Allen Jackson - Disaster, Disappointment, and Hope - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is, 'Disaster, Disappointment and Hope.' Now we're walking through a difficult season, we've just completed another election cycle, and no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it was a confusing time. It's hard to understand what we're watching from open borders, to the explosion of violence in our cities, to the economic chaos that's around us, and in the midst of that we're trying to understand our faith. What do we do with that? Well, I wanna suggest it's not a time for fear, certainly not a time for panic, it's a time to understand that our hope is more important today than it's ever been before. God is not threatened by what you're watching happen in our world. Elections don't determine our future, Almighty God does, and the church has an essential role in this season. We're gonna take the next few minutes and look at that together. Grab your Bible, maybe a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
Now, I wanna submit to you that elections are an evaluation of the spiritual health of our nation. Now, I don't know that that would be true in every nation, but the form of government we have and the processes available to us, the people that we choose to lead us in our nation, are a reflection of our hearts. So when you look at Washington DC, we're looking at a mirror and you may not like that, but I believe that is an accurate statement. So then when we have a national election, I believe it's an evaluation of our spiritual health. Let me explain that just a little bit. If you go to the doctor for a physical, and if you're young enough that you don't have to do that yet, God bless you. You will get that opportunity eventually.
And when that happens, you go to the doctor for that physical on an annual basis or whatever your particular circumstances are, for a health evaluation. They'll draw blood and they'll do some lab work on you, and they'll come back and talk to you about your cholesterol levels, too low or too high or your sugar levels being too low or too high, or your triglycerides. It's an evaluation of how you are at that level. They may take a chest x-ray and look at your lungs, if you're really fortunate, they'll give you an EKG, and if you just hit the double lotto winner, you get to do a treadmill test. And then they'll stand there and you're all hooked up, and they will make you exercise until you fail. With kind of a smirk on their faces while they're doing it.
And when you're done with all of that, they're gonna give you an evaluation on your health. Tell you how to adjust your diet, or increase your exercise, or change your routines, or if there's some intervention that might be necessary, what that would look like. But the fundamental nature of that arrangement, understands that the doctor's visit does not make you healthier. You don't walk out of the doctor's office going, "Whoa I needed that". It's an evaluation, it's to provide awareness so that you could adapt your behavior to improve your physical health. Don't bring as many fork folds to your mouth and move more. And I'm gonna weigh you again in 12 months to see how you've done with that. Now you can blame McDonald's, or processed food, but ultimately it's usually our hands that move it towards our mouth. I mean, doctors can provide some awareness of previously unacknowledged problems, but the outcomes are more in your arena than theirs.
Well, I wanna submit that that analogy holds with our elections. Elections do not make us healthier spiritually. If we are healthier, we will elect more godly people. So if you have a feeling of remorse or angst, if you're celebrating or you're weeping, and I'm sure there's some of both, know this elections reveal our strengths and our weaknesses. Now, this is where I think we have failed, we have wanted a disproportionate outcome. We've wanted God to move even if we have not. It's kind of like going to the doctor and hoping his scale is 10 pounds light. How many of you go to a doctor and his scale's heavier than yours? "Yeah, the one I weigh on, I don't weigh that much. I don't like to weigh in the doctor's office". How many you choose clothes when you go to the doctor that are lighter than you would normally wear. "Yes sir, I'm not gonna wear that 40 pounds of clothes back to the doctor's office again".
Well, we have wanted that same kind of a disproportionate outcome in elections. We've wanted to do little about our faith, to message it, to stand up for it, to bring it into the schools or the classrooms, we just wanted God to bring us a sweeping wave of people who fear his name and who will lead us in righteousness and justice and truth. And so when the tallies are done, we're often time a bit, oftentimes a bit uncomfortable. I wanna ask you a couple of questions. In the last two years, because it's been two years since we had a national election, how are you seeking the Lord differently than you were two years ago? But a follow up question, how are you serving the Lord differently than you did two years ago? How are you investing in the kingdom of God differently than you were two years ago? How are you engaging people differently than you were two years ago?
You see, we want different outcomes, we want a different trajectory. We want human life to be valued in a new way. We want schools to understand that parents should have a voice in their schools. We don't want our young children being confused about their gender and invited towards transformations. We believe in the sanctity of human life. And it's appalling when we see multiplied millions of people vote to terminate the lives of children that are viable outside the womb. And we watch it and it's awkward, but the reality is, we have to be different. We have to change. We watch lawlessness and violence escalating across our country, and I can tell you it's true. The last few months I've been in over a dozen cities for pastors meetings, and so I've been listening to leaders in those cities, and I've done four or five times that many interviews in other cities with church and Christian leaders, and I can tell you, our big cities are crumbling.
Ten days ago, I was in Seattle and Portland. I've been in LA and San Diego, I've talked to the people in Baltimore and Philadelphia, New York. Our cities are in trouble. They're violent. There are whole sections that are unsafe, the violence on a regular basis is so staggering they don't report it, it's just overlooked. Folks the church is essential, we have a voice. So I chose as a title, the happy topic of, 'Disaster, Disappointment and Hope.' 'Cause if we don't acknowledge that we're just teetering on the brink of a disaster, we're just gonna continue to face disappointment. If we can acknowledge that there's a disaster standing there, if we continue in the same vein we've been continuing in, then we can grapple with whatever disappointment you may or may not feel, and we can get to a place of hope, but we can't continue to ignore it. We can't continue to imagine somebody else is the problem, that's not how God works. God will move heaven and earth to help his people in the earth. And when his people walk away from him, God intervenes.
And we have lived carnal, ungodly, selfish, self-absorbed lives for so long, that we thought our freedom and liberties came to us from a government and that's deception. Governments can't provide those things, they never have, they never will, they come from God. There's something that's been lost in our imagination of our relationship with the Lord. And it's not without precedent, it's not the first time it's happened in this unfolding narrative of God and his people, either in our Bible or in the history of the church. God's people have frequently lost sight of necessary aspects of walking with the Lord.
Now you know this to be true, if you've ever read the gospels. Jesus is continually in this dialogue, kind of this banter, this challenging of the religious leaders of that first century around Sabbath rules. He would heal somebody and they'd say, "You can't do that". And he would say, "Why not"? They said, "Well, we have Sabbath rules". And he said, "Well, I'm the Lord of the Sabbath". And they'd wanna kill him. Or he would heal people and it would make other people angry. Or he would feed a multitude and the people would be motivated by free food, more than they were the invitation towards righteousness. You see, they had accepted a sterile rather legalistic practice of faith and Jesus's presence amongst them, showing them the dynamic kingdom of God was uncomfortable and awkward, it inspired fear and resentment, it threatened the establishment.
But the gospel generation is not the only generation to have done that, that pattern has been repeated over and over throughout your Bible and throughout the history of the church. And it's being repeated in our lives. Church, after church, after church, in our nation doesn't believe in the authority of scripture or the divinity of Jesus, or a biblically informed morality. Whole denominations are rejecting those things that will inform a biblical worldview. But there's one specific thing I think we could target that at least in my imagination contributes to this, and if we can address that, I believe we could begin to implement some significant change. In general, I don't believe we have maintained the practice of seeking the Lord. I'm not even sure we know how any longer. I don't believe we think it's significant to seek the Lord. We have cultivated a notion of discovering salvation.
So we ourselves want to discover what that means to be saved, or born again, or converted, and then we're interested in helping some other people, if it's not too inconvenient, discover salvation for themselves. The result is a life of faith, that's marked by milestones of achievement. It's kind of like completing necessary coursework on an online course. You can check the boxes and move on to the next assignment. I've said this in his prayer, I've been baptized, I have been through some sort of a discipleship class, I've read my Bible a bit. Check, check, check. It's an approach that's framed by mastery. I know the right prayer to pray, and I know where I'm supposed to sit on Sunday morning, and I know the things I should drink and the things I shouldn't, and the words I can say and the words I can't. It's kind of this approach of mastering the significant portions of our faith, rather than understanding the Master that we serve. And there's a vast difference.
See the development or growth of the church does not progress evenly, it's not just an exponential curve that grows into infinity. There are times of rapid growth, and there are periods of decline and decay. We're watching, we have watched for the last several decades, one of the most precipitous declines of Christian influence in the history of the church. We've watched escalating violence, we've watched escalating immorality, we've watched escalating perversion, and we just continued to file into our churches. We hear year after year the reports that fewer and fewer people acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ, and we just kind of keep walking. The New Testament records for us, the most dramatic season of growth and development. The participants have been trained by Jesus. Trained by Jesus, complete with his instruction not to begin anything until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, that's Acts 1.
When I would suggest it's both naive and uninformed to imagine the history of the church as an even progression. So I don't want us to be filled with fear, or chagrin, or inappropriate guilt, I want us to recognize that we've been called to a season, where a different response is going to be necessary. We cannot continue to behave as we have behaved, and imagine we're gonna get to a better place. We prayed for decades that Roe V. Wade would be turned back. And by the sovereign intervention of God, the current Supreme Court told the truth, "There is no constitutional right to an abortion". It's just not in there, I've read it. That was the statement they made. They said every state should make their decisions for themselves. And rather than that be celebrated widely, and the sanctity of human life be upheld, and there be a sense of joy in the land that multiplied millions of children wouldn't continue to be sacrificed, the opposite response has been more widely celebrated.
We saw it again recently. It's necessary for us to understand the times in the language of 1 Chronicles 12. If we're gonna accept our assignment for our turn in the arena, we have to recognize the season in which we're living. And I would submit, it's gonna take strength and courage folks. We're gonna have to stop quibbling about worship styles, and the color of our communion juice, and we're gonna have to get serious about our faith in a way that we haven't had to be, or our children and grandchildren will not know the freedom and liberty that we have enjoyed. That's not negative, I see it as a great opportunity. I think we could participate in one of the greatest moves of the Spirit of God that has been seen in the earth in a long time. But that doesn't mean it'll be easy or it won't be challenged, it means we've been invited to a season of spiritual conflict. It would've been really fun to have walked through the Red Sea with those walls of water piled up next to you.
But before they got to walk through the Red Sea, they had to have quite a conflict with Egypt, and the power of Pharaoh. Even after they got through the Red Sea and they celebrated the walls collapsing on their enemies, now they're standing in the middle of the Negev wilderness and there's no Costco open. They're out of bottled water and they're gonna have to learn to trust God in an entirely new way, and they've never done that for hundreds of years. They've been slaves in Egypt, they've been telling the same stories and celebrating these same events, and reminding one another, and now all their patterns are disrupted, and their habits are disrupted, they're living on the supernatural provision of God and they're grumbling about it every day. And we've arrived at a point where we need the supernatural intervention of God. So let's not be grumblers.
I made it to your notes, hallelujah. I think it starts with the realization that there is a God and we know it. It isn't hidden from us, it's not my opinion. Romans chapter 1. "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven". Did you know that God gets angry? You know I hear how people say, you know that God, they like the New Testament 'cause it's just all about love. Well, except in Romans 1, and Revelation, and 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Anyway, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness". When you suppress the truth, you're wicked. I don't wanna go down that path tonight. "Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them".
That's a very important statement, that what may be known about God is plain to them. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. And although they claimed to be wise, they became fools". Now, the essence of that passage, is the declaration of what human beings know. It says that, God has revealed what may be known. He has revealed himself to every person. I gave you a list of the statements he said in verse 19, God has made it plain, it's not obtuse. He's made it very plain, there is a God. To look at our world, the precision of it, the order of it, the exactness of it, and to imagine that it happened randomly, requires a tremendous suspension of belief, amen.
We may not understand fully how creation took place, but it's very clear that there was an intelligence behind the design of the world in which we live. And it doesn't, it's not a great leap of your intellect or a forfeiture of your intellect to say, "I believe God created the heavens and the earth". I think it's far more bizarre to imagine it just happened as a result of statistical probability. How long do you think you'd have to leave a pile of metal in the backyard before you had an iPhone? And that's far less complex than the proteins in your body. God has revealed himself to us. He's made it plain. It can be clearly seen, it can be understood. We have known there is a God. But the message of scripture is having known that, see, our problem is not understanding, it's our intent, we did not intend to honor him. Because if we acknowledge that there is a God, if there's an omnipotent, an all-powerful God, an omniscient an all knowing God, then the next logical step is it would be in our best interest to seek him, to understand him, to respond to him.
What would be necessary for us to please him, to have a relationship with him, to benefit from his power and his knowledge and his understanding. But if you don't wanna do that, if you wanna lead life on your terms and do what you want, if you wanna be in charge, and you wanna sit on the throne, then it's inconvenient to acknowledge that there is a God. And it's that tension where we live. All of us, all of us, we get a little hung up on this. Those of us who come to church, it's like, "Well, how much do I wanna know about God? I don't even wanna be obedient to the truth, I already know". Wrong approach. How much do you wanna know about what you need to breathe when you leave the earth atmosphere? Well, if you're leaving in the earth's atmosphere, you ought to learn everything you could possibly know, if you wanna keep breathing.
When COVID was a formidable threat a couple years ago, you wanted to know everything you could know about how not to contract that virus. You wouldn't stand close to people. You touched enough hand sanitizer to kill everything that moved. Now they're telling us, "It's damaging, stop using," And I'm going, "Well wait a minute, you couldn't find Clorox anywhere, and it wasn't even snowing. There is a God". Look at Psalm 24, "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? And who may stand at his holy place"? Those are important questions.
See, we've had this presumptive attitude. "Well, I said that prayer thing, walked out of a church, I knelt, I even cried a little bit, my parents hugged me. Pastor told me he was proud of me. I learned to ask the two EE questions". We haven't really talked about this, "Who may stand in his holy place"? Then He gives us the answer. "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, and who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob".
And before we leave today, I wanna personally encourage you not to give in to discouragement or to despair. Don't let those intruders have a place in your heart. You may feel those emotions from time to time, but we have to choose the joy of the Lord, the hope that is ours through the triumphant story of Jesus's resurrection. Jesus defeated Satan and every expression of authority that Satan might exert over your life. We are triumphant, in the name of Jesus. That's good news. Let's just say a quick prayer:
Father, I thank you for the victory that is ours through the blood of Jesus. That you have won that victory on our behalf, in Jesus's name, amen.