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Allen Jackson - Going Home


Allen Jackson - Going Home

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "Going Home". You know, the revelation that Jesus brought us is of God our Father, and he's in the restoration business. So much of our faith life is about God restoring us to places that he intends us to be. That takes his power and his ability. It's more than just our responses to him, but it's a wonderful invitation that no matter where in our lives we may have gotten off course or brokenness has touched our hearts or our plans, that our God is in the business of restoration. He knows how to help us get home. Hope you grab your Bible, most of all a notepad, and open your heart. I believe God has an invitation for you today.

The topic for this session is "Going Home". I felt a little bit of a liberty today. We've had I don't know how many services this week. We've had several, but I felt like the Lord gave me the liberty for a bit of a different perspective. So with your patience, we'll walk through this. The fundamental idea is that God's in the restoration business. That is the story of this book from the opening chapters 'til the conclusion. In fact, we don't know a great deal about the conclusion. We kind of know how we get there, but the best parts it seemed to me we only have some brief glimpses of. But the whole story of Scripture, if you'll allow me, in one sense is a homecoming story. God is restoring us to what he intended us to be, and we managed to fumble that a bit. The representation that Jesus brought to us is of God as our Father, and he intends us to be at home in his kingdom.

That's such a wonderful concept. We make our faith pretty complicated sometimes. We act as if it's an intrusion or a burden, or it's gonna take something from us, but the Creator of heaven and earth presides over a kingdom, and even though we're a part of his creation, he would like us to be an eternal part of that kingdom, and he has made provision so that we might have that privilege. That's the story of this book. God doesn't really need anything from us. We don't offer anything that would enhance his position. And there's no explanation, but the Scripture makes this very unique and most marvelous assertion that God loves us. He knows the things about us that we pray nobody ever finds out, and he loves us. That's a remarkable thing.

Now, I'm aware that, you know, our world has changed. I don't know the extent to which you have realized that or you're processing that. You may be preferring not to look at that just yet, but our world has changed. The change was introduced to us through a pandemic, but I believe really behind all of that and the nonsense that's gone around it, far beyond a virus, I believe God is at work. But what I am most aware of is a need on my own behalf of a new perspective on stability, to understand God's provision in a new way, and to understand how to follow his guidance, because I believe what is before us is unlike anything we've walked through before. The world we look at and the world we're experiencing is increasingly tumultuous. It's confusing.

The rate of change and the rate of things we are watching is unprecedented. It's disorienting. Trusted institutions and previous sources of stability are deteriorating around us on a daily basis, and I believe that will continue. In fact, I think that will increase. But through all of that, Almighty God is watching over us. And it may have been, you know, not too long ago that we were able to go to church as a matter of routine or habit or form and not think a great deal about it, and we could kind of get our God business done and think we had eternity settled, but we didn't really have to give much attention to that because there were other things we were ambitious for. But I believe right now one of the most valuable things you and I can do is learn to listen to God, to recognize his voice, to submit to his Word, to honor the lordship of Jesus in our lives, to cultivate a respect and a reverence for God in a new way. And that's the point of this particular exercise.

I want to start with God's intent in Genesis chapter 1 and verse 1. That's very near the beginning of the book. In fact, it's the beginning verse and the concluding verse of the creation narrative. It says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". And then his conclusion was, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day". When we get to the end of creation, it says, God created the heavens and the earth. I hope you believe that. I started my academic career, my college career in the sciences, the basic sciences, and there's a lot of competing ideas about the world and how it got here and what's going on. They're all theories. You can't follow the science on that because the video, we lost it. And I would submit to you that if you will accept that statement that the Bible opens with, the rest of the Bible will make sense to you, but that if you reject God as the Creator, the rest of the Bible is nonsense.

You know, I don't care if he did it with a big bang. It's okay with me. I think there probably was a big bang. But again, God's the Creator of heaven and earth. And when he got done, his commentary on it was that it was very good. There was nothing wrong with it. No failure, nothing incomplete, nothing inadequate, no need for restoration because it was very good. And then we intervened, God bless us. We can mess up a good circumstance, can't we? We could all put our name right in that blank and tell stories about that all day long. But God's intent is that his creation be very good. You need to know that about him. He doesn't want to diminish you. He doesn't want to lessen you. One of the greatest lies that has ever flourished, and it has flourished and it's flourishing on planet Earth right now, is that to yield your life to God will somehow take something from you. It's a lie from the pit of hell. God will make your life better in any way you will yield to him.

Now, the balance of this is gonna be a series of snapshots of individuals making their way home from different vantage points, different perspectives, different life experiences, and I hope that you'll find yourself in one or more of these places. Maybe some of them you'll say, "I have been there, and I can tell a restoration story from there". Some of them, there may be somebody you care deeply about today and they're in one of those places, and I pray that it will give you the faith to believe God for restoration in their life. For some of us, you may say, "That's where I am today," but our God is restoring humanity. Don't be afraid of him. Don't stand at a distance from him. Don't be reluctant to yield to him. I don't want you to be more religious. I'm not tryin' to encourage you to be at church more frequently. You come to church as frequently as you think there's a benefit to you. Risky stuff right there, preacher. We should start with our first homecoming snapshot in Luke's narrative.

In Luke chapter 2, and verse 4, it says, "Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and the line of David". Joseph had to go home. He had to go home to register. It was an authoritarian mandate. It wasn't his idea. Mary was great with child. They weren't traveling that year, until Caesar decided they were, and they went home. And it seems to me that Christmas has a great deal to do with going home, doesn't it? We gather with family, we gather with friends, there's a sense of reunion around it, there's a sense of tradition around it, there's a sense of remembering around it. I suspect you have traditions or habits or Christmas memories, whether they're reenacted each year or they're just something that you treasure.

There are senses of places where you have celebrated good things, meaningful things to you, times you felt love, or you were able to express love, or there was some good thing that came to your life. And Joseph made his way home, and our Christmas story began as a result of that homecoming. Again, God bringing something out of that disaster, out of the despair, out of the discomfort, out of the inconvenience. The purposes of God broke forth. Don't imagine that out of discomfort and inconvenience that God will step away. Following God is not easy. Being God's people is not easy. The Jewish people, his covenant people, if you know just the slightest bit of their history, it's not an easy story, and it's not just because of the people who have hated them with a spiritual motivation.

Sometimes it's been because of the stubbornness and hardness of their own hearts. See, God loves us too much to allow us self-destructive behavior. He disciplines his kids. So when there's difficulty and hardship, you need to be able to listen and stop and turn your face to the Lord enough to say, "You know, what would be the possible source of this? Is there a realignment needed on my part? Is there of course correction needed on my part? Is it an expression of evil to interrupt"? And whatever, there's a God-sized blessing on the other side of that if we'll be invite God into the equation. But this whole Christmas story begins, and our Christmas experience is with this notion of going home, so we're gonna continue to work on that. Have you ever been to Egypt? I don't mean the nation state we know today.

In Matthew chapter 2, in verse 13, it's a part of Jesus's story. It says, "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up and take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.' So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt". Last time Joseph had a dream, the angel said, "That pregnant woman you were supposed to marry, you need to marry her". Now he's got another dream that says, "You need to grab that woman and that baby and you need to go to Egypt". "After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph". Boy, that boy didn't sleep good. He said, "Get up, and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead".

Now, I know that that was fulfilling prophecies, and I understand there's support for it in the text, but it's one of those chapters or one of those portions of Scripture that honestly I don't understand. The same God that could make seeing eyes blind when it was necessary, or blind eyes see, or that could turn the sun back, or could part the Red Sea, I'm quite confident there could have been an angelic contingent that could have protected Mary and Joseph. I don't know why God said, "You have to go to Egypt". I don't know why sometimes in our lives it feels as if we're in retreat or we're certainly being repositioned.

You know, my preference would always be go forward boldly, loudly, triumphantly. I mean, I've won and I've lost, and winning's more fun. I don't understand, but I know God directed him to go there, and he met all the needs they had while they were there. And then when the time was right, he brought them back from Egypt and took them to Nazareth where Jesus grew up to fulfill another portion of the Scripture. And I believe that if you're in one of those seasons where you've been redirected, and it felt like a retreat or a relinquishment or an abandonment, it didn't reflect the kind of boldness or triumph that you would've preferred, I believe God can be in the midst of that just as certainly as he was with Mary and Joseph and Jesus.

May I ask you another question? Have you ever fed the pigs? Now, this is Tennessee. A lot of us probably have slopped the hogs. If you don't know what that means, bless your heart. You think bacon comes from the grocery store? Well, in Luke 15, Jesus is telling a parable. I suspect you know it. It's the parable of an arrogant young man, a young man who demanded his inheritance. And his father inexplicably gave it to him, and the young man left and went far enough away that he wasn't under any authority or influence from home, and he spent everything that had been entrusted to him in ungodly ways. Just in indulgent living, carnality. You know, you can be a person of covenant and be carnal and indulgent and frivolous and forfeit a great deal.

Now, that's exactly what this young man did. We get to the end of the story. Some of you will remember. It's Luke 15, and verse 17. He says, "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!' So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; and he ran to his son, and he threw his arms around him and he kissed him". The young man didn't come to his senses when he took the first step over the line. He didn't come to his senses when he took the second or the third step. He didn't even come to his senses when his resources began to diminish.

He didn't even wake up when the first friend began to withdraw because he couldn't afford to support them in the lifestyle that which they had grown accustomed. He didn't even come to his senses when he was flat broke. He still didn't wake up when he had to go look for work at the hands of a Gentile. About the lowest possible job a young Jewish man could have would be to feed the pigs. He had to be at the very end of his resources and out of all the relationships that he thought were so important to his wellbeing and be in the most humiliating position he could be in. Then Luke simply makes this statement, "Well, he came to his senses".

May I ask you another question? Have you ever needed to fish? Not, I didn't ask if you want to go fishing. In Matthew 17, it's another Jesus story. They've come to Jesus, and they said he needs to pay his temple taxes. And it's not a day when they're cash flush, and so Peter comes and says, "You know, we need some cash," and Jesus gives him an assignment. He said, "So that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. And take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you'll find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours". Now, I wouldn't suggest that if you owe the IRS that you write them a note and say, "I'm going fishing".

Remember, the big picture story of this is these little snapshots of the God of restoration. Sometimes we're in desperate places because of our choices, and sometimes we need a voice of intervention on our behalf. Sometimes God would ask us to be a voice of intervention. And sometimes God's restoration has to do with material things and physical things. I think one of the great lessons of this season is God is giving us an opportunity to reorient our trust, to learn to trust him for our future, to learn that he is our security. We're watching one institution after another that I thought was unassailable and unshakeable seem to be crumbling before our very eyes.

Sources of information or truth that we thought were trustworthy and that we could count upon no matter what happened, and we're watching enough inconsistent messaging come from them. There's a whole array of them that security and trustworthiness don't seem to be what they looked like just a couple of years ago. And I believe God is inviting us into a season to learn that he is our security, that he can secure our future. I've been inviting you to think about that in every aspect of your life, with your health, not to avoid the medical community. Do you believe in God or medicine? Yes. Take every advantage of both. Do you believe in the value of hard work or God's provision? Absolutely. If you don't work, the Bible says you're worse than an infidel. I don't care if you're being paid not to work. Work has value. There's a dignity in it. God works.

When we meet God in the first chapter of the Bible, he's workin' a six-day week. May I ask you another question? You ever been to a cave? I don't mean spelunking. One of the greatest victories in all the Bible is when the Prophet Elijah called fire out of heaven on command. Imagine that. Imagine if you could call lightning strikes as to time and location. You'd be popular at parties, I think. Well, Elijah did that. It was a call to an entire nation to repent. And on one side was Elijah and on one side was everybody else. That's a really difficult day, and it wasn't just a momentary thing.

Elijah had been standing in that point for years against the wickedness of the king and those supporting him. And on that particular day on Mount Carmel, the altars are built, and he prays, and the fire falls. And Elijah executes the false prophets, the prophets of Baal, but the king isn't repentant. In spite of that display of the power of God, the king isn't repentant. It's a mistake to think that everybody will repent when God's power is made evident. It's a mistake to think that you will. You wanna begin to practice a repentant, tender heart from the place you are today. You learn to repent. You cultivate repentance. Cultivate the humility of saying to the Lord, "I'm sorry".

Remember, we're workin' on survival skills for seasons of disruption and chaos, and we want to be good repenters. We want to be quick to say, "Lord, you know, I'm sorry. I've been a little casual with you. I've been a little indifferent. I've been ambivalent. Been a little arrogant. I've imagined all my God business was locked up. I didn't really have to think about you anymore. I've thought a whole lot more about what I wanted to do with my free time or my free resources". Elijah calls the nation to repentance, and there's a tremendous victory and the people respond to the invitation from God. But the queen says, "I'm gonna kill him. I will kill him".

And Elijah runs for his life, and he runs a long way. He goes in the opposite direction of where the palace is, and he finds himself in the desert in a cave, exhausted. And that's where we step into your notes. It says, "He went into a cave and he spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' And he replied, 'I've been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.'" As if God didn't know. Who sent the fire? You know, when you get tired, yeah, "I've been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I'm the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me too".

Elijah's done. He's exhausted emotionally, physically. "I'm done". He said, "I'm the only one left". Some of you know the end of the story. God says, "Not so much. I've got 7.000 more. You just don't know them". He doesn't reprimand him. He doesn't challenge him. In fact, God sent angels on more than one occasion to defeat him while he was running, but he gave him a message. Do you remember the message? He said, "Elijah, I need you to go back 'cause I've got a successor for you I need you to anoint". And if you know the story of Scripture, Elisha will do twice as many miracles as Elijah did. "And then I want you to anoint the king that's gonna replace that wicked one that's in charge right now".

So Elijah leaves the cave with the name of a successor and the name of a king that will replace the wicked one. You ever been there? Tired and exhausted and feel defeated, as if you have pushed against darkness or ungodliness or wickedness? Or have you stood in a place for a long time and it doesn't seem to have been resolved or yielded, and you're at the end of yourself? I want you to know God's the one responsible for the future. He creates the outcomes. We don't. We can't change a heart. We can't heal. Our best day, we can't heal a gnat's wing. We don't bring physical healing. It's not in our authority that unclean spirits are changed or their directions or their authority is broken over our lives.

All of those things are beyond us. We are the vessels. And if we recognize that our physical selves, we grow tired, and emotionally we grow weak, but God restores and renews and replenishes. And if you're in a cave, you're not a failure. You've got God stories that you can tell, and they've taken your strength. Serving the Lord is not easy. Who told that lie?

I want to pray with you before we go. You know, God doesn't abandon his people. No matter what besets our lives, even if it's God-initiated, even if it's God's judgment, he does not abandon us in those places. He gives us a way back to restoration. That's the point of the cross, that Jesus exhausted the curse of our sin that we might receive the fullness of his obedience. Let's pray together:

Father, I thank you that you love us, that no matter our circumstances, no matter the challenges, no matter the choices we've made, that if we will come in humility and repent, that you will bring restoration and renewal to our lives. We trust you for this day and in this year. In Jesus's name, amen.

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