Greg Laurie - The Writing On The Wall
The title of my message is the writing on the wall. I was at the gym the other day. It's hard to believe that I go to the gym, but someone offered to weigh me for free on this very fancy high-tech scale. It normally costs you know maybe $100. He says, "I'll weigh you for free and then I'll measure your height". So I got on the scale and I have to admit to you, I was pretty disappointed by my weight. It was higher than I wanted it to be. Then he said, "Let me measure you", and he told me that I was 5'9" so wait a second. I used to be 5'10" and now I'm 5'9" so I've shrunk an inch, I've gained weight and I'm bald. This just isn't fair.
So you know when we gain weight we go on diets. I've noticed that the keto diet is very popular right now. You heard about that? The ketosis diet. You know, that is the greatest diet on earth for the first two days, right. Because you basically can eat fat and proteins but no carbs, right. So you can eat meat and you can eat beef and chicken and pork and bacon and cheese and if you get a latte or a cappuccino you don't get it with two percent milk, you get it with half and half or whipping cream. It's amazing. But then after two days, I am like dreaming of carbs. I'm dreaming about pizza and pancakes and things like that. But the objective of a diet whatever diet you're on is to get your weight to go down on the scale.
Question: did you know that God has scales too? But on God's scales, you don't want to weigh less: you want to weigh more. Before us here in the Book of Daniel is a story of a young king of Babylon. His name was Belshazzar. He was effectively placed on God's scales and was told by the Lord himself that he was a spiritual lightweight. It is in this story that we get the phrase "The writing is on the wall". Have you heard that phrase before? This is where that comes from.
So Belshazzar was the great grandson of king Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar was the king that took the Israelites into captivity into Babylon. He was a very wicked king. A very evil man, but amazingly he came to believe in the Lord God of Israel and actually sent the message out to his whole kingdom that he now was a believer but something didn't get passed on to the next generation and the generation to follow. So as we come to our story now, we have his grandson Belshazzar who is literally going out of his way to mock God. He's going out of his way to shake his fist at God and to defy him.
I sort of understand that because I've always been a bit of a mocker myself. I was driving along one time in the South and I saw a town called Mocksville. I thought I should've been born in Mocksville instead of long beach because I as a kid would always mock authority figures. I would mock the teachers. Get into trouble and I used to mock Christians. I thought they were collectively nuts. I thought they were one taco short of a combination plate, right, and they were on my high school campus. We didn't call them Christians: we called them Jesus Freaks and my friends warned me and they said, because I just transferred to that campus in Newport Beach Harbor High School, they said "Greg, be careful. We have a lot of Jesus Freaks on this campus". I said, "Give me a break. The last thing Greg Laurie will ever do is become a Jesus freak". Famous last word.
So I thought they were crazy. I dismissed them. But then I saw this really cute girl and she had a Bible and I thought to myself, "Why would a perfectly cute girl carry a Bible"? So I was intrigued. So I went and sat close enough to one of their meetings because they had these little Bible studies in the front lawn of our high school campus. I sat close enough to sort of eavesdrop on their conversation but not close enough where people would think I was actually joining them and that was the first time I heard the Gospel and that was the day I put my faith in Jesus Christ and I have never regretted that day. Never.
So coming back to our story. Here is Belshazzar shaking his fist at God. The message had not been passed on. Actually, it's interesting because he had a father whose name was Evil Merodach. I mean who names their kid Evil? You know that kid is not going to turn out well if you name him Evil. Unless he's Evel Knievel who actually, I heard, came to Christ. So that worked out for Evel Knievel. Well this Evil Merodach lived up to his name and he has a son named Belshazzar who has no interest in God whatsoever.
Why do I bring that up? Listen to this, just because your grandparents, or even your parents believed in Jesus doesn't mean that you automatically become a believer. Jesus said, "You must be born again". I've heard people say, "Well you know, I'm a Christian I'm just not one of those born agains". Listen man, you have to be born again if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven and I'm going to tell you how to do that in just a few moments.
So here's the story right here in Daniel chapter five. Let me read it to you. "King Belshazzar gave a great feast for 1.000 of his nobles, and he drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking the wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. These were holy objects used in worship by the Jewish people that were taken with the Jewish people into captivity into Babylon. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines".
If you don't know what a concubine is and you're young, ask your mom and dad later. "So they brought these gold cups taken from the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives, were drinking from them. While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, suddenly they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the wall of the king's palace near the lampstand. The king saw the hand as it wrote and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him".
Wow. What a vivid story. So here's the king partying away. These old ancient kings - they love to flaunt their wealth. If Belshazzar was around today and had an Instagram account he would be sitting on a pile of money with gold chains hanging around his neck with babes and Bentleys in the background. He was flaunting his wealth. Living large. Look at what I have accomplished. He was drinking. Not usually a good combination. I don't know if you have noticed this but drinking makes you do stupid stuff. I just read about a four-year study that determined the following: "Young adults who binge drink frequently are more likely to show disadvantageous decision making patterns than their peers who don't drink". You needed a four-year study to figure that out? Give me a break.
So here he is. He is having a big old party. You know sometimes people think that they can just live as they want and disregard the standards that God has given us. We call them the Ten Commandments. They are there for a reason. You shall not steal. You shall not lie. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not take the Lord's name in vain. God doesn't give us those standards to ruin our lives. He gives them to us to protect us from harm. They are not some big wall that keeps the fun out. They are a wall of protection that keep us safe.
When you start breaking God's commandments you are going to reap the consequences. Oh I know you think I can drink. It won't affect me. I can do some drugs here and I won't become an addict of any kind. I will get into this thing and it won't take me over. And then one day you find yourself facing the massive consequences of all of the bad decisions that you have made.
So here is the king living large and suddenly we read he saw a hand writing on a wall. It was the hand of God. I read an article about the musician Moby who has had global success. He wrote about it in a book with the title and then it fell apart. In the book it says of his life, "Fame was gold and platinum records stacked in the hallway of his small Mott Street apartment in New York city. Fame was also lots of spontaneous sex, ecstasy, vodka, and anything else offered".
Some people are hearing this going that sounds awesome. Well it wasn't so awesome for Moby because he found himself looking with envy on his friend heath ledger who had died of a drug overdose not far from where Moby was living. So one night Moby pulled out a plastic bag, put it over his head, fastened a belt at it's base and closed his eyes effectively attempting suicide. Thankfully he was not successful and went and sought treatment. But maybe you have been so despondent you have considered suicide. Some of you listening to my message right now have attempted suicide as well. Because you chased after everything this culture has to offer and you found it was empty. You checked all of the boxes. You got to the top. You found out there was nothing there. What do you think is going to fill that hole in your soul? Drugs? Drinking? Sex? Some would say fame. "Man, it is all about being famous. I want to be Insta-famous. I want to be a youtUber. I want to be an influencer". Really?
I read in 2017 Forbes Magazine reported that 1 in 4 millennials would quit their jobs to become famous. Well, Belshazzar was famous and he was powerful and now he was in trouble. As he sees the hand writing on the wall. You know, it's interesting because it says his knees started knocking and one translator looking at this verse said that he basically defecated. Do you understand what I'm talking about? Yes, he pooped in his pants. If you saw a hand writing on the wall, you might do the same thing. It freaked him out and he didn't know what to do.
So he called in all these astrologers for advice and they didn't have anything to say and then someone said, "Man, you better talk to your grandmother," so grandma comes walking in and listen, she wasn't happy. If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. And grandma, the wife of Nebuchadnezzar said, "Why haven't you called on the prophet Daniel? He really helped out your father, your grandfather rather. Why don't you talk to him"? "All right, bring the old dude in. I don't know what he's going to have to say to me. I'm the young boy king".
So in comes Daniel. He's around 90 years old. He hadn't been doing much lately. He had gone off all social media. He was just kind of off the grid. Daniel walks in, he looks on the wall, he sees the writing and he knows what it means and now he's going to tell the king what it's all about. We read that Daniel says to him, "O Belshazzar, you knew these things, and you've not humbled yourself".
Sometimes people ask the question, how could a God of love send someone to hell? Well, first of all, let me tell you something, the real issue people are sometimes coming to talk about is what about the person who has never heard the Gospel before? Will God send them to hell? Listen to me, the last thing God Almighty wants to do is to send any man or any woman to hell. Hell was not made for people: hell was made for the devil and his angels.
God wants you to go to heaven. That's why he sent his son Jesus Christ on a rescue mission from heaven to die on the cross and pay for your sins so you could go to heaven. Yeah, but what about the person who has never heard the Gospel? What will happen to them? You know, the person living in the middle of the desert. They're always in the middle of a desert for some reason. Hey, God will judge them according to the light that they have received, but check this out. Knowledge brings responsibility and you're hearing the Gospel tonight.
You say, what is this thing you say Gospel? What is the Gospel? Well, first of all, the word Gospel means good news. Here's the Gospel in a nutshell, here's what I'm saying to you. You were made by God in his image, but the problem is you're separated from God by your sin and everybody sins. Some sin more than others, but everyone sins. That's why you have a hole in your heart. That's why there's a void in your life. That's why you're searching.
So that's the bad news - you've sinned, you've broken God's commandments you're separated from God. But here's the good news, God sent his Son to die on the cross for your sin because only Jesus Christ was uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between holy perfect God and unholy imperfect humanity and with one hand and the other hand on the cross, spikes were driven through them. And with one hand Jesus took hold of sinful people like us and he took hold of the holy hand of God and he died there in our place. Jesus came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. So yes, you'll be held responsible for what you know. So you can't leave here tonight saying, "I never heard about Jesus. I never realized I needed to believe in Jesus". Now you know.
Here's the writing on the wall. The words were "Mene, mene, tekel, parsin". Daniel looks at it and says, "Okay, man, this is not the best news. What this means is you've been weighed in God's scales and you've been found lacking". Yeah. That's it. Party is over. Listen, there's going to come a last night to every person and you're going to give what will be your last words. You may not know that they're your last words but they will be. Michael Jackson was leaving practice for his "This is it" concert tour and his last words were "This is it. This really is it", and he died shortly after that. The last words of P. T. Barnum, they actually made a movie about his life called "The Greatest Showman", the last words of this great showman were "What were last nights receipts"? You can see where his priorities were.
On March 14, 1883, Karl Marx was preparing to die and his housekeeper said, "Tell me your last words, and I'll write them down". Karl Marx said, "Get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough". In contrast to Karl Marx, Groucho Marx gave his last words which were, "Die, my dear, why that's the last thing I'll do", and then he died. Nostradamus who is known for predicting the future, not very accurately I might add, predicted the future right one time when he said, "Tomorrow I shall no longer be here". And those turned out to be his last words. Brad Delp the lead singer of the rock band "Boston" committed suicide. On a note clipped to his shirt were his final words: "I am a lonely soul".
One day you'll give your last words. One day you'll have your last meal. See it was too late for Belshazzar. Now, if he had turned to God at that moment, God would've forgiven him: but he didn't and there's going to come a last moment and I wonder if there's not somebody here in this stadium or somebody hearing me or watching me right now that is hearing the Gospel for the last time. Someone's name is going to be one of those statistics later tonight or tomorrow. One of those people who passed into eternity. One day it's going to be you and one day it's going to be me because the statistics on death are very impressive. One out of every one persons will die. But the Christian doesn't have to be afraid to die. It's not that we look forward to it, we just don't have to be afraid of it because death was defeated at the cross when Jesus died for us. Oh, sure, our bodies will be laid into the ground one day, but our soul goes to heaven because we put our faith to Christ. That's why the Bible says, "To live is Christ and to die is gain".
The writing on the wall. Let me close with one story about another time that God wrote. This time it wasn't on a wall. This time it was in the sand. It was a woman who was caught in the very sin of adultery. They drug her and threw her down on the ground in front of Jesus, and they said "The law says she should be condemned. What do you say"? Jesus looked around and the Bible says he wrote on the ground. We don't know what he wrote. Then he stood up and he said, "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone". Then he stooped down and wrote on the ground again. The Bible says they left from the oldest to the youngest.
I wonder what he wrote. I bet he wrote the names of some of them. I see a Joshua Joshua. Maybe he wrote next to his name the sin he was committing at that moment. He cleared the house. So here's this woman on the ground and Jesus says to her, "Woman", and by the way he used the very respectful term almost like saying, "Lady" or "Ma'am". "Ma'am, lady, where are your accusers"? She looks around. She says, "Lord, I don't have any". He says, "Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more". That's what Jesus will say to you tonight. He can forgive you of all of your sin.
So in this story we're talking about the book of Daniel, God wrote on the wall. In the story I just told you, God wrote in the sand. God can write a new ending to your story right now. The Bible says: we live our life like a story that's being told and the way that you're living your life right now, it looks like your story is going to be a tragedy, but God can change your story. God can change everything, but you must come to him and say, "Lord, I need your help. I need your forgiveness".
I just wrote a book about Johnny Cash, the musical legend. What a fascinating guy he is. Raised in the church, raised believing, and then Johnny reached global fame in his career selling millions of records. Selling out huge arenas. But then he started using amphetamines and he started drinking and he messed up a lot of times in his life. But here is why Johnny Cash did not join the pantheon of rock stars of days gone by who died too young.
Here's why Johnny did not join the ranks of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse or a host of others, because Johnny knew when he was in trouble he needed to turn to God. He didn't live a perfect life but he was a believer and God forgave him and gave him second chances and God still gives second chances and he'll give one to you tonight. You say, "Okay, what do I need to do"? Okay, if you haven't listened to anything else I've said, just listen to me for a moment. If you want to have your sin forgiven, if you want to fill that hole in your heart, if you want to have your guilt removed, if you want to know that you'll go to heaven one day, here is what you need to do:
1. Admit you're a sinner. Some people choke on that word. "Oh, you know, maybe I'm sick. Maybe I have some kind of a disease". No. You're a sinner. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every one of us have broken his commandments. You say, "Well, I haven't broken that many". Yeah, but the Bible says if you offend in one point of the law you're guilty of all of it. I mentioned some commandments earlier. Question: have you ever lied? No. You're lying right now, sucker. Don't tell me you haven't lied. Have you ever taken the Lord's name in vain? Have you ever stolen something? Of course you have. We all have sinned. Admit you're a sinner. Just own it. Stop making excuses for it, but the Bible warns the wages of sin are death.
2. Realize that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. That's why he died for you because there's nothing you or I can do to meet the righteous standards of God. So God reached down to us and Christ died for us. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son and whosever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life". That's why Jesus died. They didn't take his life from him. He laid it down. He died in our place voluntarily. Nails did not hold Christ to that cross 2.000 years ago. Love did. Love for you. He died for you.
3. You need to repent of your sin. You might say, "I don't even know what that means to repent. I don't even know if I've pented. How do I repent"? Repent just means change your direction. It's actually a military term. It means about face. Turn around. So instead of going away from God, go to God. Instead of running from God, run to God. Turn away from that old sin.
4. You must receive Christ into your life. See, being a Christian, this is not a religious thing. I'm not a religious person. I don't want to be a religious person because religious people are weird. But I am a person who has a relationship with God and the way that happened... You are too. Many of you. The way that happened is when I just realized I need God in my life and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and he came to live inside of me. Yes.
The Bible says, "For as many as received him he gave them the power to become sons of God". You receive him. It's like a gift. If I were to give you a gift tonight and say, "Hey I got you a gift". Receive the gift. You know girls and guys they receive gifts differently. If you wrap a gift and give it to a girl she'll undo the ribbon very carefully and she'll say, "I might use this later". Then she'll nicely undo the wrapping paper. But first of all, she'll open the card you gave her and read what you wrote and even say, "That's very sweet". Then she'll open the gift and enjoy it.
You give a gift to a guy, he'll open the card. He acts like he's reading it. He's not reading it. He's just opening it to see if there's money or a gift card in there. Wrapping paper - a mere obstacle. He rips it apart. "What did you get me?"! Look, I don't care how you open the gift, just receive it and open it. God is offering to you tonight the gift of eternal life and all you have to do is receive it for yourself. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if you'll hear my voice and open the door, I will come in".