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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - More Powerful Than I - Part 1

Allen Jackson - More Powerful Than I - Part 1

Allen Jackson - More Powerful Than I - Part 1

This is something the Lord just put inside of me, and I wanted to share it with you. And we'll see how formally it comes out. The topic, or the theme, is more powerful than I, and it comes directly from a quote that we'll look at together in a moment. The premise is rather simple. I think we're in a troubled time, and I don't believe that the solution is going to come just from our collective effort. I think it's gonna take more than our hard work or our pooled resources or our collective intellects. I think we're going to need a power from beyond ourselves. But the good news is God has sent his Spirit into the earth and we have held. The awkward news is that we're not as comfortable with the person who's the Holy Spirit as we might be.

Now, if you're churched, and most of us probably would be for this service, we probably spent most of our lives debating to the degree we would or would not cooperate or even talk about the person of the Holy Spirit. And I would submit to you that that season has passed. It's like being abandoned in the ocean debating whether or not you believed in life preservers. If there's one available, I would take it. And if, to the extent that the Holy Spirit is willing to help and he is available to interact with you, my counsel to you would be to cooperate with him as fully and completely as you're capable of. He will meet you to whatever extent you're willing to open your heart. But I want to start in Matthew 23. It's kind of a statement of need, and I think it reflects, in some ways, the need that we have today. It's Jesus in Jerusalem, and he said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I've longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing".

When I look at our nation and the history of our nation, we have been given inordinate disproportionate expressions of the mercy and the grace of God. If you want to be a student of Christianity in our world today, it's almost necessary that you would learn the English language. The overwhelming majority of literature that deals with the history of Christianity, the history of the church, of biblical studies, is put into English. If you're gonna do postgraduate studies, they'll require you to learn some other languages. But the language that's most essential would be English, so if English is your native language, or your first language, you're given a disproportionate advantage just by that. And in our nation, the legal system and the opportunities and the freedom of religions have been such, they're not unique around the world. They're not universal. They're by no means reproduced in most places.

We've just had more opportunities and more freedoms. And yet, we have banned Jesus from our public schools and our public courtrooms and in so many quarters of our hospitals. We re-brand our hospitals and take away crosses and take away the Christian image. We want to be more marketing savvy. It feels a lot like what Jesus was saying to Jerusalem. God said, "I chose you, and I established myself in a very unique way and that city". Well, I'm not suggesting that we have a parallel with Israel, but I am suggesting that God has very uniquely blessed our nation and that we have very busily pushed him to the margins. And we've done that in our lifetime. This is not some ancient thing. This has happened on our watch. They took the nativity scenes off the public property at Christmas time, and we didn't say much. I'm embarrassed.

Nevertheless, verse 38, "Look, you're house is left to you desolate. And I tell you", that's very close to, "I tell you the truth". It's a warning statement. He said, "I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Jesus said that "My time with you is that an end and before you see me again, you will be desperate to see me. There'll be no longer a hesitation or a reluctance or a skepticism, that the pressure will be so intense and the need so great that you will welcome my arrival". And I believe we're in a similar place. We've had so much. We've had so much freedom and such abundance and such afluence and so many opportunities, and our kids could have good lives. We didn't really have to make our faith essential. We didn't really imagine that our kids needed to be godly, we wanted them to be happy. If they were happy, we can deal with godly later.

And the same was true, to a greater extent, for our grandchildren, and to an unfortunate extent, for ourselves. And now we find ourselves in a place where all those systems seem to be in peril. They're at least teetering on the brink of something that doesn't look very pleasing. And I believe Jesus's words are relevant to us tonight, that we're really not going to see an expression of his power or his deliverance or his assistance, until we are in that desperate place where we're willing to say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord". I want to start with this notion of the power of God. It's uniquely connected in Scripture, and particularly, in the New Testament, with the person of the Holy Spirit. We know God the Father. We have some imaginations around that because of our earthly fathers and the relationships that that represents to us. And then Jesus his Son, because of the incarnation because Jesus took an earth suit in the Gospels. We can connect with Jesus.

And Jesus also, the reason God the Father is more available to us is Jesus came to make known God as Father. That is the unique revelation of a son. In Hebrews, it said, in the past, God spoke to us through the prophets and in various ways and different means. But in these last days, he's spoken to us through His Son. You see, the son can reveal a father in a way that no one else could. But God, the Holy Spirit, the person of the Holy Spirit, remains, I think, a bit more removed from our awareness, and that's unfortunate because Jesus said, "It's better for you if I go away because if I go, the Father will send you another comforter, the Holy Spirit".

And again, in times of such abundance and liberty and freedom and security, perhaps we didn't have to think about that much. But we're not there anymore. We're reading through Exodus, if you're doing the Bible reading with us. And the children, the Hebrew slaves would not have flourished without the abiding presence of God, without the manna every day and the water, when it was necessary, or the leading of the pillar of cloud or the pillar of fire or the protection from the enemies. Their clothing didn't wear out. There were no sick people amongst them. Folks, we're gonna have to learn to live in the provision of God. We have lived under the idolatrous provision of the government, and we haven't had to imagine that God was our provider, our sustainer. We haven't had to trust him in those ways, but it may be that we need to know him in those ways more fully to flourish in what is in front of us.

So coming back to the person of the Holy Spirit, in Romans 15 it says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit". It intrigues me that if we're going to overflow with hope, this is the conclusion of Paul's letter to the church in Rome, the most powerful city of his day. Lots of challenges for the church there. But as he's concluding that letter, he says, "I would like you to overflow with hope". But the foundation from which that emerges is the power of the Holy Spirit. If you and I are going to live in hope, it will be because we understand and cooperate with the person of the Spirit of God. It's not going to come from our church buildings or our theological education or the resources we've accumulated because all of those things are in flux.

We've seen them close our church buildings and tell us we couldn't meet and inject enough fear into the system of the people around us that we really weren't certain. It's nonsensical to think that we can secure our futures. We've been to school on that in the last couple of years. Our hope comes from our confidence in and our awareness of the Spirit of God. The power of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit are a theme in Luke's writings in particular, both the gospel that bears his name, and the Book of Acts. We don't have time to explore that in a great detail. But in Luke chapter 3, this was John the Baptist. "And John aren't answered them all". They've come and they've said, "You know, are you the Messiah"? "And John answered them all, 'I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I'm not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'"

I'm intrigued by that statement John made that there's someone coming who is more powerful than I am. And we read that and what we know about John, he wore camp clothing made with camels' hair and he ate wild locusts, not bugs, but something that's a tree and it grows in the Judean wilderness. He may have eaten bugs too, but that's not what's being referenced in the Scripture. He led a simple life, an ascetic life, but he had a very powerful life. John called the people to repentance and there was enough of a groundswell of response that it threatened the power system in Jerusalem. And he wasn't preaching his sermons in the temple. In Jerusalem, the temple was one of the grandest buildings in all of the Roman Empire. It was a point of travel for people throughout the empire, regardless of their ethnicity or their religion. It was the National Bank. It was the center of the power structure for the Jewish community. But John, the renewal, the awakening, the repentance, didn't begin in the temple. It didn't begin where the sacrifices were offered. It didn't begin where the people of Israel were called to make their three annual pilgrimage feasts. He said, "You need to come out into the wilderness".

It was a 20-mile hike into the desert. There weren't a lot of buses that ran to the Jordan River, and it was a steep climb back to Jerusalem. The Jordan River runs through the Rift Valley the where the Dead Sea is. It's the lowest place on the face of the earth. Jerusalem is at elevation, so it wasn't an easy trip any way you sliced it. And enough people were making the trip that the power brokers in Jerusalem came to see what John was doing. Imagine so many people from Washington, DC, and New York coming to Murfreesboro to be baptized, that members of Congress start to come to see what's happening. I'm not suggesting that's our future. I'm suggesting that's roughly analogous to what was happening with John. There was something significant happening with John. There was plenty of room for John to be puffed up, to say he was launching a revival, that God had sent him for a renewal movement.

And when they came to ask John a question, "You know, what are your credentials? You're disrupting our... we're doing". And John said to them, "There's one more powerful than I am". He deflects completely. "There's one more powerful than I am". And I think that's where we want to start our discussion with the recognition that we are dependent upon one who is more powerful than we are. I don't want us to imagine we're gonna outthink evil or outwork evil or, you know, that it's gonna be a group effort. We're gonna get enough people, we're gonna mobilize, we're gonna get sophisticated enough, we're gonna get rid of all of the illegalities or the legitimacy or whatever we think is causing the problem. We are dependent upon something more powerful than we are.

Can we agree on that? Can we have the courage to say that with the boldness that John did? He's being interviewed. "Tell us the secret of your success". "Listen, you know, it's not my success". He said, "There's one coming who's more powerful than I am, and you need to get ready for him". And that's our message. Folks, if you don't like what we're saying, there's one coming who's more powerful than we are, and you want to be prepared to meet him. You want everybody that knows you to be prepared to meet him. You at least want them to have heard you say, "You want to be prepared to meet him". We've been timid long enough. What exactly are we afraid of? We're gonna be taken off an invitation list? Oh, bother. They'll think you're too zealous? Oh, okay. I mean, just exactly what is it we're afraid of? We'll be canceled? Woo.

Luke chapter 1, this is Mary. Gabriel is come with a birth announcement. It's an invitation. You know how easy it would have been for Mary to say, "No. Sounds like an intrusion to me. I've already planned a wedding. I've already picked out a dress and pregnant won't work". Well, there was a hundred reasons for her to say no. And she asks a question, an appropriate question. "How can this be? I'm not engaged in the behaviors that make pregnancy a possibility". "And the angel answered, Gabriel said, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'" As if that were an explanation. "I'm not engaged in the behaviors that make pregnancy a possibility. How can this be"?

And this isn't the angel's answer, this is the angel, the response from the archangel, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you". Oh, well, that clarifies everything. Suppose you prayed and fasted for 40 days, and you had a vision of an archangel and he said, "I have come to tell you that God's going to use you to change the direction of Rutherford County". And you say, "Well, how will that happen"? He said, "Well, the power of the Most High will come upon you". "Well, you mean like I'll glow in the dark"? I mean, Mary doesn't know anyone else who has conceived immaculately. There's no peer group. She can't google it. I think, to me, the invitation, both in John's case and in Mary's case, is this willingness to believe that there is something more powerful than I am, and we serve at his pleasure. And we're not just content with that, we're enthused about that. We're all in with that.

Folks, we've been in the skeptics seats long enough. We've been halfhearted, disinterested. We'll pray when nothing else works. We've exhausted every other resource and looked under every other rock and pursued every other possible solution, then well, you know, maybe God could do something. Maybe he could, and maybe he's gracious enough to accept that place in the line. But we're at a different time. In Luke chapter 4 it says of Jesus, "He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and the news about him spread throughout the whole countryside". He's lived 30 years anonymously, for the most part. Below the radar, very little attention, no public life, no public ministry.

Mary's aware, I'm sure his brothers have some clue that, you know, I don't know how that worked at home, right? Did Jesus get put in timeout? You know, and if he did, did the clock melt? I don't know. I don't know how all that worked, but we know that after his baptism, Luke tells us he came back to Galilee, the region where he'd grown up in the power of the Spirit, that his whole life changed. His ministry didn't begin. The miracles didn't begin. The supernatural things didn't begin until the descent of the Spirit at Jesus's baptism. And I think if you and I are going to imagine that through Bible study and the focused intent of our intellect, and I'm not opposed to that, but if we think that those things alone are going to deliver us to a more empowered spiritual life, we're deceived. We're ignoring the counsel of Scripture. We need the help of the Spirit of God.

Now, one of the statements that's made about Jesus in all four of the Gospels, which there are very few things that are repeated in each of those four Gospels. And this particular title of Jesus comes to us as his introduction in each of the four Gospels. And we've read it once, but I'll give it back to you. In Matthew 3, this is John, he said, "I'll baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I'm not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit in fire". Think of all the things that could have been said about Jesus, the Savior, the Redeemer. I mean, there's dozens and dozens and dozens of titles, accurate descriptions of the redemptive work of Jesus, but the one that is chosen by the Spirit of God is that he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Mark chapter 1, this was his message, "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I'm not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he'll baptize you with the Holy Spirit". Sounds familiar? Luke 3, we have already looked at. John answered and says, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I'm not worthy to untie. He'll baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire". John's gospel, different from the other three. "I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me. 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God".

In all four gospels, Jesus is introduced to us. Before his public ministry, before the miracles, before the drama is unfold, before we even know the remarkable aspects of his birth narrative, he's introduced to us as the one who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. May I suggest, if that's the way he's introduced to us in each of the Gospels, that we need to get to know Jesus as the baptizer and the Holy Spirit? It just seems like a logical conclusion to me. It has nothing to do with the denomination you affiliate or where you want to place yourself on a theological spectrum. If that's the way Jesus is introduced to us, I want to know him that way.

In John chapter 20, it's the evening of the first day of the week. It's a Sunday evening. It's Resurrection Day, so it's Resurrection Sunday. And the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. You know why they had the doors locked, right? They have tortured to death their leader, their best friend, the public face of the group that defines them, and there's a reasonable expectation they could be next. And if they could take Jesus down, they feel very vulnerable. So they're in hiding. And Jesus came and stood among them and the last time they saw him, he had died on the cross and his body had been placed in that borrowed tomb. And when the women went to the tomb early on the morning, they couldn't find Jesus. And Peter and John went and investigated, and they couldn't find Jesus.

So there's been some discussion amongst them, but there is no conclusion. There's certainly no imagination that he's alive. They think someone's stolen the body and now they're behind locked doors. And John says that Jesus came and stood among them with this remarkable gift of understatement, "'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". How many of you think that might be just a bit of low-key characterization of the emotion in the room, right? Jesus is standing there, and he's shown them the signs of his passion, the nail prints and the wound in his side. And John says, "The disciples were overjoyed".

I would submit they're operating right at the very fringe limit of what they can even process, ecstatic, uproariously, hilariously overwhelmed. It's beyond any life experience they have had. They have nothing to connect it to, but it's our friend and he's here. Suffice it to say, it's a good day. And then watch Jesus's response. "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I'm sending you. And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" That reminds you of anything in Scripture? It reminds me a great deal of the Genesis narrative when God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and it says, "He breathed in him, and he became a living being".

You know, we could go into the language of that and the specifics. I think, if we break it down, technically, Jesus breathed on them individually. I think it was a very personal experience for the people in that room that evening. I would submit to you that qualifies for the new birth. They had a personal encounter with a resurrected Christ, and he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". And the Holy Spirit had taken up residence within them. That describes the new birth as I understand it.

If we did this in more detail, we could walk through a dozen passages of Scripture trying to outline the fullness of what happened. But whether we call it conversion or the new birth or salvation, that was their initiation into the kingdom of God because until they had experienced a resurrected Christ, that opportunity wasn't available to them. It wasn't available before the cross. That's why the Book of Hebrews says to us when it lists the Hall of Fame of those men and women, it says, "These people did all of these things by faith, but there was something better for us and only together could we experience what God has for us".

Hey, we're living in a season of almost unprecedented turmoil wherever you look. It's true in the church, it's true in the economy, it's true in the government, it's true internationally, it's true in our schools. It's just consistent. Well, in the midst of that, we want to take what John the Baptist said, "There's one who's greater than I am". Well, we have that same anticipation that there's one who is greater than we are to help us, the Spirit of the living God. When you're born again, that same Holy Spirit comes to live within you, but we don't always give him permission to speak to us, to lead us, to guide us. We haven't always been cooperative. It's kind of like we've been moving forward with the parking brake on. Well, before we go, let's pray. Let's take off the parking brake and give him permission. Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, we want to welcome your Spirit into our lives without measure, without reluctance, without hesitation. We need your help. Show us your pathway. Help us to recognize your voice and have the courage to say yes to you each day. I thank you for it. In Jesus's name, amen.

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