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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Following The Spirit of God - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Following The Spirit of God - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Following The Spirit of God - Part 2

There are some things that are subjective. Which running shoes are the best? If you want the absolute best running shoes, which is best? God didn't vote. Pick what you like. It's subjective. Has a lot to do with the shape of your foot, how much room you need in your toe box, how much elevation you like, how far you're gonna run. Has a lot to do with your...has a lot to do with a lot of things. What about who makes the best doughnuts? Who has the best apple fritter in Murfreesboro? It's an important question, but it's not defined by objective truth because it has a great deal to do with what you consider a great apple fritter.

I think a great apple fritter is the one I can reach. Beyond that, I have a rather broad interpretation. On the other hand, is fornication wrong? That's not subjective at all. God said you can't practice that and be a part of my kingdom. Is adultery wrong? Again, God didn't take a vote. Folks, it's what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God. No, we don't earn our way into the kingdom. It's not merit-based. It is by grace. We've all sinned. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. That's why we needed a Savior. That's why Jesus came. And the Bible says if we'll believe in our heart and confess with our mouth, we can be saved, every one of us.

But once you've received that gift of salvation, the grace and the mercy of God, the Bible warns us that if you practice sin, if you practice it, you will not inherit the kingdom of God. We have to be salt and light. So, how are we gonna gain the victory? We're in a dark place. We have to acknowledge that. You can't get better until you get a good diagnosis. How are we going to gain the victory?

Well, there's been a verse just rattling around in my heart for days. I want to share it with you. It's Zechariah chapter 4. I'm sure you read Zechariah frequently. "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty". In English it's a little polite. In Hebrew it's a little more direct. "Not by might," that's the current word for army. "'Not by armies, nor by power,'" or maybe more literally, "'not by your ability, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord". How will we see a change brought about? Not by armies, not by our collective abilities, but by the Spirit of God. How did the Hebrew slaves escape Egypt? Did they mobilize into a crack military force? Did they organize and find unity amongst themselves in an unprecedented way?

No, they grumbled their way all the way through the wilderness. They fought and complained, bickered, right? "We don't like the menu, we don't like the route you chose". "Really, 400 years of slavery and I got you free and you don't like the route"! "That's right, I don't". That's just not clever. They complained about the leadership team. "We don't like the way we're being led". "Why, was your previous team doing a better job"? "No". "How long had they failed"? "Well, it had been a few hundred years". "And you are free"? "Yes, but we don't like the leadership". "Okay". Clearly, not the brightest bunch of bulbs in the box. It's a challenge. "Not by might, not by our ability, but by your Spirit, Lord".

You see, we have to believe this, church. If we think it's coming by our might, by our organization, by our skills, again, not an excuse to sit down. We're talking about directive leadership and we have to understand who the director is and what we're representing. We've been so co-opted by the spirit of the world, we have lost the imagination that there's an Almighty God that watches over his creation. "By my Spirit". Look at Luke 4, verse 14, "Jesus returned to Galilee," this is after his baptism and after his temptation in the wilderness. "He returned to Galilee," it's where he'd grown up, "in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside".

He's lived in Nazareth for a long time, for decades, and he's unknown. No reputation, no public ministry, but when he returns from his baptism and some of you will remember where the Spirit descended upon him in a physical way, a visible way, and there was a voice from heaven that said, "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased," and the Spirit led him into the wilderness where he's tempted. He returns to Galilee, Luke says, in the power of the Spirit, and the whole countryside was electrified. It's very clear, the implication is Jesus left Galilee not so much in the power of the Spirit. The sinless obedient Son of God, the incarnate Son of God.

Now, if the Holy Spirit was necessary in Jesus's life for him to fulfill his mission, may I be so bold as to suggest that you and I would need the help of the Spirit of God to complete our assignments. I don't think there's any other way. We're gonna have to become more aware of, more in tune with, more able to recognize his voice or his promptings. Genesis chapter 1 and verse 1, that's very near the beginning of the book. In fact, it says, just in case you're not paying close attention, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". The Bible tells us in the plainest, God is a Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

So, the Spirit of God created the heavens and the earth. He didn't have Caterpillar, he didn't go to the civil engineers, he didn't order concrete. They didn't ask him to do an environmental impact study. He didn't have to do a lighting study. He created the heavens and the earth. Do you know, one day you have an appointment with the Creator of all things? Do you know that he cares enough about you and me that he sent his Son to the earth in an earth suit so that we could participate in his eternal kingdom? And then he said, "I'm gonna deploy you as my ambassadors in the earth that the world might be reconciled to me through you. I'll be back in a little while and we'll talk about how you've done".

Are you prepared? "Well, I don't know. I don't wanna volunteer for an ice rink, I know that. That's not preparing. You know, you give me something important to do, I might be up for that but I mean, ice rink, that's cold and it could be outdoors and I gotta meet people I don't know and I'm not like an extrovert and, you know, I just, I'm not gonna do that. Which way's Egypt"? I put the passage in your notes from Samuel. I'm gonna run out of time. 'Cause I've been praying about this and thinking about this. I've been in meeting after meeting it feels like to me lately, where we talk about the church and what's, you know, in our nation, a third of the people who were attending church before COVID are not.

Now there are some exceptions to that. We're fortunate in this place that our participation rates don't look like that, but across the board, I meet with, month after month, I've talked to pastors from different cities. We just said no. No, there's no supply chain problems in the church. We have capacities. We've stepped back. We've lost sight of who we are and what we're to be and what the power of our journey is, which is not about the label on the sign or the style of worship. In fact, I'm more than a little annoyed. We should not have to have musicians and vocalists for us to be willing to worship the Lord. We have reason to give thanks to God and to worship him without a musical prompt. The music is a luxury, it's a gift. It's a reflection of the affluence and the blessings of our lives.

It's biblical, I'm not arguing that, but I'm telling you we've just, we've wandered a bit. But the story of Hannah, she's childless and grieving for it. I put a bit in your notes. "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, 'LORD Almighty, if you'll only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I'll give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, no razor will ever be used on his head.'" You might not know what she's saying. She's gonna commit her child, her son, if God were to give her one, to be a Nazirite, not a Nazarene from the village of Nazareth. A Nazirite was a sect within Judaism. They took a special set of vows. The 630 laws of Moses weren't enough. The Nazirites added a few more on, one of which is they wouldn't cut their hair.

Do you remember anybody else in the Bible who had a problem with a haircut? Samson. Hannah, it says, "With bitterness of soul, she wept before the Lord". She had no other court of appeal. She had no place else to turn. And God in his majesty and his power enabled her to conceive. There's some other places where God in his majesty and power brought some pretty remarkable conceptions, huh? Do you know what Hannah did? When the child was old enough to be weaned, she took him and presented him to the priest.

It's Samuel, one of the most towering figures in the Hebrew Bible. Grows up under the care of the priest, and we hear the story about the Lord calling to Samuel when he's just a boy and he doesn't know it's the Lord and he goes to see Eli. He said, "Yeah, what do you want"? He said, "I didn't call you. Go back to bed". He's back in a minute, "What do you want"? "I didn't call you. Don't get out of bed again". And he's back again, and this time, Eli is a bit more aware. He said, "The next time you hear that voice, say, 'Lord, I'm listening.'"

Samuel learned to listen. He's a boy. He got a very difficult message from the Lord. It was a message of judgment for the man who was his caregiver. But Samuel is being trained to hear the voice of the Lord. He becomes a towering figure in Israelite history, the bridge between the book of Judges and the monarchy. A man who served his whole life with integrity before the people of God. Folks, we need the Spirit of God, not by might, not by the armies, not through our abilities, but by the Spirit of God. We have seminars and do studies to argue about whether or not the Spirit of God's still moving. We've got to get over ourselves.

How do we learn to depend upon the Spirit of God more completely? What's that look like? It's more than a church service. It's more than another study. What does that start to look like? Well, in 2 Chronicles 32 and verse 7, I think we're at least the portfolio is open on the discussion. It says, "'Be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid or discouraged,'" in this case, "'because of the king of Assyria and the vast army that's with him, for there's a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.' And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said".

So, this was the message that the king gave to his key leaders and to the people, "Be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid or discouraged, because the king of Assyria, he has a vast army". In fact, the Assyrians had a far superior army to the army of Judah. They were technologically more sophisticated, they were greatly outnumbered. They had been victorious over the superior, the nations with superior military might that were in the proximity of Judah. Judah's a small country in an out-of-the-way location. They're no military match for the Assyrian army, and now the Assyrian army has taken the major cities of Judah and Jerusalem is left. There is no hope. There is no military solution. They're outgunned, they're outnumbered, their strategies are inadequate.

And this is Hezekiah's response, and if you did the reading today in Isaiah, on multiple times it says, "When the news was brought to Hezekiah, the first thing he did was to go into the house of the Lord, to go to inquire of the Lord". It says it on multiple occasions. He didn't go get his generals together, he didn't call for an assessment of their military might. Now, if you know Hezekiah's story, he did some remarkable things to prepare for the invasion of the Assyrians. They cut a water tunnel to bring the water from outside the city of Jerusalem inside the city. We still walk through it today when we visit the city sometimes. But when it came down to the confrontation, his first choice was to seek the Lord.

And now his message to the people, did you hear it? "Be strong and courageous and don't be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria". Can we give that a little concurrent application? Be strong and courageous and don't be afraid or discouraged because you feel outnumbered. Don't be afraid or discouraged because you think the media isn't filled with integrity, or the Justice Department doesn't do what you want, or our elections aren't conducted in the way you like, or we don't have a leader that you want to vote for, don't be afraid or discouraged. Don't look at the vast army that is arrayed against us and their greater power. Because the one who is with us is greater than the one that's with them. And with them is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.

Church, that's our assignment. We're gonna have to live in a different way. We're gonna have to respond in some new ways. I know you're tired, I know you're busy, I know your schedules are full. I'm not trying to give you a new to-do list. I'm asking you to begin to quietly seek the Lord and what does it look like to begin to say, "Not by might, not by power, but by your Spirit, Lord"? There are some things we can conclude from that. Strength and courage are required. Strength and courage will be required. They're not optional. Timid, frightened, weak Christ-followers will not be triumphant. It's going to require strength and courage.

Well, how do I gain strength? You know the answer to that. It's the same spiritually as it is physically. It's all about nutrition and exercise. There's no mystery in this. To the nation that's more obese than we've ever been, this may not be really good news. It's not like we don't know how. We just would like to know how we can have that quarter-pounder and cheese with the super-sized fries and have a six pack, on your belly, not in the cupboard. Come on, y'all had to go there, didn't you? Nutrition and exercise. It's true physically, and it's true spiritually. That requires discipline, self-discipline, over an extended period of time. We haven't been leading disciplined lives. We just haven't. We've been leading indulgent lives. Strength and courage are required.

How do I gain strength and what is encouraging? Well, the opposite of being encouraged, the little prefix "en" means with, is to be discouraged, without courage. So, how do I overcome fear? Well, the real essence of that is fear and trust. The antidote for fear is not courage. You can do courageous things while you're still struggling with fear, but the way you overcome fear is by establishing trust. The places we're afraid, we don't trust the Lord. So, start to get your Bible out and find the promises of God that address the places where you're afraid. And as you begin to build the foundation on the Word of God, then you begin to talk to that fear. He's an uninvited intruder, he's not welcome here.

I've encouraged you on many occasions to think of fear as a person without a body. "You go in Jesus's name". But if you don't have the foundation of the Word of God, you can't hold that. I believe we're standing in a place where we can see the most remarkable move of God in many decades. In fact, I see evidence that in some respects, God is moving in ways I've never seen. There are points of tremendous encouragement and hope to me. On the other hand, I don't think the equation has been settled yet. But I wanna ask you to make a decision in your heart to seek the Lord. We're gonna talk about it in the next session. What's it mean to seek the Lord? I'll give you the preview. There seem to be two phrases in scripture that we have to seek the Lord. That's an intentional, purposeful, redirecting of energy, time, effort, resources, in the pursuit of God. But right along with that is returning to the Lord.

See, what we have to recognize is we've walked away. Didn't renounce your faith, didn't reject him, didn't deny him, but we've got to return to him. You can't have a prodigal party until you realize you're a prodigal. So, we'll work on that a little bit in the next session, but I brought you a prayer. It's a new prayer. It's only been around since the Lord introduced it to us. And I chose it because I thought it summarized the things we're talking about so beautifully. "Give me today my daily bread". Not every day I'll ever need. Just give me today. "Lead me not into temptation". Forgive me, but Lord, there's some people I need to forgive.

Folks, we know the fundamentals. We've ignored them, the same way we ignored the fundamentals about our health. We're mad at the people who make processed food because they force us to eat it. They have all those sexy packages. And we've been angry at the Lord or the church or somebody. If we will come back, the Lord will meet us in our brokenness, in our weakness, in our frailty. Folks, we don't need a 51% majority. Ten righteous people would have changed the outcome of Sodom and Gomorrah. I don't know what the number is in our nation, but I promise you if God's people will seek his face, we will stand in amazement as he parts the sea and plunders our enemy. You can trust him.

"'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord". Why don't we stand for this prayer? Are you ready? Some people won't pray this. "It's a Catholic prayer". Baloney. It's a Greek word, it means I disagree. You know what "catholic" means? Catholic means universal. You need more words if you want to make it to a specific group of Christians. The Roman Catholic Church, now there's a church and a location, but Jesus introduced this church, not to a specific group of Christians, but to his disciples. So, we come as his disciples to take the prayer that our Lord gave us. Let's read it together:

Our Father, Who are in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

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