Allen Jackson - The Responsibility of Friendship - Part 1
Hey, it is so good to be with you today. Our topic is a favorite of mine: my friend Jesus. You know, sometimes we make our faith so complicated. Whether it's about the translation we read, or a style of worship, or the dress code for the people who attend the worship service, all of those things may have a place, but at the end of the day, our faith is rooted in a person, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth, how you know him. We want to be his friend, not just be friendly with him. There's a great difference. We're gonna look at that in a bit more detail, but I believe that in this season ahead, the greatest way to stabilize your life and your family and your circumstances is to get to know the person of Jesus. We're gonna explore that in a little detail and see if we can take some steps towards it. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
Sometimes I think those of us in church world, especially those of us who are professional Christians, overcomplicate this. And there's some time and place for technical things, and I don't want to diminish that. I'm grateful for that and enjoy it on many levels. But the fundamentals of our faith are not complicated. It is really not so much about the particular congregation where we gather or the denomination or that we would give a nod towards or even the translation we prefer to read. Fundamentally, our faith is founded on a person, and his name is Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, to be specific, the incarnate Son of God.
What you believe about Jesus, how you interact with Jesus, how you relate to Jesus, the position of authority you give to Jesus will determine your eternity. It will be a tremendous determinant on how you make your journey through time, but I assure you it will determine your eternity far more than any of those previously stated things: churches or denominations or worship styles. Jesus. And the construct is so helpful for me is to think of Jesus as a friend. Jesus called us his friend. I'm always a little cautious. I don't want to invite you towards that in an overly casual way. Jesus deserves respect and honor, and you don't want to diminish his place as Lord and King, even though he will welcome you as a friend. He's not like us. When you see him in all of his glory, in his splendor, you will be filled with awe.
So, I have a little hesitation 'cause it's not like he's Bubba. It's like, hey, yo, dude, that doesn't feel right to me. He is still the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In this session, I want to look with you at the responsibility of friendship, because true friendship comes with responsibility. You know, we're in a very unique season. It was introduced by COVID, but it didn't end when the mask mandates finally began to dissipate. I don't know that I've ever seen a more important time for us to truly live our faith. The onset of that COVID-19 pandemic, we all did our best to live healthier lives. Remember that? We all got really focused on that for a season. We limited our possible exposure to persons or circumstances which might have put us at high risk of contracting the virus.
We all understood it wasn't time for business as usual. We closed schools and businesses, and we stayed home, and we washed our groceries. I don't mean the vegetables. You washed the cans. Now we're a little embarrassed, but we did. Well, I would submit to you, if we can borrow the idea for a moment, we are continuing. In fact, we are probably in a more heightened spiritual pandemic today. And I would submit to you, you're not at greater risk of an infection from a virus, but you're at greater risk of deception than you've ever been in your spiritual journey. Deception, manipulation of being overwhelmed by ungodliness, because it's being expressed in ways and with a frequency beyond anything I've seen.
We're in danger of compromising our faith. The pressures to do that are intensifying. They don't want you to deny your faith. They're just trying to ask you to assimilate some other ideas into it. Don't be so rigid. Don't be so determined to assert that Jesus of Nazareth is the way, the truth, and the life. Can't we just all get along? Why do we have to imagine such narrow definitions? All those pressures are growing, as are the pressures to deny the Lord, not to walk away completely from your faith, just to deny the Lord for a moment of opportunity. Or for a moment, I could just turn down the volume. There's a little window here. I'm just gonna slip through the window, and then I'll turn the volume back up on the other side.
And I want to encourage you it's a time to live our faith, to give attention to the truth that you know, to limit your exposure to temptation, more so than you ever have before. We know the places where you're tempted. We're not tempted on every point, but you know the places you're most vulnerable. Limit your exposure to temptation. Turn away from anything you know diminishes righteousness. Just don't encourage it. Don't cultivate it. Don't give yourself willingly to those places. Seek the Lord. Spend time thinking about godliness, more time than you're accustomed to. Don't spend time thinking about the wickedness, or the immorality, and the ungodliness, and the economic chaos that is ahead of us. It is ahead of us. But you can't fix it, you're not gonna think your way through it.
Worrying won't help, or we would organize groups. Spend more time thinking about godliness. Take time to pray and to listen. Give thanks to God, not because you feel like it, not because your circumstances seem to dictate it, because he is worthy. He is your provider. He is your protection. He's your sustainer. We've been idolatrous for too long. We've trusted in the strength of the dollar, or the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. We've watched all those things be set aside rather quickly and glibly. Take time to give thanks. Look for evidence of God's activity. Use your voices and your influence to encourage holiness and purity. We've been silent too long. We've winked at ungodliness. We smiled at it, and laughed at it, and grinned at it, and encouraged our kids towards it.
Act out the truth you know. Do everything in your power to avoid a theoretical faith. If you don't intend to lives it, have the courage to say, "I don't believe it". We've gotta stop pretending. We're past that. That season has gone. The consequences are too high. Watch, listen, think, act as Christ followers. The responsibility of friendship is different than what social media calls friends. It's not about how many likes you can gather. Friendship isn't about being a voyeur digitally. True friendships come with responsibilities. You have a limited capacity for friends, because you have a limited amount of time and space and energy. You can't truly give attention to but a limited number of friends. You can be friendly, but that's different. We'll talk about that in a moment.
In John 15 and verse 16, Jesus said, "You didn't choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last". Beginning point for this is to understand that you've been chosen. Now, we've all been left off or left out. It's happened to all of us from programs you wanted to be included in or marriages that we wanted to remain a part of, or schools that we wanted an opportunity to participate, or something. We all understand what that's like, but it's important to know that the Creator of heaven and earth has chosen you. And I'm not gonna take the time to build it biblically, but if you will trust me on it for the moment, we'll look at it another time.
Before you ever chose God, he chose you. Before you had an inclination towards him, when you were still completely ensnared in ungodliness, and you could've cared less about him, God chose you, and he made provision that you and I might lead godly, upright, righteous lives, chosen by God. And I suspect somewhere along the journey, you probably weren't even too happy about it. When you first started feeling guilty and uncomfortable, that conviction started within you, but you really weren't ready to stop whatever it was you were convicted of, yet, can't even throw a good fit and feel good about it anymore. It's not always easy.
Well, there's two specific groups I would just highlight to you, want to keep an awareness of, that God has chosen, same story, same objective, but they form different parts of that emerging story, but it's important to understand them both. The first is the Jewish people. God chose the Jewish people. It's very clear in scripture. We'll read a passage or two together in just a moment. He hasn't set them aside. That's the arrogance and the heresy of the Christian church. It's carnal nature, started very early, started in the books of the New Testament. Before they even got the canon of the New Testament closed, the non-Jewish people were saying the Jewish people missed their opportunity.
Well, God doesn't think so. So, I would encourage you to align your thinking with God's. It's his story. But I'll tell you this. What I've learned, I have many people, many friends who are Jewish, and the story, both historically and even to an extent today I would submit, Israel doesn't want to be different. They would tell you there's a tremendous price to be paid for being chosen, our study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and you sit in those history classes, and you hear what the Jewish people have endured, far too frequently at the hands of the people under the name of Christianity, and they're very aware of the high price that was paid for them to be chosen by God. It comes at a cost to be God's friend. It does. And they finally said, "Look, we just don't want to do this. We want to be like all the other nations".
And here's the awkward part: they're not. They're not like all the other nations. It's important to understand. You see, God's choices in your life and mine carry a weight and a significance. Look with me at the scripture. It'll help. Exodus 19, this was God speaking to them. This is after, we just read Exodus together. We're in Leviticus now. How's that going for you. Good stuff, isn't it? Leviticus should've come with pictures. It would've helped, wouldn't it? Exodus 19, "Then out of all nations you'll be my treasured possession. And although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you're to speak to the Israelites". God said, "Moses, you tell them, all of you are gonna be for me a kingdom of priests, kings and priests".
Out of all the peoples in the world, they're all mine, but you're a special possession to me. They didn't have a vote. All they really wanted was out of the Egyptian brick pits. They didn't want to be slaves to Pharaoh any longer. They wanted to be free. And God said, "I've come to get you. We're leaving". And there was some pretty good drama around that, some pretty significant theatrics, complete with the parting of the Red Sea, and water out of a rock, and manna every day, and a tabernacle, and a priesthood, and a sacrificial system, and God said, "Now, you tell them, you're a special people".
You see, to know God, to experience God, to have God know you and give you a revelation of himself is a point of distinction, a line of demarcation in your journey through time. It's not about sitting in church. You can sit in church and never know the Lord. 1 Samuel chapter 8, verse 19, the people refused to listen to Samuel. Samuel was the last of the judges. The book of Judges is coming. It's a little more dramatic than Leviticus. For 400 years, the Hebrews people lived in the land of Israel without a centralized government: no king, no monarchy, no standing army. They had tribes, the tribal system; and when there was a need for a unified response, God would raise up a leader, and empower them to meet the needs of that specific season.
And the book of Judges is this cycle between the people experiencing the blessings of God and drifting into apostasy and suffering, and crying out to God, and God raising up a leader that would lead them back to a place of independence at some significant cost. And then the blessings of God would come again, and then they would drift again into apostasy. Sound familiar? We're not the first generation to have a bit of a problem with drift. Well, the last of the judges is Samuel. Israel's never had a king, and the tribal leaders come to Samuel.
Chapter 8, "The people refused to listen to Samuel. 'No! We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and to fight our battles. We don't want to fight our battles anymore. We don't want to stand in this place of responsibility. We don't want to have to worry about this relationship. We want the benefits with no responsibilities. Give us a king. Let them be responsible.'" Did it change the nature of the covenant they had with the Lord? No. Did it change their future? Absolutely, it did.
Absolutely it did, I told you God had chosen two groups of people. One was the Jewish people; the other is the church. That's not about a racial identity. The church is comprised of every human being. They'll be brought from every nation, race, language, and tribe. What binds us together is the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth in our lives. It's not about a building, a congregation, or a denomination. It's about your allegiance to Jesus. In 1 Peter chapter 2, we're gonna read a verse that sounds a great deal like what we read in Exodus 19. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light".
He didn't call us from the brick pits of Egypt. He called us from bondage to sin into his marvelous light. And this is Peter, the big fisherman that Jesus recruited. He's saying to us, "You're a chosen race, a royal priesthood. You're a kingdom of priests". And we're a whole lot like those people we've been reading about in Exodus and Leviticus, and you're going to read in Numbers and Deuteronomy. And we didn't really buy into all this. We just didn't want to go to hell. I mean, we didn't sign up for like extra credit. We looked at discipleship plans, and we didn't want to be like super disciples, right? We were looking for minimal daily requirements. "I bought a Bible. What do you mean I have to read it? Well, I read it once".
Oh, well, bless your heart. There's a relationship implied. In Acts chapter 10 and verse 34, "Peter began to speak, 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.'" I would submit to you that just as much as the Israelites, the Jewish people struggled with that invitation to be different, that oftentimes the church doesn't want to be different, that just as much as the tribal leaders came to Samuel and said, "We want a king so we can be like everybody else," I would submit to you there's an abundance of evidence that suggests we want to be like all the other people.
Can't we just fly under the radar and slip into the building on Sunday and go, "Praise Jesus"? Can't we do business like a pagan? Can't we party like the pagans? Can we have an attitude towards human sexuality like the pagans? Or can't we make the boundaries or the goals? Can't we do that? We don't want to be different. We just want to go to heaven. We don't want to be different. We just don't want to make bricks anymore in Egypt. Why are you bothering us with all these rules about righteousness and holiness and purity? We were tired of the suffering. We wanted to be free. The chosen people, a holy nation.
See, I think you have a legitimate reason to question the foundation of your faith if you have no interest in being holy. If righteousness and purity and godliness aren't really something that appeal to you, I don't want to bring a sense of condemnation. I want to bring a sense of questioning to you. I don't think you're affiliation with the church or your engagement in a worship service is really the objective for you or for me. God's gonna accept men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. We want to be like all the other people, and we're not.
I've read the literature a lot, and up until COVID, the predominant theme in so much of current evangelicalism in this nation was how do we relate to the world, to the ungodly? How do we communicate with them? How do we make them understand us? We don't want for them to feel rejected nor confused, or condemned, or judged. I mean, it's a degree that is necessary. Jesus certainly spent time with the sinners. We also have to tell the truth to the church. We can't be more interested in speaking the language of the ungodly than we are the language of the righteous. We can't be more at home in the midst of ungodliness and immorality and wickedness than we are in the presence of the holy. We are serving a King.
That is the point of this journey through time that we have. We are doing everything in our power to please a very specific audience. And if he sends you, as he did in our new book of Acts, to the desert to stand by the road, to speak to someone from another nation, you want to be moving. You'll notice the book of Acts is a story about God's purposes for his people, not God's people's purposes for him. And we've kind of flipped the script on that. How do we get God to do what it is we want him to do? And the point of this relationship, this friendship is that we might serve the King. Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, to the Jewish leaders, the covenant keeping, the law of Moses keeping, they celebrated the right holidays. They kept kosher, which means they imagine even what went on their fork, determined their holiness.
Do you understand the degree in which they were enmeshed in rules? And Jesus said to them, "You are of your father, the devil". Did you know you can have the right pedigree and still be under the wrong authority? God has chosen you, but it comes with a responsibility. And I understand if you're a Christ follower, you've made the decision for a new birth, for salvation, conversion, whatever phrase you prefer to describe that initiation into the kingdom of God. I believe in that. I believe baptism is important. We've got a couple dozen people being baptized tonight. I met God. You know that's not normal, right? Week after week, we have dozens of people coming to be baptized.
Last week, I met a couple from Carolina. Tonight, I met a woman from Florida. I'm pretty sure there's water between here and Florida. But God is moving people's hearts in a unique way in our own community. Young and old. Don't miss that. Don't spend your time focusing your attention on the goofy things that are happening. You need to know they're happening; but once you've kind of charted it, yeah, the border's open. It's wicked. That's why illegal is attached to that.
And when the government sanctions illegal, we're in major trouble. But don't spend your time focused on that. Bend your knee. Begin to talk to the Lord. Say, "Lord, we need your help". It's our own hearts. We've been rebels. We haven't been willing to yield to authority. We've led immoral lives and ungodly lives. We've chaffed at the authority of scripture in our lives, with the idea of seeking God. So, why should we be surprised at the highest levels that our hearts are being reflected?
I want to pray with you before we go, but I want to remind you of something. We've said it already repeatedly, but you've been chosen by God. You're not just an accident. You're not just a statistic. Jesus said that when a sparrow falls to the ground, our heavenly Father attends the funeral. He's aware of that. Well, if he's keeping track of the birds, I assure you he's paying attention to your life and mine. That's not a threat; that's a wonderful promise of the watchfulness of God in our lives and how important and valuable you are to his purposes. I want to pray with you, that you don't miss that, and that it will lead you through every challenge you face.
Father, I thank you for your great love for us, that you know every circumstance and every detail, and that you can bring us triumphantly through every challenge, over every hurdle, that you will give us the strength we need to be overcomers. I thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.