Allen Jackson - Helping Others Experience God's Best - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "Helping Others Experience God's Best". Far too often, our only real focus in our faith is how to receive what we want from God. How do we be born again, what's it mean for us to get our prayers answered in the way we want them to, or our children to get the outcomes that we want them to have. Well, at some point, we've got to shift from a me-centric imagination of our relationship with God and understanding we're his ambassadors, that through us God is making an appeal through the world. You want the people around you, your family, your co-workers, your neighbors, to experience God's best because of your life choices. That's an interesting assignment and it brings a whole new dimension to your life, an exciting one. Grab your Bibles and a notepad. We're gonna learn together with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The topic for this session is "Helping Others to Experience God's Best". And I don't know if we ask for a show of hands we would be almost unanimous; I suspect that we would all like to experience God's best in our lives. That's a commendable objective. But I would like to suggest there's something even beyond that. And that's helping others to experience God's best. That you not just be a consumer of the blessings of God, that you not just go to God with your own laundry list of things that you're requesting that he would give attention to, but that you and I would begin to walk into our days and into our lives and say, "God, how could I help other people experience your best"? I promise you you'll find God's best more quickly if you're helping others.
As long as it's a self-absorbed and your faith begins with me, you most likely will forfeit the best that God has for you. But if you have a desire to help other people find God's best, you will find his. So if I had to put a little phrase around this, what I'm asking you to do is begin to lead with your faith. You represent a very diverse collection of leaders. Some of you are business leaders, some of you are social leaders, your opinions matter to many people around fashion or food or decoration. Some of you are athletic leaders. You lead on the sports fields where our children play. Some of you are political leaders. You lead in so many arenas, but I find that as a general rule, we are very reluctant to lead with our faith.
And I'll talk to men who have tremendous confidence in an operating suite or in a corporate setting or women as well, and then you ask them to lead a prayer in public and then their enthusiasm diminishes quickly. And we just haven't had the faith, the courage, the practice, the permission to lead with our faith. Folks, we've got to change. I know you've been trained in your areas of profession or your areas of interest or your hobbies and you've built lots of information and experience and you've exchanged ideas and you've cultivated that confidence. Well, it's time to cultivate the confidence to lead with our faith. Every one of us, you need to be able to lead somebody to the Lord, to pray for somebody who has a need, to bring Jesus into a conversation, no matter where you go from the ball fields to with your neighbors.
Don't go to a social setting and not take Jesus. If you're going to a social setting and you can't take Jesus, don't go. Tell him you're gonna stay home 'til he helps you cultivate the courage to take him with you. If you're hanging out with people with whom Jesus is not welcome, either have the courage to bring Jesus into the discussion or you need to find a new group of people to hang out with. There's just no such thing as an undercover Christian. We've got to begin to lead with our faith. You don't have to preach, you don't have to condemn, you don't have to bring judgment. You can bring the joy of what God is doing in your life. You can bring a biblical worldview. No, no, I don't agree that the government gets to define what marriage is. I don't agree that the government gets to decide what gender is. They can create as many boxes as they want, God hasn't changed the program. Lead with your faith.
"Well, there'll be pushback". No kidding. We read it in our Bibles week after week. We come and hear sermons. We pray for Paul 'cause he's in prison again. God bless him. And then we're reluctant to share our faith in a public setting. What will you say when you see Paul? Or do you think you can be that ashamed of your faith and imagine that you will see Paul? Lead with your faith. I wanna start with just kind of a biblical grounding for this and I'm gonna do it pretty quickly, but the story we have to tell and the dynamic that's taking place within us that we're inviting people towards, is not because of who we are or the church we attend or the translation we read. All of that opportunity for us comes to us through the cross of Jesus Christ.
The bigger phrase is the redemptive work of Jesus. His suffering, his sacrificial suffering and death on our behalf. He took the punishment for our godlessness, our rebellion, our sin. He exhausted the curse that should have come to us so that, in turn, we might have the fullness of the blessings that were due his perfect obedience. That is the point of exchange. That's the line in the sand of human history that changed everything for time and eternity. So when we invite people, it's not about the depravity of their lives, the darkness of their sins, the evil of their choices, either that they have participated in or that they have suffered because of. The power of the Creator of heaven and earth has been released on our behalf through the redemptive work of Jesus to deliver us from all the work of the enemy, whether we have been participants or we have suffered because of those who do participate. Darkness, ungodliness, wickedness, evil, does not have the power to separate you from God's best.
Now, I've brought you a brief summary of that and we'll use Galatians. I just chose one of the New Testament books. It's an easy read and I brought you a sampling. I didn't bring you all the verses that highlight this. But there's five different aspects of deliverance described by the application of the cross in just the book of Galatians. We're delivered from this present evil age. The New Testament describes the current age as evil. Not everything about it, but that evil is present and, in many ways, predominant. Jesus affirmed that when he said, "There's a broad way, and many people will enter into it, that leads to destruction. And there's a narrow way, and few will enter into it, that leads to life".
He's acknowledging that to honor God will put you in a minority position. So we're delivered from this present evil age, we're delivered from the law. God hasn't changed his mind: adultery and murder aren't okay. It's just keeping rules are no longer a means of achieving righteousness. And the reason for that is you can't keep them. And a 90% score will not get you to the next level. You have to either keep it perfectly or you're guilty of failure on the entire thing. So we've been delivered from the law as a means of righteousness. Thirdly, we've been delivered from self, our carnal earthly Adamic self. That part of us that says, "I want, I think, and I feel". Those things no longer have the power to dominate our lives if we choose to say No to them.
Number four, we've been delivered from the flesh. And fifthly, we've been delivered from this world, this present world order. We're still on terra firma, we're still on this ball of matter, hurtling through space, circling the sun. But when the New Testament talks about the world, it means this present world order. But we have a different authority, we have a different set of priorities. We have a different allegiance. We call Jesus is Lord and that trumps the citizenship of whatever passport I carry. It trumps my southern accent. It trumps the fact that I'm a male. It trumps every... Jesus is Lord comes first. If you're a hyphenated Christian, you're an idolater. Jesus is Lord.
Now I brought you some of the verses. I'll read a couple. Galatians 1: "Grace and peace to you from our God and Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father". The language is intriguing. It's powerful language. We had to be rescued. We couldn't separate ourselves. This present evil age would have led us to destruction if God hadn't sent Jesus on a search and rescue mission. We can't save ourselves. You're not good enough, you're not kind enough, you're not generous enough, you're not loving enough. So if you're making choices that dishonor God's righteous principles, understand you're on a pathway to destruction. No matter how generous you may think you are or kind you are or loving you may feel you are, we are not the standard-setters.
Galatians 2:16: "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ". Justified has a rather specific religious meaning. To be justified is to be acquitted, to be set free, to have your guilt canceled. In layman's language, it's to be just as if I'd never sinned. All of us should be interested in how we can be justified before God. You have an appointment with him. You will give an account for your life. Whether you believe it or not, you will. And the possibility is held out to us of standing before the Creator of all things in his presence acquitted, not guilty. I'm interested in how to make that appointment that way. "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified".
Paul says in Romans, if that is true does that mean that sin should just abound? Should you be able to do whatever you want? He said, "God forbid". That isn't what that means. Our motivation for holiness and purity is the recognition of the tremendous gift we have been given. If you're leading an ungodly, immoral, deceptive, dishonest life, you are trampling underfoot the sacrifice God provided for you. Don't lead presumptive lives. Galatians 3:13: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. He became a curse for us. It's written: 'Cursed is everyone who's hung on a tree.'" Galatians 2:20: "I've been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me". It's not my life and my time and my priority. They're not my dreams. I say over and over, God lets your dream grow in me. What would it look like if I yielded myself to you more fully, if I cared about the things you care about? How much time do we spend trying to get God to care about what's important to us? And how much time do we spend saying to our old self, "I will learn to honor what God says I should honor"?
So I wanna take the minutes we've got left and talk about this experiential faith. How do we move faith from the theoretical, from the classroom setting, from another class, another study. How many Bible studies do we have to have before we decide we'll start to practice the Bible? How long do you have to hear the truth of God before you decide you'll submit in obedience? How many times do you need to hear that tithing is a biblical principle before you do? How many times do you have to read a Psalm that says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord," before you decide to participate? See, it's not a knowledge issue. We just have very small intent when it says, "Don't forsake together the assembling of yourselves". "Oh, you know, I don't have to go to church to be a..." Oh, okay.
So you have the authority to choose the verses that you'll take and the ones you'll set aside. I'm not comfortable with that, myself. Experiential faith. Joshua chapter 1, verse 1. Joshua is the leader who's given the rather dubious honor of succeeding Moses, the greatest leader we have in Scripture 'til we get to Jesus, and Joshua gets tagged to finish Moses' job. Whew! "It came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, 'Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I'm giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.'"
Now, there's two statements in there that I think are essential for understanding the assignment that Joshua is being handed. God says to him that "you and all this people, go into the land I am giving it to them". I've done that, I've signed the title deed. In fact, he says, "I have given it to you. I promised it to Moses before we left Egypt, I promised it to Moses at a burning bush long before the plagues, and long before the Red Sea, and long before the bitter water in Mara, and long before the manna or the quail. Long before the Ten Commandments or the Golden Calf. I promised to Moses I would do this. I have given it to you. The deed is signed. It's yours. Until today". That brings some consternation to the UN.
Now you do know Psalm 24:1. It says: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it". So we can deduce from Scripture that God is the possessor of everything. So if he wants to give a little strip of land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it's his prerogative. "Well, I don't know". You don't have to know. You just need to know he did it. I don't know why he thought gravity was such a good idea. It didn't bother me so much when I was 16, but it's more intrusive these days.
Now, it seems to me that the Israelites could have had two reactions to that announcement that Joshua is prepared to deliver, and each of these would have been wrong. They're logical, but logic would have led them to the wrong conclusion. One of them could have been a response of discouragement. The Lord said he gave it to us. Joshua, we heard you, but we've been 40 years in this wilderness and we don't have anything more than we had when we left Egypt.
So I heard what you said that God gave it to us but it'd be pretty easy to be discouraged at that point, wouldn't it? It seems that the other extreme, and it would be equally wrong, would have been a presumptive response. They could have lined up on the East bank of the Jordan River and said, "It's all ours. All of that over there belongs to us. God signed the deed. We've got a copy right here". Yet they would have still had no more than they did when they crossed the Red Sea exiting Egypt. Legally, they would have been right, it belongs to us. But experientially, they would have been wrong. In reality, at that point in time, the Canaanites had a better idea who actually possessed the land.
Now it seems to me that there are some parallels with the church. We face a similar dilemma. Legally, once we're born again, we stand there and go, "We're heirs of God and we're joint heirs with Jesus Christ. All the rights and privileges of the kingdom of God belong to us. It's all ours. Everything that belonged to Jesus belongs to us". Yet, our reality is we don't yet possess it. There's a distinction between the legal and the experiential. And we're gonna have to allow God to help us understand how to close that gap.
There are two remarkable miracles that initiated the Israelites' conquest of the Promised Land. One was the stopping of the Jordan River. It says that the water of the Jordan River, literally, piled up, and they could cross. The miracle that followed that was the destruction of Jericho, a city that was, the defenses were simply too significant to be overcome. And so God said, "I'll do this". And the walls of Jericho collapsed just because they had a long walk. Ten thousand steps a day, seven days in a row. Well, maybe not 10.000. But from that time on, once the Jordan River had been piled up, and once the Jericho walls had come down, they had to fight for everything they received. The rest of that inheritance required them to go to battle.
And may I humbly suggest that that's true in the Christian experience as well. The salvation is free. It's available to every person. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. It's not about IQ or economics or gender or skin color or language. Everybody's welcome to the cross. But once you have received that free gift, you will have to decide whether or not you will experience God's best. Or whether you'll stand there like the Israelites on the far bank of the Jordan River and going, "All that's ours". We've done that for too long. Obadiah... I know you read Obadiah frequently so I brought you a verse. I'm sure you can quote verse 17 in chapter 1, but for the one or two of you that couldn't, it says: "On Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance".
There's three really important ideas in that simple little verse: one that God has provided deliverance for us. We do not have to lead our lives under the domination of the kingdom of darkness. Now that's really important information. That God has provided a way for us to lead holy lives and we are not innately holy creatures. The only way that we can lead a holy life is that authority be given to us from a holy God. And we've drifted so far away from this and we haven't really cared. When was the last time you heard parents talking about their kids, saying, "You know, my greatest prayer for my children is they would learn to be holy"? I don't know. And then finally, it says in the translation I give you, "will possess its inheritance," but literally it's "will possess our possessions". God said, "I've given them to you". But we have to learn how to make that our own.
Hebrews 10:14 says: "By one sacrifice Jesus has made perfect forever those who are being made holy". That last verb is of the continuing present tense. It's describing an ongoing process. Jesus made a one-time sacrifice that you and I might continue to be made holy. So we're gonna have to turn loose of the notion that we've done our important God business. "Born again, dipped in a pool, I've volunteered for all sorts of things, I've led a generous life, I've been a moral life, I've been faithful to my marriage vows. Therefore there's really not much left for me to know". No, there's more to know about God than everything we have learned collectively up to this point. We're finite creatures, he's an infinite God. We haven't really been hungering and thirsting, we've been kind of self-satisfied and complacent. Complacency is what a milk cow to give up to become a racehorse. And we've been complacent long enough.
I wanna run with the horses, in the language of Jeremiah. As we progress in holiness, we will move back into the inheritance God intended us to have. So don't think of holiness as a limit, a barrier, something distasteful like eating vegetables that you don't like. It's a pathway to your inheritance. The Israelites didn't conquer the Promised Land because of their superior military tactics or because they had superior weapons. Where they had victories, it was because of the blessing of God.
And if you're familiar with the story, you know that the places where they forfeited victories it was because God wasn't helping them. Do you think we're different? Do you think it's our architecture or our worship style or our translation of the Bible or... The triumph of the people of God will come because we are working uprightly with him and he brings victory and deliverance to us. The healing we need in our nation is not a political healing. The divisiveness, the anger, the violence, the economic insanity, the deception, the propaganda, all of those things, for those things to be reversed, we have to have a change. We'll have to align ourselves with God more completely.
There's been tremendous cultural drift away from a biblical worldview, and it's affected the church in enormous ways as well. We don't even talk much anymore about purity or holiness or righteousness. Well, let's invite God back into our lives in some very important ways. Let's pray.
Father, we wanna welcome you and the spirit of holiness into our lives. Forgive us for the degrees to which we have compromised with the world and not with you. Thank you for your help, in Jesus's name, amen.