When Faith Turns Fatal
It's great to see each and every one of you here this morning. Your faces look so good. Before we begin, you know there's a whole group of people on the other side of this glass in the family room. Why don't you just wave at them. Tell them hi.
And then, why not keep going? There's a group over in the hub that's watching this in the overflow. I don't know where they're going to wave from. Why don't you look right up there and wave at them? They're right over there in the hub. I bet they're waving back.
And then, right behind you, there's a balcony.
They're up there. And then way up in the sound booth, there's Rob Hidalgo. He's mixing the sound. Nobody pays any attention to him. But we love you up there, Rob.
All right, let's turn to Matthew chapter 24 this morning. Well, a man died and arrived at the pearly gates in Heaven. And there was an angel to greet him, and the angel had a clipboard. And he took down the man's name, and the man's address. And then the angel said, OK, before you enter, can you think of some instance in your life where you performed some kind, unselfish act?
The man said, well, here's something you might be interested in. One day I was walking along, and I noticed that a group of bikers were mercilessly beating an older woman. I stepped right in. I pushed one of the guys Harley's down. I hit one of the guys real hard in the head, and he was the guy holding the old lady. And then I kicked the other guy who was beating her up.
And I told her to run, and she ran, and she escaped. The angel nodded his head and said, well, that's pretty impressive. Tell me, when did that happen? The man looked at his watch and said, oh, about three minutes ago.
That act cost the man his life. He sacrificed his life for a noble cause-- chivalry. But the most noble cause is to live your life for, and if need be, sacrifice for, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I stood in the great Colosseum in Rome just about three months ago with some of you on our Journeys of Paul tour. And as I looked at the landscape of Rome, and especially the Colosseum, and was mindful of the past history of persecutions of Christians in that area, and some believe even then that Colosseum, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that bloody past of our forebears and what they experienced.
But what about the future? What will happen to believers in the future? And I just don't mean those who will live up until the Rapture of the Church, but what about after that during the tribulation time? The Bible would indicate that there will be a time in the future in the tribulation period, that worst period that's coming upon the Earth, where there will be great revival spiritually, but also great persecution.
And so Jesus even asked this probing question. When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the Earth? I'd like to answer that. According to the Bible, yes He will. And we're going to see some of that today.
Let's begin by reading verse 9, 10, and 11, which is our text this morning. In Matthew 24 verse 9, then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. Then many will be offended, and betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
Now, it could be that this is the first time you have ever read those particular versus. Maybe you're a newer believer in Christ. Or maybe you're not a believer at all. You've come. You're here. A friend invited you.
And you're reading that. And that gives you pause. You might be thinking, OK, now, you're trying to sign me up for what? This is supposed to be attractive? This is a promise of Jesus Christ that faith can sometimes be fatal.
It certainly goes diametrically opposed to the modern theology that would say, well, just accept Christ, and your life will be full of prosperity, and health, and everything will be hunky-dory. Well, we read these promises, and they're very different from that. Faith can be fatal. Following Christ has consequences. However, not following Christ has worse consequences, and those ones will last forever.
I heard about three guys that were standing in front of a firing squad. All of them were to be executed. Well, as the gunmen pointed their guns to execute prisoner number one, that prisoner was thinking fast in his mind. And he thought, I got to get out of this.
So he looked above the heads of those who were holding the guns, and he said, tornado. And the gunman stopped and turned around to look at the tornado that wasn't there, giving that first prisoner just enough time to escape over the wall. So now there's two left.
The gunmen hold their gun up to execute the second one, and he shouts out, as he looks over the heads of the gunmen, flood. And once again, the gunmen looked back over their heads to see the flood that isn't coming, giving prisoner number two just enough time to escape over the wall. Now there's one guy left.
And these gunmen are determined. We're not going to miss this time. But the prisoner is thinking, I've got to come up with some excuse, some deflection from what these guys are doing, some natural disaster.
So the gunmen have the prisoner in their sights. They're ready to pull the trigger. And the prisoner shouts, as he looks over their heads, fire.
And they did. They fired their weapons. Bad choice. Bad choice of words.
But on a more serious note, the Bible in Hebrew says how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Well, this morning, we want to look at, in part, persecution. The Bible promises anyone who lives a godly life in Christ is going to suffer persecution. In fact, persecution is the result of following the commission. Great persecution will be the result of the great commission. You go and preach the gospel, you're going to get it.
I'd like to plant something in your memory, if I could, a little formula. Here it is. If you practice Acts 1:8, then you can expect Acts 8:1. Easy to remember. . If you do Acts 1:8, you can expect Acts 8:1.
You see, back in Acts chapter 1 verse 8, Jesus tells the disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all over the Earth. Acts 8:1, and at that time, a great persecution arose against the church. Because they obeyed Acts 1:8, they experienced Acts 8:1.
Well, let's go to our text this morning. And you're going to notice with me that there are three groups that are mentioned here in verse 9, 10, and 11. There are future believers, those who will believe in Christ in the future. Along with them there are fake believers, in verse 10, followed by false believers. All three groups are different from one another. Let's look at the first group, verse 9.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. The big question here is, who is the you that Jesus is speaking to? Now, you might say, well, it's the 12 disciples. They're the ones that are having the discussion with Jesus. I submit to you that is not what Jesus means when he says the word you. And here's why.
The 12 disciples will never experience the things that Jesus predicts in chapter 24. The 12 disciples will not endure to the end of the age-- verse 13. The 12 disciples will not ever see world evangelization-- verse 14. The 12 disciples who are hearing these words will never see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel-- verse 15. Those 12 disciples will never see Heaven darkened and the stars falling out of the sky-- verse 29.
So the you that Jesus refers to here in its context refers to yet future you, future believers, who will be warned by these words that have been written down by Matthew. These are believers who will see these things during the tribulation period.
You're going, now, wait a minute, Skip. I thought the Rapture of the Church is going to take all believers off the Earth. You're right. It will. And then after the Rapture in the tribulation period, a whole bunch more will receive Christ during that critical period. These ones are those converted after the Rapture and are in the tribulation. And they will experience tribulation Look at what it says. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation.
When the Holy Spirit withdraws his restraining evil on the Earth-- 2 Thessalonians 3. When the Holy Spirit removes that, and Satan is now allowed to have free reign, there will be an incredible amount of persecution for those who dare name the name of Christ. And the word Jesus used is very telling. They will deliver you up. [NON-ENGLISH], it's a word that speaks of a judicial official enactment of bringing somebody before a legal counsel.
And we know from the parallel passage of this sermon, which is Mark chapter 13, that the persecution is going to come from two sources. This tribulation will come from the secular world, as well as the religious world. In Mark 13, Jesus says, watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils. And you will be beaten in the synagogues. So both the secular world as well as the religious world will host some of this suffering on believers.
Look a little bit deeper in verse 9 at the persecution they will suffer. Jesus says, they're going to kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. In other words, the coming persecution really isn't directed at them. It's directed at God. And they will suffer it for His name's sake. They just happen to be the only visible ones around. They're the representatives, and thus they will get the brunt of the suffering.
OK, pause for just a moment. If we were to shift the camera around and turn it backwards, and consider the kind of persecution that has already happened on the Earth, if we were to refresh our memory on the kind of suffering that the early Christians experienced, it always humbles us. We've all heard of reports of Christians being burned at the stake or thrown to the lions. But did you know that at one time, one of the Roman emperors, Caesar Nero, took Christians, affixed them to poles, poured pitch over them, and used them as torches at night to light his gardens?
And at one time, wild animals were killed and gutted. And the skins, freshly killed skins, were wrapped and sewn around the bodies of living believers. And then hungry hunting dogs would tear them to pieces. Other stories of molten lead being poured upon believers. Other stories of body parts being severed off their bodies while they were alive, and then being fried, roasted before the eyes of those who had them removed. Horrible, horrible atrocities, 10 major waves of persecution in the second and third century alone by the Romans.
Did you know that some of the very ones Jesus is speaking these words in their ears to, the 12 disciples themselves, did suffer this kind of martyrdom? For instance, Matthew, who wrote Matthew, he was killed by a sword while he was preaching in Ethiopia. John, who wrote the Gospel of John, book of Revelation, first, second, and third John, he was boiled in oil. According to the story, he didn't die. He was miraculously kept from that. So he was banished to the Isle of Patmos as a renegade.
Other stories, like Peter crucified upside down in Rome. James, the son of Zebedee, beheaded at Jerusalem, recorded in the book of Acts. James, the son of Alphaeus, thrown from the pinnacle of the temple in the Kidron Valley, and then beaten to death when he hit the ground. Bartholomew flayed alive. Andrew bound to a cross, where he preached, get this, to his persecutors until he died.
And even Thomas, yes, doubting Thomas, took the gospel all the way to India. You saw a little clip of India on the set-up video. And there in India, not far from Madras, he was lanced with a sword and killed.
Now, take that same camera from the past, and go to the modern day, the present day. And here's why. Because we might be thinking or even saying, OK, but Skip, that was so long ago, so many years ago. It's a modern age. People have changed. Things have changed. Things are different now.
You're right. They are different now. They're worse. Last year alone, 160,000 fellow Christians were slaughtered because they trust Christ. In the 20th century, there has been more persecution and martyrdom of believers-- when I say martyrdom, I mean others have killed them. More martyrs of Christians in the 20th century than in the first century, more in the 20th than in the second century, more in the 20th than in the third century-- those with 10 great waves of suffering by Rome. In fact, there have been more martyrs in the 20th century than all 19 centuries before it combined. In the last four years, on 40 different countries' soil, Christians have been killed.
This is what it means. If you took all believers across the world, add up first service, second service, third service, Saturday night service, Wednesday night service, everybody else's service around the world-- all Christians, if you put us all together, it is estimated that 1 out of every 200 of us will be martyred. That's the modern reality.
But we need to take that camera from the past, through the present, and focus it squarely on the future. Because clearly, in verse 10, Jesus is speaking of a yet future time of tribulation and persecution. And we know from reading the rest of the story who's going to bring it. We call him the Antichrist.
The Bible says that power will be given to this world ruler, the Antichrist, to make war against the saints and to prevail against them. And that's why the Antichrist, the tribulation, is after the church age. There's still Christians, but what we call the church age is past because Jesus promised, I'll build my church, and the gates of hell will not--
--prevail against it. The Antichrist will prevail against the saints. The church will be removed. People will still come to Christ during that time, but it will be a time of horrific suffering.
You don't have to turn to it, but you may want a job in the margin of your Bible Revelation chapter 6, and look at it later. It's the time when the fifth seal is opened. The tribulation has begun. And John writes, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, how long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the Earth?
Then a white robe was given to each of them. And it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, till both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. What are those cries? That's the voice of the martyrs. That's the voice of believers whose faith turned out to be fatal, and they were persecuted to death.
But according to that same passage in Revelation, they're going to make it all the way to the end of that age. Some who haven't yet been killed, but they're going to make it all the way through. They will endure to the end.
And that's the third mark of these future believers. They're going to experience tribulation. They're going to suffer persecution. But they're going to endure to the end.
Look at verse 13 of Matthew 24. I'm skipping ahead. This is next week's thunder. It says, but he who endures to the end will be saved. Now, let me tell you what that does not mean. It does not mean that you get saved by enduring hardship or enduring the tribulation, that you've worked so hard and suffered so much that God says, OK, I owe you one. Now, I'm going to save you. No. You don't get saved that way by tribulation. You only get saved that way by the blood of Jesus Christ and placing your faith in Him.
What this means is that one of the marks or proofs of truly saved ones is that they will endure to the end. The ones who endure to the end are the ones who are authentic future believers. Their faith is persevering faith, enduring faith. Boy, don't you want that kind of faith? Don't you say, boy, I want that kind of perseverance, and endurance, and patience?
Now, listen carefully. Here's the twist in all this. The twist is this. The ability to endure trials, tribulation, persecution, is produced by the trials, tribulation, and persecution. Did you get that? The ability to endure them is produced by them.
How many times have we prayed for patience? Usually it's a very impatient prayer. God, I want patience now.
Well, now listen to this. Romans chapter 5, Paul writes, we also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces patience. Could be translated perseverance. And patience will produce character. And character produces hope.
It reminds me of the story of a young minister who listened to an older, wiser, experienced man of God at a conference they were at. And afterwards, the young preacher was so impressed, he went up to the older guy, and he said, I need you to pray for me. Be glad to, said the older preacher. What can I pray for?
I'm a very impatient young man. Would you pray that God will give me patients? OK. Fair enough. Lord, I pray that you would send this young man trials, and persecution, and suffering, and heartache. And the young man stopped him in mid-prayer, said, don't you dare say amen to that.
Hold on a minute. I asked that you pray for patience. The old man put his arm around the young preacher, said, exactly. The Bible says tribulation worketh patience. So folks, maybe instead of praying for lighter loads, we ought to pray for stronger backs.
So these future believers-- there's another group in verse 10. These are different than the first. They are fake believers. Look at it. Then, many will be offended, and will be tray one another, and will hate one another. I don't like that word offended. It's because it's not the best translation.
The word is [NON-ENGLISH], and the idea IS literally fall or stumble. And the idea is to fall away from or stumble away from. And that's why the New International version renders this verse much better when it says, at that time, many will turn away from the faith. These are fake believers. Many will turn away from the faith.
Why would they do that? Because they're posers. Because they're fake. Because their faith isn't genuine faith. Because these are bandwagon believers. They jump on the bandwagon. It's woo-hoo, here we go. But as soon as a time of trial, testing, suffering, oppression, tribulation, persecution shows who they really are. They don't pass the test. Many will be offended. They will fall away from the faith.
As I started studying this this week, I discovered there are so many versus that predict a future falling away, there's too many of them to recount. Let me give you two of them. Number one is in 1 Timothy chapter 4 verse 1. Now, the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times, some will depart from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits.
And do you recall the parable Jesus gave about the guy who was sowing the seed, and he said this is different kinds of hearts that listen to the same message, that people listen to the same message differently. He described listeners who hear the message, but they're like the seed that was sown on rocky soil. This is what Jesus said. When they hear, they receive the word with joy. Woo-hoo. But they have no root. And they believe for a while, but in times of temptation, they fall away.
Now, we read those words, and we are warned by them, right? They serve as a warning to us. We realize, we all know that there are genuine believers, and there are fake believers. There's the real and the not real. Which means you can be impressed with God intellectually, and you can be even moved by God emotionally.
But if you are not changed by God inwardly and that change is seen outwardly, it's not real. It's what we used to call Alka Seltzer Christians.
I know it's a goofy kind of a name. But you know when you put an Alka Seltzer tab in water? Lot of action. Woo-hoo. Fizz. Excitement. But give it a while. Fizzes out. It's no longer there.
I was doing a little research on this, and I discovered a poll that was taken by the Barna Group. You may have heard of them, the Barna Research Group has surveyed the American theological landscape for years. And they try to get a pulse on where people really are at in their faith.
In this particular poll, the Barna Research Group made a statement and asked people, Americans, to agree or disagree with a statement. Here's the statement. Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross, but he did not rise from the dead physically. 39% of average Americans agreed with that statement. 39% said Jesus died, but never rose physically.
OK, well, you say, that's the American landscape. But it gets worse. 35% of those who call themselves born-again Christians agreed and said Jesus died, but never rose from the dead. But there's more. 33% of church leaders agreed with the statement that Jesus died but never rose from the dead. In a 2002 survey of Anglican clergymen, they said that belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation is not essential for salvation.
Here's my warning to us. Beware of spiritual entropy. I'll explain. If you have a scientific background, you know where I'm going. Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy says that in a closed system, energy will be lost. Heat energy will be lost. Things tend from organized to chaotic. So the typical example of entropy is you set a glass of ice water on a counter, the ice will melt.
Unless acted upon by an outside force, There. Will be a cooling down, a loss of energy, a tendency toward chaos. I believe that there is, well, let's call it spiritual entropy, a cooling down. That fire of devotion not burning so hot anymore, so that Jesus would even have to say to a church that is a young church, you've left your first love, he said to the Church it Ephesus. Spiritual entropy-- things have cooled down.
Hebrews chapter 2 applies this when it says, let us give the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard, lest we drift away from them. So you have future believers. They are marked by tribulation, suffering, persecution, enduring to the end. You have fake believers who will fall away from Christ because they're not real.
There's something else that marks the fake believer. Not only will they fall away from Christ, not only will they be disloyal to him, but because of that, they'll be disloyal to each other. They'll fight each other. Look at it. They will betray one another and hate one another.
What marks a true disciple? Love. Loyalty. What marks a false believer? Hatred. Betrayal. Disloyalty. Remember, there were 12 disciples. One of them was named Judas. Hatred, bitterness, disloyalty, all of that marked that fake one.
There is yet a third group. And we'll quickly look at this in verse 11. It's different from the other two groups. Then, many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Now, group three is different from group two in this. Group two, they're fake. They're fake in that they pose as the real thing. And then tribulation uncovers their falsehood, and they're seen for what they are.
False believers, false prophets are those who bring in their own message, their own agenda, a different gospel. They come into the church from the outside. They'll be very clever. They're opportunists.
It's as if they're lying in wait, because Jesus says, many false prophets will rise up as if they've been waiting in the wings all along to find weakness, and to seize the moment, take advantage of the opportunity. And then the second thing-- they will deceive through trickery, because he says they will deceive many.
All right, Jesus, a few versus back, predicted false christs. Now, he predicts false prophets. Every false messiah needs a false prophet to do the work, to spread the poison. And if we go to the future in the Book of Revelation, we have a guy called the Antichrist and a second notable guy called the false prophet. And the false prophet, in the end times, according to Revelation, will deceive the world into taking an economic mark to align themselves with the economic system of the Antichrist, as well as deceiving people into worshipping the Antichrist as Christ.
It was interesting. I read it again this week. I had forgotten about this little description of this coming Antichrist. John said, I looked, and he had the appearance of a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. Looks were deceiving. Oh he's so Christlike, so wonderful, so messianic. But the vitriol and the poison that came off his lips in the deception that he brought was demonic. And if we read further in the book of Revelation, we understand that this system will be a whole worldwide deceptive system seen under the metaphor of a harlot called Mystery Babylon in Revelation 17.
All right, that's future, and it will be a worldwide deception. There will be future believers, fake believers, false believers. But you know what? Nothing's really new. This stuff's been around for a long time.
Granted, it will reach fever pitch in the end times. Hence, verse 8. They'll be like birth pains-- more frequent, more intense. That is the giveaway that the Second Coming is near. But this trend has always been around.
You remember when Paul was on the way to Jerusalem. He stopped by Ephesus. He didn't make it to Ephesus, so he ends up at Miletus. And he's on the beach with the elders of the church. He gets them together.
He says, look, I've been with you guys for a few years. I've given you the whole council of God. I poured out my life. And then he closes on a very ominous tone. He says, I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. He predicted this then. Also, from among your own selves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. So just like in the future, when some from the outside bring in a different gospel, a different Christ, false prophets, as Peter said, you've always had false prophets-- future believers, fake believers, false believers.
Now, there's three things I want to leave you with, three bullet points, three ways to apply what we just heard. Number one-- be careful of spiritual entropy. If you are sensing your heart has been moving further away from Christ instead of closer, this might apply to you.
What do you do? You pray for endurance. You pray for perseverance. You pray for patience. You might say, oh, no. I heard what you just said. I remember that young preacher kid. I'm not going to pray for patience.
Do it. Do it. Pray and pray again. And you might find God saying, I'm glad you've been asking for patience. Because right over here, specially prepared for you, is a custom-made trial because I love you too much to leave you the way you are. I'm going to use this in your life to hone you, and mold you, and deepen you, and make you richer and better for it. And as you embrace it, you go, thank you, Lord.
Number two-- be consistent in spiritual activity. You know the basics. You read your Bible. You pray. You have fellowship with other believers. You tell the world, the lost people, about Christ. Those spiritual disciplines, those first things you do over again. But don't stop there. The spiritual activity of bringing it to the workplace, the spiritual activity of bringing it to your children, to your wife, to your husband, because that is where it gets real.
And number three-- be cautious of spiritual trickery. I implore that we put our antennas up, our discernment antennas. That we are wary of the enemies' plots. The Bible says, you're not ignorant of his devices. He's got a lot of them. So you put up the radar.
That not everyone who names the name of Christ belongs to Christ. I'm not saying you become a conspiracy guy or something like that. You're looking around weird at people. But just you are aware that the enemy is an enemy.
You know what happened this week. We all heard about it on the news, how that a plan to destroy America was stopped. A group of people would pose as passengers, board airliners, bring with them peroxide-based solutions, and assemble bombs in flight to have them explode on American soil in the major airports across this country. All of that was enacted this week and interrupted by a phone call.
Aren't you glad that somebody's radar was up? Now, here's a group of people posing as passengers and disguising this peroxide solution as a beverage. We need to take that kind of example and say, OK, on a spiritual level, it's a lot worse than that.
So I ask you, are you real? Are you authentic? Because in the future, believers who are real are going to face some pretty tough stuff, Which. Brings me to the inevitability of this.
It's a lot easier to receive Christ now and live for Jesus today than it will be to wait and say, well, you know, I'm going to wait to see if this Rapture happens. Then I'm going to receive Christ. That's like standing in the firing squad, saying fire. It's a lot easier now. It's a better choice now to receive Christ. And in just a moment, I'm going to give you an opportunity to do that. But I want to close with reading you just a little paragraph.
Remember Jesus said to the Church of Laodicea, I want you to be hot on fire for me, or I want you to be cold. But if you're lukewarm I'll spew you. I know it's a bad sounding thing-- spit you out of my mouth, literally vomit you out of my mouth.
This is an illustration from a pastor in Argentina, who writes, excuse me for the illustration, but it comes from Jesus himself. What things do we vomit? Things that don't digest. If something is digested, it doesn't come back up.
Vomited people are people who refused to be digested by the Lord Jesus Christ, and digestion means getting lost. You're finished. Your life ends. You are transformed into Jesus. You are unmistakably associated with him.
Now, in Argentina, we have some very good steaks. Let's imagine that a steak comes to my stomach. The gastric juices come along to dissolve it. And they say to the steak, good evening. How are you? And the steak replies, fine. What do you want?
Well, we've come to dissolve you, to transform you into this person. And suppose the steak says, oh, no. Wait a minute. It's enough that he ate me, but to disappear completely? No way. I'm in his stomach, but I want to stay steak. I don't want to lose my individuality. I want to maintain my steak citizenship.
So there's a fight. Suppose the steak wins, and the gastric juices let him remain a steak in my stomach. Very soon, that steak will be vomited out. But if the gastric juices win the fight, the steak loses its personality, and becomes me.
Before I ate the steak, it was an unknown cow behind the hill. Nobody paid any attention to it. But now, because it's dissolved, it gets to write a book. That's so cool.
We are of most value when we get so integrated and dissolved-- Paul calls it being in Christ-- that we truly become the body of Christ, an agent to transform, one who endures, one who is real. As we pray, I'm going to ask you to think about your own life. And if you haven't committed your life to Christ yet, today's the day.
Father, as we pray here, we're mindful of all that we heard from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24. We are now compelled to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. In this time of honest searching and response, speak. And as you speak, draw with tender cords of love those who have never made this commitment or maybe have at one time, but somewhere along the line have waned.
The entropy has come to the point where it's so sporadic, they're so uncertain of their future. And you're calling them to get right with you. We pray they would it's our prayer that you draw them to make this commitment. And right now, as we are praying, and friend, as you are listening, and if the spirit of God is tugging at your heart, saying, I'm speaking to you, and I want you to respond to me today.
Right now, you might be putting up all sorts of intellectual fronts, and dealing with it, and trying to push it aside. But you know what's going on inside of you. And the Lord is saying come home. Come to me. Be real. Respond. Surrender.
If your desire is to for the first time come to Christ or maybe to come back to him-- if that's your desire, and you want to know God's peace, God's plan, I want you to raise your hand up right now as we're praying.
I'm going to acknowledge your hand, and pray for you as we close this service. You raise it up. You're saying, Skip, pray for me. I'm going to give my life to Christ.
God bless you, right in the middle. Toward the back. And up here in the front. A few of you-- I see 1, 2, 3 right up here on this side. And over here on my left on the side. Anybody else? Raise up the hand. Toward the back and in the middle on my left. Anybody else? Right there. Yes, ma'am. Right in the middle. And on the side. Anyone else? Right on. God bless you.
Lord, I know that there is such rejoicing in Heaven as there is now on Earth, and there will be in just a few more minutes, that lives are touched by your Spirit through your word, and there is this meeting between Heaven and Earth, where lives are being changed because there is that simple receiving Christ by faith.
We pray for every one of these who have raised their hands across this auditorium. And we pray and we trust that what you're working in them you continue to work out throughout their life, that they'll know not only forgiveness, but a level of peace with endurance through the rest of their walk with you. In Jesus' name we ask, amen.
Now, as we stand-- let's all do that together. It makes it easier to move. So if you raised your hand-- some of you just put it up quickly, and then put it down. But the thing is, God knows who you are. But if you raise your hand, you're ready to make this commitment.
So often, Jesus called people publicly. He died for you publicly. He's asking you to live for him publicly. And so I'm going to ask everyone that raised the hand, to get it from where you're standing, to find the nearest aisle, and come right down to the front, where I'm going to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ right now. You come right now if you raised your hand. We'll wait for you. We'll make room for you. Come on down.
God bless you. Lord bless you.
Some are watching on television right now over in the hub. It's in the overflow. And if you would just slip your hand up, or you'd come forward. Just acknowledge if you're watching in the hub. There's a pastor there, and he's going to walk you right over here to join us. So if you want to give your life to Christ, and you're watching at the hub right now, just indicate, and let one of those pastors see you.
But you know what? Right here, there's time. And I sense that God is still tugging on a few hearts. And you know who you are. We're going to give you a time. This is a very, very important choice. We don't want to waste this opportunity.
So you get up and come. If you're in the balcony or in the family room, find your way to the nearest aisle, and come and join those who have already made their way.
That's it. That's it.
Congratulations. We're really excited that you're here. We're excited that you came forward. I'm going to lead those of you who have come. Right up here, I'm going to lead you in a prayer. It's the way that I know to introduce you to Jesus.
And so what I'm going to do is pray out loud. I'd like you to repeat what I say out loud. But it's not a repetition or a mantra. It's something that I want you to say from your heart to God. And you're just honestly asking him into your life. He will take you at your word. He will come in, and you'll be changed. So let's pray,
Lord, I give you my life.
Lord, I give you my life.
I know I'm a sinner.
I know I'm a sinner.
Please forgive me.
Please forgive me.
I believe in Jesus--
I believe in Jesus--
--who died on the cross--
--who died on the cross--
--who rose from the dead--
--who rose from the dead--
--and is coming again.
--and is coming again.
I turn from my sin.
I turn from my sin.
I turn from my past.
I turn from my past.
I turn to you--
I turn to you--
--to follow you--
--to follow you--
--as your disciple.
--as your disciple.
Give me strength.
Give me strength.
Give me perseverance--
Give me perseverance--
--to follow you--
--to follow you--
--today and every day.
--today and every day.
In Jesus' name--
In Jesus' name.
Welcome to God's family.
Welcome to God's family.
Now, listen up. You are all forgiven of whatever is in your past. Whatever would be haunting you up to this day, it's past. You're a new creation in Christ. And Neil is right over here with his Bible raised. He'd like to tell you more so. If you've come forward, I'd like you to follow Neil and a few of our counselors to a prayer room. We just want to give you something, and explain what to do next in following Jesus. Very important that you do this. God bless you guys.