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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Available and Obedient - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Available and Obedient - Part 1


Allen Jackson - Available and Obedient - Part 1
TOPICS: Obedience

I began a little series under this theme of "Time to Lead". Folks we have a leadership deficit. And in many of you, all of you in one respect or another are accomplished leaders in your homes. If you're parenting children, you're leaders of the first order. That's a daunting task. Many of you are leaders in your social groups, in your peer groups. Some of you lead at work. Some of you lead on the ballfields with lots of children and families looking to you for direction. There's so many ways that you express influence in your life. But so often, when it comes to our faith, we are reluctant leaders.

We think, "Well, I don't know enough," or "There's too many things for which I don't have an answer," as if you have all the answers or know everything about all those other arenas. Imagine those parents know everything they need to know about parenting those children. Now, if you showed them that video, they'd never have one. It's too intimidating of a task. And don't allow the inadequacies you're aware of to cause you to withdraw from leading as a Christ follower. I would submit to you that your inadequacies is, in reality, a qualification, not a disqualification. When I meet people that feel like they're competent, that create spiritual change in people, I'm not overly interested in standing with them, because we need God to do what we can't do. We simply want to acknowledge him and his lordship and point people in his direction.

So, we're going to talk about this idea and see how we can add some momentum to our leadership. We are in a desperate need for leadership in the body of Christ. And I don't mean just in the pulpits of churches, but I mean across our nation. We will become salt and light again. We've been light salt for too long. You'll figure that out on the way home. And I think the best place to begin is by trying to understand where we are. You know, if you look at a map, the most important piece, if you're trying to sort things out, is the "You are here" pin, 'cause you can't navigate to where you want to go if you don't know where you are. GPS has helped us a lot with that. We're losing most of our navigational skills. We just follow the voice of somebody telling us to turn left.

If we could only learn to be that submitted to God's voice giving us directions. You'll follow the voice of some unknown stranger that you don't know where they are and how accurate their directions are just as slavishly as you can imagine. In fact, you'll be agitated when they don't give you instructions early enough. And, you know, when God speaks to us through his Word and reinforces it through a like-minded Christ follower and then amplifies it through his Spirit within us, we put our fingers in our ears and go, "I don't know if I want to do that or not". "You are here". Where are we exactly? Proverbs 29 and verse 18 says, "Where there is no vision or revelation". Either word works. The Hebrew word suggests both. It's an awareness or understanding that enables action.

So, it isn't something that's theoretical. "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained. But happy is he who keeps the law". So, Hebrew poetry comes in couplets, two ideas put together, and you need both halves to get the full meaning. "Where there is no vision or revelation, the people are unrestrained". So, one condition is a lack of restraint, and it's because there is no vision of God. There's no understanding. There's no revelation. God has not encroached on our consciousness. The alternatives is a group of people who are described as happy. I would prefer happy. If I can choose happy or sad, I'll take happy. Happy are the people, that's interesting, happy are the people who submit themselves and keep God's law.

See, it's counterintuitive. The messaging that comes at you says that keeping God's law will make you less happy. It's a lie. And when you read that, if it doesn't resonate with you as true, you need to recognize the degree to which deception has influenced your thought process. I believe God's Word. I believe the pathway to happiness is marked by yielding to God's authority, and the alternative to that is casting off restraint, refusing to be restrained. Now, Jesus cautioned us, as we approach the end of the age, that that first condition will escalate. It's going to become more and more prevalent. It's Matthew 24:12. Jesus said lawlessness would increase. And because of that, people's love would grow cold, that lawlessness will increase.

Now just as a quick point of evaluation, how many of you feel like lawlessness, if you had to put it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being decreasing and 10 being increasing, how many of you feel like it's decreasing? Lawlessness is becoming less and less. Can't find it anymore. It's just gone. How many think it's increasing? Yeah, me too. Not necessarily negative. It's just an evaluation. It's summertime. The temperature is rising, not good or bad, it's just a fact. Lawlessness around us in this culture is increasing. In fact, I think it's safe to say that in our nation, for the most part, as a generalization, we have cast off restraint. We don't intend to be limited by anything. We don't even want to be limited by our biological sex. We want to choose.

Do you understand that as a fundamental expression of rebellion at the most essential level. And we're doing everything in our power to accept it, to celebrate it, to institutionalize it, to defend it, to invite our children into it. Do you understand the spirit behind that is very, very destructive? God's not the author of confusion. I have compassion on people who are confused by anything. Confusion is not a helpful, it's not a good place to be. But I don't want to defend it, and normalize it, and multiply it, and cheer for it, and say we want to do everything we can to cultivate more confusion. We have cast off restraint. Lawlessness has been growing steadily. We shouldn't act as if we're surprised. It's not a new arrival. It didn't happen with a change of political whatevers.

Folks, this has been gong on around us for a long time now, for years and years. If I walked you through it, I think you'll recognize it for more than a decade now. We've been living with something we call sanctuary cities, major American cities, the most celebrated American cities refusing to acknowledge or embrace federal law. They say, "We're just not gonna honor federal law here". I mean, we'll honor the ones we want. Then we won't honor the ones we don't like, but we still demand federal funding. You understand that fundamentally that is lawlessness. Try that with a state trooper. "Well, I just decided not to obey that law, but I did have my seatbelt on, even though I was going 160". It won't work well. Don't do that. I'm not counseling you to do that, and don't use my name if you do that. But we've been acting that way as a nation.

And for the most part, we just didn't say anything. We looked away. Well, it's not my problem. It's not my business. It's not my city. They must have a reason for that. You won't find a good reason for ignoring those rules. We have a system to change laws that we don't like, but you can't just ignore them, or we will plunge deeper and deeper into lawlessness. So, to a very real extent, we've been a part of this. We've supported it in our silence. We've supported it with our disinterest. We've been watching illegal immigration grow year upon year for a long, long time, until now there are hundreds of thousands of people pouring across our border. They're not refugees any longer from Central America. They're coming from the nations of the world.

And the key word in that description is illegal immigration. We have a system for legal immigrants. I have helped many people through the years. I have in other nations and stood in the streets in front of US consulates and embassies for lengthy periods of time, awaiting an appointment to get permission to help someone who is being persecuted immigrate to the United States. I am at least vaguely familiar with the legal immigration system. There's been one in place that allows millions of people to immigrate to our nation. We're a nation of immigrants. But the key word here is illegal. And we have paid very little attention. We haven't used our voices. We've acted as if it was secondary, while something illegal is being celebrated, fostered, supported by the highest levels of our government.

Now, if they will ignore some laws and enforce others, do you think that that's not going to affect you directly at some point in the very near future? Lawlessness. We've defunded the police. Really? We want to take any physical expression of authority that might be close to us and defund it. And if we can just find one person with bad behavior, we'll use that as our example. We won't find the dozens who are doing good jobs or the hundreds or however many we can find. We'll tell the worst story we can find so we can eliminate that authority. We've politicized our military. Folks, might I humbly suggest the point of the military is to win wars on our behalf. It's not complicated. They are not a social experiment. If I'm in trouble in someplace in the globe, I don't want you sending me a politically correct group of people trying to figure out which pronoun to use before they respond to the trouble I'm in.

And lately, we've seen something we haven't seen before. The leaking of a decision from the Supreme Court, violating all the precepts around that, kind of the highest expression of judicial authority in our nation has been politicized to mobilize people in an attempt to intimidate, or bully, or change a decision that's before that court. And for the most part, from the highest levels of our nation, on either side of the aisle, there's been very little said about that. Lawlessness, it's increasing around us. The outcome of all that, it's becoming more and more commonplace to see mobs of people, gangs wreaking havoc in our streets. I don't mean organized gangs. I mean like flash mobs, large groups of unruly people imposing their will on a helpless citizenry because our leaders have allowed us to be plunged into lawlessness.

I don't want you to be angry at the leaders. I want us to recognize that we have stood watch over this for a long, long time. We've watched it happen incrementally, decision by decision, and we just couldn't be bothered with it. It's time to be bothered. All right, the response doesn't need to be, the response begins spiritually. See, I would submit that we, the church, have really lost sight of the consequences of godliness or ungodliness. Whether we've said it tacitly or we've just implied it by our behavior, we have given the perspective that there's really not much difference in outcomes, whether you're godly or ungodly. It's a personal decision.

Well, I would submit to you there's a tremendous difference. The yielding to God and his laws, his perspectives, his boundaries, brings a completely different outcome to a life, to a family, to a community, to a congregation, to a nation, whatever it may be. And the question is will God's people have the courage to say that we believe that? Will we submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus? And remember the question we began with is where are we? Where are we? If we're drifting further and further into lawlessness, do we have the courage to say, "Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us"? Not through the filters of our personal circumstance, our affluence, our achievement, how well our kids are doing, how we feel about our progress and our career path.

But can we see ourselves as God sees us? Do you have the courage to pray that prayer with me? Would you invite God to give you his perspective on yourself today? Would you be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to help you see our community, or our state, or even our nation, as God sees it? I'd like to pray that prayer with you, if you're serious. If you're joining us from someplace else, you don't have to be in the building for this. I'll give you a perspective in 1 Kings 3. Solomon has been chosen to be king. It's not in your notes. I got the deluxe version. He said this. You can check me later.

It's 1 Kings 3, verse 9. It's really in the book, I promise. He said, "Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong". And that's what we're going to ask for. God, give us discerning hearts, that we could discern between right and wrong. I don't want to be deceived, do you? The cost is too high. Let's just pray:

Father, thank you. I thank you for your Word, for its truth and authority. And Lord, we would take those words and make them our own. Give us discerning hearts. Help us to see ourselves, those around us in our world, as you see us. Lord, that we might make whatever changes are necessary or whatever responses are helpful to fulfill your purposes in this generation. In Jesus' name, amen.


I'm going to invite you towards two or three prayers. Don't pray them if you don't mean them. And I believe you can invite something ungodly into your life unintentionally. And I think if you invite the Lord into your life, he will take you at your word. And so I would encourage you not to take it glibly, but I think we have a tremendous opportunity.

I want to take a couple of minutes and talk about the people of God. I think far often we're entirely too focused on the ungodly. You know, I don't think it's helpful. When I was in college, I was in the basic sciences. A lot of my friends were getting ready for medical school. I had a lot of friends in medical school, and there was a little syndrome somewhere along there that went along, that everything they studied, there was a group of people that came home with. You know, whatever they were reading about, they'd start showing up with those symptoms. And if you didn't fall into that group, it was funny; but if you were one of them, then it wasn't too funny to them. And I became aware of something.

I think it's far more valuable to be aware of what you need to do to be healthy than to spend your time on the Internet finding all the things that could be a problem for you. And the same is true, spiritually. I think it's far more beneficial to focus on spiritual health than being worried about expressions of darkness. And so, for just a minute, let's talk about the people of God and what that means, and I'll begin with this notion that I believe God has gifts for you that are, as of yet, unexplored and have not yet been received. I don't want to get to heaven and find out that God had an entire store room of gifts for me that were unexplored. Amen?

In Acts chapter 8, in verse 14, it says, "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. And when they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit". The church is expanding. Acts chapter 2, it's the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out, and it seems that the church began to grow in an unprecedented way. And by the time we get to this chapter, the Jesus story has made it all the way to Samaria, and Peter and John, who were providing leadership in the church in Jerusalem, decide that the people in Samaria need some reinforcements, some further instruction from Jerusalem. It says when they arrived that they prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit. The big picture piece is the church in Samaria, it says that they had accepted the Word of God.

In the New Testament, Jesus is the Word of God. They'd accepted the Jesus story. And then a group from Jerusalem showed up and said, "There's more for you. There's more for you". Well, I came today with a message. There's more for you. I imagine that most of you were born again. You've been baptized in water. Many of you have been baptized in the Spirit. Most of you have read through your Bibles. Many of you have a long tenure of serving and being engaged in the kingdom of God. But I have good news. There's more for you. Thank you for that resounding response. I can tell how excited you are. Here's the awkward truth. That announcement, on too many occasions, is a bit offensive, because there's been an inordinate focus in our spiritual development on how we finalize our relationship with the Lord.

How do we get this thing to a conclusion, so it doesn't need to stay uppermost in my thoughts any longer? What do I need to do? What do I need to learn? What is it? What line do I have to cross? Show me what has to happen. Do you understand? That's like saying, "What do I need to do to be healthy today, so I can be done with being healthy"? Right? How much broccoli do I have to eat today so I can smoke and drink and eat pizza tomorrow? Hypothetically. We've got a little bit of that mindset in our spiritual development, and it's a bit offensive for somebody to continue to say to us, "Growth is still important". I'm talking to the church now, to God's people, to the tenured folks.

We like to get out all our string of attendance pins and our spiritual service merit badges and say, "Look, what do you want now, preacher"? Well, personally, nothing. Is it never enough? I mean, for real, is it just never enough? You mean, I have to exercise again tomorrow? Oh. See, all of that, and we all have it. I think if we get really honest with one another for a moment, what we like to do is find a group of people that kind of think like we think, and practice their faith like we practice it, so we can camp there and go, "We've got it all". And we're forfeiting the presence of the Spirit within us and his invitations.

You see, that idea stems from something within us. It's the notion that I am the source, or I am the center. This is about me. And when I can get me satisfied, I'm good. And I believe the point of our faith and the essence of our faith is different. God is my source. He is my center. I am the servant. I'm his creation, and I have a brief time under the sun when I can serve him. And so it's an appropriate response for me on this day to say, "How might I serve you"? Do you really think God's impressed when I show him my resume? Do you think he goes, "Oh, we can relax now"? Allen reminded me of his degrees. It's easy to laugh at me, but when it gets turned back to you, "What do you want now from me"? Peter and John said, "We've got to go to Samaria. These people know Jesus, but there's more".

There's more for you and me. Can we talk a bit about God's gifts for just a moment? There's some things I've learned about God's gifts. When God's gifts come to your life, and I'm not just talking about spiritual gifts or the gift of salvation? God's gifts to you come in, it's that entire portfolio of what God has designed into your story. And he gives it to you the same way parents train children. They do it in an age-appropriate way. What can they receive now? What are they able to process and implement at this point? And God will do the same for you. Children were his idea, folks. He did that before we had psychologists and psychiatrists. I'm not opposed to those things. And God is interested in you growing spiritually, and he has some age-appropriate gifts for you, opportunities, doors to walk through.

I'll tell you one thing I have learned. If you're willing to receive God's gift, they will stretch you. They will reshape your life. Are you willing to have your life reshaped? Careful. You'll get stretch marks. You say, "I already have some". You'll get more. Are you really ready to allow God to reshape your life? You see, God's gifts enable us to serve him in new ways. And you go, "Pastor, really, I want to go to heaven. Why are we talking about this? I just want to go, there's a heaven. There's a hell. I'd rather go there than there. I'm into Christianity light. I'm not looking for this hyper Christian stuff. You know, I don't want blue tights and a red cape and a big, you know, super Christian on my chest".

Well, I need to inform you that biblically there's only one group of Christ followers. He's either Lord and you're all in, or you're not. Now, there's a lot of diversity in our personalities and how God wired us. But you can't choose to be like a disciple light. I'm not mad at you. I'm not recruiting you. I want you to be prepared. I want you to be prepared. You can't hide in church and live like the devil and think you're good. You can't give God like a peripheral place in your life and imagine that he'll be okay with that. Remember those Ten Commandments way back in Exodus, the very beginning? "You can have no other god before me. I get first place or I won't take any place". God's gifts enable us to serve in new ways. Are you ready to learn to serve in some new ways?

You know, leadership isn't so much about positions or titles. It's about our willingness to be obedient to the Lord. And I want to wrap this up by giving you an invitation around spiritual gifts. And I spent a lot of my life in the church world talking about the spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12, and those nine manifestations of the Spirit. But God has gifts for you way beyond just the manifestations of the Spirit. There's gifts for your life, doors of opportunity, abilities, relationships to be developed, all sorts of things. Some of them have long-term lead times. Almost all of them will take some effort on your part. They'll cause you to be vulnerable. Are you willing to receive? Let's just tell the Lord:

Lord, we want everything you have for us. We don't want to leave anything without being willing to accept it. In Jesus' name, amen.

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