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Greg Laurie - How To Live A Successful Christian Life

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    Greg Laurie - How To Live A Successful Christian Life
TOPICS: Spiritual Growth, Success

We all remember the day that Jesus Christ came into our life, right? It's a big day, a day you don't forget. It was like we went from darkness to light. It's like we went from black and white to color. I remember, I'm old enough to remember when color television came out. Okay? I know some of you have never heard this before, but to used to watch black and white television and the TV sets were gigantic boxes. There was no remote control. If you wanted to change the channel, you had to walk up there and turn to one of three channels that you could watch, right? And then one day, color TV came out, it was like a revelation. We couldn't believe it. We've been fiddling around with rabbit ears on top of black and white TVs and now it's color television.

Well, that's what it's like when you come to Christ, you go into this whole new world, sin no longer is controlling you as it once did. Your addictions fell away, your depression cleared, your guilt was gone and there was an inward peace and a joy you did not previously have and you opened up the Bible and this is like the user's manual of life you've been searching for. Here it is. I remember as a 17-year-old boy reading the Bible for the first time, and it spoke to me in my young life, and it still speaks to me now in my forties because, plus a few more years, but it was relevant then it's relevant now. And then of course, prayer, what an amazing thing it was to pray, and know that there was a God in heaven who listened to our prayers and cared about what we were facing, and would answer our prayers. Do you remember your first answered prayer?

I remember mine. I was a brand-new believer, 17 years old, I'd accepted Christ and my grandmother found out, and I lived with her and my grandfather for a number of years when I was a little boy. And she said, Greg, I wanna get you a brand-new Bible. A nice leather Bible. Funny thing that very day I prayed, Lord, I would like a nice leather Bible. I didn't have any money. I had this cheap paperback one. I wanted a proper Bible, you know, with ribbons and all the cool stuff that Bibles have. And that was my first answered prayer. So amazing. And I remember the first time I went to church, how life changing it was for me to be in this environment of people, of all ages, different cultures, different races, men and women, young people, older people, worshiping the Lord together.

And this is what happens when we come to Christ, and we say, man, I'm never gonna go back to that other life again. This is the way I'm going to live. And from this point on it's blue skies, singing birds, sunshine, butterflies and maybe even a unicorn. I don't know, it's looking good. And then inexplicably you started having some issues. It was like you would take one step forward, and you would take two steps back, and you found you were falling into the same sinful patterns again. In fact, if you were to describe it, you might liken it to wandering in a wilderness, or being in a desert, listen, that can change if you want it to. And that's what we're about to look at together, because the book of Joshua is a story of the end of the wilderness, wanderings of the Israelites as they enter into the Promised Land.

It didn't take long to get from point A to point B, to get from Egypt to Israel. It could have taken a month, two months on the outside if they took their time. But 40 years? No, they're going around and around in circles, and they had everything they needed. God provided for them. He delivered them from the power of Pharaoh. They prayed that God would send someone to do so. And the Lord raised up Moses who led them out and the plagues came upon Egypt, and they were delivered, and the Lord gave them the coolest GPS system of all time, a fire by night, a cloud by day. So when the cloud moved, you moved. When the cloud stopped, you stopped. When the fire showed up and moved, you moved with it. And he fed them every day, this amazing substance called manna. It's described as the food of angels.

The Bible tells us it was sweet to the taste. And another verse says it was flaky like frost. It comes from the Hebrew words, "frosto flaco". You may have heard of frosty flakes, right? No, not really. But this amazing substance outside of their tent every single morning, they could scoop it up and eat it. They had everything they needed in life, but they soon began to complain against God, and take what he had given them for granted. And we do the same, don't we? We take these blessings of God for granted and we find ourselves in a wilderness. And so commenting on what this means to us, especially as believers living in the last days. Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 10, when he says these things happen to them. That's the Israelites as examples to us. They were written down to warn us, listen, who live at the end of the age.

So these words are for last days believers. And he goes on to say, "If you think you're standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no other from what others experience. But God is faithful. He will not allow that temptation to be more than you can stand. And when you're tempted, he'll show you a way out, so you may endure". Very important words. So these things are written for examples to us who are living in the end times, so we can learn about how to possess our possessions and how to win in this spiritual battle now. So we get into jocks where there's a lot of war in there, some bloodshed, some big battles that we see. And we wonder why is such a place given in the Word of God to a record of the military victories, and sometimes defeats of this army in the conquest of Canaan? Answer, because we too are at war.

Right now, we're in a big war. More than a political war, though it includes that. More than a cultural war, though it includes that as well. It's a spiritual war. It's been said, conversion has made our hearts a battlefield. In Ephesians 6, Paul says, "We're not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, against spiritual might in high places". As a modern paraphrase puts it, we're not in some weekend war that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps. It's a life or death fight to finish against the devil and his angels. So true. And we're living in a culture that opposes what we believe. In many ways, it's hostile to what we believe, especially as followers of Christ. And guess who else knows we're in a battle, and guess who else knows we're in the last days, the devil, because Revelation 12, speaking of the devil says, "He's come down to you in great anger knowing he has a little time".

The devil knows his days are numbered. Therefore, his objective is to wreak as much havoc as he can until that day. And we too, as Christians, knowing the Lord's return is near, should be doing as much good as we can, and reaching as many people as we can with the gospel until that day. So look, this is not a choice of fighting, or not fighting. You're either gonna fight, or you're gonna lose. You're either gonna gain ground, or you're gonna lose ground. You're either going to advance, or you're gonna retreat. Now, why did most of these Israelites not make it into the Promised Land? They focus their attention on the obstacles instead of their objective. When you fix your attention on the obstacles, rather than the objective fear will always eclipse your faith. It's up there on the screen. When you focus on the obstacles rather than the objective, fear will always eclipse your faith.

So you have a choice, you can go into the land, you can stay out of the land. Let's read what happens next. Joshua chapter 1, I'm reading verses 1 to 4 from the New Living Translation. "After the death of Moses the Lord's servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant". King James calls him Moses servant, "He said, 'Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I'm giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses. Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you, from the Negev wilderness to the south of the Lebanon mountains to the north, from the Euphrates rivers in the east to the Mediterranean Sea and the west, including all the land of the Hittites. No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you".

We'll stop there. Are those not powerful words? So if you're taking notes, here's point number one, to succeed in this spiritual life, you must overcome fear and admit you need help and lots of it. Look at how many times God tells Joshua to have courage. Verse 6, "Be strong and of good courage". Verse 7, "Only be strong and very courageous". Verse 9, "Have I not commanded you be strong and of good courage"? Don't be afraid. Why do you think the Lord said this so many times to Joshua? Probably because he was afraid. There are things that you're scared of. Are you afraid of something right now, is something terrifying you? Maybe it's a job you've been asked to do. Maybe you're starting your family. Maybe you just got married. Maybe there's some other thing that's frightening you right now, remember what God said to Joshua, Joshua 1:5, "I will not leave you or forsake you". Be strong enough, good courage. And that's his Word to him and it's his Word to us.

Jesus said, don't be afraid. I'm the first and the last I'm the living one. I was dead and I'm alive forever. I hold the keys of death in Hades. Don't be afraid. Says Jesus. Jesus also says, fear, not little flock for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Don't let fear cripple you. Paul wrote these words to a young and Timid Timothy in 2 Timothy 1 and 7, "I want to remind you to fan into flames your spiritual gift God gave you. For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So don't be ashamed to tell others about our Lord". My friend J.D. Greer put it this way and I quote, "Courage is the ability to keep going even when you can't see any progress, because you know that God is faithful".

Point number two, the way to succeed in this spiritual life is to be consistent, be consistent. Not just in the big things, but in the little things. Look at verse 1, "After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, it came to pass, the Lord spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses' assistant," that's pretty accurate, actually. That's New Living King James says, "Moses servant Joshua was like the executive assistant to Moses". I don't think he realized that he was effectively being groomed to become the one that would lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. It probably all assumed Moses would do that. But in fact, God was raising up Joshua, and he was a worthy successor to Moses. And it's just a reminder that God raises up new people. You know, people come and go on the stage. Our job is to be faithful in our generation.

Acts 13:36 is, "After David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors. After he had been faithful in his own generation". I have my generation and a new generation comes. One day you'll read maybe in the paper or news feed. I don't know if it'll make the news, Greg Laurie died. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment, I'll be more alive than I have ever been, Right? But I'm a realist. I understand death will come. I'm kind of hoping the Rapture will come first, Lord, are you listening? That, I prefer that mode of transportation, but whatever it is, my job is to serve the Lord faithfully in my generation. Then the Lord raises up another. That's what he always does. Some people think they're indispensable. Listen, graveyards are filled with indispensable people. So just serve God in your generation.

Now, God makes this amazing promise to Joshua verse 5: "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I'll be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you". And just as God was with Joshua, God is with you, okay? I love how Jesus says in Matthew 28, "Lo, I am with you even to the end of the age".

Okay, that brings me to our third and last point. If you want to succeed spiritually, you must know and keep the Word of God. Look at Joshua 1:8, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written". Underline, all that is written in it. "Then you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success". What God said to Joshua was unprecedented historically, up to this point. When God spoke to people, he spoke audibly to them. God spoke audibly to Noah and told him to build the ark. God spoke audibly to Abraham and told him to leave for a distant land he had never been to before. God had spoken audibly to Moses through a burning bush. But now the Lord says, I'm gonna speak to you through the book, and that is how God speaks to us today.

I'll be honest, when I talk to people that say God speaks to me all the time, I get a little suspicious. I'm not so sure, but I know this, he will speak to you through this book, right? Jesus said, "Low in the volume of the book. I have come, it is written of me". God will speak to you through the Bible. But what should I do? I should meditate in it, day and night, meditate in it. Now, what does that mean? When we use the word meditate biblically, we're not using it in the same way they might use it in eastern religions. For them to meditate is to empty one's mind and sit on a yoga mat wearing Lululemon clothes. I'm not sure what, but you know, that's not what we're doing. In the Bible. To meditate means to contemplate, to ponder, to consider these things.

Another way to translate the word meditate is to mutter, to mutter or to speak aloud. Sometimes it helps to read the Bible out loud, because you know, you can read verses and it doesn't penetrate your brain. Someone might say I read ten chapters of the Bible today. Really? Wow. What were they about? I have no idea. I'd rather read ten verses with understanding than ten chapters without it, right? So that's where meditation comes in. You think about it, you consider it and you hide it in your heart, you memorize it. The Bible says, "Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you". Don't tell me you can't memorize things. I can't, it's hard. You memorize lines from films, lyrics to songs, sports scores going back decades. And you tell me you don't have any bandwidth in your brain to memorize the Word of God? Of course you do.

And in Psalm 1, it says, "Blessed or happy is the man that does not walk in the council of the ungodly, Or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, or the Word of the Lord. And in it, he meditates day and night, notice, day and night, and he'll be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water. He'll bring forth fruit and his leave shall not wither". I memorized that when I was 19 years old and I still remember it today. It's a great place to hide God's Word in your mind and heart. You know, you can carry the Bible in your purse or your briefcase or your man bag. But I mean, what do they call those now? Immerse? I'm not sure what it is, but the best place to hide the Word of God is in your heart. Meditate in it, day and night. But that's not all, "You have to observe all that is written in it".

That's what the verse says, "Observe all that is written in it". It's not for you to pick and choose what parts of the Bible you like and throw out the ones, the parts you don't understand, or like, and some people do that. Well, I like the Bible. I like what God says about forgiveness, and love, and grace, and peace. I'm not so sure about what the Bible says about sexuality. I mean, this is our choice, and we can do what we want. It's my body. So if I'm pregnant and I want to terminate that pregnancy, my body, my choice. I'm sorry. That's in contradiction to what the Bible says. The Bible says that we're fearfully and wonderfully made, and that life begins at conception. That's another body now inside of your body, that has the right to live.

Well, I don't agree. Well, ok, you can say you don't agree, but you're going against what scripture says. I'm just saying this. Oh, we talk about sex. Well, you know, I don't really like the restrictions of the Bible on sex. You know, I wanna have premarital sex, extramarital sex. No, God created sex in marriage. The only place that he will bless it is in marriage. Anything outside of that is disobedience to him. Well, my God would not judge me. Well, you... I don't know who your god is but he's not the God of the Bible. It's getting quiet in here and I don't like that. If what I just said is controversial to you, something's not right. This should be an amen, of course, right, that's what the Bible says. Right, that's it.

Look, folks, this is a package deal. We don't pick and choose what parts of the Bible we like, like we're at some celestial salad bar. Jesus said you are my disciples, if you do whatsoever, I command you. And he says, and if you really love me, do what I tell you to do. So, it's as simple as that. He gives us his Word, we need the Word. And by the way, you never outgrow this. There doesn't come a point where you say, well, I don't really need to read the Bible. I've read it so many times. Okay, and besides, nothing ever changes in the Bible. That's one of the great things about the Bible, it doesn't change.

I love that. Unchanging truth in a constantly changing culture. I'm glad there's something I can believe in, and trust in, and live by. But haven't you found that certain verses of the Bible that you've read before, come alive to you in a whole new way when you read them again, depending on where you're at in life. So you read a Bible story when you're 18, it's different than when you're 68 or older or whatever it is. So that's why the Bible says, "His mercies are new every morning". And I can think of so many times I've been listening to someone preach and they'll say something. It's like they wrote that just for me. Has that happened to you? Yes, Greg. Not when you're preaching but others, yes. Okay. It's all good, but God will speak to you through his Word. This is the golden key of spiritual growth. This is a secret password that it will unlock any device. It will unlock your spiritual life. You say, what is it again? Reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on and obeying all that the Bible says.

Now I'll be honest with you. There are times I come to things in the Bible, it's not that I don't agree with them, I just don't like them. Example, forgiving someone that has hurt me. I don't wanna forgive them. I wanna get back at them. That's human nature, right? But the Bible tells me to forgive, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile. Oh really? But I have found that when I even do those things I'm uncomfortable with, I see the blessing that comes on my life as a result. So we need to trust God's Word. Jesus gave us what is called the parable of the sower. I feel like I'm gonna sneeze. Don't you hate that? It's just kind of lingering and it's coming. It's coming. No, no. Stay away.

Anyway, so the parable of the sower. A sower goes out and sows seed and back in those days, they just threw the seed out. So some seed fell on the road and the birds came and ate it quickly. Other seed fell on ground, embedded with thorns and it began to grow, but the thorns and the weeds choked it out. Other seed fell on shallow soil and shot up in the sun, but withered because it wasn't rooted. And some seed fell on good ground. And then Jesus said there in Mark 4, "The seed that fell on good ground represents those, listen, who hear and accept God's Word and produce a harvest". That's it. You hear it, you accept it, you believe it, you apply it. That's how you bring forth fruit in the spiritual life.

So let's wrap this up. What have we learned together? Number one, we found the golden key of spiritual growth is hearing, receiving and obeying the Word of God. Also, we discovered that we must overcome our fears and admit we need help and lots of it. And we also discovered we must be consistent in the spiritual life, be faithful with what God has set before you. Be faithful in the small things and God will give you greater things to do. Be faithful with your finances, be faithful in your marriage, be faithful in your singleness, be faithfulness in whatever you do, and you will find the blessing of God will come to you.
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