Allen Jackson - Lead With Faith
It's an honor to be with you again. Our topic today is to lead with faith. You know, we are in a leadership crisis, and it's not about political parties or politicians or the business community. Leadership begins with character. It's not just about outcomes. It isn't about you're a celebrity, or your gifting, or your athletic ability, or the resources you've accumulated. Leadership forms with our character. Your ability to influence our world is dependent upon the character you allow the Spirit of God to craft within you. So if we want better leaders, we've got to become people that are allowing the influence of the Spirit of God to make a greater impact in us and through us.
Now, that's more than sitting in church like polite people. That's allowing the Spirit of God to do the hard work of changing us, of transforming us. We humble ourselves, we cooperate with repentance and humility and cultivating the fear of the Lord. The outcome of that is an influence for the kingdom of God in our world. Folks, it's time to lead with faith. You've got to stop leading with a financial portfolio, or athletic skills, or celebrity, or because you're cute. I'm glad you're cute, but I don't want to follow you because of that. Grab your Bible. Get a notepad. Most of all, open your heart. I believe God is developing a whole new generation of leaders.
I think we need a biblical worldview in forming our leadership. In fact, it seems to me that we're suffering from a tremendous lack of leadership at almost every level of our society. We seem to have forgotten that character is the cornerstone of leadership. The recipe for leaders doesn't begin with talent, or celebrity, or even success. Leadership begins with an awareness of what God is doing, what he's asked us to do and, then I would submit, our determined pursuit of that objective. That really is the expression of leadership. It's a word that I think is often overused, but there is a need. You see, God redeems our character; and from the brokenness of our lives God's power restores the failures and flaws of our lives, and we all have them. Me, too. They become the canvas for the grace and the mercy of God to be demonstrated to the world around us.
So it's appropriate to imagine that God will use your life for his influence and his purposes, that's leadership, not because of your perfection or your lack of failures or inconsistencies, but precisely because of those things your story becomes a testimony to the power and the grace and the mercy of God. That's a very important principle. Our God is a God who restores. In 1 Corinthians it says he chose the weak and the foolish and the things that were kind of set aside by the more sophisticated recruiters so that in our brokenness, in our frailty, in our weakness his power could be demonstrated. We need individuals who understand there is an Almighty God, a creator of heaven and earth, who will yield themselves to his influence so that we can be an influence in this world.
Our imagination of what good leadership is, what it means, and the appropriate influence needs to emerge from that biblical worldview. If you set that biblical worldview aside, no matter how successful or talented or creative it will lead to destruction. That biblical perspective on our lives and how we understand the world and how we understand our interaction with one another is of tremendous significance. I want to read a couple portions of Scripture. Matthew 24 is Jesus's most lengthy prophetic discourse. His disciples are going to ask him a couple of questions and then he will spend a significant amount of time describing the world at the end of the age and before his return. We're not going to look at all of the attributes he described for us. We're living through them. But I want to look at the beginning.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away, Herod's temple. The Jewish people have had two temples. Remember who built the first temple? Solomon. Very good. David's son built the first temple in Jerusalem, one of the most elaborate buildings that a human being has ever put together. The walls were overlaid with gold. It was destroyed by the Babylonians about 587 BC. Zerubbabel, easy for me to say, rebuilt the temple, the Second Temple. Same location, same place in the city of Jerusalem: Mount Moriah. But Herod the Great remodeled it, and to call it a remodeling is a bit of an understatement. He expanded the Temple Mount. He expanded the platform where tens of thousands of people could gather. They didn't trust him enough to let him deconstruct Zerubbabel's temple, so he built the temple around it. It was one of the wonders of the ancient world.
People came from all over the Roman Empire to see the splendor of Herod's temple. It took 40 years to construct. In fact, he never completed it. It was the center of Israelite life in Jesus's day. It was their national achievement. It was the most remarkable structure they had ever seen. And Jesus and the disciples are walking away from that temple and they called his attention to its buildings. "'Do you see these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another: every one will be thrown down.'"
That was beyond their imagination. It's a prophetic statement. In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. If you study Jewish history in a Jewish setting, in a Jewish university, a Jewish classroom, they'll tell the history of their people in terms of the First Temple and the Second Temple. And Jesus said there won't be a single stone left on another, and that was fulfilled quite literally. You visit Jerusalem today, you can see where they toppled the stones from the temple onto the pavement below. The disciples were shocked. In verse 3, "As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, they came to him privately and said, 'Tell us when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age.'"
It's such a familiar passage I think we can read past it and miss the magnitude of what's happening. Jesus is with the disciples at the temple, much like we would attend a worship service, and he makes a statement to them and it seems so casual. It's as if it's a passing remark. He said, "This building will be destroyed and there won't be one stone left on another". It's a prophetic proclamation that would be fulfilled within just a few decades of when he said it, and we act as if, "Oh, that's just normal".
Folks, following Jesus is not normal. With God's help over these next few sessions, I would like to plant a seed that we have undervalued, underimagined, underestimated what it means to be Christ followers. We've said a sinner's prayer and we've learned to come and go and how not to embarrass ourselves, but we have diminished Jesus and I want to repent of that because we need his help in a new way. We need to be more dependent upon him, to turn our faces to him more fully. We talk about him in eternity as if we're really counting on him there, but we live as if we can handle this part of the equation. We're failing miserably.
I'm not saying you're not feeding your family, you're clothing your family, you're providing shelter for your family, but being light in a dark world we need the help of our Lord. He said there won't be one stone left on another, and the disciples came and they took it, they treated it as if it were the gospel, as if he'd told them the truth. "Tell us when that's going to happen. When is that going to happen"? By this time they've spent 3 years with him. They're beginning to wake up. I mean, they're still struggling with some of the more startling things he said. "But when's that going to happen, Lord"?
And he spends the balance of chapter 24 and into chapter 25 talking about that. I want to lay alongside that one other passage. It's in Revelation chapter 4. Do you remember who wrote the Book of Revelation? John. He was there in Matthew 24 when they had that discussion that day. Revelation is written a few decades later. His peer group is gone. Most of them have been martyred. He's in exile on the island of Patmos, and he's in the Lord, he's in the Spirit on the Lord's Day and he has a vision, and he hears behind him a voice and he turns to see who's speaking and it's Jesus. It's in chapter 1. He said he fell at his feet as though dead.
"And he put his hand on me and he said, 'I'm the living one. I was alive and I was dead and I'm alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and hell and I've got something I need to show you.'" And he starts with a message to seven churches. The beginning of the Book of Revelation highlights Jesus's attention to his church in the earth. In fact, he's standing in the midst of his church. I believe he still is. I believe he's intentionally interested in what's happening in the church. We treat it so casually, almost indifferently.
Folks, it isn't about preachers or sermons but the collection of God's people and who we are. I believe he's inviting us to a new response and a different response. I'm tired of the intensity of the wicked while we see the passivity of the church. I think the intensity of our faith, the purposefulness with which we serve the Lord, the commitment we have to the king should challenge those who stand in opposition to what we believe. Not our anger or our belligerence or our hatred, but our determination to serve our Lord. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are addressing seven churches, but then in chapter 4 he said, "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.' At once I was in the Spirit".
In John chapter 1 he said he was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and in John chapter 4 when he has this, he sees the throne room of heaven. Again he says, "At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it". I just didn't want you to miss this revelation that there is a throne in heaven that speaks with authority over every kingdom of the earth. I think sometimes we imagine that real power resides in political settings, or military settings, or economic settings. All of those things are real and they have expressions of power and authority. I understand that. I'm not diminishing that. But, folks, there is a greater and a higher power and authority, and it's the one we serve and the church has to be awakened to that. Otherwise, our allegiance will always be to some lesser thing.
If we don't really believe there's a throne in the heavens that rules over every kingdom of this present world, if we don't believe there's a power greater than political power or economic power or military might, we will always choose an idol. What enables us to lay down our idols is the conviction that there is a higher power, something greater than the kingdoms of this world and the realms of authority in this world, and for too long we have quibbled about whether or not we believed in miracles or whether they had transpired with the last of the apostles or some other idea. We've got to be awakened to this. Us, not somebody else.
Begin to quietly as you go through your day or you're doing your devotionals or you're travel, whatever, say, "Lord, I believe in you. I believe you're real, that your power and your majesty and your might and your authority truly do fill the earth; that there's nothing above you, there's nothing you're subjected to, there's nothing you're frightened of, there's nothing that intimidates you. You are all-powerful. You are almighty. You are sovereign over all. I worship you, Lord. I give you glory, and honor, and praise, and thanksgiving. Forgive me for imagining other things are more powerful".
Jesus said don't be afraid of somebody that can just kill your body. He's like, "So they can take your earth suit. Not that big a deal," he said. Well, that's a pretty big deal. But he said, "No, in reality it's not that big of a deal. You should be afraid of someone who after they've killed your body, taken your earth suit, they could send you to hell". There's something more significant. There's a throne in the heavens that's higher than any throne on this earth.
Our world is changing. It's changing rapidly and dramatically; and it's happening with such speed, and the messaging is so confusing. The messages don't align with what we're experiencing. I've been asking you for weeks and months now to watch and to listen, to think and to act because the messaging we get doesn't line up with what our experiences are. We see shortages on a regular basis. Delayed delivery about anything you could imagine has become a routine part of our lives, from air conditioning units to generators. Ideas and free speech are routinely censored because they're deemed untrue or unreliable, and we've begun to accept that as normal. Most of us have spent our lives with things that were patently untrue being blurted all over the public arena, but now we're told that shouldn't happen.
Propaganda has replaced the reporting of news. Hard work and self-reliance seem antiquated. They certainly aren't things we celebrate in the public square any longer. They have succumbed to the invitation to live for the moment and to be sure you get all you're entitled to. Science, I'm an advocate for science. I began my academic career in the sciences. Science is a process of rigorous observation of our world and the formulation of a hypothesis which can be tested, which should lead us then to a substantial theory that we can build upon even more fully. Well, that idea of science has been coopted by political expediency and financial gain, and we're watching it. It's a little unsettling because we understand the role of scientific thought and development in the process and appropriately we don't want to yield that.
Trust has crumbled, truth has been trampled, and truthfulness is just seldom found. The education of our children, shamefully on our part too long ignored, has been engulfed in relativism. Things like the uniqueness of the Christian faith, American exceptionalism, and civic responsibility are mostly absent in the preparation of the next generation of leaders. I mean, I suggest we're responsible for that failure. Now, here's the part that's most striking, and despite of all of that the future still isn't clear. The outcomes today, even though this disruption started almost 2 years ago, the outcomes still are not clear. And I think the most important question before us isn't about politicians, or political parties, or ideologies, or the WHO, or the CDC, or even the leading economic indicators; I think the most important factors continue to be will God's people awaken to holiness, to purity, to integrity. It is not a simple easy time, and some of us are angry by that. We would prefer a simpler, easy time.
Okay, objection duly noted. That's not where we are. We've been called to this time and place. We're being forced to make difficult decisions. I want to invite you to decide to do difficult things, to complete the course, to see the gospel proclaimed fully, to see Jesus's name exalted, to see his kingdom extended and his will known on earth as it is in heaven. So we're walking through a time that's disorienting and confusing and frustrating, and we can't throw a fit and get our way through this. We're going to have to respond differently than we had in the past.
One of my habits is to build a good-news list. You know, through the years, my most consistent complaint with God is a bit, has been about his sense of timing. If I look back over my life I can tell you without any question God has been amazingly faithful to me, but I have taken issue with his sense of timing on many occasions. Does anybody else share that challenge? What felt urgent to me God didn't seem to respond in the moment when I thought it was urgent, and I thought he had abandoned me in some place and yet from this vantage point I can look back and see the supreme faithfulness of God in guiding me and leading me and directing me through all of those seasons.
Well, in a season of turmoil and confusion and disruption, one of the things I have found helpful is to maintain a good-news list, places where I can see God's truth breaking through in the public square. It doesn't take great wisdom to find the weaknesses in the world around us. Skeptics don't have superior intellectual ability. Like, they risk very little to sit in the bleachers and point out the flaws of those who are actually struggling in the midst of the conflict. So my good-news list has been helpful for me, and I can give you some examples. These were all breakthroughs for me. The Russian collusion narrative that dominated our nation for more than a year has been demonstrated to have been a hoax. That was good news.
A US Attorney General, John Doran after years of investigation exposed there were political roots to that whole set of narratives. That's good news for all of us. No matter which side of the political spectrum you're on, it's wonderful news to know that that narrative in reality was false. In the past week there have been some breakthroughs. We're still struggling with COVID. It's still amongst us. It is real. It's not a myth. We shouldn't treat it as if it is. But we have struggled with what to do with it and how to respond to it and how to talk about it, and in the last week on multiple fronts there have been the acknowledgement that the hospitalizations were dramatically over-reported.
That's good news. Not lessening the severity of it, not lessening the significance of it, not encouraging us to be reckless, but every expression of truth in the public square is a breakthrough. Dr. Fauci, and everybody may not be his fan, but he had the courage to say that they're changing how they report COVID in children's lives; that heretofore if children were hospitalized with a broken bone and they tested positive for COVID while in the hospital, it was listed as a COVID hospitalization. And they're going to change that reporting process. Children are far less vulnerable than we thought. That's good news. Don't be angered by it. Celebrate the truth. Yes.
Even the state of New York, you know, I haven't looked to them for a lot of godly breakthroughs lately, but they're changing their reporting practices to make them more accurate based on the disease processes that are really diminishing the people and not something that simply serves reimbursements better. On a different front, the US Supreme Court has agreed to consider Roe v. Wade. It could return the decision to the states and spare countless of our children's lives. So in the midst of all the things that are happening, there is, almost week upon week upon week there is evidence that God is moving in the public square.
You say, "Well, pastor, it's difficult". Yes. Have you read the Book of Acts lately? I don't think very many of us would have wanted to, taken more than one trip with Paul. I mean, city after city there was a riot, or some sort of public altercation, or imprisonment, or physical punishment for the proclamation of the gospel. We've imagined suffering for the gospel was when somebody sat in your preferred seat in the sanctuary or you couldn't park as close to the building as you would like or some other intrusion into our personal preferences. God is moving in the public square.
I want to pray before we go, but I want to encourage you to begin on a daily basis to maintain your good-news list. It's not just your personal God stories but the truth of God you see that's making its way into the public square. It will strengthen your faith and it will help you navigate the confusion.
Father, I thank you that you are the author of truth and life; and I pray that you will awaken us to hear your truth, to see it, to recognize it, to understand it that we may stand in the strength of that life-transforming truth. In Jesus's name, amen.