Allen Jackson - Forces Beyond Yourself - Part 1
I've been encouraging you for months now, it's a little routine practice in your life in how you engage the world. I've encouraged you to watch, and to listen, to pay attention to what's happening in the world, not simply to put your head down and hoe your own row. That'll require a little bit of media, and I don't really care which source you use, don't take too much of it, it's toxic. No matter which source you watch, if you watch it all day long, it's the same 15 minutes, they just keep reinventing it and asking somebody else what they think about it. But a few minutes a day will be helpful. You've gotta watch and listen, then you need to think. Don't just let somebody think for you and you gobble it up like a barnyard animal, think. And then after you've done that, be prepared to act. Don't just be hearers, we wanna be implementers. We want to respond to the truth that God makes real to us. Watch, listen, think, and act.
Now out of that, I keep watching our world and I try to understand what's happening, and I can pick up a dozen different slices and we could talk about it, but for just a moment I would like to acknowledge something that just seems to me is happening on a global scale, and I believe beneath it there's a spiritual force. I don't believe it's being caused by governments, or politicians, or conflict between nation states, but it seems to me in a very clear way that expressions of authoritarianism are becoming more and more blatant. In fact, there's very little restraint being demonstrated in the world today. And some would say, "Well, you know, it's always been that way". No, that's not exactly true. Yes, we've always had authoritarianism, but there have been ebbs and flows in that.
Wasn't too many years ago when President Reagan made this statement in public, you know, "President Gorbachev, take down this wall," and we watched the Soviet Union crumble in the following months, and a tremendous weakening of authoritarian expressions over the lives of countless millions of people, and that had ripple effects all over the globe. So, we have seen authoritarianism in decline within many of our lifetimes, that's not so today. I think authoritarianism is gaining in power and influence, and I don't mean over decades, I mean over the last few months. You don't have to be particularly discerning to see it. Russia's in the news a lot these days, sometimes in some very misleading, deceptive ways. We heard a lot about Russian collusion changing outcomes of elections, and eventually some months later, the truth about that broke into the public. It wasn't what we had been told it was, thank God. That was good news no matter which side of the aisle you were on.
But today, we see Russia's authoritarian ambitions looking at surrounding nations. And intent to disrupt NATO, to break down their influence, and really the crumbling of NATO influence. We can't stand together because we're compromised in our values and our objectives. Germany's far too depended upon Russian energy to make any significant sanctions upon Russia, and so Russia looks at Ukraine or other surrounding nations not to bring freedom and liberty to those people, not to expand their economic opportunities and help their schools become better, but to bring domination to them. But it's not just there, if we look at China, they're hosting the Olympics these days. It's almost unimaginable. I understand there's economic components to that that drive that, it's entertainment and it's very little more. It's not a reflection on the athletes that compete, but China has an abysmal human rights track record. I don't mean its shadow, and I'm not talking about the distant past, I'm talking about yesterday. And if you watch very carefully at all, you'll see the Chinese government's attempt to totally dominate the narrative that's emerging from the Olympics.
Some of the most influential politicians in our nation say to our athletes, "Don't you dare criticize the Chinese government". They don't say that to them about our own government, what are they afraid of? China is not just threatening Taiwan, they're blatantly declaring their intent to take that island. Again, not to give the people greater freedom and liberty, and their children more opportunities, but to express their authoritarian, domineering control, dictating the quality of life that those people have. The spirit is gaining influence in our world, but it's not just foreign actors, it's not just beyond our shores. In the United States, I would submit to you that authoritarian behavior is more prevalent than anytime in my lifetime. And this isn't political, because it's not one party that's driving it. It seems like a whole class of leaders is driving it. It reaches across the aisle.
Simple things, not complex things, a refusal to close our southern border even though the data seems to be abundantly clear that the majority of the American people would prefer it closed. We live in a representative form of government. If that's true, the borders should close. But they refuse, it's authoritarianism. We don't care what you think or what you want, who do you think you are? We're sending troops, financial aid, and military support to the Ukrainians to help them protect their border, but we won't look at our own. But it's not just with international relations, it's our own COVID mandates. When COVID first began, we didn't know anything about the virus, there was a lot to learn.
We were responding from ignorance, trying to protect the people and public health choices were made that aren't easily defended today. But it's not fair to go back, I don't believe, and to tear those apart, we truthfully didn't know, or at least it wasn't aware in the public square that we did. But today we see this random implementation of authoritarian discipline from state to state and county to county. It's not logical, it certainly isn't science. The science would be the same in California as Tennessee. Science doesn't change in New York or Kentucky, science is the same.
So, we see mask requirements, and vaccine cards, and restrictions on travel, blatant expressions of authoritarian control, it's addictive. It's not easily relinquished. Maybe in a far more troubling way than COVID or internationally, in this nation, censorship has become commonplace. This is troublesome. Misinformation is no longer tolerated, who knew? The only things you should say in the public square have to be verifiably, incontrovertibly, totally true. Bologna, it's a Greek word, it means I disagree. But misinformation is no longer tolerated, it has to be silenced, it has to be canceled, it has to be discredited.
Well, there's a question that emerges, just precisely who is it that gets to decide what's appropriate for discussion? We used to live with a set of principles around us, they informed our lives and made education possible, and higher learning, and they strengthened us as a people. We're a melting pot. We've come from the nations of the world, from many different places, and many different languages, and many different cultures, and that free exchange of ideas, even though we may have disagreed rather intensely, has strengthened us. We used to talk about the free exchange of ideas, or free speech, or the right to peaceful assembly, not so much anymore. And it's not even the people that you always agree with.
In the last few days, Whoopi Goldberg, some of you may know her, I don't watch her program a great deal, but she expressed some opinions around the Holocaust. And I wouldn't agree with her opinions, I don't think they were informed, I don't think they were fact based, but they were her opinions, and she expressed them in public on a broadcast, and for that she was taken off the air for a couple of weeks. That's a very troubling response to me. You know, I don't necessarily agree with her comments, but I will support her right to speak. So you shouldn't cheer when somebody you disagreed with is silenced, because if they can silence them and say that their speech was hate speech, there'll be coming for you next week. We can't quietly submit to the thought police, even if in the moment we happen to think it's for a good cause. Censorship, propaganda, and authoritarian control over free speech and thought is simply not acceptable, and we have to use our voices.
Now here's my suggestion. Don't lament the politicians, or the political class, or the social media magnets, or whomever you consider to be the power broker, start to think in terms of your sphere of influence, the people that you interact with. Don't be silent around ungodliness. Don't lose your voice around things that you know are wrong. You say, "Well, I don't want to hurt my friend's feelings". Oh, so if somebody's feelings are gonna be hurt, we shouldn't say it. You see, we have forfeited, on a very personal level, our willingness to address truth. We have said, you know, we'll just go along and get along, and that attitude makes us very, very easily cowed, submitted to authoritarian influences, because we have left the truth so long ago so that we can maintain relationships, or business opportunities, or be included in some social circle that we would prefer to be included in.
We don't want to be ostracized, we certainly wouldn't want to be identified as being judgmental. We are witnesses to something, and this is really the point of this whole introduction. We are witnesses to a spirit gaining influence on a global basis. Has it happened throughout history? It has, but the global proportions with which we are watching is somewhat unique. When there have been rises of authoritarianism in the past, there was usually a force that would rise up against it. It doesn't seem like there's a corner from which that voice will come at the moment, the church would be the only one. It was the values of Christianity in the west that enables us to stand against some previous expressions of authoritarianism, but we've spent several decades very carefully weeding out those Christian principles in the west. That spirit is gaining influence.
Why does that bother us? Well, it's not a real stretch of the imagination any longer to imagine a leader who could appear to solve global problems being invited into a place of global influence. And out of that kind of a global system of government, it's not a reach at all any longer to imagine some sort of the global economy or even currency. Now you may or may not know, but all of those things, we're told in scripture, are in our future. I'm not saying this is that, but I'm saying, we're seeing that spirit at work, and we should be paying enough attention to start to understand the characteristics, the attitudes, the not-so-subtle ways in which it's changing how we interact, and how we talk, and what we're willing to say, and the words that are being redefined.
How they're weaponizing language that we've tolerated for a long, long time. And if they can keep us busy enough watching our ball games, or betting on our ball games, send us to the circus and give us bread, and we won't pay any attention. I want to ask you, I want to encourage you, I wanna invite you to keep learning about spiritual things. My opinion, we have been woefully under informed. And what we have been, we've been churched, we've been saved, born again, converted, whichever word you prefer. We've often been baptized, but we've been very unprepared for spiritual activity.
You have five senses, God gave them to you, with which you can interact with this material world. But we shouldn't imagine that that's the only world. If you can't see it, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist, or we wouldn't be concerned about a virus from Wuhan, 'cause you can't see it, but it has changed our world. So there are spiritual kingdoms. In John 18 and verse 36, Jesus is speaking to a Roman governor, by the way, this isn't a theological discussion. He's on trial for his life, and he's about to be executed because his accusers have said that he's dared to acknowledge that he's a king, and for that in the Roman Empire, you can be removed. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place".
Jesus, in that expanded conversation, very clearly acknowledges he's a king with a kingdom. Now if you're a Christ follower, you have a decision to make. If he's telling the truth, he's the king and there's a kingdom that's not of this world. If you imagine yourself a Christ follower and you don't believe that, what are you doing, following a liar? Somebody who speaks just out of political expediency? I don't think so. That's not the nature of our king. In Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 1 we see the other side of the equation. Paul's writing to a church and he said, "You were dead in your transgressions and sins," spiritually dead, not physically dead. "In which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the Kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are now disobedient".
It's a theme in scripture. I could expand it, but it's beyond the topic of this particular session. But Paul acknowledges that there's a ruler of the kingdom of the air that stands in opposition to the kingdom of God. Two kingdoms in existence that stand in conflict with one another. We understand that, there are earthly kingdoms that are in conflict with one another, so it's not a logical reach for us to understand that if there is a kingdom of God that stands for the good of humanity, that there would be a kingdom of darkness that stands for evil, the destruction of humanity. You learned that in physics. You know the principles of our physical world were derived from the principles of our spiritual world. In physics they tell us that for every action there's an equal and an opposite reaction.
So it's not a stretch, it's not illogical, it's not irrational that if you believe there is a God and he can be known, you better believe there is a kingdom that opposes the purposes of God and you can know something about that. And if we don't know something about it, we're far more vulnerable. We're much less vulnerable to COVID than we were two years ago, we know much more about it. They told us two years ago that it could live on the sole of your shoe for up to seven days, remember that? A lot of fear lived on hard surfaces. We went to the grocery store and we came home and we sprayed everything with Lysol. But we learned it really wasn't transmitted that way, we wouldn't have to be afraid of it in those terms. We learned and it helped us, it brought some freedom to us.
What you learn about spiritual things will bring some freedom to you. And saying I don't believe in them doesn't make you free. Saying I don't believe in COVID wouldn't make your health better. You need to know its principles so you can benefit from whatever protection was available or whatever treatment was available. Declaring ignorance or removing yourself from the arena didn't make you safe. Saying there is no devil and I don't believe in him doesn't make you more safe. You're not making your children more safe. We've struggled with that in the church. There are spiritual kingdoms. Now, we should note there's just quickly, they're not equal in power. Sometimes if you listen to Christians talk, you think it's like a tug of war between good and evil and you can't really tell how it's gonna work out. I can tell you how it's gonna work out.
On the cross, Jesus won a complete, total, irreversible victory over Satan and his kingdom. But Jesus's kingdom has not fully arrived. Satan is still alive and at work on planet earth. Good things still happen to bad people, wait, I think what I wanted to say was bad things still happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to bad people. We live in a world that's in the blender because the kingdom of God is not yet fully arrived, and you don't have to speak clearly to have my job. Is that not good to know? I read one time that one of those difficult job descriptions in the world was a hockey goalie, because when you make a mistake, a red light goes on, and a horn sounds, and everybody applauds.
This isn't quite that bad. The two kingdoms are not equal in power, but we need to come right behind that and say but the authority of those kingdoms is more powerful than me or you. You can't outthink evil or outwork evil any more than you can work your way into the kingdom of God or you can be so good that God will say well, by all means, please come in. The authority of those kingdom exceeds anything that's available to us in our physical state. The authority of those spiritual kingdoms trumps every authority that we have in the material world, because the spiritual gave rise to the physical. It says in Genesis 1 that in the beginning God said, and our world came into existence. So, they're not equal in power but they're both more powerful than me, so we need to know the authority that's available to us spiritually, so that we can navigate this conflict that's taking place in the world.
In Acts chapter 12 there's an interesting little narrative. Peter is in prison, one of his closest friends has just been executed, and he's been in prison and he's been held through a holiday, the expectation is he'll be executed as soon as the holiday is over. And he's been left in prison, and on the night before he's to be executed, it says, "The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell, and he struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Get up,' he said, and the chains fell off his wrists". We have angels unlocking chains. My opinion, and this really is just my opinion, I think there was one more angel, more than one angel in the contingent that have come to rescue Peter. There's just one he saw. I think one was unlocking chains, another is opening gates, another is blinding the eyes of the guards.
There's a whole contingent it seems to me, but that's my supposition. The chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and your sandals," Peter did. "Wrap your cloak around you, follow me". "Put your coat on, son, we're leaving". "Peter followed him out of the prison, he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening. He thought he was seeing a vision". There's a lot of questions in that story. Why did Peter spend days in jail? Why didn't God set him free day one? I don't know, I'll ask someday perhaps, but I don't know. But what is clearly demonstrated is that there's a power that's available to Peter that's greater than his physical strength. And we need to, if we're going to be Christ followers, and we take that part of our Bible away, we don't have much left. We're imagining that the greatest power available to us is economic, or political, or intellectual, and I believe all of those things are real, I don't want to diminish them, but I don't want to worship them. There's a greater power.
And then fourth, and I've already alluded to it, there's a conflict between these kingdoms. Matthew 4, it's so clear. This is Jesus in the wilderness. "The devil took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said, 'I'll give this to you if you'll just bow down and worship me.' And Jesus said, 'Away from me Satan, for it's written, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,' and the devil left him". You have in one scene, one snapshot, you have Jesus and Satan, and Satan is doing his best to gain the authority that Jesus has. If you'll worship me, I'll give you this authority, the authority I have over the kingdom of this world. What he's not saying is and then I'll gain the authority you have.
There will be an individual that steps onto the stage of human history that'll make that bargain. He will worship Satan, and Satan will give him authority over the kingdoms of the world. I talked to you for a moment ago about that spirit of authoritarianism that will dominate our world, not to bring liberty, and freedom, and prosperity, to bring a control over the lives of human beings beyond anything we've ever seen. We've seen hints of it in recent months beyond anything we thought we would ever see. Whoever thought you would be required to have some identification just to go into a restaurant in your own nation? And we've accepted it as if we thought it was normal, it made sense, plausible, logical. And if you dare to spew any misinformation that challenges that, you'll get canceled. We're clever, we watch that and we think, "Well, maybe I should just be quiet".
A conflict is taking place on earth, folks. This isn't something that you have to go to the book of Revelation to read about. We're watching tremors right now. I don't know if that's in our immediate future, but I believe we have to be in training. If God puts us in a circumstance where we're exposed to practices that the scripture decides, I have to believe he's given us that opportunity so that we might grow and learn from them. We've been reading the gospels a lot lately. If you follow the disciples, you would be a very poor reader not to imagine that Jesus imagined those three years of the disciples spending time with him was to help them be prepared to behave in his absence.
Hey, before we go I'd like to pray with you that God would give us discernment, the ability to recognize spiritual things beyond just our intellect. That we would know what God is doing and how we might cooperate. Are you ready?
Father, I thank you. I thank you for your presence in the earth, and I pray that you would give us a discernment to recognize your Spirit at work. Lord, we don't want to be left simply to our intellect and our own senses, but we wanna be able to see the world from your perspective. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your help, in Jesus's name, amen.