Allen Jackson - Tale of Two Plans - Part 2
I want to make just some simple suggestions for our battle plan. They're probably not new. The first is you have to be alert. And when I say that, if Colonel North was here, he'd talk to you about situational awareness; what I would like to submit to you, for me, what's that grounded in is having the humility to continue to learn. We've got to have the humility to say, "I have to grow". I've known God, and I've walked with the Lord. I have testimonies, and God stories, and albums, and pictures, and relationships, and this was the way we like to worship at that point. But where we are today, God, I need to know you in a new way. Not easy stuff 'cause it involves an emotional realignment, and it involves a relational realignment. It takes tremendous determination to maintain that alertness.
In Matthew 25, Jesus said, "Keep watch. You don't know the day or the hour". We're so smug. We are. And I've spent decades in the church, so I'm not throwing stones. I'm just talking about the folks I hang out with. We got it figured out when the rapture's gonna take place, and we know the 12 signs that have to happen before that, and we know the 7 keys to hidden something or others. And we've named every horn on every beast that came up out of the pool. And we've got our charts, and we know the best translation, and we know the right hour to go to church because that's when the Lord goes. And we're just kind of buttoned up, and there's not much room in us. We're not listening to Jesus. And listen, you don't know. We go, "Well, well, well, well, I think maybe I've got a good hint".
So, let's start with how about a different kind of awareness, being alert, the humility to change? I know that's not easy. And secondly, I think that we need a caution. In Luke 17, this is Jesus again. He said, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up 'til the day that Noah entered the ark. And the flood came and destroyed them all". It's a very sobering passage. Destroyed them all. Eight people escaped destruction. Everybody destroyed except eight. That's a bad day. That's a bad month. And there's nothing that's described that's particularly immoral or ungodly.
There's not some blatant sin you could've, everything that it says they were involved in the days of Noah, and I know there's some other passages. We'll look at them in just a moment. But from the perspective where Jesus was delivering his message, the conclusion is the people were unconcerned. Their hearing was impeded by their own pursuits. We know what we want to do. I mean, Noah's building a big boat, and he preaches a lot, but we're busy. And Jesus said they didn't respond until the day they were destroyed. Destruction came.
Folks, we don't want to be that group of people. We don't want to be that group of people. Genesis 6 is the Genesis commentary on what Jesus was talking about. Said, "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness was in the earth, how it had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time". People were fascinated with evil, just captivated by evil. God will raise you to new heights. They weren't particularly interested in the pursuit of God. It's not a great stretch. I don't think we've arrived at that point, yet, but if you look to contemporary behaviors and attitudes, we're fascinated with evil, how to communicate it, how to share it, how to use technology, whatever we can do. And the pursuit of God, you know, even amongst those of us who pursue God, it's like, well, it's kind of, we've got that worked out.
Nothing to see here. I mean, we know there's some people that need God, but those of us that have found God, we're pretty much good to go. I mean, we know the world's not very salty, and there's a lot of darkness, but it couldn't be the salt and the light's fault. It's got to be their fault. If they're in the darkness, why don't they come stand in the light? Maybe it's because they think we're dimwits. I don't know. But it wasn't just a one-time event in history. Jesus is warning his audience in particular about the end of the age. He said it'll be just like it was in the days of Noah. We're gonna return to that. So, there's going to be a deterioration of human character. So, we shouldn't be shocked. We should have a plan for that. It means there's going to be a lot more voices inviting you to less godly behavior, and they're going to have credibility and letters at the end of their names, and they'll be sophisticated, and they will make the appeals from very appealing places, and it's much easier to go along with a group who are being ungodly than having to do it against the tide.
The deterioration of human character is going to continue to increase until we get to that point in Revelation where God says, "I'm going to make all things new". So, you and I better have a plan for withstanding that, or we're gonna get caught in that stream. It's why Jesus warned us against deception more than any other single thing 'cause it happens to us incrementally, bit by bit, drip by drip, one bad decision after another. Isaiah 63, they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So, he turned and became their enemy, and he himself fought against them. Wow! Isaiah about 500 years before Jesus's birth, so we've got another example, another point in history where God said, "My covenant people rebelled against me with such persistence, my Spirit was so grieved at his interface with them, that I stood in opposition to them".
We don't want to be in that place. You ever had a cast on? Maybe a cast on your arm or a cast on your leg? It doesn't take very long, if you're immobile, for your muscles to atrophy. I mean, they'll look visibly different. And your strength levels will be different. You may have spent decades gaining that strength. In a matter of a few days or weeks, there's a dramatic, just a lack of use that brings with it a forfeiture. One of the things I believe we've forfeited in contemporary American evangelicalism is the strength to stand. We just haven't been great standers, partially because we haven't had to. There was enough residual biblical worldview amongst us that we could flourish without having to stand ourself. We didn't have to pay much attention to the schools and whether that biblical worldview was being taught in our schools. We didn't even pay attention to our seminaries, what's being taught in our seminaries. And we just assumed they'd crank out people that were God-honoring, biblically informed, until we realized they hadn't been.
And our kids weren't being exposed to the best values. And then we began to stand up, and it's awkward, and the muscles are kind of sore and tender, and they don't have the strength that we need them to have. We're in a place now where we're gonna have to stand, or we will lose what's left of our freedoms, and our liberties, and our privileges. That's not a threat. That's just the reality we're in. So, it seems to me a little dialog, a little thought around what does it mean to engage when you haven't been? Now, you'll need some help on this because you need a community. It's much easier to make a significant life change if you don't do it alone. You know this fundamentally. How many of you ever made a private decision that tomorrow you'd start a diet? You ever done that?
You know, I've put on a few, and I'm thinking about tomorrow would be a good day to start. But since I'm gonna go hungry tomorrow, I might as well what I want to today. Right? I mean, that's just common sense. I'm gonna get all the bad stuff out of the house, and it'd be wasteful to throw it away. So, I'm gonna eat that gallon of ice cream tonight. Well, and then those cookies that were in there, they need to go, too. You know, I'm gonna stay up a little later 'cause at midnight I'm going on the wagon and so you don't just carb load. You just load. And you eat all of that, what happens when you wake up in the morning? Ah, God, you're famished. And you're thinking, woo, you know, the devil must've really got into me yesterday, tricked me into eating all that food with that diet temptation. I've got to replenish. I ate all the good stuff in the house.
It's a totally different experience that if you tell four people that tomorrow this is where we start. And I'm gonna write down everything I eat and share it with you. Now you're meddling. And when I think about this list, we're gonna need one another. In those days when you could slip in quietly and be anonymous and slip out, then you could still manage to maintain your faith. People say to me, "Pastor, I don't have to go to church to be a Christian". No, you don't. You truly don't, but I don't believe you'll maintain your faith alone. Christianity is presented as very clearly and persistently as a community experience. We're a body, the Scripture says, and the hand can't say to the foot, "I don't need you". The hand can say to the foot, "I don't like the way you're performing right now," but we need one another.
So, there's some ideas that I think we're gonna have to gain some familiarity with, as we engage in this struggle that is emerging, that is going to define what is in front of us, I believe. And then the first is not a happy thing, but I think grief is a part of it. We're gonna have to learn how to grieve. There is remorse over what has been forfeited. You see, there's a cost to every conflict. If you're not certain about that, just watch a little bit of the pictures and the images in the video coming from Ukraine. If Putin withdrew his forces today, the cost is overwhelming, decades away from any semblance of what it was six weeks ago. And grief is an appropriate part of that. And as our world is shifting, and our habits are realigning, and the opportunities are different, you will grieve some of those things, because you'll have had some habits that you enjoyed or some patterns that were comfortable and familiar to you, and they're gonna be less available.
And grief is appropriate. It's a normal response. There's some things that come with that. You can, the stages of grief are not difficult. They're limited to, but it'll make you angry. It'll frustrate you. You'll be aware of a sense of loss. Some people experience grief in their life, and they're frozen in those places. A tragedy, a life event, a disruption. And I don't want that where we can't stand, we can't complete the course, we can't finish the assignment we've been given. There's gonna be blatant demonstrations of evil. The Bible says that Lot was grieved by what happened in the city where he lived, and it vexed his soul. It was bad enough that God sent someone to extract him from that place. And we're gonna see increasing blatant, unrepentant demonstrations of evil.
We're not just talking about gender confusion any longer. We're talking about unapologetic disruptions of things that seem impossible. There'll be a realignment of dreams, things that you thought were a part of your future, that you were counting upon. Or maybe they were dreams you've had for children or grandchildren, and as the circumstances change, you'll be angry and resentful and embittered. And if you don't know, if you're not prepared to offload that, it will keep you from standing. There's a second thing I think is essential for our engagement training. We're gonna have to be careful to guard both our hope and our faith. Hope is the infrastructure of faith. Hope is the skeletal system of faith. Without the skeleton you're just a jellyfish. You'll just collapse. We need the infrastructure and not the new definition.
See, hope is about the future. Faith is about now. And if you lose your hope for the future, it affects your behavior now. One's not good and the other evil. They're essential components, and you're going to have to guard them and protect them. Look at 1 Peter chapter 1 and verse 5. It says, "Who through faith". It's talking about God's people. "Who through faith are shielded by God's power". Your faith is a shield. God's power is better than what Scotty can bring up on the Enterprise. God's power is shielding your life. What would that look like? Well, it's grounded in your faith. Which plan are you implementing? What are you building your life on? I don't want the polite answer. I don't want the immediate response that's reflexive. If somebody were to look at your calendar and your checkbook and where your money's going and where your time's going, what plan are you following?
See, what you do, shout so loud. I can't hear what you say. "Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time". Jesus is coming back to the earth; because if he didn't come back, we would be completely overwhelmed. It's not a picnic he's interrupting. Some of us aren't even sure we want him to come back because we've got plans and dreams and things that we want to do, and he seems like an intrusion. I assure you, before you see him, he will not be an intrusion. Faith and hope. And then the third piece I would give you in this session is that movement is going to be required. It's about the necessity of implementation. We've gotta do something. You can't steal second and keep your foot on first. Jesus said the wise person is the one who hears his Word and does it.
James said we're deceived if we hear the Word and we don't do anything with it. He said, "You say you believe there's a God. Good for you. The demons believe that, and they at least shudder". We say we believe it, and then we go on our own merry way. So, movement is a part of this. What does that look like? I'm not talking about some dramatic new life plan. One expression of movement, of implementation is beginning to practice thankfulness in a new way. It says we enter his gates with thanksgiving. We come into his courts with praise. We've gotta take time every day to be thankful. What you think about, what you give place to in your thoughts, what you'll watch is far more important than what's happening in the world around you. Some of you are way too aware of different theories about what's happening in our world. You need to fill your heart with what God said he's going to do, and you need to take time on a daily basis to verbalize it.
God, I thank you that I'm your child, that I've been washed in the blood of Jesus, that I'm shielded by your power through my faith in you, that my calendar is yours, and my resources are yours. I will order my days as you direct me to do. God, I had a plan, but clearly you're inviting, I want to thank you that I'm not confused or left aside. 'Cause I promise you there's a tape in your head that says you're not making any difference. You're insignificant. It's too hard. The outcomes don't justify the means. Why don't you just give in? Why are you making such an effort to honor the Lord? I won't ask you to stand, but that tape is so universal. The most powerful people you know have that tape in their head. "You're not making any difference. It wouldn't make any difference if somebody ungodly was occupying this place. Why are you making that effort to honor the Lord? You can compromise a little bit. You can cheat around the edges. Nobody's gonna know. You're a whole lot better than the person across the street".
We're gonna have to wake up. We're gonna have to wake up. God, I want to give you thanks today. I want to start my day by thanking you that I have the strength to meet a new sunrise, that you made provision for my life. I have food to eat and clothing for my children, and there's shelter over us, that we're not in the streets looking for a place to hide. God, I want to thank you today. I've taken that for granted. I've just presumed upon it. I've lived in arrogance and pride. I've been like that person building bigger and bigger barns, and I've never been satisfied. I wanted to fly where I used to drive; and when I could fly, I wanted to fly first class; and when I could fly first class, I wanted to fly private; and when I could fly private, I wanted to own the jet; and then I needed a bigger jet 'cause somebody had a bigger one than me.
For most of us, that's not a problem, so we can talk about that, and we all feel pretty good about ourselves. But you've got your own sequence. And I struggle with it in my head, too. Do we really intend to honor the Lord? Do we give him thanks? Are you really moving with your faith? Are we doing what Jesus said? Which plan are you implementing? I appreciate your testimony from 40 years ago. But what about this week? Are we willing to be different? I know some of us are. Isaiah 61, this was the passage Jesus read when he was in the synagogue in Nazareth. It's the one that got him in so much trouble; because after he read Isaiah 61, he said, "Today, this is fulfilled in your hearing". And they tried to kill him.
You could have a theoretical Bible study all day long. But if you turn to the covenant people of God and say, "Let's talk about current events," folks get heated up. It's not that much different today. Isaiah 61, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me. The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of the vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes", imagine the people of God in ashes, "the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They'll be called oaks of righteousness".
Before you get to be an oak of righteousness, you're going to have to know something of ashes, and mourning, and despair. So, how do you hold those things at bay, so they don't occupy too much of your heart? They can visit temporarily, but you don't want them to move in. You've gotta practice routinely gratitude, being thankful, verbalizing it, thinking about it, finding the things to be thankful for.
But my circumstances are difficult and evil is bumping up against me in some really personal ways. Nevertheless, I will be thankful. If you can't be thankful for your circumstances, you can be thankful for the character of God. God, you are just, and you are faithful, and you are all powerful, and you are all-knowing. Nothing is hidden from you. I know you're aware of what's happening in my life, tonight, and I give you thanks for that. I choose to take off the spirit of despair. Anoint yourself. Get out your little tin of Chapstick. And in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I will put on the garment of praise. I will not give in to the heaviness.
I'm not suggesting the circumstances are easy or fun or always comfortable. I brought you prayer. Why don't you stand with me? We can read this prayer together. It's from 2 Thessalonians. I adapted it from 2 Thessalonians. Hope you're doing the Bible reading with us. It's really been good lately. Have you found it? Let's pray together:
Almighty God, we constantly pray, that You may count us worthy of Your calling, and that by Your power You may fulfill every good purpose and every act prompted by our faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.