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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Choosing Barabbas - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Choosing Barabbas - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Choosing Barabbas - Part 1

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is the "Choice of Barabbas," I suspect you know who the character is, if you don't we will reference it in just a moment, but the underlying premise is pretty simple. The choices you and I are making today are defining our future. It's much less about your family of origin, or your IQ, or were you studied in school or you didn't, the choices you're making are determining your future because Almighty God is the one who ultimately writes our future.

If we align ourselves with him, then the Creator of heaven and earth removes all the obstacles to give us the best outcomes. If we rebel against him, we'll forfeit it even if we're standing in the Garden of Eden right now; that's the story of Scripture. So I want to invite you to begin to say, even before we begin to look at the Word of God, "God, I wanna cooperate with you, I want your best, I will stop the argument for getting my way". Good luck, I'm still having that struggle myself. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, most of all, let's begin to say yes to the Lord. Enjoy the lesson.

We're working on this theme, this study around "Big Trouble Ahead". The biblical word for it is tribulation. Most of us think of the book of Revelation when we think of tribulation, but it literally means, "Big trouble". And I think far too often we avoid that book or the thoughts that are around it because we don't want to think about the trouble, so we just construct scenarios that means it won't engage us, either theological perspectives that mean we'll be delivered out of it. I'm not opposed to those things, I'm not looking to tribulate, I'm not looking for extra trouble, but I want to be prepared for whatever's coming.

And one thing that these last months have made very clear to me is I can't anticipate fully what's next. I didn't anticipate covid, I didn't anticipate healthy people being quarantined in their homes, I didn't anticipate churches being shuttered and told they were non-essential. Things happened that I thought were simply impossible to happen under the legal structure that we have, and yet they happened and they happened in a very rapid manner. And I'm convinced that there is still more disruption in front of us, not necessarily related to a virus and not necessarily around our health care or our physical well being, but I don't think we're finished with this season of shaking.

And I want us to do everything we can to be as prepared and as ready and as stable to flourish in what's taking place in the earth. You don't have to be frightened. You ever flown on a commercial plane? I suspect you've had the opportunity or the pilot come on the PA system and say, "We need everybody to buckle your seatbelt, we're anticipating some turbulence". And if it seems to be imminent, a lot of times they'll tell those that are serving, the flight attendants, to please be seated and interrupt whatever service they may have been in the midst of.

Sometimes I think it's just a reason to give the flight attendants a break. But when you hear that announcement, if you've flown very often, it's not typically a white-knuckle experience. You're not filled with dread or fear, or you don't feel like there's a threat to your life or your well being, you just understand there may be some bumps ahead, and there may be a little less stability than in that moment where there's the calm air. Well, that's a bit of the invitation I want to give to you. There's some bumps ahead and the stability that defined our world prior to 2020, I don't imagine is going to fill our future. And you don't want to be caught unprepared or off-guard, you don't wanna be without your seatbelt, you don't want to be without the appropriate foundation.

So that's been the purpose of this little series we're working through. In this particular session, I want to talk to you about "Choosing Barabbas". And if you don't know him as a character, I'll introduce you in just a minute, we meet him in the New Testament. But I would submit to you that the thunder of God's prophetic Word is rolling through the earth. We're not finished with that yet, we can't afford to misunderstand or to be distracted, or certainly not to be unaware; and awareness is a choice. God has provided time-sensitive insight which enables us to lead lives of significance and impact, but apart from God's wisdom we'll simply spend our days in pursuits which will fail to satisfy us or even to sustain us. Instead, we'll find ourselves filled with increasing degrees of fear and frustration.

From my vantage point it's not a frightening season, it's a time filled with great anticipation. I believe God has called us to ascend to the heights in new obedience to him, a new faithfulness to him and new experiences with him. We might have been content to attend church and be religious, but God has called us to more than that. He didn't send his son to die on a cross so we could attend worship services, I believe it's reckless to assume we know the path before us apart from God's direction. We were created by him, we have been the beneficiaries of his extravagant love and we have the privilege of responding in anxious obedience to his direction. And if that's not been the nature of your relationship with him, I would invite you to consider change.

If you've imagined that you didn't really need to give thought or energy or attention to your relationship with the Lord because you were confident in your status, confidence in the church you attended or the denomination you belong to or the exactness of your theological perspective, I would invite you to a little different imagination of that relationship. Grab ahold of God's truth with the certainty of a yielded servant and say, "Lord, here I am. Whatever the role is for this day or this week or this month or this season, here I am".

We've had to turn loose of some things in this last year and I don't think we're finished with laying things down. I want to start with this notion of God's perspective, and the real question of all the questions is: Are we listening to him? Do you understand the necessity of listening to him? It's not just the Pagans or the ungodly or the immoral that need to be different, I believe behind all of the shaking that we've witnessed in these last months is an invitation from Almighty God for his people to change. We are at the center of God's purposes in the earth. If we will change our hearts, God will move heaven and earth to bring stability and opportunity to our lives and our families.

In John 12, in verse 27, Jesus is teaching and he said, "'Father, glorify your name!' And a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I'll glorify it again.' And the crowd that was there and heard it said that it had thundered, and others said an angel had spoken to him". That 29th verse seems about right to me, God spoke from heaven. And there was a group of people gathered to hear Jesus speak so it wasn't the most disobedient, it was an interested group of people who heard God speak from heaven, and an argument broke out. Some said it thundered, some said, "No, God spoke to us". We have a hard time getting unified behind almost anything, huh?

And one of the things this season has taught us is we've got to learn to listen to the Lord, because they're are fault lines that have emerged. I think what's been most in trouble has been that middle, those people that were a straddle the fence, the kind of lukewarm perspective; we didn't want to be zealot, we didn't wanna go too far, we certainly didn't want to be understood to be radicals. And in the midst of all the transitions around us, we've understood there's a greater need for our faith. But Jesus resolved it, Jesus, in verse 30, he said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine". Jesus is saying, "Look, I know God's okay with me, we talk regularly". He made the PA announcement so you would know, and there was still division amongst the people, you need to get that settled in your heart.

I think one of the things that has contributed to the uncertainty of the last year is there hasn't been a uniform response amongst the Christians and the churches, there's a separation taking place. The fact that the sign says, "Church," or the building looks as if the architecture would reflect a place of worship, it doesn't mean that in those places the Word of God is honored, or it's believed that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of all. And it's not about labels or denominations or styles of worship, you can be very liturgical and honor the Lord or you can be very contemporary and have very little to do with him. Please don't let your personal preference or style bring enough pride into the equation that you imagine that's the determiner, it comes from a perspective of God's Word.

Do we honor it as the rule of faith and practice, the inspired Word of God? Do we honor Jesus of Nazareth as Lord, Christ, and King? Do we believe he's the incarnate Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, that he died on a Roman cross, that he was buried and raised to life again and he ascended back to heaven? Folks, they're the essential tenets of the Christian faith, apart from that we're just a social movement. But in the midst of that, the power of the Creator of heaven and earth is at work in the midst of our lives. Jesus said, "'This voice was for your benefit, not mine.'" Here's my take away, I want to hear God's voice. I want to hear God's voice, I don't want to just say, "It was thunder". I'm willing to go stand with the nut jobs, the kookies, the goof balls, and say, "I believe God is engaged with his people". Now I'm not talking about the internet, spend less time there. I'm talking about learning to listen to the Lord.

There's some good things happening, there's some truth breaking into the public square that's been obscured for months and months and months. The origin of covid are becoming clear, I believe it's an answer to prayer, it's not just about the science. If we could understand the origins of it, we have a much better chance of protecting ourselves in the future from such challenges. As long as those origins are hidden in deceptions or buried or denied or covered up, we're far more vulnerable. So when you see the truth begin to come out, it's the Spirit of God working on our behalf. Don't respond with anger, or don't imagine that it's political or ideological, say, "Lord, I thank you that the truth is being told in the public square, let it grow".

Truth brings freedom to our lives. I think we're beginning to awaken to the destructive results of an open border, the impact it's having on our nation is devastating, and the nations that are being impacted by it as well, and it will be for generations. It may be just the beginning, the front end of the tipping point of an awareness that it's destructive. I even hear voices saying that our unraveling economy should capture our attention, that perhaps inflation is real. Wow, those are all good things, the truth is being told. Keep praying, church. It's a mistake to think it's about politicians or parties or ideologies or elected officials, deception is a spirit. And we need the truth to be told, for our children's sake and our grandchildren's sake.

Now, there are still problems escalating, censorship is expanding at an unimaginable rate. I never thought I would see censorship in this nation, I thought we had the protection of free speech, how naive I was. I don't spend a great deal of time on social media, other people help me with that, but it doesn't take very many minutes in the social media to understand there's some rather ungodly things flourishing in those arenas. That they're being used for things other than the promotion of godliness and righteousness and holiness, but the censorship of that, based on ideas, is unimaginable, it's not acceptable. That's a different set of rules than the ones we have labored beneath for the duration of my lifetime. Blatant immorality is being celebrated in the public square these days without apology, without embarrassment.

Are you watching? I hope you're awake. If you're not watching and listening and thinking you're not gonna be prepared to act. I believe God is awakening us but I still think we're in the fledgling stages, the early stages of an awareness regarding God's involvement in our lives. I think to too great of an extent we still imagine that this is someone else's responsibility, that we're awaiting an election or a political party or another individual. And I think the real root of this begins with the sphere of influence that God has given to you and that he's given to me, and our willingness as individuals, whatever the cost may be, to say no to ungodliness, to repent and turn to the Lord in humility. I'm involved in discussions with people pretty consistently and I hear people aware of the problems in our nation but I don't hear the awareness that I think would be most helpful, that behind all of those things there is an opportunity for the Spirit of God.

In most of the discussions, it's based on legal issues or ideological issues or political changes to secure our future. Let me be perfectly clear. Without a change of heart among God's people I don't think there is anything ahead of us except an intensification of God's judgments. This isn't about somebody else, this is about us. What are we going to do? Are we gonna hold up our baptismal certificates and recite the day of our conversion experience and describe the scene when we walked the aisle of a church and the individual that perhaps led us through a prayer? Or are we going to, at this point in 2021, say, "God, I have to be different, the world demands of me a different relationship with you. I can't afford any longer just to dismiss the thunder, I need to hear your voice".

We have to have an awareness of what's happening, and if you're focused on the political or the ideological or whatever distraction that is, I would call you back to, in humility, get your Bible out and say, "Lord, I'm listening". It's such an important time, there's some things for your spiritual health that are just a necessity. We've spent a year focused on our health and our hygiene, we didn't travel, we didn't touch one another, we wiped down our things we brought from our grocery stores for several weeks until we learned that the virus didn't live on those hard surfaces, or couldn't be transmitted that way.

Well there's some things that are just as important for your spiritual health, I'll give you four really quickly, they're not in your notes. One is you've got to incorporate God's Word into your life, if you don't have that habit, on a daily basis. It's more than just reading it; you can read it like you take a vitamin, you gotta hold your nose and swallow it and hurry forward, wash it down with a donut, I'm healthier. I'm talking about not just your daily Bible reading, that's a necessary component, but you actually take what you read at the beginning of the day and you live with it through the day. "Lord, is there anything about that that has relevance for me? Is there anything any insight I need? What's the big picture of that story"? You actually give space to it in your heart. Begin to incorporate God's Word into your life, it will give you clarity on what's ahead of you.

Say, "Well Pastor, that's what we pay you for". No, we've already learned we're very easily separated, you've got to have God's Word tucked in your heart. The nature of the season in front of us, you have the privilege of having access to a Bible. Do you understand how many lives were sacrificed so that you can have access to a Bible that you can read? Do you know how unique you are across the span of human history in the body of Christ that you can pick up a Bible in a language that you can understand and read it for yourself? If you presume that that's been a gift for the church since Jerusalem, you're unaware. It's a tremendous privilege and to treat it shabbily, you'll owe an apology to multiplied millions of believers when you see them; we're blessed.

Secondly, I would submit for your spiritual health you need to learn to practice listening to God, probably the most common word for that is prayer. Prayer isn't just telling God what you want him to do, prayer is having an open heart to what God wants you to do. Why should God be more interested in doing what you want done than you are in doing what he wants done? Do you still love me? I mean I get pretty intense with God when I want him to focus on something, "Like, now". I don't want to hear next week, I certainly don't want to hear next month, I don't want him to send me an angel with a message, "God said he's taking it under advisement. The counsels of heaven will consider it at their next quarterly gathering". And yet how many times in my life when God has given me a sense of a prompt or an invitation has my response been, "Well you know, I'm gonna pray about it, I'm going to think about it, I'm going to wonder about it, and maybe sometime"?

You see, if we'll begin to respond to God with the same urgency that we want him to respond to us it will transform your relationship with him. And at the heart of that is this listening, you can't separate that from your willingness to incorporate God's Word into your life. And then thirdly, begin to practice a determined obedience. Not a casual obedience, not a reckless obedience, I mean a determined obedience, the same kind of obedience you've had about hand sanitizer. Some of you have been wiping down with that multiple times a day for months and months and months, you changed everything about your lives because of a virus we didn't understand from someplace we didn't know about, we couldn't find on a map, and we didn't know its origins.

Some talking head we saw gave us some statistics, easy for me to say, some statistics and we changed everything. And yet when it comes to the things of God, most of us know more about obedience than we're practicing right now. There are things and issues and places in our lives where we have a sense God has invited us towards something and we've simply said to him, "I think I'm okay". A determined obedience, "Lord, I wanna follow you". And then fourthly, I would submit for spiritual health we need to become more assertive advocates for Jesus, the time for passive faith is gone. if your faith is passive, I question whether it's legitimate. Jesus said, "If you won't acknowledge me before men, I won't acknowledge you before my Father".

It's not hard to acknowledge Jesus in the midst of a faith-filled audience, but when you're standing in places where Jesus is being ridiculed or Jesus's people are being ridiculed or Jesus's values aren't being held up do you have the courage to say, "No, I believe something else, let me tell you what I believe, let me tell you who I know, let me tell you what God's done in my life"? We're gonna have to be more assertive advocates for Jesus, I am tired of seeing advocates for wickedness be more assertive than those of us who say we're Christ followers. It's time to change, church. Say, "I don't want to offend anybody". Really? We're in a nation with a Christian heritage, the people that made the greatest sacrifices to give birth to this place put everything on the line for the opportunity of having the freedom to worship Jesus as they saw fit. We're the inheritors of that trust. Now, what will we do with that tremendous heritage? It's a very important question.

Covid has receded but we're still living through a turbulent season, we need to be confident of God's help in our lives. This I know: my Bible says, "God is not the author of confusion". So we don't have to live with fear of confusion, or being driven by confusion, the Spirit of God will give us the clarity to understand the time and the season so that we can make God-directed choices towards the best possible outcome. I wanna pray for you today, that God will set you free from anxiety, from uncertainty and from fear, they're intruders and they have no authority over your life, in Jesus's name. Let's pray.

Father, I thank you that you're not the author of confusion, that your truth brings stability and freedom to our lives. And I pray for every person listening today that the fear and concern and anxiety that has filled their hearts would go in Jesus's name. Let God's peace fill our whole heart, in Jesus's name, amen.

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