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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Awkward Truths of Leadership - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Awkward Truths of Leadership - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Awkward Truths of Leadership - Part 1
TOPICS: Leadership

We've been walking through this topic of leading with our faith, and the principles are pretty simple. You're leaders. You're people of influence in your professions, in your communities, in the hobbies that you've chosen, in the schools, in the college campuses. You have influence on factory floors, in job sites. When you gather with your friends, your opinion matters. People want to know what you think, and you have expertise and you have confidence to wield it in those areas. You may be a person of influence around the University of Tennessee football system, and this is a good weekend for you. You may have that same kind of experience with Vanderbilt, and it's another weekend for you.

But the reality is, we all have influence. But here's the challenge. We have not used our influence in the context of our faith very widely. We typically don't have the same confidence with our faith that we have professionally, or we don't have the same confidence with our faith that we do based around our hobbies and the things that we've given time and energy and resources to cultivating awareness and interest in learning about. We've left our faith kind of on the shelf. It hasn't been primary. It hasn't been essential. We certainly were willing to identify as a Christian in that kind of generic way, but we didn't want to be one of those over the top, overly vocal. We don't want to be those fanatical, crazy, goofball, lunatic fringe until we did, and we got to catch up a little bit because in our silence and in our timidity it was taken as weakness, and that weakness has been presumed upon and it's been bullied and threatened and cajoled and minimized and walked back until there was almost no voice left in the public square.

And we found there were other worldviews that were very forcefully being expressed in corporate boardrooms, in hospital corridors, in classrooms, in courtrooms, in job sites, in factory floors and I stood there rather embarrassed and ashamed and thought, "How could I have fallen for the ploy"? They used words like inclusive and tolerant and open-minded until they felt like they had the majority of the opinion or control over the platforms and then there was no longer tolerance, or inclusivity, or open-mindedness. Now, we're going to have to have the courage to take our faith back to the public square and back to the classrooms and back into the values that are shaping our lives not in anger or belligerence or criticism, certainly not in condemnation or violence, but it's going to take a new kind of courage. So what's it mean to lead with influence?

Well, today I want to spend a few minutes with some of the awkward truths around this kind of influence. I say awkward 'cause there are things we probably just rather not hear. I'd rather be told that, you know, if you decide to use your influence for faith, that the angels will show up immediately, that the Red Sea will part, that Pharaoh will repent, that the ravens will bring the food that you need, that fire will fall from heaven, that your children will rise up and call you blessed. I'd like to tell you that in truth all of those things may be ultimate outcomes, but between here and that outcome you got a journey to make, and if you're not prepared for that it's far more frightening and intimidating. I want you to make an informed decision because it's time to stop being passive. I'm tired of passive faith. "I'll do whatever God wants me to do". No, you won't. My Bible says God's the rewarder of those who diligently seek him; and we're going to have to be willing to get up and move, make the effort, follow him, yield to him.

So some awkward truths around our influence of our lives, and the first one is that you have influence. The question is, has it been for good or for evil? And don't... I know we're in church. So the answer for all of us is, "Absolutely, pastor". Lots of Jesus. But if we interviewed the people who worked with you, or live near you, or who interact with your children, or we talk to your kids, now, that really is intruding. You know, the most honest place in the church on a service time, it's over in the early childhood department 'cause they don't have filters yet. Right? So right now they're over there having prayer time, confessing that you screamed at one another all the way to church. They rat you out week after week after week. I will check the numbers next week. If the children's numbers go down, I'll come find you. Okay? But you have influence and you're either using it for good or for evil.

There's no third choice. Neutral doesn't matter. Because if you're neutral in the face of evil, you're cooperating with evil. So the influence of our lives is an intentional thing. Matthew chapter 16 and verse 5, Jesus is talking to his disciples. It's a little private moment. They're in the boat. They're getting ready to cross the lake in Galilee, and the disciples had forgotten lunch. Okay? Now, they're traveling with a guy that can feed 5,000 people with a happy meal, and he's done it more than once. And he makes a comment to them. He says, "Be careful. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees". And the disciples panic. They think, "He's mad at us 'cause we didn't bring lunch". You can tell their comfort level with Jesus. You can tell that they're not fully tracking. There should be comfort in that for us.

I don't feel like I fully track with the Lord very often. Do you? I'm a little slow to catch on. My best ideas are after the discussions. You think my sermons are good when you hear them. You should hear them in my head. I'm brilliant. Apparently, it's the appearing in public that diminishes my intellect, and I think we all probably understand that to some degree. And the disciples are in that. So Jesus has to point out to them. "Do you remember how many people I fed with a little bit of food"? "Five thousand". "And then we had seven loaves of bread. How many did you feed"? "Well, there was 3,000". "Do you understand yet"? The passage is repeated in Mark chapter 8. Jesus said, "Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod".

Be on your guard. Be careful. Yeast is tiny. It's not quite microscopic, but you can hold in the palm of your hand enough yeast to cause a lot of activity. So he's not talking of something of great magnitude, but it's significant enough he's warning the disciples about it. He said something small can have an enormous impact upon you. That little bit of influence can change the trajectory of your life. Do you know that your influence can change the trajectory of lives; people you work with, interact with, speak to, buy groceries from, where you purchase your gas? 2 Timothy chapter 3, we get a little different kind of discussion about influence. Paul says, "There'll be terrible times in the last days". Well, you just like to fight that out. "Last days will be amazing". It's just not what it says. There'll be terrible times. Literally the days will be exceedingly fierce, and then he gives 18 attributes of the human character that are going to deteriorate.

We've read it before. Human character is going to deteriorate. He doesn't talk about politics, or thermonuclear war, or a deteriorating environment, or threats from outer space, or aliens. He said human character will deteriorate. Again, church, we have a role to play. We provide a conscience to the culture. We're typically not the majority opinion, but we have to use our voice. It's like the immune system in your body. If your immune system stops functioning, you won't last long. And if the church stops using our voice, the health and vitality of our culture is not sustainable. But look at the verse 5 in that passage. It's the punchline. He said these people where the character is deteriorating, they're going to have a form of godliness. They're not going to be pagan. They're not going to say don't go to church, don't worship, don't have a Bible. They're going to have a form of godliness, but they'll deny the power of it.

It'll be a philosophical system. They'll have nice words and nice sounding sentences and good language, but there'll be no power. In Paul's thought and in his writing the power of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is necessary because we're sinners and we need a Savior. It's far more popular than they say. It's not about sin. I mean, who after all could define right or wrong? Who has the temerity, the audacity to suggest that they know what's right and wrong? Well, as a matter of fact the Creator does, and we serve at his pleasure and that's often awkward and uncomfortable and inconvenient. Your influence can be good or bad; and the assignment is to use your voice, to use your influence.

See, I've discovered that if you'll use the influence you have, God will multiply it. Many of us think, "Well, I'll wait until he gives me a larger platform, a greater opportunity. After all, not many people care about my opinion". You have to exercise that courage just like you do any other muscle. You have to exercise that perseverance when you're, people dismiss you and imagine you're irrelevant and relegate you to secondary or tertiary places because of the opinion you hold. You got to be willing to walk that path. You got to be willing to be left out, to be left off. We have to use our voice. Verse 3, "A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.'"

That's what we'd like to see in our schools, in our universities, in the way we conduct business, in the way we interacting with one another, in our churches; a highway for our God, a way for God to communicate, a way for God to interact. That passage is quoted in relation to John the Baptist. I put it in your notes. I thought it was worthwhile. Matthew 3, "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Deserts of Judea and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah". Matthew uses the passage from Isaiah to describe John. Can you imagine? Can you imagine Isaiah using a verse to describe you? I bet that'd be on your social media page. "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.'"

And then he gives us a little biographical information about John. John didn't live in a palace. It says, "John's clothes were made of camel's hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts," something that grows on trees, not bugs, "and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan". Now, those two sentences don't really go together. John led a simple life, and his sanctuary was the desert. It's an unpleasant place, an inhospitable place. It's not an easy place to gather or to travel. And people went to see a simple man in a difficult place from Jerusalem and all of Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. And when they got there, they confessed their sins and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

With the seat of political power and the seat of religious influence is 25 miles away in Jerusalem where it's cooler and there's an abundance of water and they'll take your picture, and they went to John in the desert. And when they got there, John didn't give them a hug. Look at verse 7. "When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?'" John would have lived much longer if he hadn't talked about current events. He would have. He died a young man. He was beheaded because he had a commentary, a running dialogue about his current culture and the Word of God, and we've been doing our best for several decades in the American church to avoid that precise thing because we've wanted to behave in ungodly, immoral ways and support ungodly, immoral things and not be reminded of what we were doing.

We got to stop pointing our fingers through the windows and begin to humble ourselves. I gave you one more verse about John. I thought it was important. It's Luke 7. This is Jesus speaking. He said, "I tell you", and you know by now when Jesus begins something with, "I tell you the truth," you're not going to believe what's coming next. He said, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John". Boom. Nobody better than John. He wasn't powerful. He wasn't welcomed in the halls of power. He didn't have great resources. He lived in the desert, led a simple life. He delivered a powerful message with determination and his life ended early. He could have just been a little kinder or had a better wardrobe. He needed a publicist, and Jesus said there was nobody greater.

So the first awkward truth I want to be certain that we don't miss is the significance of utilizing your influence. Use your voice. Be like John. Wherever your voice is, whatever it may look like, it may not seem powerful. It's not our platform, it's God's authority. You've all known somebody that had great position and a big title and a fancy office and nobody cared about what they thought, and I bet you've known somebody who was quiet and seemingly overlooked and you highly valued their opinion. Use your voice.

There's a spiritual struggle underway. It's not predominantly an economic struggle or a struggle between nation states or a struggle between political parties, it's spiritual. The evidence of that are issues that emerge from the spiritual realm, first and foremost. Proliferating amongst us are deception, manipulation, intimidation. Those are all characteristics of the spirit of Antichrist. They'll ultimately culminate in an individual, the most beastly leader the world will have ever known; but right now we see those attitudes, those spirits gaining influence in the nations of the world, not just in ours, and the things that, you know, the rational things that stand against it are ineffective.

I'll give you an example. My father was a veterinarian, and my academic career began in the sciences so I have an affinity for science. I like equations that balance. I like outcomes that we can be reproduced and are measurable. But science is a method, not an answer. All right? Does that make sense? Science is not the ultimate truth, science is a process that we engage in to help us understand the world in which we live. That's the essence of science. It's measurable, it's quantitative, it's reproducible or it isn't science. Well, the mantra we've heard for the last several months and years is follow the science. Well, science cannot stand in the face of a spiritual onslaught. Science alone is incomplete and inadequate. It's the wrong tool for the challenge.

I can illustrate that from our own experience. We've watched it. I don't think we've known how to talk about it or even had permission to talk about it. But with the COVID virus that came to us from Wuhan, we weren't even supposed to say it came from Wuhan. We weren't sure how it happened. Maybe it landed on a meteorite that plunged into the ocean and washed up on, 'cause all kinds of life forms wash up out of the ocean. We've heard that story before. What we did know about it was we didn't know much about it. It was unknown. We had little experience. We weren't sure about its origin, but we didn't know a lot. And as we began to learn with days and in weeks and in months of observation and some experience and some measurable outcomes, there were constantly changing responses.

That's appropriate. You would expect that, but for the most part we failed to acknowledge our learning and we just clung to ideas or statements that had been made previously even though they had been demonstrated by some point along the journey to be less than true. And if you dared to offer a dissenting opinion to the accepted narrative, you were threatened, you were shouted down, you were silenced, bullied in some way. We all understood it was better just to go along. The one thing I can tell you, I don't know a lot about the virus; but what I can tell you, science would be the same in Tennessee or California or Illinois or New Jersey. It wouldn't change in state borders. It wouldn't depend upon who was elected governor. But I don't want to, it's a spiritual battle. It's far more pervasive.

There's a lot of emotion around that virus. It was real. It was a challenge. It was threatening lives. That's not imagination. What we needed was truth to overcome it. That's where the church has such an essential... I can give you another example. Climate science. Again, I'm an advocate for science. I think you would have to be a bit off balance to perfectly want to see the destruction of the habitat in which we live. But climate science is not as simple as it is presented. I'll give you one component. Renewable energy. What a wonderful word. It's a little bit like clicking your heels together and you can go home. I'm an advocate for renewable energy, but the concept in that discussion protected by the word science has become something held in greater reverence than most people's religious faith.

Our children are indoctrinated with it far more carefully and far more persistently and far more routinely than they're ever taught a biblical worldview. That's our reality, and if you're not awake to it yet please wake up. But the perspective that's given, in my opinion at least, is highly manipulative. I'll give you one perspective. Electric cars. Have you heard? They're a thing. And honestly I'm not that mechanical. They may be the next great breakthrough in human transportation. They could very well prove to be a better mousetrap. I'm not arguing that. They have fewer moving parts, they're quieter, their acceleration rates are crazy, but the electricity that's needed to charge those batteries is still generated primarily by fossil fuels. And if we just kind of stepped over that little science nugget and the energy grid we have would not sustain it if just 25% of us had an electric car.

So it very well could be our solution, but today no. So when they're shouting at you follow the science and they act as if you're a Neanderthal dragging your knuckles on the ground because you hesitate, what I want to submit to you is the reason that voice can be so loud is the church has stepped away. This is a spiritual struggle. It's about truth. In order to combat deception, you don't need to shout facts more loudly. We need truth. And the deception, the manipulation, the intimidation, all have a spiritual source and only a weakened, diminished, intimidated, and to be candid cowardly church has allowed that to emerge.

So when we pray for our nation, when we pray for our nation and we pray for the upcoming election, it isn't so much about the names on the ballot. I understand that's important. I get lectures. But I promise you it's more important that truth be honored in the public square. So with that, can we pray? Will you stand with me whichever sanctuary you're in? If you're at home, stand up. Put down your Danish. I saw somebody last week, and they said, "We were at home. We just gotten snuggled in, had the blankets just right and you said stand up". And they said, "We did". So good for you, okay? Back up. All right. We stand out of respect for the Lord, to honor him.

Father, we come today in the name of Jesus. We thank you for the liberties and freedoms that we have been given. Lord, we recognize they have come to us at great sacrifice. And I ask for your forgiveness, Lord, that we would simply presume upon them and imagine that sacrifice would not be required of us. Lord, we recognize there's a battle in the earth, and today we present ourselves as living sacrifices. Lord, use us. We ask for your mercy upon us as a people. Forgive us. We've ignored you or turned our backs on you and been silent in the face of ungodliness or wickedness or immorality, but we come today in humility to ask not only for your forgiveness but that you would look upon us once again with grace and mercy.

In the election that's ahead, Father, I pray that there'll be conducted in a way that's open and forthright so those who observe and watch and pay attention, Lord, they will recognize the change. I thank you for it. Lord, give us leaders from the lowest offices of the land to the highest who fear your name, who respect you, who have the courage to stand for the values and principles that you have entrusted to your people. I thank you for it. I praise you for all that you'll do. Lord, for those who have plans or schemes or plots or ideas or things to implement to divert or manipulate, I pray that they will fail. I pray that once again truth will arise in the street, and we thank you for that. We will celebrate your faithfulness. In Jesus's name, amen.

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