Focus on God's Word

Born To Live Forever

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Charissa Fong


Series Code: FGW

Program Code: FGW000018

00:26 OK, our subject tonight: "Born to Live Forever. "
00:31 Does that sound good to you?
00:32 Sounds pretty good to me.
00:34 And so before we go any further
00:36 let's open with a word of prayer.
00:38 Father in heaven, we thank you for bringing us here again
00:42 tonight. And as we open Your Word
00:44 we pray that Your Holy Spirit would be our silent teacher
00:48 tonight. May You touch our hearts and may we be changed
00:51 tonight... not because we have come together
00:54 but because we have been with Jesus.
00:56 This is my prayer in Jesus' name, Amen.
01:01 One of the saddest stories I have ever read in my life
01:06 was about this man that you can see on your screen right there.
01:09 His name is Hank Williams and he was a country and western
01:13 singer. In 1948 Hank wrote one of his hit songs:
01:18 a song called I Saw The Light.
01:21 Does anybody think that rings a bell? Yes it should.
01:24 It's a good old song. The first stanza of that song
01:27 it goes something like this:
01:44 Now friends, the first line of that stanza
01:47 "I wandered so aimless... life filled with sin.
01:51 I wouldn't let my Dear Savior in... "
01:53 Friends, that first line is really a fitting description
01:57 of the life that Hank Williams lived.
02:00 Biographers tell of a life that was tormented
02:04 by disease, drugs, and alcohol.
02:07 In fact, he died in the back of his Cadillac
02:10 somewhere in West Virginia one night, overdrugged,
02:14 at the young age of 29.
02:17 Near the end of his life while doing a concert in San Diego
02:21 Hank stumbled off the stage - drunk or drugged,
02:25 we don't know - after only two songs.
02:27 His good friend, a lady by the name of Minnie Pearl...
02:31 she and the show's producer, they took Hank
02:34 and they put him in the car and they rushed him around town
02:38 in the car trying to sober him up.
02:40 And as they did... as they went around town
02:44 they tried singing to him this song. "Come on, Hank,
02:47 sing your song. "I wandered so aimless...
02:50 life filled with sin... "
02:51 And as they got to the end of that first stanza
02:55 that was when Williams looked up. And he looked at Minnie
02:58 and he said: "Minnie, I don't see the light!
03:02 There ain't no light. "
03:04 And friends, Hank couldn't see the light.
03:07 And so it is today... there are millions of people
03:11 around our world - millions of people globally...
03:14 world-wide as well as internationally -
03:16 I stole that line from George Bush -
03:18 who cannot see the light.
03:21 Who fail to see a reason to live on
03:25 in a life with an uncharted future which is unknown.
03:29 And perhaps, friends, some of you here tonight...
03:32 you feel a little bit like Hank.
03:35 Well friends, hang in there because Jesus has good news
03:38 for you. Amen? He always has good news for us.
03:42 And He has exciting news for you and I tonight
03:44 because He says: "Listen, I am coming back
03:47 for you because I love you. And when I come back
03:50 for you I am going to take you back to My place
03:53 and you're going to stay and live with Me
03:55 in My home forever. "
03:58 And because we often just talk about heaven as
04:00 being heaven, I thought tonight it would be nice for us
04:04 to start by reminding ourselves of what God's home
04:08 is really like. So let's... let's read what Revelation
04:12 chapter 21 verses 1-5 says:
05:20 Friends, according to the Bible heaven isn't some secret
05:25 that God let slip. Friends, according to the Bible
05:28 heaven is a matter of fact.
05:30 It is going to be quite literally out of this world.
05:34 And in the same way that our world today has seven
05:38 wonders of the ancient world that range from the hanging
05:42 gardens of Babylon to the great pyramids there in Gaza
05:46 so it is, friends, that I believe we can see
05:49 that heaven will have seven wonders of its own.
05:53 Notice with me what they are.
05:59 Friends, not some cloud where disembodied spirits roam
06:03 but a real place for real people.
06:06 We won't be strumming harps for the ceaseless ages
06:09 of eternity. No friends, according to the Bible
06:12 the redeemed are going to find their feet on solid earth.
06:16 Notice what the Bible says in Isaiah chapter 65 verse 21:
06:29 Sounds good to me.
06:31 Again, I Corinthians 2:9:
06:45 And friends, you know some young people...
06:49 they sometimes ask and they say: "Oh, you know, heaven...
06:52 OK... it sounds OK but won't it get a little bit boring
06:56 after a couple of years? A couple of hundred years? "
06:58 Well friends, just remember we are not talking about
07:02 Agatha Christie. We're not talking about Microsoft
07:05 and Bill Gates. We are talking about the God who made people,
07:08 created people like that.
07:10 And so I don't think we have to worry about getting bored
07:13 for the ceaseless ages of eternity.
07:15 Heaven will be very exciting. Amen? Amen.
07:23 Heaven isn't called heaven for no reason at all.
07:26 There will be no dreary deserts.
07:29 No great wastes of water.
07:31 Instead heaven will be one grand showcase of creative
07:35 brilliance and beauty will stretch in every direction.
07:39 It's going to be more beautiful than Taree.
07:42 It's going to be more majestic than the Sydney Harbor.
07:45 It's going to be more wonderful than the Himalayas.
07:48 It's going to look better than the Great Barrier Reef.
07:51 It will be God's wonderland for the saved.
07:55 Unimagined beauty will just be absolutely everywhere.
07:58 How do I know? Because look at how the Bible describes it.
08:02 Revelation chapter 22 verse 1:
08:11 That's going to look much better than the Manning River, Amen?
08:22 Again, what will wonder #3 be?
08:25 Ah, heaven is just so wonderful; there's more to come.
08:32 Friends, we won't have to lock our cars up there.
08:35 Ah, we may not have cars up there...
08:37 But even if we did have cars we wouldn't have to lock them!
08:41 We wouldn't need to have...
08:42 We're not going to need security alarms on our homes.
08:45 We won't need to lock our homes because everybody will be
08:48 content with what God gives to them.
08:52 It's going to be so peaceful, friends,
08:54 that even the animals the Bible says...
08:57 they're going to get along with each other.
08:58 Notice what Isaiah 65:25 says:
09:19 They say that true happiness lies in satisfaction.
09:23 And friends, in heaven there'll be no more grumbling,
09:26 no more complaining, no more discontent.
09:29 Everybody will be satisfied with heaven.
09:32 And friends, how do we know this? Because listen...
09:35 the Bible tells us that:
09:48 Now when I was growing up we used to sing a song often
09:53 and it went something like this:
09:55 With Jesus in the family happy happy home.
09:59 Happy happy home... happy happy home.
10:03 Ah, you know it. With Jesus in the family
10:06 happy happy home... Happy, happy home.
10:12 Well, that's a lovely happy song
10:14 but it is true today that we have a lot of unhappy homes
10:17 in our world, is it not?
10:19 And friend tonight, maybe you have come from an unhappy,
10:22 broken or breaking home.
10:25 Notice that in heaven those things... such a thing will be
10:28 no more because there will be no more unhappiness.
10:32 No more funerals; no more sorrow; no more cemeteries.
10:37 Happiness will be in the air up there in heaven.
10:40 We're going to breathe the stuff, Amen? Amen.
10:52 No more doctors. The blind will see.
10:55 The deaf will hear. The dumb will speak again.
10:59 There will be no more cancer; no more arthritis;
11:02 no more aches and pains; no more fevers;
11:05 no more diabetes. Friends, all of this will be
11:09 no more. Amen? That's good news because listen:
11:13 in our world today we live in a society where people
11:17 spend all of their health for wealth and then they spend
11:20 the rest of their wealth to try and get their health back.
11:23 Because listen: health may not be everything
11:26 but everything is nothing without health.
11:29 And if you've been on a diet then you will know that stress
11:32 is just desserts spelled backwards.
11:35 But friends, in heaven we're not going to have to worry
11:37 about being sick any more because the Bible tells us that
11:41 we're going to be able to eat of the Tree of Life.
11:45 The Bible says here in Revelation:
11:50 up there. And friends, when we eat of that tree
11:53 then our never-ending quest to find the fountain of youth...
11:57 it will stop at last. No more... we won't have to dye our hair.
12:01 We won't have to wear make-up. We'll just kind of look great
12:04 up there! We're going to be healthy at last.
12:06 Isn't that a beautiful picture?
12:09 I love it because that little boy... he's left his wheelchair
12:12 behind and he's gone straight to Jesus.
12:14 THAT is what heaven's going to be like.
12:21 The Bible tells us that when John saw the New Jerusalem
12:24 coming down from God out of heaven
12:27 he was almost speechless.
12:30 And I'm so glad that he didn't lose all of his words
12:32 because otherwise we'd have no idea what it looked like.
12:35 But as he saw it coming down
12:37 he could only describe it as a dazzling jewel
12:41 and this is what he writes. In Revelation 21:11 he says:
12:55 And so friends, what a wonderful wonderful place
12:59 heaven will be. Again:
13:19 Wow, heaven's pretty wonderful.
13:20 We've just seen six wonders of the kingdom.
13:23 But I wonder what the next wonder is.
13:26 Well friends, if you think about it, I don't think you'll have to
13:29 think very long because wonder #7
13:32 has to be the wonder of them all:
13:37 I don't know about you, but this is the best wonder of heaven
13:41 to me. For as William Barclay put it... he said:
13:54 Amen? Amen.
13:55 As someone else said: "Heaven without my Savior
13:58 would be no heaven to me.
14:00 Dim were the walls of jasper and rayless the crystal sea. "
14:04 But friends, we know that God will be there because
14:07 the Bible says that:
14:17 And this just sounds so wonderful to me. Not only that
14:21 but the Bible goes on and tells us in Isaiah 66:23
14:36 Friends, this is the home that God has prepared and waiting
14:41 for you... for those who choose to accept Him as their
14:44 personal Savior and forever Friend.
14:47 He wants you to be there!
14:49 There just remains one question.
14:52 I was invited to speak in a church in Sydney...
14:56 another church in Sydney.
14:57 And so I thought: "What can I talk to them about? "
14:59 I thought: "I'll tell them about heaven. "
15:02 And so I went to this church and I preached a wonderful
15:05 sermon on the kingdom of God... on heaven,
15:08 what heaven will be like.
15:09 And at the end of the service I was shaking peoples' hands.
15:13 And this one dear man... he came out of the church
15:15 and shook my hand and he said: "Charissa,
15:18 that was a fantastic sermon. I just have one question:
15:21 how do I get there? "
15:23 And I thought to myself: "You know what?
15:25 I have just overlooked the MOST IMPORTANT question:
15:29 How on earth do we get to this wonderful place
15:32 that God has prepared for us? "
15:35 Well thankfully, friend, Jesus didn't leave us to wonder
15:39 because He disclosed the directions to the kingdom
15:42 in an incredible encounter that He had once upon a long
15:46 time ago. Let's go to that encounter in the Bible.
15:50 If you want to follow along you can.
15:52 We're going to the book of John.
15:54 John chapter 3 and we begin our story tonight in verse 1.
16:00 And I will put them on the screen, but sometimes
16:03 it's good to see them in the Bible to make sure I'm not
16:05 tricking you. So John chapter 3 verse 1.
16:09 The story happens here in Jerusalem. The Bible says:
16:18 Now friends, here was a religious man
16:21 if there ever was one.
16:24 Word has it that he was probably one of the three
16:27 richest men in all of Jerusalem.
16:30 In fact, some even believe that he was Nicodemus
16:34 ben Gurion... that is, the brother of Josephus.
16:38 Whether or not that is the case
16:40 we don't really know... but it could have been possible.
16:43 And instead of being somebody who we hear a lot of
16:46 in the Bible, incredibly he appears a solitary 3 times
16:51 and only in John's gospel.
16:54 Not much exposure, yes... but more than any of us.
16:58 Nicodemus was a leading Pharisee, and that means
17:01 he was no slouch when it came to the Old Testament.
17:04 Oh, no. He knew the religious... contemporary, religious,
17:08 and political scene like the back of his hand.
17:12 I have a feeling that Nicodemus was the kind of man
17:16 who often appeared in the Daily Telegraph...
17:19 in the Jerusalem Telegraph. He was regularly featured
17:22 on the front page. Perhaps he even had his own column.
17:26 And not only that, he was someone who appeared on the
17:29 evening news very regularly.
17:32 Publicly Nicodemus oozed of religious piety
17:37 and wisdom. But privately
17:41 Nicodemus was perplexed.
17:44 You see, he didn't want to admit it but he felt incomplete.
17:50 There was something missing in his life.
17:55 Oh yes, by day he was cool, calm, and collected.
18:00 If anybody had a religious question they would go and find
18:04 Nicodemus. Because if they could get an answer from him
18:07 then they would have an answer from the crème de la crème
18:10 of scholarship... theological scholarship.
18:13 By day he was cool, calm, and collected
18:16 but by night Nicodemus knew an emptiness in his heart
18:21 and it frightened him.
18:24 And he said that perhaps Jesus had something to do
18:30 with the emptiness that he was feeling inside.
18:33 He had watched Jesus.
18:34 He had watched Him very closely.
18:36 The other Pharisees didn't know because they all didn't like
18:39 Jesus. But Nicodemus had watched Him.
18:41 He'd seen Him in the temple.
18:43 He'd seen Him with the children and he thought to himself:
18:46 "Perhaps Jesus can tell me what I'm missing in my life.
18:50 Perhaps in Jesus I will find what I'm looking for. "
18:55 And so notice what happens in verse 2. The Bible says:
19:11 Friends, that night he saw his opportunity.
19:16 When Nicodemus... he put his children to bed;
19:18 he waited, waited, and waited for his wife to doze off.
19:22 And when she finally did, he picked up his cloak
19:25 and he slipped out of the house. He had to find Jesus.
19:30 He had to put an end to all of these questions
19:33 that were burning in his heart.
19:35 Now he had heard that Jesus often retired
19:39 to the Mount of Olives there... to the garden there.
19:41 And so he thought: "Well, I'll go and look for Him there. "
19:45 And so he made a beeline in that direction.
19:48 And as he entered the garden there in the quiet of night
19:51 he scanned it looking for Jesus.
19:54 And then suddenly he spotted Him over there
19:57 in the distance. And so quietly the Bible tells us
20:01 he walked over to where Jesus sits.
20:04 He clears his throat and he says: "Rabbi... "
20:08 Now friends, have you ever encountered somebody famous
20:12 face to face?
20:15 No? A few, yes...
20:17 Well I have because listen... listen to this:
20:20 Two years ago... I know, it doesn't sound that recent...
20:24 but listen: two years ago I was in the same class
20:28 at university as Ian Thorpe.
20:31 Yes, the real Ian Thorpe.
20:34 Because listen: this is how it happened.
20:36 I was in my class. I was doing linguistics as part of my degree
20:40 and we were sitting there. It was the first tutorial
20:43 of semester. And our tutor... she said: "And by the way,
20:47 Ian Thorpe's going to be in our class for the rest of this
20:50 semester. " And we all said: "Oh yeah, yeah, right.
20:53 Which Ian Thorpe is this? " And she said:
20:54 "Oh, no, no, no. This is the REAL Ian Thorpe.
20:57 This is Ian Thorpe the Olympian. "
20:59 Wow! That was so exciting.
21:01 So we all went home and we couldn't wait
21:04 for the next tutorial the following week.
21:07 A week later I turned up to class a little bit earlier
21:11 than I usually do.
21:12 And when I got there there were all my classmates
21:17 to one side just sitting in a quiet huddle.
21:19 And they were looking at this... this larger-than-life figure
21:24 pacing back and forth. It was Ian Thorpe
21:26 pacing back and forth outside the classroom.
21:29 And I saw that and I knew that they were too shy
21:32 to talk to him. And I am a shy person, too.
21:34 But when I saw Ian Thorpe... I mean, it's not every day
21:37 you brush shoulders with Olympic gold.
21:40 And so I thought: "Look, if I let this opportunity pass by
21:43 I'm going to be kicking myself for the rest of my life. "
21:46 And so I thought: "I'll go... I've got to talk to him. "
21:48 So I went up to him while he was walking back and forth
21:52 and I said: "Excuse me, are you Ian Thorpe? "
21:58 Now if I could rewind that encounter
22:02 there are probably a thousand other things I would have said.
22:05 There are a thousand other questions I could have asked
22:09 him, but in that moment - in that split second
22:12 when I was there face to face in front of this person
22:15 I'd only ever seen on TV -
22:17 that is what I came out with. And yes, he said:
22:20 "Yes, I am Ian Thorpe. "
22:22 And friends, that was just one of the most exciting experiences
22:25 for me because, you know, I got to sit behind him in class.
22:29 And I remember one day he forgot his notes
22:32 and so I said: " Hey, Ian... " Tapped him on the shoulder.
22:35 "Ian... " I called him by his first name.
22:38 Said: "Ian, read my notes. "
22:40 And so he took them and he used my notes.
22:42 And for people who don't actually believe me
22:46 that I was in the same class as Ian Thorpe I took a picture
22:49 of his back while we were in a lecture theatre
22:52 on my mobile phone to prove that I really did encounter him.
22:56 The big "Thorpedo. " Well friends,
22:58 why am I telling you this? Because listen, the point is:
23:02 when we encounter people for whom we have a deep respect
23:07 for... for whom we have a deep appreciation for
23:11 or admiration for... we often don't know what to say to them.
23:14 I mean, we're just sort of speechless.
23:16 We're so nervous; we're so speechless.
23:18 And friends, for Nicodemus it really was no different
23:22 in this situation. Because listen: like me
23:25 Nicodemus opened his mouth and he makes a huge mistake.
23:30 Because instead of telling Jesus... asking Jesus
23:34 his question saying: "Lord, I have a problem.
23:37 What's wrong with my heart? "
23:39 Nicodemus... he opens his mouth and he avoids that altogether.
23:43 He is so used to playing the role of a strong person
23:48 who knows all the answers that he makes no mention
23:53 of the emptiness that he feels within
23:56 and he avoids the darkness of his own soul.
24:00 But friends, Jesus saw through the pleasantries.
24:03 He always does.
24:04 And through the darkness of night Jesus sees behind
24:08 the mask of this polite, correct, religious official
24:13 person the restlessness of his soul.
24:17 What Nicodemus needed was not an answer.
24:20 Jesus knew that. He didn't need an answer...
24:22 he needed an experience.
24:25 And oh how Jesus longed for Nicodemus
24:30 to receive the peace that he so longed for.
24:33 Nicodemus had been performing all his life and Jesus knew it.
24:38 And so now it was time for Nicodemus to drop the pose
24:42 and own the truth. And notice... notice what Jesus says to him
24:47 next:
25:02 Now I love my sleep.
25:05 And I said that because I know I'm in good company. Amen?
25:08 But if there's one thing that I hate in my sleep
25:12 it is the sound of an alarm. Why? Because it interrupts you.
25:17 It annoys you. It startles you!
25:20 And friends, when Nicodemus hears these words fall from
25:24 the Savior's lips he hears the sound of an alarm.
25:28 Because that... He had not asked Jesus anything to do
25:32 with what Jesus had said. He had not seen this coming.
25:36 "Except a man be born again
25:39 he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven? "
25:42 Oh, maybe he hadn't heard Jesus correctly.
25:46 Because after all here he was hands down perhaps the most
25:50 religious person in all of Jerusalem
25:53 and yet Jesus was saying to him he has to be born again?
25:57 Ah, that born again stuff... that was for sinners!
26:01 That was for Gentiles but not saints... and especially
26:05 not saints as saintly as himself.
26:07 And so he asked Jesus for more clarification.
26:11 He says here in verses 4 and 5:
26:38 I'll say that last verse once more:
27:02 There you have it, friends... there you have it.
27:05 Jesus repeats His answer for Nicodemus.
27:08 Jesus is insistent... Jesus is absolute.
27:13 There are no two ways about it.
27:16 We must be born of water and of the Spirit
27:19 if we are to call heaven our home.
27:24 But why does Jesus say that we must be born again
27:28 in order to enter the kingdom of God?
27:31 I mean: "Isn't salvation meant to be free, Charissa? "
27:35 Yes it is, because remember what the Bible says:
27:49 "See, Charissa... salvation's free!
27:52 Heaven should be free. "
27:54 That's what I thought too. In fact, I have to confess
27:56 to you that when I got to this point in our story of Nicodemus
28:00 when I was studying and I thought
28:02 "Why is Jesus saying there's something we have to do
28:05 in order to inherit the kingdom of God? "
28:08 But friends, as I kept studying and as I kept reading
28:11 I discovered the answer.
28:13 And friends, the answer is so surprising,
28:16 it is so exciting because notice what else the Bible says.
28:20 Before we notice it... Have you ever wished
28:23 that life had a delete function?
28:26 Have you ever wished that there was just this imaginary button
28:29 somewhere that you could press and when you did you could
28:32 wipe out all the mistakes of your past
28:34 and all of your guilt and all of your shame and all of your
28:38 history and all of your sin? It could be just washed away
28:42 and you could have a fresh start?
28:44 Have you ever wanted that?
28:45 Well friends, this fresh start
28:47 that you've always only ever dreamt about...
28:50 that is exactly what Jesus is inviting us to experience
28:55 when He says: "You must be born again. "
28:57 Because we need to learn to let go and let God.
29:02 You see Nicodemus... he thought he had it all worked out.
29:06 He thought that because he was so religious
29:09 he had earned his way into heaven.
29:11 For him - being a Jew and the religious one - he had an
29:14 automatic entrance into heaven.
29:17 But friends, Jesus was trying to remind Nicodemus
29:20 that he was a sinner. He had broken God's law,
29:26 and like every other sinner on the face of this earth
29:29 the results - the consequences - for his sins
29:32 were exactly the same as everyone else:
29:35 he deserved to die.
29:37 Now friends, I was doing some "prac" teaching out in a school
29:42 towards the western side of Sydney last year.
29:46 And when I came home on my first day I had a thousand
29:49 things going through my head.
29:51 Teachers are under a lot of stress, and I praise God
29:53 for teachers. Amen?
29:55 All the teachers said "Amen. "
29:57 OK. So I really really appreciate what teachers do...
30:01 particularly after watching them.
30:03 And so I came to the train station after observing
30:06 the students at the school that I was at.
30:09 And I was so engrossed in my thoughts. The train pulled up
30:13 and so I moved to where the doors were.
30:15 And I stood outside the doors
30:16 and the doors opened and this man... he literally
30:21 charged off the train and he clipped me on the shoulder
30:24 as he stormed past me.
30:26 He was like a bull let out of a stable.
30:28 And I spun around and watched him storm off in the distance.
30:32 And my first reaction was: "How dare he do that? "
30:35 Then my second reaction was: "Well no. Maybe he's just
30:38 had a bad day. "
30:39 And so the next day came. Again I was so engrossed
30:43 in my thoughts I was standing there in the train station.
30:45 Train pulled up. Without thinking I moved to the doors.
30:49 I left space so people could get out.
30:51 But the doors opened and this same man...
30:54 he clipped me on the shoulder again.
30:56 That's when I realized he wasn't just having a bad day...
30:59 maybe it was a bad week.
31:01 So I thought to myself: "Well, tomorrow
31:03 I will not allow him to do this to me again. "
31:05 So the next day came. I went to the train station.
31:09 Train pulled up. I knew which door this man was going to
31:12 come out of so I stood to the side.
31:14 The door opened. The man charged out
31:17 and he missed me. And I was so excited, you know?
31:20 He missed me. I worked him out like a book.
31:23 And so I did that and he continued to miss me
31:26 for the next few days that I was there.
31:29 But then one day I came back to the train station
31:32 and I just had a very big day and I'm standing there
31:35 and I forgot about this man on the train.
31:37 So I moved to the doors and I stood right in front of them.
31:41 And this time when he charged off he hit me full on.
31:45 Now friends, that man was stuck in what I would call
31:49 a rut. Every single day was just the same for him.
31:53 And you know what he needed? He needed a change of heart.
31:57 We could say he almost needed to be "born again. "
31:59 And the reason I tell you that story is because
32:01 friends, I think what he did every single day
32:04 is a perfect illustration of human nature.
32:08 Because friends, you and I... we are stuck in a rut
32:11 and it's called sin.
32:14 But friends, the good news about this is that the same God
32:17 who created this world and all the beauty in it,
32:21 that same God... He has the power to re-create your heart,
32:26 to re-create your life, to cleanse you from sin.
32:30 So that just as when a baby is born
32:33 it has no say so in the matter so too when we are born again.
32:38 It is God, through the agency of the Holy Spirit,
32:42 who changes us and not we ourselves.
32:46 'Cause after all... have you ever met a baby
32:49 who gave birth to itself?
32:51 No! We can't give birth to ourselves.
32:54 And so it is with God. We can't change our hearts...
32:57 that is something that God has to do for us.
33:01 This is why I Peter 1:23 says:
33:16 Friends, Longfellow - that man there on the far left...
33:19 he could take a worthless sheet of paper,
33:22 he could write a beautiful poem on it, and when he was finished
33:26 that piece of paper was worth $6,000.
33:29 That's what I call genius.
33:31 The guy next to him - Rockefeller...
33:33 he could sign his name to a piece of paper
33:36 and make it worth millions of dollars.
33:38 Well that's what I call capital.
33:40 A mechanic can take a material, a piece of material worth $5,
33:45 do something to it and make it worth $50.
33:48 That's skill.
33:50 An artist can take a 50 cent canvas and paint a picture on it
33:54 and when they're finished it can be worth $1,000.
33:58 That's art. But friends, only God
34:02 can take the heart of a sinner,
34:05 of someone who feels they have a worthless, sinful life,
34:09 and only He can wash it in the blood of the Lamb,
34:13 send His Spirit to live in that person's heart
34:16 and make that person a blessing to humanity.
34:19 Friends, only God can do that and that is salvation.
34:24 And friends, when the Holy Spirit was poured out
34:27 on the Day of Pentecost
34:29 when Peter had finished preaching one of the most
34:31 powerful sermons in all of human history
34:34 the Bible tells us that the listeners that were listening
34:37 to him... they were so stirred up in their hearts -
34:40 the Bible says they were "pricked in their hearts" -
34:42 and this is what they said:
34:47 In other words, "How can we be saved? "
34:50 And Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit...
34:53 he says these wonderful words. He says:
35:07 Now friends, repentance in our society today
35:11 often has some pretty negative connotations.
35:13 If someone says to you "Repent! "
35:15 well it's almost like we all become echidnas
35:17 and we turn our backs to them and we raise our little...
35:20 what do you call them? Those spikes or their quills.
35:23 Yes, we don't like the word repentance.
35:25 But friends, repentance is nothing to be ashamed of.
35:28 Peter's call on that day was for the people to be
35:32 truly converted. Because as they had seen the power of God
35:37 and as they had experienced the power of the Word of God
35:39 in their hearts and they had become aware
35:43 of their personal deficiencies, they had seen themselves
35:47 the way God sees them and they had seen their sin.
35:50 But friends, the Bible says in I John 1:9:
36:06 Friends, no matter what we've done,
36:09 no matter what kind of past or history you or I may have
36:13 tonight... You may feel you're the most terrible sinner
36:16 in the world and God couldn't save you.
36:20 Friends, notice that He can.
36:23 Jesus has the power to change your life.
36:26 When you accept Him, when you confess your sins,
36:28 when you come to Him in repentance, then you can receive
36:32 the gift of salvation.
36:34 And friends, the Bible tells us that when Jesus forgives
36:37 He forgets. And the Bible says He removes our sins
36:41 as far as the east is from the west.
36:43 You tell me how far they are apart...
36:44 there's no end to their "apartness. "
36:47 Friends, God can remove your sin.
36:49 And maybe some of you feel tonight that your sin is
36:52 too great for God to forgive.
36:54 Well friends, listen to the words of D. L. Moody.
36:56 He said:
37:03 That's the first thing. And by the way, friends,
37:05 repentance is a gift.
37:07 In the book of Acts - and let's just look this up -
37:09 Acts chapter 5 verse 31
37:12 we can't even repent of our own selves.
37:15 We need God to help us repent.
37:18 Acts chapter 5 verse 31 the Bible says:
37:23 "Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and
37:28 Savior to... " What? "to give repentance
37:32 to Israel and forgiveness of sins. "
37:35 That's Acts chapter 5 and verse 31.
37:37 God can give us the gift of repentance,
37:40 and I think that is also good news.
37:42 That the first part...
37:43 that's the first tenor of Peter's message down the Day of
37:47 Pentecost. The second tenor of his message had something
37:50 to do with baptism. What is baptism?
37:53 Well... is it important? Mark chapter 16 verse 16
37:56 the Bible says:
38:06 Now friends, the English word baptize comes from the Greek
38:10 word baptizo... which simply means to immerse.
38:13 And when the Bible uses the word baptism
38:16 in the Bible it means exactly that:
38:19 to bury beneath water.
38:21 Now Christians today debate quite vehemently
38:26 what baptism really is in the Bible.
38:28 They say there are a thousand different ways of doing it.
38:31 And some of them don't even believe it's important at all.
38:34 Today we have many methods of baptism, don't we?
38:38 We've got sprinkling; we've got pouring;
38:40 we've got dunking; we've got total immersion;
38:43 infant baptism. And listen to this...
38:45 I only just discovered this the other day...
38:47 there's even a method called the "dry cleaning method"
38:51 where you can be baptized over the phone.
38:54 Isn't that incredible?
38:56 The story is told of a pastor who gathered his converts
38:58 together in Baltimore Street and he turned the fire hose on them
39:02 and baptized them all there in the street.
39:04 Or another pastor... he was in the shopping center.
39:07 He met a woman. They started talking
39:09 and she said: "Pastor, you have to baptize me
39:11 right here and right now. " And so he did...
39:14 with Coca-Cola.
39:16 Friends, people have made a mockery of baptism today.
39:20 So what does the Bible really say? Well,
39:24 according to Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 5
39:27 the Bible says that there is:
39:36 And friends, according to the Bible
39:39 the baptism of the Bible - Biblical baptism -
39:42 it involves a lot of water. How do I know that?
39:45 Because John... when John was baptizing the Bible says:
40:00 And so friends, there is much water in Bible baptism.
40:04 Paul described its symbolism in this way.
40:07 Why is it important? He says:
40:35 Friends, baptism is a symbol of the death and burial
40:40 and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
40:42 It is a symbol of burying that old life behind.
40:46 That old life with all of that history and past
40:50 and rising up to newness of life in Jesus Christ.
40:54 Is there a good reason why we should be baptized
40:57 if you don't think that's a good enough reason?
40:59 Well friends, Jesus was baptized.
41:02 And by the way, He wasn't a baby when He was baptized
41:05 either. This is how the Bible describes His baptism:
41:26 Friends, when Jesus was baptized He was fully immersed
41:30 under the water.
41:31 Did Jesus need baptism to wash away His guilt?
41:35 No... Jesus was not a sinner. So why then was He baptized?
41:39 Notice what II Corinthians 5:21 says:
41:46 You see friends, Jesus identified Himself
41:50 with you and I. And when He did He took the steps that you and I
41:55 need to take. He left for you a perfect example to follow.
42:01 That's why Jesus was baptized.
42:03 And friends, when He went back to heaven - just before He did -
42:06 He gave the Great Commission. And this is what He said:
42:29 Friends, baptism is vitally important.
42:32 Let me say that again: baptism is vitally important.
42:36 Jesus began His public ministry on this earth by being
42:40 baptized, and just as He finishes His public ministry
42:43 on earth He gives emphasis to baptism yet again.
42:48 He goes and He commands us to go into all the world.
42:51 Teach them the gospel. And when we have taught them
42:54 then we are to baptize them.
42:56 And friends, what Jesus emphasized I dare not
42:59 de-emphasize.
43:01 Because of all the tremendous things He could have placed
43:03 emphasis on, think of the emphasis Jesus has placed
43:08 on baptism... this teaching right here.
43:11 And so it is tonight, friends, God says this to you.
43:14 He says: "Listen, if you're going to call heaven home,
43:17 then allow Me to truly be Lord of your life.
43:20 Allow Me to come into your heart.
43:23 Allow Me to be your forever Friend. Confess your sin
43:27 and allow Me to forgive you.
43:29 And then when you've done that, go and bury that old life
43:32 of yours and then come and walk in newness of life. "
43:37 And friend, you don't make a pickle by taking a cucumber
43:40 and sprinkling a little bit of vinegar on it, do you?
43:43 You immerse it! Amen?
43:45 And so it is, friends, when a person is baptized
43:48 when you want to wash away your past, I don't know about you
43:51 but I don't want my past just sprinkled.
43:53 I want it totally buried. I want it gone, don't you?
43:57 And so a little boy... he came to his pastor and he said:
44:01 "Pastor, I want to get advertised. "
44:04 Now he meant to say "I want to get baptized"
44:08 but friends he makes a wonderful point
44:10 because you know what? Baptism is really just
44:13 advertising that you've chosen Jesus Christ.
44:16 It is advertising that you belong to Jesus. Amen.
44:21 And friends, there may be some of you here tonight
44:23 that need to get "advertised. "
44:25 Well friends, you can make that decision tonight.
44:27 Say "Lord, I choose to follow You... " and advertise it.
44:31 And then there may be others here tonight -
44:34 some of you who have followed the Lord
44:36 but during your discipleship to Jesus Christ
44:39 somehow along the way you lost your way
44:41 and your discipleship was short-lived -
44:44 friends, tonight you can choose to get "re-advertised"
44:47 for Jesus Christ. Because the Bible says
44:50 in Psalm 51 verses 10, 16, and 17
44:55 I mean it's just like a marriage ceremony, isn't it?
44:57 When two people get married they're demonstrating publicly
45:00 to the universe that they are becoming a family.
45:03 And so it is that Psalms says... the Psalmist writes:
45:27 Amen? Friends, God wanted to be present to Nicodemus.
45:32 He wanted Nicodemus to see what I am just sharing with you now.
45:36 Nicodemus needed to let go of his own self-righteousness,
45:40 self-security, and open his heart up to God.
45:44 And so Jesus continues in the book of John, verses 6-8,
45:49 the Bible says:
46:11 Friends, and just as you and I can hear the wind
46:14 rustling through the leaves in the tree and you can't
46:17 see the wind but you see its effects
46:19 so it is that God works on your heart.
46:23 You may not be able to see it
46:25 but friends, He is there. He is working on your heart.
46:28 An unseen hand is working in your life
46:31 and Christ is constantly working upon your heart.
46:34 He is working to transform your life.
46:37 And when He has... when He does and as He does...
46:40 you become a citizen of heaven
46:43 as you allow Him to work on your heart.
46:47 Can you describe to another person how to ride a bicycle?
46:51 You've really got to experience it for yourself in order to know
46:54 what it really feels like. And friends, so it is
46:57 with Nicodemus. Jesus was trying to communicate to Nicodemus
47:01 that true experience doesn't stem from knowing
47:04 what everybody else knows.
47:06 It stems from an experience - a personal, heartfelt
47:10 experience with Jesus Christ.
47:12 And friends, the Bible doesn't tell us what happened
47:16 after this encounter on that night long ago.
47:19 But friends, I have a sneaking suspicion that John had the
47:23 privilege of baptizing Nicodemus.
47:26 I'd like to think that's how the story ends.
47:28 And that night when Nicodemus got home
47:31 after what had been the most amazing encounter of his life
47:35 the words of Jesus kept ringing in his head.
47:56 Friends, for God so loved the world He did not send
47:59 a committee. Amen?
48:01 He sent Himself.
48:03 And Jesus' call to be born again of water and the Spirit
48:07 is, friends, an invitation to all of us tonight as well.
48:11 Jesus is inviting you and I to be His companions
48:14 on the road of self-surrender and travel that path with Him
48:19 to find true peace.
48:21 Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to see what he offered.
48:25 Little did he realize that Jesus would ask him
48:28 to give himself... to offer himself.
48:31 Jesus wasn't calling Nicodemus to give birth to himself.
48:35 He was calling Nicodemus to allow Him
48:38 to change his life and make him a new creature.
48:42 And friends, sometimes the problem with us is right here:
48:55 That had been Nicodemus' problem.
48:57 And friends, so it is that many people... they never experience
49:01 the fullness of God's power in their lives
49:04 because they choose only to make a partial surrender
49:07 of their hearts to God.
49:09 And friends, God can only fill your life
49:11 to the extent that you are willing to empty it.
49:15 Can only fill your life to the extent that you are willing
49:18 to empty it. I think of Mary Magdalene.
49:20 We talked about Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
49:23 Well that's that Mary... Mary right there.
49:25 The Bible tells us she was a prostitute.
49:28 Seven times Jesus cast demons out of her.
49:32 And you know what? He could have said after the third time
49:35 "Mary, that's it. Your eternal life is gone.
49:38 You have no more hope. " But friends, each time
49:41 when He did that for her He welcomed her back
49:44 with open arms. And Mary...
49:46 the Bible says she was so amazed at what Jesus did for her
49:50 that His grace was so full and free
49:53 and offered to her, a sinner, as well
49:56 that she went out and she spent all that she had
49:58 on a beautiful ointment. On buy- ing a very expensive perfume.
50:03 And when Jesus was at somebody's house for dinner
50:06 she slipped into that house.
50:08 She knelt at His feet and she broke that expensive ointment
50:12 on the feet of Jesus and then she wiped His feet
50:15 with her hair. And when she did, friends,
50:19 Mary anointed Jesus Christ as the King of her life.
50:23 She gave everything for Jesus.
50:26 And friend, it might sound weird to you tonight,
50:29 it might sound absurd, but listen:
50:32 if we are going to call heaven home,
50:34 if we are going to truly follow Jesus,
50:36 then it will require our all as well.
50:41 The Bible tells us in Revelation 3 and verse 20:
50:57 And friends, if the One who offers to you eternal life
51:00 is outside the door, do you leave Him outside that door?
51:03 No. The most wonderful thing you can do is open the door
51:06 of your heart and allow Jesus to give you that free gift
51:10 that He offers and say: "Thank you, Jesus.
51:13 Thank you for washing me in the blood... in Your precious blood.
51:17 Thank you for offering to me eternal life
51:19 and a fresh new start. "
51:21 The Bible says in II Corinthians 5 verse 17:
51:34 And again this quote right here:
51:46 In closing tonight I want to share with you one of my most
51:49 favorite stories from one of my most favorite evangelists.
51:53 The story goes like this. He was in New York City
51:56 running an evangelistic campaign.
51:58 And every night the people were coming out.
52:00 And as he would preach every night there was this lady
52:03 who sat in the same spot every night.
52:06 And for some reason she just caught his attention
52:09 every night. He'd be looking and trying to look at everyone
52:12 but he always ended up looking at this lady over here.
52:15 And it was probably because she was an Afro-American lady
52:18 and she had a great big golden Afro.
52:21 And so he'd be preaching and he kept looking at this lady
52:24 over here. Well, after the program
52:27 he went to the door. And as he was shaking peoples' hands
52:29 the lady came out. And he asked her... he said:
52:32 "Ah, hello. Did you enjoy the meetings? "
52:34 She said: "Yes. " He said: "What's your name? "
52:35 She said: "My name's Goldie. "
52:37 He thought: "Well that's fitting" 'cause she had lovely
52:40 gold hair. And so he said: "Will I see you tomorrow night? "
52:43 She said: "Oh, yes. " And so she kept coming to the
52:45 meetings. And one night the pastor said to her... he said:
52:48 "Look, Goldie, could I visit you in your home? "
52:51 And when he asked that her expression changed.
52:54 "Oh, no, " she said, "Pastor, I don't want you to come
52:57 to my home. Look, I'll just keep coming to the meetings. "
53:00 And as she walked away that night
53:02 the pastor didn't quite know why she didn't want him
53:05 at her home but he respected her decision.
53:08 And as she was walking away a deacon in the church...
53:11 he ran up to the pastor and he said: "Pastor,
53:13 do you know who that is? "
53:15 He said: "Well yes I know who that is: that's Goldie. "
53:17 He said: "No, no, no. That's the prostitute from 145th Street. "
53:21 And how the deacon knew we don't know.
53:23 But the pastor said to himself, he said to himself: "Wow,
53:28 really? I've got to go and visit her. "
53:30 And so he went home to his wife that night. He said:
53:32 "Honey, " he said, "I'm going to visit the prostitute
53:34 on 145th Street, do you want to come? "
53:37 She said: "Yes. " And so they hopped in the car
53:40 and they went to visit Goldie.
53:42 They got to her address. It was an apartment building,
53:45 and so he asked someone down- stairs: "Do you know who
53:48 Goldie is? Do you know where she lives? "
53:50 "Oh, yes, she's up there on this particular level. "
53:52 So he and his wife... they made their way up
53:54 to Goldie's apartment.
53:56 And when they got there there was a line of customers
53:59 outside the door. The pastor... he walked past them all,
54:02 got to the door, and he knocked.
54:04 "Goldie, it's me. " And the door opened just a little bit.
54:08 She said: "OK, I'll be back with you in just a moment. "
54:10 She closed the door, and then a couple of minutes later
54:13 someone walked out and Goldie said: "Please, come inside. "
54:16 The pastor went in and his wife went in
54:21 and for a moment they all just stood there
54:23 looking at each other.
54:24 And after a while, Goldie began to cry.
54:28 And as she began to cry the pastor said: "Listen Goldie,
54:32 this isn't the life for you. You deserve so much better.
54:36 Listen, God can give you a better life than this.
54:38 God can change your life. You don't have to live this way.
54:41 She said: "But Pastor, I don't know how to love anyone;
54:44 I don't know how to love any more. "
54:46 "Well you can love God. "
54:47 And he was trying to think of what he could say to her
54:50 and help her to understand. And as Goldie was sobbing
54:54 she suddenly started to compose herself.
54:57 And as she did she looked up and she said: "Pastor,
55:00 I just remembered something...
55:02 a song that I remember hearing when I used to go to church
55:05 with Mom as a little girl. "
55:08 And she began to sing it. And the words she sang
55:11 went something like this:
55:12 "Jesus loves me, this I know,
55:15 for the Bible tells me so. " And as those notes, those words
55:20 were leaving her lips in that beautiful Negro spiritual strain
55:24 the pastor said: "Yes, Goldie. That's it.
55:27 Jesus loves you, this I know. "
55:30 Friends, Goldie summed it all up in those words.
55:34 That is the message of the Bible.
55:36 And friends, a few weeks later Goldie, after having studied
55:40 with that pastor, she was baptized. Amen?
55:43 She became a follower of Jesus Christ.
55:46 And friends, if God can take someone like Goldie,
55:50 if He can wash her past away and change her heart,
55:54 if He can take someone like Goldie and if He can reach
55:58 through the cold religious piety of someone like Nicodemus
56:02 then don't you think tonight that God can change your life
56:06 as well? Nothing is impossible for Jesus.
56:10 He can change your heart.
56:12 All you have to do is open the door to Him.
56:16 The Bible says in Acts 22 verse 16:
56:28 I'm going to invite you to make some decisions in just a moment.
56:31 But before I do, let's pray.
56:34 Father in heaven, We thank you, Lord,
56:36 that You want to give us a brand new life.
56:39 That You offer to wash away our past
56:42 and make us into newborn people who love You
56:46 and who can serve You. Lord, tonight
56:48 there are some of us here who need to make decisions
56:51 to truly follow Jesus Christ.
56:53 We want to call heaven home and so I pray, Lord,
56:56 that Your Holy Spirit will work on our hearts now
56:59 as we make decisions for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Revised 2014-12-17