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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Essential Church - Part 2

Allen Jackson - The Essential Church - Part 2

Allen Jackson - The Essential Church - Part 2
TOPICS: Church

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "America, the Essential Church". You know, during COVID when we were all struggling to find our way forward, we had a lot of things closed. Our businesses, our lives, our restaurants, and some clever person said the church was non essential and churches closed. We accepted that a little too easily, I think. I'm pretty confident that heaven didn't decide the church was non-essential. But the politicians don't get to make that decision, that starts in the hearts of God's people. We met outside for more than a year, we put up an outside stage in the summertime, we perspired for Jesus. In the wintertime we put up fire pits and we got a little chilly, but we kept worshiping the Lord. We found safe ways for God's people to be together. There is something essential about the people of God being in community together. If you're still stuck on a live streamed Island, escape. Go sit with the people of God. It's not what's preached or the music that you listen to, it's being in the community with one another, it makes a difference. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, most of all, open your heart to what God has for us today.

I was very reluctant to go into ministry, because I grasped very quickly that it meant you stood outside the circle. I saw how it killed conversations and it limited invitations or how people were reluctant to to let you know about aspects of things because... for whatever reason. And I chafed at that, particularly when I began, because our church was not something that you pointed at with great pride, and certainly not about facilities or campuses or buildings. We were meeting in a rented room, and then we upgraded to a tent. You know, I watered the sanctuary from a horse trough. Gratefully, but you had to know who you served, and I understand that reluctance, but I'm telling you, the greatest honor of our lives is to be affiliated with Jesus. There's no greater label, there's no greater affiliation, there's no greater achievement, there's no greater accomplishment. We are his people.

I think the church in Revelation highlights this for us. The book of Revelation is this amazing, majestic revelation of the end of the age and the ultimate judgment of God and the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, but the story begins with the church. Revelation chapter 1 and verse 9, John is the author of the book, he said "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus". He's imprisoned because of his testimony for Jesus and his advocacy for the Word of God. If you want significant revelations from the Lord, you'll have to be willing to identify with him in spite of consequences that aren't easy. "On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches,'" and then it lists the cities where he wants the churches get this message.

"Ephesus and Smyrna," and La Vergne, "And Antioch, and Pergamum, and Thyatira, and Sardis, and Philadelphia, and Laodicea". Seven specific churches, and each church is addressed individually. In fact, the chapters immediately following this are the messages to the churches. Each message begins to each church with a unique presentation of Jesus. Captured my attention, Revelation 2 and verse 1, it says, "To the angel of the church of Ephesus," every church has an angel attached to it. You know there are angels attached to this congregation? This isn't just a people thing, this is a God driven initiative, and that's not unique to us. "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write: 'These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.'"

The revelation of Jesus that's attached to the church at Ephesus is this majestic vision of Jesus walking amongst his churches. It intrigues me, the book of Revelation doesn't start with a message to the leaders of the world, to those on the Forbes Wealthiest list of 100, it starts with a message to the churches. Same chapter, verse 8, "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 'These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.'" "To the church of Smyrna" is attached to a different revelation of Jesus. The pattern goes through all seven, verse 12, "To the angel of the church of Pergamum write: 'These are the words of him who has a sharp, double-edged sword.'" They have yet a different presentation or revelation of Jesus. Jesus is presented differently to each church, it's not one size fits all.

We need to humble ourselves a little bit. We see that today, churches have different revelations of the Lord, they know him in different ways. And we tend to be critical because we think we're better or we're superior or we're something, and then we look down on those that are a little different. Folks, if they have acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, the incarnate Son of God, his redemptive work, we will stand together. We gotta get over ourselves a little bit. And then each of these seven churches receives an evaluation from the Lord himself. Did you know Jesus is that involved in church? And it will give you pause before you talk about them. It gives me pause. If he knows the number of hairs on your head, he knows more about your business than I do. So, I'd rather bless you then gossip about you, 'cause I don't want the boss to be annoyed with me. He loves you, and if you need some correction, he's comin' for you. You're not getting away with it, so I don't need to add to that, I trust him. So, each of these churches starts with these evaluations, and he acknowledges the good things they're doing and the things that need to be corrected.

Revelation 2, there's the phrase, it's repeated four times amongst the seven churches, four of them get this phrase. "I know your deeds". Woof, God's checking our announcements. So, the church is about God's people, and I want to take just a minute with that, 'cause I think it needs to be highlighted in our hearts, what it means to be the people of God. Again, not the people that go to WOC or the people that are Presbyterian or Methodist or Independent or Charismatic or Pentecostal, God's people. We don't want to be hyphenated, we're the people of God. Deuteronomy 7, it starts very early in the story. In fact, it's Genesis Chapter 12 when we were first introduced to the notion that God intends to develop a people for himself in the earth. From amongst all the people, God intends to develop a people who will follow him.

In fact, he's willing to identify himself with the people who will follow him, he's willing to be labeled as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Who is this God you worship? Who is this god is the creator of all things? Well, he's the God of Abe and Yitshaq and Ya'aqov. That's amazing to me, and God is still watching over his people in the earth. Deuteronomy, Moses is reasserting it to the Hebrews that have left Egypt, "You're a people holy to the Lord Your God. The Lord Your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession". When people say, you're not important, you're insignificant, you didn't go to the right school, you're not something, you're too tall or too short or too wide or too thin or something, no, actually I'm a treasured possession of the parent company of the whole place. You should be nice to me.

In 1 Peter it's pulled over to you and me. The non-Jewish world is included, "You're a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people," oh, you had citizenship, you belonged to this nation or this tribe, or you could identify because of your your physical appearance with this group, but you weren't a part of the people of God. Once you had a temporary assignment, but you didn't have an eternal assignment. See, we're all part of some people, but if we champion that affiliation more than we champion our affiliation with the kingdom of God, we've missed the significance. That's what, "Once you weren't a people, but now you're the people of God. Once you hadn't received mercy, but now you have received mercy. I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world," he's just flipped the script on us. He said, before you came to Christ you might have been known as a Hittite or a Perizzites or a Roman or Greek or a Scythian, but he said, "Now you're the people of God".

And so, the heritage of your your temporary citizenship becomes far less significant, it pales in significance to the eternal heritage you have in the kingdom of God. Now we stand with God's people from every age. We take our place, we step into the arena floor, the baton is handed to us, and for a relatively brief season we get to bear the name of Jesus under the sun. And then we'll step out of eternity with all the other brothers and sisters who have had that opportunity, and we will tell our stories and be rewarded for what we've done. That's the church, that's not Sunday morning and a song and a sermon, that's a purpose for your life.

Romans 11 reminds us of some of the branches he's talking about, Jew and Gentile. I don't want to take the time to unpack the context, but, "If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root," we got grafted into those promises that came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But because of our carnal nature, we get all puffed up about it and say, well see, God replaced the Jewish people with us. No, look at the next phrase, "Don't boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You don't support the root, the root supports you". If the root's dead, we have no life in us. Pride, religious pride is an awful thing. The people of God are people with a purpose. Jesus said of himself in John 18, "For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world". If Jesus had a purpose for coming into the world, so do you, so do you.

Now, we need to set aside our desire for glory. Let God bring that to you. You see, the purpose of God isn't beyond us, I think we don't want to grapple with it. I've talked to hundreds of people. You know, if I just knew what God wanted me to do, I can help, I can help with that. 2 Corinthians 5, "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them". That's the redemptive story of Jesus, God's plan. He's committed to us, you ought to circle that us, who is us? Us is not them, us is y'all, with me included. Bad grammar, but you get the idea.

"He's committed to us the message of reconciliation," what message of reconciliation? That God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ. That's our assignment. Everybody that knows you should know that there's a possibility they could be reconciled to the creator of heaven and earth. Well, they'd think I was crazy. Well, she is, but they may. But the day will come, they will call. "He's committed to us the message of reconciliation. We're therefore Christ ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us".

So, when I look at our nation and the staggering rise of immorality and ungodliness and lawlessness, and all the things that are happening, I don't have hostility towards politicians or political parties or ideologies. I have a great concern, because those through whom God has been making his appeal have not been particularly effective. And it's time to get on our knees and say, Lord, you can say by many or few. Maybe you only want to use my voice to pray for the voices you're gonna raise up, but I'll use my voice to pray. I'll take whatever place I have, I'm one of your kids, and this is where you planted me, and this is my assignment, and I refuse to let the people that are filled with hate and messages of division be more enthusiastic and more determined and more committed than those of us that are committed to the creator of all things.

So, we're a people with a purpose, we're a people under authority, we're under God's authority. We don't just do what we want, God is sovereign over us. You may not like your circumstances, there may be disappointments that come to your life. Okay, we're still going to serve the Lord. I meet people all the time who have frozen their service to the Lord because a disappointment rolled in, something they didn't anticipate, something they didn't want at that point in their timeline of their unfolding life, and they opted out. I understand the pain and the temptation, but it's not worth it. God can withstand your rage about his poor job performance if you'll tell him about it, you can negotiate that out. He won't change, but he'll help you get back on the path. We're a people under authority, 2 Timothy 2:4, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs, he wants to please the commanding officer".

I won't ask, but ask the Holy Spirit to help you see where you're overly involved in civilian affairs. If you've got the courage to pray that prayer, buckle up. 1 Corinthians 6:19, "Do you not know," and when the Bible says don't you know, what's the answer? No, probably not. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God," you're not your own, you were bought at a price. This entrance we have into the kingdom of God, our citizenship in the eternal Kingdom of God did not come cheaply. It required the incarnation, God's Son, his only Son to put on an earth suit and come and be mistreated, rejected, spat upon, ultimately betrayed, crucified, tortured to death so that you and I could be a part of this kingdom.

And Paul is saying to the Corinthians...the Corinthian church was a mess. Drunken, immoral, we just slipped right in there. "You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body". See, when we dishonor God with immorality or other physically abusive things, we're saying that what Jesus did for us doesn't matter. Pleasure is more important to me, self gratification is more important to me, my will is more important to me, Lord help us. I think about how we've processed church, where we park, what the seats are like, how we've allowed it to become something that is so temporal. I'm all for convenient parking, I've worked hard to help with all those things that make the experience as best as we know how, but that's not what it's about.

I go other places in the world and they'll sit on the dirt or they'll sit on a split bamboo bench. They'll sit for hour upon hour upon hour to hear the Word of God taught because they don't have access to Bibles. They'll stand in line as long as I'm willing to stand to dispense materials, because they don't have any other resources available to them. Lord help us, we're under authority. We're a people with a future. That's so important to know, we are a people with a future beyond time. We get way torqued off, you know, well it didn't happen in the time I wanted it to happen, or I'm this old and this hasn't happened, or, you know, that timeline thing just gets in our head, it's destructive.

Jeremiah 29, this is what Daniel read when he knew he was about, it was time to go home. This is what the Lord Almighty says, "'When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" This is Jeremiah in Jerusalem before they've ever gone to Babylon. God said, I have plans for you, to give you a future. Oh, you've got a rough road to walk for 70 years. Some of you will never see Jerusalem again, some of your children will never see Jerusalem. But I have a future for you, are you willing to follow the Lord even if it means you have to walk a road that's not fun?

See, I think we've had this kind of uniquely American faith that thought it's only about upgrades. And I like nice things, and I'm not looking for inconvenience and hardship, but I am looking to follow the Lord, period. Jesus says something very similar to us in John 14, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it weren't so, I would have told you. I'm going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I'll come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am". Wow. You want to be caught being busy about his work when he comes back. And finally, God's people are people who will be held to account. There's accountability in our faith, it's not just about my opinion or what I think or how I feel or what I would like.

2 Corinthians 5 says, "We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ". That's a judgment about what you've done in time. 2 Timothy 2 says that in God's house you can be a gold vessel or a silver vessel or a wooden vessel or an earthen, you can be a vessel of noble use or ignoble use, not so noble, and the distinction is those who are willing to cleanse themselves, to submit to the cleansing power of God. That's more than the new birth, that's dealing with that old, carnal, earthly, selfish nature. I brought you a prayer, I really formed it, I gave you the... the Scripture reference isn't in your notes, but I built this prayer out of Daniel Chapter 9, verses 15 to 19. It's not original with me at all, I took Daniel's language and I just adjusted to fit our circumstance a bit.

If that offends you, go read Daniel 9:15 to 19 and you can just read it directly. But it's a prayer that I think is appropriate. When Daniel realized it was time for the Jewish people to go back to Jerusalem, he began to pray if he was the great, as if he was the greatest sinner amongst them. And he's a godly man, he's a man that is, multiple times we're told by angels that visit him that he's highly esteemed by God, but he's not caught up in pride and arrogance and smugness. He doesn't have on the wall all the dreams he's interpreted and the emperors that he's served. He prays from an awareness of the brokenness of his people, and we've got to come to that. The anger about others is not serving us well.

Now, I get agitated when I hear lies and manipulation and things that aren't true and deception being pushed at us, cascading over us. I get agitated when wickedness is celebrated as if it's normal, 'cause I won't be quiet while it's normalized. It's not normal, it shouldn't be accepted, our children shouldn't be subjected to it, it's not right, but my frustration isn't with people or parties, my frustration is that evil has the audacity to masquerade as righteousness. It is not. So, I brought you a prayer, why don't we stand together? We can read it together. They'll put it on the screens for us. Or you have it in your notes, don't you? Just don't have Daniel, you've got the prayer, yeah, good:

Heavenly Father, you brought your people out of darkness with a mighty hand and made for yourself a name that endures to this day. We have sinned and we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away from your anger and your wrath from our nation. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made us an object of scorn. Now, hear the prayers and petitions of your servants. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation that has beset us. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Oh Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your people bear your name. Amen.

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