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A Life Well-Lived | A Spiritual Example

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
June 14, 2024 3:00 am

A Life Well-Lived | A Spiritual Example

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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June 14, 2024 3:00 am

We’re on an inspiring journey through the book of Acts here on A NEW BEGINNING. Pastor Greg Laurie is helping us learn from our spiritual forefathers and see how “The Acts of the Apostles” show us how to live more rewarding lives here and now, 20 centuries later. Today, in a message called A Life Well-Lived, Pastor Greg helps us consider the story of a young man in Acts chapter 7 that set a strong example for other believers to follow. It was an inspiring life, right up to the very end.

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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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Today's episode of A New Beginning is brought to you by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.

Learn more at harvest.org. And while you're there, browse our library of free ebooks designed to help you grow in your faith. Are you living your life well? You know, as you get older, you understand that verse that says we live our lives like a story that's been told.

What story is your life telling? We see people who walk closely with the Lord and are on fire for Him through thick and thin. How can we enjoy that kind of abundant life? Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie has the answer. Get your goals right and let your passion be for Jesus. We're on an inspiring journey through the book of Acts here on A New Beginning. Pastor Greg Laurie is helping us learn from our spiritual forefathers and see how the Acts of the Apostles show us how to live more rewarding lives here and now, 20 centuries later. Today, in a message called A Life Well Lived, Pastor Greg helps us consider the story of a young man in Acts chapter seven that set a strong example for other believers to follow. It was an inspiring life right up to the very end. A young man named Stephen was a well-respected man. He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit and he had this great wisdom and though he was young he was so wise but 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. The greatest tragedy is not a life that is cut short if we want to use that verbiage. The greatest tragedy is a life that is wasted. Jim Elliot was a martyr along with Nate Saint and others who went to take the gospel to a tribe known as the Alcas and they were killed by this tribe and in fact Jim's wife Elizabeth went back and led the very man that killed her husband to Christ. So it was a story of redemption ultimately but Jim was a very young man when he died.

He was only 28 years old and he had a little journal and in that journal he wrote these words and he found this later quote he is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose end quote. So Stephen he looked for opportunities and he sees them. So now he's brought before the Sanhedrin. 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's 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 received 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. God gave Stephen the grace he needed when he needed it. You say wow if I were in this situation I wouldn't have reacted as Stephen did. I don't know that that's true. God will give you what you need when you need it. Not before never after because I can think of people I've seen that are suffering and I think man I would never be like that. My you know I wouldn't have that kind of faith.

Why do you say that? The Bible says he's a very present help in times of trouble so God will give you what you need when that moment comes and that's exactly what he did for Stephen. Hebrews 4 16 says God will give us grace to help in time of need and so God gave him that grace and what does Stephen see? Verse 56 I see the heavens open and the son of man standing at the place of honor at God's right hand.

Isn't that interesting? What keeps Stephen going? He sees Jesus.

What will keep you going? You need to see Jesus. You need to get your eyes off of your circumstances. Off of your problems and put your eyes on God himself.

Yeah. In Hebrews 12 the author says lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily besets you and look unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. That's what will get you through the troubles you might be facing even now. But here's what is really unique is Jesus is standing. Have you ever noticed that every other time we read of Jesus in glory he is sitting at the right hand of God. But here uniquely he is standing at the right hand of God. Why was Jesus standing? I don't know. He just got tired of sitting.

No. There's a reason. My opinion my opinion is he was standing in honor welcoming the first martyr of the early church. As Stephen was standing for Jesus on earth Jesus was standing for Stephen in heaven. Because Jesus said if you will confess me before people I will confess you before the father. Jesus is saying Stephen I see what is happening here. I love you.

You are going to be with me in just a moment. And Stephen saw that and it just changed everything. And he fell on his knees verse 59 saying Lord don't charge him with this sin.

And he fell asleep. Wow. Is that not a perfect reflection of what Jesus did on the cross. When Christ was crucified he gave seven statements. Each one significant. The order of them is significant.

Statement number one. Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Stephen says effectively the same thing. Lord don't charge them with this sin. And then we read he said Lord Jesus receive my spirit. This means that he knew he was passing in to glory. And it's a reminder that there's no delay from the time we leave this world and go to the next one. When you close your eyes on earth you open them in heaven. When you take your last breath on earth you take your next breath in heaven. When a believer dies they go straight to heaven. This is what the Bible teaches.

2 Corinthians 5 says we are fully confident. We would rather be away from these bodies and then we will be at home with the Lord. And coming back to the cross remember that thief that was crucified next to Christ. And he says Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said truly truly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise. John Bunyan the writer said and I quote death is but a passage out of a prison into a palace end quote. When death strikes the Christian they fall into heaven. God allowed Stephen's life to be taken because he had fulfilled his task. He had fulfilled his calling in his generation.

Now here's the thing. None of us has a guarantee we will live a long life. Coming back to Jim Elliott another entry in his journal went as follows and I quote I seek not a long life but a full one like you Lord Jesus end quote. That's what we want. We want a full life. God determines the length of our life. We don't.

Oh we think we do. Oh yes but I'm eating all the proper food you know and and then there's some random dude who lives on hot dogs and makes it past 100. You spent your life eating tofu and kale. But a full life. A meaningful life.

That's what we want. Corrie Tynboom made this statement quote a life is not measured by its duration but by its donation. We all want to live long lives.

I mean look Stephen didn't have a death wish. He wanted to live life. No one loves life more than the Christian. Because as Paul said to live is Christ to die is gain. We love life but the Christian does not have to be afraid of death. Doesn't mean we want to die. But what it means is we will die. You wake up in the morning what if this is my last day on earth then it's your last day on earth. So live it well. Live it right honor God and you go straight into glory. But the chances are it's not your last day on earth. You'll probably have many more days on earth. But the point is it's all in God's hands.

In a broad sense life for the Christian never ends at all. Because Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me though he were dead yet shall he live.

And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. So are you living your life well. You know as you get older you understand that verse that says we live our lives like a story that's been told.

What story is your life telling. And let me say a word to you that are young. It's so important to make the right decisions because in a blink of an eye you'll be old like me.

But you'll probably look much better than I look. But it's kind of shocking to think about how quickly life goes by. And that's why you want to make the right decisions now.

Lay the foundation. Because the evening of your life is determined by the morning of your life or the end from the beginning. Stephen he had his life right. He was young but he lived it for God's glory. Ecclesiastes 12 one says don't let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your creator.

Honor him in your youth before you grow old and no longer enjoy living. So get your goals right and let your passion be for Jesus. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Hey everybody I want to encourage you to join us for something we call Harvest at Home. It happens every Sunday at Harvest.org and on our brand new app Harvest Plus which is available on your mobile TV devices. Download it now and you can watch Harvest at Home with Christians from around the world as we worship together and study God's word.

So again join us for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org or on Harvest Plus. Well we're in the middle of Pastor Greg's series called the Upside Down Life and we're focusing on the example of Stephen today from Acts chapter 7. Now let me close with just a few quick points. If you're taking notes number one for the Christian walking in God's will death will come at the appointed time. Again for the Christian walking in the will of God death will come at the appointed time. Not a minute before or after the Bible says there's a time to be born there's a time to die. So it comes down to this.

You are indestructible until God is done with you. So just relax. Don't panic.

It's organic. That means nothing. I don't know why I even said that. You're okay. So don't worry. Jesus says who of you by worrying can add one moment to your life. Answer no one. So don't worry about it. It's all in God's hands. Number two.

I already made this point but I'll make it again. The Christian does not have to fear death. Notice verse 59 says Stephen fell asleep.

Actually this was a violent death. This young man was stoned and it says he fell asleep. You know sleep is only used to describe the death of a Christian in the Bible.

It's never used to describe the death of a non-Christian. And I think the reason the word sleep is used is it's something well it doesn't have to be feared right. You know when you get older sleeping's kind of well take a nap. When you're older happy hour is a nap right. You don't have to be afraid. Oh no I'm going to fall asleep. Oh no it's okay to fall asleep because you'll wake up. And he woke up in the presence of God.

Number three. In heaven all of our questions will be answered. Oh we have so many questions now. So many things we don't understand. Why did God let this happen? I just was with a couple in our church who lost a member of their family a young man unexpectedly. And you know the questions.

I know these questions. I ask these same questions when our son went to be with the Lord 13 years ago. Why did this happen? Why him? He was so young.

He had his whole life ahead of him. Why? Why? Why? Why?

Why? It's okay to ask why questions. Even Jesus hanging on the cross said my God my God why have you forsaken me? So ask away. Doesn't mean you'll get an answer but you can ask. But one day you will get an answer. And until that day we live on promises not explanations.

So don't spend too much time wondering why. Instead go back to who and what. Who as in who shall I turn to? You need to turn to God.

What as in what should I do now? You should seek to glorify God. One day your questions will be answered. One day your tears will be dried. One day all of these things will be resolved.

But until that day we must trust God. Never trade what we do know for what we don't know. There's a lot of things I don't know. You should have met me when I was 21. I was a young pastor and I knew everything. I had a verse for everything. I'd say you need to do this.

You need to do that. Now that I'm 51. See that's even funny.

Now that's sad. I'm older. You know my grandkids. Oh papa my birthday's coming. Man when my birthday is coming it's like oh no another birthday is coming. I don't look forward to birthdays. Is that only true of me?

When you're older say oh no. All those candles and so much work to blow them out. Too many candles.

And they're too expensive to have that many too. But all these things are going to be resolved one day and all these questions are going to be answered. But until that day we want to live for God.

There's one other thing I want to close with. God can bring good out of the worst kind of bad. God can bring good out of the worst kind of bad. Now Romans 8 28 is a verse that is so beautiful and powerful but it's often misunderstood. We all know it right.

You want to just stab it just saying it together without it on the screen. For we know that all things work together to those who love God and are called pretty good. Like 12 of you do. That's a great verse. We quote it.

Now here's where we misunderstand it. We think maybe it means that no matter what bad thing happens to me God will turn it into something good right. That's not actually what the verse says. It says we know that all things work together for good to those that love God. You see there are things that happen in life that are bad things. They're tragic things. And they'll always be a bad and tragic thing. But despite that tragic thing God can still do something good. So it doesn't mean I need to say this bad thing happened so this good thing will happen.

No maybe it's like this. This bad thing happened. I don't know why this bad thing happened. I wish it had not happened. And one day maybe God will explain it to me.

But despite that I pray that God will bring good in my life as I've come through this tragedy with this house. It's a difference. There's a difference.

Everything doesn't have a tidy little bow on it. But with Jesus He will show me His purposes ultimately. Now how did this work out in the church? Well instead of stopping the church the church exploded in a good way. You see up to this point the church is kind of hanging out in Jerusalem. Jesus said you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the animals parts of the earth. And they're like yeah that's cool but we're going to hang out in Jerusalem.

They're having a little holy huddle. But after they saw the courage of Stephen. After they saw him lay his life down as he did they went everywhere with the gospel. And there was one man that was reached this day and his name was Saul of Tarsus. And later on we're going to look at his amazing conversion story. So incredible.

I love this story. And I think that God used Stephen in a significant way to get through to Saul. He planted the seed so you could say Stephen didn't reach a lot of people but the one he reached man that was one whopper of a convert. Saul of Tarsus later to become the great apostle Paul.

So Stephen's life is short but it was full. And he was faithful to death and God gave to him a crown of life. And that's what he promises to all of us as we serve him. So let me close with this thought then we're going to pray. If you died today would you go to heaven? You say well I hope so.

Well look I want more than hope. I want to know. I know I will go to heaven when I die. Why? Because I'm a preacher?

No. Because I put my faith in Christ and he's forgiven me of my sins. Same way you're going to get into heaven. As I've said so many times heaven is not for good people. It's for forgiven people. You need to be forgiven. So if you're not sure if you're forgiven of your sin if you're not certain that you'll go to heaven when you die I would like to have a prayer. And I would like to lead you in a prayer where you would ask Christ to come into your life. If you need Jesus in your life pray this after me right now.

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 my sin now and I choose to follow you from this moment forward as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering it. In Jesus name we pray.

Amen. Pastor Greg Laurie leading listeners in an important prayer. A prayer to receive Christ and have their sins forgiven. And if you prayed that prayer we want to be the first to welcome you into the family of God. And we want to make sure you can get started off right in your new relationship with the Lord. So we'd like to send you Pastor Greg's New Believers Bible. It's yours at no charge and it'll help lay a foundation for your walk of faith. Just ask for it when you call us at 1-800-821-3300.

That's a 24 7 phone number 1-800-821-3300. Or go online to harvest.org and click the words know God. Well Pastor Greg we received a great listener comment about the new cartoon series The Adventures of Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog. Let me read this to you. It says Greg you never cease to amaze me.

I just watched the Bridges Out episode. My goodness what amazing work. I struggle to talk with my son who is now 16 about God because he has mild autism and ADHD. This allowed me to have an open dialogue with him. He asks questions and was able to understand things more clearly.

I also tested all the Bible study I've been doing when I was answering his questions. Keep it coming. And thank you again for always coming out with these unique ways of reaching people.

What a great comment. It really is and this goes back to my very beginning Dave. I became a Christian at age 17. My sole goal in life at that point was to be a professional cartoonist. As I've said before I used to correspond with Charles M. Schulz the creator of Peanuts. He very graciously responded to my ridiculous questions and requests that I would send to him. I would ask him for free things, free artwork, his opinions on my cartoons. I was amazed when he would write me back.

But when I became a Christian I noticed that there was there was nothing that we could give out to people that wasn't sort of heavy-handed. And so that's why I drew what became known as a living water track. And if you saw the Jesus Revolution movie you remember there's a number of scenes in there where Joel Courtney playing Greg is drawing these tracks and different things. And so that's how I got started.

Now it's a funny thing. Fast forward over 50 years and I've kind of returned to these roots but now we're using different platforms. Painting on different canvases. One canvas we've been painting on is is a movie canvas. So we were very involved in the Jesus Revolution film. We produced documentary films like Steve McQueen The Salvation of an American Icon, Johnny Cash The Redemption of an American Icon, a project called Fame, another project called A Rush of Hope to engage people in that level. But now the newest thing is Ben Born Again and this animation. And we're building a library now with a series of episodes and spin-off products. We have a super cool comic book that is an update of the living water track and we're producing more items.

But now we have a refresh of a very popular item that we've been offering to people for years. In fact well over 500,000 of these little booklets have gone out to kids over the years. So we've gone back, we've rebuilt it from scratch using the new cartoon characters, the new animation and it's simply called the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book. This is for kids only. Adults are not allowed to read it.

No I'm just kidding. The adults can read it too. But it's for kids, written to kids in a way that they will understand, going over the basic truths of what it means to be a Christian. Well going back to what this this lady wrote to us, she said with an exclamation point, keep it coming. How can people help us?

How can our listeners help us keep it coming? Well thanks for that question. You know animation, I'll be honest with you, is expensive. It takes a lot of work. We'll start writing the script and and we won't see the finished product until a few months later.

But it's a very fascinating process and I think it's worth it when it's done. Because you can say to someone, here listen to a sermon, ah that's okay I don't want to. Hey watch a cartoon. They just might watch a cartoon and I mean people of all ages.

You know adults like cartoons too. And so this is a new way to reach people. But there is expense involved. And so this is sort of a foray into new territory for us. Doing something that needs to be done. Reaching an audience that needs to be reached.

So here's my challenge to our listeners. You have children or grandchildren or you know kids in your neighborhood. Kids that you come into contact with. They need to know about Jesus. But they need to hear the gospel in a way that they understand as a kid.

That's where Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog come in. They're designed to reach these people. For instance let's say I was going into another country and I was going to speak and their language was different than mine. I would have an interpreter who would help me communicate with those people. This is like an interpreter speaking to a younger generation in their language.

These are available on social media but in printed form as well. So if you care about children. If you want to reach the next generation. If you want to sort of pioneer with us some new territory then I encourage you to invest in this. Of course we'll send you at no charge a free copy of the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth book. But you might want to give more as an investment into the future generation. I encourage you to do that.

Yeah and your partnership is so much appreciated. Thank you for standing with us and we hope you'll ask for the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth book. It's a great way for a young person to learn the basics of the Christian faith.

It's fun, understandable and entertaining. 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 a 24 7 phone number 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org. Next time Pastor Greg highlights the lives of two men in scripture to prove the point that no one is beyond the reach of God. Join us here on The New Beginning with pastor and bible teacher Greg Lord. Hey everybody thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. So for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make Him known to others or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner just go to harvest.org.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-14 05:14:48 / 2024-06-14 05:25:22 / 11

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