketers were calling random people at night. Oh, that's who God went to first. See the point is God went to these outcasts and gave them the message before anybody else.

Who else does this message go to? These wise men as we call them from the east who are into the study of astronomy and astrology so we could describe them as pagan men who are looking to the star's direction. God meets them on their own level, sends a star to bring them to the child Jesus that is now in a house. Going out of his way to reach these people and announce this news. Jesus always went to the down and outer.

Jesus always seemed to go to the unexpected person. Now he's putting his home team together. Okay, here's the guys that are going to change the world.

I'm going to start with fishermen. Yeah, let's get Peter, James, and John on the team. Okay, let's add a tax collector.

Wait, no Lord, not him. He works for Rome. He's a turncoat. He's a traitor.

No, I want a tax collector. Hey, who's that guy? Simon the Zealot dedicated to the violent overthrow of Rome?

Let's bring him on the team too. By the way, Simon, you've got to get along with Matthew now. What a curious group of people Jesus put together that followed him. But that's what the genealogy of Christ tells us.

God's grace is richly displayed. Number two, we have the genealogy of Christ so the focus would be on Jesus and not on his family. What is the number one excuse that people use as to why they don't want to come to church? There are too many hypocrites in the church.

So what are we gonna say? We'll come to our church because there's no hypocrites. See, the problem is if you find the hypocrite free church, don't join it because you'll ruin it. So what I would say, if you're a hypocrite, hey, come on, join us.

There's always room for one more. I'm not excusing hypocrisy because here's the problem. Sometimes we do a really bad job of representing Christ. You know, the thing that drew me to Jesus as a 17-year-old kid is I saw the Christians loving one another on my high school campus. No one talked to me. No one engaged me with the gospel. No one said, great, come to our Bible study. But I watched them because I transferred to the school, Harbor High, and there were all these Christians there. It's like they were having a little revival there. My other school, Corona De Mar High School, nothing like that was happening.

So I transferred to this new school. There's all these Christians, and my low-life friends warned me, Lori, be careful. There's a lot of Jesus freaks on this campus.

And I said, the last thing Greg Lori will ever do is become a Jesus freak. Famous last words. I watched them. I saw how they loved one another.

It attracted me. See, because I actually believed in the hippie dream. I believe this young generation, we're gonna change the world, and we have the answers, and the older generation doesn't know what they're talking about. It's peace and love and brotherhood. Well, there was no peace and love and brotherhood.

We were stabbing each other in the back and betraying one another and doing all the things that everyone else does. But in the Christians, I saw the reality of what I was searching for in the hippie mythology. They really did have a relationship with God. They really were experiencing peace and joy and love.

And I said, I wanna be a part of that family. Jesus said, by this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you have love one for another. How important it is for us to love one another as Christians. Not to tear down one another. Not to undermine one another.

Ephesians 4 32 says, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you. But we don't do that. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fall short. Someone you know who's a believer disappoints you. Sometimes leaders disappoint us. So here's the takeaway message. God says, don't look at my family, look at me.

Look at Jesus. He will never disappoint you. He will never fail you. He will never forsake you. I think you should applaud for that, go. I feel it.

I think so. Number three, we have this genealogy that we might have hope for our future and the future of our family. Hope for our future and the future of our family. I doubt most of us have murderers and prostitutes in our family tree. Already pointed out I have some pretty unsavory characters. But listen, Jesus can intervene in your story. Let me offer a word of caution. There's an expression you've probably heard.

An ounce of prevention is worth or better than a ton of cure. Let me ask you this question. What state is your family in right now? And let me direct my words to men for a moment.

What state is your family in and what role are you playing in leading your family to Christ? You could take almost every social ill in America today and break it down, or connect it rather, trace it to the breakdown of the family and specifically the absence of fathers. You know, men are under attack today. A man tries to be a man they're accused of having toxic masculinity. We need more men to stand up and be strong and be bold.

But be tender hearted. See, being a man doesn't mean you have no emotion. Being a man doesn't mean that you're passive. Being a man doesn't mean that you're just pounding on the table all day long. You wanna know what a man looks like?

Look at Jesus Christ. He was the man's man. My friend Michael Franzese is here at church today and Michael was part of the Colombo crime family being groomed to become the Don of the Godfather.

He was sent to prison. And in prison, a guard gave him the Bible and he began to read the Bible. And the thing that impressed Michael, because of his culture and his upbringing, because you know the expression, be a man.

Remember the scene in the Godfather when the one guy's crying and the Godfather says, be a man, right? It was important for him to be a man. And as he read the story in the Gospels of Jesus, he said this was the ultimate man. And then he came to realize he was more than the man, he was the son of God. And put his faith in Christ.

But that's it. Man up, be a leader, be a godly man. Say, well I failed, okay. Learn from your mistakes, make it right. You have a family member you need to apologize to?

Do it today. I'm sorry. I didn't do the best job I could have done.

Forgive me. Can we start over again? Try to be a godly leader and love your wife as Christ loves the church. That's one way of thinking, amen, Craig. We love this sermon. Ladies, you have a role too. Be a woman of God. You know, sometimes women can't accept the fact that they're getting older. And not realizing that you have so much to offer as an older, mature, godly woman. You have so much to say to younger women.

They need your wisdom, they need to learn from your experience, they need to see a model of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. You can have such an impact. Don't be a cougar.

Someone is saying, Greg, you've offended everyone in the room today. What's left? You're young people.

Can't leave you out. You have so many choices, so many options, so many temptations, so many challenges. It's hard. I'll say this. You know, I know we often say, back in my day it was much worse. But I think you guys have the biggest challenges of any young generation I've ever seen.

I really do. But you have the greatest opportunities. And you have the greatest God. You have the Lord who will be with you and give you the strength to make the right decisions. To find that right man or woman. Or to live a single life right before God, not crossing those lines sexually.

Being the person God wants you to be. No matter what kind of a mess you've made, as I've said before, God can turn it into a message. He can turn your test into a testimony. He can redeem your story. He can redeem your family.

And He can redeem your name. That's the message. That's the message of all of these people that made it into the most exclusive genealogy in all of human history. They made it into the line of Messiah. And there's some real sinners in this group. But God intervenes.

Maybe I'm talking to somebody who has a marriage that's unraveling. Let me say this, try and save it. Give it your best effort. Don't just let it go, well, there's nothing more I can do. Oh, there's more you can do.

Do everything you can to save it. You wanna start this new year walking with the Lord and living the way He wants you to live. And this is what Christmas is all about. It's about redemption.

It's talking about messed up families and making them right. You know, we had a little Christmas event not too long ago at Harvest Riverside. And I ran into a group of young men who, let's just say they were a little rough around the edges. And they were very tatted up.

And I don't think these were fashion tattoos. These guys looked like, okay, I don't know if you're in a gang or what, but all right. And they came up to me and said, Pastor Greg, we were part of a gang. I thought, yeah, I kinda thought that. Maybe I wasn't gonna say anything though in case you're still part of a gang.

I don't know what's happening. Yeah, we were all in a gang. And we were sent to prison, they said. And we started listening to you on the radio in prison. And we've all come to Christ. And they're with their wives and their kids. And I'm looking at all these guys and we got pictures together. Only God can do this.

Turn things around, right? And I run into people all the time and they'll say, oh, I came to Christ at a Harvest Crusade 1991. Or someone that's like three feet taller than me will say, you dedicated me as a baby. And I'm like, wow. It's amazing to see what God has done over these years and we're getting ready to celebrate 50 years together as a church. So isn't that wonderful? This is what we've always been about. But the most important thing we've been able to do in this ministry is to see people change their eternal address from hell to heaven. That's the most important thing.

Right? We wanna see more people in heaven and less people in hell. Simple, simple objective. And that's why every year we call people to Christ. That's why we wanna give you an opportunity to invest in this in just a few moments as we receive our final, well, second to last Sunday offering. But let me just close with this. And I say this without apology. Because we mentioned that 1,500 people had come to Christ in our services.

I'm always going to invite people to come to Jesus, okay? That's something that's very important. And I'm gonna do it right now. And I wanna just say that I know there's someone listening to me that is in trouble. Maybe you have an addiction. Maybe you're in a life of crime. Maybe your marriage is falling apart. Maybe you're living immorally. Maybe you're a person who's contemplated suicide.

Maybe you're a person living in depression. I'm telling you that Jesus is the one you're looking for. He can change your life. Jesus came to save you from your sin. Why do you think he was born in the manger so we could all spend hours looking for a parking space at a mall?

And go shopping and get ourselves in debt? No, he came to save us. And he can save you and he can change you. In a moment I'm gonna lead a prayer. And it's a prayer of asking Christ to come into your life. And I'm gonna ask everyone to pray it. And I know most of us here in this room and watching as well on our other locations have prayed this prayer. But I'm gonna ask you to pray it out loud as well in support of those that will be praying it for the first time. So if you want your sin forgiven, if you wanna know that when you die you will go to heaven, if you want Jesus Christ to come into your life, pray this prayer with me. And let's all pray with these folks right now.

Let's bow our heads and pray. Pray these words, Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner. But I know that you're the savior who was born in the manger, who died on the cross for my sin, and rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin now. I choose to follow you, Jesus, from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer. In Jesus' name I pray, amen, amen. All right. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-24 15:22:25 / 2022-12-24 15:38:40 / 16

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