Allen Jackson - Generational Faith - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you today. We're continuing our study on "There Is a God". We're gonna look at generational faith. You know, we spent decades in American evangelicalism focused on salvation and conversion. I believe in that, it's important, it's essential, but it's not just a personal salvation. We're a part of the community of faith, and understanding that our faith is understood in the context of generations. It isn't just us, there's a generation that has preceded us, there's a generation coming behind us. We have responsibilities to everyone around us. It's an important part of our faith journey. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, let's be willing to say yes to God's assignments for us in this season.
We're working through a series under the general title of "There Is a God," and it's such an important premise, it's as important as anything that I'll say after that. There is a God. There is a God, a Creator God an all-knowing God, an all-powerful God, and here's the punchline, and you can know him. You see, if there was a God, but he was aloof and apart and unknowable, it would be terrifying and not helpful. But there is a God, and you and I can know him. He sent his Son to become one of us, to walk amongst us that we might understand who he is and how he cares for us. In all of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, there is no attempt to explain why God loves us, it's just stated as a matter of fact.
In spite of our rebellion and all of our shortcomings, and we have them, God cares about you. There is a God. If you'll simply walk through your week reminding yourself that I know there is a God. I have problems in my life, but there is a God. I face disappointments, but there is a God. I see evil and it seems far too powerful some days, but there is a God. There is a God. I don't like the way the circumstances of my life are unfolding right now, but there is a God. See, it gives us a hope beyond time, it gives us a hope beyond disappointment, it gives us a hope beyond those places where evil diminishes us, because in the moment sometimes it does. But there is a God. Don't give that up. It's more than a title, folks, it will illuminate the pathway of your life if you will accept it.
Psalm 11 in verse 3 says, "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do"? It's a very sobering verse, isn't it? When the foundations are being destroyed. Western civilization was built upon a foundation of a biblical worldview. Western civilization as we have known it for the last several hundred years was built upon that biblical worldview, it's how we did business, how we educated our children, our legal systems all emerged from a biblical perspective. We looked at that in some detail in the previous session. We talked about the impact that the scripture has had on the formation of civilization. It was the idea from which all the other ideas emerge.
There's no other piece of literature that has affected western civilization and the outcomes that we have enjoyed like the Bible has. Certainly not Shakespeare, Dante, or any of the others you can think of. It was foundational, how we understood family came from a biblical worldview. It wasn't arbitrary, it came to us from scripture. You didn't have to go to church, you didn't have to read your Bible, you didn't have to say you're a Christian or that you believed in that. That worldview still helped define, it was the foundation.
We didn't have to look for a definition of family, we understood what it meant. We knew they weren't perfect, we knew they all, we often struggled, but we understood what it meant. We knew what marriage was. But those foundations have been under an assault for quite some time now. Until now it seems like the assault has become effective enough that there are some cracks in the foundation. It's an important question. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Well, the last two years have proven to be a catalyst and accelerant to the assault on those foundations. It started with a pandemic, a virus that we understood had come our direction from Wuhan, China. But it's become far more than that, because from where we stand today, COVID is fading, thank God. That's good news. It's becoming far more endemic. It's amongst us and will have to be lived with and lived through than it is pandemic, unknown and overwhelming. But the pandemic, that idea of this great threat from beyond us that was unknown and maybe even unknowable, that idea and the fear that it generated seems to have been seized upon for some other purposes far beyond a virus. And from where we stand today, I think many are beginning to awaken to that reality, and that burgeoning, that exploding awareness is having some side effects. And we see those side effects around us today in all sorts of ways.
Frustration, there's the deterioration of trust, there is more division, and we were seeing through, some people are beginning to push back, others are awkwardly trying to find a way forward. There's one group that's just kinda trying to pretend that the entire episode was completely logical and appropriate. A lot of different responses, but here's the good news, we still find ourselves intact. We're still here, we're still able to gather to worship, we can still dedicate our infants, we can still gather children and teach them to love the Lord. We're still here, we're intact. I have to do a little self awareness check, because there have been a lot of battering influences us. Our habits were broken, our patterns were disrupted.
It's much easy to slip into a less disciplined life. We don't even work with the discipline we did before the pandemic. You used to go to work with the sniffles, no more. We're gonna have to learn some discipline again. We're gonna have to learn how to go forward, because without that discipline, we're not gonna enjoy the good things we've had. We're intact, but you've gotta do a little self evaluation, we all need to. I was working outside Friday afternoon, Friday was a spring day in Middle Tennessee. Saturday was a winter day in Middle Tennessee. Gives me hope for Monday, right? Who knows. But I was working outside, and a tree had fallen, and I had a chainsaw on a ladder, and that's just not a good formula, is it? And a rung in the ladder broke, and I sprawled, and the chainsaw went one direction, and I landed on some wood that I'd cut, and I'm laying there on the ground thinking, hmm.
Thank God the squirrels don't have video, 'cause I know it was awkward, and you would have enjoyed it, it would've been most comical. But I laid there for a minute, and I didn't feel anything that didn't work, so I got up, and I couldn't find any cuts, and there was no arterial bleed that I could see, and everything worked, and I'm good, I can finish the job. And that feels a little bit like this post COVID thing. You know, we've gotta kinda do a little check and take stock and inventory.
Now, there's some things around us that are unpleasant and we would rather not look at, but they're still true. We're intact, but we have unsustainable debt that is growing every moment. Our economy is just teetering right now. This is not political, it's just our reality. Inflation is at historic levels, our supply chains are interrupted, we haven't seen the shelves in our stores like this short of the threat of snow, and it's a persistent thing right now. The labor market is disrupted. There's energy confusion, we can't figure out what to do with that. The prices are climbing, there's just expressions of greed that are almost unprecedented, they're all around us. We have new wars, we have lawlessness, our southern border is still open, and even though it's illegal, hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people a year are pouring across our border, and we act like we don't notice.
Folks, you can't tolerate lawlessness on one front without it coming on all the other fronts. We shouldn't be surprised that that laissez faire attitude towards our border leads to increasing violence in our cities and in our communities. You can't ignore the law on one hand and expect it to be respected on another, we all understand that, or we should. Deceptions, diminished freedom, censorship, all of those things are flourishing around us in this environment, but we're still intact. Not only that, nevertheless, we're still free. We are free, we are free. We're aware to varying extents of what's happening in the world depending on God's goodness to us, and we are very much on an assignment.
So, the church is alive and well. We've come through a pandemic, there have been some tremendous losses, and great sacrifices, and a lot of impact, but we're still moving forward. My imagination through this little series especially is to try to find some stability in the midst of this turmoil. You ever ridden public transportation, maybe it was just a shuttle at an airport from one terminal to another, and you get on, and there's going to be multiple stops, and there's usually a lot of people around, and they're kind of, they start and stop abruptly, so there's usually a strap hanging from the ceiling or a poll you can hang on to or something you can lean against. You need a little stability with the unsteadiness of the ride. That's what life feels like to me right now. It's a little unsteady. It's not traveling at a constant rate of speed where the change is gradual.
The changes are catastrophic, and we need stability. I believe God can help us, but that's the point of this particular session. And I want to talk to you specifically about generational faith and why it matters. We've had a faith of personal salvation for several decades in American evangelicalism, and I believe in salvation and conversion and being born again, but if your faith doesn't go beyond your personal salvation, it's inadequate. It's self absorbed, and it's self centered, and you'll never find maturity as a Christ follower until our imaginations grow beyond that. Again, that's important, but that's the entry point into the kingdom of God, it's not the conclusion. So, at the finish line, you're not done, your God business isn't done when you make that profession of faith.
So, I want to start with this notion of children. We started our worship service today with children, and I want to continue, if you will, to walk with me along that path. In Luke chapter 2 we're going to join Mary and Joseph in Jerusalem. They have brought Jesus, this newborn infant, to the temple to be dedicated as was the custom of the law according to Moses. So, they're not gonna be the only parents there, there'll be multiple parents. Jerusalem was a large city in Israel, and the parents would come to the temple. It was a preeminent place where you would do this. So, Jesus would've been one amongst many infants there that day. But when he came in, there was a special notice taken of him by a couple of people. Both a man and a woman with a unique God perspective.
We're gonna step into that, it's in Luke 2 and verse 28. "Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.' The child's father and mother," that'd be Mary and Joe, "marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'The child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'"
Jesus is eight days old. His resume is pretty limited. He cries, he eats, he makes a mess. He's an infant, he hasn't spoken his first word. He can't yet put the square blocks in the square slots, but his story is established in the heavens. You see, in the mind of God, in the spiritual realm, that's the Messiah, that little bitty rascal. Do you know that God authors a story for every child, for every one of us? But it starts right there. In the book of Hebrews, It says, he's the author and the complete of our story. He'll keep changing the ending until he gets it right based on all the knuckleheaded things we do. He's the author and completer of our story. Every child comes with that, not just Jesus. Jesus came for a purpose, every one of us did.
Sometimes there's a, I believe, an attack from the enemy tries to confuse you around that. I've had hundreds of people say to me, if I just knew what I was supposed to do. Honor the Lord, just honor the Lord in the midst of the life he's given you as a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. Don't let anybody that interacts with you fail to know you're an ambassador for Jesus of Nazareth. You have a God story to tell. You say, but I want to do more. I promise you, if you will do that with all of your heart, mind, soul, and body, you'll never catch up. That's been my life experience. All of the diminishments in there had been because of my reluctance, my embarrassment, because I was ashamed, because I was duplicit, all the things that I've done that have limited that, but when I've been willing to own that, God has continued to walk that forward. He'll do it for you, and I don't mean as a professional Christian.
So, we get that little window into Jesus as an infant. I wanna take a further step back and simply talk about the beginnings of our lives. In Jeremiah 1 and verse 5, Jeremiah's a prophet, you'll remember that. God recruits him as a young man. He's not some grizzled veteran with decades of experience under his belt, God recruits him as a young man, puts a message within him, a very, very, very, very difficult message. He goes, I want you to tell this people, the powerful people and the religious leaders and those that are very invested in the status quo that it's coming to an end and there's nothing they can do to change it. It made Jeremiah very unpopular, he suffered a great deal for the message God asked him to speak.
Do we have the courage to deliver messages that aren't always popular? Come on, some of you will cheer if I will do that, but are you willing to do that? Not to be belligerent, not to be grumpy, not to be condemning, not to be hateful, not to be mean spirited, but are we willing to take God's perspective and to advocate for it in our lives? Even in those times and places where it would be just be easier to act like we didn't know. I believe that's one of the questions that's before the church right now. What are we going to do? Are we going to meet the enthusiasm of the opponents of God? Are we just gonna pray that God will raise up somebody else to do that? Are we gonna have a similar commitment, a similar enthusiasm, a similar boldness?
Well, in Jeremiah chapter 1 we get a very important insight. God says to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations". God knew Jeremiah before his parents did. He had a plan for Jeremiah before his parents had any imaginations about that. In fact, God says, if you look at the first phrase, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you". Before those cells had even begun to come together I knew you. God knows the beginning and the ending. More importantly, he knows the ending at the beginning. There is a God. Jeremiah, I knew you before you were born. I set you apart. I had a call upon your life. Please don't misunderstand, Jeremiah's assignment was not easy. He suffered, he was mistreated, he was beaten, he was imprisoned, he was starved, he was overlooked, he was diminished, he was mocked, he was ridiculed, and all of those things happened not because of his failure or because he entertained sinful things, they happen because he was fulfilling his God assignment.
We've got to rethink what it means to honor the Lord. Are we willing to honor the Lord even if it's not always fun? Are we willing to honor the Lord even if it's not always fulfilling or affirming in the moment? Are we willing to take hard assignments? Pastor, I'm the only Christian where I work. Could be a God assignment. God, my neighbors are pagans, it's hard to live amongst them. Could be a God assignment. Jeremiah, I knew you when you were in your mother's womb. See, from a biblical perspective, there's not really any mystery as to where life begins because God has told us. And science couldn't always keep up with that. We didn't have the scientific abilities to image those children before they were born not too long ago. Most of that technology is relatively new. We had some ideas and some thoughts, but we couldn't actually see it and watch it and document it. But we can today.
One of the lines that we've heard almost ad nauseam for the last two years is follow the science. Well, I would invite you to do that with me, follow the science. You know, at six and a half to seven weeks after gestation, you can detect a heartbeat in that new life. Seven weeks or less, there's a heartbeat. By seven weeks, nerves are present. And after 10 weeks, those nerves are controlling the muscles that are developing. Unbelievable. Fingers and toes have developed by the end of the first trimester. At 24 weeks and a little rascal can feel pain and respond to it. A lot of cultural confusion on this. And the church's voice has been pretty weak. I understand why. It's impacted every one of us directly or indirectly.
We've lost about 900.000 people, the numbers they're reporting, to COVID over a two year period. It's a tragedy. We lose more babies than that through abortion every year. Not two years, every year. The Supreme Court, 1973, not too long ago, found in our Constitution somewhere the right to do that to babies. I mean, it's not spelled out implicitly, they had to find it implied. They had the wedge it somewhere into the language, and we were too busy, we were too distracted, we were too unconcerned, we were too whatever to find our voice. Sixty million children later, the Supreme Court is looking at that law. We better find our voice. We better understand the significance of it. Because we have an appointment with the creator, and he knows every one of those children. We didn't see their faces, we didn't get to see their God stories unfold, because we chose to end their lives.
Follow the science, it's not complicated on this point. It really isn't. I understand there's enormous emotion around this because the degree to which it has touched us. And if you've never come to that point and come before the Lord and repented and found the peace and the grace and the mercy that come with that repentance, today would be a good day. Before we leave, we're gonna take communion together. It's not a uniquely American sin. Sometimes I hear presenters saying God will judge our nation because of abortion, and he very well could, but it's not a uniquely American sin. It's a global atrocity, but the difference is America has been a Christian nation, we've had a biblical worldview that has shaped our nation.
And if the Christians don't value the lives of our children, how would we expect the pagans to? I believe we could see this turned back, but the Supreme Court is not removed from your opinions. I promise you that the opinions of the general public have an enormous impact upon them. We can talk about whether that's appropriate or inappropriate another time, but it is true, and your voice, your affirmation. Don't wait for somebody else to have more courage than you have. Stop that. Let your courage be the defining limits for the courage that you hope to be seen in other places. To the degree that it's been a part of your life, whether you've participated or advocated for it are quietly looked the other way, repent. You can be free. That's the beauty of the cross of Jesus Christ. But I don't believe we can afford to be silent any longer. Those children matter to the Lord, they matter to the Lord.
I want to pray before we go, and I want to take just a moment. You know, there's a lot in the news these days about schools and children and parent's rights in schools and union officials or politicians saying parents shouldn't be involved. There's an awkward truth here that I think affects those of us in the church. We haven't paid enough attention. We've wanted someone else to educate our children, we've wanted someone else to teach our children about faith. And I don't just mean parents, I mean in general. We've stepped away as if it's not our responsibility. Folks, it's not just my children, it's the children, and we're responsible for the training of the children in their faith and their education and their protection. God will hold us accountable. Let's pray:
Father, I ask for your mercy and your forgiveness. We've been busy and distracted, and we've watched many things while we didn't pay attention to the children. But you have captured our attention. Lead us and direct us, strengthen that generation. In Jesus's name, amen.