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Greg Laurie - There's A New Kid In Town

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    Greg Laurie - There's A New Kid In Town
TOPICS: Elijah

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.

Elijah the prophet. Now, what do you think of when that name pops into your head? Elijah. Well, he was a miracle-working prophet, wasn't he? He raised the child from the dead. He stormed boldly into the court of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel and said, "It will not rain but according to my word". And of course, we can't forget Elijah praying and fire coming down from heaven up on Mount Carmel. Great guy to have around at a barbecue, by the way. And not only that but Elijah didn't even die like a normal person. He was caught up into heaven in a chariot of fire, and if that's not enough, he shows up in the New Testament in the transfiguration with Jesus and Moses. So that's what we think of when we think of Elijah. But we should also think about his humanity, his deep depression and discouragement when things did not work out. He experienced intense fear and loneliness, at times he doubted the faithfulness of God. He allowed his anger to distort his thinking, and he experienced such dark depression on one particular day he wanted to die.

Who was this guy, Elijah? Simple answer, he was a man just like you. James 5:17 says, "Elijah was a man just like us," or as another translation puts it, "Elijah was as human as we are," and it's so true. Elijah came at a very dark time in the history of Israel, but God used this one man to change history and cause Israel to turn back to God, and it shows how one man or one woman can make all the difference. It was dark then, and it's dark now, isn't it? In our culture today we have so many problems in our world, in our nation. Racial and political divides are raging, violent crime is off the charts and on the streets, the family is under attack. Many not only want to redefine the family, they wanna even redefine what a man and a woman are. It reminds us of the passage that says, "In the last days things will go from bad to worse".

Listen, if you have a constant diet of news, you're gonna be an agitated, upset, unhappy, and probably pretty depressed person. In fact, you can become so distraught you might say, "There's just no hope. There's just no hope," but there's always hope. And the reason there's always hope is because God is here. And just as God turned Israel around, God could turn America around, so we need to pray for a spiritual revival, a spiritual awakening. But listen to this, revival is what God does for us, but evangelism is what we do for God. I can't make a revival happen, you can't either. We can pray for one. We can prepare the ground. Maybe I should say we can pre-prayer the ground, pre-prayer, if you will, our hearts. But having said that, evangelism is something that I and you can do and here at Harvest we take the Great Commission seriously.

Jesus has called us to be both salt and light in the culture. He said, "You are the salt of the earth," but if salt has lost its saltiness, what good is it? It's like a decaf oat milk lavender latte. If you're gonna order a decaf oat milk lavender latte, why don't you just add the word worthless as well, and then I'm with you. Or it's like a coke that's lost its carbonation, that's gone flat. An unsalty Christian who doesn't make a difference, so salt had two purposes back in the first century, number one, it stopped the rotting of the meat. They would rub it into the meat to preserve it, so it preserved. And the other thing salt does is stimulate thirst, so in the culture today I'm here to stop the spread of corruption which means I speak up for what is true, I speak out against what is wrong, and I'm also hopefully, by the way that I'm living, stimulating in others a thirst for God.

Hopefully, there's something in my life, in your life, in our lives, that a non-believer would see and say, "I want what they have," and secondly, we're to be light. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven". So I'm there to do good works, obviously, but to also proclaim the gospel. But this is not happening in many cases. And in Israel's history, they were going from bad to worse and things were getting dark, and it parallels our time today. They had turned to other gods. It's not that they disavowed the true God, the Lord God, but they wanted some other gods as well. They sort of wanted to have their cake and eat it too. By the way, what does that even mean? You can't have your cake and eat it too. I've had cake, and I've eaten it. But you know, sort of the idea of, you know, you can't do both. You can't live in two worlds and that's what they were doing. They had abandoned God. And if you abandon God, a moral breakdown will inevitably happen.

G.K. Chesterton said, quote, "When a man stops believing in God, he doesn't then believe in nothing. He believes in everything and anything," end quote. And that's what we have today in America. I would call it an ABC culture. ABC, Anything But Christ. "Oh, I'll look at that philosophy. I'll entertain this idea. I'll look into this other thing, but Jesus Christ, don't talk to me about him. Don't open the Bible near me". It's a complete intolerance, and we have this moral breakdown. You cannot have morality without spirituality. And when I use the word spirituality, I mean without faith in God himself. So they failed to do this, and their troubles began. But let's not be too quick to judge them because of their idolatry, for we too have our idols, and I'll talk about that later. But an idol is anyone or anything that takes the place of God in your life. Whatever fires you up, whatever you're the most passionate about, that potentially is your idol or your god with a small g.

So a little historical background before we dive in. In the history of Israel, they had been ruled by three kings, King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. Now, every one of these kings had their flaws. David was the greatest of the three. Saul had his moments where he ruled quite well, then he did some horrible things. He was rejected, replaced by David. Solomon had a great beginning. He was so known for his wisdom, people came from around the world to listen to him including the queen of Sheba, but then he lapsed and fell into sin, but these three kings ruled over Israel, but then after the death of Solomon, there was a division in the nation. They had their own civil war, if you will, and two kingdoms came as a result, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, and idolatry permeated everything.

So now there's a new king in town, and his name is Ahab. He married an extremely wicked woman named Jezebel who, effectively, was the power behind the throne. Jezebel was a full-tilt idol worshiper and she introduced Baal worship to Israel. Now, Baal was a god that represented the elements. He was the god of the sun, of the stars, of the wind, of the rain, the god of all of those things. And his very name meant master or lord. That's why it's interesting when there was a contest between Elijah the prophet and the prophets of Baal. He said, "Hey, let's call out to God and the god that answers by fire, that's the true God". That should have been a piece of cake for Baal. He's the fire god. Now, they couldn't pull it off because Baal is not real. He was a non-existent god. But Baal was the god they were now worshiping and actually, as part of Baal worship, it required the sacrifice of your firstborn male child.

So this is how wicked things had become. And then, Jezebel also introduced the worship of Ashtoreth, who was the goddess of sex and violence. So the people are living immoral lives with impunity, thinking they'll never face the repercussions for it. It was so bad that God said in 1 Kings 16:33, "Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him". We say, "Well, this is horrible," but wait a second, do we not still bow at the altars of sex and violence? Have you watched TV lately? Have you seen a movie recently? Have you listened to a lot of the popular music? And offering our children to a god, what do you call the murder of innocent children in the name of reproductive rights? It's effectively the same thing.

People think they can break the laws of God and not face the consequences, but God gives us this warning, "Don't be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, that will he also reap". The boy king Belshazzar who ruled Babylon found this out the hard way. One day, he decided to go out of his way to mock and ridicule God. He called for the special instruments and vessels used by the Jews in their worship of the Lord to be taken and filled with wine and they toasted and prayed to their false gods, effectively thumbing their nose at the Lord. And the Lord responded, because Belshazzar looked over on the wall and he saw a hand, just a hand, writing something on the wall. What did this heavenly graffiti say? It said, "Your number's up, buddy. Party's over. You've been weighed in God's balances and you've been found lacking". So we think, "Oh, well, I've done this sin for years, I've gotten away with it. Nothing really bad has happened. I think I can always get away with it".

It reminds me of a story I just read in the paper the other day. Well, not the paper, I saw it online. I actually don't read a paper. But, it's an expression now. A man in Maryland was found dead in his home from a snake bite. Apparently, this guy had 124 snakes in his house. It included rattlesnakes, cobras, black mambas, all of those are poisonous, and guess what happened? One of the snakes bit him. And then he died. So, I'm not making light of that, I think it's sad. But if you hang around in a house with a bunch of poisonous snakes, this is gonna happen, right? And if you continue to break God's laws and disobey him, it'll eventually catch up with you. And this is what's happening now to Israel.

Funny thing, Ahab later describes Elijah as the one who troubles Israel. "This is your fault, Elijah, we have this drought, we have these problems. You brought it on us," and Elijah's response was, "I'm not the one who troubles Israel. You're the one who troubles Israel". In the same way, we often blame God for what we bring upon ourselves. So, God brought Elijah into the scene to be a blazing light. God always has his right man or his right woman at the right time. When the people were rebelling against God, the Lord said, "Send Enoch and Noah". When the people were in slavery, God sent Moses. When the very survival of Israel was at stake, the Lord sent Esther. And what do these people all have in common? Answer, they were imperfect people serving a perfect God. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Again, Elijah was a man just like you. He was a ordinary human being, but he took his stand.

So here's the story now. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings 17, and I'm just gonna read one verse. This is a power-packed verse. "Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there will not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.'" I'll stop right there. Elijah flung down the gauntlet of his challenge at the very nerve center of Israel. There was a new kid in town. You wonder what they were thinking. I mean, here are the king and the queen, sitting on their regal thrones, dressed in their royal robes, and in comes this outback guy, you know? All hairy and crazy-looking. He makes his pronouncements and walks out and someone probably said, "How did he get through security"? But that was the way Elijah rolled. In fact, his very name really describes his mission and purpose. The name Elijah means my God is Jehovah or the Lord is my God. His very name was a rebuke to Ahab and Jezebel. He is effectively saying, "Listen, your god may be Baal, but my God is the Lord. As the Lord lives before whom I stand, your god is not alive. My God is".

Now, where he came from is of note. The Bible says he was a Tishbite from Gilead. That means nothing to us. What's a Tishbite? Where's Gilead? But actually, Gilead was east of the Jordan River. The people that lived there were kind of roughhewn, tanned from the sun, tough people. Sort of like the Australian outback. So Elijah walked into the court and he said, "That's not a knife. This is a knife". That was my "Crocodile Dundee", how many of you remember "Crocodile Dundee"? Whatever, okay, but kind of get the picture of just sort of a little bit of a wild man, walking into this place of culture, and he just lays down this message. Where did he get this boldness, 'cause as we explore his life, you know, he was not some kind of a superhero. He didn't wear a cape. He was just like you. He had his emotional ups and his emotional downs.

So where did he get the chutzpah, if you will, or the courage to do this? I'm gonna give you four principles of Elijah's life. Number one, Elijah stood continually in the presence of God. Elijah stood continually in the presence of God. What does he say, verse 1? "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand". What does that mean? It means that he understood wherever he went, the Lord was with him. Whatever place he was in, God was there. He was not alone. You know, Psalm 91 says, "He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty".

You have to walk pretty closely to someone to stand in their shadow. You ever tried to do that? And that meant that he was always seeking to be close to the Lord, walking closely with the Lord. And listen, when you stand in the presence of God, you will not bow before any man. That's where he got the courage. Proverbs 28:1 says, "The righteous are as bold as a lion". And we need to remember that wherever we go or to whomever we speak, wherever it is, God is with us. It's true, Elijah was just one person, but he was one person with God. Do you ever feel that way? Like you're the only person who believes? Maybe you're the only believer in your family, the only believer in your neighborhood, the only Christian in your classroom, the only follower of Jesus among your group of friends, and you feel just out there all alone.

Well, maybe you are, but one person can make the difference, and Elijah was that one person. And God is looking for people like this today. He's looking for ordinary people to use to make a difference, to shine their light. Ezekiel 22:30 says, "I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land so I should not destroy it". But the Lord says, "But I couldn't find anyone". Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on the life of Elijah made this statement, and I quote, "Those who find comfort in the court of Ahab can never bring themselves to stand in the gap with Elijah," end quote. Very true. Elijah stood continually in God's presence. He was always aware that the Lord was with him.

Number two, Elijah was a man of prayer. Elijah was a man of prayer. James 5:17 says, "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for 3½ years". Again, he prayed and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crop, so it was Elijah's prayer in private that was the source of his power in public. And I wonder if you are a person of prayer. This verse that says he prayed earnestly means that he prayed with passion. The Hebrew word means he prayed with prayer. It's not even the words he prayed. It was the way he prayed. It was the intensity of his prayer. It was the idea that I am really not gonna take no for an answer here. I'm gonna press in to the throne of God. There was an indication of his intensity in his physical posture, and I think one of the reasons there's no power in our prayers is because there's no heart in them.

You know, some Christians today are more interested in protesting than praying, quicker to boycott than to understand God can literally change things through prayer. When is the last time you prayed about the problems plaguing our culture and society today? If you see it on the news, now don't throw up your hands in despair. Let's pray about this right now. Let's pray for God to intervene in this situation. When Peter was arrested in the book of Acts to be executed the next day, we read in Acts 12:1, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. Lot of power in that verse too. Constant prayer, they prayed with passion. Offered for him by the church, they prayed together. Get together with fellow Christians and say, "Let's pray about this right now, let's commit this to the Lord right now". Elijah was a man of prayer. The third principle in his life causing him to make a difference was he knew the power of scripture and he acted on it.

Again, number three, he knew the power of scripture and he acted on it. Now, why did he make this pronouncement to King Ahab? Well, Deuteronomy 11:16 says this, "Be careful or you'll be enticed to turn away and worship other gods," this is a warning to Israel, "and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you and he will shut the heaven so it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you". Okay, so that's a warning. God's saying, "Listen, you turn to other gods, it'll stop raining. You won't have food". And the people had bowed to Baal and Ashtoreth and now the drought is coming.

So he delivered that message. That's point number four. Elijah faithfully delivered the message God gave him to deliver. He gave that message and that's not an easy message to give, to walk in and say, "You're gonna have a drought. People are gonna die. You've been a great audience. Goodnight and God bless". Mic drop, you know? Who wants to say that? And in the same way, we as Christians love to tell people that God loves them, and he does. We love to tell people that Christ can fill that void in their life, and he can. We love to tell them that they can be forgiven of all of their sins, and that can happen. We love to tell them that when they die they can go to heaven. It's all true. But it's a little harder to say, "By the way, the only way to have a relationship with God is through Jesus Christ because he himself said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by me.'"

See, here's the thing that we need to remember. We can't offer God's forgiveness without speaking of repentance. We can't offer the hope of heaven without warning about hell. We can't edit this book. You've probably heard of Jefferson's Bible, Thomas Jefferson, who was our president, had his own version of the Bible. He basically took a pair of scissors and cut out all the parts he didn't like. I think it was primarily the miracles. And so, it was called Jefferson's Bible. Some people wanna do the same thing. "Well, I love this, I love that, I don't really agree with these other things, so I'll just edit them out". No, it's not the way it works. He faithfully gave this message. And we need to faithfully give it, but we must do it with love and compassion. You know, I think sometimes we make the mistake of thinking non-believers are the enemy, "They're the enemy. Ah, they voted for that, they're the enemy. They said that, they're horrible".

Okay, maybe they've done the wrong thing, but they're not the enemy. The enemy is not the non-believer. The enemy is the devil who's holding the non-believer in his control. Paul talked about those who are being held captive by Satan to do his will. Newsflash, you used to be one of those people too, and so did I. But we forget about that. "But they're the enemy". No, they need to come out from the power of the enemy. So we need to constantly be looking for ways to build bridges to non-believers, and as D.L. Moody once said, the great evangelist, "When you preach on hell, you should always do so with tears in your eyes". So when you present the gospel to others, do it with love and compassion. Colossians 4:6 says, "Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions".

Maybe God has spoken to your heart and you have seen your need for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came from heaven to this earth. He was born in a manger. He died on a cross. He rose again from the dead. Why? Because he loves you, and he wants a relationship with you. Listen, I'm not talking about religion. I don't wanna be a religious person. I don't think you wanna be one either. I'm talking about relationship with God. Jesus, who died and rose again, stands at the door of your life and he knocks and he says if you'll hear his voice and open the door, he will come in. Question, have you asked Jesus Christ to come and live inside of you?

You might say, "Well, I think so, I'm not sure". Hey, if someone moved into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you would be aware of it? I'm sure you would. And in the same way, if Christ has come to live inside of you, you will know. And if you don't know, maybe he has not come in yet. He's just a prayer away. All you need to do is say, "Jesus, I want this relationship with you. I want you to forgive me of my sin. I want to go to heaven when I die". Would you like to do that? Would you like Christ to come into your life? If so, why don't you just pray this simple prayer with me? You can pray it out loud or you can pray it in the quietness of your heart. But this is a prayer where you're asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord. Pray this with me now:

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.. Now come into my life. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus's name, amen.

Did you just pray that prayer with me? If so, I want you to know on the authority of scripture that Christ himself has come to live inside of you. And let me be the first to say to you, congratulations, and welcome to the family of God.
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