Greg Laurie - Don't Stop Believing
If you were to die tonight and stand before God and if he were to say to you "Why should I let you into heaven"? What would your answer be? All right. So the question is if you were to die tonight and stand before God, what would you say to God as to why he should let you into heaven? Here are your three choices:
1. Because I've tried my best to be a good Christian.
2. Because I believe in God and I try to do his will.
3. Because I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sin and I accept his gift.
All right. So let's go over those for a moment because in those answers there are some important things for us to know. If I said God should let me into heaven because I have tried my best to be a good Christian I am basically saying that I think that salvation comes through human effort. It comes through works. It comes on the basis of what I have done for God instead of what God has done for me. Honestly I don't even like the phrase good Christian. I mean what is a good Christian? I try to be a good Christian. Listen. I am a bad Christian. I am a struggling Christian. Sometimes I am a failing Christian. So I don't even like to attach the word good to it. I will tell you what I am. I am a saved Christian and I am a justified Christian. So I don't always live up to that name. That is for sure. I am sure you don't either. So why should God let me into heaven. 2. Because I believe in God and try to do his will.
This is somewhat right but this is what I would call salvation plus works. Number one is salvation by works. I try to be a good Christian. Now number two I believe in God and I try to do his will. Listen. Trying to do his will does not get you into heaven. The correct answer as you noted is number three. Because I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sin and I accept his gift. Ephesians 2 sums it up and says, by grace you've been saved through faith. It is not from yourselves. It's the gift of God, not by works lest any man should boast. Now, in our last message we talked about three very important words that every Christian should have a working knowledge of. Those words were justification, redemption and propitiation.
Remember the word justification means just as if it never had happened. Listen. God looks at me as though all of the sins that I have committed throughout my life never took place. But justification is not just what God has taken away. Your sins and all that follows with them. But is also what he has done for you and put in the place of your sins. That is the righteousness of Christ that he has placed into your account. Then there is the word redemption. Remember that is a word that speaks of a price being paid. The idea is we are like a slave on the open Market. Jesus comes along and sees our situation. He pays the price for us. Then he sets us free so we are not only justified. We are redeemed. And finally propitiation which means to appease the wrath of God. Jesus took our place at the cross of calvary and absorbed the wrath of the father that we should have faced. God took his own medicine as Jesus drank the cup of the father had given him.
So here in Romans Paul is trying to clearly establish the fact that there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve it. Now he is addressing law keeping religious Jews who thought that because they are God's chosen people, which they are, and because God established a covenant with them, which he did, and they had the law, which he gave to them, and that they were circumcised, that they were good with God. These things made them right with God. But what Paul is saying is no. Those non-Jews that have none of those privileges you have, have to come through Christ and even you with all of those privileges still have to come to God through Christ because it is not salvation by works.
Now we say this and we know this but sometimes we don't live like it. I think we act at times as though we think we are going to receive the favor of God because we are good boys and girls. I get up in the morning and I do my devotions and I spend a certain amount of time in prayer. In fact I make sure I hit that hour Mark. You know I did it. I got an hour in prayer. Of course I shared the Gospel with somebody along the way so I have done these things. Now I sort of expect God to bless me. And then if something goes wrong or I go through a hardship I say wait Lord. I did my stuff. Why aren't you blessing me? Excuse me. What are you doing? I am not suggesting you are not to do devotions. I am not suggesting you not send time in prayer. Clearly I am not suggesting you not share your faith. But don't do those things to earn the favor of God. Do those things because you have already received the favor of God. Otherwise it is salvation by works.
All right now to make his point Paul cites two significant Jewish icons. Abraham. Really the father of the Jewish people and David the greatest king of the Jewish people. So I am reading Romans 4 verses 1-3 and I am reading from the new living translation. Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God's way. For the scripture tells us, Abraham believed God, and God credited it to him as righteoussness because of his faith underline that last phrase Abraham to believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness because of his faith. That is a very important word. The word credited. It is used in verse 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, and 24 as the word count. The idea is God has done this for you.
So this is in your account. So there is nothing we can do to earn this. It is a gift from God. Now here is an illustration. David. Look at verse 5 of Romans 4. Excuse me verse 6. David spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: oh, what joy (or happiness) for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin. So David was declared righteous. Why? Well David had a lot of things he had done. David was a great king. He was a great warrior. He was a writer of songs. After he killed Goliath he was effectively a rock star in Israel. There was a hit song in Israeli radio all about David. Everybody knew the song because he was the giant killer. And plus he had made Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
So he was regarded as a wonderful king. But that is not why David was counted as righteous. He was coutned as rightoues because he believed. There were a lot of things David would later be ashamed of. We all know, I mentioned already, David and Goliath, but we also know about David and Bathsheba. In fact you could sum up David's life with two other names. David and Goliath. His greatest victory. David and Bathsheba. Most likely his greatest defeat. Now here is the amazing thing. David is described by God as a man after my own heart because of what he did after the prophet nathan confronted him. He came into David, exposed David's sin and David repented of his sin. That is why he was a man after God's own heart. A true believer will never be happy in sin. They will only be happy when they are forgiven of it. Let me say that again. A true believer will never be happy in sin. They will only be happy when they are forgiven of it.
So if you as a person who claims to be a Christian can be living in sin and not feel any sense of guilt and you are good with it and you even think God is good with it something is not right. Because if you are a believer you will not be happy when you are living in that state of sin. This is the very thing that Paul is quoting here in Romans 4. He is quoting from Psalm 32 where after David sinned against the Lord with Bathsheba he said, in Psalm 32:3. When I refused to confess my sin my body wasted away and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy upon me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. And then he adds the word selah.
Sometimes when you read the Psalms you will read the word selah. You go what is selah. That means pause and think about it. Many believe it was a musical interlude. A jam session. A lead guitar break if you will. So they would say something about God. Then they would play something instrumental so you could ponder what you just heard. So really selah means pause and think about it. So David is saying this. He is saying my state was so bad before God it was like it evaporated like water in the summer heat because God's hand was heavy on me. Pause and think about that. Pause and think about how you feel when you are living in sin. It is not a happy place to be. But then David confessed his sin and that is why he says, happy is the man whose sin is forgiven.
Therefore the promises come by faith so it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all of Abraham's offspring not only to those of us were of the law, but to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all for it is written I make you a father to many nations. Now Abraham is an example of how you keep the faith when things are not looking promising. Back in Genesis 12 God came to Abraham and said I will make you a great nation. I will bless those that bless you and I will curse those that curse you and in you all of the families of the earth will be blessed. You know sometimes people wonder why do we have a love for the Jewish people as Christians especially here at harvest. I will tell you the answer right now. Because God made a promise to the Jewish people and the promise was to their leader, their father, and to all of them. I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you, I believe as Christians we owe a great debt to the Jewish people who gave us the scripture.
We owe a great debt to the Jewish people who our Messiah came from. And therefore that is why we care for them and we love them and we pray for them. That is why we support the nation Israel today. You know some would say Israel, they are just occupiers of foreign land. Excuse me. God gave them the land in the first place. It is their land that God gave to them. And God gave them Jerusalem as well. When you stop and think what took place that brought the Jewish people back to their homeland it is a pretty compelling story. Israel was formed on the heels of the holocaust when six million Jewish people were put to death. If Hitler and his henchmen had had their way many more would have died. Thankfully the United States got involved and brought that crazy war to an end. But with all of that suffering the Jewish people realized they needed to go back to their homeland again and as if on cue, and really they were on cue, they returned to their land because the prophecy said that they would return to their land. God said he would put them in their land. They will be scattered. They will return again to their land. That will set in motion the end times events.
That is where they are today. God made this covenant with Abraham. But here is the thing I want to really focus on. Here is what you need to do when things look overwhelming and you are wavering in your faith. If you are taking notes take write this down. Abraham kept believing despite his circumstances. Verse 19-20 Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though, at 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead - and so was Sarah's womb. But he never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. Are you in a situation right now where you need a miracle? You are in a bad set of circumstances. You cannot see this turning around in any way. If God does not come to you, you are dead in the water. Well in the words of the great theologians journey. Don't stop believing. This reminds of the simple fact when God looks at you he sees a work in progress. God does not just see you for what you are. He sees you for what you can become. Because God knows the future. He knows what is going to happen down the road.
So when he says you are going to be this you are going to be that. See you look at yourself and you see failure. But God sees potential. You see a blank canvas. God sees a finished painting. You see a mess. God sees a message. So he said that is your name. You will live up to it in time. It is going to take awhile. But you will one day become the exalted father. You will one day be the father of many nations. Number two. Despite his feelings and his circumstances, Abraham gave God the glory again despite his feelings and circumstances Abraham God gave the glory. Look at verse 20, he brought glory to God. After Isaac was born. Oh no. Long before. He gave glory to God knowing that God would keep his promises. Listen. Sometimes praising God is a sacrifice. But it is something we should always do. Because we are told in the book of Hebrews let's continually offer to him the sacrifice of praise.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Jesus concerning you. Give thanks. I don't feel like it. Who cares if you feel like it. Is God worthy of your praise? The Bible says give thanks unto the Lord because you feel good and his mercies endure forever. Right. No. It says give thanks to God because your circumstances are good and his mercies endure forever. Right. No. It says give thanks unto the Lord for he is good and his mercies endure forever. Regardless of how you feel. Regardless of your circumstances. God is good. Your faith is not going to grow when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Your faith is going to grow when the storm clouds are building and you are going through hardship. Because it is there that you are going to move from theory to reality. You are going to move from feeling to faith and you are going to hang on to God like you have never held on to him before. That is why your faith grows in times of difficulty.
Listen. Faith is not opposed to reason. But it is sometimes opposed to feelings and appearances. I mean when you become a Christian you don't check your brains at the door. We still apply logic and reason. Especially biblical logic and reason. But there are times when I say regardless of my feelings and even my circumstances I am hanging on. Faith is not the absence of thinking. Rather it is focused thinking on God and his word. Point 3. God overlooked Abraham's lapses of faith. Because some of you are listening to this message right now and you are thinking you know I like what you are saying but I have had so many lapses Greg. I fall short. I don't measure up to that standard. I am not the person who says I am thankful to God I am going through a trial. I have failed miserably.
Okay. Well old Abraham failed too. Look at verse 21, he was fully convinced God was able to do whatever he promised. But because of Abraham's faith, God counted him as righteous. I love this. Underline that phrase he was fully convinced. I have to tell you that is being very generous to say that of Abraham. Here we are in the New Testament. Paul is looking back on the life of Abraham and is saying he was fully convinced and he never wavered. Now let's take a walk back to the Old Testament and kind of walk through the arc of his story. Was he always acting on faith? Did Abraham ever have any lapses of faith? Are you kidding me? Two times he lied about his wife Sarah being his wife. He said she was his sister because other men wanted her and she was taken into the harem of the Pharaoh.
So the point is that Abraham had lapses of faith. Abraham had doubts. While he is waiting for the promised son to come nothing is happening so Sarah says Abraham we have got to help God out a little bit here. I am not going to conceive a child so I have got my little handmaid here that you can have sexual relations with and then the child born hopefully will be your heir. Her name is Hagar. Here she is. I don't read od any protest on the part of Abraham. He is like okay. Sounds good to me. So he is sexually involved with Hagar. She conceives a son. His name is Ishmael as you know. That was not the fulfillment of God's promise. In fact it created a lot of problems to follow that we are still seeing today as a matter of fact. Know this. When unbelief tries to solve a problem it creates a bigger problem. Let God do his will in his way and in his timing in your life.
So I bring this up because the New Testament is so kind when it speaks of Abraham. He never wavered. Well he did waver. So is that a contradiction. No. It is called grace. It is called forgiveness. You see because God is looking at him now as a man who believed with as much as he knew in an Old Testament setting that has now been fulfilled with the sacrifice of Jesus for him at the cross. He has been declared righteous before God. So God looks at his past as though it never had happened so in the New Testament it says he was fully convinced and he never wavered. Look. Don't stress over your lack of faith. Because you look at other Christians and you say look at them. I wish I had faith like that. I fall short so many times. We all do. Even that person you look up to does in ways you probably don't know.
I remember the story of when the early church was praying. James had been put to death. Peter had been arrested. So the church went into prayer. Oh Lord they prayed deliver Peter. Oh Lord they prayed get Peter out of prison. Oh Lord. And while they are still praying there's a knock at the door. They open it and there stands Peter. They didn't even believe it was Peter. The point is this. They are praying for something and when God did it they doubted it even though the evidence was right in front of them. I like the prayer of that one man over his child. He said, Lord, I believe but help my unbelief. So listen. You just come with as much faith as you have. Don't beat yourself up over the fact that you don't have the faith that others have. Maybe they don't even have that faith you think they have. Right. And you just come with as much faith as you have. You apply it in your own life.
That brings me to my last point. Number 4. Abraham put his total faith in God despite the cost. Look at verse 17. Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. So let's fast forward. Yeah Sarah finally does conceive and she has that son God promised. They name him Isaac which means laughter because he brought so much joy to their home. Isaac is growing up. He is a healthy strapping young man. One day the Lord comes to Abraham and says Abraham, Abraham, take your son, your only son whom you love and offer him as a sacrifice to me. You see Abraham is making his way up to mount moriah with Isaac. The boy turns to his father and he says father. Abraham says yes, my son? Where is the lamb for the burnt offering? I see the wood here. I see the fire. But I don't see the sacrifice. This must have broken Abraham's heart. Where is the lamb?
Abraham prophetically said son God will provide himself a sacrifice. As he got up there and held that knife up ready to plunge it into his son if that is what was required there was a last minute reprieve and he was stopped. Some think it was an angel of the Lord. I think it may have been Jesus himself making an Old Testament appearance because it is described as the angel of the Lord. No matter what the Lord stopped him from doing it because Abraham passed the test with flying colors you see. Abraham was pointing to something that was later to be fulfilled around the same area when God took his son, his only son, same phrasing. God says Abraham take your son, your only son whom you love. And then Jesus was sent. Who was Jesus? He said on John 3 for God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son. God sent his only son to die on the cross and there was no last minute reprieve for Jesus. It was not stopped at the last second. The full wrath of God was poured upon Christ as he died in our place.