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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Jesus' Ascension, Help Arrives - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Ascension, Help Arrives - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Ascension, Help Arrives - Part 1
TOPICS: Holy Spirit

It's good to be with you again. We're talking about "Jesus's Ascension," but with that, him sending the Holy Spirit to us, we have help. Now, that's important information to have in the midst of this season. I love the beginning of a new year. I always enjoyed the beginning of a semester or a new project or even a new job, there was such promise in that. Well, with the beginning of a new calendar, it seems to me that God gives us a fresh start. We're not freed from our past, we'll take all of that experience and all those lessons learned and invest those in the opportunities of what's gonna unfold before us but we get to invite God into the midst of that.

And in this lesson, we're gonna talk about the help that we have in the person of the Holy Spirit. It's not up to my strength or my wisdom or my experience or my resources, Almighty God himself, his Spirit indwells us to help us. You're not alone. Even if you feel alone, your feelings are incomplete. You know, I'm grateful for feelings, they enrich our lives but they're lousy guides, they change with the weather or the mood or the way somebody looks at us. I would rather trust God's Word and learn to listen to his Spirit. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, and most of all, open your heart, I believe God has something for you today.

Godliness will not diminish your life, it will enhance it. It will not diminish your joy or your happiness or your pleasure or your opportunities, quite the opposite, honoring God with your life will take the ceiling off of your life. Ungodliness will limit you, it will limit your health, it will limit your fulfillment, it will limit your joy, it will limit your pleasure. I understand that's not the conventional wisdom talking points but it's the truth. And just one verse from Romans chapter 1, describing this it says, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen".

I think it'd be tough to find a one-verse description that's more accurate of contemporary American life, we've exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and we have worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. And I don't want you to imagine that the message today or our talk today to be about somebody else, this is for us. We're not pointing through the windows looking at other people. Oh, I don't want you to be angry or frustrated or resentful of others, I want us to acknowledge that the circumstance we find ourselves in has everything to do with the attitude and the heart of God's people, the church. Not a single congregation but the church, the church universal, we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

If we don't like the degree of deception and lies that we see prevalent, we have to become people of greater truth, that's our assignment. And then in Jeremiah chapter 2, in verse 11, written about 500 years before Jesus was born, he said, "'Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they're not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,' declares the Lord". "Has a nation ever changed its gods"? And the answer would be yes, we're not the first culture in history that has wandered off the path or that has gone into spiritual decline, that has experienced moral decay because we put our God perspective away. We decided it was inconvenient or inopportune or there was a better way.

We are certainly watching that happen all around us, we're a part of that narrative but we're not the first group of people that have this story. And God, through the prophet Jeremiah, was addressing the Jewish people, his covenant people, and he says, "Has a nation ever changed its gods"? You know, I know right now that there are a lot of voices in our own culture that would suggest we're not a Christian nation, we never have been. You really have to pervert our history to arrive at that conclusion.

Now, we've never been a uniquely Christian nation, but our nation was birthed out of and our founding documents, our legal systems, our educational systems were built upon a Judeo-Christian worldview. Because of that, we have been the most tolerant nation that the world has ever known, we welcome people from every nation, race, language and tribe, we are the ultimate melting pot. To be a citizen in this nation was not about a particular ethnicity or race or language, it wasn't about our height, it wasn't about the nation of our birth, we were bound together by a worldview, that biblical worldview. And because of that, there was a tolerance. You didn't have to be Christian, we've welcomed Buddhists and Muslims and Atheists and Agnostics and everything in between in the most unique way.

But for a few decades now, we have been gaining momentum in saying we don't want that Christian heritage. We don't want to honor that, we don't want to be reminded of that at Christmastime, we don't want that in the public square, we don't want the 10 commandments on the walls of our schools, we don't want our children praying in Jesus's name. I walk through the public schools and they have the walls covered with religious symbols from Ancient Egypt, but they don't want the religious stories from the Hebrew Bible, we've walked away from that heritage. So Jeremiah's words are appropriate for us, we have exchanged the truth of God, we're changing our gods. Don't be mad at somebody else, this is about us, the courage we'll have and the conviction we have.

You see, we've learned to play church just like dress up, we know what time we're supposed to be there and we know what time we need to park in order to get a seat that's acceptable, we know when to sit and stand. We prefer the tradition we know because we are less likely to embarrass ourselves, but the real joys of our lives and the passions of our lives are invested elsewhere. We've exchanged the truth for something else. And if we're gonna have a different future for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren, we'll have to be different, not someone else. We're walking through a very unusual time right now, we've exchanged trust for fear.

Have you noticed? It's pervasive, it's like a blanket that has settled upon us, COVID is the gift that just keeps on giving. And in my opinion, I'm not of our virologist, I grew up in a barn in Tennessee, but it seems to me that we've moved from a pandemic to something that's endemic. It's not just something that's overwhelmed us, COVID now is amongst us, and I don't believe it's gonna be banished from our presence or our future, I mean, unless God were to intervene sovereignly. Coronaviruses have been a part of our lives for a long time, we just have had a new one introduced and we've had to figure out what to do with that. But I don't believe it's going away, we're gonna have to learn to live through it and overcome it, we've done this before.

Fear has been introduced as an agent of control and manipulation, and I would submit to you that we're gonna have to formulate a response or else we will become perpetual puppets for those who describe fearsome things to us. They'll find something else when they're done with COVID. In Psalm 56, in verse 3, in Psalm 56, in verse 3, it says, "When I'm afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise". You see, the antidote for fear is not courage. I believe people do courageous things with fear bubbling inside of them. The antidote for fear is trust. When you capitulate to fear, you've put your trust in whatever deception is being handed to you. "When I'm afraid, I will put my trust in You".

COVID has exposed the church, our trust in God was very thin, marginal, we thought we could secure our futures and our health and our well-being. And when a voice spoke to us we huddled in place, when they told us to close our places of worship we said okay. I mean, it was a bit awkward, they didn't close Home Depot or the liquor stores and we looked at that and we thought, "Well, let's just not talk about it," whistle. But we had a little trust and we were vulnerable. In 2 Timothy chapter 1, in verse 7, it says, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, and of love and of self-discipline".

Some of the older translations, the King James and some of the others say, "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear," but timidity works, fear makes us timid. It said God hasn't given us a timid spirit, but a spirit of love and of power, and the last one's important, of self-discipline. It's gonna take a self-discipline for us to walk out of this season. I would submit that fear is a distraction, that in truth we have greater threats. You know, we can say now, we couldn't say this 18 months ago but we can say now with the experience we have that this virus emerged from a lab in China. There's really a little doubt about that any longer.

Now, the Chinese government didn't warn, it's okay, the Chinese government did not warn the world and they haven't cooperated with the global community in identifying the source or explaining any causes. It's important to understand that. They allowed a pathogen to be unleashed on the global community which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and they're preparing to host the Olympics. That seems absurd to me. But more absurd than that to me is the American companies that are very critical of our culture, critical of our behavior and are fully engaged in supporting the Chinese government, not the Chinese people, the Chinese government. Please don't send me a note and tell me I'm xenophobic, I have to learn to spell it. But I'm tired of those corporate lectures and their arrogance while they put profit above the well-being of our own people.

I don't want to mention names like "Nike" or "Apple" or the "NBA" or "Google" but it isn't appropriate. I'd like to focus on how Jesus prepared his friends when he was completing his assignment, at least his assignment in time. He hasn't stepped away from us, not with his attention, not with his power, not with his authority, but he isn't physically walking amongst us. In John chapter 16, in verse 6, Jesus is preparing his friends for his exit, his exit from time. He says, "Because I've said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth". You know that phrase by now, right? When you see it, you want to take hold of the arm rest 'cause he's about to tell you something that's going to stretch your imagination. "I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I'm going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you".

Now, we read that with kinda the casualness that we read so many things in scripture, but I would submit to you that the disciples left everything to follow Jesus. They left their businesses, they left their friends, their routines, their habits, their families, they have become peripheral to their culture. The power brokers don't like Jesus, which means they don't like his disciples. So they're in a very vulnerable place, nevertheless they signed up. "We left everything to follow you," that's their message to Jesus. And I promise you, when they negotiated that, at least in their thoughts, they didn't imagine it was a three-year commitment, that's not the nature of the agreement.

And now Jesus is looking at them and he said, "I'm leaving, and where I'm going you can't come". And he understands the stress of the moment because he says to them, "You're filled with grief". But then he says, "I tell you the truth: It is better for you". You think they believed him? No, about as much as I did my dad when he was spanking me, he told me it hurt him more than it did me. Well then, give me the belt, Big Fella, don't suffer on my account. I don't think they believed Jesus. He did not beat me with a belt, I don't want us to start any new rumors, not often. Then in verse 12, he said, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own: he'll speak only what he hears, and he'll tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you".

Jesus refers to the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, they're all synonymous terms in scripture, as a, "He". The Greek language is very clear, he wasn't referring to the Holy Spirit as an, "It," and if Jesus didn't, neither should we. He's the third person of the Godhead, and Jesus said, "It's better for you if I go away, because there's a lot you still need to learn and I'm out of time. I'm about to finish my assignment in time and there's a lot you need to learn, but you can't take anymore than that right now, you're emotionally full," and they were.

You know, emotional trauma can immobilize you, emotional pain and stress is just as a mobilizing as physical pain. It's why we have to learn to practice things like forgiveness, that's why you have to learn how to overcome rejection, that's why we have to know how to offload shame and guilt, because if you carry those things they neutralize you, they completely occupy your capacity for spiritual interaction. And Jesus said there's a lot you need to know, there's a lot you need to learn but right now you can't hear me, but when he comes, he will help you.

I have traveled a great deal, not in recent months but once upon a time, I've had the privilege of being other places in the world and I have learned something: that local knowledge is invaluable. I've done a number of tours, dozens of tours to Israel, and the one thing almost everybody says me, "I'd like to come without a tour". No, you wouldn't, I've done that. I lived in Jerusalem, my brothers and I went to school there, so I've been in Jerusalem as a permanent resident, or just on a temporary visa, without any help. I didn't know that on Friday afternoon, every restaurant and store closed and that if you didn't have food to eat you were gonna go hungry until sundown Saturday.

So I fasted my first Saturday in Jerusalem, wasn't intentional, I just didn't know the culture. I walked past all sorts of fascinating historical sites and I just thought they were old crumbling buildings or piles of rocks because nobody told me what they were. And I finally discovered, I could spend hours in the library sorting through the stacks and finding the pictures and cobbling together an understanding of the history. Or I could find somebody that knew the story and say, "Walk with me through the city streets," and they would say, "That's the Damascus Gate, and the gate right there below it, that was built by the Romans. This one was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, 16th century, but that's an actual Roman gate right down there". Or we'd walk around to the east side of the city and say, "That's the Golden Gate, it was sealed up by the Muslims and they put a graveyard in front of it because they knew an Orthodox Jewish person wouldn't walk through the graveyard and the prophet said that the Messiah was coming through the Golden Gate".

That's kinda fun, you're standing there and you start to hear the story, but if you don't have a guide that all goes right past you, it just looks like a hole in a brick wall. So when Jesus says to me that the Spirit of God is coming and he will guide me into all truth, I want to be his friend, I want to learn to listen, to understand his voice, to know how to cooperate. But he didn't stop there, he said, "He'll tell you what is yet to come," he'll pull back the curtain, you don't have to stumble in the dark. He said, "I'm not leaving you alone, I'm not leaving you as orphans. If I leave, I'm sending you a Helper". For the most part, we've been disinterested, we would rather have a theological debate about the person of the Holy Spirit than learn how to listen and cooperate with him.

I just want to be born again, I just want to go to heaven, I don't want to talk about that other stuff, that's what fanatics talk about, I'm not fanatical, don't try to drag me into that. You're just trying to make me be emotional. No, I'm just trying to encourage you to listen to Jesus. After all, we say we belong to him, we call him Lord. Now, Jesus began that introduction to his Spirit on the evening of his resurrection, he didn't waste any time. In John chapter 20, it says, "On the evening of that first day of the week," this is resurrection day, Sunday evening, "When the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews".

Why do they have the door's locked? Well, they crucified the boss, you'd feel a little vulnerable. If the guy that could walk on water and raise the dead got arrested and nailed to a cross, you might not feel too confident in your escape plan so they're locked up. And, "Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you! And after he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. And the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord". I think verse 20 might be just a tad a bit of an understatement.

Last time they saw him he was nailed on a Roman cross being tortured to death, and then the tomb was empty and they were clueless, they didn't understand. I know he told them but there's too much stress, they couldn't sort it out. And now he's standing in the room, showing them the signs of his Passion, and John says that they, "Were overjoyed when they saw the Lord". I don't know the vocabulary you would prefer, freaked out, out of their mind, beside themselves, overwhelmed, incapable of processing the information overload that was coming towards them, emotionally full, thrilled, it's a crazy moment. And, "Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

Very reminiscent of the creation narrative in Genesis, when God fashioned man from the dust of the ground and breathed and he became a living being. Could we agree that the disciples experienced the new birth? Would you admit them into fellowship in the church at that point? I would, the Spirit of God, as a Christ follower, takes up residence within you, a totally new creature. Got the same Earth suit, we still look the same, we have the same odor. And we're left with all those same carnal tendencies that come with our earth suit, those you're gonna have to be overcome, that's gonna require the self-discipline and learning to cooperate with the Spirit of God that is now resident within us. Because he doesn't reside in the temple any longer in the Holy of Holies, that curtain was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross. He's not dwelling any longer in a building built by human hands or a tabernacle, it isn't the sanctuary that's the holy place, you and I represent a holy place.

You wouldn't watch it in the sanctuary, probably shouldn't watch it someplace else. If you wouldn't say it here, you probably shouldn't say it there. Jesus, "Breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" That describes the new birth. If you've acknowledged Jesus as Lord of your life and repented of your sins, the Spirit of the living God dwells within you. Amazing, there's no other religious system in the world that suggests anything even roughly comparable to that, that the Spirit of the Almighty God himself dwells within his creation. That's how much he wants to help us. But Jesus didn't stop there, and I know we tend to stop there, I got my ticket punched him in then what else do I need?

Folks, we've got a journey to make, the purpose of the new birth is so that we can lead our lives in time for God's purposes the same way Jesus did. He's our Lord and our model, he left aside the glory of heaven and the privilege of heaven to put on an earth suit and walk amongst us to be rejected, mocked, mistreated, laughed at in spite of the supernatural things he did. And you and I are birthed into the kingdom of God so that we can spend our days for the purposes of the kingdom of God. The reason we have this almost inert, certainly weakened church in the midst of this cultural overload is we haven't really been awakened to the notion that we can live for the purposes of the kingdom of God. We wanted God to live for our purposes, or at least that's been my perspective. Jesus isn't done with them.

In Luke 24, he said, "He opened their minds so they could understand the scripture". And, "He told him, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.'" There's an intriguing change of position in those sentences. He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer," Christ and Messiah are equivalent, "And he'll rise from the dead on the third day". They've witnessed that, that part they have seen, they are eyewitnesses to it. And then he says, "And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem". Who's gonna do that? They are. Jesus said, "That crucifixion, burying and resurrection thing, I've done that". Now this messaging to the whole place, "I'm handing that to you".

I want to pray with you before we go. You know, one thing that's certain in the season that we're watching unfold around us is that the rate of change is accelerating, it's true with evil. Well, I believe it's true with God as well, I believe he's accomplishing things at a more rapid pace in a more significant way than any time in recent memory. I don't wanna be left out of that, I don't want you to be left out either. Let's invite God into this year and ask him for outcomes that exceed anything we could ask or imagine. You ready? Let's pray:

Father, thank you for what you're doing in the earth. I thank you that you haven't abandoned us, that, 'When the enemy comes in like a flood,' you'll, 'Raise up a standard against him.' And we want to invite you into the midst of our lives, let your purposes break forth, let your will break forth, let your abundance and your health and your strength and your peace fill our lives and bring a hope and a purpose to us in this year. In Jesus's name, amen.

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