Allen Jackson - America, Holy Days
You and I have dual citizenship. First and foremost, we lived under a spiritual authority, and that authority over your life is eternal, it will reach beyond time, it will reach beyond the duration of your earth suit. Your physical body and mind will eventually wear out, there's an intentional obsolescence in that thing but the spiritual authority over your life will carry on with you into eternity. The second citizenship that we all carry has to do with civil authority related to a nation and there are many of those labels, I'm not suggesting one should be celebrated more than the other, but we live under a civil authority, it's temporal, it's temporary and it's a part of the present world order.
And as Christ followers, we have assignments in both of those realms, both spiritually and in the civil authority under which we reside. You need to live with the awareness of that dual citizenship. So doing a series about our nation, again, is not an attempt to say that we are better than all the rest, this is where God has placed us, we have a spiritual assignment in this nation. And I object to those who continually comb our history looking for the most dishonoring choices that we've ever made as a people. It's true, it's a reality. I've participated in multiple services across my lifetime where we had public repentance and prayer asking for God's mercy for our sins as a people. But I've also studied history and we're not unique; it's not to absolve us of our problems but we shouldn't tell our stories if the rest of the world is pristine.
We love the German people and there were some horrific things that emerged from that nation. I don't wanna pick on them, we do that I think far too frequently. The Spanish, there's some pretty horrific things that have been a part of their historical story; the Japanese, the Chinese, the Russians, we could go on and on. Again, not to absolve ourselves, but it's intellectually dishonest to present the story as if the rest of the world is pristine and we are uniquely wicked. It's appropriate to say, "God Bless America". But we need to be aware of this dual citizenship 'cause I believe we will give an account for that. Being salt and light in the place where we're planted has to do with the civil authority thats over us, it's a very biblical idea. I field a lot of questions and people ask if we should talk about current events. I don't know, I don't know how we'd live our faith and not do that.
But in 1 Timothy chapter 2, in verse 1, he says, "I urge you, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority". "First of all," before you pray for anything else, pray for the secular authorities over you. That's in the Bible, who knew. Well what are we to pray? "That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness". We're supposed to pray that we will have leaders that will encourage godliness and holiness. The recognition that while we live under a civil authority we have citizenship in a higher kingdom, an eternal kingdom, and we believe that kingdom should define the morality in which we live no matter what the civil authority is.
That's what godliness and holiness is about. "This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth". He doesn't want us to hide the truth or apologize for the truth, he wants everybody to hear it. Romans chapter 13, in verse 1, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God". Again, it's a very clear recognition, that entire chapter deals with the topic that while we belong to an eternal kingdom we lead our lives under civil authority and we have a responsibility to be salt and light in the context of that authority. Governments don't bring liberty and freedom, that comes from God. We've been confused, folks, we've been idolaters, those of us in the church, we thought our future was secured by our civil affiliations.
And again, I'm very grateful for this nation but I don't understand that this nation is my source. I have an assignment here to be a good citizen, both of this nation and the kingdom of God. The church has to be awakened. I think it's important to understand that the spiritual authority of your life is not gonna be defined by your gender, your race, your nationality, that comes from another source altogether. If you haven't intentionally declared yourself by choosing Jesus of Nazareth as Lord of your life and serving him as King, that's how you enter the kingdom of God, you have to be born into it. You have to be born into it, you can't join it, you can't sneak in, sitting in the building won't make you a citizen of the kingdom of God any more than sitting in our nation, but at least at one time would make you a citizen to this nation.
There was a formal process for that, well there's a formal legal process for entry into the kingdom of God, it requires a birth, Jesus described it. And that supernatural birth takes place, it says in Romans that if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, something supernatural happens to you and you are born into the kingdom of God. It's not about the affiliation, your denominational choice, those have to do with preferences, style. I mean, I'm not saying they're evil, I'm simply saying they don't qualify us for entry into the kingdom of God. We need to understand the difference. Many of us have been trained to champion our preference more than we champion the King. Jesus is the head of the church, it's a very important distinction.
If you've never made that decision there's still a spiritual authority over your life, it's a very important point. The people that you work with, the people in your family, the people that are your friends, there is a spiritual authority over every one of their lives that will define their eternity. And if they haven't consciously made the decision to serve Jesus as Lord, not simply to repeat or recite the sinner's prayer but to yield their lives to the authority of the kingdom of God, then they serve under a different spiritual authority, the kingdom of darkness. Again, it's a very biblical principle, it's not a threat, it's an awareness.
In John chapter 8, Jesus is speaking, he's in Jerusalem, speaking to a group of Orthodox Jewish people. So they are in covenant with God, they keep the right holidays, they keep the right dietary rules, they wear the right kind of clothing, they read Scripture, they're a part of a sacrificial system, they're checking all the boxes on religious activity and they're very confident that they're correct. You understand one of the most powerful forms of deception is religious deception? And if you're in church, you are highly vulnerable today. Listen to what Jesus says. "You belong to your father, the devil". He's not talking to a group of Roman soldiers, he doesn't have an audience with Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, he's talking to a group of religious, observant Jewish leaders.
"You are of your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there's no truth in him. And when he lies, he speaks his native language, for he's a liar and the father of lies". Jesus is describing another kingdom and he's saying to a group of very religious people, very scripturally informed people, you are living under the authority of the kingdom of darkness. You see, our life assignment, our life mission, I know we have to earn a living and we have responsibilities around family and I know all the things that are a part of the journey, that you have to care for yourself, I get that. But the one thing that all of those things labor beneath is the assignment from our Creator to tell the good news in our generation, we're all gonna be asked for that, every one of us will give an account.
Say, "I'm not a preacher or an evangelist," I'm not talking about just witnessing, I'm talking about leading your life so that the principles of the kingdom of God are on display in your choices, and that isn't necessarily, could have very little to do with civil authority, not everything that's legal in our nation is godly. You know, Christians say, "Well, it was legal". That's not gonna be a great argument when you see the boss, that's just not gonna be a great argument. We have a life assignment to be light in this world. Again, it doesn't mean you have to preach on the street corner.
You know, I love this nation but that always has to be subjective to my first priority which is pleasing God. We have a kingdom responsibility to stand up for kingdom principles. There's this idea of holy days that I wanna walk with you through for a moment. Holidays is just a corruption or a contraction of the notion of holy days. Holiday is originally imagined to be a holy day, it doesn't take a big stretch. We're just a few days away from Thanksgiving, it's a national day when we give thanks to God, we have a season of giving thanks. You've heard of Thanksgiving, right? I've got the right crew? Okay, I just want to be sure. You know, if we don't pay attention, if we don't understand that we have dual citizenship, that we're under a civil authority but we're under a much higher spiritual authority, far more powerful authority.
So when I think of the holy days that are before us, the holidays that are before us, I need to think of them in the context of both of those realms of authority; that Thanksgiving is not just about a day of gluttony and watching athletes while I criticize their effort. Now my day may include a bit of that but it's really a season to give thanks. We talked a little bit about grumbling lately, to park that someplace else, I suspect most of you will spend some time, days at least, shopping and planning and traveling and preparing for a season of Thanksgiving. It seems to me it would be most appropriate to spend some time giving thanks to the Lord, and we follow Thanksgiving with a time of welcoming our King, Christmas.
Well I know it's about holidays and vacations from school and disruptions in our work schedule and I understand the secularists will encroach on every bit as much of that as we will allow them to, they can't encroach on anything that we don't surrender. They don't dictate how we celebrate or the enthusiasm with which we do that. When they said don't put the nativity scene on the public square we said, "Okay," kinda like we did when they said close our churches not too long ago. Oh yeah, we'll invest in Christmas, we'll buy gifts, we'll exchange gifts, we'll celebrate. You know, the trappings of a secular Christmas don't bother me, I'm not confused about the real meaning, but I'm concerned that the church not forget that it's a time of welcoming our King, Emmanuel.
God is with us, we're not alone, folks. We have real problems facing us, and challenges. Then we follow that with a time for new beginnings, it's our new year, and it's not a particularly religious holiday but that's on our heads. I'm not yielding New Year's to a drunken celebration. Why would we yield the coming of a new year to pagan immoral revelry? That's not somebody else's fault, nobody did that to us. See, I believe the reason the shaking was initiated some months ago is we had given our holy days up to debauchery. So I would just want to plant a seed, we're going to talk about it a bit more before we're done, but that we look at this season of holy days with a God purpose.
I wanna give you just a quick holiday guide for growing in God. Are you ready? I didn't bring a lot of ideas but; a week of Thanksgiving, you're gonna shop and prepare and cook and travel and clean and do all of those things, at least invest some amount of time in willingly giving thanks to God in anticipation of that day. Start now, build some lists, think of people, think of things, think of things the Lord has done for you, make it a week-long celebration of the goodness of God. And when you remember things that were hurtful or painful or stressful or dishonoring of God and inappropriate toward you, forgive, forgive. Don't carry the anger and the resentment and the bitterness and the hatred waiting for somebody else to do something or be something else or come. No, "Lord, I set them free, I thank you that I have been forgiven".
You know the awkward truth is that every family tree has a few fruits and nuts, and much of the evaluation has to do with perspective. So for Thanksgiving, I'm happy that you have favorite food and traditions in your family and things that you want, but they're secondary. It's a very, it's not uniquely American, in that we're the only nation that celebrates that, but there is something uniquely American in the way we celebrate it. My friends, my International friends, the one holiday they would like to visit for more than any other is Thanksgiving. They want turkey and dressing and pecan pie or pecan pie or whatever that pie is, "That thing you do with pumpkins and pies," they say. I mean, they've seen it in the movies or someplace else but they want to be a part of Thanksgiving. "Do you really watch football"? While I'm awake.
So have a Thanksgiving plan that goes beyond your menu, spend some time. "Well, I would if somebody". No, this isn't about somebody else, this is about you, this is about you. And don't eat a Thanksgiving meal without some expression of thanks. If you don't have the authority to do that, you step aside maybe, you grab somebody else, maybe you take a walk in the yard, I don't care how or why but you bring God into that holiday. And we're gonna follow that with a month of preparing to receive the King, and it's gonna have to be more than vacations from schools and breaks from work and shopping and what I want and what somebody should give me.
In Matthew 16, Jesus is with the disciples in Caesarea of Philippi, it's a town in the northern part of Israel, in the Golan Heights, it's where part of the headwaters to the Jordan River are. And it was there that Peter, for the first time any of the disciples, said that Jesus was the Messiah. He said, you know, "Who do people say that I am"? And they said, "Well some say you're Elijah and some say you're John the Baptist and others say you're a prophet," but he said, "Who do you say I am"? And Peter said, "You're the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God". And Jesus responded to Peter in a way that I think it's helpful for you and me. Jesus replied, "Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. This was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven".
And the further I go in my journey with the Lord, the more clear it becomes to me that we know Jesus by revelation, that he reveals himself to us. The things I know about him have not come primarily to me from study, and I'm an advocate for study and learning and reading, but God reveals himself to you. And the ones to whom he reveals himself are the ones who seek him. And that can mean different things to different people but I'm saying if you'll just set aside a bit of time, just a few minutes a day with Matthew and Luke. Say, "Lord, it's December, and I'd like to give this month to you in a unique way. Give me a revelation of Jesus".
Folks, we're in a troubled world. We're in a troubled world, if you think the politicians are gonna fix us you are deceived, only the power of God is going to protect our children. And then that gets us to a year of new beginnings and the New Year. And I'm gonna suggest that you have an anticipation of New Year that isn't centered in a series of pagan celebrations. I'm not opposed to the ball games or the distraction that sports brings or gathering with your friends but I would encourage you that we begin this New Year in a way that is honoring to the Lord. In a way that, if Jesus stepped into your New Year's celebration, you'd be quite comfortable that he had joined you, that there'd be no awkward explanations of why, that you'd be glad to see him.
You see, we're a bit inconsistent, we pray, "Lord, come quickly," and then we engage in things that we hope he doesn't come now. Now again, I'm not suggesting it be a church service, don't put that burden on me, I have church services a lot that you don't all manage to make it to. Oh, it's okay, don't have room for everybody all the time. But that you start to think about the New Year in a way that would honor the Lord. I brought you a verse of Scripture. In Colossians chapter 1, in verse 12, says, "Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light, where he's rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins".
Now that's a series of statements about the spiritual kingdom that you belong to if you're a Christ follower. It's a remarkable set of things to begin to celebrate, to thank God for, it's a reason to celebrate the New Year. In spite of all the craziness, in spite of the lawlessness, in spite of the deception, in spite of the propaganda, in spite of all the stuff, all the reasons for distress, there is something to be celebrated that's beyond the temporal citizenship that you carry. It says we've been, "Qualified to share in an inheritance in the saints". We didn't earn it, we didn't purchase it, we didn't work for it, God qualified us, and the qualifying component was the blood of his Son. I think we could celebrate that. And then it says we've been, "Rescued from the dominion of darkness".
We used to be under the authority of that spiritual kingdom for all eternity, it defined us, we were subjected to it, powerless to defeat it. Strength of will wouldn't do it, force of character wouldn't do it, large groups of people couldn't do it. We needed a power beyond ourselves and God, in his mercy, rescued us from the dominion of darkness and then he brought us into the kingdom of his Son. He just didn't deliver us from Egyptian slavery to leave us on the other side of the Red Sea, he had someplace for us, a destiny, the kingdom of his Son. And it says, "We have redemption". Redemption's a technical word in the Bible, it means you have been purchased, literally it's to say we've been bought out of slavery. We didn't have the ability to do that for ourselves. And then we've been given, "The forgiveness of sins".
Wow, now that's a collection of reasons that you could plan a celebration around. You can ask your friends to comment on every one of those, give everybody a different line and say this, "I want to hear your story relating to this," and then invite some people that aren't Christ followers, mess with them. You figure out how to interact with one another, you know ungodly ways to get people to participate. Again, we're the church, but we lived far too deeply in the world and we wonder how we find ourselves in a place where our cities are on fire with violence and our borders are open and we're bankrupt financially and morally. But we want to blame somebody else but it isn't somebody else, it's the church. And we got a whole season now of holy days in front of us, holy days to give thanks, to welcome a King, to prepare for a New Year.