Allen Jackson - Tale of Two Plans - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "The Tale of Two Plans". You know, the world has a lot of definitions for being wise or foolish. It's important to know that Jesus had some definitions for that as well. We live in a time where words are being redefined, marriage is being redefined, human sexuality is being redefined. You can be confused about things that we didn't even know was possible to be confused about. So, the definitions you accept have an enormous impact upon your life choices. I would submit to you that it is a better decision to let Jesus define what is a wise choice and what's a foolish choice. If we'll take his counsel, I believe it will stand the test of all eternity, and that's a pretty good outcome. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most of all open your heart. Let's accept God's definitions for our lives today.
We've been working through this little series that are really kind of a comparison between perspectives or vantage points or life choices. We're gonna continue that in this session as well. I'd like to talk to you about "The Tale of Two Plans". I like plans. You know, before COVID, we used to build an annual plan. If you'd wake me from a dead sleep and tell me what week of the year it was, I could tell you what the church team would be working on. Long term planning for us these days is maybe three weeks, and it will get amended twice. The world we live in is just different. But there are some truths that extend before the changes of our day to day activities. You know, daylight savings time's a big change. You know, up until a week ago, I could tell you pretty much what time of day it was by looking out the window.
Now, I have no clue. I just know I'm sleepy. So, change can be very disruptive. But this notion of two plans is really built out of some counsel that Jesus gave us. In James chapter 1 and verse 5, it says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him". You know, for many years, the most consistent prayer I have prayed over my life is that I would have God's wisdom. Because I've been very conscious and aware that I was in over my head, that I need outcomes that I didn't learn in a classroom, that didn't come from a book I read, that are more significant than training I've had. I need God's wisdom. But the good news about that equation is the Scripture very clearly says if we'll ask God, he'll give us his wisdom.
Now, it's not quite that simple. In Proverbs, it says we have to search for it. We have to mine for God's wisdom, much like we would have to mine for precious metals, which means there could be some effort involved in that. But God's wisdom is available to every one of us. How many of you think God's wisdom might be helpful in the world we're living in these days? You know, we don't have a lot of trustworthy sources of information, but God's wisdom is consistent. Now, Jesus has given us some counsel, and this is really the passage that this whole study started for me with.
So, in Matthew 7 and verse 24, it's a familiar parable, I suspect, for most of us. Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it didn't fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash". Two options, pretty clear. The primary distinguishing factor isn't the house, the design of the house, the color scheme. The distinguishing feature is the foundation.
Jesus said, "One is built on a rock, one's built on sand". And the image is unpacked, he said if you put into practice his words, you build your life on a stable foundation. But if you don't put them into practice, you can know them, you can hear them, you can study them. You can lead groups and attend church and be a faithful participant. You can do many things and not put the Word of God into practice in your life. It's not a smorgasbord. You can't take the Ten Commandments and choose one, three, five, and seven. You see, Jesus is either Lord of our entire life or he's not Lord at all. You can't be just a little immoral. That's an awkward thing for the church because we've tolerated so much ungodliness.
We think, "Well, I'm a good person. Well, I mean, except, you know, for the immorality. Or I'm really a kind person. Well, I mean, except for the fact that I'm greedy and filled with envy, but". And we've kind of, we've imagined that there's this grey middle, and Jesus doesn't introduce that into the equation. So, the discussion and what I really want to ask you to think about far beyond our time together is which plan is it that you're building your life upon. 'Cause I can tell you this, if you don't have the intent, it's highly improbable you'll ever get to the outcome. So, if you don't intend to be more godly tomorrow and next week than you were today and last week, it's probably not gonna be happening. What are you planning for? Well, I know we're in church and the right answer is Jesus. But in the quiet places of your heart, what are you building your life on?
I think it's a more important question today than it's been in recent years or decades because the change that's being introduced into our world is going to change our futures. The lives that we led before we were introduced to that virus from China I don't think are returning to us in the near future. And I don't think the changes that had been introduced to us are complete yet. I think there'll be new vehicles used, introduce additional changes. There'll be new points to introduce fear and anxiety and stress.
So, it's a very important question, what are you building your life on? Now, that's Jesus's counsel to built it on by practicing the Word of God as you know it. You don't have to agree with me, but as you know it. Now, he gave us a warning that's equally stern. Again in the gospels, this is Luke 12, "Jesus said, 'Watch out and be on your guard against all kinds of greed.'" That's a pretty stern warning form Jesus. "Watch out, be on your guard against every kind of greed".
Now, since we live in one of the most affluent societies that the world has ever known, we have to acknowledge this is a very prevalent challenge for us. We are marketed to by more voices than perhaps any people that have ever lived in the planet, and the goal of that is to make us discontent with what we have. We need more of something, or a new something. I mean, it's even true amongst, you know, we have the New International Version, and the New American Standard Version, and the New King James Version. We just blew right past the International Version and the American Standard Version and the King James. New and improved has invaded the church too. Notions like a fair day's wage for a fair day's work or a fair profit seem quaint. "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions". And then he told them this parable. A parable is a story to illustrate the point. He's made the point.
"The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. And he thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops?' And he said, 'This is what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I'll store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy: eat, drink, and be marry".' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you, then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God".
Now, Jesus in that last sentence expanded, I think a bit, our imagination of what it means to think about greed. He said the ambition of our life should be to store up riches towards God, not to accumulate things. Again, this is a private, personal, it's for your reflection. I didn't bring you a standard to tell you this much is too much because I don't think that's appropriate. But you know what the ambition of your life is. You know what it is that you imagine secures your place in the world, that gives you entrée to the discussions where you want to be included. You know where your self-worth is grounded. If you don't, you need to think about it and pray about it until the Holy Spirit helps you understand it because you are deceived. That confusion is every bit as devastating and is disorienting as confusion about your biological sex.
If you're too confused to understand what the ambition of your life is, there's very little chance that you can have an ambition for the kingdom of God. It's a pretty stern warning from Jesus. What intrigues me is the man he described we would welcome into any religious setting I'm familiar with. He's not described as being immoral. He's not described of committing some blatant gross sin. He just has very little spiritual awareness. Now, Jesus is presenting this to a first century Jewish audience who are steeped in religious behaviors and practices, and they identify with the man. He's not telling them a story they don't understand. The character of this parable is us. His decisions are logical. They're understandable, bumper crop after bumper crop after bumper crop, growth of the business year upon year upon year.
It's so remarkable, I don't know what I'm gonna do with everything I'm accumulating. I'll have to think in new ways. We'll have to reorganize, restructure. And yet, God's assessment of that person is he said he's a fool. Now, I don't know if he has your attention, but he has mine. If you ask me for a biblical word that describes the character of that individual, it wouldn't be just greedy, it's carnal, worldly. Just invested, overly invested in the systems of this present world order. He's better at it than most folks. And God said, "That's a foolish way to live".
So, if I was looking for kind of a one-line summary, and I was 'cause I wrote the outline, I think we could put it this way: carnal is not the best filter to look at the world through. How you define success, how you define achievement, how you articulate whether you're doing well in business or not. 'Cause we're all engaged in that in one way or another. Should be different than the people who don't have a biblical worldview. If we're competing by the same rules and evaluating ourselves by the same metrics, it seems to me we're standing dangerously close to Jesus's warning of being considered foolish. And I don't want the creator of heaven and earth to consider us foolish.
So, this notion of wise or foolish is gonna be determined by Jesus's counsel. He's given us some warnings, I could've brought you more. In fact, we may unpack them more in some other sessions. But I'd add to that that I believe we are currently responding in a new world order. If your faith isn't different today than it was two years ago, you have missed the alarm clock. If the practice of your faith is not markedly different, if your pursuit of God, the time you spent in his Word, the way you pray, how you pray, with whom you pray, if it isn't markedly different than it was two years ago, I don't think you heard the clue phone.
So, I liked it pretty well the way it was, I'm not arguing that, and I'm not suggesting that there was something inappropriate. I'm just telling you things have shifted dramatically. We can talk about it in seasonal change and the move from winter to spring, there's a new wardrobe and a new set of behaviors. It's planting season now in Tennessee. If you want those wonderful new potatoes and green beans and fresh tomatoes in a few weeks, it's about time to get busy. If you'd done that in November, we'd have just laughed at you. And it's a different time.
I believe there's a harvest opportunity in the kingdom of God that's different than we had two years ago. There are open doors and open hearts and people that will respond that would not have responded two years ago. And there's some people desperately trying not to notice. We shouldn't be surprised, this is very biblical, and we can expand this more than I'll take the time to do right now. But in Revelation 21, it's very near the end of the book. In verse 4, it says, "God will wipe every tear from their eyes". Won't that be a good day? You know, there's no resolution to the human suffering that exists on planet earth other than the return of the Prince of Peace. NATO's not going to do that. The UN won't do that. The Green New Deal won't do that. There's no political party that will do that. And the one group of people that are given an assignment to bring that to completion is that the gospel of the kingdom has to be preached in the whole world. That's the churches.
So, our attention to that will either accelerate or retard that event that's in front of us. How serious are we with that? He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. "There'll be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'I'm making everything new.' And he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" I'm making everything new. We're watching a lot of systems that we've had tremendous trust in, that we've relied on for decades, that have defined our futures that would allow us to project and anticipate things for our children and our grandchildren and beyond that because of the stability of the institutions that we knew. We're watching them being shaken so violently that our trust in there has been withdrawn.
And you need to understand that God is saying, "I'm going to make everything new. I'm making everything new". Now, between here and there, there is going to be disruption. Between where we currently stand and God making everything new, there's going to be a tremendous amount of realignment. In the plainest of language, the present world order is falling apart. Does that sound right? I was talking to somebody before church, they were talking about when they were young, and they said, "We used to walk to the neighborhood church". I said, "Yes, when I started my public education, I walked to school more than a block by myself, first grader". Says something about what my parents thought about me, doesn't it? No, there were dozens and dozens of us walking to school.
Now, you pick your kids up at school, and between the door when they leave the building and get in your car, there's multiple security guards watching. So, for all of our dialogue about children, and our concern for children, and our value for children, and the safety of the children, they're much less safe. I mean, we strap them in car seats until they're old enough to drive the car. I'm not opposed to that, but I remember back in the day where the car seat was the parent's arm doing this the whole time. Everybody remember that? Scary stuff. The world's system is falling apart. What do we do in that? What do we do as Christ followers?
Well, I believe Jesus's counsel matters. Within me, in recent weeks, something seems to be changing. There's a shift. I feel like I've spent the past months and the last couple of years issuing warnings regarding possibilities. That we need to change, we need to respond differently, we need to alter our behaviors so God can look upon us with mercy, and we can avoid so many things. And I don't know what the threshold on that is. I don't know what the Mendoza line is for enough people responding to God that he looks at us with mercy. But I have the most acute sense, there's an urgency in me to say it's time we have to prepare for the changing realities around us. I wish it was as simple as mask mandates going away, or COVID receding and flu once again being diagnosed, but it's not that simple.
And I think as God's people, we have to prepare differently than we were preparing three and four years ago. Storm warnings are a part of our lives these days, our weather forecasting ability. I don't know if our weather forecasting ability is improved, or our warning ability is improved, but we're warned a lot better. But you know, it's really too late to prepare once the storm arrives. Can't be putting plywood on the windows when the hurricane winds are blowing. And we're in one of those unique seasons where we're right on the cusp of the changes being present with us, where it's not about preparing any longer, it's about being prepared to go through. If I use the biblical word, it's tribulation. And I'm not talking about the ultimate tribulation because between here and that, there's a great deal of disruption to be introduced. We're not gonna get to all things made new without all the old things being disrupted. It's just logic.
So, there's big trouble ahead of us. The simplest definition for tribulation is big trouble. You see it, we try not to think about it. Lawlessness around us is escalating on a daily basis. Our southern border is still open. Millions of people poured across it last year. In the first quarter of this year, there's almost a 30% increase. It will change, it is changing our lives. It'll change the availability of healthcare, it'll change our educational systems, it'll change everything about our lives. And those people we've elected to observe the laws of our land are just acting as if they don't notice. The Ukrainian border is more significant than our own.
Jesus said false prophets would increase. Prophets are those individuals that are designated to be truthful. If you're looking for the simplest definition, not the most biblical definition, but a prophet's not just somebody who takes a biblical perspective and tries to help you understand what God is doing. They're the people you look to to tell the truth in our culture. There's very little truth telling taking place. A lot of spin, a lot of manipulation. And that's just true within the church as without. I'm not throwing stones at your least favorite media outlet. Jesus said deception will increase.
Anybody have a sense that deception's increasing? Propaganda and censorship have become so normal, we don't notice. When they tell us we can't say something in public, we go, "Oh, okay". They had a gathering at Yale University recently to discuss diversity. And it was disrupted and closed down because the students weren't tolerant of more than one view. Deception will increase. We're so busy. We're just trying to not to pay attention. If we can get what we need and get done what we want to do and vacation where we want to go, and spring break, and can we make this happen that, you know, it'll just work out, it's not my problem. But it is becoming that. Economic upheaval.
Easy for me to say, the economic upheaval that we've talked about, we see emerging in front of us. Inflation's in double digits. Costs are sky rocketing. We want to blame everybody else, but they're policies that we've put in place. The attitude we have towards work, one of the great strengths of our nation for decade upon decade was our work ethic. It was rooted, it emerged from a biblical worldview, the integrity and that bargain for which we would go to work. And we've watched that be disrupted. Big trouble ahead. With that in mind, I would submit to you we need to have clarity on which plan we're following. And if you know there's disruption coming and there's conflict around us, you need something of a battle plan.
You know, and the military side of it, they say no real plan ever survives your first encounter with the enemy. You can plan as well as you want to, but when you get into the reality of it, everything gets realigned and changed. We're watching that in current world events. And in church world, we've been guilty of our Bible studies, and our small groups, and our theoretical discussions, and our favorite translations, and the styles of worship that we preferred. But we really didn't intend to engage spiritually what's happening in our world because we had enough stability, and enough prosperity, and enough opportunity. If the current congregation didn't suit us, we'd just rotate to the one that did. And if we kind of veered off the moral course a little bit and when we couldn't get our way by throwing a fit, we'd just find another group where we were less known, and we'd connect there. It's really kind of a transient Christianity.
I'm of the opinion that there is some big trouble ahead of us, and that's not a negative confession or it's not defeatist. I'm not trying to be a pessimist. I just think there's some disruption in our future. But there's something important to know, that Jesus is still alive. He's still on his throne. He still has the name that's above every name, and every knee will bow to him. We don't have to respond in fear, or dread, or anxiety. We just need to put on our seat belts. There's some turbulence ahead. Not frightening, it's part of the ride. Let's pray:
Lord, give us your boldness and your courage, that we might overcome every challenge in the days ahead. I thank you that in Jesus, we are triumphant. We praise you for it in his name, amen.