Allen Jackson - Generational Life Lessons
The two people who have made the most profound impact upon the development of my faith have been my parents, more than any professor, any school, any academic setting, any university. When I was young, my parents were not believers and when they became Christians, there was profound change in their lives and in our home. And because of those changes, I eventually changed. I walked into the kitchen one day and said, "What's happened to you? You're different". The temperature in our home had gone down by several factors, and they told me they'd asked Jesus to come live in their heart. And I said, "Well, I want to do that". And I knelt in the kitchen floor at 4811 Jackson Street in Hollywood, Florida, and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.
I was baptized a few weeks later in the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale. So my spiritual formation didn't start in a church, it didn't start at the altar, and it didn't start in a traditional baptismal space. But I got to know the Lord, and there were some lessons that I took from my parents that are still speaking into my life today. And if you'll allow me, I'm gonna just share a couple of those with you in this session. In fact, I'm gonna ask you to act on them with me. I have little interest, almost no interest, in just sharing facts about our faith. I have a passion to see people awaken to a living Lord and to engage with him in the activities of their lives.
We don't want to come just talk about our faith, we want to practice it. We want to live it out. We want to unleash it in our homes, in our communities, in our schools, and on the ball fields, and in the business offices, amen. When I was seven, some of you know the story, many of you've heard me tell portions of it. When I was seven, my mother went to the hospital to give birth to my youngest brother. And while she was there, she was diagnosed with cancer, and the doctors told her she had six months to live. This was the mid '60s. Treatments were very different than they are today. And they wanted to do some rather dramatic surgery. She just had a C-section. And they wanted to do dramatic surgery the next day.
And my parents hesitated on that and made arrangements to fly to Mayo Clinic. We attended church every Sunday. My parents were the youth leaders in the church we attended. It was the '60s. It was a large campus church. Pastor came to visit my mother in the hospital, and he didn't believe in heaven or hell. So on the flight to Mayo Clinic, my mother said a prayer. They weren't Christians. And she prayed something like this, I really wasn't there, but it's been reported to me. "That if there is a God before I die, let me know the truth so that I can tell my sons". And the expectation was the answer would be, be Jewish or be Catholic or be Baptist because those were the expressions of religion that they were familiar with.
Well, they got to Mayo Clinic, they did a very thorough workup over a number of days. The doctor came in the room late at night, said, "Mrs. Jackson, I don't have an explanation, but the masses and the tumors that were a part of your diagnosis when you came, we have the film and the blood work and all the information, we can't find them. Go home and raise your babies". Well, my mother asked to know the truth. God healed my mom when we were pagans. We were church, but we were churched pagans. Did you know you can do that? Sitting in church doesn't make you a Christ follower any more than sitting in the barn makes you a horse. It's just not true. We were pagans. That will fracture your theology.
God didn't heal us because we prayed the right prayer or we believed the right things or we had done the right things. God showed his grace and mercy to my family in spite of us, not because of us. We moved to Miami Beach a few weeks later. My dad graduated from veterinary school at the University of Missouri. He wanted to be an equine practitioner. He wanted to work on horses. And we went to South Florida where the thoroughbred tracks were. And my mother was washing dishes, and she heard a voice through the ceiling, which was not normal, that said, "You asked to know the truth before you died". And she said, "Yes, I did". And the voice said, "I'm the way, the truth, and the life".
My mom didn't know where that was. She went and found a Bible and had to look it up and find it, and she read it. If you don't know, I'll give you a clue. It's John 14:6, "I'm the way, the truth, and the life. And no one comes to the Father except through me". The Sunday school teacher in the church my parents were attending, the pastor in that church wasn't born again either. He didn't believe in the divinity of Jesus. This is not a new thing, folks. We've got to become more aware as consumers. We've got to be more alert. But the Sunday school teacher was an airline pilot, and he was born again.
My parents stopped by his house one Sunday after service. They left three boys in the car in South Florida. They put a little pan of water in the floor, and they cracked a window. No, they didn't even do that. And they knelt at a coffee table at that airline pilot's in his living room and asked Jesus to be Lord of their lives. And my mother understood the answer to that prayer she had prayed, that the truth was not about a denomination, whether you needed to be Jewish or Baptist or Catholic or Methodist. It was about a person, his name was Jesus.
And if there's been one lesson that I have taken from watching my parents and the influence of their lives in mine, it's to understand the truth begins with the person of Jesus. I like to learn. I could have been a professional student had God chosen to give me that assignment. I just like to learn. But the reality is the greatest truth you will ever know is centered in the person of Jesus and how you know him, and how you interact with him, how you learn to hear his voice, how you learn to follow his direction, how you respond to him, the degree to which you're responsive to his prompts in your life because Jesus of Nazareth is still very active in the earth today. He didn't ascend back to heaven and step away from us. He is still engaged with his people.
And if we're more aware, if we are more cognizant of the alignment we have with a congregation or a denomination or a translation or a style of worship than we are of our alignment with Jesus, it's idolatry. We start with Jesus. The truth that defines our existence in time and for all eternity when we step out of time is the person of Jesus and how you know him.
Now, here's the challenge, the personal choice to believe or to reject an object, to reject that objective truth does not change the reality. This is very prevalent within the church. We'll say to one another, "Well, you know, I know what the Bible says, but let me tell you what I believe". Folks, if the Bible says it, adjust your belief. It's not always easy. It's not always straightforward. Sometimes we need the direction and the help of the Spirit of God and some wisdom. But begin to practice, cultivate the habit of subjecting yourself to the clear truth of the Word of God. It'll change your life. It's not a debate.
When you read something and you're living apart from it, begin to say, "Lord, help me". We're not the first generation of people who wear the label of God's people and we're living far beyond the boundaries of the directions of scripture. You know the story in the Old Testament, they lost their Bible. I don't mean they misplaced it in the house. They forgot they had one. It was used so infrequently, it was so insignificant, that a priest hid it in the wall of the temple, and nobody missed it. It sounds a lot like modern contemporary American culture, does it not?
They tell me now that when I'm addressing groups that if the people are younger than 20 years old, they don't know biblical characters. They don't know who Jonah is or King David is. Well, they were remodeling the temple, and they found the Torah scroll, they found the books of the law, and they brought it to the king and began to read it to him. And when they read it, he tore his clothes in grief. And he said, "My God, we're living so far away from this". We're not the first generation.
There is truth and you can know it. And to simplify it, let's begin with the truth around Jesus. Establish it in your heart. I brought you the Apostle's Creed. I put it in your notes. I believe they can put it on the screens. It's such a great affirmation of a series of statements about Jesus. It's one of the oldest creedal statements. Before we had computers and before we had printing presses, we had to commit to memory the essential facts of our faith so that we wouldn't be swept aside by every wind of doctrine. The Apostle's Creed, many scholars think, goes back to the church in Jerusalem. Some suggest it was the baptismal confession for the early church in Jerusalem.
So it's a collection of essential statements about our faith. You need it in your heart. Some of you grew up in a tradition where you said it weekly. Some of you've never seen it before. But all the statements are derived from scripture. I'm gonna ask you to say it with me out loud as a declaration of truth in your life. It begins with, "I believe," and you could say every sentence in this creedal statement and begin it with "I believe". It's an affirmation of what you have decided, settled, established, made a foundation in your heart. If you're joining us digitally, you say this with us as well. Why don't you stand with me for this? I know you got your nest made, but just don't hit anybody with an umbrella. All right, we ready? Here we go:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
There's a second lesson I want to share with you, and the last lesson I want to share with you in this particular session. It's a part of that same story. My mother's prayer, "If there's a God, let him know the truth before I die". My mom was expecting a revelation it would be a Baptist or be Jewish. I don't think she really expected the doctors to give her a good report. We weren't a people who knew about miracles. We didn't know other people who had miracles. We didn't believe in healing. They didn't talk about that in the church we attended. It may have been a part of the liturgy, it may have been a part of our history, but it certainly wasn't a part of our experience. We simply had no experience, so there was no expectation.
The people you spend your discretionary time with shape your expectations. They'll shape your expectations about how to vacation, or how to use your recreational time, or they'll shape your expectations to be a person who trusts God more fully. Consider who you spend your discretionary time with. We had no imagination of that. So when the doctors came in and said, "We can't find the cancer," there were no words. There was no explanation. We couldn't really say the diagnosis was blown because there was a clear diagnostic trail. There had been months of symptoms. It wasn't some bizarre change of events. It was we were standing in one reality one day and another reality the other day.
So I want to spend the balance of our time talking about a lesson that I was introduced to as a boy but I've lived with for all the intervening years, and it's been a few, and that's that God heals. I'll Just give you some simple things. Miracles, healings in the scripture, particularly in the New Testament, are intended as a testimony and a sign to unbelievers. Our faith is about God's power, not about our organizational prowess. We're not gonna out-organize the devil. We need a power greater than evil to be on display in our world, and God intends that to come through his church. That's us. So yes, I will pray for people. Well, what happens if nothing happens? We'll pray again. Well, what if you don't get the answer you wanted? I'm gonna keep learning.
1 Corinthians chapter 2 and verse 1, Paul is talking to a church. "When I came to you, I didn't come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified". However long he was in Corinth, he only had one theme. "What are you gonna talk about tomorrow"? "Jesus and his crucifixion". "You talked about that yesterday". "Yep". "What are you gonna talk about next week"? "Jesus and his crucifixion". "Well, I heard that this week and last week". "Uh-huh". Watch the next statement. "I came to you in a weakness and fear, and with much trembling". Are you ready to minister in that way?
You say, "Well, I feel so weak, and I'm a little frightened, and I'm anxious about it". You and the Apostle Paul. You're not different. He didn't say, "I got this". Christians that feel competent make me nervous. I'm much more comfortable with people who feel inadequate because we recognize that in our lack of adequacy, that we are totally dependent upon the help and the mercy and the power of God. When you think you've figured out how to get God to move, get down on your face and say, "God, I'm sorry. Forgive me of my pride". Paul said, "I came in weakness and fear, with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power".
May I humbly submit, our world is waiting for a demonstration of the power of God. We've been praying for months and months now for more than two years that the truth would be told in the public square. And we see it happening week after week after week. It's not coming in the timetable that we wanted. It would have been more convenient if some of the truth would have been told 18 months ago, but it wasn't told then, but it's being told now. Are you celebrating? Are you thanking the Lord? Are you worshiping him? I would have preferred the Supreme Court had a decision about the sanctity of human life a couple of decades ago. We'd have saved millions of children. But I'm encouraged that they may be awakening to that reality these days.
It's not going to be easy or comfortable. We're gonna have to learn to minister with grace and mercy and power because there's an enormous amount of guilt and shame, an enormous amount of guilt and shame, not outside the church, in the church. It's why we've been so quiet. I would submit to you, secondly, that for the believer, growing up in faith is about understanding the redemptive work of Jesus. You see, as we grow up in our faith, as we move beyond the infancy of the new birth in that conversion experience, we learn that not only have our sins been forgiven, but we've been justified, sanctified, that God's power is present within us to do things we cannot do ourselves. We haven't been interested. It hasn't really mattered that much to us.
There's a statement in Ephesians 4 and if we're gonna talk about the supernatural and praying for other people, this is an important component of the recipe. Do not give the devil a foothold. Don't lead sloppy lives. Don't compromise willingly. Don't practice ungodliness. We all face temptation. We all face invitations to wrong behaviors, or we're all confronted with wrong thoughts. Wrong thoughts are presented to every one of us. It doesn't make you a sinner to have a wrong thought, but you can dismiss the thought as readily as it arrives. But we cannot afford to lead lives where we willingly, intentionally, purposefully deviate from the truth that we know. You just can't do that. Oh, I know we've been doing it, but look at the fine mess we've gotten ourselves in, Ollie. We've got to change our pattern. We need a new cadence, a new rhythm, a new response to life. "Well, I've prospered. I have a good life. I eat well. My kids are doing well".
Folks, you're talking to me about things that can disappear overnight. Now because I believe in healing, or you believe in healing, we need to acknowledge that aging is not suspended. The belief in divine healing is not the cure for birthdays. Don't be goofy. I've done this so long. I've met so many people. Folks, you've heard me say if you're out of gas, you don't need a miracle, you need a filling station and a bank loan. If you have a test tomorrow when you're in school, you don't need to pray for a miracle. You need some good old-fashioned study time. Being a person of faith does not suspend you from the rules, the laws of the world we live in. And it's not gonna suspend your aging process.
Praying for one another is grounded in scripture. In Genesis 1:31, "God saw all he made, and it was very good". He didn't look at Adam and Eve and go, "Oops. Let's try that one again". Psalm 103, verse 2, "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases". Isaiah 53, it's the messianic prophecy in Isaiah. Speaking of Messiah, "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his words we are healed".
I was having a conversation about that messianic passage with a spiritual leader one day and they said, "Well, Pastor, that's just spiritual healing". When I read Matthew 8, "When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Jesus, and he drove out the spirits with a word and he healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'" Thank God Jesus didn't talk to my friend. 1 Peter 2:24, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed".
I can give you dozens and dozens and dozens of scriptures. A significant part of Jesus's public ministry was casting out unclean spirits and ministering to the sick. And oftentimes, their healing was intertwined. We've got to be awakened to the power of God. It changed my life when I was a boy, and it's changed my life in every season from that date until this one. So this isn't theoretical to me. If you asked me what I believe God can do, I'll tell you God can, and you can fill in the blank after that.
Now, for full disclosure, I have done memorial services for friends of mine who I felt left far too early. There's a great deal I don't know and I wouldn't pretend to. But I'm telling you, you can establish for yourself that our God is a healer. Begin to build it into the foundation of your own personal story. In fact, I want to close this session with you by praying for those who have a need. If you're here and you need physical healing, I'm just gonna ask you to stand wherever you are. If you're inside in one of the sanctuaries, if you're at home, you can stand right there. Hallelujah.
Father, I thank you for your Word, for its truth and authority and power in our lives. I thank you for our Lord Jesus, that he offered himself as a sacrifice that we might be forgiven of our sins, that we might be delivered from all the power of the enemy. And we come tonight to pray for one another. Lord, you know every detail. You know every diagnosis, every circumstance. Lord, you know the things that have been said to us and over us, and now we pray for one another and we ask in Jesus's name that you would bring life to our mortal bodies, bring health to us and strength to us and energy to us. Where there has been unhealthy tissue, may it wither and die. Lord, where our body hasn't been functioning as it should, I pray that the healing that you designed within us will supersede any disease process. Bring life to us and strength and vitality. We praise you for it as we pray for one another. May the sickness go. May the symptoms yield. May life come to us. May the doctors and nurses of those caring for us have wisdom beyond themselves. May the treatments they have prescribed be effective beyond what any imagination would have held, that our backs will be pain free, that we'll be set free from every attack of the enemy. In Jesus's name, amen.