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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Lead A Life of Significance - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Lead A Life of Significance - Part 1


Allen Jackson - Lead A Life of Significance - Part 1
TOPICS: Significance

In this session, I wanna talk a bit about this notion of "Leading a Life of Significance". Don't spend your life chasing the same things that the secularists chase. If your life agenda and your life objectives are not distinguishable from the people who are not Christians, you need to seriously consider the life you're leading and what is it that you think makes you Christian. It's so easy, the messaging that just cascades over us from, just, almost an infinite number of sources. It washes over us every day. It's like standing beneath a waterfall.

You know, it pushes us away from the things of God and the values of the kingdom of God, not always blatantly, not always in, just, evil ways or immoral ways but subtle prompts to not pay attention, to not value, to not invest in, to not consider the kingdom of God. I hear it. I hear it in the aspiration of parents for their children. There are very little distinguishment between the Christians and the non-Christians. I read marketing reports that say you market to the Christian community in the identical way you market to the secular community. "Leading a Life of Significance," a life that's pleasing to the Lord, you will see him one day, and you wanna hear him say, "Well done". You don't want him to grind his teeth when you're approaching, and it's not one of those exams that you could just cram for the night before.

I've been known to adopt that practice, and it might get me through the examination okay, but it didn't really help me master the material, and you wanna yield yourself to the lordship of Jesus Christ and a stable world that seemed less urgent to us, but we're not living in a stable world any longer, and there's an urgency within me to say to the body of Christ it's time to turn our attention to the Lord in a new way. I'm not suggesting that what you have done in the past was wrong or wicked or evil. I'm simply saying that it's a new time, and there's a new response that I believe is more helpful. I've been askin' you for weeks and weeks, months, really, now to watch and to listen, to think, and to be ready to act. I don't know how it feels to you right now. to me, and this is just my personal perspective, it feels like uncertainty is in the air again. No, it's springtime in Tennessee.

We saw Angus a moment ago. They're the opposite season. They're going into the winter there, but this week kind of reminded us of spring. Didn't it? The air was a little warmer. The daffodils are up. You can kind of feel it in the breeze. You can smell it if you just had a little bit of time outdoors. Well, I have that same sense that uncertainty is in the air again. We met it in a very abrupt way, a little over two years ago, with COVID. We started to hear about a virus from China, and it was a little uncertain, but the air was filled with that uncertainty. Well, thankfully, COVID, for the most part, has been overcome. I mean, it's still amongst us, but it's more endemic now, thank God. Thank God for the hard work of the medical community and all the people that did their part. The masks have been put away, and the mandates are yielding to more reasonable accommodations, thank God, but there's new uncertainty.

This time it's centered in Russia and Ukraine. In my mind, I've kind of labeled it COVID 2.0. COVID was real. There should be no misunderstanding about that. Had a devastating impact, but the messaging, the agendas, the things that happened around COVID extended way beyond good science. It wasn't clear. It wasn't easy to navigate. We just knew it was an uncertain time, and we didn't have enough information, and the information we often got was inconsistent. Well, now we have Russia and Ukraine. It's another global tragedy that it seems, to me, is creating an opportunity for change. Again, it's not that the warfare isn't real and the suffering of the Ukrainian people isn't real. It's just not easy to understand and interpret. You know, there are some people that say, "We should just study our Bibles. We should just be quiet and study our Bibles".

Well, I'm an advocate for Bible study. I've given my life to studying my Bible, but our theology is never intended to be lived in a theoretical vacuum where we withdraw from the world and have our Bible studies and a naivete that the rest of our life is where we go live when we're done studying our Bible. That's not Christianity. That kind of a segmented life is not Christianity. I'm not advocating for parties or candidates or positions. I'm advocating for a biblical perspective on what's happening in our world. John the Baptist would've fulfilled his entire life if he hadn't got involved in current events. I mean, he prattled on about the king, and it cost him dearly, and I'm certain he was prudent enough to understand the threat of what he was doing. So please don't imagine that our heroes in Scripture weren't engaged in what was happening. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would've never gotten in the furnace if their faith hadn't intruded into the public square.

Daniel would've never met the lions in the lion's den if he'd have kept his faith out of the public square. I'm not asking you to become zealots for parties or candidates. I'm asking you to watch and let your faith influence the world we live in. It's important for the church to be the church. And what we're watching unfold in Russia and Ukraine is not easy. We have limited information. There's a significant intolerance for opposing views, views that don't represent the Orthodox response, and it's not easy to understand and interpret. The big rocks, we can see with some clarity in the same way we understood the virus was devastating. We're seeing authoritarianism strengthened again, another strengthening of authoritarian expressions. Due process is being limited, and I don't just mean in Ukraine. We've built our lives and our societies on the rule of law, and an important part of that is due process.

What Russia is doing is inexcusable. It's evil, but confiscating the assets of the Russian people on a global scale without any due process is a very slippery slope. It's very similar to putting the Japanese in our United States in internment camps in World War II, with no due process. Simply by affiliation with a people group that was causing global pain, they were punished. That's not lost on the rest of the world. The friendship between China and Russia, watching that process, diminishes American authority and the greatest asset of the United States is not our military. It's the strength of our economy, and if the dollar is trashed because it can't be trusted, it's beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say, where you're praying for Ukraine, we need to be praying against the lack of truth, the manipulation, the authoritarianism.

I saw something this weekend. It's almost unimaginable. It's inexplicable, but we're not watching. We just don't think. It's like the West has gone crazy, the decisions to throw out all the ties to Russia. They further escalate the risk to global war. The New York Metropolitan Opera this week, the New York Met, fired a Russian soprano because she had ties to Putin. It's not easily understood. We've paid Russia unimaginable amounts of money to purchase millions of barrels of oil from them while we've limited our own oil production, and then we vilify them when we bankrolled much of the initiative. It's not an easy time to see, and we need to understand who we are and what we believe.

There's some words that have been introduced to our lives, and they're more than words. They are systems of understanding the world that are changing us rapidly, and most of them have gained momentum since we've met COVID, things like "wokeism" and "equity," not "equality," but "equity," "misinformation," others labeling what you believe, "misinformation," therefore, you don't have a right to express your opinion in the public square. Corporate "stakeholders". I know about corporate "shareholders" that those that have invested in a corporation, they have a responsibility then, but corporate "stakeholders" has caused our corporations to have the attitude that they should be authorities on social and moral issues.

Now, it's okay if they wanna advocate for a social or moral issue, but we shouldn't ever be confused their objective is their bottom line, and they're using social and moral issues as a smokescreen, a subterfuge. They are going to make their bottom line work, or they shut down, and if you watch very carefully, you will watch the inconsistency. They become tools for manipulation, and you have to ask why Coca-Cola was upset, punitive with the state of Georgia around their voting laws. The Coca-Cola Corporation. I'm not anti-Coca-Cola. I prefer it to Pepsi, honestly, but they didn't have any corporate problem of being a primary sponsor of the Olympic Games in Beijing, in China. There's a tremendous inconsistency in that.

American companies are bailing on Russia at the moment in a surprising speed with Apple, Mercedes-Benz, BP. I mean, the list goes on and on, all wrapped up in this notion of corporate stakeholders. They're gonna dictate morals to us. How about if they practice morals in their boardrooms? We've heard about systemic problems, problems that are so ingrained within us and amongst us. We've heard about existential threat. That seems like to be the favorite label. Ideological intimidation has reached a crescendo that we haven't seen in many decades. It's given expression. We've labeled it the "cancel culture," but it's ideological bullying: "If I don't like what you say, I'll just shut you down". We've built the strength of our experiment in self-government. An important part of that has been the right to free speech and to express our opinions in the public square.

I wanna start in Luke chapter 2. We have an assignment, and it's so fundamental, it's so simple, it's easy to overlook. We have a message that God has entrusted to us. I wanna go back. It's the Christmas narrative. You know it from Christmas, but it works in March or July or September. "There were shepherds living out on the fields nearby," that's nearby Bethlehem, "keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified". Didn't happen to 'em very often. "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.'" "Good news of great joy for all people". If we're gonna talk about a biblical worldview, here's a cornerstone: It's "good news of great joy for all people".

It's better than a global-winning lottery ticket because it has value beyond time. It will change your eternity. And I'm gonna suggest to you that we have been a bit too reluctant to share the good news. A lot of reasons for that. We're gonna try to deconstruct that a little bit before we're done, but we have not been the advocates for the good news that we might've been. We've either been distracted or disinterested or intimidated or something. We didn't wanna force our opinion on anyone else. We don't wanna seem too zealous for the church where we worship. People say that to me sometimes. You know, I was tellin' somebody about our church, but I didn't wanna go too far. I didn't want him to think I was, like, goofy. I was tellin' him how much I enjoyed your sermons, but I didn't want him to think I was, like, "weird".

You know, if you like the Titans, I mean, like, if you're all in on the Titans, you don't care if people that like the Jaguars think you're goofy. If you like the Titans, you're probably a Derrick Henry fan, and when you're talkin' about the fact that he could run through a concrete block wall and not slow down, you don't go, "Oh, well, you know, I don't wanna be goofy". You're just expressing an opinion, but when it comes to our faith, we lose our courage and our boldness. It just evaporates. "Good news of great joy for all people". Look at Revelation chapter 5, in verse 9. It's a scene in the throne room of God. Says, "They sang a new song: 'You're worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, every language, every people, and every nation', and you've made them to be a kingdom and priest".

The message we have is the first global initiative. It's gonna include people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. Revelation 7, "I looked, and before me was a great multitude. No one could count them, from every nation, tribe, people, language, standing before and in front of the Lamb". "Good news for all people". Let me get this snapshot of the end of the age when time has come to a close, and it's been fulfilled. I wanna participate in that. How about you? People said to me, "Oh, you know, if I just knew what God wanted me to do, Pastor, I would do whatever it is. I would do whatever. It wouldn't matter if I just knew". I got a clue: "Good news for all people". Do you know any people? Anybody here knows a people? About 10% of you. What about the rest of you? You live in a cave? Sheltered in place too long, huh? Don't know any people anymore. If you know people and you haven't told them the good news, it's gonna be awkward. It's gonna be awkward.

Folks, I have done this. I have been embarrassed of my faith, as a Christ follower, baptized in the Spirit, Bible reading. I've done it as a professional Christian. I grew up in this community, and I had some reticence to share my faith. I mean, I wanted to be identified as a Christian. I just didn't wanna be one of "those". You know, my parents were a little over the top. They had a Bible study in their home. They prayed for strangers. I thought, "You know, I just want enough faith to go to heaven," and I kind of lived that way. There have been some markers in my life. I shared one earlier, but I went to Riverdale High School, and we graduated at Murphy Center, and I had a little assignment on the platform. I was the last person in my class to file out of graduation. I'm watching everybody file out.

First time in my life I ever heard the Spirit of God say something to me personally. I was standing behind that podium at Murphy Center, watchin' all those, my friends, and I heard the Lord say to me, "You say you're a Christian"? I thought there's like some "attaboy" comin'. I said, "Yeah, yes, I do". He said, "You've known many of these people for four years, and some of them for six and for eight, and you've never one time made any attempt to tell them what you believe". That's all he said to me. At that point in my life, you couldn't make me cry. I had some goofy ideas about what it meant to be tough. I had my nose broken and my eye cut and my teeth knocked out, and I'd spit blood at you and grin. I was stupid. When that stuff happens, it hurts. You cry. But at that point in my life, I wouldn't do that, and on that platform that night, standin' there, tears began to run down my face because I knew I was guilty, and it led to some changes in my life, but it still wasn't easy.

I came back to this community go to work for the church, and church didn't look like it does today. When I came back, we were in a rented room, sitting on rented chairs, and we couldn't even afford the rent for the room. The only reason we were able to use it was the benevolence of a businessman that had known my parents. There was a handful of us, and we made a big step forward. We bought 28 acres, and most of it was a cotton field, and we put up a tent on the edge of the cotton field, and we had church. I'd gone away to college. I was back after a few years, and I'd meet my classmates or my friends from the community. They'd say, "What are you doin', Allen"? And I'd go, "I'm... What're you doin' now"?

I was an expert at deflection. I didn't wanna tell them that I filled a horse trough with water and took a garden sprinkler and came out and watered the grass in the sanctuary where we were worshiping. We built a building, but we paid for that first building as we could afford to. We bought two-by-fours, ten at a time. I'd go pick 'em out at the lumberyard.

I was in Vanderbilt, goin' through graduate school, and we had a study group at the church, and they walked in, and it was unfinished, no carpet, no walls. We walked in, and they said, "Where does your church meet"? And I said, "Here," and they laughed. They said, "No, really, where does your church meet"? It didn't feel funny to me, and I had to overcome that. I remember the day in my office when the Lord began to convict me, and I got down on my knees and said, "Lord, I am sorry". And I got up in front of the church and said, "I have been wrong". I had one level of boldness when I was in a safe place and a whole nother kind of boldness when I was in general public.

Folks, a biblical worldview isn't something you leave in the building when the worship service is over, and if your worldview isn't biblical, we understand as you bring it with you to worship. You can mutter, "Jesus," at the appropriate points to fill in the blanks, but we're not honoring him with our lives. "Good news for all people, and it's gonna bring great joy". Now, what we need to know is that what we're watching is not new. The deterioration or the drift amongst God's people is not a new thing. It's as old as the story of God's people. Read the book of Exodus. They had a hard time holding the idea.

For decades, the church, at least in our culture, has been distracted and weakened by our affluence and ease. I believe that we've had so much, we didn't really have to depend upon God unless we were in a crisis, unless there was a medical emergency or some physical crisis or some relational crisis or circumstances turned against us, and then we would turn to God with great diligence, but in the general outworking of our lives, we didn't have to depend upon God. We had education and opportunities, and we could work and be diligent and overcome, and that has weakened our faith. Comfort and convenience have been at the forefront of our faith experience.

If you don't believe it, just take a simple review of the top 50 books in Christian literature, more titles directed at how to get God to do what you want, how to be happier, more fulfilled with your kids or your marriage or your business or something. We've lived our lives trying to get God to bless us. We've had a diminished attention on things like sacrifice and perseverance which are very much a part of the discipleship journey. We were willing for other people to do that or to frame our sacrifice in terms of getting what we wanted. Well, I would submit to you that it's time for change, that God has begun to shake us and try to awaken us and to call us to a different perspective.

Personal salvation has been our primary goal. That's been the primary message amongst evangelicalism, and I'm not opposed to that. I believe in being born again or saved or converted, whatever you use for that initiation point into the kingdom of God, but that's been our primary message, and beyond that, it seems that we would talk about, occasionally, about how that could be put in peril if that were possible, but that was kind of the limit of our discussion or our focus or our conversation points. We've given very little attention or effort to holiness or to righteousness. We thought righteousness was a gift, and we didn't really talk about what it meant to lead a righteous life.

Well, God has given us an opportunity to realign our priorities, and what the outcome of that will be, to be completely candid with you, is not clear to me yet. I don't know. I know that what happens in the world will be determined by the choices that are made in the hearts of God's people. It's been that way for a long, long time. It's not the power centers. It's not the U.N. It's not the CDC or the WHO or Washington or Wall Street. What happens in the hearts of God's people will determine what comes to us next.

Now, that brings, to me, a sense of urgency. It means I'm willing to climb beyond just a convenient Bible study and a reflection on a favorite passage and begin to say to the Lord, "What would it look like for me to honor you in a way that I haven't honored you before? How might I respond to you"? Now, the tension and the struggle that comes with that is real, and it's wrong of us to file in here and sit in our places and hold our space for a few moments and act as if we don't understand what that struggle is because it's not new to us. It's not unique to you or to me.

I wanna pray with you before we go. God is moving in the earth in some very, very unique ways. Folks, the most powerful forces amongst us are not Russian armies or a pandemic or international threats. It's the spiritual activity around us, and our God is moving. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you for your Spirit within us and that you are moving in the earth in this very unique time. Give us listening ears and a receptive heart that we might choose you and say, "Yes," to you with confidence and boldness, in Jesus's name, amen.

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