I am back in my series Essentials: What Every Christian Needs to Know this Sunday at Harvest. My topic will be “The Holy Spirit and You.” I hope you can attend or check out the webcast.
Here is an excerpt from my message in which I will talk about the Trinity.
The Triune nature of God
The Bible teaches there is one God. Yet, the Bible also teaches that the “One God” is a Trinity, not three but still one God.
The New Testament clearly distinguishes three Persons who are all simultaneously active. They are not merely modes or manifestations of the same Person.
The Father is not the same Person as the Son. The Son is not the same Person as the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the same Person as the Father.
There is one God, and this one true God exists in three co-equal and co-eternal Persons.
They are not three Gods and nor three Beings. They are three distinct Persons, yet they are all the one God.
They are in absolute perfect harmony, consisting of one substance. They are co-eternal, co-equal, and co-powerful.
You can’t really explain it
If we could fully explain God, then we could fully explain the Trinity,
but we can’t fully explain either. As it has been well said, “Try and explain this, and you’ll lose your mind; but try to explain it away, and you’ll lose your soul!”
John MacArthur, one of the greatest preachers alive, is always willing to speak his mind about what the Scripture teaches. I have many of his volumes in my library and am honored to count him as a friend.
In addition, John was one of the featured speakers at our recent Preach the Word Conference.
He recently posted an article on the topic of the frank discussion of sex in the pulpit and more that caused quite a stir. This article was brought to my attention, and I was asked my position on what he said.
My response was that I am in complete agreement with it. In fact, I wrote a similar blog post on the topic about six weeks ago.
So, here is that article for you to read again.
Reverence or Relevance?
March 11th, 2009 Posted in Pastor’s corner, sermons
It seems to me that for some we have lost the “fear of the Lord,” even in the Church.
There was a time when things were perhaps too uptight, and one spoke in whispers in the Church, and laughter was rarely heard. But today, many churches, in their attempt to be thought of as “cool” or “contemporary,” they have lost their focus.
I am not suggesting we attempt to be irrelevant and uncool, but my question is “Have we traded reverence for relevance?”
For instance, you have preachers talking in great detail about sexual issues, ranging from programs to have “sex every day for seven days” to more extreme versions in which they speak very graphically about specific sexual acts from the pulpit.
The cussing preacher
Then you have the “Cussing Preacher” syndrome. The pastor thinks it’s cool to use profanity in the pulpit so people will see him as one of them.
Is this all really necessary? I don’t think so.
Look, I have been a pastor for 35 years, and we have never had a problem reaching our culture and seeing people come to Christ. I am all for being real and authentic, but I also stand up on the platform to speak God’s Word.
1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (NIV).
We are also told in Scripture to watch what we say. Speaking of the tongue, James writes, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10 ESV).
The early Church had it right
The early Church, the Church of the book of Acts, had it right, of course. And let’s not forget they “turned their world upside down” (see Acts 17:6). Do we ever need that today!
These first-century believers were filled with both joy and the fear of the Lord.
Acts 2:46-47 tells us, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (NKJV).
This phrase “gladness and sincerity of heart” literally means “with unaffected joy!” I love that–they were not afraid to express joy in their faith.
But there also was a sense or reverence and awe among these believers.
Acts 2:43 says, “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (NKJV).
What is the fear of the Lord?
It does not mean you should be afraid of God. To fear God means that you have a healthy respect or reverence for Him. Another translation describes it as “a wholesome dread of displeasing God.” In other words, I love God so much that I want to do all I can to keep from displeasing Him.
Look, I am all for relevance. We need to make sense to the people we are reaching. But let’s not lower our standard in order to extend our reach.
Let’s not trade reverence for relevance.
I think for us to seek to live godly lives is very relevant, and very different than what this world has to offer. That’s how we will turn our world upside down, instead of the world turning us upside down.
People sometimes ask me why I do what I do.
Simple answer. I believe what the Bible says.
I don’t say that to boast, because God has given me that faith, just as He has given you. But I do believe with all of my heart the following things:
- Life comes and goes very quickly.
- Life is “a vapor of smoke,” as the Bible says.
- There really is an eternity, and both heaven and hell.
- Only those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ will go to heaven.
- I need to tell that to as many people as possible.
Now that is not all that I believe, but those are some big truths that are at the forefront of my heart and mind.
I recently received this e-mail from Lisa in Philadelphia, where we held a Harvest Crusades event last year, that illustrates why it is important to preach the gospel:
“Where do broken hearts go, can they find their way home?” The answer is YES, if you go home to Jesus. Back to loving arms that help you see it through.
My younger brother went to sleep one night and never woke up. He was 23 years old and had just graduated from college. He moved to Philadelphia after he graduated to take a break before he would go on to fullfill his dream of becoming a pilot.
I found out the Harvest Crusade was coming to Philadelphia. My younger brother gave his life to the Lord and exactly one month later, God called him home on November 3, 2008.
My brother lives today because of this ministry, and yes, we do have a broken heart because he is gone but he is in the arms of Jesus and that’s where I will meet him again.
Amen to that Lisa. You will see your younger brother again in heaven, because of what Jesus did for him on the cross, when He died and rose again from the dead.
I am speaking tonight in the O.C.
Speaking of the resurrection, that will be my topic tonight in O.C. at our Bible study. My message is from our Essentials series and the title is “What the Resurrection of Jesus Means to You.”
I hope all of you in the Orange County area can come and be part of this. For more info, click here.
I will be on TBN live tonight around the world
Before tonight’s study, I am going to tape a interview at the TBN studios that will be aired on their Praise the Lord program, which is seen around the world.
You can view it if you get TBN on your antenna, cable or satellite system. The program starts at 7:00 P.M., Pacific Daylight Time.
I wanted to let you know that we are showing the newly-edited, full-length documentary film Lost Boy: The Next Chapter tonight at our Thursday night O.C. Bible study. It will be followed by a testimony from my son, Jonathan Laurie.
In an e-mail to some of our O.C. community, Jonathan wrote:
You’re probably asking yourself how the son of Greg Laurie wasn’t a Christian his whole life, or what it took for me to gain this eternal perspective. Well, you will have to come on out this Thursday night to find out!
I encourage all of you in the Orange County area to do just that tonight!
Lost Boy at film festival
The Lost Boy documentary is also being featured at the Riverside International Film Festival. It is one of 120 films, including full-length features, documentaries and shorts from more than 30 countries, that will be screened at the festival.
Lost Boy: The Next Chapter will be shown next Tuesday at 6:30 P.M., at the Regal Cinemas Riverside Plaza Stadium 16. This is the first film festival that will be showing Lost Boy and we are honored to be included.
It is our hope that the light of Jesus Christ will shine in this setting through our story.
New book on discipleship
I have just put the finishing touches on a new book on discipleship that will be coming out soon. Here is an excerpt from it:
It is my conviction that every disciple is a believer, but not every believer is necessarily a disciple. Anything short of discipleship is settling for less than what God desires. Jesus clearly calls all believers to be disciples. But when we fail to respond to His call, we fall short of His perfect will and miss out on living the Christian life as it was truly meant to be lived.
What we often perceive as the Christian life is, in many ways, not what the Bible really teaches. We need to ask ourselves whether we are living the Christian life as it was meant to be lived. Is your life challenging? Exciting? Does it have purpose and direction? Or do you find yourself depressed and afraid? If your Christian experience is dull, unfulfilling, or even boring, then it is time to seriously examine the statements of Jesus concerning discipleship.
Ray Stedman wrote, “The chief mark of the Christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy. We have often quoted the description of a Christian as one who is: completely fearless, continually cheerful, and constantly in trouble. It is that presence of joy and absence of fear that marks our genuine Christianity and proves that we really are what we claim to be.”
That is what the world needs more of today: Christians who are full of joy and completely fearless. In short, we need disciples.
As they say in those old Looney Tunes cartoons, “That’s all (for now), folks!”
A blessed Good Friday to all of you!
Why do we call it “Good” when such a bad thing happened, namely the death of Jesus? For that matter, how could it be a good thing that God in human form would die such a tragic death?
We could apply the same question to tragedy in our own lives. Why did this happen? Can anything good ever come out of it?
We call this day Good Friday because the greatest good imaginable resulted. The satisfying of the righteous demands of God Almighty as Jesus died in our place.
God’s master plan
Humanity’s worst mistake was, at the same time, God’s master plan.
The Bible says that “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:10 NKJV). This means the crucifixion of Jesus was not a mistake. Nor was it an afterthought.
It was part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Before there was a solar system, much less a planet called Earth or a garden called Eden or a couple known as Adam and Eve, a decision was made in the councils of eternity that God Himself would come to Earth as a man and would go to a cross and die in the place of all sinners.
Why? So that humanity could be put into contact with God. Jesus came to Earth to purchase back what was lost in the Garden of Eden. He came to buy back the title deed to Earth. He came to die on a cross for our sins.
The Bible says, “He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9 NIV). In his own words, he came to give his life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
In other words, Jesus was born to die so that we might live. The purpose of the Incarnation was for our atonement. The birth of Jesus was for the death of Jesus.
The wise men had it right when they brought him the insightful gift of myrrh, an ancient embalming element. The cross was Jesus’ goal and destination from the very beginning.
He spoke of it often. He spoke of it in graphic detail. He warned his disciples it was coming, yet somehow they didn’t grasp the concept until it actually unfolded before their very eyes.
Jesus, however, knew exactly what was coming. As he prayed facedown in the Garden of Gethsemane, he knew that Judas Iscariot was on his way there with the temple guard. He knew that he would appear before Annas, then Caiaphas, then Pilate, then Herod and then back to Pilate again.
He knew they would punch him and rip his beard from his face. He knew they would take the cat-‘o-nine-tails and tear his back open. He knew they would nail him to a cross.
But worst of all, he knew he would have to bear the sin of the entire world. And that is why He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me” (Matthew 27:39 NIV).
That dreadful cup
The cup he spoke of was the cup of God’s wrath, the cup of God’s judgment that should have been poured out on us. Isaiah called it “the cup of His fury” (Isaiah 51:17 NKJV).
Have you ever eaten something that was so disgusting it turned your stomach? Imagine looking into this cup and what it represented. Imagine contemplating the horrors of bearing all that sin.
When Jesus pierced the darkness with his cry from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”– meaning, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”–I believe that at that moment, he was bearing the sins of the world: past, present, and future.
He was dying as a substitute for others. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf.
In some mysterious way that we can never fully comprehend, God was pouring out the full measure of his wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own Son.
Why did this have to happen?
God was punishing Jesus as though he had personally committed every wicked deed by every wicked sinner. And in so doing, he could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness.
This is called justification. It is not just merely the removal of sin. It is the imputing of the righteousness of Christ to those who put their faith in him. That is what happened when Jesus hung on the cross.
And Scripture clearly teaches there was a moment when the sin of the world was placed on Jesus: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV).
So, as tragic as the death of Jesus was, on this day we remember that it really is, in effect, very good!
And whatever tragedy has come your way in life, please know this. You are not alone.
Jesus was forsaken by God for a time that you might enjoy His presence forever. Jesus entered the darkness that you might walk in the light.
You see, He will never forsake you, and He will walk with you through life and then one day receive you into His presence in Heaven.
All because of what happened on Good Friday.
As we approach this Easter weekend, I trust you are all doing well.
I will be speaking tonight in Orange County at our Bible study on the topic
“What the Resurrection of Jesus Means to Us.” I hope you can join us.
For more information, check here.
We are following in the footsteps of Jesus during the Passion week. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was put on trial.
The trial of Jesus Christ was the most important judicial proceeding in all of human history. It was the day that Jesus Christ was arrested, tried, and executed in the greatest travesty of justice this world has ever seen. Countless religious and civic laws were broken or ignored in this “rush to judgment.”
Jesus was arrested at 1:00 in the morning, and then examined by Annas, the former High Priest. He was a shadowy, Godfather-like figure who pulled the strings behind the scenes.
Annas had an old score to settle with Jesus, as he was the one who profited from the money-changers in the temple, whose tables Jesus had overturned twice.
Then Jesus was brought before a full council to hear so-called witnesses perjure themselves as they told lies about His flawless ministry and preaching. He was then brought before Caiaphas–the High Priest and, conveniently, son-in-law of Annas–who condemned Jesus to death and sent Him to Pontius Pilate (the Roman governor) for execution.
Pilate the Politician
Pilate was immediately placed in the horns of a dilemma, a quandary.
It was the time of the Jewish Passover and the city was swelled with pilgrims. Pilate did not want these religious rulers inciting a riot against him.
Things were already tense between Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders. According to history, he had already had some serious run-ins with them and one more incident could have caused a full riot.
Pilate was scared, plain and simple. This hardened, anti-Semitic Roman cared nothing about public opinion. He would have freed Jesus just to spite them, not to mention He was innocent.
It’s just that it was his head in the noose. He had to keep the Jews from rioting, lest Rome turn on him.
Behind the Scenes
But there was much more taking place “behind the scenes” on this day.
The forces of good and evil were at work. Both God and Satan were mysteriously moving in the same direction, but with different objectives.
Satan wanted Jesus dead, and so he marshaled his forces and played his wicked hand. God wanted the sin of the world dealt with, and that would only happen through the death of His Son.
But Pilate did have a choice in the matter. He was soon to find out that he had no easy way out. He would have to make a decision concerning Jesus Christ.
Deep down inside, he may have even thought that Jesus was the Messiah. But he had his career, his position, his power to think about.
So, in spite of the fact that Jesus was completely innocent of all charges against him, Pilate had him whipped and murdered in cold blood through crucifixion.
How much is your soul worth?
So what is your price? How much would it take for you to “sell your soul,” so to speak?
Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. Herod sold his for an immoral lifestyle. And Pilate sold his for position, power, and prestige.
History tells us that within seven years of this cruel deed, Pontius Pilate–the great Roman governor–was removed from his office and banished to Gaul. He was left broken, destitute, unwanted by Caesar, and all alone.
In the end, Pilate went out into the darkness of night and, like Judas, hung himself. His body was found by a workman.
Pilate threw his life away because he was more concerned with what others thought about him than what God thought about him. His craving for popularity and power cost him everything.
What a story it would have been if he would have believed in Jesus on the spot.
We are in Pilate’s shoes
We know people like Pilate, but it’s not just the people who reject Christ.
For some, they choose career over Jesus. It’s not that you can’t have both, but they pour themselves into the pursuit of success at the cost of everything.
They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their standards, their friends, even their faith, for the results they can reach.
That is sad. Pilate did this.
Others will choose people over Jesus. In other words, they are more concerned about what is “cool” or “acceptable” with their circle of friends than what God wants or does not want.
So they will not stand up for what is right, out of fear of losing their social position. Pilate did that too. That is tragic.
It is better to succeed in God’s eyes and fail in the world’s. It’s the trap of compromise that Pilate got himself into.
I’ll close with a “little secret!”
Christian author Graham Scroggie once said of compromise, “It prompts us to be silent when we ought to speak for fear of offending. It prompts us to praise when it is not deserved to keep people our friends. It prompts us to tolerate sin and not to speak out because to do so might give us enemies.”
It causes us to “lower our standards” in order to “extend our reach.”
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Instead of compromising, make your life’s goal to please God and watch how He will bless you!
Sure, you may lose some “friends” here, or a “position” there. But when it’s all said and done, you will be glad you chose the way of the Lord.
We are following Jesus to the cross in this Passion week.
In my last blog post, I talked about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is in deep agony, as he considers the horrors of the cross. His trial on trumped-up charges before a kangaroo court of injustice will soon begin.
Enter the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
In films about the life of Christ, Judas has sometimes been portrayed sympathetically. He is presented as a man who wanted the world to know Jesus was Messiah, and he was simply trying to get the Lord to declare Himself.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Judas was a wicked man who, despite the fact that he had spent three years walking and talking with Jesus, cold-heartedly betrayed Him.
What’s even worse is the way he did it.
Why a Kiss?
Luke’s Gospel describes the scene for us vividly:
“And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'” (Luke 22:47-48)
Why did Judas betray Him with a kiss? Why not just a gesture like pointing at Jesus?
Because Judas was a “hypocrite extraordinaire.” Even in this, his hour of ultimate betrayal, he wanted to appear to be spiritual!
Like when he falsely accused Mary for anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume because that could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Scripture tells us he said this was not because he cared for the poor, but because he was in charge of the money and he was effectively “skimming off the top.”
Peter to the rescue!
Despite his greed and wickedness, Judas still wanted to come off as a super-spiritual man. This is almost like a sickness, wanting to look good on the outside when you are diseased on the inside.
When it says that Judas kissed Him, this literally means Judas “smothered Jesus with kisses.” In other words, he kissed him repeatedly. This was a “kiss from hell.”
The disciples are outraged and want to take action! They are ready to take up swords and defend Jesus.
Peter wasn’t waiting around. He took action.
“When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear” (Luke 22:49-50 NKJV)
Old Peter can’t take it anymore and pulls out a sword and takes a swing,
cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (whose name was Malchus).
On one hand, we want to commend Peter for his act of bravery. But on the other hand, Jesus did not commend this action and told Peter to put the sword away.
Boasting when he should have been listening
Poor Peter just couldn’t get it right. He was boasting when He should have been listening, and sleeping when he should have been praying. Now he was fighting when he should have been surrendering.
What was he thinking? He wasn’t! He was reacting. Peter seemed to be an emotional man, given to the impulse of the moment.
Peter made a number of mistakes when he struck Malchus, and these are mistakes that we all make.
He was fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon! Our enemies are not flesh and blood, and they cannot be defeated with ordinary weapons. Scripture says, “The weapons of our warfare are not physical but mighty before God” (2 Corinthians 10:4 AMPLIFIED).
Preaching the gospel and praying are two of our most powerful weapons in our arsenal. Sadly, they are often if not usually neglected.
The last miracle of Jesus
In this midst of this flurry of activity in the garden, very few noticed the last miracle of His earthly ministry. It was not a big, flashy, go-out-with-a-bang miracle, but a quiet one.
This final miracle showed His true heart. He healed the ear of one of the ones who came to arrest him. As Luke 22:51 says, “And He touched his ear and healed him” (NKJV).
If ever a man did not “deserve” a healing, it was Malchus. He probably got sliced by Peter because he was leading the charge against Jesus. And yet Jesus had compassion on him.
Our Lord received no thanks from this man (that we know of). But Jesus, in the face of this lynch mob, had not forgotten about the need of the individual.
It’s also worth noting the last miracle performed by Jesus was made necessary because of a blundering disciple. And He probably has been busy ever since then, healing the wounds made by blundering disciples.
Let’s use those “secret weapons” God has given to us as the Church, praying and preaching the gospel, especially as Easter approaches and people are more open to attending church with us.
Let’s talk about Jesus.
The seven days before us is generally referred to as the “Passion week.” It is during this time that we think deeply about what Jesus went through for each of us as He made the journey to the cross, where he shed His blood for us and ultimately rose from the dead.
Let’s follow Him step-by-step together.
Before that precious blood would be shed, there would be agony in a garden–the Garden of Gethsemane.
And what do we find Jesus doing in this Garden?
Praying! He was giving us the example of what we are to do when it seems like our world is ending.
In this unique and insightful portion of Scripture, we are given a rare “behind the scenes” look at the personal struggle of Jesus as He contemplated the cup He had to drink.
The Bible says, “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known, accelerating to a climax the following day.
We cannot even begin to grasp the anguish Jesus was experiencing at this moment because, being omniscient, He was fully aware of what lay ahead.
Jesus knew the future, and it wasn’t pretty
It has been said “Ignorance is bliss,” and “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”
There is some truth to these statements. For Jesus, being God, knew full well what horrors awaited Him.
He knew that in just a few short hours He would go to a Roman cross to be crucified. This, of course, would be after a time of humiliation, beating, and a horrendous whipping.
He knew Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him. He knew He would have to bear all the sin of the world.
I’m glad I don’t know the future. Aren’t you glad you don’t?
This time at Gethsemane was, next to the cross itself, probably the loneliest moment of His life.
We need to remember this in our moments of loneliness, when we feel like our friends and family have let us down (or even when we think God has let us down).
Remember this: Jesus has been there, and He is there for you!
He knows what you’re going through!
Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NKJV).
We will face our own “Gethsemanes” in life. By that, I mean a time when perhaps life is not making any sense. When your problems seem to great to bear. When you are seemingly overwhelmed.
Much is said about the cross (and rightly so), but keep in mind that here in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the decision agonizingly made that took Him to the cross!
The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was actually accomplished first beneath the gnarled old olive trees of Gethsemane.
None of the wonderful things promised during Jesus’ ministry–the promise of eternal life, the sending of the Holy Spirit as comforter, Jesus’ return for His church–would have happened if the events before us did not take place first.
Jesus prayed a prayer in Gethsemane that we all should pray. “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).
Not my will, but yours be done.