Allen Jackson - Have We Forgotten God? - Part 1
It's good to be with you again. Our topic is, "Have We Forgotten God"? I don't know that we have forgotten God, but we've certainly relegated him to a secondary place, and it's gonna take a significant effort on our part, a determined effort on our part, to allow God to come back into the center of our lives, our schools, our hospitals, our classrooms, our corporate settings. We will not flourish as a people if we relegate our faith to a few minutes on the weekend in a particular location. Our faith has to be integrated into who we are, wherever we are, no matter what we're doing, or it's not a legitimate faith. Now, that challenge begins in the church. It's not about the ungodly or the immoral or the wicked or whomever you're angry at. It's about you and me bringing God back into the center of our lives. For too long, we've relegated him to a secondary place. But God is awakening us, and he's calling us to a new season of fruitfulness. I'm excited about it. I'm excited to make this journey with you today. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart.
We are absolutely in need of change. I have a question, though, about it, which of the current maladies that we're facing in our nation, and there's a whole laundry list of them, have been vastly improved by those that, this week, found the microphone to spew solutions to violence? See, to politicize a tragedy for a personal objective, for personal, political objective, feels inappropriate to me. So, I'd like to ask some follow-up questions. I really just want us to think because there's a lot of emotion in what's happening, and appropriately, there should be emotion in what's happening. But we need to think or we'll arrive in a place that is less suitable than where we currently are.
If the people providing solutions for us haven't been trusted to protect our free speech or if they can't be trustworthy in protecting our unborn children, 60 million of them, about 3.000 a day, if they can't be trusted to protect our right of peaceful assembly, but they lock our buildings and tell us we can't be together, if they can't be trusted to protect our borders from illegal immigrants, but talk to us as if we're not clever enough to understand that's not what's happening, if they can't be trusted to tell us the truth about our economic health, or lack thereof, if they can't be trusted to protect our energy independence, but make us dependent upon foreign sources of energy that are antagonistic to our well-being, then why is it we would trust them with our personal protection? This is the church and there's something I think we have to remember, there is a God. There is a God, and his headquarters are not in Washington DC.
Now, I'll tell you what I feel. I'm weary and sickened by the blatant, unrestrained violence. And I understand the tendency, "I want an immediate answer, something easily identified as the cause and a rapid solution". Let's microwave this rascal and fix it. But I'll tell you what I say to myself, stop being childish because that's a childish response. It's ignoring the facts and the reality of our lives that has been building for a long time. We arrived in this condition after years of ignoring God, and we're not going to find a better place over a holiday weekend, no matter how loudly we cry. There's some underlying things that have to be addressed, or we will find ourselves in a much deeper place with far fewer freedoms. Our families are broken within the church, as much as without.
We are decades into this problem and to be completely candid, it's going to take true courage, a courage that we haven't had to demonstrate yet to walk in a new direction, to talk about biblical family and biblical marriage, and the roles within that, the courage to submit ourselves to the authority of God and acting like it's just a suggestion, some sort of a divine prompt. When will we acknowledge that our failure to embrace God's perspective and how we lead our lives and interact with one another, is a contributor to what's happening around us and not the politicians we don't like? Our lawlessness has been growing steadily. We ignore the laws we don't like. We flaunt our open rebellion in a pursuit of selfish ambition. Then we feign surprise and dismay when someone ignores legal authority. "How could they do that"? And we've been cheering for it when people were doing it in a way that we approved of.
We defund our police, then continually assert that passive responses are preferred. I assure you, they understand how many eyes are on them and how many attorneys are standing at the door. Now, we're shocked when they're reluctant to respond to a crisis. I have the same attitude about the police that I do about teachers. They have a job to do, they need to do it. They need to be trained better, they need to be supported better, and then they need to be held accountable to do their jobs. If we're really honest about what we're facing, our schools have failed us. I'm not pointing at teachers. There's a whole system around that, and the parents are an integral part of that.
Until COVID, we weren't even paying enough attention to what was happening in the schools. We abdicated the training of our children to someone else. And now the teachers's unions are perturbed, annoyed, that parents would dare to suggest they should be involved in the education of their children. Keep suggesting it. The union wants to blame the parents. The parents are angry with the system, but the awkward truth is the education of children begins with family. And it's gonna have to be strengthened by faith and integrated with the larger culture. If the church steps away from that assignment and that voice and that truth, we weaken the circumstances around every child and every family. Our churches are weak. They're often co-opted by the spirit of the world.
We're far more comfortable with the spirit of the world than we are the Spirit of God. We get anxious when the Spirit of God moves amongst us. We understand the spirit of the world moving amongst us. Yielding to God on the authority of his Word, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus and his redemptive work, the direction and engagement of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, they're all necessary for our recovery. We won't recover without those things. The social component of our faith, it has to grow from a heart change. Otherwise, we're just a civic group, and we have really no moral authority beyond our purse strings.
Our message doesn't begin with our social engagement. Our message begins with find some expression in those places, and I pray it does. Thank you for the thousands of pounds of food you've donated in the last couple of weeks. It made a difference. But our moral authority comes from yielding to scripture and to God's, you know, an obedience in our personal lives, as difficult as that can be sometimes. Here's the truth, we're in troubled times. I don't know all that the future holds. Our wealth may fail. Our freedoms could very well continue to deteriorate. It may be that we have to watch ungodliness continue to be celebrated and righteousness to be mocked. The abundance that we have known from our grocery stores to our big-box stores, to our personal lives, it may very well continue to dwindle.
Safety and security may increasingly give way to violence in the lack of restraint. All of the trends suggest those statements should be anticipated. They're not negative. They're just an observation. I've been asking you to watch and listen, to think and act. And when I watch and listen, all of those things seem probable to me. But I assure you that God is still triumphant, that holiness does prevail over wickedness, that God expresses both mercy and justice in the earth. Sin will be punished. Righteousness will be exalted. So I would encourage you to humble yourself under the hand of God. In a more personal way, I'm concerned. I'm concerned by the toll of temptation upon the people of God. I spend my life predominantly amongst the people of God.
I'm not throwing stones, I'm concerned. I see a toll that it's taking. We have tolerated the camouflage of the world. We dream worldly dreams. We fill our children with worldly aspirations. We long for success as defined by the systems of this present order far more than we long for success as defined by a biblical perspective. I'll tell you how to check that in your heart. What are your ambitions for your children and your grandchildren? It's a great impact upon the people of God. I've had the privilege of serving in the midst of God's people for quite a while now, and I would like to offer a suggestion to begin to please quietly invite the Holy Spirit to reveal any place where you have tolerated compromise. Don't pencil somebody else's name in. Just begin to quietly say to the Holy Spirit, "If there's any place in my life, in my heart, in my beliefs, in my habits where I have tolerated compromise," allow the Lord to rebuke you.
Don't be offended. If he does it with a book, if he does it through a person, don't be offended. The follow-up questions to that are whose voice are you listening to? What is it you're striving for? I mean, really, what is it you're striving for? What is the outcome of the direction you're pursuing? See, the question to me is important. Have we forgotten God? Are we so convinced we're born again and saved and converted and we got our business taken care of that we've managed to relegate God to a secondary place? I'm driving this thing. Have we done enough Bible studies and we know enough Bible stories and you've endured enough sermons that you think, "You know, I'm good"? Really, this is our watch. We're the light bulb in the midst of this thing. How are we doing with that? We're the salt. We're the restraining influence. We're the expression of the Church of Jesus Christ in this particular season. Have we forgotten God?
Are you willing to let Jesus change the shape of your dream? Be careful. He's listening. I've found that some of the shapes he's asked me to be willing to allow to be changed aren't always comfortable or familiar. I complain. "Lord, I thought it would be easier, it wouldn't be so challenging, or I'd be happier about it or it'd be more fun". Well, in 2 Peter 3, this is very near the end of Peter's life. His great strength is diminished. I imagine that he had rather powerful shoulders and arms, hauling those nets out of the lake day after day. The brashness of his youth seems to have been tempered. He's a long way from that evening when he looked at the disciples, said, "Lord, I agree. These guys are a little questionable to me. They could very well abandon you, but not me". He's near the end of his life. In fact, he said, "I'm about to leave this tent of my body".
So you're getting some last-minute coaching from Peter. It's worth listening to. "The day of the Lord will come like a thief". It means you won't be as prepared as you'd like to be. You may have done some preparation. Most of you probably made some preparations for the opportunity of a thief encroaching upon your life, probably locked your car. How many of you locked your car at church? Only ten of you? How many of you locked your car at church? Everybody, you're at church. Go to church with a bunch of car thieves, apparently. You take a lot of precautions to limit the impact of a thief on your life from cybersecurity, to the security of your home, to your automobile, to your resources, to your children, to the things you care about. And Peter said, "The day of the Lord will come".
There's some things you can do to prepare so you're not caught off guard, so that it's not totally unexpected, but it will arrive at a time when it wasn't fully anticipated. Thieves don't make appointments. So I don't think you and I will ever understand with precision when the Lord's coming. I think it's the wrong question. I think it's not the best use of your time and energy. I think we can know the season that would be descriptive of a time when the Lord returns but beyond that, I want to be about the Lord's business because there's an unexpected component in the things that God has said you can't know. Why would you spend your time trying to know those? He said you can't know. "Well, I want to". Okay, here's a paci. "The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; and the elements will be destroyed by fire. The earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be"?
Here's the punch line, what kind of people ought we to be? This is Peter's coaching. I want to know. He walked with the Lord. He walked on the water with the Lord. "You ought to live holy and godly lives, looking forward to the day of God". Live holy and godly lives looking forward to a three-day weekend. Live holy and godly lives looking forward to your second home or whatever. And the three-day weekend's not evil, nor is a second home, but what is the ambition of your life? "You ought to live holy and godly lives, looking forward to the day of God and speed its coming". Did you know that what you and I choose to do with our journey through time either accelerates the coming of the Lord or delays it? I believe we'll give an account for that. "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt with heat".
What kind of people ought you to be? Certainly not a people who have forgotten God. The simplest way I know to say it, I think the challenge of scripture is that we have to lay down our lives. We have to lay down the privilege of self-determination. We say, "Lord, I will serve you. I serve at your pleasure. I'm not asking you to serve at my pleasure. I will serve at your pleasure". That's a different question than, "What do I have to do to be born again? How much of my Bible do I have to read? How much money do I really have to give? Is that Old Testament"? Do you think God pays less attention in the New? We have to lay down our lives. Luke chapter 9, Jesus is speaking, "He said to them all, 'if anyone would come after me'".
I love that because anyone can choose to come after Jesus, no matter of your sex, no matter of your education, no matter your IQ, no matter your bank account, no matter the color of your skin, your height, your weight. Anyone that chooses can come after Jesus. But he said, "He must," you need to circle must, "He must," it's not optional, "You must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me". Now, we know something from that. If it's something that requires daily attention, it means there is daily degradation. How many of you brushed your teeth today? How many of you did it just to be polite? You didn't really need it, just something your mother taught you to do and you're a rule follower and to honor your mother, you went ahead and brushed your teeth? But you know they didn't need them. Halitosis is not your enemy. It's something that requires daily attention is because there's degradation, you lose ground. It has to be brought back into alignment.
There's quite a few things on that list, I suspect. And Jesus said we have to deny ourself and take up our cross daily. That means myself is gonna get in front of God's invitation on a cotton-pickin' daily basis. And if I don't give attention to that, I won't follow Jesus, I'll follow myself, I'll follow my own selfish desires, my own carnal wants. "If anybody," he said, "you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 'What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him.'"
Folks, that has my attention. We spent decades in the church being ashamed. They told us to be quiet, and we said, "Sir, yes, sir". "Don't you pray in our schools". "Sir, yes, sir". "Don't bring your faith into this corporate setting". "Sir, yes, sir". But now the corporations want to bring their worldview into my world, no, sir. But the only way we got to this place is we spent so many decades being quiet. We were ashamed of our faith. Say, "I wasn't ashamed". Well, you were awfully quiet about it. We didn't put much on the line for it. "Anyone's ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels".
John 12, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth". You know by now that's an explosive phrase, right? He's about to tell you something that's gonna blow your mind. Say, "No, really, I'm telling you the truth on this. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life". I don't think it's about a visceral hatred for life. I think it's the recognition that our goal and our journey through time is not to wring all of the juice out of this present world's system.
There's some points we will concede that we will not give ourselves fully to the pursuit of pleasure or self-gratification. It's not that we're opposed to pleasure. God created us with the ability to enjoy things, emotionally, physically, in every way. God's not opposed to that, but the spirit of the world says that's all there is. You can't expect me to do something that makes me unhappy. "Yes, I can because I think God does". Well, we got a whole menu of country songs written around that. That'd be a fun sermon, another day, another day. "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life".
Have we forgotten God? Have we forgotten God and the dreams for the generations following us? Why have we been so timid? Why have we been so quiet? Why have we been so distracted? Some would say that there's no historical evidence that a culture can be transformed. Those that say it, don't know scripture. They would follow that up by saying, "Well, my individual choice is really unimportant". Again, it's an ignorance of scripture. We're not going to win this in an election or by a politician. It may get expressed that way, but the victory will come by a rather small group of people fully devoted to the Lord, yielding their hearts to the lordship of Jesus, willing to be obedient to him, no matter the cost. And the Creator of heaven and earth will take note of that and will move heaven and earth on behalf of those people.
Now, I'm asking you if you would consider becoming one of them. That's more than credentials of church. That's a life laid down. That's denying ourselves and taking up that cross daily and daily saying, "I'll follow the Lord today". That's more than a family gathering. That's a family gathering where you talk about the lordship of Jesus and godliness and ungodliness. Why should we ask the politicians to talk about it if we won't talk about it in our gatherings? I would disagree with those statements. You see, our own national history resonates with the courage of generations of men and women who have made enormous sacrifices so that we might enjoy the freedom and liberty which define us today. You know, we want to pretend that our economic well-being is the obvious choice for first priority in our lives. Everybody knows that in politics, you vote your wallets. Well, I'd like to publicly thank God that there have been many, many, many other people who've had more courage than to vote their wallet first.
Let's close this session by telling the Lord we're willing to daily follow him. We understand it's not a once-in-a-lifetime decision, but one we'll make every day.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you took the cross for us and that through that, we have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy. And we choose today to say yes to you, to follow you in your truth this day, and we trust you to help us tomorrow. In Jesus's name, amen.