Allen Jackson - Awake, Aware and Concerned - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again. We're working through a series on leading with our faith and we're gonna talk specifically in this session about being awake, aware, and concerned. Folks, I'm a little bit over passive Christianity. We've raised a generation in Evangelical America of overlookers. We need some overcomers. The scripture says we have to overcome evil with good. It's not that we just overlook it, we have to give expression to good in such a way, such a persistent way, such a determined way that it defeats evil. That's our assignment, not just to sit in church and have Bible studies.
We've been polite, and tame, and kind, and overlooked a lot of things that I think have dishonored the Lord, but I believe God has awakened us now to express a concern in our world for the truth of Jesus Christ. We have to stand up for the children. Folks, the public schools are not the assignment of the school boards or the politicians. They're the parents, the adults. It may not be your children, but their our children and we have to care. God has put us on assignment. Grab your Bible, get a note pad, but most importantly open your heart.
We're gonna look at some prophetic passages, primarily at two passages where Jesus talked about the end of the age and what we could anticipate before he returns. My premise to you as we began to look at them is that we need to become a bit more sophisticated in how we read the scripture. We have been so oriented on the outcome we wanted that we didn't want to be bothered with the details, much in the same way that the 1st century audience was so invested in having a Messiah that would eliminate the Romans, and restore Jewish autonomy to them in their homeland, and set things right that they couldn't be bothered with the demonstrations that Jesus brought or the fulfillment of the prophets.
And I'm a bit concerned that contemporary American Christian, even as we cultivate an awareness of good and and even a biblical perspective on the world in which we live, that if we don't pause to truly listen to what Jesus was saying, that we won't be able to understand what's ahead of us. Now, to be honest, I don't really know that we've cared about what's ahead of us. We're just looking for the airlift. Now, for clarity sake, I want out on the first load up. I'm not tryin' to earn a tribulation badge. On the other hand, I want to be prepared and I want the people I'm making the journey with be prepared to flourish in every season until we get to that one, okay? And I understand there's some room for opinion in there, and you can have one, or you can agree with me and save yourself some time.
Next week's session will be on humility. Look in Luke 17, verse 22. Jesus said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it". Don't you know that's true? You follow the crew through the book of Acts, don't you know there were days they would've loved to have had lunch with Jesus? Don't you know? "The day is coming when you would long to see the days of the Son of Man, but you won't. Men will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Don't go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other".
So Jesus gave them a characteristic that would take place in the world before his return. He said, "My return will be like lightening that flashes across the sky". There's a parallel passage in Matthew 24, and verse 27, "As the lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man". So one of the things that we could imagine biblically that would correspond with Jesus's return to the earth is some expression of lightning, right? Not too complicated just yet.
Let me ask you a question. If you see a thunderstorm with thunder and lightning, do you imagine that Jesus's return is imminent? No would be the answer. You'd call it a thunderstorm. You don't immediately drop to your knees and say, "Oh God, forgive me. I cut somebody off in traffic today. I was in the express line with 14 items". I mean, you don't immediately start to try to clean up your repentance list because you heard thunder and saw a lightning bolt, and go, "Dear Lord, he's comin' back". You understand that when Jesus made that description, he didn't say that every expression of lightning would be the signal of his imminent return. Agreed? We're not getting complicated. I grew up in a barn in Tennessee, but we do need to think a little bit.
When Jesus was giving us the signs for the end of the age, we shouldn't imagine those signs will be absent until the end of the age. So when he said there's gonna be lightning, it doesn't mean the only time you're gonna see lightning is when it's time for him to come back. And we've taken a lot of those other signs, we thought, "Well, if we see those, it's gotta be the end". And then become skeptic will say, "Well, wait a minute. We've seen that someplace else in history, so there must not be anything to this 'Return of the Lord' thing".
And then we have a choice to make. We either put our blinders on and go, "History doesn't count. This is me and I count, and I'm only gonna pay attention to the signs that I can see and feel," or we will look at the broader scope of history and embrace some kind of a skepticism that says, "Well, I don't really know what to say". And I would submit to you that both positions are really not listening to what Jesus had to say to us. He didn't say, "The first time you see lightning, I'll be back," and he didn't say that, "The expression of lightning means I'm coming". He said, "Just as you see that lightning in the sky, my return will be every bit as visible".
Jesus often spoken in very plain, but nuanced ways. How many times as you've been reading the Gospels have you noticed that either the crowds to whom he was speaking didn't understand, he was speaking to them in parables, or his closest friends who had private access to Jesus would say, "We need more explanation. We don't understand"? What makes us think that a few minutes a day, casually reading through our Bible while our mind is really working on what else we're gonna do when we're done with something that's not that important would open up to us the plans and purposes of Almighty God? So are we in agreement not every lightning storm means that Jesus's return is imminent? How many of you believe that's true? What do the rest of you think?
Okay, well, let's take it one step further. 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, "The Lord himself will come down from heaven". Isn't that good to know? He's coming back, folks. "With a loud command, and the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first". Again, similar passage in Matthew 24, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory". Again, Jesus is coming out of heaven, back to earth. "And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other".
I could give you another passage or two, but there's the very clear statement that with Jesus's return to the earth there's going to be a blast of a trumpet. Question, every time you hear a trumpet, does it mean the return of Jesus is now? If there is, somebody find a trumpet. No, we've all heard a trumpet and he's not back yet. Agreed? We've been a little casual, a little indifferent. Matthew 24, verse 3, this is Jesus's most lengthy prophetic passage. It's prompted by a question the disciples asked him, "What will be the sign of the end of the age and his return"? And he gives a whole bucket full of signs, two chapters worth, Matthew 24 and 25. It's repeated in Mark and Luke, or some portions of it. "As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and at the end of the age?'"
So there the questions are, more than one. When Jesus answered, this is his first response, "Watch out that no one deceives you". Wow, they didn't ask about that. They weren't even considering it a real threat that they could be deceived. After all, they've been hangin' out with the man for three years. They've gotten the backstory on the parables. They're eyewitnesses. And Jesus's first instruction to them is, "Watch out that no one deceives you". It's his most repeated warning in this prophetic passage. He says it over, and over, and over again. We won't take you through all of them. Look in Mark 13, "False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect, if that were possible.
So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time". In more than one place, Jesus said, "I've told you in advance". It's as if he's removing the excuses for us. Well, the prophets told us in advance all the signs that we would need to identify the Messiah, because many did, but many did not. We've lacked a little intent, perhaps, on trying to understand the seasons. "Be on your guard," Jesus said. 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verse 3, "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way". Wow. "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way". Not anyone in any way. That's a pretty broad tent. "For that day will not come", the day being discussed is the return of the Lord, "That day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed".
Whose the man of lawlessness? The antichrist. So the day of the Lord will not occur until the rebellion takes place. Some translations translate not "rebellion," but "apostasy". The Greek word is apostasia. It's a falling away. So it's not a rebellion amongst the ungodly. In fact, a better way, I think, a more helpful way to think of apostasy, 'cause there's some fear that lives amongst the people of God that we will be deceived into believing something that's false. And it's unfortunate that has been oftentimes, too often, fostered by some group that we were a part of trying to maintain adherence and allegiance to that particular group.
Any group that submits to you or suggests to you that we are the only right way, just smile, turn around, and sprint in the other direction, okay? Because actually, the description of what will happen before the antichrist takes his place fully is a rebellion and apostasy where those who have known the truth rebel against it. It won't be confusion. It won't be a lack of understanding. It won't be you read one translation and in reality another one was a better translation. That falling away will be because of a rebellion against the truth of God. We will no longer yield, in New Testament language, to sound doctrine.
We won't tolerate a biblical definition of family, or morality, or human sexuality. We will reject the call to have compassion on the lost. We won't engage with a sense of mission for our lives. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3, in those first five verses, he lists 18 deteriorations in human character that will take place at the end of the age, but he summarizes them. He said that they'll have a form of godliness, but deny the power of it. Well, in Paul's thought, the power of God is centered in the cross of Jesus Christ. So there'll be a very religious atmosphere, but it'll say that the cross of Jesus is not essential. A rebellion, not from lack of information.
I spent some time the last couple of days with John's Gospel in my reading time. And in John's Gospel, the spiritual leaders of the generation could not hear the truth from Jesus about the Sabbath rules. Now, we live kind of with his imagination that attending church would probably be a good thing, but we provide a worship service on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday that are as close to the same as we can do it so we're not really dictating which day you would do that. We have a more expansive attitude that Sabbath isn't about a particular day in the week, but it's more about a routine practice. But that would differ from the 1st century audience that Jesus was addressing.
They had identified a specific day of the week and there was a whole set of rules that had grown up around that what was appropriate, that someone had gone to the rabbi and said, "Is it appropriate for me to go to a Titans game on the Sabbath"? Well, it might be, but you can't purchase a ticket because that would be work. But if someone purchased the ticket and gave it to you, then you'd be okay to go to the game. You laugh at the example, but there's a whole host of literature around how the Sabbath rules grew up. And they've deviated a long way away from what God intended, a day when you pause from your busyness and your work to reflect upon the goodness, and the grace, and the mercy of God. Because the original instruction was just to keep the Sabbath holy, not to keep it recreational. But that's another sermon.
But in John chapter 5, and verse 8, we're gonna follow a little progression through John's Gospel. Chapter 5, chapter 7, chapter 9. Jesus meets a man who's waiting by the pool of Bethesda to be healed and he has a dialogue with him. The man can't get into the pool when the waters are stirred, so Jesus has mercy on him and he says, "'Pick up your mat and walk.' And at once the man was cured". That's a good day. Supernatural healing, miraculous event. The man picked up his mat and walked. No kidding! He's been unable to walk and Jesus said, "No, no, I'll heal you. Pick up your mat and walk," and the man has the strength to do so, so he complies. "The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, 'It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.'"
Now, he's in a conundrum 'cause he's had a physical disability for a long time and the man who resolved his physical disability told him to carry that mat. How many of you think you'd be inclined to be a mat carrying person? How many of you think for a day or two until you figured out just exactly where your strength was, you might've carried that mat every time you got ready to walk? Come on. We're not done just yet. And he replied, "The man who made me well said, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" Duh. "So they asked him, 'Well, who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?'" I love this. "The man who was healed had no idea who it was".
Jesus didn't hand him a card. "For Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there". "Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, 'See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.'" Wow, do you know Jesus that way? Do you know Jesus that way? Stop sinning or you'll be in a worse place. "The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well". He's still trying to sort out what's happening to him. Jesus didn't heal him because he was such an all-in follower. He had compassion on him, but he's causing consternation. The religious leaders don't care if people are getting help if it lessens their authority. Stay sick, we like our space.
John chapter 7, this is Jesus. He's posing a question to the religious leaders. "If a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so the the law of Moses may not be broken", okay, so the issue, the point in question is that they have said it's appropriate to circumcise a child. The law said that on the eighth day the male children needed to be circumcised, so they'd be presented to the priests for circumcision. And Jesus is asking a question. "He said, 'If you will circumcise a child if that eighth day falls on the Sabbath, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.' And at that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, 'Isn't this the man they're trying to kill?'"
Why are they so angry with him? He's challenging their rules. He's not having theoretical discussions with them. He's messing with their assertion of power, with the authority that they're trying to extend over the people, and he's trying to bring some alignment with between what God actually said. See, you can be very religious and very deceived. You can be very pious, very smug, very self-disciplined, close yourself off to portions of scripture, and you'll have all kinds of expressions. "Well, that's just not how we believe". Folks, if how you believe isn't in alignment with scripture, change. "Well, that's just not the way my people are". Well, great, but unless your people were there in the beginning, you and your people need to bring alignment with the Word of God. "Well, I'm just not sure it matters. I'm born again". That's a very problematic position to hold. We're not done. John, that chapter 9, "They brought to the Pharisees a man who had been blind".
Now, before this, you know the story. Jesus has encountered this man in Jerusalem, and he's spit in the dust, and anointed his eyes with the mud, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. And the man washed and he came home seeing. So they bring the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. Now, the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. How many of you think that was just an accident for Jesus? No, because if you're reading John's Gospel with us, you'll know by the time we get the John 9, there is a very living tension between Jesus and the power brokers. And it's not just the power brokers, between the people.
There's a real struggle to sort out what this is and who this is. How could this be the Messiah if they're that angry at him? Be careful what you align yourself with. If you give allegiance to something other than the Spirit of God and the authority of God's Word, you are very, very, very, very susceptible to deception. So if you tolerate any idolatry in your life, if you'll allow a preference for anything in your life above the Lord, you're already deceived and it means it's very easy for there to be a whole cascading series of deceived choices that come out of that. So there's a man here who has been blind and now he can see, and Jesus has done it on the Sabbath again.
"Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. 'He put mud on my eyes,' the man replied, 'I washed, and now I see.' Some of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, he does not keep the Sabbath,' but others asked, 'How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?' And they're divided". Even the man's parents won't stand up for him because they don't want to be put out of the synagogue. Pressure. Pressure. Jesus said, "I didn't come to bring peace in the world, but division".
Jesus is a point of pressure. And I can tell you one of the overriding characteristics as we approach the end of the age is increasing spiritual pressure, because those that are in the kingdom of darkness understand that their time is quickly coming to a close. And on the other side of the ledge are those that are laboring in the harvest fields understand that the harvest is ripe and there will be a proclamation of the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God in the whole world as never before seen. And you can't have those two initiatives taking place simultaneously without there being pressure.
And Jesus was frequently in trouble because he wouldn't keep ungodly rules. I don't intend to yield to ungodliness. I want the Lord to be pleased with us. Let's pray.
Father, we want your approval more than we want the approval of any person or any organization. May you be pleased with us. In Jesus's name, amen.