Greg Laurie - Forgiven and Free
America needs a spiritual awakening. We need a revival. And California, oh yes, California needs a spiritual awakening as well. And it starts right here right now with us. What is a revival? We throw that word around a lot as Christians. We need a revival.
What is a revival? Well just use a different word. A restoration. You see a super cool classic car cruising down the road that is a revived car restored to original condition. We need to be the church that God wants us to be. The church of the first century turned their world upside down and we need to get back to doing that again by proclaiming the gospel and praying for a spiritual awakening. The church has two secret weapons. They are not protest and boycott, nor are they register and vote as important as that is. And I think every Christian should register and vote, but it's not our secret weapon. The secret weapons of the church are prayer and proclamation. Prayer and preaching. Praying for God to move and then getting the gospel out, and that's why we've been doing this for 29 years at the SoCal Harvest. But I want to have a prayer for our state and a prayer for our nation right now.
So I want you to grab your phone because we're going to use our phones together. Get your phone out and turn it to the flashlight feature. You know that feature I'm talking about. Turn your flashlight on. Oh, look at all those lights. I got mine on. I love that. Now, you see when we have a lot of lights it makes a difference. But you know, if there was only one person in this stadium with their light on, if it was a little bit darker we'd be able to see it. You know like when you go to the movies and they tell you "Don't use your cell phone" and there's that one obnoxious person, usually a guy, who is checking his texts at the most important scene in the film and it distracts you. Your eyes draw to the light.
My point is simply this: light shines brighter when things are really dark. Things are dark in our nation right now. Things are dark in our state right now. We need to shine the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ because Jesus says, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven". So I want us all to pray. Pray for our state, pray for our nation that God would work.
Listen, the last great spiritual awakening happened right here in California. It was called the Jesus Movement. The Jesus revolution. I pray God will do it again here in California. It's possible. This is an influential state. What happens in California influences the rest of the nation for better and for worse. Let's pray it's something for better tonight. So let's all pray. In fact, let's all stand up. Let's all stand up now. I know I told you to sit down, but now let's all stand up. Join me in this prayer.
Now Father, our Father in Heaven, our good good Father, we know that you like to bless us even more than we like to be blessed. And we know that you've told us in scripture that if your people, that's us, which are called by your name would turn from their wicked ways and call out to you in prayer then you would hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. Lord, we ask you to send another Jesus Movement to California. We ask you Lord, to send a revival, an awakening, to America. And Lord, let it start with us. Let it start with me. That each of us would walk with you as we ought to. Following you, turning from sin, living godly and righteous lives sharing our faith with others being an active part of a church, Lord. Let it start with us. This is our prayer to heaven for your blessing. And we ask this now in Jesus' name.
I'm so glad you're here. The title of my message tonight is forgiven and free, and it's based on John chapter 8. I'll be reading from the Bible in a few moments. You know, years ago my oldest son Christopher came home with a rat. No plan. No cage. Just a rat. He thought it would be a good idea to buy a rat, so he's got a rat on his shoulder like what prompted you to do that? He said, "Oh, I thought the rat was cool so I bought it". So all right. Well, we better get a cage, so we went and we got a cage and put the rat in there. I said "What do you want to name him"? He named him Nicodemus. That's a guy from the Bible. Nicodemus the rat. He even put the name of the rat over the top of the door of the little house.
And so we went to bed that night thinking it was so cool that Nicodemus the rat had his own little house there. We came back the next morning and the house was gone because Nicodemus the rat ate the house, and that's because a rat is a rat. You can't change the nature of an animal. The Bible even says, "Can a leopard change its spots"? And then we ask the question: can people change? Are we just the victim of fate? No matter what happened in life we have to deal with the hand that we've been dealt: and therefore, I have nothing to say about who I will be. No, I don't think that's true. People can change, but we can't change ourselves any more than a drowning man can save himself. We need someone else to save us, someone else to change us.
Sometimes we think well if I just change the outside I'll be different on the inside. But of course, that doesn't work. See, that's not going to change who you are on the inside. God can change you on the inside because you've tried to be a better person, you've tried to break free from the power of alcohol, you've tried to turn away from that lifestyle of drugs, you've tried to live that sexually pure life but none of it has really worked has it? Well that's because the problem is within. Some will say, "The answer is within". No, the problem is within. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
The Bible tells us the heart, who we are on the inside is desperately wicked, who can really know it. God can change our heart. I want to tell you a story about a girl that messed up big time. She got caught having sex with some guy and everything just blew up, and that's happening to so many men and women today with sex hook-up apps like tinder and pure. All you've got to do is swipe right and get yourself into all kinds of trouble. And then a girl finds herself pregnant and the first thing she might even consider or someone else might encourage her to do is go get an abortion. Abortion is never the right choice because you're taking the life of an unborn child made in the image of God.
This is personal to me because I was conceived out of wedlock as was mentioned in a video that played earlier. My mom had a fling with some guy in between husbands. She was married and divorced seven times and voila, I was conceived. I'm so glad my mom didn't go and get an abortion. I read a quote recently from Steve Jobs, of course, the founder of Apple. Probably made the phone you have in your pocket. He was put up for adoption because his mother got pregnant and didn't want to raise him so she put him up for adoption and a family took him in and raised him. And jobs said, "I wanted to meet my biological mother to thank her because I'm glad I didn't end up as an abortion". Yeah, that's true. You know, it's important to know.
You say, "Well, no Greg. You're wrong about this. Actually, life begins at birth". No it doesn't. Life begins at conception. In fact, the Bible tells us in Psalm 139, "Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth: all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared".
I have a new friend. His name is John. He told me an amazing story recently. His mother was date-raped by a man and she got pregnant, and then she ended up marrying this man who then abandoned her, but she had a son. She named him John. John went on to become a Christian and he went on to become a very successful businessman. But he is very thankful his mother carried him to term because his mother told him later when he was a bit older, "Son, if abortion had been legal I would've gotten an abortion". But thankfully she didn't make that choice. In fact, John is here tonight. And in fact, his name is John Cox and he's running to be the governor of California. So John, welcome. Glad to have you here.
But listen, girls get into trouble morally. We talked to Madeline Carroll. And you know, if Madeline wanted to allow Hollywood people to sexualize her and to objectify her she could've had a very successful second phase of her career, not a child star now, but a young adult and could've been known by everybody. But she made a choice, she made a moral choice based on what the Bible says. But this is a story of a woman who made the wrong choice and she ended up being caught by a bunch of religious people and brought and thrown at the feet of Jesus. You know, I don't know, girls, some of you may think that some guy is going to come and meet your deepest needs. You're putting all your hope in a relationship with a man. Some of you guys think a girl is going to meet your deepest needs. Look, there's a place for relationships. I'm so thankful to be married to a wonderful woman like Cathe all these years, but there's a hole deep inside of you that a man can't fill and a woman can't fill. Only God can fill it and it's a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
How many of you have heard of Marilyn Monroe? She died a long time ago, but she's become an American icon. She was called, in her day, the blonde bombshell and she lived such a tragic life. Marilyn Monroe, according to a new book that has just come out called the private life of a public icon, said that Marilyn was conceived out of wedlock. She spent the rest of her life searching for a father. She was involved with the succession of men, and in the end all those men let her down and she ultimately died of a drug overdose in 1962. The author of this book includes, "She put all her hopes in the men she was with. It's what she was looking for. She was looking for a father. She was looking for a Savior," and he says, "She was a lady born into turmoil and she spent the rest of her life looking to be saved".
Well she never was tragically that we know of. But the story before us in the Bible is the story of a woman who made bad moral choices but she was saved by Jesus Christ, and you can be saved by him tonight and forgiven by him regardless of what sins you've committed if you're a man or a woman. It's right here in John chapter 8. Let me read to you from the Bible. If you brought a Bible you can read along. I'm in verse 4. "'teacher,' they said to Jesus, 'this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?' They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him..". I love this part. "Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, 'all right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!' Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman".
This is an amazing story. Jesus saw all of these men that wanted to condemn this woman. He said, "All right, let the first one among you who is sinless throw the first stone". God among us, God with skin on, God had a face and it was Jesus. He knew everything about every one of these guys and he wrote something in the sand that made them leave from the oldest to the youngest. I wonder what he wrote. By the way, this is not the first time God's finger has written something. The Bible tells us that the 10 commandments were written by the finger of God. The Bible tells us that God wrote on the wall of a palace of king Belshazzar telling him that his days were numbered. So here we have the finger of God, Jesus himself, writing in the sand.
You wonder what he wrote. Maybe he wrote the 10 commandments of the law. "You shall not steal," then he looked up at one of those guys. "Caleb, that's you. You shall not lie," looked up at another guy. "You shall not commit adultery," looked at a few of them and they all had guilty consciences and they left from the oldest to the youngest. It could've been the 10 commandments that he wrote. Maybe he wrote their secret sins down. You know, some of us live double lives. We think we have everything covered up, nobody knows. God sees everything. God knows about everything that you say and do. There are no secrets with God. I can tell you that right now. You know, you can fool all of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool God any of the time.
Maybe you have a secret sin right now, God knows all about it. Maybe he wrote their secret sin, but whatever it was they left. They all left and now this woman is alone with Jesus and she's probably thinking "I am so dead right now". Oh, but no. That's not what was going to happen at all. In fact, she was with a perfect person. See, these religious men were sent away and Jesus had condemned her condemners and that is what he'll do for us. He'll drive away the devil. Listen, when you're not a Christian you can be manipulated by, controlled by, even possessed by the devil. Demon possession is still real today. There's nothing you can do to keep the devil away. You say, "Well, I'll wear a crucifix". Satan's not scared of crucifixes. You say, "Well, I'll wear garlic around my neck". That may keep your friends away, but it won't keep the devil away. The only power the devil fears is the power of Jesus Christ, you see.
But the devil condemned this woman because she was a sinner, and we're all sinners and the devil condemns us as well. But when we put our faith in Christ and we're forgiven of our sin, the Bible says, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". It's like you're in a courtroom and God the Father is the judge and the devil is the prosecuting attorney and your defense attorney is Jesus. So the devil gets up and makes his case. He says, "All right your honor, we have here Greg Laurie. You know, some people think he's a wonderful guy, but I know a few things about him and I'm going to tell you everything that Greg has ever done wrong". And he starts reading off a list, and he's reading all these charges.
Two months later, he's still reading and reading. I'm thinking I'm so dead. I'm not getting out of here alive, and I look over at my defense attorney Jesus. He's just like doodling on a tablet like "What are you going to say? What are you going to say to defend me"? He doesn't seem worried. I'm thinking I'm the one on trial. Why isn't he helping me? He doesn't object. He just listens. Finally, the devil is all done. He says, "So this man Greg Laurie has broken your commandments, your honor. He's sinned against you, and your own word says a soul that sins shall surely die. So I think he should be condemned to death. I rest my case". And he sits down. Smug look in his face.
I say, "Jesus, what are you going to do"? He says, "Don't worry, Greg". He says, "Your honor, permission to approach the bench". The judge says, "Permission granted". Jesus walks right up to the front, leans in and says to the judge, "Hey dad... We both know Greg is guilty as charged. But we also know I already paid the price for all of his sins" and the judge says, "That's right". And he pounds down that gavel, and he says, "Case dismissed. This man is forgiven". Only Jesus Christ can do that for you and forgive you of all of your sin.