Allen Jackson - Bold Faith - Part 1
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It's an honor to have this time with you today. Our session today is about leading with our faith with a bold faith. Folks, the influence of our lives makes a difference, and we want to be an influence first and foremost for the kingdom of God. And in this season of turmoil and confusion and chaos, we need a new bold faith. Not simply the pattern that we've had in the past, the calendar turned with COVID. Our world shifted, and the response of God's people needs to be different. I'm excited about what God is doing. Grab your Bible and a notepad. But most of all, open your heart.
I want to continue this study we've been doing under the general theme of leading with faith. And the idea is pretty simple. Every one of us have influence, and we've spent several sessions exploring that and what that means to use your influence for the sake of the kingdom of God. Many of you are very competent, accomplished leaders and have pretty significant confidence in arenas where you have exercised that leadership; but often those same individuals with significant accomplishments, when it comes to faith, were far more reluctant, were more timid, were uncertain. We just lack the boldness there that we lack in those other arenas. It may be your hobby or your profession or whatever that may be.
And I would submit to you that the greatest expression of your leadership or your influence would best be suited in the context of your faith. Amen. It doesn't mean you have to be a preacher or a Bible scholar or speak biblical Hebrew or New Testament Greek. It simply means that your advocacy for Jesus is the leading edge of your person, that the people who interact with you and do life with you and gather with you around your kitchen table. Understand that you're a person of faith, that you believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and that he's essential to your journey under the sun. We want to begin to lead with that in ways we haven't. We've been timid for too long. We've been quiet and shy, and we didn't want to offend, and we were told that we needed to be inclusive, so we kind of stepped back with our faith.
I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed of places where I have yielded the field in the past, from university settings to other places, and I've been awakened to this for a while. It's not a brand-new thing for me; but, nevertheless, there were places where I was quiet in order to get a degree, or earn a diploma and now we're gonna have to go back into those same places and once again assert our faith, and it'll be more challenging this time. But it isn't just about influence. The issue of faith is essential, and that's where we're focused right now. We worked on this in the previous session. If you missed that, you can hear it online. I want to talk in this session about a bold faith, not a timid faith, not a retreating faith, but a bold faith.
And I would submit as an observation that the influence of our faith in our nation has diminished. God is doing things, but in a general sense the influence of the Christian faith has diminished. Aspiring to be a person of character has succumbed to the invitation to be a character. If you don't know the difference, the latter is a façade that is constructed for some perceived advantage. It seems to me that style has triumphed over substance, that self-gratification is celebrated more frequently than self-sacrifice. That pleasure is pursued without regard to consequence. And the discipline of education is yielded to the adventure of accumulating experiences. They're not the same.
You know, once upon a time, I mean, in my lifetime even, it was considered important to keep your word, to pay your debts, to forgive your debtors. And we were ashamed when we had moral failures. We were strengthened by the comfort of some routines in our lives that I think would be valuable if they could be asserted again, really radical things like a family meal in our homes, attending church on a regular basis, sharing responsibilities for the quality of life in our communities. Somehow, these things have given way to a different set of values. They lead more with ideas like me first. It's not my problem. Well, let the government solve the issue. Well, if you haven't thought about it, our liberties and freedoms are our responsibility. Every generation has to answer for them for ourselves. And if we squander them, if we forfeit them in our selfish behavior, there's something we should understand with clarity.
I don't think it's hidden, but I don't think we stop and think about it very often. There's no one coming to help us. There's no one coming over the hill. That's our assignment, to be salt and light, church. This is not a political problem. This isn't about corruption in Washington, DC. It's about a failure in the church of Jesus Christ, and I say that understanding I'm a lifelong participant in that. If we destroy our liberty and freedom, which God has so graciously bestowed upon us, our children and grandchildren will live under the hobnailed boot of tyranny, and it won't be some foreign government's problem or some corporate greed that we can blame. It'll be the indifference in the hearts of God's people. Faith matters. I want to say it again. Our faith matters. It's important. The influence of our faith matters. Matters of faith will determine our future more than elections and politicians.
We're in a spiritual mess; because for decades we have feasted on the bounty that was derived from the character and sacrifices of previous generations. Now we're frustrated, and some of us are even a bit angry because our inherited freedoms are being presented to us for renewal. And here's the offensive part. There's a cost. It's awkward to have to acknowledge, but here's our reality: we'll have to stand and be counted. Every generation must choose to follow the Lord. That's not a threat; that's a privilege. That's an honor of living your life for something beyond yourself, for more than just the accumulation of things in the pursuit of pleasure. I'm not opposed to either of those, but they're lousy life goals, because they're transient. And if you're the winner in either of those categories, it's a very short-term victory.
Or on the other hand, if we yield our lives to honoring God, the reward for that will last throughout eternity. And to manipulate our faith into something that's just about personal satisfaction or the pursuit of pleasure, it is to pervert it. It's a distortion of the gospel. I believe God wants good things for us, and he desires to bless us. But far more important is the formation of our character. So, we begin looking at this notion of faith, that I've told you in previous sessions that in the language of the New Testament, the Greek of the New Testament, faith, and faithful, unfaithful, unbelief is very obvious in the Greek that they share a common root, that they're very much interrelated.
In the English language, I don't believe it's quite as obvious. But we need to understand that to be a person of faith means, by definition, you are a faithful person. If you're not a faithful person, you're not a person of faith, no matter how much Scripture you quote or how many Bibles you own. They're inseparable. To live faith is to be faithful. You cannot be unfaithful and be a person of faith. It's impossible. To be unbelieving is to be unfaithful. I tell you that because all of us are somewhere on this continuum with the struggle of belief. We all have biblical principles and things presented in Scripture that we struggle to believe. It is the human condition. Nobody's exempt from that. We may not focus our thoughts on it. It may not be the topic for public, polite public conversation very often, but we all struggle to believe.
So, understand on those points where you're challenged to believe the Word of God, it's an invitation to unfaithfulness. I've made the decision, and I still have to face those struggles myself, and I've made the decision to submit my intellect to the authority of Scripture. I just decided God's smarter than me. I know that surprises you, or maybe not so much. You know, when there are things that I don't understand, I say, "God, I'll just table that until I do, but I choose to believe you". The Bible's not a history book nor a science book. It can certainly contribute to understanding of our world and the understanding of our history, but that's not the purpose for which it's written. It was put together to help you and I, as descendants of Adam, if we so choose, to find our way to participate in the eternal kingdom of God.
I want to focus on a really essential question in this session. And if you've looked ahead at your notes (me too) and I really have very little hope that I'm going to finish that outline. So now back to the essential question. Matthew 24, some of you will remember that Matthew 24 contains Jesus' most lengthy prophetic discourse. He's talking about the end of the age. The disciples asked him a couple of questions. What will be the signs of your return and of the end of the age. And he starts into this lengthy discussion about those signs, and then he gives some illustrations, and it's those illustrations we're going to borrow a verse or two from.
In Matthew 24, the question then is "Who is the faithful and wise servant"? I would submit that's a question every one of us should have resolved in our heart. What's it mean to be a faithful and wise servant of the King? Does it mean you attend church? Does it mean you read your Bible? Does it mean you're moral? What does it mean? It's an important question. You don't want to be wrong on this one. You don't want to be in that unfaithful, wicked category. There's no do-overs. So what's it mean to be a "faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time. It'll be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth". By now you know that phrase. It's an invitation to pay careful attention. "I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions".
So, the faithful servant is going to end up with a reward that far exceeds any expression of service that he has demonstrated. And there's something involved in this in being active in the service until that point when you step into eternity or the Lord steps into time. So, a faithful servant is not about someone who has checked the box and accomplished some event in the past and then moved beyond it. There's a sense of a continuing life, of an attitude of investment in the kingdom of God. There was a part of that same discussion in chapter 25 of Matthew. Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who entrusts some of his resources to his servants, and is gone for a lengthy time, and then returns. And it's on topic. It's Matthew 25:21. "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!'"
There's no phrase you'd rather hear when you see the Lord. I mean, that's better than him saying you're cute or handsome, or you maintained your weight, or he's impressed with your academic credentials. "'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. I'll put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness.'" In some respects, it repeats the idea we were introduced to earlier in the discussion, that our faithfulness in the small things in time, in fact, the things we're presented with in time, in our journey under the sun seem to be smaller in significance and in scope and magnitude than the opportunities that will be presented to us in eternity. We don't have a great deal of information about that. That's not the point of this book, other than to encourage us to be faithful in time.
Again, so the question on the table is, what does it mean to be faithful? I would submit to you it's important. You understand this. In most arenas of your life, for some reason when it comes to our faith, we kind of grade on a curve. You know, we don't want to be over the top, or we don't want to be one of those people, or we don't want to be fanatical, or too zealous, or, you know, we don't want to frighten people away. But think in the terms where it matters to you when someone's faithful to you, maybe in the context of your marriage. What's faithfulness look like to you? How committed, how faithful do you want your spouse to be? Four days a week? Every day until noon. Probably you prefer it like all the time. In fact, I think the notion would exist that if you weren't committed to that, you're probably not committed to that.
So, I've been living with this for several days now. What does it mean to be faithful? Jesus and Moses are presented to us as the examples, so I began to build a list, as is my habit. And we looked at the first component in a previous session. We talked about obedience. You cannot be faithful to the Lord and practice disobedience. There's a difference in the struggle with sin and the practice of sin. Do you understand the difference? Committing yourself without regard to behaviors that you know to be ungodly is a dangerous life choice. The consequences may not be immediate. Judgment is not always exemplary and that it happens in the moment of the transgression because of God's grace, but to lead a presumptive life is a dangerous way to live. What we're called to be is faithful in our desire to be obedient. I won't revisit that. You can listen to that in the previous session.
The second thing that I would add to this list that are components of leading a faithful life is a willingness to do difficult things. I don't think you can be faithful to the Lord if you only want to do easy things. And I'm a little concerned, because the way we've bottled American Christendom and evangelicalism for several decades is it's not about the sloppy edges. If you don't have a better option, yeah, you can probably get together with God's people. If you get some new appliances, you can give your old ones to the church. If you've worn out your clothes, you can give those away to somebody. I don't think when you see the Creator of heaven and earth, and the one who holds the earth in its orbit by the authority of his Word, you want to say, "You know, I gave you my leftover jeans".
I would submit to you that being faithful means that we're willing to do some difficult things. If Jesus is our pattern, we can start there in Luke 18. Jesus took the 12 aside and told them, "We're going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. You'll be handed over to the Gentiles". The Jewish people are gonna hand their Messiah over to the non-Jewish people. If you're not Jewish, you don't understand how reprehensible that is. They hold themselves apart in thought and imagination from the non-Jewish world. And they say, "We're gonna hand our Messiah over to the non-Jews. And they'll mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day, he'll rise again".
Jesus understood fully what was ahead for him. The disciples tried to talk him out of it. And he said, "No, I won't listen to that". Jesus understood that his assignment, in time, meant that he was going to face difficult things long before he got to those expressions of his passion and the suffering that went along with all of that, he was rejected. I mean, there were many things. He wasn't welcomed. Doing difficult things, do you have that imagination? I'm not asking you to be a martyr. That's not, there's some things Jesus suffered as a substitute on our behalf. But there's some things that he did, he lived as an example to us. In Acts chapter 9 and verse 15, this time it's Saul who becomes the Apostle Paul. "And the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles, and their kings, and before the people of Israel". Ananias is asked to go pray for Saul of Tarsus. And this is the message. "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name".
Now, again, how do we understand suffering in the context of our faith? You know, for most of us, it's an unusual scale. Somebody sat in my seat, and it annoyed me. I didn't like the worship leader. The pastor's topic didn't look interesting to me. He went 5 minutes over. You should consider yourselves lucky. Again, I don't think we've lived with that. I know we're in church, and we all nod as if absolutely that makes sense. I volunteered in the nursery. And I appreciate the many, many ways you engage in the ministry, and you support, and I'm not challenging that. I'm telling you we haven't been coached fully, because now we're looking at a landscape where our faith isn't welcome in the public square.
And if you say that you believe Jesus of Nazareth is the only way, to have a relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth, most of you understand that there will be labels directed at you, and frustration directed against you, and angst directed at you. And because of that, we're a little reluctant. We're quiet. We're not sure what we should do. There's an awkwardness around that. And for many years, we've been told it was about being inclusive and considerate of other people, that the public square should not be dominated by a predominant world view. There should be room for competing ideas, and everyone's idea should be welcomed and considered and evaluated in those public spheres.
We used to think of higher academics in those terms. And under that negotiated truce, so to speak, we kind of retreated. We didn't really assert our faith. We would listen to all the other ideas. We would allow our children to be indoctrinated with propaganda of all sorts of other ideas. But yet now we find ourselves having stepped out of the arena where there's very much a worldview that's being asserted in the public square or the corporate boardroom or academia, and it eliminates a biblical worldview. So, when we come back with that biblical worldview, there's resistance, and frustration, and anger. And the question is what do we do? We don't have to be angry. We don't have to be condemning.
But I would submit to you we're gonna have to have the courage to do some difficult things. If our children and the public, I don't mean just our children, it's the children are going to have the privilege of being introduced to do a Judeo-Christian worldview, we're gonna have to have the boldness to say that that matters. We can't abandon them to wickedness, and evil, and ungodliness, and immorality because it's inconvenient. 2 Corinthians chapter 11, this is a bit of Paul's resumé. Aren't you glad he didn't ask you to travel with him? He said, "Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one". Forty lashes was believed it would kill a man. And five times he said, "They gave me thirty-nine lashes".
I promise you, by the end of his life, Paul was physically marked by that scar tissue. You can't take those kind of beatings repeatedly with it not having severe physical consequences. But he's not done. "Three times, I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times, I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I've been constantly on the move. I've been in danger from rivers, from bandits, from my own countrymen, from Gentiles. I've been in danger in the city, in the country, at sea, in danger from false brothers. I've labored and toiled and have gone without sleep. I've often known hunger and thirst. Often, I've gone without food. I have been cold and naked". Wow! Me, too, Paul. Somebody sat in my seat.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we go look for difficulty. I'm suggesting that we've got to stop the retreat. I want to be affiliated with my faith in a public way. If Jesus is Lord on the back of your vehicle feels like a huge step of courage, take it. At least start to exercise that muscle. If taking a Bible with you into a public place feels like an act of daring do, go for it. If having a public prayer, just quietly someplace is a step beyond your familiar comfort zone, take the step.
You see, we're not gonna be able to do things of more significance until we begin to exercise those muscles in those simple things that are presented. And if all of those things to you seem like they're old hat, and you survived them, take another step. We'll have to develop that courage. It's not gonna come to us wholly formed, any more than physical strength comes to us that way. We have yielded for so long, we've retreated for so long. When someone is agitated because you say, "I believe in Jesus". We've shut down. And yet we live in a world where you're allowed to assert a belief in just about anything else. We're gonna have to be willing to do some difficult things in the context of our faith.
Again, not angry, not belligerent, certainly not violent. But the courage, remember the context. We're leading with our faith. It starts in your home. It starts in your family system. You don't need to worry about who's in the White House until you worry about the faith in your house. Now that's the truth. The hardest place in the world to have those conversations is within your family system. I understand that. The people you choose to be friends with, you can't afford to bring people into your inner circle, your confidants, the people you spend your discretionary time with that encourage you to be ungodly, you can't afford that. It will deteriorate your character. It will diminish your faith.
We have biblical permission to pray for boldness. It's not about my personality, whether I'm an extrovert or an introvert. It's about the Spirit of God helping us recognize the opportunities he puts before us, so that we can respond with his boldness. Let's pray.
Father, thank you that you've called us out of darkness into the kingdom of your Son, and I ask now that you would give us the boldness we need for this season, the courage to speak when it's need, and the self-control to be silent when that's necessary. Thank you for your help, in Jesus' name, amen.