What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8:31
In his final words to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul essentially laid down the principles that really mattered to him and said the desire of his heart was to finish his race with joy (see Acts 19:24). It was an emotional good-bye, and Paul left, sailing on to Caesarea. When he arrived there he stayed with the evangelist Philip, where he encountered the prophet Agabus. Agabus tied his own hands and feet with Paul's belt and warned him, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles' " (Acts 21:11). In other words, "Don't go. Danger is waiting."
Awhile back I met a man named Michael Franzese, who was once involved with the Colombo crime family. In fact, in the mid-1980s he was dubbed one of the fifty most wealthy and powerful mafia bosses. At his peak he was making $6 to $8 million a week. Then he ended up in prison.
In her book, The Hiding Place, Nazi concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom recalls the story of how, as a young girl, she struggled with the prospect of having loved ones die.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ—next to His arrival in Bethlehem, these are, without question, the most important events in history.
Everyone wanted a piece of Jesus. But a determined father named Jairus had a daughter who was on the brink of death, and he begged Jesus to come to his house. As they made their way to Jairus' home, the crowd pushed and pulled and screamed and yelled.
Do you know any generous people? They're easy to recognize. They're the ones who always pick up the check for your meal, and they never remind you of it. Maybe they don't have a lot of money, even, but they say, "I'll get it. Don't worry about it."
In the previous weeks, we have looked at a couple of reasons why the church exists: the exaltation of God and the edification of the saints. But let's look at a third reason: The church is called to evangelize the world.
When I speak I try to keep it interesting. I try to keep it real. I try to keep it understandable. But I am not there to entertain an audience or to make people feel good. My job, if you will, is to exposit the Word of God. Because it really doesn't matter what Greg Laurie thinks about anything. My opinion isn't any better than anyone else's opinion.
The apostle Paul would often describe himself as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. This isn't the same as the horrific slavery of days gone by where people were forced to work for someone else. Being a bondservant of Christ means serving God. It is something I want to do.
As I mentioned last week, the church exists for three main reasons: to exalt God (upward); to edify the saints (inward); and to evangelize the world (outward). Let's look at the second function—the edification of other believers.
Some Christians have lost their joy. They started off the Christian life with joy, but then something happened. They just lost interest in the things of God. They still do the things they should as a Christian, but they are just going through the motions. And they are not very happy about it.
Awhile back, I had a candid conversation with Billy Graham about heaven. I was speaking at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, so one afternoon we had lunch together. He asked me what I was speaking on, and I told him that I was talking about heaven.
The church exists for three purposes: The Glorification of God; The Edification of the Saints; And the Evangelization of the World. In other words, "Upward, Inward, and Outward."
I remember visiting a city and seeing a man standing on a corner with a sign that said, "The wages of sin are death." He was literally yelling at people, "God hates you! God will judge you!"
Spending time on the beach, I have watched people construct some very elaborate sandcastles that took hours and hours to build. I have admired their work. But I also knew those impressive structures wouldn't be around for very long. It was only a matter of time until either a tide came in and swept them away or a toddler appeared out of nowhere and demolished them.
Some people claim to be Christians but don't attend church. They say, "Well, I haven't found a church I like yet, and I work and Sunday is my only day off!" But if you really love God, you will love His people and long to be with them.
When we hear the statement "You will reap what you sow," that typically brings something frightening to mind. It is usually quoted in an aggressive fashion as if to say, "You'd better stop doing that because the Bible says you will reap what you sow." And that is true.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. — Galatians 6:9
Not all of America's founding fathers were believers, but even those who were not committed followers of Jesus Christ had, at the very least, a great respect for the Bible. That is why they built our judicial system—and really the government as a whole—on it.
In our country, we have had three great spiritual awakenings, perhaps four. The first, during the 1700s, was led by such men as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. During just two years of this revival, from 1740 to 1742, some 25,000 to 50,000 people were added to the New England churches. This, out of a population of only 300,000!
Despite being chained between two Roman soldiers and facing the possibility of execution the next day, Peter was asleep. (He probably was the only Christian who slept that night.) In fact, it seems that Peter was in such a deep slumber that it took a whack from an angel to wake him up: "Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, 'Quick! Get up!' And the chains fell off his wrists" (verse 7).
No doubt there have been times when we may have hindered the work of God in our lives because of unbelief. Scripture tells us that Jesus could do no mighty work in His hometown because of unbelief (see Matthew 13:58).
Part of the problem with our prayers is that we give up too soon. We simply assume that it must not be God's will: "I prayed four times for an awakening to come to America, and it didn't happen, so it must not be God's will."
What is the future of the United States of America? Are we doomed to just go the way that so many other once-great nations have gone? Is America headed to the ash heap of history? Are our greatest days behind us, or could they still yet be ahead? Is there any hope for America?