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A Life Well-Lived | Fixing Your Eyes on Jesus

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

A Life Well-Lived | Fixing Your Eyes on Jesus

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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June 13, 2024 3:00 am

Remember back to your school years. You’re in class, paying attention to the teacher, but the cut-up in the front row, the class clown, starts to...perform. He’s miming what the teacher is saying. You try not to look, but you can’t help yourself. Distractions are powerful, aren’t they? And they’re everywhere. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. It’s the pathway of a life well-lived.

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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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You're listening to A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.

Visit our website and learn more about Harvest Partners at harvest.org. They're not bad things in and of themselves. They're just not the main thing. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And people, the main thing is Jesus Christ.

That's where our passion needs to be. Remember back to your school years. You're in class, paying attention to the teacher, but the cut up in the front row, the class clown, starts to perform.

He's miming what the teacher is saying. You try not to look, but you can't help yourself. Distractions are powerful, aren't they? And they're everywhere.

Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. It's the pathway of a life well lived. A new study shows that many Americans are suffering from what experts call digital distraction, right? And it's all because of this device I'm holding in my hand, the phone. In fact, there was a Harvard study that was done and it revealed that people are experiencing digital overload. It's a defining problem in today's workplace. All day and night on desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even watches, we have so many messages and alerts that even when we want to focus, it's nearly impossible. And people, you know, when they're driving, it's like people are driving drunk these days, but actually they're driving while using their phone.

You know what it's like. Someone's in front of you in a light and the light goes green and they don't go and you honk and you go around them. They're looking at their phone or they're doing something else and we're very distracted by these things.

But this can happen among Christians as well. We can be distracted because here's what it comes down to. We're gonna follow our passion in life. You're gonna walk where you look. So if I'm looking this way, that's a direction I walk in.

You walk where you look. So here's my question for you in this message. What are you really passionate about?

I know the default answer is Jesus, but here's how I'm gonna find out what you're really passionate about. I'll just look at your social media. Because the Bible says where your Instagram is, there will your heart be also.

Actually, the Bible doesn't say that, but it says where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. But I can find out a lot by you. In fact, now employers will look at the social media of a potential hire.

They'll go, oh, this is a red flag or this is a problem or this person is really obsessed with cats or whatever it is that you post about the most. But that's where our passion is gonna be revealed. And here's the problem. We can be distracted by secondary things. They're not bad things in and of themselves. They're just not the main thing. Because as I said before, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And people, the main thing is Jesus Christ.

That's where our passion needs to be. Well, the devil hates evangelism. The devil hates the church.

The devil hates followers of Jesus. So the enemy attacks the church. He tried two strategies that backfired. Strategy number one was persecution. So Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel.

They were told by the authorities to cease and desist. And instead of doing that, they got together with the other believers and prayed for even more boldness to preach the gospel to even more people. Then the room shook and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then the devil tried to infiltrate the church through corruption.

Enner, Ananias, and Sapphira. The literal definitions of a hypocrite. Because as you recall, a hypocrite, biblically speaking, is an actor. It's a person who is playing a part.

But this was dealt with swiftly and in short order. So now the devil comes with his third wave of attack against the church. And I would describe it simply as distraction.

Distraction. So let's read Acts chapter six. I'm going to read verses one to eight. And I'm reading from the New Living Translation. As the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. That's a fascinating verse right there. As the believers were multiplying rapidly, there were rumblings of discontent.

The Greek speaking believers complained about the Hebrew speaking believers saying their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the twelve called a meeting together of all the believers and they said, we apostles need to spend our time teaching the word of God and praying, not running a food program. And so brothers, select seven men who are well respected, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and will give them this responsibility and then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and preaching the word.

Everyone liked the idea. So they chose seven spirit filled men and among those men was Stephen and also Philip. And then we read God's message continued to spread and the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem and many of the Jewish priests were converted to. But Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.

We'll stop there. So you can see just by reading those passages what the focus of the first century believers was. It was about prayer, Bible study and evangelism.

Hey guys, we're getting distracted. The apostles are saying we need to spend time studying the word of God and praying so we can use the gifts that God has called us to use. And therefore we want to continue on in evangelism so let's get this resolved.

And so that's what they did. And they were having incredible success in reaching people. 3,000 people believed on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 4 another 4,000 believed in Jesus. So when God is working the devil will always be attacking and it's through division.

Look at verse 1. As the believers rapidly multiplied there were rumblings of discontent. You know it's not even really important what they were complaining about. In this instance they thought one group was being favored over another group.

But really what it was about was selfishness instead of selflessness. What about me? What are we going to mature enough as a Christian where we realize it's not about me, it's about we. Right? Not just me, we.

It's like us. It's not just how can everyone serve me? How can I be blessed?

What can I get out of this? But when are we going to mature enough to come to church and say how can I serve others? How can I be used by God?

How can I develop and use my gifts? This is the thing that sometimes we miss out on is if you want to know the secret of Christian living it's sort of upside down. And that's why I've called this series upside down living. It's upside down in this way.

The way to up is down. Happiness is found in serving not being served. Happiness is not found in self fulfillment but in self denial. Jesus said hey you want to find your life then lose your life. If any man will take up his cross and follow me and lose his life then he will find it.

What does that mean? It means if you put God's will first in your life and pursue that you will find the happiness and joy that you really want. So the next time you feel like throwing in the towel why don't you take up the towel instead and wash the feet of others so to speak.

Because Jesus said it's more happy to give than it is to receive. So the apostles say look let's find some spirit filled men. And I find this really interesting is that they needed spirit filled godly individuals of wisdom to do the things that needed to be done. And I bring this up because sometimes people think if you're called to be a teacher or a preacher that's the highest calling. But if you're called to serve behind the scenes or do different kinds of work that's not as important.

Not at all. These men needed to be as spirit filled as anybody else did. These musicians that lead us in worship they need to be full of wisdom the word of God and they need to be spirit filled. But the people running the equipment they really need to be spirit filled.

I'm kidding when I say that. Everybody needs this power. So we see some unique qualities in the life of Stephen that I want to identify.

Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Hey everyone I want you to know about our app called Harvest Plus. Think of it as a Harvest version of Netflix.

We have all of our resources in one place. We have our movies like Steve McQueen The Salvation of an American Icon. Johnny Cash The Redemption of an American Icon. A Rush of Hope and much more. Then we have our television program Daily Devotions and much more.

So go and download the Harvest Plus app. Well we're taking a look at the life of Stephen during the days of the first century church. Pastor Greg titled today's message A Life Well Lived. Here's another thing that will come out of this story is Stephen died at a very young age.

In fact he was the first martyr of the early church. And when we look at someone who dies when they're young we think of it as a tragedy. And in fact in many ways it is. But it's interesting because Stephen's name means crown. Crown.

And an early death means an early crown. Let me illustrate it. Let's say you were standing in line to go to Disneyland. And let's say the line is like 45 minutes before you're going to get into the park. And you're hot and you're sweating and you're miserable. And all of a sudden the CEO of Disneyland comes out with Donald Duck next to you. And he walks to you in the back of that line and he says, You don't look like you're that comfortable. I'm going to take you to the front of the line and take you into the park. And Donald Duck says, And so you go. I guess three people woke up. What? What's happening? Yeah.

So you walk in. Not a bad Donald luck right? Donald's hard to do. When I have time sometime I'll have Donald Duck doing a worship song.

I actually have a couple. But I almost pass out when I do it and I don't know why. Something with making that sound. But here's Donald Duck getting angry.

You ready for it? Like that. That's it people.

That's all you'll remember. What was this sermon about? I don't know but he did this duck thing. So Stephen had certain qualities that God put in his life. But he was called home to heaven early. But he made a great impact. Here's some of the qualities of his life.

I'm going to just sort of fly over these. Verse 3 tells us he was a well respected man. Listen if you want to be used by God you need to be well respected. And that phrase well respected is translated into King James Version. As a man of good reputation. This means that even non-believers spoke well of him. In 1 Timothy 3.7 we read people outside the church should speak well of a person who is called into leadership.

Number two. He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. You know when we think of the Holy Spirit we think of power. We think of gifts. But let's not forget there's also the fruit of the Holy Spirit right?

Galatians 5 22 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Look I don't care how gifted you are. Can you be a patient person? I mean I appreciate the fact that you have an ability to speak perhaps. But can you be a loving person?

Can you be a kind person? We don't just need the power of the Spirit. We need the fruit of the Spirit too. Stephen also was filled with wisdom verse three. And as you see in the message that he gave here in Acts 6 and 7.

It was just filled with Scripture. And he had this great wisdom. And though he was young he was so wise. I've met young people that I'm so impressed with their wisdom. Because they've studied the Word of God. They have this passion for Christ. And I've met older people who are just they're old fools.

They haven't learned anything in life. So Stephen was young but he was full of wisdom. Also I would point out he was faithful in the little things. What was his job? Wait on tables. Distribute food.

Do the menial work if you will. But because he was faithful in the little things God gave him an opportunity to do even greater things. So his enemies saw that God had gifted Stephen so they wanted to stop him. And Acts 6 and 11 says they persuaded men to lie about Stephen. Saying we heard him blaspheme Moses and even God.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Stephen honored God. He glorified God. But they made these lies up about him. Let people make up lies about you. Jesus said blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven. Have you ever had someone tell a lie about you? Have you ever been slandered before?

Well let them be lies. Because he lived such a godly life they had to make stuff up. Here's another quality of Stephen.

He looked for opportunities and he seized them. So now he is brought before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was sort of like the supreme court of the day. But back in this culture they had religious authority but they also had secular authority. So they ruled in all kinds of affairs and issues of the day.

These guys were the most influential people in the land. So here stands Stephen before this very distinguished group of individuals. And he is thinking this is an opportunity for the gospel.

Now if Stephen had played his cards right he could have gone home for dinner. But he thought no I want to reach these people with the gospel. And I wonder and I can't guarantee this of course. But I wonder if he even zeroed in on one of those men in the Sanhedrin.

Clearly the leader. A young man named Saul. And he thought what if God reached that guy? What if he became a follower of Jesus?

Can you imagine what the Lord could do through a man like that? We don't know if that was the case but we know Saul was there. So now Stephen gives this amazing overview of the history of the Jewish people.

And there is so much interesting detail in it. And then he brings it to Jesus and reminds him that they betrayed Christ. They crucified Christ. Well this didn't go over real well. We picked the story up in Acts chapter 7 verse 54.

Why don't you look at that with me. The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation. And they shook their fists at him in rage. You know a message is not going over well when people do that.

When they shake their fists at you. But Stephen full of the Holy Spirit gazed steadily into heaven. And saw the glory of God. And he saw Jesus standing at the place of honor at God's right hand. And he told them look I see the heavens open.

And the Son of Man standing at the place of honor at God's right hand. And then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. And they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And his accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they stoned him Stephen prayed Lord Jesus receive my spirit. He fell to his knees shouting Lord don't charge him with this sin. And with that he fell asleep. Wow what a story.

Look at the blind bias of these people that should know better. They knew the Word of God. But verse 57 says they put their hands over their ears and began shouting.

And rushed at him and dragged him out of the city. Isn't it interesting how irrational people can be when you start talking about Jesus. You know you can talk about anything. They are like cool.

Have a little debate maybe. Boy you bring up Jesus. And now they get all fired up. And now they are upset. And the veins pop out of their forehead. They get red. And their voice is louder. They are upset.

They are angry. Don't even talk to me about that. It is not real. I don't believe any of it.

Ok ok calm down. But why do they react that way? Jesus gave us the answer in John 3.20. He says they hate the light because they want a sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished. The reason they don't like what you are saying is you are a bright light at a dark place. Think about when you are asleep. You have all the shades drawn. And maybe your mom and dad come in. Time to wake up.

The sad thing is you are in your 40's. So your mom opens up the shade and the light comes in. Oh man you put your pillow over your head. You are not ready for the light. That is how people are when we talk about Jesus. But I love how it says Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. Listen when you are obeying God he will fill you with the Holy Spirit. God doesn't pour his Spirit on us just for the fun of it. Listen the gifts of the Spirit are not toys to play with. They are weapons to fight with. And they are tools to build with. The power that God gives us is power with a purpose. Acts 1.8 says, You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. For what purpose?

To be witnesses unto me. Think about a fire hose. Have you ever seen when the firefighters lose control of the hose? It is flailing about. Water going everywhere. Then they get hold of that hose.

And they aim it in the direction of a burning house and think of the good they can do. So God gave this power to Stephen for a purpose to proclaim the gospel. I want to bring this up because sometimes people say, you know I am so dry spiritually.

Let me ask you this question. When was the last time you shared your faith with someone? See the gospel is designed to be shared not hoarded.

You are blessed to be a blessing. Proverbs 11 25 says, The generous soul will be made fat. And he that waters others will be watered himself. Now don't you want a fat soul? Maybe not a fat body. But you want a fat soul.

Right? And so it says when you water others. When you give to others. When you serve others.

You are watered. Get it? See we think no no it is all about me. It is about you doing this for me.

Actually it isn't. It is about you doing something for someone else. And the Bible says give and it shall be given unto you. Pressed down.

Shaken together and running over. As you give God will replenish you. I can tell you this from experience.

There have been times I get up to preach. And I am not really in the mood. Can you believe that? And it is not because of you. It is because of me. It is maybe it is I heard some news that is troubling. Or there is some conflict of some kind. Or something is happening.

Or whatever it is I am just not feeling up to it at that moment. And I can tell you so many times I have started my sermon on empty. And I have ended it on full. I am replenished.

It is true. You know we say my life is so hard. And you know maybe you need to just get out a little bit. Maybe go see someone that is really suffering. I don't know men.

I have got like a cold and it is a really bad one. And then you go visit someone in a hospital with stage three cancer. And all of a sudden your problem isn't very big is it? See I think we need to get perspective. And when you are obeying God, God will bless you and God will use you. And Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. And these members of the Sanhedrin were coming under the conviction of the Spirit.

Because according to verse 51 they were resisting the Spirit. Which implies they knew it was true and they were saying no. I know what you are saying is true. That is why I am putting my hands over my ears. That is why I am screaming. That is why I want you to stop. That is why I am shaking my fist.

I know it is true and I don't want to hear it anymore. It says in verse 54 they were cut to the heart. That could literally be translated they were sawn in half. Stephen was a true hero of the Christian faith. It was so Christlike in his actions.

Even when he was on his knees he stood tall. We are seeing Stephen gave us a Godly example we can follow. And Pastor Greg Laurie has more from this message yet to come here on The New Beginning. So many of the early disciples risked their very lives to share the gospel.

Stephen was the first martyr for doing so. But that speaks to the importance of the message. It is a message we share every day here on The New Beginning. Have you ever responded to the Lord's offer of forgiveness?

You can know your sins are forgiven and you can know you are going to heaven when this life is over. Pastor Greg someone can enter into that kind of relationship with God today can't they? They can and it is so simple.

And I think because it is so simple people think oh it can't be that easy. Well look Jesus did all the heavy lifting. He carried the cross for you. He died on that cross that he carried.

This isn't about what you do it is about what he has done. But here is what the Bible says. Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

You say well okay how do I do that? You do it through prayer. And if you pray this prayer after me I believe God will hear it and answer it and Christ will come to live inside of you. So if you want Jesus to come into your life and forgive you of your sin. If you want to know that you will go to heaven when you die.

If you want to fill that big hole in your heart. Pray these words if you would. Lord Jesus I know that I am a sinner. But I know that you are the Savior who died on the cross for my sin. I am sorry for my sin and I turn from it now.

And I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Be my Savior and my Lord. Be my God and my friend. Thanks for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus name I pray.

Amen. Listen if you just prayed that prayer I want you to know that God has heard you and has answered it. The Bible says these things we write to you that believe on the name of the Son of God. That you may know that you have eternal life. That you may know it's yours now. God has given it to you because it's the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Congratulations and welcome to the family of God.

Yeah that's right. And listen would you let us help you get started living this new life? Let us send you Pastor Greg's New Believers Bible. It's in an easy to understand translation with so many helps specifically for those who are new to the faith. Well send it free of charge. Just get in touch for your copy of the New Believers Bible. Call us at 1-800-821-3300. Take your call anytime that's 1-800-821-3300.

Or write A New Beginning Box 4000 Riverside, CA 92514. Or you can always go online to harvest.org and click the words Know God. Well Pastor Greg I know it's somewhat impolite to overhear conversations. At least to admit that you overheard a conversation. But I overheard a conversation that you were in just earlier today. Yes. And you were talking to somebody about how you just in the last few days have been working on the script for a new Christmas special for the Ben Born Again cartoon series.

Did I overhear that correctly? That's right but before I enter that cue the Christmas music. I know it's kind of early to talk about Christmas because it's probably warm out where you live. But we are working on the Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog Christmas special. And it's going to be a lot of fun. They're going to have a lot of adventures. They're going to leave the beach and they're going to go to the mountains where the snow is.

And have all kinds of crazy things happen to them. But as always it's going to build to a Bible story. And in this case obviously it's going to be the story of the birth of Jesus. I'm also introducing some new characters into the cartoon series. Hopkins the cat.

Yes you heard it right. There's going to be a cat. And he's going to be the nemesis of Yellow Dog. And I'm introducing a female character. A potential girlfriend for Ben down the road.

And another character named Willie. So you won't want to miss the Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog Christmas special. It's in production right now.

Having a lot of fun working on it. But where can they find the current episodes of Ben Born Again? I'm glad you asked Dave. They need to download the app.

Well you told me to ask you that at some point. Yes that's right. We have an amazing app. I mean this is a really good app. It's called the Harvest Plus app. So if you go to your app store you can download it for your iPhone, for your Android phone, for your tablet, and for your television set.

So you can take Harvest with you wherever you go. That includes our podcast, our radio program, our television program, daily devotions. All of my sermons are there. As well as our movies that we've made.

Our documentary films like Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon, Steve McQueen, The Salvation of an American Icon, A Rush of Hope, Fame, and a lot more. So you want to download this app. And that's a great place to watch these Ben Born Again cartoons. We have a little section on our app and that's where you find all these cartoons and you can watch them and start enjoying them. And you can watch them over and over again.

Yeah that's right. And as you said, we're reaching unexpected people in unexpected places with an unexpected message. And we're so thankful for the investments of listeners that make this important work possible. This ministry and everything we do is completely listener supported. And we'd like to thank you tangibly with a new resource that has grown out of our new animated series. It's our new Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book.

It's perfect for elementary age kids and older. It'll help them build a strong foundation for their faith. They'll learn why the Bible is important. Why being involved in church matters. How to pray. How to know the will of God. How to resist temptation.

And a whole lot more. Get in touch with your investment and be sure to ask for the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book. You can call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's 24-7 phone number 1-800-821-3300. Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.

Or go online to Harvest.org. Well next time, more inspiration from the life of Stephen. As Pastor Greg continues his message called A Life Well Lived. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. A New Beginning is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. If this show has impacted your life, share your story. Leave a review on your favorite podcast app and help others find hope.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-13 05:26:18 / 2024-06-13 05:38:13 / 12

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