Allen Jackson - Growing Our Faith - Part 1
This particular session is entitled, "Growing Our Faith". If you missed Wednesday night, it's worth the time to listen. It's a companion piece to this, and tomorrow's session we'll take it yet another step further. But it is against the backdrop of what we're watching in our world. Our faith is not lived in a theoretical environment. You know, one time I was invited to work on a PhD in Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, and I started the process, and I got into it a bit, and I realized that the further I went with my academics, the more narrow the arena I was allowed to study.
And I remember walking out of the library late one night, and I'd spent several weeks working on a paper and a presentation, and the topic was so narrow there weren't probably 50 people within 100-mile radius that I could have a discussion about what I'd just spent two weeks researching. And it didn't make me smart, it just meant I knew a whole lot about very little. You know, the academic system, right? You learn more and more about less and less, so that you know everything about nothing and then they make you a PhD. And if you're a PhD, I acknowledge the incredible amount of work you put in, and I apologize. They referred to the church as my little church project, and I really, as I was walking through that, I understood the Lord was asking me to be in the midst of his people, not separate from them.
And so my understanding of our Bible and our faith is it has to be lived in the midst of the canvas of our lives. It's not a theoretical discussion. The church, I don't believe the church does well when it's political. In fact, it has always managed to veer into the ditch in some really destructive ways when the church becomes an ally of a political party or a candidate. That's not my goal. It's not my intent. But I think we have to live with an awareness of the world around us, or our faith is purely theoretical. If John the Baptist had had only a theoretical faith, he would've never wound up in prison or been bothered by Herod, and so we have rather conveniently constructed these divisions that allow us not to let the reality of our lives be impeded by what we say we believe.
And I'm very concerned about a Christian church that doesn't allow their faith to be engaged in the world in which they live, and how we do business, and how we select leaders, and who provides education for our children, and what's taught in those schools. And we can't separate that, we can't compartmentalize our lives and imagine that Jesus is Lord. So, this notion of growing our faith, it feels relevant to me this week. Uncertainty is in the air again. Do you feel that? I certainly do. That same kind of uncertainty, there's not enough information, there's significant angst, it feels like there's a threat and we can't exactly tell how eminent it is. I felt this way a little over two years ago when we first heard about COVID.
For the most part today, we can say COVID has been overcome, hallelujah. The masks have been put away, and the mandates are yielding to more reasonable accommodations, but there's a new threat, and there's a new source of disruption, and a new source of angst, we understand that as Ukraine. And I'm not diminishing that, I believe it's real, but as a tool of disruption, it feels a little bit to me like COVID 2.0. Global tragedy which creates an opportunity for change to be introduced. Now, I'm an advocate for change, I'm a change agent. I've given my life to introducing change, but it's change within a defined set of objectives that I will clearly identify as being derived from the Word of God.
There were changes introduced through COVID that we're not clearly identified, they were just implemented. And it feels like another tragedy has been seized upon. We have limited information, there's significant intolerance of opposing views, there's an orthodox response, how you should think about the people involved, and what should be done. Authoritarianism is being strengthened even more. As hateful as what has happened, as evil as it is, the suspension of due process to confiscate the assets of Russian citizens around the world is a frightening precedent to put in place. We have lived by a rule of law and due process, so authoritarianism is being strengthened, due process diminished, let alone considering or acknowledging the will of the people. We've been buying hundreds of millions of barrels of Russian oil when we had the ability to be energy independent. It's a stressful season.
There's a set of words that have made their way into our consciousness in the last couple of years, and I think they need to be at least pushed onto the table for your own awareness and reflection. Wokeism, we've learned about that, and that's not just the absence of sleep anymore. Equity not equality, but equity, misinformation, that typically means I don't agree with you, that what you're saying is wrong. Corporate stakeholders, we've known about corporate shareholders, we understand that premise, but corporate stakeholders is a more far-reaching power grab. If corporations think they have the power to dictate public and social policy, we have a burgeoning problem.
We understand corporation's job is to make money, that's acknowledged, they have a bottom line, it's monitored in all sorts of ways, but if they're gonna set social, and public, and ideological policies based on what set of standards, they're a bit inconsistent Coca-Cola, an Atlanta-based company, was really stressed about Georgia's voting laws. Lots of public and policy statements, but they didn't have any hesitancy to go to the Olympics in China as a support for us. Again, I'm not adverse to Coca-Cola, I'm suggesting that corporate boardrooms are not the place to set our social policy. We've learned about systemic problems, existential threats, we've been introduced ideological intimidation at a whole new level. You get canceled, stricken from the arena of public discussion. It's bullying in its basest forms.
And all that's happening right around us in the midst of crisis, real crisis, life-threatening crisis, life-disrupting, family-threatening. We've all been touched by COVID and the tragedy that it represents, now there's a new tragedy on the human stage and it's not finished, and it brings our faith back into question. And if I had to look for a single sentence or a short response, I believe what has to reemerge is a biblical worldview. And by that, your worldview is the filter through which you interpret what you watch. Don't spend too much time on the internet. You'll be so confused. You won't know if Vladimir Putin is the mayor of Laverne or the president of Russia. I know when we're in trouble, 'cause you start stopping me in the lobbies with crazy theories, stop. Spend more time praying than you do on the internet trying to discern the international components.
Ten, 15 minutes a day, you'll get the update. They don't have that much new information. They don't let that much new information out. They didn't show us what happened in Afghanistan. Thousands of our own people and allies were left behind. They didn't show us pictures of that. You believe they're showing you everything you need to know now? Stop it, pray. But a biblical worldview, your worldview is how you see the world. It's the value set, it's the interpretive principle, it's your foundation. What should happen in the schools, how business should be conducted. And our nation was founded, our legal system, our constitution, our founding documents, and the best things that have happened to us as a people have come from a biblical worldview.
The opportunities that came to women, far before feminism was ever a thing, our biblical worldview pushed women to a place of opportunity that was not reflected globally by other cultures. Didn't happen perfectly and completely, but it happened. Child labor laws, when the the manufacturing revolution began, children were used in deplorable ways, and our worldview didn't fix it in the way that you would celebrate today, but our worldview that the children were image bearers of God helped us intervene and bring a dignity and protection to the children. The civil rights movement of the '60s, that changed the way we've lived our lives for the decades since, was built upon the authority of Scripture.
Dr. King's vision that was celebrated so eloquently in the "I Have A Dream" speech in D.C. was built upon the authority of Scripture, not some idea in his heart, a biblical worldview. He said if you gave your word, you kept it, and if you broke your word, you should be disrespected. You didn't misspeak, you misled. We did business on a handshake, how quaint. We had a biblical view of family and a biblical view of marriage, how quaint. We have forfeited or set aside our biblical worldview. You can call it a Judeo-Christian worldview, because it comes from both the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. It's not dependent upon just one. It has to be understood again. We'll have to decide if we will live by it. And if you ask me for an assignment for the church in the 21st century, it's centered in the person of Jesus, but the talking points have to do with how do you see the world?
Tell me how you understand it. What's of first importance to you? Because we've lost our way, church. We're barely distinguishable from the secularist amongst us, and there's this self-righteousness amongst the ungodly that I have not seen in a long, long time. And the language is being manipulated, you know, most of the antisemitism in the world, and there has been a tremendous amount of antisemitism, hatred of the Jewish people, long before the Nazis picked it up. The Nazis could pick it up because it was in the DNA of Europe already. You see it in Shakespeare's writings. You see it in the Spanish Inquisition, 15th century. The Jews were driven out of Spain. You see it in the pro pogroms of Russia, often fanned into flame, and fury, and violence by the Orthodox Church. The point of ignition for most of the antisemitism was the lie of Jewish privilege. They've had too much opportunity.
There are manipulative, they're controlling. And again, the spark that would allow the hatred and the violence to be expressed against the Jewish people was so base. You can have what they have, to go take it, you have a right to it. We see the same ideologies bringing division, and hatred, and separation. It's not a new strategy, and it's being embraced widely by the church, not just against the Jewish people, but against any group of us that they wanna segment, or separate, or create angst against, or isolate, it's ungodly. The church has separated, we've lost our sense of a worldview, who we are, what we believe, and why. We identify ourselves by the sign in front of the building, what nonsense. A laminated tag from W.O.C. won't do a bit of good when you step into eternity, nor will your affiliation with any other tradition, Pentecostal, Independent, inter-denominational, non-denominational, Methodist, Baptist, or Catholic. They're not gonna take roll call by the group you joined.
Have I offended everybody equally? I'm workin' on it. I wanna spread it around, and I don't want to leave anybody out. A biblical worldview, 'cause it's important, 'cause we're gonna talk a lot over these next few weeks about what we can do amongst ourselves and our community to bolster, to reintroduce, to ignite, to tell people to began to reconstruct a biblical way of understanding the world and not be ashamed of it, not apologize for it, not step away from it. There's room for a great deal of diversity within that, how we take communion, what kind of music we prefer, what the presenter at the front of the room wears, what the podium's made out of, the architecture of the building. You could have opinion around all of those things around your faith, but don't imagine they're primary, because when the time gets really bad, we learned we'll stand outside in the rain to worship Jesus.
So, let's start with this notion, I think it's safe to say we're continuing in a crisis, but there is a resolution, and I don't want you to miss that. If you fail to look at the crisis, you know, it's the old "Gone With the Wind" syndrome, I'll think about it tomorrow. I'll just deal with it tomorrow. And the churches, we've been kicking the can down the street. If our kids can get in the tournament, if we can go on our vacation, if we can do whatever it is, we just won't look at the larger issues. We'll have to acknowledge it, or we can't get better. It's like being afraid to go to the doctor. That's not a good position. There's a crisis, but there is a resolution. I think the crisis is really rooted in the fact that truth has been diminished.
Isaiah 59, we've looked at it before, verse 14. "Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance, and truth has stumbled in the streets. Honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey, and the Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice". This is Isaiah, some 500 years before Jesus. The problem we have is not a new one. We're not the first generation to fall into this place. There's a tendency amongst us, and I say that, I say amongst evangelicals, I think particularly in our nation, that when there's a crisis, whether it's a personal crisis, or an economic crisis, or a global crisis, our kinda default position is it's the end of the world. It's gotta be the end of the age, and we get out our eschatology books again, and our charts, and we start dusting them off, you know, what's gonna happen first, and are you pre, post, or mid? You know, where do you fit?
And I'm okay with that, it's a part of the presentation of Scripture, and I think an awareness of that is good. Peter said we shouldn't ignore the prophets, but the prophets had a lot to say about things other than just the return of the Lord, and I think from time to time, the rush to the end of the age is detrimental. The real challenge is how do we serve the Lord now? I want out of here on the first load up, I'm not fighting to tribulate. On the other hand, I intend to be about his business until he comes for me. I'm not delaying, because I think I'm near the end and I can just kinda run out the clock, and I'm not looking for a cave.
How much food are you going to stockpile if there's hungry people? We're coming, and we're not telling you, we'll find you. Happened every year on the Israel tours. Best fruits and vegetables in the world are in Israel. I'll tell the tours at every year and every year. There's somebody wouldn't believe me, and they'd take a whole carry-on bag filled with snacks. They wouldn't tell any of us 'til about day three, and the food is good. They start getting on the bus in the mornings with lots of snacks for everybody. The food had been awful, all we'd known was they smelled like Ding Dongs and chocolate every day, and they wouldn't have shared with us. How'd I get there? Truth diminished, fallen in the streets, the end of the age, that's what I was doing. Maybe we're just witnessing something different.
And I'm not saying that we're not moving closer to the end of the age, but what if we're just witnesses to patterns of the end, the beginning of those birth pains? And they will increase in their intensity, in their frequency, but rather than look for Tuesday, let's see how we can win the day, and win the week, and make an impact for the kingdom this year. Maybe it should form an urgency in us and not a withdrawal from the arena. It certainly seems to me that truth is not celebrated in the public square. That manipulation and disinformation are more frequent than I've ever seen them in the world where we're living our lives. In my car one day this week, I heard the news report that said the Russian government was not allowing the media to report the truth to the people, and my first thought was that's awful, and as a child or a young person, that's the way I understood the Soviet Union to be.
They wouldn't allow a free flow of information to the people. Was it TASS that used to be their news agency? And then I thought, but we've learned to live with that. The tech elites, or whoever else it is that decides what information we should have and shouldn't have is far more, it's uncomfortable, we'd rather not talk about it, so we watch the channels that we like. That's another discussion. So, what's the solution? Well, when the truth stumbles an introduction is needed. When the truth is fallen in the street, we have to reintroduce the truth. And where do we begin with that? Well, it's not too complicated, it's John 14 in verse 6. Jesus said, "I'm the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me".
That's the fundamental that has to be re entered in the equation. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Your life will be better with Jesus than without him. Talk to me about Jesus in your life. How do you know him? How do you interact with him? What space does he occupy? Where is he in the hierarchy of priorities in your life? Who establishes the values that you hold? From what are they derived? With whom do you discuss them? Whose approval are you striving for? How are you evaluating your success or your failure? What is the framework through which you are looking at that?
Now, I know we're in church, and the right answer is Jesus, and you can build all the answers out of that, but in the honesty of your life, Jesus said, "I'm the way, the truth, and the life". The defining criteria of our life has to do with our relationship with Jesus and his engagement with us in every aspect of our lives. And the reason our culture is devoid of truth is the church has been woefully apart from the truth, amen? So, I want to take a few minutes and walk with you through kind of a, just a general discussion about the Christian faith and what it would look like for us to grow in our faith. What would that look like for you and me to gain some new momentum? I'm not recruiting, I'm not asking you to serve on a team, or a project, I don't have capital campaign cards taped under your chairs. I'm not above it, I just didn't do it today. But in my opinion, it's at least an informed opinion.
For decades, the church has been distracting and weakened by our affluence and our ease. We've had so much that Jesus didn't really have to be front and center until we got to a desperate place, a health crisis, a family crisis, some sort of external thing. But apart from that, we would look around us and go, "You know, we got this". Either through political power, or hard work, or education, or fame, something. Our affluence and ease have been so...I visit places in the world where they have no imagination. I go places where ice cream is a novelty they seldom, if ever, experience. Where electricity is not a part of their routine. We take so much for granted. Comfort and convenience had been at the forefront of our faith experience.
Go read the common titles in a Christian bookstore or browse them online for a bit. Most of our titles are about how to get God to do what we want him to do. How to get more of what we want. Now, I'm not opposed to the blessings of God, but our faith has to be less of my personal demands upon God and more about sacrifice and perseverance. Jesus said you cannot be my disciple unless you take up your cross daily and follow me, and he wasn't talking about little decorative jewelry in your ear lobes. You gotta put the death, that old carnal part of you, every day, Jesus said. It's time for us to change. Us, not them, us. If God's people will get our hearts right, God will move heaven and earth.
Heavenly Father, I pray you'll give us a boldness and wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. How to speak the truth in a way that it opens people's hearts and doesn't close their minds. I thank you for your presence in our lives and for your confidence in us to put us in this place in history, in Jesus's name, amen.