Allen Jackson - Transmitting God's Power - Part 1
- Buy this sermon
It's an honor to be with you again. We're talking about foundational teachings to help us establish a firm foundation for our lives these days. You know, if you're in a hurricane you hope the building you're in has a really a good foundation. In fact, if you're in the hurricane, it's too late to establish the foundation. That's got to be built when it's a peaceful time. But we're living through a spiritual storm and we need to be certain that we're establishing a foundation to our faith that is anchored by more than the building where we worship or a style of worship or our preference of a biblical translation. We need to know who Jesus is, what he's done for us, and the outcome of his redemptive work. That's our objective. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
Just about finished this little series that we've been working. It has ended up not being such a little one but about thriving in the midst of big trouble. Big trouble is just street language for the biblical word "tribulation". The Bible ends with a great big trouble and the New Testament teaches us that the prelude to that will be a increasing trouble and whether we're in the ultimate end of the age or not, we're walking through a season of tremendous turmoil. It may have been introduced to us with a virus from Wuhan, China, but it didn't conclude with that virus receding. In fact, the greatest part of the turmoil is in front of us. Economic turmoil, a political upheaval, censorship, propaganda, a lack of truthfulness. All of those things I believe that they are increasing as we watch. Lawlessness, violence, they're not diminishing. And it shouldn't, there is a frightening component to it but I don't believe the intent is for us to be afraid.
I think we can flourish in the midst of that. In fact, I think we can shine brightly in the midst of that with the message that will be a place of hope and a foundation for a whole new future, for a new generation of people in the kingdom of God. The only thing that makes it terrifying and frightening if you've imagined your future was secured by this present order and the present way things are conducted. If those are the things you imagine that secure your future, it's a terrifying time. And if you haven't awakened to that, you're just not paying attention. But there's a pathway through that that is triumphant and victorious and it has to do with something that is beyond time, something that's unshakeable, and that's what we've been trying to understand in some more detail.
In this particular session, I wanna talk to you about transmitting God's power and I really appreciate your enthusiastic response to the topic. Our text for this has been Hebrews chapter 6. The first three verses said: "Let's leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation," so what the author of Hebrews is really saying is we've got to grow up in the Lord a little bit and I don't wanna keep reiterating the foundation principles. The foundation of our faith is a person. He's the chief cornerstone, we're taught. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. There is nothing that we can, that's more significant than that. No denomination, no congregation, no translation, no style of worship. Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith but once we've established that, there are some foundational teachings that are essential. And if your foundation is not strong, when there is turmoil and turbulence and pressure against it, your faith will collapse. That's the reason they use the word "foundation".
And so then the author of Hebrews introduces us to six teachings. Doctrines and teachings are really interchangeable. Teaching sounds a little less pretentious. Six foundational teachings that are essential for the stability of our faith. And we've been looking at them. We're gonna, I hope to complete them in this session, good Lord willing. "The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death," it's one, "faith in God," two, "instructions about baptisms," three, "the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so". The one we haven't talked about is the laying on of hands and that's our target in this session. As I have worked on these, I have been surprised a bit. One of the mentors in my life taught me that list when I was a young person.
So it's been in my consciousness, in my awareness, in my portfolio, so to speak, for a long, long time, but as I have spent these sessions preparing and getting ready through these weeks, I have been surprised at the depth at which the Scripture speaks about these topics. And if you'll allow me, at least from my vantage point, it seems to me that most of these six foundational teachings have slipped from our practice and our awareness. If you go and look at the top-selling Christian books or the top-selling Christian books from last year or, you go survey sermon titles, you go to the places where people collect Christian literature and data, these are not the talking points. In fact, I think we'd probably be uncomfortable if I told you we were gonna give an exam on these things, based on Scripture not our opinion. Most of us would have a little, there'd be a little anxiety around that. We are struggling a bit with just the fundamental presentation of Scripture.
And as I've reflected on it and meditated on it and prayed about it, it's becoming increasingly clear to me, how far we have drifted from the fundamentals of Scripture. Now I'm not saying everywhere and there are certainly exceptions to that and I don't mean it in an accusatory way, but there are some fundamentals presented to you in Scripture that you can't deviate from and imagine that your faith will hold. I didn't bring you the list. You know them pretty well. Many of them begin in Genesis. God's the Creator. You can't redesign that. If he's not the Creator, don't listen to the rest of what he has to say. But if he is the Creator, perhaps, you should focus. The notion of male and female, that was God's idea. Those were the options. Marriage between a man and a woman, those were God's ideas. The sanctity of human life, that is God's idea. And then around the person of Jesus, there's a whole set of things that are unique and cannot be negotiated away. The virgin birth, that Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate Son of God.
Again, it's not optional. His death, burial, and resurrection. The significance of the church. In case you've forgotten, Jesus said he was the head of the church and that he would build his church and hell itself couldn't stop it. Jesus is not the head of some quaint, outdated, outmoded initiative, I promise. The authority of Scripture. It is the authority for your life, not your opinion about it. Not how you feel about it. Not what your folks think. And I could go on and on but what becomes so clear to me is how far we have drifted and how easily it is to manipulate your faith into the "Bless me" bucket or the "What I want" bucket or the "I wanna be happy" bucket or "What I want my kids to get to do," and all of those things are a part of the journey. God's not opposed to them, but they're not the foundation of it.
Because all of those things are subject to trends that change and seasons that come and go. And we need a stability in a time of turmoil, or you will lose your way. I wanna spend our time that's left with this notion of laying on of hands. And I gave the title, "The Transmitting of God's Power," 'cause I really think that's the essence of it. Laying on of hands brings continuity to the body of Christ. It brings continuity between one generation and the next. In fact, I would submit to you its principle function is to provide continuity in the body of Christ. It's an essential element in the history of God's people from the early chapters of Genesis to the conclusion of the New Testament.
There are some spiritual perspectives about specific functions and I'll just tag them. We'll look at them briefly but it's about... see, we lay hands on one another to transmit blessings or spiritual authority or wisdom or the Holy Spirit or a spiritual gift or a ministry, or secondly to commission a biblical way of commissioning a person for service in the body of Christ. You see, the skeptics will say it's just a perfunctory public presentation. Oh, so with your opinion, you set aside the practice of Scripture. I've been in those institutions. They make fun, "What a quaint idea. What an out-of-date idea". The laying on of hands is a way of endorsing or giving authority to another person.
And laying on our hands, it's a way of endorsing or giving authority, it's a way of equipping or transmitting spiritual gifts or authority, enabling a person to carry out what God has called them to. We don't lay hands on one another to identify what we want to do or what we wanna become or what we think somebody should do, but to cooperate with what God has made evident. I give you a couple of biblical examples. We can start in the Old Testament. Moses and Joshua, I think you know both characters. I tried to select some familiar narrative so this is a far more predominant theme. We could spend a good bit of time on this but I tried to choose characters you would know so you will know the back story, at least in part, or the narrative in part. Moses and Joshua, or Moshua. Moses and Joshua, I think you know, right?
Okay, well, in Numbers 27 Moses is nearing the end of his journey and he knows it and he's concerned about the leader who will complete the journey. "So Moses said to the LORD, 'May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community.'" I love Moses's heart. "The God of the spirits of all mankind". Folks, there's a spirit in every human being. The message we have, the hope that we hold out, is about so much more than time and what can be gained or lost in time. Your spirit is eternal. What is that destiny? The people that you know and you love and you work with and you care about and you shop with, what is their destiny for eternity? We've gotten pretty casual about that.
In fact, if evangelical's kind of the label that the seculars will put on that kind of a worldview and they speak of it derisively, with hatred, something to be limited, all sorts of bad things emerge from that kind of a worldview. It's not an anger at other people, it's not a condemnation of other people. It's a conviction that there is a God and that he can be known and that you don't wanna step out of time without knowing him. That's a loving message. "'The God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.'"
Throughout Scripture, one of the most desperate statements that can be made is to be a people who are like sheep without a shepherd. Sheep do not do well without a shepherd. "So the LORD said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.'" Words are important. "Give him some of your authority, Moses".
There's really has been nobody like Moses. Don't give him all of your authority but "'give him some of your authority so the community will follow him. He is to stand before the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim and the LORD. And at his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.' And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and he had him stand before the priest and the whole assembly. And he laid his hands on him and he commissioned him, as the LORD instructed him through Moses".
I would submit to you this is a real transaction. It's not just a ceremony. It isn't just a ritual of endorsement. It's not like a swearing-in, that there is a spiritual transfer that takes place. Joshua starts his life in the brick pits of Egypt. He's Moses's aide to camp. He's watched a lot and he's seen a lot, but he's being asked to complete a task that Moses couldn't. They can't afford for a leadership fail. And God's solution wasn't a training course. It wasn't a video review. He was capable. He gave Moses a flyover of the Promised Land. He said, "Lay your hands on him". Deuteronomy 34, there's an interesting commentary on it: "Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses".
The implication's clear: if Moses hadn't done that, Joshua's future would have been different. Is it possible we've left something out of our practice? That we've overlooked it, we've diminished it, we've said it wasn't that valuable? I left a passage out just because of time and the length of it, but when Jacob, Israel, is taken to Egypt to see Joseph, the son that he thought was dead, and he knows he's near the end of his life, he says, "I wanna bless your sons. Bring Manasseh and Ephraim to me, I want to bless them. I wanna put my hands on them".
If you remember the story, some of you will. The eldest son would usually be the inheritor. In an agricultural society, the eldest child typically was the one who would inherit because if you took the crop land and you divide it amongst 12 kids, it wouldn't take very many generations and everybody would starve. But when it was time for Jacob to pray, he crossed his hands and he put his right hand on the younger and his left hand on the elder, and Joseph tried to correct it and he said, "No, I didn't misunderstand, I'm not confused, it's not my eyesight nor my age. I have a blessing for both, but they're different". It's so clear in the text that there's an intentionality to it, a purposefulness to it. It's not just some random prayer, not some polite mumbling.
Fathers, one of the most significant things you can do is a blessing on your children. We treat it so casually. I think of all the things we prioritize in front of it. It matters. It truly does. Elisha and King Jehoash, it's an interesting story. "Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died". You know, there's so much about Scripture I don't understand and so many things I can't explain. Elisha, this remarkable man of power and faith and the supernatural and the miraculous, he's gonna die with an illness. Now, the Spirit of God in him is so real and so profound that years after his death, they throw a dead body and they're in a hurry. There's an army approaching. They throw a dead body into his burial place and when the dead body touches Elisha's bones, he's raised to life again. So I don't think we could argue that Elisha's a long way away from the Lord. We'll have to wait to heaven for some answers.
"Elisha was suffering from an illness and the king of Israel went down to see him and he wept over him, 'My father! My father! The chariots and the horsemen of Israel!' And Elisha said, 'Get a bow and some arrows,' and he did so. 'Take the bow in your hands,' and he said to the king of Israel, when he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king's hands. 'Open the east window,' and he opened it. 'Shoot!' And he shot. 'The LORD's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!' Elisha declared. 'You'll completely destroy the Arameans.' And he said, 'Now take the arrows,' and the king took them, and Elisha told him, 'Strike the ground,' and he struck it three times and he stopped. Elisha was angry with him, 'You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated and completely destroyed them. But now you'll defeat them only three times.' And Elisha died and was buried".
What's the distinguishing part of that story? When Elisha puts his hands on the king's hands. Say, "Why"? I can't give you an explanation. I can report the news, but I can tell you that in our practice, in our imagination, in our hearts, and our trust, we've stepped a good bit away from it. I can tell you one of the implications from that. The man who knows God can be the defense of a nation. Elisha demonstrated it on more than one occasion. Would you be willing to be that kind of a person? Doesn't come easily. Doesn't come without a sacrifice. It won't come if you incorporate compromise and if the Lord is an intrusion.
Folks, the Bible offers us some imaginations that we've stepped a long way away from. I think we could say David was a man who changed the course of a nation, Moses was a man who changed the course of a nation, Joshua was the man, Peter and James and John and Paul. We could think of a lot of people, couldn't we? It's not some obtuse secondary notion. They didn't change because of great political power or great economic power or great intellectual, but because of their familiarity with the Spirit of God and their willingness to yield to him. It says in the book of Acts: "God said David was a man that would do anything I asked him to do". You can be that kind of a person.
There's an underlying principle that comes with this idea of the laying on of hands or this notion of transmitting God's power and it has to do with the authority of your words. I don't have a lot of time and I don't wanna belabor it but I put some of these verses in your notes. I'll at least tag them and you can reflect upon it. In Genesis 1, you know the Creation narrative. What did God use? Caterpillars? Dynamite? Lasers? So God said, "Let there be light," and the lights came on. We're introduced again, again the big rock ideas of Scripture we meet in the early chapters of Genesis. God said there was an authority in his Word that brought order to our physical world. That God's Word is more powerful than any force in the physical universe. And you're created in his image. We are his image-bearers. It separates you from all of Creation.
Proverbs 18, verse 21 says: "The tongue has the power of life and death". You know it's true, you know how badly words can hurt or the kind of healing they can bring. I understand this idea it can be misused, it can be misconstrued. Don't step away from it because of that. Folks, food can be misused. We're doing that as a nation. But it doesn't mean I don't wanna eat, right? So don't let the fact that somebody takes it and misconstrues it or uses it to an extreme, cause you to step away from the truth that's presented to us.
In Genesis 1, again, it's very near the beginning. It says: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them, God blessed them". He blessed them. Blessing is using your words for a specific outcome, a betterment. The blessing of God makes a difference. "He blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; and fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.'" He blessed them. That's a use of words. Do you believe a blessing makes a difference?
Your words have spiritual authority. If we fail to use that, we leave aside a tool that God has entrusted to us. Let's not do that. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you for your Word and its authority. I pray we will have the boldness to use our voice for you, to pray for those who will receive a prayer, to say what your word says about us, to let your will be done in the earth now, in Jesus's name, amen.