Allen Jackson - Choosing Another King - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you again. We're continuing our series on "Truth Be Told," looking at passages of truth that bring freedom to our lives. One of the challenges that God's people had throughout Scripture was with the choice of a king. It started with the initial demand to be like all the other nations and even want a king, and God conceded to the request of the people, but after that, the leadership of the people was problematic, and it often led them in some very destructive places. Well, we still struggle with it in our lives today, choosing other kings in the language of the New Testament, another gospel. It's very easy to drift away from having Jesus as the center of our lives and our faith. Let's open our Bibles and our hearts, but most of all, let's invite the Spirit of God to help us see any place we've gotten our priorities out of place or we've chosen another gospel. Enjoy the lesson.
All truth is not subjective. It's not just left up to a whim. It's not your truth and my truth, here a truth, there a truth, everywhere a truth, truth. There is some truth that is objective, and it's very important to have that. That comes to us from a biblical worldview. It's been one of the great contributions of Christianity, to this civilization in where we live. And if we step away from that, we will forfeit so much. In John chapter 8 and verse 31, Jesus was speaking, and he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you'll know the truth, and the truth will set you free". The great value of the truth is it brings freedom. Conversely, the result of deception, or dishonesty, is bondage, even if it's packaged attractively. Understand this, if you participate in deception, or you choose to yield to deception, that it leads you towards a place of forfeiture of freedom. Not my opinion, not simply a biblical narrative, our history will verify that.
So, we've been talking about this notion of the truth and how it affects our lives. And in this session, I want to talk specifically about choosing another king. Feels to me like there's a tremendous amount of pressure in our lives against honoring the Lord, and the voices and the messages come from different ways and different passages, in all sorts of systems, but it's created confusion. And is it even appropriate to be advocates for the gospel of Jesus Christ any longer? It often gets wrapped up in some rather derogatory phrases, as if missionary activity were evil, or being evangelical was somehow politically incorrect. And I think we have lost our way a bit in imagining that we're going to outthink evil, that our faith is a matter of just an intellectual participation in a certain set of facts. I'm for learning. I've been in school most of my life. I'd still be there if I had the freedom to do that.
I love to learn, nothing wrong with that, but the gospel, the God story and the Jesus initiative was never intended to be delivered just as a set of facts. Throughout Scripture, when God gives an invitation to people to yield their lives to him, that invitation comes through the demonstration of his power. And if we're going to see the influence of Christianity expanded in this season, it will come with a demonstration of the power of God. Now, it's possible to see God move and deny it completely. That happens all the time. But for those people who have a heart for the Lord, when you see God's power, you recognize the opportunity to participate with something that is beyond yourselves, and we have to recognize this, that our faith is beyond us. It's about something more than us. It's about more than my intellect, or my strength, or my resources, or yours. It's about more than our collective strength or our collective capabilities.
Now, there's some things we can do, but we can't do the things that God can do, and he won't do the things he's asked us to do. So, I just wanna start with this premise that when you are a part of the family of God, when you belong to him, you have an ally that is like no other. I brought you a couple of passages, Romans 8, "What can we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us"? Folks, if God's on your team you don't really care who the other team has. It's not about numbers, or headcounts, or resources. If the Creator of heaven and earth is your ally, it's gonna be okay. You need to think about that a little bit, meditate on that. There's a lot of people willing to rush and say we're living in a post-Christian era of the West. Would they vote our boss off the island?
You know, our influence may diminish, participation in church may be down, which it is. I'm not talking about here, but in a much broader way. I mean, you don't have to be clever to see that the Christian worldview is being diminished all around us, but God has not withdrawn from the arena. And if God is for us, woe be to those that think they voted him off the island. It'll work out. In 1 John chapter 4 and verse 4, it says, "Greater is he who's in you than he who is in the world". There is a spirit at work in the world, not a political party, not an idealogical. There is a spirit at work in the earth that opposes the purposes of Almighty God. Not a new thing, but we're reminded by Scripture that the Spirit of God within us is greater than that spirit in the world.
Now, sometimes you think that spirit in the world has better PR agent, come on. I mean, you know good news doesn't sell. You've heard that line. But the reality is, the one who is for you is greater than all those things arrayed against you. The goodness of God is overwhelming to me. We don't spend enough time thinking about it, and meditating upon it, and reflecting on it, and identifying it. The goodness of God in our lives. None of us are recipients of what we deserve, hallelujah. You know, we only want our just desserts for the times we've done well. We hope that God has memory failure on most of the stuff. The goodness of God in our lives. He disciplines his kids. He loves us enough to discipline us. It's not love to be in a discipline-free environment.
And the Scripture is very clear that God loves us enough to bring discipline. He's also the author of our redemption. We can't save ourselves. We can't deliver ourselves from the the deepest darkness within us. We don't have the power, the strength of our will is not adequate. But God in his great mercy intervened in history to express his power and make it available to us, that the power of the Creator is at work within us to deliver us from the realm of darkness. Now, that is really good news, and that is worth celebrating and inviting other people into it. The church is not perfect. Our track records are not perfect. There are many things you can point out. But the message that we hold is the most hopeful message available to humanity. It's important.
And the awkward reality is to far too great of an extent, we have rejected God. I'm not pointing at somebody else. I mean those of us that fill churches. I think part of the reason we're in this season of complete realignment and confusion is predominantly because God's people have rejected him. We've refuse to cooperate with him. We haven't wanted to yield to him. Oh, we've wanted his blessing, and we wanted to spend eternity with him, but we didn't want him messing with our schedules. We've been too indifferent. I mean, we might have been focused enough to attend church when it was convenient, but in reality, things like holiness, and purity, and sacrifice. We've just been kind of indifferent to that. Well, I mean, it was okay if holiness fell on me, but what do you want me to do? And purity seemed quaint, and we've just had too much ambivalence, and we've allowed selfish ambition to creep in. And the result of all of those things is now we're grappling in very public ways, in very broad ways with the selection of another king, or if you prefer, of another gospel.
Now, I take a moment with it because it's not a new thing. We're not the first generation to do this. Let's lose that arrogant attitude. You know, every generation thinks we're the most culturally sophisticated, the most technically sophisticated, and in every generation of the unfolding story of human history, we look back at previous generations and think, "What uncomplicated, ignorant rubes," until you actually start to pay a little bit of attention to what they accomplished and how they did it, and you realize we couldn't duplicate most of that. We do that. We're not the first generation that has wandered off course. In Galatians chapter 1 and verse 6, Paul's writing to the church in Galatia, Asia Minor, and he said, "I'm astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and you're turning to a different gospel".
This is the first century church. They've still got the opportunity to interact with people who walked with Jesus physically. They can still do interviews with people that were in the multitude when Jesus fed the 5.000, or talk to somebody that was in the boat when Jesus came walkin' across the lake. And they've heard this story, and they've accepted the message, and in a relatively brief period of time, Paul said I'm astonished that you're so quickly turning to a different gospel. "Gospel" means good news. In this particular context, it's the good news about Jesus, the redemptive story of Jesus, not changing churches, not changing denominations. They're exchanging the truth about our need for a Savior, and Jesus being the incarnate Son of God, for another gospel. Paul said I'm astonished that you would do that.
Folks, we have the privilege of being the generation that has witnessed arguably the most precipitous decline of Christian influence in the history of the church of Jesus Christ. Now, I believe God can walk that back, but we can't get to a better place until we get an accurate diagnosis. We've been more blessed, we've had more opportunities, more freedoms, and more liberties, and somehow we managed to cobble together this notion that we'd done that, that God had been just a distant observer. And God, in his great mercy, has begun to awaken us a little bit, to nudge us, to call us out of that slumber, thank God? "You're turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ".
People creating confusion and perverting the gospel is not a new thing. It's not a 21st-century phenomenon, but we see some 21st-century expressions of it. We've all heard multiple presentations of the gospel of wealth, that you can evaluate your spirituality based on your asset accumulation, what garbage. God's not against blessings. He's a God who blesses. There's nothing spiritually superior about poverty, but you can't live an ungodly life and point to your accumulated assets and say that it's God's blessing, therefore you're good. That's deception, it's another gospel. Holiness, and purity, and righteousness, and serving of the Lord is required of all of us, no matter what we've accumulated. It's another gospel, and it's a very destructive one. And since we are the most affluent group of people on Planet Earth, we are uniquely susceptible to this. You know the definition of rich. It's somebody that has more than you. I mean, none of us are rich, but we know somebody that has too much, and they probably did something wrong to get it. A different gospel. We've got a gospel of pleasure, that God wants me to be happy. Happiness is about pleasure.
Now, God's not opposed to happiness, but God's goal in our lives isn't happiness. His goal is our holiness. And again, God will intervene in our lives to alleviate suffering or discomfort, but there are some lessons we learn from difficulties, and we've gotta be willing to walk through difficult places. Jesus had to walk through a difficult place. When God sent Ananias to Damascus to pray for Saul of Tarsus in route to becoming the apostle Paul, he said I need you to go pray for him and talk to him about the things he will suffer for the sake of the gospel. If we're gonna see the name of Jesus exalted again from the place where it currently is, it will require us to do things that are not always happy things, because everybody isn't gonna cheer while you hold that opinion. Do you have the courage?
We've seen a gospel of social justice elevated above biblical truth. I've been in multiple discussions with church leaders across our nation and beyond, and we'll talk about aspects of the gospel that we believe we're to advocate for, and they'll say, "Well, we have to rearrange the priorities". No, I'm pretty sure we start with repentance of sin. Jesus said, "The message is the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe". God is the only arbiter of justice. There will be no justice until we've yielded ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. No government will bring justice. That's just the truth. And the more you separate the state and the church, the less just the governmental systems will be. We've accepted that lie for too long. We don't want a state church. We don't want the government dictating how we worship, or when we worship, or the way in which we worship, they're trying.
On the other hand, if we separate the government from the influence of a biblical worldview, we will become increasingly oppressive and authoritarian. We're watching that. We better wake up. Our influence in the world is important. We could go on and on with other versions of the gospel that diminish the role of Jesus and tell us, "Well, just turn down the volume on the uniqueness of Jesus, on the incarnate Son of God, and his redemptive work on a cross". Folks, that is the message we have for the world, but we're not the first generation to turn away from that. Please don't fall. This is not a woe-is-me party. I'm not discouraged. I'm not frightened. I'm not diminished. In fact, I'm kind of excited, because I see the Spirit of God moving to awaken his people. And if he's doing that, he's mobilizing us for his purposes.
Don't bemoan what may have slipped past us. I'm not asking you to be discouraged or dissuaded because of the emergence of darkness. I'm telling you there's an opportunity before us to make a kingdom difference, to write a story that hasn't been read yet if we have the willingness. In 1 Samuel chapter 8, there's another season. In this case, they're asking for a king, but in truth it's about their choosing a different gospel, a different message of deliverance. At this point in Israelite history, they've never had a king. They'd been in the Promised Land for almost 400 years, 400 years. Think about that, almost twice as long as we've been a nation. They have occupied their inheritance from God. There's never been a central government. There's never been a capitol city. Twelve tribes, loosely affiliated, and when there was a threat to the common good, God would raise up a leader.
That's what the book of Judges is about, not people in black robes, but people chosen by God to lead the tribes when there was an external threat. Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, Deborah, they're judges. Well, Samuel is the last of the judges. He's a very prominent character in Scripture, and in 1 Samuel chapter 8, the elders of Israel gathered together, and they came to Samuel, and they said, "You're old". And he looked at them and said, "You're ugly". "You're old and your sons don't walk in your ways. Now appoint a king to lead us such as all the other nations have". But they're not like all the other nations. They never have been. They have no history of being like that. The last nation state that had authority over them was Egypt, and they are hundreds of years in the dust. God decimated them. "But when they said, 'Give us a king,' it displeased Samuel, so he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him, 'Listen to all that the people are saying. It's not you they've rejected, but they've rejected me as their king.'"
God was the king of the people. Who do we really trust to provide for us? Who do we trust to protect our liberties and our freedoms? Who do we trust for justice? How do we imagine that we can live in harmony apart from God's truth? Do you understand it's idolatry to think that the government will secure our future, or secure our liberties, or secure our freedoms? It's only to the extent to which we stand for a biblical worldview and God's truth to be influenced in those people that have authority over us that we have any hope of liberty and freedom. We have been idolatrous. The Federal Reserve is not gonna make us prosper. Wall Street is not looking out for us. The strength of the dollar will not underwrite our future, only God can do those things.
Again, not the first generation to be caught in this tug of war. It starts in our hearts with some honest conversations with one another and with the Lord about the position we've been, what we've given our hearts to. "It's not you they've rejected, they've rejected me as their king". Verse 8, "And as they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you". He said they have a long track record of this. Again, I come back to you it's the nature of the human experience. God giving us a revelation of himself and us embracing it and then yielding to that tug of war within us to be independent. We meet it in the opening chapters of Genesis. If you'll eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you can be like God. And that battle rages within every one of us. It rages in our world today.
You know how persistent it is within your heart, why would you imagine it's any less persistent in expressions of authority in the world around us? You've been doing this since you came out of Egypt. "Now listen to them, but warn them solemnly". This is the part I wish we would just please hear. "Let them know what the king who will reign over them will do". He said tell 'em what's coming. "So Samuel told them all the words". He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do. He'll take your sons and he'll make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they'll run in front of his chariots. And some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties. Others will plow his ground and reap his harvest. And still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He'll take your daughters," and he goes on. He said he's gonna take your sons and your daughters and make them do his bidding and not yours.
You see, when we imagine someone other than Almighty God will secure our futures, we forfeit so much. And God is saying this is what you will forfeit. They'll take your sons and your daughters. They'll take the produce of your fields. They will take the offspring from your flocks. They will take your resources. Can we have an amen? We have given up our freedom and our liberty expecting someone else to do it for us rather than grapple with God's truth and the awkwardness of our lives. It's not a new thing. In Joshua chapter 24, we're gonna step back in history about another 400 years. Joshua started his life in the brick pits of Egypt, Moses's protege. He made the trip through the plagues of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the wilderness. He was tapped to be the leader to replace Moses. He leads the conquest of the Promised Land. The tribes are established in the land that is their inheritance, and it's the end of his life, and Joshua addresses the people.
Listen to the message. "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord". Are you kidding me? Their parents and grandparents ate manna. They followed the pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. They crossed into Israel when God piled up the waters of the Jordan River. They saw the walls of Jericho fall. They conquered city, after city, after city, not because of their military superiority, but because of God's supernatural intervention on their part, and Joshua says to them with a moment of real candor, "You need to throw away the gods you brought with you since Egypt".
What we're facing is not new, folks, it's within us. We have met the enemy and they're lookin' at us in the mirror. And we've mistakenly been told we could recite a little prayer, get dipped in a pool, and sit in church from time to time, and there'd be no struggle. Now, I believe in the new birth, and I'm an advocate for baptism, but I'm also an advocate for growing up in the Lord and serving him with your life. And we're at a critical point. We're in another one of those turning points. The future of our children, and our grandchildren, and ourselves is in the balance. Do we have the courage to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the demonstration of the power of God can lead us to a better future, or will we succumb to the voices that are asking for control over us?
You know, idolatry is not primarily about statues carved out of wood, or metal, something we would bow down before. Fundamentally, idolatry is about priorities. Anything we put in priority above our allegiance to Jesus, any passion we put in front of that, any commitment above that is an idol. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us recognize those places that we have given way to something in a wrong priority. Do you have the courage to pray that prayer with me? Let's pray:
Father, I pray that if there's any place in our lives we have misaligned our priorities, that we've given our hearts to things that are displeasing to you or destructive to us, that you would help us to see. We want to give you first place in our hearts, in our emotions, in our ambition, in our future. I thank you for your great love for us. Help us to learn to love you more completely. I thank you for your faithfulness, in Jesus's name, amen.