Allen Jackson - Transmitting God's Power - Part 2
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It's a privilege to be with you today. We're completing our study. We've been talking about foundational teachings of our faith that will give us a firm foundation to thrive in the midst of any storm that presents. That's a very important part of our faith. It's more important than the building where you worship or even the denomination you prefer or the style of worship that is most comfortable for you. Our foundation is Jesus, but on that are the fundamental teachings of his Word. We're gonna talk about transmitting authority, the power of God in our lives. You have that authority. In fact, you have that assignment. For too often, I think, we've overlooked it. We're gonna learn a little bit together today and be more effective in the kingdom. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart.
One of the principles we learned in physics is that, for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. If you believe that blessings are real, then it's only logical to believe that the negative, the opposite of what would you call something that's the opposite of a blessing? Well, "curse" is a pretty good word. I was studying in a class at Vanderbilt, and it wasn't a particularly faith-filled environment, and there was a discussion about the Hebrew Bible, and they said, you know, "The writers of the Hebrew Bible have this idea that words have, like, a", and the professor kind of stumbled a minute and he said, "like a, like a tangible quality". Then he said, "It's like words could impact your life".
Now, see, if you stand apart from the text and you don't imagine it has really any authority or any validity, if there's no faith mixed in there, well, you're just left to provide a diagnosis as an observer, and even the secular observer said, you know, "The words in the Hebrew Bible have a capacity to impact a human life". For the positive, we call that a "blessing". In the negative, we would call that a "curse". How readily do we fold our arms and go, "Well, you know, Pastor, I'm just not sure how much I believe in all that stuff". I know, that's why we're reading it together. It might help us. Is it possible we've taken some of the foundations of our faith and pushed them so far into the periphery, so far into the shadows that our faith is wobbly and unstable and uncertain and can't withstand the storm? I think it's possible.
In the New Testament, the laying on of hands is used for a variety of things, and I didn't bring you an inclusive list but, just to kind of open your thoughts, it's used in the context of praying for the sick. In Mark 16:17, it says, "You'll place your hands on sick people, and they will recover". James 5, in verse 14, says, "Is any one of you sick? He should call for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord". I've said to you many times, "Do you believe in praying for the sick or going to the doctor"? Yes. Who said it was an either/or choice? We read that in verse, I think our, kind of, our default question has to do with "Who's an elder"? But I think there's a much more important question. The invitation to be ministered to is only extended to those who are part of a community of faith.
If you're an independent contractor, if you prefer a Lone Ranger faith, there's very little prescription provided for you in the Scripture. The book of Revelation, that remarkable revelation of the end of the age, it's a message that it's written to seven specific churches of which the Lord says, "I know your deeds. I know your strengths and your weaknesses," and he provides a resolution to all of the above. If you weren't a part of the seven churches, you weren't a recipient of the message.
Again, I think we have treated the privilege of being in community far too casually. I've said to you, on a number of occasions in recent months, that our faith had been distilled down to something around comfort and convenience, and we assimilated that into our imaginations of what was valuable and what was important because we didn't really attach a great deal of spiritual significance, and we certainly didn't imagine there was much authority or much power invested in what we were doing. I mean, we didn't wanna go to hell, but beyond that, we had better resources: better economic resources, better health resources, better resources for our children, better futures for them apart from the things of God, so we didn't really have to encourage them in the things of God. We didn't want 'em to be pagan. We didn't want them to be Muslim or Buddhist, but, you know, we didn't want 'em to be, and I think God's begun to say to us, "There's a better way".
The New Testament assumes a believer will be in community. There's another role or function or outcome of the laying on of hands. It has to do with imparting the gifts of the Spirit of God, and, again, that's not relevant if you don't need any power beyond yourself. If your contacts are sufficient and your resources are adequate and you can outwork it or outthink it or out-organize it, you're okay, but when you bump into something that you can't and we need a power greater than ourselves, how is that released? How's it communicated? How is it transmitted? It's a very important question. We asked that question about a virus. We asked it with great intentionality, and we adjusted our whole lives, and we changed our face coverings and our handwashing and our social habits and there's a power greater than a virus amongst us.
Do you think we could learn how to communicate, how to transmit it, how to welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives more completely? "When the apostles in Jerusalem", it's Acts 8, "heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit hadn't yet come upon any of them. They had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus". They've been born again.
Again, in the context of the book of Acts, we're invited into this notion of the new birth and Spirit baptism, and that idea is being pulled forward here into Acts chapter 8. "Then Peter and John placed their hands on 'em, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money". He said, "Hey, I need that ability". But he recognized that the apostles placing their hands on them had enough of an impact that he imagined it could be monetized. We're not the first generation to wander into the weeds. Acts chapter 9, different context, different story. This is Ananias. He's being sent by the Spirit of God to go pray for the persecutor of the believers in Jesus. He doesn't wanna go, but he ends up yielding to the assignment, and "Ananias went to the house, and he entered it. He placed his hands on Saul, and he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit".
If we did that in the current environment, the overwhelming temptation would say, "Lord, I don't have to go see him. He's a wild man. He's crazy. He's angry. He's violent. I will fast and pray all day, and I will pray from my living room. There's no distance in the Spirit. And then I would quote him the 22 verses I know where they didn't go," which had no bearing whatsoever on the assignment that God had given to him: "You go. You place your hands on him". Well, it's not true in every case. I'm not trying to create a new behavior, but I'm telling you, there's a portion of what the Scripture invites us to that we have not made room for in our imagination. It took courage on Ananias's part to knock on that door and say, "I'm here, Paul. The Lord sent me to lay my hands on you and pray for you". He could've snapped irons on them.
See, I don't think we've understood the courage it takes to follow the Lord. We think we're courageous when we say, "Let's pray. Lord, bless my friend, amen, in Jesus's name. How about them Titans"? That's been our story. "I don't talk about my faith at work. I could be sued". You mean, in a place where we're supposed to be tolerant of all perspectives, we have bowed to the threat of economic reprisal if we're so bold as to say, "I believe in Jesus"? When they coach our children on which gender they are today or that we should make decisions about one another based on our outward appearance? Or the corporate boardroom determines which cities or states they will punish based on worldviews that the citizens in that state embrace, and we're ashamed to say, "I believe in Jesus"?
Folks, our problem is not the wicked, and I'm not throwin' stones at you. I'm the one that came up with "Let's pray". I'll put those little steps in there so you can slide that prayer in so nobody'd notice. They wouldn't figure it out until you were gone. I think the good news of Acts 9 is anyone can be directed to lay hands on somebody and pray for them. There's not some subset.
In Acts chapter 6, the church is growing. It's changing rapidly. They can't keep up. They can't keep up with the new people coming. They can't keep up with the demands that are being made. Wouldn't that'd be wonderful? And all that's taking place right in the face of persecution. Well, they're threatening 'em. They're putting 'em in jail. We're only a chapter away from our first martyr, and in the midst of all that turmoil and all that frustration and all that pushback, there's a rapidly changing dynamic, people coming to faith. You see, I mistakenly thought that, if a revival took place, there'd just be parades and happiness and joy. That's really not what the Bible says.
"So the 12 gathered all the disciples together, and they said, 'It really wouldn't be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.'" We're doin' too much of that. "Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We'll turn this responsibility over to them, and we'll give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. And the proposal pleased the whole group, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip", and somebody else, and somebody else, and somebody else, "and somebody from Antioch, who was a convert to Judaism". In verse 6, "They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them". Look at verse 7: "So the word of God spread".
Did the Word of God spread because they made a management decision to share their responsibilities? Was this an outcome that came just from a delegatory decision? Well, I think that delegation probably had some impact upon it, but I think it's pretty clear though, the words that are most frequently used and repeated have to do with the involvement of the spirit. "Choose men that are full of the Spirit and the wisdom of the Spirit. Give them some responsibility". They chose Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit. "They presented these men to the apostles, and they laid their hands on them," and remember, this is told to a group of people who, for the story of Moses and Joshua and Josiah and Joash and Elisha, that's their family story. They're very familiar with that narrative. They're not borrowing a practice from somebody else. They understand this to have shaped generation after generation after generation, all the way back to when Jacob is praying for Joseph's kids in Egypt.
Yeah, we need some people to wait tables. Bring 'em over here. We wanna pray for them. And then what's the outcome? "So the Word of God spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and even a large number of priests became obedient to the faith". They were ordaining helpers. And the New Testament word for "deacon" just means "a helper, a servant, servers". They weren't handing out blocks of authority or grants of responsibility. They were saying, "We need some help. Will you serve? And we need the best amongst you, the brightest, the most qualified, but you're not gonna serve just because of your curriculum vitae or your resume. You're going to serve because of the presence of the Spirit of God in your life".
And out of that list of seven servers that they anointed and caused the church to flourish, we read Stephen, who's the first martyr, and Philip becomes an evangelist, talented people serving biblically, and I'm about out of time, but biblically, the pathway to promotion in the kingdom of God is through serving. It's not something heinous that we dreamt up to recruit people to do meaningless jobs. Again, we've drifted a long way away from a biblical perspective. We're too busy or too talented or too important or to something, too busy with our own selfish pursuits. "My time and my calendar and my energy. That's what I wanna do". I didn't put it all in your notes. I'm gonna give you some references.
In Matthew 23, in verse 5, I got a couple of minutes, Jesus is talking, and he's talking about the religious leaders of his day, and he said, "Everything they do is done for men to see. They make their phylacteries wide". It's their public expressions of their faith in their clothing. He said, "They make their clothing and their public presentations wide and their tassels long, and they love the place of honor and the most important seats. They love to be greeted in the marketplaces". Jesus said, "The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted".
How many of you think you will be great in the kingdom of God? I want... how many? Just, really, is there really only 10 or 12 of you? Right? "Well, what'd he say? Yeah, do I have to do somethin"? No, Jesus said, "Would you like to be great in the kingdom"? On the night he's to be betrayed, they have a Passover meal with Jesus. Think of the anguish in Jesus. He knows he's about to be tortured to death. He knows Judas is gonna betray him. He knows his best friends are gonna deny him. Nobody's gonna stand with him. He knows he's gonna stand in the streets of Jerusalem at the judgment seat is the Roman governor and hear the people shout, "Crucify him". Think there might've been a little emotional turmoil? His last Passover meal with them before all of that, and he washes their feet. When he gets done, he puts his robe back on, and he says, "Do you know what I've done for you"? What's the answer to that? No. They'll have to sort that out later. He said, "The greatest amongst you will be your servant". He said, "I've done this for you. Now you go do this".
Folks, our foundation has some cracks in it. We got lots of words and lots of experience and lots of years in church and lots of sermons, and we got badges and stuff, and I'm grateful for all of that. I'm not saying that we're completely in the dark. I'm saying there's some adjustments we can make to be more effective, to be more fruitful, to bring about some different outcomes, that we're waiting for others to change. We think it's an election or a candidate or a person or, you know, the truth will be told, and social media will change or something, or television will be different or Hollywood. We want somebody else to be something different. It's us. I'm grateful for all the progress we have.
We started in Hebrews 6. It said, remember, the closing verses of chapter 5, said, "At this time, you should be ready for solid food, but you're not. You need milk". And he said, "If you have to live on milk, you're an infant". And then it starts chapter 6. Remember, we added the chapter breaks. That didn't come with the original writing. It says, "Now, we don't wanna lay again the foundational truths. We wanna go on to maturity. We don't have to revisit the beginning points about repentance and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, and the laying on of hands. That's the beginning things. Now let's go".
Well, let's come back and be sure we get our foundations in place. Let's begin to say to the Lord, say to the Holy Spirit, "I'm open. I'm willing to learn. I'm willing to change. I'm willing to be different. If there's any place my priorities have drifted, help me to see that". Let's not be like the Pharisees, criticizing Jesus. If you don't like the outcomes in your life right now, stop being mad at God, and begin to talk to the Lord. "Lord, help me understand. Help me understand the appropriate response for this place. Help me". We're not the first people to struggle with this. Jesus kept lookin' at the disciples and said, "Are you really that dull"?
I've got a feelin' he's looked at Gabriel when they were talkin' about me and said, "Can you believe how dull he is"? "Well, Lord, he grew up in a barn". "Yes, but his mother tried". How many of you'd be willing to say to the Lord tonight, "I'm willing to change"? "More than I would demand anyone else change, I'm willing to change". Won't you stand with me? I wanna pray. We will see God move in ways that are so different than anything we have seen. I believe that, and you'll need the grounding of his Word and a heart open to his Spirit to believe that it's him because what we're most familiar with is our patterns and our habits and our routines and our traditions. We need a new response now. We need a new response.
Father, we come tonight. I thank you for your Word and its power and authority, and I pray that you would give us understanding hearts, not for the words of a person but for your truth in our lives. Lord, nothing's hidden from you, no circumstance, no detail, no challenge, no need, no point of frustration. Holy Spirit, we ask you to help us. If there's any place or anything within us that limits what you would do, I pray that you will help us to recognize it. We wanna fulfill what you created us for. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see, hearts to understand in new ways. I pray that we'll be willing to repent where it's necessary, that there'll be a new respect for you that would grow in our hearts, a new boldness and a new courage to stand in the face of antagonism and threat. I thank you for it. I praise you for it. We pray for our children. Pour out your Spirit upon them. Turn their hearts to you in ways that we've never seen before. Give them a hungering and a thirsting for righteousness, a longing for your kingdom, and may we have the wisdom to encourage them, to stand with them, to walk with them. I thank you for it, for all that you will do, in Jesus's name, amen. Hallelujah. God bless you.