Allen Jackson - A Response to Discouragement
I don't believe elections make us spiritually healthier or less so. I think elections reveal our spiritual health or our lack thereof. And so if we were left, whichever end of the spectrum you're on, if you were left-elated or downcast, I think it's a pretty good indication of the spiritual condition of our nation; and that isn't distressing to me because the first step in getting to a solution is having a good diagnosis, and I think we can pretty, see pretty clearly where we stand on things like the sanctity of human life and our borders and spending money that we don't have. I mean, we had a pretty good referendum. So I came away somewhat encouraged by that in the sense that I think we understand the objectives before us, but I think a bit of awareness, it's difficult because the messaging that comes to us is often confusing if not just outright false. Definitions make a difference. Words matter.
One of the things that's being done greatly these days is redefining terms. Redefining terms does not change reality. Please don't be confused. If you redefine marriage, it doesn't change the reality of marriage. If you redefine a giraffe and call it a longneck Taurus, it doesn't change the species. So redefining terms doesn't change reality. It's just a manipulation. A reform is a correction of abuses. It's a part of staying healthy and making improvements. We continue to reform. A revolution is something different. It's a transfer of power. Historically what starts as reforming often ends in a revolutionary movement. That's not my opinion, that's the opinion of professional historians.
Well, I would submit to you that we're witnesses currently to an attempted revolution, and you may think that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm not at this point weighing in, but the characteristics are unmistakable if we're watching. One is lawlessness. That's necessary if you're going to carry out a revolution; and we see lawlessness increasing on a daily basis, from open borders to unequal application of the law. You don't need a great deal of discernment to see that. A second component is attacks on authority and, again, we see that. We have sanctuary cities, cities where federal laws are not enforced but they demand federal funding. That is an attack on authority. Movements like defund the police while violence just escalates in our cities.
Our cities are crumbling. I've been to more than a dozen in the last few months. They're in trouble. We manipulate elections. I don't know, I'm not, outcomes are beyond us. We don't have enough information, but I'm telling you we should be able to tabulate and count votes in a more efficient manner. It's troubling, it's troubling that you can get more up-to-date information on your fantasy sports teams than you can our elections. Limiting free speech is a part of a process like this. For the most part we have a state perspective that is delivered through the majority of the media outlets, and if you're an outlier you're demonized and called names or even more frequently in recent months and years you're censored. You're shut down. We understand that that cancel culture has reached beyond Hollywood.
And then there's a fourth component that's a part of these movements and it's an increased dependence upon government. Those with authority over you want to determine how you think. They want to tell you what you should think and how you should feel, and they'll use all sorts of incentives for that. One of the most frequent is money that we're watching that, promises of billions and billions of dollars for outcomes. They want to control healthcare, energy, education. Sound familiar? It's not a new scheme. It's not a new plot. We're just celebrating Veterans Day. If the government wants increased voice in healthcare, I have a solution or at least I have a preliminary requirement. They've already made a commitment to provide healthcare for our veterans. Then the veterans' healthcare needs to be the finest in the land.
It needs to exceed any other opportunity. It needs to be better than any private delivery system. And when the government can deliver on that promise, then they have the authority to talk to us about engagement on other levels. Until then, go fix your first commitment. The short-term goals of a revolution are to create division and dissatisfaction. If you can do that, you can destabilize the population. Does that sound at all like what we see happening around us? It does to me. Create division and dissatisfaction. We're told over and over and over and over again that from our inception we're a systemically racist nation. I would submit to you that our history doesn't support that and our current reality doesn't support that.
What I would submit to you is that we are systemically sinful people, and if we don't address the sin problem we will be increasingly in deep trouble. There's another voice that's bringing division and it's kind of a revolutionary feminism. It's not new. It's been growing and bubbling amongst us for decades. It was launched initially because it was perceived that men had power and the women wanted that power. That's a bit of an oversimplification, but that was the argument and underlying that was the women didn't value the power they had. They perceived the power someone else had and they wanted that. You ever heard the adage, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"?
It's not new with me, I assure you. The 60 million children that we didn't allow to be born, if we had cared for them and valued them and loved them enough to have released their energy and their voice into the world we'd be living in a dramatically different world. And as a part of that movement, they have introduced the language of sameness. We're the same we're told over and over and over again. There is no difference between men and women. We're just the same. And even the most casual observer amongst us goes, "No". It's not about better or worse, greater or lesser. There's just some difference. Happen to think difference is a good thing. But in the determined assertion of sameness, now we find ourselves in the middle of this confusion around gender.
It's become so patently obvious that we're not the same. Even some amongst the radical elements on the extremes are saying, "Well, it's not fair". But they can't say we're not the same. The aspects of this current revolution are rooted in the necessity of establishing victim status. Everybody has to be victimized by somebody, and it's enticing. "It's McDonald's fault that I'm fat. So they make a burger out of seaweed to try to help me out". There is power that is being established, grounded in perpetuating victim perspective.
So understand when somebody uses their voice to convince you you're a victim, they're very often trying to consolidate power through your pain. Christianity takes a different perspective. We're invited towards a power that's grounded in God's grace. Something has been done on our behalf to deliver us from the power of darkness and suffering and pain. Christ followers are not victims. They're overcomers. We freely acknowledge that evil exists. We're not victimized by evil, we've been empowered to overcome evil. You know the power that's more powerful than evil? It's good. We're told to overcome evil with good. If you're frustrated by the expressions of evil that you see, unleash the good. We've got to stop looking at those practicing evil and longing that we could behave in the same way.
There's something that we have lost in American evangelicalism almost completely. It's a part of our relationship with the Lord that has been set aside. We know about church and we know about preferences on music and preferences on by, biblical translations, but, and it's not without precedent. Throughout these centuries both in Scripture and through the history of the church, God's people tend to lose components of their faith. At one point the nation of Israel, they lost the Bible. I mean, they lost the book. They hid it under a time of threat and somebody forgot about it and it was years and years before they realized they'd been missing the book. Before we laugh at them, we've kind of lost our Bibles. Biblical illiteracy is growing at such an alarming rate that the pollsters tell us about that, and we trust polls. But it's not without precedent that God's people lose sight of necessary aspects of walking with the Lord.
It's a repetitive problem. In Jesus's day, in the Gospels Jesus was consistently confronted and confronting people with the perspective on the kingdom of God that they had lost. They had all sorts of Sabbath rules, but they didn't understand that the point of the Sabbath was to help people know God. It wasn't to bring compliance to rules. So when he healed somebody on the Sabbath, the powerbrokers would get mad because he was challenging the status quo. And he said in plain Tennessee language, "You goofballs, the status quo is not the objective. Helping people is the point of the Sabbath. We should pray for the sick". To which they responded, "We will shut you down".
So this isn't a new thing for us. Well in general I want to submit to you that we have not maintained the practice of seeking the Lord. With that little phrase, that idea has been for the most part lost on us. We have cultivated, on the other hand, the notion of discovering salvation. We want to lead people to the Lord, and I'm not opposed to that. I believe it's a necessary step in your spiritual emergence. The result of it is a life of faith that is marked by milestones of achievement. It's like we're become box checkers. "I said this in this prayer. I walked the aisle of a church. Perhaps I was baptized. Maybe I volunteered a little bit there. I've given occasionally. I attend worship services if it's the best option available". And we kind of have this achievement mentality and we're kind of hoping God grades against the curve, and maybe it'll all work out in the end.
Well, the inadequacy of that approach is it results in this notion that we're going to master our faith. "I've done the important things. I know the big rock ideas, and everything else that's left is inconsequential or insubstantial". And we've lost almost completely the notion that what we want to do is understand the master. Folks, we're not going to master the creator of all things. We're not going to master an omnipotent, omniscient God. What we want to do is on a daily basis, in a weekly basis, in a monthly basis, in a seasonal basis learn more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and a little more and then some more. And after this section has learned all of that, then we want to learn a little bit more. Are you with me? 'Cause then this group says, "Well, we've seen what you've learned and you've learned and we want to add to that and we want to learn a little bit too. So we're going to learn some more". You're catching it.
And then the people that like to sit in the back and watch the screens, you're going to watch all of these people that didn't know any better but to come down front and sit and you're going to watch all of them and then you're going to learn a little bit more. And then there's all of you on the other side of that red light, and you're going to see all these people that drove to campus and parked and made it through the blizzard uphill both ways and you think, "Well, that looks kind of meaningful. Maybe we could learn some more". What we want to do is establish in our hearts is that we want to seek the Lord. It's not burdensome or intrusive or diminishing. It's not going to take something away. God doesn't need anything you have.
Do you think God's really... do you suppose that the archangels got together and said, "If Allen would just help us, if he would just yield his intellect to the cause..." No, I promise not. In fact, I think they had a meeting, got together, "You think if we took that numbskull on the team, the power of God is sufficient to still help us accomplish the objective"? And I think it was a split vote. See, God doesn't need anything I have. The greatest honor of my life is seeking the Lord. Yes, I was born again. I was a kid. I knelt in my parents' kitchen floor. Yes, I've been baptized. It was in the Atlantic Ocean and Fort Lauderdale in front of the Sheraton Hotel. It was a stormy day. I got dunked a couple of times before I got to the people that were going to do it for real. I've read my Bible more than once, but I'm working through it again.
Right now we're in Jeremiah. What a happy, happy book. I hope you're reading it with me. I have fasted on many occasions. I have done, I've given. I've served. I've volunteered. Folks, I'm a beginner. I want to seek the Lord. I want to learn to hear his voice. I want to understand his will. I want to know what he's doing in the earth, how might I help. He's not diminishing my life. He's taking every limit off of my life. He's mended broken hearts. He's done so many things in my life. He'll do the same in yours. Seeking God is not a burden. Who convinced us of that, and why were we willing to accept a life of seeking the Lord or an assignment to be born again and get baptized and then sit on our good intentions? Psalm 34 and verse 10. I was going to get to the Bible, I promise. Says, "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing".
How many of you like to lack no good thing? Put me in that bucket. Well, there's the pathway. You don't need a PhD in theology to get to it. Those who seek the Lord. I want to seek the Lord. 1 Chronicles 16, "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name". You know, there's so much debate around worship. My entire journey through Christendom there's been a debate around worship. About the time I came, you know, I was in adolescence, contemporary Christian music was kind of, I'm not old. You know, it was going to change Christendom 'cause we had a new way to worship. I've been in this long enough.
Folks, style should not be confused with meaningful transformation. I've lived long enough now to watch fashion styles come and go. All right. Some of you remember when we said goodbye to bell bottoms. We burned ours and thought, "Hallelujah". They crept back in, didn't they? There'll be back again. We've confused style with stuff. We should give thanks to the Lord, worship; and he deserves your worship. If they have a kazoo, if there are no... we don't need musicians to worship the Lord. If we just came in and said, "Let's take a few minutes to worship the Lord," we should all be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving at the wonder and the awesome, not because he's doing what we want, because of who he is. If it weren't for him, we would all be destined to destruction.
If it weren't for him, we would have no freedom and no liberty. Those don't come from governments, they come from God. God has been good to us. There should be a gratitude welling up within us. To understand the degree to which idolatry is swept over us, we think the government secures our future. Baloney. It's a Greek word. It means I disagree. God secures our future. If we turn our back on God, governments will snatch freedom from us more quickly than you could imagine. They've done it throughout the history of humanity. We have so much to be thankful to God for. We do.
You say, "Well, I'm not an emotional person". You are when it gets to something you care about. I was in a verse of Scripture somewhere. Glory to the Lord. "Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgment he pronounced". It's a little bit of a pathway in there. Give glory to the Lord. Turn your heart to the Lord. Your heart isn't the pump in the center of your being. It's the center of your emotions and your thoughts. Turn your emotions to the Lord. See, emotions have to be trained and developed like muscles. If you give your emotions the permission to guide your life, they will lead you into ungodliness.
Now, God created those emotions. They're wonderful, wonderful things, but they have to be disciplined just like every other part of your person. So if you watch ungodly things and you allow that to create momentum in your emotions, your emotions will lead you to ungodliness. We can all give testimony here. Let's not just sit and act like we have no idea what that discussion is about. We've all walked that path multiple times. We've carved our initials on the trees along it, and we've had to walk back often painfully and in repentance and say, "Lord, that wasn't a good path. Let's revisit this".
We have to train our emotions to value what God is doing, to celebrate those things. I didn't use to like Christians, and it was very awkward for me when I discovered the reason I didn't like Christians is there was a little of Christ in me. If you're more comfortable with the pagans because you think all the Christians are hypocrites, what do you think the pagans are? Bastions of integrity? You see, those criticisms that we so often level at one another really are more indicators of the concerns and conditions of our own hearts and lives. We've lost this notion about how to seek the Lord. You cultivate spiritual cleanliness.
I don't want to do anything that makes me spiritually unclean. We were walking through those first weeks of COVID. We didn't want to do anything that gave us exposure to the virus. We turned our whole worlds upside down, changed our lives, crushed our economy, devastated our schools, completely broke the momentum of our children and their learning all so we could stay clean from a virus. I'm not opposed to that. Then we talk about spiritual cleanliness. "Well, it's inconvenient". Oh, really? I have an alert. You will stand one day before the creator of all things. It's an open-book test. Well, when do we do that? When do you seek the Lord; when you feel like it, when you're in a good mood, when you're at the top of your game, when you prayed all week and you're caught up on your Bible reading?
I think we seek the Lord when we're sick or frightened or threatened, when we need direction, when we feel isolated, when you're at the end of yourself, when you're the least qualified, when you're making major decisions, when you're interceding on behalf of others, when you need direction, when you don't get the outcome you prefer, when you're guilty or you've fallen or you failed. That's a good time to seek the Lord. When God's judgment appears imminent, that's a really good time to turn your face to the Lord.
You say, "Well, I feel like a hypocrite". God helps those, too. That's how we got in the house today. Well, why would we seek the Lord? Well, the primary reason, everything else is secondary, is we're told to. If you imagine yourself to be a part of God's people, God told us to seek him. Now, he incentivized it. He said he's the rewarder of those who diligently seek him in Hebrews 11:6, but fundamentally he just said to. There's a whole host of reasons to grow out of that. We need understanding because we've been invited to. It's a secure place, and God is all knowing and that's a good place to stand. He recognize our limits. He understands our brokenness.
We're transformed through this journey if we're willing to do it. It'll bring realignment of your values, and we need God's help to do that. I can't do that by the force of my will. Christianity is not about change from the outside in; learning how to dress, learning how to talk, and learning which beverage is appropriate. That's an exhausting process. It's like trying to hold a ball filled with air under the water. You can do it, but it takes absolute focus. And the moment you lose your focus, that sucker is going to bounce to the top. Christianity fundamentally is about transformation from the inside out.
We have to have the courage to say, "I need a different value set. I need a different set of motivations. 'Cause if I choose the ones that come naturally to me, it's going to take me away from God. I won't seek God. But I've made a decision. My intent is to seek the Lord. So, Lord, I need your help. I need you to help bring a vitality to this book. If I give some time to it, can you bring some meaning? Help me to appreciate your people. Help me to recognize your wisdom in the midst of this world".
See, if you'll begin to take those baby steps, you'll begin to see the outcomes that emerge from godliness and integrity and forthrightness. They won't come unchallenged and they won't always bring you the best result because evil exists and the path isn't always that easy. But if you'll continue over time and you'll persist through the different seasons of life, you'll find the outcomes are better. There'll be better in your relationships. They'll be better for your children. I've traveled a bit this year doing pastors conferences and I've met people in city after city after city that are my age and the most consistent prayer is, "Pray for my children. They're not serving the Lord".
Folks, we got to rethink this. It's why we bring the babies in these days and now we want to stand with them in the front of the sanctuary because we're saying not just to those parents but as a community of faith we want to see these children grow up in the fear of the Lord. It's important to us. We've acted so much like the world that we're shocked when our kids become adults and they're not particularly interested in seeking the Lord. We've got some changes to make, folks. There's a benefit in seeking the Lord.
Before we close the program today, I wanted to take a minute and tell you that you're not alone. Discouragement tends to occupy our hearts when we feel isolated and separated, and the reality is we stand with the presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the body of Christ. That's not about your family circumstance, or your church circumstance, or the neighborhood in which you live. That's about the reality of the God who watches over us. You're not alone. He's promised he would never leave us nor forsake us. Our choice is to seek the Lord. I want to pray for you:
Father, I thank you for every person today that I've had the privilege of spending these moments with. I pray that by your Spirit you would open our hearts to yourself in ways we've never known you before. Give us understanding, wisdom, discernment, direction. Thank you for your faithfulness and your great love for us. In Jesus's name, amen.