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Greg Laurie - Don't Be Afraid

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    Greg Laurie - Don't Be Afraid

Hi, I'm Greg Laurie. You know, for almost 50 years now, I've been giving people the good news of the gospel. That's actually what the word "gospel" means: good news. When I was a kid, I was a paperboy. So I had my super cool Schwinn Stingray with a stick shift. They don't make those anymore probably for good reason. They were dangerous actually, but it was fast. And I had my batch of my papers, and I got pretty good at throwing those papers. The sideways fling, the underhand pass, the hard throw. Always wanted to get the paper as close to the customer's door as possible. My job was not to write the news. My job was not to make the news. My job was to deliver the news; and I'm still doing that many years later, but now it's the good news of the gospel. I want to talk to you about that. Welcome to "Harvest".

You know, we live in a really scary world right now, don't we? So many things to freak you out. I have some good news. Jesus gave us some words 2.000 years ago that resonate with us right now. I want to share with you a message entitled "Don't Be Afraid".

We're living in crazy times right now. Just when you thought it could not get any worse, it did. I mean, we're coming through the worst pandemic in modern history and now it seems like the world is on fire. We see this blistering attack by Russia under President Putin on Ukraine. It's a powder keg that literally threatens the whole world and now Russia has even threatened to use chemical and biological weapons and even nuclear weapons, in fact. President Putin of Russia recently boasted they've developed a brand new missile that can fire 12 nuclear warheads at once, and they fittingly call it the Satan missile. And this is scary. I mean, we haven't heard talk of a potential nuclear conflict in a long time.

I remember hearing it when I was a kid in elementary school in the '60s, and they told us, "If there is a nuclear blast, everybody get under your desk". That would have done a lot of good, right? "It's okay. I'm under my desk. This will protect me for sure". So with all that's going on in our world, we have a lot of people afraid in America. Let me read you now the words of Jesus from 2.000 years ago but they ring so true for all of us. John chapter 14, Jesus says, "'Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.' Thomas said, 'Lord, we don't know where you're going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. And no man comes to the Father except through me.'"

Now, here's the first thing Jesus says. If you're troubled, the word that he uses here, "Let not your heart be troubled," means don't let your heart shutter. If you're filled with fear right now, if your heart is shattering, here's the first thing Jesus says; his cure for heart trouble, if you will. Number one, believe what God says in his Word. Believe what God says in his Word. Do you believe in God? You know, listen, everyone believes in something. Some people believe in themselves. Others believe in money. Others believe in government. God help you. Yeah. Some believe in technology. "Oh, technology is going to answer all of our questions. It's going to solve all of our problems". But when that day comes, that final day of your life, none of those things will save you.

The author of a biography about Steve Jobs remembered a conversation he had with Steve. He says, "I was sitting in the backyard with Steve and the subject of God came up. Steve Jobs said," and I quote, "Sometimes I believe in God. Sometimes I don't. I think it's 50/50 maybe. Ever since I've had cancer I've been thinking about it more, but I find myself believing a bit more". Steve Jobs says, "I want to believe in an afterlife, that when you die you don't just disappear". Then he paused for a second and he said, "Yeah, but sometimes I think it's like an on-and-off switch. Click and you're gone," he said and paused. And then he said, "And that's why I don't like putting on/off switches on Apple devices," end quote.

Kind of a scary thought. Click and you're gone. Before I was a Christian, when I was just a kid, that's what I thought. I thought, "One day I'll just cease to exist". But then I thought, "How can I no longer exist? How can I no longer be me"? And I was terrified of death. Are you afraid of death right now? But I can tell you, I'm much older, a lot older and I'm no longer afraid to die because I have hope of life beyond the grave, you see, because of what Jesus said. Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. I am the living one. I died; but look, I'm alive forevermore. I hold the keys to death and the grave".

Now, I'm not saying I look forward to death, but I look forward to going to heaven because I have this hope that's been given to me by Christ who said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me though he were dead yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die". And I'll tell you what. As you get older, time passes so quickly. You know you're getting older when you shop at Forever 21 when you're 66. You just need to stop doing that. You know you're getting old when you sink your teeth into a juicy steak and they stay there. You know you're getting old when you're pulling up your socks 'cause there's wrinkles and you realize, "Oh no, I'm not wearing socks". You know you're getting old when you drop something on the ground and you reach down to get it and you wonder what else you can do while you're down there, right? Is that resonating with someone out there?

So people are in denial. "Well, I'll have some surgery done". You pull this. You nip that. You tuck. You inject other things. You have so much Botox in your face we don't even know what you're thinking anymore. We don't know if you're mad, if you're happy. We just know you look perpetually surprised. Right? Listen, you can get all the potions and the lotions and eat all of the kale and the tofu. You're not going to extend your life one single day because God determines how long you will live.

I did read about a 105-year-old woman from Texas who had seven children. Her name was Pearl Cantrell. She was asked, "What is the secret to your long life"? Her answer was simple. She says, "I love bacon. I eat it every day". Go figure. Bacon. I like her. Speaking of that, I was talking to my granddaughter, Ally, a while back and she said, "Papa," that's what she calls me, "I'm a vegan now," while she was eating bacon. I said, "Honey, you cannot be a vegan and be eating bacon". And she says, "Well, I can't help it. I just like meat from a pig". Yeah, I understand. She'll probably live to be 105 years old as well.

Listen, life's going to have a beginning, it's going to have a middle, it's going to have an end, but listen to this. Death died when Christ rose. You say, "Greg, are you delusional? You don't think you're going to die"? I know my body will go into the ground, but my soul will live on. My soul is eternal. Then I enter the afterlife and I determine in this life where I will spend the afterlife, and let me just give you a hint of what's coming. You have two choices: heaven or hell. Another way to put it, smoking and non-smoking, okay? So it's up to you. But it's no joke, it's real. You make that decision here.

I read about a man that was walking through a cemetery and he saw an inscription on a tombstone that said, "Pause now, stranger, as you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you shall be. So prepare for death and follow me". After reading that, the man was overheard to say, "To follow you is not my intent until I know which way you went". So which way are you going to go? You say, "Well, heaven because I'm a good person". Are you? Are you really a good person? And to the point, being a good person will not get you to heaven. Heaven is not for good people, heaven is for forgiven people. You see?

But I think about heaven quite a bit because 14 years ago an unspeakable tragedy happened in our home. Our oldest son, Christopher, was unexpectedly called home to heaven. He died in an automobile accident. When I heard that news that my son had died, I felt like time stood still, that all the air went out of the room and I literally thought I could die, not from taking my life but just, if words could kill you, I felt like those words could kill me. But here's the hope that I have. I still miss him, I still grieve over losing him, but on the other hand I know I will see him again in heaven because of Jesus Christ. Not because he was my son, but because he believed in God's Son, who forgave him of all of his sins just as he forgives each of us if we put our faith in Christ.

Maybe I'm talking to someone who has had a loved one die recently, or you've received bad news from a doctor, or your marriage is falling apart, or your parents are divorcing, or too many Californians have moved into your state and are driving prices up. I don't know. But you find yourself helpless and hopeless, but I'm saying to you don't give up hope. It's been said man can live 40 days without food, 3 days without water, 8 minutes without air, but only 1 second without hope. Have you lost hope tonight? Don't lose it 'cause Christ is here. Help is on the way, hope is on the way in a relationship with him. Believe in God.

In the Bible, there's a story of the disciples out in the Sea of Galilee, and a huge storm had come, and they were freaking out, and then we read that Jesus came walking on the water. One gospel tells us he would've walked right past them, which I find kind of humorous. It's like, "Hey, I'm Jesus. I'm out walkin' on the water". You can do stuff like that when you're God. They're like, "Hey, Jesus, come to us. Join us". And after that, of course, Peter wanted to walk to Jesus, and he did, for a time, and began to sink, but here's the point I wanna make: God will not force his way into any life. If you wanna face your storms alone, you can do it. If you wanna be filled with anxiety and fear and worry and try to figure out all your problems, you can go for it, but I'm gonna tell you, it's not gonna work, but here comes Jesus. He's not far, and you need to call out to him. And the Bible says, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved". Jesus joined them on their boat. Better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without him.

Second reason your heart should not be troubled or agitated according to Jesus is because if you're a Christian you're going to heaven. He said, "In my Father's house are many mansions". Listen to this. Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things. Now, the problem is Hollywood has sort of caricatured heaven and we think it's this really strange place where we sit around on clouds and pluck harps and little fat babies with wings hover around us and... that's not heaven. Think of the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. Think of the beauty all around you here in this state that you live in. That's just a glimpse of greater things to come. Heaven is not the watered-down version, heaven is the real version. Here on earth we just see sort of the imitation of greater things to come that God has for every follower of Jesus Christ who have believed in him. That's why we need to look to the Lord. But the non-believer does not have the promise of heaven.

I heard the story of a Christian father who was dying. So he gathered his three sons by his bedside, and to two of his sons he said, "Goodbye, sons. I'll see you in the morning". And the third son said, "Dad, why did you say that to them? What are you going to say to me"? He just said, "Goodbye, son". "Wait. Goodbye, son? Why can't I see you in the morning"? The father said, "Because your brothers have put their faith in Christ, so we'll be reunited in heaven in the afterlife". He said, "But, dad, I want to see you in the afterlife, too". He said, "Son, then you need to believe in Jesus and you will". And that boy believed in Jesus at that very moment, and we need to do the same. You see? When Jesus says, "In my Father's house are many mansions," I don't know if he's talking about actual buildings. Maybe it's referring to our new body. God's going to give you a new body.

People ask, "Well, what will that body be like"? It'll be better than the body you have right now. It'll be the radically upgraded version of you. So if you're looking for me in heaven, look for someone with probably an afro or something, you know? Then, again, maybe we'll all be bald in heaven. Have you ever thought about that? Yeah, that's not a very good thought, is it? I was talking to two of my granddaughters, Stella and Lucy. They said, "Papa, how old will we be when we get to heaven"? I said, "Girls, I don't know, maybe 33," and they said, "Why 33"? I said, "Well, that was the age Jesus was when he died". Then Lucy my granddaughter said, "I wanna be three when I'm in heaven". I said, "Three? Why do you wanna be three"? She said, "I miss the old me".

Well, this body we're in right now is breaking down. Experts tell us as we get older the number of nerve cells in the brain decrease. We start with around 100 billion brain cells, but then in our 20s the number starts to decline. At 40, we're losing up to 10.000 brain cells a day. You've probably lost 5.000 brain cells listening to me tonight. But there's a hope of another body, a newer body. So if you were disabled on earth, you won't be in heaven. If your body has cancer here, it won't be then. If your body's worn out here, it won't be then.

So let not your heart be troubled. It's good news, why? Believe God's Word. Believe what God said in his Word. Number two, you're going to heaven if you're a Christian. And number three, he's shown us the way to heaven. I was told that this arena we're in right now, the ExtraMile Arena, the first person here was not a sports team or a rock band or anybody else. It was Billy Graham, who did an eight-night crusade. Isn't that great?

I heard this story of when Billy was in a town to do one of his crusades. He wrote a letter to his wife, Ruth, but he didn't know where the post office was. So he was walking around looking for it and he saw some young man there and he said, "Young man, can you tell me where the post office is"? The little guy said, "Yeah. Just go up the street here, turn right, and that's the post office". He goes, "That's great. By the way," he said, "I'm speaking here in this stadium tonight and maybe you would like to come and hear me and I will show you how to get to heaven". The little guy said, "Why should I go hear you? You don't even know the way to the post office".

How do you get to heaven? How can you know you'll go to heaven when you die? Jesus gives us the answer. He says, "Where I go, and the way you know". And I love how, Thomas said, "We don't know where you're going, and we don't know the way". I think a lot of times when Jesus spoke to his disciples it went right over their heads. He talked about dying and rising from the dead. They just didn't understand that at all. And when he would talk about things like that, they would probably nod their heads in unison. "Oh, that's so deep". They were clueless. It's like a teacher in a class doing some complex equation up on the math board or up on the blackboard and they say, "Do you all understand it"? Everyone's, "Yes". But no one understands. So Jesus says, "Where I go you know, and the way you know". Thomas says, "We don't know what you're talking about. We don't know the way, and we do not know where you're going".

But I'm glad Thomas asked that question because Jesus then said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me". You know, Thomas has been described as a doubter. We call him Doubting Thomas. He was more of a skeptic. He didn't let other people make his decisions for him. When I became a Christian at the age of 17, I was a skeptic. I'd lived a hard life. My mother was married and divorced seven times. She was a raging alcoholic. All I saw was bad behavior of adults fighting and passing out at night, so I tried drinking for a while and was disillusioned with it. I got into drugs for a while, and by the age of 17 I felt like I was 70 and I was wondering, "What is life all about? I don't see any adult that I know that I want to be like. And these kids that I hang around with, they don't know any more than I know".

And I was searching and I transferred over to this high school called Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California, and there was a lot of Christians there because the Jesus movement was in full swing. And one of my friends warned me, "Greg, stay away from the Jesus freaks". And I said, "The last thing Greg Laurie will ever do is become a Jesus freak". Yeah, famous last words. I thought they were a little nutty. I thought they were a little weird. I thought, "Where do these people come from"? I thought they were like, you know, one tacos short of a combination plate, maybe.

But one day I went across the campus and there was a group of Christians sitting there singing their songs about God and I sat close enough to hear what they were saying but not so close that my friends would think I was becoming a Christian, and that was the first time I heard this evangelist named Lonnie speak. And he said, "Jesus said, 'You're for me or against me.'" And I looked around at the Christians and I thought, "Well, I'm not one of them. Does that mean I'm against Jesus"? I didn't want to be against Jesus. I've always acknowledged he existed, I've always sort of believed in him or what I knew of him, I'd seen all of his movies, but it was the first time that the idea of having a relationship with God was presented to me.

And Lonnie gave this invitation for people to come to Christ and kids got up and walked forward on a high school campus. I thought, "There's no way I would ever do that". I sort of hung my head down. My hair was hanging in my eyes. Use your imagination. Next thing I knew I was up there praying, and that was the day Christ came into my life and I have never regretted making that decision.

I'm going to ask you to make a similar decision tonight. Maybe you came here as a skeptic, someone that wasn't sure if this was all true. Maybe your friend bribed you with food afterwards. I don't know what. But you're here, and I want you to think for yourself. Be like Thomas. Be a skeptic, say, "Yeah. Well, I'm not sure. I'm not going to let somebody else think for me". We engage in sort of groupthink: what is popular, what is cool, what is the trend. Think for yourself because I believe God is speaking to some people's hearts right now, and this is what you've been looking for. Not religion, not a bunch of rules and regulations, a relationship with God. Jesus is passing by. He's here. He's ready to forgive you, but you must call out to him. The Bible says whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, but some of us are too proud to call on the name of the Lord. We don't think we need to be saved.

And my son, Johnathan, when he was a little guy, I took him out in the water. I was helping him catch some waves, and I lost my footing, and I was caught in a riptide. The irony is I wasn't that far from the shore, but I couldn't get my feet on the bottom of there, of the ocean, and so I'm getting pulled, and I'm trying to keep him above water, and there's a lifeguard. She was a lady sitting there, watching us, and she starts running toward us with her floatation device, and I'm thinking, "I don't wanna be saved this close to shore". I was embarrassed, and she's swimming out to me and I finally got my footing. I said, "Ah, I'm okay, thank you, though". That's how a lot of us are. "Well, I don't want to call out to God. That's a sign of weakness. Christianity is a crutch". Oh, listen, Christianity is not a crutch. It's a whole hospital and you need it. He'll save you. He'll forgive you. This can be the night that you change your eternal address from hell to heaven. He's just a prayer away.

So would you like to accept Jesus Christ into your life right now? Here's what you need to know. You're a sinner. I don't mean that as an insult. We're all sinners. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That's why we need a savior. That's why Jesus died in the cross for us. The Bible says while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He took all of the punishment for your sin, for my sin upon himself as he hung there. With one hand he took hold of God, with the other hand he took hold of humanity, and they pounded spikes to those hands. And as the Bible says, Christ died for our sins.

So what do I need to do? Well, I need to turn from my sin. The Bible says repent and be converted. The word repent is a military term. It sort of means an about face. So turn your back on sin and now start walking toward God, and then you need to receive Jesus Christ into your life. You see, becoming a Christian is not becoming a religious person. I don't want to be a religious person. This is about a relationship where you ask Jesus to be your friend, your Savior, your Lord. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and I knock, and if you'll hear my voice and open the door I will come in".

So you need to ask Christ to come into your life, and then you need to do it right now. The Bible says today is the day of salvation. Right now Christ can come and live inside of your heart, and I'm going to lead you in a simple prayer. I would ask that you would pray this prayer out loud after me. If you want your sin forgiven, if you want to know that you're going to heaven when you die, if you want to fill that big hole in your heart, pray this prayer with me right now. Pray:

Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior who died in the cross for me. I turn from my sin and I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering it. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

If you just prayed that prayer and meant it, I want you to know in the authority of Scripture that Jesus Christ himself has come to take residence in your heart. And God bless you. You've made the most important decision of your life.
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