Greg Laurie - God Keeps His Promises
Why don't you grab your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 11? I'm going to wear my glasses today in my attempt to look more intelligent. The title of my message is "God Keeps His Promises". How many of you believe God keeps his promises? Yeah, I believe that too. I heard a story about a guy who was getting married; and he made an unusual offer to the pastor who would be officiating, said, "Pastor, look. I'll give you $100 if you will change the wedding vows. When it gets to the part where I'm supposed to say that I'll forsake all others only unto myself and be faithful to her forever, let's leave that part out". And he took the $100 and he put it in the pastor's pocket, walked away satisfied everything was going to go his way.
So the wedding day finally came. The pastor is leading the bride and groom through the vows, and he turns to the groom and he says to him, "Do you promise to obey her every wish and command? Do you promise to bring her breakfast in bed every morning? Do you promise to your lovely wife that you will not even look at another woman for as long as you both shall live"? The groom kind of gulped and said, "I do". So after the ceremony the groom went up to the pastor and he said, "Pastor, I thought we had a deal". The pastor said, "Well, son, she made me a much better offer". Promises; easily made, not as easily kept. We've all had promises made to us that were broken, but when God makes a promise you can take it to the bank, right? Take it to the bank. It's good to go, and God has made a lot of promises to us in the Bible.
Someone said that there are 3.000 promises given to believers in the pages of Scripture. I've never counted them all so I don't know if that's true or not, but I know there's a lot. The Bible says they're exceedingly great and precious promises. It reminds me a little bit of gift cards that have not been used. Did you know that every year $5.8 billion in gift cards, $5.8 billion in gift cards go unclaimed, right? There's a whole industry around this, where they sell the card to the person who gives it to someone else. The card will never be claimed. Pretty good deal for them. How many of you have unused gift cards? Raise your hand and... that's it. That's how it works. And the promises of God can be that way. They're just sitting there, sitting there in the pages of the Bible and all you have to do is claim those promises or believe them for yourself. Let me just share a few very briefly.
Number one, God has promised you that you will never be alone in life. Sometimes you feel as though you're all alone. This is good news, especially for Generation Z. That's a generation following the Millennials. I just read that they are now being described as the loneliest generation. They've never, there's never been a generation more connected through technology, but yet they're the loneliest and the reason for that is they polled the boomers and they polled Generation X and Millennials and Generation Z and they were more lonely people in this generation.
So I've got good news for Generation Z and any other generation to follow and any generation that preceded it. You're not alone in life if Jesus Christ is in your heart. Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you," in Hebrews 13:5. In the original language he was emphatic about it, it could better be translated, "I will never, no never, no never leave you or forsake you". In Isaiah 41 the Lord says, "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, and I will hold you up with my victorious right hand".
Number two, excuse me, God promises to get us through whatever we're facing. I don't know what you're going through right now, but it might be a hard time and you're wondering, "Will I ever get through this"? God's going to get you through it. He'll be with you every step of the way. Isaiah 43:2 the Lord says, "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up and the flames will not consume you". David in Psalm 23, a beautiful psalm that most of us know by heart, said, "Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil". Do you know the rest? "For thou art with me". And that verse has brought comfort to a lot of people in life and on their deathbeds as well.
Here's another one. Jesus promised he would come again. Jesus said in John 14, "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. If I go, I will come again. I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come and receive you unto myself". He's coming again. Did you know that of the 333 prophecies concerning Christ in the Old Testament only 109 of them were fulfilled in his first coming? That leaves 224 that are yet to be fulfilled in his second coming. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books mention the Lord's coming, and Jesus referred to his second coming at least twenty-one times. The point is he's trying to remind us again and again, "I am coming back again".
This is a very important thing for us to know as a Christian because God keeps his promises; and one of the ways we know he keeps his promises is his faithfulness to the Jewish people, the chosen people, the very apple of his eye. He's kept his promises to them, and he will keep his promises to us as well. In fact, Romans 9 to 11 talk about God's special relationship with Israel. You know, God first established a covenant with them through their father Abraham, and God said in Genesis 12, "I'll make you a great nation. I'll bless you and make you famous, and you'll be a blessing to others. I'll bless those that bless you, and I'll curse those that curse you".
Anyone who has chosen to bless the Jewish people and, I think, by extension the nation Israel will be blessed. Anyone that has oppressed or attacks the Jewish people and by extension the nation Israel will face the ramifications of it as well. God has kept his promise to them; and we owe a great debt to Jewish people because it is through the Jews that we received our Scripture, it is through the Jews that our Messiah came. Jesus, of course, was Jewish. God keeps his promise, and this is a 4.000-year-old promise that God made to Abraham and this promise doesn't have a shelf life. It's still good. I love it when things don't have shelf lives. Have you ever eaten something that you found out had gone beyond the shelf life? Not a happy experience. Or drink something that was not supposed to be drank because it was spoiled. That's bad, right? There is no shelf life on the promises of God. When he makes a promise and when he establishes a covenant, he keeps it.
Now let's look at a few points from Romans 11. Look at Romans 11, verse 1. Paul's making this argument. "I ask then, has God rejected his own people, the nation Israel? Of course not. I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected his own people whom he chose from the very beginning". So Paul's arguing against the idea that the Jews are no longer the chosen people of God and that he has broken his covenant with them. He's saying, "Hey, if God could get hold of a guy like me, God can get hold of anyone and certainly any Jewish person". And by the way, Paul was what we might call a Jews Jew. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, a highly-regarded tribe. He was named after the first king of Israel, Saul. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was sort of like the Supreme Court of the day, and he probably was the leader of the Sanhedrin and he was a young man at this time.
So this is a man that rose to the ranks quickly. He was known for his dedication. He was schooled by the great rabbi Gamaliel on the southern steps there as you go into the city of Jerusalem today. So this guy had a real resume that was super impressive, and in fact he thought he was doing the work of God by hunting down members of this weird new set that identified themselves as followers of Jesus as Messiah. He hunted them down, he arrested them, he threw them into prison, and he even presided over the death of the first martyr of this group, Stephen; but one day on the Damascus Road a funny thing happened to Saul of Tarsus. He met Jesus, and Jesus stopped him and said, "Why are you kicking against the goads"? Which means, "You're under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and you're fighting against it. Why are you doing that"?
And by the way, when someone is always arguing with you about your beliefs as a Christian, when someone's always trying to give you a hard time and you think they're far from the kingdom, they may be closer than you think. The reality is Saul of Tarsus was actually closer than he realized to believing in Jesus. That's why he was so opposed to it. And then Saul says, "Who are you, Lord"? 'Cause Jesus said to him, "Why do you persecute me, and why do you persecute my people"? Saul said, "Who are you, Lord"? And then Saul's thinking probably, "Don't say Jesus. Don't say Jesus. Just don't say Jesus, please". And then Jesus says, "I am Jesus..." echo, echo, echo, "whom you are persecuting". So Paul committed his life to Jesus. So he went from being Saul to Paul. So his point is, "If God could reach a person like me, he can reach everyone".
Greg Laurie: I wanted a bit more insight on the people of the holy land, the significance of what's happening today in Israel as it relates to Bible prophecy; and why Jews from all around the world are uprooting their families, selling their homes, and quitting their jobs and moving back to the land of their ancestors, the land of their bloodline, the land of Jesus. What's it like to live in Israel now? You were born where?
Joel Rosenberg: I was born in the United States, in upstate New York Syracuse, and grew up in the States. My father was Orthodox Jewish; came to faith in Jesus as Messiah in 1973, thought he was the first Jew since the apostle Paul who believed this.
Greg Laurie: 'Cause there was so few...
Joel Rosenberg: He never heard of a Jewish person who believed that, never met one, and in 1973 there weren't that many. But the Spirit of God was moving not just among Jewish people but the whole Jesus movement. You got saved in that time. My parents, I later, you know, a couple of years later, '75.
Greg Laurie: When Israel became a nation in May 14, 1948, there were how many messianic...
Joel Rosenberg: Maybe 2 dozen, 23 that I know of. Maybe there's 12 more...
Greg Laurie: Today there's maybe approximately how many?
Joel Rosenberg: Fifteen thousand.
Greg Laurie: See, that doesn't sound like a big number, but comparatively and considering it's Israel it is a big number.
Joel Rosenberg: Right. And if you look, you go from 23 people 68 years ago, 23 to 15.000..
Greg Laurie: Is it harder for someone who is Jewish to believe in Jesus as Messiah than it is for someone, a Gentile, a non-Jew? Is it a harder process?
Joel Rosenberg: Well, it's a miracle in any case, but God does say in the Scriptures that we have a partial hardening on it, we have a blindness because God brought, you know, sent Yeshua, Messiah to us first. You know, "He came to his own," John chapter 1. "His own received him not". We didn't get it, most of us didn't. I mean, obviously a few did, but then to him who, you know, who gets it, who did receive him, to them he gave the right to become children of God. So the gospel went from Israel to the Gentile world. Many Jews did come to faith in that time, but not the majority, not even close to the majority.
Greg Laurie: Oh, thank you.
Joel Rosenberg: Hey, now we're talking. Thank you.
Greg Laurie: Cheers.
Joel Rosenberg: Cheers. Welcome to Jerusalem. It's fun to have this conversation here.
Greg Laurie: Now, you have... thank you. And you've called Jerusalem the epicenter.
Joel Rosenberg: I have.
Greg Laurie: The epicenter of what, and why that word?
Joel Rosenberg: The epicenter is a geological term, obviously. It's the point above the beginning of an earthquake, right? So I'm using that term because this is the center of God's plan and purpose for the nations. Ezekiel chapter 5, verse 5 God says, "I set Jerusalem at the center of the nations". Ezekiel chapter 38, verse 7, "I put Israel", or verse 14, "I put Israel at the naval of the earth". Literally, the belly button of the earth. And then Acts chapter 1, verse 8, the gospel will go from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the very ends of the earth. So you and I are from the ends of the earth, right? You're from, you're really from the end of the earth. You're from California. I'm from New York. But this is the beginning. The gospel went from here and now it needs to come back here, and this is, you know, when you look at all the prophecies, there are more prophecies about the future of Israel and the Jewish people than of any other nation in the...
Greg Laurie: And you think about the critical role that Jerusalem plays. I mean, of all the cities in the world, you know, Paris and Moscow and, you know, Washington, D.C., and yet the Bible speaks of this tiny little sliver of land called Israel. In the tiny little sliver of land there's a little city called Jerusalem, and here we are in the very middle of the epicenter, tip of the spear, if you like. You know, it's all happening right here.
Joel Rosenberg: This has been a city that God has chosen for himself. That's what he says. "I chose Jerusalem". That's a sovereign act. He could have chose Tokyo. He could have chose, you know, Costa Mesa. He could have chosen wherever, but he chose Jerusalem to be the city of the great king.
Greg Laurie: That's right. "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunnings".
Israel plays a key role in the last days. Look at Romans 11, verse 25. "I want you to understand the mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Blindness in part is happened to Israel, but this will last only until the full number of the Gentiles come to Christ and all Israel will be saved". Joel was talking about his spiritual blindness among many Jewish people, but I think we've seen a dramatic change. He mentioned 15.000 Messianic Jews in Israel. A Messianic Jew is a person who's born Jewish, who believes in Jesus as the Messiah. But nationally in America there's probably 300.000, maybe as many as 500.000. That's a big change in recent days, but here's the significant thing. There's no group of people on earth like the Jewish people.
I don't think any group has suffered like the Jewish people. The Holocaust was that horrific stain on the history of humanity when 6 million Jewish men, women, and children were sent to die in Nazi concentration camps as part of Hitler's so-called Final Solution. They closed down their businesses in Germany and Poland and other places, then they were sent to ghettos; and they were ultimately put in box cars, sent to these camps and they were systematically exterminated. Six million people died. Unbelievable. So who would have ever thought after an event like that, that the nation Israel would come into existence? It would seem virtually impossible, but it was like a clarion call internationally.
Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust began to return to their homeland and on May 14, 1948 a modern-day miracle happened. Israel against all odds, surrounded by enemies that wanted them destroyed, became a nation and that started the prophetic time clock ticking. And so, excuse me, in Ezekiel 37 the prophet is called to go to, sort of a boneyard, and the Lord says to him, "Preach to the dead bones". Be like going to a graveyard and preaching. I've heard of dead audiences that takes a cake, right? So Ezekiel's preaching to a bunch of dead bones and in the vision the bones start coming together and muscle comes to the bones and flesh and they come alive, and then God gives him the interpretation.
In Ezekiel 37:11 he says, "These bones represent the people of Israel. They're saying, 'We become old, dry bones. All hope is gone.' But give them this message, thus says the Lord: 'O my people, I'll open up your graves of exile and cause you to rise again, and I'll bring you back to the land of Israel.'" That's a very specific prediction; that the Israelites, the Jewish people would be scattered, that happened; that they would be re-gathered and specifically that they would become a nation again, and that is exactly what happened. Never has a decimated ancient people managed to retain their individual identity through almost 20 centuries and then reestablished a nation and their original homeland, yet this was prophesied in Scripture and it happened.
But there's one other thing God says. They'll be re-gathered, that's happened; they'll be isolated, that's happening; and they'll be attacked. Well, that hasn't quite happened. They're attacked all the time. People on the outside of Israel and the Palestinian territory just recently fired missiles into Israel. And then also, of course, there is the ongoing threats of Iran that want to completely destroy Israel, but Iran's hostility is even more overt. They threaten on multiple occasions to destroy Israel, eradicate Israel; and with their aggression in developing nuclear weapons, this is a concern to the Jewish people living in their homeland again and for good reason.
So the Bible says a large force, this is after Ezekiel 37, 38, and 39. After they're re-gathered again a large force from her north called Gog and Magog will attack her and then God's going to intervene and do something supernatural because when Magog attacks the Bible says God is going to step in and intervene, and in Ezekiel 38:18 it says, "'When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused,' declares the Lord".
So Scripture tells us that God decimates the armies of Magog and then a national revival breaks out in Israel, and in Ezekiel 39:29 we read that God will pour his Spirit out on Israel. You say, "Okay, this is interesting, but what does this have to do with what we're talking about"? Go back to Romans 11:25. Here's the answer. "Some of the Jews have hard hearts, but this will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to Christ". Look, God's not done with Israel. He's going to work in her future. He's going to send a spiritual awakening to her homeland. He's going to raise up 144.000 Jewish evangelists to proclaim the gospel during the tribulation period, kosher Billy Grahams, if you like.
So there's great days ahead for them, but before the Lord will pour his Spirit out on the Jews again he has to finish his work with the Gentiles. So there'll be a blindness there among Jewish people in general and Israel until the full gathering of the Gentiles comes in. What does that mean? It means when the last person that's going to believe in Jesus believes in Jesus, we'll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. So here's what it means to you. The Lord could come back at any moment for you. I believe they're out there somewhere walking around. What if they're even here today? It's possible.
Someone who's the last person the Lord's waiting for to believe in Jesus. Can you imagine if you knew who that person was? Would you be tempted to pressure them a little? Like, "Will you, like, believe, like, now? I'll give you a burger, fries, kale, whatever you want. Come on". No, but seriously there's that person. They'll believe and then, boom, we're caught up in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. That's what's said in Corinthians, and 1 Thessalonians 4 says, "The dead in Christ shall rise first. We who are alive and remaining shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air". Listen, God keeps his promises. He's going to keep his promise to Israel, he's going to keep his promise to you, and he's going to keep his promise to come again. Jesus is coming, believe it, and it can happen at any moment.