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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Seeing and Understanding - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Seeing and Understanding - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Seeing and Understanding - Part 1

It's good to be with you again. Our topic is "Seeing and Understanding". Now, when it comes to spiritual things, I think for the most part we haven't even looked. We're not necessarily closed to them. We're not disinterested. I don't even think we're aware that there's anything to be seen. It isn't really that complicated. If you want to catch fish, you've gotta go where to look for fish. If you need vegetables at the grocery store, you need to know where to look for those. Well, if you want to see God moving, you need to know where to look. And what would you recognize it if you saw it? Unfortunately, we think of the expressions of God in our world as the formulation of a worship service, a specific time in the week, a specific location.

We stop and we have our little God moment, and if there's anything for God to be done or said or accomplished, it needs to fit into that point on the calendar. The rest of the week is ours. That is a very deficient way to imagine God's involvement in our lives. God has more for us than that. I don't want you to be a fanatic or bizarre. I don't want you to check your brain or your emotions at the door. I want you to use all the gifts God has given you. But I want to ask you to begin to open your heart to seeing what God is doing in our world with new eyes and understanding and with a new heart. Get your Bible and a notepad. But most of all, let's say yes to the Lord.

We're working through this little series around the idea visions of the future, a God perspective. And in this particular session, I want to spend some time exploring with you a bit how we can improve our spiritual vision, how we can see and understand with greater clarity beyond our five physical senses. I'm not in opposition to those. God gave them to us. They're important. But we need a perspective, we need a screen. We need a context for understanding our world beyond our five senses, or we're really denying our faith, because the Scripture says that those who worship God must worship him in spirit, and that means it's beyond your sensory apparatus. They're wonderful tools God gave us, but he didn't intend for them to dominate us. They're intended to enrich our lives.

We are witnesses to a most remarkable time in human history. The Spirit of God is moving in the earth in some very unprecedented ways, certainly in any time in my life experience. I'm seeing God do things that I never imagined he would, the way he's gathering people on a typical weekend. We gather for more than 60 different Christian traditions. And when I say tradition, I mean denomination or labels of one sort or another. That idea would've been totally impossible just a few decades ago. You couldn't have kept the peace. We were so determined that we were right about some subset of our faith, and it was hard for us to extend a hand of fellowship to one another. And God has broken down so many barriers so that we could stand together under the headship of Jesus. And the authority of his Words, filled with his Spirit, that we can celebrate the things that bring us together and not the things that separate us.

The Spirit of God is moving in the earth in the most remarkable ways. I was able to participate in a Zoom call this week with some pastors and church leaders from Ukraine, and Belarus, and the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia. And they were sharing what God was doing, and it was not an easy call. There was a woman, she was taking the call from her automobile. And she said, "I am on the front lines". And another person spoke up and said, "I'm no hero. I'm afraid". And another pastor spoke up and said, "We haven't had water for more than a week now". But they weren't complaining. Most of them had sent their families to other places.

The church in Czechoslovakia, wow, say that three times really quickly. In the Czech Republic, they had more than 150 people from the Ukraine that were living in their church, until they could find homes for them to stay, until they could go back home safely. And in the midst of that, they had hope, and faith, and confidence that God was moving. They understood it is more than a political conflict or a military conflict. They understood there were spiritual consequences to that. It was humbling to me. It was sobering to me. It certainly wasn't about parties. But they said, "We're trusting God to secure our futures". We need a different kind of vision, a different kind of awareness. And it is unusual for a week to slip past us here without multiple reports of God's supernatural involvement in the lives of those around us. In fact, it happens with such frequency, I'm concerned sometimes we take it for granted.

You know, we baptized hundreds of people last weekend. We baptized 40 or more last night. And we act as if that's normal. That's not. That's, like, weird. I mean, godly weird, but that's not normal. I've done ministry a long time, and people don't travel from multiple states to say, "I'm beginning a spiritual journey in a new way, and I wanted to make a special effort to honor God in my life". The miracle stories that come, people whose lives are changed, whose physical bodies are healed, week after week, we hear those stories. God is moving in the earth. You have to make a determined, intentional choice to focus your attention on that, to share their stories.

When you have your talk moments, don't just complain about what's happening in the earth. Share those good news of what God is doing. It doesn't have the same platforms that some of the other information does. It's not as popular. Good news doesn't travel as quickly as bad news. You know that. Gossip travels far more quickly than compliments. I didn't call your name. I'm just observing a fact. Okay, you can relax. But you have to purposefully focus your attention. Stop on a daily basis to give thanks to God for what he's doing in the earth. It will help you. It'll break the heaviness. It will dispel some of the darkness. We need the hope that comes from the conversations around what we see God doing. It's true.

Now, it's equally true, now, I don't want to deny it nor do I want to in any way suggest it isn't true, that there are growing expressions of evil. It's certainly more rampant, more brazen, more aggressive than any time that I can remember. I mean, you know, one example. Recently, it's become very apparent that our children are not being targeted. They have been targeted in some very aggressive ways. And for all the things that COVID was not, one of the benefits out of that is because parents were engaged in the educational process in some new ways. It uncovered the degree to which education had yielded to indoctrination. And not in every school and not in every classroom. You can't make those blanket statements. But it certainly came far more aware. It's been living in the higher educational levels for decades.

To be honest, when I was completing some graduate-level education, some very fine, celebrated institutions, they were filled with the most ungodly, wicked things in the midst of theological studies. It was so bizarre, we'd think, "Well, that'll never make it to the mainstream". I was wrong 'cause now they're teaching it to our elementary children. And the shocking part, as you watch all that happen is when it's been uncovered or made public, the perpetrators have defended their intent to shape the worldview of our children. They're arguing it's their prerogative and the parents should stand on the sidelines. Please don't yield to that. God entrusted those children to your care. They're your responsibility. You will give an account for them. It's important.

In fact, I would put it this way. Church leaders, nor educators, nor the medical community should be influencing children towards embracing gender confusion or homosexuality. That's not their assignment. But this all fits in to this discussion around what we see and how we understand our world. Our presentation of Christianity hasn't been wrong, but it's been incomplete. We have had an extraordinary focus on conversion and being born again, which is a necessity. I don't want to diminish that, but we haven't talked a lot beyond that. We've had these polite debates about whether God still does miracles, or they ended with the last of the apostles, or some other goofy conversation.

Folks, our heroes in the Bible, almost without exception, didn't simply lead their lives for the outcome that it would have upon their time under the sun, while they were in an earth suit. They led their lives with the perspective of the larger purposes of God, and their decisions were informed by the imaginations that their lives were one component of what God was doing through the generations, and they wanted to hold their space. It was certainly true of Abram. He left his home, reoriented his entire life, changed all of his relationships, because God promised something that was far beyond his own journey under the sun. It was true with Joseph, it was true with Moses, it was true with King David, it was true with Daniel. We are still reading Daniel's writings to understand what's ahead of us. And Daniel spent his entire life as a slave in Babylon, so his faith wasn't focused on just happiness, and comfort, and convenience.

Much of Daniel's life was difficult, and yet God said he was highly esteemed. And it carries right into the New Testament with the disciples that Jesus recruited. They didn't just get a bigger fishing business because they got to know Jesus. They didn't have the best boats on the lake because Jesus was their friend. I'm not opposed to your boat. Don't start a new rumor. I do well enough on my own. It's okay. But they understood that the purpose of the intersection of their lives with Jesus and the kingdom of God brought a totally different perspective to them. It's true with Paul. It's true with John. It's true with all of our heroes. How have we missed this? How is it we have accepted the routine of faith? Attend a worship service, have a polite little prayer.

Perhaps you read your Bible a bit, and then we just kind of fold our arms, and it's my life. No. That's a very deficient, incomplete perspective of faith. So, how do we learn to see more? How can we open our hearts? I'm not trying to raise the bar on you. I'm telling you God has more for us than we've talked about. And maybe it's taken some of the disruptions. Maybe it's taken the comfort and convenience that was our lives not too far in the past, being put in the blender for us to begin to say, "Lord, is it possible we have not listened as carefully as we might have? Is it possible that we've preferred the perspective of the people around us to be cheering for us more than you cheering for us"? Folks, I want the Lord to be pleased with me.

This notion of cultivating spiritual awareness, I will get to your outline, I promise you. I may not finish it, but I'll at least get there, which is better than I did on Easter, right? I just gave you one and then did something else. Jesus, the Scripture very clearly tells us about Jesus's life. We read that in the Gospels. From the point of his conception to the point of his resurrection, we have Jesus's story for that 33-year window when he walked around with an earth suit. But that's not all we know about Jesus. Jesus is all over the Old Testament. It says he gave, we read it in an earlier session that he accompanied the Hebrew slaves when they left Egypt, that he was with them in their journey through the wilderness. Multiple places in the New Testament tell us that our New Testament friends would take the books of the Old Testament and tell the Jesus story to their contemporaries.

Jesus was engaged with Adam's descendants long before Bethlehem. And then it's equally clear that after he ascended back to heaven in Acts chapter 1 that he was still engaged with the unfolding story of his people in the earth. In Acts chapter 9, he steps onto the road in Damascus and grabs one Saul of Tarsus by the back of the neck and says, "Just what do you think you're doing"? And in the same chapter, he's in Ananias's home saying, "I've got an assignment for you". Jesus before Bethlehem, after the ascension. Now here's the challenge. I want to ask you to think about your life in time, the days you get under the sun with an earth suit, and your life beyond that. If you only think about your life in time, you have a very limited spiritual awareness.

1 Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 19 says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we're to be pitied more than all men". That's pretty plain. If our faith is only for this life, it's a pitiful place. Do I believe that your faith has merit, impact in time? Absolutely I do. We talk about that a good bit. But it's only, it's the tip of the iceberg. Look at Psalm 139, verse 13. "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I'm fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well". God knew you before your parents saw you. He wrote your story before your parents had a gender reveal. It's important, it is very important to let that settle within you. It'll clarify for you the debate and discussion about when life begins. It will help you. It'll help you sort through some of the challenges that we're facing as a culture. It really isn't unclear or confusing.

You have a life beyond the life that you will lead under the sun. But your opportunities to impact outcomes and rewards are determined with your days under the sun. And you only get one time. There's no do-overs, grasshopper. Look in Philippians chapter 1. This is Paul. He's writing to a church. He said, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain". He said, "If I continue in my earth suit, there's some benefit for my Jesus assignment. But it's better for me to get out of this suit". He said, "There's something better for me than the frailty of a human body and the limits that come with that".

Again, he has an understanding and insight that for most of us it's just right on the periphery, the edge of what's even credible. "To live is Christ and to die is gain. If I'm to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet, what shall I choose? I don't know. I'm torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it's more necessary for you that I remain in the body".

Again, Paul's suggestion is that his life isn't finished when the pump in the middle of his body stops beating. It's a seamless thing. He said, "I have an existence that is not determined by my physical strength or lack thereof, and what's ahead of me is better than anything I'm going to experience in my physical body. But there is a purpose. There is an assignment. There's a benefit for me staying in this present condition". You have a life beyond time. So, what's our response? If that's true, and I believe it is, what's the appropriate response from us? Romans 12 says, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship".

We understand the words in that sentence, but the meaning of it I think is a little obscure to us. It was written to an audience for whom the animal sacrificial system was normal. They were still taking animals to the priests. If you visited Jerusalem for one of the annual festivals, the sacrifices were a very significant part of that visit. In fact, the aroma of the daily sacrifices, the animal was laid on the altar, and then the fire that consumed it, you've all smelled the... no disrespect, but you've smelled the grill when there's something on that. Imagine that aroma lifting over Jerusalem to remind you every day of the significance of that sacrifice. And before an animal was put on the altar, it was slaughtered, and the blood was captured. There were some rather specific instructions for how to do that.

By the time that animal was placed on the altar, it was emptied of any self-determination. No animal ever jumped off the altar. That was addressed before they got there. So, Paul is borrowing on that broad experience of his audience, and he says "Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Offer your body," he says, "as a living sacrifice". Lord, I'm yours. I had a plan, and I had a dream, and I had a set of agendas, and I'm tempted just to ask you to bless those. But is there anything I might do for you? And I know we're in church. We'll go, "That's very good, Pastor". But in the reality of our lives, down there where we really live and think and dream and have aspirations, this takes a lifetime of incremental work. It does.

In fact, it takes the Spirit of God to help us gain any momentum in this direction at all. But then we have to choose to say to that old carnal, selfish part of me, and you, too, I have to say, "You will not dominate the agenda". Look at Ephesians 4 and verse 1. "As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received". We've taken that, and we've twisted this into some sort of a confining observance of rules. You know what I've learned about religious rules? Your rules make sense to you, and my rules are stupid. We grew up in many different traditions, and there are some things that come from that tradition. You may not be as engaged in it as you once were, but I assure you it has some residual impact upon you.

The kind of music we should sing, how communion should be observed, or when communion should be observed, what the presentation of the gospel should look like, the wardrobe of the person presenting, or the people who were there, all sorts of things. And while they all have some connection to Scripture, very few of those things would keep us out of the kingdom of God, but they make great sense to us. They're important to us. They have value to us. And I've observed, you know, when you meet somebody and their rules are different than you, that's just the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I've told this story before, but I went to India some years ago, and there was a group of us traveling. And when we came off the plane, our host met us, and there was clearly some problem.

They were uncomfortable with us, and they took us aside and said, "Your women". "Yeah"? "They have on lipstick and jewelry". I mean, we'd flown forever. Really, what most of them had on were wedding rings. So, we had a little meeting and said, "They've requested that we lose the lipstick and the jewelry". And we had like, we had a major theological crisis. And I wasn't sure which was more important, but clearly it was all important. So, we managed to work through that, and we showed up for our first public session when our hosts all arrived, and some of them came in traditional clothing with their stomachs exposed. Well, clearly, on our side of the aisle, we had some rules we wanted to talk about. And my takeaway was your rules make sense, and my rules are stupid. It's so easy.

So, what I think Paul is saying, "to live a life worthy of the calling you have received," I don't think he's talking about just adherence to rules, but to yield your life to the lordship of Jesus. To offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Look at 1 Peter. "I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, abstain from sinful desires. They war against your soul". War is a harsh word. You've been watching pictures of war lately. You know, they show us the horrors of war, and we're aghast.

Folks, war is horrible. When the outcomes really matter, people don't play fair. Have we forgotten? Have you forgotten those conflicts where we bombed major population centers, everybody involved in the process? War is horrific, it's evil, it's wicked. It's why we try to avoid it. It's not sports. We use lots of war language in our sports. And I like sports, but it's not war. The participants are making multiple millions of dollars. There are celebrities that are endorsing soup. They may pull a muscle or need surgery to repair an injury. We all go home at the end of the day. War is different. He says, "Live your lives as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from the desires which war against your souls". We're told to abstain from something, and it's not easy. It's a war. And most of us go, "Well, I just choose not to engage". I believe in grace and the God of love. I like to read the New Testament. Good, read Revelation.

I don't like to deliver religious lectures. If I wanted to do that, I'd stay in the university. I love making a journey with people and getting to know the Lord better. I want to pray with you. Let's offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. We want his best in our lives. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you that you love us, that you have a purpose for us. I pray that you'll give us understanding hearts and eyes to see what you've called us to be. We offer ourselves to you today. We want to serve you with all that we are and all that we have. In Jesus's name, amen.

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