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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Be Thankful

Allen Jackson - Be Thankful

Allen Jackson - Be Thankful
TOPICS: Thankfulness

God has blessed this nation that if our children and grandchildren are going to know freedom and the privilege of pursuing opportunities, not the opportunities the government gives us but the opportunities of what God places in our hearts, then we're going to have to learn to stand in a different way than we have for many years. I want you to imagine, and it's a biblical principle, but generations have different labels, they're known for different things. It's said of the World War II generation that they were the Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw wrote a book with that title, and it seemed appropriate to us, the sacrifices they made, the courage they displayed.

There was a battle for the future of the globe and which world view is gonna predominate, and our finest young men and women took extraordinary risks and made tremendous sacrifices so that freedom can be extended for another generation. Well, that's not just something from relatively modern history, it's a biblical idea that every generation has to make a choice. It doesn't take long for an idea to be lost, doesn't take very long for an idea to be completely lost or a new definition to become dominant. It happens far more quickly than I ever imagined. In Romans chapter 1 and verse 28, it says, "Since they didn't think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done".

I would submit to you, we don't want that to be the label of our generation. They didn't think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, I think it's worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. I think it's worthwhile to meditate upon the Word of God, not just to read it as an assignment, not just to read it with a sense of obligation, but to think about it, to try to understand it, to assimilate it, to let it become a part of who I am and how I look at the world, the filter through which I understand relationships and interaction and business and family. I think it's worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. I can't imagine that God's people would hold any other attitude, but the book of Romans is written to the church in Rome, it's not written to pagans, and this first chapter is a bit of a warning about the deterioration of human character.

And that precipitous decline begins, is accelerated, when we no longer think it's worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. We need God in our public schools, we need God in our public forums, we need the name of Jesus welcomed in our courtrooms, in our classrooms, in our university settings, in our surgical suites. Church, that's our assignment. Well, not everybody wants to pray in Jesus's name. Then you can be quiet. We wouldn't require everybody to pray, but you shouldn't have the ability to forward to forbid us praying. We've conceded the field for too long. Well, what if someone's offended by your prayer? Well, what if someone's offended by their refusal to pray? We can just both respect one another, but we shouldn't be banished from the public square. We've lost our perspective.

There's an interesting statement in Galatians chapter 4, it's referencing when Jesus's entry into time, the incarnation. Jesus got an Earth suit. Philippians 2 tells us that he willingly laid aside the privilege of heaven and accepted the rather humiliating expression of being found in human likeness. And then he became obedient to his Father, obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And it says in Philippians 2 that because he did those things, God exalted him and gave him the name that's above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow on Heaven and Earth and under the earth. But in Galatians we get a little commentary, a little note on when Jesus came. It wasn't random, it wasn't accidental, it was as precise as the orbit of the earth around the sun. If there's anything that creation tells us, it's that God is a god of order, tremendous precision. We've listened to a lot lately about follow the science, we can follow the science because of the order of God's creation.

But in Galatians chapter 4 and verse 4 it says, "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law". God sent his Son at the exact right time. One translation said, "When the time was just right, God sent his Son". It wasn't random, it wasn't accidental, it wasn't like, it looks like a pretty day, let's go. So, I want to add to that something Jesus said about the generation into which he was born. This is Jesus's commentary, it's Luke chapter 11 and verse 29, "As the crowds increased, Jesus said, 'This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.'" That doesn't seem logical to me, it would have surprised me if I hadn't have found it in Scripture. The generation that welcomed the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God, the greatest display, the greatest revelation of the creator of Heaven and Earth that humanity has ever seen came to a generation that the Lord himself said was a wicked generation.

See, if I'd been writing the script, I'd have sent him to a righteous generation. I'd have sent him to a godly generation, a receptive generation. Now, there are some aspects of the world when Jesus came that made the proclamation of the message easier than it had ever been in human history. I can explain the why, but it's the resistance that catches me off guard. Jesus said, this is a wicked generation. You asked for a sign, they've had miracles, there have been people raised from the dead, there have been dozens and dozens of healings, he spoke with an authority, even the demons yielded to his words, he spoke to the storms and they abated, and what did they say when they saw him? We want more tricks. And Jesus said, you're a wicked generation, a wicked generation.

So, the question, I think it's pertinent, I think it bears some thought far beyond just a single lesson at church. What's going to be said of our generation? What are we gonna be known for? How are we gonna label this generation? Greed and envy would seem to work. We want what we do not have, no matter what we have, we want more. And we really would prefer someone else to pay for it. We've acquired debt at a more rapid pace than any people in history, accumulating things that we don't have room for. We have more storage units than we've ever had, so we can store the stuff that we borrowed money to purchase, because we don't have room for it where we live. It's probably better it's dark, I can't see your expressions too well. And then we'll vote for politicians who promise to cancel our debts. Greed and envy, it's as real within the church as it is without.

What's this generation going to be known for? Family has been diminished, very intentionally deconstructing the biblical model of family, that notion of a nuclear family, a man and a woman and their biological children. It's not a perfect idea, because it's comprised of people, and anywhere place you put enough people, that's going to be far from perfect. But it's the designer's intent, and it is still the best way for human beings to flourish on planet Earth, and we're gonna have to have the courage to say that, not in an angry way. We've watched marriage be redefined, parenting has been redefined, it's become a competitive exercise. It's not helpful for your children or others. How are we going to be known? As the sexually immoral generation?

We have more sexual liberties than than any generation certainly in our history. We've lost our balance within the church, we've lost our perspective, the biblical perspective on human sexuality identifies marriage as the context for sexual activity, and you put a period there. Before that or beyond that it's destructive. No matter what your intents are, outside of that context, the Scripture tells us it's destructive, and that doesn't go unnoticed by God, that we ignore his boundaries. Again, within the church, we've lost our way. What's our generation's going to be known for? I read an article this week that suggested it was going to be for our embracing transgender ascendancy. There's a possible argument for that, it's certainly a thought leader right now in contemporary culture. It's built in confusion and rebellion. The article I read said, we're born a blank slate. They used a sports analogy, they said, it's just like a jump ball. It's not clear when you're born.

Now, I grew up on a farm. I was thinking, no, we used to have to make a call on all those things that were born. It would've not gone well if I came out and said, I can't tell, just not clear yet. But the idea has gained momentum because of our misplaced ideas around male and female. It didn't start this year, it hasn't started in the last two or three years, it started because we wouldn't accept God's boundaries around being male and female. We were offended by that, we wanted more freedom and more opportunity. Now, I will acknowledge that women can do most things that men can, and conversely men can do most things that women can do, but there are some significant differences. Again, I have to go back to my farm training, it will help you there. We should acknowledge this and teach our children this.

I'm old enough to remember when Billy Jean King played Bobby Riggs. It was the Battle of the Sexes, we celebrated for weeks, I remember the big bowls of vitamins that Bobby Riggs was swallowing. He needed to, he was old and worn out, and she was young, and she whipped him on national TV. But it really didn't redefine how we understand one another. We still play women's tennis and men's tennis, and we still have women's track and men's track. It seems to me that we choose our distinctiveness when it suits us, and we want to abolish it when it doesn't. It's not about intellect or emotional strength or human capability, we all know remarkable, remarkable examples of all of those things, but because we weren't willing to embrace a biblical worldview around men and women within the church, we have opened our culture up to confusion and frustration and things that are threatening to sweep us away. Don't be angry at somebody else, let's just quietly began to talk to the Lord and say, Lord, where have I wandered away from your perspective?

I think we've got to come back to this fundamental notion that we have to be grateful for the blessings of God upon us. We've lost sight of that. The stores and the shelves in our stores are not as filled as they used to be, have you noticed? It's a bit unsettling, and I don't think we're at the end of that process. I think we're probably far more towards the beginning. Don't go by more toilet paper, two rooms full is enough. But one of my favorite places to visit has always been the grocery store, because I've lived places where I didn't have them, and food was not easy, it wasn't convenient, it wasn't comfortable. It took great effort and focus and a plan almost on a daily basis, and for me the privilege of walking into a grocery store, walking into a cookie aisle, that's just, it's a spiritual experience for me. You can find a dozen kinds of Oreos, as if, like, the original version weren't good enough.

And in case you're not smart enough to unscrew that cookie and put two of those cream fillings together, they made Double Stufs. Then they dip them in fudge, 'cause God forbid you should have to open your own chocolate and have a bite of cookie and a bite of chocolate. And then you walk over to the to the mustard aisle, and there's two dozen kinds of mustard. Stone ground, what does that mean? We are so blessed, we have lost our minds, and we don't know how to be thankful. There's an event from Jesus's life that I think highlights this a bit. I'm going to read you the portion, it's a little longer than we normally look at, but I think it's helpful. "One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him," did you know there were Pharisees that wanted to be Jesus's friends? There were some of them that even acknowledged him, but the majority chose to be an antagonist.

Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner, "So he went to the Pharisee's house and he reclined at the table. A woman who lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, and she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him," Jesus, "at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. And she wiped them with her hair, and she kissed them, and poured perfume on them". There's no comment on it in the notes, but it seems to me she was pretty comfortable in this Pharisee's house, I don't know, I'm just, "When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of a woman that she's a sinner.' And Jesus answered, Simon, I have something to tell you. And he said, 'Well, tell me teacher.'"

Now remember, Luke is a physician, and he often writes with that kind of clarity of a diagnostician. Up till this point, he's just given us the backstory. He's told us who invited Jesus to dinner, he's described a bit of his home, a woman that came to visit, and something of her background. We don't know the details other than the community understood her to be a sinful woman and that she is moved by Jesus's presence to the point of making a physical expression of gratitude towards him. And the Pharisee is offended by watching this scene play out, and he's pointing his displeasure at Jesus, being critical of Jesus, saying if he was truly a prophet, he would know the nature of the woman who has been interacting with him.

And now the conversation breaks into the open, it's no longer Luke providing us with backstory, Jesus has something to say to Simon the Pharisee. And he tells him a parable, "'Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii and the other 50.'" Let's just say a denarii is worth $100. "'Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?' And Simon the Pharisee replied, 'Well, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.' And Jesus said, 'You judged correctly.'" Man, playing Jeopardy with Jesus, he said, you had the right answer for $1,000. I'm thinkin' you'd stand a little taller. "And then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I came into your house and you didn't give me any water for my feet.'"

There's a series of customs that were expressions of hospitality, and Simon has refused them all to Jesus, and this woman, with her behavior, has fulfilled every one of those expressions of hospitality which Simon refused to grant him. Now, at this point in the story for, all we really can tell is that there's Jesus and Simon and this woman. So, you think, well, Simon was perhaps not that hospitable, maybe he was busy, maybe he was anxious, maybe he was nervous, but we're gonna read a bit further. So, Jesus is gonna identify all the ways where this woman showed hospitality that Simon refused. This woman, "'You didn't give me water for my feet, she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn't give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You didn't put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.' And Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'"

It's a beautiful story. All of us understand that there's a point in which our lives, if it was to be portrayed on these large screens, we'd be more like the woman than the Pharisee. And Jesus is extending to her grace and mercy and forgiveness, don't ever forget that. When I talk to you about standing, when I talk to you about acknowledging the truth, I'm not asking you to be angry or belligerent, I'm asking you to live with the humility to recognize that you have needed forgiveness, and that you can stand for the truth while you extend forgiveness or grace and mercy to those who are still struggling to find the truth for themselves. Church is not a Hall of Fame of perfect people, we're a triage unit for broken folk.

Now, that's our truth, but let's finish the story. Verse 49, "The other guests," whoa, wait a minute, Luke, you slipped that one in on us. This isn't just Simon and this woman who has entered his home, there's a whole table filled with people, so now I understand a little better why the Pharisee was reluctant. He wasn't willing to be identified with Jesus. He can welcome him into his home, we'll see if he's for real, we're gonna check out his authenticity, we'll ask him some hard questions, but he didn't want to embrace him, he didn't want to show him the expressions of respect or or hospitality it would've been customary to a friend or someone that you wanted to show that public respect to. All those things have been withheld, "And the other guest began to say among themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' And Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you go; in peace.'"

We have a room filled, a dinner table filled with religious experts, people whose lives are totally invested in adhering to the laws of Moses, and we have a woman who's publicly acknowledged to be ungodly, and they all gather with Jesus for a meal, and the woman leaves with her sins forgiven, and the rest of them leave having heaped coals on their heads. It's a lesson in receiving, and it's really rooted in thanksgiving. The woman, because of her humility and her sacrifice, she made a sacrifice in anointing Jesus's feet. It was a remarkable public expression of humility. On the other side, the contrast is the arrogance, the imagined self sufficiency of Simon and his friends. They're unable to receive the lesson, they could answer the question appropriately, but they're not about to engage in the behaviors that would bring the outcome to their lives. There should be a warning to us at that point, church. Because much of our training around our experiences together has been getting the right answers to the questions.

Do we know the words, how many tribes, what are their names, where did Simon study, who was the rabbi whose feet that the Apostle Paul studied under, who are the 12 disciples? We can answer the questions, but do we hold in our heart the intent to honor Jesus? The woman came with a sense of gratitude, she recognized that she needed mercy, and she was willing to give a public expression of that gratitude in such a way that it brought a much greater blessing to her. I would like to plant a seed that being thankful and giving public expressions of gratitude is more than just a platitude. In fact, it's a commandment in Scripture. It has very little to do with emotion, and it has everything to do with obedience. We're not grateful because things are going well, we give expressions of thankfulness because God told us to. He said to give thanks in all things, not just on the Saturday evenings when the weather's beautiful and everything's working. Gratitude completely changes your ability to receive from God.

On the other hand, a lack of gratitude, being unthankful, unappreciative, being filled with that kind of ingratitude hardens your heart, irrespective of your adherence to rules, even your proximity to Jesus. Can you imagine sitting at a table with Jesus and missing the blessing? Can you imagine sitting at a table with Jesus and knowing the right answers and missing the blessing? I don't want to do that, but it has my attention. We have got to cultivate a heart of gratitude, not sloppiness, humility. The woman was willing to come and say, I need forgiveness. See those, those in the room who thought their religious adherence was sufficient, they had such a small need, folks we've been guilty on this point.

We've been so sure we were right, we've joined the right church, we belong there right denomination, we take communion in the right way, we sing music in the best way, we read the right translation of the Bible, whatever the reasons are, and wherever we are breaking with our adherence to God's truth, we have excuses for that that causes us to feel justified. That's a very dangerous way to live. It's a very dangerous way to live. I believe God's judgment has been sprinkled upon us, and the question is what will we do? Will we humble ourselves and acknowledge our need and begin to give thanks to God, to retain the knowledge of God? If we will, I believe we'll see the most remarkable moving of the Spirit of God that our nation has ever known, more profound than the first great awakening or the second or any of the outpouring that have come since. But I believe the difference will be in the response of God's people to him.

Very few things have the power to break the bondage of heaviness in our lives like thankfulness. It takes self-discipline. It doesn't start with our emotions. It's a decision in our will. So I wanna encourage you today to take some time, particularly if you've been walking through a difficult place or a dark time or a heavy place, to make a list of some things you can be thankful for and begin to express it to the Lord. Push back on the heaviness. Don't give into it. I'm not saying it isn't real. The circumstances are real, but a spiritual response of gratitude will open a door of opportunity before you. God's been good to us. Life comes with some challenging places, but the faithfulness of God will bring us through. Let's pray:

Father, thank you. I thank you that you are a God who delivers and restores and redeems and renews and I pray that that reality will break through in every heart listening today. In Jesus's name, amen.

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