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Greg Laurie - Never Say Never

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    Greg Laurie - Never Say Never

Welcome to "Harvest with Greg Laurie". This TV show is all about helping you get to know God better because God loves you. And God has a plan for you. And God wants to transform your life. And he's told us everything you need to know about him and life in general in this book, the Bible, the user's manual of life. So, we're gonna be talking about what the Bible says and what God wants to do in your life. Again, welcome, and God bless you.

You know, it's worth noting that the first two letters in the word "gospel" are go. We need to go. And listen to this. We are the first generation that could literally fulfill the Great Commission. We can actually do it in our lifetime. I don't just mean us going out there and talking to people one on one. I mean that we leverage every platform for the gospel, every social media platform, every video platform, every radio platform. Anything that's out there, we get in there with the gospel, and we share it. And with all of this technology that literally spans the globe, we could do this together. So, we're back in the book of Acts. In this chapter, chapter 10 of Acts, marks a significant change in the strategy of the church.

Now the church understands, finally, that they were to take the gospel to everyone, not just to, in their case, fellow Jews, but non Jews called Gentiles in the Bible. And we're also gonna be introduced to a man who was searching for God. I wonder if you're searching for God right now. Maybe you just came upon this service or someone told you to watch it, but you've been searching for God for a long time. Here's the good news. If you will really search for God, you will find him because the Lord tells us in the book of Jeremiah 29, "You'll seek me and you'll find me if you search for me with all of your heart".

So, the name of this man that was searching for God was Cornelius, Cornelius. He was actually a Roman Centurion. And God reached him, but also before God reached him, God had to change the heart of Simon Peter where he had to realize that he was to take the gospel, not just to fellow Jews, but to this Gentile Cornelius, and in this case, a member of the occupying force. It was a big deal to be a Centurion, and God was gonna use this event of getting the attention of both Cornelius and Simon Peter to come together. God was preparing Simon Peter for this moment. So, let's read about it, Acts chapter 10, starting in verse 1. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. "In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man, he feared the God of Israel, as did his entire household. He gave generously to charity and he was a man who regularly prayed to God".

Now, let me just interject this. Cornelius did not really have an understanding of who God was yet, but with as much light as he had received, with as much as he knew, he acted on it. He feared the God of Israel, he gave generously to people who were in need, he prayed to God. Let's pick the story up, verse 3, Acts 10. "One afternoon at 3 o'clock, he had a vision and he saw an angel of God coming toward him. The angel said,' 'Cornelius.' Cornelius stared in terror. 'What is it, sir?' he asked". I love how he said, "Sir". I mean, this is a man in power and authority, a Roman centurion, but he sees an angel, he calls him "sir". Probably a really good idea. "The angel replied, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God. Now send some men down to Joppa to find a man named Simon Peter. He's staying with Simon, a leather worker who lives near the shore. Ask him to come and visit you.'"

Okay, so, wow. Here's this guy who's in a position of great authority. It was not an easy thing to become a centurion. He would command 300 to 600 men. Actually the Roman historian Polybius describes centurions as, "Men who were not known to be venturesome daredevils, as much as they were natural leaders known for their steadfastness and dependability in the field of battle," end quote. So, so this is a very level-headed man. He's an intelligent man. He's a respected man. He's a powerful man. Being a Roman, he would be a worshiper of many gods. He was polytheistic. And the Romans worshiped all kinds of gods from Jupiter to Mars to Venus. And not only that, but they worshipped the emperor himself as a deity. But Cornelius saw through all of that. He knew the answer wasn't in these false gods. He knew that Caesar wasn't a god. And somehow, he saw something in the Jewish people that he was ruling over, or at least enforcing the will of Rome on. And he said, "There's something about their faith, and that's the God I choose to honor and respect, and, to the best of my ability, worship".

So, as I said, he responded to the light that he had already received, so what happens? An angel comes to him, and an angel tells him he needs to get together with a guy named Simon Peter. Now, why didn't the angel just give Cornelius the gospel? Simple answer, that's not the job of angels, that's our job. Again, as I said earlier, our job is to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Angels have their own position. But actually, this angel is sort of putting things together. So, Cornelius will hear the gospel from Simon Peter. We're told in Romans 10:14, "How can they believe in him whom they have never heard? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them"? Meanwhile, in Joppa, here's Simon Peter, he's sitting up on a rooftop patio. He's just hanging out, and he's getting hungry. And it was probably a beautiful day, and the sun is shining down on this great apostle. And he falls into a trance. And as we're gonna see, this is all according to God's will.

Go to Acts 10, now verse 9. Now remember, God's already told Cornelius he needs to meet Peter. So, that part of the puzzle is in place. Now we have to get Peter's attention. Acts 10, verse 9, "The next day as Cornelius's messengers were nearing the city, Peter was up on the flat roof to pray. It was around noon. He was hungry. And while lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance, and he saw the sky open and something like a large sheet was let down by the four corners. And the sheet was filled with all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. And the voice said to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat them.' 'Never Lord,' says Peter". I want you to underline those two words, "Never Lord". We're gonna come back to them a little bit later. "'Never Lord,' says Peter. I've never in all of my life eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws. The voice spoke again and said, 'If God says something is acceptable, don't say it isn't.'"

So, imagine this, here's Peter, he goes into this trance. And here's this big sheet, sort of like a sail. Think of a picnic blanket, just really big, filled with all of these critters that the Mosaic Law says a good Jew should not eat. And God then says, "Kill and eat". So, this would be like a very health-conscious person having a sheet lowered with In-N-Out Burgers and Chipotle burritos and nachos with extra cheese and malts and Italian food or pizza, whatever, lowered in front of you and being told to eat it.

By the way, I think I just described all of my favorite foods. Or then again, it might be someone like me having a sheet lowered, and it's filled with vegetables and kale and things I don't like. The idea is this was alien, but this actually is not about food. This is about Peter leaving his comfort zone. God was using the food that was in this sail or this picnic blanket, if you will, as a metaphor to say, "You need to get out of your comfort zone and reach someone you would not normally reach". And as it turns out, that someone was this man named Cornelius whose messengers are now coming to Peter's house.

Here's something I want you to think about. Would you consider taking the gospel to someone you're not comfortable with, someone different than you? Now, let me take it a step further. Would you consider taking the gospel to someone who perhaps has hurt you in life? I have a challenge for you in 2022, take the gospel to people who have mistreated you. I know I'm talking to somebody right now that has been hurt in life, someone who's been ignored, someone who has been neglected. There's someone that has made your life much harder and you're hoping that one day they'll get theirs, that they'll get judged for it. But instead, you should be thinking about them and praying for them because Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, "Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spiritually use and persecute you".

I saw an interesting interview the other day with billionaire Elon Musk. He did it with The Babylon Bee. Now, The Babylon Bee is a satirical Christian website, and they noticed that Musk followed them on Twitter. So, they asked for the impossible and said to him, "Would you be willing to let us interview you"? Much to their shock and delight, he agreed. But he said, "You have to come to me". So, they went and they sat down with Elon Musk for an hour and a half. They talked about a lot of things, electric cars, space travel, but then they had a conversation about faith.

And one of the guys that works there at The Babylon Bee asked Elon if he would like to accept Jesus Christ into his life as his personal Lord and Savior. This is the richest man in the world. This man, I think, certainly is a genius. And they asked him this question, he ponders it, he thinks about it. He says, "I admire many of the teachings of Jesus, including turning the other cheek and going the extra mile and forgiving people". And I found that really interesting as the conversation began to open up. And these are admirable teachings of Jesus Christ, of course, that we are to forgive. It's much easier to talk about than it is to do, right? It was CS Lewis who said, "Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have someone to forgive".

You know, I think when we pray, it's important that we put a little heart in it. If we don't put much heart in the prayers that we offer to God, should we expect him to put much heart in answering them? In the book of Acts, chapter 12, the church was facing a big problem. Simon Peter had been arrested and was gonna surely be put to death. But we read in Acts 12, verse 5, constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. That phrase "constant" means persistent or passionate prayer. This is not sort of a ho-hum, "Lord, save Peter, get him out". Or if you're a teenager, "Lord, save Peter or like whatever". No, this was a storm the gates of heaven, not take no for an answer prayer. "Lord, deliver Peter". And not only is it something we should do with passion, but it's something we should keep doing.

Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened". In the Greek, there's an ascending intensity in those words, as in, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, don't give up. You know, I mentioned the story of my upbringing in a recent post, and I talked about one father that my mom was married to. She was married and divorced seven times. One guy she married to that I was able to lead to Christ. Another guy she was married to, I shared the gospel with him, he rejected it.

People asked me, "Whatever happened to your mother"? Well, my mother came to Christ, but she waited till the very end to do it. I literally prayed for my mother's salvation for over 30 years, but she did come around in the end, so don't give up. Keep praying for that husband, that wife, that mom, that dad, that son and daughter, because when you're praying for someone to get right with God, you're praying according to the will of God because the Bible says, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". So, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.

So, look at how this story unfolds. Acts chapter 10, verse 24. So now, Peter has left Joppa. He's come to Caesarea, that's where Cornelius was. "They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for him and had called together his relatives and close friends to meet Peter. As Peter enters his home, Cornelius falls to the floor before him in worship. And Peter pulls him up and says, 'Hey, man, I'm a human being just like you.' Cornelius got up, and they talked together and went inside where the others were assembled. And Peter said, 'You know, it's against the Jewish laws for me to come into a Gentile home like this, but God has shown me I should never think of anyone as impure. And so as soon as I was sent for, I came. Tell me why you sent for me.'"

What a scene, a Roman Centurion, remember, a powerful man, a commander of a lot of other troops is down on his knees. This is the occupying force bowing before the occupied. Peter immediately says, "Hey, I'm just a guy like you, but now I get it". He's putting two and two together. "Now I understand the sheet coming down from heaven with all the creepy, crawly animals that I don't normally eat. It was never about food. It was always about reaching people like you". What a beautiful story this is. So, Peter had gotten the memo. He preaches the gospel to Cornelius, Cornelius believes. Imagine if Peter had disobeyed. Peter said, "No, I won't do it". It would have changed everything but because he obeyed, Cornelius was impacted, as were many other people. And even to this day, we see the impact. So, Peter's initial response was, "Never, Lord".

By the way, those words don't go together, "Never, Lord". No, no. If it's Lord, it's "Yes, Lord". It's "Never, Lord". So, never say never. To say, "No, Lord" or "Never, Lord" is what I would call an oxymoron. You know what an oxymoron is. It's a term that seems to contradict, for instance, jumbo shrimp, that's an oxymoron. How can it be a shrimp if it's jumbo. Or true fiction, wait, if it's fiction, how can it be true? Or virtual reality, that's very big today with the metaverse. Virtual reality, well, it's not really reality if it's virtual, is it? How about this one, Civil War? If it's a war doesn't seem like it's civil. Deafening silence. How can silence be deafening? Or genuine imitation, this is genuine imitation leather.

Well, how can it be genuine and an imitation? Here's a couple more oxymorons. Airline food. Hmm? Here's another one, government efficiency. We don't have government efficiency. And here's one more I'll add to the list, "Never, Lord" or "No, Lord". If he is Lord, you should always say yes, "Yes, Lord," or maybe "How, Lord"? or "When, Lord"? or "Where, Lord"? But never say never. Never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God. Has God called you to do something but you've said to him, "No, Lord," or "Never, Lord"? You know, Jesus faced this when he was on his way to the cross to die for our sins. In a garden called Gethsemane, Jesus is under such intense pressure, Dr. Luke says, "He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood". This may have been a medical condition called hematidrosis where when a patient is under intense pressure and stress, they literally sweat blood, that is, blood is combined with their actual perspiration.

So, Jesus is most likely sweating blood as he contemplates the horrors of the cross. He knows he's gonna be scourged. He knows he's going to be beaten. He knows his beard will be ripped from his face, and a crown of thorns will be placed upon his head. He knows that he'll be nailed to a cross. But worst of all, he who has never sinned knows he will have to bear all of the sin of all of humanity. And from this, he recoils. And in the Garden of Gethsemane he says, "Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass from me". He wasn't saying, "No, Lord". But what he was saying was, "Lord, if there's any other way, let's go that way". And it's not a bad thing to ask the Lord to make the cup pass and by that I mean you say, "Lord, is there a way out of this? This storm I'm in, could you get me out of this storm? This medical problem I have, could you heal it"?

And sometimes God will calm the storm. Sometimes God will heal the illness. And sometimes he'll just walk with us through it. And so, Jesus knew that this is what he had to do to deal with the sin of the world. Sometimes in life, things happen, a loved one will die unexpectedly. I know with COVID, so many have lost their lives and it's so tragic. When we see a young person die, we think this is the worst tragedy of all, and in many ways, it is. We say, "They died before their time, their life was cut short". But I want you to think about this for a moment. No, life is an unfinished life. We think success is a long life. Betty White, the comedic actress, just died at 99. Everyone expected her to make it to 100. "People Magazine" even had an article about how "Betty White is now 100". Well, she didn't make it, but she lived a very long life. And she's been celebrated in the press for all of her accomplishments and so forth.

But success is not merely a long life. Success is a life that is lived for the glory of God. Even if your life is short, if it's lived for God's glory, it's still a success. Stephen had his life cut short, if you will. But his life impacted many. As they've said before quoting Corrie Ten Boom, "The measure of a life is not its duration, but its donation". So, Jesus prays, "Father, not my will, but yours be done. I don't really want to do this, Father. I don't want to bear the sin of the world, but not my will, but yours be done". And then he went and died on the cross for all of my sins. Every believer needs to say the same thing. "Not my will, but yours be done. Lord, what do you want me to do with my life? What do you want me to do with this year? What do you want me to do with the opportunities that are before you"?

Are you willing to reach out to someone that needs to hear the gospel? Maybe it's someone that's hurt you. Maybe it's even someone you regard as an enemy. But listen, they're loved by God. God loves the world. In fact, he so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son and whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Let me come back to Elon Musk. Remember, he was interviewed by The Babylon Bee. He talked about how he admired the teachings of Jesus. Then he said, "I believe in what Einstein said, and Einstein said he believed in the God of Spinoza," what does that mean? Well, Spinoza's theory, or idea of God, was that God is disconnected from day-to-day life. He's sort of established an order in the universe and that's the extent of it. But if I could sit down with Elon Musk, or anybody else, I would say, "No, God is very interested in our lives. He's interested in the details of our lives. In fact, God has a plan for our lives. He loves us". One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11 where the Lord 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".

Do you have this relationship with God? Do you see God as disinterested, disconnected? Did you know God loves you? Did you know God has a plan for you? Coming back to Cornelius, he was seeking God. Am I talking to somebody right now that has been wondering how they can come into a relationship with God? Am I talking to someone who has just thought about their life and where it's going? Or maybe someone you care about died, and it was sort of a wake-up call to you. You wonder, "Where am I gonna spend eternity? What happens when I die? What am I supposed to be doing with my life"? God made himself known to the true seeker named Cornelius, and he will make himself known to you. Again, as scripture says, God speaking, "Those that seek me will find me if they search for me with all of their heart".
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