We like the idea of change, of starting over again, of becoming someone different than we are. Sometimes we move to a new place, thinking we can escape our problems. Sometimes we think if we had some new friends or get married that life will be better. Then we think if only we had kids things would be different.
Others think a change in their appearance will do it. A survey revealed that 80 percent of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. And research has also shown that the more time people spend consuming media, the more unhappy they are with their bodies. They think that if they could look like someone in a magazine, it would meet the deepest needs of their lives.
If you think you would be happier if you were really handsome or strikingly beautiful, consider this statement from actress Halle Berry: “Being thought of as a beautiful woman has spared me nothing in life. No heartache, no trouble. Love has been difficult. Beauty is essentially meaningless and it is always transitory.”
A professor of sociology said, “The demand for instant identity transformation has never been so pervasive. People want change, and they want it instantly. From fame to the instant thrills of Botox or liposuction, the capacity to reinvent ourselves has become fundamental.”
But can we really reinvent ourselves? Can we really change? Here is the answer: No. You cannot change who you are on the inside. You can change your appearance. You can change your location. You can change your relationships. But you can’t change yourself any more than a drowning person can save himself.
Sometimes it is said the answer is within, but the reality is the problem is within. And that problem inside of you and inside of me is called sin. We have all sinned. And we can’t change our essential nature. The Bible says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). There is only one person who can change the human heart, and that is God. God can change your life. It is possible.
There is a story in the Bible about a woman who got caught committing adultery. Some religious leaders found her and decided she ought to be executed for this. We don’t know what happened to the man she was with, but apparently he walked away free. But they brought this woman to Jesus and threw her down at his feet. Now, they didn’t really care about this woman. What they really were trying to do was to trap Jesus. They wanted to know what he would do.
They said to him, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4–5) Now, Jesus was on the horns of a dilemma here. If He said, “Stone her,” he would have been justified, technically, but that would have been pretty harsh. If he said, “Let her go,” then he would have been seen as being too lenient.
So what did he do? He looked at them and started writing in the sand. What was he doing? I don’t think he was playing tic-tac-toe. I think he wrote something significant. And when he was finished writing in the sand, he stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (verse 7). Then he stooped down and started writing again.
We don’t know exactly what Jesus wrote, but I think he probably wrote the names of the religious leaders next to the commandments. Yeah, Caleb, I know what is up with you. … Hey, Joshua, I know where you have been. … Eliezer, I know all about you, buddy. And then they left, from the oldest to the youngest. And why did they leave in that order? I think it s because the older guys had more sins they had committed. They got busted. Instead of condemning the woman, Jesus condemned the self-righteous condemners.
Then Jesus said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more” (verses 10–11).
Some might say, “How could Jesus pardon her? She was caught in the act. She wasn’t even a believer.” But I think she was. Why? Because she believed. I am not sure exactly when she believed, but probably right before she said, “No, Lord.” How long does it take to believe in God? Only an instant.
Jesus said four things to her that were very important.
Her sins had been forgiven. He said, “Neither do I [condemn you]. Go and sin no more.” God can forgive you of all of your sins. And not only will he forgive them, but he will forget them. They will be behind you. The Bible says it will be like they are buried in the depths of the sea (see Micah 7:19).
She did not have to fear the judgment day. There is a day of judgment coming when everyone will stand before God – the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown. And the question in that final day will not be whether you lived or a good life or were a nice person or whether you recycled. The question will be: What did you do with Jesus Christ?
She had new power to face her problems. “Go and sin no more,” Jesus told her. God will give you the power to be the person he wants you to be.
I never wanted to be a religious person. I never wanted to be someone who went to church. But when Jesus started changing me, I said to God, “I don’t even know how to pray. But I will say this: if you are real, then you will have to make yourself real to me.” And he started changing me. He will start changing you too. You will see.
We all have questions about heaven:
What’s it like?
What will we do?
What will we remember?
Will we recognize one another?
Find biblical answers to these questions and more tomorrow at Harvest Riverside and Orange County in my message
“The Blessed Hope.”
This is the second to last message in my Hope for Hurting Hearts series.
Come join us in person or watch the live webcast at www.harvest.org.
When did the Great Commission become the “Great Omission”?
We know the Lord has called us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” But how many of us are doing it these days?
That is exactly what we are planning on doing for Harvest America.
Here is an excellent article written by John Collins on this vital topic. John is the director of the Harvest Crusades and knows what he is talking about. So, check out what he wrote and let me know what you think.
A Passion to Proclaim
By John Collins.
We’re swimming upstream with Harvest America. We know it’s not popular to hold an event in a public forum to boldly proclaim the message of Jesus—that He came, suffered, died, was buried, and then rose again from the dead—that it’s through Him, and Him alone, that man can find salvation. He is the only way!
That message used to be the red meat of American evangelicalism. Now, some in our culture view it as divisive and intolerant of other religions. How far we have fallen!
But the downward slide of American culture should not be a source of discouragement for followers of Jesus. It should be a source of motivation. The apostle Paul faced a similar dynamic in the culture he addressed. He was unpopular among the dominant secular culture—Rome. He was also unpopular among the dominant religious culture—Judaism. To their ears, to the ears of the “popular culture,” and to the scholarly who did not know God, Paul said his message sounded foolish. Then he said something that should cause our hearts to soar:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And also, “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe”!
God is not interested in the church looking cool. He’d rather we be faithful. I’m sure Harvest America looks foolish to some. There are those who say we should be eschewing the old-school methods of proclamation evangelism. Prevailing thought among many in the church is that we are better off demonstrating our faith via good works. Better to show people Jesus than talk about Him. It’s the ol’ saw, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” The days of Billy Graham calling thousands to faith are over, they say. Those “emotional events” just don’t work anymore. It’s with that logic that many in the church have forsaken the simple, bold proclamation of the gospel.
I will agree that good works earn believers respect in the eyes of the world. But respect does not and will not deliver a person from sin. God didn’t choose good works as the method for sharing the gospel; He chose preaching! Our lives can and should overflow with compassion for the hurting because of Christ in us, the hope of glory. But let us not confuse that with evangelism; it is pre-evangelism. It plows the ground for the seed to be planted. We must always remember it is the “goodness of God that leads men to repentance,” not the goodness of men.
The world looks fondly upon Christians when they feed the poor and care for the wounded. But there are kind and compassionate humanists, too! What separates Christians from these groups is our message. That message is and will always be “an offense” to those who are unbelieving, but we must not remain silent—even if we look foolish. The kindling of kind acts must somewhere burst into the flame of loving words. The gospel is not a philosophy to be used as seasoning for life; it is the supernatural power of God at work in our world. It is the power of God to free a drug addict from his addiction, to restore a hostile marriage, to redirect the course of a lonely life—and it can all happen in a matter of seconds as a penitent hears and believes!
In 22 years of bringing the gospel into arenas and stadiums around this nation and in Australia and New Zealand, we have seen the wise confounded, the confused enlightened, and the hopeless restored. Rebellious teens have turned to the mission fields, strung-out drop-outs have become pastors, all because they came to an event, a place where a preacher stood up and talked straight and clear about turning from sin and turning to Jesus.
I can’t say I understand it. But I will stand toe to toe with those who say it’s not effective. History has not recorded that revival broke out on the heels of good works; it always follows the passionate prayer of the saints and the passionate proclamation of the gospel. That’s why we’re pursuing Harvest America; our nation needs revival. As a people, we must cry out to God for an outpouring of His grace.
Harvest America is an event where we, the church of Jesus, can work to bring people toward a singular moment of preaching, where one of our nation’s most effective evangelists can declare the gospel, and possibly where we can witness a change in the course of our nation. It’s a time to be bold, and if necessary, to look foolish!
We have all heard it said, “All religions basically teach the same thing!” Anyone who makes a statement like that shows they have not really looked into what the various religions teach.
Let’s take a a comparative look at what various belief systems teach about the person of Jesus Christ, in this message among other things.
It’s all a part of a series of messages I am doing from the book of Philippians called Better Than Happiness.
The message title for tonight is “The Way to Up Is Down, Part 2.”
It starts at 7:00 PM, PST and will be webcast live at www.harvest.or.
Perhaps you have heard of George Bernard Shaw. We was a highly regarded thinker and writer and, among other things, won a Nobel prize in literature. He also was an avowed and vocal atheist.
Shaw firmly believed in science and what mankind could accomplish. But toward the end of his life, he realized this was a misplaced hope. He wrote, “The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led, instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who lost his faith.”
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Even atheists have moments of doubt.”
When you wish upon a star.
Problem is, George Bernard Shaw put his hope in the wrong thing. Do you have hope today?
Victor Hugo said, “Hope is the Word which God has written on the brow of every man.” That all sounds good, but the question is. ..Hope in what or whom?
When I use the word “hope,” I don’t mean a blind optimism. The modern idea of Hope is “to wish for, to expect.” This may be based on fate, serendipity, good luck, or perhaps, “wishing on a star.”
As the great theologian Jiminy Cricket sang to the wooden puppet Pinocchio, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.”
But that really isn’t true is it?
Leaning on a Spiderweb
Some will say, “I just know it will get better!” but it won’t always.
Some put their trust in their investments; the things of this life than can quickly disappear.
The Book of Job reminds us, “The hope of the godless comes to nothing. Everything they count on will collapse. They are leaning on a spiderweb. They cling to their home for security, but it won’t last. They try to hold it fast, but it will not endure” (Job 8:11).
That is especially poignant in this economy; is it not?
We need to put our hope in God.
We should not have hope for hope’s sake; we must have hope in God.
The Psalmist writes, “Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God” (Psalm 42:5-6). This will give us the strength to go on in life, because we know there is a heaven where wrongs will be made right.
The hope of a Christian is a quiet confidence. It is a supernatural certainty.
And where do we find this hope? In the pages of Scripture. Paul reminds us that the Scriptures were written to “give us hope” (Romans 15:4).
So put your hope in God today. He will never disappoint.
Life isn’t fair. We all know that. It is filled with inequities and injustice.
Oh sure, there are many times when good is rewarded and evil is punished. But far too often it is the very opposite of that.
While it is true that life is not fair, it is also true that God is good! He is also righteous, just, and holy. And of course He loves all of us.
One day wrongs are going to be righted, suffering ended, and losses compensated for. That is all going to happen for the person who has put their faith in Christ, when they get to heaven.
That is what I will speak on this Sunday at Harvest Riverside and Orange County: “The Hope of Heaven.”
This message is a part of my series Hope for Hurting Hearts.
Our service times in Riverside are 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30 AM.
Orange County service times are 9:30 and 11:30 AM.
The service will also be webcast LIVE at www.harvest.org.
I know that’s an unusual statement, but it’s true.
I might add that the way to success is through humility. The way to self-fulfillment is thinking of others first.
Here’s one that may surprise you: The way to happiness is sadness!
Curious as to what this all means?
Then join me TONIGHT at Harvest Orange County for our service.
It starts at 7:00 pm, PST.
I will also be joined by special musical guest, LEELAND!
It will be webcast LIVE at harvest.org.
I saw an advertisement in a computer magazine with a photo of a guy shaving. It asked the question “Is it an alarm or a calling that gets you out of bed in the morning?”
That is a very good question. What do you live for? What makes you tick? What do you get up for in the morning?
All of us have something or someone we live for. Some passion, ideal, that drives us on, giving our lives purpose, some sense of meaning, raising it above the level of mere existence.
We don’t want our lives on this earth to be some temporary “blip on the screen.”
Paul’s passion was Jesus.
The apostle wrote, in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Paul of course used to be known as the notorious Christian killer, Saul of Tarsus. But Saul met the risen Lord on the Damascus road and had his life forever changed. Now he would serve Jesus with as much passion as he once served Satan.
Can you imagine what a different world we’d live in if more Christians served the Lord with the same level of commitment that they used to serve the devil with?
Two questions every believer should ask.
Saul asked two questions on the day of his conversion.
“Who are you, Lord?” and “What will you have me to do?”
Those would be great questions for you to personally ask Jesus today. Let that calling to serve Him get you up in the morning instead of an alarm clock.
He has a plan and purpose for you today!
Do you have a prodigal child?
Are you yourself a prodigal?
Then you will not want to miss my message tomorrow at Harvest Riverside and Orange County.
It’s from my Hope for Hurting Hearts series.
The title is “Hope for Prodigal Children”.
We will talk about how to raise our children in the way of the Lord and what to do if they go astray.
There will also be a special testimony from my youngest son, Jonathan, who was a prodigal for a few years.
It will be webcast live at www.harvest.org.