Allen Jackson - Strength and Courage - Part 1
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It's an honor to be with you today. We're doing a study on "Determined Faith," and in this session we're gonna look at strength and courage. When God recruited Joshua, he told him he would need strength and courage. Joshua had spent 40 years being tutored by Moses. He walked through the Red Sea, he ate manna, he saw Moses come down Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He had seen some remarkable miracles. But God said to him, "You cannot complete your assignment without strength and courage". Well, I don't think you and I will make heaven without strength and courage. It's gonna take more than sitting in church and being polite or tame. It's gonna take a bold determined faith. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I believe we can cultivate that. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
You know, if you've arrived at the church in the last few years it's easy to imagine that it's always looked like this or that we have always looked like this. And that's simply not an accurate reflection of reality. The church started, there was from a home Bible study that existed in this community for a dozen years. And then in 1980, they made the commitment to become a church. A handful of people in a rented room and the first property we purchased was on Salem Road, 28 acres, which is now part of this campus. And there was a cotton field here. They put up a tent on the edge of the cotton field, and it was a pretty meager establishment.
And there was much we didn't know, except we knew the Lord a bit. And we knew that God changed lives. And we would tell that story to anyone who would listen. And we have watched God through the years continue to change lives. And as that has happened, we have done our best to provide the infrastructure that was necessary to care for the people that the Lord brought. And to think that anyone, you know, what I've observed through that run, I've been here, is that at every slice of that, the people that were here thought that was the right size. When there was 100 people, that was the right size. And they were certain that 50 more people would mess it up. And when there was 500 of us, that felt about right, and they knew 100 more people would be a problem. And we've seen that through the years, but every time we've come to these places where we recognized there was an opportunity if we were willing to create the structure to address it, the Lord has been faithful.
And the people in this place have given, sacrificially, to do that, and God has honored it with a whole new wave of transformed lives. And we've come to one of those junctures again. It's been 15 years since we've expanded our facilities. We introduced this last weekend. And we believe God has given us a pathway forward that would enable us to serve people in a way that we just can't with the current configuration of the campus. We're not gonna build a new indoor sanctuary but we wanna take the things we've been doing outdoors and somebody said to me this weekend, a friend of mine I was talking to him about it and he said, "We'll already been doing that. It's like we've christened it, now the Lord wants it to grow up". And I said, "Oh, I'm gonna use that, but I'm not gonna give you credit," so we're calling it Sanctuary of Scripture: The Walkway because we wanna expand our capacity to serve people.
There are some things that we could do to share the gospel and see lives transformed with some additional facilities that we can't with our current configuration, so we're gonna change some roads and help us accommodate people. I've been asked a couple of questions and I'll take just a minute with 'em 'cause I think we could address them here. Some people have said, you know, "Why would we undertake a campaign like this"? The first step of this is a capital campaign. We have to raise the dollars and know the budget before we can plan the building. So what right now we have is a concept. Why would we undertake a campaign like that in a season of uncertainty? It's an important question. And there's a couple of answers to that in my opinion.
One, if there's a dramatic change like pandemic-like change, we would obviously have to adapt our plans accordingly. But none of us are clear enough on what the future holds except that it's uncertain. And so, if there's some dramatic sweeping change of magnitude, we will adjust accordingly. On the other hand, if we do nothing, and we wait for the all-clear, you know, if we wait until everything in the world is at peace again, and truth has been restored to all the places in our nation, and Jesus is welcomed back into the public square, I believe that's called the Millennium. And if we make that choice, what we in essence do is forfeit our days. And we're nullified just by the threat of evil. And I don't believe that's an acceptable answer. My best comment is that God has led us to this point for more than 40 years, through all the trauma and the drama that has preceded us, and I trust he will lead us from here.
The second question I've been asked by the people that have been here for a bit longer is, "Really, again, Allen"? And the answer to that is: Yes, there's more unchurched people in Middle Tennessee as a percentage of the population than ever before in our history. More unchurched people in Rutherford County and every county surrounding Davidson County. Smaller percentage of the population attending church than any time in the history of Middle Tennessee. And we cannot turn away from what we've learned about sacrifice and about unity of purpose and giving to the Lord. The wonderful part about a campaign like this is not primarily the capital that it brings forward. It's the unity around a purpose, an opportunity for us to understand why we're here. Because we tend to gather over time because church is meeting some felt need in our lives through ourselves or our families or some, and there's some perceived value and we're satisfied with that.
But the real opportunity in church, the real engine that makes us a community of faith, is when we join our hearts together and our lives together, not just for the personal benefit, but around the purposes of the kingdom of God. And a campaign gives us an opportunity to do that, to understand that there truly is no success without sacrifice, even in the kingdom of God. So what is the specific request? I've gotten that a good bit lately. You know, people quit taking my calls during these campaigns. You know, with the technology today, I can hide my phone number. That won't work too well, it's not complicated. Take time to understand what is proposed. Please don't just ignore it. Whether you choose to participate or not, understand what the Lord has put before us so that you can process it for yourselves and for your family. But take time to understand what's happening, and then pray and seek God about your participation.
We don't wanna dictate what you need to do. That's nuts. But I would ask you just to talk to the Lord about it, and have the courage to listen. I believe the best days of the church are in front of us. I refuse to stop. We simply cannot capitulate. And so, I think the Sanctuary of Scripture is just one of our attempts, one of the ways we intend to say to one another, our community, and beyond, "It's time for the Church of Jesus Christ to step forward". In a season where the church seems to be in retreat, we're gonna move forward, God willing. All right, you give the Lord a hand for that. Now, your outline. I gave you one of those. If you'll listen fast, I'll finish it. We're working through a series under the title of "Determined Faith," "Determined Faith," and in this session I wanna talk about strength and courage because they're going to be required of us. We won't finish our course without strength and courage.
There's an idea that I really have targeted for this series that I would like to deconstruct. And it's the idea that your faith is summarized in that initial step into the kingdom of God. I believe in conversion, salvation, the new birth, kingdom initiation, whatever label or phrase you prefer for that experience whereby you experience entrance into the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus of Nazareth. That does not come to you by joining a church, by being kind or good or generous or moral. There'll be kind, generous, moral people in hell. The dividing line for eternity is centered in a person and his name is Jesus of Nazareth. And it's not just believing that he existed or that he was a miracle worker or a healer or a good man or the founder of a religion. You have to make a personal decision regarding Jesus.
The first decision is that you need a Savior. That you're not capable of saving yourself. That you need a power beyond yourself. And if you'll come to that point, then you acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was God's Son, and you would ask for his mercy and forgiveness and you would receive him as Lord. Now that's a very important decision because that's about priorities. If you asked Jesus to be Lord of your life, then he gets to set the initiatives. It's no longer my life and my time and my calendar and my preferences because I serve at his pleasure. That's the dividing line for eternity. Now here's the fallacy. I think we have somehow been coached into this notion that if you make that decision, you're done. Now, it's just like ride it out until you hear the trumpet blow or you see that great white light and you feel peace.
Folks, that is not the biblical presentation. There are an abundance of decisions that you're gonna be asked to make regarding the Lord beyond your conversion. I'm not asking you to question the authenticity of your conversion. I'm not trying to hold it in some point of suspended animation. I'm telling you if you don't continue to make decisions for the Lord, I am concerned for your future. Now, there's a theological school that would say, "Well, if you don't keep making the decisions, it wasn't legitimate at the beginning". I don't know what to do with that debate. We're not like the Thanksgiving turkey that's got a little pop-up thing when you're done. So I'm not really interested in the argument. I'm telling you the evidence of your participation in the kingdom of God is the fruit of your life, and that requires consistent choices. So don't ignore that.
We began looking in the previous session at the Exodus generation, that group that began as slaves in Egypt and found theirselves a free people en route to the Promised Land, the land that flows with milk and honey. Moses is leading them, a very unlikely character, a murderer, a fugitive, failed in the career that he started with, until God recruited him for another assignment and he was very reluctant to participate. I find most of us are reluctant to participate with the Lord. I was. I still am. When I come to these major decisions, I often do it dragging my feet. I got the parking brake on. I'm not gonna casually roll over some hill. If I tip over the top of that hill and start down, it's gonna be very much on purpose, and I often, you can see the skid marks where God had to drag me, kind of, over some of those places, but we have to process it. That's Moses. Well, the book of Deuteronomy is Moses's commentary on that journey from Egypt into the Promised Land.
Now, I wanna read just one portion. It's one of the most famous prayers in all the Bible. Certainly amongst the Jewish community. Says, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates". I don't believe that's just poetic language. It is poetic, it's beautiful, the Shema. It means to hear, in Hebrew. It's a prayer. "The Lord our God is one".
But then he gives us a commandment that the presentation of what it means to be the people of God is a sign to us to impress upon our children. To impress upon the generations who follow us. Says we have to talk about it when we're at home, we have to talk about it when we walk along the road, we have to talk about it when we lie down. We have to talk about it when we get up. Says: "Tie it as symbols on your hands and put it on your forehead. And put it on the frames of your houses". If you visit Israel today, if you stay in the hotels, all the hotels on the doors they've got a prayer stuck to the doorframe. You can't go or come without walking under those prayers. They took it pretty literally. And I would submit to you, I'm a part of the church, I've spent my life in the church so I'm not throwing stones, we've drifted a long way away from this.
Our energy and effort and resources directed at training our children and impressing upon them doesn't exclude Christianity, but Christianity's not at the forefront of it. It's a little bit of an afterthought. We want 'em to catch it, it's important, but there's a lot of other things that are vying for importance, and I'm not opposed to that. I want the children to be developed fully. But folks, if we do not communicate to them our faith and the value of it and the significance of it and the importance of it, it will be lost. I assure you there are powerful, powerful forces working to snatch it out of their hearts. And we have been too casual. I'll put myself in there. I spent many years in academia and I listened to all the drivel that stood in opposition to a biblical worldview and I thought, "It's too nonsensical to ever make it mainstream". And now it dominates the public conversation. My bad. I wasn't alert enough. I wasn't aware enough. I didn't understand the depth of the spiritual struggle that was being represented.
To me, the ideas were so illogical, so beyond the pale, I thought, "Oh, bother, no normal person would ever give serious consideration to that," until we have. Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train a child up in the way they should go, and when he's old he'll not turn from it". We've been given a biblical assignment to see to the mentoring and training of children, and not just our own. We will answer for the children of our generation. The children given to your home are a sacred trust. I assure you, you'll give an account for their relationship to the kingdom of God. But the children of our generation we all share. Some of you prefer the New Testament. Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking: "See that you don't look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven".
The children have angelic representation with access to the Creator of all things. Warning. That's an important note. Jesus amplified it. Same chapter, Matthew 18: "Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea". I always smile when I hear people say, "Jesus is all about love". That's such a loving image. Find deep water, a big rock, a short piece of rope, and connect yourself. And then drop the rock in the water, while you say, "Jesus loves youuu..." It seems to me what Jesus is communicating pretty clearly is the value he attaches to the children. And if you cause them to choose ungodliness, you're in a really dark place. We have an assignment, church. Goes beyond Sunday school.
You know, when we built this room, one of the commitments we made, the stage is a bit oversized. I don't need this much room to preach. I mean, it gives me some room to wander around and I kind of enjoy that 'cause when... if you look sleepy over here, I'll come and talk to you. Then when I think the people over there think they can have a nap, I'll go back and find them. And that's kind of fun. It gives me some room to wander, but it really wasn't necessary. We put this together because we wanted a place to introduce children and young people, especially, to the arts in the context of faith. We have an assignment for our generation. I received an email yesterday from a friend and he was sharing with some concerns, sharing with me about a Christian organization that had been enlabeled a hate group because they advocated for a biblical worldview.
They're being publicly ridiculed, their funding is being threatened, because they simply have adhered to a biblical worldview in the public square. And he went on to explain some of the details as he was sending me the note. They had failed to embrace the LGBTQ initiative. And because they wouldn't embrace it, they're being classified as a hate group. You gotta process that for a minute. To publicly disagree with the values that they espoused is being declared hate speech. Well, I have a question. Who declared the LGBTQ position sacred? Forget for a moment affirming or not, who abandoned the ground and said they could determine right and wrong? On a related but slightly different tack, public schools across our nation currently, I had the discussion this past week with some people involved in this, have allowed pornography to be placed in our public school libraries. It's being done under the guise of education.
Our children are subjected to material that they couldn't legally purchase in a store. But because it's under the banner of education, they're being given exposure to it. I have another question: who gave the schools the right to sexualize our young children? I've thought about this a good bit. It's important. I understand it's not safe to talk about it in public. I have this conversation in various places, but it seems to me that one fundamental objective of these policies is to undermine parental authority. It's not subtle, it's a very blatant powerful, persistent, unyielding attempt to diminish the nuclear family: the idea of a man and a woman with their genetic children in a home.
Now I understand because of the brokenness of our lives, our families have many adaptive structures, but they're expressions of that nuclear family. The government or the groups they endorse intend to be the ascendant authority. You should understand that. Their intent is to convince children and young people their parents can be circumvented, can be discounted, and dismissed as the authority in their lives. That's not something that's going to happen; that has happened. And those ideas and values are being promulgated around us right now every day. Now, the unsettling part of that is corporate America has joined the movement. Professional sports have capitulated. Far too many of our professional organizations are now using their authority to force obedience to the ideology of this new orthodoxy. It's apparent in academics almost anywhere you wanna look at it, whether it's teachers' unions or thought leaders or educators. It's enforced in healthcare by the licensing bodies. They force silence and compliance or careers are jeopardized.
Again, we don't say this out loud, but we understand it's fundamentally true. We just kind of look away, whistle a little more loudly. Maybe no one will notice. Even while we hear this constant mantra and for the last couple of years we've heard it unendingly, we heard it maybe first about the pandemic but now we hear it about climate change and climate science and carbon footprints: Follow the science. The governing organizations are intolerant of dissent or even discussion. We now know, as a matter of fact, that they suppress free speech and force compliance. You can pick the organization: the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the list is long. This is not a presentation of following the science, folks. It's coercion. We need to be a bit more aware. Thousands of people lost their jobs for declining a COVID vaccine.
Some of our finest military personnel were forced to leave their careers, not for cowardice or conduct unbecoming, but for declining to participate in an experimental medical procedure. Who gave healthcare officials that kind of control over our lives? And we're doing our best to move past it, to declare it in the rearview mirror, but the residue of it lives amongst us. Doctors who rejected the orthodox position frequently lost their jobs. Often they were ostracized, they were widely criticized. Thousands of others just watched and remained silent. They saw what was happening. Was not a good time to have a voice. Churches, we failed to lead. We saw an opportunity to stay home and to practice a private faith and avoid the issues. And we demonstrated for anyone who was watching cowardice. Determined faith.
We're not the first generation that's faced these kind of challenges, and we won't be the last. What is in balance is what will be said of our generation. We have our Bibles and we read about those generations who have preceded us but one day we will gather with them to share our stories. And are we going to live with a determined faith or are we going to settle to be churched people? Religious folk, we're Bible readers, but we wanted to be embraced and included and celebrated so we didn't wanna make any waves. We didn't wanna put anything at risk. After all, it would threaten our families if we spoke up.
In the book of Acts the apostles prayed for boldness and the Lord gave it to them. So that's my prayer with you today.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your people. I pray you'll give us a boldness inspired by your Spirit, established on your faithfulness in our lives. I thank you for that, in Jesus's name, amen.