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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Christianity or Paganism

Allen Jackson - Christianity or Paganism

Allen Jackson - Christianity or Paganism
TOPICS: Christianity, Paganism

We are a nation with a Christian heritage. That's our story as a people. Our most celebrated buildings in Washington, DC, our nation's capital, have verses of scripture carved in them. It's true in our capital building, it's true in our Supreme Court building, it's true in almost all of our state capitals. You can't tell the story of our nation without telling the story of the Christian faith and its transformation upon a people. It begins with an individual, it extends to a family, it extends out from that to a growing family, if we use biblical language, to a clan. It changes nations, it shapes societies.

The reason missionaries were sent was not to create religious transformation, the reason the missionaries were sent is paganism, plunges people into savagery, demonism. It's terribly destructive to human beings. Christianity elevates the quality of human life, it changes the context of our families, it changes our worldview, it changes how we do business, it changes the integrity. Do we do it perfectly? Absolutely not. But it's our story. So the question on the table, and it's a very relevant question for us, is: What are we going to be? What are we becoming? We are witnesses to a very rapid movement away from a Christian worldview. If you ask me for it in the plainest language, it's a dissent into paganism.

Understand what you're watching. But I'm not talking about the behavior of the ungodly, or the immoral, or those who are agnostic, or atheist, or unchurched, or irreligious, this description fits with the behavior of people that will gladly accept the label Christian. You see, we maintain a form of Christian tradition, but we increasingly deny the power of our faith. The Christian worldview conveys principles which shape our lives and the society in which we live. And if we're not adhering to the principles of scripture, we're not leading Christian lives. I give you some simple examples. I think you'll recognize the divergence amongst us.

Marriage, biblical idea of marriage is introduced to us in Genesis chapter 2. I've told you on many occasions that the opening chapters of the book of Genesis give us the big rock ideas to the unfolding story of the Bible. And that if you'll believe those initial chapters, the rest of the Bible will begin to make sense. If you reject them, the rest of the Bible's a mystery. It's nonsense. Well, it's in Genesis 2 where we bump into this idea that God created us male and female, and that for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother.

If you prefer Jesus's words, in Matthew 19, Jesus replies, "Haven't you read"? And when he says that, you know, they've forgotten what scripture says. "That at the beginning the Creator made them male and female. And he said, 'For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one.'" Marriage, Christian marriage is God's idea. There's other kinds of marriage, but Christian marriage has a very specific context. It's defined by God, that if you ignore God's equation, you shouldn't imagine it's a Christian marriage. To name Jesus as Lord means he established his priorities and sets the agenda.

Now, this has been a part of our history. As recently as 1996, that's not ancient history. The Congress of the United States passed the Defensive Marriage Act. It was signed by the then-president Bill Clinton. It banned federal recognition of same sex marriage by limiting the definition of marriage to a union of one man and one woman. And further, it allowed states to refuse to recognize same sex marriages that were granted by other states. So that principle of a biblical worldview was a part of our story by federal law reiterated as recently as 1996. Now, it needed to be reiterated because it was already dissipating in the culture. See, by the time the politicians get in play, they're just chasing what's happening in the culture.

You know, my friend Charlie Daniels had a song and he said, "A drunkard wants another drink of wine and a politician wants to vote". A lot of wisdom in that. Politicians chase the hearts of the people, if we have a heart change, we'll have a different kind of leadership. Don't be angry at politicians. They're just a rather awkward glance in the mirror and that's uncomfortable. So as early as 1996 there was enough of an assault in our culture that there was a human cry that the politicians do something. Well, it was God's people that should do something. Well, in recent days, the Respect for Marriage Act has been passed. In our Senate a vote of 61 to 36.

The Respect for Marriage Act not only repeals the Defensive Marriage Act, but it also obliges those acting under the color of state law to recognize same sex marriages. It's not a biblical worldview. You don't need to be confused or frustrated, certainly don't even be angry, but you need to be aware. The unfortunate part to me, far more unfortunate than the vote in the Senate, three senators put forward some amendments that would've protected religious liberties, and they were rejected repeatedly. But far more disquieting than that is the churches have had very little to say. We don't wanna be labeled, don't wanna get canceled. We'd like to avoid the criticism that comes with speaking into current events. But I would submit to you that long before it was voted on in Congress, we'd begun to walk away from a biblical view of Christian marriage. Weddings were a part of my job description.

So I've had front row seats at lots and lots of weddings. The first wedding I was ever asked to officiate at, you know, I didn't really decide to be a pastor as a career choice. And so I honestly, I wasn't adequately prepared. I mean, I had my ceremony, I knew the things I was supposed to say. I'll never forget, though, I showed up at the church and the wedding party gathered together, there wasn't a wedding coordinator back then we didn't do that yet. And the people all looked at me and go, "What do we do"? And I remember thinking, "How would I know"? You know, they wanna know where to stand, and who should stand on this side, and who went where and when they were, and I was like, "Well, we're gonna just yes".

Well, that first one may not have been Orthodox, but we got through it. And after that I did a little better preparation. But you know, I have watched how we approach marriage and weddings change dramatically while I have served the body of Christ. You know it started, maybe first with the vows. People would come and say, "You know, we don't like the traditional vows. Those words just bother us a little bit, to love, honor, and obey. Couldn't we be friends and love one another and in sickness in health, or for better or for worse, it's a little dark, we want a happier ceremony". Then after we rewrote vows, we began to expand our locations for wedding. At one time, I know this will be startling to many of you, but the majority of weddings took place in churches. What a thought.

In fact, some years ago, if I had told you, you could not be married in the church, the only place we would allow you to be married was in a barn, there'd have been some angry parents looking for me. Then I've watched wedding locations change. Now it's far more important, it seems that it'd be somewhere unique, it almost feels like we've broken into competitive weddings. And the idea, you see, the fundamental concept of Christian wedding is it's a covenant between a man and a woman in the sight of God. Everything else is secondary to that, everything. And we've walked so far away from that. I'm trying to annoy everybody equally, if I haven't gotten there yet, I'm coming for you. Even our priorities around weddings, we're far more stoked about the flowers being the way they need to be or the icing on the cakes being the proper shade or the dresses being right.

And you know, if you miss any of those things, then it doesn't work right, or it's outdoors and the weather's not cooperating then we have wedding tantrums. Those are a blessing, ask anybody, ask the florist, the photographers, the people who make their livings around weddings. Christian weddings. You see, long before the United States Congress, the Senate got involved in this, the church was drifting away from the point of the most fundamental union relationship of our lives, apart from our relationship with the Lord.

Don't be mad at the politicians. We see it in weddings, we see it in other ways. Simple things, gender roles, it's a point of tremendous discussion these days. We're behind the curve on this, folks. This has been happening amongst us for a decade or more. Vanderbilt's clinic in Nashville doing gender reassignment for minors has gotten some attention of late, but it's not a new thing, it's been happening for many years. Mutilating our children, children that we don't think are mature enough to make a decision to purchase tobacco, or alcohol, or to drive an automobile, certainly not to volunteer for military service, we'll support them while they make a decision to mutilate their bodies.

So what do we do? What do we do? Well, I got a couple of minutes, literally. We're not quite done with this, we'll work on it some more, but I wanna at least open the doorway 'cause there's something to be done. I don't want you just to feel discouraged or hopeless. It isn't hopeless by any means. The redemptive work of Jesus is complete and entire. The question is, what will we do with it? Will we receive it? Will we accept it? Will we follow it? Will we choose Jesus as Lord? Or will we accept a pretense of religion? Will we have a form of godliness, in the language of the New Testament, but deny the power of it.

You see, in Paul's thought and words, the power of God is the cross of Jesus. And the cross means, "I'm a sinner and I need a Savior". Not just for that, certainly for that point of initiation into the kingdoms, for the new birth. But beyond that, we need the power of the cross to help us break the power of sin and temptation over our lives. We've been a little better at capitulation and accommodation, and we'll point at our successes. It's very difficult to distinguish our successes from the successes of our secular culture. We have the same desires for our kids and the same ambitions for ourselves.

See, the distinctiveness of our lives should be in our obedience to the Lord, and the presence of his power in our life. What made Jesus distinctive? Not the house he lived in, or the degrees he earned, or some special treatment when he was in the temple in Jerusalem, what made his life distinctive was there was an authority in him they had never seen before. He speaks to the wind and the waves. He talks to demons and they obey him. He prays for the sick and they get better. What have we done with that? Well, we have seminars to try to discuss whether we think miracles are still relevant, and we don't have to get too worked up about it because we have doctors and we're grateful for that. So what do we do?

Luke 14, one verse, verse 27. Jesus, again, I've left all this from just Luke's Gospel. This is a very short, it's a much larger discussion, but it doesn't get more gentle. "Anyone who doesn't carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple". What's the non-negotiable part of discipleship? Not knowledge, not speaking Greek or Hebrew. A willingness to carry your cross, the cross is a place of execution. We've got some things we're gonna have to put to death in our old, carnal, Adamic, selfish selves. I want, I think, I feel, very normal to all of us, those of us who have great tenure in church. And we're gonna have to start to get those things out of the closet and say, "I'm gonna begin to yield those things to what I think Jesus wants".

I don't know about you, that's not easy for me and I'm a public Christian and that's not easy for me. In Luke chapter 3, this is Luke's Gospel. This time it isn't Jesus, it's John the Baptist, but the message is helpful. He's baptizing in the Jordan River. We're 20, 25 miles from Jerusalem. It's a difficult journey into the desert. The religious leaders have come to check on John because there's so many people coming, and when John sees them, he said, "You're a brood of vipers, you're a bunch of snakes". We get torqued at politicians that we think call people names. John sees the most, he sees the religious establishment. If you wanted to induce change into first century Judaism, John has the audience before him who have the power to make that happen. And when he sees them, he says, "You're a bunch of snakes".

If you could see his disciples in your imagination, they're rolling their eyes. "Could you just dial it back a little bit"? "Glad you came, have you seen the people being baptized? Have you heard the God stories that are being told? You're a bunch of snakes, who warned you to flee? Who warns you to escape the wrath that is coming? You better bring forth fruit of the changes you say you've made". That's the country-living version of what's printed there. And the people are stirred enough. Look at verse 9. "The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire". No more forgiveness.

So the people begin to ask questions. The crowd said, "What should we do then"? Good question. "And John answered," live differently. "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same". They weren't living that way. He said, "You know what what you know". The tax collectors came to be baptized. They're the biggest thieves in the crowd, extortionists. "Teacher, what should we do"? "Don't collect any more than you are required to". Duh, you see the imagination of what would be godly isn't beyond us, we haven't been interested. It isn't that we haven't known, it's just been awkward, 'cause our kids or our grandkids choose something else and we don't want thanksgiving to be awkward, so we'll just go along. Or we've set our hearts on other things and we've modeled the wrong things. And it's pretty uncomfortable to come back now and say, maybe I didn't give you the best counsel, so we're gonna have to work this out. But it doesn't stop there, the soldiers ask him.

Now we've gotten to the soldiers, their hearts have been touched. "What should we do"? And he said, "Don't extort money. Stop accusing people falsely". Stop using your power and your authority to make your lives easier. "Be content". Be content. And one more piece, Luke 21, this is the prophetic passage. Jesus is talking about how bad it's gonna be before he gets back. And he said, this is what you should do, when you recognize that things around you are deteriorating, "Stand up and lift up your heads. Don't hang your heads and wring your hands. Don't panic, don't break out in a sweat, stand up," he said, "It's the culmination of the age, the king is coming".

Folks, we are not powerless, we are not without recourse, we are not without hope, we are children of the King. And through the redemptive work of Jesus, we have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and welcomed into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of his Son. But now we are asked to live as children of the light. And we've been wandering the path of paganism, nodding at it and winking at it, and embracing it. And then singing our favorite worship chorus and saying, "We're good to go". And God will not be mocked. I don't wanna come to a place where he said, "Tonight your life will be demanded of you. You're a fool".

And I don't want anybody I know to come to that place. Don't live a presumptive life. Don't be mad at the politicians. Look there for reflection of the heart of the church. Start standing up for what you know to be right. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman in the sight of God. Men and women, we're different, not stronger, or weaker, or lesser, or greater. Everybody's important, but we're different, stop the nonsense. It's been a blatant power grab for decades. Children have to be protected. My time's up. Will you stand with me? We're gonna pray. I don't like religious lectures. If I wanted to do religious lectures, I'd have gone, stayed in the university. The hours are better.

So I think there needs to be a response point when we hear God's truth. Sometimes I bring you a prayer. The benefit in that is I think you can take something away, that you can make a part of your devotional, personal devotions. Sometimes I think it's important when we're together to respond as a community of faith. And I wanna ask you to consider that this morning. And you can do it even if you're not on campus with us. But if you're here and you say, "I've listened to the Word of God, I wanna say before the Lord, and I'm willing to say it in public, I have lived presumptively. I've lived casually. I've tolerated way too much paganism, not around me, in me".

Now, the acknowledgement is the beginning, but the real key is willingness to say, "I'm gonna change". And if you'd be willing to say that, I'm just gonna ask you to raise a hand. There's gonna be too many of us to make it to the altar. And it's not about going along, because the hand is raised in God's sight. But I believe with all of my heart that if God's people will have a change of heart, we will see God bring changes to our lives, to our schools, to our homes, to our communities, to our college campuses, to our hospital corridors. I've just chosen some big rock ideas. If you, spend a little time thinking of the ways that you see biblical ideals and principles being set aside, you'd make a much greater list than the one I've shared. If we will change, God will move, God will move. We have a new year coming. We're gonna celebrate Christmas together and then we're gonna begin a new year, with a new routine and a new habit, and a new commitment, to a new future. New courage, new boldness, you ready? Amen, let's pray:

Father, I thank you. I thank you for your Word and its truth and authority and power in our lives, and I thank you for your people. They're salt and light in the earth. I thank you for every life, every person you've called, Lord you knew us before we ever drew a breath. You're the author and you're the completer of our story, and I thank you for that today. Father, nothing's hidden from you, you know our lives, and our dreams, and our aspirations, and our activity. And we stand in your presence this morning to readily acknowledge, many of us, that we have stepped far beyond your boundaries. We have stood in the midst of the world in ungodliness, in our dreams, in our aspirations, in our hopes, in our ambitions, in what we have given ourselves to. And we come this morning in humility to acknowledge that we were wrong, not confused, not deceived, not manipulated, not pressured, we chose, and we ask you to forgive us.

And Father, we choose a new path today. We wanna honor you, we wanna walk uprightly before you. We wanna give you first priority in our lives, we wanna give you our best. Holy Spirit help us, bring voices around us that will encourage us in righteousness, and holiness, and purity. Give us understanding hearts to see the places where we have been deceived. May the fear of the Lord be more real in our hearts than the fear of people. I thank you for it. Lord, we choose to lift up our heads and to rejoice that your Spirit is moving in the earth, that you're calling people out of darkness, that your power is present to break the bondage of sin and ungodliness in our lives, and that through the blood of Jesus, we can be redeemed outta the hand of the enemy. We thank you today that we are free, and that we are servants with the most high God in Jesus's name, amen.

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