Allen Jackson - Occult Influence - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you. We're continuing our study on "Escaping the Descent into Paganism". The Christian West, both Europe and North America, have thrown off our Christian heritage. Our values, our worldview, the things that shaped our culture and brought so much prosperity and blessing to us have just been set aside. They've almost totally disappeared in Europe, and they're quickly evaporating in North America. The good news is God's still on the throne, and Jesus has not abdicated his lordship over everything in heaven, earth, and under the earth. The challenge is for you and me, as a part of the church in this particular time, to understand God's assignment for us. Well, grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart. God has an assignment for us in this very important time in the earth.
We're working on a study under the general heading of "Escaping the Descent into Paganism". I'm of the opinion that we're watching our culture descend into paganism. I'm not suggesting to you that it has to complete that dissent. Our God is a God of redemption, and there are multiple examples biblically, and throughout the history of the church, of God restoring his people, but I think we are naive, if not intentionally ignorant, if we look at what's happening and we don't acknowledge it as a descent into paganism, and it's happening at a rate and a scope that's unlike anything I have seen. We're celebrating expressions of wickedness and ungodliness and perversion in the public square, as if they are honorable and to be aspired to, in ways that would've been unthinkable just a few years ago, and the messaging seems almost overwhelming. It's unrelenting.
Multiple platforms, it's just almost impossible to escape it, but the title is important to me because, if you don't have an intentional plan, if you don't have a purposeful pathway that you have chosen, I think you'll be swept into paganism, or you can be a religious pagan. You can be a spiritual pagan. You can be a supernatural pagan. You can be a church-attending pagan and a Bible-carrying pagan, but if you don't have an intentional path that you have chosen, I don't think you can swim out of this stream. It's too powerful now. So the notion of escaping it is really the critical component, to me. How will you escape it? If you think you can't be deceived or you couldn't be caught up in it, you already are.
So the purpose of our study is really escaping that. You know, Christianity, for the most part these days, is viewed as just outdated. Certainly, if you sit amongst those who present themselves as the intellectuals or the academic elite, you know, Christianity just seems to be kind of a quaint idea, back when we imagined that marriage was between a man and a woman or that parents should be the primary authority or influence in the lives of their children. How quaint. Or that you would be responsible for the welfare of your family. What a novel concept. We used to treat things like equality as a value that we aspired to. We've set that aside now for equity. We'd rather have the government decide outcomes for all.
Christianity is presented as a bit out of date. On the other hand, paganism is viewed as being quite chic. We're watching that played out on a daily basis in the messaging that comes towards us. There is no moral compass, so it's inconsistent. It's very confusing to watch it. You'll watch people be offended when their spouse is, they deem, to them, to have been made fun of, and, yet the commitments inside those relationships are outside or beyond anything we would understand. It's a very confusing scenario to watch. Ungodliness is seen as sophisticated because you're not hampered by things like moral absolutes. The church needs a response, and I think it's important. I don't think that the root of this lies beyond the church. I think the real challenge of this comes because of the corruption within the church, and I'm not talking about corrupt leaders or corrupt pastors.
I think we have accommodated the world so long that we've really lost our balance. You know, we're to be in the world but not of it, and I think, well, there's been a really powerful desire to be accepted of the world. We want to appear worldly and righteous. We wanna be worldly sophisticates. I don't. I'm willing to be naive. I'm willing to be considered a bit simple. I'm willing to be identified with those people that say that we believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and should be yielded to as a rule of faith and practice. In fact, I'm not just willing. I'm anxious. I wanna be included with the people of God. Well, there's a verse in Galatians. We've looked at it in earlier sessions, but it's worth just a moment: Galatians 2:20. I believe it's a very good synopsis of the attitude of the Christ-follower.
It's Galatians 2:20: "I've been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me". "I've been crucified with Christ," not physically nailed to a cross, but Jesus on the cross emptied himself of me, of self. There's very little self-determination once you're nailed to a cross. You're not trying to decide what you're gonna order for dinner. You're not planning a vacation. You're not worried about your hair. There's just not much self left. So when you say, "I've been crucified with Christ," it means I've taken that self that tends to dominate our lives, and since I've allowed it to be executed, I have done that. God won't do that for you. We have to put that old carnal nature to death. "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live", it's not a me-first life anymore, "but Christ lives in me".
My priorities, my objectives, my agenda, the things I aspire to are derived from what I understand to be the desires of Jesus. Do we do that perfectly? Absolutely not. Do we still struggle with sin? Yes, we do. Does our carnal life still intrude and have to be addressed? Absolutely, and that's not because you're a new Christian. That will continue until you're a mature Christian. I'm well into my 30s, and I find it still could be a struggle. I mean, I'm very well into my 30s, and it doesn't go away. Being a professional Christian doesn't make it go away. Being a pastor doesn't make it go away. "I have been crucified with Christ". You have to intend that. You have to say, "I'm gonna take that selfish", 'cause, see, it's accusatory.
It'll tell you, you haven't been treated fairly, that you deserve something else. It'll give you license to ungodliness. You have to say, "No, I don't deserve ungodliness. I don't deserve selfish indulgence. Christ lives in me". What did Paul say in Philippians 3:10? It's not in your notes, but he said, "I wanna know Christ and the power of his Resurrection", and we get a big "amen" on that. We all wanna know the power of God that brought Jesus from the dead. It worked in my mortal body, but then there's a little "and," a conjunction, "and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings", wooh, I pray that for you, "that I might become like him in his death," not the martyr but emptied and crucified with Christ, and then he says the most remarkable thing, "that somehow I might attain to the resurrection of the dead".
Think about what you hear in contemporary American evangelicalism and the presumptive arrogance. This is the apostle Paul, well into his journey as a Christ-follower, saying, "Just, somehow, I wanna attain to the resurrection of the dead". He goes on to say, "I don't consider myself to have achieved all of this, but one thing I do, leaving behind those things, I press on". That's not the attitude I hear amongst us, and I say, "us," 'cause I live with a broader slice of the church. We're so confident we've done our business with God, and everything else is kind of secondary. Lord, help us. "I've been crucified with Christ".
Jesus is gonna ask you to do some hard things, difficult things, challenging things, sacrificial things, yes, to be willing to be identified with him in places that will be uncomfortable, awkward. What a privilege that he would ask us to do that, yes. The answer is yes. "Why haven't you invited me, Lord"? "Because you weren't ready". "Well, what do I need to do to get ready"? "You need to realign your priorities about whose approval you're concerned about, whose blessing you want. You gotta stop holding onto the things from your past that give you license to indulge yourself". "Well, I wanna be ready when there's an opportunity and you need somebody to stand. I wanna have done my homework. I wanna be prepared. You could trust me to stand in that place".
Don't you wanna be that person? I don't wanna be the one standin' in the bless-me line all the time, goin', "What's the newest handout? What's the next check you're cuttin' from the kingdom"? I want him to trust me, and the only way that happens is if I deal with that old carnal part of me. And I have a very selfish motivation. I want to escape the descent into paganism. I don't wanna be swept away.
Let's all link to this opportunity to believe, and know this: God's given you an opportunity to believe. He's given every person an opportunity to believe. Romans 1, says, "Men are without excuse because God has revealed himself to every person through what was created," so that there is nobody that can say to God, "You didn't give me a revelation of yourself," because he has revealed himself to every human being, and some of us have had more opportunities. If English is your first language, you've had greater opportunities at this point in human history than any people on the planet. If you're gonna be a serious student of Christianity, you'll have to learn English. That's just the truth.
You may have opinions about that and ideas around that, but that's just a stated fact, and so if you're a native English speaker, you've been given advantages that are almost indescribable when you look across the history of the church. And then we say things, "Well, I don't like to read". Oh, well, that'll play well when you see the King. We have to choose to be believers, and God has given us an assignment. Jesus didn't die on a cross just so you could escape condemnation to hell and be included in his kingdom. It's so that we might serve him. "Jesus is Lord," means he is first. He orders my agenda. I brought you some passages. I'm not gonna dwell on it, but Jude, in 22, says, "Be merciful to those who doubt".
That's a good way to begin to pray for the people who doubt. Don't be angry with them or critical or harsh. I'm not talking about people that sit in church. If you sit in the church and read your Bible, and you deny it, you're not just a doubter, you're suppressing the truth. I think Jude is talking about people beyond the umbrella of our faith. "Be merciful to those who doubt. Snatch others from the fire and save them". That's a faith conversation: "Snatch 'em from the fire". Don't sit next to people that are headed to destruction and not say to them, "Did you know the bridge is out? Do you not know the bridge is out? Don't drive down that road". "I'm a really good driver". "Not on that road. You are not a good enough driver to negotiate that". "Well, I feel pretty confident". "I appreciate your confidence, but this obstacle is more than you can negotiate. I used to feel that way. Let me tell you how God helped me. Let's talk".
Snatch others from the fire. You should have a weekly testimony. You should have a regular response to that. There's dozens and dozens of people that you interact with on a regular basis that, if there isn't a supernatural intervention, will miss the kingdom of God. Look at Philemon chapter 4: "I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers". Paul's writing this to a friend. He's encountered an escaped slave that served in this man's household, and he's sending him back with a message, asking for mercy, "but I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith". That's Paul's prayer. He said, "I pray regularly that you might be active in sharing your faith". I pray you and I might be active in sharing our faith.
"Pastor, you're just trying to grow the church". Bingo, not just this congregation. The Church with a capital "C". What are you trying to do? Get a better parking place? We're in the midst of a series of talks, and I have an objective in mind if you haven't figured that out. It's to walk with you is I asked you to consider the invitations that God puts before us because he gives us consistent invitations in our lives. I can identify a few, but if you'll cultivate the habit of looking for them, you'll find they come to you frequently. I'd invite you to consider each one that you have recognized in your life and your response to God in those places because what I want you to reflect on a little bit is, if it's a step that you've taken, give yourself a little time to reflect upon the outcome.
What did you learn as a result of saying, "Yes," to God? Was it a good thing, a positive thing? Was it a diminishing thing? Did it cost you something that was so precious that you regret you said, "Yes," to the Lord? What have you experienced from saying, "Yes," to God? If there was an invitation that you're conscious you refused, you said, "I don't wanna do that," my prayer is that, as we walk through these sessions, you'll be persuaded to say, "Yes," to God in some new ways. In Acts 26, Paul's on trial for his life. We've looked at this passage from some several perspectives. I liked that first sentence. He says, "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven".
Did you know heaven has a vision for your life? Does that matter to you? I know how desperately I've tried to get God to pay attention to my vision for my life. I mean, I have talked to him about this: "I have got a plan, but it's a really good one. I am clever. I know me, and you just need to pay some attention to my plan". Do you realize God has a vision for your life? Paul had a vision for his life. He'll tell you about it in Philippians 3. He said, "I was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. My resume is better than", he just says that in the Bible. "I have a better resume than you have". And, when he starts to tell you about his resume, he goes back to his eighth day. He said, "At eight days old, I was better than you". Well, la-dee-da. And when he gets to the end of his recitation, he said, "But I consider all of that as a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord".
And now he's on trial for his life, and his introductory statement is "King, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision". His motivation for enduring rejection, for suffering, for career suicide, because, understand this, he committed career suicide when he aligned himself with Jesus. All the momentum of his professional life, and he had a considerable amount of it, evaporated in a moment. He becomes hated. He's the enemy. The Orthodox community in Jerusalem today is mad at the apostle Paul because of his training. His logic is so tight, his understanding of the laws of Moses was so well crafted that they still can't refute him. They're still mad at him.
When you love the Lord so well that a couple thousand years after you're done, your adversaries are still ticked at your Bible studies, well done. Career suicide. He aligned himself with the persecuted. He said, "I'll go stand with these people," and he did all of that because of vision of what God has for his life. "I have been crucified with Christ". That is so different than what we have been oriented towards. You see, every one of us reached these decision points multiple times in our lives. There's not just one. It's not just teenagers or young people or the single or young couples. You will come to these decision points until you draw your last breath, and our choices are going to determine our destiny all the way till the end. At which point in Jesus's journey did he have to get to stop choosing "yes" to obedience? At which point? I mean, I'm thinkin', if you're born of a virgin, pure, chill. And, yet you know his story. He doesn't stop until, finally, he said, "It's finished," and he wasn't finished until he gave up into your hands: "I commit my Spirit".
Jesus didn't raise himself from the dead. God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit did. "Into your hands, I committed my Spirit". What's given us the notion that you get to some point in your life, and it's your business? "It's my time". Who told you that? Not the Lord. Well, don't dig a hole. All of us reach those decision points. Our choices are gonna determine our destiny. What happens to us is a very insignificant thing compared to what happens within us because things are gonna happen to all of us. Evil will touch your life. You'll bump into it. We live in a broken world.
How do we move from reluctance to faith? It's a very important question. What's the root of the hesitation within us? What part of the invitation isn't clear? Which piece of it don't we understand? Why are we dragging our feet? What makes us reluctant? What outcome is beyond belief? Or maybe there's an outcome that's really just unwanted: "I don't want to have to identify with Jesus in that way". What current benefit that you hold onto and you value is put at risk if you take the next step? Someone's approval? Some business opportunity? Some expression of carnal indulgence? What is it? Just exactly what is it that would cause us to be reluctant with the Lord? What are the costs? Because there will be costs and even risks of cooperating with the Lord, and you're foolish not to count the cost. It's part of the journey.
Don't do it blindly. Do it with your eyes open. What do you forfeit, or what do you gain by maintaining the status quo? What could be gained by disrupting it? Some of us are still mad because the routine we had two years ago has not returned. Our life patterns are different, and we just don't like it. That's not a fruitful place to stay. "Well, but I love, okay. I don't wanna make", I've been disappointed in things that have happened, but we have to find a path forward.
Believing is an assertive response to God. It's not passive. We don't just sit and say, "Well, I'll accept whatever God sends to me". We choose to believe to see what God has said we can be in Christ, and then we choose to make it a part of our life experience because we believe it. I wanna pray with you that God will give you an anointing to trust him for your life.
Father, thank you for the revelation of Jesus, and I pray that the Spirit of God would give us a boldness to believe. Forgive us for being passive and silent, in Jesus's name, amen.