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Watch 2022 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - True and False

Allen Jackson - True and False

Allen Jackson - True and False

It's an honor to be with you today. We're doing a study on one of my favorite topics, "My Friend Jesus"! You know, sometimes I think we make our faith way too complicated. We do deep dives into systematic theology or the original languages of the text, and I love to study and learn but, at the end of the day, our faith is grounded in a person and his name is Jesus of Nazareth, and your relationship with him will define your journey through time and your journey for all eternity. It really does matter.

Well, in this section, we're gonna focus on true and false. Jesus cautioned us as we approach the end of this age that there would be increasing deception. And so we've got to be more aware of the true and the false, the true Christ and a false Christ, a true church and a false talking and I'm not talking about the denomination you don't like. I'm talking about those that are centered in the redemptive work of Jesus of Nazareth. Grab your Bible and notepad. Most of all, open your heart.

We've been working through a little study on "My Friend Jesus"! It's one of the most helpful constructs for me to develop my faith. You know, I've had the privilege of studying theology in some formal settings and, if you've been around church very long, you know, we can get pretty stuffy with what we believe. And I think sometimes for all of our vocabulary words and our traditions, we almost lose the fundamental simplicity of our faith. It really isn't that complicated. Our faith is centered in a person. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. And your relationship with him is what defines your eternity, far more than the congregation that you worship with or the denomination you would join or the academic institutions where you have studied or your economic status or your physical strength.

Your relationship with Jesus will define your future. It's important. And so it's very helpful to me to think about developing a friendship with Jesus because I understand what that means. It's available to me in my imagination. There are people whose friendship I value greatly. There are people with whom I'm friendly and there's a great difference between the two. And I would encourage you not just to be friendly with Jesus, but to become his friend. You can think about that. You can unpack that in terms of your own experience. You know, the social media has given us a distorted picture of friendship. You can't have thousands of friends. You don't have room in your life for that, right? You get a dozen or so friends, your dance card's full. You can't take on the stress of 100 friends. That's too much reporting to keep up with. You wanna be Jesus's friend.

And in this particular session, I wanna talk about true and false because there's a lot of pretenders and we're gonna look at that in some detail from Scripture but I wanna put it back into context. I believe we're living through one of those pivot points in history, one of those hinge points where the circumstances we're watching, are not going to go unchecked for decade upon decade. I'm not sure what the landing place will be, but I can tell you we're in the midst of a time of tumultuous, cataclysmic, almost unprecedented change. It's a very important time to live our faith, not just to have an intellectual faith or a theoretical faith, but to have a faith that is lived out in our daily practice, in our homes, in how we do business.

In fact, I don't think it's a mis-statement to say that deception, manipulation, censorship, even propaganda, are so widespread that we've become almost acclimated to those behaviors as normal. It's almost as if we've shrugged our shoulders and said, "Yeah, that's just how things are". We're accepting of them instead of thinking for ourselves. We just accept the lines that are fed to us. And I think a fundamental reason for that, honestly, is it's just too unsettling to consider the truth. The implications of the truth are so profound that we would prefer not to think about it, so we just accept the lie. Can we still go on vacation if we accept the lie? Can my kids play the tournament this weekend if I don't think about the truth? If I won't say anything, can we just soldier on for a little while and do the things we wanna do?

Feels like a pretty accurate portrayal of the world we're watching. I'll give you one example. Our economic circumstances these days. For a long season, month upon month, there was widespread refusal to even acknowledge that inflation existed. And it's not about a party or a candidate or an elected official. It was pretty much ubiquitous, across the board. Now, we were still buying groceries and gas, and we're going, "Well, I don't know if inflation exists, but everything's more expensive". I mean, I grew up in a barn in Tennessee. I'm not sure of which words you wanna use for that, for your economic formulas, but it cost more this week than it did last week. And we didn't really need anybody to tell us. We knew. But the message that we were hearing was, "What inflation"? Well, I don't know, the one at the corner. And they said, "Well, it's just transitory, it's momentary".

Okay. Well, now they acknowledge that inflation might actually be happening. Wow, breakthrough. And that is a breakthrough. Anytime the truth is told in the public square, regardless of the timing, that's something to be celebrated, not to be ridiculed, or not to be made fun of. Now, they fail to remind us that the gas prices and food prices are eliminated from their measures of inflation, which helps us calibrate it downward a little bit. So the reality is it's much worse than the numbers that are being reported to us. And again, this isn't partisan, it's just the world in which we live at the moment. It's global. But the reality, at least from my vantage point, is that we're in far greater economic or financial trouble than just inflation.

And I don't say that to be frightening. I say that a part of our job together is to allow our faith to inform us so that we are prepared for what's in front of us. Jesus went out of his way to prepare the disciples for the response of the Romans to his preaching. It wasn't a theological preparation. It was a preparation for the reality of the circumstances that were about to crash upon them. And if we're not aware enough of the world in which we're living and we only have a theoretical faith, I don't believe we're prepared to honor the Lord or do the business he has for us in the season that's ahead. And I think what's in front of us is far greater than what we've faced thus far. I think the shortages that we've had a sampling of will grow. I think there are far more significant financial disruptions ahead of us than what we've experienced thus far.

In fact, I think higher prices will seem rather simple before we're done with this journey. And the tragedy of it all is it seems to be not only just in our nation but I think globally, there's some intentionality to it all. So back to the premise, it's a time to live our faith, to give attention to the truth that we know, to purposefully limit your exposure to temptation. Turn away from anything in your life, your routine, your habit, or your relationships, that diminishes righteousness. Don't make this more complicated than it has to be. I trust the Spirit of the Lord within you. You know those places that you engage or interact or that you visit that diminish godliness. Don't do that. Seek the Lord. Spend more time thinking about godliness. Watch less of the news, spend less time online tracking down your theory of the week, and spend more time thinking about the person of Jesus Christ, your friend. Look for evidence of God's activity.

One of the most hopeful things that's happened to me in months was spending this week walking through campus, listening to those young people, watching the adults interacting with them. I can't tell you what it did for me. I don't have the words, and that's not normal for me. It was healing to me. Look for evidence of God's activity. Use your voices and your influence to encourage things like holiness and purity. Speak up for them. Be publicly an advocate for them. Act out the truth you know. Avoid theoretical faith. In the simplest of language, watch, listen, think, and act like Christ followers. Don't capitulate, don't wring your hands and give in to anxiety and worry.

I told you we were gonna talk about the true and the false and in the context of the New Testament, the big category for that is to talk about the Antichrist, not just that individual that will ultimately step onto the stage of human history, but the spirit of Antichrist. The spirit that will ultimately be embodied in that individual that most of you imagine you'll never have to deal with. Another day's discussion. Or maybe not. But that spirit is prevalent in our world. A bit of definition is helpful. That little prefix "anti" has two meanings and they're both in play. One is to be against, to oppose the true Christ, the true Messiah. The other meaning is to be in place of. The things that should be or ultimately will be directed towards the true Christ, the Antichrist wants those directed towards him. The spirit of Antichrist wants that place.

And we see those things growing in the world. The choice is not that complex. It's a binary choice, one or the other. There's a true Christ and a false Christ. There'll be a true church and a false church. It's the middle that's in trouble. The middle class is in trouble, economically. Tremendous pressure on that group. Or that middle in your imagination of your spiritual life is in trouble too. Sitting on the fence is less and less a good option. You're gonna have to decide for whom you will declare: the Lordship of Jesus in your life or some fuzzier discussion of a higher power or a God in heaven. I hope Jesus is your friend.

Let's take just a moment with this present world order. In James chapter 4 and verse 4 it says: "You adulterous people". This is James writing to Christians. That's not a happy greeting. Imagine if I stepped up this morning or the Katinas walked out and said, "You adulterous people". They're good guys. You'd get focused in a hurry. "You adulterous people, don't you know," and when the Bible says, "Don't you know," the assumption is the reader typically doesn't know. "Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God".

In the New Testament when it talks about the world, it's not talking about this ball of matter hurtling through space in an orbit around the sun. It's talking about the prevailing systems, this present world order. Or if you prefer, think about all those people who are gathered outside. They have not yielded themselves to the authority of the righteous governance of Jesus. They wouldn't call him "friend". That's the world. And James says, "Don't you know that to be friends with that system is hatred towards God"? And I would have to say for much of contemporary, or at least American evangelicalism, we're in the same condition that James's audience was: we've forgotten that. Before COVID at least, I read the literature a great deal that was circulated amongst churches and church leaders and so much of the discussion was on how we could build bridges, how we could be friends with the world. We wanted the world to know we were their friends.

Now, I don't think we want the ungodly to think that we're angry with them or belligerent with them or condemning of them, but I think they should have clarity on the fact that we hold a set of values that distinguishes us from the worldview they hold. We're not the same. Again, it's not a place of self-righteousness. We're not without struggle, we're not without fault. We're not without weaknesses. We're not without challenges. The church is not a hall of fame of faith. The church is far more a triage unit. That's our truth. But the reality is the values that we hold and the authority that we've submitted ourselves to is very different than the system in this present world order. And we're gonna have to have the courage to say that.

We haven't exercised those muscles very much for a good long while, so it's gonna be a little painful when we begin to use them again. It'll feel awkward, we'll be a bit clumsy. There'll be some aches and pains that come along with it. But you can gain strength. We can rebuild those muscles that have atrophied. In place of courage, we've been cowards. In place of boldness, we've been timid. In place of confidence, we've been uncertain. A lot of reasons for that. 1 Peter chapter 2, this is Peter that Jesus recruited. He said, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul". "Aliens and strangers in the world".

This world is not our home. We don't wanna become so enmeshed, we don't wanna become so camouflaged that we're indistinguishable. We've been a little guilty. Teach your children about the distinguishing characteristics. Help them understand why you're different. It's more than where you sit for a few minutes on the weekend. If sitting in the church made you Jesus's friend, I'd sit in this room 24/7. Me and DoorDash, we'd live right in here. Sitting in church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in the barn makes you a horse. 1 Corinthians 7:31: "Those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away". It's temporary. This world system is retreating. You wanna be better friends with Jesus than you are with this world.

You see, the one you trust, where your friendship is invested, and I know we're sitting in church and it's a Sunday morning, so I understand the answer to any question is Jesus, but truthfully, in your heart, in the quiet place of your heart, in the ambition of your life, in the things you're striving for, if we evaluated forensically your calendar and your checkbook and your expenditures and interviewed your children, if we could chart the things you're striving for, friendship with Jesus will secure your future. I have come to value friendships make a great difference.

I talked to a man this morning, just got back from Israel. I have some wonderful friends in Israel. We've done quite a bit of life together. I was on a bus one day. We were coming down from the Golan Heights and I'd asked him to take a special road, just because I liked to hear the people on the bus get anxious. We're coming down the side, really, there's a steep side of a mountain and it's a switchback road and the charter buses we use, the wheels are about 6 feet back from where the front windshield is, so the front of the bus is literally hanging out in space coming down that.

Now, once upon a time, I knew Hebrew, but I'm not there much anymore and my vocabulary's slipped and I can get about every third word, which leaves you at a pretty significant deficit. You may have said you have a hamburger or you may have said you have a bomb and I miss one of those words and the outcome's very different. Well, I'm sitting on the bus and I can tell the guide and the driver are having a little conversation and I feel the anxiety growing, but I can't quite tell why. I don't know if dinner reservations are late and in the middle of one of these hairpin turns, they stop the bus. But I'm still pretty relaxed until my friend the guide jumps off and sprints to get a big rock, then carries it back and pushes it under the front wheel of the bus.

And he doesn't say why, hello, goodbye. He sticks his head in the door and says, "Allen, get 'em all off the bus". We unloaded quickly. The brakes had gone out. And what the driver had said and I couldn't quite dial it in was, "I have no brakes". But, you know, we got off the bus and we sat in the shade of the cliff. I didn't worry about it at all. I didn't have to find a way to get those people back to the hotel. I had a friend there who was gonna take care of it. He knew the language, the culture, he knew the owner of the bus company. He had it covered. I got a bottle of water. I sat in the shade. Life was good. At the end of that trip, we got to Newark in New Jersey and there was some incident at the airport, a plane had to land emergency. And they canceled 1000 flights. There was 300 or 400 of, I don't know, 300 of us there, and we had no flights home. And my Israeli friend wasn't there.

So I didn't have somebody there that owned a bus company. A friend makes all the difference. And folks, I assure you there is uncertainty in front of us. And you wanna learn to make Jesus your friend more than this present world order. Now, you'll have to do that evaluation. You can do it, there's a lot of ways. You can sit down and talk about it with the people you care about. You can ask some friends. You can ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there's any place where I'm tolerating too much of this present world order, where I'm too invested in it. You can do the things to help you cultivate an awareness of an eternal kingdom. You can serve. You can worship. You can give.

There are some things that are a part, you understand, of this and you practice those until they become something you're not only comfortable with, you rely upon. You build that friendship. We know how to go to church. We know how to evaluate a worship service. We know how to decide if the sermon was good or not so good or if the worship was pleasing to us. We know whether we got to park in the place we wanted to park or we liked the seat that we got to sit in. We know how to evaluate the components of our faith. Far more importantly, you wanna be a friend with Jesus. You wanna know him. You want him to know you. You don't wanna be holding out on him. You don't wanna be his friend in one setting and deny him in another setting. You don't wanna be prepared to acknowledge him when you're in this building and act like you couldn't spell his name when you're in another one. Build that relationship. You know how to do this.

You see, we only make one journey through time. We only get one opportunity to honor the Lord. Is the spirit of Antichrist moving in the earth? Absolutely, it is. Seems to me in unprecedented ways, blatantly. On the other hand, the Spirit of God is moving in the earth. We're baptizing more people week over week than any time in the history of our church. We have more young people on campus wanting to know about the Lord. What are we gonna focus our attention on? What are you gonna dream about? Who's your best friend? Don't give your church answer. Are you serving him? Revelation 19, I'll close. Said, "I saw heaven standing open and before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. And his eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns".

That's my friend. Oh, he's coming back. You wanna be prepared for that. You wanna lead every day, you wanna unpack your weeks and plan your days and invest yourself so that that relationship with him is growing stronger. Your trust in him is being developed and cultivated where you have more confidence in him, you're more reliant upon him, you recognize his voice, you spend time in his Word, you're willing to be with people who value the relationship with him. Do it on purpose. Is there a shaking taking place? Uh-huh, absolutely.

Are there some difficult seasons in front of us? I suspect so, but our friend will lead us through. It's okay. I'm gonna ask you to close with me with a little bit of a proclamation. I put it in your notes. It's taken from Revelation 5. I wanna read you the larger passage and then we'll do the proclamation together. We did it last week, but I'm not done with it yet, which unfortunately for you means neither are you so, but in Revelation 5, John said, "I looked and I heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand". A thousand times a thousand's a million, so ten thousand times ten thousand's a whole lot. It's some big word that if I gave it to you has no mental picture, it's just an innumerable company of angels.

Can you imagine standing in a company of angels that can't be counted? You think you'll go, "Well, you know, I would worship but I'm not very emotional. I'm more of an introvert"? I don't think so, at that point. I don't think so. "They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. And in a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, and under the earth and on the sea, and all that's in them, sing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" Amen.

Now can we stand and make that as our proclamation this morning? Think of it as dress rehearsal. I promise you there are some angels in the house that one day we're gonna gather with an innumerable company of them and give glory and honor to our friend. Folks, we're not just religionists, we're not moralists, we're not ethicists. We're not learning to be tame or polite or kind. We're citizens of an eternal kingdom. And our Lord has the name that's above every name. What an honor to serve with you. It's in your notes. Can we read it together? Okay, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! Amen". Hallelujah. God bless you.
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