Allen Jackson - Perverted Morality - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you again. We're going to continue our study on "Escaping the Descent Into Paganism". We are witnesses to a very unique time in history, certainly in American history. Something is happening around us that is really without precedent, but I don't want you to be filled with despair. God called us to this time and season to be salt and light. My first concern is that you not be swept up in the tide of ungodliness and immorality and wickedness that is impacting us in such profound ways these days. You need an intentional purposeful plan to maintain your foundation as a child of God. Don't presume upon the sinner's prayer or your birth into the kingdom at some point in the historic past. I don't want to question that. We're just living in a new season, and we need the preparation of God to walk through this time triumphantly. Grab your Bible and a notepad. And most of all, open your heart. God has something for each of us today.
We're doing a short series under the theme of "Escaping the Descent Into Paganism". I think with just a casual glance at the culture in which we live, we could find a good degree of agreement amongst Christians, at least, that something is happening. And it is not a political initiative or an ideological battle. We are separating ourselves from the foundations of a Judeo-Christian worldview. And when you purposefully separate yourselves from that foundation, the outcome is very predictable. It's consistent across human history. We will descend into paganism, into ungodliness and wickedness, because you've separated yourself from that worldview. And it's not being done to us. It's not being done haphazardly or randomly. It's being done in a very intentional way by some of the most powerful voices and influences in our culture.
And it's not something we can blame on a singular, single political party or candidate. It's far more widespread than that, but it is happening. And my concern is that when something is happening with the speed with which it's taking place, you know, and the magnitude it's taking place, is that if you don't have an intentional escape plan, you'll be swept up into it. There's some very influential voices, and some very well-educated, and some very sophisticated, accomplished people championing a worldview that is best described as paganistic. And if you don't have a plan to avoid it, sitting in a church building won't protect you; because, unfortunately, it's even happening to the churches, not to all, but to far too many.
If we deny the divinity of Jesus, if we deny the authority of Scripture, if we no longer imagine it's our rule of faith and practice, if we don't acknowledge the virgin birth and the redemptive work of Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection, it isn't Christianity. You may have Christian architecture, and Christian language, and religious symbols, and all sorts of religious activity, but please don't be confused. And this is not happening at some glacial pace any longer. It won't take decades. It changes not week to week. It changes day to day. It's something I never imagined we would see at the rate we're seeing it, the paganization of our nation. To reduce it to a single response, I would submit to you your best protection is obedience.
Be obedient to the truth that you know. Not just a church member, not just a church attender, not just reciting some historical spiritual experience in your life, but today be obedient to the truth that you know. If you're living in disobedience, you're already in those waters that are moving you away from God. We just don't have the luxury in this season of tolerating ungodliness in ourselves. Forget pointing your fingers at others. Just ask the Lord to give you clarity on your own life. We have to guard our hearts, or we will love the world more than we love the kingdom of our Lord. But that kind of obedience will require action. It'll be more than just a knowledge or information or even agreement with something. You can be in agreement with a Christian worldview but living in another manner.
It's a time for self-awareness. It's a time for awareness of what's happening around us. Things are moving so rapidly, honestly, it's impossible to keep up with all the facets of the changes. Things that were just unthinkable not years ago, but months ago, it's overwhelming to consider the ways in which ungodliness is being embraced and celebrated. If that's the only perspective you have and you don't have a biblical perspective, it will overwhelm you. And it's not complicated. Things like lying, and deception, and violence, immorality, and perversion are being embraced and honored in the public square. They're held up as virtuous. And if you choose things like godliness and righteousness and purity and holiness, you're mocked as being archaic, out of step, quaint.
I want to make a suggestion. Rather than focus on the problem, the disease that is sweeping across us, my preference, and I'm making some adjustments in my own life these days, I prefer to become more intense upon the practice of honoring God. I want to be more focused upon that and more diligent with that, more intentional about that. I would suggest that we become more determined to practice our faith than ever before, to practice our faith, not simply to align ourselves and say "I'm an adherent to that," not in a casual way or a random way, but with the same kind of careful focus that we would associate with the awareness of some significant consequences.
When you realize the consequences are great, you tend to focus with greater intensity. That's what I'm suggesting about the practice of our faith these days. Our freedom is a very precious thing. Our liberty is unique, and I would submit that our Lord is faithful. And those things combined, we have a tremendous opportunity right now. Let's maximize that. Don't rage against the darkness. Don't be angry at somebody else or some group of somebody else. It's not fruitful. Humble yourself before the Lord. Seek his face. We begin every one of these sessions in this series by taking a moment to talk about what it means to be a Christ follower, not joining a church, not reciting a prayer. But what does it mean to be a Christ follower? It's a multifaceted discussion, but we have undersold it.
In 2 Timothy chapter 2, the Apostle Paul is mentoring a young man that he has been discipling in the faith. And he said, "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus". If you can be strong in grace, you can also be weak in grace. It's very important. Don't just presume upon the goodness of God. Learn to stand in the goodness of God. Put on the armor of God. Stand in the authority of Jesus's name. Know who it is you put your trust in and why. We've been so casual with this. We've been flippant with it. We're far more concerned about locking our car than putting on the armor of God. Folks, if they take your car, you can get a replacement. If you don't have on your spiritual armor, there is no replacement.
Jesus said, "Don't worry so much about the people that just can kill your body". Well, most of us think that's kind of a pretty significant threat. He said, be really concerned about those that after they've killed your body can send your soul to hell. He said, that is something you should fear. "Be strong in the grace that's in Christ Jesus. And the things that you've heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others". And then he begins to meddle: "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus". Endure hardship? Oh, you mean like not getting my preferred parking place. Or I got here a few minutes late, and somebody sat in my seat, ugh. I don't think that's what Paul's talking about. "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs, he wants to please his commanding officer".
Don't give your heart to civilian affairs, temporal things, things that will change. Oh, you want to pay attention. I've been encouraging you to watch, and to listen, to think, to act, but don't give your heart to those things. Then in verse 8, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I'm suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal". Now, wait a minute; remember, our topic here is the life of a Christ follower, endures the hardship like a good soldier. He said, "I'm suffering for the gospel. I'm chained like a criminal". We think of suffering for Jesus as our parking spot or worship time or... right? I mean, we have reduced the notion of Christianity to inconvenience.
Folks, our faith is not grounded on convenience. It's not based on our comfort. We will miss the kingdom of God if we allow comfort and convenience to be the defining criteria of how we serve the Lord. We've lost our balance. We've been coached into it by professional Christians such as myself. But it's deception. The Scripture is clear, repetitive, consistent that honoring the Lord will take the very best you have. It'll take a greater effort that you've invested in your hobbies. If you're more invested, if you sacrifice your time and adjust your calendar more for your hobbies than you do your faith, you're deceived. You can be a good, kindly, biblically-oriented, deceived person. But that makes you incredibly vulnerable to what's happening around us right now.
The attitude of the church, if you'll just listen, I've spent my life in the church, so this is my story. I'm not pointing a finger at anybody else, but the attitude that I hear in the church does not sound like we believe we've found the pearl of great price. And whatever you have, you want to go liquidate so you can be certain that you secure that pearl of great price. It seems to me that our attitude is far more like we've picked up something at the dollar store. We hold it pretty loosely because we can get another one. Just not that big a deal, it didn't cost me a lot to get it, I don't attach a lot of value to it, it was free. And they said, "Say a little prayer," I said a little prayer, but the real dreams and aspirations of my life didn't change that much. I just thought I'd found a new power source to help me get my way. That is not the presentation of the gospel in the Scripture. When Jesus is Lord, he establishes our priorities over our time, our calendar, our aspirations, our resources. He's first or he's not Lord.
Now what we're witnessing in contrast to that is this descent into paganism. It's a downward progression. It's not a new thing. Please don't fall into that trap and think we're the first generation to watch this. The Scripture is very clear: quite to the contrary. It's been a repeated problem for humanity. And then we introduce into it the end of the age and the last days prophecies and the return of the Lord, so we think we don't have to pay much attention to it because it's just the last days. So, we don't really have to have any moral awareness. Well, there's some biblical perspectives, I would agree, suggest we could be approaching the end of the age, but the precise timing of that is not certain. What is certain is this descent into paganism. And don't let your end time prophecies confuse you. We're to be salt and light. We're to take a stand, to make a difference, to make an impact, to stand in the gap on behalf of those who don't have the ability to stand, for the very young, for the very old.
That's our assignment. We're watching. It isn't new. In Isaiah 66 and verse 3 it says, "They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations". This is Isaiah talking about the covenant people of God. What I'm describing to you is not the behavior of the ungodly, the immoral, or the wicked. I'm describing the behavior of those who imagine themselves to be within the church. That's where the descent into paganism is gaining ground. The ungodly behave the ungodly ways. Isaiah goes on, "God says, 'I will also choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, and when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight, and they chose what displeases me".
Does that sound like a pretty accurate description of what we're watching? Oh, we'll find people with great celebrity, or power, or success, or influence, or academic achievement to support what we're imagining, but the reality is we understand within us it's ungodly, it's inappropriate. In 2 Kings 23, there's a verse, there's a statement that's repeated consistently throughout those historical books in your Old Testament. "Jehoiakim," he's the new king. "He was twenty-five years old when he became king," twenty-five. "He reigned in Jerusalem eleven years". And here's the statement. "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord".
You don't have to be an old white man to do evil. You can do evil at any point in your life, and it really has little to do with your appearance. We're being divided these days by our appearance, or our age, or our gender. It's just a tool to separate us. We're far more alike than we are different, because what defines us begins within us, not on the outside of us. But listen to what it says, it says, "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his fathers had done". There is king after king after king, generation after generation after generation in our Bibles where it says they did evil in the eyes of the Lord. It's a very important phrase.
"Well, who says what I'm doing evil"? Well, from God's perspective, that's evil. "Well, I don't believe in God". That is paganism. The fact that you don't believe in God does not set him aside, does not render him irrelevant, doesn't make him null and void. You don't have to believe in gravity. It believes in you. Find a mirror. I heard a better way to evaluate your overall health. You don't need a scale. You just need a full-length mirror. After you get out of the shower, stamp your foot and then time how long it takes for everything to quit moving. Do not send me a letter. He did evil. What I want us to understand is what we're watching is not unique to our generation. The question is what will we do?
In generation after generation after generation, we're also given the stories where people chose to honor God, and he poured out his Spirit upon his people, and he extended freedoms and liberties, and a spirit of repentance came upon them. We could see that if we will choose to be those people, or we can participate in this descent with indulgent lives. We can embrace the lawlessness and the ungodliness. We can stand and watch the violence and say nothing. We can watch the debauchery and the excess. We can see the rise of the occult, the rejection of the truth, and promotion of the false, and choose to be silent because we don't want to expose ourselves, or forfeit an opportunity, or put ourselves on the outside of something. We certainly don't want to be chained like a criminal, as Paul described. We have no intention of enduring hardship like a good soldier. We've stepped away from a biblical perspective.
This isn't about somebody. This is us. Who are we going to be? What are we going to do? It's a very important question. Stop waiting for somebody else to change. Stop waiting for somebody else to lead. Stop waiting for somebody else to have the courage to do the right thing. Let's become those people. Let's decide that's us. And I'm not talking about a political movement or an ideological movement. We're going to have to choose to honor the Lord with our lives in new ways.
We had a pastor and his wife visit us a week ago. They pastor in Belarus. We've known them for many years, more than 20 years. He was a young man when he began. He planted a church in a small town in Belarus, and we've watched the Lord continue to bless and increase his ministry. They have a church in Minsk, the capital. They oversee several churches in Belarus and more than a dozen churches in the Ukraine. God has led them. But they came, and they shared with us what was happening. You know, for the last two years, it feels like every time there have been decisions to be made or responses that were needed, God has given us a window into the truth, that we would know how to respond.
For instance, they said that the Ukrainian president, at that time in our news cycle, the messaging was predominantly that he was trying to establish himself as a dictator. He was banishing opposing parties. And Gena and his wife said, "That's not just true. We heard it on the news, and we had to turn it off". They said there was multiple parties, and some of the parties in Ukraine were pro-Russian, pro-Putin, and they were working against the freedoms of the people. He said the Ukrainian people lived under the rule of communism and authoritarianism. And now they've had freedom, and he said they will never again submit to a dictator. They would rather die in the streets than live that way.
They looked at me privately and said, "Don't worry about Zelenskyy; if he tries to establish himself as a dictator, the people will take him down". They told us about the churches that have been destroyed and the pastors who sent their families to Poland and other places, and they've gone to do anything they can to support the people who are resisting the Russians. And they looked at us, and they said, "Don't imagine that we're just fighting for Ukraine. We're fighting for you".
It's an important time, church, for us to have the courage of our faith. When I listen to Gena and Larissa and the report they brought of the believers in Belarus and the Ukraine, the secret police had already been to their church. They'd been gone less than a week before the secret police came. In Belarus, you can't invite a child to church. In Belarus, you can't ask multiple congregations to come together, the police won't allow it. When I listen to them tell their stories, to be completely honest with you, I was embarrassed by our timid faith, by our timid faith. What will people think of us? They don't want them to think I'm a zealot. I don't want to be perceived as a fanatic. I do. I do. I think we'd better find ourselves out of step with the current trends and culture. We'd better find a new response.
What exactly is it we're afraid of? Whose approval are we focused upon? What consequences are you so concerned about? Gena's brother's home had been destroyed in Ukraine. He lived in Kyiv. And she said, "We talked," and she said, "It's just not that big a deal, we'll find a place to live when this is done". Imagine that, imagine if our homes were destroyed. It's a life-altering event for us. They said, "We'll work that out another day. We've got bigger problems". Bigger problems.
A Canadian couple visited church this week. We weren't expecting them. They showed up during the week. They wanted to see the buildings. They watch online. And then somebody came and got me. I got to visit with them for just a few minutes. I asked, "How was Canada"? And they said, "The churches are pretty quiet". They said there was a handful of pastors that were arrested. They said a friend of theirs stood up and was fired from his job. You know, in most congregations, pastors are employees. The churches have existed far longer than that pastor's tenure in that place.
So, they're brought in to serve by a board, or a presbytery, or a group of elders. Somebody chooses them, extends to them that opportunity. And the real strength and authority in the church comes from those groups. If we as businesspeople, and leaders, and congregations will have more courage, our churches will be more courageous. He said there'd been more than 40 Canadian trucking companies whose license had been withdrawn, as a result of the truckers' demonstrations. One of the online funding sites had published the names, addresses, and the phone numbers of everybody who had donated to the truckers. I mean, they went down a list of things that are just unthinkable, and very little of it's being, or we're hearing about. Endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I'd like to close with a prayer of repentance for all those times we've been silent when we could've used a voice. For decades, they've told us not to take our faith into the public square, and we have complied. Not any longer. Let's pray:
Father, thank you that we live in a nation of freedom and liberty. Forgive us for those times when we failed to use our voice. By our silence, Father, or our withdrawal, we have denied you. Forgive us. Give us a new boldness and a new anointing. In Jesus's name, amen.