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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Help Your Neighbors - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Help Your Neighbors - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Help Your Neighbors - Part 2

It's good to be with you again. We're gonna complete our discussion of helping our neighbors, being salt and light in this world. One idea underlies all of this, it's how incredibly valuable you are in the kingdom of God. I think so often we think, "Well, I'm not a minister, or a preacher, or a pastor, or a priest, or I'm not great at public speaking". You know, you're more aware of your failures or whatever the roadblock is that the enemy puts in front of you. It's a lie. Almighty God created you to be a difference-maker in this generation, and there are people who care about your opinion, and your advocacy for Jesus will make an eternal difference in their lives. Let's accept the assignment. Enjoy the lesson.

Let's get started with this notion that were gonna help our friends, and that's the premise I'm asking you. Is that you'll have the courage to say listen, I'm not perfect. My story isn't perfect. My life has enough fractures in it, and I'll be honest about that. I'll tell you some of the stories, and I'll tell you how God has brought restoration. And I want you to know on the front end I'm still a work in progress, but I'm striving to honor the Lord with my life. My goal is to be more honorable before the Lord than I was last week. My goal is to walk more uprightly with the Lord than I did last month. My goal is to be a person of integrity that is increasing, day over day.

I'm giving attention to that, it matters to me. And I know I don't always get it right, but it's made an enormous difference in my life. God has brought a purpose to me, and a meaning to me, and a value to my days that is beyond the accumulation of stuff or celebrating the unique season of my life. If you'd just celebrate the season, if you just want to go to college and make the most out of that, if you want to get married and have the biggest party that any of your friends have had, and you wanna have a child, and your baby gets better treatment than everybody else, and your kids get to school and they get more attention than anybody else's kids.

If you chase those seasons through your life, you'll run out of seasons, and there'll always be somebody that trumps what you did in that season, and you'll end up frustrated and angry, because life will have slipped past you, and the meaning you attached to every one of those seasons will have sifted between your fingers. They're all legitimate life stages. Each one of them can be celebrated, but there's a greater purpose to life than getting your way. Which brings enormous significance to you. If your life pattern and your life journey got disrupted, and you didn't check all the boxes, you're not a failure, you're not a mistake, you weren't left out, you're not left behind.

God has a unique value for your life. We can all tell that story in our own ways, because all of us are less than perfect. But if you pretend, if you come to church and you put on the facade of perfection, we sit here and smile at one another as if we're this polite all the rest of the week. We know you're not. You can't get out of the parking lot without those gestures that say you're number one. But in the sanctuary, we can almost hold it together if the sermon doesn't go too long, and we think, you know, this is how it is, it's not. So I'm asking for enough integrity to say look, I'm wrestling with this thing, but my intent is to honor the Lord. I'll meet you at the back of the parking lot next week. I'll meet you over the kids classes, let's help with that, whatever it may be.

So, what's it mean then to look beyond ourselves? First we start with ourselves, but then we're gonna look at our neighbors. And I've already mentioned it, but started with compassion. You have to care about people. You can't be so focused on me, and what I want, and what I wanna do, that everybody else has to go to the back of the line. It's how you use your time. It's what you do with your attention. There can always be the accusing voice that no matter what you do, it'll say you've done it for yourself, ignore them. There's a difference in giving time to others and giving it to yourself, and you understand the difference.

Matthew 15, Jesus again, he called his disciples and said, "I have compassion for these people. They've already been with me three days and they've got nothing to eat, and I don't wanna send them away hungry or they will collapse on the way". His disciples didn't see the people the same way Jesus did. Jesus said there's a big crowd, he said I have compassion. They've been here three days, they've climbed the hills to be with us, they've run out of food, they don't have adequate supplies, I feel sorry for 'em. And the disciples said, we don't. And they said it to Jesus. I mean, they didn't, like, whisper it to one another, they go, no, we don't care about 'em.

In fact, there were a lot more blatant than that. The disciples said, well, where could we get enough food to feed these people? What are you thinking? Clearly you're malnourished and it's affected your thought process. So, when I talk about a biblical worldview, I'm not just talkin' about your attitude towards sexuality, I'm talking about your attitude towards people. People matter, people matter to God. People matter to God. And if we're gonna be God's people, they're going to have to matter more to us. We're going to have to make some inner adjustments. Second Corinthians 1 and verse 3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort".

Wow, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, "Who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God". Think about compassion in this way. Compassion for the suffering and discomfort that ungodliness brings. Compassion for people who are walking through a season of life that brings suffering and discomfort. It's distinguished, it's not compassion for the choices of ungodliness. If people are reveling and ungodliness, we're not instructed to have compassion, we're instructed to speak the truth to them. Well, they won't like that. Jesus got driven out of lots of places, and so did his closest friends.

Folks, is it safe to say that we've been more concerned about the world liking us than we have with pleasing Jesus? I think it's appropriate for us to have tremendous compassion for the suffering and the discomfort that comes to people, whatever the source of that, but we're gonna have to be aware enough to understand that if we endorse godliness, we receive the reward that comes with endorsing ungodliness. The church has stumbled. We have not been salt and light. Let me ask you a question, put it in a different context for a moment. How compassionate would you be if you sat and saw a parent giving their under-age children cigarettes and helping light them up? How would you feel about that?

I hope it would elicit an emotional response that was something other than what a novel approach to parenting. Everybody just needs to do what makes them comfortable as a parent. Well, if something that's damaging to them physically in that way gives you a sense of visceral response to the scenario, I would submit to you that teaching children that immorality is acceptable is worse. It's destructive in their spirit and not just their body. And that if we stand quietly by while the children in our culture, I don't mean just your children, if we stand quietly by while the children in our culture are subjected to significant forms of ungodliness and immorality, there's a violence done to their spirits for which God will hold us accountable.

We're the church. We know the degradation of sin because it has touched our lives. We have been participants, and we have repented, and we've watched God bring restoration, and renewal, and healing. And we can't afford the convenience and the comfort of sheltering in place from the presentation of ungodliness because we want the approval of the people around us. It won't work. We're the church. We have a higher assignment. It'll take courage and boldness, but it begins with compassion. And then it's extended in hospitality. Hospitality means you open your life, maybe even open your home. This is a biblical notion, I didn't just dream this up.

Romans chapter 12 and verse 13, "Share with God's people who are in need, practice hospitality". Hospitality has to be practiced, it's not intuitive, practice. You could have a great deal of training and a great deal of expertise, but the improvement of your skillset comes with regular utilization of application of the knowledge you have on your previous experience. It's always bothered me that doctors practice. You know, if you're the one in the surgery and the operating suite, and you're about to have significant surgery, and they say listen, the person that's coming to see you is not an expert, but he's practicing. I don't know, I think I'm feelin' better. On the other hand, you don't want him to say, well listen, the person who's gonna operate on you hasn't had any practice. First time out of the gate, but oh is he zealous. I know I'm feeling better now.

And so, it isn't lost on me that it's similar language around hospitality. There's a certain awareness around it, and there may have been some experience in the past, but you'll get better the more you apply what you know and combine it with increasing your experience, practice hospitality. I started by saying more than we need the political change we need a heart change. And we've been remiss, folks. We've wanted a politician to change us, or an evangelist to change us. We've prayed for an outpouring of the Spirit of God, or some supernatural something or other, or an economic hoopty do, somethin' to happen, but it couldn't be up to us. Well, let's just change the equation. Imagine there's not going to be any significant movement unless we change. How are we going to bring transformation? Well, the biblical prescription is we have compassion, and then we're gonna practice hospitality.

I grew up in this community, and I didn't grow up with the expectation I would be a preacher by myself or those who knew me. In fact, for the most part of that, I wanted enough Christianity that if something unexpected happened to me, I would go to heaven. But I didn't want enough Christianity to impede my social agenda. Hypocrite is the word you're searching for. The night I graduated, I graduated from Riverdale, and that night, we used to do graduations at Murphy Center a hundred years ago, and the night I graduated, I had a platform assignment, so I was the last one of my classmates to file out of Murphy Center. First time in my life I ever heard the Spirit of the Lord inside of me.

Watching everybody file out, I heard God say to me, "You say you're a Christian". And I was pretty full of myself, it was great, I said, "Yes, I am". And he said, "You've been with your classmates for four years, and some six". I'd played basketball with some of the guys for six years. And he said, "You've never made one attempt to tell any one of them what you believe about me". At that season in my life, I thought tears made you weak. You couldn't make me cry. I'd had my nose broken a time or two, and my teeth knocked out, and my eyes split, I'd spit blood at you, but I wouldn't cry. And standing on the stage at Murphy Center that night, tears began to run down my face, 'cause I was guilty. My classmates thought I was being sensitive, so it worked in my favor. And I didn't confess, but it did make a promise to God that night.

I was leaving town, I already had a plan, and I said I'm leaving here, it's no longer about my parents or their faith, or the authority in the home where I live. I'm done and I'm on my own, and I'll spend the next four years trying to understand what it means to honor you. And if at the end of that time I think you're real, I'll do whatever you want me to do. I had no idea that meant ministry, I just thought it meant I'd be a Christian professional. But if I don't think you're real, leave me alone, 'cause I'm tired of feeling guilty. That's called arrogance, and I left Murfreesboro that way.

So then God sends me back to town to work for a church that meets in a tent in the middle of a cotton field. And there was no promise of what you see today. And I believed in casting out demons, and praying for the sick, and speaking in tongues. That will get you on the freak's list. And I'm back in town, and I meet my friends, and I'm, you know, this is four or five years later, and they've got careers started, and lives started, and they said, "What do you do"? And I said, "Well, I'm a pastor, what do you do"? And I was world-class at shifting a conversation away from that, 'cause I found out very quickly how fast you could kill a conversation if you walked up to a group of people at a social setting, and they said, "What do you do"? you say, "I'm a pastor". You might as we will hold up a scarlet A, or start saying, "Unclean, unclean," 'cause there wasn't anything about what we were doing that had any promise to it, or any sense of socially-upward mobility, or any sense of accomplishment.

The only thing that kept me in the equation was a desire to honor the Lord, and I wasn't fully committed to that, I was still tryin' to figure that out. So when I say to you you've got to be willing to be different, I'm not telling you you have to start out where I'm standing today. It didn't happen in a week. And I had to incrementally say to that part of me that wanted everybody to cheer for me, "You shut up. You be quiet". I much preferred being included and being celebrated, 'cause I'd enjoyed some of that in my previous life in the community. I'd had some accomplishment, at least for the stage of life I was in, and that wasn't a part of my re-entry, and I was on a path that wasn't going to make that possible, and I had to say to that person, "You hush".

So, I know a bit of what I'm saying to you, and I'm asking you to have an honest evaluation with yourself. If you're willing to be different, to not point at achievement and accomplished. I think God can bring you achievement and accomplishment. I can talk about that as well, but it'll be destructive to you if you don't get your faith piece in place first. It's harder to learn. Then I'd submit you gotta be willing to be vulnerable. You know, I'm very conscious that I stand up on a regular basis and advocate for a product that I can't deliver. I can't heal a broken heart. I can't mend the broken body. In my own self, and my intellect, and my physical prowess, I don't have the ability to deliver somebody from an unclean spirit, but I know someone who can do all of those things.

But here's the rub, he doesn't always do it in the way I thought he would. I can't always tell the people when they say the sinners prayer, some are gonna be dramatically transformed, and some are gonna go back just as rogue as they did before they prayed it, and I can't tell the difference. But I keep praying the prayer. Then I pray for some people and they have dramatic physical changes, and other people go to the doctor and they get better, and some don't. But I keep praying for the sick. There's a vulnerability in being an advocate for Jesus. And then you may cut me on traffic, and I'm gonna encourage you to praise the Lord, and you'll know I'm still workin' on my journey.

There is a vulnerability in standing up and saying there's a God, and you can know him, and if you'll change your life, he'll give you a better outcome. I'm asking you to be willing to be vulnerable in that way. To stop saying, well, I don't pray, or you know, I don't know that much about my Bible, or you know, my life's a mess. We can all say that. Are we gonna have the courage to say Jesus will change your life? Why is it we have more courage to have advocate for athletic teams that are perennial losers than we do to be advocates for Jesus?

And then finally, and I'm done, it takes some patience. The Bible uses the metaphor of a farmer planting his crops. And once you decide you're gonna engage with people, you'll find that there are some that respond in extraordinary fashions, and there's others that respond in fashions that leave you bewildered. We're not the Lord of the harvest, we're told to ask the Lord of the harvest for outcomes. And if you're gonna make this commitment to helping your neighbor, you're gonna have to make a commitment to patience. I would encourage you to remember this, I'm always grateful when people are patient with me.

I do stupid things, I make boneheaded choices, I overlook opportunities, I miss signals, all that stuff. And I'm grateful when I receive patience, but I don't wanna lead my life presuming upon the patience of others. And when you decide you're going to help people, that you're gonna care about your neighbor, that you're gonna share your Jesus story with a co-worker, or somebody that lives near you, or a kid's friend, or whomever, be patient. "Well, I told three people and nobody wanted to pray the sinner's prayer".

Well, bless your appointed head. Somebody was patient with me. God was patient with me for years while I chose to yield my life more completely to him. We're in a season where things are changing much more quickly. God is moving much more quickly. There are things happening in ways that are more dramatic than I've ever seen in my lifetime, so I suspect that your patience won't be as long and in use as I would've thought it might have been two or three years ago. But nevertheless, when you decide to serve people, it'll will take patience. Our neighbors matter.

Folks, if our nation is to survive, if we're not to be swept away by the judgment of God, if we're swept away, it won't be because of the evil of our enemies, or the perversion in the hearts of our leaders. If we fail as a people, we will fail because the church failed to be the church. Don't be angry at someone else. We need a heart change. And the good news is we have the power to be the igniters of that. It is very much a grassroots initiative. We have to care about other people, and we have to be willing to be identified with Jesus. And we'll have to begin to use our voice for truth in a compassionate way, understanding that it may bring some separation, and it will bring some vulnerability, but I want to pray that if you're willing, if you will accept the assignment, that the Spirit of God will help you recognize, begin to recognize people around you that would be open.

And when God opens those doors for you, you have the courage and the boldness to say this is what God's doing for me. Come, go to church with me. Bring them with you, take 'em to a meal afterward. Say, "How'd that feel to you? Is Pastor as goofy to you as he is to me"? You can listen. Yea, I'm going to park a long way. We're gonna have to walk into the building. Wear your walking shoes. I'm learning humility. Would you be open to that invitation?

Father, I thank you for those of us gathered today. I believe it's an appointment that you arranged. I thank you for a season of an awakening where you're shaking us loose from those foundations that have limited us. Lord, we've had imaginations that weren't securing us, they were limiting our opportunities. And in your mercy and your grace, you began to set us free to see our world in new ways and to understand it with a heart from you. And we ask the Holy Spirit to help us with that. Lord, we don't want our faith to be me-centered, we want to have a concern for the people you're concerned with. And we ask today that you would give us understanding hearts, eyes to see, an awareness of those around us who might receive a God story if we were so willing to share it.

Lord, help us to recognize the opportunities. Give us the boldness and the courage to share what you've done for us. Let compassion grow within us. May we have the courage to be different. May we be willing to be identified for you. Forgive us for wanting to be accepted by the world more than we wanted to be pleasing in your sight. Lord, we are sorry. We've sought the approval of people far more than we've been concerned with your approval, and we're sorry. May we be willing to make the sacrifice, to let the discipline to be honorable in your sight grow in our lives. We thank you for it. We praise you for it, in Jesus's name, amen, hallelujah. God Bless you.

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