Greg Laurie - Good News In A Bad World
Welcome to the Harvest Crusade everybody. There's so much negativity, so much bad news. I have some good news in a bad world. Yeah, we've been doing these crusades 34 years. A lot has changed, and we did the first one in a place called the Pacific Amphitheater in 1990. The top movies in the theaters were "Home Alone" that marks it in time, "Pretty Woman". The top TV shows were "Seinfeld," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," and Bill Cosby was America's dad. Yeah, things have changed just a little bit. The top songs were "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, and "You Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer, and "Vogue" by Madonna. And guess what, there were no smart phones. No smart phones. I think it might have been better back when there no smart phones. The Internet was just coming into its own. We used something called a 56K Modem. How many of you remember the 56K Modem? Right.
So that's what was going on in the world and of the Harvest Crusade, and though a lot has changed, there's a lot of things that haven't changed. For instance, there are certain things I know about you without even knowing you personally. I know this about you. Everyone is empty inside. You're effectively born with what we can describe as a hole in your heart, so to speak. It's a void, and there's nothing that will fill this hole. Not relationships, not possessions, not accomplishments, not sex, not fame, nothing. Comedian Dave Chapelle, when he first started making a lotta money, was quoted to say, "The higher up I go, the less happy I am". You see, this is a loneliness for God himself.
I remember when I was a little boy, I was living with my grandparents because my mom was living her wild life getting married and divorced over and over again and partying her life away. So, I'm living with my grandparents and they would go to bed at night, and I remember this very vividly: my grandmother used to take her dentures out and put them in some bottle of water, and it freaked me out. I still have nightmares about it. But anyway, she was a great grandmother, but I just didn't need to see that. But you can't unsee it once you've seen it. And I would go into my little bedroom and I would pull a blanket over my head, and I would have conversations with someone I called Mr. Nobody. I would just talk to this imaginary person, Mr. Nobody, and you know what? In my way as a little boy, I was trying to talk to God. I just didn't know how. And then one day, I discovered Mr. Nobody had a name. His name was Jesus, and he was very interested in me. Everyone is empty.
Number two, everyone is lonely. Everyone is lonely. Lady Gaga, through tears in an interview, said this: "I'm alone every night. All these people will leave, right? They'll leave and I'll be all alone. I go from everyone wanting to touch me all day to just being in total silence". Do you know what the top words are for late night Google search is? Porn, lonely, and suicide, wow. Porn, lonely, and suicide. Does that describe someone I'm talkin' to right now? You're lonely, you've even contemplated suicide. Some of you have possibly even attempted it.
Number three, everyone feels guilt. It's built into us. The head of a mental institution once said, "I could release half of my patients if I could find a way to rid them of their sense of guilt". Listen, the reason you feel guilt is because... how shall I say this... you're guilty. And it's good that you feel guilt. Guilt is sort of like a fire alarm. I don't know about you, but I have a hyper-sensitive fire alarm near my kitchen. My wife cooks an egg, the alarm goes off. And why is it that alarms always go off at three o'clock in the morning telling you, "It's time to change the batteries". Could this not happen in the afternoon? It has to be in the middle of the night giving me a heart attack? But the fire alarm effectively is warning you about something, and when you feel guilt, that means your conscience is working, but everyone is guilty.
Maybe you come in here tonight with a lot of guilt 'cause you've done things you're ashamed of. You wish you could undo those things, but you can't. But the good news is guilt comes because we sin, but God can forgive our sin and remove our guilt, you see. And deep down inside, everyone is afraid to die. The statistics on death are really quite impressive, one out of every one persons will die. There are no exceptions. The Bible speaks of those who are terrified by the fear of death.
Actor William Shatner, best known for playing Captain Kirk on Star Trek is now 92 years old, and in an interview he said, "I'm so not ready to die. It petrifies me. I go alone, I go to a place I don't know. It might be painful. It might be the end. My thought is, it's the end. I become nameless after I spent a lifetime being known". Man. Someone needs to tell William Shatner that there's hope beyond the grave. You know? And then he can truly live long and prosper. Trying to do the little Star Trek deal there.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, our former governor here in California, was recently interviewed, and he gave his thoughts on death. I can't use the exact words that he used because there were some bad words. But he says, "I know people feel comfortable with death, but I don't, because I will miss the... out of everything. To sit here with you, that's gonna be gone, and all the things that we do, that's gonna end? What the..."! That's what hopelessness sounds like, you see? That's what I used to think. I thought when you die, you simply cease to exist, and that freaked me out. But that is not what happens. When you die, your body goes into the ground, but your soul goes into the afterlife. There is life beyond the grave. And if you believe in Jesus Christ, you go straight to heaven. The moment you take your last breath on earth, you take your first breath in heaven. You close your eyes on earth and you open them in heaven.
Now, that's for the believer. Now, the nonbeliever, they will face a certain judgment, and just as surely as there is a glorious place called heaven, there's also a place called hell. I'll say a few words about that in just a moment. So yes, we're empty, we're lonely, we're guilty, we're afraid to die. But there is a solution, and it's called the gospel. Did you know that the word "gospel" means good news? That's what it means, good news. And people need good news today in a bad world. "Generation Z" has been dubbed the hopeless generation. Ed Shearen is among the twenty-first century's biggest global pop stars, but in a recent interview, he said he found himself suicidal after the death of two of his friends, and his wife got very sick, and he and his wife were plagued with fear, depression, and anxiety.
Think of all of the success that Ed Shearen has had, but he's filed with fear, depression, and anxiety. Has that described someone? I'm talking to you right now? According to a report that just came out or the Centers of Disease Control, 60% of female students experienced feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year, and 25% of them have made a suicide plan. Wow. That's scary. Here's the problem: We're lookin' down way too much. We're lookin' down in these phones and engaging in something that is called "doom scrolling". It's when you're just reading depressing news. And there's a lotta scary things happening in our world. I just read today about talk of a potential nuclear war.
Now, this is scary stuff. And so, what do we do? Jesus said when you see these things begin to happen, look up because your redemption is drawing near. It's time to look up. Stop looking down. Start looking up. Life can be like a puzzle. How many of you like puzzles? Raise your hand. I don't like puzzles. Now, my wife loves puzzles. If she sees a puzzle, she'll stop, "Oh, Greg, look! A puzzle"! And she'll start putting it together. I'll just keep walking. I'll think, "What a waste of time". So, the other day she was assembling this huge puzzle in our front room and she was almost done and I was upstairs. She said, "Greg! Greg, come help me, I'm missing a piece of the puzzle".
So I came downstairs and I got down on my hands and knees and searched, and I finally found it. I said, "Cathy, here it is". She said, "There is the final piece of the puzzle. It's completed". And life can be that way. We think, "Well, if I just do these things, I'll be happy and complete. You know, if I just get through high school. Now I get through college. Now I get my degree. Now I begin my career. Okay, well now I'll get married. Okay, maybe I'll marry someone else instead. I get divorced, and marry again. Oh, now we'll have kids. It's kids. Kids are the answer". You have kids.
How do we get rid of these kids? It's like, they're 40 and still living at home, right? And it just goes on and on and on. You're looking for the missing piece of the puzzle. Look up. God's holding the missing piece of the puzzle. He's got it. It's him that you're actually looking for. So I wanna read a passage from the Bible. It's in Romans chapter 10, and it says this: "How can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him if they've never heard about him? How can they hear about him unless someone tells them? How can anyone go and tell them without being sent"? This is why the scriptures say, "How beautiful are the feet of those the preach the Good News".
This is what I wanna talk to you about tonight. The Good News. The Good News of the gospel. The Good News of your sins being forgiven. But it says preach it. Now, I know people don't generally like preachers. We use the word "preach" in a negative way. "Hey man, don't preach to me". So let me use another word. Recommendation. Right? A recommendation for you. I recommend that you put your faith in Jesus Christ and follow him, and you'll never regret it. That's the Good News, that's the Good News. But before you can fully appreciate the good news you have to know the bad news, and there's somebad news out there.
I heard about two old guys that loved to play baseball and they wondered, "You think there'll be baseball in heaven?" So they made a deal: if one of them died, he would talk to his buddy from the other side and tell him if there's baseball in heaven, or not. Well, two weeks later, one of them did die, and so his buddy is walking along and suddenly hears voice of his friend Joe from the clouds, he says, "Hey buddy, I'm in heaven and I've got some good news and some bad news". He says, "What's he good news"? "The good news is there's baseball in heaven". "Oh great, whats the bad news"? "You're pitching Friday".
The Good News is I can have my sin forgiven. The Good News is I can have the hole in my heart filled. The bad news is I am separated from God by something called sin. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. There's two words used in the Bible for sin. There's more than two, but two in particular. One means to cross a line or to trespass. So if you've been walking along and you see a sign that says, "No Trespassing," it means don't step over that line. Don't climb over that fence. No trespassing. And another definition of sin is to fall short of a goal, sort of like an archery game, and we're shooting jour arrows into the target.
Now, I may shoot my ten arrows and miss the target, hit a tree, hit a cow in a field somewhere, and then you might shoot your arrows and get nine of 'em in, but you still miss the mark. So, here's what it means. It means every one of us break God's commandments, the Ten Commandments, you shall not lie, you shall not steal, you shall not take the Lord's name in vain, and you shall not commit adultery, and on it goes. Every one of us have broken those commandments. You'll say, "But hey, I haven't broken as many as some people". Check this out: one sin is enough to keep you out of heaven. The Bible says if you offend him one point of the law, you're guilty of all of it. Then it's a fall short of the mark.
Well, what's the mark? The mark is perfection. Jesus said be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect. You say, "Great, who can live up to that"? Answer: Nobody. That's why Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sin. That's why. You say, "But Greg, I'm a good person". And I don't dispute that. I'm sure you're a very good person. I've met some really good people who are not Christians. Honest, helpful, I mean, if you needed your tire changed, they would help you, and the Christian would say, "I'll go pray about that. I can't do that right now". And they're good people, okay? But it's not about if you're a good person or not. It's that you're not good enough to get to heaven on your own.
Heaven is not for "good people". Heaven is for forgiven people. You need to be forgiven of your sin. This is the Good News. And if I believe in him, I'm forgiven. Listen to this. There's gonna be some bad people in heaven, and there's gonna be some good people in hell. Say, "You lost me there, preacher". There's gonna be some bad people in heaven, and by this I mean I don't care what kind of a life you've lived, if you turn from your sin and ask Christ to forgive you, you can have the hope of heaven.
You know, that's true. The Bible tells the story of when Jesus was crucified there were two men on each side of him. Sometimes they call them the thieves on the cross, but they were probably guilty of a far worse crime than stealing. They were probably murderers, maybe terrorists. They're hanging on the cross each side of Jesus, and one of those men turns to Jesus and says, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom". And Jesus says to that man, "Truly, truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise". Boy, talk about bein' at the right place at the right time, right? "Today you will be with me in paradise". And that man was forgiven of his sin. A bad man made it into heaven. But then there can be a good person that makes it to hell, and by that I mean they trust in their own good works and they end up separated from God.
Now you say, "Greg, help, I can't believe in hell. How could a God of love send people to hell"? Listen, God doesn't send anyone to hell. The last thing that God wants is for any man or any woman uniquely made in his image to spend eternity separated from him in this horrible place called hell. Hell is not made for people. According to Jesus, hell was created for the devil and his angels. No one will end up in hell unless they want to end up in hell. That's your choice. You can choose where you spend eternity. You can be with God worshipping forever as we have done tonight, or you can spend eternity away from God, worshipping yourself. But here's the Good News: I don't have to go to hell. I can go to heaven because Christ died for my sins.
So what do I need to do to be forgiven of my sins? I need to be, according to the Bible, saved. I love that word "saved". The Bible says whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. You're like a drowning person that needs to be rescued. You're like a person trapped in a burning building that needs to be rescued, and Jesus went to the cross and died in your pace. Christ came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. He died for you. He died for me. He took the judgment of God upon himself so I don't have to face that judgment, and then he rose again from the dead.
The Bible tells the story of a very hardened man who was a Roman soldier in charge of the jail. And they arrested the apostles, Paul and Silas, and threw 'em into this dungeon, this hellhole, and the Bible says at midnight, Paul and Silas began to sing praises to God, and the other prisoners were listening. And that word "listening" means they listened with pleasure, 'cause they probably never heard anyone sing in a prison like that before. Then an earthquake came, and the walls of the prison shook and collapsed, and the Roman soldier in charge pulled his sword out ready to kill himself because if his prisoners' escape. He'd be held responsible. And Paul says, "Stop! Don't hurt yourself, we're still here". And that Roman jailer said, "Sir, what must I do to be saved"? And Paul said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. That's it".
Now, we all know the story of the sinking of the Titanic. We know how Jack and Rose were onboard. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. And we don't understand why Jack couldn't fit on that door with Rose, right? Come on, could somehow work that out, couldn't you? That's not a true story, but the story of the Titanic had captured so many people and we remember this horrible tragedy that just happened at this small submersible craft that went down and the people in it died, and they were on their way to visit the Titanic.
Well, I wanna tell you a true story from the Titanic. The hero of the Titanic. You probably never heard of him. His name was John Harper. John Harper was a well-known evangelist from Scotland. He had been asked to speak in America, so he boarded passage on the Titanic. And of course, that ship was declared unsinkable, wasn't it? But it hit an iceberg and began to take on water. Some of the most wealthy people in all the world were onboard, and Harper had his daughter onboard. He got her safely on a lifeboat, and he took his life jacket, knowing he wasn't gonna survive, and gave it to another passenger, and then as he went into the water, he was hanging onto a piece of debris, and he swam over to people and he said, "Are you saved"? And then he said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved".
He swam from person to person in the icy waters of the ocean saying "Are you saved"? One survivor recalls clinging to one of the pieces of debris from Titanic, and Harper floated near him. Harper cried out, "Man, are you saved"? He said, "I'm not". Harper says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved". And then John Harper drowned. That same man in a public meeting four years later remembered that fateful night, and he said, and I quote, "There alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I believed. I was John Harper's last convert".
You see. And I ask you tonight, are you saved? Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Just say, "I don't know if I am or not. How can I know"? Listen, here's what I wanna say in closing. If you want a relationship with God, if you wanna have your sins forgiven, if you wanna know you'll go to heaven when you die, if you wanna fill that hole in your life, if you wanna stop living in guilt and fear of death and all the other things of this life without God, start here: Realize you're a sinner. We're all sinners. We've all broken God's commandments. Just own it. Admit it. Stop blaming everybody else. Take responsibility. I'm a sinner.
Number two, recognize Christ died on the cross for you. The crucifixion was not an accident; it was not a mistake. Jesus came to this earth to go to the cross and die for the sin of the world. Jesus put it this way: "For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". Christ died for you because he loves you. Because he knew there was no other way for you to be made right with God. And then you need to repent of your sin. The word "repent" means to change your direction in life. The Bible says God has commanded people everywhere to repent. It's actually a military term. It means to do an about face.
So stop running from God; run toward God. Stop living that life you've been living. Repent, and then receive Christ into your life. What did Paul say to that Roman jailer? He said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". You need to say, "Jesus, come and live inside of me. Forgive me of my sin. I want to know you in a personal way". Right now, Jesus 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. Only you can open the door of your heart, so to speak. Someone else can't open it for you. You need to open it yourself. You must do it now.
Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation, the Bible says. Don't say "I'll do it in a week" or in a month or in a year. Listen, you may never have another opportunity like you have right here, right now. Don't let it slip by. 'Cause you don't know how long you're gonna live. Nor do I. Someone's name is gonna end up in that obituary column tomorrow. It could be any of us here right now. So prepare to meet your God.