Allen Jackson - Forces Beyond Yourself - Part 2
Hey, we're gonna continue our study today on "There Is A God!" and talk specifically about those "Forces Beyond Ourselves," the reality of spiritual things. I wanna ask you a question and it's a bit rhetorical, but whatever happened to sin? We used to believe in that, remember? I don't know exactly when we decided that it exited the stage, but I don't believe in God's imagination sin's gone, we've just chosen new labels and more convenient categories. We're gonna consider that a bit from a biblical perspective. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most of all open your heart.
We've spent months and months having enormous information pumped into us about our physical health, so if you've got this symptom, be afraid, but we have very little of that around our spiritual condition. That's a sin issue. There are some things you should know about sin, it's terminal. Uninterrupted, it's always terminal, you better know how to nullify it. And sin is also very highly contagious, highly contagious. Think in terms, not of exposure, not in terms of intent, you don't have to intend to be infected, exposure is the problem. We learned a lot about that lately, haven't we? we've thought a lot about this stuff. But think of it in the context of sin, if you see someone else misbehave how much freedom that brings to you. If I'm driving down the interstate minding my business within the speed limit, plus or minus, right? I mean, they don't expect me to stay just right in there. We believe in grace, so plus or minus, and I'm cruising along and I have 8 or 10 cars blow past me.
I think, "Well, I'm holding up traffic, I'm a detriment to these good people trying to get home on time". So what do I do? Catch those 10 or 12 cars, they're maybe headed to something good. I mean, I know there's laws, but if everybody else is ignoring them why should I be restrained to the slow lane? You see someone else engaged in sin, it brings a freedom to you, it's a dangerous thing. Think of groups, I mean, it is really highly contagious. Think of other seasons and times in your life, groups of teenagers, groups of adults, let's not blame the teenagers. Somebody has a beer; before long, everybody wants one, before long, one's not enough. There's something about the group mentality that has led us into many destructive places, we can all tell our stories, it's contagious. Credit cards and they access to shopping, it's just a piece of plastic, they're just numbers. You don't have to think about it today, Dave Ramsey has made a very successful career with this one idea.
How about if you just have an ungodly, wicked, if you prefer, inclination, maybe thought predisposition, "Sounds kinda like fun, I don't know why I should have to restrain that or constrain that". Well, if you can find somebody else, and if they have some letters at the end of their names, to say, "Actually that's a good thing to express that, it would be harmful to repress that". You don't need 100 of those voices, you just need one, it's a study, wee. We're bolder in groups, we're more brazen from that. Sin is highly contagious, you need to know that. Makes a difference who you spend your time with, the thoughts you listen to, the behaviors you watch, the things you fantasize about, the things you dream about, the things you aspire to. Our natural immunity to sin is very short lived. Been a lot of dialogue about natural immunity in the physical realms lately, I don't want to go there, but I can tell you spiritually your natural immunity is short lived.
How many times have you said, "I'll never do that again, I promise"? Not me, how long did that last? till the next meal. Right? You over eat, you don't feel good, "Thanksgiving, it's a holiday, it's a God day, I'm thanking the Lord, I'm not being a glutton. The families gather, they've all worked for weeks, I need to eat a little bit of what everybody bought, I'm just honoring them. Yes, I will have one of every dessert," and you're done. You know, you had to go put on your sweats, you're laying in the floor. "Oh God, help me". How long does that last, two hours? "Where'd you put those leftovers? But I don't wanna stop showing respect just yet".
You know, we can laugh about it around food at Thanksgiving, but you know it's true with other things that are more destructive. Our natural immunity is short lived. The other challenge of the problem with sin is it's about forces beyond ourselves, it's not just us, it's not just my thoughts or my will, there's other forces in play. And if you don't acknowledge that, you're as naive and as unprepared as denying a virus. It's real. We're living through a couple of pandemics right now, one is more obvious, it's had much better press, covid-19. You've heard of that, I hope. It has introduced all of us to some new practices, they were all expressions of our desires to survive. Because when we first heard about covid-19, we were told this may be as deadly as anything we've ever faced. Remember those days?
Again, I'm not mocking those, that was the best information we had at the time. Thankfully, it was not as deadly as it was first believed, millions of us didn't die. Now, thousands have, I'm not diminishing that, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not mocking that, it was real. And because we didn't have very much information, we responded in some rather dramatic ways, we learned whole new vocabularies and a whole new set of behaviors. We began to practice social distancing, we were told, "It's really best to stay at home. If you have to go out, keep your distance". We put stickers on the floor, remember? Right? It got a little comical. At some point, you're standing in an airport and there's stickers on the floor, and you get on the plane and you sit in the lap of a stranger. But we understood the principle.
For the first time in my lifetime, we we're quarantining healthy people, shelter in place; we closed churches, corporations, restaurants, small businesses; we've worn masks. Never in this broad way in my lifetime. I've never heard as much enthusiasm for a vaccine; we get the vaccine, it's our salvation, we'll no longer be afraid of covid. Again, they were statements being made without the evidence, we didn't have the science yet, it's not particularly fair to go back and pick them apart. Were they overstated? They were, but there wasn't data backing them up, we were all desperate for a reason to be freed from social distancing and quarantining and masks. So we worshipped science a little bit, and it wasn't fact-based. We need science to tell the truth, not to be influenced by enormous amounts of money or prestige or power, science is most helpful when it observes and reports the facts. But so would our spiritual lives, that's another day.
So we got this covid-19 pandemic going on but I would submit to you, far more deadly and far more rampant, we have a sin epidemic. All right, forget the specifics for a moment, let's just talk about it in terms of rebellion against God. We don't want to yield to him, we don't want to submit to him, we don't want to acknowledge him. There is a God and he can be known. In your sphere of influence, don't go any further than that, the people that are your friends, your social network, you have dinner together, you have dessert together, you spend time together, what percentage of that group of people are comfortable having a discussion around the existence of God and how he can be known? Or do we prefer to hide in the skeptic seat, say, "Well, there may be a God but there's really not much you can know"? No, we're either gonna decide the Bible is his Word and it's truthful and informative and it's far more helpful than a scientific study, or we'll go sit in the seat of the deniers. We're gonna have to decide, because we're in the midst of this thing now and it's not going away, it's an epidemic. Very little attention, it's not going to get the media coverage that covid did.
Can you imagine if godliness got the media coverage that covid did? Imagine if, 24/7, across all the outlets and all the social media delivery platforms, godliness and holiness were encouraged and you were warned against ungodliness, and if you promoted ungodliness you'd get de-platformed. Look, I'm not advocating for censorship, I'm just telling you, think about the wealth, the magnitude of the information that's been pushed at us and how little attention has been given to godliness; no media coverage, little messaging, it's an inconvenient truth. Our response to sin is much less intense than our response to covid-19, and I'm talking about within the church. We stayed home, we skipped church. We stayed home from ball games, we stayed home for social activities, we stayed home from a lot of stuff.
We don't take sin that seriously. You know why? My opinion, we don't really believe it's deadly, we think we can manage it. "Ah, it's not that big a deal. I mean, I know a lot of good people, they're engaged in that stuff, I know a lot of successful people, a lot of attractive people, a lot of people I admire and respect, and they're all into that stuff. Nah, I'm good, don't wanna be one of those fanatics, crackpots, goofballs, extremists, zealots". Oh, you mean like one of those social distancing. "Yeah, one of those". What if we gave those terms application in our faith? Social distance, just don't purposely be with people who increase your risk of ungodliness. Now I'm meddling. Shelter in place, don't intentionally be present where sin is, just don't volunteer for that. Oh, I'm a missionary. Oh, well, we could use missionaries to be amongst the infected with covid too, they need prayer. Well, I didn't mean that. Masks, live in such a way that you don't cause others to sin.
That's the point of a mask, a mask doesn't protect you, science never suggested that, it's to protect others from you. You don't wanna sneeze on them or spit on them, you shouldn't do that anyway, you don't even need a mask to have that, your mama should've helped you. Because beyond that, with a virus, that cloth mask is not overly helpful but that's a different discussion. But a spiritual mask, live in such a way so that you don't cause others to sin. What would that look like? It might be something like modesty. "Well, I'm not responsible for other people's minds". No, just our pride, our displays of wealth, we want other people to look at us and wish they were us. And again, you can't afford to live your life based on other people's reactions or you would shelter in place. But we have used a lot of personal license.
Paul said, "I'll become whatever I need to become in order to have the privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus". Folks, we live in a rapidly growing community. It's a very good thing, it's brought many-many good things to us. It brings some challenges but it brings some opportunities. I can tell you this, the influence of Christianity is not growing as rapidly as the influence of our housing; we have a lot more new homes and new apartments than we do new churches. Our shopping opportunities, the retail, lots of things in our community are going but we're struggling to keep pace with the spiritual lives of the people, and that's about us. Remember, we are the church when we leave here. It starts with our spheres of influence, our willingness to own our faith. There's a pandemic and I'm not talking about covid.
Spiritual wellness. Well, God's response to us, we ought to start with that, he's given us the authority for freedom, he has given us authority from his kingdom that we can be free. In Acts 26, this was a part of the message that God sent to Saul of Tarsus, he's being recruited, he's being recruited into the kingdom of God. And God said, "I'll rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I'm sending you to them to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me". He didn't say, "We're gonna change races". In fact, Paul's gonna be sent to the non-Jewish world. He's not recruiting him for a particular denomination or style of worship or a form of architecture, he's describing a kingdom transfer. He said, "You're gonna be a messenger that will help people be set free from the power of Satan and come under the influence of God".
Now that would be a legitimate objective for everybody in your sphere of influence. What if everybody that we know, everybody that we put on our friends list we saw over the next 12 months gain freedom from the power of Satan and move more fully into the kingdom of God? Stop thinking about it in terms of a point in time and think of it on a spectrum like your health and your wellness; you want them to be more spiritually healthy. Well, maybe they're healthy enough. Well, that's a good idea but if you have underlying co-morbidities spiritually, you're far more vulnerable. We've learned that in these last months, we've been to school, haven't we? But we really haven't kept, we've said, "Oh-no-no-no, I went back to, I've got a picture me at 16, I was healthy. See? Here it is, born again, right there on that date," but it doesn't necessarily mean we're spiritually healthy today.
Colossians 1, in verse 13, "He," God, "Has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins". That's what God has done for us. He said the authority of the kingdom of darkness no longer has the ability to hold you, you can be free. But that doesn't come to us automatically, there's choices involved. That's God's response, now our response matters. Look in Romans 6, "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus". Consider yourself dead to sin. Sin, when we are exposed to sin, the word we use for our exposure to sin when it has an impact upon us is temptation, we're tempted by it. "Hmm, that looks good, I might enjoy that". Warning, that contradicts your commitment towards godliness. "Yeah, but that looks pretty good". That's temptation. The instruction's to, "Count yourself dead to sin".
Now here's the good news, we're not all tempted by every point of sin. Hallelujah, you should've had an amen right there, folks. There was nothing self-disclosing in that, we're just not all tempted on every point, but all of us have some points where we're more vulnerable. That's true. But when you're physically, when your body's done, when your heart has had its last beat, whatever you're tempted by will not be a temptation, I promise. If you like chocolate, when you're dead they can bury you in a chocolate casket and you could care less, you won't be breaking off little pieces, just munching, y'all talk all you want, I'm having a good time over here. Right?
There'll be no attraction whatsoever. And that's the imagery, it says to, "Count yourselves dead to sin... Don't let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires". Why? Because it will destroy you. "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness". Don't do that, do not offer the parts of your body, don't expose yourself. We've been living this way for months and months on a physical basis, don't go hang out with people that you know tested positive unless you intend to have the virus. And we behave in almost the opposite away spiritually. "Oh, we can hang out with ungodly, immoral, doing whatever they wanna do. You know? I prayed that prayer". Galatians 5, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires".
If you really belong to Jesus then we've crucified that part of us that has that default position towards ungodliness. Jesus said, "If anybody would be my disciple, you have to take up your cross daily," daily, "And follow me". A cross is a point of execution. Jesus said every day you gotta deal with that old part of you that would prefer ungodliness. Here's the awkward part, if you've been a Christian four decades and you get paid to be Christian you still have to crucify that part of you that prefers ungodliness. That's not just with young people, that's with people. That means on a daily basis, you've got to have a little personal reflection, a little self-awareness, a little thought and intentionality about what you do and how you do it and how you interact. You can't just say, "Oh, I'm good to go with God".
It's the benefit in being in community, we learn more about how to be God's people by being with God's people than any other way. And if you separate us to the four winds and keep us isolated we can watch a lot of Christian discussions but we will lose much of the momentum of our faith because we learn about that from one another. It's why we practice sports together. We gotta put that part of us to death, don't just say, "Oh, everybody's got a little bit". No-no-no. The last few months, if you knew you were losing lung function, you could say, "Oh, everybody's loses little lung function". No-no-no. So where are we? What's our response? If God's response is to give us the authority we need from his kingdom to be free, what's our response? Well, ultimately, there's only one solution for our tendency towards ungodliness, we have to execute it.
We have to say, "No, you can't flourish," or, "I'm not gonna feed you, I'm not gonna nourish you. I may have to incrementally take away the energy that I have fed to you but I do not intend to let you flourish". And if I can make just a candid suggestion from 2 Timothy, social distance from carnal Christians. Don't be angry, I just wouldn't give my discretionary time there. We have to interact with all kinds of people, everybody's welcome at church, and you want a diversity of people but don't spend your discretionary time, don't take a life counsel. If you find the momentum for your decisions coming from people whose primary objective is not godliness and holiness and righteousness and purity, you're on a very dangerous path.
And I don't really care where they sit on Sunday, or the labels they wear or their political identification. There's a battle raging in the earth, it's a pandemic, and it's not about covid. I brought your prayer, it's a prayer about pride and humility. The sin that is the most destructive in all of creation, beyond time, is pride. Pride cost Satan his place in the kingdom of God. He looked at the positions in the kingdom of God and he said, "I deserve better than the one I have, I'm qualified for more," and he led a rebellion in his pride.
So I brought your prayer around pride. I thought if we were going to begin to break some of the strongholds of spiritual influences in our lives, acknowledging our own personal tendencies toward pride would be a good beginning point. Would you like to say that prayer? Like you had a choice, right? That's the only way out of here today. Why don't you stand with me? We'll read it together, it's in your notes, they'll put it on the screens. And this has a benefit far beyond our service. If you imagine there's any relevance for you, it's worth repeating two or three times a day. I would take it like medicine perhaps for a few days, give the Holy Spirit an invitation into your life to help you, he will show you. You don't need Pastor, I trust the Holy Spirit to help you see those places where there are things that limit our effectiveness. Let's read it together:
Heavenly Father, You have said that pride goes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before stumbling. I confess that I have not denied myself, picked up my cross daily and followed you. In so doing, I have given ground to the enemy in my life. I have believed that I could be successful and live victoriously by my own strength and wisdom. I now confess that I have sinned against you by placing my will before yours and by centering my life around self instead of you. I now renounce the self-life and by so doing cancel all the ground that has been gained in my life by the enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that you will guide me so that I will do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but that with humility of mind I will regard others as more important than myself. Help me to serve others through love and to seek their best. I ask this in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.