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No One Is Beyond the Reach of God | An Important Choice

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
June 18, 2024 3:00 am

No One Is Beyond the Reach of God | An Important Choice

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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June 18, 2024 3:00 am

In spite of the fact that eternal life is a free gift from God, paid for by Jesus’ death at Calvary, some accept that gift and some don’t. That’s startling to believers: “heaven or hell, take your pick.” “Yeah, I just don’t think heaven’s the right fit for me.” Today on A NEW BEGINNING, we’ll take a look at that choice and how people each make the choices that lead to life or death. Pastor Greg Laurie is presenting an enlightening series in the book of Acts called The Upside-Down Life.

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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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Hey everybody, you're listening to A New Beginning, which is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. If this program has impacted you, I'd love to hear from you, so just send an email to me at gregg.harvest.org. Again, it's gregg.harvest.org.

You can learn more about becoming a Harvest Partner by going to harvest.org. Is Christianity just another religion? Pastor Greg Laurie says no. He explains a key difference between Christianity and other religions of the world. If you were to sum up religion in one word, it would be the word do.

Do this and you'll reach nirvana. Do this other thing and you might get to heaven. If you were to sum up Christianity in one word, it would be the word done. It's done.

It's finished. It's completed because of the death of Christ on the cross. In spite of the fact that eternal life is a free gift from God paid for by Jesus' death at Calvary, some accept that gift and some don't. That's startling to believers. Heaven or hell, take your pick.

Yeah, I just don't think heaven's the right fit for me. Well, today on A New Beginning, we'll take a look at that choice and how people each make the choices that lead to life or death. Pastor Greg is presenting an enlightening series in the book of Acts called The Upside Down Life. I want to look at two men in the Bible that are placed side by side. Saul of Tarsus and Simon the magician. One had a real conversion.

The other did not. This is a reminder that time will tell if a person is really a believer. Acts chapter nine, definitely one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Verse one, Saul was entering threats with every breath and he was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest who requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus asking for their cooperation and the arrest of any followers of the way. Underlying that phrase, the way, he found there he wanted to bring them both men and women to Jerusalem in chains.

This guy was heartless. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission a light fell from heaven and it suddenly shone down around him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Who are you, Lord? Saul asked. The voice replied, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Now get up and go into the city and you'll be told what to do. But the men who were with Saul stood speechless for they heard the sound of someone's voice but saw no one. We'll stop there. Don't you love that story? So here's Saul. He's like a wild animal. Verse one says he was uttering threats and this is an interesting phrase. It means he was ravaging people to destroy them. He was just filled with fury.

In fact, Paul said in Acts 26 11 when giving this testimony a raging fury obsessed him. And if you were to have told Saul, hey buddy, before you get to the end of this trip that you're going to be a Christian, he would have laughed in your face. I love this description of the first century Christians in verse two.

He requested letters addressed to the synagogues asking for the cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the way. Of the way. I mentioned to you before that the Christians did not get together and decide to call themselves Christians. They were called followers of the way. They called themselves followers of the way. No doubt based on the statement of Jesus in John 14 6 where he said what I am the that's right the way the truth and the life. So they were followers of the way. They believed that Jesus was the way to God as we believe today.

Well most of us or some of us. How many of you believe Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God? Raise your hand.

Okay that's good because this is a non-negotiable. And I bring this up because it's now controversial to say that. To say that there's only one way to a relationship with God and that is through Jesus Christ. Some would say well that that's that's not right. I read recently that 70 percent of born-again Christians were pulled and they said they did not believe that Jesus is the only way to God. My response is are you sure you're a born-again Christian? How can you say that because it's so clear in Scripture how this is a non-negotiable truth. Why do I believe Jesus is the only way to the Father? Because Jesus said so. Now it really comes down to that. Are we going to believe the Bible or not? I know it seems very open-minded of you.

Maybe even compassionate of you. To say well all roads really lead to God. And really when you get down to it all religions really teach the same thing.

Which is your way of saying I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. Because if you take an honest look at the great religions of the world you will see they clearly do not all teach the same thing. In fact if you were to sum up religion in one word it would be the word do. Do. Do this and you'll find inner peace. Do that and you'll reach nirvana.

Do this other thing and you might get to heaven. If you were to sum up Christianity in one word it would be the word done. It's done. It's finished. It's completed because of the death of Christ on the cross. So you have a choice. You can go with done or you can go with do.

Do and do. Acts 4 12 says there's salvation in no one else. There's no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. There were people of the way.

Not our way or a better way. They were people of the only way. So it's afternoon. The sun's probably shining. Saul's on his way to kill Christians. It's a good day in the mind of Saul of Tarsus.

Verse 3 says a light fell from heaven and it shone around him and he fell to the ground. And the voice says Saul Saul why are you persecuting me? I love Saul's response. Who are you Lord? Who are you? And I know that Saul's probably thinking don't say Jesus. Don't say Jesus. Who are you Lord? I am Jesus.

That's that though. Who you are persecuting. And Saul said don't.

Obscure Homer Simpson reference in case you missed it. He realized that the very God he thought he was serving he was in fact opposing. And it's also interesting how Jesus says why do you persecute me. Jesus identifies with his people. When someone raises their hand against us they are in fact raising a hand against Christ himself. So if you're hurting I want you to know Jesus knows.

He's more than aware. Fascinating verse verse 5. Jesus says it's hard for you to kick against the goats. Now that's a statement that is hard for us to understand.

What does that even mean? A goat was basically a sharpened stick. So back in the first century instead of putting the petal to the metal you put the goat to the ox.

Okay. A goat was a sharpened stick. You want the ox to go faster.

You want to shift into second gear. You give him a poke right. So this is the picture Jesus uses. You're kicking against the goat. So I'm prompting you to believe. I'm convicting you. You're fighting with me.

You're kicking against that. So what would these goads so-called be? I think the arguments life and death of Stephen was one of them. The way he died as I pointed out.

I think the spread of the gospel and the response of the believers were goals as well. Saul probably wondered how can these people suffer and die if it's all a lie. So Saul believes and we're going to have to put that in freeze frame and we'll come to that later because now we're going to shift gears and look at the other character in our story. We have one who is converted.

Saul of Tarsus. Now we have another who appears to be converted but in fact he is a poser because things are not always as they appear. I was with Chuck Smith years ago and we did a TV show together and afterwards we went into the little back room and they had a whole bunch of sushi out there. So there was some wasabi. You know what wasabi is? So you take a little bit of wasabi. You mix it up in the soy sauce and you dip your sushi and the wasabi right.

Well so I'm there with Chuck Smith. He's looking at all this food and he was he's filling his plate with sushi. I said wow Chuck I didn't know you love sushi. He says I love sushi. Great and then he takes a big ball of wasabi. A big ball and he pops it in his mouth.

I'm like and he turns bright red and tears are starting to come out of his eyes. He just stands there and then he finally swallows it and I said Chuck you're not supposed to eat that. And Chuck says I thought it was guacamole.

Oh man it's brutal but a great story. Thank you Pastor Chuck. Things are not always as they appear. That's certainly the case with Simon.

Simon the sorcerer. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. We're thrilled when we hear from listeners that join us from every background, every profession, every age. Pastor Greg I'm a 17 year old dairy farmer in southern Wisconsin.

Although I've been a Christian for most of my life I've not always lived like one. Thanks to you I realize that God can help me and also forgive my sins. I appreciate you and try to listen to your podcast as I work in the morning. I love your story of how you overcame so much in your own past.

It gives me hope that I can live for Christ more than for myself. Thank you. We're so grateful to hear of the changed lives through Harvest Ministries and if you have a story to tell write Pastor Greg an email. Send it to greg at harvest dot org.

Do it today while you're thinking about it. Again that's greg at harvest dot org. Well Pastor Greg has been focusing on the life of Saul of Tarsus and now he contrasts it with the story of Simon the magician or Simon the sorcerer. A little backdrop on a story before we read about it. Philip was in town and he was praying for people and miracles were happening and it's a great time. Enter Simon the sorcerer. Acts chapter 8 verse 9.

We're going back now. Back to Acts 8 verse 9. A man named Simon had been a sorcerer for many years amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. Everyone from the least to the greatest often spoke of him as the great one the power of God. They listened closely to him because for a long time he astounded them with his magic but now the people believe Philip's message of the good news concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.

As a result many men and women were baptized then Simon himself believed and was baptized and began following Philip wherever he went and he was amazed at the signs and great miracles Philip performed. So at first glance it looks like this guy Simon became a believer. So Simon the magician. He was probably steeped in occultism but he probably had some pretty cool magic tricks up the sleeve that were nothing more than sleight of hand and trickery. We have a professional magician that attends our church over on Maui.

His name is Warren. I went to one of his shows. It's incredible and Warren's a Christian and he uses his magic and it's not literal magic but he uses illusion to make spiritual points. It's very convincing and I asked him after I saw his show tell me how you did this. He wouldn't reveal how he did it and but I just tell you this when someone comes and wants to do a card trick I hate card tricks okay. Pick a card and you could just stop. I don't want to pick a card.

Go away with your cards okay. But whatever Simon did it was very impressive. It was very convincing.

So it might have been a combination of trickery illusion and devilish power on display. But whatever it was he had the people eating out of his hand. He was very popular. He was even called the great one.

You're the great one. Well he enjoyed that. Well along comes Philip and Philip wrecks everything. And he preaches the gospel and real power is now on display because there's no power that can compete with the power of the gospel because it's the power of God unto salvation. So Simon had no magic trick to match this. So we read in verse 13 he believed and was baptized. Now was he converted? Well I don't know.

I kind of tend to doubt it for this reason. Because if you drop down to verse 20 we see that Peter showed up in town along with John and they were performing miracles by the hand of God and Simon said listen I want to buy this trick. This thing you guys are doing I want this in my repertoire.

So how much to buy this ability? Well that didn't play well. Peter says in verse 20 may your money be destroyed with you for thinking God's gift can be bought. You have no part in this and your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you of your evil thoughts for I can see you're full of bitter jealousy and held captive by sin.

Wow. So it's a super serious charge that Peter is leveling at Simon when he says may your money be destroyed with you. But wait it says he believed and was baptized. Doesn't that mean he was a Christian?

Not necessarily. It is my belief that he was not a believer at all. You know in a technical sense you could say the demons believe. And by that I don't mean that I think they're followers of Jesus. They're the very opposite of that. But yet James 2 19 says you believe there's one God.

You're right. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Oh foolish man don't you know faith without works is dead. Let's say I interviewed a demon. That'd be freaky wouldn't it. Let's say I interviewed Lucifer himself. The devil. If I were to ask Satan. Satan let me ask you a question. Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God. What do you think his answer would be.

Yes. How do I know that. Because in the temptation in the wilderness he said to the Lord since you're the son of God why don't you turn this rock into a piece of bread. He was not questioning that. Satan believes Jesus is the son of God. If I were to ask the devil do you believe that the Bible is the word of God. What do you think his answer would be.

Yes he knows it. As we already read in that verse the demons believe and tremble. That he knows it's true.

But obviously he's in rebellion against it. See Simon I think was faking a conversion because it was something he really wanted. But the Bible leaves the story open ended. He was told to repent. Did he repent later. I don't know.

Hopefully he did. But this much is true. You can say you're a Christian and not be a Christian. In John 2 we read that when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did. But then this statement but Jesus did not commit himself to them for he knew all men. Wait what. Many believed in him when they saw the signs but Jesus did not commit himself to them.

You could translate it this way. Many believed in him but he didn't believe in them. That's John 2. Right on the heels of that is John 3.

Amazing insight. And what do we read in John 3. Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night. And what happened with him. Well he believed. We know that later Nicodemus became a believer. But he had this conversation with Christ.

So that's a contrast. Hey many appeared to be believing but they were not believers. But here's this guy. The most unexpected guy. Nicodemus the leader of the Pharisees who actually did become a believer.

We have that same picture in this story before us. Here's a man who did not want to become a believer. The last thing he wanted was Jesus. His name was Saul. He became a true Christian. Here's a man that appeared to want to be a believer but he really did not.

His name was Simon. If you're a real believer you need to repent of your sin. That's what Peter said. He said you need to repent of this. And repentance doesn't just mean being sorry.

It means being sorry enough to stop. In closing I wonder if I'm talking to someone that's been kicking against the goads. And by that I mean you're kicking against the Holy Spirit. You're resisting the convicting work of the Spirit who's trying to draw you to himself.

Why? Well we get this idea that being a Christian such a drag. Rules, regulations, absolutes. I want to just do what I want to do and go where I want to go and live the way I want to live and hang out with the people I want to hang around with. And then you go down that path and you see how empty that is and meanwhile Jesus is still calling you. Did it ever occur to you that God's plan for you is far better than your plan for yourself? I love that verse that I quote often. Jeremiah 29 11. It says I know the thoughts that I think towards you says the Lord.

Thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope. Reminds me of a story I heard about a guy who was being pursued by an attorney and this man was certain that that attorney wanted to serve him with a subpoena. So this guy made it his mission in life to evade the attorney.

This went on for 13 years and that attorney was never able to make contact with this man. Well the man got very sick and he was actually dying and he was in the hospital and lo and behold they wheeled that attorney and right next to him he was sharing the room with the attorney. The man turned to the attorney and said go ahead serve me the subpoena.

I don't even care now. I'm going to die. The attorney said subpoena.

I have a written document telling you that you had inherited 45 million dollars. See that's us running from God. Oh I don't want God's will. God wants to bless you. God wants to forgive you. God wants to guide you. God wants to use you. God wants to put supernatural gifts in your life and use you to change the world. What are you running from?

What are you afraid of? You should be running to him not away from him. And you could do that right now.

There might be somebody that is caught in a cycle of addiction and you've tried so many times to break free. This can be your moment where everything changes because of Jesus. Maybe there's somebody here that has been fighting with God and fighting with Christians and and that by the way is a losing proposition. Don't get in a fight with God.

You're gonna so lose right. As it's been said your arms are too short to box with God. Just submit to God. His plan for you is good. He's not trying to serve you with the subpoena. He's trying to give you an inheritance. He's trying to bless you.

He's trying to get you on the right course and maybe somebody here needs to get on that course. Jesus died on the cross for your sin. Paid the price for every sin you've ever committed and he will forgive you right here right now in a moment if you will turn to him. Not a fake conversion like Simon.

A real conversion a real conversion like Saul. Let's all pray. Father we thank you for your word to us. We know it's true and I know there are people here that need to get right with you and I'm praying that at this very moment your Holy Spirit will convince them of their need for Jesus and bring them to yourself. In Jesus name I pray.

Amen. Pastor Greg Laurie with an important prayer and if you'd like to make a change in your relationship with the Lord today Pastor Greg will help you with that in just a moment before this edition of A New Beginning concludes. Well Pastor Greg one of the newest episodes for the new animated cartoon series The Adventures of Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog is something called Never Kiss a Jellyfish Goodbye which is funny all on its own. Where in the world did you come up with that title that concept? Well our listeners know that pretty much everything that happens in my life may end up in a sermon and so my grandson Christopher was out in the ocean with his buddy and his mom called him it's time to come in and he paused for a few moments and then he came in and she noticed that his face was bright red she said honey what happened to your face he said well mom we were playing with the jellyfish and when you called us in we decided to kiss it goodbye so he literally kissed a jellyfish goodbye and it stung him and when I heard this they said oh that's going to be in a sermon so went into a sermon so then it ended up as the title of a cartoon so he gets writing credit I said Christopher you get writing credit on this one and he got writing credit on another one that I did called Yellow Dog's Bad Day and so the the theme of that cartoon is is how to deal with temptation you know because temptation is so tempting and we all deal with it so we kind of springboard from that story and and Yellow Dog gets himself no bunch of trouble as he often does in these cartoons and and Ben's trying to use it as a teaching moment to show Yellow Dog how to resist temptation so so here's a little scene uh when Yellow Dog has just come in from uh kissing this jellyfish and here's what Ben says to him oh this hurts Yellow Dog how did a jellyfish get on your face oh well I was swimming to shore and thought I'd just give this little guy a kiss goodbye yellow dog you never kiss a jellyfish well in case you're wondering they do not taste like jelly oh but he was just so cute I couldn't resist like the time you kissed that dolphin goodbye and when you hugged that octopus yeah or pet that electric eel or hugged that puffer fish do you see a pattern here when you embrace the wrong things you get nothing but pain and suffering you know what you're right so there you have it Yellow Dog getting himself into trouble again but ultimately learning lessons from it as well and so this is a whole cartoon universe that we have created with a lot of spin-off products called the adventures have been born again in Yellow Dog we have animated cartoons that we're doing we have a living water comic book that is an update of my living water track that is out now in printed form and now we are refreshing a very popular item that we have offered for years it's called the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book well over 500,000 of these probably a lot more frankly have gone out over the years and they're designed really for kids in elementary school but we found adults like it too you know it's kind of overwhelming when you give a bible to an adult who's never read the bible they don't know where to start they don't know how to make their way through it so this is like an entry level resource that a person of any age could appreciate but I think especially a child a young person so we want to get these into the hands of as many kids as we can and that's where you come in we need you to help us do that so this month we're offering the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book as a special resource again I want to remind you this is a brand new version featuring the latest cartoon characters from the animated series Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog telling whoever reads this little booklet how they can grow as a Christian it's it's really a follow-up booklet a follow-up resource and if you believe in getting the gospel to this young generation if you believe in really what the great commission is which is going to all the world and preach the gospel making disciples of all nations teaching them to observe all things and I have commanded you and lo I'm with you to the end of the age says Jesus and so that's what we're trying to do we want to evangelize them by bringing the gospel to them and then we want to make disciples help them get grounded as Christians I have found that people of all ages have never gotten themselves a good foundation in the basics of the Christian life I found often people think they know more than they know and so we want to help them get grounded in their faith and that's why we have redone refreshed and we're reintroducing now the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book so if you have a passion to reach this young generation order one and be generous and we'll use what you give to continue this mission of bringing the gospel to unexpected people in unexpected places yeah that's right and we're ready to send this your way thank you so much for your partnership that makes it possible so get in touch with your investment and then be sure to ask for the Ben Born Again New Believers Growth Book it's engaging and understandable but more than that it's biblical 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 write a new beginning box 4000 Riverside California 92514 or go online to harvest.org well Pastor Greg you spoke today about having a relationship with the Lord yeah yeah someone can enter into that kind of relationship with God right now can't they yeah they really can that's the amazing thing I think people are surprised that it doesn't take years to become a Christian it doesn't take months it doesn't take weeks it doesn't take days it doesn't even take hours you can believe on the spot and I would like to lead you in a prayer where you can ask for his forgiveness a prayer where you can receive Jesus Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord so if you want Christ to come into your life if you want him to forgive you of your sin if you want a second chance in life if you want to go to heaven when you die stop what you're doing and pray after me these words Lord Jesus I know I am a sinner and I'm sorry for my sin and I turn from it now and I choose to follow you from this moment forward as Savior and Lord as God and friend thank you for loving me and calling me and forgiving me in Jesus name I pray amen amen and listen if you have just prayed those words with Pastor Greg the Lord has heard you and forgiven you of your sin the Bible says Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness and we'd like to send you some materials to help you begin to live this new life foremost in this packet of material is Pastor Greg's New Believers Bible it's a Bible with scores of helps for those who are new to the faith let it help you build a solid foundation for your walk with God just ask for it and we'll send it to you free of charge if you prayed for the first time today with Pastor Greg just give us a call anytime at 1-800-821-3300 that's 1-800-821-3300 or write a new beginning box 4000 Riverside California 92514 or go online to harvest.org and click the words know God well next time Pastor Greg points out that we're living in a time when we can literally take the gospel to everyone on the planet we'll talk about doing that join us here on The New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher Greg Laurie the preceding podcast was made possible by Harvest Partners helping people everywhere know God learn how to become a Harvest Partner sign up for daily devotions and find resources to help you grow in your faith at harvest.org
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-18 05:12:01 / 2024-06-18 05:23:25 / 11

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