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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Power of Faithfulness - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Power of Faithfulness - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Power of Faithfulness - Part 1
TOPICS: Faithfulness

We've been working through a little study under this guise of "Leading With Faith". There are many ways to lead. You know that, intuitively, if you haven't even thought about it, perhaps purposely. You can lead with power, you can lead with position, you've known those people, they have titles and a nameplate on their door or an office. A position doesn't necessarily mean you have great influence, we've all known people who had a title and people could have cared less what they thought. You can lead with experience. Sometime life experiences gives you a voice of authority or influence. You can lead with force, just brute force, you can force people to do your will. You can lead with intimidation. Many, many ways to lead.

I've suggested to you that I think it's more helpful, sometimes we get hung up on the word leadership and we say, "Well, I'm not a leader". But you're all people of influence there's a whole group of people who you influence with your thought and your opinion and your behavior, we all are. Many of you are leaders of significant influence. In your chosen on professions, or your hobbies, or in the public schools, or the universities, or the hospitals, or the lots and lots of places, you have tremendous influence. But my observation is that we've been a bit reluctant to use our faith. And often if you have great confidence to lead in other arenas, you have very small confidence to lead with your faith.

"Well, I don't wanna offend somebody or I can't spell Nebuchadnezzar". Or "I don't know Isaiah's middle name". And we're reticent, we kind of step back and we think, "Well, I wouldn't want anybody thinking I was judging them". Or "I don't wanna be labeled one of those people". Or "You know, they'll attach some negative label to me if I tell 'em what I believe about God". So we've imagined that we could be covert Christians, undercover Christians. Well, there is no such thing. You still love me, right? Jesus said "If we deny him before men, then he will deny us before the Father".

So I have a question in that arena, what is the influence of your faith? If you had to chart it on spectrum, if I could interview a hundred people that know you professionally, that you spend your recreational time with, that you go to ball games with, or concerts or play golf, whatever that might be. If I could interview those people and then I ask them questions and I listened, what do you think that would be the influence of your faith? Is it great? Is it small? Is it someplace in the middle? I know it's a bit subjective. One other question: Are you a greater influence for godliness or ungodliness? And I'll tell you how to get to the root of that, where's the greatest enthusiasm? Which one do you imagine to be intrusive and which one do you look forward to and anticipate?

We've spent quite a few sessions talking about influence in our lives, I wanna change our focus from leading in influence to the other part of that title, "Leading With Faith." I wanna spend a little time exploring what your faith means. Because you can't lead with it unless you really understand what the implications of that are. Does it mean you're bold or arrogant or condemning or judgment? What's does it mean to lead with our faith? So we might as well start with the nature of faith.

Matthew chapter 8 and verse 9, Jesus is having a discussion with a pagan, a Roman soldier. Not just a pagan, an occupying soldier. One of the most hated people in the community. A man who rules and leads with power and brute force. You'll do what he says or he will force you to do it at the point of a spear. It was Roman custom when they came into a new place, a new territory that they intended to conquer. If they came to a village or a town, they would simply crucify the first 12 men they met. No reason, no dialogue, they simply wanted to establish, there was a new authority in town. So Jesus is talking to a Roman Centurion, a commander of Roman soldiers. You can imagine there could be a little antagonism directed towards the man. And he comes to Jesus and he asks for help because he has a sick servant. Then Jesus says, "I'll help him". You can see the eyes roll and the frustration building amongst the local population. Why would he help him? Why would he help him? And the man says something most remarkable. He said, "I don't really deserve to have you come to my house".

I put that part in your notes, it's Matthew 8. He said, "I myself am a man under authority with soldiers under me, I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes: and that one, 'Come,' and he comes, I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it. And when Jesus heard this, he was astonished". You ought circle that little word if you're taking notes. "He was astonished". Astonished. I'm thinking it would be hard to astonish Jesus. He can still a storm, he can raise the dead. What are you gonna do to astonish him? Show him a card trick, watch this. He'll know how you did it, I promise "He was astonished and said to those following him, 'I tell you the truth,'" now you know you better buckle up. "'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.'"

Wow. He's not even Jewish, he doesn't keep kosher, he doesn't go to synagogue, he doesn't keep the right holidays, he doesn't observe Sabbath, he hasn't read Torah, he's not a part of the right group, and Jesus said, "He's astonished, I haven't found faith like this anywhere in the nation". Well, you need to reflect just a bit on what the man said, that got that response from Jesus. He said, "I understand authority, I have some authority. I can command soldiers, I can crush a village. I can crucify you. I understand authority, but I recognize in you an authority I don't have. If you'll just say the word, the sickness will go," and Jesus was astonished.

I'm gonna ask you a question. If you had to be in a panel with that Roman centurion this morning, whose faith would be more evident? I'm not accusing you, I'm telling you, we have coached generations of people to file in churches, and then we've taught them unbelief. We haven't really learned a great deal or meditated much or thought about or tried to understand the influence that comes to us as being a part of the kingdom of God. Now, on the other end of the spectrum is Mark 6, Jesus is in Nazareth, it's his hometown. It's the place God chose for Jesus to grow up. So you would think it was a safe place, a nurturing place. Nazareth is a sleepy little village tucked in the hills of Galilee, it's off the beaten path. There's nothing to attract you to Nazareth except the fact that it's where Jesus grew up, it would've been a small village in Jesus's day, maybe 1500 people. But nevertheless, it's Jesus's hometown. When he begins his public ministry and his reputation begins to grow, he goes back to his hometown, makes sense.

And in Mark 6... I'm sorry, it's Mark 6 and verse 4, "Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people that heal them. And he was amazed". Jesus is amazed again. He was astonished at the Roman centurion, now he's amazed in Nazareth, but this time he's amazed at their lack of faith. Why won't you believe? Why would you be so stubborn? Why would you be threatened?

So we think about leading with our faith, we've got to introduce into this equation that your faith can be astonishingly small. We can be stubborn, bullheaded. Oh, we still wanna be a part of the right people. We'll still go to synagogue and we'll eat the right things, and drink the right things and celebrate the right holidays, but you are not gonna get me into all that stuff. Or you can have astonishingly great faith and everything about your story be wrong. You can have the wrong past and have made the wrong choices and you can represent the wrong set of things, and everything about you can be wrong and you can still choose to believe in the authority of God. So when we're talking about the influence of our lives and our faith, we've got to understand our choices are gonna come into play here, on so many different levels.

See we've practiced Christianity more in terms of association. "I belong to that church, or I belong to this denomination". Or, "I read that translation". Or, "This is how I prefer to worship". Or "Let me tell you how I was born again". Or "Let me tell you what I believe". Well, I'm always interested to hear what you believe but folks, the goal is to bring alignment between what I believe and what God says. Well, what I believe deviates from what God says, I believe wrongly, and so do you. Hang in there with me. We don't do a lot of word studies and I'll spare you getting too far into the weeds, but there's a collection of words that are related to this topic and they're all intertwined. You can't really understand the discussion without having some awareness of all of them. It's very apparent in the language of the New Testament. The New Testament was written originally in common Greek. It's not quite as apparent in English. The noun, you know, is faith, right? Or the opposite of faith would be unfaith, but we don't say that, it's unbelief.

So faith and unbelief are interrelated. In English maybe you'd have to think about it, but if you look at them in Greek, it's obvious they're the same, they're just one is the negative. The adjective would be to be faithful or to be a believing person. On the negative side of that, it would be to be unfaithful or unbelieving. And in the verb you get that, to believe. Well, I don't think we've weight the positive side of this with the same degree we weight the negative. And that reveals a good deal about our understanding of God and our faith. We don't really think being, you know, if we say you're a faithful Christian, you're like, "Couldn't you say something else"? But I would submit to you, there are very few compliments that could be given to you, that carry higher esteem or greater value than being found faithful.

Now let me show you what I mean. If I say to you, "I'm a faithful husband". You go, "Well yeah, we expect that of you the heck". If I tell you, "I'm an unfaithful husband". "Well you're a low down dog. You're beyond the pale. You broken covenant". You see, we put a whole lot more emphasis on the negative, and we have added value to the positive. And because we don't value it, we don't strive towards it, We don't intend to be particularly faithful, I mean what everybody's perfect, you know, faithful, it's like breathing. Well stop breathing, see how important it becomes.

Now I wanna submit that our faith doesn't exist in the abstract, and this is the one of the great deficiencies in the way we've practiced our faith. We have studied about God, and studied about the church, and studied about scripture, but we've often had very little intent of giving it application. It's like theoretical physics. You know, we kind of sort of understand that it may make you seem smart to have a dialogue about it, but it doesn't affect my real world. And then we've been kind of theoretical Christians. We've talked about Jesus in the first century and what happened for David when he met Goliath, but we have no intention of God's power and authority influencing our world. After all, we have medicine and politics and education. So we've had this kind of theoretical faith, and I wanna submit to you that to be a faithful Christ follower, means we are on assignment to let the authority of God be expressed in our world. And if that's not happening through our lives, that the classic term for us would to be we are unfaithful.

Now, I don't want to be deemed unfaithful, and I know you don't either. Ephesians 6 gives us a little window into this notion of assignment that says, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power". That's an instruction. "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power". You feel strong in the Lord and in his power? I won't ask for a show of hands, depends on the day. "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes". And maybe you pray regularly for somebody else to stand against the devil's schemes. "God, give us somebody to do it. Lord knows I don't want to," but I'm sure praying you'll raise up somebody. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".

Pretty simple passage. Not a simple topic, but the words aren't beyond us, the concepts aren't beyond our ability to grasp. It says, "Be strong in the Lord," that's the goal. We wanna be strong in the Lord, we want the Lord's strength to direct our lives, more than, I wanna be known as a person of an intellect, or an education, or physical strength, or determination, or a work ethic, I wanna be known as a person who's strong in the Lord. I'm not opposed to those other things, I like to learn and study, and I mean, we've got a responsibility to take care of the temple, I get all that, but I wanna grow strong in the Lord, don't you? So you'll need to give some thought to that. What are the components? What would diminish your strength? What would help you gain strength? What saps your strength? How do you replenish your strength? And then we're told to put on the full armor of God, it's not a suggestion, it's a direction.

You know, people ask me sometimes about things God's made available to us, like the baptism and all. Do I have to speak it? No, you don't have to, you can go to heaven without it. You can play football without a helmet too. You'll just participate in more plays, if you wear a helmet, it puts you at a disadvantage if you don't have one. So "Put on the full armor of God, take your stand against the devil's schemes". This is the point where we begin to kind of dial it back. "Well I don't, that's not the kind of Christian I am. I mean, I hope somebody stands against the devil's schemes, but I'm, you know, I'm an introvert. God didn't call me to ministry. I'm not one of those public people, I'm more, I have a give ministry of helps, so I'm gonna help those people that are standing against the devil schemes. I'm a background person way in the background". Or "God's kind of put me, I'm one of those upfront people. You know, I parachute it in behind enemy lines, so I've gotta stay kind of covert. I'm gonna build the underground church".

All kinds of reasons, but we've been a little reluctant. And then it talks about our wrestling match and this is the NIV. It says that, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood". Some of the other translations say that our wrestling match is not against flesh and blood. I find we like to re-punctuate that sentence and we just say, "We wrestle not," period. "That's just not my thing. I'm not into all that spiritual mumbo jumbo, and you know, I don't know if I believe in demons". Or "I don't know what to do with all that". Well man, I just humbly suggest that if Jesus believed in demons, perhaps you should consider it.

Now, I don't want you to be overly concerned about it, you don't have to need to be frightened by it, Jesus said we have authority over every unclean thing. You know, but I've studied in some celebrated theological places where they say, you know, well the first century people believed in spiritual things but we're more enlightened than that. And they try to dismiss that whole theme that's a part of particularly the New Testament as a first century occurrence. Well, there's such a tremendous diminishment of the person in life of Jesus in that thinking that it's simply unacceptable to me. And is it possible that we have forfeited something in ignoring spiritual things in the arrogance of the 21st century. Post enlightenment, western thought has been almost entirely focused on our rational development and ignoring our spiritual well-being, and then we're given another clue. It says, "There are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".

Did you know there is a force or an authority behind evil? It's not a person, there's probably something. If I say evil, you probably get a picture in mind, of a person, or a government, or something, there's something that you would be willing to label evil, a behavior or something, and I wanna ask you to take a biblical position on that, that the real authority behind that, isn't the person or the organization or even the behavior, that there is a spiritual authority behind it. So that if we're gonna lead with our faith, we're gonna have to understand how to engage the spiritual forces and authorities that allow evil to be perpetuated and gain influence in the world in which we live. When you see evil growing in its practice, we have to be wise enough, biblical enough, informed enough, to understand that that's not principally a matter of corporate thought, or political thought, or ideological thought, there's a spiritual authority behind it.

"Well, pastor, I don't know if I believe that or not". I know, it's why I read it to you. That didn't come from 1st Allen, that's actually in the book written to a group of believers, a city in which they had burned more than $5 million in the public square, or on a public bonfire, $5 million with a paraphernalia they had used in the pursuit of the occult. A city where there was enough civil unrest because of the influence of the gospel and those that made idols, were angry at the revenue that they were losing, that they had a public riot that filled the arena, and if they could have gotten their hands on Paul, they would've torn him apart physically. And Paul's writing back to that group of people says, "Our wrestling match our struggle is not against flesh and blood".

They understand there's a struggle. We've lost a little sight of this. It's a theme in the Bible, the book of Daniel, we looked at Daniel quite a bit last night, but I wanna go back there for just a moment. Daniel is seeking God. It was one of the habits of Daniel's life, or these times when he would make an intentional effort to pursue God. He would fast and pray, or he would reorient his life to seek God, and there's this remarkable set of times when God responds to him. We looked at one of those in our earlier session, but in Daniel chapter 10, an Angel has come to Daniel and says, "Don't be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard".

So Daniel made the sacrifice, he decided to gain understanding, to humble yourself, fasting biblically is a way of self-humbling. If you don't understand that, miss a couple meals, it's amazing how you'll get focused on a big back. "Your words were heard and I've come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes". Michael is an archangel. Michael is the archangel with the assignment to oversee the Jewish people. You know, another archangel? Gabriel. "So one of the, archangels came to help me, because I was detained there with the King of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come".

Daniel began to seek the Lord and the angel shows up. And it's not Daniel's only experience with an angel. And he said, "When you began to seek God, I was dispatched, but I was withheld by the Prince of Persia". Not an earthly king, not somebody occupying a throne on planet earth, but one of those spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that we read about in Ephesians. "And it took a period of time," he said, "For me to gain the freedom to get here with the message, in fact, I had to get reinforcements, Michael came to help me".

See my preference in prayers is that the answer come before I get to the amen. Do you feel like that? I mean I'm just as good, you know, "I'm happy, Lord, if you answer the prayer before I get it fully expressed, you know everything, you're omniscient. And since you're omnipotent and all powerful, if you just answered it somewhere in the middle, I'm good. Interrupt my prayer anytime you want". But sometimes the Lord asks me to trust him or to stand in an awkward place. I mean, while we're in Daniel. You know, I always thought Daniel delivered his Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the furnace, remember that story? They wouldn't bow so they got tossed in the furnace.

I said, "Well that's a wonderful story, but it wouldn't it have been more fun if the king, if like, if he'd have just been struck mute and he couldn't have condemned to the furnace"? I mean, if I'm the one that's not bowing, that would've been my preference. I've seen furnaces before, I don't need to inspect another one, I'm really good. It's all the same with you God. Why does God...? Don't know. He's sovereign, I'm not. And one of the things we'll have to reconcile if we're gonna serve the Lord, is that God is sovereign. Plain language, that means he can do what he wants, when he wants, the way he wants, and he doesn't need anyone's approval. And that's hard for us because we're a race of rebels and we have a great deal of trouble submitting to the authority of God. I wanna know why. God doesn't always tell us why.

Father, I thank you that you have called us out of the dark into the kingdom of your light, that you have washed us, and cleansed us, and justified us. Forgive us for our attitude of complacency. Father, we've been willing to sit in a space at a specific time and imagine that we were interacting with the creator of all things. Forgive us for our indifference. Ignite a passion within us to know a living God that we might yield our days to you beginning with each morning, in Jesus's name, amen.

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