Allen Jackson - Faith Under Pressure - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you today. We're gonna continue our study on "Faith Under Pressure". We're living in a season where there is a tremendous amount of change being pushed through our culture and through our lives. We see it in the public schools, we see it in our universities, we see it in the workplace. Some of it was introduced by COVID, some of it has been introduced because the church in many respects has stepped back. We've wanted the approval of people more than the approval of God, or we've been distracted, lots of reasons, but the reality is there's pressure on our faith. Let's start with the simple things, we're advocates for Jesus, we believe the Word of God is authoritative, we believe our Lord and King is coming back to the earth.
Those are all foundational components of our lives, and we want them to be incorporated into our daily routines. We'll need the help of the Holy Spirit to do that. We're not backing up, folks. We intend to take the name of Jesus and see it exalted over the whole earth. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart and say yes to the Lord. Well, in John chapter 5 and verse 8, Jesus encounters a man who has a disability, he can't walk. We don't know the real sources of it, we just know he can't walk, and Jesus has compassion on him. He's actually in a gathering of many people who are not well, and Jesus only heals this one man. I don't know. Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your mat, and walk, and at once the man was cured. He picked up his mat and walked". And then John gives us another little nugget, he said, "The day on which this took place was a Sabbath".
How many think Jesus went there accidentally? How many think he forgot what day of the week it was? No, I don't think so. I think he's got a little smile on his face when he walks up to the pool of Bethesda. You can visit those pools in Jerusalem. I hope we get to do it together again. "And so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, 'It's the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.'" What a happy, happy group of people. Don't know how long, but it's been some significant time since this man has been able to walk, and now he is healed, and he can walk, and the man who healed him said, "Pick up your mat".
How many of you think that men will carry that mat for days? Right, I bet he carries that met every time he gets up to walk for a while until he finds out he can walk without the mat, right? 'Cause if you've been sick for a while and the mat was a part of walking, you'd be walking with a mat. I'd keep that mat at hand, wouldn't you? Phew! "And he replied, 'The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' So they asked him, 'Well, who is this fellow?'" Said, "The man who was healed had no idea, for Jesus had slipped away from the crowd". He didn't even know his name, he didn't care. I can walk, I'll carry my mat, your mat, that mat, I'll get a truckload of mats. And there's this group of people going... But it's not incidental, 'cause they're tryin' to kill Jesus. John 7, Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle and you're all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision, you circumcise a child on the Sabbath".
The rules said you circumcised a male child on the eighth day after his birth, and even if it fell on the Sabbath, you still took the child and presented them for circumcision. So, Jesus is using that to illustrate that their rules really are not as sacred as they want to pretend. He said, you will circumcise a child on the Sabbath. "Now if a child can be circumcised," verse 23, "on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath"? Makes perfect sense, except to the audience. John 9, you know John 9's the story of the man who was born blind. He'd never seen, and there's no invitation issued. The man doesn't ask Jesus for help. Jesus as an expression of mercy stops to help him.
There is no reason given in the scripture. He's not the only blind man in Jerusalem, and Jesus does it in an odd way. He spits in the dust and smears the mud, or if you prefer religious language, he anoints him with mud. And then he sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam. It's more powerful if you know the topography of Jerusalem. Siloam is a public well, watering, but it's at the very bottom of the hill of Jerusalem. So, it's not like, you know, he's in the crowded part of the city. There's a bucket of water within arm's reach. Somebody give me a damp rag and let me wash the mud from the man's eyes. No, Jesus smears mud on his face, and then says, you need to walk through the city to the bottom of the hill and then back up the hill and wash the mud off. The skeptic would say he was making fun of, mocking, ridiculing, bullying. There's no explanation given for why the man did it. The man went and washed, it said. No debate, no argument.
I think of the times I argue with the Lord. How many times have I felt like I should do something and I didn't, and this man goes and washes, and John says, he says simply, he came home seeing. No, he didn't just come home seeing, he came home seeing, right? We've talked about that before, but the part I want to draw your attention to is the response. "They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind". Now, if you're in church, if you're responsible for the spiritual wellness of the community and there are blind people being healed, "Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath". John slips that little nugget in there. "Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. 'He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.' And some of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.'"
That stinking fellow spit on the Sabbath, he cannot be from God. But you see on multiple occasions in multiple settings Jesus demonstrates the goodness of God and the grace of God and the mercy of God over against the authoritarian legalism that's crushing the people, and they hate him for it. They hate him for it. Jesus doesn't stop there. That's John, if we step to Matthew chapter 15, it says, "Some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem, they said, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!'"
And again, by Jewish law, there were some routines and rituals they were given about washing. Today, if you meet an orthodox person in Jerusalem, it's oftentimes their hands are chapped from the frequency with which they will wash them. And they're challenging Jesus because they don't think he's teaching his disciples from the right discipleship book. "Jesus replied, 'Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he's not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.'"
Wow, Jesus talked back. He challenged them. He was engaged in the current events of their lives. He's talking to them not about just theological traditions, he's talking to them about the habits of how they conduct their daily business. Your faith cannot stay in a worship service. Your faith that you lead with has to lead into how you do business, how we educate our children, what we tolerate on a college campus. This is pretty interesting, Jesus in verse 11, "What goes into a man's mouth doesn't make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'"
How many of you have heard of kosher rules? You know what kosher is? The Jewish dietary rules? Don't eat pork, you have to eat fish, only the fish that have scales. You can't, there's all sorts of dietary rules, there's more than 600 rules that they keep. And I'm telling you, it's a very rigid set of, and it defines them as a people. And in such a profound way, it's difficult for us to understand, far greater than our commitment to a denomination or a tradition or a translation, far greater than our commitment to an athletic team, it defined them, and Jesus said to them, what's on your fork doesn't make any difference. He's just said, what you've invested your studies in and your scholarship in, what you've invested all of your effort in, it's not fruitful.
I don't have the words to describe for you the disruptive force of that statement. It wasn't a sermon, it wasn't a subtle thing, like, I prefer the King James. He's saying, the behaviors of your life are misdirected. "Then the disciples," verse 12, "the disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?'" Can you feel the disciples, can you see them squirming? Oh my... shh... You ever been to one of those awkward settings when somebody you just thought, you know, "It's time to be quiet now". I'm sure you've thought that about me more than once. Probably thinking it about right now. Did you know that they were offended? "And Peter said, 'Explain the parable to us.'" And Jesus said, "Are you still so dull"? I mean, this is Jesus and he's handing out some pretty straightforward stuff.
Listen to his, "Are you really that dull, Peter"? "Uh, yes". "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth," "Whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, that's what makes you unclean". No, Peter doesn't see that at all. He doesn't see that at all, because his entire life from his infancy until that day, what was on his fork is what mattered. They're still not sure what to do with the Sabbath, because Jesus keeps dealing things on the Sabbath, and people are angry, and they want to kill him, and, you know, if you could just move that behavior to Friday or Sunday, we'd be good to go. We have become a church of overlookers, not a church of overcomers. Because we're afraid to stand up for the truth.
It's not attractive, what has happened to us. But they're very difficult lessons to learn. It's so clear in the narrative how difficult they are. It's persistent through the lives of Jesus's best friends. In Acts chapter 10, I'm stepping out of the gospels, but it a part of this narrative. Acts chapter 10, Peter is in Joppa, It's a seaport town, he's gone up onto the roof to wait for the meal to be prepared, he's hungry. Verse 10, it says, "He became hungry and he wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down. It contained all kinds of animals, as well as reptiles and birds of the air. And a voice said, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'" And Peter said, "Oh no, no, no, no, I've never eaten anything impure or unclean".
And this is Acts 10. Jesus went back to heaven in Acts chapter 1, chapter 2 is the day of Pentecost. There have been tremendous, Peter's shadow has been falling on people, and they've been being healed in the streets of Jerusalem. There have been enough outcome from his life that he's been drug before the Sanhedrin multiple times. There's so much jealousy around what's happening through his life that they're talkin' about killing him too. Sounds a lot like the Jesus story. So, you read that, and you think, well, Peter has catalogued everything Jesus taught him. He's assimilated all of that information, he's living it out. There couldn't be any errant thoughts in Peter. And he's in Joppa, he raises a woman from the dead. I mean, not bad. And he has a vision, and in the vision there are things that are not kosher, and the voice from heaven says, eat that, and Peter said, oh no, I have a righteous fork.
And Peter was the one, we just read it back in the Gospel in Matthew 15, that said, could you explain the parable to us? And Jesus said, are you really that dull? I'm thinking Peter never forgot that, but there was pressure. It isn't just an internal, intellectual thing, there's enormous external pressure, and Peter, who suffered enough exclusion and enough ridicule and enough threats, he's thinking, you know, my fork, this is just the foods I like. Peter goes from that house in Joppa with a group of people from Caesarea. They've come from Cornelius's house, some of you remember the story. They're Gentiles. Caesarea is a non-Jewish city. It was named after Caesar. In the center of Caesarea there's a temple to a Roman God. No observant Jewish person would have gone to Caesarea. You just wouldn't do it. And yet Peter has been invited, and he's on the heels of this vision, so he thinks, "Well, okay".
So, in Acts 10 and verse 40, "While Peter was still speaking," he's in Caesarea now, "these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. And the circumcised believers," now that's a code word for the Jewish believers, for the people keeping the rules. "The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles". They just can't believe it. It's put every one of their expectations in the shredder. Peter starts his little introduction when he gets to Cornelius's house. He said, I now perceive that God is no respecter of persons. He said he perceives that, but the people that are traveling with him don't, because when the Holy Spirit was poured on, they said this... "They eat bacon. They work in the garden on the Sabbath". They were astonished, and this is years into the story. And they're the leaders, they're the best that the church has to offer.
See, there's tremendous pressure, so I'm not surprised that in a season of change like we're walking through, I feel like we have been dining on sacred cows since we first heard about COVID. Does that not feel right to you? Things that, you know, that's not, you know, we don't do that, or we can't do that, or how would we do that, or you can't have church outside in July, or you can't have church outside in November. Yeah, you can have church in the rain, watch. I mean, it just feels like everything, do you feel that pressure? And yet the pressure hasn't lifted. In many ways it feels more intense. We're not quite as afraid of dying from a virus from Wuhan, but we understand that we're not in a normal place yet. And there's a lot of pressure, and I'm reading about our friends as you read through the Gospels, and you see the struggle they have to assimilate it and pull it together. It defines the rest of Peter's life.
Pressure. And aligning yourself up with the Lord and choosing the Lord and not imagining, well, I missed the Lord because it's a challenge, it's why remembering your deliverances matter so much. Why do you imagine that if God brought all of those plagues on the Egyptians, the lice, and the blood, and ultimately the death of the firstborn, why would he allow pharaoh to harden his heart one more, I mean, why put the people through the stress? 'Cause that was stressful. And then the Red Sea parts, and you know what happened 72 hours on the other side of the Red Sea? The the first oasis they come to, the water, they can't drink. You know what they do? They lose their minds. We're gonna die in the desert.
Three days before they were having a parade singing about the horse and the rider that were thrown into the sea. Then three days later they're going, Oh, we're gonna die right here. The whole nation grumbled, and Moses sees, you know, he has a solution. He prayed. Then God gives them manna. There's no Costco or Sam's. Hundreds of thousands of people, how many days do you think, rather for, if it snows in Kentucky, we have no bread or milk. How long are we surprised, would we survive if there were no supplies being delivered? Not too long. 'Cause we'd all find you preppers and eat your food. And God fed 'em every day, and they go, we don't like this, we're tired of this food. We want a different menu. If you didn't have that menu, you'd starve to death. Just practice bein' grateful. No, we want a different menu. Remember your deliverances. There will be pressure, and if this does happen to be the culmination of the age, there's going to be increasing pressure. And if we're wrong and it's not the end of the age, but it's the end of the freedoms that we have known, there's gonna be increasing pressure.
What a good time to know the Lord. Well, I don't like it. Okay, duly noted, but now let's go, let's go. Peter may have denied the Lord on the night he was betrayed, but I'm telling you after that, that standing up thing, he got to it, didn't he? And you may have denied the Lord for a season of your life, you may have compromised, you may have taken your eye off the prize, you may have lived a presumptive life, but I'm telling you, we can start tonight and say, Lord, I wanna honor you. I want to honor you. I want to honor you. I think that's a good way to close. How many of you would like to say that to the Lord? I want to give you my best. I don't wanna be halfway in halfway out. I wanna honor you. If that's you, why don't you stand with me? If you're watching online, you can stand with me right there. I can see right through that little portable device.
Father, thank you for your great love for us. Lord, forgive us when we have been distracted or indifferent or just when we've chosen wickedness, or maybe we just chose our own way. Lord, we come tonight to say we're sorry, to repent, to choose a new path, to give you our best. We want to take down the walls that have compartmentalized our imagination to business or recreation or worship. We want to invite you into our lives. Lord, teach us to honor you, teach us to walk uprightly before you. I pray that you would give us ears that could hear and hearts that could understand, that we would recognize your messages to us, that even if they're disruptive and they bring realignment and they call into question habits and patterns, that we would have the courage to walk a new path, that we would break out of routines that have limited what we've allowed you to do in our lives and choose new patterns of responses that would bring your best to us. I thank you for it. I thank you that you love us and for your Spirit within us. Holy Spirit, we want to invite you to help us to see and to understand and to give us a revelation of Jesus that will put our feet on a path towards greater freedom than we've ever known. And forgive us for the presumptiveness of our lives, forgive us for the idolatry of our lives and imagining that we could make ourselves free or prosperous or successful. Thank you for what you're doing. May your name be lifted up and your kingdom extended. May we have the privilege of participating. In Jesus's name, amen.