Allen Jackson - The Power of The Cross - Part 2
It's good to be with you again. We're finishing our study on the power of the cross. You know, Jesus said to us that the Holy Spirit would come upon us and he would empower us to be witnesses. We're not going to outthink evil, or outwork evil, or out organize evil. We will need the power of God to be victorious in our generation, but God has made provision. Jesus said it was better for us if he went away because he would send the Holy Spirit. Now, we all have language for the Holy Spirit, but most of us have very little intent of actually cooperating with him. I want to encourage you as you listen to the lesson today to just quietly continue to say, "Holy Spirit, you are welcome in my life. You are welcome in my life". God has made provision so that we can lead our lives under his power and authority, and we don't wanna neglect that. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all open your heart. Enjoy the lesson.
Look with me at Jesus's final words. These were Jesus's last words before he left the earth with his ascension back to heaven. It's Acts chapter 1, verse 7. He's talking to his closest friends. He said to them, "It's not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you". That intrigues me. I think about the church, and I read quite a bit, and I'm certainly familiar with the new titles that come out in Christian literature. Which do you think there's more books about, times and dates or the Holy Spirit? You don't have to answer. I know the response if I say we're gonna talk about times and dates versus if we're gonna talk about the Holy Spirit.
But Jesus very clearly said, "Don't worry so much about the times or the dates". He said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". The word that's translated from Greek into English, "power," in the Greek is "dunamis". It's from which we get the English word "dynamite". Jesus said something explosive is going to happen to you. The Spirit of God is disruptive. We don't want to contain him. We want to cooperate with him. So there's a connection, particularly in Luke's writings, but throughout the New Testament, between the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of God. And I just brought you some samples. I'm not going to dwell on these passages, but I want you to see the breadth of them and the degree to which they're integrated into the story. Because again, we have wandered a long way from the biblical narrative.
Almost any community of Christians I've ever engaged with likes to say, "You know, we're a representation of the New Testament church". And I was try to think, "Well, which one"? The Corinthian? The drunken, immoral, gluttonous church? The Galatian church that's wandered from the truth? I mean, just exactly which one of them? The Laodicean church that's blind, pitiful, and naked, and doesn't know it? Which of those New Testament churches is it? 'Cause it's not like one consistent thing. Are we that New Testament church that had 3.000 people be baptized in one day? I'd like to watch that. Kind of embarrassed by the handfuls that we do, a few dozen here and there, but we're just warming up. Luke chapter 1, the angel is speaking to Mary, a very young woman, about something that she has no imagination of. He said, "You're gonna conceive a child". And she said, "How can that be? I haven't been engaged in the behaviors that would make that a possibility".
That's a good question. God sends an angel to a young woman, not a woman with a great deal of life experience, and says, "Something's gonna happen to you that is completely beyond your realm of imagination, that you could not explain no matter how long you had, and there's no peer you can go talk to that can say, 'Oh, I've been there and walked that path.'" Are you ready to cooperate with the Spirit of God in a circumstance like that? Am I? We get a little anxious if somebody sits in our seat. It makes us nervous if we change service times. If they sing a chorus and we don't know the words, we're going, "Well, you know, I just couldn't worship the Lord tonight". Yes? The angel comes to Mary and said, "You know, you're going to conceive a child," and Mary... And this is the answer the angel answered when Mary asked the question. This is the answer provided, "Well, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God".
Oh, well that clarifies everything. Oh, now I got it. Absolutely, can I have a t-shirt? Because it would be better when I went to the market next week and I'm beginning to show if I had a signed t-shirt from the Angel Gabriel, "The power of the Most High will overshadow me". Are we willing to follow the Lord even when it puts our feet on a path? Again, see, we've become so acclimated, so enmeshed in this behavior. Well, that's just not how we do it. Mary didn't know anybody that's had this experience. But the presentation of Luke puts together the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. Luke chapter 4, this is Jesus this time. He returns to Galilee to begin his public ministry after his baptism in the power of the Spirit. He lived in Galilee for 30 years at this point, but there's been no notation in Scripture that he was leading a life in the power of the Spirit. After his baptism and the descent of the Spirit, the power of God is resident in Jesus's life in a new way.
In Acts chapter 10, it's a commentary on Jesus. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit," and what? "And power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him". That's our assignment. Not to go around and be benevolent and use kind words, but to demonstrate the power of God. Romans chapter 1, and verse 4, "Through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God". Again, the Jesus story was not wrapped just in a rational argument. It was presented as a demonstration of a power beyond the people who were hearing the message. Our generation needs a demonstration of the power of God, and the most likely conduit is those of us that are the broken community of faith. Romans 15, "I'll not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done".
So he's been leading the Gentiles to obey God. Wouldn't we like to do that, to help people learn to obey God? And he gives us his modus operandi, "By the power of signs and miracles, and through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way to someplace, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ". If it feels better, just say Smyrna. Don't know where it is on the map anyway. But the method for the proclamation of the gospel was through the power of signs and miracles, and the power of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians chapter 2, and verse 1, this is Paul to the church at Corinth. He said, "When I came to you, brothers, I didn't come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you to the testimony about God. But I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified".
Now, this is an important passage. If we go back to 2 Timothy chapter 3 when Paul's describing the end of the age and the difficult times, the fierce times, he said that people would have a form of godliness, but deny its power. So an important question if you reflect on that is, what did Paul understand the power of God to mean if people would have a form of godliness but deny its power? Well, in the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians, I think we'd get a window into that. He said, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ Jesus and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, it's not the power of my intellect, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power".
Now, the preceding chapter, 1 Corinthians chapter 1, he said, "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom". That's a really, he's given you a really good window into 1st century culture. They continually demanded from Jesus, "Show us a sign". And what did he say? "No sign will be given you except the sign that was given to Jonah, to Jonah's generation". Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom. The whole Greek culture was organized around the pursuit of wisdom. He said, "But we preached a Messiah who is crucified". Christ is just the Greek word for the Hebrew word for "Messiah".
We preach a Messiah, a Son of God, a Savior who was crucified, who was executed, who's tortured to death. He said, now, that's a stumbling block to Jews 'cause they want a Messiah who's a deliverer, a political figure, an astute military leader. And you're telling us that the Messiah was crucified by the occupying army? For the Jews, it's a stumbling block. To the Greeks, he said it's just foolishness. The Son of God executed by human beings? The Greeks said, "I just", they won't process it. "But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Messiah is the power of God and the wisdom of God". Now, if we take that together, in Paul's thought, the power of God is a Messiah crucified. The power of God and the cross of Christ are inseparable. And he says to the Jews it's a stumbling block. They can't get past a Roman cross and an executed Messiah. And to the Greeks it's just nonsense. But he said to us, it's the power of God.
So let's go back to 2 Timothy 3, "They'll have a form of godliness, but deny its power". They'll have a form of godliness, but they're gonna deny the cross. Well, the cross is a demonstration of God's judgment upon sin, right? It's what made the cross necessary. So to have a form of godliness, but to deny its power is to deny sin. We can save ourselves. We can be good enough. We can work hard enough. We can cooperate enough. We can tolerate enough. We can be inclusive enough. We can do something enough. It's not difficult if I'm a form of godliness these days, but they will deny the notion of sin because sin is objective. God's defined sin. You and I can't define sin. You may say, "Well, I don't feel like that's a sin". I'm happy that you have a feeling, but it doesn't mean it's legitimate.
So to have a form of godliness but to deny its power is to deny the necessity of the cross. On the contrary, to lead a life that is filled with or demonstrates the power of God is to lead a life that recognizes the centrality of the redemptive work of Jesus to every aspect of our lives. There's no part of our life that is left out of it so that our salvation is not simply a transaction that secures a place in eternity in God's presence; that our salvation through Jesus's cross is intended to impact every aspect of our lives, our physical health, our emotional health, the resources we need to navigate life effectively. No part of our lives is excluded from the redemptive work of Christ that was demonstrated in the cross.
Now, I brought you a collection of Scriptures, and I'm going to read a couple of them because they're really the biblical support for a prayer I'm gonna pray with you in just a moment. And the point of the prayer is to invite the power of God to bring deliverance to your life. One of the things I'm conscious of that God is doing in this season that seems to be different from some earlier times in my spiritual journey is he's moving in the midst of groups of people in the way I've been accustomed to seeing him move in a more individual setting. And I don't think it's necessary for you to have a one-on-one appointment in order to find freedom from some ungodly, unholy spiritual influence in your life. I think we can say a prayer together and you can find freedom. I think you can understand the prayer, you can take it with you, and you can pray it.
As the Holy Spirit shows you places in your life where you have opened your life up to ungodly, unholy, unclean spirits, you can be set free. Pastor, do you think a Christ follower can be demonized, influenced by an unholy spirit? Absolutely. Language causes some problems here. The King James translated it "possession," which carries the connotation that we've lost any sense of self-direction or self-initiation. And I don't believe for the Christ follower you're dominated by something that's unclean, but I think an unclean spirit can influence some aspect of your behavior, your personality, how you understand the world, how you respond. I don't think there's any question of that from either Scripture or my life experience. So how do we find freedom? Well, in Matthew 28, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me".
Jesus has all the authority. There is no force, no spiritual force, no principality or power, no demonic influence that threatens your life, your wellbeing, your emotional wellbeing, your physical wellbeing over which Jesus does not have total authority. See, there's something that has been defeating me. There's one of those things in that list that I don't seem to be able to shake. It's a place where Jesus's authority is not yet fully experienced in your life, but it can be. Philippians 2, it says of Jesus that "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that's above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth". That includes everything in all of known creation has to bow to the name of Jesus.
In Ephesians chapter 2, and verse 4 says, "Because of his great love for us, God, rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ". Look at verse 6, "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms". So we've been included in his authority. We haven't been left out of it. We're not waiting for eternity. That's an accomplished reality. Ephesians 1:7, "In him, in Jesus, we have redemption through his blood". Redemption is to be bought out of sin and all of its consequences. We have that now. The power of sin is broken over our lives. It's not our master. It's not our ruling authority. And if there is someplace where sinful activity has dominion over us, we need to break that authority in Jesus's name. It begins with repentance and a renouncing of that, and then a release, the forgiveness of sins.
Romans 5, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We have been justified by his blood". "Justify" is a fancy religious word. Justification means to be just as if I'd never sinned. I brought you a prayer. Let me read it to you and then we'll pray it together. "I thank my Heavenly Father. I thank you that I'm accepted by God". You need to know you've been accepted by God. You may have been rejected by a lot of people in a lot of places, but Jesus came that you and I might be accepted by God. In Romans 8 it says, "If God's for us, do we really give a hoot," Living Bible, "who decides they don't like us"? "I thank you that I'm accepted by God. In Christ Jesus, I have been welcomed into the kingdom of light". We are participants in a kingdom of light. There's no darkness in it. There is no lie there. There is no sin there. "I repent of my sin, my willful rebellion against you".
You won't get free unless you are desperate to be free. If you kinda like ungodliness, if you kind of enjoy debauchery, if drunkenness is kinda fun to you, you won't get free until you're desperate to be free. "I repent of my sin and my willful rebellion against you. Please forgive me. I renounce my involvement in every expression of rebellion and ungodliness. I choose a new path, to walk in humility and submission to your truth, honoring Jesus as Lord. I forgive those who've sinned against me. I release them". You see, if you hold unforgiveness, you give the devil a foothold. You give him an authority in your life. You can't afford that. "Through the authority of Jesus's name, I am free, forgiven, justified, sanctified, and delivered. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Satan has no place in me and no power over me through the blood of Jesus".
Now, if you read that list in Galatians or the corresponding list in some other places in the Scripture and you say, "You know, that's a struggle for me. I have trouble not watching pornography," don't just tolerate it or excuse it. Don't just think, "Well, you know, I can hide it". If you will repent, and renounce it, and release those things you need to release, the power of God is present to set you free. You can take that prayer and the Word of God and invite the Holy Spirit to help you identify any place where you have tolerated ungodliness, and the power of God is available to help you be free. Would you like to pray that prayer? Why don't you stand with me? My time's up. It's more than up. Glad it was a short sermon.
Let's read it together, but it is really about, I trust the Spirit of God to help you, but it isn't a passive prayer. You have to meet the intensity of the adversary. And if it's a place where you have a struggle, you have to come to this prayer with that same intention, that your power over my life is about to be broken, that the lordship of Jesus, I'm about to declare his authority over my life, over my physical wellbeing, over my emotional life, over the habits of my life. Your power over me is broken. Do you understand?
You don't need me to do that. I don't have the power in my pocket. It's Christ in you. It's the power of the cross, the resurrected Christ in you. We've denied the power of our faith for too long, church. We've tolerated ungodliness and wickedness and immorality. The judgment of God is showering upon us, and if we don't change it's gonna rain upon us. But there's a power present to separate us from the impact of evil. It's important. Pray this together: "Heavenly Father, I thank you that I'm accepted by God. In Christ Jesus, I have been welcomed into the kingdom of light. I repent of my sin".
Let me stop there just a moment. If you're conscious of something, I would list that. I would say it out loud. I'm conscious that I'm a glutton. I'm conscious that I'm whatever. Tell the Lord the truth. You don't have to do right now, but when you are ready to pray this prayer, you call it as plainly as you can by what you understand it to be. I repent of my addiction to whatever. Let's go on:
My willful rebellion against you. Please forgive me. I renounce my involvement in every expression of rebellion and ungodliness. I choose a new path, to walk in humility and submission to your truth, honoring Jesus as Lord. I forgive those who've sinned against me. I release them. Through the authority of Jesus's name, I am free, forgiven, justified, sanctified, and delivered. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and Satan has no place in me and no power over me through the blood of Jesus. Amen, hallelujah.