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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Tale of Two People - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Tale of Two People - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Tale of Two People - Part 1
TOPICS: Tale of Two

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "A Tale of Two People". We're gonna compare and contrast some characters in some circumstances in Scripture: people who said yes to the Lord and people who declined an invitation, and in doing so forfeited so much that God had prepared them for. I don't want to miss God's opportunities in my life and I don't want you to miss them in yours either. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but far more importantly, open your heart and be prepared to say yes to the Lord. Our job is not to maintain the status quo. Our job is to be disruptors for the kingdom of God, to lift up the name of Jesus, to be salt and light in the world, and dispel the darkness. The Holy Spirit will help us. Enjoy the lesson.

There is within me, more than at any time I remember, a sense of urgency with regard to the kingdom of God, and the good news of the kingdom of God, and the proclamation of that message. God is moving in the earth. I assure you as certainly as we can see evidence that wickedness is increasing in the earth, and immorality is growing, and all of those things, that if you will turn your attention to it, the Spirit of God is moving in the earth in unprecedented ways. I want to be a part of that. I want to participate. I want to do anything I can. I'll borrow King David's line, "I'd rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to live in the tents of the wicked". And if you're a bit frightened or anxious about what's happening in the earth, I would direct you, spend more time thinking about what God is doing.

Look for the God stories. Look for the expressions of the Spirit of God. They are abundant around us. God is moving in the most remarkable ways, but I have this sense that great changes are around us. And I have this sense of urgency combined with this sense of anticipation that the darkness will grow more intense, but expressions of the light will be more prevalent, and we're gonna have a choice to make. So I'll pose a question to you that's really the theme of all we're going to talk about in this session is, would you be willing to receive a new anointing? Would you be willing to walk with the Lord under a different kind of an awareness?

Now, be careful because if we say yes to the Lord, he's very likely to respond, and with gifts come expectations. But if you're willing, I believe God is moving in such a way that he's preparing his people for a new season, a different kind of a response. We've had so much, so much abundance, and so much liberty, and so much freedom that we could afford to relegate God to a secondary or even a tertiary place in our lives. You know, we wanted him back there in case we needed, you know, in case of emergency, break glass and grab your Bible. But we're living in a season of so much disruption that we've gotta bring that message front and center. It's the beginning point for who we are, and what we do, and how we imagine our world. If not, we're already at a tremendous deficit.

So I'll start with this premise that it's about our choice, and our faith, and our reward. I want you to understand you have a choice to make. In fact, you have a series of choices to make that are far beyond just conversion, or the new birth, or salvation. I believe in that, that ultimate initiation into the kingdom of God. You don't work your way to heaven. It's not based on genetics. It's not the family system you're born into or the language that you're born speaking. It's not about the geography where you entered this world or you stepped into time. Your participation in the kingdom of God is related to a person. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. The Scripture is very clear there aren't many ways to God. Buddha, and Mohammed, and New Ageism will not land you at the same place that Jesus will.

I understand that's not politically correct, but okay. Jesus said, "I'm the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me". I believe him. And if you've never made Jesus Lord of your life, it's not about joining a church or a denomination, or reading or particular translation. It's not primarily about your wardrobe or your beverage list. All of those things may be effective, but it begins with a decision around Jesus of Nazareth and making him Lord of your life. You don't just acknowledge you're a sinner. You certainly begin there and you ask for forgiveness, but then you establish Jesus as Lord, and that means he makes the priorities. You're not in charge anymore, so we've gotta adjust our vocabulary. It's no longer my life, and my dream, and my plan, because I serve at his pleasure. I'm trying to understand what it would be to embrace his dream, and his plan, and his purpose.

Now, that's not easy because what I want, and I think, and I feel is a very loud voice in my head, and I suspect it might be in yours. I mean, not what Allen wants and thinks, but. And a part of this journey of being a Christ follower is learning to take the volume on what I want, and what I feel, and what I think, and to turn it down a little bit and say, "Lord, what would you like and how do you think about this"? That's not easy and it's not a one-time decision. It extends way beyond walking the aisle of a church, and repeating a sinner's prayer, and being dipped in a pool. Again, important things. My choices, my faith, and my reward. I want to look at a series of interactions in Scripture that provide us a contrast, kinda the polar opposites in these choices. Some of them will be very familiar stories or characters to you, perhaps some less familiar.

I'm not gonna read all the text you have, but you have it if you want. If you're not familiar with them, you can read it in more detail later. We'll start in Luke 18. It's a parable that Jesus is teaching. It's a story he's telling to illustrate a point. So he's not really speaking about two specific individuals that you would have seen, but he's speaking about two individuals that his audience would've known very well, characters that were prominent. One's a Pharisee, very public, religious leader, a professional religious person, and the other is a tax collector.

Now, the tax collectors was an idea that the Romans really elevated to new heights. When Rome occupied you, they would exact taxes from the occupied country. We understand that premise, but they discovered that the most effective way to raise taxes was to identify a local citizen that was willing to betray the people around him, because the locals know who have the resources. And so they would recruit some local citizen who understood the local community and they would appoint them to be the tax collector. And then they would give them Roman soldiers that they could use their authority to exact the taxes. And the trade-off in the process was the tax collector could raise more money than Rome demanded. He could extort from his fellow citizens extra resources to make themselves more affluent.

Can you imagine how the people felt about tax collectors? They were the most hated folks in the community. Turncoats, traitors, betrayers. They're hiding behind the shields of the Roman soldiers while they're extorting money from their fellow citizens. You can imagine they weren't invited to be the guest of honor at very many local banquets. Well, Jesus tells the parable. Says, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable. Two men went to the temple to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector". Well, the crowd here, they'll think, "Well, the tax collector's just going to see who's putting in big gifts in the temple coffers so they'll know who's got more money that they can steal. And the Pharisee, we're used to hearing them pray". And then Jesus describes the prayers of the two people. Said, "The Pharisee stood and prayed, and said, 'God, I thank you that I'm not like other men: I'm not a robber, or an evildoer, or an adulterer, or even like this tax collector.'"

Now, you read that and you're thinking, "Oh, what a pompous," but we oughta guard our hearts 'cause it's really easy for us to file into church, and look through the windows, and go, "God, I'm glad we're not like those people out there. They didn't even come to church today. We parked 11 blocks away, walked uphill all the way in and we'll walk uphill all the way back to our car. Temperature was subzero. Sermon is interminable". We have to guard our own hearts. We can't afford to look through the windows of the church and be angry.

Folks, our problems are not because of the wickedness in the hearts of the ungodly. The problems we face are because of what's in the hearts of God's people. I want to look at another pair. This time, it's a young scholar, a young Jewish scholar, very successful, affluent, comes from the right family, studied at the right schools, worships in the right place. Everybody understands him to be one of the most outstanding young people in the community. Everything about his life screams success. He's got the right pedigree, the right education. He's got the right friends and he's made good choices. And he comes to Jesus and says, "Good Teacher, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life"?

The passage you have is from Luke and Mark's Gospel. Mark adds that when Jesus looked at the young man, he loved him. Imagine that, a young person who has a lot of momentum in their life towards God, and when he meets Jesus, Jesus said, "I love you". He said, "What do you think"? And he said, "Well," the young man answers, "Well," he says, "keep the Commandments". And Jesus said, "You've answered well". He said, "Well, I've done all of that since I was a boy". Can you imagine telling Jesus you'd kept all the rules? I mean, you could use that line on me and it'd probably be okay 'cause I'm not that clever. We have relatively brief encounters, but Jesus knows the thoughts of his heart and the things he's done in private. And he looked Jesus in the eye and said, "Oh, I've done all of that". Jesus didn't snicker. He didn't say, "You have got to be kidding me". He simply said, "Well, there's just one thing you lack then. Go and liquidate your assets, and come follow me".

Now, Jesus didn't require everybody to do that, but he had the wisdom and the insight to understand what was at the center of this young person's confidence. And he understood that until he could transfer his confidence into the kingdom of God, he was very fragile, frail. He didn't have the strength he would need to sustain what would be required of a disciple. You see, if Jesus isn't Lord of all, you won't make it through times of stress because you're trusting things that can't take the stress. The systems of our world and all the things that are temporary in our world can't bear the weight of a real spiritual struggle. If we trusted our physical strength, or our intellect, or our financial resources, or our connections, and all of those things will ultimately crumble if there's enough stress. Jesus said, If you'll liquidate, you can come follow me. And the young man didn't even respond. It says he just hung his head and left. The cost was too high. He couldn't imagine it. He didn't attach enough value to Jesus.

Now, this is important. He didn't attach enough value to Jesus to make a substantial life change. If he could've incorporated one more rule, if he would've attended some services, he would've listened to some presentations. There were all sorts of options that I think he would've considered acceptable, but a significant reorientation of his life was just too much. He didn't attach that much value to Jesus. So one of the questions that we're processing with our choices, and our faith, and the rewards we imagine is, do we believe it's worthwhile? Do we attach enough value to Jesus and his kingdom to significantly reorder our lives? Are we trying to assimilate him into the periphery because we want him in the constellation?

We want to be described as amongst his people, but we really don't intend for him to be disruptive. It caused really a crisis of sorts amongst Jesus's followers, his disciples. Standing there and listening are Peter and Andrew, James and John, these young men that Jesus had given the same invitation to, except they really weren't rising stars. They weren't well-educated. They weren't affluent. They were fishermen. They were hardworking people, blue collar, peripheral, and they had accepted Jesus's bargain. And now this young man comes up and they see that, and I'm sure it gave them great hope. Now there are people of substance, people of status, people who know people. They're gonna help us and we'll move this ball down the field. And the young man walks away. Jesus said, "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter the kingdom of God".

Not the eye of a sewing needle, but a narrow place in a path. To get the camel through it, you had to take off all the packs. You have to unload all the baggage, get the camel down on his knees, which they will do, and you work them through a very narrow place. And then you have to reload, a lot, a lot of effort, great deal of effort. Jesus said it's not easy. The more you have, the harder it is. And that should give us pause 'cause we're the wealthiest group of people on the planet.

You say, "Well, I don't have much". You have much compared to most people. The majority of the world doesn't have shoes. Much of the world's never slept on a sheet. We are blessed. I don't say that to make you feel guilty, I just say that so we have a bit of awareness. But then Peter said, "Lord, we have left all we had to follow you". You can hear the tension in him, "Lord"! And Jesus said, "I tell you the truth".

And by now, you know when you see that phrase, you better buckle up. 'Bout to be some turbulence. "Jesus said to them, 'No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.'" Jesus is pushing the boundaries. He says, "Don't just think about your life in time. Think about your life beyond time". Again, the question, which group are you more likely to identify with: the capable, competent, successful, celebrated, recognized as having momentum in your life, or just a hardworking person that everybody, for the most part, overlooks?

Matthew 27, we meet the Roman Governor of Judea. Powerful man, influential man. His political career, he's a rising star. I mean, yes, he's on the periphery of the Roman Empire, but it's an important periphery because he's right on the edge with the Persian border, and the Romans need to make a good presentation to Persia because if they appear weak, they might be enticed to invade. The world hasn't changed all that much, has it? And Pilate's been given that assignment and Judea is a wealthy place. The olive oil, the wine, the produce enables significant resources to flow back to Rome, so Pilate has a posting that suggests there's an upward momentum to his life.

And now the Jewish leaders are upset. They're angry at some person from the rural part of the country. He's not from Jerusalem. He's not a power broker. He's an itinerant rabbi, but the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem is all stirred up. And they've arrived at Pilate's early in the day and they're asking that he be executed, crucified. It's the Romans who crucify people, not the Jews. And he listens to the argument and he can see through the subterfuge. He recognizes it's the jealousy of the leadership in Jerusalem directed toward this itinerant rabbi. They want him removed and they want Rome to take the blame. So Pilate orchestrates a private interview with Jesus. It's Matthew 27, and 24, "When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I'm innocent of this man's blood,' he said".

Whew, too much political capital have to be expended to do the right thing here. It's not that he doesn't know the right thing, 'cause he wants it on public record that he's innocent of this man's blood. Wouldn't it be nice if a little basin of water could cleanse you of your ungodliness, your lack of courage, when your character collapses? Just a little handwashing. Imagine the difference if Pilate had had the courage to say, "I believe him. I'm not an expert on your laws or your rules. In fact, I've never read your holy book, but I believe what this man said. I've listened to him, I believe in him, and I won't condemn him". Boom! But he didn't do that. "I wash my hands. I'll have him killed. I'll have him tortured to death". You're gonna need more than that water, Pilate.

How many times do we face that public pressure, the opinions of people that we want to maintain? You're a little more isolated than you'd like to be. Too many eyes are on you. You got a sense of what you should do, but it just feels like there's a high price. But I want to contrast that with another Roman. Not as powerful perhaps as Pilate, but he's a centurion. He's a leader in the Roman army. He has powerful men, murderous men, violent men will do whatever he says. He has a lot of authority.

In Acts 10 it says, "At Caesarea," it's in Israel, "there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and he prayed to God regularly. And one day about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He saw an angel of God," and the angel knew his name. Do you have an imagination that angels know your name? Do you really? That makes me smile. You know, in the book of Revelation, it describes a scene where there's ten thousand times ten thousand angels, an innumerable company. Do you know there's some of those that know your name? I mean, Google thinks it's got all your information, and they probably have a good bit, but the angels know more about you than Google.

The angel said, "Cornelius, there's somebody in Joppa you need to talk to. Here's his address. Put it into Waze and go get him". Waze was designed in Israel. I mean, not in the 1st century, but it was designed. So he went to Joppa and he got Peter, and Peter comes back and tells them the Jesus story. Now, you read that, and you're reading, going, "Well, that makes perfect sense. Yeah, okay, God sent an angel". But not so much. What do you think Cornelius would say to the soldiers that he's leading or to the soldiers who have authority over him when he tries to tell 'em, "I saw an angel that told me I needed one of the Jewish people to tell me how to find God".

I'm thinking that was not an easy conversation 'cause he and his whole household are gonna believe. It's not just him and it's not just his family. It's everybody in the household, the servants. So there's gonna be some leakage out of that. This is not gonna stay private. This is gonna ripple all over Caesarea. He saw what? How early in the day? Had he been into the juice yet? He puts his career on the line, his reputation on the line, his status, his presentation as a man of strength, and influence, and authority. All of it's at risk, and he sends for Peter. And they wait until he arrives and they received the baptism in the Spirit. They spoke in tongues. We draw a line, you know? I'll go to church, and I'll talk about being born, but that speaking, don't drag me down that, woo! I mean, Cornelius didn't just get in halfway.

Imagine if Pilate had responded that way. I mean, when he sends Jesus out of his office, he's still the governor, but the opportunities of his life are very, very different. Cornelius was a Roman centurion when we see him last, but you'll see him again with a story to tell. Which of those lines fits your experience today the best? You know the truth is, in my own journey, time after time, I come to that decision that Pilate did. Will I use my words? Will I use my voice? Will I have the courage? Maybe I could just be quiet this time. It's easier just to be quiet. People will be happier with you if you're just quiet.

I want to pray with you before we go. Let's say yes to the Lord. Let's say, "Yes, we forgive. Yes, we'll be obedient. Yes, we will serve". Whatever God has put before us, let's respond to him with an enthusiastic, "Absolutely! I wanna cooperate with you". I don't want to resist the Lord. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you for your Spirit within us and the invitations, the prompts, the guidance that you provide. And Lord, we pause today to say yes, yes to whatever you have shown us is next. We want to be faithful and obedient. In Jesus's name, amen.

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