Allen Jackson - Thriving In The Storm - Part 2
Hey, it's so good to be with you again. We're gonna continue our discussion today on how to thrive in the midst of tribulation, big trouble. You know, really, the word "tribulation's" a biblical word. It really just means big trouble. But in the midst of all the confusion of our world and the turmoil and the lawlessness, all the junk that fills the evening news, we can still flourish as God's people. He hasn't abandoned us or stepped away from us. We need a God perspective to know what he created us for at this unique point in time. It's an exciting season to be an ambassador for the kingdom of God. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
What I can tell you about my best perspective on our immediate future is it can be, it's gonna be defined by some pretty significant trouble. It's not gonna be defined by greater stability and more cooperation and greater peace and greater unity. And because of that, there are some things I would submit that you and I need to pay attention to. We need some very significant clarity on. If you were gonna travel with me to Israel, there are some things I would say to you are really important. You need a current passport, which means it needs to be current within more than six months of the date of travel. And that's really not negotiable.
If you say, "Well, I don't think that, you know, passport's that important," I promise you it is. 'Cause without it, your trip will be interrupted. You know, and there's just two or three things I can tell you that would make that trip either more effective or far less possible. And I have that same sense of the season ahead of us. From a biblical perspective, there are some things that will be challenged and they're gonna be challenged more broadly and from more authoritative places and more frequently than we are accustomed to seeing them challenged and, oftentimes, if you don't agree with conventional wisdom, there will be consequences of a magnitude that we're not accustomed to seeing. And one of those that I think we will watch this happen with in the immediate future, has to do with the recognition of sin. It's just not fashionable any longer to talk about sin. Well, who says?
In fact, we're told quite frequently these days, that "all truth is subjective. You have truth, I have truth, we have truth. I have a truth, you have a truth, here's a truth truth". Put your left foot in, we'll just shake it all about and see what comes out. But that's a far more fashionable idea, even within much of the religious circle than saying there is objective truth, there is right and wrong, there's good and evil. Well, who realizes it's not about who I am or who you are, it's who the Creator of all things is.
Look in 1 Corinthians 6. I brought you just a couple of samples. We could spend a great deal of time with this, but I think you're aware of the principle. I just want you to know it's grounded in Scripture. Says: "Don't you know," and you know by now, when the Bible begins a phrase with that, the answer is that the author is assuming the reader probably doesn't. "Don't you know"? "No, I probably don't". "Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God"? That just won't happen. So now the important question is, well, who's classified as wicked? If the wicked are not going to inherit the kingdom of God, I don't wanna get classified that way. This isn't complicated. If you have a southern accent, I'd be getting some training, if that made me wicked. "Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived".
Now, again, if it's warning you not to be deceived, you should understand there will be widespread deception on this point, which means many voices, shadings of the truth. The most persistent warning Jesus gave about the end of the age was the warning against deception. And he was giving the warning to his closest friends. So I'm not surprised at this point when Paul is reiterating that to the believers in Corinth. He said, "Don't be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers or swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God".
You can't slander people and be a part of the kingdom of God. You can't shade the truth, use your words, use a wink, a raising of your eyebrows. You can't use innuendo, you can't assassinate people's character without the truth that's supported and imagine you can be a part of the kingdom of God. I don't care if you call it a prayer circle or not. I mean, we can get pretty good, we can get more rapid acceptance that adultery's probably not a good thing, or prostitution probably shouldn't be celebrated.
Now, you can't get that culturally very far, but you should, I believe, still find that within the church. But things like slanderers or swindlers taking unfair advantage for financial gain, you can't do that. That's not good business. Verse 11 is the punch line: "And that is what some of you were". If you wanna read the résumé of the church, it's listed there. We were sexually immoral, idolaters and adulterers and male prostitutes and homosexual offenders and thieves and greedy drunks and slanderers who would swindle you at a moment's notice. "But we were washed and we were sanctified, and we were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God".
Folks, sin is real and you can't entertain it. You can't accommodate it. You can't negotiate with it. You can't excuse it. You can't welcome it to the dinner table and relabel it. The consequences are too high. And the church has been far better at overlooking sin than we have overcoming it. We can't overcome it until we acknowledge it. And that's gonna get worse. The pressure is to not acknowledge it, to look away, to call it something else. "Well, I don't wanna bring division. I don't wanna separate a relationship. I don't", I'm not suggesting you be angry, belligerent, condemning, violent. I'm not suggesting that at all. I'm telling you there's right and wrong, and we're gonna have to have the courage to say that.
Romans chapter 1. Did I put that in your notes? Good. Sometimes I give you the cheap copy. Somebody asked me tonight what font I printed your notes in, was it tiny or was it hopeful? "Furthermore, since they didn't think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done". You see, if we don't consider the knowledge of God worthwhile, God will relinquish you. And the outcome of that is depravity, which means momentum away from godliness. Does it seem to anyone that perhaps we are gaining momentum away from godliness? You know, for that to happen, it means the light and the salt of the church is diminished.
I've said it over and over, I'll continue to say it, the problems we face are not because of the depravity of the wicked, it's because of the indifference of the faithful. Didn't care that much. We've danced so close to the line in the world. We ask questions like, "Well, how far's too far? How often do I have to attend? How much do I have to serve? How much do I have to give"? "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity. They're full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. Gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; and they disobey their parents; they're senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. And although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but they approve of those who practice them".
That last phrase is the one I would like to call your attention to. If you approve of those who practice those things, you're included as guilty. That should give all of us a bit of pause, because we have watched much of this happening on our watch. And we've been confused, we weren't certain what to do, what to say, and the counsel and the leadership that's been coming from churches has not often been helpful. But God is awakening us. Again, not to be angry; to be aware. We're gonna have to be willing to acknowledge that sin exists, and that it's destructive. It's more destructive than the worst diagnosis you could imagine coming from a physician.
It's worse news than contracting any virus that's been available. The willful practice of sin will result in destruction. Don't do it. It's not worth it. It's deceptive. It promises something it can't deliver. If it delivered what it promised, it wouldn't be deceptive. Temptation is the ultimate bait and switch. It will make you happy, but it doesn't. It will leave you content and fulfilled, but it doesn't. But because we understand the power of temptation and how real it is, because we have all experienced it, oftentimes we lack the courage or the willingness to say to someone, "I would make a different choice".
The second component I would submit to you that we're gonna have to gain some new awareness of and new willingness directed towards has to do with our willingness to stand for the truth. I think we've kind of imagined somebody else could do that. We want to elect a politician to do that, we want somebody to go to Washington, D.C., and fix us. We think there'd be a new anointing at the church if Pastor would just pray more. "He used to be anointed but he must be doing something else now 'cause he doesn't feel anointed to me anymore". But we haven't had the notion that we had individual responsibilities to stand. We didn't imagine that we had to stand for our families or stand for the place of employment where we are, stand for our neighborhood or stand for our community or stand for our nation.
It was somebody else's responsibility. We thought we could negotiate. We thought we could compromise. I don't believe in the season that we've entered into, you'll be able to do that. I believe you'll be swept away. I don't believe that you can maintain your silence and stand in the shadows and imagine that you'll be able to maintain the integrity of your faith. I understand that's been the scene, the scenario and the circumstance for a long time. Many of us could describe our entire spiritual journey that way. We've been lukewarm, fence-sitting. We've been chameleon-like. We've had a face for church and had a face for our church friends and we've had a different face for business or a different face for our recreational friends. And we could talk about ungodly behaviors and sin as if we could compartmentalize those to a number of days of the week or a number of places that we would visit, but they didn't have to intersect with the other places. And in the midst of that, for a long season, we've been able to flourish.
I believe that season is over. It certainly is. Within a few weeks, right now, you can plant things in Middle Tennessee and they will grow. You can plant zinnias and they will grow. You can plant roses and they'll grow. You can plant green beans and they will grow. You can plant a watermelon, it'll grow. Try that in November. It won't work, because the season changed. And if that notion of being chameleon-like or having compartmentalized your life and you could still flourish and maintain a spirituality and you knew some sense of the Lord's presence, that may have been an accurate description of your life up to this point but I believe the season has changed, just as certainly as our growing season will change. And we're gonna have to be willing to begin to stand up and say, "I'm for Jesus". You don't have to preach a sermon. You don't have to sing all five verses of "How Great Thou Art". But you're gonna have to be identified.
Matthew 24, Jesus said, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved". He didn't say he's gonna excuse it because wickedness increased and the love of most grew cold, so it'll be okay, just come on in. He described the scenario of the season and he said, "Now, you're gonna have to stand firm". So I would encourage you, you know, if you haven't been using a muscle for a while, it atrophies. Then when you begin to use it again, it's awkward and it's uncomfortable. It's painful. And it's not just painful while you're doing the immediate rehab. There's soreness that comes days after. And you have to rebuild strength by repeated use. You have to train that. And I believe that's a part of this transitionary time when we're learning to stand in new ways.
We're learning to say, "No, 'mother' is really not a bad word. We've all had one". Just cutting edge stuff. And I think my children ought to be educated that motherhood's a real deal. Yes, we're gonna help them understand these complex issues of life. They'll teach us how to make the remote work for our television but we're gonna help 'em with these things. We're gonna have to stand up. Matthew 10, Jesus said, "All men will hate you because of me". He's sending out the disciples. He's not talking to them. He's sending out the 12. This wasn't an end-time assignment. Again, don't get trapped into thinking, "It's end of the age and the big escape's coming and I'm gonna miss it all so it's not my problem". Don't misunderstand me. I want out of here on the first load up. I'm not arguing. I don't wanna tribulate, but I'm telling you, Jesus said, "All men will hate you because of me, and he who stands firm to the end will be saved". That's his coaching to his disciples.
Are you willing to be hated for Jesus? If you're not, how come? Whose approval exactly are you looking for? What invitation list are you concerned about being left off of? Which business deal are you closing that's more significant than his approval? Just exactly what is it you're doing that's more important? We've gotta do a little heart check. How has the influence of our salt been so small and our light been so dim, 'cause we weren't paying any attention to those kind of things. Revelation 21 is very near the end of the book. I mean, it's like the concluding narrative, and he's gonna tell you who wins and who loses. It says in verse 7, "He who overcomes will inherit this, and I will be his God and he'll be my son". Who's going to inherit? The overcomers.
Well, I don't think you can be a covert overcomer. And the next phrase kind of confirms that. Verse 8 says: "The cowardly and the unbelieving and the vile and the murderers and the sexually immoral, their place is gonna be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur". Did you know that the cowardly and the immoral and the vile all got dumped in the same bucket? So if we're reluctant, frightened, intimidated, we feel threatened, we're not certain, we're uncomfortable saying, "Hey, I'm for Jesus," I have been there. I'm not talking to you about a feeling that I don't know. I didn't grow up with aspirations to be in the ministry. When I was a kid, the ministers I knew wore black robes and they frowned professionally. I don't ever remember seeing somebody laugh that was in the ministry. I certainly never saw anybody have a good time. Church was a place where you went so you could escape as quickly as possible.
Don't look at me like you don't understand. I don't ever remember saying to my parents, "Oh, can we go to church? And can we stay longer than last week? We've missed a couple of weeks, can't we go this week"? Never came out of my mouth. "Do we have to go"? "Yes". "How long do we have to stay? Do we have to go to Sunday School? Can we just go to Woodstock Park? Can we skip"? And then I had this sense God was asking me to serve him. Then I had a problem, 'cause none of the ways I knew to do that had any good memories attached to them. The first awakening that came to me was that I didn't like to be with Christians, and the reason wasn't because of Christians, it was 'cause there was so little Jesus in me.
That's awkward. I mean, I was sitting there explaining to the Lord why Christians were so awful. And I mean, he was patient with me, but when it occurred to me that the reason I felt that way is I had so little regard for the things of the Lord. If you think Christians are stupid, backwards, out of sync, not clever, not aggressive, not inventive, not creative, you better review what you're attaching value to. I had to do that. So then I said, "Well, okay, you know, perhaps I could serve you. I know you'd be relieved if I volunteered for the team". Arrogant is the word you're looking for. "You know, where would you like me to do that? Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York City"? "How about Murfreesboro"? Oh, no, no, no. "Oh, God, you wouldn't? You would not ask me to do that? They know me".
And when I came back, the church doesn't look like it does today. We were in a little rented room, sitting on rented chairs, and we really couldn't afford the rent. We were only there because of the benevolence of a businessman and the respect he had for my parents. And then we upgraded. We put up a tent. And I'd bump into my classmates, the people I'd gone to school with, that I'd grown up with. And they say, "What are you doing"? And I'd say, "I'm a pastor. What are you doing"? I went to get permission to get electricity turned on in the tent and the person that was working at the electric department had been a classmate of mine and I told her we needed electricity in the tent. She said, "Why do you do that"? She said, "Well, it's a church". She said, "What are you doing with that"? And I said, "Well, I'm a pastor". She fell out of her chair, laughing at me. And it was not the joy of the Lord that was bubbling up in her.
So when I talk to you about being willing to stand, I'm talking to you from a journey that I have walked and continue to walk. It's not an entirely old thing for me. I was willing to be a pastor. If you came in the building, I would tell you what I believed about the Lord, but for a long, long time, I didn't want any channel turned on outside this building 'cause I didn't want strangers all over everywhere knowing I believed in praying for the sick and casting out demons. I mean, if you make the trip to campus and you walk in, you can think I'm crazy. I'm okay with that. But when we multiply that exponentially, I thought, "Oh, Lord, I'd rather be seen as sophisticated and educated, and suave".
And I'm not sure it was the voice of the Lord but I heard something inside me say, "Look in the mirror". Good point. So it's not theoretical to me. We're gonna have to be willing to stand up in a new kind of way. There is right and wrong. I'm not gonna call you a good person if you behave in an ungodly way consistently. I can say you struggle, I can say you have some good characteristics, but I'm not gonna call evil good. We haven't been willing to stand very much. "He who overcomes will inherit this, but the cowardly won't". But I'm telling you, it's mythical to think that because you've said the sinner's prayer or been born again that you all automatically have this boldness in every circumstance. That old carnal selfish part of me is a real thing. I have to keep my foot on its throat most days. I'm learning to be more bold for the Lord. In a respectful way.
Ephesians 6 says: "Put on the full armor of God, so when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground". The day of evil is a presumption. It's coming. It's assumed. He gives you the armor of God in that passage, but there is no armor of God for your back. All the armor assumes we're moving forward. If you're retreating, you're vulnerable. We gotta learn to stand up, folks. We haven't been willing to do that. We've been silent. I'm tired of hearing about the silent majority. I don't believe it exists. If there were 100 million born again people in this nation, our nation would be different.
In any endeavor, whether it's cooking or business or athletics, fundamentals matter. Your attention to the basics will really determine the excellence of your outcome. It's true in our faith too. There are some foundational things, some fundamental things that never change. We don't evolve past them. There is such a thing as sin. God established those boundaries. We didn't make them up. It's important to be willing to stand for the truth. Jesus said, "If we don't acknowledge him before people, he won't acknowledge us before the Father". In the midst of the turmoil, knowing God's truth and having the courage to stand for it, makes all the difference. Let's pray:
Father, I pray you'll give us a boldness to acknowledge your truth in our hearts, in our homes, and in our communities. In Jesus's name, amen.