Greg Laurie - The Jesus Revolution And Evangelism
You can all be seated, let's grab our Bibles and turn to Matthew, chapter 28. And the title of my message is "The Jesus Revolution and Evangelism". You know, one of the real traits of the Jesus movement was people were out everywhere sharing the gospel. Now when is the last time you saw that? When you're out in a public place, an amusement park down by the pier, out in a mall somewhere, and you just saw a bunch of people, maybe even carrying a Bible engaging people in conversations about Jesus Christ. We did a lot of that.
So I became a Christian, as you know, at the age of 17. And I was going to church and I heard the pastor say we should go share our faith and I thought well, I've been a Christian two weeks, I know so much about God now, I better go out and talk to people. And I was, you know, my theological knowledge could have fit into a thimble. But I knew Jesus had changed my life, I knew it was all true and I wanted to go talk to somebody. So back then there was a little booklet out called "The Four Spiritual Laws" put out by Campus Crusade for Christ and it was very simple, it just asks questions. And so I was so new at this I hadn't even memorized the content of the booklet yet.
So I went out to the beach, it was Newport beach and I was looking for someone to talk to and I saw this middle-aged lady and I thought well maybe she'll be nice to me, maybe she'll take pity on me. So I walked up to her and I said, "Hi, can I talk to you a little bit about God"? And she looked at me like "Um, sure, sit down". So I sat down and my voice was shaking, you know when you get nervous and you can't stop your voice from shaking? And so I'm literally just reading this booklet to her, I hadn't even memorized it as they said. So I just said, "Uh, can I just read this to you? 'The Four Spiritual Laws' copyright 1964, Campus Crusade for Christ. Law One: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Law Two: You've sinned...
So I'm reading through this booklet and as I'm reading through it I'm thinking this is so not going to work. I'm so, crashing and burning right now and I want this to be over with but at least I can say to my Christian friends I actually started a conversation about Jesus. So I'm almost through the booklet, I looked up at her periodically, she's just looking at me, no real reaction. I get to the end and there's a question they ask a person which was, "Is there any good reason why you should not accept Jesus Christ right now"? And I realized it was a question so I asked her, uh, is there any good reason why you should not accept Jesus Christ right now? And she said, "No".
I went okay, what? No. I said, "You mean you want to accept Jesus Christ right now"? She said, "Yes". I'm like, excellent, great! Let's just pray, bow your head. I did not plan for success. I planned for failure. So she closes her eyes and frantically searching this booklet for some prayer or something. What do I do now? And I found a prayer. I led her in the prayer, and to show you how little faith I had, even as I'm leading her in this prayer, I'm thinking to myself, this isn't going to work! And as she's done praying this prayer of asking Christ to come into her life, she opened her eyes and she said, "Something just happened to me". And I'm like, whoa, something just happened to me, too. I realized that God could use an idiot like me.
Now I guarantee I could pick anybody in this room and you would know so much more about the Bible so much more about Jesus Christ than I knew as a two week old Christian, but I went for it and God blessed it. And this is the thing we way over complicate evangelism. We get all worked up about it and all stressed about it and overly nervous about it and we don't understand that you can be used by God to share the gospel. You know evangelism is really communication with people and when the Bible says "Go unto all the world and preach the gospel" you can do that conversationally. You can do that on your social media pages. You can do that on Instagram. You can tweet the gospel. Go unto all the world and tweet the gospel.
You know, but I think the big issue is when we engage a person you want to build a bridge to them. You might think because I'm a preacher I have a little pulpit like this that I take with me everywhere and I preach to everyone I meet. Well, look when I speak in a study like this or in a stadium, you know it's a monologue. It's me talking to people. But when I engage non-believers it's a dialogue and I don't come with all the answers. I ask a lot of questions and I listen because I don't want to come off like a know it all for starters, I'm not a know it all and to the point, I'm not better than anybody. I'm better off, but I'm not better.
So you come in sort of a humility and Jesus himself modeled this with the woman at the well. He actually asks her for a drink of water. He comes to her in a humble way and he listens to her and then he engages her with the message of the gospel. So, that's what we want to do. But you know sooner or later you're gonna have to get down to the bottom line. And the bottom line of the gospel is all of humanity has sinned, there's nothing we can do to get rid of that sin. God sent his son Jesus Christ to die for that sin and arise again from the dead and then we'll turn from our sin and believe in Jesus. We can go to Heaven. That's the gospel.
So, I know we're maybe reluctant to share that, but there's power in the message of the gospel. And that power's always been there and the power will always be there. Because Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God and salvation to everyone who believes". And the word that he uses are for powers the Greek word dunamis, which means dynamic, dynamite, power.
Years ago, I was at Billy Graham's house, in fact today is one year since Billy Graham went to Heaven and he was the greatest Evangelist who ever lived. No one has ever led more people to Christ, here's a picture with Billy that I took years ago. But no one has ever led more people to Christ than Billy, but I was having lunch at his house and I wanted to ask him a question and I said, "Billy, if an older Billy could speak to a younger Billy, what would he say? What advice would you give a younger you? After all of these years of preaching and sharing the gospel". And he said, "I would preach more on the cross of Christ and the blood because that's where the power is". So I never forgot that, so whenever I speak I always want to talk about the fact that Jesus died on the cross for the sin of the world and that his blood was shed for them. So if you want to really pay tribute to a guy like Billy Graham, do what Billy did. And what did Billy do, he preached the gospel and he invited people to follow Jesus Christ.
So listen, evangelism is never gonna be passe. It's always gonna be something God wants us to do. Now we might find new and creative ways to do it but ultimately we never want to deviate from this calling God has given to all of us. And every generation is looking for answers. And I look at this young generation today and I think to myself if ever there was a generation that needs to be engaged with the gospel, it is this generation. And we're gonna do everything we can to engage them.
Consider this, the US suicide rate has increased 30% since the year 2000 and it's tripled for young girls. Opioid deaths have increased 3 times in teens in the last 20 years as well. From January 1st, 2006 to December 31st, 2013 this is a staggering statistic, there were 3.567.000 suicide attempts in emergency department visits from people 10 and older. 3 million people tried to take their lives. And in just seven years that's 3.5 million attempted suicides. So don't tell me the day of evangelism is over because last year alone, of the 2.980 people that made a profession of faith, 6.389 of them were under the age of 30. So the gospel still works, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. People need Jesus and they'll always need Jesus. So we want to keep that in mind always.
You know in the church we get excited about a lot of things. Some people get excited about the latest conference, "Oh, this conference is so amazing. Did you go to this conference"? Others might get excited about a new building program, "Oh, we got our new building up". Others might get excited if their candidate got elected. You want to know what God gets excited about? If I can use that verbage of God. God gets excited, Heaven gets excited, when people believe in Jesus. The Bible says, "There is joy in Heaven over one sinner that comes to repentance".
I mean think about that for a moment, every time a person turns from their sin and puts their faith in Jesus Christ, there's a shout of praise in Heaven. There must be a lot of praising in Heaven because if you think of all the people that come to the Lord each and every day. And in Luke chapter 15 we're given a perspective of how God views those that don't know him. We have three metaphors that are employed by Jesus to show how God loves people. We have a shepherd who lost his sheep. We have a woman who lost a coin. And we have a father who lost a son.
Have you ever lost anything of great value and you're searching for it cause you've gotta find it? The idea of a coin, a woman had a coin, is probably the idea of a wedding kind of hat she would wear a headband sort of and it would have coins in it. So to lose a coin was not just losing a dime or a quarter it was losing your wedding ring. That was a big deal. So she searched until she found it and then we have a father who lost his son, and a shepherd who lost a sheep.
Years ago, I'd lost something of great value to me as a kid. I had a little parakeet and his name was Popcorn. I don't know why I named him Popcorn but that's what I called him. And so I was down in Balboa Island and I saw this guy who had a parrot on his shoulder and it just sat on his shoulder it didn't fly away. And I asked the guy, "You know what's the deal with your parrot"? He goes, "Oh he's tame, he doesn't fly away". And I thought that's so cool. So at my house, my apartment actually, Popcorn would fly out of his cage when I called his name and land on my shoulder and I'd walk around the house with him.
So I thought maybe I'll do that with Popcorn, I'll go down to Balboa Island with Popcorn the Parakeet on my shoulder and it'll be just like the guy with the parrot. So I walked around the house for a while, making sure he wouldn't fly away. Then I opened the door, walked outside, and Popcorn just flew off. I never saw him again. He was just gone. So I went for days, I was walking up and down the street, "Popcorn, Popcorn"! People are thinking that poor boy is hungry, give him something to eat. And just the other day I drove by that same neighborhood and I rolled down the window of my car, "Popcorn"! And a really old bird landed on my windshield with a beard, no not really but he's gone!
And so I searched and I searched but I couldn't find him and Jesus talked about the father searching for lost people as like a shepherd looking for a sheep. Now you know, sheep, I don't know if you've been around sheep very often, but in Israel sometimes we'll see a flock of sheep, everyone gets really excited cause everyone wants a picture with a sheep in Israel right, or a little lamb, even better. And I've always heard they're stupid, but now having seen them up close and personal, they really are dumb animals. And look they have their purpose in life, they're excellent with mint jelly and we can make sweaters out of their, you know.
So it's great, but these are animals that literally cannot defend themselves. These are animals that cannot run, they cannot bite, and they're incredibly dumb. That's why the Bible says, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray". We're that dumb. So there's a shepherd who has 100 sheep and one goes astray and he could just said, "You know, what if you lose a few, cost of doing business". No, Jesus said, that shepherd went and searched for this sheep until he found it and he wrapped it around his neck and brought it home rejoicing. And then Jesus makes his point, "And I tell you in the same way there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that comes to repentance".
But really, the crescendo of Luke 15 is the story of the Prodigal Son. And that's the one that we all remember best. The story of the boy that left home, drug the family name through the gutter, spent his inheritance, messed his life up, got drunk, hung out with prostitutes, did everything wrong and one day he came to his senses and he returned home. And when the father saw him from a distance, and this is Jesus telling the story, when the father saw him at a distance he ran to his son, he threw his arms around him, he kissed him and said this "my son who is dead is alive again he who is lost, is found". That's us, you know, we're sinners and God says I'm gonna get to you, I'm gonna push any obstacle out of the way to get to you. And in the same way that the Father loves us, we should love the world. He wants us to have that love.
So I mentioned the great commission, let's go to our text now, Matthew 28. Let's read it, this is a very important statement that frankly, we all should commit to memory. Jesus says, Matthew 28 verse 18, "All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations". Notice the word 'therefore', as I've told you before, whenever you see the word therefore find out what it's there for. He's drawing upon what has been said. What was just said, "All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth so go therefore...", because he has this authority, we're his representatives so we go therefore, and what do we do? "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things that I've commanded you, and lo' I am with you even to the end of the age".
There's one more version of the great commission, if you will, that's in Mark 16:8-15, where Jesus simply says, "Go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every person". So to pull it all together, the great commission, is to go unto all the world and preach the gospel, led by the Holy Spirit to bring people to Christ then to disciple them. This is where a lot of people miss a key element. It's not just to proclaim the gospel, it's to lead people to Christ and disciple them, get them up on their feet spiritually, "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo' I am with you to the end of the age".
I believe if we would just obey the great commission we would experience personal revival. Why do I say that? Because when you get your eyes off of yourself for a moment and think about somebody else that's lost and separated from God, and leave your comfort zone and seek to share your faith, next to being a Christian this is one of the most joyful, fulfilling things we can do. And this is why the devil doesn't want us to do it, if there's one thing Christians and non-Christians have in common, it's this, we're both uptight about the gospel.
Satan's uptight with us sharing the gospel, we're uptight with sharing the gospel. So non-believers, they don't want to hear it, don't talk to me! Because like we were saying earlier, they think you're gonna shove it down their throat. They think you're gonna be judgemental and mean, we should never be that way. Listen, if you want to win some, be winsome. Be nice about it. Share the gospel with a smile on your face. Care about the person you're talking to and build that bridge.
So many times Christians burn bridges rather instead of build bridges. And the objective is not to win the argument. It's to win the soul. Because I've seen some Christians who are very knowledgeable and they come in with both gospel guns loaded and they unload them on the non-believer and tear down their arguments and humiliate them and the non-believer says, "What a jerk, I never wanna talk to a Christian again". You could have done a lot more if you just woulda shut up and listened about and showed a little compassion and love and let them share for a while and say what they think and now you can respond appropriately with the message of the gospel. But this is the great commission but sadly for many, the great commission is the great omission.
Now let me say something that might surprise some, but I believe it's true. I believe to not share the gospel can actually be a sin. And you might say well Greg you're going too far. Well wait, hold on, what is a sin? There's different definitions of sin because there's different kinds of sin. One definition of sin is to cross a line so if I'm told don't step on the black carpet and I step on the black carpet, I just crossed the line. That's called a trespass. So when I break a commandment or when I do what God tells me not to do, I just crossed the line, that's a sin. That's a sin of commission.
But then there's the sin of omission. The sin of omission is not doing what I should do. The Bible says, "To him that knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin". In the same way if I really believe the Bible... how many of you believe the Bible is true? Hold your Bible up, raise your hand up, okay. If I really believe the Bible and I really believe what the Bible says about the afterlife that there really is a Heaven and there really is a Hell, if I really believe the gospel, which effectively says, Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, and I really believe if a person rejects Christ they will spend eternity separated from Him and I don't even try to engage a person in a conversation that could be the sin of omission, you see?
So, we don't want that to happen and I think also we miss out on a great blessing. Here's how it spiritually revives you, when you get a new believer in your life, it can reinvigorate your faith. Listen to this, a new Christian needs an older believer in their life to stabilize them. An older Christian needs a younger believer in their life to energize them, you know?
So, you know, if you've known the Lord for a long time, and you just hang around with other people that've known the Lord for a long time, you go to church, you go out afterwards. Maybe you argue theological minutia. But when you have a brand new believer that's hearing this all for the first time, man it's gonna change you. First of all you're gonna have to mind your P's and Q's. Because if you have a brand new Christian and you're driving to get lunch after church, you might drive the speed limit for the first time in years. You might think about what you're gonna talk about over lunch. Not the normal conversation that you have where you complain about things or argue about things but you might actually talk about things that would interest the new believer. And they'll ask you questions and you may not have the answers. Then again you may have a lot more answers than you think.
See God does not give us His truth to hoard and to keep to ourselves. He gives us His truth to share and Jesus said, "Give and it shall be given unto you pressed down, shaken together, running over. With the same measure you give, it will be given to you". When you're a generous believer in every way, that includes with your finances, that includes in your evangelism, that includes everything. Where you're a giving person, God will replenish your supply. And I think this is part of discipling.
I'll tell you something, I kinda broke all the rules the way I came to Christ. And by that I mean normally you share the gospel with someone you either lead them to the Lord and you bring them to church and they come to Christ. Then you follow up and you help them grow in their faith. None of that happened for me. No one invited me to anything. So you know my story, I saw the Christians meeting on the front lawn on my high school campus, I sat close enough where I could eavesdrop in their conversation, no one invited me to the meeting. But I heard the gospel and I heard enough to understand I needed Jesus and I went forward and I prayed and asked him into my life.
Now I could have gone the wrong direction, I could have fallen through the cracks but thank God someone followed up on me. And his name was Mark. And I haven't seen him in years. He came up to me a few days later and said, "Hi, is your name Greg"? I said, "Yeah". He says, "I saw that you had accepted Jesus Christ the other day". I was like, "Yes, so"? Because I didn't really know what had happened to me. I'm like, "yeah, so, yeah, I did, what about it"? "Well, you need to start going to church". "No, that's okay". "No, you need to come to church with me". "No, no, I don't really want to go to church with you". "Yeah, whatever, where do you live? I'm gonna come pick you up". "No, I don't want to go to church with you, I said". "No, you need to come to church, come on". And he was so persistent, just to make him stop I said "Okay, here's my address". He shows up at my house, I did not want to go to church.
Now, so all I'd known of Christianity literally was a Bible Study of like 25 young people. I had not been in a church pretty much my whole life, maybe when I was a little boy with my grandparents but I don't remember a lot about that. So I go to this church, it's Calvary Chapel, it's in the middle of the Jesus Movement, there's people everywhere coming out of the windows practically. Worshiping God and I literally walked in and it kind of freaked me out, there was too much love in one place.
And you'll have to understand the way I was raised my mom never hugged me, I'm not saying this to illicit sympathy but if you feel bad for me go ahead. But, she never hugged me. She never said I love you. So literally I was in a home where there was no affection. No I love you's and I walked in when a complete stranger comes up, some girl, "God bless you brother, I love you"! And she hugs me, I'm like, eek! It's like I didn't wanna be hugged.
I didn't wanna be in this place and it was so packed out there was no seats and I was glad and I started to walk away and someone in the front row recognized me because they went to my high school. They said, "Greg, come sit with us"! And I walk in and they're singing, "Happy, happy, happy, where does this happy feeling come from, Jesus"! And I'm like, why are they pointing up? What's up there? What's happening? And I sat in the front row and I thought, "Oh man". And I was very uncomfortable and then a guy walks out, he's old, he's bald. And I'm thinking aw really? His name was Chuck Smith, I thought, I don't want to listen to some adult. I don't like adults because all the adults I'd been exposed to were not very good examples to me.
And this guy comes out and he brings his Bible and I'm thinking oh brother, this is going to be so boring. And he opens up the Bible and it just comes to life. And I'm like drinking it in and you couldn't get me out of the place after that. I went every night of the week to every Bible Study they had. This guy Mark, he said, "Now I want you to come home and meet my parents". I'd never been around a Christian family. My mom was married and divorced seven times. We didn't sit around a table and eat a meal and have a prayer followed up by a Bible study. You kidding me? She'd be passed out on the floor. That was my life.
So I'm sitting in this house, we have our little meal. We have prayer, they say grace, I'd never done that before. And then afterwards, let's have a Bible study. And they're talking about things in the Bible and I'm drinking it in, I'm like a sponge. I'm like SpongeBob Square Pants, no not like that. You know, I'm just taking it in. I'd never heard this before. My life was changed. Why? Cause one guy just said I'm gonna go help that guy, Greg. And he took me under his wing and because he did that for me, here I sit today.
And you know, here's the thing. We all know the great, you know rockstar preachers, if you will, the Billy Graham's of the world, thank God for them. But you know, a lot of times it's the unsung heroes that play a key role. Someone who sews the seed in the life of the Billy Graham. Or someone that follows up on someone that stands in the gap for someone. You don't have to be a theologian to do this.
So I'm telling you in this last message in this "Jesus Revolution" series, if you want to experience revival, do revival-like things. What did we do back in those days? We told you already, we had passionate heartfelt worship. We studied the word of God. We believe that Jesus Christ could come back at any moment. And we shared our faith all of the time.
I would just say to you, if you would just start doing those things, open every day with the Word of God, study the Word of God. Start living, believing that Christ could come back at any moment and look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus, you'll experience revival. Cause as I've said, we overly mystify revival, too. As we do evangelism, revival just means restoration to original condition. And revival starts with you. It starts with me.