Allen Jackson - America, Restored or Rebuked? - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again. We're walking through a series about our nation, based on America and what God is doing in our midst. Are we experiencing his judgment, or will we see an awaking and outpouring of his Spirit? I don't believe the outcome on that is just clear yet, not because God doesn't know what he would do, but I believe the opportunity for God's people to choose him, can change an outcome. He's inviting us to break out of our routines of just attending church and mindlessly going through the routines of a religious observance, and truly yielding our lives to him in ways as we never have before. We have witnessed one of the most precipitous declines of Christian influence in the history of the Christian Church; it can't be okay with us. We've got to understand God is asking us to stand for his truth and yield to him more fully than ever before. The problem isn't someone else; it's about our willingness to change. What an exciting time we are in to serve the Lord. Grab your Bible and a notepad, most of all, just to begin quietly saying, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you lead". Enjoy the lesson.
Now, the points seem simple but they're not, because there's an enormous emotional pool, and there's generational pools, and there's some powerful influences in our lives that work to mix this. And I think we can see that pretty simply in the Scripture. The disciples, our good friends, our heroes in the New Testament, had some very real national aspirations. Not inappropriate, not wicked, but sometimes misdirected. In Acts chapter one, they ask a question to Jesus, it's in verse 6. It says, "When they met together, they asked Jesus, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'" It's the only question recorded that they have asked Jesus in that 40 day window between his resurrection and his ascension. So you think it's uppermost on their mind? Are you gonna restore the kingdom to Israel now?
"By that, are you gonna restore Israelite autonomy? Can we be done with the Romans? Can we stop paying taxes to them? Can we stop the indignity of the abuse of our women? Can we stop the humiliation of being occupied in front of our children? Are you gonna restore the kingdom to Israel? We know who you are, we're convinced of who you are, we watched you die on a Roman cross, and we've seen you alive, and you've shown us the signs of your passion, there's no question about who you are. Are you gonna restore the kingdom to Israel now"? You can feel the angst, the passion and the anxiousness in them. "Lord, are you gonna bring an awakening to our nation, or are you gonna leave us under the authority of darkness"?
Now, I wanna put it back into context, Acts chapter 1, "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach". What's the former book? It's Luke. Luke wrote two books in the New Testament. Gentile, non-Jew. Wrote the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts, the gospel is the Jesus story, the Book of Acts is the story of the emerging church. "In the former book, I wrote all about that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God".
Can you imagine a 40 day seminar in the kingdom of God with a resurrected Messiah? Woo, I'd like to have the videos to that class, wouldn't you? I'd watch those on YouTube. And the disciples, one question after 40 days, "Are you gonna restore the kingdom now to Israel? You gonna send the Romans home"? "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit". They had a 40 day seminar with the resurrected Christ, and Jesus said, "Don't leave this city, don't begin your assignment until you're baptized with the Holy Spirit".
I would submit to you, I'm an advocate for learning and study, but I don't believe you'll ever study so much that you don't need the baptism in the Spirit. I don't think we're gonna out-study Peter, James, and John. "So when they met together, they said, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'" And Jesus didn't say, I quit, you bunch of knuckleheads. "He said, 'It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority.'" It's just not your business. "'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' And after he said this, he was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight".
Last words have heightened significance. Jesus' last words to the disciples are, "You'll be empowered to be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the utter most parts of the earth". The disciples are asking, about a nationalistic objective: "Are you gonna restore our nation"? Jesus hands them a kingdom assignment. Does that make sense? He said, "I understand the desire of your heart, I need you to hear the desire of my heart. You'll be empowered to be witnesses for me. The nation is secondary". And if you follow 'em through the book of Acts, They lived it out. Now, it's worth noting, I wanna step back in time now, there's some back story to that day. They've spent 3 years with Jesus, he recruited them, some of 'em as fishermen, some of 'em as tax collectors, some of 'em in other ways, but I'm certain when they began, they fully imagined a 30 or 40 year run with Jesus; he was a young man when they said they would follow him; they didn't know it was gonna be a 3-year journey.
You know, following the Lord is not what you would expect it to be. I've been walking with him a while now, and I can tell you it doesn't look like I expected it to be. He surprises me consistently. If you don't intend for the Lord to surprise you, you're not gonna follow him very far. He's in charge. See, we've got a real fundamental problem: we don't really want to follow him; we just want him to do what we want him to do. We want him to keep us healthy and make us prosper, and our kids say, "Yes". Well, yes to us and no to drugs. But we don't really wanna follow, we don't want him like taking us somewhere we didn't intend to go.
So we're gonna step back, Matthew chapter 21. Jesus is talking to the leaders, the religious leaders. "He said, 'Have you never read the Scriptures: 'The stone the builders rejected, has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'"? He's quoting the prophets. "Therefore I tell you," this is one of those "I tell you the truth" statements. "Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit". He just pronounced the nation of Israel under interdict. He said, "I am withdrawing from you the assignment you've been given". The incarnate Son of God says to the leaders in the city, this is long before the cross, "I tell you the kingdom of God's gonna be taken away from you". They've been the covenant people of God for century upon century; it's their identity. It's not enough, it's not adequate for us to say, "We have been a Christian nation".
Okay, are we living like one now? It's a very important question. We should not live presumptive, arrogant, prideful lives. It's a very dangerous position. "I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to the people who will produce its fruit". Outcomes matter. "He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on who it falls will be crushed. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them". They knew he was talking about them. Well, part of your brain says, well then humble yourselves. "Lord I'm sorry, forgive us for our stubbornness. How could we have been so arrogant, so self-righteous, so conceited? Father, be..." They could have done that, just like we can, but that's not their response. They were afraid that they understood he was talking about them so, "They looked for a way to arrest him..." We gotta shut him down; he's a problem. We can't afford for him to keep talking like this, "...but they were afraid of the crowd".
Now that's Matthew, in Luke chapter 19, this is the day of the triumphal entry. This is all back story to Acts chapter 1. The disciples are not dramatically far away from the attitudes of their leaders. "When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to joyfully praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!' and he said, 'I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.'" This is a big day, this is the closest to a truly public celebration of Jesus that he will see on this side of the grave.
I've walked the path down that Mount of Olives many, many, many times; but on this particular day, it's lined with people joyfully praising the Lord, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord". They're laying their cloaks in the road, the palm branches, the children are worshiping the Lord. It's an amazing day. I mean, in many points, the most celebrated point of Jesus' public ministry.
Look at the next verse, "As he approached Jerusalem and he saw the city, he wept over it". Not tears of joy. "If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but it's hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side". He's describing a siege, when a foreign army literally encircles the city, no one in, no one out, will starve you into submission. "They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you didn't recognize the time of God's coming to you". Oh, it's easy to shake our heads and say that 1st century Jewish community missed Jesus. I'm far more interested right now in the 21st century Christian community.
Matthew 28, "The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted". This is an interesting sentence. They went to meet him, the disciples, all of them that went, they follow the instructions he had given them; and when they got there, some worshiped and some doubted. We're gonna have to decide which group we're gonna be in. There's a shaking taking place. Some worshiped him and some doubted, "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore you go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age".
There's that assignment again. His abiding presence, his abiding presence is if we accept the assignment. I don't know any place in Scripture that's ever amended it, nor that it's been rescinded, set aside. I think we still have an assignment to be witnesses for him. The disciples started in their hometown. They started in the places where they gathered with people. They told their Jesus story, they prayed for the sick, they didn't leave there until they had so much success, so much effectiveness there, that the jealousy of the adversaries of Jesus forced them out of there. And the best way I know to highlight the impact that made upon Jesus' friends, is when they wrote their Jesus story.
Remember Acts chapter 1, the promise was he said, "You stay in Jerusalem until you're baptized in the Holy Spirit, because when you are, you'll be empowered to be witnesses for me". Okay, and then the story starts. But when it came time for them to tell the Jesus story, how do you think they're gonna tell it? I brought it to you, John chapter 1. This is John the Baptist, he said, "I wouldn't have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptized with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.'"
When John introduces us to Jesus, the Apostle John when he introduces us to his close friend, remember the Apostle John Revelation chapter 1, he's on the Isle of Patmos, and he has a vision, and he sees Jesus, and he falls at his feet like he's dead, right? When that John writes his Jesus story, how does he introduce his friend to us? He said, "He's the one who'll baptize you with the Holy Spirit". Think of all the things he could have said about Jesus. Think of what he says about him in Revelation chapter 1, what he looks like, how his countenance is, what he holds in his hands. Think of all the things he could have said, the miracles he saw. He's the one who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic gospels, they share some common material. Scholars think that Matthew and Luke had access to Mark when they wrote their stories. So they give kind of a similar synopsis of Jesus' life. So it's not surprising that they use similar language, but it is surprising that they all four say the same thing. There are very few aspects of Jesus' life in ministry that are repeated in all four gospels. But in all four gospels, the introduction they give to Jesus is the same. Matthew 3, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, who sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire". Luke 3, "John answered them, 'I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'"
Mark chapter 1, "This was his message: 'After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I'm not worthy to stoop down and untie. I'll baptize you with water, but he'll baptize you with the Holy Spirit". What do you think they want us to know about Jesus? Just maybe that he would baptize you with the Holy Spirit. I'm not here tonight to argue for an experience, we'll talk about that in some other sessions, but I want you to hear what Jesus said: "Don't leave this city until you are empowered to be witnesses for me". "Lord, are you gonna restore our nation? We're tired of the Romans". "Wrong question," he said. So is it possible?
My prayer for our nation again, is that he would pour out his Spirit upon us. I can't think of a better outcome for our children and our grandchildren; but I don't know, I can't tell just yet. I can tell you what I believe the determining factor will be: the response of the church. It's not about politics, or elections, or social media, or tech giants, or billionaires funding their evil schemes. Don't spend your time soaking up all the conspiracy theories on the Internet, it's not helpful. Spend your time in your Bible talking to the Lord. I don't want you to be ignorant of what's happening in the world, but a few minutes a day will do that, then spend your time with the Lord. Spend your time talking to people, being a witness to what you know to be the truth about Jesus. That is the most secure response in a season of insecurity.
Let's begin to bear fruit like we've never born fruit before. Bring people with you, tell your neighbors about Jesus. I have a question: in what way is your obedience to the Lord, in what way is your pursuit of the Lord different today than at the beginning of 2020? I want you to think about that. How are you behaving differently? Or are you just saying, "Oh, no, no, no, I'm born again, I was baptized, I'm good to go. I'm tired of the wicked 'cause the wicked are bringing some trouble on us". I can hear Jesus saying, "I can make people like you out of rocks". Are we willing to grow, are we willing to change, are we willing to give God a larger place in our hearts? If we will, he'll move heaven and earth. And if he pours out his mercy upon our nation, hallelujah.
I will lead the parade, God has blessed us, and I will acknowledge his blessings upon us, I'm gonna do it repeatedly for these next few weeks, but I'm not confused. We have a kingdom assignment. Are you ready? How many of us will be willing to say, "Lord, here we are, send us. We want all that you have for us. We don't wanna start any discussion by saying what we won't do for you. Holy Spirit, you're welcome in our lives, fill us to overflowing". "Do I have to speak in tongues"? No, but you could. I mean, do you have to? "Do I have to cooperate with the Lord"? No, but you could. "Well, I know somebody that loved the Lord a lot and didn't," okay.
I wanna pray with you, why don't we stand? It's an exciting time. We're right there at the cusp of change, God is moving in the earth. We didn't choose it, we didn't initiate it, we didn't cause it, but God called us to this season. "Lord, here we are. Send us Lord, we're willing, whatever you have for us". That's it, that's his, but everybody won't cheer, everybody won't applaud, everybody go, okay. "We're still gonna follow you". May the Lord's anointing come upon you in such power, in such demonstrable ways, in such remarkable ways, that the enemies of God can't stand it. See, we've had a different approach, where we just kind of wanna be stealth, covert; no, I don't wanna be covert. I don't wanna stay in the middle of the road. I don't wanna be lukewarm. You ready? Hallelujah.
Lord, we offer ourselves to you tonight as living sacrifices. Have your way within us. Lord, we ask for your mercy upon our nation. We're a nation in need of mercy; we've turned our backs on you. Not the ungodly, or the wicked, or the pagans, Lord, those of us that fill all your churches and sing the choruses, we have been of divided heart and mind, and we have been lukewarm oftentimes and indifferent; and Lord, we're sorry and we come to repent, and we ask for your mercy upon us as a people. Look upon us with mercy. Pour out your Spirit upon us once again. But Lord, more than that, empower us to be witnesses for you. Let your anointing come upon us; Holy Spirit we need your help. Give us a revelation of yourself that will move us. Forgive us for when we've been reluctant or hesitant, when we've been disinterested or indifferent. Lord we offer ourselves to you tonight, have your way within us, that your purposes come forth within us. Give us a new boldness, a new anointing, a new hunger, a new thirsting, let the fear of the Lord grow in our hearts as never before. We praise you for it tonight. We wanna be faithful to what you created us for. Teach us to encourage one another and strengthen one another. We thank you for what we will see you do. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.