Allen Jackson - God's Power At Work In You
It's an honor to be with you again. Our topic today is "The Power of God". Our faith does not rest on an idea. Our faith is not built on a point of history or a theological construct. Our faith really resides in the power of the living God. And too often, I think we come to church, and we want to talk about God and talk about the things of God and what God used to do, but I need God's help today. I have circumstances and challenges and obstacles in my life for which I need a power greater than Allen. And I suspect your life is like that, too. Grab your Bible and get a notepad. Most of all, open your heart. We're gonna invite the power of God to make a difference in our life today.
I want to take the time we have in this session and talk a bit about God's power and how it works in our lives. COVID, to me, has become a real line of demarcation in the unfolding story of our lives. I think of the world in most days in terms of pre-COVID and post-COVID. And, for me, it's been very helpful, because the world changed. And I mean the sky is still blue and the grass is still green, but most of our patterns and habits have changed. And so many of the delivery systems for our lives around us have changed. Even how we understood our faith I think has changed. Before COVID, comfort and convenience were predominant criteria in how we evaluated worship and church and community. They are way below secondary issues in this season.
The privilege of being with God's people is such an honor and such a privilege. We'll be outdoors or indoors, air conditioned, no condition. You know, I think some things have changed. Before COVID, we would talk about, we would do Bible studies, and have seminars, and write books, and do small group curriculum on whether God still does miracles, or whether that was something that ceased with the first century or perhaps concluded with the last of the apostles. We could afford to have those kind of luxurious theological, theoretical debates, because we imagined we could secure our futures, that our resources were sufficient, that our world was stable enough, that we didn't really imagine that there was a need for the power of God to work on our behalf.
Well, if you haven't awakened to the reality that the power of God is an essential component of securing your future, I would begin to, I would suggest that you begin to talk to the Lord about that, because it's going to become increasingly clear that there is no stability and no security apart from God's involvement and engagement in your life. Our culture isn't going to sustain us. Our founding documents won't protect us. The legal systems that you depended upon for justice and fair play are shifting. It doesn't frighten me, because the one I worship is the one who secures my future. But it changes the notion of our faith from having an eternal security where we can make a profession of faith and feel like we've secured heaven.
And then the rest of our lives is how do we get God to help us to get our way? I would submit we've got to change that paradigm, and we've been working on it for some time together. How do we allow the power and the presence of God be made so evident in our lives that there's distinctiveness about our journey through time that becomes attractive to the people who don't know the Lord. You see, the distinctiveness between the people of God and the ungodly people shouldn't, because, just be some heightened moral code that we hold to. That should be a part of it, but I believe the presence of God in our lives should make the quality of our lives so different that it will cause the ungodly to say, "Tell me about what is happening in you. Why aren't you frightened? Why aren't you threatened? How can you be peaceful? How can you have that kind of a calm attitude towards the future"?
So, this discussion about why or is it appropriate to imagine that God's power would be at work in us or through us is no longer theoretical to me. It's essential, and it's the nature of this little study I want to do with you. And I'll start with Jesus because he's the beginning point. We call him Lord because he establishes the priorities of our lives. It's not my life. If you're a Christ follower, your life is in Christ. And if you're still thinking in terms of your dreams, and your life, and your ambitions, and your goals, you need to reflect a little bit more on what it means to call Jesus, "Lord".
Now you'll have to grow into that, that's not the beginning point, because all of us begin our journey thinking that God exists to bless me and give me what I want. But as we grow up in the Lord a bit more, I pray that we increasingly, on a daily basis, become more and more aware that the purpose of my life is to bring glory and honor to him. And to the extent that I'm willing to do that, I find greater contentment, and purpose, and value, and meaning, and stability, and security in my life on a daily basis. Not easy, but a worthwhile pursuit. In Romans chapter 4, verse 25, it says, "He," Jesus, "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification".
When we talk about Jesus and his redemptive work, his death, burial, and resurrection, his death and his life are the two crucial aspects of the cross. They weren't whimsical, or accidental, or random. They were both essential to our unfolding story. The hope we have for stability in God's provision and his deliverance all comes back to the cross. It does not emerge from my moral code, or my good behavior, or my efforts. So, when it says that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins, you can change that plural pronoun and make it singular. Jesus was delivered over to death for my sin. That's the part that's relevant to me. I mean, for yours, too, but mine first. But then you need the other half of the equation. He was raised to life for my justification and yours.
So, that we need both sides of that equation when we begin to talk about the power of God and the supernatural presence of God. You need to understand that it stems from the cross. Jesus exhausted the curse of sin that I had earned for myself, so that I might receive the full benefit of his perfect righteous life, that I might be justified in God's sight. Fancy religious words, but it's the heart of our prayer life. It's not casual. See, we've been so presumptive about it. We've treated it as if it's not that big of a deal. It is the entire deal. It's why we don't come presumptively or casually to ask for forgiveness, because the price that was paid for me to be forgiven was the absolute everything Jesus had. And if I treat that shabbily, I'm beyond an ingrate.
Let's add to that 1 Corinthians 1, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing". That was true in the 1st century; it's true in the 21st century. You and I have acquaintances, friends, I suspect, that think the notion of the cross and the Son of God crucified is just foolishness. People, you know, we have grown beyond that. It's a quaint idea. Previous generations that weren't quite as enlightened or quite as sophisticated as we might be, perhaps they believed in that. "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us, to us who are being saved it is the power of God".
The verb tense there is important, and we'll look at some others in a moment. It doesn't say that those of us who achieved salvation, to those of us who accomplish the new birth, to those of us who made a profession of faith, but to those of us who are being saved. It's a continuing present tense. I believe in the new birth. I believe in conversion. But I believe the story of your spiritual growth and development is an ongoing story that will take place until you step out of time into eternity. You don't want to present yourself before the Lord in Pampers with a pacifier. You don't want to have to lay down your rattle in order to embrace the Lord. You want to show yourself as a workman approved for good works, a soldier who took your place in the conflict that was taking place in the earth. Agreed?
It's a different objective. It's a different agenda. It's a different vocabulary. It's a different set of priorities. It's different than the way we were living before we bumped into a pandemic. Most of us tell our stories in terms of when we were born again, when we were baptized. We'll give our testimony, and it'll be decades old stuff. The real essence of your testimony is what did God do in your life last week? What were the expressions of your faith? What were those fresh edges of growth? It's spring, it's summertime in Tennessee. It's growing season. We have fresh tomatoes, and green beans, and new potatoes. I don't want to see a picture of your tomato vine from last summer. I want a fresh tomato, and I don't want to hear your testimony about what God did in your life 30 years ago.
Man, I will listen to that with some interest, but I'm far more interested in what God is doing in your life now. Where is the fruitfulness? Where is the growth edge? What are you learning? What is new? We've been so pompous and so arrogant, while we've watched this precipitous decline of Christian influence. We have puffed out our chest and talk about the traditions to which we belonged. We are being saved through the power of the cross. And then in Matthew 16, I chose this from "The Message". I like the language. It's a declaration of Jesus's intent for the church. "I will put together my church".
Did you know that Jesus is in the church building business? That notion changed my whole life. I'm still amused that people say, you know, "I don't like a big church". Well, when you're in charge, you can make that choice. Until then, shut up and work with the church building. In my humble opinion. "I'll put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. And that's not all. You'll have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth or earth and heaven". Remember what Jesus taught us to pray? "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
That's the church's assignment, to let the will of God be expressed in the earth. Folks, that's not gonna come easily. We have an adversary. There is an opponent to the purposes of God. Remember the babies that were married in Bethlehem, the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, the challenges that Paul and his team met in almost every city they visited. I mean, the whole story is filled with that. Why would we be surprised that there's opposition to the purposes of God in the 21st century? And why would we retreat from the field simply because there are voices of dissent? Because there's a consequence? Because there could be something forfeited? Did you think there wouldn't be?
The Scripture is clear. God has given us everything we need. Look at Ephesians 4, verse 13. "Until we all reach unity in the faith". It doesn't say we've all done this. In the preceding verses, the context of this are the ministry gifts: the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers in the body of Christ. He says God's given these to the body of Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature. It doesn't say we are mature. We have to become, we have to strive, we have to intend to grow up in the Lord. We have an epidemic in our nation of adult adolescence. It's a little bit of a paradox, but at some point you've gotta put on your big boy clothes and go act like an adult.
Adulting should not be a verb. It should be a state of existence. And we have too many parents that have one of their children to have to adult. We don't want them to suffer or have an inconvenience or have a hardship, because we had some of those. Well, those hardships we had are what enabled us to become adults. But the same is true in the body of Christ. We're gonna have to be willing to be adults. "Well, how often do I have to volunteer"? Every time you get a chance. "How much do I have to give"? Well, you can start with a tenth; and after that, the Lord will help you figure it out. I mean, we have been having some infantile conversations.
How long are we going to do this? How many times do we have to hear some of those presentations before we decide to be obedient? Just how bad does it have to get before we decide to practice the truth that we know. We lost 60 million children. Just how high does that number have to go before we decide we'll stand in the public square and say, "No more"! No more. We have been confused adults. "Until we reach maturity in the faith, unity in the faith in the knowledge of the Son of God, becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ". That's my target. I'm not there, yet. I don't even imagine, I mean, I feel like I'm still warming up, stretching, trying to figure out how to get in the game, but I want to attain to the full measure of Christ for which I was created. I don't want to leave one bit of that unexplored.
Now I'm going to take the minutes we have left and do a little bit of a word study with you, which I know is just about as much fun as a root canal. But if you'll bear with me and apply yourself for a few minutes, I believe it can give you the courage and the confidence to believe that God would help you in ways that we have wondered if it was a realistic imagination. Does that feel like a fair bargain for a few minutes of time? In Philippians chapter 2, Paul is writing, and he said, "My dear friends, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence". That's an amazing affirmation to me.
Philippians is the one letter Paul wrote that has no correction in it. He writes it from a prison cell, and he's not really writing it to correct an abuse. The Corinthians were immoral, I mean, to shameful degrees. The Galatians church had become involved in witchcraft and adopted another gospel. I mean, but when he wrote to the church in Philippi, there's no correction in it, and that's an amazing statement that he makes to them. "You have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but even in my absence". Wow. But then he goes on to them, said, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose". You're gonna have to work out your salvation, because we live in a fallen world, a broken world, a difficult world, a sin-filled world.
And even though that your name is written in the Lamb's book of life, and you have a citizenship in the heavens, and you've been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, you have to work out your salvation in the midst of this broken world. And he's writing that not to correct an abuse. He's writing to the obedient disciples of Jesus. So, I would submit to you that in the midst of our broken and fallen world, with our own carnal, selfish nature, you and I have to work out our salvation. You willing to do that? That's a little different message than the one American evangelicalism has spent decades giving away. We've walked the aisles and said our prayers and returned to our seats, and resumed our lives.
And I believe in the conversion, the new birth, and salvation, whatever, I'm not trying in any way to denigrate that. I'm telling you it's an incomplete gospel. We have to work out our salvation. We don't work our way into salvation. You don't earn it. It's not merit based. It's by grace. It's by faith in Jesus. It's through his redemptive work on the cross. He died, and he was made alive again. We read that. Having said that, you have to give expression to that through your will. God will not violate your will. He won't grow you up in the Lord. We have to choose to work out our salvation.
And there's more than one word in the New Testament used for salvation or to be saved. There's one I want to focus on. It's a simple little four-letter word. With the Internet, I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar. I know just enough to get in trouble. When I'm on the street in Jerusalem, I know enough, if a car pulls up, and I'm walking on the street, a car pulls up and asks me a question in Hebrew, I will ask them to repeat the question in Hebrew. And when they repeat the question, then I'll say to them, "I don't speak Hebrew". And I know enough Hebrew to know that the next words that come to me are typically not words you would use in church. 'Cause it'd be better just to say, "I don't speak Hebrew," but I can't resist. I'll use the six words I know, and then I'm in a hole.
So, I'm not presenting myself as a linguist of great standing, but I have enough background to unpack this with you. One of the Greek words that is used for salvation is sozo, S-O-Z-O, and it is typically, the majority of the time, it's translated "to be saved". And then we have something of an understanding of what that would mean: the new birth or conversion. But we have thought of it in terms only of the new birth and conversion, and that's an incomplete understanding of the way that word is used. Words have a broader range of meaning than just a singular definition, and that is what I would like to show you to give you an invitation to imagine that the power of God is more available to you than you have believed, and you can cancel the seminar, or the small group study, or the next whatever to decide whether God still does miracles.
If the power of God was sufficient to forgive your sin and to deliver you from the kingdom of darkness, why would you not believe the power of God is present for the complete and total transformation of your person? If he's given us everything we need for life and godliness, then he's done more than just save us from our sins. That's the premise. Now, I believe I can show you that from the language of the Scripture. All right, in Romans chapter 10 and verse 9, it says, "If you confess with your mouth that 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved".
It doesn't say you have to join the right church or recite the apostles's creed or the Nicene Creed, or be able to recite the Ten Commandments in the original Hebrew. It says you have to confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, then you can be saved. Something supernatural happens for you, it is grounded in the redemptive work of Jesus, his substitutionary death, his burial, and his resurrection. We've already established those principles. So, in your mind, I would suggest you have a different, you hold the distinction between being saved and your conversion. Being saved is something happens at that moment where you confess with your mouth and believe with your heart, but the conversion, the transformation of your life is worked out.
Perhaps it's a bit of a strain to hold that distinction; but when the Bible talks about working out your salvation, you're birthed into the kingdom of God, but the rest of the story is learning to appropriate and to apply the principles of the kingdom. Think of your physical birth. You're born. You go over to the hospital tonight and look through that little glass window with all those little red wrinkled rascals. If one of them is yours, they're brilliant, beautiful geniuses. If one of them is not yours, they're just kind of red wrinkly noise boxes.
Alignment has a lot to do with your perception, but we don't imagine that their life is fully expressed, fully lived, fully experienced. It's not a complete story. They simply have the tools to become the story. Well, the same happens with our spiritual birth. The story isn't fully written. It's not fully told. It's not fully experienced. It's not fully expressed. We simply have the tools to begin the development and the growth. Amen. I would submit to you that the shaking that's been initiated in our world is a tremendous gift from the Lord.
I don't know why he chose our generation to begin an awakening. I don't know if we'll have the privilege of seeing it come to its completion or not, but I intend to do everything in my power to facilitate, encourage, catalyze, fan into flame. Don't you? I mean, I'll tell the story any place somebody will crack the door. If they won't turn on the light, I'll bring a match. We have a good story to tell. We have good news to be delivered. We have hope in a dark world. We do. We do. I brought you a prayer. I think it's a good one to pray together. Why don't you stand with me? Have you found it? If you ignored the outline, it's worth it just for the prayer. Okay:
Almighty God, I rejoice today in your extravagant provision for my life. I believe Jesus of Nazareth is your Son. I believe He was born of the virgin Mary, that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. I believe You raised Him from the dead. I choose Jesus as Lord of my life today. Forgive my sin. I forgive those who have sinned against me. I want to live for Jesus's glory and honor. I rejoice in the hope of my salvation. Amen.