Allen Jackson - Strong Foundations
Hey, it's good to be with you today. Our topic is "Strong Foundations". You know, COVID is fading a bit, but the turmoil in our world is escalating. From wars with Russia to all sorts of internal confusion to conflict on our borders both north and south, the turmoil in our lives is not diminishing. Well, the only way to navigate a season of tremendous turmoil is to understand that your foundations are strong. And I don't mean just being born again, that's kind of a given. You know, that notion that the new birth solves all of our problems, while it's a wonderful idea, isn't a reality. Jesus's life was not conflict-free; in fact, it was filled with conflict and challenge, and yet, he was the perfect, sinless, obedient Son of God, so it's highly probable that if you and I are on a God assignment, even as the righteousness of God in Christ, we're gonna face some challenges. Well, the foundations of our lives are essential to face the turmoil and be steadfast. We're gonna work on that a bit together. Grab your Bible, get a notepad; most of all, open your heart.
But COVID is fading, hallelujah, becoming more endemic than pandemic, it seems to me. But the pandemic, that arrival of this widespread transmission of disease, seems to have been seized upon for some other purposes. And at this point in the journey, from my perspective at least, it seems that many are awakening to that reality. But that burgeoning, growing awakening is having some side effects. Side effects of frustration, deterioration of trust, division. Some people are pushing back, others are awkwardly trying to find a way forward. There's another group that are just trying to pretend the entire episode was logical and appropriate. We find ourselves still intact, and that's an important thing.
I was outside working yesterday, and I tripped over something, and I fell, and I had the chainsaw in one hand, it was not pretty, but there was no camera, hallelujah. But when I got up, I took inventory, everything was still there, there were no arterial spurts. It was a little humiliating, but unless the squirrels squeal on me, I'm good. And so, you know, two years or so into this, we take inventory and we're still intact. We're still here. We're still worshipping. Our families are still intact. We have taken some hits and suffered some losses, we're still intact, but much has changed, at least at the level of our awareness. We have unsustainable debt. We have a teetering economy.
I know we don't like to talk about it, but inflation, well-underreported supply chain problems, labor problems, energy confusion, just plain old greed. I mean, those things have all broken into the open in a way that we weren't looking at two or three years ago. We have new wars on the horizon, lawlessness continues with open borders and millions of people pouring into our country from wherever. Deception, diminished freedoms, censorship, all those things are a part of the world we're living in right now in ways we're not accustomed to seeing. Nevertheless, in spite of that, and this is important, we are free, we are. We are aware, to some extent, and we are very much on an assignment. We're not just responding to, we've been called to some very specific things.
Now, I think we've got to be willing to acknowledge the turmoil. I don't think we need to dwell on it, I don't think it needs to be front and center, but if we don't acknowledge it, we can't respond. A good diagnosis is the beginning of a better outcome. There's a verse in Psalm 11 that I think is appropriate. "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do"? "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do"? It's an important question. Things that we have counted upon for decade upon decade upon decade as really foundational to how our society has functioned are being very intentionally dismantled. The things that we've been taught for decades, helpful things, not destructive things, there are some destructive things that need to be addressed, but some helpful things are being intentionally dismantled.
Psalm 82 in verse 5 says, "They know nothing and understand nothing. They walk about in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken". The foundations of the earth being shaken. Psalm 119 gives us a bit more of a hopeful tone, it says, "Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever". God intends for his perspective to be permanent in this earth, but it is challenged. It's not a new thing, but it's being challenged. There's an attempt to overturn it, to dismiss it, to discredit it. It doesn't matter which lie needs to be told, or which deception needs to be practiced, and the affirming voices are busily trying to silence them, but evil is not new.
Look at Psalm 14 in verse 4, "Will evildoers never learn, those who devour my people as men eat bread and they do not call on the Lord"? Evil's not a new thing. We've got to grow up a little bit, stop gasping. You've had some history somewhere, you may not have wanted to be there and the person teaching it may have wanted it to be their last, but there was something in the air. If you've never had any, there's a History Channel, go spend a little time. It seems like most weeks it's all Hitler all the time, but there's still some history out there. Evil is not new. It's being expressed in some ways that are new to us, and there's some new platforms because technology continues to innovate, and our communication tools are so amazing.
There's never been anything that God has given us for our good that we haven't found a way to pervert for our destruction. And you don't have to go to the most sinister of things to think about that. All the way back in the beginning of Genesis, God said he gave us the world and everything in it for food, and we managed to take food and make it destructive. See, I started meddling that fast, just, we went right there. Now, we see a lot more overt expressions of evil, but it's not a new thing. In Jeremiah 4 in verse 22 it says, "My people are fools". This is Jeremiah the prophet talking to the covenant people of God. This is God's perspective to them. He said you're behaving foolishly. You don't know me. "They are senseless children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good".
So if we're gonna acknowledge that evil is not new, I think we have to acknowledge right alongside of that the people of faith have rebelled against God for a long time. This is not the first time we've watched this dance. The reason we've had persistent expressions, outpourings of the Spirit of God, awakenings, renewals, revivals, whichever labels you prefer into that mix, the reason we have had those is they were needed. Now, that's not just with current history, that story follows us all the way through Scripture. The foundations are being tested at the moment, church.
Don't look away, pay attention. There are expressions of evil that we haven't faced in this frequency and this magnitude in recent years, and a part of the story is the people of God are trying to decide what they're going to do. They're not rejecting God out, there not avoiding it, they're not burning their Bibles in the streets and saying we want nothing to do with it, but they're refusing to submit to the righteous authority of God in their lives. That's the world we're watching. That's the struggle within us. Our habits have been disrupted, our routines have been broken, there's new voices speaking to us. There's new voices saying choose what's most convenient, do what's the easiest. We're facing some challenges.
Now, I think to find stability we have to understand the nature of the foundations that we're dependent upon. We learned it wasn't a building, or a particular time of day, or some of the things that we thought were so essential to our experience with the Lord or our community of faith. I feel like we have offered so many sacred cows on the altar in the last two years that we should've been having barbecues almost every week. But we're still here, so what are the things that are foundational and why? You need to know them because the pressure upon them is going to intensify. And when I say the pressure upon them, I mean the pressure within you upon them to question them, to diminish them, to second-guess them, to be skeptical of them.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and verse 11, it says, "No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ". We are Christ followers. We're called Christians because the center of our story is Jesus. The redemptive work of Jesus, what Jesus accomplished for us through his redemptive work on the cross and his resurrection is the reason that we can participate in the kingdom of God. It's not about our race or ethnicity or our education, it's not about our social status, our IQ, it's not about our athletic prowess. We can't buy our way in, we can't be good enough. Our entire story begins with the story of Jesus. We come in humility to acknowledge that we are apart from God.
In fact, he calls us, we don't even seek him out. Our entire story is centered in Jesus, and if in our pride and our arrogance and our ritual routine and our habit of attendance, our achievement, or some imagined moral superiority we think we have done something, or achieved something or accomplished something that would commend us to God, we're deceived. It's not the degrees I've earned or the number of worship services I've attended or how beautifully I sing or the moral purity of the choices of my life. Baloney, none of us will earn it, it begins with Jesus, with the recognition of the humility that God did something for us we couldn't do for ourselves. He paid the price for my ungodliness, my rebellion, my wickedness. It's why I can look at other people with compassion, even when they mistreat me or respond in a way that I would prefer they didn't.
I can look at them because I have been an offender. Jesus is the center, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there will be powerful voices, unrelenting voices trying to diminish Jesus, to convince you to diminish Jesus, to compromise about him. Don't talk about him, don't mention his name, don't pray in his name, don't talk about him. Folks, if you're gonna participate, you better take him with you. If Jesus isn't welcome, why are you going? We have been way too accommodating on this point. I'm not suggesting to be angry or belligerent or mean-spirited; I'm talking about internally. We have imagined that we were covert operatives. We have been so covert that the unbelievers missed our faith altogether. We're presiding over one of the most precipitous declines in Christian influence in the history of the Christian church.
Now, I want something different for my watch. I don't know if God in his mercy will give us that, but I don't intend to quietly go into that dark night, how 'bout you? Enough of this. We have quibbled about secondary and tertiary things, styles, architecture, clothing, which translation to read, are you kidding me? We've been frustrated because there's been difficulty in getting a united front in how to address COVID, but we haven't been able to have a united front on how to address sin and the destruction that it brings, so we shouldn't point our fingers at any other community. We've been so distracted by our preferences and our styles, we don't want to go to a big church, there's so many people. It's gonna be really awkward if you get to heaven and there's only four of you.
Again, we need to at least to be aware so that we are listening and watching and thinking. The foundations that have kept us together as a people, whether we went to church or didn't go to church, we understood keeping your word mattered. Whether you profess to be a Christian and were a regular attender or not, we understood what a family was. You didn't have to be a regular reader of Scripture and a participant in a worship service to understand that God created us male and female. We had broad agreement on that for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, across many societies and cultures. The foundations are under assault. Do you understand? And we've been apologizing our way forward. It's unfortunate.
Look at 1 Timothy 3 and verse 14. He says, "I hope to come to you soon, I'm writing these instructions". This is Paul writing to a young man he's mentoring. "I'm writing you these instructions so that if I'm delayed, you'll know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household". You know, it's not a new thing that we need a little instruction on how to behave; that's not just a 21st century thing, it was a problem in the 1st century. "Which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the foundation of the truth". He said, Timothy, your community of faith is the pillars, the foundational component of the truth. It's how truth is going to be protected, distributed, disseminated, watched over, because left to ourselves, we'll excuse almost any kind of evil. We need one another. Not in angry, condemning voices, but encouraging one another.
In Hebrews it says encourage one another daily. If you're not encouraging somebody in the faith every day, why are you being disobedient? Waiting for a ministry, ignoring the assignments, it'll never happen. We have to remember the foundations. Jesus, you can't trade him away, you can't negotiate him away. There's going to be increasing pressure to do that. I sat in a lecture with someone who had been a very influential leader, had been the chief rabbi of Denmark, and he says you know, if we could just diminish the intensity around Jesus, I think we could find unity between Islam and Judaism and Christianity. You can find that same attitude in the political arena on either side of the aisle. You can find it, it's rampant in academia.
Just turn down the noise on Jesus, out of date, we've evolved beyond him. We have to remember God's truth. We have to understand the role of Scripture. There's just very little you can do to stabilize your life if you have no interest or time in the Word of God. You don't have to understand it all, it's not about a test, it's about spending time regularly opening your heart to the authority of God's Word. Thirdly, we've got to have community; together matters. We're just now beginning to have the tip of the iceberg of what happened with our isolation. What it did to us, the impact of that, we certainly haven't recovered yet. We're talkin' about supply chains and workforce problems and economic upheaval, but so much of that was exacerbated, was made much worse by the isolation that we entered into, 'cause for most of us it wasn't just a week or two, we had significant disruption to our habits and patterns and routines.
We stopped thinking about work as a daily part of our lives and it became something that was, our focus on that went through a filter of fear first, self-preservation first, and we found reasons why our self-preservation was threatened by those exposures and we avoided them. Together matters, our engagement as Christ followers. We're not just spectators, it's not a spectator sport. We've been called to be witnesses. You have a God story. God's done something in your life. If he hasn't, get saved. Before the sun comes up in the morning, you take a minute with the Lord and say, "God, I'm sorry I have lived apart from you. I'm a sinner and I need a Savior. Jesus, be Lord of my life".
And then you start telling people what God's done for you. I was on a path to hell and God wrote me a new future. I couldn't have paid for it, I didn't deserve it, I certainly didn't earn it, and he did that for me. We're called to be witnesses. You have a God story. Do the people around you know your God story as much as your favorite U.T. story? I hope so. We are called to be witnesses. We're ambassadors, that's not just a witness, we are representatives, often in foreign, and many times hostile territory. Representatives of the kingdom, a different set of values and parameters, a different worldview. I've traveled a bit, there's a lot of differences between cultures and nations. It's wonderful, it's exciting, but I've never been tempted to... I'm always looking forward to coming home.
We're ambassadors, we're defenders of our faith. When we hear it being threatened or challenged, we're expected to have the courage to say, "Wait a minute, that's mine you're talking about". We've been called to be fishermen, to go find people that don't know the Lord, to engage with them. Now by definition, that means it's not always fruitful. People that like to fish like to be quiet, 'cause it's not always a busy, it's not a frenetic activity most of the time. We're followers of Jesus, we're leaders, we're called to be an influence, we're overcomers. It presupposes resistance. In fact, we're told that we will be persecuted, even hated because we're advocates for Jesus. That's all a part of our engagement assignment. We're called to be generous with our time, our attention, and our treasure. It's not ours. It's not your calendar. It's not your money. You're a steward.
"Well, I earned it," only because God gave us the opportunity. I've been to the Amazon, they work really hard there and they have a whole lot less than we do. God put us someplace where the opportunities for us were different. We're called to be generous, we're called to be generational, we're called to be aware of what's happened before us and what's going to happen after us. That's one of the reasons for the holidays that God has given his people. We don't celebrate Easter because we like chocolate and new clothes, we celebrate because we want the opportunity to talk about the redemptive work of Jesus, that he's alive, that the grave didn't hold him, and to see if we can engage more broadly people with that story.
It's God's involvement in the lives of people younger than us. We work really diligently around here with those younger people, but it's equally true for those who are older than us. We have a God assignment to respect those that are older than we are. We live in a culture where life is cheap, and those that don't have the power or the strength to defend themselves are marginalized in a hurry. We've just watched that in very dramatic ways, and the voices standing up for the most vulnerable amongst us have not been as loud as they might have been.
Before we go, we want to pray. Let's give an invitation to the Holy Spirit that if there's any place in our lives that makes us vulnerable in the midst of the turmoil, that God would help us see what it is so we can address it. Are you game? Let's pray.
Father, thank you. I thank you for your Spirit that lives within us, is our helper, our teacher, our guide. Holy Spirit, if there's any place we're vulnerable, I pray that you'll help us to see it that we might choose you with our whole heart and stand firm in the midst of the turmoil. Thank you for your faithfulness to us. In Jesus's name, amen.