Allen Jackson - Can't You See - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you. We're working through this study. I want to talk to you in this session about "Can't You See". You know, I have this response. It's on the inside of me. Sometimes when I'm helping people and we're trying to process, I think, "Can't you see"? And I've learned that when I have that thought, the answer is, "No, they probably can't". You know, some of you have gifts with color. You can see how color works together better than others. Or some of you have a gift for athletics, or some of you know where the wildlife will be in the forest or where the fish will be in the lake. We just don't all see and perceive from the same vantage point.
When it comes to the kingdom of God, I think we have forfeited something. We think of our faith in terms of our personal salvation, our entrance into the kingdom of God in our personal discipleship journey, but we don't see God's larger picture and that's really a deviation from the biblical pattern. Abraham saw Jesus's day. Jesus told us that. Moses saw the Hebrew slaves in the Promised Land before they ever left Egypt. Joseph saw his brothers bowing down to him when he was still the youngest in his family. Daniel saw the end of the age from his position as a slave in Babylon, and on and on and on the narrative goes through Scripture. We have accepted something that's incomplete. God would give us insight and understanding into his purposes not just for ourselves but for what he's doing in the earth. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
I want to go back to a theme that we were exploring before Easter. We were talking about visions of the future and in particularly a perspective of what God is doing in the earth, and the premise is really pretty simple. I would like to expand the imagination that we have been distributing in American evangelicalism. In my lifetime the primary focus has been on the new birth and conversion, and I'm an advocate for that. I believe in that. I don't want to diminish that or detract from that or suggest in any way it is unnecessary, but having experienced the new birth is the beginning point of a spiritual life. And the purpose of that experience isn't to stop and wait for eternity; it's to grow up in the Lord and to understand what God created us for and why he put us on planet earth and entrusted us with an earth suit in a season of time under the sun, and I don't think we have lived with that awareness as fully as we could have.
I think we have been coached more towards a routine of reading our Bibles and a prayer or two and worship services when we could accommodate that, and if we met the routine we were fully engaged. And I'm an advocate for the routine. There's nothing in that routine for which I have not been an advocate and a proponent, but I think the purpose of those things is to prepare us to see what God is doing, and I think we've been a bit limited. Let me restate that. I think I have been a bit limited, and I am determined, focused, persevering in trying to have a greater insight and understanding into what God is doing in the earth because I would like to be a participant. I'm quite willing to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, but I certainly don't want to dwell on the tents of the wicked.
And so that's our theme. And there's an expression that I sometimes will use when I'm working with a team of people or a group of people or talking to somebody and I'll say, "You know, can't you see? You know, can't you see that if you keep doing that this is going to be the outcome"? And I have come to the realization that anytime my innate response is, "Can't you see"? that the right answer is, "No, they can't". Because very few of us really want to be self-destructive. Do you know somebody that is gifted with colors they can just tell what goes together, or what colors will work well, or how to shade, they just have a gift, and they'll look at you sometimes and go, "Can't you see that doesn't match"? And I'm like, "No, this looks good to me".
You know, the poor video people that have to look at some of this stuff that I'm a part of, they'll come and say, "What were you thinking"? I'll say, "I was thinking I looked pretty good". And they'll say, "Well, look at this. Couldn't you see"? And I'm like, "No, I guess I couldn't see". And so I would hand you that anytime that your response is "Can't they see"? it's pretty self-evident most cases, "No, they can't". That our vision is limited. Lots of things speak to that, and many things contribute to that. And so, let's start with this place of what are you really looking at. What's the focus of your vision? And I know we're in church and the answer is Jesus, but really what are you looking at? John 8 and verse 56 says, Jesus is speaking. He said, "Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad".
Jesus said Abraham of Genesis 12 saw his day, the Jesus of the New Testament. But the language is important. "He rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day". Before Abraham saw Jesus, he thought about it, he longed for it, he cared about it. So I think what we're able to perceive and understand is connected to what we're longing for, what we're dreaming for, what we are reaching for, what we have ambition for. So one of the things I'm conscious of is I want a greater ambition in my heart for the things of God. I don't want to be self-righteous. I don't want to be smug. I don't want to imagine that I know all the important things. I'm very willing to sit in the seat of a beginner, a learner. I want that same hunger. I want that same enthusiasm. I love to watch kids learn. "Why? How come? Let me do it. Why didn't it work"?
You know, when they think it's going to work and it doesn't work, they're so frustrated they step back and they want somebody to make it work or show them how it'll work and then they're off again. "What's that word mean? What did you say? Why were you spelling"? I mean, they are voracious learners. And in fact if you don't keep learning, really quickly they just pass you then they're spelling words around you or, you know, they're on their portable devices or your phone or something else and they're doing things with it that you had no idea was even capable of, and they just look at you like, "Never mind. I couldn't explain it. You couldn't learn".
I mean, that paradigm switches so quickly, and I want that heart in me. I want to know about the things of God. I want to know him better. I want to understand how to pray more effectively. I want to know how to read my Bible so that the outcomes are different. I want to know how to invite God into the midst of a family or a community. I want to know how to stand against darkness more effectively. I don't like the trends I see. I want to learn. I don't want to be angry at someone else or point an accusing finger, but it is within me. I'm thinking about it, I'm talking to the Lord about it, and I want to invite you into, I'm not trying to raise the bar on you to run faster and jump higher and volunteer more frequently. That isn't my agenda. But I would like to plant the seed within you to overcome that sense that, "I don't really have to think about the Lord".
What do you mean? You think about what you care about. What is it that occupies your thoughts when you have a little free time? What is the ambition of your heart? And if it really isn't overly directed towards the Lord, what I want to suggest to you is you just begin to talk to the Lord and say, "Lord, that really hadn't been my ambition, but I'm curious about that. What would that look like? Could you help me"? I don't want to bring guilt to you, I want to suggest there is more than sitting in church and thinking, "Oh, I've heard that so many times before, pastor". I know you have. Hebrews chapter 11, you know what it is. It's this hall of fame of faith, these remarkable men and women. And about a third of the way into the chapter says, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised".
They ended their life without having fully received the promises of God. You got to process that for a minute. Are you willing to serve the Lord understanding that you will come to the end of your journey in time and you will not have experienced fully the promises of God? 'Cause some of us are angry, resentful, embittered. There's something better ahead of us. Folks, we're making our way. We have to be overcomers in time. That is the message that's given to us, which means there are going to be obstacles and hurdles and resistance and all sorts of things for which we will have to struggle and strain to overcome them, but there is something better ahead of us. "They didn't receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance". But they saw them.
You see, the ability to persevere and to overcome has a great deal to do with your vision, with your vision. "And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth". The list is lengthy and I don't want to get bogged down in it, but Abraham we're told, we just read it. He saw Jesus. Abraham did thousands of years ahead of schedule, but he isn't unique. He's not some bizarre character. Samuel, the last of the judges and this enormously significant figure in the unfolding story of the Hebrew Bible, he saw the impact of the decisions that the leaders of Israel were making. He pled with them. "Please don't do this. I can see what's coming". He told them, "This is what will happen to you".
He described their future decades ahead of them and still they wouldn't listen. Joseph saw his brothers bowing down to him, and he was so arrogant he told them. Sometimes you have to smile. God gives vision to people when we really are cracked pots. We don't have the maturity, or the experience, or the wisdom to always know what to do with that. Don't tell everything you know. It's not about self-promotion. My goal isn't to convince other people I'm spiritual or more godly. Let the fruit of your life do that. You don't have to do that with your words. In fact, that desire will get you into trouble more quickly than not. Don't be in a hurry to tell people what the Lord is showing you, just live it out. Invite them along for the part of the journey that makes sense for them.
Joseph saw the famine in Egypt long before the farmers of Egypt did. Moses saw the Hebrew slaves free. He went to Pharaoh, said, "You got to let these people go". Moses saw them free before there was any inclination. The people were angry at him. They told him to shut up. They didn't want him representing them anymore. He'd caused more trouble than he had brought help. Pharaoh was angry with him; threatened his life, threatened his well-being, threatened his family. But Moses saw those people free to the point that he could persevere, endure, overcome. It wasn't theoretical to him. He saw their freedom. "God sent me here to take these people away from this place. They're not staying here". He saw something. He saw the Promised Land. He saw the tabernacle before it was ever constructed. He saw it in heaven. He came back and said, "Let me show you how to put this together. I've seen it".
David, little shepherd kid, he sees the Philistine warrior, Goliath. You know the story. You learned it in Sunday school. The whole army is afraid, and David sees his vulnerability. "Oh, he's defied the armies of God. He's done. He has mocked God. Somebody call 911. He's about finished". He saw something nobody else saw. He saw Jerusalem as the capital, the city of God. It was a Jebusites' city. Daniel saw the king's dream when the king couldn't see it. Daniel saw the end of the age. Daniel saw the end of the exile. "We're going home. Pack your bags". The list goes on and on.
Paul had a vision from heaven. A Pharisee, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, the most Jewish of the Jewish leaders; and his life assignment is to the non-Jews. He had a vision from God. He had a vision of Jesus. He says to Peter and James and the crew, he said, "You know, you knew him in person, but he trained me in a different way". It goes on and on. Colossians chapter 3 and verse 1, you have it, says, "Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things". We're told two things to set our hearts. That's the center of our being. Particularly in the Hebrew language, the heart is the center of your person.
Set your heart on the things of God. Set your mind on the things of heaven. What you think about, what your ambitions are for; that's different than just repeating the sinner's prayer, that's different than just doing another Bible study. And I'm for all of those things. I don't want to diminish them. I'm inviting you to begin to develop a relationship with the Lord that has a different depth to it, another layer of flavor if you'll allow me. You're not earning your way to anything. I'm not suggesting that this is in some way built up on performance. I'm suggesting that if we would be willing to cooperate, God would bring to our lives a fullness that we have stood away from because we had thought we were sufficient.
When I listened to those pastors in the Czech Republic and their buildings are filled with people and they said, "We don't know where we're going to find the food," or hear another pastor come online and say, "We haven't had water in my home for more than a week now," they're not having theoretical Bible studies. They're trying to figure out how to solve the problems that make survival possible for the next bit, and I think, "Lord, I want to know you in a new way".
This notion of visible and invisible is a part of this. I want to invite you to begin to cultivate an awareness of the invisible. I know that seems a bit like a paradox, but biblically it really is a part of the invitation. I brought you a sampling. We're not going to dwell on any of these, but Romans chapter 1 says, "Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities". The Bible just says the God we worship has some qualities which are invisible, which means you can't see them. Invisible, there's no special meaning for that. God's invisible qualities, and then it tells us two of them: his eternal power and his divine nature. God is not like us. We are not the measure of all things. Humanism lied. They have been clearly seen.
This is intriguing. His invisible qualities have been clearly seen, being understood so that there's a way to see beyond your physical eyes, and it's linked to your understanding. The Bible talks about an understanding heart. An understanding heart helps us to see God. "Having been understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse". God has revealed himself to every person. Every human being regard of language, location, sophistication, economic status, whatever, has had a revelation of the eternal power and the divine nature of Almighty God. Every human being. There are no excuses. Now, to whom much is given, much is required. Some of us have churches on every corner and the Bible in our native language and we have many other advantages and blessings, but God's invisible qualities have been made known to every human being.
Colossians 1 and verse 15, "He is the image", speaking of Jesus, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation". Creation is a visible expression of the majesty of an invisible God. "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible". Do you think about invisible things being created? See, I think we imagine that the only thing that exists is what we can interact with with our senses, and the Bible is abundantly clear that there's a whole realm of existence beyond what our senses can interact with or recognize. "Whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities". 1 Timothy 1, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever". Hebrews 11 is a passage we looked at over the weekend a bit. "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter".
Watch these choices he makes. You talk about an overcoming set of choices. He refuses the palace of Pharaoh. We read that as if that was an attitude that had no consequence. I suspect there was some anger, some resentment, some bitterness. "After all we've done for you? After all the sacrifices we have made"? "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time". I pray that we grow up into a similar choice, that we'll be willing to stand with the people of God even if it means mistreatment rather than to enjoy the pleasure that comes from aligning yourself with wickedness. We've been quiet when we could have used our voices. "He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt".
Disgraced to align yourself with Christ more significant in his estimation than the treasures of Egypt. Wow. He'd seen something. It means he's orienting his life against conventional wisdom, against the general flow of everybody else. He has seen something with such clarity. You see, your vision is connected to your ability to persevere. Forgive my horse stories, but, you know, if you're out with a horse and you're going away from the barn, there's one attitude. Let that horse see the barn. He doesn't care about your instructions anymore. You're going to the barn 'cause the barn means a rest and some nourishment and some water, and they have a very high degree of motivation and your suggestions about deterring them from that destination at that point are only modestly effective.
What are we seeing? "By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn't touch the firstborn of Israel". "Death is coming to this land". Imagine making that announcement. "The firstborn in every house in Middle Tennessee is going to die unless there's blood on the door". I mean, that's not like some theoretical Bible study where we're going to get up tomorrow and debate the meaning of the some Greek word. In the morning, we're going to know. We're going to know whether I've told you the truth. We're going to know whether you were obedient. I promise you there were skeptics in the Israelite camp. There's about to be tremendous fear and terror amongst the Egyptians.
Moses saw something. "By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned". What was the difference in the Hebrew slaves and the Egyptians? The Hebrews passed through the Red Sea by faith. They saw something else. What you see makes a difference. What you see makes a difference; what you're dreaming about, what you're aspiring to. You can be certain without seeing physically. Hebrews 11 and verse 1, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". That phrase intrigues me, to be certain of what you can't see. "That's what the ancients were commended for".
In same chapter, verse 6 adds a little more clarification. "Without faith it's impossible to please God". Without certainty about what you can't see, you cannot please God. So this notion of a vision beyond yourself of the ability to see beyond just what everybody else sees is not entirely optional. If we're going to imagine ourselves to be the people of God, we're going to have to have a desire and a willingness to cultivate an insight, an awareness, an understanding, a vision. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he's the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
I believe with God's help and the help of the Holy Spirit we can learn to be certain without seeing. I don't want you to check your logic at the door. You will need all of the tools and abilities God's given you, but we need to add to that faith in a living God, and that's what brings a certainty to us about those parts of our lives that only God can deliver. It's a better way to live. It'll bring you hope and peace and strength in the midst of the craziest turmoil. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you that you have a plan for us and a purpose for us that is greater than our strength, or our intellect, or our abilities. Lord, we trust you. I ask that by your Spirit you would give us a certainty of your abiding presence in Jesus's name. Amen.