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Follow Me | Sharing the Gospel with Others

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
March 13, 2024 3:00 am

Follow Me | Sharing the Gospel with Others

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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March 13, 2024 3:00 am

We all begin following the Lord at different times, and from different backgrounds. But we’re all united in finding forgiveness for our sins, and sharing a calling to bring otherr into a saving relationship with God. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us look at the way Jesus bid His disciples to “come follow me.” We’ll examine that calling, what it costs and what it offers, and we’ll consider the blessing of being used by God to accomplish His Kingdom business.

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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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We're glad you're joining us for A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast supported by Harvest Partners. Get more encouraging audio content when you subscribe to Pastor Greg's Daily Devos.

Learn more and sign up at harvest.org. We all begin following the Lord at different times and from different backgrounds, but we're all united in finding forgiveness for our sins and sharing a calling to bring others into a saving relationship with God. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us look at the way Jesus bid His disciples to come follow me. We'll examine that calling, what it costs, and what it offers, and we'll consider the blessing of being used by God to accomplish His kingdom business. Hey, we're in a brand new series that we're calling the Gospel for Busy People based on the Gospel of Mark, and we're in Mark chapter 2.

The title of my message is Follow Me. Go to Mark chapter 2 to verse 13. Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to Him. As He walked along, He saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collector's booth. Jesus said to him, follow me and be my disciple.

And Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. Levi, also known as Matthew, collected taxes for Rome. Rome was an occupying force.

They're forcing their will upon the people of Israel. So Levi or Matthew, for some reason we don't know, decided to work for the enemy. He would be thought of as a traitor, like a Benedict Arnold, a turncoat, even a backslider.

How dare you work for these horrible people who are oppressing us and collect taxes for them? There was some good money in it, but I don't know if that's what motivated Matthew to work for Rome. But it's interesting that he seemed to have gone out of his way to offend his fellow Jews. And also he would have been familiar with Jesus, because Jesus was doing his ministry right around that region, being a tax collector.

Matthew would sit at his table. He was aware of what was going on around him. And we also know that he was a great student of scripture, because he began to piece things together. We know he was a great student of scripture, because when we read his gospel, it is filled with Old Testament prophecies. There's 99 Old Testament references in his gospel, showing how Jesus was the Messiah. So this is a man who knew the word of God, but had chosen to rebel against it.

But there was something that Jesus said and did in this moment when he said to Matthew, follow me, that softened his heart that had grown so hard. Why do people turn from God? Why do people turn from the church?

It's an interesting question. Maybe because a tragedy happened. I've heard people say, well, this tragedy happened. I lost a loved one, or something horrible happened to me, and I've lost my faith. I don't have faith anymore. Well, you might be surprised to hear me say this, but maybe it's good you lost that faith.

Because a faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted, and that's not a real faith. But some people turn away from God because they say, well, I saw hypocrisy. That person was not a good representative of Jesus Christ. Well, look, I know there are hypocrites in the church. I often say the church is filled with hypocrites, but there's always room for one more.

I'm kidding. But seriously, we're all going to fall short. We're all going to mess up. But here's what I want to say to you. That excuse, and that's all it is, an excuse, will not hold water on Judgment Day. When you stand before God Almighty, and he asks you what you did with this son, Jesus Christ, and you say, well, I didn't accept him because there were hypocrites, you think that's going to help you? Jesus never said, follow my people.

He said, follow me. Put your eyes on Christ. That's exactly what Matthew did. Now, he watched Jesus. Clearly, he admired Jesus. He would love to have been one of the followers of Jesus, but he would never think of being so presumptuous and going up to Christ and saying, I don't know if you need a tax collector in your crew, but I would love to join because he would be sure that Jesus would say, sorry, I'm not that desperate. Hit the road, Jack.

Don't come back no more, no more. No, he was shocked when Jesus came to him and called him. Look at verse 14 of Mark 2.

As Jesus walked along, he saw Levi's City. The word that is used here for saw is very suggestive. It means literally to gaze intently upon, to stare, or to fix one's eyes constantly on an object. Have you ever had someone stare at you just staring, almost looking right through you? So here's Matthew sitting at his tax booth. Most people, when they walk by, would avert their gaze. They don't want to make eye contact with them, or they would clairate him, and here comes Jesus from a distance, and Jesus is looking at him. Jesus doesn't break eye contact with them. Jesus comes right up to him, looking at him, staring intently, and then he says those two words that reverberate to the soul of Matthew, and those words were, follow me.

Wow. Jesus is calling me? Jesus wants a person like me, a trainer, a turncoat, a backslider, a failure? Yes, and it's interesting because this phrase follow me can be translated walk the same road. It would be almost as though Jesus said, walk with me.

Come with me. Don't just stand behind me and follow. No, let's walk life's road together, and by the way, that word is in the imperative mode, meaning it's not just an invitation. It's also a command.

It's also in the present tense, meaning you start it, and you continue in it, and you continue in it habitually. In other words, Jesus is saying, allow me to loosely paraphrase Matthew. I want you to follow me each and every day, and guess what? He says the same to you and to me, not just follow me once, and then you're good. No, follow me each and every day. Paul the Apostle writes in the book of Romans 13, he says, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for your flesh.

The J.B. Phillips translation translates that as follows. Let us be Christ's men from head to foot and give no chance for the flesh to have its fling. So the verbiage that Paul is using in put on the Lord Jesus is like putting on clothes. You know, like I like to wear jeans.

I don't know about you. Most of the time I'm wearing jeans and jeans and maybe a t-shirt or a comfortable shirt. I don't like to wear shirts that are stiff or too heavy. And the idea of clothing is clothing moves where you move. And so what the Bible is saying when it says put on the Lord Jesus Christ is make Christ a part of your life each and every day, wherever you go.

Put on Jesus. Also this phrase, follow me, could be translated follow with me. Follow with me, which speaks of companionship, relationship, and friendship. So it's not just follow me, just do it. If you want to or not, no, follow with me. Let's enter into friendship.

Let's enter into relationship together. Yes, I want obedience from you, the Lord is saying, but I also want your companionship. Effectively Jesus says, hey Matthew, I don't want you to just be one of my disciples.

I want you to be one of my friends. And did you know Jesus offers that same invitation to you? We often view God as harsh and austere and angry.

Nothing can be further from the truth. God is loving. God is compassionate.

God is caring. And he wants to enter into a friendship with you. You can bear your heart to him. You can tell your secrets to him. He will bear his heart to you. He will reveal his secrets also to you.

Jesus said in John 15, 15, no longer do I call you servants, for a servant doesn't know what his master is doing, but I've called you friends, because whatever I've heard from my father, I've made known to you. Yes, follow me. Follow with me. Start and finish. Don't just do it at the beginning of your life. Do it through your life right to the end. I love how the apostle Paul wrote, I finished my race with joy. Keep following Jesus each and every day.

And look what happened. Verse nine of Mark 2. Levi or Matthew got up and followed him.

I'm in. He had thought about this for a while. He never thought he would be called by Jesus, but the moment Jesus said, follow me, Matthew said, yes sir, I'm on board, let's go.

Where do you want to go? I love that. Now there's a little detail that is left out here in the gospel of Mark. And as a matter of fact, Matthew doesn't mention in his gospel either, but it's an important thing for us to know. Luke fills us in and he tells us Matthew left all, rose up and followed him.

You have to understand, tax collector, that's a pretty sweet business. He was making good money because a tax collector not only collected taxes for Rome, he also collected extra money for himself. So he was leaving an affluent, luxurious lifestyle and all the friends that went with it. And I think it's interesting that in his own gospel, he doesn't mention what he gave up for Jesus, but it is mentioned to us by Luke. I think of all the disciples, Matthew materially at least gave up more.

I mean, yes, Peter, James, and John gave up their nets and their fishing business, but hey, this guy gave up a lucrative career and gave up everything to follow Jesus. He may have lost a career, but he gained a destiny. He lost his material possessions, but he gained a spiritual fortune. He lost his temporary security, but he gained eternal life. And he also lost his emptiness and loneliness and found fulfillment and companionship.

He gave up all that the world has to offer and he found Jesus. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Social media posts are very encouraging to us and they let us know the impact of these studies. Pastor Greg, thanks for all you do at Harvest Ministries. I've been listening to you for years and have been more spiritually connected because of your messages. I couldn't imagine my life without harvest.org and your daily devotions. Thank you, Pastor Greg. How have Pastor Greg studies ministered to you and your family? Would you let us know? Tell us your story by calling 1-866-871-1144. That's 866-871-1144. Well, we're in Mark 2 today as Pastor Greg presents a message simply called, Follow Me.

Let's continue. I love the final movement of this story in verse 15. Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. So he invited Jesus over to his home with all of his weird friends. He had some pretty unsavory people he hung out with.

Fellow tax collectors, birds of a feather flocked together. Other people that were known for wickedness and Jesus seemingly with great comfort walks right into this setting. Don't forget Jesus was called the friend of sinners. By the way, that wasn't a compliment. That was a criticism.

But I think it is a compliment. When a godly person can be someone that a non-believer is drawn to. Jesus didn't lower his standards to walk in this room. He was building a bridge instead of burning one.

And he was accessible to them. And we see this in other passages of Scripture as well. Look at Jesus in John 4 with the woman at the well.

A woman who had been married and divorced five times and was living with some dude. And Jesus engages her in a conversation about the thirst deep in her soul. Look at Jesus with another tax collector named Zacchaeus who was a little guy who scurried up a tree and saw Jesus passing through. And Jesus suddenly stops and looks up at Zacchaeus and says, come on down.

I'm coming over to your house today. And what happened was Zacchaeus put his faith in Jesus and was transformed. Look at Jesus with the woman caught in the act of adultery. Caught in the actual sin. And they throw her in front of Christ and he looks at her and says, let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone.

The Bible says they left from the oldest to the youngest. Jesus looks at her and says, Jesus looks at her and says, woman. And it's interesting the phrase that is used there for woman means lady or ma'am.

So it's not just girl. It's like ma'am, lady. Where are your accusers? I don't think she had been called lady or ma'am for her entire life. But he didn't just see her for what she was.

He saw her for what she would become. Ma'am, lady, where are your accusers? She says, I have none, Lord.

He says, neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more. That's Jesus entering into people's lives, not condemning them, but getting to the heart of their problem, which is their sin, which he alone can forget. I love the fact that Matthew invited him over to his house right after he believed. I love the zeal of a new believer. New believers are the best at evangelism. Question, why is it that those who know the most do the least and those that know the least do the most?

Let me explain. Those that know the least do the most. The brand new believer with a thimble full of theological knowledge is immediately out there sharing the gospel, trying to bring people to Christ because they're so close to what God has done in their life. They realize that he forgave them.

They want others to know. But then there are believers who've known the Lord for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years or longer who can't even remember the last time they engaged in a conversation about Jesus. Ah, the zeal, the excitement, the passion of the new believer.

It's sad when we lose that zeal, isn't it? Let me conclude by re-asking a question I started this message with, which is, are you a follower of Jesus? Now you might have initially said, yes I am, but now as you've discovered what it means to follow him, maybe you're rethinking it. Again, what does it mean? It means to follow him each and every day. It means to obey him. It means to complete what you've started. Are you following him?

Or are you a fair weather follower or following from a distance? I want you to know no matter what your state is right now, God can forgive you and give you a second chance. Maybe I'm talking to somebody right now who's been hurt in life. A tragedy has befallen you and you don't know why this has happened and you're mad at God. Why did you do this to me?

Well, I can't answer that question, but I can tell you this. God loves you and even your tragedy can in some way ultimately be worked together for good if you love him. Hey, if that thing will bring you to Christ, that is something that God has used to get your attention. But here's the reality. Sometimes we go out and make a lot of bad decisions and then we get mad at God because of what happened.

So you go out and you're unfaithful to your wife and your marriage falls apart. I'm mad at God. Why are you mad at God? Be mad at you, man.

You did it. God gave you a free will. But listen, even though you've messed up, he can turn your mess into a message. He can turn things around if you'll come to him and say, Lord, I failed.

I'm sorry. Are you running from God like Matthew was? If you will call out to him right now, he will forgive you.

Just as surely as Jesus looked at Matthew and said, follow me, Jesus is saying the same to you right now wherever you are. He wants relationship with you. He wants friendship with you. He wants to walk with you through life so you'll never be alone again.

But he can't force his way into your life. Matthew had a choice. Jesus said, follow me. Matthew could have said, no way. I'm not going anywhere.

I have a pretty nice life here, making a lot of money. I don't want to follow you. And he could have done that. But he said, follow me. And Matthew bolted, bolted from the table. Okay, where are we going? Let's go. Not a moment's hesitation. I hope that you will follow Jesus.

And if you've not done that yet, I'd like to give you an opportunity to do so. Jesus had a goal and he had a purpose. Jesus said, the Son of Man, speaking of himself, has come to seek and save that which was lost.

In other words, Jesus came to this earth with the express purpose of going to the cross and dying for the sin of the world. Yes, he healed the sick. Yes, he cleansed the lepers. Yes, he raised the dead.

Yes, he cast demons out of people. But his ultimate purpose was to die for our sin and then to rise again from the dead. And if we'll turn from our sin and put our faith in him, we can be forgiven. We can hear Jesus say, son, daughter, your sins are forgiven.

Can you imagine? That can happen for you right now. The Bible says that we will confess our sin. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. What does it mean to confess your sin? It just means to acknowledge you're responsible. It means to realize that you've done this and you need to get right with God.

It means to agree with God that sin is bad and destructive. Stop making excuses for it. Stop blaming people and other things.

Just take responsibility. Say, God, I'm a sinner and I ask you to forgive me. If you would like to do that, I'd like to lead you in a prayer. So by the time this prayer is done, you can have the confidence that your sin is forgiven.

You can have the confidence that you are a child of God and you can have the confidence that you will go to heaven when you die. If you don't know that, pray with me right now and let's get this settled and you'll be so glad you did as you begin to follow Jesus Christ. If you want Jesus to come into your life, if you want him to cleanse you of your sin, if you want to go to heaven when you die, I want you to pray this prayer after me. In fact, you could even pray it out loud if you like. Let's pray together. 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 that 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. Well, hopefully you prayed along with Pastor Greg Laurie just now and entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you did, we'd like to first of all say congratulations. You've just made the best decision of your life. And we'd also like to help you in your newfound faith by sending you Pastor Greg's New Believer's Bible. It'll help answer the questions you might have and help you build a solid foundation for your relationship with the Lord. You can request it free of any charge when you call 1-800-821-3300.

That's 24-7, phone number 1-800-821-3300. Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California 92514. Or go online to harvest.org and click Know God. Well, we're talking with Lee Strobel today. He's the author of the new book, Is God Real?

And Lee, one of my favorite chapters in the book was chapter number three. It's titled Our DNA Demands a Designer. And you point out in the book, Bill Gates said that DNA is like a software program, only much more complex than anything we've ever devised.

Yes. And then you're right. Science writer George Sim Johnson made this observation. Human DNA contains more organized information than the Encyclopedia Britannica. If the full text of the encyclopedia were to arrive in computer code from outer space, most people would regard this as proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. But when seen in nature, it is as the workings of random forces. Do you think maybe the culture is a little polarized against the existence of God?

Yeah, I think it is. And yet, you know, we have in these areas of science, cosmology, the origin of the universe, physics, the fine tuning of the universe, and this one you're mentioning DNA. This is a, this is again, these are discoveries only in the last 50 to 80 years that point powerfully toward the existence of God.

And here's why. If we have 100 trillion cells in our body, if you were to open any cell at random and unwind the famous double helix of DNA, it would be six feet tall. And embedded in that DNA is a four letter chemical alphabet that spells out the precise assembly instructions for every protein out of which our body is made.

So in other words, just as English uses a 26 letter alphabet, God has used a four letter chemical alphabet to spell out the instructions for how our bodies can be created. I mean, nature cannot produce information like this. It can produce patterns.

You know, I live in Houston, Texas and Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico is not far. And if I go down there at dawn, and the sand is wet, and in the sand, I see ripple marks, I would say, Oh, well, the waves made those ripple marks in the sand, because nature can create patterns. But if I'm walking down the beach, and in the wet sand, I see John loves Mary and a heart around it and an arrow through it. I wouldn't say Oh, the waves created that.

Why? Because nature cannot produce information. It can produce patterns, but not information. And inside every cell in your body is more information than you would find in 200 years of the Sunday New York Times. In every and the question is, where does that come from?

Here's the point. Whenever we see information, whether it's a computer code, whether it's a book, whether it's a painting on a cave wall, whenever, without exception, we see information, there is always an intelligence behind it. And the question is, with this vast storehouse of information inside every cell in our body, it was as if God signed it, signed ourselves, you know, with his signature.

How can we mistake the fact that there is an intelligence behind that? So those are some insights from Lee Strobel, who's written many books. You've heard of these books, The Case for a Creator, The Case for Christ, and much more. But now he has a new book titled Is God Real?

He's going to answer questions you have, questions that friends you've talked to have, maybe your children have, and equip you to more effectively share your faith. We want to send you your own copy of Is God Real? by author and apologist and evangelist Lee Strobel for your gift of any size to A New Beginning, because this will enable us to continue to bring the Word of God as we do to you and proclaim the gospel. So order your copy now of Is God Real? by Lee Strobel.

Dave will tell you more. Yeah, we have a copy waiting for you right now. Just give us a call and we'll drop it in the mail.

This is our way of thanking you for your partnership in bringing the gospel to so many each day, each year, and in teaching the principles of the Word of God to the people of God. So get in touch today by calling 1-800-821-3300. We can take your call anytime, 24 hours a day, 1-800-821-3300.

Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514. Or go online to harvest.org. Hey everybody, I want to encourage you to check out the new Harvest Plus app. It's on Roku, Apple TV, and Google Play, among others. And you can stream incredible content on all major platforms for free. You're going to find live events, our evangelistic films like A Rush of Hope, Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon, Steve McQueen, The Salvation of an American Icon, and our newest film Fame, plus our TV programs, our podcast Harvest at Home, and a lot more.

Stream it all on any device for free using the new Harvest Plus app. Well, next time Pastor Greg continues his series, The Gospel for Busy People, with a look at the unique privilege we have of being a part of the family of God. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Lauren. 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 / 2024-03-13 05:20:12 / 2024-03-13 05:30:48 / 11

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