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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Growing Our Faith - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Growing Our Faith - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Growing Our Faith - Part 2
TOPICS: Spiritual Growth, Faith

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. We could tell that story over, and over, and over, it's the truth. Personal salvation has been the primary goal. Our discussions have been centered in how it can be achieved. What, if anything, could imperil our position of sanctification? And we've got rather elaborate theological systems that say if you get the beginning right, you're good to go. What a dangerous idea. I don't want you to live in fear of your salvation, but I don't want you to imagine that it doesn't need your attention. We've given little attention or effort to biblical concepts like holiness, and my Bible says without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

So with that in mind, I want to hand you, I think there's seven pairs, and I can't take long with them, 'cause there's something else I want to do, but I wanna kinda walk with you through this notion of your faith and how you understand it. I want to give you contrasting perspectives. Maybe you imagine this is for your reflection later. Maybe on a scale of one to ten, where would you fit on a scale between these two extremes? I've given you some Scripture verses, I can't read them all, we don't have time. But it seems to me that where I'd begin is there's a group of people that have a generic Christianity. They haven't declared themselves Buddhist, or Muslim, or agnostic, and then they'll go to a church for a wedding or a funeral, or be involved in maybe a holiday celebration, it's just kind of a generic Christianity.

You haven't declared yourself something else, so since we live in a nation that has had a predominantly biblical worldview, you get colored with a Christian brush. And we're not really offended by that, unless somebody gets too personal with it. On the other end of that spectrum is an intentional faith. It's an on-purpose faith. You know who Jesus is and you've chosen him as Lord of your life. You see, that has implications. If you say Jesus is Lord and you don't serve him as Lord, you're either deceived or dishonest. He's not just Lord when you sit in church, he's Lord over everything you do and everywhere you go. And there will be an accounting for that, that's not my threat, it's a promise. It's intended to bring a reward with it. And if you're not living in such a way that you're looking forward to the reward, then you need to amend it, thus the sense of an evaluation. It's for you to evaluate, not for me.

Matthew 7, "Jesus is speaking, and he said, Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven". He's got my attention. Well, who gets to enter, people with shoes? Who gets to enter, people that can run a seven-minute mile? People with a three-digit IQ? Who gets to enter? I want to know, it's important to me. And please don't sit there with some smug attitude that says I said a prayer. If you're calling him Lord, the implication is you've been introduced. We've done something very damaging. We have bread presumption in our midst. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from me.'"

I'm not suggesting we earn our way, or we work our way in, I am suggesting that the lordship of Jesus in your life is reflected in how you live. Generic and intentional, there's gonna be some overlap in these word pairs. They're not all unique or separate. The second I would introduce is about the practice of sin versus the struggle with sin. We live in a sin-filled world, sin and the struggle of sin are a part of our journey through time. No one is free of that. Our Lord himself was tempted, yet without sin. The rest of us can't make that mark. But the challenge of sin is universal, and it's nonsense to pretend it's not. But there's a difference in the struggle of sin and the practice of sin. The capitulation to sin, to sin becoming your routine. And by sin, something that God has identified as not helpful for his people, it's destructive. It's not my list or yours, you open your Bible, you sort it out.

There's enough clarity in there for you to work that out. I trust the Holy Spirit in you. As you grow and mature, he'll change your definitions. What's acceptable for a brand new Christian is not acceptable for someone more mature, so you have to guard your own hearts. The difference in the practice of sin and the struggle of sin. Hebrews 12 and verse 3, "Consider him," speaking of Jesus, "Who endured such opposition from sinful men, that you will not grow weary and lose heart in your struggle against sin". It's intriguing that the struggle with sin is not just internal, we live in a world where sin exists in a part of our journey through times. That means that we have an external struggle with sin. The sinfulness in other people causes us to struggle. It's wearisome, it's tiring.

We'd rather abandon the arena and be ungodly and meet them on their turf. I mean, I don't have to go much further than the interstate to let that roll out of me. Romans 7, "I find this law at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner to the law of sin at work within my members". That's the Apostle Paul. Again, where are you on that spectrum with the struggle of sin versus the practice of sin? You can't practice sin. Well, I'm a pretty good person. That's not the standard. I'm kind, not the standard.

Here's the third pair, carnal and spiritual. There's several words used in the New Testament, carnal, worldly, fleshly, of this present world system. When you're born again, your spirit is made alive, made new, you become a new creature in Christ. But you're still in your earth suit, and it is hardwired for ungodliness. We don't have to be coached to be dishonest, we know how to do that by ourselves. We don't have to be coached on selfishness, all of those things are built into us. And we will feed one and starve the other, and the outcome will be evident in the fruit of our lives.

Colossians 3 and verse 2, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things". Whether the pathway to which of those, whether it's your carnal self or your spiritual self, is going to gain the ascendency has everything to do with what you give your thoughts to. What do you give your thoughts to? "Set your mind on things above". You can sit in church and be very carnal, or you can sit in some secular place and be very spiritually oriented, and it really has little to do with spiritual gifts, and biblical knowledge, or professions. You can be a pastor and be very carnal. You can pour concrete and be very spiritual. It has very little to do with your profession.

Romans 8 verse 5, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their mind set on one that nature desires. But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires". Carnal or spiritual. You spend more time with your fantasy leagues than you do with your thoughts and ambitions for the kingdom of God and the purposes of God? And if you don't like fantasy leagues, don't sit up straighter. We all know the points of vulnerability in our lives. It's worth reflecting on. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. The fourth group has to do with a different categorization, immature and mature, and this has very little to do with birthdays or chronology. You could have been born again for 30 years and still be an infant, or you could have been born again for two or three years and have gained a great deal of maturity.

First Corinthians 3, "Brothers, I couldn't address you as spiritual but as worldly, mere infants in Christ". He's writing to a church, and he calls them dear brothers, so they're clearly under the umbrella, and he said I would like to write to you as mature brothers, but I can't, you're infants in Christ. How offended would we be? Well, "I gave you milk, not solid food. For you weren't yet ready for it. Indeed, you're still not ready. You are still worldly". You can be worldly and been goin' to church for 30 years. Do we know more about this present world system than we do the kingdom of God? If we do, by definition you're worldly.

"Well, I don't agree". Well, okay, Ephesians 4 talks about preparing God's people, "For works of service, so that the body of Christ can be built up until we reach unity in the faith, becoming mature, and will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and the cunning craftiness of men". If we're adrift by manipulation and deception, it's because we're not grounded well enough. What have we been talking about for two years? How to get our foundations in place, because we were knocked off our moorings. We have struggled to get our habits of faith back. They were so fragile, they were anchored to times, and places, and specific groups.

Let me introduce a bit more uncomfortable word pair, apostate, fallen away, versus orthodox, or within the understood tradition or teaching of Christianity. This is not a new thing. Christianity didn't start with the United States. It didn't start in Cane Creek, Kentucky, or with the Wesley brothers. It didn't begin with Luther or Calvin. It didn't begin in Rome. The story of our faith begins in the opening chapters of Genesis, so that the values that we hold and the worldview we're advocating for is not about whim. God is not evolving in how he thinks about human beings. Thou shalt not is not up for review at his annual convention in heaven.

Now, I understand that it's popular these days for our religious bodies and organizations to review all of these things. Jesus told us It would happen. He said, "You'll be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you'll be hated by all nations because of me. And at that time, many will turn away from the faith". He told us that many would turn away. In 2 Thessalonians, he said the Lord won't return unless the apostasy comes first. They're not gonna reject Christianity, they'll sit in religious buildings, and have religious services, and carry religious books, but they won't yield to its authority. It's happening on a daily basis. I get a report from some significant block of Christianity almost on a weekly basis that has rejected some orthodox perspective on Scripture. I don't mean some subtle point about the frequency of communion, but about how we define marriage. We're struggling with this, and we're struggling around us with it because we've been struggling within us.

Where are you? Are you willing to allow the Word of God to inform your faith? Jesus said there'll be persecution, and executions, and much hatred, and the outcome of that is he said there'll be widespread betrayal, and there'll be many false prophets. You know why there's false prophets? Because it's profitable. Two words, there are false prophets because the P-R-O-F-I-T is significant, not just in dollars and cents, but in public support, and affirmation, and welcome. Jeremiah stood for the most part alone, and there were dozens, and dozens, and dozens of other voices, saying, "Oh, don't listen to him, he's always in a bad mood He's just grumpy".

Apostate and orthodox. There's another pairing, deceived and aware. When you're deceived, you believe something to be true that is not. It's not that you're not sincere, it's not that you don't have great passion. In 1 Timothy 4 it says, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times, some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits". Jesus warned us in Matthew 24, repeatedly, multiple times, "Watch out that no one deceives you". He's warning Peter, and James, and John, his closest friends. They've spent three years with them, he says watch out. I think it's safe to say, just from a casual observation, that deception is widespread today. A biblical worldview, a framework for understanding our world.

Now, there's one last category I gave you, overlookers and overcomers. Where are you on this scale? Revelation 21, that is very near the end of the book. It's about time for the banquets and the awards, it's a good place. There'll be no more crying, and no more tears, and no more death, because the old order of things will have passed away. And the Lord said to write this down, for I'm making all things new. You'll want to be there for that. But listen to who will be gathered. "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he'll be my son". It requires us to overcome evil, not accommodate it, not to relabel it, not to conveniently deny it, not to accept the deception they hand you when you know it isn't true. You don't have to be angry, you don't have to be condemning, but you don't want to be a part of the support for evil.

Use your voice. Don't advocate for it, don't defend it. We have to overcome, and how do you overcome evil? With good, we have to help one another with this. If somebody you care about is struggling with evil, tell them, "I love you too much to cheer for you while you do that, please stop". Well, they won't like that. They may not, but they'll love you for it if they repent. We wouldn't be cautioned in Revelation 21 that overcoming was necessary if there weren't going to be something to overcome.

Every one of the seven churches at the beginning of Revelation is told to overcome. They have to overcome unique things and different things. It's not one consistent thing. Overcoming is a part of the Christian journey. You'll overcome the places where evil encroaches on your life. Things that are unfair and unjust that come to you, will you capitulate to hatred and unforgiveness? Will you allow them to freeze you at one point in your development because you're angry with God or you're resentful of what he's done, or can we overcome? Sometimes evil intrudes because we have invited it in, and we participate in ungodliness, or wickedness, or deception, or immorality, or whatever it may be, and there's a ready audience of people who will never let you forget.

And you'll have to determine that the blood of Jesus is sufficient, that we can repent of our sins and then resist the devil. And you have to resist the devil. He's an accuser. And you'll have to resist his temptations that he puts before you, and you'll have to resist the accusations that he levels against you. You have to overcome it. We've all failed, it's a broken lot, read 1 Corinthians chapter 1. God recruited from the slow group. It says we weren't noble, or we just didn't come from the... we weren't the people that others would have selected, and God took us and said watch what I can do with this group. It's for his glory.

That's the living Bible, the last part of Romans, I mean 1 Corinthians chapter 1. It's the power of the cross in us. That's our story. It's the good news we have to share with the people around us. He'll do it for you as well. And where did we come up with all this nonsense? "Well, I don't like to talk to people about my faith," really? Are we really going to see the Lord and have him extend a hand with the nail print in it, and we're gonna look at him and go, "Well, you know, I just never was comfortable with those spiritual conversations".

I don't think you wanna do that. If we will deal with the Lord honestly, you don't need my opinion, you can take that little list and walk with it, live with it, pray about it, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He'll convict you. Any place where the Holy Spirit gives you a discomfort with an attitude, a behavior, or a habit, it's because he wants to open a door of freedom. Do you understand the difference between conviction and condemnation? The Holy Spirit convicts you. He'll make you uncomfortable with something you've said, something you've done, something you're doing. You understand the response to that.

If you will repent and then you resist the devil, you can be free. Free of anger, resentment, hatred, a habit, whatever. Condemnation says you're a failure, and you always fail, and you're always gonna fail, and who do you think you're fooling? The author of condemnation is Satan himself, and you don't have to yield to that. We're gonna work for the next several weeks on how we can help our faith become more a larger part of our lives, but it begins by becoming a larger part of us. You can't give away what you don't have, amen? Hallelujah, I didn't finish our outline, but I am finished, so let's stand. We'll say a prayer. I'd like to say a prayer for you.

Father, I thank you for your word, for its truth, and power, and authority, and I thank you for those of us that can be together for this session. Lord, I trust you have gathered us uniquely and prepared us. If there's anything in us that separates us from your best, help us to see it. If we have accommodated, or looked away, or been reluctant to acknowledge the uncomfortable, whatever it may be, Father, I pray that you will give us the courage and the boldness, the discernment to choose you, but we need your help. We are weak, and frail, and easily distracted, but we need your help.

Father, I thank you for your Spirit within us, who leads, and guides, and directs, and convicts, and I thank you that you will put our feet on a path that will bring new strength to us, new boldness to us, a new future before us. Lord, you have blessed us in so many, many ways, and we thank you for it tonight. Lord, we want to give you glory, and honor, and praise that you've called us out of darkness into the kingdom of your Son. That you've made provision. That we could be justified, and sanctified, and made righteous. Now we ask you to help us to live in such a way that you are pleased with us. We thank you for what you will do, and that we will see the gospel of Jesus Christ lifted high in this community, and in our region, and in this nation, and throughout the nations of the world. Lord, may we participate with what you're doing, in Jesus's name, amen.

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