Greg Laurie - The Plot Thickens

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All right, well let's grab our Bibles, and we're in the book of Esther. I want you to turn to Esther chapter two. Esther chapter two, and the title of my message is The Plot Thickens. Let's pray together.

Now, Father, we're so thankful to be your children because of the blood of Jesus that was shed for us at the cross of Calvary. We pray as we visit this story again and look at this heroic young girl that we will be inspired, both men and women, to make our stand and speak up for what is right. Help us to see how this applies in our life We commit this time of Bible study to you now. In Jesus's name we pray, amen.

Well you know a lot has been said and rightly so about Billy Graham and his life and his legacy. Many leaders have been paying tribute to Billy at the funeral service: The President was there, the First Lady, the Vice President, his wife, other dignitaries, well known people. And I've read columns written by Christian leaders applauding Billy, celebrating Billy, and that's all great. But you know the greatest tribute you can pay to Billy Graham is just do what Billy did. And what did Billy do? When it was all said and done, yes, he was a chaplain to presidents, and, yes, he was an influential leader; but, really when it was all said and done what Billy did was he shared the gospel and he invited people to Christ.

That's what he did. That's what we all need to be doing. That's why we're committed to crusade evangelism through Harvest America on June 10th, and the SoCal Harvest, and other things that we do; we're always looking for those new opportunities to bring the gospel to people who have not heard it before. You know I was with Billy once and I asked him if he had any regrets in life, and he said, "Yes, inviting you to come with me". No, he didn't say that. He should have. I really pestered him a lot. It was always questions, questions, when I was around him. So I said, "Billy, do you have any regrets"? He says, "Yes, I have a regret". He said, "I was at the prayer breakfast in Washington D.C.," National Prayer Breakfast is what it's called. This is when President Kennedy was in office, and Billy spoke and afterwards the president said, "Billy, I would like you to ride with me back to the White House, I have something I want to talk to you about". Billy was very sick; he had the flu. He said, "Mr. President, I would love to, but I'm afraid I would give you what I have. Maybe we could get together at another time and have that discussion". The president agreed, and shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Billy says, "I always regret that I didn't take that ride with the president and talk to him".

You know there are strategic opportunities that come in life, that drop in your lap. It's up to you what you do with them. And we're looking at an extraordinary life of a woman named Hadassah, better known as Esther, who put it all on the line when push came to shove. God puts Billy on this earth for a purpose. I think he fulfilled it beautifully, and now he's gone on to his reward in heaven. Listen, God has put you on this earth for a purpose, too. He's put all of us where we are for such a time as this. Now you can find and dedicate your life, find that purpose and dedicate your life, to the glory of God, or you can ignore it and chase after the empty promises of this world. It's really your choice, but the book of Esther is about how God placed the right woman in the right place at the right time and she saved the Jewish people.

A.B. Simpson, no relation to Homer, said, "God is preparing his heroes. And when the opportunity comes, he can fit them into their places in a moment, and the world will wonder where they came from". Isn't that a great statement? Did it ever occur to you that you could be one of God's heroes? And God is equipping and preparing you for something yet again for such a time as this. We're always trying to get out of the situation we're in, or the circumstances we're in, or maybe a relationship we're in, and maybe there's a place for that; but, then there's also the recognition that God is in control of our lives.

Now, let's pick up where we last left off. King Xerxes, the ruler of the mighty Persia, put on a six month feast. Man, that is one long party. And the drinks were on the house, and the food, too. The king was flaunting all of his wealth and his power and his bling, and I think there may have been an ulterior motive for Xerxes because according to history we know on the heels of this feast he mounted a large scale invasion of Greece. Maybe he was buttering the people up, getting them ready for this big battle that was ahead, and sort of saying to them, "Hey, check out all of our cool stuff, and all of our power. Man, you're on the right time, so I hope you're going to back me on this". Because in attendance at this great feast were all of the leaders of Persia, because it was a far flung empire.

So the king waited to bring out his crown jewel, the piece de resistance, the beautiful Queen Vashti. So he gave the order, "Tell Vashti to come out, and make sure she wears her crown". Vashti gets the word, she says, "I'm not doing it". Now some commentators as they pointed out believe maybe the implication is the king said, "Tell Vashti to come out wearing only her crown," in other words not her clothes sort of to display, even flaunt her, before the others. But even if that's not the case, clearly he was treating her more like an object. Look at my awesome wife. Look at my hot wife, my trophy wife. Don't you envy me? Look at how powerful I am. Vashti wasn't going along with the program, and the king was really embarrassed by this. So his aides came to him and said, "Man, you cannot let this stand. You cannot let your wife get away with this, because if you do we'll never hear the end of it at home. Our wives will be saying, 'Well I'm not gonna do what you want. Queen Vashti didn't do what the king wanted.' You've got to get rid of her and throw her out and remove her crown".

Now, why did the king go along with this? The answer is found in Esther 1:10: On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine. Loose paraphrase, he was drunk as a skunk, and when you're drunk you say and do stupid things, right? That's why the Bible warns us against drunkenness. It tells us in Ephesians, don't be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. The Bible also tells us in Proverbs 20, verse one: wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by them is not wise. You know, having been raised in an alcoholic home and seeing what alcoholism does, I can't think of one good thing I've ever seen that has come out of drinking. But I can see a lot of bad things, so I have a revolutionary thought for you all to consider; don't get drunk. How about that, don't get drunk. Now here's another... I'm glad you agree. Some don't agree. I don't know about that. It ain't strong. Yeah, right.

And here's another revolutionary thought: If you don't drink, you won't get drunk. Ah, there it is. So King Xerxes was drunk, and apparently he was one of those mean drunks. Some people when they come under the influence of alcohol get very angry and violent, and that was the king, so he dismisses Vashti. Now after this he goes out and leads his army into battle against Greece, and he was humiliated, and he returns to the kingdom. Now he's lonely; he misses Queen Vashti. Now, he had a harem, okay. He had a lot of women. He'd snap his finger, snap his fingers, and a woman would be there, but apparently the king wasn't satisfied with just sexual pleasure; he wanted love. He wanted a companion. He wanted someone that actually cared about him. The king wanted a queen. So he decided that he was going to find that queen somewhere in his kingdom.

Now I know as we hear the story, it's not a very spiritual story. You have a pagan king with a harem full of women who fires his queen and now he wants a new queen, and we're saying, "How could God work in a situation like this"? Well the fact is God was working. One thing to consider, if Queen Vashti had been in power when Haman hatched his wicked plot to exterminate the Jews it is very unlikely she would have protested. So God had to get the right woman at the right place at the right time, and that woman was the beautiful young Esther. So the king says, "I need a queen," which just shows that God's in control. God's in control of kings and queens and prime ministers and presidents. The Bible says that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, and he guides it wherever he wants it to go.

So the message goes out to the massive kingdom of Persia that the king wanted a queen. If this was happening today, no question it would be a reality show, right? So the word went out and all these girls apply. The ancient historian Josephus believed there was 400 contestants, and these girls had to be virgins. They had to go through an extensive makeover. They had a team of stylists there that would do their hair, makeup, and help them become as appealing as possible to the king. And then the winner would be chosen to be the queen, and that's where we pick up our story of Esther chapter two. Drop down to verse five and let's read together. Now at the fortress of Susa there was a certain Jew named Mordecai, son of Jair. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. His family had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, along with King Jehoiachin of Judah, and many others. This man had a beautiful and lovely young cousin named Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter. So we'll stop there.

So standing out from all of these gorgeous Persian women is the beautiful Jewish girl named Hadassah. She was an orphan adopted by Mordecai, so he became a father figure to her. Most likely her aspirations of life would have been to marry a nice Jewish boy, raise a family, serve the Lord, and live in relative obscurity, but God had another plan for Esther for such a time as this. Reminding us that there are no coincidences in our life, only providence. No coincidences, but providence. And what does providence mean? Remember, it means to see ahead of time. God sees what's coming. He sees it in detail. So he knew exactly what was in the future, and he was getting Esther ready.

Now she was a gorgeous girl. We know that because Esther 2:7 says now the young lady was beautiful of form and face. There's two Hebrew words that are used here. One is hote and the other is chicketo. It translates to hot chick. This is true. No, I made that up; I made it up completely. She was, she was a hot chick to put it in vernacular. Gorgeous, drop dead, like wow! But the thing about Esther, it's not just that she was beautiful on the outside; she was also beautiful on the inside. You know there's so much emphasis put on girls today to be attractive, and a lot of this is driven by social media. I read that plastic surgeries are at an all-time high right now because people actually want to look in real life like they look in selfies. You know when you take a shot of yourself, or a picture's taken, you have these filters that you can get from these apps. You can make yourself taller, thinner. You can change yourself, well, into someone that actually doesn't exist.

People go to a cosmetic surgeon saying, "Make me look like this," and all that emphasis. Oh I have to lose weight and I have to appear a certain way, and all the women's magazines out there only support that. I subscribe to quite a few of them. Here's my favorite: Woman's World. I don't subscribe, but here's the latest issue. Here's an article on growing thicker hair. I'm gonna read that later. Lose eight pounds a week eating slimming cereal! I kinda like that. Natural pain relievers. Sleep Better! Erase the signs of aging. Here's Glamour. Spring fashion and beauty, what's next? Next level makeup skills. Sex without shame. That's the kind of things you see in these magazines. They promote immorality. So I was really shocked when I came across the latest cover of Vogue Magazine. It says, "Queen Esther on doing what's right". Look at these things. I'll put it up on the screen. Here it is on the screen, check this out. Here's what's in this issue: The value of virtue. How the daily study of scripture can help you grow spiritually in your journey. 20 scriptures on how to have a better marriage and be faithful to your spouse. Vogue Magazine.

How many of you believe this is real? It's not real people. We made it all up. I had our graphics department mock this up saying, "Wouldn't it be cool if this was out there"? but it's not out there. 'Cause you never would see that on the cover of a women's magazine or any magazine. 20 scriptures on how to have a better marriage and be faithful to your spouse; are you kidding me? They encourage adultery. They encourage pre-marital sex. They even encourage abortion. Oh my goodness, what a contrast. But here was this secular environment all about outward appearance. And you know Esther was so gorgeous she fit in and even surpassed many of the beauties, but she had that inner beauty and the king took note of it. You know the Bible does not condemn a girl being attractive. I think some people think, "No, I just need to be plain for God's glory". Really? You know sometimes the question is asked, "Should Christian girls wear makeup"? Hey, my response is if a house needs painting paint it. You may need a little brush. You may need a roller. I don't know what kind you need. You go girl! Be the best version of you that you can be.

The Bible doesn't condemn a girl dressing attractively. Esther was attractive. The woman of Proverbs 31 is commended for her attractiveness. Proverbs 31 talks about the beautiful clothing the woman is wearing. That is all fine. Here's what the Bible is critical of: only focusing on the outside and neglecting the inside; that's the focus. It's good to have the outside attractive as it can be, but you want to be godly on the inside. 1 Timothy 4:8 says physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for the present life and the life to come. Then over in 1 Peter 3 from the New Living Translation it says: don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. So here's the point, don't make that your primary focus, but on the other hand don't neglect it all together. Okay, just find the balance. Because Jesus said, "Don't be like the nonbelievers. All they think about is what they're gonna eat, what they're gonna drink, what they're gonna wear. But you should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you".

Put God first in all things and have inner qualities, and if you're a girl inner beauty, as well as who you are on the outside. So all of the beautiful woman of Persia are paraded before King Xerxes and he chooses Esther. Look at Esther 2, verse 16. Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter on the seventh year of his reign, and the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he sat the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti. God was at work. Now if this was a fairy tale it would end right here. Poor little girl becomes the queen, and they lived happily ever after. But this is not a fairy tale. This is a Bible story, and Bible stories are true; they're history.

So here's what happened after that, the plot thickens. As Esther was made queen, her cousin Mordecai was made a counselor to the queen. Mordecai made Esther promise him that she would not reveal her national identity. In other words, she was not to say to the king or anybody else that she was a Jewish girl. Now if that was good or bad we'll deal with in a couple of moments, but that's the way it was and she went by that. One day Mordecai uncovered a plot by two of the king's guards to kill him. He revealed it to the king, the guards were arrested, they were executed, and he was never rewarded for that or acknowledged for that. You know that happens in life sometimes doesn't it? We do something for someone and we don't get the credit. Maybe it's your idea and someone else stole it, and they got all the glory for it. Or at your workplace you choose the path of honesty and integrity and you don't advance, while the person who chose dishonesty and scheming did advance, and you're saying, "This isn't fair, it's not right".

Well, hold on now buckaroo. It's not over till it's over. As we're gonna see in the book of Esther how things played out in the big picture, because among other things the book of Esther is about reaping what you sow, both good and bad. Not only was Mordecai not recognized, but a wicked man was elevated instead. Enter the villain of the story, Haman. Let's go to Esther chapter three, verse one. Sometime later King Xerxes promoted Hama son of Hammedatha the Agagite over all the other nobles, that would include Mordecai, making him the most powerful official in the empire. All the king's officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by because the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect. Now Haman probably fawned and flattered his way to this position, and the command is given by the king, "You'd better bow down before him". This is a very insecure man. This is a very ambitious man. Because if you're a good leader people will follow you naturally. If you have to yell at people all the time or force them to do what you want, you're not a good leader. So Haman, "You'd better bow down before me and show me some respect"!

So everyone's bowing, bowing, bowing, and there stands old Mordecai, "I'm not bowing". Haman sees him and says, "Well why aren't you bowing"? "I won't bow before you". Now you say well why was this? Well it's interesting because there was sort of a blood feud between Haman's clan and people and Mordecai's clan that goes back a long ways. It's found in verse one. King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Now we read that and it doesn't mean a lot to us, but back in 1 Samuel is the story of King Saul. He was told by the prophet Samuel to kill the Amalekites. They were the lifelong enemies of the Jews. In fact, the Amalekites had attacked Israel after they left Egypt, so that's how far back this feud went. Saul partially obeyed the prophet. He killed most of the Amalekites, but he allowed Agag their king to survive, and the Agagites were the descendants of Agag. Haman was an Agagite, and Mordecai was a Jew. So Mordecai is so ticked off that Haman won't bow before him he decides not only is he gonna die, but all of his people are gonna die.

This is payback time. It's sort of a precursor to Hitler's final solution. Anti-Semitism, let's destroy the whole Jewish race and wipe them off the face of the earth. Haman goes to the king was his wicked plot, and amazingly the king goes along with it. Says, "Yeah, okay, go ahead and wipe them out," because Haman promised the king a bunch of money in return. We'll get into that next time. But incredible turn of events, and a lot more to discover in this book, and we'll get to that later. But let's bring this message to a close with three takeaway points. What do we learn from what we've seen so far? Number one, when God tells you to do something, do it. God told Saul to destroy the Amalekites including their King Agag. He didn't do it. Now Haman is a descendant of that man and Mordecai is dealing with it years later.

You know sometimes the Lord will speak to our heart, and he'll tell us to break off a relationship with someone that's pulling us down spiritually. Do you know someone like that? Someone that whenever you're around them they just pull you down. Or worse yet, you're the person pulling someone else down. I just saw a wife nudge her husband. I'd like to know what's going on right there. See I have eyes, I can see you. I don't know if you know that. I see everything. I see it all, yes. Maybe it's giving up something that's taking over your life. Something you regarded as an innocent pleasure that's now becoming something of an addiction. It could be a substance, alcohol, drugs, but it can be other things that you just become obsessed with and that thing or that pursuit is becoming more important to you than God. Maybe it's the Lord speaking to your heart and telling you to take a bold step of faith and do something you've never done way out of your comfort zone. Start that little Bible study at work with just you and a couple of friends and see what the Lord will do. Go engage that person that seems so hostile with the gospel. Whatever it would be. If the Lord tells you to do it, do it.

Coming back to King Saul, the prophet Samuel said to him in 1 Samuel 15, "What is more pleasing to the Lord your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to God"? He said, "Behold to obey is better than sacrifice". In other words, Saul said, "Well I'll offer these offerings. It'll be okay". No, God told you to do something and you didn't do it. Sometimes we'll say, "I'll go to church to a midweek service this week and I'll give a little more in the offering. I'll receive communion," whatever it is. You think some little thing, some ritualistic thing, is gonna take the place of what God really wants from you which is your obedience? Point number two, God gives gifts and talents to each of us that we need to use. God gives gifts and talents to each of us that we need to use. For Esther it was extraordinary beauty. Not everybody is extraordinarily beautiful or incredibly handsome.

Let's just deal with reality. Some are given these abilities, some are not. I've had to struggle with this my whole life. You're laughing, gee, that kinda hurts. No, I meant that as a joke. Maybe one of the down sides of being beautiful as a child or a young lady, an older lady, a young man, and so forth, is people always comment on your attractiveness. "She's so beautiful". "You're so handsome". And you know they hear that, and some of the people sometimes can end up being rather shallow because they always kinda got to the front of the line and had some advantages early on. God wants us to develop the inner person, too. I've never shared this before 'cause it sounds kinda prideful, but I was offered a very nice modeling contract. I was actually. It was a hand modeling contract. Did you know there are hand models? So I was contacted, "Could we use your hand on the cover of our magazine"? I quickly agreed until I found out the name of the magazine, Old and Decrepit. That was very depressing. I made that up.

Okay, so Esther had inner character to match her outward beauty, and she had great courage as we'll see soon. But maybe you have another gift given to you by God. It's not necessarily beauty, but it's brains, or musical talent, or artistic talent. Then again you might be good at crunching numbers. One is a great visionary, but not very good with the nuts and bolts. Another is a detail person. We can't have all visionaries running around, and we can't have all nuts and bolts people running around. Everybody plays a part. Everybody has a role to play. And everyone of you has talents and gifts that are given to you by God that you must discover, cultivate, and use for his glory. We're told in 1 Timothy 4:14, "Don't neglect the gift that has been given to you," or as another translation puts it, "Keep it dusted off and in use". Use your gift.

Recently we asked many of you to start serving here at Harvest. 1800 of you responded, so well done. Okay so that's good. But only 800 showed up and did it, so there's like 1000 out there we need to reengage. Okay, you guys that said I'll do it, do it. We still want you to serve, and I promise you it'll be a great blessing to you as well. You might say, "Greg, how do you discover what your gift is, or your gift are"? As I pointed out before, sometimes it's literally through a process of elimination. Walt Disney, you've probably heard of him, quite a visionary himself used to tell the story about a little boy. As the story went, a circus came to town, and they were gonna have a parade. The bandmaster needed someone to play trombone, so the little boy signed up. They hadn't marched a block before the horrible racket coming from his horn caused two old ladies to faint and a horse to run away. So the bandmaster went to the boy and said, "Why didn't you tell me you couldn't play the trombone"? The little guy said, "Well how did I know? I never tried before".

Sometimes finding out what you're good at requires you finding out what you're not good at, so you volunteer. Volunteer for that job nobody else wants and say, "I'll do that". Okay, maybe that's not my gift. Ah, but another area develops. Trust me when I tell you I never aspired to be a public speaker. Like most people, I was afraid of speaking in front of crowds. I remember a class I had where I had to get up and give an impromptu speech, and I almost had a heart attack. I got an F in that class by the way. I liked to work behind the scenes. I was more into design and graphics and things like that. But when I became a Christian God put a call on my life to speak publicly. I fought it. I didn't want to do it. But it was something I was sure the Lord called me to do. Maybe it was because I finally had something to say. You know if God calls you to do that or something else, we want to take these gifts and use them for his glory. But it might be something unexpected God will call you to do.

Point number three, and the last point, there's a time to speak up and a time to be quiet, or shut up. Verse 10, Esther 2. Esther had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, for Mordecai had told her not to. Now was this right or wrong? It can be argued both ways. Some would say she should have identified herself as a Jew, and by not doing so she was effectively compromising her faith. There's some merit to that argument, but there's some flaws in it as well because sometimes you should speak up, and sometimes you should be quiet. In the words of the great theologian Kenny Rogers, some of you don't even know who he is. He's a country singer from a long time ago, and he had a song, the Gambler I think it was called, and the line was, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away". You gotta know when to hold 'em. Okay, okay. Also, I'm not a singer, that's clear as well. But you see, you have to know when to speak up and know when to be quiet.

It seems sometimes some people almost speak up too much. You might be surprised hearing me say that as a pastor and an evangelist. Yeah, you speak up too much. I've seen some Christians like it's overkill. Everybody they talk to they feel they have to give a complete gospel presentation to. It's this constant drone, and that is not the best way to do evangelism. Sometimes one of the best things to do to engage that nonbeliever is just listen to them for a while and get to know them a little bit better. But then when the Holy Spirit prompts you to speak up. But some people are always talking, talking, but the problem is they don't back it up with their lifestyle. That was one of the great secrets of Billy Graham is he was a great preacher, but he also was a great Christian and he backed it up with personal integrity. He loved his wife. He loved his children. He was a humble man, so that even gave him greater effectiveness in his ministry because he never contradicted it in his lifestyle.

You wanna live that godly life. I'm telling you, it's a huge plus for the church when Christians just go out there and they're faithful to their spouses, and they keep their marriages together. And if they're a single person that they don't have sex before marriage and they work with integrity and they work hard. That's a great testimony. Do that! Be that! But then when the moment comes, speak up. And we have to give credit to Esther, she delivered when it was needed. She put her life on the line and spoke up for her people and as a result saved the nation. Yes, she saved the Jewish people, and they needed to be saved because Haman hatched a plot where they would all be exterminated.

Why did Haman want to kill all the Jewish people? I think this is bigger than Haman. This is about the devil. The devil wanted to kill them, why? Because the devil knew that through the Jewish people the Messiah would come. How did he know that? Because way back to the Garden of Eden after our first parents ate of the forbidden fruit, and God said to Satan, "There's coming one who will crush your head, but you will bruise his heel". So the devil knew that Jesus was coming, Messiah was coming, and he would come as a Jew, so he tried to stop Christ from coming. He inspired the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, to kill all those Jewish baby boys. He inspired Haman to come up with this plot to eradicate the Jewish race. Then later on he entered the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Christ and to help orchestrate the crucifixion. But you know what? It was all according to God's plan, because Messiah had come to this earth, yes to love us, yes to teach us, but ultimately why did Jesus come? He came to this earth to die for our sins. Because we've all sinned.

Satan failed and Christ succeeded. He voluntarily laid his life down for us at the cross of Calvary and took the wrath of God on himself as he hung there in our place, and then he rose again from the dead, and he's alive. Now he stands at the door of each heart and he knocks, and he says if you'll hear his voice and open the door he will come in. Jesus asks us to do something for him, and I think we should always do what he asks. He said, "Would you do this in remembrance of me"? What? He was with his disciples in the upper room for what would be the last Passover they would celebrate, and he took out the bread and he broke it and he said, "This is my body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me". Then he took the cup representing his blood and he said, "Drink this for this too represents me". And he asked us to remember him through what we call communion, or the Lord's Supper, the breaking of bread, the drinking of the cup.

So we're going to do that right now. We're going to receive communion together as a family. And I underscore the word family, because that's what the church is; we're a family. Have you ever gone over to a friend's house and they're in the middle of a family discussion and you go, "Oops, I'll come back later". This is for the family only. You say, "Well how do you get in this family"? You have to be born into this family. "Oh, you mean raised in a Christian home"? No, not at all. You need to be born again as Jesus said, a spiritual rebirth. Anyone can join the family of God. The Bible says for as many as received him, he gave them the power to become children of God. So you receive Christ into your life. When we hold these elements in our hand they represent the body of our Lord. They represent the blood of our Lord.

And the Apostle Paul warns us in the book of 1 Corinthians to not take of these elements in an unworthy manner, which means loose paraphrase, don't receive communion if you don't believe in Jesus because if you do you're effectively eating and drinking damnation to yourself. What does that mean? It means don't think a ritual will help you with God. Coming back to old Saul the king. Oh I'll just offer these animal sacrifices. Samuel's like, "Please, God doesn't want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him". So you don't want to receive the elements of communion without believing in the one that the elements represent. You want Christ living inside of you. You say, "Well he doesn't, so I'd better not receive communion".

Here's another thought, why don't you accept Christ right now? Doesn't that take a long time to become a Christian? Actually no. It can happen just like that. He's just a prayer away. So before we distribute the elements of communion, I would like to extend an invitation for you to believe in Jesus Christ, and then you can join us for this time as we worship the Lord. Let's all bow our heads and pray.

Father, I pray now for any person here that does not yet know you. Lord Jesus, I pray that your Holy Spirit will convict and convince them of their need for you and help them to come to you and believe in you now we would pray.

Now while our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying together, how many of you would say today, "Greg, I need Jesus. I want to know him. I want my sin forgiven. I want to go to heaven when I die; pray for me". If that's your desire, if you would like Christ to come into your life, if you would like your sin forgiven, if you would like to be a child of God, I want you to raise your hand up wherever you're sitting, and I'm gonna pray for you. If you want Christ to come into your life let me pray for you today. Raise you hand up and I'll pray for you today. Just raise it up high where I can see it saying, "I want Jesus Christ. I want him to come into my life. I want to go to heaven when I die; pray for me". God bless you. Raise it up high where I can see it, I'll pray for you now. God bless you. God bless you. Anybody else, raise your hand up. God bless you.

Now some of you are watching this screen right now, and obviously I can't see your hand, but the Lord sees. Maybe you'd raise your hand up right now, let me pray for you. You want Christ to come into your life. You'd take this step. All right, for all of you that have raised your hand, I want you to pray this prayer out loud after me. Again, as I pray you pray this prayer out loud after me, and this is where you're asking Jesus Christ to come into your life. Just pray this:

Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner. I turn from my sin now, and I ask you to be my Savior and Lord. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. In Jesus's name I pray, amen.

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