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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Listening and Learning - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Listening and Learning - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Listening and Learning - Part 2
TOPICS: God's Voice

It's good to be with you again. We're gonna complete our session on "Listening and Learning". There's no more important characteristic in your toolbox than learning to recognize God's directions in your life. He speaks to us in a lot of ways: by his Spirit, by his still small voice, through the Word of God, sometimes through a friend or a song or a book, but we've got to recognize God's promptings. Well, the point of our study today is to open our hearts to become more receptive, more aware, more in tune. In a season of turmoil we need to recognize that still small voice saying, "Follow me". Grab your Bible and notepad. But most of all, open your heart.

The northern end of the Sea of Galilee was the most populated. There were warm springs on that northern end, and the fishing was better, so the population was higher there. If you visit it today, it's one of the tourist sites. It's Tabgha, it's the Place of Seven Springs, and it's in integral part of Jesus's ministry. There were several things that happened in Jesus's ministry right in that vicinity within a few hundred yards, maybe not, of where the churches are today, but certainly on that northern end. It's where he called some of his first disciples. It was one of the places where he multiplied the food with the loaves and the fishes and fed a multitude. It was also the place where he restored Peter after Peter struggled a bit during the unfolding of Jesus's passion. I wanna walk through those things 'cause I think there are some mountains that you and I are negotiating still, and those lessons from Tabgha can help us tonight if we can listen pretty quickly.

In Matthew 4:19 when Jesus is recruiting, he said, "Come, follow me". It's a significant statement. You really do matter. And it is something I would like to put before you tonight. Beyond your conversion, beyond your certainty of your faith, beyond the comfort of imagining your destiny is reserved, are you leading your life in such a way that you intend to follow Jesus? I know it's this rather subjective question but in the quiet places of your heart are you more concerned that Jesus follow you? "How do I get Jesus to bless what I wanna do"? Or are we willing to say, "Lord, I will follow you where you send me, on the assignments that you give to me"?

See, following Jesus isn't just obedience to ten commandments, it's following the truth of God wherever it leads you. The struggle with following is not saying No to immorality. You're not very far into your journey before you realize the appropriateness or the inappropriateness of some things. The challenge seems to be saying Yes when the path of truth is painful. Am I willing to do something difficult? Am I willing to stand in an awkward place? I mean, personal decisions about good and evil, if you're not processing those for the Lord, you shouldn't really imagine you're a disciple. You're practicing sin and you can't do that and enter the kingdom of God. Let's move beyond that. That's a pretty early stage of spiritual formation.

Now we're gotta grow up to the place that we would accept an assignment that wasn't easy. We would volunteer. Matthew 11 and verse 28, Jesus again: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, I'm gentle and humble in heart, and you'll find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". He didn't say, "Don't engage in things that will make you tired". You see, I don't think weariness is a sign of missing your discipleship call. It's just an acknowledgement that there are times and places where we need rest. Rest is a part of the cycle. There are times we're asked to stand in difficult places. I'm pretty certain when Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy and he says, "Hurry, I'm cold, I'm alone. Could you bring me a coat? Most of the folks have abandoned me. Bring my parchments. Be careful, these people caused me trouble on the way".

That doesn't sound like a comfortable, easy place. Jesus is ultimately our pattern and he certainly didn't walk the easiest of paths. Read through the book of Acts. You wouldn't let your kids go on mission trips with those nutcases. I chose this for tonight on purpose. If you're in church on a Wednesday night, you have drank the Kool-Aid. If you're watching this online, you may have a glass of Kool-Aid, I don't know, but it has to begin with us. Stop being angry at the wicked or the ungodly or the immoral and begin to say to the Lord, "Lord, I'd like to know you better". Stop with the questions like, "Do I have to have the baptism in the Holy Spirit"? No, but you could. You could. "Well, I mean, if I don't have to". What do you mean, "If I don't have to"? Do you wanna make the journey with less than the equipment that's provided? "Well, the way I grew up". Well, you're not fully grown yet. Keep growing. "My people". Our people are God's people.

The second component I think is restoration. John 21: "Peter, do you love me"? Jesus, post-Resurrection, in Galilee with the disciples, breakfast on the shore of the lake. "Peter, do you love me"? I think the question we all face from time to time: "Is there a way out of the place where I am"? "Are my failures fatal"? Peter's denied the Lord. He was no help when he needed help. I mean, on more than one occasion on his journey through the Gospels, Jesus looked at him and said, "You have little faith". And then when he needed some faith, he didn't have any at all. Now, Jesus had told him he was coming, but Peter couldn't process it. He said, "There's no chance that's me. There's just no way I would do that. I'm all in. I left the fishing business, I've been with you for a while now. I'm all in".

And now he's standing before the Lord with those failures like a barrier between them. We know what that's like. We've failed the Lord. We've made our declarations about our faithfulness and our steadfastness and yet we have stumbled. Am I in a hole so deep that I'm destined to stay in the pit? It's an important question. You see, sometimes, we process it by denying the pit or by denying that we've wandered and we won't acknowledge the truth. And as long as we're doing that, until we come to the point of repentance we wall ourselves off from the momentum we need to go forward. It's a part of the challenge for the church today. We're having a hard time saying those 60 million children we lost were on our watch. We're having a hard time saying that they redefined marriage while we were filling our pulpits and our buildings or they took the Ten Commandments out of schools or they've made Christianity not welcome in the corporate boardroom any longer.

It's our watch, folks. Stop being angry at other people and put our face on the carpet and say, "God, this is us. We've been writing new worship choruses, inventing new ways to worship the Lord," and say, "We were completely reconstructing worship and yet we were in almost full-blown retreat". We've got to come back. If we will humble ourselves. "Peter, do you love me"? "Lord, you know I love you". Finally, Peter's offended. I don't have the time, but I'd love to walk through the book of Acts with you. Peter changes. If you add the Day of Pentecost into that and the outpouring of the Spirit, by the time you get to Acts chapter 3, it's not the same guy. Through the Gospels, they were like the Keystone Cops. It's like Curly, Larry, and Moe. And by the time the book of Acts is unfolding, there's a boldness, a determination, a courage. I mean, he stands in front of the same group of people that orchestrated the execution of Jesus and says, "You murdered the Messiah".

In my imagination, I'm watching the faces of the other disciples and they're rolling their eyes. "Here goes Pete again. He's never learned to shut his mouth". But he's not living with little faith anymore. God's awakening a generation of people. Are we gonna go with them? I want to. I want to. I've picked up some new behaviors, some new practices, I've adjusted my schedule, I've focused how I'm spending my energy in new ways, because I recognize a need for different outcomes. Not based on moral or immoral or godly or ungodly. I'm saying, "Lord, I'm willing to change". Psalm 147: "The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds". I love that sentence. "He heals the brokenhearted And He binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; and He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. The Lord supports the afflicted; He brings down the wicked to the ground".

Folks, we've had too small of an imagination of God. We've equated him to our worship services, our denominational affiliation, or whether we were Pentecostal or not, or whatever. God's bigger than all those labels or boxes or indicators. We need a bigger heart. We've been a little apologetic, we've been a little timid. We thought people with education or social degrees or something they've announced was new, had made your faith out of date. It is not. We've been watching the last few, you know, they've got a new telescope in space and it is destroying their theories. Ha, ha, ha. Ah, it's like God's just showing off. He's just showing off. So when I read that he counts the number of the stars and he gives names to them all, I'm like, "Yeah, he just rolled out a new batch". I don't know if they've been there all along and we couldn't see 'em or when we got to where we could see, he just made some more. It doesn't really matter to me. He can do either one. He's not like us. He can bring life to the dead and still a storm.

And then finally, they're at Tabgha. Jesus fed the people. It's a form of miracle he did more than once, taking a relatively small amount of food and feeding a large amount of people and having significant, having more left over than he began with. It's a supply chain issue. Have you heard of any of those lately? They don't cause God a great deal of grief. He'll change the chain. God's abundance on display. It's not for our comfort and convenience and for our ease. We've perverted it. Sure, God wants to bless us. God wants us to have all that we need. He wants us to live in his abundance. The best understanding I have of that is everything I need to meet the requirements of the day with a sufficient amount to share with somebody else.

Now, that's not what I want. I want everything I'm every gonna need for anything I'm ever gonna do. And I want it locked in a warehouse someplace and I want the key. Because my carnal choice is not to have to trust or to follow or to be dependent or to lean upon. But God has loved me enough that he won't relent, he wants me to learn to trust him. Ah, in fact, he told me to pray that I would have my daily bread. And so, a part of this, if we're gonna talk about his abundance, is not to imagine that we have to secure our future. We live in a very unstable time. Would anybody be shocked if the stock market went through some dramatic changes? Does anybody imagine that our economy right now is particularly stable? Which part of bankrupt are we missing? And yet, God is well able to secure our future. We put our trust into some other things and so we live more fearfully than we should.

There's a place of freedom and abandonment that we have missed. You can trust God's provision for your life. I'm not asking you to be foolish. If you're not working, don't ask God for his provision. He said you're worse than an agnostic. You're worse than an unbeliever if you won't provide for your family. It's not the government's job. You're not entitled, I want to annoy everybody before I'm finished so if you're not annoyed yet, bear with me for a moment, I'll get to you. We're gonna close this out in a very annoying way, so it's okay. But God's abundance in our lives is not separate from our character. Psalm 50 and verse 10: "Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine".

I believe that. I don't believe it's some metaphorical statement. I believe God knows every bird in the mountains. Why are we more willing to believe that Google can listen on your conversation and yet you don't think God would be bothered with your prayer? Why is it we're so reluctant to believe in the magnificence of the God we worship? We stand in amazement at the technology that we can create. Do you think God's intimidated by your iPhone? I don't. Psalm 23, those familiar words: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want".

See, if you're following the shepherd, if you're not following the shepherd, you're probably gonna have some wants. But if we'll follow the shepherd. This isn't so complicated. We've missed out on some things. We've missed out on some things and I think we've gotta come back to some fundamental points. I've gotta finish. And begin to talk to the Lord with a little more integrity and a little more honesty. And say, "God, I've worked so hard to secure myself, to get my way and my wants and my plans and I wanna follow you. I am in need of restoration 'cause there have been times and places and seasons where I was faithless and I wanna bring, I don't wanna deny them, I don't wanna excuse them, I don't wanna blame them on somebody else. I don't wanna just act like it's part of my ancient history. If I can find someplace last week where I think I missed. I'll tell you what I was convicted of since we're having a quiet moment".

I did a memorial service in the last few weeks and there at one of them I did was a group of people that I didn't know, and I tried to present them with the reality of eternity, because I had a feeling that some of the people participating, it was not a message they'd heard. I don't mean hellfire and brimstone, but while they were considering the death of someone that they considered a friend, I wanted them to consider their own. And it had been a long day and I was tired and it was a, yeah. Yeah, I was trying to get in my car in the parking lot and a man I didn't know stopped me and he said, "Were you", there were multiple people that participated. He said, "Were you that last presenter"? He was very well dressed and articulate, and I said, "Yes, sir". And it was clear he'd been crying. And he said, "Very motivational". He didn't have language to even talk to me about what I had said. "Very motivational".

And I was tired, I was past tired, wherever that is. I was out of friendly. Do you ever get out of friendly? And I said, "Well, thank you". And he went on and I got in my car and I replayed that conversation and I think that man would have been receptive to any number of invitations and because of my space, I wasn't ready. So I've said to the Lord, "Lord, you know, I'm not sure I got that right. I'm sorry". You know, it's been some years ago, in a similar vein, I finished a weekend. Before COVID we used to do five weekend services, two on Saturday, two on Sunday and one on Sunday night and by the time we got done with Sunday night, I was out of friendly. I was out of the area code of friendly. But we'll pray with whomever comes forward every service, and one Sunday night I was finishing up and there were some people with issues.

And as I finished that up and I walked away, I heard the Spirit of God in me say, "You didn't really do your best". I'm gonna, if you'd been watching, you wouldn't have known whether I did or didn't but in my heart I was trying to finish so I could go. And I mean, I talked, I did my best to come back and say, "I will do what I feel like you asked me to do in those points". So a couple of weeks ago when I bump into that, I thought, "I know that. Lord, I'm sorry". See, what I wanna invite you to is to live with an awareness of the Lord where you don't talk about your need for repentance and forgiveness as if it was something that happened in the dark recesses of your past.

I wanna live aware enough and inclined enough towards the invitations of God that when I'm conscious that I could have missed it slightly, that I could make an adjustment. Not because I think has a lightning bolt and he's cackling 'cause he's about to release it. I wanna honor the King. I don't want a professional athlete to work harder at what he's doing than I'm gonna put in my commitment to what God's invited me to do in the service of the King. So when I invite you to imagine God's provision or his restoration or, yeah, I mean, if you're walking in blatant disobedience and you're practicing sin, quit it. It will destroy you. But I'm asking you to walk in another place as well. And that's with an awareness and a sensitivity to the Lord, so that we will respond to his invitations.

I read a book years ago and it was a comparison of men and women and it described men as being buffalo and it said a buffalo will continue grazing in the midst of a full-on blizzard with a 30-mile-an-hour wind from the North and the snow falling so deeply it's a white-out. The buffalo will keep its head down and keep eating. In the book... don't hold me accountable. The book said women were more like a butterfly. Not that they weren't tough or strong or durable. They were just more sensitive to the wind and the change in the humidity. There are times we have to have the strength and the determination to stand against a gale, but we need to be sensitive enough to recognize the invitations and the directions of God, amen? So when we talk about restoration, don't step away from it.

Go back to Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul". Your soul is your emotions, your will, your thoughts. Those things need restoration. You grow weary, you grow tired, you get a bad thought and it gains momentum and it snowballs like an avalanche coming downhill. "He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake". Folks, God is awakening his church. I wanna be a part and I know you do too. It's not beyond our intellect. We have to cultivate the intent. And what I have discovered is if you will say to the Lord consistently, "I wanna honor you. Help me honor you today," and then pause at the end of the day and with just a few moments' quiet reflection, "Lord, is there anything that needs addressed, anything that needs adjusting"?

You'd be amazed at what he'll bring to you. It's the most exciting way I know to make your journey through time. And when you come to the end of the journey, what is ahead of you is beyond description. Serving the Lord is not a burden. It's not loathsome. It's not tiresome. It's not limiting. It's quite the opposite. It's the grandest adventure to which you'll ever be invited. Ungodliness is a burden. Unforgiveness will crush you, anger will destroy you. The unrestrained pursuit of pleasure will devastate you. It's why God invited us another way. I brought you a prayer. Why don't you stand with me? Can we read it together?

Heavenly Father, grant me a revelation of Jesus that is more real than the challenges of my life. Give me an understanding heart that I may know You. I rejoice today in the faithfulness of my God. You're my rock and my redeemer. I choose to walk the path which You illuminate. I choose truth over falsehood, faithfulness over skepticism, hope over despair; I choose to walk in the light. Thank You for Your great mercy on my behalf. I know You'll complete what You have begun in me. In Jesus's name, amen.

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