Greg Laurie - What Is the Meaning of Life?
I want you to know something. God doesn't just see a crowd. He sees individuals. You are not just a face in the crowd. Ma'am God loves you. You are not just a face in the crowd. He loves you. Sir he loves you too. That is right. He loves every person that is here. Hey girls he loves you. And guy sitting next to them he loves you too. And sir with the goatee he also loves you. He loves you very much. And young man he loves you as well. He loves you and he knows you. That wonderful couple there he loves both of you. God loves you and all of you folks there he loves you. He knows you. He cares about you. He wants to give you what you have been looking for in life.
What are we really looking for? We are looking for purpose. We are looking for meaning. Every thinking person gets around sooner or later to asking the big questions of life which are why am I here. What happens after I die? Why am I so empty inside? What is the meaning of life? Finally who let the dogs out? No. Nobody cares about that. But seriously we do think about those other questions. Well let me tell you something. I have met some of you but I don't' know most of you. But I know something about you even though we have never met. The reason I know this about you is the things I am about to say are true of every person. It doesn't matter if you are young or old, a man or a woman, if you live here in Atlanta. You live in Southern California. You live somewhere overseas. Wherever you are these things are true of every person.
1. Everyone is empty inside. Why is that? Because the way that God made us there is sort of a piece missing. Something that is not quite there and that sends us on a search from the very earliest days of our lives. Sort of a hole in our heart if you will. Do you know what the two top words are for late night Google searches? They are porn and lonely and suicide. Isn't that interesting? Porn. Lonely. Suicide. There is probably a link between those words by the way. That is what people are thinking about late at night. That is what they are looking into.
I read about an expert who spoke of the time we are living and he says we are living in an age of loneliness. The number of people you can depend on in a life crisis, he said, have been steadily declining since the 1950s. A large retail chain recently commissioned a survey of millennials trying to find out what they really thought and how to attract their business. After careful study of all of the time they spent online they came to this conclusion. There is a group of people here the millennials who have a lot of friends maybe on their Facebook page but actually there is an increasing sense of loneliness. Everyone is empty. Everyone is lonely. Listen to this. Everyone feels a sense of guilt.
The head of a mental institution in London said, "I could release half of my patients if I could relieve them of their sense of guilt". Let me tell you something. Feeing guilt is not always a bad thing. Guilt is a little bit like a smoke alarm. You want it to work if there is smoke. I have this alarm that is a little too sensitive. Maybe you have a sensitive conscience. If you do that is a good thing. If you say or do something that is wrong you feel bad. Great. Here is the problem. It is when you can say and do things that are wrong and feel no remorse. No regret. No guilt. But don't get to that place. You feel guilt because you are guilty, the Bible says in Romans 3, because you have sinned.
There is a universal fear of death. If we are honest deep down inside we are afraid to die. Maybe you think about it all of the time. Some people think they will live forever. I see the rolling stones are out touring again. They have a song they have been singing for years. "Time is still on my side". Have you looked at the stones lately? Not just Keith Richards but Mick Jagger now. Hey buddy. Time ain't on your side. I hope you found satisfaction. It doesn't matter if you are a rock star or if you are a movie star or whoever you are, one day death will knock at every door.
Bradley Cooper one of the top movie stars out there right now was named the sexiest man alive by People Magazine. I turned them down so they went over to Bradley. His father died awhile ago and so he was grappling with issues of mortality. It caused him to think about his own life. He said in an interview, "All right. I am going to die too. Here it is. It is not in a book. It is not in a movie. It is not in a story that was told to me. It is not driving by an accident or watching it on TV. It is someone you love dying in front of you. I was like OK this is death and this is going to happen to me one day". That is right. It is going to happen to you one day. It is going to happen to me one day. Listen to this. If you put your faith in Jesus Christ you don't have to be afraid to die because you will live beyond the grave.
Sin can be fun. OK. How many of you, a quick poll, have ever sinned? Raise your hand. You have sinned. Wow you are a wicked bunch of people here man. So glad you came tonight. How many of you have ever, now tell the truth, how many of you have ever had fun sinning? Raise your hand. You have had some fun. Don't leave them up that long. OK. Yeah we do have some fun. The Bible even says there are pleasures in sin for a time. But then there are the repercussions you see. I am sure jumping off of the empire state building would be a rush. The ultimate high. Until you hit the ground. That is a one way trip.
I want to tell you a story. Who wants to hear a Bible story? Raise your hand. I like Bible stories. I love stories that Jesus told. So Jesus told a story. Here is how Jesus presents God. He tells us a story about a father who had two sons. One of the sons came to his dad. I am going to loosely paraphrase and said dad I am sick of all of your rules and regulations. I am sick of living here with you. I want my portion of my inheritance coming to me now. I don't want to wait for you to die and have this estate divided. I want my money now. The father amazingly gave the boy the money he requested and off he went.
He went to some far country. We don't know where it was. Probably Las Vegas. And so off he was living with his so-called friends that joined him. Spent all of his money and came to the end of all of his possessions very quickly. I bet he was a popular guy when he blew into town with money. But when the money ran out the friends ran out with it. Everybody ran out on the prodigal. And so he took a job feeding pigs. He was so desperate the food he was feeding the pigs was starting to actually look pretty good. He hit rock bottom. He came to his senses. He thought this is insane. That is how sin works. You see sin promises freedom but it brings slavery. It promises success but it brings failure. It promises life but the Bible says the wages of sin are death. It promises pleasure but it ultimately brings misery.
This kid realizes life is empty. He sort of comes to his senses and says I am just going to go home and say dad I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I am just asking for a job. Just take me on as a hired hand and I will work at the ranch. I will do whatever you want me to do but at least I will have three square meals a day and a roof over my head. So he got his speech all worked out. I am going to say, "Dad I am sorry. I have sinned against you. Just take me on as a hired hand". He probably repeated that speech over and over as he is making his way back home again.
Sooner or later you are going to come to your senses and you are going to say this life I am living is crazy. You are going to realize everything that you want in life is back there in your Father's house. Your Heavenly Father's house. That is where you need to go. I am going to give you an opportunity to do that tonight. There has to be a moment where you stop blaming everybody else. We are so quick to blame. Well it is a problem with my parents or you know the problem is with my teachers or the problem is with my boss. The problem is with my wife or my husband or whatever. There has to come a moment where you say the problem is me. It is with me. I have to take responsibility for my actions. I have to admit that I have sinned. Listen. If you will fess up to your mess up God will clean your mess up. You have to admit that you are responsible and then you need to return home again.
You know I was searching for meaning in my life at a very early age. Probably because of the way I was raised. My mother was a beautiful woman. How else would I be so handsome? Okay. Thanks for laughing in my face. I mean really. No I meant it as a joke. My mom, I am not exaggerating was a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe. Incredibly beautiful woman. Married and divorced seven times. Lots of boyfriends in between. In fact I was the result in a little fling in long beach, California. I wasn't planned. That was my mom's life. She was a raging alcoholic as well. I had to grow up fast and kind of take care of her because she was well more like the child than the parent.
For me it was almost like a process of elimination. I thought okay I know the answer to the meaning of life is not found in my mom's lifestyle. It certainly isn't in my lifestyle. But where is it found? Well on my high school campus in southern California we had some very outspoken Christians who were not embarrassed to identify themselves as followers of Jesus. We very unaffectionately called them Jesus freaks. One of my friends warned me Greg stay away from the Jesus freaks. I said yeah as if Greg Laurie is ever going to become a Christian. Famous last words.
One day I was walking across my high school campus and I saw them sitting there on the front lawn singing their songs about God. So I sat down and watched them. I thought these people are collectively nuts. They are like one taco short of a combination plate. What is wrong with these people? Why would they do this publicly and talk about God like he is their next door neighbor. As I began to watch them I began to consider the fact that they may be right and I may be wrong. I tried a new thought on for size I had never considered before what if Jesus is real? What if he can be known? What if he can change my life? I quickly dismissed it. But that was the day that I gave my life to Jesus Christ. That was a long time ago. You know I looked at those Christians and I thought they were all nuts. Then it dawned on me it is not the Christians who are nuts. It is me. I am wrong. But they have found what is true and I need to find it as well.
That boy who thought his father was so restrictive with all of his rules suddenly sees that home he couldn't get far enough away from is a place he wants to return home to. A place of security and safety and fulfillment. Will you come back to your Father's house tonight? Some of you were raised in the church. You have been running from God. It is time to come home again. Some of you have never been in the church like me. This is the first time you are even hearing these words about how much God loves you. Will you come to him tonight and believe? I will give you an opportunity to do it in a moment.
Here comes the boy. He has been hanging out with pigs. He smells. He has probably aged a lot. He is probably a little bent over. He has kind of had to face the repercussions of his lifestyle choices. Meanwhile there is old dad probably sitting on the porch. Every day he would look down that road and long for the return of his son. Listen. How does God feel when we run away from him? God misses us because God loves us. God longs for our return. Here comes the boy. Probably practicing his speech. Dad I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Just give me a job as a hired hand. Dad I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
While the father sees him, here is what happened according to Luke 15. Jesus said, "When he was still a ways off his Father saw him. His heart pounding. He ran out, embraced his son, and kissed him the son started his speech. 'Father I have sinned against God. I have sinned before you. I don't deserve to be called your son ever again'. But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to his servants. 'quick. bring out a set of clothes that are clean and dress him and put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. then get a grain fed heifer and roast it. we are going to have a feast. we are going to have a wonderful time. My son is here. Given up for dead and now he is alive. Given up for lost and now he is found.'" They began to have a wonderful time". I love that.
I want you to notice something about the father he accepted the son as he was. Hey he could have been a few feet upwind of the boy and said whoa son where have you been. Go take a bath and then we will talk and make it a long one. No. The father threw his arms around him and accepted him as he was. Jesus says, "Come unto me all of you that are laboring and are heavy laden and I will give you rest". You say well I need to clean my life up and come to God. No friend. You need to come to God and he will clean your life up. He will do it for you. You come him as you are. Listen. God accepts us as we are but he doesn't want to leave us that way. What does he do? He says I accept you son. I embrace you son. Now go take a bath and get on some clean clothes.
I want you to notice also the father ran to the son. Do you know in that culture it was considered undignified for an older man to run. It just wasn't done. Not to mention it is harder for an older man to run. I know this from experience. When I was younger I used to run track and field. But oh man now I hate to run. I will walk but I don't like running. I have had runners say to me Greg hang in there. Just press on and wait for the release of the endorphins. I have never had a single endorphin released in my life. Maybe when I was eating but never when I was running. And if there is an endorphin here tonight please come introduce yourself to me before we are done.
So it wasn't done. Older men did not run. Because they wore these long flowing robes. So the father would have to pull the robe up above his knees. You girls know who wear these long dresses. He pulled the robe up above his knees and he sprinted to his son. The boy couldn't believe it. He is thinking the old man is so ticked off he can't wait to get his hands around my neck. No. The father wanted to get to his son as quickly as possible.
You know I told you that I was living in this broken home with my mom. So I spent time living with my grandparents. They would let me play at night. They would always say to me, "Now Greg get home before dark because supper will be ready". Get home before dark. So I knew as soon as those street lights went on I better get home. I am saying to you tonight get home before dark. You have been running from God. You have been putting this off. You think you have all of the time in the world. Friend you may not have that time. You don't know when life will end. For some of you this will be the last opportunity you ever have to get right with God. Don't let it slip by. This is your moment.
You never know when life will end. This is your moment to get right with God. Prodigal sons and daughters I am talking to you. People raised in the church. I am talking to you. Listen. You can go to church your whole life and never know Christ. Just because you attend church doesn't mean you are a Christian anymore than going into a garage makes you a car. Right. There has to be a moment where you ask Christ to come into your life. You can't live off of your parents' faith. You can't live off somebody else's faith. You, according to Jesus need to be born again which means spiritually born. Born in a new way.
Jesus told the story about a father who had two sons. I too am a father. I too have two sons. And like this story my son was a prodigal. In fact both of my sons were prodigals. My oldest son Christopher was raised in the church. He loved the Lord. But he went astray for quite a few years making some really bad decisions but he made a recommitment to Christ. He got married. He had a little daughter named Stella. Our first grandchild named after my grandmother by the way. Then another little daughter on the way. But tragically he was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 33. It was the worst moment of our lives. But we have hope because we are Christians and Christopher is a Christian that we will see him again in heaven.
That is what keeps us going in life. But Christopher had a younger brother. Has a younger brother. Because Christopher is still alive. He is just in a different place. And his younger brother's name is Jonathan. You met him tonight. Jonathan was the one who has been hosting tonight. So Jonathan was also in a prodigal mode. So here is Christopher who has been a prodigal making some bad decisions. He recommits his life to the Lord. But Jonathan is still in that bad place. Christopher says to Jonathan, "Jonathan what is it going to take for you to get right with God"? Jonathan wanted to have this conversation with Christopher the next day and that was the day that the Lord called Christopher home. July 24, 2008 at 9:01 in the morning.
It was that question of Christopher that sort of got Jonathan's attention. What is it going to take? Jonathan made a recommitment to follow Christ. Now he is serving the Lord. He is a pastor with our church. So hey if you have prodigal kids don't give up on them. I mentioned my mother. She was the classic prodigal. My mom had a serious drug problem. I didn't mention that. She had a drug problem because her parents drug her to church on Sunday morning and drug her to church Sunday night and drug her to church Wednesday night. And she didn't want anything to do with it so she ran away for most of her adult life. A beautiful woman. She got into an automobile accident. Barely survived it. Her beauty is now for the most part gone. By the age of 70 her lifestyle choices had taken their toll on her and she looked like she was 90.
One day the Lord just spoke to my heart and said go talk to your mom and have that discussion. I went over to her house and I said, "Mom today I "Want to talk to you about your soul". Understand we had had this conversation many times. She would always dismiss it by saying, "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it". That day I said, "No mom. Today we are going to talk about it". That conversation resulted in my mother the prodigal daughter recommitting her life to Christ. So that was great. How was I to know that one month later she would die. I thought she would live longer but her health was so poor. So here is my point. You either say yes or no. You either accept or reject. And to be quite blunt with you the result of that is heaven or hell. You decide where you will spend eternity. If you put your faith in Christ you can know with certainty you will go to heaven.