Allen Jackson - Living Spiritually Aware - Part 1
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It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "Living Spiritually Aware". You know, n the midst of all the turmoil and the chaos and the confusion, it's so easy to imagine that our problems could be resolved if we had different politicians or different parties in control or the economy was different. Well, the reality is the underlying force behind all of the drama is spiritual, and we've been so spiritually unaware, we've imagined that those forces really didn't matter. Well, God is awakening his people. My prayer is that you and I can cultivate an understanding heart and eyes that see and ears that hear what God is doing in the earth and not just what's coming to us through the news media. Grab your Bible and a notepad but, most importantly, open your heart.
It seems to me that we have reached another one of those inflection points in the unfolding of our future. It's hard to know when they're coming, but sometimes it seems like you can recognize it as it's unfolding. The introduction of a global pandemic from Wuhan, China, was the first act of a new production on planet Earth. The underlying forces for that were in play long before we ever heard of COVID-19 and that crisis that it brought. But with the introduction of that, it seems to me that the lights came up on the stage, the stage of our lives, at least in the part of the world where I'm involved. And we, the church, were exposed a bit. We were busy, we were busily pursuing our own interests and our own preferences. We were caught a bit in the pursuit of comfort and convenience.
But we're 30 months into that journey now and, fortunately, for the most part, COVID has receded. Thank God. But the question I keep asking is 30 months into this journey, what is it that's apparent? Where are we, exactly, because the world changed. There was a significant shift. It was about far more than a virus. I don't know if that was intentionally. Certainly not by any human organization, but I think spiritually there was certainly some intent in that. And one of the things I can tell you for certain, is God is actively involved in the earth in ways that I have never seen him. He is gathering and purifying his people. I hear the reports of that week after week after week in our own community, in our nation, and from around the earth.
It's amazing to see what God is doing. It truly is. I mean, frequently, people who were hungering and thirsting for the things of God, they're emerging in many cases from some kind of a fog of religious activity and spiritual inertia. We had habits and routines and patterns but it didn't necessarily mean that there was a vitality to our spiritual lives. Another thing I can tell you that, at least to me, is apparent is that God intervenes in nations. We have seen that up close and personal for ourselves. God intervened on behalf of our nation and the curse of abortion has been broken over our land.
Now, our voices are still important. There are many decisions to be made. It's not an easy thing, and we need to listen and respond with both determination and compassion, but God intervened. It wasn't a result of a choice we made. It was an answer to prayers that had been prayed for decades. It seems to me that the spiritual conflict that's been taking place for a great while, has broken into the open. It doesn't seem to be covert any longer. It's very much in play if you have understanding hearts and you're willing to look. There's a battle under the way for the hearts and minds of people. Lately, I've been doing a lot of interviews with Christian leaders across the nation and one thing I can tell you for certain is that I hear over and over again that turmoil fatigue seems to have settled in. And if you combine that with the persistence of the adversary, one of the outcomes is discouragement.
And I talk to people who are just teetering right there on the precipice of discouragement and despair and I wanna encourage you, we have to guard our hearts and our minds. The fact that we may be tired of circumstances or weary of the trauma doesn't mean it comes to a conclusion. And I would submit to you that we need to make a special effort to encourage one another, to be kind to one another, to be patient with one another. Use your hand to extend a hand up to one another. Being angry isn't helpful. Being a good listener to what God is saying is extraordinarily important. And if you're weary, know this, it's at the point of weariness, in fact, it's at the point of exhaustion, where you're really prepared to gain new strength.
If you haven't been tired, you haven't been exercising much, you've been on the sidelines, get in the game. We need your help. And if you are weary, it's not a sign of failure. It's a sign of participation, that God has invited you into what he's doing. There's another observation I would make and that's that life continues forward, even as the spiritual conflict rages. It does; life just keeps happening. The kids are graduating and school starts all over again. We turn the calendar and here we go. And in the midst of all of that, I still find a persistent group of people who prefer not to notice. It's just inconvenient. Maybe if we don't talk about it, it'll go away. Perhaps if we don't acknowledge its presence, it won't impact us. I believe that's a naïve approach.
Now, that's one side of the ledger. On the other side, I can tell you this: the division and rebellion and lawlessness and immorality, a disdain for the truth, suppression of the truth, bold and blatant distortions of the truth, violence, economic chaos, all those things seem to be growing. How is that that the Spirit of God is moving and hearts are being changed in unprecedented ways, and ungodliness seems to flourish? It's very biblical. Jesus told the parable of the end of the age, and he said both the wheat and the tares, the weeds, would flourish at the same time. The climactic conditions that let one come to fullness will allow all to grow. We shouldn't be surprised. Things like civility and decency and commonsense and self-restraint and honesty and integrity and kindness, in many segments, those things seem to be in retreat.
Our leaders, and I don't mean just political leaders. We have a leadership crisis. We need leadership from a biblical worldview. Not just in pulpits; we need it at every level of our culture. This isn't a political discussion, folks. Our solutions are not going to be political. It's not about a party or a politician. If you're believing that, or you're allowing that to co-opt your emotions, you're confused. There's a spiritual conflict underway. But our leaders imagine they can buy our allegiance with lavish spending. And beyond that, they have the arrogance to imagine they can redesign our families, they can diminish parental authority with our children or enforce censorship upon us.
We understand intuitively, if not statistically, we understand that we're more vulnerable because they cultivate disrespect for our police and law enforcement, they refuse to prosecute criminals, and they pursue justice based upon ideological alignments. We see it in many diverse ways. They assume we're not paying enough attention to notice that their refusal to fund or staff the protection of our national borders while millions of illegal aliens invade our nation. While at the same time, they fund tens of thousands of new agents for the IRS to patrol our own citizens. And the discrepancy seems to be unnoticed. Our public officials make statements that are so bizarre, so clearly opposite our observable reality that it's dizzying.
While we struggle to form a logical response, they move on to another clearly irrational declaration. The ones from the week are sufficient. We could go beyond but "our southern border is secure," "there's zero inflation". Somebody tell Kroger. The deterioration of trust in our most venerated institutions threatens our survival, and that includes the church. Trust broken must be rebuilt. That involves things like an acknowledgement of failure, transparency, humility. Those are all components of rebuilding trust. And, unfortunately, it doesn't seem they have emerged in significance yet.
I read a positive note yesterday. I wanna share it. It came from messages that were coming out, being leaked, actually, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, showing that physicians were expressing their outrage over the organization's stance on puberty-blocking drugs being used on teenagers. And I quote: "Before promulgating gender-affirming care with all of its ethical implications," and they put in parentheses, "(irreversible bodily changes, sterility, et cetera) don't we want to be sure that this is the best path"? Close quote.
One pediatrician who belonged to the organization went on to write, "Others commented that the organization's position on puberty-blocking drugs was endorsing great harm based on scant and shoddy evidence and was unsafe and unsustainable". See, it's an important time to tell the truth. It's no longer a debate about the efficacy of masks indoors or outdoors with a virus with which we're unfamiliar. There was a lot of ambiguity in some of those things, but to submit our young people to life-altering choices at a time when their emotional maturity is not complete enough that we would allow and trust them to purchase alcohol, and yet we would give them the tools for self-mutilation seems insane, if not evil. But again, the solution is about who we see in the mirror. The solution is about a healthy engaged church that's aware of our assignment.
I would submit it's more important than any time in our lives. We need a spiritual rebirth. We can't fix ourselves. Politicians are not going to be our ultimate deliverers. Let God's people awaken to the opportunity of this season and the essential nature of the role we have in it. For too long we've imagined we could file into church, we could secure our eternal destination, we could choose a worship set that we preferred with our musical style and taste, and we could either ignore our culture or refuse to engage it with our faith. Those days are gone. I would submit we have to choose the truth and stand for the truth and have the courage to change ourselves.
'Cause the topic is "War on Heaven and Earth". Spiritual conflict in the heavens and spiritual conflict in the earth that may be played out in the realms that we recognize in our world, but the underlying forces driving that are spiritual. In Revelation chapter 12, in verse 7, it says: "There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels," Michael is one of the archangels. "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But they were not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. And the great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him".
Do you have room for that in your imagination? Are you too sophisticated to believe in the devil? Can you imagine that there was war in heaven, that there was actually spiritual conflict in the heavens? There was a war in heaven that spilled over into the earth and it's affecting our lives until today. Verse 10: "I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. And they overcame him," Satan. They are the believers on earth. The believers on earth overcame Satan, "by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they didn't love their lives so much as to shrink from death".
The book of Revelation's an intense story, but it's a triumphant story if you're a part of the people of God. I wanna submit that spiritual realities need to be acknowledged more fully in our lives, not just on Sunday mornings or not just when we gather for a worship service. In the unfolding stories of our families and how we do business, and what we do with our discretionary time. Spiritual realities are shaping our world, and if the church withdraws from that, looks away from that, fails to engage with that, we open the context to an unholy destructive spirit. We're called to be salt and light. If the darkness is intensifying, don't be angry. Let's turn up the light. We can do this.
In Matthew chapter 4 and verse 8, it's a part of the temptation of Jesus. He's just been baptized, he's gone into the wilderness for a time of seclusion and prayer and fasting, and Satan comes to tempt him. "The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and he showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said, 'All this I'll give you, if you'll bow down and worship me.'" It's what got Satan cast out of heaven to begin with. He had the arrogance, he wanted Jesus's place. He led a rebellion. A third of the angels joined him. He lost his place. Pride and rebellion. It's still rampant in the earth. There's a spirit behind it, but it's rampant in the lives of human beings. "I'll give you all this, if you'll bow down and worship me".
Imagine the audacity to say that to Jesus. The hubris, the pride. Satan has seen him in all of his glory; you and I have not. He's seen the magnificence, the authority, the glory of the Lord. He's seen it and he had the arrogance to say, "If you will worship me". "And Jesus said, 'Away from me. Away from me, Satan! It's written: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only".' And the devil left him, and angels came and attended to him". You see in that one little window, you see the spiritual forces of heaven, you see the spiritual audacity of Satan to corrupt, to interrupt, to diminish, to divert the purposes of God. Those same forces are very much in play today. Don't ignore them. Don't just whistle more loudly. Don't try to invest in greater distractions. Jesus acknowledged the reality of heaven, of God's dwelling, and of Satan.
So, here's just a suggestion: maybe we should adopt Jesus's perspective. If we're gonna reject Jesus's perspective, if we're gonna reject the things that Jesus understood to be reality, then maybe we need to rethink our label as Christ followers. He's the head of the church, and he clearly understood the nature of that conflict. Sometimes, when we talk about the spiritual conflict, if you listen to Christians, the discussion seems to suggest there's spiritual parity, like our modern-day sports leagues, you know, the people who lead those prefer that the teams be so equal that on any given contest, it's hard to know who's gonna win. That some indeterminate component, be an injury or an official's mistake or the bounce of a ball, but the talent levels are so clear that nobody gets an advantage.
And when we talk about spiritual conflict, so oftentimes we act as if that's the way things are too. It's really hard to tell how this is gonna play out, whether God's gonna triumph, or Satan's gonna triumph. There's a conflict taking place and sometimes it looks like evil is ascending. I bet you've felt like that lately. But that feeling isn't supported by Scripture. In Luke 10 and verse 18, Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven". That Satan forfeited his created place. He fell. Through his pride and rebellion, he fell to the role of an antagonist to God's purposes. That's not gonna work out well. If he lost his place in heaven, if his authority was diminished, I assure you he will not be triumphant.
John 12, in verse 31, Jesus again: "'Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But when I'm lifted up from the earth, I'll draw all men to myself.' He said it to show the kind of death he would die". When we see Jesus again in the book of Revelation, in that first chapter, long after his ascension, he's appearing to John, he was the closest of all the disciples to John. John's an old man now. He's exiled on the Isle of Patmos. In practical terms, he's been imprisoned for his advocacy for Jesus. And Jesus appears to him on the Lord's Day. And John falls at his feet, and Jesus puts his hand on him and he said, "I'm the living one". It's not in your notes, but it is in the book. He said, "I'm the living one. I was alive, then I was dead, and I'm alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and hell".
He's triumphant. He's triumphant. Look at Ephesians 2 and verse 2. Talks about the spirit "in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient". The triumph of our Lord has not eliminated the conflict. It has determined for us an ultimate outcome, but we're still engaged in the midst of that. We are ambassadors, the Scripture says. Ambassadors on an assignment. We're not just here to get our tickets worked out for our transfer from time into eternity. We have an ambassadorial role to represent the kingdom of God when Jesus taught us to pray. He said, "Pray this way, that my kingdom will come and my will will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
That is our assignment, to be expressions of the will of God in the earth. He didn't hire me to do that. That's not a professional Christian thing. That's the body of Christ, whether it's in our workplace or whether it's at the soccer fields or whether when we're spending our discretionary time with our friends or interacting with our neighbors, whatever that may look like, our assignment, it can be understood in this ambassadorial role so that your will be done as it's done in heaven. So when we see the will of God being overridden or silenced or rejected, we have an assignment to use our voice, to be courageous.
I was thrilled to see the medical community standing up and saying, "This is just insanity. This is doing harm, not good". But they're not the only ones that need to find the courage to stand. We've got to do it in our homes and in our schools and the business places. We've got to come back, for how many decades have we been told that our biblical worldview was not welcomed in the corporate world? That it was inappropriate. Someone might be offended. There could be a dissenting opinion and it would be wrong for us to bring a biblical worldview into an environment where a single dissenting voice could be heard.
And now we find ourselves where the corporate settings are driving a worldview, very forcefully and very belligerently, and very determinedly, and they could care less if we raise our hand and say, "Well, that offends my biblical worldview". I'm ashamed of the season when I was quiet. Don't wait for someone else to find their voice. We're gonna have to have the courage to stand for the truth. In Colossians 2 and verse 15, it says: "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross".
Jesus's redemptive work on the cross cancels Satan's claims against humanity. He ended them forever. He took the punishment that you and I deserved for our ungodliness and our rebellion and our stubbornness. He exhausted the curse that my sin and yours deserved. He took it upon himself. When he says on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? that's our sin. I heard someone say one time that if you could have looked behind Jesus's hand on the cross, there was a note that had your most darkest sins written on it, and mine. He was raised to life again that all the blessings that were due his perfect obedience might come to you and me. Canceling Satan's claims against us.
When I listen to Christians so often it sounds as if we imagine that Satan and God are in a tug of war and it's not really clear who's gonna win. That's not true. Through the cross, Jesus defeated Satan, totally, completely, irreversibly, for time and all eternity. Now, there's a conflict still raging in the earth, and you and I have to live it out, but the outcome has been determined. Let's pray:
Father, open our hearts to know the victory that is ours through the redemptive work of Jesus. I thank you that we have triumphed over all the power of the enemy through the blood of Jesus, in Jesus's name, amen.