Allen Jackson - An Exodus Experience - Part 2
So let's take a few minutes and talk about our current reality, the world we're living in today. It's not easy. I'd rather look away. I'd rather have a polite Bible study. There's a great temptation to hide in the correctness of how we read our Bibles. We're exegetically sound, and we're hermeneutically appropriate, and our homiletics are acceptable so that we can give it away in a public way without being offensive. And it all remains theoretical, but faith is never intended to be theoretical. It has to be lived out on that muddy field where we all live our lives, and it's awkward and uncomfortable.
John the Baptist would have lived a much longer life if he hadn't talked about current events. Paul would have stayed much healthier and spent far less time in prison if he hadn't talked about current events. We wouldn't have any of the prophets 'cause their message was all about current events. Much of the Psalms would go away because so many of them addressed what was really happening. "May the angel of the Lord chase my enemies as if they were on a slippery path in the dark". That's the psalmist. That's a worship manual. But we're living in a season of tremendous change, great discontinuity, breaks with the past. It's helpful for me to think of it in two categories of what we are watching. Is it a revolution, or is it just evolution? There's a difference.
Webster's Dictionary defines evolution as the process of growth or development. Revolution, on the other hand, is defined as a sudden, radical, or complete change, a basic reorientation. Which are we watching? Revolution means a turning, a changing of direction, the act of revolving. It means the change required is significant. It's obvious even to a casual observer. It's more comforting to talk about evolutionary change. Evolutionary change means that everything is planned and under control and reasonably predictable. Well, a butterfly is not just an improved caterpillar. It's an entirely new creature. Likewise, a revolution is not simply a series of evolutionary steps that are strung together. It's a break from the past, a discontinuity.
I would submit to you that we are witnesses to a revolution. I'm going to give you a little puzzle. You can figure this out. You don't have to take a lot of notes. See if you can find what these things have in common. Professional football players, milk containers, I'm sorry, dump trucks, teenagers, coffee cups, bath towels, feet, paper clips, cows, stomachs, medical clinics, and garages. They all share at least one thing in common. Did you catch it? Each one is significantly larger than it was not too many years ago. They're all measurably larger than they once were. The downtown department store, the neighborhood pharmacy, the one screen motion picture theater, the neighborhood hardware store, the family doctor with a private practice, neighborhood grocery.
All those things had been replaced, but those changes have taken decades to accomplish. It didn't happen in a week or a month or a year, and they've taken decades, incremental changes. And if you've had as many birthdays as I have, you've watched most of those things fade into the past. Well, revolutionary change is different. Think about what we've seen just since 2020. We've learned new shopping patterns, but for months and months we were told that we could not venture out into the dangerous places of shopping. Now we can have groceries delivered to our homes. In fact, Amazon will deliver just about anything, and they're more reliable than the United States Post Office. Unimaginable. They'll come three or four times a day. They've worn a path to our house. Information, trusted sources of information, revolution, CBS, NBC, ABC. For a long, long time, sacred spaces for the dispensing of information, broadcast news, New York Times, leading newspapers.
Now we've included online sources, social media, Google, Facebook, Twitter, other platforms. They express enormous power and they openly acknowledge their intent and their habit to censor information, not to report the news, not to give you both sides of an argument. If they don't agree with the opinion, they will take it down and call it disinformation, and they're the arbiters of what is true and false. Well, you see national and international organizations that we've spent decades looking to with trust, imagining that they were faithful in the dispensing of their influences. I mean, there were aberrations from that, but for the most part we've watched them suffer incredible credibility declines, if not complete collapses.
The World Health Organization, the W-H-O, the United Nations. We're on the brink of a global war, and we hardly hear a mention of the United Nations. It'd be hard to imagine them being less relevant. The CDC, the Center for Disease Control, don't you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for them to help you understand reality. The FBI, we've watched it be politicized, become weaponized for personal gain or individual gain. The Justice Department, the ACLU.
We used to have an organization that we trusted to watch over civil liberties. Don't laugh. It's impolite. It's happened quickly, censorship, lawlessness, the intentional deconstruction of energy independence, refusals to secure our own borders as a nation, millions of illegal immigrants, abandoning our troops and allies in Afghanistan, a blatant rebellion against God's order that has defined our culture and has been the fabric of our society, the definitions of family, the definitions of marriage, the refusal to acknowledge our biological sex.
All of those things are in the mix in very pronounced, very powerful, very frequent, very routine ways in our lives in ways that they were not in the very near past. A natural, normal, predictable response to significant discontinuity, you wanna know what it is? The most consistent response to change that is that dramatic, that profound, that inclusive. It's denial. It's denial. When we hear it in the Hebrew slaves, it's a little easier to diagnose. "We'd just rather go back to Egypt".
How many of you know the pathway to Egypt was not open? I mean, I think if there was a parade of Hebrews in front of Pharaoh's palace, they would not have been given provision. What do you think? That bridge wasn't just burned, it was washed away in the Red Sea, but rather than process the change, rather than deal with the God that was in front of them and the invitation that was before them, they were so captured in their discontent, it was just easier to deny what was happening. We don't want to think about it.
See, it's imperative to know true north. This isn't particularly deep, but it is very significant; a fixed point from which to orient yourself. Having a point of truth that you can establish as your navigational beginning point describes the difference between being driven by a storm and navigating a storm. You can be driven before a storm with your destination completely uncertain, the outcomes up in the air or you can navigate a storm, but to navigate the storm, you have to understand true north. You need a directional point.
Well, I would submit to you the truth, God's truth, is that directional point. There is objective truth. There is truth that can be known. There is a right and a wrong. There are powerful voices today, powerful voices not only because of political influence that they hold or celebrity that they hold or platforms that they control, but there's just an avalanche of messaging that argues that all truth is subjective. That you can't know my truth, and I can't know your truth, and therefore we can't say there really is any truth because it's all a variable.
Now, it's true that personal experience can inform your journey and can bring to you compassion and understanding and enable you to exhibit mercy to other people. I found that in my own life. When my life unraveled and there was a great deal of pain, I became a much more compassionate person for people whose lives unraveled. At the time I wasn't grateful for the lesson or the experience, but on the other side of it I was most grateful. It made me a more effective component in the purposes of God in my lifetime, but it doesn't change the fact that there is objective truth. There is truth that can be known.
When Jesus was interviewed by Pilate, his life was in the balance. And Pilate's question to him was what is truth? He was caught in a very difficult political circumstance. He understood Jesus to be innocent, but he also understood the power brokers in Jerusalem wanted Jesus executed, and if he released him, he would have to suffer the consequences of disrupting the power brokers. His position was in the balance, and yet if he condemns him to death, he has the power to do that and there's really not any dissenting voices, but he'd have a conscience scarred by condemning an innocent man to death. Imagine the difference in Pilate's life if he'd had the courage to lead well. Imagine the difference. He might have been removed as the Roman governor. Ooh. He could have been the advocate for the incarnate Son of God.
Say, well, he was just fulfilling God's purposes, that's an incomplete response. It's going to take courage to finish this course. Philosophers in the west have been wrestling with that question about truth for more than two millennia. I believe the Bible gives us an answer. It's not really a simple answer. It's not difficult to understand. It's just not overly simple. I think there's three coordinates the Bible gives us that help us identify truth, and you need to be familiar with each one of them. They won't be unknown to you, but the degree to which you are dependent upon them, the degree to which you allow them to mark the pathway for your life will help you understand compliance. The first is Jesus.
Look at John 14, in verse 6. "Jesus said, 'I'm the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" There aren't many ways to God. All paths aren't equal. Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. He's either Lord of your life or he's not. Now, that's an important point, folks. When you're talking to people about Jesus, you're not just trying to recruit them to attend the church service. When you're using your influence, when you talk to your family members, there's more than just trying to recruit them to come to worship with you. Their destiny is in the balance. Their eternity is in the balance. "Do you know Jesus? What do you think about Jesus? Have you talked about him"? Do you live before them in such a way that your faith is something that would be appealing to them or is it obnoxious to them?
"No one," he said, "comes to the Father except through me. I'm the way, the truth, and the life". There is no plan B. I know it's not culturally popular. Tragically, even many of our churches have stepped away from that. Whole denominations have stepped away from that. It's not up for negotiation. The second component is in John 17:17. Jesus, he said, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth". That's the second vector as we're working this out. God's Word is truth. There is a revelation of the character of God and the nature of God in his Word that you can't gain any other way. That's why it's worth reading it. It's worth thinking about it. I've read it more than once, and every time I read it, I'm a bit embarrassed. I, like, I find new chapters. I'm like, "I mean, I've gotten my marks in the notes or the margins on that chapter, but I would swear I haven't seen that before".
And I'm at least an average reader. God's Word, you need time with it, not a burdensome intrusion. I'm telling you, if the book is boring to you, if you don't like it, if you'd rather watch TV or go to a movies or watch a ballgame, begin to talk to the Lord about that. Tell him the truth. Say, "Lord, I know I should read it, but could you put some pictures in or something? And the begats. Did we have to have all the begats"? If you will tell him the truth, he will begin to give you a hunger. You know, I find that points of discipline at the time of introduction are typically unpleasant. You know, if you haven't been exercising and you decide to start exercising, that's not a blessing, it's just awful.
Now, some of you will try to camouflage it with a new wardrobe, but, you know, if you're fluffy and you get new clothes, you're just better dressed fluffy, but emotionally you feel, "But at least I look a little more athletic". But those first days of beginning that new discipline, they're just miserable. Your body complains, your brain complaints, and when you're done exercising and you're resting again, a couple days later, your body really complains. "What were you thinking? Don't ever do that again". And that's a simple example. We've all had that one. And the discipline of taking time with the Lord, it's not easy. When you begin it's not going to just shout at you, "Revelation, insight, understanding". But if you will cultivate the habit, spend time with people that like to do it, build friends that are interested in it.
If the people you spend your discretionary time with don't care about the things, I'm not talking about they stand under the umbrella of Christian. There are lots and lots of people that stand under the umbrella of Christian that have very little interest in the Lord. I'm talking a couple people who have a genuine habit and practice of seeking God, of behaving in ways that give reflection to that. Build some of those people into your discretionary time. If you're going to learn to fish, you'll hang out with people who fish. If you're going to learn to hunt, you can close the circle on that if you'll spend time with people who've got a lot of experience and like to do it. If you spend time with people who don't like to fish and don't like to hunt, you probably won't hone those skills. So we've got two components so far. We've got Jesus and the Word of God.
In John 14 and verse 16, this is Jesus speaking, and he said, "I'll ask the Father, and he'll give you another counselor to be with you, the Spirit of truth". The third component is the Holy Spirit. So one of the three coordinates to help us in seasons of tremendous turbulence and discontinuity when everything is swirling and the storms are raging, how do you maintain your balance, and how do you navigate, it's not easy. That's why we call it a storm. It's disorienting. It's why we call it discontinuity. So your perception is accurate, "Wow, this is not easy stuff". But alignment with Jesus and the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will lead you to the truth and they will keep you from deception because the best deception has a component of the truth, a part of the truth. "Well, I sat in church or I read my Bible psalm or", but you can still do those things and be deceived. We need the whole.
The people that rejected God's invitation that died in the wilderness were eating manna for breakfast. They're talking to Moses. And Joshua and Caleb have come out of the land. They had two reports that said, "It's an amazing place," but the majority of the voices were going, "Whoa, you don't want to go over there". The majority of the messaging that will come to you will not encourage you to be godly. Like whoa, we got to acknowledge that awkward reality. Who are your heroes? What are you listening to? What do you think about? What are you striving for? There's a battle underway for the heart and soul of our nation, and we have a role to play, church. Our educational systems, it's where our values are handed from one generation to the other.
I understand it should be the church, but a tiny percentage of people attend church and a smaller percentage attend church on a regular basis and a fraction of those are obedient. That's the awkward reality. We have enough church experience to know that. We don't have to dance away from it. I don't say it in condemnation, but the public educational systems were designed to transmit our values from generation to generation, and we've been so indifferent, we've been so callous, so casual we haven't paid attention. We received a great gift in COVID. We got to watch what was happening in the classrooms. We were so shocked. It's a little disingenuous.
If you've been through the higher education process, you know what's been taught in our university for decades has been godless, divisive. A battle for the heart and soul of our nation, how our families will be understood. God defined family. It was his idea. It's been the building block, the cornerstone of western civilization. All of the best things we've enjoyed, the civility with which we've lived, it isn't perfect, we're broken people, but it's been better than the alternatives, and we've watched in a very rapid period of time a redefinition of family and a redefinition of marriage. And now they've added on to that challenges to how authority will be held and expressed.
What's going to be the determining factor? Will it be, in our nation will it be our constitution or will it be the demands of the mob? We can't afford to have leaders who don't enforce the laws that we have. If they don't, we're all vulnerable. Here's the deal. The ultimate solution is spiritual. We're not powerless. We've got to begin to lead well before God. The Hebrew slaves didn't have the power to overcome Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt. They didn't have the military expertise to overcome the Canaanite cities. They didn't have the power to part the Red Sea or to stop the waters of the Jordan River. They didn't have an engineering department. They were the people of God, and that unique relationship defined the possibilities of their future. We're the people of God, and that unique relationship will define our future more than our US citizenship, or our passport, or Wall Street, or the Federal Reserve, or the school board, or the teacher's union.
Church, we're not powerless. We've got to be willing to lead well in our little sphere of influence. We're going to have to have the courage to tell God's truth within our family systems. We can't behave in ungodly ways and expect everybody else to be more godly. That's deception. We're not paying attention to the coordinates of truth. We need them. Our challenge isn't the depravity or the intensity of wickedness. It's the ambivalence, the indifference of the faithful. We've been asleep. That's a normal part of a lifecycle, but you don't want to sleep your whole life away. That's a coma. That's something different. When you're asleep, you're unaware, you're unconcerned, you're uninvolved. We've got to be in concerned. We've got to be involved. We have to be aware.
"Well, I don't like to think about it. It just makes me nuts". Well, I'm sorry. Bless your heart. Sounds a lot like that Exodus generation. "No, no, no, we look like grasshoppers". You know we're a nation with a Christian heritage. My time's up, but that's still our truth. One of the ways of understanding our history as a nation is by the moving of the Spirit of God. They call it the first great awakening. It took place before we were a nation in the 18th century mostly amongst those who were churched. There was a change in the attitudes of people who filled the churches, largely of New England. They changed their rituals. They changed their attitudes towards piety, their own self-awareness.
We had another moving of the Spirit in the 19th century, the 1800s. Some have dubbed it the revival that was led by the peasant prophets, because they really weren't people of great power or influence. People like Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, Alexander Campbell just north of here in Kentucky. The outcome of that is still a significant influence in the region where we live, but the outcome of that moving of the Spirit was the abolition of slavery, a great civil war. I know there's outline left, but there's more days, God willing. I want you to stand with me. Let's read this prayer together. We began with a blessing. Let's close with a prayer:
Almighty God, we pray for our leaders, for all those in authority over us. Direct their steps, and protect us from deception. In your great power and wisdom, establish us as a people with a heart for God. Awaken the people to your purposes and your power. Open our eyes to see and our hearts to receive all that you have for us. You are our strength and our protection. You alone can secure our future. In you we put our trust. May the name of Jesus be lifted up and exalted throughout the earth in this generation. Amen.