Greg Laurie - Too Good to Keep to Yourself
I want to start with things that we're afraid of. I looked this up the other day - the top fears of Americans . We all have a certain things we're afraid of. Some have a fear of small spaces - claustrophobia. Others have a fear of heights. Others have a fear of insects. How many of you have a fear of insects? I mean I have a reasonable fear. I mean I don't want to like hang out with insects, but - and I don't get that alarmed if I have to kill a spider or something: but some people, they flip you know.
My wife, if a moth is in the room, she goes into a panic. I think as a young girl she used to live in Malaysia. Her father worked for an oil company, and I think some big gnarly Malaysian moth got in her hair and she still... You know because she has that beautiful hair and I think that she still thinks it's going to happen so she screams and I run downstairs and I capture, usually kill, the moth. When I was in Hawaii recently, I got up in the morning there was a big giant centipede going across the floor. You do not want to step on a centipede.
So there's a fear of insects and other things: but you know what almost everyone's number one fear is? It's the fear of public speaking. How many of you have the fear of public speaking? Raise your hand up. Okay I'm going to ask you to come up and speak right now. Seriously. No. That would be like worst-case scenario. You know, I had that fear too. I never aspired to be a public speaker.
This was not something I wanted to do someday, but after I became a Christian God gave me a gift to preach the Gospel and to teach the word, much to my shock and I might even add my delight. But it's something that not everyone is called to do, but I would suggest to you that even if you're not called to be a public speaker, you are called to be a communicator of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you don't have to preach to do that.
In fact, some of the best evangelists I know don't have pulpits and they're not in front of large crowds. They're just really good at engaging people one-on-one in conversations about Jesus Christ. But whenever we use the word "Evangelize" or 'evangelizing" or "Preaching the Gospel," a lot of us cringe. We just don't want to do that. In fact, most Christians don't share their faith. I read that 95% of all Christians have never led another person to Christ.
Now, I don't think that's true here at harvest. To prove that point, how many of you have ever personally led someone to Jesus Christ? Raise your hand up. I like that the cameraman is holding his hand up. That's very good. Thank you for that. So that is a lot of you, so you're not in the current cultural stream of many people in the church today and I'm thankful for that. But a lot of times we cringe at the idea of articulating our faith.
So I'm going to take the word evangelism and set it aside for a moment and I'm going to put another word in its place - recommendation. A recommendation. We all make recommendations all the time and what is a recommendation? It's just something we like that we tell other people about. I mean if you're in a town you've not been to before, and you're going to a restaurant you've not visited before, you might go to yelp. Hey, what kind of a yelp review do they have? I'm not a big fan of yelp necessarily because I'm thinking who are these random people and why should I care about their opinion?
But I know others, "Oh. Got a good yelp review," and I've been to places that had a good yelp review and I didn't think it was all that good. And I know people that are what we call "Foodies" - you know they're really into food and if they say "Greg, go to this restaurant" I will go without hesitation. And I know other people, if they say, "This is the best restaurant ever" it's going to be some of the worst food you have ever eaten. They have no sense of good food. And so when they say go there, I make a mental note: avoid that place at all costs.
Right. But we all give recommendations. I mean I always have opinions about everything. They're not right necessarily, but I have an opinion. For instance, you know for late-night eating it's kind of hard to beat in-n-out burger right? And if you're going to in-n-out burger my order is I get a burger animal style. You know what that is? Animal style? And then I also add chopped peppers. I recently realized this: when I go to in-n-out for lunch it's not the same as eating there late at night. I think it's the idea of you're not supposed to do this and this is why I like it so much. It's usually after a Bible study. We're driving home and in-n-out. Should we? Oh, no. We shouldn't. Yeah, you know we're there right? Animal style. And you even get heartburn in the middle of the night but it was kind of that "Yeah, we weren't supposed to but we did it. We're living on the edge".
See, it's easy for me to make recommendations. Disneyland. Where is the best place to eat at Disneyland? Is it this restaurant or that restaurant? My favorite thing to eat at Disneyland is the corn dog. I think they have an epic corn dog. I got one the other day. I haven't been to the park for a long time. I went in there and I ordered that corn dog and it was fantastic. I did go into a food coma afterwards but it was pretty good. So you know, I have all these opinions. Oh, if you're here order that. If you go there, do this other thing. We all make recommendations every single day, but then when it comes to talking about Jesus we clam up.
So here's the recommendation we ought to be making: The best thing to do in life here on earth and for eternity is to believe in Jesus. That's the recommendation. What? You're going to talk about burgers and not about Jesus? So you know, we cringe at evangelism. Oh, evangelism. Okay. Recommendation. Endorsement. You become an advocate for something. That is really what sharing the Gospel really is. Well here in Romans 9, we're going to read a little of Romans 8 but we're going to touch on Romans 9. We have the apostle Paul who is burdened for his fellow Jews. He was a Jew. He came to believe in Jesus as his Messiah and he had a heart for his other Jewish brothers and sisters who had not believed yet. He wanted them to believe.
So we will talk about that burden that he had in a moment but let's sort of pick up where we last left off. And if you're taking notes, here's point number one: God causes all things to work together for good to those that love him. That, of course, is based on Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose". The Bible does not necessarily say that God makes bad things good, but it does say he can cause all things to work together ultimately for good.
As you live life for a while, sometimes you discover that the things that you thought were good when you were younger actually were sort of bad. And some of the things you thought were bad were in other ways kind of good. There's a lot of surprises in life, but God is in control of our life and he works all things together for good.
2. Salvation makes you invincible. That means that no one or no thing can ever stop God from loving you because God is for you even when others are against you. So contextually, before we read these verses Paul has just spoken about how God has loved us, how God has chosen us, how he has justified us and made us right before him. So now we pick up with these words in Romans 8:31. I'll read to verse 34.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own"? Answer: "No one..." Who will condemn us? Here's the answer: "No one..." We'll stop there. So Paul asked this question: if God is for us, who can ever be against us? Well, the answer is actually a lot of people are against us. I mean if you stand up for Jesus Christ, you're going to have people oppose you. In fact, we're even told in 2 Timothy 3:12, "All that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution". Paul is not saying you will not have enemies if you follow and stand up for Jesus Christ. The fact is you'll have some new enemies, if you're a true Christian. But the point Paul is making is: who or what are these enemies when you compare them to God himself? The answer is they are not to be feared.
I don't want you to miss what he says in verse 31. He says, "If God is for you," but you might write the word "Since" right next to "If". Circle the word "If", write "Since" - that would be a better translation. "Since God is for you..". If you remember nothing else that I tell you today, remember this: If you're a christian, God is for you. He's on your side.
Now honestly we don't always feel as though God is for us because things are happening in our lives that don't make any sense, and things seem to go from bad to worse and we say, "God certainly couldn't be for me in this situation". Like Jacob in Genesis 42:36, we complain, "All these things are against me". Well, no. It still says God is for you, but then there are times you look at yourself and you see your failings and your sinfulness and your flaws and you think, "How could God ever be for someone like me? How could God ever love someone like me"? And the answer is: he does, but remember this: God does not just see you who you are; He sees you for who you could become.
See God can see into the future. I can't. God will see one day you're going to be this man. One day you're going to be this woman. You're going to be so like my Son Jesus Christ through all of the circumstances of life that I've either orchestrated or allowed and you're going to be molded into the image of Christ. So yeah, you see shortcomings, but God sees the finished product.
3. God will give you the things you need when you need them. Look at verse 32. "Since he did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else"? See, Paul's pointing out that God proved his love for you by sending his Son Jesus to die for you. Therefore, he's going to take care of you. Paul is arguing from the lesser to the greater. His point is: look, while you were a sinner God gave his best sending his Son to die for you, will he then not give you all that you need now that you are his children?
Listen, he'll even give you more than you need because Ephesians 3:20 says he is able to do exceedingly above and beyond that which we could ask or think. Know this: you do not follow a stingy God. You're not serving a God that is reluctant to show affection toward you. You're serving a God that loves to bless you. A God who wants to lavish his love on you. A God that is for you. Jesus even said, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom".
Our grandson Christopher recently fractured his arm. He ran into a pole somehow at school and he said it was sore. We didn't know it was fractured, but he was still sensitive and so a few days went by and he went to the doctor and they did an x-ray and now they have to put it in a cast. And actually, he was kind of excited about getting a cast. That's a boy for you, right. So I called him up and I said, "Christopher, do you know what happens to little boys who have to get a cast"? He said, "No, poppa. What"? I said, "They go to the toy store and get a really good toy"! I just made that up. I don't know if that's what happens to other boys, but that's what happens to my grandson or our granddaughter.
So that's something I wanted to do. Something I'm happy to do, and in the same way, God loves to bless us. Jesus basically argued this by pointing out, look, God takes care of the flowers. He's aware of them. God is aware of every little bird that falls to the ground. If God takes care of the flowers and of the birds, will he not also take care of you? We put a birdfeeder on a tree in our backyard. We can see it in the morning and I will put seed in this birdfeeder and the birds like the seed, but I went with my granddaughter Allie to a store the other day and they had this seed that said it attracted colorful birds.
I thought, well, let's try it out. I don't know what they put in this seed, but these birds are stinking' flipping out. They're like there are so many birds there and they eat it up so quickly. They're so excited about it. I go out and I refill it all the time. Oh, I'm running low on seed. I have to go get some more seed for the birds. Now I have a stray cat I told you about that comes to my house and I give him milk. I give milk to stray cats. I give seed to birds. If I do that for animals, won't I take care of my own children and grandchildren? In the same way, God is simply saying, "Look, won't I care even more for you? You're my children".
4. Jesus Christ is interceding for you right now. Interceding means he's representing you. He's defending you. He's speaking up for you and that's found here in verse 33. "Who will condemn us? No one - for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us and he is sitting at the place of honor at God's right hand interceding for us". I mean think about that. Christ is interceding for you right now and he's calm about it. Notice that it says he's sitting at the place of honor at God's right hand. You know, when we get bad news our heart jumps and our stomach drops and maybe we get up and start walking around in circles and pacing, but Jesus is relaxed at the right hand of the Father because he knows the outcome.
We always read of him sitting at the right hand of the Father. There's only one time we read of him standing at the right hand of the Father. You know when that was? It was when Stephen the first martyr of the church was killed. God gave to him a vision of glory and he says, "Look! I see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father". So it's almost as though Jesus stood up and said "Come on home, son. Welcome". But he's sitting there interceding for you. You can be confident in that.
5. Not only is Jesus Christ interceding for you, the Holy Spirit is interceding for you as well. Verse 26, "In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness, we don't know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans". So let's sum it up. If God gave you his best, why are you worried? Nothing or no one will ever separate you from the love of God - that is point number six. Look at Romans 8. Let's read verses 38-39.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What an amazing statement that is. Nothing in human experience can separate us from God's love because verse 38 says neither death nor life. Nothing in the spiritual realm - not satan not any demon - can separate you from God's love because verse 38 says neither angels nor demons. Nothing in time be it the future or the past will separate you from God's love because he says again in verse 38 neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. Nothing in all of creation will separate you from God's love because Paul says in verses 38 to 39 not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or the earth below. Nothing in all creation will separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Jesus. So that is Romans 8. What a treasure trove of material.
Now we come to Romans 9. Paul shifts gears. And in some ways, the subject is so different it almost seems to not fit but when you really think about it, it fits perfectly. Paul goes from the joy and victory of Romans 8 to the sorrow and burden of Romans 9. While he was focused on Christ in Romans 8, he's rejoicing. But now that he focuses on lost people in Romans 9, he's weeping and Paul makes an amazing statement. He basically says he would be willing to go to hell if other people could go to heaven. Let's read Romans 9:1-3.
With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.
This is an amazing statement from Paul. Again, he's effectively saying "I would go to hell if others could go to heaven". I'm so thankful we don't have to trade our salvation for someone else's. I'm so thankful the price has been paid by Jesus at the cross for my salvation, for your salvation and for the salvation of any other person who believes. But it shows how much Paul cared when he said "I would give up my own eternal hope if my fellow Jews would believe".
He reminds us a lot of Moses. Of course, Moses was directed by the Lord to take the Jewish people out of captivity in Egypt and lead them to the promise land. Well, as they're on their way there, the Lord summons Moses to mount Sinai to receive the 10 commandments. And there in tablets of stone, the finger of God wrote those great commandments down. Now Moses left Aaron in charge. Aaron was like the worst babysitter of all time because literally all hell broke loose under Aaron.
So here comes Moses down from mount Sinai and he hears this noise and it's a big party and what does Moses see? A bunch of Israelites dancing around a golden calf naked. And Aaron sees Moses, Moses with the tablets. He sees him and he says, "I know this looks bad. I can explain everything". And then one of the lamest excuses of all time, Aaron says, "Look, Moses, I just... I told everyone bring me your earrings and your rings and your grills and your everything, you know, and we threw it in the fire and a gold calf just appeared. So what else could we do but strip off our clothes and worship it"? Yeah. That's not working. Now God says to Moses, "I'm going to judge these people and destroy them".
Now this is interesting because earlier, Moses got frustrated with the Jewish people and he said "I want you to judge these people. I'm so done with them". Now this time God says, "I'm going to judge them". And here's what Moses says to the Lord that reminds us of Paul: he says to the Lord in Exodus 32, 'Lord, please forgive their sin. But if not, then blot me out of the book that you've written". Just like Paul. "Lord, if this is what it would take, take my name out of your book so they can be spared". And in the original language, there's an interesting pause there. It's not a word. It's actually a pause - a sudden breaking off - in the middle of a sentence.
So the way Moses said it would've been like this: God, please forgive their sin. But if not, blot my name. It's like he has to think about it. "It's pretty heavy what I'm about to say. Please forgive them of their sin, but if not, blot my name out of the book". Well, Moses passed the test. The Lord was never going to judge them. Moses had turned into an intercessor. This is what the Lord wanted him to do, and this is what the Lord wants us to do. He wants us to care about people that don't know him, but we don't like to do this. We clam up. We're reluctant to do it. We don't like to share.
Look, unchallenged fact of the universe: we don't like to share in general. Think about to your earliest days, a little child, you know, and you were told to share. You know, take a little toddler, they're just sitting there on the floor and you give them a nice shiny new toy. "Here you go". They're so happy. They're playing with it and then you say "Share it". And they go from happiness to misery. They fight over it. They hit each other over it. Do we ever outgrow this? Have you ever been to a Black Friday sale? People are assaulting each other at target or Walmart or wherever to get that flat screen or whatever they're fighting over. We don't like to share. It's not in our nature to share. We want it for us. And if they don't have it, that's too bad for them and we can be that way as Christians. I don't want to share.
Well God needs to change our heart. So we have the heart of an intercessor. Listen, stop looking at nonbelievers as the enemy and understand they're not the enemy. They're under the power of the enemy. The enemy is the devil and scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 2:26, "My prayer is that they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap, for they've been held captive by him to do whatever he wants". Look, I could talk all day to you about how to start a conversation about Jesus and answers to hard questions and other things: but none of that will matter if you don't have a concern and a burden for a person that is not yet a believer.