Greg Laurie - Every Generation Needs Jesus
Did you know that you were chosen by God? Before your life began, before your parent's life began, or your grandparents or your great grandparents before Adam and eve were placed in the garden, before the earth was created, God chose you to be his child. Now imagine for a moment if you could know everything about everything all the time. Well God is that way. Of course he's omniscient which means he's all knowing. So God knows exactly what we will do in life. He knows how every event will unfold. Imagine you had that knowledge.
Man that would be very hard to keep to yourself. I think, for starters, you would probably go down to a horse race and bet on the winner and make a lot of money and use it for your own advantage. I don't think if you were betting on a race, you would pick a loser. I'm sure you would pick the winner, yet God chose us. If anyone knows our flaws, if anyone knows your shortcomings, it's you. If anyone knows my shortcomings, it's me and my wife. Okay, so we all know how we fall short of God's glory and what failures we often are, but yet God chose us. Jesus said, "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you".
So the first question that may jump into our mind is why? Why would God Almighty choose someone like me to be his child to live forever with him in heaven? What merit or goodness did God see in me that would cause him to say "I want that person on my team. I want that man as my son. I want that woman as my daughter"? Why would he choose us? Well it actually had nothing to do with any merit or goodness on our part. In fact, it's the same reason that God chose Israel. He talks about it in Deuteronomy 7:7. He said, "The Lord did not set his love upon you or choose you because you were more in number than other people, for you were the fewest. But he chose you because he loved you".
That's a great answer. Why did God choose you? Because he loves you. Why does God love you? I don't know but he does. He loves you. He loves me. He loves all of us. You say, "Well, I don't understand that". Welcome to the club. Now the next question is how did God choose us? On what basis did he choose us? Do we have anything to say about it or is it something that's all predetermined? I want to say that the greatest minds in the church have dealt with this for 2.000 years and I'm going to resolve it right here today in this sermon. That was a joke, by the way. No. I can tell you straight up I don't understand it. I don't think anyone really does, but I do rejoice in it.
Someone put it this way "Try to explain election," now election is speaking about predestination of the fact that you were chosen before you chose God, "Try to explain election" they write, "And you may lose your mind, but try to explain it away and you may loose your soul". So how did God choose us? What was the basis of that choice? Some would teach something called irresistible grace, which simply means that no matter what you think or what you feel or what your opinion is, God has extended this irresistible grace and because you are chosen by God you will respond to that irresistible grace. Others would also teach us about what is called double predestination.
Now we believe in predestination. But double predestination basically says way back in the beginning before we could even imagine, God made choices. He chose who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. Just... You have nothing to say about it. You have no choice in the matter because there's this irresistible grace you're going to believe if you want to or not and it's double predestination. God has already predetermined who gets in heaven or who gets in hell. I want you to know I do not believe those two ideas at all.
And there's another teaching called limited atonement and limited atonement basically teaches that Christ died for the elect. In other words, Christ died for those who would respond to that irresistible grace who had been predestined to go to heaven but he did not die for those that were chosen, if you will, to go to hell. So it's limited atonement. He died for the sins of the elect only. I reject all of that because I believe you can resist the grace of God. The Bible even tells us that we should be careful to not resist it. And I do not believe that God has predetermined some will go to heaven and some will go to hell. We do have a say so in the matter and I also believe that Jesus Christ died for the sin of the whole world, not just the elect. Everybody.
Romans 5:6 says "When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Scarcely for a righteous man would one die: perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrated his love toward us that while we were yet sinner, Christ died for us". See he didn't just die for the elect, he died for us while we were yet sinners. Jesus put it so clearly in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son". So yes, it is true that God chose me, but it is also true that I must choose him. Jesus says, "Whosoever will let him come". So there is God's part and there is my part. It is not as though God predestined some people to be saved and other people to be damned. He wants everyone to be saved because the Bible says "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance".
One person put it this way "God predestines every man to be saved, the devil predestines every man to be damned. Man has the casting vote". So you're saying, "Now you've confused me. First, you told me I'm chosen. Then you're telling me I need to choose him. And I can't quite understand all these things that you're saying". Welcome to the ongoing debate. How do I determine if I'm one of the chosen ones? It's very simple. Believe in Jesus Christ and you will confirm that you have been chosen by God.
Now let me show you how ridiculous this can get. If you go too far in one direction, which would be your reformed theology calvinism approach, you can get to the point where you would not even be able to say to a person "God loves you" and you would not even be able to say to a person "Believe in Jesus" because your fear is you might preach to one of the non-elect. And if they believe and they're not one of the elect or ones who were chosen then you would be giving them false assurance. I like D. L. Moody the great evangelist his take on this. He says, "Lord, save the elect and then elect some more". Okay. So that's good.
So here's all you have to worry about. You don't have to worry about who the elect are or who the elect aren't. Just be thankful that you've been chosen by God and go out and tell other people that God does love them and Christ died for their sins and they can believe in him and be forgiven of all of their sin if they come to Jesus Christ. That's our message. It's very simple. I think sometimes we get so embedded into this debate, we start missing the big picture of what we are called to do, which is to go bring the Gospel to people because there are so many promises in scripture where eternal life is offered to the person who believes.
Jesus said in John 11:26 "Whoever lives and believes in me will never die". Romans 10:13, we'll get to this later, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved", and on and on it goes. So let's just sort of step aside from that for a moment and now ask another question that people often forget about. Instead of arguing about who is predestined, let's instead ask the question: what am I predestined for? Why did God choose me? For what purpose? I'm going to give you just three biblical principles. There's many more I could share but here is three things if you're taking notes. Why did God choose you?
1. God chose you so you would be holy and without blame. Ephesians 1:4 says "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love". This is really speaking of the outgrowth of our relationship with the Lord. Holiness speaks of inward purity. Without blame means an outward or external condition of purity. So God want's us to live godly lives. He wants us to live pure lives.
2. God chose me so I would become more and more like Jesus each and everyday. We already looked at this together Romans 8:28 we talked about for all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose and then of course, the verse that follows verse 29 that says he predestined us to be conformed into the image of his own dear Son. So each and everyday I should seek to become more and more like Jesus.
And finally, God chose me, or I've been predestined that I might live a spiritually fruitful life. Jesus said in John 15:16 "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain and whatever you ask the Father in my name he'll give it to you". So what is fruit? Fruit is tangible evidence. Fruit is something that others can see that shows that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.
Paul told us, and we talked about this in our last message, how much he loved his fellow Jews. He had a burden for them. He said in Romans 9 "I would be willing to be forever cursed that is cut off from Christ if that would save them". Paul effectively says I would go to hell so they would go to heaven. But of course, we don't have to do that because Christ died for all of us. He paid the price for our sin but the takeaway truth is we like Paul ought to have a burden for lost people because number one: everybody needs to hear the Gospel, no matter who they are.
Sometimes we think reach the down and outers. Reach those people that are struggling with addiction. Maybe living on skid row. Reach those people that are incarcerated. Reach those people that have messed their lives up. Yeah. Get to the down and outers for the Gospel. Very true. But you know what? The up and outers need him too. You might be down and out, you might be up and out, but you're still out. And you need Jesus. Everybody needs Jesus. Every person needs Jesus. Baby boomers need Jesus. Millennials need Jesus. There are no exceptions.
Sure each generation has their unique traits and things that they like and don't like, but when its all said and done the answer is a relationship with Christ because Jesus Christ is the same today, the same tomorrow and the same forever. Yesterday, today, and forever. I like what Psalm 145:4 says, "Let each generation tell its children of God's mighty acts: let them proclaim your power". Everybody needs Jesus including the religious person. Paul addresses this in verse 6. "Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God's people being descendants of Abraham doesn't make them truly Abraham's children".
So Paul is now addressing the Jewish mindset that says "I'm a Jew and I'm one of God's chosen people so I'm good". Paul says, "Just because you're born as a Jew doesn't mean that you really have a relationship with God. This could be applied to Christians as well. Just because you're raised in a Christian home, doesn't mean you're a Christian. Sometimes you'll talk to people and say "Are you a Christian"? Then they'll say "My grandfather was a preacher" or something like that. And it's like yeah. So? What does that have to do with you? You have to have a relationship with God. You have to know him personally.
So we come now to point number three: We must be careful after hearing the Gospel to not get a hard heart. And a classic example of this is the Pharaoh of Egypt. You remember that Moses was raised in the home of the Pharaoh. He was adopted into that home and one day he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and he got upset and killed the Egyptian and then he was a marked man and basically ran into hiding and for 40 years he was living in obscurity. And the Lord called him, as you recall, through a burning bush the Lord spoke to him and said I want you to go back to Egypt and deliver my people, the Jews, who are captives there.
So that's exactly what he did, but as he went to Pharaoh whom we would think he might've had a relationship with. In fact, the Pharaoh may have been like a brother to him because Moses would've been raised with him. But whatever the case, he goes back to the Pharaoh and he demands the release of the Hebrews and the Pharaoh hardens his heart. Romans 9:17-18:
For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
Now people have misunderstood this. They'll say, "You see, God hardens the hearts of certain people. They have nothing to say about it. They've been chosen or not chosen. They're either one of the elect or not the elect and God hardened the Pharaoh's heart". Well let's understand that. It's true that Pharaoh hardened his heart. We're told that in Exodus 8:15. It's also true that God hardened Pharaoh's heart as we read here in Romans 9 and also in Exodus 10. But does this mean that the Pharaoh had no choice in the matter of what to do? Well the answer is no because the word harden means to strengthen or stiffen.
See, the Pharaoh had a choice in the matter. He could've released the Jews. He could've agreed to the demands of Moses but he hardened his heart and we read it again and again. Pharaoh hardened his heart. Pharaoh hardened his heart. Pharaoh hardened his heart and miracles were even done by Moses in the presence of Pharaoh including Moses' staff turning into a snake. But the Pharaoh had a couple of magicians and they had rods and their rods turned into snakes too. "See, we could do it too". But then Moses' rod that became a snake ate their snakes.
A little detail I kind of enjoy. But many of these miracles were, shall we say, replicated by the magicians. I don't know if it was sleight-of-hand or a devilish kind of sign but whatever it was, because they were able to replicate some of these signs, Pharaoh would harden his heart. But then there came a point where his magicians could not replicate the signs, but still Pharaoh hardened his heart. So the point of it is that at a certain moment the Lord said "Okay. Now I'm going to harden your heart". What does that mean? It means that God strengthened him and the decision that he already made. So the point of it is simply this. Pharaoh dedicated himself to evil and direct opposition to God's redemptive plan. He chose evil. God did not choose it for him.
So coming back to our main point. God let's you decide what you'll do and he'll effectively strengthen you in it. His offer of forgiveness is for everyone. But if you reject it, friend, it's on you. Don't blame it on God. It's on you. It's interesting to note that the Bible tells us that Jesus could do no miracles in his hometown of Nazareth and the reason he could do no miracles there according to Mark 6:5 is he could do no miracles there except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them, and he marveled at their unbelief. Because they said, "Oh. We know this guy. Jesus. He was the son of Mary and Joseph. The carpenter's son. We watched him grow up. This isn't the Messiah". That's why Jesus said a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country. So it stopped Jesus from performing miracles.
Interesting little detail, we read that Jesus marveled at their unbelief. The word marvel means to stand amazed. Do you know there's only two times that Jesus marveled? One was when he marveled at the unbelief of the people, the other was when he marveled at the faith of the Roman centurion. A Roman centurion came to Jesus. Said I'd like you to heal my servant. Jesus said, all right. He was on his way with the Romans to touch the man. He goes, no wait. You don't need to come home with me. I'm a Roman centurion. I have people under my command. I say this and that happens. I give a command it takes place. Just speak the word. Speak the word and it will happen. And Jesus marveled at the faith of this man. So it appears that there are two things that make Jesus say wow: when those who are not expected to believe, believe like the Roman centurion. And also, when those who should've already believed don't believe like the people in his hometown.
Now how do you get a hardened heart? You might be surprised by my answer. By continued exposure to the Word of God and a refusal to respond to it and obey it. In fact, one of the easiest places you can get a hardened heart is where you are right now. You might say oh no. The easiest place to get a hardened heart is when you're out living in sin and doing sinful things with sinful people. Yeah I guess you can get a hard heart there. That's usually what you do when you already have a hard heart. But how do you get a hard heart? It's when you come to a place like this and you hear the Word of God like you're hearing it right now. Maybe you have your arms folded.
Some of you are unfolding your arms. I don't know. You're thinking I don't know. I've heard this. Didn't I hear this before? When are we done here? I don't really care. Or even worse, you've come, you're not a believer, you're living a life that contradicts everything we're talking about but you show up in church for whatever reason. Maybe to make the wife happy or the husband happy or the kids happy or the parents happy or even the dog. The dog is happier is when you go to church because he can tear up the house while you're gone right. But the point is you're not here because you really want to be here.
And even while you're here, you're not even here. You're just sitting. You're occupying space, but you're not open to God's word. You're not saying "Speak to me, Lord". You're kind of critical. You're resistant and this is where your heart can actually get hard so be careful because the greatest inoculation against the Gospel is the Gospel heard but not heeded. It really comes down to this: we're sort of like a piece of clay on a wheel.
Look at Romans 9:19 "Well then you might say why does God blame people for not responding? Haven't they simply done what he makes them do? No. Don't say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it 'why have you made me like this?'" So now Paul is arguing against the idea of a person saying "Well I'm just made to be this way. I have nothing to say about it". He goes, "What are you talking about? Don't argue with God. You have a roll to play". We're like that piece of clay and this analogy is used more than once in scripture. God has a plan.
So when the potter sits down, he has a vision in his mind and his heart for what that lump of clay will become. Now sometimes clay is sort of resistant. If the clay is resistant the potter will press in and if the clay is still resistant sometimes he'll take it and cast it aside. It didn't turn out to be what he wanted it to be. But other clay is pliable and other clay is responsive and it will be what the potter has in mind. God has a plan for your life. It's been said a million times. But I have something to say about that plan.
Listen to me, I can sabotage the plan. I can start well and crash and burn. Or I can start poorly and recommit myself to him and have a great ending. Or I can start well and I can finish well. But you must yield to that plan. By the way, God's plan for you is better than your plan for yourself. How many of you believe that? Raise your hand up. How many of you sometimes question it? Raise your hand up. Oh get your hands up. Did you see my hand was up? Oh you better believe it. You don't think that I've wondered like what is going on here? How many of you sometimes question God's plan for you? Raise your hand up. Thank you for your honesty. How many of you have never questioned it ever? Go ahead. Raise your hand up. I didn't think so. You're being honest.
We're humans. Things don't always make sense. But we know God is on control and our objective is to respond to what he is seeking to do in our life. Yes, you are loved by God. Yes, you are chosen by God. Yes there is a plan for your life by God, but yet it is also true that you can resist the love of God. Yes it is true you cannot yield to his plan for your life so God wants to do his work but we must respond to that work. Here's a verse that pulls it all together. It says "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God that works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure".
Wait. What? Work out my own salvation? You mean work for my salvation? Absolutely not. Salvation is a gift from God. It says work it out. The idea there of working it out is the idea of going into a mine. You're looking for gold. You find the gold. Get the gold out of the mine. So it's sort of working out what God has worked in. Work out your own salvation. Carry it to the goal. Complete it. But then it says, "But it is God that works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure". Yes. So God is going to give me the ability to do it. But I also need to live it out and work it out and do my part. There's God's part and there's my part.