Allen Jackson - The Effort of Awakening - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. We're walking through this study on how to thrive in the midst of big trouble. Well, in this session, I want to talk with you specifically about the effort it takes to wake up, to pay attention, to understand the challenge. We've been passive Christians for a long time. We filed into our churches, and we tried to get our theology correct and our little timeline correct with our conversion and our baptism and our Bible study. And we looked through the windows of the church and, boy, it's a mess out there. Well, I believe God's asking us to step into the midst of that turmoil and be a light in the darkness, salt in the midst of all that is unsavory. That's gonna take some courage, but the Spirit of God will help us. Have your Bible and a notepad, most of all, open your heart.
I want to continue a theme that we began in a previous session talking about thriving in the midst of big trouble. I'm not a pessimist. It's not a negative confession. Just the simplest language for the word "tribulation" is big trouble. And we are living in the midst of a season of trouble. It was initiated, I think, with a pandemic, but it hasn't receded. The virus has receded, thank God, to a great degree, or at least our ability to manage it has improved. But there is still a great deal of trouble or troubling things happening around us. Week over a week, month after month, it seems as if illogical statements continue to pour forth and gain authority in our lives.
We're watching things that were just incomprehensible. That feel right to you? I mean, in the past few days, one of the leading teachers unions has objected to the use of the word "mother". They prefer birthing people. Really? I'm pretty sure we all have had a mother. I checked. I studied biology once upon a time, and that's pretty universal. And it's really not even worth trying to combat it with logic because before you can marshal a response to that, there's something less logical that gets spewed forth around us. And it just happens week after week. The conflict that's taking place isn't political or ideological, it's spiritual. And, you know, we have to stay centered in who we are in the Lord and what is ours through the redemptive work of Jesus. But it's not a frightening time to be in. It's such an exciting time. We're one of those pivot points.
The world, as we knew it, is shifting, and I believe in that is a tremendous opportunity. So don't spend your time focused on the knuckleheads. Don't spend your time on the internet reading the latest conspiracy. I mean, you want to stay informed in what's happening, but a few minutes a day will do that. And if you're spending more than a few minutes, you're wasting time. Spend more time with your Bible, spend more time giving thanks to the Lord spending more time inviting the Spirit of God into the midst of your life, it will bring a better outcome. In this particular topic, I want to spend a few minutes with you and biblically look at the notion of the effort that's engaged with an awakening.
There's two kinds of schools of thought on this season, and they share a lot of things in common, but they lead us to some very divergent responses. One opinion suggests that the return of Jesus is imminent, maybe not today, but let's say within a generation. And I don't really disagree with that. I think biblically I can make a case that the events that are happening in our world and unfolding could certainly lead us towards that conclusion. So I'm not saying it's illegitimate. I'm saying that's one legitimate perspective. The alternative to that is not so much that the return of Jesus is imminent, but that what we're walking through, as described in Matthew 24, is the beginning of birth pains and that what we're experiencing is an onset of something that will intensify and continue to intensify until we arrive at that season that would be the imminent return of Jesus. And I don't believe today, for myself, I have enough information to determine between those two options.
So with that in mind, the previous session, we walked through some things that I think are critical, foundational underpinnings to that. And I want to take that next step with you and assure you that, I want to ask you a question, really. What is it that causes us to believe this could be the end of the age? And I think the answer would be, well, all the stuff we see going on in the world. We have never seen this before. We haven't seen lockdowns of the magnitude we're seeing them or the push towards globalization or censorship and propaganda in our culture. We never imagined that civil rights would be set aside as casually as they have been or the Constitution could be imagined in ways that have nothing to do with words on paper, just something that's in the hearts of people who have authority. We're watching things happen, the escalation of violence, the lawlessness, the dissolving of a border so that we no longer really function as a nation. We're watching things that were unthinkable.
And so we began to look through our Bibles and go, well, is there any biblical perspective on this? Oh, yeah, before we get to the end of this thing and the Lord comes back, it's gonna get really kind of bumpy. "Well, it feels pretty bumpy to me, so this must be it". And if that's the only perspective you have, it's not wrong. It's an easy conclusion to reach, and you can reach it with some biblical support, not inappropriate interpretation. But I would submit to you that what we're walking through, in many respects, is not new. Like if I can borrow an older phrase, there really isn't anything new under the sun. When you're living through great disruptions and upheaval, it's very easy to feel like it's the end of the world.
Now, I make that observation to you. I know it's rather obvious, but we have lived with such stability that we can get a seven-year loan on a car. You know, there are many nations in the world where you can't get a 10-year mortgage on a house because the economies are so unstable and the nations are so unstable. Nobody's gonna lend you money for a mortgage like that. So when we see disruption and turmoil and confusion, we go, "This really is probably the end of the world for us". I walked through some history in a previous session. I won't revisit it all, but I can tell you that throughout human history, there have been segments of the world that have come under tremendous upheaval and confusion and pain and disruption. We've just been very fortunate for decades not to have been us. We have lived with more comfort, more convenience, more affluence and more stability than any group of people in history. And I believe it's been the blessing of God.
When that seems to be threatened just a little bit, we either try to ignore that there's anything threatening it or we decide, "Well, this has to be the end of the world". I gave some examples previously about a time in Germany, it was 1938. It was part of the run up to World War II. It was in November of that year. The word for that particular evening and it has come to be known in history, particularly Jewish history, is Kristallnacht. The translation of that is the Night of the Broken Glass when throughout Germany and Austria, the synagogues were destroyed and burned, and Jewish businesses were destroyed and burned. And Jewish homes were pilloried and one thousands of Jewish people were arrested and hundreds were murdered in the streets by the population. And the civil authorities did nothing to stop it. It was really the first glimpse of what was to become the final solution, the attempt to annihilate the Jewish people from Europe, really from the world, but they had access to the Jews of Europe.
And I suspect if you had been Jewish living in that season and on that particular night, it could have felt like the end of the world. Some of you say, "Well, that's ancient history". Well, we don't have to stay quite that far back in time. If we step forward to 1994, there's a country in Africa where we've had the privilege of being involved for a good season. My parents have been there many times. We've had people from there visit the church, Rwanda. In 100-day period of time between April and July in 1994, there were almost a million people in Rwanda murdered, in 90 days, most of them with machetes. If you visit there today, they'll show you places where there are piles of human skulls. Ninety days and a million people. I suspect if you lived in Rwanda in that period of time, it would have been easy to convince you that was the end of the world. Does that feel right? Can you imagine that?
Just imagine in our nation with a population far greater than Rwanda, if a million people in 90 days were just slaughtered by violence and no one helped. That's not the only example. The examples go on and on. In Sudan, there's been a civil war. In fact, there's been more than one, but the last version of it from 1983 to almost 2004 resulted in over two million deaths. Either from conflict, from murderous behavior, from the disease that came forth from it, more than four million people in southern Sudan had been displaced multiple times, just had no place to stay. That's a 15-year span of time.
That's more than a bad week or a bad month. That's more than a fluctuation in the stock market or a devaluing of the dollar or gas being more expensive than we would like or our vacation being canceled. Millions of people being murdered, millions more are being displaced. I think that would feel like the end of the world. We've watched it repeated in Syria. We're watching it today be repeated in Ukraine. And now there's some waves of disruption coming to us. We've isolated in place. We've lost trust in many institutions that we thought were trustworthy. We're watching ungodliness be celebrated in the most brazen ways, immorality, sexual immorality. We're confused about things that are not confusing. And we're having trouble finding voices to say, "No, that doesn't make sense".
We're even having trouble finding those voices within the church. We're watching some of the greatest expressions of apostasy, of falling away, in the history of the Christian church. We're reluctant to talk about the uniqueness of Jesus. We're reluctant to say, within the church, that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Were a bit hesitant to talk about the virgin birth, that Jesus physically died on a cross, that he was bodily raised to life again, that he ascended back to heaven, that he's coming back to the earth, is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, that he's the Judge of all the living and the dead.
We're a bit hesitant to say that there is right and wrong, that there is objective truth, that there's good and evil, that it isn't always confusing. It's not always gray. We have lived too long in the middle. We've lived too long to straddle the fence. We've been lukewarm for too much of a season. And now there are ripples of disruption washing across us day after day and week after week. It's disorienting. It's confusing. We realize they've been filling our children's heads with propaganda more than they've been teaching them the skills they need to survive in the world. We're offended by it, and I believe we shouldn't be offended, but we should be more offended at the fact that we've been so distracted, we didn't notice it was happening.
It really isn't a surprise. I spent a good chunk of my life in the academic system. Folks, this stuff's been being taught in the universities for decades. And if you've been in the academic world at all, you know it's true. They have mocked biblical values and biblical worldviews. I have studied in some fine theological institutions where they would laugh at you, ridicule you if you talked about being saved. "Saved from what"? That's our world. Is it the end of the world? Is it the end of the age? It could be. I think what's a more accurate description is it's the end of the season that we have lived in up until a couple of years ago.
There's a new season of opportunity. It's not something new under the sun. But I want to take a few minutes with is walk you towards the this idea that there is an effort involved in awakening, that if there is to be renewal, if there is to be an awakening, if there's to be a cultural shift, if there's to be new values come forward, it's gonna take more than a politician or a political party or ruling from the Supreme Court. It's gonna take something beyond better economic numbers. We're gonna need more than just better leadership. We're gonna have to have a change of heart in the midst of the people of God.
The problem doesn't lie beyond the walls of the church, the problem lies within the hearts of those of us who have filled the church. And I'm a part of that. I've spent my life in that. I'm not throwing stones at anybody else. I'm not standing in some place of self-righteous superiority. I am very conscious of the degree to which I have participated in this. And I'm saying to the Lord, "I'm willing to walk in a new way. We need new outcomes". What I want you to know is that biblically, this is gonna require of us some determination that we have not had to give evidence to previously. In the past, the greatest expressions of our faith was we showed up for church, maybe we gave some money. Whoo, living on the edge for Jesus.
You know what the Bible says? A tenth of it belongs to him and if you're not giving him that tenth, you're stealing from him. That's not the lesson but, how many times do we have to hear that before we decide to be obedient? We have lived so far below our level of awareness. Why should God give us greater insight and revelation until we become obedient to the truth that we know. You can't willingly practice this obedience and then with a clear conscience or a straight face, look at the Lord and say, "Give me a revelation to help me navigate this changing time". God would say to us, "Let's practice the truth that we know".
There's an effort involved in this season, and it's a new effort for us, new muscles. They've been a bit atrophied. We haven't used them. There'll be a bit uncomfortable. We'll be a little bit stiff. It'll make us sore when we begin to use them. But you'll love the strength that you find. It'll bring new confidence to you, new boldness. It will write a new future for you. If you've ever lost the use of an arm or a limb or something where there was healing taking place or there's been some disruption, when you regain that mobility and the use, it opens up a whole new set of opportunities. You even learn to adapt to the point that you forget what's been forfeited, but when you regain those abilities, there's a whole new world. That's what's in front of us. It's an exciting time. It's not a frightening time, to me, it's a hope-filled time.
In 2 Kings 23, it's in your notes. The king is Josiah. He becomes king when he's a child and before he's 20 years old, through a series of events, he's awakened again to the authority of the Word of God. They lost the Bible. I mean, they physically, literally lost the Bible, and they're doing a remodel in the temple because the temple was in such disrepair, and somebody found the Bible. We haven't physically lost our Bibles, but to a great extent, we've lost our Bibles. We haven't lived with their authority. We certainly haven't submitted to the authority of Scripture. We read the Scriptures if we're the judge and the jury.
Folks, the point of reading the Bible is to learn the character of God. Understand, when you're reading the Bible and it makes you uncomfortable, that's an invitation to adjust. But they find the Bible and by the time he's 20 years old, Josiah initiates a series of reforms. And I put just a sample in your notes, I want to read through it. It's easy to read it and kind of miss it. But it says, "The king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And he went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets, and all the people from the least to the greatest". So he said, "Everybody, important people, not important people, we've got to talk".
Now, remember, he's just not quite 20. "And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. And the king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD, to follow the Lord and to keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant". But let me ask you a question. Do you imagine if we read the Bible in the public square, that everybody that heard the Bible would go, "Absolutely, that's the way we should go"? No, I don't think so. Well, I promise you there was not a unanimous consent from everybody in the crowd. I know there's no dissenting opinions recorded because it's being led by, this is held out to us as an example of an awakening, a renewal. They found the book when they brought it to the king and read it. He tore his clothes and wept and he said, "My God, we're so far away from that. Destruction's coming".
That's our response, folks. When we begin to read our Bible, "Lord, we are so far away from this. You would be more than justified just to wipe us away". Sixty millions of our kids have been sacrificed while we dithered. Now there's an opportunity for us to express our opinion about that in the public square, not to reverse it, just to express our public opinion, and we're not sure we want to do that. Josiah tears his clothes. So now he gathers everybody, he reads the book in public and he said, "We're gonna renew our commitment to walk this way". And he's an ancient Near Eastern monarch. If you disagree with him, he can separate you from your head. It's not a democracy or a republic. There's no court of appeal. There's not due process. So he gets a degree of compliance, but then he pushes beyond that.
In verse 4, "The king ordered the high priest, and the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts". They have Canaanite fertility gods in the temple. Yeah, they're still offering daily sacrifices, and we're gonna worship Baal and Asherah. And this is economic. It's an agrarian society. The Canaanite fertility gods means your crops will be better, your cattle will produce offspring. We're gonna be more profitable. And they're worshipping them in the temple and nobody thinks it's a bad idea. It's become institutionalized. There are priests attached to the worship of these gods. There are structures attached to the worship of these gods. It's the worst form of compromise of duplicative-ness, they were double-minded. And nobody's objected.
There've been high priests and priests officiating over this. They're having all the right holidays. They're still celebrating Passover. They're still celebrating the Day of Atonement. "Yeah, we'll go into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood in there, and then on the way out, we'll stop and worship Baal". And now Josiah, this boy king says, "He ordered the high priest and the priest next in rank to him to remove from the temple of the Lord, the articles made for Baal and Asherah, and all the starry hosts. And he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley". You think anybody objected? Yes. What about the priests that were being supported by that? What about the people that felt like it had brought good outcomes to them?
They're unhappy. He has to double his security detail. "He's being too public. He's being too brash. It's happening too quickly. These have been put in place for decades. This is how my parents worshipped and my grandparents worshipped. My kids are familiar with this. What are you doing"? He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah. There are priests that had been appointed by kings. They're a part of the establishment, they have been for decades. In verse 6, "He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem. He burned it there".
I mean, that's pretty strong. Then he ground it to powder, and he scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He's making a statement. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the Lord. Did you hear it? In the temple where we're worshiping Baal and the other Canaanite gods. We also have place for temple prostitutes, male and female.
You think somebody would have said, "Hey, maybe that's not a good idea"? No, I promise you, there's a power structure around it. There's an economic stream that is supporting it. There are people benefiting from it. There's pleasure involved. There's people coming on a regular basis or they wouldn't be there. And now this kid says it's going away. I promise you that the response to that was not unanimous thanksgiving. Power structures have been disrupted, economic flows have been interrupted, personal status is being threatened, people's habits are being broken. People are being told that the way they behaved last week is not appropriate this week, and we're gonna remove the opportunity for you to do that. I assure you, Jerusalem and Judah were in a frothing, turbulent time.
Hey, I want to pray with you before we go that we'll have the same respect for God that Josiah had. If when we say his Word and we hear its message, that we will begin to align our lives with it in the moment. He had some courage. I want that same courage in my heart. Let's pray:
Father, thank you for your Word and its truth and the privilege we have of hearing it and receiving it. And now I pray that you give us a respect for you beyond any we've ever had before. Forgive our ambivalence and our indifference. Let the fear of the Lord grow in our heart as we've never known it, in Jesus's name, amen.