Allen Jackson - God Bless America
It's good to be with you again. Our topic in this session is listening to God. You know, the primary characteristic of God's people throughout Scripture, both Hebrew Bible and New Testament, is that we listen to his voice. Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice". In Hebrew, it's an ancient language, you add emphasis by duplicating. In Hebrew, it says, "Listen listening," or, "Turn your ear and listen". The paying attention to the voice of God, understanding that he's inviting us towards him, changes everything in our lives. The goal is not just to be born again and sit on our good intentions, it's to understand God's invitation for us today. The reason that matters is we're living in the midst of a season of incredible turmoil, change is swirling around us, and if your primary input is the news media, whichever source you choose you'll be confused. Grab your Bible and a notepad, most of all open your heart, let's listen for what the Lord has for us today.
And it's really still in my heart, this God bless America, we need the blessing of God upon our nation. Folks, that's only coming because of the voice of the church. I'm telling you, we're not defeated, it doesn't matter what your adversaries say about us or what those that don't believe in God think or what they posit. Who cares, he's the creator of heaven and earth and everything that's in it, and his blessings will change our future. But it begins with us and our willingness to listen and respond to God, and we haven't been great at this, we've imagined we could secure our futures through our hard work and our intellect and our cleverness, and we could use the same systems that the secular people were using and craft a life for ourselves that would be fulfilling. It's deception.
We're children of the King and we have a different playbook, we have a different set of values. And I want to start with a component of that that we don't like, maybe isn't talked about a great deal, but God is judge of all, and one of the reasons we serve him is we know that one day we will stand before the judge. That's not a threat, it's a promise, you want to be prepared for that, it's not a day of dread, it's a day of anticipation. I seem to be able to remember at least one time in my academic career where I went to class prepared. I can't say it happened frequently but I can remember at least one time, and on that one occasion you went to class with anticipation. Call on me, I read the assignment. Aren't you're gonna take up our homework?
You know, the rest of those you're in the back of the class trying to hide under the desk, but once, well, one day we will stand before the judge, and you want to be prepared. What else are you doing? What is it that's so important to you, that we're so busy with it that it's more valuable than being prepared for your appointment with the judge of all the earth? And please, you know, I'm grateful that you're born again, that you've experienced the new birth, it's essential, it's necessary, but please don't imagine that's the only question on the test. We want to be prepared, not my idea.
Matthew chapter 25, Jesus is teaching, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory". I love that phrase, we really have very limited information about Jesus in all of his glory. We know him as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger. I mean, they put him in a barn in a feed trough. We'll look at a verse in a moment, when the glory of our Lord is made visible, it will cause the sun to look diminished. Do you think about the Lord in his glory? With 10.000-times-10.000 angels. You know, we get wide-eyed because he could walk on the water. Folks, he made the water. Can you imagine seeing him in all his glory? And him calling you friend?
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he'll sit on his throne in heavenly glory. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he'll separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. And the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'"
I remember years ago, I don't remember the lesson, but I remember the title, "Avoid The Goat Line," that's just not the line you want to be in. And they're not gonna ask to see your WOC membership card, or if you are registered in our Children's Ministry so you can check in your kids. It'll have everything to do with the person of Jesus of Nazareth and your relationship with him, how you've conducted your life in relation to him. That appointment is before every one of us, the Scripture says that we all have two appointments: death, and after that, judgment, and you won't be able to send a substitute, you won't be able to blame another person. It won't be the President's fault, or your husband or your wife or the kids or your parents or your boss, we have those appointments.
There's a phrase that gets bantered around quite a bit these days, it's not new but it's kinda been reintroduced again, "You want to be on the right side of history". You know, history is a human construct, we write history. History is constantly being rewritten, we are watching it again. But the judge of all the earth will ultimately determine human history, it's not a mystery to him, he knows the ending at the beginning, he knows the precise moment when our Lord's gonna step back into time and that eastern sky will be lit up. And I wanna submit to you you want to think about this, you want to meditate on it, you want to live towards being on the right side of this history.
There's a whole bunch of metaphors in the New Testament, the sheep and the goats we just read, the broad gate that many will enter in and the narrow path that few will travel, that's the path you want. I'm telling you, if the majority of the people are moving in the same direction you're moving in, you have reason to be concerned. Your views and perspectives should not be shaped by the broad majority. Say, "Well all my friends are Christian". I doubt it, the statistics are wrong, half of our population can't be born again or we would be different. We wouldn't be sacrificing thousands of children a day if there were tens of millions of people born again in this nation, we wouldn't be tolerating the stuff we're watching. I'm not throwing stones, I'm asking you and me to consider our lives, what we have stood for, what we're standing for.
Now there's some things, there's two buckets and I don't have a lot of time and we're not gonna dwell on any of these long, but I put them in two buckets 'cause they're slightly different. One, I want to label inhibitors, these are things that will separate you from God's love. If you choose them and tolerate them and allow them to incubate, they will separate you from the love of God. Has nothing to do with God's will or intent, that's the nature. So the first group is gonna be a bit of higher significance, the second I'm gonna label distractions, they're a part of the journey, they come to all of us, but if you give them inappropriate attention, if you give them disproportionate attention, they'll become debilitating.
So these are inhibitors, they're self-inflicted, they're self-induced separation, and you don't want to give place to them. The first is rebellion, rebellion, and the seed of rebellion is in all of us. Adam gave birth to a race of rebels, that's the story of the book, and the new birth doesn't deliver you from that carnal instinct to rebel against God. How many of you know that's true? Few things are made more enticing than by saying, "Don't," "Whatever you do, don't look behind that door". Hebrews 3:16, "Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt"?
The people, the generation, that are held out to us is the greatest generation of rebels, the Exodus generation, are the generation that saw firsthand more dramatic evidence of the power of God perhaps than any generation in human history. They saw the plagues visited upon Egypt, they saw the Red Sea parted, they ate manna that they picked up off the ground, they drank water that came from the rock, they saw Moses on the mountain. I mean, they followed a pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, they had a consistent demonstration of the power of God and yet they chose to rebel. It should give us pause. We live in the midst of the greatest blessings of God that any generation of people have ever known, there's never been another generation with the freedoms and abundance and blessings that you and I have known. And we didn't cause them and we didn't earn them, we have benefited from them. And if that generation could rebel, I would submit to you we can rebel.
"With whom was he angry for 40 years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? To whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not those who disobeyed"? What's the evidence of rebellion? It's disobedience. If you tell me you're not a rebel, your life needs to be filled with evidence of your obedience. Any place you're willingly, willfully, intentionally practicing disobedience, you're in rebellion; not my opinion, it's biblical. "So we see that they weren't able to enter, because of their unbelief". Disobedience is fueled and multiplied unbelief. If you want your belief to grow stronger, start being obedient to the truth that you know. Listen to the language, it says they rebelled, they sinned, they disobeyed, unbelief. It's just, the words are startling. They heard, they were led out, they were angry, their bodies fell, they never enter his rest, they were unable to enter. I don't want to be in those categories.
So rebellion, you don't wanna tolerate it, do not tolerate it in your life. Secondly, self-righteousness, it's an inhibitor. In Ephesians 2, in verse 8, it says, "By grace you've been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. We're God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". Righteousness is kind of a fancy religious word, the ability to stand in the presence of God without fear, guilt or shame. You're going to stand in God's presence, you will, so it's really important to know how to do that in righteousness, no fear, no guilt and no shame. 'Cause you don't want to stay in there guilty, it will not turn out well.
So it is a very important question, how do I achieve righteousness? And there are two pathways, you can seek to establish your own. "I'll do it myself, me do it," and it means you're gonna keep all the rules for holiness and purity, according to God's principles, not your own or the current culture's, not politically correct rules, by God's standards. Now here's the challenge, you have to keep them perfectly, 'cause if you fail in one point you're guilty of the whole thing. None of us can do that, so the alternative is the gift of righteousness.
There's a third one I would tag for you and it's other gods, false gods, if you'd prefer. Exodus 20, he says, "I'm the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me". And there's a period right there, there's no more discussion, no other gods. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below". Most of us wouldn't imagine bowing before something carved from stone or wood or cast from metal, but God is also about authority and priority, and anything in our lives that we give a priority ahead of the lordship of Jesus is an idol. If it has a greater claim on our resources, our emotions, or whatever.
Well Jesus talked about your attitude towards your father or your mother or your brother or sister or your husband or wife, he said, "I have to come first". Say, "That's not easy". No kidding, you will have to do some battle with that part of you that's a rebel. Rebellion, self-righteousness, false gods, the fourth one would be evil. You know it's possible to love evil? Psalm 52, "You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He'll snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living". That's in the book of Psalms. We have to guard our hearts, folks. Don't practice deception, just don't do that, just don't give yourself to that, don't be tolerant of that, don't encourage that.
Now those four, I could've made an expanded list, but I think that's enough to give the Spirit of God a place to begin. Let's just touch these distractions. These come to our lives, all of our lives, but if you give them disproportionate attention, they'll become debilitating to you. Failure, failure is part of the journey, it is. You learn to walk by falling on your face a lot, and your parents video tape it and play it over and over and over again. It's cute, they call it learning. As you get older, we don't like to learn that way, you're gonna make some mistakes, you'll make some as a Christ follower. You'll have the enthusiasm and the exuberance of that youthful season in your journey, and then you'll have the caution that comes as you gain a few scars. And you'll need the help of the Holy Spirit to help you overcome the caution so that you don't retreat.
You know, physically, as we mature, we lose some of the benefits of our youthful physical skills, but spiritually, you become more valuable as you mature, your experience. And it's not about chronology, you can be an old person chronologically and be a baby in Christ or you can be a relatively young person and have some spiritual maturity. David had more spiritual maturity when he heard Goliath than anybody else in the whole Israelite Army.
Failure is a part of the journey. Inconsistency; Peter and James and John and the whole crew, but they weren't sloppy with their inconsistency, thinking, "Oh, you know, no big deal". I mean, they had a major fail when their friend needed them the most, they didn't do well, but you find them in short order standing before the same Sanhedrin that orchestrated Jesus's death and when they said, "Don't ever mention his name again," they said, "You do what you have to do, but we'll be back there tomorrow with the same message". They weren't sloppy with their inconsistency. I'm a little weary with the sloppiness with which we deal with our inconsistency, it should grieve us to the point that we say, "Never again". I believe in repentance and restoration and restitution; that's not an excuse for being casual.
Failure, inconsistency, sin, we're gonna struggle with sin. Hebrews 12:4, "In your struggle against sin, you haven't yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood". It doesn't say you're not gonna resist sin. Whose sin was Jesus resisting? Somebody else's. And you and I will struggle, not only because of our predisposition to sin, we will struggle because we live in a sin filled world. "That's not fair". Ta-dah, you're right, it's not, and it's a part of the struggle, it's why we have to be overcomers. So sin is both internal and external, don't capitulate. "Well it's difficult," yes, it is, "I get discouraged," yes, "I get weary in doing good". Seems like there's verses for all of this stuff, do you remember them?
Number four, we get discontent. Ah, it's a tool. We get discontent, a lack of contentment. "I don't like where I'm at, I thought I'd be further along, maybe have more victories, it's harder than I wish it were. Why am I still doing this"? 1 Timothy 6:6, "Godliness with contentment is great gain". Contentment brings great gain. You want to find a way to move down the path more quickly? Practice contentment, don't tolerate discontentment. Discontentment comes to you as an idea, as a point of displeasure, as a disappointment with the timeline or whatever it may be. "You're not welcome here, I'm not gonna meditate, I'm not gonna think about that, I'm not gonna give it a place. I will rejoice in where God has asked me to stand today". You don't sound convicted. Convinced is the word I was looking for.
Failure, inconsistency, sin, discontent, injustice, "It's not fair," bingo. Psalm 73, verse 2, "But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked". You're looking in the wrong place, wicked people are gonna have good things happen to them, stop watching, they're not the judge. "But it's not fair," you're right. I'm amused at people that talk about fairness and justice apart from the truth of God's Word. There's no such thing, human beings aren't just, have you read history? Disappointment. My working definition of disappointment is something that shows up on your calendar that you didn't put there, it's an appointment that rolls into your life that you didn't schedule, "I'm disappointed with this". They come to all of us. Say, "I don't like it," duly noted.
Now how do we move on? We read it, I think it was last week, where it says Joseph betrayed, he's falsely accused of inappropriate behavior and he's thrown into prison and the verse says, "And the hand of the Lord was upon him". Huh? I thought the hand of the Lord was on me when I got an award, when I run and don't get weary. Could the hand of the Lord be upon me when I'm under stress or in a pressure-filled circumstance? Disappointments, and finally, delay. My most persistent complaint with God is about his sense of timing. Right? I've grown a little more reluctant just to call him out, but I still complain about his calendar. Galatians 6, "Let's not become weary in doing good". If the Bible tells you not to grow weary, you can be certain of one thing, you get sick and tired of doing good. Right?
You know those little cards we play? Good, I've been a Christian today, pull it out in front of me, I hit you. "For at the proper time we reap a harvest if," you got a circle that little preposition, "If". You don't reap the harvest if you give up, you don't know how close you are to your harvest, don't give up. Say, "Well I'm tired," okay, but don't give up. How can I walk with you for a while? Can I cheer for you for a little bit? Can I tell you the difference you're making in my life or in the life of somebody else? But don't give up. How precious you are, how important you are in the equation of what God is doing, but don't give up. "But I'm tired," noted, but in your weariness is where strength is built. "La-di-da, I'm tired of getting stronger". Don't give up.
I want to pray with you before we go. I interact with a lot of people on a weekly basis and it seems like fear has settled upon us like a blanket. It didn't come from the Lord, and I don't intend for it to stay. So let's agree, together, that anxiety and fear will lift, in Jesus's name.
Father, I thank you for your people, for your Word and its authority in our lives, for the presence of your Spirit. And I thank you that through the blood of Jesus we have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy, so that fear and anxiety and uncertainty has to go, in Jesus's name, amen.