Allen Jackson - Freedom From Rejection - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "Freedom From Rejection". And it seems to me that rejection is an epidemic in our nation far more prevalent than COVID ever imagined to be and it is such a limiting force in our lives, and most of us labor beneath the weight of that without even understanding that there's a pathway to be free. Well, the good news is the redemptive work of Jesus is not just about eternity, how to be saved from your sins so you don't go to hell, it's how to lead a life in time with the freedom that comes to us because of God's love demonstrated through Jesus's sacrifice. We're going to look at some ways to be free today. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most of all open your heart.
You know, our topic we started a week ago talking about war in heaven and war on earth, and this really is a discussion about spiritual conflict and the consequences of that. I think we struggle a great deal and imagine or understand what spiritual conflicts looks like or we think of it in terms of something that is dramatic or overt, and I think spiritual conflict is a great deal like physical health. By the time it breaks open, it becomes apparent. It is progressed to a point that it's significant, and we want to become aware enough of what's happening that we engage in the spiritual world around us before it breaks into those desperate places. So I want to plant a seed. In fact, I want to give you an assignment, if you'd be willing to accept it. I want to ask you to begin to use the freedom and liberty that you have as a platform from which to share your faith. It's unfortunate we've been coached that our primary expression of faith is attending a worship service.
Now, I believe there's value in that. I go to a lot of worship services, but I don't imagine that that's the ultimate expression of my faith. I think it's my Christianity beyond the worship service that is most significant; and so is yours whether it's in context of let's pray and you share prayers with other people in an open, in a willing way, whether it's you talk about biblical values when you're with friends. It starts at the kitchen table. You got to be willing to bring your biblical worldview into the discussions with your family. Sometimes it's awkward, sometimes it's uncomfortable, sometimes it's challenging, but it's necessary.
You see, it's completely illegitimate if we're unwilling to have a conversation around our kitchen table about the values that we hold, then to imagine that some leader, some pastor, some elected person, some party, some anyone else would lead in a godly way if we lack the courage to bring those biblical values to our kitchen table. We have to start there. I understand that's one of the most difficult places in the world to be a Christian; but if you can do it there, then when you go to the ball fields, the soccer fields, or the baseball fields, or whatever sport the kids are involved in this week have those conversations with the parents. You share some common values and activities. Your kids are engaged together. Talk to them about your worldview. Talk to them about the values that you hold. Talk them how you understand marriage or family. Have the courage to bring your faith forward in your life.
It's important. We've got to overcome the tendency, and it's been one widely practiced and often encouraged in the church. What if we offend someone? Folks, if you're a UT fan, you could care less who you offend. In fact, you look for opportunities. I turn on the radio one day this week, and there was some talk show going on and they were talking that they've already won the national championship. I was like, "Well, good. It's good to know. Help with betting". I'm kidding. But don't just passively blend in, have the courage to become an ambassador for Jesus. Will you at least pray about that? There's a reason why I think that's so important.
If we don't use our liberty and freedom as ambassadors, we will lose it. There are changes taking place. They haven't happened in the last month or the last year or the last 2 years. It's not about a politician or a particular party; this is much bigger than that. But there is an attitude, a spirit of authoritarianism that is stalking our streets, it's growing in strength; and it'll only be turned back by a vibrant, vital, alive church. It's not a political movement that we need; we need a spiritual change, and the church is the delivery system of that.
As I have prayed for the last few weeks, this has become increasingly intense in my heart. And I thought maybe I had misunderstood the definition, so I stopped to look it up and I took this definition from Wikipedia, which is not just exactly the bastion of conservatism. It says authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong, central power to preserve the political status quo and reductions in the rule of law, the separation of powers and democratic voting. Again, I would submit to you that authoritarianism is flourishing. It's not just in our nation. It's flourishing around the world. It's a spiritual conflict. I could give you some examples from our own culture. They're the ones we know the most.
I saw an interview this week with the head of the CDC, the Center for Disease Control that's been at the center of so much in the last 2 years. They're restructuring and reorganizing. The director of that organization, I heard them say this week that the CDC's assignment is to make public health suggestions. That that's their role. That they don't make policy. They just make public health suggestions. Well, if that's true, somebody needs to explain it beyond there 'cause we spent the last 2 years with all sorts of authority figures telling us they were just following CDC guidelines. Therefore, you had to stay home, or not fly, or not send your child to school, or whatever.
There was a huge discrepancy between what was being stated and what we watched. We have to pay attention in some different ways. Lawlessness is exploding around us, intentionally ignoring laws and fomenting violence all across the spectrum. They're unrelenting in policing certain persons or groups. Propaganda, a messaging that is not rooted in truth but it's rooted in objective, in outcome. It's a message designed to achieve an outcome. And when it is a unified message across multiple platforms, multiple personalities and it's unrelenting; it becomes a tool of manipulation, not a new thing. But in the way it's being used and growing amongst us, it's a new thing. Censorship, it's a part of propaganda. You have to refuse free speech in order to allow your message to predominate the marketplace of ideas.
So the common practices we see, if we don't like your speech we'll say it's hate speech, it's disrespectful, it's inappropriate, it's a misinformation, it's disinformation, a whole other set of labels. You all understand there are some things you could say in a public place or in the marketplace and the labels would be directed at you almost immediately.
Now, the next one seems odd to me, but there's increasingly a lack of diversity and tolerance. Now, diversity and tolerance are the ideas that are championed, we're told above all else, unless you deviate from the messaging of the propaganda, and then we're pretty intolerant. What we're seeing increasingly is there's one way to think, one way to act, one way to treat a disease. There's one way to respond, and it isn't about your opinion or my opinion and a free exchange of ideas. We're watching them tear down statues, rewrite our history. So if you have a different opinion of the person who's represented in the statue or the part of history that's being reflected there, you need to be silenced.
So why we are saying we're tolerant and we want to encourage diversity, we're becoming fiercely intolerant. We can't be reminded of positive things that someone did. We're going to focus on the part we want to focus on, and you need to be quiet. One of the more intriguing places that's being reflected is in comedians. Comedians have made their career most of my lifetime making fun of the status quo. That's not okay anymore. It's an expression of authoritarianism.
Now, it emerges when we make government our source. It emerges from idolatry on the part of God's people. God is our provider. He's our sustainer. He's our ultimate authority. We need clarity on this. We have to change our hearts. I would submit to you it's been the weakened condition of the church that's allowed this type of authoritarianism to rise as it is, so don't be angry at somebody else. Don't point an accusing finger. Don't wait for the next election. That won't fix it. It will get worse. If we don't have a change of heart in the midst of God's people, it's very important, we put our hopes in the wrong places and we'll wander further into the weeds. Let's humble ourselves, turn back to God in repentance, then I believe we can see his deliverance, amen?
Now, our specific topic in this session has to do with one of the wounds that we garner in the midst of this spiritual conflict. We're going to talk about rejection and its impact upon our lives, but let's begin with the basis of our freedom; understanding why we imagine we can be free, why we can have spiritual freedom and from that we can have liberties and freedoms that would inform our lives, or our families, or our children, or grandchildren. Is it because of the nation we live in or because of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights? Is it because we join the right church, or believe in the right denomination, or we read the right translation of the Bible? Those things all have value and I'm grateful for them, but they are not the basis of our freedom.
In Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 14, it's a statement made about Jesus. It says, "Because by one sacrifice he," Jesus, "has made perfect forever those who are being made holy". We don't do a lot of verb studies around here because they're about as exciting as, I don't know what, watching paint dry, but the verb tenses in that verse make a difference to us. It says by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever. That's the perfect tense. It means it's complete, it's entire, it's accomplished. There's nothing to be added to it. It's an act that is final and complete and perfect as it stands.
So through Jesus's redemptive work, that is an accomplished fact. There's nothing to be added to it, but the outcome of that affects you and me. Because of what Jesus accomplished through his redemptive work on the cross, it says we are being made holy. That's the continuing present tense. That means it's not complete, that that's an ongoing thing, that we will live in that process. So to understand that, we've got to rethink a little bit the package in which we've received our faith. We've been encouraged to make a profession of faith. "I believe in that. I believe in the new birth, conversion, salvation". But once you've done that, once you've followed it with baptism and you've begun to read your Bibles, we have to continue the process of growing up in our Lord and being transformed more completely into the image of Jesus. And I'm not sure that message has been fully received.
Some of us have been a little frozen in that growth process. We've been content, satisfied, complacent, maybe even self-righteous. We'll talk about the things we believe and then look across the street at our brothers and sisters walking into another church and be critical of them because we believe a little differently than they. "They read the wrong translation". I mean, after all, we're going to receive communion this morning from a plastic cup that was not distributed from a brushed aluminum tray. Do you suppose it's legitimate? We struggle with things, the things that we will fight about amongst ourselves. May I make a suggestion? If there's a point on which we could disagree and we could both still go to heaven, extend the hand of fellowship and stop making a fist, okay?
Now, there are some things you can't negotiate away. You can't even negotiate away the uniqueness of Jesus. There aren't many paths to God. Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him. You can't negotiate away the virgin birth. You can't negotiate away his crucifixion. You can't negotiate away his resurrection. If we disagree on those points, we will both make the same outcome. So you need to understand the difference in what's primary and what is secondary, and we have confused the two. The time of day we meet, the day of the week in which we meet, the clothing we wear to worship, those reflect personalities and preferences and they may have some value in the discussion, but they're not primary. But because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, if you will choose to cooperate, you can lead a life of transformation in every season of life, at every stage of life because every life stage is going to bring new challenges.
Those families we watched this morning, some of you know very well the challenges that come with new babies. Amen or old me. But here's the mistake we often make. There's challenges that come with every life stage. I haven't found an easy season yet, have you? Takes courage. Amen is the word you're searching for. Look at Isaiah 53 and verse 6. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him". It's a messianic prophecy talking about Messiah. The Lord has laid on the Messiah the iniquity of us all. Isaiah prophesied that when Messiah comes, God would place on him our iniquity. It's a biblical word. Iniquity means basically that our sin and all of its consequences. That God would place upon Messiah our sin and all the consequences attached to them. That's why we are being made holy. We can be transformed. We've been set free from the evil consequences of sin.
Now, that's an established fact. In heaven, for time and eternity, that is established. There's no plan B. God doesn't have another idea. He's not going to circle back around and give you another option in this. What's critical for your future and my future is what we choose to believe because your believing it is what gives it authority in your life. There's only one way to receive it, and that's by choosing to believe it. So may I make a suggestion? Quit trying to convince yourself you can be good enough to please God. You can't 'cause if you offend on one rule, you're done.
For the last 3 or 4 weeks there has been a disproportionate number of tickets written on Highway 99. I am a law-abiding driver on Highway 99, but imagine if you violated one driving rule anytime: one mile an hour over the speed limit; you roll through one stop sign, one yellow light. Imagine if one offense you could never drive. How many of you know you'd have to live closer to church? You'd have to be within bicycle distance. We'd have a bike rack. We'd have pens for horses. We'd be running shuttles and buses, right, 'cause there'd be no drivers in the house 'cause you understand intuitively that you're going to offend at some point sometime.
Well, the same is true. If you're trying to earn your way into the grace of God by merit-based choices, understand this. It's impossible 'cause if you offend on one point, you lose. You have to believe that Jesus did something for you and then your life is a response to that incredible gift, but it's not a response you just make one time. Our response is a daily action towards the Lord. God sent his son to the cross because he loves us. Bible offers no explanation for that. It never attempts to tell us why God loves us. It's just one of the presentations. It's a given in the equation of Scripture. We don't deserve it. We certainly didn't earn it. There's nothing in us to warrant the incredible sacrifice that was made on our behalf. God didn't make a similar sacrifice for the angels that rebelled against him. They'll spend eternity facing judgment for that choice. It was a sovereign choice of Almighty God, and we're the beneficiaries, amen.
Now, here's the other part of the equation. It's the less happy part. We're still required to be overcomers because the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness still fills this present world. There'll come a time when Jesus returns and he will address those who oppose him, but in the moment we live in the midst of that conflict and when you align yourselves with the purposes of God you inherit an adversary. You don't have to do anything. People say, "I don't believe in the devil". It's okay. He believes in you. "You know, pastor, I don't know what I believe in all those unclean spirits". You don't have to know what you believe. They believe.
When Jesus walked into the synagogue in Capernaum, Mark chapter 1, he hasn't begun his public ministry. Nobody knows he's the Christ. No human being yet has made any proclamations about him other than at his birth when they were in the temple, and there's a man there who's demonized and unclean spirit in him says, "I know who you are". That unclean spirit had more spiritual awareness than the rabbi in the synagogue or any of those other good people who were gathered that day to worship. So the assignment we're given biblically is to be overcomers.
Look at Romans 12:21. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good". There's two options there. You either going to be an overcomer or you'll be overcome. "Well, I don't like that". Okay, duly noted. You still have two options. "Well, I wish it weren't so". Okay, I'll join you in that. You still have two options. "Well, I don't know why God did that". Neither do I. You still have two options. "Well, I don't know if I want to think about that". Okay, you still have two options. Have I mentioned you've got two options? You either going to be an overcomer or you're going to be overcome. "Well, I've pretty hard right now. It looks like I'm going to have to over", ah, yeah.
In fact, the last book of the New Testament... everybody says to me the Old Testament's so harsh. Have you read the New Testament? In Revelation chapter 2 says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God". Who gets that right? To the one who overcomes. That's our choice. That it gives an imagination of perseverance, of determination, of faithfulness, of reliance upon God, of trust in him.
If we go back to the language we started in Hebrews 10:14 of this process of being made holy. You see, I think we think of holiness as something about weakness, and timidity, and retreating, and in some misty-eyed humming or chanting in the semi-dark space. That's not the presentation of holiness in Scripture. It's about a bold belief in Almighty God. And the determination is Jesus taught us to pray that his kingdom would come and his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, for God's will to be done in the earth will take God's people being overcomers.
So if we can back to this spiritual conflict idea, Ephesians 6:12. I took this from the Message. It's a more contemporary translation, but I liked the language on this because it kind of repositions our thoughts a little bit. It says, "This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours". We use a lot of language around sports and competition and even business, you know, battle language and war language. And I never served in the military, but I have many friends and interact with people who have and I can tell you from just listening and observing that what we do on a soccer field or a basketball court is not the same. We can go home and take a hot shower and hydrate and have some ibuprofen and most of our problems will diminish. That's not what's being described.
Look at the next sentence. "This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels". See, when we refuse to have the courage to share our faith, to tell our story, to acknowledge a biblical worldview when we're in a public place, understand we have just conceded the arena to darkness. Our indifference, our unwillingness, our ambivalence, our timidity, whatever word you want to plug in there, is a concession. It's a yielding. That the encouragement, the prompting, the assignment of Scripture is to recognize there's a struggle.
Jesus will give you freedom. I want to pray with you before we go, but it begins with a willingness to relinquish something and then to receive what he has for us. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your great love for us, that through Jesus's redemptive work you have set us free from sin and death and we come today. Lord, I thank you that we have been accepted into the family of God, that you love us, that you've chosen us, that you've called us for your purposes, that you have attached value to us for time and all eternity; and I pray that by the Spirit of God that reality would grow within us to be more real than any disappointment, any discouragement, any heartache that we've ever felt. I thank you for it in Jesus's name, amen.