Allen Jackson - Time For A Change - Part 1
It's good to be with you again, our topic today is "Time For a Change". You know, change is very seldom welcome, but it's sometimes necessary. In this particular instance, we didn't have to choose the change, God chose it for us. He is changing the world we live in. Now, you may be desperately trying to ignore that or pretend it's not happening, but it won't change the reality. I believe a better question is what would it look like for me to align myself more completely with the purposes of God? I'm not questioning our salvation or the legitimacy of our relationship with the Lord or our names entrance into the Lamb's Book of Life. I am concerned about our fruitfulness in a changing season, that we not cling to habits and patterns that would render us less fruitful than we could be in our current environment. God is moving, and I wanna cooperate with him and not resist him, and I know you do too. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, most of all, open your heart to the Spirit of God. You don't need Allen's wisdom, you need the direction of the Spirit of God in this most unique season in our earth. Enjoy the lesson.
We're in a mess. You know, we live in a representative form of government, and I have said to you many times I believe the people who lead us reflect our hearts. And the best description I would have today, and I don't mean it disrespectfully at all, but we're addled, we're confused, we lack clarity. And I'm not talking about a specific leader, I'm talking about us as a people. It's as if our compass is broken. And I think we see that reflected in our leadership, but I don't think they are the cause of that. I think it starts in our own hearts. And the question is, how do you respond, what's appropriate, what do we do, what would God ask of us? And that's really the goal of this time together and the scriptures we're going to read. How many of you do the Bible reading with us, just the daily Bible reading? Good, about half of you, what do the rest of you read?
You've got your own Bible plan, I trust. If you're not systematically reading your Bible on a daily basis, you're forfeiting a great deal. That's more destructive to your spiritual health than a destructive diet is to your physical health. I don't know how to sustain your spiritual momentum if you aren't systematically reading through your Bible. And I say that from experience, I've done it with thousands and thousands of people, and it's a large enough sample set, there were enough years that I didn't encourage us to do that that I have witnessed the difference. It is transformational in my own journey and in the journey of thousands of people, again, that I'm making it with.
So, it's a new year, and it's a good time to begin. I'm gonna give you some new invitations towards that in a week or two, but if you're reading the Bible reading with us, we're completing right now the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, the minor prophets, all those names at the end of the Old Testament that you're not sure whether they're people or something you should pray for. And they're speaking primarily about the current events of their generation. They're giving us a God perspective. People say is it appropriate in church to talk about current events? You don't have to read any further than the minor prophets to understand that's what they talk about, what God thinks about how the people are behaving. It's not primarily the manual for a worship service, it's a commentary on their contemporary lives, and it has application for us because human nature really changes very little.
And so it's very helpful and insightful to us, it's been very convicting to me as I've been reading it. And this lesson is birthed out of that. If we don't change, I think the full weight of God's judgment is coming to us. In fact, I've begun to pray that God's judgment wouldn't come upon the righteous, because when I read my Bible and God comes to those periods where his judgment is required, it impacts everybody. When Jerusalem was destroyed, it impacted both the wicked and the righteous. And I began to pray with some intensity and purposefulness and consistency that God would be merciful to the righteous. And I don't presume to know who those people are, God is the judge. So, this is about us, this isn't about somebody else, I'm not really thinking about anybody beyond the building.
I think we have a divine appointment tonight, but it's time for a change. We cannot sustain what we're doing. I believe that what was introduced to us through COVID and a season of disruption is really God's gift. We're not going back to the world we were in before we heard about that virus from Wuhan. I think that's just fanciful to imagine we're going back to that. I think we can go to something better. So, I'm not mourning that in particular, but I know that that kind of a move and transition is stressful. But it's time for a change on our part. 2 Timothy chapter 2 and verse 2 is where I'd like to start. It says, "The Lord's bond servant must not be quarrelsome". Bondservant's a pretty strong word, it stops just sort of being a slave, but the idea is clear that we are serving the King, that he's not serving us.
We're the Lord's bondservant, we must not be quarrelsome, "But kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will". The phrase that really captured my heart was in verse 25 when it said that "Perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth". Repentance is a familiar word around the church, it's a word we hear frequently enough that I think it's almost, we go deaf to it. It carries with it two meanings, it's a change of thought and a change of direction, a change of behavior. But repentance isn't just something we choose, repentance is something that Paul is suggesting to Timothy that repentance is something that God grants to us.
The ability to change our thought and to change our behavior is something that God enables us to do, it's not entirely self-initiated. God grants repentance, and then repentance leads us to a new response. That regard, God grants us repentance, it will lead us to a knowledge of the truth, and we know that the truth will bring us freedom. And it seems to me that's what we are desperately in need of, a new response that would lead us towards freedom, 'cause our patterns and our habits have put us in a spiral of increasing destruction, whether it's physical irresponsibility or moral irresponsibility or violence or lawlessness. I mean, you don't have to be a very adept prognosticator to recognize the world in which we are living in, the one we were looking at through the windows of our homes is deteriorating rapidly.
And then in Amos chapter 5 and verse 6, it says, "Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; and it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it". Seek the Lord and live, that's our target. What would it look like for you and me to seek the Lord in a way that would bring God's life to us? And I just wanna to walk through that from from my vantage point, and it's limited. I'm a pastor in middle Tennessee, and I interact with the church in a broader way, but I understand I have a limited vantage point. But from the perspective that I hold, it would seem to me that in a increasing way, God's people, not the pagans, God's people have set aside God's counsel.
There's a lot of ways we could label that, but that's the most direct and the most honest that I know, and I just brought you some samples. It's not intended to be an inclusive list, but I think it's certainly accurate, and if it doesn't resonate with you, just pray for me. But it seems we've set aside God's counsel regarding family. It's as if we're not really willing to defend it, to stand on the behalf of it. We will capitulate, yield, we'll embrace just any definition of family that comes along. In Genesis 2 in verse 24 it says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they'll become one flesh". Family's the building block of human society, it was God's idea, he implemented it.
In the very early chapters, the introduction of our Bible, he put that notion in place, and it has stood humanity in reasonably good service through all the millennia, through all the different empires, through all the changes that have come through technology that advanced and retreated. The family has remained the building block of human civilization, and there is a very intentional, it seems to me, effort right now to deconstruct it, the nuclear family in the sense that we know it or that it's biblically presented to us. And for the most part, the church has tried to decide how to capitulate.
Now, we can embrace all the variants, we don't want to be seen as intolerant or not inclusive or whatever the language of the day is. We've just taken God's counsel, and we said, well, it's inconvenient to own that in the public square. And again, I don't want to be angry, I don't wanna be condemning, I don't wanna be, I just want us to acknowledge the perspective that God has given us. It's like the designer's intent, can you teach a duck to climb a tree? I suppose you could, but it's better if you let the squirrels do that and let the ducks swim. God designed us with some intent, and God designed family, and it's the best way for human beings. Now, as broken as we, are and as painful as some of the family stories we can find are, and there are many painful family stories, it doesn't mean that the intent is flawed.
And then I would submit to you that we've set aside God's ideas, his counsel on what it means to be sexually moral and immoral. We've almost just turned that bucket completely upside down. And when I say that, I mean the culture in which we live, the world in which we live, and it's happening at such a magnitude and it's so pervasive now that to even respond to it seems almost as if you're shouting into the wind or trying to stop a thunderstorm with a teacup, because the values, a biblical worldview on family and human sexuality seem so far removed from the public square and the media and the messaging and the programming that comes to us through broadcast and all the different delivery platforms and by creative sources. We've just lost our perspective completely, to the point that it seems we've capitulated. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the most immoral things and the most ungodly things and we'll say, well, it's family or a friend or whatever, and we lose our voice completely. We're just reluctant to say anything, and it hasn't been that long ago that we understood moral and immoral, and we would use our voices and say that's not a good thing.
And there'd be some consequences to immorality in our culture, that seems so quaint today. That if you're gonna be blatantly immoral, that there could be some consequence in the public square. It's laughable today. At one point, even our leaders, there was, we understood that with that kind of power, privilege would come and our leaders were often immoral, but there was still enough of a residual sense of a biblical worldview that they had to hide it. We've had people who occupy the White House that hid their immorality because they understood the nation wouldn't accept it if it were just blatantly pushed before them. We've lost any notion of that. And I say we, God's people.
In Hebrews 13 and verse 4 it says, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled," and then it gives you two kinda categories, the fornicators, that's sexual activity prior to marriage, and adultery, sexual activity beyond the marriage. And it says of those behaviors, "God will be the judge". God will be the judge. You don't have to think, you don't you don't need to have a creative mind and I'm not talking about gross perversion and pornography, you just turn on television. The immorality that is directed at you, it's difficult to sit and watch a program that doesn't give you some perspective of immorality. And I think we're just anesthetized to it or wearied from it or where do we look or on our public figures, and you're ridiculed and mocked if you stand for a biblical view of morality. And we're going to have to encourage one another.
Parents, we're gonna have to encourage our children, we gotta stop winking and nodding at ungodliness. It will bring God's judgment to them. Again, this is us, I'm not looking beyond the windows of the church. If we're gonna get to a different outcome, God's people are gonna have to decide that his counsel is worth receiving. And that's us, we came to church on a stormy, miserable night. If I had to pick a subset of people to get to have this discussion with, you'd be the group I would choose. I believe God brought us together. And then I think we've set aside God's counsel on this notion of idolatry. We don't worship little things carved out of metal or wood or stone any longer, but idolatry is about priority, and it seems to me that we've almost wholeheartedly made priorities out of comfort and pleasure and indulgence. Social media has helped with that. We compete with one another over the meals we eat and the vacations we take and the experiences we provide our children, 'cause we can show you their pictures so you'll know that yours are inadequate. C'mon.
Philippians 3 and verse 18, "As I've often told you before and I now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ". He's writing to a church, did you know you could sit in church and go through all the routines of church and be an enemy of the cross of Christ? Verse 19 is the sobering part, "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame". Our bodies, the Bible says that we're fearfully and wonderfully made, and they certainly bear, we're the image bearers of Almighty God, but there's something frail in our bodies. And they are intended to remind us that we are creatures, that we're not the creator. And when we flip the script on that and we make our physical selves and the satisfaction of our physical selves and the pursuit of pleasure, which is the gratification of your body, the goal of our lives, we take that thing that was intended to remind us of our frailty and we glory in our shame.
It's a perversion, not a sexual perversion, but it's a perversion of God's intent. It says, "Their mind is on earthly things," 'cause our bodies were born with a countdown clock. You haven't had enough birthdays yet, just hang on. That rascal will betray you. It's the craziest stuff. "But our citizenship is in heaven. We eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by, the power that enables to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies". We're going to get an earth suit 2.0 that will not be an instrument of humiliation, that will be a declaration of the glory of the one we serve. Woo-hoo, sign me up. Then it seems another way we've set aside the counsel of God is we prefer, we prefer deceit over the truth. We'd rather just not be bothered with the truth. We'd rather not think about the fact that we're $30 trillion in debt, let's just think about we've had a good year, it's more comfortable. Let's just turn up the volume on the music and dance. And in so many ways, it seems to me, we prefer deceit over truth.
In Romans 3 there's a very sobering passage, he's quoting a prophet, but he says, "'Their throats are open graves; and their tongues practice deceit.' 'The poison of vipers is on their lips.' 'Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.' 'Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'" It sounds like the world I look at. And tragically, it's as rampant within the church as it is without. I read the surveys, there's very little difference in marketing to a group of people whether they attend church or they don't. We respond the same ways, same triggers, same passions, same vulnerabilities. We're gonna have to decide that the truth is valuable. We will have to champion the truth, we'll have to cling to the truth, let's be willing to stand for the truth, we'll have to reject deception. That starts with us, not somebody else.
You know, you're watching, I think in so many ways right now we see the hand of God. Deceptions that have been flourishing for months and months are unraveling before our very eyes. We're seeing the truth break free. We're seeing narratives that have been pounded into us on all sorts of topics, not a singular topic, narratives that have been hammered at us from every conceivable outlet have unraveled as being false and deceptive. God is bringing the truth forward. But if you don't love the truth, you'll miss it. You'll be caught in the next lie that's being fostered and the next tidal wave of emotion that's being created, and you'll miss the truth. But every time one of those lies is unraveled and the truth is told, if you're paying attention and you allow it to, God will use it to secure you a bit more. It'll help you, it'll bring stability to you. You'll come to trust him that even if in the moment deception seems to be flourishing, we're learning that God will unravel the deception, that the deceivers don't triumph, that the truth does win out.
The timing of that doesn't always suit me, but it does happen. And it seems to me another place we've set aside God's counsel is the pursuit of God has just been minimized. And again, I spend my life in the church world, we just don't talk about it much. We talk about being born again or being saved and converted and, you know, getting your name's written in the Lamb's Book of Life, or whatever you need to do to secure eternity, and then we just kinda, we're hands off, we're pretty much good to go. There's an interesting passage in Deuteronomy 6, Moses is talking to the people, and he says, "When you occupy the land, when you come into the fulfillment of all that stuff we started way back in Egypt for," he said, "There's gonna be a temptation. You're going to live in cities you didn't build and have vineyards you didn't plant, and you're gonna enjoy farms that you didn't have to establish, and when you do, you'll think you did this for yourselves".
And I think that's about as an accurate description of ourselves as I think we imagine we've made ourselves prosperous. I have traveled enough around the world, I promise you, the overwhelming majority of the world has no imagination of what you and I call normal. Most of us will go to sleep on a bed tonight. Most of us will have a sheet on that bed. Most of us will have running water in the home when we wake up tomorrow, hot and cold. And that handful of facts differentiate you from the majority of the world. Those aren't rights, those are gifts from God himself, and we've just lost that perspective. So we get way too worked up if somebody didn't give us a gift for Christmas that we wanted. "Ugh, I can't live like this". We do. Or if our contribution to someone's life isn't fully recognized, we're so emotionally distraught by that. The pursuit of God has been minimized.
In Philippians chapter 3 in verse 13, this is Paul, he said, "I don't consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead". The language carries a lot of, I think if somebody, you know, in a tug of war pulling a rope, and you see every muscle, you know, the veins are distended, it's clear that there's a maximum effort being made, that there's resistance. He said, I'm straining towards what's ahead. Would you describe your relationship, your spiritual life, your desire to know God as something that represents that kind of effort? And again, I'm preaching to the choir, but the choir is going to have to sing. Choir has been humming long enough. Okay, so, again, this is a little short list for me, but they were the most obvious. We've set aside God's counsel around family, around sexual morality and immorality, we've set it aside around idolatry, comfort, indulgence, we've set it aside about truth and deception, and we've set it aside about the pursuit of God.
Does that seem kind of accurate? I know we can expand it, we can put some other things in there, we could argue about prioritizing it, but those things to me to seem to be in play, and we're gonna have to find our footing on each of those again. We're gonna have to be willing to live around those things that God's idea of family is not open for a negotiation, that God's idea around moral and immoral is not, he didn't ask us to vote, he told us. That idolatry, he will never concede idolatry. The pursuit of God is not always comfortable or convenient, and God is not concerned about indulging us. He's not opposed to it from time to time, but it's not the goal of our lives. Truth matters, and the pursuit of God needs to be as much a part of your routine day as the pursuit of anything else that's on your agenda.
I want to pray with you before we go, but I have a specific objective in my heart. You know, God is changing our world, and I believe purifying his church for a harvest that is in front of us. It started with a pandemic, and it broke us out of a routine. We were familiar with the theater of worship. We knew what to wear, we knew when to sit and when to stand, we knew how to attend a public worship service and not embarrass ourselves if we stayed in our lane. We were a little suspicious of people that worshipped in a way that we weren't familiar with. We really didn't have to bring our heart to the Lord. Well, a season for a passive faith is gone. We need a courageous faith and a boldness to say, Lord, I'm willing to be different so that your purposes can emerge in my life. The technical word for that is repentance. It's not about gross sin in your life, it's a willingness to change. Let's pray:
Father, I ask you to help us. If there's anything in our thoughts, our imagination, our habits, our patterns that would limit what you would do with our lives, help us to change. We submit ourselves to you and your authority, in Jesus's name, amen.