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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Leading In Two Worlds - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Leading In Two Worlds - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Leading In Two Worlds - Part 1
TOPICS: Leadership

We're working through a little series under this general theme of "Time to Lead". And I believe that's true. We are in a leadership deficit. And I don't mean principally in Washington. I think we're in a leadership deficit on Main Street in small-town America. The changes that we need are gonna have to begin there. They're gonna have to begin around our kitchen tables and in our family gatherings. They're gonna have to begin in our local communities. And I believe if we will give our hearts to that and our energies to that and our attention to that, then I trust God to bring us outcomes on broader and larger stages. I think if we focus on the broader platforms, we absolve ourselves of our responsibilities in the things that we are empowered to do. God is able to save, whether it's by few or by many, and a handful of people fully devoted to the Lord will cause him to change the destiny of a nation.

So when I talk about time to lead, I'm not focused on Washington, D.C., or Pennsylvania Avenue or the Capitol. I'm not focused on elections or parties or politicians. I think our choices may be reflected in those places. I believe our current set of leaders reflect our hearts, and so what I'm really talking about is you and me. If we will seek the Lord with a tenacity, a ferocity, an intentionality that exceeds anything we've ever known, I believe God would move heaven and earth to extend the opportunities before us. I think God is searching the earth looking for men and women who will take up his invitation to stand in the gap.

So we're gonna kick it off with this idea of learning to lead, and I'm really inviting you to start to lead with a little different kind of a intensity. I used to think leadership was a secular word and had no place in Christendom and I was wrong. Leadership is about influence and we desperately need godly influence, the influence of a biblical worldview, a Judeo-Christian worldview, a godly worldview, in our world. And we could start that. I'm tired of the knuckleheads trying to define this. Knucklehead is a complimentary term, a pleasant way of saying I may not agree with your worldviews but I will pray for you for mercy and grace. But we're gonna have to find a new pattern because the one we've been holding is ineffective. The Bible talks about this present world.

In the New Testament, when it talks about this present world, it's talking about this present world order, the prevailing system in this current world order, over which Satan has a great deal of influence. And we have to lead through that, but we're also gonna make decisions and lead and use our influence with regard to the kingdom of God. There's a new order coming, and you have to lead with an awareness of both. Some days when I have decisions to make, just for my job, I think, "This would be a lot simpler if there wasn't a spiritual component. If it was just about the bottom line. If the only thing I had to consider was a profit, some decisions would be simpler". But we don't have that luxury. We're leading in two worlds. We're leading in a world where character matters too or integrity and purity and holiness and righteousness.

And so it means that sometimes when there are voices that give you permission to do something, you have to put them back in the filter and say, "Wait a minute, what does the God perspective say about that"? And there are times and places that will make you vulnerable. It will expose you to criticism or whatever. But you need to be conscious that we're leading in two worlds. If you're not conscious of that, if you don't talk to one another about it, you'll need to help one another process it. See, this would be an easy decision for me if my faith wasn't encroaching, but I've got a sense that there's a spiritual component to this or a faith component to this. What does he have to say about this?

Well, let's start with Jesus in Philippians chapter 2. Jesus is a good starting point. Says: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus". That's a pretty powerful statement. Not your moral code; your attitude. The most important thing I can tell you about your attitude is it's your attitude. Nobody gave it to you. You chose it. And if your attitude's bad, grumpy, negative, complaining, have the courage to say, "I've got to change". 'Cause the instruction we've been given here is that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. And then they're gonna help us understand it a little bit. There's a series of statements gonna be made about Jesus, and then there's going to be God's response to those statements. And we're gonna walk through it pretty quickly, but it says: "Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped".

Jesus had healthy ambition. He wasn't grasping. Ambition is not wrong. The Bible warns us against selfish ambition. It says: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition," putting yourself in front of everyone or everything else. We need ambition for the kingdom of God. We've been passive too long. "Well, if God wants it to happen, I guess he'll just make it happen". Look, if you have that attitude, you won't go to heaven, because my Bible says that unless you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, you won't be saved. So if your attitude is, "Well, if God wants me to save me, he'll just save me," no, he won't. You have to choose Jesus as Lord. You have to turn your face towards him and turn away from this world.

Now, though, if that's true with the most essential decision of your life, I assure you it's true with the other decisions of your life. And the first thing we're told about Jesus is he had a healthy ambition. He wasn't grasping for selfish things. Then in verse 7 it says: "He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness". He became a servant. This is really exciting stuff. If you're gonna lead in the kingdom of God, you're gonna have to determine to improve your serve. The best statement I ever heard on servant leadership came from somebody that worked in the secular side and became a Christian later in his life. But he said it in a way that stuck in my heart as much as my head. It was something to the effect that being a servant leader doesn't mean that you get a cup of coffee for everybody in the room, but it means you're willing to get a cup of coffee for anyone in the room.

And then I remember the illustration. He used Jesus. He said, "Jesus, he didn't go to the disciples and say, 'What do you guys think we should do?' He said, 'You know, the leaders in Jerusalem are mad at us, and the Romans are pretty much a threat, and we don't have a big power base. How do you think we should handle this?'" Jesus didn't get them together and have a symposium and tally votes. He gave them the game plan. He said, "We're going to Jerusalem and when I get there I'll be betrayed and arrested". You know the story. Peter took him aside and said, "Never". He said, "Get behind me, Satan". But once Jesus had established the game plan and said, "This is what we're going to do," then he did everything in his power to help the disciples get across the finish line. He told 'em repeatedly what was coming, he prepared them, he washed their feet, had a Last Supper with them.

After the Resurrection he goes and finds them. He reinstates the ones that got a little wobbly, right? He did everything in his power, but he didn't get 'em together. See, we're gonna have to seek the Lord until we understand, until we have a vision of what God is doing, and then we will serve him and his people to see it come about. Then in verse 8: "Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross"! I lack the imagination and I certainly lack the verbal skills to try to articulate what it would mean for Jesus to lay aside the glory of heaven and to be found in appearance as a man. The frailty of a human body, the weakness of a human body, the limits of a human body, all those things that you and I think are the expressions of our power and for Jesus, was an incredible, incredibly humbling exercise.

"And then he became obedient, even to death". And at that, a humiliating death, the death of a criminal, tortured to death in public. Hungry, thirsty, naked. Humility and obedience. Do you think of those as being characteristics of great leaders? Humility and obedience. We're gonna look at those in some other perspectives before we're done. Now in verse 9, we get God's response to that. You say, "Well, those things don't sound like they're very much fun". But watch the payoff. Verse 9 starts with: "Therefore". So this is the summary statement because all of those things happened, "God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that's above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

So what's the outcome of having a healthy godly ambition of serving, of humility and obedience? God will bring exaltation. But I wanna call your attention to the interplay between the two worlds. Jesus laid aside the glory of heaven, humbled himself, and then took on the form of a human being. He stepped into time, because he was given an assignment from an eternal God. And in time, with the limits of an earth-suit, he humbled himself, became obedient to an eternal God, and served his fellow human beings. Therefore, the creator of heaven and earth exalted him and gave him a name that at his name every knee would bow, those knees in time and those knees beyond time.

So Jesus is modeling this for us, these two worlds and their interplay. It's not like, "I'm gonna live my life for myself and then I'm gonna die and I'll see what God has for me". We're gonna see what God has for us in time. If you don't care what he has for you in time, why should he care about having something for you in eternity? Make sense? But we're not done yet. Verse 12: "Therefore, my dear friends," so now Paul's writing this to a church and he's gonna turn it back to them. "As you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose".

Paul has this persistent habit. He'll introduce you to a spiritual principle and then he turns it around and asks you to apply it. And he does that here. He describes these characteristics of Jesus in his life and then he said, "Now you work out your salvation". Jesus worked out his obedience, and you and I have to work out ours. So here's the awkward truth: we don't bounce out of bed every morning, thinking, "Oh, I feel so godly. Wonder who I can find to serve today? I just feel like a sacrificial day today". No, most days I bounce out of bed and I think, "I wonder who I can find to serve me? I think today I'm entitled. Been a busy week, been a hard run, been a lot of stuff".

And then we've got to engage that at our personal, individual level. Or maybe we have to get to the end of the day and say, "You know, Lord, I walked past some opportunities for you today and I'm sorry". You have to do a little inventory at the end of your day and then review those interactions you had and where did you have a faith discussion and where did you opt out of one? Or maybe you've got some questions for the Lord. You know, Lord, people, they brought me a couple of things and I didn't know the response. Will you help me to see the best way to respond to that the next time I have that opportunity?

I don't believe Jesus's life was accidental. When you read the Gospels do you get the sense that Jesus was just hanging out, seeing what was gonna pop up next? Doesn't feel like that to me. And I don't wanna lead my life accidentally either. I don't always understand what's next and it's not always easy for me to interpret what I'm being asked to walk through in the moment, but I will continue to say, "Lord, I wanna honor you in the midst of this. Help me to see what that looks like". If you will use the influence God gives you, and you will do it with consistence and persistence and a desire to honor him, he will expand your influence. If you don't wanna use your influence until you think it comes to the appropriate place where the risk is worth it, you'll never have the opportunity. And it's foolish for us to pray for somebody else to lead boldly when we don't have the courage to do it ourselves. Amen, Pastor. We're leading in two worlds.

Matthew 26, I just gave you the short version of this. This is Jesus in Gethsemane, and I know you know the story, but it's got both worlds so clearly in focus. Says: "He went away a second time". His first prayer is almost identical, but the second time he prayed, "My Father, if it's not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done". He's praying to his Father. He knows what's in front of him. They're coming to arrest him. I mean, they're moments away at this point. And on the other side of the arrest, there's a horrible set of torture and suffering, and he said, "Look, I don't wanna do this". Sounds like somebody pretty aware of physical pain, suffering, right? "I would rather not do this".

Again, we've had this conversation before, but we've got to be prepared to say, "Lord, I will follow you," even when it's not pleasant, "I will serve you. I'll be obedient to you. I will accomplish what you ask me to accomplish. I will choose righteousness or godliness or holiness, even if it's not easy". We've been practicing easy Christianity long enough. We've had church faith. "I have faith to go to church. Yeah, guess I am, I'm a Christian. I go to church most of the time". And some of us even have, like, Small Group faith. I mean, "I host a group, lead a group, or participate in a group. I mean, as long as I like the people in my group. I wanna like 'em, you know? I don't need that group anymore".

I mean, that's kind of defined American Christian. We've kind of got go-to-church faith and maybe go-to-group faith if you're kind of hardcore, and maybe if you're like, just a freak of nature, I'm like, "I'll serve someplace faith". But Jesus is showing us something else altogether. And you hear the turmoil in our Lord. He said, "Father, I... no, no, no. But in the last analysis, I'll do what you want me to do". Now, he's not talking about, it's not some glorious something or other. It's a very difficult so sometimes the Lord asks us to be obedient, to be quiet, to forgive when I would rather defend myself. Sometimes he asks me to serve in a place where it doesn't feel like it's appreciated or valued or celebrated. I don't know, it's different, I don't wanna take the time to give you a lot of stories, but I want you to know that if you're gonna follow the Lord and you're gonna lead well, he's gonna ask you to walk through some places where you would say, "You know, I'd just rather not do that".

The best things in your life have often come from doing things that weren't easy. And I talk to people that are really healthy, you know, those people that have no body fat. I used to think it was just easier for them. You know, I just thought I had a broken metabolism and they had a better version. And then I got up early one morning and went to the gym and it was filled with skinny people. I was so offended. I thought, "Well, when do the people like me come"? They said, "Oh, every three or four weeks, they'll stop by". And you know, serving the Lord is like that. It takes diligence and discipline and sacrifice. We're leading in two worlds. You've gotta be very aware of where you want your applause to come from. You've gotta have real clarity on that. Who you're looking to for your affirmation and your encouragement. I'm not done yet.

Look at 2 Corinthians chapter 12. This is Paul. He said, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of surpassingly great revelations," that's a fun sentence. I've had such amazing revelations of the Lord that I was at risk of being puffed up. "There was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.'" Ahh, see, I'd just like to white that out. "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me". What's his objective? He wants the power of Christ to rest on his life, wow. "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I'm weak, then I'm strong".

Paul never really just identifies in a single sentence what that thorn in the flesh is. A lot of conjecture among scholars. There's not a consensus of opinions. Some try to identify it as some physical problem that he has and they take some passages and kind of link it together. That one doesn't settle within me as well. I give you my opinion, and it is that. You can disagree with me, but you could save yourself some time and agree. It seems to me that there was a spirit assigned to disrupt Paul and his ministry, because it seems like no matter where he goes, there is disruption, city after city, place after place. Even when he's in the midst of an assignment that we're clearly informed by both circumstance and divine attestation that he is in the midst of God's will, there is this unrelenting resistance, adversity, to him. I mean, 5 times he said, "I received 40 lashes minus 1. Five times I was beaten within one lash of what they called dead". I mean, he goes on and on with that.

So it seems to me that he says to God, "God, can't you deliver me from this? This is harder than I want it to be". He's leading in two worlds. He's facing physical challenges that have a spiritual motivation. Are you prepared for that? Do you believe there's an interaction in your sphere of influence between spiritual forces and the physical world in which we live? See, we try to segment them out to, you know, "I deal with spiritual things when I go to church and then I deal with the rest of the world". That isn't how our lives happen. That's why I think from Philippians, in the little snapshot of Jesus's attitude that causes him to be exalted in this most unique way, to the struggle he has in Gethsemane, to Paul saying, "There is this buffeting in my life," you and I have to understand that if we're gonna lead for the kingdom of God, if we're gonna respond to the Lord and say, "Here I am," we're gonna have an Isaiah moment or a Moses moment or a Jeremiah moment or an Abraham moment or a King David.

If we're gonna be a character that says to the Lord, Daniel, when he says, "I'm gonna pray no matter what you say you're gonna do," or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: "Look, we're not bowing to that statue. The God we serve can deliver us from your hand. But even if he doesn't deliver us, we're not bowing 'cause we have our eyes on another world". You see, we gotta change our focus, Church. We've been so rooted, we get bent out of shape if somebody sits in our chair. Somebody was sitting behind me a couple of weekends ago. I said, "You don't sit here". "Somebody's in our spot". Well, don't tell me that. "Want me to go move 'em"? "Would you do that"? "No, I'll walk you over there and let you repent for what you felt". "No, it's okay. We're good". We gotta recalibrate what's in our heads. We'll sacrifice so many things for so many things and yet we've thought about our faith in such a transitory way.

Father, I thank you that you have called us out of the dark into the kingdom of your light, that you have washed us and cleansed us and justified us. Forgive us for our attitude of complacency. Father, we've been willing to sit in a space at a specific time and imagine that we were interacting with the creator of all things. Forgive us for our indifference. Ignite a passion within us to know a living God, that we might yield our days to you, beginning with each morning. In Jesus's name, amen.

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