Allen Jackson - The Paganization of America - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is Escaping The Descent Into Paganism. Isn't that a happy thought? The reality is we're witnesses to it. We have front-row seats for one of the most precipitous declines of Christian influence in the history of the Christian church. For all the language we have and for all the freedom we have, we've stepped away, to a great extent, from being salt and light. I believe we have an opportunity to change the trajectory of that, to take and make a different response, but it depends on the church. Our problem is not political. Our problem is not political candidates or political parties. The challenge we face has been the ambivalence, the indifference, of God's people.
If we will change our hearts, I believe God will respond to us. We're not the first generation in history to be distracted, to step away from the invitations of God and to be consumed with materialism and our own selfishness. This is our watch though. What will be said of our generation when that history is written, what will be the story of our generation when we gather with our heroes in the Kingdom of God, that is still being written. I want to say yes to the Lord and when you see him, I want him to say to you, "Well done". We can make a difference in this generation. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart to the invitations of God. This is our generation.
I want to start with kind of a short series. We're gonna talk about Escaping The Descent Into Paganism. Isn't that a happy topic? If you asked me for a one-sentence analysis of what we're watching happen in our country, I would have to say we're descending into paganism, and it's not a slow descent, it's as if we've crested the top of the tallest roller coaster you've ever been on. You know, when you're at the top and you look down, and it doesn't even look, you can't even see where you're gonna drop to. That's what this feels like to me. I'm watching things in the public square being celebrated as normal that would have been unthinkable in the not distant past. We're redefining things that have been the bedrock of our society and our culture and how we do business. We're taking values that have been essential to allowing us to flourish and prosper and maintain our strength as individuals, as families in our homes, in our communities, in the workplace, in our churches, and we're setting them aside. It's as if courage has drained away from us.
So, I want to spend a little time in these next few sessions we have together and see if we can understand what it is that's happening and how to talk about it. You're gonna have to have the courage to talk about it. This is not a political discussion. I'm not advocating for a party or a candidate. We have to recognize what's happening in the world around us, and we have to understand the implications that has for the faith that we hold. If you're just waiting for a trumpet to blow and an airlift to escape this, what are you gonna do about all those passages and parables that Jesus talked to about, the ones that God finds busy serving his master when he returns? Let's take a minute, I'll give you a couple of passages that help us, I think, get a little better description of this descent into paganism.
In the book of Revelation, it's the last book of the New Testament. It describes for you, it's appropriately the last book of the New Testament because it describes the conclusion of this age. The judgment of God on the earth, his reward for his people, the arrival of a new Kingdom and a new King. Jesus is coming back to the earth, not as a vulnerable baby, but he's coming back as a conquering King. In Revelation 22, we're gonna look at a passage from each of the last two chapters of the New Testament. In Revelation 21, it describes who will be included in the Kingdom of God and who will not. He said, "He who overcomes will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he'll be my son".
So, the one who inherits is the overcomer. Revelation begins with messages to seven churches and each church is told there's something they're gonna have to overcome. You will have to be an overcomer in your life. Injustice, things that aren't fair, disappointments, heartache, difficulty, it comes with the journey. "I don't like it," duly noted, now let's go overcome. "I don't know why," most times, neither do I, but let's go overcome. "I wish I didn't have to go through it". I'll stand with you and commiserate with you, but I'm gonna encourage you to start moving 'cause we gotta overcome it. "I don't want to walk to a shadowed valley". I don't blame you, I prefer not to myself. But when that assignment comes up, let's keep going. "He who overcomes will inherit all of this, I'll be his God, he'll be my son. But..."
Now it's a negative conjunction. This is the other side of the equation. "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death". It seems to me there's only two alternatives in that passage. You'll either be an overcomer, or you'll stand the judgment of God. Revelation 22, a little different language, but very similar theme. "Blessed are those who washed their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city".
That's a parade I want to be in, don't you? Are you excited about what's ahead of us? And don't be so enmeshed in the world that when you see it being shaken, that it breaks you. I weep for people, I weep for the suffering that comes to them, I weep for what we forfeit for our children because we don't have the courage to protect it for them, but I'm excited about what's ahead of us. There's gonna be a moving of the Spirit of God unlike anything we've seen. I don't know about the numbers that will be involved or how God will choose to do that, but God is raising up a people for himself.
And I want to do everything I can do to be included in that group of people. Whatever realignment needs to be made, whatever adjustments what need to be made, whatever focus needs to be tightened up a bit, I intend to be included. I don't imagine to have achieved that already. I'm not trying to lead a life of arrogance and presumption. "That they may have the right to the tree of life". "Outside the city are the dogs, and those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood". We're gonna be in one of those two groups, and I would encourage you not to live presumptively.
Now, out of those passages in Revelation, it seemed to me there were some categories that we could take those descriptive phrases and words and put them into categories. And when I look at what's happening in our nation and the process of paganization, and what I mean by that, in the plainest language, is we're normalizing paganism. We're making it the standard by which we evaluate behavior. We're making that normative, normal. We're saying it's okay. And I don't hear a lot of voices challenging it. We're timid. We're reluctant. We're trying to do a cost benefit analysis, and we're not sure it's working out in the right way. So, we're kind of holding back a little bit. But if we hold back too long and then you decide it's urgent enough for you to get in the game, it could very well be too late.
So, these are the things that seem to me to be accompanying this precipitous decline. And then what I want you to think about is the degree to which you have either tolerated them, you've added momentum to them, you have used your voice or you haven't. You'll have a sense of how, it's more about how you feel on the inside. And it's not enough to say, "Well, you know, that really bothers me". Are you using your voice around it? Are you using the influence that you've been given around it? It's not an easy question, I understand. But the first I would identify is lawlessness, but the word that's used for lawlessness frequently in the New Testament is really synonymous with ungodliness, or if you prefer, wickedness. In 1 John 3 and verse 4 it says, "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness".
So, if you want, kind of, the New Testament working definition for lawlessness, it's sin, it's ungodliness. So, just if... am I on the right track? Do you think ungodliness is increasing or decreasing? Is it being celebrated as a value set that's being embraced broadly in our culture? We've always had ungodliness and wickedness and immorality, but there was a time that there was some punitive response to it if you lied, or you were blatantly immoral, or you devalued human life. 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 8, it's describing the end of the age and the Antichrist being made apparent. This individual that will make the bargain with Satan that Jesus refused when he was tempted, he's gonna be given authority over the nations of the world. It says, "The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming".
You understand the reason Jesus is coming back is the expression of power and authority from the Antichrist, and the destruction he's bringing to the people of God will be so blatant that only the intervention of our Lord will deliver us. "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil, that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved". What will bring the alignment with the Antichrist, that person or the spirit of antichrist that is at work in the earth today? It's our refusal to love the truth. If you're looking for an inside indicator, cultivate a love for the truth, God's truth, become a person of truth.
In Matthew 24, verse 12, it's Jesus talking about the end of the age. I gave you two translations, the New American Standard and the NIV because they translated the same word two different ways. I think both are accurate, but the NIV, Jesus said, "There'll be an increase in wickedness". In the New American Standard it said, "There'll be an increase in lawlessness". Again, when we're talking about lawlessness, we're not talking about breaking the laws of the land or the Mosaic Law. We're not talking about breaking the kosher rules. We're talking about expressions of ungodliness, stepping apart from the Ten Commandments, those fundamental principles that are revealed to every human being about God and our behavior towards one another.
There's a second category that I think was identified and that was violence. Again, we're not the first generation to do this. Way back in Genesis chapter 6, it didn't take very long. And the cycle has been repeated over and over and over and over again throughout the unfolding narrative of scripture. But in Genesis chapter 6, it says of the generation of Noah, God said, "I'm gonna put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them". "People have filled my earth with their violence, and I'm gonna destroy them".
I look at our world, and I look at our attitude towards the unborn, thousands a day, we just sacrifice them, it's inconvenient. And we try to keep a straight face when we talk about when life begins. Stop it. I'd rather have a conversation about when courage begins or when responsibility begins, our attitudes towards the unborn, the infirmed, whether physically or emotionally. Our murder rates are going through the roof. Violent crimes are setting records in city after city and place after place. We're actually encouraging the use of illicit drugs. We're encouraging it, facilitating it, the intentional facilitation of taking substances that we will know that will destroy the people who are taking them. And we say we're doing good. We're calling evil good and good evil. We're reluctant to punish those who commit violent crimes.
There's a third category that Revelation led us to, it was debauchery. It's kind of a fancy word. It just means excess. It means we're never satisfied. It's never enough. Whatever we've got, we can envision something better. It needs to be bigger and bolder and it needs to be gilded with brighter gold, something that separates us apart from more people. Amos chapter 6, again, it's not a new problem, folks. This has been a problem. This isn't just end of the age stuff. This is people stuff. I think it will strengthen the church, and I happen to believe we're approaching the end of the age. But that doesn't drive our responses in this. We've gotta find the courage to be advocates for Jesus.
In Amos chapter 6, the prophet is talking and he said, "You put off the evil day and bring it near a reign of terror. You lie on beds inlaid with Ivory and you lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fatten calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you don't grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you'll be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and your lounging will end". God said you've given yourself to excess. You have the finest of everything, and we do, but we're not thankful. We look at somebody that has a little bit more than we do and we go, "I don't have as much as they do," and I think I'm entitled. We refuse to be satisfied. We just refuse to be content.
Now, I understand there's many voices that are speaking into us and trying to convince us we need something else or to change and be different. We need to begin with the Lord. Jesus told us to pray this way, "Give me today my daily bread". Well, that's a battle in Allen because if I get to vote, I want the resources I'm gonna need for all the bread I'm ever gonna want. And I want it locked up someplace so I can walk through the room and look at it. It's just my bread supply. But Jesus said, "That's not the prayer". He said, "This is how you pray". Again, it's not new. It didn't start with Jesus. When Moses delivered the Hebrew slaves from the hundreds of years of bondage and they came into the wilderness, God said, "I'll provide food for them".
There wasn't a Costco nearby. Hundreds of thousands of people had to be fed. Do you understand the supply? Just imagine Rutherford County. It was a larger number than this. We had to feed everybody in Rutherford County tomorrow. God said, "I'll put the food on the ground, tell them to go out and pick it up. But they can only pick up what they need for one day. If they pick up two days, it'll corrupt and be spoiled". So, what'd they do? They picked up more than they needed. We're not that different, but we're gonna have to get on our knees and say, "God, we're sorry. We've been living lives of such excess". We look at the pagans, we think, "They're getting ahead of us. We're gonna have to get a little bit more. My TV is only 160 inches. They've got an LED panel in the backyard, it'll blind you".
There's a fourth category, and this one's more prevalent than I've seen in my lifetime, it's the occult. And I don't have time, or I'm not gonna take the time in this session to unpack that in detail. But think of it in these terms, I think it's the helpful doorway. When I say you embrace the occult, you reject the truth and you promote the false. You reject the Spirit of God, but you'll promote a false spirit. There are many, many expressions of that prevalent around us these days. In Romans 2:8 it says, "Those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there'll be wrath and anger". The occult is more prevalent. The church has lost so much of its courage and so much of our boldness, but the occult hasn't.
In 2 Timothy 3 and verse 8 it says, "Just as Jannes and Jambres". They were the magicians that opposed Moses. When he threw his staff down and it became a serpent, Pharaoh called for his magicians and they threw their staffs down, and they became serpents. Do you remember the story? It's in the book of Exodus. Makes me smile, though. Do you remember what happened? Moses's serpent swallowed up the other two and when he took it back up, at least in my imagination, the scripture doesn't say but in my imagination, his staff was thicker than the one he walked in with. But it says, "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth. Men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected".
We see that all around us. We see false prophets. Prophets are people we trust to tell us the truth, whether it's biblically otherwise. We don't trust the truth we hear. We have false leaders, people who tell us that, good leaders make decisions that are for the benefit of the people they're leading. You're not a good leader if your leadership results in selfish accomplishment and selfish achievement, but it diminishes the people you're leading. That's not a good leader, and we have an abundance. So, don't imagine the political party you don't like are all the false leaders. You're deceived. The reason the Antichrist will be embraced so readily, there'll be a world leader embraced globally to solve the problems we have who will be the most ungodly individual humanity will have ever known.
The book of Revelation describes him as a beast. The reason we will so readily embrace him is long before his emergence, we began to incrementally embrace leaders who walked away from godliness. We've stopped requiring godliness as the criteria a long, long, long ago. False church, false prophets, false leaders, false church. We'll have architecture and religious language and religious words and religious clothing, but we won't have the gospel of the Kingdom. We'll have another gospel. Look in Galatians 1 and verse 6. Says, "I'm astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel".
Again, this isn't the first time. We've gotta get over ourselves a little bit. We're not the first generation that's had to stand up. Have you heard of the first Great Awakening in this nation? It preceded the American Revolution. The moral courage to stand against the oppressive attitude of the British towards the colonists, the moral courage came from that first Great Awakening. One of the ways of understanding our history is every time there's been a movement of the Spirit of God, it's given us the courage to take a step forward in how we treat one another. We need that again, church. It was a problem in Galatia in the Asian churches. He said, "I'm astonished that you're so quickly turning to a different gospel".
We have a whole menu of different gospels flourishing in American Christendom. We have a social gospel. We have a gospel of liberation theology. We have a gospel of inclusion. We'd rather be inclusive than biblical. We have a gospel of happiness. We just want people to be happy. I'm not opposed to happiness, but it's a lousy life goal because it begins with your emotions, and the weather affects your emotions. How somebody looks at you affects your emotions. "Well, not my emotions". No, yours are frozen, I understand. We have a feminist gospel. It's almost an infinite list, all sort of self-absorbed presentations with religious language to deliver what we want that we think will give us unique opportunities or power over some other group of people. What did Paul say? "I am crucified with Christ". It's a different gospel. It's a different gospel.
There are two aspects of God's provision for us that are extraordinarily important in this season, one is discernment. Discernment isn't just the ability to recognize evil. Discernment is also equally the ability to recognize what God is doing so that we don't have to live in fear that we'll be deceived. We have the discernment to know right from wrong, true from false. It's important now, and it's a part of God's provision for us. The other aspect of his provision is wisdom. That's not just information. We have lots of information, but we need the wisdom to know what the truth is and then how to respond to it. Well, here's the good news. We can ask God to give us both discernment and wisdom in this time. Let's pray:
Father, give us your wisdom and your discernment to respond in this season, that your purposes might break forth from our lives. We thank you for it. In Jesus's name, amen.