Allen Jackson - Battle With Discouragement - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again. We're continuing our study on "Big Trouble Ahead, and the Battle with Discouragement". Folks, we are watching some things that are really unprecedented, an open Southern border and tens of thousands of people pouring across, censorship, propaganda, rapidly increasing violence, not just in our major cities, in all of our cities. I mean, and the list goes on and on. The economic circumstances of our nation are just out of control. It would be terrifying if we didn't have a biblical perspective. Jesus used the analogies in the days of Noah and Lot. It'll be like that before he comes back.
Well, I don't know if you remember, but in the days of Noah, it says, "Every thought of men's hearts was evil"; however, that was the very brink of one of the greatest deliverance episodes in all of the Bible, and I believe we're on the precipice of a tremendous deliverance from the Lord. Yes, ultimately, it will be in the return of the King and the establishment of his kingdom, but between here and there, his church is going to hold up the light of the gospel to the whole world. What an exciting time God has chosen for you and me. Don't be discouraged. Look with hope on what's happening around you.
So now we've got collectively, kind of, this compilation of a response. Understand God's will. It begins with your Bible, but it will extend to those personal choices you're making. "Turn away from drunkenness and debauchery and excess and be determined to be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another". Take your words and talk about spiritual things, and then when you're alone, "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks," more than you grumble. Give thanks, and then, "Submit to one another". Humble yourselves.
Now, that's one option. Let me give you a second one, Matthew 24. We're gonna look at two parallel passages. They're familiar to you, so I'm not gonna belabor them. Matthew 24 and Luke 17, Jesus is talking about the last days. He says, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up till the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen till the flood came and took them all away. That's how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man". So a couple of really significant, I think, just, statements, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man". Jesus is saying there's a parallel.
Now, Jesus is in a unique position to understand that. I think we should listen to him. And then the last sentence, he said, "That's how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man". So, again, he comes back and reiterates it. And then the parallel passage in Luke 17, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it'll be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up till the day Noah entered the ark. And the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot". So now it's been expanded not just in Noah's days but to the days of Lot. We've already looked at Lot for a moment, so there is a bit of a parallel here with the destination we've already explored.
"People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed". Now, again, Jesus is drawing, in the plainest of language, the parallel between the days of Noah and the days of Lot in the world we're living in, and we could spend a great deal of time here, but let me just, some big picture observations because I think they're germane to this destination. First, in God's sight, there is a right and wrong. That's very true about Noah's day. God said what's going on in the world is wrong. Said, "Every thought of man's heart was towards wickedness".
So establish in your heart there's a right and wrong, and as you're sorting through your filter and your life filter and your friends and your choices, you've gotta go some work with right and wrong, and you've gotta decide where you're standing and where you're living and what you're embracing. That's the role of the church, that salt and light thing again, not where you sit for a few minutes during the week occasionally. There is a right and wrong. Now, why does that matter? Because the point of Noah and Lot is that God will exercise judgment. That's why right and wrong matters. It's not an arbitrary academic discussion.
I've spent lots of hours having those. "Theoretically, well, this is what I believe," and "This is what I believe," and "This is how I feel," and "This is how I feel," and everybody's entitled to think and to feel. I'm not really arguing that point, but I am suggesting that God has told us, from his vantage point, there's a right and wrong, and he is going to intervene in human history based on what he says is right and wrong. So it would be prudent on our part to be on the right side of that, not Allen's opinion. You sort it out. You have access to Bibles in dozens of translations and access to more Bible teaching than you have the time to listen to. You don't have to take my opinion. You should've, but I'm here to tell you, biblically, God tells us repeatedly judgment will come as it was in the days of Noah, and I'm thinkin' Noah was a pretty good demonstration of God's determination to bring some judgment.
And then you scroll forward to the days of Lot, and it didn't look like he'd lost his will. And Jesus said, "It will be just like that in the days of the Son of Man". You understand that Jesus's return to the earth is about the judgment of God upon this present world order? That's why we're gonna get a new heaven and a new earth. We're not leaving here. Jesus is gonna rule and reign here. God will exercise judgment. Look at 2 Peter chapter 3, in verse 3: "First of all, you must understand", it's pretty intense language. "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing", they're gonna make fun of those who believe there's right and wrong, and they're gonna make fun of them because they'll be following their own evil desires. "They will say, 'Where is this "coming" he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'"
Seems pretty accurate to me. How about you? Verse 9, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He's patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come", I know there's not a period there, but, folks, the day of the Lord will come, and the really sobering part here is it "will come like a thief". It means the time when you are least expecting. "The heavens will disappear with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare". It's a big picture. I'm a simple guy. I have to keep, in God's sight, there's right and wrong. God will exercise judgment. You can count on it. And, three, righteousness is better. Don't make this too hard. Live for righteousness.
You're makin' choices? Make the one that you know puts you on your feet on the path towards what's more righteous. Which choice here would please the Lord more? Which would make him smile? Which might make him grumble? And then choose. If it's not clear, get to know his will a little better 'cause as you care about his will, he will give you the specific application you need for your particular circumstances, but don't imagine you could ignore his will and gain momentum towards righteousness. You can't. It's nonsense. Now, the choice that I think is represented in Noah and Lot's day is about being unaware and unconcerned.
Says in Matthew 24, that, "In Noah's day, they were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage". Nothing innately wrong, evil, or in appropriate in that. And then it says, in the Luke passage, in 17, "They were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage," and of Lot, it says, "They were buying and selling, planting and building". Again, there's nothing in that list of pairs of things that are immoral. The piece that's missing is the total lack of awareness that God's judgment was imminent, and they didn't care because they weren't without warning. There was a big boat out there in the field, and Noah was a preacher of righteousness. They just preferred not to notice. So it wasn't just a lack of awareness. You can't say, "I didn't know". There was a lack of concern.
So one of the things I would ask you to reflect a little bit upon is the condition of your heart and the degree to which you are concerned with the things of God and then what is the activity list that is linked to your concern. So the second location or opportunity here, I think, would be those who are unconcerned and unaware. They just think, "It's far enough out. Time is not of the essence". This is the group that I probably carry the most anxiety for because, as we've walked through these months, all these biblical passages have become much more real to me about the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom's arrival. They're anticipating the arrival of the bridegroom. They know the necessary preparations, they're in the right place, they're with the right people, but they're unprepared, and when the moment comes, their lack of preparation causes them to forfeit the opportunity forever.
I could give you parable after parable in Jesus's teaching. So it makes me uncomfortable, as a part of the body of Christ, again, where the church is my primary assignment, or it has been up to this point, my goal isn't to convince everybody, "You're okay. You don't have to pay attention". My objective is to help everybody wake up and pay attention. I don't want you to be unaware and unprepared. Now, again, I suspect we've all walked in each of these paths. I just don't wanna be on the wrong one. Please don't give yourself the... say, "Well, it's just my, I just needed to rest. I needed to step out of my awareness mode. I just need a couple of months or a season to do what I wanna do". The part that concerns me about that is because we don't know the time table, and you're acting as if you can time the market, and that's a really bad strategy.
So the third option, and, obviously, the one that I think is the best choice and the best place to dwell, but it's not easy to stay there, is to be both listening and obedient. And since we're using Noah predominantly as our, kind of, lead through this, in Hebrews 11:7, it says, "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen", now, we talked about God's will. Noah had a warning, and he had a warning about something that wasn't yet evident. You know, our weekends, these days, are determined a great deal by the weather because we still have the privilege of being outside, and Saturday, this past Saturday, the weather report said there was less than a 1% chance of rain Saturday, and the radar showed no clouds, none. And I'm in my office Saturday afternoon about 2 o'clock, and it is pouring rain, and I have the radar up on my computer, and it shows no clouds, and the weather report says less than a 1% chance of rain, and it's beating against my window.
Well, I was just sittin' there, thinking, "That's just not fair". We count on these tools, and they're not working. "Noah was warned about things not yet seen, and in holy fear, he built an ark to save his family". The words matter: "In holy fear". I hope you serve God with a holy fear, not a holy, self-righteousness, not with a holy indignation, but with a very keen sense of reverence and respect for God. The difference between afraid of God and respectful of God is a, takes a bit of, an easiest example in my mind, and I've used it before, was I grew up around horses, and if you've never been around one much, they're not frightening. If you've only seen 'em on television, they're cuddly. If you've only seen the free-range horses, they're adorable. If you've seen 'em in a pasture while you're in your car, they're pleasant. If you've been locked in a ten-by-ten stall that hasn't been cleaned for a few days, with a horse with an attitude, they're not cute or cuddly.
Horse can toss his head and throw you across that space. And because my dad was a vet, I had to be around them, and they scared the love of Jesus out of me. But that wasn't an option in my house because, if we were gonna eat, we had to be around horses, and so I got training a course in being around horses, and I was taught how to be close to them and not get hurt and what to do when they get agitated, and I went to class on that, and they don't frighten me. They, just, they don't. Mean ones, they don't frighten me. Big ones, they don't, I mean, it's just okay. But I have a tremendous respect for them. I wouldn't walk up behind a horse I didn't know, jerk its tail, and scream, "Hey"! You'd get to visit with our wonderful medical personnel at the local hospital. Has nothing to do with fear. It's an unexpected intrusion into their world, and they will react instinctively, and you will learn something.
There's some things I just wouldn't do, and I would coach you not to do if you were gonna climb into that little box with that animal. If there's a newborn foal and you're going into the stall, I would caution you about your behavior 'cause there's somethin' weird that happens with Mama for a few minutes. No matter how passive she was before junior got here, she's gonna have an attitude next, and she will hurt you. When I think of the Lord, I know he loves me. I know he wants to bless me. I know he intends for my good. I believe those things. I've ordered my life around those principles, but I also know he's a righteous God, and he's a God of justice, and when he says, "No," he didn't mean, "maybe," and I've seen enough evidence of that demonstrated that I don't treat him casually.
Being a Christ follower is not a majority position. You're not alone. But when Elijah found himself in the desert after his battle on Mount Carmel, he said, "Lord, I'm the only one left". And God said, "Oh, baloney. There's 7.000 more. Hush". But that sense, I'm not saying it's accurate, but if you're not willing to grapple with that sense, you'll avoid invitations towards obedience because there are points when God will ask you to be... when Abraham was walking up that hill with Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice, that did not feel like a crowd-funded opportunity, and if you're not willing to climb that hill and offer what's most precious to you on that altar, your obedience has yet some opportunities. I brought you some Scriptures. It's not just my opinion.
Hebrews 11 and verse 13, said, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They didn't receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them at a distance". Imagine if God asked you to be faithful for an outcome that you didn't get to experience. I've told you I've been working a bit on church history, and, you know, we know the breakthrough points in church history when the Reformation took place, or the Scripture got written in English, or the printing press, whatever, but before those breakthrough points, I assure you, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of lives for decades and decades preceding that upon whom those breakthrough moments were built.
Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, into their inheritance, but he couldn't have done it without the faithfulness of Moses and Aaron. All these people that they didn't receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, and they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on this earth. I've traveled a good bit, not so much lately, but I've gone to, kind of, out-of-the-way places, remote islands in the Philippines. I was there when I graduated from college. It's been many years, and the circumstances are different today, but on those remote islands, it was unusual to see Americans, and any time of day or evening, you walk down the street, you'd hear people calling from the bamboo huts, "Hey, Joe".
You didn't need a lot of imagination to know they didn't recognize, they didn't think you were native. You didn't fit in. We ate in people's homes, all of our meals, and it was weeks and weeks before I sat down to a table and saw a meal that I recognized. I understood that I wasn't at home having sweet tea and fried chicken, at least, not the way I knew it to be fried. And it says, "These people were aliens and strangers on earth," and I think that the degree to which we've wanted to be integrated, we've been content being covert operatives. Remember, this particular station we're talking about is listening and obedient.
Same chapter, Hebrews 11, verse 36, says, and it's talking about all these remarkable people: "Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned. They were sawed in two. They were put to death by the sword". Isaiah's the one that tradition says they put him in a hollow log and sawed him in two. Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah. Are we ready? We still think suffering is parking too far away from the building. "They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them". That's the way you wanna live, so invested in the world to come that you're holdin' this one pretty loosely.
I know we haven't had to live that way. We've had so much privilege and so much opportunity, and we've had so much protection from the structure around us that we could depend on all of those things, but the season's changed, and now we need to understand God in a new way. We've gotta be obedient in a new way. 1 Peter 2, verse 11, "I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, abstain from sinful desires". He's writing to believers. "They war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong", even though you're doin' the best you know, they're gonna accuse you of doing wrong that, "they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us". Listening and obedience. So what are our choices? Oppressed and distressed. Second is unaware and unconcerned, and third is listening and obedient.
Remember where I started. I said, I suspect we've all walked each of those paths, but you don't wanna stay on the wrong one. So if you say, "You know, I'm trending towards the wrong direction," you wanna take the remedies to move out of that place. Don't live presumptively. Do not tolerate the carnal. Don't be indulgent. It's not helpful. We're not in that season right now. I brought you, not really a prayer, I brought you a proclamation. I thought we could say it together. It's a declaration of intent. How many of you'd like to honor the Lord? Me too. I like to give God permission to do what he wants to do in my life. I want you to stand with me. We'll make this proclamation together. I miss the smoke from the fire pits. I like that part of outside a lot. It's in your notes, so I bet they will put it on the screens for us if you didn't like your notes. Let's just say this together:
I choose obedience to God's plan for my life. I choose to obey the truth God has revealed to me. I will set my heart on things above and turn away from ungodliness. I'll be content without becoming complacent. I will listen for God's voice, direction, and prompting. I will invest time to listen and to encourage others around me to cooperate with God's best. I will encourage those who are distressed. I'll be a light to those who are unaware. I declare this day my intent to listen and obey, amen.