Allen Jackson - Choices To Change A Generation - Part 2
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It's an honor to be with you today. We're gonna continue our study on the choices that are necessary to change a generation. You know, we have lived for too long with the imagination that you make a profession of faith in Jesus and you're baptized and you're kind of done with your God choices. It's not a biblical idea. Now I believe in new birth, conversion, salvation, whichever label you prefer, but our lives require a series of decisions for the Lord. We're gonna follow Abraham through some of his choices, but you can pick your favorite biblical character. God asks them to say Yes to him on many occasions, and he's asking the same of you and me. It's gonna take a new kind of courage and a different expression of faith. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most importantly, open your heart.
Again, I wanna invite you away from the notion that the only place you want to invite God into your life is when you're thinking about your eternity. You wanna lead your life in the context of the blessing of God. Don't lead a life apart from the goodness of God. Don't settle for a life you can shape and then say, "I'm trusting God for eternity". That's insane. If you can't trust God to make next week better, you can't trust him with your eternity. Now that's the truth. And if you're afraid to trust him to make next week better because you think you can make it better without God, then you're playing a game with eternity. That's not a faith journey.
So, the king of Salem, Melchizedek, comes to meet Abram: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High," no kidding, "the Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand". He's reminding Abram that the blessings of God have come to him, 'cause I'm sure after 3 or 4 weeks' journey and a battle and the vulnerability that comes from having to attack a very well-fortified city to challenge armies that have already defeated the armies that you're familiar with, you know, we read it and it seems like a slam dunk. I promise you there was an abundance of adrenalin. And now he meets Melchizedek who's underscoring the nature of this covenant. Covenant's the most binding agreement in all the Bible. It's what God made with Abraham. "Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, 'Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.'"
Abram gives a tenth. You know, people get all heated up that tithing didn't make its way into the Bible until the priests and whatever. Folks, that's Genesis 14. We wanna learn to honor God with our things. We'll talk about that in some other context. But look at Genesis 15: "After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: 'Do not be afraid, Abram.'" If God tells you not to be afraid, what can you be certain of? Probably a little anxious. "'I'm your shield, and your very great reward.' But Abram said, 'Oh Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is from Damascus?' And Abram said, 'You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.'" And verse 4: "Then the word of the LORD came to him: 'This man will not be your heir, but a son is coming from your own body to be your heir.' And he took him outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and...'" And turn the page. "'Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them.' And he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' And Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness".
Abram believed the Lord. I thought Abram believed the Lord when he left Haran. I thought Abram believed the Lord when he said to Lot, "You just pick the field you want". I thought Abram believed the Lord when he went to the gate, city gates of Dan, in the middle of the night, to go find his nephew. I thought Abram believed the Lord when he gave Melchizedek an offering. And I believe he did in every one of those circumstances and a dozen more I could cite you if we had the time. And yet we're reminded here as the author of Genesis is giving us the narrative that in chapter 15 after God reiterated, revisited, the promise, Abraham said, "I will believe the Lord". And it was credited to him as righteous, as right standing with God. And "He also said to him, 'I am the Lord, who brought you up out of the Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land.'" It's still me, Abram. A blessing.
Abram chooses to believe God in spite of his circumstances. Folks, that's right where we are. We're gonna have to believe that God is greater than elections, and God is greater than politicians, and God is greater than foreign actors, and God is greater than economic turmoil, and God is greater than an open border, and God is greater than propaganda, and God is greater than deception. We're gonna have to believe that. You see, it's uncomfortable to acknowledge that so we've looked away. We've whistled a little more loudly, and we've said, "Well, the ship will right itself". No, it won't. There's a tipping point in your physical wellbeing. You can go so far to where your systems won't recover.
And the same is true, spiritually. The difference-maker is what we believe in. Genesis 17: "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him, 'I'm God Almighty.'" Yeah, now we're almighty. "'Walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and you'll greatly increase in your numbers.'" Look at verse 7: "I'll establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come," this isn't just for me, Abram. It's for the generations who follow you. I hope you're living with that in your heart. If you think your greatest contribution to the generations who follow you are economic, you are not paying attention, and you're certainly not thinking from a biblical perspective.
I mean, that's wonderful. I'm not opposed to that, but folks, it is transient. They could take that away from us tomorrow. There is a far greater inheritance. This is God's promise, verse 7: "I'll establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you". That's an amazing promise. You don't have to look any farther than the evening news or a map today to see God fulfilling that promise in a little strip of land at the end of the Mediterranean. There's about 7 million of Abraham's descendants, Jewish people, gathered there, surrounded by tens of millions of people sworn to their destruction. Every time the supreme leader of Iran can find a microphone he tells you he's gonna destroy the Jewish people in the land of Israel.
That's not a good plan. The big boss has cards in that game. But look at verse 9. This intrigues me. "Then God said to Abraham, 'As for you, you must keep my covenant.'" He didn't say, "You've done such a good job, Abraham. Good job in moving, good job in dividing your stuff with Lot, good job in going to get him, good job", that's not what he said, "Abraham, you have to keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come". Remember what we said: Every generation has to make a choice. Now, I know I can hear somebody, I'll have to answer an email, somebody say, "Well, you know, Pastor, I felt like you were suggesting that it was my works. We were gonna work our way into heaven".
Stop it. Stop defending sloppy Christianity with poor theology. It's destructive. We will never be good enough, we can't earn our way in, nonsense. But that does not absolve us from obedience. It's a perverted gospel that says there is nothing required of you as a Christ follower. And God says to Abram, "If your descendants are going to enjoy this blessing, they'll have to choose me". And we don't have time to go look at the story. When God says to a generation, sometime later and says, "Because you decide you don't wanna serve me, you're not staying here anymore". Same covenant's in play, but God said, "Listen, if I'm such a burden, be free of the burden". That's where our thinking has to change. We have thought at some level that God was intrusive, he was diminishing us, diminishing our pleasure or diminishing our dreams, and he wanted some... God doesn't need anything from me.
And then we get to Genesis 22: "And the angel of the LORD called out from heaven, and says, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am,' and he said, 'Don't lay a hand on the boy.'" Do you know the back story? After waiting more than 25 years, God finally gives Abraham and Sarah a son and he's about to the point of maturity and God said, "I want you to offer Isaac as a sacrifice". "Are you kidding me, God? For real, now? Can we talk for just a minute? I left my family". You know, Jewish tradition says that Abraham came from one of the wealthiest families in that region of the world. They were idol makers. This is Jewish thought. Doesn't mean it's wrong. But he left great wealth and great position and great opportunity to follow the Lord. Takes his nephew along with him. And the problems were consistent, chapter after chapter. Some of 'em internal, some of them external. It's just never simple. And Abraham makes his own mistakes.
Then finally, God fulfills the promise and the boy's growing up, and God says to him, "I need a sacrifice". "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me"? "No, Abraham, I'm not kidding you". Says Abraham called his servants. They got everything they needed. He said to Isaac, "We've got a trip to make". Now it says the place that Abraham took him was the place that would become the Temple Mount, which is the same hill that was Golgotha. I'm imagining that the closer they got to that destination, the quieter Abraham got. Isaac says to him, "You know, we have everything we need except the sacrifice". And Abraham says, "God will provide". And he builds the altar and he puts the wood on it. We don't have, the story doesn't give us any of the information. Abraham's an old man, beyond childbearing years, and Isaac is not.
So the imagination that Abraham could have tied Isaac and put him on that altar without Isaac's cooperation is unimaginable. Like, I don't have an imagination that can take me into that scene. And he places Isaac on the altar and everybody knows what's coming. Isaac understands, Abraham understands. It says he raised the knife. He got to that point and God called to him and said, "Abraham, don't lay a hand on the boy. Don't do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you've not withheld your son, your only son.' And Abraham looked up and there was a ram and he says, 'The LORD will provide,'" Jehovah Jireh. The Lord, he said, is our provider. I wanna go back to the beginning of the story with that crazy amazing promise that God made to Abram in Genesis 12. You know, everybody blessed through you. I'll bless you. They curse you, I'll curse you. We got this, Abe, let's go.
Folks, that's not the only decision Abraham had to make with relation to his relationship with the Lord. And somehow we've just, we've taken that set of things and pushed them someplace else. I don't want you to feel inadequate. I'm telling you, we're facing some challenges that are new to us and they're gonna require from us a willingness to say Yes to the Lord. I wanna wrap this up really quickly. I gave you some things there in your notes. Living through the gospel. This is the gospel. I know it's Genesis 12, but I promise you it's the gospel. I would submit to you that we're given an assignment beyond ourselves. If Abraham didn't have an assignment beyond himself, he didn't need to leave home. He could have stayed home and said, "God, can I help you here? I'll pass out tracts. I'll go to the mall and ask the two diagnostic questions from... I'll pass out tracts with the Roman road on them".
The whole point of the journey and the adventure was to establish a place that really wasn't even for Abraham. Abraham had a fine home before he moved. We have an assignment beyond ourselves. I'm not talking about church buildings right now. I'm talking about your life and my life. Secondly, I would submit that our choices impact the generations which follow us. I pray that you will live with that. Pray with that. Talk to the Lord about that. Your choices regarding the Lord will impact the generations who follow you. If you will reflect upon it. Somebody made a God choice that has made an impact in your life. Abraham's faith was evident in the generations which followed him. We talk of the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Without Abraham, there's no story of Jacob. Without Abraham, there is no story of Joseph in prison in Egypt. Abraham's faithfulness is gonna trickle down. It trickles all the way into the New Testament. I'll see it in a minute.
So will your faith, so will the places you honor God. I've studied history, I've been to tels, I've been to archeological digs. The stuff that we try so desperately to hold on to is headed for the dustbin but there's something we can lead our lives towards that will bear fruit for ages to come. Number three, each generation must make a decision for themselves. This is so significant, and we've lost it. Every generation has to decide. It offends me, it bugs me, it bothers me, that historians look backwards and say, "That was the greatest generation". What about us? This more selfish generation, the flabbiest generation, the least concerned generation, the most entertained generation, the best communicated with generation. It's not okay. Every generation has to make a choice. Parents, you can't make the choice for your children. You can model it for them, you can pray for them, you can give them opportunities. Every generation, the best way you can give them momentum is to let them see the magnitude of your God choices. Nothing will compare with that.
And one last piece, it only takes three generations. It only takes three generations for an idea to completely evaporate, it's gone. I give you some simple examples of that. How many of you have used a rotary phone in your lifetime? You show one to somebody that's 20, they don't know how it works. How many of you have ever made a road trip and the person in the passenger seat upfront had a paper map? Remember the fights that ensued? And the paper map only gets you kind of in the general vicinity. Then what do you have to do? Got to ask directions. See, a men haven't asked directions since we folded the last paper map. It doesn't take long for an idea to be completely gone. Think of what they're teaching in our schools. Think what they're teaching in our universities.
Folks, it didn't just happen in 2020. They've been doing it for long more than a decade. We're teetering on the third generation, not knowing the truth about some fundamental things like marriage and family, human sexuality. It's just about to slip through our fingers. Listen to the young people. They think you're antiquated, out of date, quaint, uninformed. They think the kind of light bulb in the lamp at home is more important than the moral decisions of their lives. They've been well coached, well trained, poorly educated. It only takes three generations. Look at Hebrews 11. This is New Testament. I'm done. "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice". This is the New Testament commentary on what we just read. He would receive the promises. Was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It's through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned".
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead and, figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead. He had offered him up. He climbed that hill as if he wasn't going back with him, without a supernatural event. Don't you know the trip down the mountain was more fun? I promise. He offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Look at that in verse 12. "By faith Abraham when God tested him, he offered Isaac as a sacrifice". That is past tense. He didn't say he put him on the altar. It doesn't say he bound his hands. He said, "Abraham gave him as the sacrifice". Abraham's still making God decisions as an old man. His strength is diminished and his beard is gray and there's no more kids, and he is still making God decisions.
I wanna be faithful to the Lord. I don't wanna point back at some plaque on the wall at something God did in my life a few decades ago and say, "There really hasn't been much required of me since then". And just in case you think it's not relevant for you, Romans 4:16 and I really will close. "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all of Abraham's offspring, not only to those who are of the law," those that share DNA with him, "but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all". Who's excluded from "all"? None.
So, Abraham's God choices are bringing a blessing to you and to me. I told you they were generational. It's important, folks. We have been idolaters. We thought another election would do it, another turn of the economic cycle would do it. A different president at the school or a different something or whatever. And the whole time, God's looking at us and saying, "Will you just follow me"? I believe we will. I believe we've begun a journey and I believe we can trust the Lord. I brought you a prayer. I'm gonna ask you to read it with me. It's pretty simple.
You can stand. If you go to the website that I told you about before service, around the sanctuary of Scripture, one of the things that's there is a prayer guide. It's a family prayer guide. We wrote it so that it's something you can do with your children. There's a prayer for each day. There's simple little prayers you can engage your children in the story and tell a bit of your story, of your faith, and how God's been faithful in your life, and how you've experienced that and what it's meant to you and how you understand that now versus how you understood that at the time you were making those decisions.
Have enough integrity to talk a bit about the times you didn't choose as wisely. Teach your children to follow the Lord. You teach 'em how to hit a curveball, you teach 'em how to hunt, you teach 'em how to bake, you ask them to teach you how to use the remote. Teach them how you've learned to follow the Lord. Some of the most valuable things in my heart and my mind are things that I have been taught by the generations who have preceded me. Don't keep that gift from your children. If they're out of the house, you still can talk to them. If they're in the house, by all means. Anyway, this is one of the prayers from that family prayer guide. Let's pray it together:
Heavenly Father, I desire to walk by faith and not by sight. Keep me focused on Your word always and remind me of Your promises when my circumstances urge me to give up. I choose to believe in Your faithfulness in Jesus's name, amen.