Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Absence Of Spiritual Life Is Death - Part 2

Allen Jackson - The Absence Of Spiritual Life Is Death - Part 2

Allen Jackson - The Absence Of Spiritual Life Is Death - Part 2

It's good to be with you again. We're continuing our study on spiritual things. Here's the reality: an absence of a spiritual life means you're spiritually dead. You know, it's not about sitting in church or having a Bible or being kind and polite or moral. There has to be a spiritual vitality if you're spiritually alive. And for some reason, we have missed that idea in a great deal of the church. I'm not talking about membership or volunteering or even being generous, but making space in our lives for the Spirit of God to bring life to us and to the people around us. It's the assignment. God'll help us with it. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but the most important component is a willingness in our part to say Yes to the Lord and to be willing to grow. It's the beginning of a new year, it's growing season. Let's find out what God has for us.

Now there are some components that I would suggest to you to helping us to embrace spiritual things more completely. And they seem relatively obvious but if they're ignored, I don't really imagine that you or I will be able to do this. And the first is to process what it means to believe and to understand. While they are both important, they have different objectives. You see, belief begins with a decision. "I believe". Understanding emerges from experience and then a combination of either insight or information. You can believe things you don't understand. How many of you believe in the Internet? Really, just seven or eight of us? I bet it's more. It's not like a trick question. "I'm not raising my hand. He's gonna laugh at me at church".

I suspect we pretty much would agree that the Internet exists, but if you were responsible to duplicate it, "Well, it's about connectivity. It's digital. It's something about the cloud". You can believe in it, you can believe in its impact, you can believe in the opportunity it represents, you can order things over the Internet and they will come to your house. How do they know? But you don't necessarily understand it. Now, I don't want you to check your brain at the door, folks. God can withstand the brilliant light of your intellect, just turn it on. Heaven will not panic. In fact, if you're gonna grow up in the Lord, you're gonna need to use your mind more than you probably have to this point. But belief and understanding are critical.

The second component I would submit to you is that we're going to have to make the commitment to read and to think about the Word of God. I just don't imagine you're gonna navigate a season of discontinuity and tremendous change without the foundation and the grounding of the Word of God. And we do a Bible-reading plan here and we have for several years now. I hope you're participating. I hope you do it repetitively, but it's really just a beginning point. Don't just read out of obligation. Actually think about it. The benefit of reading it in community is it's much easier to have a dialog. I know we're in the Gospel of Mark right now. Mark is in a hurry. Just circle every time the word "immediately" is used. Bless his heart, he's anxious. The purpose of it isn't, but read your Bible and think about it. Build the habit. Make it as much a part of your routine as eating or your personal hygiene.

It's important. And if it hasn't been a part of your life, I wanna make a suggestion. Have a candid conversation with the Lord and with your closest friends and say, "Look, here's the truth. I just haven't done that. I go to church and I've been to church and I'm a Christian and my parents were Christians and my grandparents were Christians. We weren't Buddhist and we didn't declare ourselves agnostics. But here's the truth. We just never read our Bible much. And I wanted to get it out there because I wanna change. And maybe some of y'all would read it with me and we could hold one another accountable". And you'll have a busy week and you'll get behind. Don't stop. You know, we're not striving to say that we're gonna know how to explain the kingdom of God. What we wanna create is the discipline to present ourselves on a regular basis to turn our attention towards the Lord, because we want to know him better.

We're not reading to learn the rules. We're not reading so we can learn Isaiah's middle name. And it's okay if those things happen to come out of it eventually but between here and there we wanna present ourselves 'cause I wanna bring to think about the things of God more than I do about my fantasy sports teams, how effective UT's recruiting is in the season. And they're not necessarily evil, but we've given our hearts to other things. And we're in a place now where we need God's help. And I believe if we were gonna talk with the Lord, it would be like Nicodemus and "How is it that you don't understand this? Are you really that dull? Are you still afraid you won't have enough food to eat"? "Well, as a matter of fact, yeah, all the above". So you're gonna need some time with your Bible.

The third component I would give you is there's a couple of gateway experiences that I don't believe you wanna bypass. The first one is not optional. The new birth. Jesus just said it. We read it in John 3: "Unless you're born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God". You just can't. You can go to church, you can be good, you can be kind, you can be generous. You can be many things, but unless you are born again, so you need to know what that means and understand how to make that a part of your life experience. It is the new birth. It is as transformational as your physical birth. And you need to know how to help other people. You don't wanna let anybody that you know about, that you care about, whose life matters to you, whose future is important to you, ignore the reality of the new birth. And we've been covert Christians for too long.

That's the beginning point. The second experience that I believe is a gateway experience, it's not required for heaven but it was necessary for the disciples, we'll look at it in a moment, to fulfill their assignment, was Spirit baptism. I think we have to take seriously the counsel we're given by Scripture. I hear people say all the time, "You know, that's just not how I believe". Understand, all those groups Jesus addressed that we just read, had Scripture for their positions. They're gonna quote the law of Moses about what they eat and they had generations of teaching from the rabbis. I mean, they have an enormous body of information and Jesus looked at it and said, "You blind guides".

I've already told you that saying Yes to the Spirit of God is disruptive, that it's a paradigm shift. It's gonna bring you new friends. And the fourth thing I would submit is a part of this journey is revelation. Not the book of, but revelation as it's used predominantly in the New Testament is about understanding that is given or insight that is granted. This is something that comes to us beyond study. This isn't that I plied my heart to know. This is when God gives you an insight.

Now, I wanna unpack all those things with you just a little bit, so I brought you some Scripture. I didn't want you to think I just made them up out of thin air. In Matthew 21, Jesus again, and he said, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you". And the group he's speaking to, if you go back and check the context, he's speaking to the chief priests and the elders of the people. So he's speaking to the crème de la crème, the top shelf amongst the priestly class, and the elders, the rulers, of the people. And he looks at them and he said, "The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you".

I bet the disciples are going, "Psst... all right, you're doing it again. We're trying to get a crowd together and we're trying to get a little favor in here with the powerbrokers and you're", but watch what he says to them, "They're entering the kingdom of God ahead of you, for John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him". He said, "You heard the message and you had the background to discern or to determine that he was speaking the truth, and you refused to believe him". You see, there are times when we refuse belief because we understand innately, intuitively, that if we accept that premise, we'll have to change.

If you believe there is a God and you believe he cares about our moral positions, and you're living in a way that you know transgresses the boundaries of God, the most common response is, "Well, I guess I really just don't believe that". Because it's a way that we can push aside or push off center the transgression that is our life. And so it isn't that chief priests and the elders didn't understand what John was saying, they preferred their positions of power and wealth and influence, so they said, "We don't believe that". And then Jesus said, "The tax collectors, the biggest thieves amongst you, and the prostitutes, the openly immoral, heard John and they believed it and you saw them change. You saw them bring alignment between their lives and the truth that you say you believe and you still would not believe".

Now, belief is not easy but neither is understanding, because the Spirit of God and the supernatural is gonna expose you to things that are beyond yourself. It's like believing that a virus could take your life. You can't see it, you can't hear it coming, it doesn't knock on the door. I mean, they could convince you to put a bandanna around your face and it'll protect you. That's how little information we had. So understanding is not easy. In John chapter 12, this was Jesus. He's sending the disciples ahead of him into Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover meal, and he's telling about a prophecy. He said, "Go find a donkey and when you find the donkey, if they ask you about it, say, 'My master needs it.'" "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion," he's quoting the prophets. "Your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt".

And then John writes the Gospel after these facts. Long after the trip into Jerusalem and long after the Crucifixion, John records it so it's not lost. "At first his disciples did not understand all of this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him". So the crew that are going to town to get the donkey, they're not going, "You know, the prophets told us about this. Isn't it fun to be fulfilling what the prophets said"? John says they didn't understand what they were involved in until that afterwards they looked back at the facts and then they began to bring alignment between the Scripture and their experience.

Now, I think that's helpful because there are times you and I will be involved and doing our best to honor the Lord or be obedient, and we're thinking, "I'm not really sure. I didn't know this is what it was gonna feel like". I give you an example from my own life. All my life I've heard about this great endtime harvest. The Spirit of God will move through the earth and there'll be an unprecedented gathering of people into the kingdom of God. So in my brain, I always heard that as, like, this enormous victory parade, like they had in Georgia today. "Weee". And this is not exactly, the Scripture tells us about the harvest but it also tells us that evil's gonna be present right there. And Jesus said, "You'll be persecuted by all peoples because of me. And when that happens, rejoice".

I thought I got to rejoice because of the harvest. So when I get to a season where you get canceled if you say what you believe is biblical about marriage, I thought, "Hoo, this couldn't be harvest time". Yes, it could. Let's lift up our eyes. The harvest fields are white. People are hungry. It's not easy to understand. Look in John 20. Now, this is John 20, this is Resurrection Day. So the disciples have had 3 years with Jesus. They watched Peter almost drown in the lake after he walked a little bit. They've picked up basketfuls of food. They've seen the dead raised. They've seen a lot. They're not beginners anymore. "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and she saw the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved," it's John.

Note the word, she says, "She came running". "And she said, 'They've taken the Lord. The tomb's empty. They've taken the Lord.'" Now, you and I are reading that and you want to say, "And Peter said, 'Well, goofball, he's alive.'" Verse 3: "So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb," running. And John outran him. And when John got there, he looked in and he goes, "Yeah, it's empty, it's open". When Peter gets there: "Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived, he went into the tomb". Of course he did. "And he saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen".

There's all sorts, anyway, "Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and he believed". He saw and he believed what? He believed Mary had told them the truth: Jesus wasn't there. They didn't believe Mary was telling the truth 'til they got there and saw that the stone was rolled away and the body was gone. Now they wondered where he is. They don't understand. I know that because John tells us. Look at the next, it's in parenthesis. John adds this to us. It's a parenthetical insertion. He's giving us the meaning so that you and I won't misinterpret what he said. "(They still did not understand from the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)"

So what is it they believe? They believe he's not here. "Nope, he's not here. Look, not here. John, do you see that cloth right there, folded up that way? That means he's not here, right there. That's what that means. Look at it right there". Has Jesus told them? Sure he has. Did they nod in agreement? Somebody took notes. "Jesus said", you see, understanding is not easy. We have to help one another and we'll have to be willing, you know, there's some humility that is necessary to be willing to believe even when I don't understand. When Jesus sees them later that day, they're hiding because they're afraid and it says that Jesus steps into the room and he shows them the hand, the nail prints in his hands. And he says, "Stop doubting and believe". I'm sure they still don't understand.

What did they use, jumper cables? I don't know. How'd they do that? I promise you they didn't understand, but they believed. And I don't think we realize the degree to which there's a spirit of derision that if you say you'll believe something but you can't explain it, you act as if you have abandoned the territory of the intelligent. Folks, I can't reproduce my cell phone. I don't know how it works. I mean, I understand there's a tower and it's digital, but that doesn't mean I understand it. "Well, it's GP", I know. Stop, MacGyver. But when it comes to spiritual things, we have this false barrier that I will not believe until I can fully explain it. Stop it.

That's your excuse for unbelief. That's your excuse for continuing in your stubborn refusal to believe. I hear evidence of it all around us. I've spent my life in the church. I remember reading a report. I told you about it. There was an account of David and Goliath by a PhD, I think it was from Vanderbilt, that said the reason that David was able to defeat Goliath was Goliath had a pituitary problem. That's why he was so tall. And oftentimes with that pituitary problem, there'll be a bony protuberance on your forehead where the cranial is thinner and made Goliath more susceptible to a rock thrown at him. As if that explains it. I'm thinking, "Wow, David's on a hillside, all the way across the other", there was a valley and another hill, and he can see this big guy over there.

"Oh, he has a pituitary problem". Nobody else in all the camp of the Israelites could see it, but David could see a bony protuberance. Stop! I heard somebody say once that when Jonah got to Nineveh the reason everybody repented because all the acid in the belly of the whale had bleached his hair white, and bleached his skin. So he looked like a zombie going through Nineveh. If that's the case, we'd all put on some bizarre makeup and go preach in the mall. How many of you know looking weird doesn't make people respond to your message. You see, we have used understanding as an excuse for our stubborn unbelief, and I don't want you to check your brain at the door. You will need every bit of mental capacity that God has given to you. But when you've used it all, God's smarter than we are.

We are determined with the help of God to open our lives to the person and the work of the Holy Spirit, so let the manifestations of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, whatever provision the Spirit of God will bring to his church in this season, I wanna raise my hand and say, "I'm in that line". I wanna learn new things. I wanna respond with greater boldness. I wanna expand my portfolio of belief. If it's biblical, if Jesus endorsed it, if he advocated for it, let's go.

Folks, we need all the help we can get. Why would we believe a politician will fix us more than we believe the Spirit of God would help us? We have been reluctant, we've been filled with unbelief. We've been distracted. We've been many things, but God is waking us up. He is. This isn't about whether you're Methodist or Episcopalian or Presbyterian or Pentecostal or interdenominational. I have respect for people in all those traditions, but the label is not the defining component. It's an exciting time. I brought you a prayer, but I couldn't fit it on your outlines, so I hope that these brilliant people that work with me can fit it on the screens. They could.

Why don't we stand. We'll read it together. It's taken from the book of Revelation, chapter 15. And when it's introduced to us in Revelation 15, it says it was the song of Moses, the servant of the God, and the song of the Lamb. So we're gonna pray a prayer that both Moses and the Lord thought was worthy of giving voice to. I think that's a pretty good way to close our time together in this session, huh? Let's read it together:

Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed, amen.

Are you Human?:*