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Greg Laurie - Lost Boy

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    Greg Laurie - Lost Boy

Thank you. What actually happened was Pastor Robert called me up and said, "Greg, do you believe in free speech"? I said, "Of course I do. I'm an American". He said, "Good, then come and give one". So, not really. The opposite is true. What a wonderful man of God your pastor is. We thank the Lord for Robert and for James and for this church. And when we went to AT&T Stadium and Harvest America, we had such great support from all y'all right here at Gateway, and I want to thank you again for that. And we're praying that God will send another spiritual awakening to America. I think that's our only hope. We really need one. And we pray that your own ministry here, your own church and your students will have their own Jesus revolution. I hear that they're renting a big theater, and it's going to be exciting.

So, February 24, I hope you all will go, and I hope that you'll take a nonbeliever with you to hear the gospel. I believe you will have an amazing conversation after this movie is over. And you might even have an opportunity to lead them to the Lord. All right. So, Pastor Robert asked me to come and tell you my story, how I came to faith. We all have a testimony. Some are more dramatic than others. But our testimony is our story of how we came to believe in Jesus Christ. And, you know, I want to just start with a word of prayer. Let's pray.

Father, now, as we talk about Your goodness and Your mercy and Your grace, I pray that this will bring hope and encouragement to everyone that is here, everyone that is watching and listening wherever they are. So, we commit this time to You now, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Our life, it's like a movie. And of course, we're the star of the film. Our life has a beginning, it has a middle, and it has an end. It's full of surprises, twists and turns, storm clouds, and darkness. And we have questions about this movie that we're in. Is it a drama? Is it a love story? Maybe it's even a comedy. Well, I want to tell you my story. I've titled this message simply Lost Boy. I was a little boy that had the statistical card stacked against me. You might think, "Oh, well, Greg must have been raised in a Christian home because he's a preacher".

I was raised in the opposite of a Christian home. I was raised in an alcoholic home. In fact, my childhood was not anything like the TV shows you would see at that time. I taught myself a way to escape my surroundings was through art and design. So, I started doodling and drawing and escaping into my imaginary world. My mother was a beautiful woman, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. She loved the attention that would be showered on her. She was married and divorced seven times with a lot of boyfriends in between. And I spent a lot of time sitting in smoke-filled bars with various men hitting on my mother with their pathetic pickup lines. I never knew my biological father.

The reality is, I was the result of a one-night stand. I could have very easily ended up as an abortion statistic. But thankfully, my mom carried me to term, and I had to grow up fast because in many ways, I was like the adult in our relationship, because my mother would drink to excess and pass out every night, and she always wanted me to make her something to eat, and I had to make sure she was okay and safe. But I have to tell you, I was so alone in the world. My mom, among the seven men that she married, married a man named Oscar Laurie. He was an attorney, and he lived in New Jersey. And he adopted me, and he gave me my name, Laurie, which I didn't love as a kid, to be honest, because it is a girl's name after all. But he showed me the family crest, which dates back to Scotland, and it's of a tree that's been cut down, and then it grows back again.

So, the family motto is Repullulat, which means "it buds afresh". And in many ways, that name that was given to me symbolized the life I was going to live. So, I grew up. I became a teenager, and like many in the 60s, I was searching. And I was told that drugs had the answer, and so I began to explore the world of drugs, trying to find some meaning or purpose in my life. I believed the expression, never trust anyone over 30. Because my experience was there was no adult worth trusting.

Now I don't trust anyone under 30. No, I'm kidding. So, a whole generation was caught up into drugs, sex, and rock and roll. And we followed these pied pipers, and it really was the blind leading the blind. And then one by one, all of these rock icons died before our eyes. Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. Brian Jones, founding member of The Rolling Stones. Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Joplin. Ironically, they all died at the age of 27. And so, this whole hippy dream of mine was starting to turn into a nightmare.

So, one night, some friends of mine and I went down to Laguna Beach, and we bought a kilo of marijuana. Not to sell. I was not a drug dealer. We bought it to smoke ourselves. That's how pathetic it was. And we're in our little vehicle on the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, and it was raining, and it started to spin out of control. And I thought, "This is it. This is I'm going to die. And the headline in the newspaper is going to be, 'Drug Dealers Die.' And people would say, 'It serves them right.'"

But that was sort of a wake-up call for me because I was thinking, "Okay, where is the answer"? The answer is not in this pathetic life that I've chosen. So, where is the answer? And one night, after we were out there doing drugs together, I took LSD, which has made a big comeback, I've heard. And I was having what you call a bad trip. And I was running down the streets thinking I was losing my mind. And I was screaming and yelling. And that was a night where I realized I've got to get out of this life that I'm living right now. By the way, you're watching scenes from the Jesus Revolution film, and I think there's a little sound that goes with it right now.

— I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die!

— Hey. You're alright. Hey, hey, hey. You're alright man.

— I'm dying. I'm gonna die.

— That's the drugs lying to you man. You're alive. I promise you. What's your name?

— Greg. Greg.

— It's fine. It's alright. I'm Lonnie. You ran past my house screaming and I just followed you. Just breathe.

— Lonnie, be honest with me, man. You're really here. Are you really here?

— Yeah, man. I'm really here. And I'm going to sit with you here as long as it takes. Okay? What are you doing out here? What are you running from?

— I don't know.

— Hey, where are you going? Hey, Greg. God says you don't have to run anymore.

So, I transferred to this high school in Orange County. It was called Harbor High School. I had been previously going to another high school where I hung out with all the preppy-type kids. I even went up for the football team. I was rejected, I might add. And the whole drug culture is coming on strong, and I thought, "Okay, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to change my identity". And I transferred to this new school campus, and some of my druggy, low-life friends said to me, "Greg, be careful. There's a lot of Jesus freaks on this campus". I said, "Don't worry about that. The last thing you'll ever see is Greg Laurie becoming a Jesus freak". Famous last words. But these Christians fascinated me. They would walk around actually carrying Bibles in public. And I thought, "Why would anyone do that"?

They would get together on the front lawn of the high school at lunchtime and sing songs about God. I thought they were delusional. But then I met this girl, and she was talking with a friend of mine, and I was waiting for a break in the conversation because I found this girl really attractive. And it's not that she was beautiful. She was a cute girl, I would say, okay. But there was something else about this girl that drew me to her. And as I'm waiting for a break in the conversation, she's got her notebook and she's got textbooks for class. And then I noticed she had another book. Oh, no. It's one of those books with a black cover and the gold pages. And I thought, "She's a Jesus freak. What a waste of a perfectly cute girl". But then lunchtime came, and I thought, "Where is that girl"?

And I went looking for her on the campus, and there she was, sitting in a circle of Christians. They were singing their songs about Jesus. And I sat down close enough where I could eavesdrop on their conversation, but not so close that my friends would think I was joining up with them. And I looked at them, and as they were singing songs, I thought, "Look at these pathetic people. Look at the stupid smile on their face. This is so sad". And then a thought occurred to me. "What if it's all real? What if they really have a relationship with God"? I quickly dismissed it. Here's why: I was so cynical because of my upbringing. I'd been disappointed so much in life. I thought, "This can't be true, that you just believe in some God up in heaven and your life begins to change".

But as I watched them, it fascinated me. Then this guy stood up to speak, and he looked like Jesus. And ironically, in the film, he's played by the guy who plays Jesus in The Chosen. That's Jonathan Roumie. But the real-life man who stood up was named Lonnie Frisbee. I don't remember what he said for the most part, but there was one statement that resonated with me. He said, "Jesus said, 'You're either for me or against me.'" I looked around at the Christians. I thought, "Well, I'm not one of them. Does that mean I'm against Jesus? I don't want to be against Jesus". I always believed Jesus was out there somewhere, but to know Him in a personal way? And he said, "If you want to ask Christ to come into your life, get up and walk forward right now".

And some kids got up and walked forward, and I thought, "There's no way I could ever do that". The next thing I knew, I was up there with the other kids. And that was the day I accepted Jesus Christ into my life. It was 1970, the greatest day of my life. My prayer was interrupted by the ringing of the bell for the next class. And we had planned that weekend to go off into the mountains and do drugs. I didn't plan on becoming a Christian. Nobody followed up on me. Nobody came up and said, "Hey, Greg, now that you're a Christian, start reading the Bible".

I was just on my own. So, I went up into the hills, and I had a little bag of marijuana and a pipe, and I was filling it. And that same voice that spoke to me just hours before spoke to me again. It was the voice of God. And he said, "You don't need that anymore". I said, "Okay, God. I'll make You a deal. I don't know anything about You, but if You're real, You're going to have to make Yourself real to me". And He did. So, now I'm a Christian, and I'm not really comfortable hanging around the Christians that much. And I don't know if I should hang around with my old low-life, druggie friends. But one day I decided to go over to their house and see what they were up to, because they hadn't seen me for a while. And as I'm walking toward them, some guy that I didn't know yells out, "Brother, brother Greg"! I'm thinking, "You're not my brother unless you're a brother from a different mother".

And the way my mom lived, that was a possibility. He says, "Brother Greg"! And he's like really big and loud, and I yelled, "What"? He says, "Bro, I got you a Bible". And he pulls up this beat up, very used Bible with popsicle sticks glued together in the shape of a cross, "Bro," he says, "it's the Word of God. Start reading it". And I'm like, "Okay, whatever". And I took it from him, just hoping he would go away. And I shoved it in the pocket of my coat. It was too big to even fit. I ripped the pocket. And I went over to my friend's house where I'd done drugs so many times at lunchtime in high school. And I took my Bible, and I hid it in the planter, in front, in the bushes. And I walked inside. All my friends said, "Laurie, where have you been"? I said, "Nowhere". "What have you been up to"? I said, "Nothing". "Oh, wow. We got some good weed. You want to smoke it"? I said, "No". Come on, "Laurie, what's wrong with you"? "Nothing's wrong with me".

All of a sudden, the front door opens, and there stands the mother of my friend, who owned that house, holding my Bible. And she says, "Who does this belong to"? I thought, "What is the deal with this woman? She has kids doing drugs in her house, and she's alarmed by a Bible". "Who does this belong to"? Every eye in the room goes to the Bible, and then they go to me. They knew there was a connection. I said, "It's mine". "Laurie, what is that"? "It's a Bible". "What is it"? "A Bible". "A Bible"? "Yeah, it's a Bible". And then one of my friends said, "Oh, praise Jesus. Are you a Christian now, Greg? Are you going to follow Jesus"? I said, "No, I'm going to hit you in the mouth". I hadn't read 1 Corinthians 13 yet. This is all new to me. And they started mocking me. So, guess what? I realized I need some new friends.

So, this guy out of nowhere, his name is Mark, never met him before, walks up. "Hi, I'm Mark". "Yeah, hi". Okay. "I saw that you went forward and accepted Christ the other day at the Bible study". "Yeah". "Okay, I want you to come to church with me". "No, thank you". "No, I want you to come to church with me". "No, That's cool. I don't want to". "No, you're coming to church with me. What's your address"? "I don't want to go to church with you". "Where do you live"? Next thing I know, he's picking me up on my house. We all need a friend like Mark. And he got me to church. And I walked to this church called Calvary Chapel that was in the middle of the Jesus movement. And I walked smack dab into the middle of a spiritual awakening, and I had a front-row seat. We saw contemporary Christian music, which was so beautifully done by your worship team a few moments ago. It was born back then.

That's when it started. It was a whole new world to me. And suddenly I couldn't get enough. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to grow more. I was going to every Bible study opportunity, and I was out on the street sharing my faith, and I didn't know anything yet. I remember someone gave me a copy of a little booklet called "The Four Spiritual Laws". Anyone remember that? Published by Campus Crusade for Christ. So, I heard the pastor say, "Go share your faith". I thought, "Well, okay". So, I went out on the beach, and I saw this middle-aged woman about the age of my mom, and I thought, "Well, maybe I'll talk to her. She'll be nice to me". I was really nervous. My voice was shaking. And I said, "Hi, can I talk to you a little bit about God and stuff"? She's like, "Okay". So, I sat down, and I was so new at this, I had to read the booklet because I hadn't memorized it. "The Four Spiritual Laws, Copyright 1964, Campus Crusade for Christ. Law one: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life".

And I'm reading through this, and I'm thinking, "Why am I doing? She's not going to respond to this. Why am I even doing this"? And I'd look up periodically at her, and she's just looking at me. And I got to the end of the booklet. I was relieved to finally be done, so at least I could say I witnessed to someone. Okay? I get to the end of the booklet, and there's a question there which is, "Is there any good reason why you should not accept Jesus Christ right now"? So, I asked her, "Is there any good reason why you should not accept Jesus Christ right now"? She's said, "No". "No... um... Wait, does that mean you want to accept Jesus Christ right now"? She said, "Yes". "Fantastic. Let's bow our heads for a word of prayer". I saw the pastor do that. And she closes her eyes. I'm frantically searching this book for a prayer. I finally found one. I led her in it. She prays his prayer. She opened her eyes, and she said, "Something just happened to me". I said, "Yes, something just happened to me as well".

And I realized that God could use someone like me. You know, your pastor is in a brand-new series right now, Divinely Human, talking about how God uses flawed people. Listen, God is not looking for ability. He's looking for availability. Right? God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the call. All you need to do is say, "Lord, here I am. Send me". I had so little to offer the Lord, but I said, "Okay, God, here I am, a 17-year-old kid with a really great head of hair". By the way, I had the greatest surfer hair you've ever seen. Parted on the side, blonde. I'd whip my hair all the time. Perfect wave. Now the wave is gone, and all I have left is beach. It's really sad. But I'll get it in the hair-after. I'm sure of it. Counting on that.

So, I'm just going to church. I'm growing as a Christian. And one day I go down to where the baptisms were held, which was Pirates Cove is what it's called, at Newport Beach. Kind of this natural, rocky amphitheater and that's featured in the film, and we filmed a lot of it there. And I was late for the baptism, and there were some Christians just sitting around singing some songs together. There was no one really leading. So, I sat down with them, and I'm singing with them, and I just thought of something I read that morning in the Bible, and I said, "Hey, I had a verse I wanted to share". and they're all looking at me, and I share my verse. And while I'm talking, a couple of girls joined us. And then one of them leaned over to me and said, one of the other Christians said, "These girls want to be baptized, pastor. Can you baptize them"? "I'm not a pastor". "No, will you baptize them"?

And the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Do it"! Well, are we not to go into all the world and preach the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? So, I said, "Okay. Well, I could baptize you. Come on". And next thing I know, I'm walking now with 30 people behind me, and I'm thinking, "How did I get myself into this"? We get down to the beach, and I said, "Okay, I'll baptize you now". But I'd never watched the technique of baptism. Like, what do you do? So, I blundered my way through it, and it was beautiful. And I was done. And I walked up on the beach, and a little crowd had gathered up there on the rocks and clear as day, God's Spirit spoke to me and said, "Preach the gospel". "Uh, I'm not a preacher".

Next thing I know, I'm talking to these people. "Hey, you might be wondering what's going on down here and why these people are being baptized". And it's almost like I stepped outside of myself and said, "What are you doing? What? Do you think you're Billy Graham now? You can't preach to a bunch of people". And meanwhile, I'm saying, "If you want to accept Christ, get up and walk down right now, and I'll baptize you". And I'm, I mean, this is insane. People came down, and I baptized them. That was the day where I got a taste of what was coming later in my life. Well, I started teaching at little Bible studies, and I met my wife Cathe, and she had two sisters, and there they sat while I was speaking, and I noticed her. And I'm not suggesting I was scoping out chicks while I preached, okay? But there was a light on Cathe, because her sister was holding a flashlight over... No, not really.

So, afterwards I said, "Why don't we go out and get some coffee together"? And we did. Then the next time we were at the Bible study, I said, again, "Let's go out and get dessert". And we did. And then a third time, I said, "Let's go out and get some coffee and dessert". And she said, "Shall I call my sisters"? I said, "No, just you". So, we fell in love, and we broke up three times. And then we got married. And we just celebrated 49 years of marriage just a couple of days ago. So, wait, go back to the other picture. Go back to the first photo. So, look at this tuxedo I'm wearing. What was I thinking? Now go to the next picture. Cathe looks the same 49 years later. What happened to her? And look at me. Wow! Sad. But anyway, I went on to start our church, and we're getting ready to celebrate 50 years together as a ministry.

So, we're so thankful to God. And I would not have chosen the life that I ended up living. But I think we can take our life and use it as a tool. Our pain can be turned to gain, our setbacks can be turned to do a set up, and our test can become a testimony. And what you have gone through in life is not just meant to destroy you, but to develop you. Because I know there's someone listening to me right now that says, "It's not fair what happened to me in life. It's not fair that my parents divorced. It's just not right that I had to live this childhood that I had". I'm sorry these things have happened to you, but I want you to know that God can take all of the pain of your life and He can bring good despite it if you'll commit it to Him. You see?

The statistics suggest that because I came from an alcoholic home and a home of divorce that I should be an alcoholic, and I should be married and divorced multiple times. And as I said, 49 years together, because Jesus Christ can break any kind of sinful pattern in your family before you. The Bible says, "If any man be in Christ, he is an altogether different kind of person. The old things that have passed away, Behold, everything becomes fresh and new". I love the way things look right after it rains. Don't you? Even the people that don't wash their cars get their cars washed. And you might even see a rainbow, right? And God can change everything. He can change the trajectory of your life.

So, I have just a few thoughts for you before I'm done here. And I didn't say how many thoughts. This could be an hour-and-a-half of thoughts. Not really. But number one, I want to say this to you. Whatever you're going through in life, remember, it's going to be okay. Now, let me explain. I'm not suggesting that life is easy. But what I am suggesting is if you're a believer, God is in control of your life. As Christians, we don't believe in accidents; we believe in providence. We believe the Lord is guiding our steps. And listen to this. God 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.'"

Now, if that verse simply said, God speaking, "'I know the single thought I had about you for one moment,' says the Lord," I'd be happy to think that God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, had a thought about me. But that's not what the verse says. God says, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you". It's continuous thoughts. But wait, what kind of thoughts are these? Are they bad thoughts? "'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.'" And I think it's so important for us to reach out and let people know that there is a God in heaven who loves them. Whatever you're going through, it's going to be okay. God will get you through it.

Number two, and I would say this to a younger Greg, if an older Greg could speak to a younger Greg, and by the way, I'm 70 years old now. So, I'm a... Did you have to react that way? People will come up to you and say, "Wow, you look pretty good for 70". Okay, whatever. I'm a lot older than your pastor. He's still a young man, by the way. But if an older Greg could speak to a younger Greg, I would give myself a little advice. Number one, I would say, "Greg, take care of your hair. Just enjoy it while you have it". I would say to a younger Greg, "Greg, you know, Star Wars figures, when they came out the first time? Buy a bunch of them and keep them in original packaging".

Have you heard of that video game called The Legend of Zelda? I heard that an original version of that in its packaging it came in, just sold on eBay for $500,000. I'd say, "Greg, buy a bunch of those Legend of Zelda games and hang on to them". Now, I'd say, "Greg, make sure that you take care of your skin, because you're going to take a lot of trips to the dermatologist in the years ahead". But seriously, I would say to a young Greg, and to any young person, "Put God first in your life. You'll never regret doing that. Put God first". Here's what Jesus says: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you".

Listen, don't put money first. Don't put career first. Don't put politics first. Don't put ministry first. Put Christ first. Put Him at the forefront of your life. You'll never regret that because there's a lot of things we can focus on in life, and before we know it, our life can be over, and all those things we've acquired will be left behind. One day, everything that you own will be put into a hospital drawer. The only legacy that matters is the legacy of your faith. So, make sure you put Christ first. You know, God appeared to a young Solomon who had ascended to the throne after his father David had died. God came to him and said, "I'll give you whatever you want. Tell me what it is".

Can you imagine if God appeared to you in a dream and said that, "Ask for whatever you want". "Okay, Lord, let's talk about that lottery". I mean, really, what would you ask for if God would give you anything you want? Solomon said, "Well, Lord, I need wisdom to rule your people". God said, "Because you asked for wisdom and not for riches, and not for glory and not for honor, I'm going to give you the wisdom you prayed for, and I'm going to give you all these things as well". "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you". Number two, what I would say to a younger me and to any young person, or for that matter, any person, I would say, "Stop worrying and start praying".

There's so many things that cause anxiety in our world today. Just turn on the news. Just go to a news website. And now we carry these phones around, and they're buzzing constantly with more bad news. And it can really stress you out and cause you to worry. Then you have your personal problems, you have your family problems, you have your health problems and other things that you deal with every day. But here's what the Bible says, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you'll experience God's peace, which will exceed anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and your minds as you live in Christ Jesus".

So, turn your worries into prayers. Turn your worries into worship. Turn your panic into prayer. So, when worry comes, and it does come, doesn't it? Just turn it into a prayer request. "Lord, I give it to You". It's sort of like a conditioned reflex. We have natural reflexes, and we have conditioned reflexes. Natural reflex. If I touch a hot stove, I pull my hand back. No one had to say, "Pull your hand back," because it hurt. I was burned. Reminds me of a man who went to see a doctor with two severely burned ears. He said, "Doc, you got to help me". The doctor said, "What on earth? How did you burn your ears"? He said, "Well, I was ironing, and someone called me on my phone, and I answered my iron instead of my phone". "Okay, that explains one ear. How did you burn the other ear"? The guy said, "Well, they called back".

These are the jokes, people. Sorry. That's a natural reflex. Conditioned reflex, that's when you learn to do something through repetition, sort of like driving a car. I have two granddaughters that can drive now, and when I've driven with them, and they're at the steering wheel, they have to think about everything and don't even get me started on parallel parking. Right? But then after you've driven for a while, it all comes naturally. You don't think about turn signals and how to do this and how to do that. It comes so easily.

And so, we need to learn how to turn our worries into worship and commit these things to the Lord, because worry can choke you. Actually, the word worry comes from the word, "to choke". Well, my grandkids (I have five grandkids by the way). When they were younger, they used to like to choke me as a game. "Let's choke papa". They were just little kids. It's fine. "Choke Papa". "Okay". And as they got older, "Let's choke Papa". "No, we're not playing that game anymore, because you're going to kill Papa, and you cannot kill Papa". But don't worry about these things; pray about these things.

And one last point I'd like to make, there's a lot more I'd like to say, but I only have so much time, but finish your race well. The Bible tells us that we're in a race, we're all running, and we're running to win. And you have your lane, and I have my lane. And Paul said, "I fought the good fight. I finished the course. I kept the faith. Henceforth, there has laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me in that day, and not to me only, but to all who love His appearing".

So, when I was in high school, I ran track and field. I was good at short-distance running, sprinting. My son, Christopher: I have two boys, Christopher and Jonathan. Christopher was a runner, but he was more of a long-distance runner. But I'd love to beat him in races, even as he was getting older. "Let's race". And I would always pick a spot to run to that would favor me because it was closer. And I'd beat him. One day, we're on the beach, and I said, "Let's race to that rock. Let's go"! And not only did he beat me, he was way ahead of me. I went, "Okay, you finally won". And 14 years ago, he ended his race. He was killed in a tragic automobile accident. And on his tombstone are these words: "He fought the good fight. He kept the faith. Now there's a crown of righteousness laid up for him".

He was only 33 years old. I bring this up because I have hope. I have hope that I'll see my son again in heaven. He's not just a part of my past, he's a part of my future as well. And I also wanted to mention that we think we're going to live for so long. "Oh, well, I'm young, Greg. I'm, like, in my 30s. I'm in my 20s. Preach this to the old people that are over there decomposing". Hang on. You may not have as much time as you think you have. That's why we want to make every day count. That's why we want to run this race well and finish this race well as well as well. Because as I said, the greatest legacy that you're going to leave to your children and grandchildren are not material things. It's a legacy of your character and of your faith.

What if this were the last message I would ever preach? What if this were the last message you would ever hear? Here's my question to you: Do you have the confidence that if you were to die, you would go to heaven? "Of course, I'm at church. Doesn't that prove that I'm a Christian"? Well, it's a good thing you're in church. It's a good thing you're watching wherever you are. But every one of us has to make a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ. You can't live off of another person's faith. Going to a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to Krispy Kreme Donuts makes you a cop. Did I just lose everyone in law enforcement just then? "What"? What was that sound? "Never mind".

Okay, just a joke. But we have to have our own encounter with Christ. At the age of 17, I asked the Lord to come into my life. I've never regretted that decision. Have you made that decision? Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sin. Every wrong that we've ever done, He paid for when they pounded spikes through His hands and His feet. And it wasn't nails that held Christ to that cross 2000 years ago. It was love for you and for me. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life". God's plan for you is better than your plan for yourself, but He's not going to force this on you. You have to say, "Lord, I want You to come into my life".

And I want to end this message with an invitation for you to believe in Jesus Christ, just in case you haven't yet. Maybe you're a visitor here at Gateway. Maybe you've come here quite a few times, but you haven't made this commitment to follow Christ yet. You can do that right here, right now. Jesus says, "I stand at the door and I knock, and if you'll hear My voice and open the door, I will come in".

In a moment, I'm going to pray a prayer, and I'm going to ask anyone here who is not sure if Christ is living in their life to pray this prayer with me out loud. In fact, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to ask that everyone prays this prayer with me because we're supporting those that are praying it for the first time. But it's just a prayer of committing our lives to Christ. So, let's bow our heads right now and just repeat this prayer out loud after me:

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. I repent of my sin. I choose to follow You, Lord, from this moment forward as my God and friend, as my Savior and Lord, in Jesus' name I pray, amen.

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