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Greg Laurie - A New Day Dawning

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    Greg Laurie - A New Day Dawning
TOPICS: Easter

So I heard about a man who went with his family on vacation to Israel, including his ever-nagging mother-in-law. Now, there's a lot of great mothers-in-law, okay? But this mother-in-law nagged a lot. And sadly, while they were in the Holy Land, she died. And so we went to a local undertaker, and he said, "I need to deal with this. How can... you help me ship the body back to the United States"? The man said, "Yes, it'll cost you around $5,000 to ship her body". But then the undertaker said, "But you know what? You can bury her here in the Holy Land for $250". What a great deal. And the guy says, "Oh, that's okay. I'll ship her back to America". The undertaker said, "Sir, I don't understand. She would be here in the Holy Land, the land of the apostles, the land of the prophets. You could bury her here for $250". And the man said, "Sir, 2,000 years ago, a man was buried here, and rose again from the dead. I can't take that chance".

Well, I have an announcement to make: Death died when Christ rose. In fact, Easter... yes, it's true. Easter is a day that death effectively died. And because Jesus died, I as a Christian will never die. You say, "Greg, you're in denial. You're gonna die". Oh, I understand that one day my body may go into the ground, unless the Rapture comes first, and the Lord calls me to heaven along with all you guys. But if that doesn't happen, yes, my body will go in the ground, but I'll never die, because my soul will live on, and one day there'll be a bodily resurrection. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die".

And when Jesus died and rose again, he rendered death powerless. The only way we're coming out of the grave is because Jesus was willing to go into it. Easter was the death of death. One person put it this way, quote, "Death used to be an executioner; the resurrection makes him just a gardener". That's the power of what happened when Jesus rose, and this was all God's plan. This came as a revelation of the disciples. They thought Jesus had come as a militant Messiah who would drive out the tyrannical Romans and establish the kingdom of Israel once again. But what they failed to see was he was gonna be the suffering Savior in fulfillment of Bible prophecies like Isaiah 53 that describes his death, and Psalm 22 that opens with the words, "They pierced my hands and my feet". They missed all of that.

And so when Jesus was crucified, it seemed as though everything was falling apart. It seemed as if the dream was turning into a nightmare, but in reality, everything was going according to plan, that is, God's plan. Because Peter, on the day of Pentecost, said in Acts 2, "This Jesus following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God". This was a deliberate, well-thought-out plan of God. Yes, for him to die, but also for him to rise. And Jesus spoke of this frequently. He brought it up, "I'm gonna die. I'm gonna rise again from the dead three days later". They kept missing this memo, and now we're gonna see how shocked they were, how surprised they were, how unexpected this event was, as we come to Matthew 28, starting in verse 1. I'm reading from the New Living Translation.

"Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke with the women, 'Don't be afraid! I know you're looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He's risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come and see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples he's risen from the dead, and he's going ahead of you in into Galilee. And you will see him there. Remember what I've told you.' The women ran very quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened and they were also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel's message. As they went," and I love this, "Jesus met them and greeted them there. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. And Jesus said, 'Don't be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.'"

Wow. See, here was the problem: The authors of the Gospels had never read the Gospels. They didn't know how the story ended. This was actually unfolding for them in real time. And I love this verse, verse 8, "They were very frightened and filled with great joy". Have you ever felt that way? Frightened and joyful at the same time? Sort of like riding on a roller coaster. You know, it's kind of exciting, and also kind of terrifying. I decided a long time ago, I hate all roller coasters. I don't even know if I liked them when I was a kid. But I got on them because, you know, my friends got on them, but I always remember, you know, going up to the big drop, and I would look down and see people on the ground, and I would think, "I would give anything to be with them right now instead of up here".

So it's kind of a combination of fear and great joy. There are things in life that are that way as well. For instance, the first time you buy a house or when you get married or when you have your first child, it's a combination of fear and great joy. For me, now, the biggest risk I'm gonna take is, "I'll go ahead and try that chef's special". That's the risk I'm willing to take. But we've all experienced fear and great joy. And as they're walking along, verse 9, "Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him". This is interesting because this phrase "met them" is a word that speaks of a common greeting, like "hi" or "good morning".

In other words, it was a common greeting of the day. If I were Jesus and I'd risen, my first words would have been, "Ta-da"! But that's not what he said, it was almost as though Jesus said, "Hey". Like if you're walking down the street and someone's walking in your direction, you say, "Hello, hi," you know? Or if you're in Hawaii, you say, "Howzit"? or "Howzit brah"? or "Aloha". And if you're in Australia, you'll say, "G'day". And if you're in the south, you'll say, "Hey". And if you're in New York, you don't say anything, 'cause you're rude, right? Okay, so, it's just the way it is. But it was a very kind of low key greeting, almost as if Jesus just said, "Hey". "What? Jesus, you're alive"!

It reminds me of a dream I've had more than once about my oldest son, Christopher, who's been in heaven for 14 years. And in my dream, I'm doing something with my family, and suddenly I turn and he's there. I'm so excited, I'm so overwhelmed with joy to see him, and I talked to him, but in my dream, he always is leaving, right? And so I wake up and I'm kind of excited and sad simultaneously, but Jesus was here. He wasn't leaving. He had come back from the dead again, and he was effectively picking up where he last left off. And he's being worshiped now. And why were they worshiping him? Because Jesus was God. He claimed to be God. And in fact, if he was not God, he would have stopped them from worshiping him. "Don't worship me, I'm not God". But he accepted their worship.

Reminds me of the time I was driving with two of my grandchildren, Ali and Christopher, and Ali was five and Christopher was three. He was in this little, you know, chair there, car seat in the car. So Ali said to Christopher, "Christopher, Jesus is God, and God is Jesus". And I'm driving, I'm thinking, "That's very good". And then she turned to Christopher, and she said, "And one day", or she said, "he lives in our heart, and one day he will live in our stomach". I thought, "Okay, we gotta work on that a little bit". He's not gonna live in our stomach, but she got the part about Jesus being God down. Yeah, so he was God. He accepts the worship of these people.

Now we shift gears and go to our second passage. Turn over to Luke chapter 14. This is one of my favorite stories in all of the Bible. Y'all know this story. Jesus, joining the two discouraged disciples on the Emmaus road. We read in verse 13, "The same day two of Jesus' followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along, they were talking about everything that had happened. And as they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him. He asked them, 'What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?' They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, named Cleopas, replied, 'You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn't heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.' And Jesus asked, 'What things?'" I love that, "What things"? Uh, hello?

But, he's sort of acting as though he doesn't know what they're even talking about. Have you ever taken a walk to clear your mind a little bit? I find that's a good thing to do. You know, you just want to think about something, and maybe you take a walk with someone, and you're discussing something intently as you're seeking to sort of resolve it or sort it out. You know, sometimes my wife will say, "I'm gonna go on a walk with some of my girlfriends". And I'll say, "Great, see you in three hours". She'll say, "Why do you say that"? I say, "Because you don't go on a walk, you go on talk, okay"? It's nonstop talking, and that's fine, there's nothing wrong with that. And so that's exactly what's happening here, these two disciples are walking, but they're talking. They're trying to understand what has happened to them, and who joins them? Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.

Did you know Jesus is walking with you too? Whatever you're going through, he's walking with you through it. He's interested in what you're facing. Of course, he knows all about it. If it troubles you, it concerns him. And Jesus asked them this question: "What are you discussing so intently as you walk along"? So now they find themselves in the unique position of telling Jesus about Jesus. And then they make this tone-deaf statement in verse 22, and it's been three days since this happened, and some women said, "Jesus is alive". It doesn't say this in the verse, but I wonder if Jesus rolled his eyes. Like, "Seriously? How many times did I tell you this, you guys? How many times did I tell you I would be betrayed, I'd be crucified, I'd rise again from the dead three days later, and you're literally saying it's been three days since this happened, and women said that I was alive, and you don't even understand what's taking place"? And then he calls them fools, he says, "Oh, you fools, slow to understand". And he takes them on a guided tour of all of those Old Testament passages that pointed to Messiah.

See, Jesus is in all of the Bible. He's in the Old Testament concealed, he's in the New Testament revealed. So he's saying, "Here's all those times when I made appearances in the Old Testament, all those times when the story was pointing to me, like when Abraham was willing to offer his son, Isaac, and there was a last minute reprieve from heaven. But remember what God said to Abraham, 'Take your son, your only son whom you love, and offer him to me.'"

And all those verses... and as he's telling them these things, they're thinking, "Man, this guy really knows the Bible. I mean, you'd think he was there when it happened". Yeah, getting closer, getting closer. They're beginning to stir, and then they come to the end of their journey, and they said, "'Would you stay with us?' And he sat down at a table, they took out a small loaf of bread and they prayed. And suddenly, they realized who he was. And he disappeared! And then they said," in verse 32, "'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road and while he opened the Scriptures to us?' And with reignited hearts, burning with hope they went back to be with the Christians in Jerusalem".

Luke 24:33, "Within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem, where the eleven disciples and the other followers of Jesus were gathered". You know, sometimes we wonder why our hearts grow cold as Christians. We wonder why we don't have the same passion that we had when we first became followers of Jesus Christ. Here's the answer: it's because we distance ourself from God by distancing ourselves from other believers. See, these two believers had separated themselves from the other Christians in Jerusalem. They wanted to put as much distance between them and that bloody cross as possible. They wanted to erase it from their memories, but any step away from the cross is always a step in the wrong direction. You want to run to the cross not away from it but they didn't understand it. And now, Jesus himself is helping them to understand.

You know, with this "Jesus Revolution" film, I've done a lot of interviews for it, and so many people have told me that they were so moved watching it, and so many people have told me they cried through the whole movie. And I asked them, "Why did you cry watching this movie"? And the answer is something moves them, and I think maybe it's a little bit of a flashback, to use a '60s phrase, to their earlier life as a follower of Jesus Christ, I think especially the baptism scenes seem to really move people, because it takes us back to where we were before. And one question I've been asked more than once is, "How can we keep the revival fire burning in our hearts"? And my answer is simply this: "If you wanna see revival, do revival-like things".

It's a little bit like marriage. If you've lost the romance in your marriage, go back and do romantic things. But instead, we say, "Well, we've lost the romance, time to trade him in on the newest model. Time to abandon the marriage, it's just not working". No, you can get your marriage strong and vibrant again. Don't wait for the emotion, just do the right things again. I mean, think about this: Guys, when you first took your wife to be out on a date, what did you do? Well, probably you actually wore clean clothes. You actually had a thought about your appearance, and then you went to the car and you opened her door for her to let her in the car, and then you went to a restaurant and you pulled the chair out for her to be seated, and then you even brought her a little gift. Remember that?

Now when you go out, you close the door on her when she's not all the way in the car. You pull the chair out in the restaurant, you just don't put it back in, and when she falls, you laugh and point at her, and the last gift you brought her was a lot of dirty laundry, okay? So, you need to get back and do what you were doing before. So take it over to the spiritual realm. If you wanna see romance in your marriage, do romantic things. If you wanna see revival in your life, do revival-like things. As Saint Paul said, "Get back, get back, get back to where you once belong".

Saint Paul McCartney, okay, never mind, so here are the three Rs of getting right with God. If your heart has grown cold, if you don't have the passion for Christ you once had, here are the three Rs of getting right with God from the book of Revelation chapter 2. Jesus says to the believers there, you know, "You're discerning, you're hard working, but I have this against you. You have left your first love. Remember," Jesus says, "therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the first works quickly". The three Rs are remember, repent, and repeat. So remember, go back in your mind and ask yourself the question: "Was there a time when I was more passionate about my relationship with God"? If the answer is yes, then repent. "Lord, I'm sorry, I've strayed from that". And then what? Repeat. Do the first works quickly.

What did you used to do when the fire for Jesus was burning brightly? "Well," you said, "I used to get up every day and read the Bible". Do you still do that? "No, I don't really". Go back and do that again. It's not rocket science. What else did you do? "Well, I used to pray. I prayed about everything". Go back and do that again. What else did you do? "Well, I used to look for opportunities to share my faith". When's the last time you engaged somebody in a conversation about Jesus Christ? "Well, I don't remember". Go back and do that again. And what else? "Well, I was in church every single Sunday". You see, this is the thing, these guys separated themselves from God's people. That's always a mistake. You know, sometimes people will say, "Well, God doesn't command us to go to church". Well, actually, he does. Because in Hebrews 10:25 it says, "Let's not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back is drawing near".

That verse does not say, let us not forsake meeting together unless it's a great day at the beach and there's a swell. Or let us not forsake meeting together unless you want to run in that triathlon or do something else. No, this is something I need to do. Oh well. You might say, you know, "I love the Lord, but I just don't love Christians. I just don't love the church". But wait a second, the church is the bride of Christ, okay? So if you wanna get on my bad side, insult my wife. We're the bride of Christ. "Well, the church is full of hypocrites". Yeah. "If I can find a hypocrite-free church, I'll join it". Please don't, you'll ruin it. Yes, the church is filled with flawed people like you and me, but Jesus has established a church. It's the only organization he ever started. And he said of the church that, "The gates of hell will not prevail against her".

So, how important it is for us to do that again! And I read an interesting study that was done about moms and dads who attend church regularly. The study revealed that 70% of their children would remain faithful in attendance if Mom and Dad both attended church. If only Dad attends church, 55% of the children would continue to attend. If only Mom attends church, 15% would remain faithful. And if neither attended regularly, only 6% remain faithful. Wow, see that? See how you influence your kids. See how you need to model that?

And notice it's not just Mom, it's Mom and Dad together. So if you're a mom and dad in church together today, I say God bless you, and thank you for the example you are setting. You're doing a great service, not only for the Lord, but literally for America. Because, really, every problem you see in America today is because we have abandoned God's plan for the family, and the family's been broken down and it's been redefined and it's under attack in every way possible. And when a man and a woman stay together and they're faithful to each other for a lifetime, and they raise their children in the way of the Lord, that's the most patriotic thing you could do for our nation right now, and I commend you for it.

So in closing, how did Jesus reactivate the hearts of these two discouraged disciples? He opened to them the Word of God, verse 32. He said, "Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us on the road, while he opened the Scriptures to us"? You see, they were discouraged, and maybe I'm talking to someone that's discouraged today. Maybe you feel down. Maybe you feel as though God has let you down. But, as the story shows, everything can change. God can take what seems like an end, and turn it into a new beginning. He can turn a failure into a victory. He can bring good despite the bad. As scripture says, "He can bring beauty out of ashes". And that is why Jesus died on the cross.

Again, it was God's well-thought-out plan, because there was no other way to satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God that we have all offended, because the Bible says, "We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". Every one of us break his commandments every day. We fall short of his standards. There had to be an atonement. There had to be a substitute. Someone had to stand in the gap, and the only one qualified to do that was Jesus himself, because Jesus was fully God and fully man, he was the God-man who died in our place.

And as he hung there on the cross of Calvary, all the sin of the world, all of your sin and all of mine, was poured on him. Jesus wants you to want him. He won't force his way into any person's life. He's waiting for you to invite him into your life, to join him on life's road. Yes, he will come in your heart. No, he will never come into your stomach, but he will change your life. But only you can open that door of your heart, so to speak. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and I knock. And if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in". And I wonder on this Easter if you've asked Jesus Christ to come into your life yet. And if you haven't, you can do that right here, right now.
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