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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Matthew - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Matthew - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Matthew - Part 2

And we've lived apart from spiritual things for far too long. We need the help of the angels of the Lord. They're ministering spirits, the Bible says, sent forth on our behalf. We should be more aware of them, more conscious of their abilities, the roles they've been given, the assignments they've had, how we've interacted with them in the past. The Bible says some of us have entertained angels unaware. There's so little discernment. We were being in the presence of the angels and haven't known it. God continues to provide for Joseph supernatural guidance.

Now Joseph has an awareness of what's happening in Jerusalem and he responds to a political circumstance. Archelaus is reigning in Judea, so Joseph goes to Nazareth. He's afraid there's enough of a lingering remembrance from Herod that his son will have a similar character of hatred, so he goes to a more remote region of Israel. I'm intrigued. It says: "He's warned in a dream so he withdraws to the district of Galilee. Angels gave directions because of a political circumstance". That's in the text. The angel said, "Well, if he's ruling there, you'd better go to Nazareth".

See, if I'm writing that narrative, I mean, without any awareness of prophets or Scripture, and I'm gonna tell the God story, I would say there's a wicked king but it's time for Jesus to go to Nazareth 'cause that's where he's gonna grow up. So let's just take Archelaus out. I mean, it happens in other places. But in this case, God simply gives a warning. Do you understand, our faith cannot be understood, it can't be lived out apart from contemporary culture? Theoretical Bible studies and ignoring the world around us is avoiding our responsibilities to be salt and light. Then Matthew one more time reminds the reader that this set of events and circumstances, Jesus going to Nazareth when he's still a small child, to grow up, is fulfilling prophecy.

And by now, the familiar question: Do you imagine that Mary and Joseph know the prophecies? I wanna push this just one more segment from Matthew. The very next verse is Matthew 3. You know when this was originally written there weren't chapter headings and verses. Those were added hundreds of years later, they were just reference tools. And sometimes I think they're disruptive. Says, "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: 'A voice of one calling in the desert, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him."'"

Matthew tells us John's message. Matthew tells the reader what John's message was. That's intriguing to me, that recorded in Scripture is the message that John shared: to prepare the way of the Lord. Matthew also reminds us of a prophecy concerning John. By now, you know that's a habit that Matthew has in presenting this narrative. He's supporting these remarkable acts as fulfillments of what the prophets have said. This time he quotes Isaiah 40 in verse 3. But I wanna ask you the question. A moment ago when I asked it the first time, there were a lot of nods affirming, "Oh, absolutely, Mary and Joseph thought that verse was all about them".

May I ask you this? Did John know the Isaiah passage referred to him? John had some insight. He had some awareness. Said, "I'm not the Messiah. He's coming after me. I'm not worthy to untie his shoes. I shouldn't touch a strap on his sandal". So he's very biblically aware. I mean, his story is a very supernatural story. But I think it's a big step to imagine that John looked at Isaiah 40 and go, "That's me". You think when they signed his high school annual, they wrote out next to his picture, "Isaiah 40"? Do they still have high school annuals? "John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. And he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, and he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.'"

You know, God's people don't always say nice things. That's not a license to use abusive language, but again I think it's a mistake. We often say that the New Testament is just filled with hugs. John looked at the people whose...had they embraced his message, I assure you John's disciples thought it would have made the expanding story of the ministry much more easily accomplished. And John said, "You bunch of snakes". If you can step back in that picture, you can see his disciples cringing. "Could you tone it down a little bit? They could help us. They're powerful and they're wealthy and they're influential". "You bunch of snakes".

So when we talk about awakening, I want to invite you to imagine that there's room in our lives to be awakened, perspectives to be embraced, Scripture to be understood, prophecies to be lived out, supernatural directions to be received, difficult assignments to be accepted. Suffering to be observed, endured, and overcome. That same passage, there are seven separate instances of supernatural guidance. In verse 18, this is how the birth of Jesus came about. Mary was pledged to be married and she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. That's something. Verse 20, this is Joseph after he considered all of this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Don't be afraid of Mary. She really is trustworthy".

Wouldn't you have liked to have been there for that conversation? I mean, we're told that he's already made his mind up about Mary, he's reached a conclusion. She's made an announcement and he's reached a conclusion. It's a legitimate inference that they've had a discussion. "I'm not gonna make a public spectacle of you, I'm not gonna try to humiliate you, but this is not happening". Well, I think it's safe to say that Mary made her case: "It's not what you think. You've leapt to a conclusion that's not true".

I don't think we're being unfair to the text to imagine there could have been some emotion in that discussion, some hurt all the way around the circle. And now Joseph has a dream and an angelic visitor and then we read that as if, "Oh, yeah, it makes perfect sense. And now he's got it sorted out, uh-huh". "Don't be afraid to take Mary home". I think that next conversation may be even more awkward than the previous one. "Oh, so now you believe me"? Well, it's in the Bible. Nobody would talk like that. The third instance, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It's chapter 2, 1st verse, during the time of King Herod, they came to Herod and said, "We saw a star".

We read that like it's normal, people coming great distances. They say, "We're searching for God. We want to understand God better. There's a new King of the Jews that's been born". Are you on a God journey? Or do you think you've completed yours? Tell me about the disruptions in your life, the disruption to your dreams, the new paths you'll walk, imagine it's a God journey. Number four, it's in verse 12. Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they took another route. It's... Verse 13, number 5, when they'd gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joe in a dream and said, "You've got to move". Number six, after Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "You can go back now". Again, we're reading all this like it's, "Oh, yeah, that'd be no problem".

Folks, we have God direction, we ignore it every week: Forgive one another. Tithe. Now I'm meddling. Don't forsake the assembling together of yourselves. "Oh, well, well, well. Those aren't like essentials". Oh, you mean essential like "I'll call my Son out of Egypt". And they imagine that's personal enough, they load the donkey and head south. What do you suppose it would take for us to take the Word of God personally? Do you understand the tremendous degree to which we've stepped away from it and we've imagined that it's theoretical and that we can just choose and select and kind of arbitrarily wander through and go, "Oh, I like that. That sounds really good. But I don't like that part so much. I think I'll go over here and look around this room and see what's in here".

You see, for supernatural guidance to be impactful in our lives, the Lord has to know we're trustworthy to be obedient with whatever he shows us. That's about growing up. You understand that small children, they have to be taught obedience. It's not innate, it's not instinctive. I mean, I know the goal, first-time obedience, but nobody starts with ringing that bell. We may grow to it sometimes but we have that same objective in our hearts with the Lord. Do we really intend to be obedient? Or are we just searching for the promises that we want to apply?

What's our response? This is an important part. I would submit first of all, it's the value of God's Word in our lives. We wanna begin to attach more value to that. 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 19: "We have the word of the prophets". This is Peter, the fisherman Jesus recruited. Now, he's near the end of his life, so he's got a lot of experience tucked under his belt since he was recruited out of a fishing business on the shores of Galilee. Back to his letter, he's saying to us, "I'm about to leave here. I'm about done. This tent I'm living in has got to get folded up".

And so his message to his audience is, "We have the word of the prophets, and you'll do well to pay attention to it, as a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit". They're not just the words of people. They're not just religious opinions. God has provided direction to us. I promise you most of the people in that first century audience did not connect the passages that Matthew gave us to Jesus in the moment when they were being experienced.

And if you step back from it a little bit and you think about it, the verses that we've looked at, the prophetic passages, were typically just a single verse. They include more than one prophet, different settings, different time periods. It's not a comprehensive collection of verses regarding the arrival of Messiah, neatly tucked into six chapters in Isaiah. That's the way we would prefer it. What Matthew does show to us and what Peter is underlining for us is a very high value of Scripture, that there is no New Testament narrative without the Old Testament. It makes no sense. I know we're slogging through the back end of the Old Testament right now. Daniel gave us a little hope that we're back amongst the prophets: Hosea and Joel and Amos, here we go. The value of God's Word in your life I don't believe can be overstated. We don't wanna worship the book, but we need to understand that the Bible points us to the character of God, the purposes of God, the will of God, the stories of God, and we are privileged to have it.

And I'll close with a question. What shall we do, what's our assignment? Well, in Acts 2 and 36, it's the Day of Pentecost. You know that story, I hope. Peter's preached to the crowd in response to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and he says, "Let all Israel be assured of this: God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ". Again, those are very harsh words. He's standing in the streets of Jerusalem and saying, "You crucified the Messiah". That's not bridge building. That's not an expression of kindness or tolerance. That's not big tent language. "You crucified the Messiah". Not the Romans. Jews don't crucify people; Romans do that. But he's talking to a overwhelmingly Jewish audience, saying, "You crucified him. You worked it out. You arranged it. You orchestrated it". "And when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and they said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What shall we do?' And Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.'"

Please think about the audience. They're Jews in Jerusalem. There's a daily sacrifice offered in that city. The aroma of the sacrifice hangs over the city of the Jerusalem like the aroma of smoked pork does when you go into your favorite barbecue joint. These are not people separate from the things of God. You can see the temple, no matter where you are in the city of Jerusalem. Herod saw to that. He built it higher than any other piece of architecture, any other structure in the city. These are the people of God and when they say, "What shall we do"? what does Peter say to them? "Repent. Change your thought and change your behavior. And be baptized," now, here's the kicker, "in the name of Jesus the Messiah". He's giving, that's a tall hill to climb. "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah". "Wait a minute, we just shouted to crucify him. You want us to align ourselves against the most powerful people in this city"? "Well, you asked, and that's the pathway".

You see, Jesus has already pronounced judgment upon that generation. Jesus has already said that that generation is under interdict, that they have forfeited their privileges, so there's nothing to be done on the day of Pentecost that is going to reverse what Jesus has said for them, collectively. They have forfeited their corporate opportunity. And now that opportunity, you'll have to wait for another generation. That is the story. 'Cause Jesus said in the concluding chapters of Luke that they're gonna build an embankment against you and dash your babies' heads against the stones. Nothing that's gonna happen in Acts chapter 2 is going to unring that bell. That's not being walked backwards. What Peter's extending is an opportunity for personal repentance and deliverance. The people say, "What can we do"? And he said, "Every one of you, repent".

I want to come back to where we began. It seems to me that it's plausible, at least, that we face a similar place in our lives. That could very well be the opportunity that's before our generation. It isn't clear to me, and I'm certainly not the authority. I'm not suggesting I am. It isn't clear to me whether national repentance remains a viable pathway for us. I can tell you this. We can't continue to flaunt God's values and celebrate them and turn our back on the protection of our children, while we celebrate our own personal rights and imagine that God will just look the other way.

What I do know for certain is that personal repentance is essential and I would suggest to you it's the only option for transformation on a larger scale. And that we have to resist the temptation to think that deliverance is coming from beyond us, it's about parties or offices or elections or... I'm not opposed to those things. I believe we should be participants but our deliverance will come because of the hearts of God's people. And the more completely we awaken to that, and the more quickly we step away from our self-righteousness and acknowledge the degree to which we have walked into the world and how little respect or fear of God we have had, the more quickly, I think, we will see God's answers begin to emerge.

Let's take Peter's counsel. We have the words of the prophets and we would be well served to pay attention to them. I didn't bring you a prayer. I want to pray for you tonight, if I may. If you'll stand with me. It's Christmas week and we're reminded of God's extraordinary, unimaginable, inexplicable entrance at the time, that he would send his Son to put on an earth suit to offer himself as a sacrifice for us. He changed our eternities. He made it possible for us to be considered children of the King, citizens of his eternal kingdom. I'm not talking about church people. I'm not asking you about which translation you prefer, or which denomination you wanna join or which worship style suits your personality.

We were transferred from the kingdom of darkness with no future and brought into the kingdom of his Son whom God loves. And that all was launched through this amazing Christmas miracle. And the Scripture tells us that Christmas miracle occurred through the lives of men and women saying Yes to him, cooperating with him. Well, here's the awkward part. We're the 21st century edition. Let's not just gobble up the blessings that come from the obedience of our familiar friends, Mary and Joseph and the Magi. Let's say to the Lord, "I'll cooperate with you, so that your purposes can make a difference, not only in my life but for the generation coming behind me". Are you willing to do that? Let's pray:

Father, thank you. Thank you for your Word and its truth and authority and power in our lives. Lord, I thank you for the miracle that we have access to Scripture. In your grace and your mercy, Father, you have made it abundantly available to us and we thank you for it. Lord, we pray that we won't simply be hearers, but that by your Spirit, you will direct us to the steps of obedience which shape our lives. Lord, we stand with those who were listening to Peter when they heard the truth. Says they were cut to the heart and said, "What shall we do"?

Father, what shall we do? We come in humility to repent, to acknowledge, Father, the degree to which we have been stiff-necked and self-absorbed, and been interested in very minute ways in the things of your kingdom. Forgive us. We choose a new path. Holy Spirit, help us. Give us understanding hearts. Give us a longing for truth. Give us ears that can hear and eyes that can perceive. Help us to begin to see with your perspective the world in which we live. We thank you for it. We choose to honor you with our lives, to give you first place, to turn away from any way, any place, that we have embraced ungodliness and to walk uprightly before you. Holy Spirit, help us, and we thank you for it. May this be a triumphant week in our lives, a triumphant week in our nation, a triumphant week for the church in the earth. May the name of Jesus be lifted up. May your kingdom be exalted. May your purposes break forth. We thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.

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