Allen Jackson - We Need God's Perspective - Part 2
Now this notion of futile thinking, it's not some subtle theme in Scripture. We examined one passage in the previous session but I think it's worthwhile looking at another. It's a little longer than we would typically read but we'll walk through it quickly. You see, refusing God's perspective initiates a downward spiral in a life, in a family, in a community, in a nation. Again, it's a theme of Scripture. It's not some isolated passage or unique perspective. Romans chapter 1. Romans is arguably the most remarkable theological treatise that's ever been penned. And at the beginning of that, in Romans chapter 1, it describes the downward progression in refusing to honor the Lord. And it's introduced to us in the terms of futility of our thinking: when we give our minds and our thoughts, when we embrace as true things that are fruitless, useless.
Romans chapter 1, verse 21: "Although they knew God". Please note this is written to an audience of Christians, and Paul begins with a group of people who knew God. He's not beginning with the pagans or the ungodly or all those that you would imagine to be the others. "Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, and their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. And although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles". So this first segment says they knew God but their thinking became futile, careless, sloppy, lazy, unscriptural, so they didn't glorify God. Nor did they give thanks to him and that resulted in their hearts being darkened.
Now it's more difficult to see. Not because God had withdrawn from them, not because he was punishing them, but because of their choices. And then "they claimed to be wise," which always goes with the more fully you reject God, the more determined you are to assert how wise you are. "And they became fools". When you assert your wisdom when in reality in God's perspective or God's economy you're foolish, the technical definition for that is that you're deceived. And then it says instead of serving the Creator, they worshiped and served created things. They gave more energy, more enthusiasm, more attention, more time, more resources, into acquiring and accumulating things of creation than we do in worshiping the Creator. The biblical word for that is idolatry, but we think we're removed from that 'cause we don't bow down before little statues carved out of wood or molded from metal.
But then in verse 26 the digression continues: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. And they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. And because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. And in the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion". Remember the starting point of this. It starts with godly people. And now it says God has given them over to shameful lusts.
Again, God said, "If that's the way you wanna think and those are the values you want to embrace, you have freedom". And it describes this progression: sinful desires, sexual impurity, shameful lust. Lust is the craving of something. You see, we have cravings that are not godly, all of us. Those of us who sit in churches and read Bibles and stand behind pulpits, we're not immune to this. But we choose not to honor it. We choose not to try to acknowledge it as something that should be celebrated, venerated, introduced into the public sphere. It says it continues into homosexuality. Then in verse 28 it takes even a further turn. Says: "Furthermore, since they didn't think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness".
Again, this started with the people of God. And then there's this listing. It's reminiscent of 2 Timothy 3, those first verses. "Every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity. They're full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They're gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they're senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. And although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death," again, it's not a people who were uninformed. It's a choice. They've yielded the battlefield. Yes, I know there's a body of thought over there but I'm not picking that up. I'm choosing another way to live. "Although they knew God's righteous decrees they not only continue to do these very things but they approve of those who practice them". They'll put 'em in children's books.
There are 21 things listed after verse 28 that describe for us this deterioration, this unwinding, and it ends and they choose to do wrong and they'll encourage and approve of those who will practice it with them. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Church, this is our generation. I don't want you to be discouraged. I want you to understand we have an assignment. We've been called to this season, empowered for this. Jesus offered himself on a sacrifice that we might take the message, the good news of the redemptive work of Jesus to our generation. Hallelujah, it's not theoretical. What do you believe? Look at 1 Corinthians 1. It's said a little more gently but it's very similar message.
1 Corinthians 1:18: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it's the power of God". So when you introduce this conversation to someone that hasn't made a decision to honor the Lord yet, you shouldn't be surprised if they say, "Well, you know, that sounds kind of foolish to me. You think there's a God in heaven who could impact my life under the sun"? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. "You think that justice comes from God? I thought justice came from governments". Well, actually, there is no evidence in human history that governments are just. The only time governments give expression of justice is when those governments have embraced a worldview that's informed by God. Human governments become increasingly oppressive, the further we move away from a God perspective. They'll think you're a little foolish, so understand that going in.
I'm willing to be a little foolish for Jesus. How about you? It's okay with me. "You mean, you believe God sent his Son, that he was born of a virgin"? Yup, as a matter of fact, I'm all in on that idea. "You really believe that about Mary and Joseph and all that drama"? Uh-huh, don't you? "Well, why would you believe that"? Because it's necessary for me to have hope. Because I needed a Savior, I needed a redeemer. There's a cost on godliness and if I have to pay the price my future's not bright. God loved us so much that he sent his Son that all of my failures and my inadequacies and my shortcomings and all of my ungodliness could be addressed, that I might know the mercy and the grace of being a part of the eternal kingdom of the living God. And you could know that too.
Look at the passage: "To us who are being saved it's the power of God. For it's written: 'I'll destroy the wisdom of the wise; and the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'" And the rest of this is a bit tongue in cheek. "Where is the wise man? Where's the scholar? Where's the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe".
What the ungodly discount as foolish, irrational, illogical. They tell us that we're illogical and irrational because we believe in a Creator God. And they tell us that it's more rational to believe that everything came from nothing. Bless your heart. "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ," a Messiah, "crucified: it's a stumbling block to the Jews," I promise that is true. Particularly to a first century Jewish audience, the Messiah was a redeemer, a military leader, someone to restore independence to the nation. In the same way that Moses led the slaves out of Egyptian slavery, the Messiah would lead the people out of Roman enslavement, or whomever it might have been. And have those hated Romans crucify the Messiah, nail him to a cross, and mock him in public, that's a stumbling block. "It's foolishness to the Gentiles". To the non-Jewish world, it's just foolish that God's Son could be executed by his creation. "But to those whom God has called, Jews and Greeks, Christ," the Messiah, "the power of God and the wisdom of God".
And again, we wanna learn to lead our lives informed by the wisdom of God. It's an elevated place for Jesus. "Christ the wisdom and the power of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength". There's a battle in your heart, and mine, in my mind and in yours. It's not unique to any one of us. None of us are going to be excluded from this. No matter how much education, no matter how much theology you know, no matter how many theological terms you can espouse, that battle is persistent. I have found that you don't outgrow it, it doesn't leave you with maturity, it doesn't even leave you with life experience. The enemy continues to challenge the validity of the truth you choose to believe.
There's a battle. It fills the pages of the Scripture, it informs the teachings of Jesus. I can give you many examples. I didn't put 'em in your notes 'cause I was afraid I'd get stuck and we'd never get out. Maybe you need another session. Remember the parable Jesus told about the rich fool? It's in the context of the covenant people of God, a man who was tremendously successful. The Bible affirms success. It's not opposed to it. But it says after year after year after year the man outsmarted the market year after year after year and then it said he said to himself, "I've done really, really well. I'm gonna take life easy, and eat, drink, and be merry". And the commentary in Jesus's teaching was "You're a fool because tonight your life will be demanded of you". Well, that's a pretty sobering adjustment to how we think, that we really can't evaluate our success or a failure by the accumulation of stuff.
Again, God's not opposed to stuff. He gives us the ability to accumulate things. Whatever we have, God gave us the ability to do that, by access to education or by access to a culture that was stable enough that you can really accumulate something or the gifts he gave us. God's hand was involved in all of that. He's not opposed to that. But he said, "If you imagine that your journey through time can be evaluated in that way," he said, "you're foolish, 'cause your life will be demanded one day. Maybe not today as in that man's case but one day it is over, the lights go out". He said, "Then who's gonna get your stuff"? He said, "This is how it'll be with anyone who's not rich towards God". Well, that's a different way to think. What's it mean to be rich towards God? How would you do that? How could you orient your life in order to lay up treasure in heaven? Oh, Jesus talked about that too. You see, you can pick up almost any category and our natural inclination is almost opposite of God's thoughts or God's practice or God's wisdom. And we've got to bring closer and closer alignment.
I'll give you another set of biblical principles that are almost absent in the public square and it's because they're too absent in our home lives. Truthfulness, being trustworthy, and fairness. Those are derived from a biblical worldview. God brings those to us. And what do we find in their place? Manipulation, intimidation, and domination.
Now, folks, we've gotta change how we think. We can't point to some place in time where we recited a prayer, took a dip in a pool, and then give our thoughts and our practices to ungodliness and imagine we'll be okay. The Bible says not to conform to this present world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. And God said, "Come, turn your minds towards me. Let's reason together," he said. "Your sins are like scarlet, they can be as white as snow". He said, "My thoughts, they're not your thoughts. My ways, they're not your ways". Let's change. Bring alignment. That's the stuff of being Christ followers. Those are the ideas we have to watch over to communicate to encourage. It's the value of community. How quickly we cast that aside. That's another biblical principle. I think we could get pretty wholesale agreement that the isolation of our children during the pandemic was destructive.
Now, I'm not casting stones at that. We had limited information and let's take the high road and say the best decisions were being made in the moment with the available data that was present. But from where we stand today, there is really not much diversity of opinion that that kind of isolation of children was damaging to their growth and development, academically, emotionally, in every possible way. And that's said, even though they still had access to learning. They had access, they had online, they had great information, perhaps more personalized tutoring than they got in a public setting with a roomful of other children. Is that fair? You think isolation was destructive for our kids? Yeah, me too. Wouldn't submit to that again without an overwhelming body of data that said there was some threat that was greater than the one we saw before.
Well, let me ask you this question. The data's overwhelming on this. Christians didn't go back to church. That's not as true in our setting. A lot of reasons around that, but across our nation. I've been in city after city after city this year: church participation has plummeted at least 30%, and the answers most frequently given are, "Well, we have access to church services and Bible teaching. We can stream it. It's broadcast to", and we spend a lot of time and energy and effort around those things. I'm not denigrating them, but I don't think you should imagine that it's the same as being in community. We learned that children forfeited something, not just the exchange of information and ideas across a digital platform. They forfeited something when they weren't in community. So do we.
"Well, it's inconvenient to come to church". It's inconvenient to go to school. You get exposed to diseases and it makes your immune system stronger. And if you're isolated, your immune system becomes weaker and weaker. I gotta wrap this up. Knowing God in your thoughts and in your practices is the game-changer. There is a God and he can be known. It's the fundamental story of this book. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And in that very same chapter it says that after God fashioned Adam from the dust of the ground, he breathed into him and he became a living spirit. There is a God and he can be known. It changes everything, folks. John 17, verse 3. Some of you prefer Jesus. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent".
Eternal life is in knowing God. Eternal life is not life without end; it's a quality of existence. Knowing God changes the quality of your existence. Philippians, Paul says it a bit more passionately: "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord". He's just listed his résumé and it's quite extensive. His accomplishments were impressive. And he said, "I consider it nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord, for whose sake I've lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law".
I'm not gonna point at my résumé and my accomplishments and my accumulations and my achievements. "But that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings". If you ask me for a summary of my primary agenda at this season in my life, I wanna know Christ. I wanna know the Lord. I wanna know him. Yes, I've read my Bible and yes, I've lived in the midst of the people of God and I've been to church more than most, but I wanna know God. I want his thoughts to be more prevalent in my heart, in my mind. I want my behaviors to more fully align with the behaviors that he would embrace. I don't imagine that I've gotten this altogether or have it all figured out. I don't want to lead a presumptuous life and point at my past résumé. I want to know the Lord. And I want to plant that seed in your heart.
Folks, there's a battle for your mind. It's unrelenting, it's unfair. That's the nature of evil. Evil doesn't play fair. It'll accuse you in the places you're vulnerable. It'll attack you at the points where you're most susceptible to fear and anxiety, because it's evil. Spend some time in the Word of God until you get a God perspective, it becomes a stable place. The messaging that is coming against your God perspective is unrelenting and overwhelming. We need one another. We're gonna need a boldness that we have not demonstrated in recent decades. We've been timid. We thought that by being timid and quiet and careful, that we would win the world. We didn't derive that position from Scripture. We derived that position from the messaging that was coming at us, that if we would retreat, if we would yield, if we wouldn't pray at a school or pray before a ballgame, if we wouldn't pray in a corporate setting, that we would be more widely embraced and more opportunities would come to us, that it was inappropriate in those settings.
Until we yielded the field and now another worldview dominates in those places and you're told you have to yield to it. I will not. I want to know God. I brought you a prayer. It's not my prayer at all. I adapted it from Ephesians chapter 1. I just changed a few pronouns to make it a bit more personal. I didn't give the passage from Ephesians but you can check me after church, okay? Right after you find 2 Peter 3. Why don't you stand with me for this prayer.
Here's the good news. I believe God will give us his thoughts. I believe the Spirit of God will help us, if we'll be willing to grow and change and yield. That's exciting. I believe we'll see the name of Jesus welcomed back into our schools and our college campuses, into the corridors of our hospitals. The doctors won't have to be afraid of attorneys when they ask a patient if they can pray, amen. If they can write a book encouraging children to change their gender without their parents' knowledge and they're not afraid of attorneys, how far have we drifted when we're afraid to pray in a public place? I brought you a prayer, right? Let's read it together:
Almighty God, in humility we ask that You give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know You better. We pray also that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which You have called us, the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints and Your incomparably great power for us who believe. Grant us understanding hearts to perceive Your power exerted in our Lord Jesus when He was raised from the dead and seated at Your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come, amen.