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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Spiritual Life - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Spiritual Life - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Spiritual Life - Part 1

It's good to be with you today. Our topic is "The Spiritual Life". I wanna ask you a question. If you were asked to describe your spiritual life, how would you do that? Would you do it in the terms of history, when you were born again, when you were baptized, when you began attending church, how you found your way into the kingdom of God? Or would you do it in terms of your current spiritual life, the vitality of that? You see, I think we have to have life today and not just a story about when our life began. They're both important but we need a spiritual life. Well, that's our topic. With God's help, we'll see if we can gain a little insight. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.

I wanna continue a study we began a few sessions ago, talking about a spiritual life. Spiritual things, more specifically. I think it is more important than we understand. I have spent my adult life serving the church in various forms. It hasn't always looked like the church that I see today. But I can tell you this, the current version of the church is struggling to find our way. And I'm sure there are many reasons for that, but from my vantage point we have lived too far in the world with too little fear of God for so long that we have become uncomfortable in the presence of the Spirit of holiness. Just a reminder, folks, we exist on planet Earth to give expression to the purposes of God. Our awareness and our cooperation with that truth is essential or we'll face judgment for the hardness of our own hearts.

We've got to step away from the notion that the problems we face are being generated by someone else. God will move heaven and earth when his people's hearts are directed towards him. We have been idolatrous. We have looked to wealth, education, power, pleasure, or the government, to secure our futures. Time and again, I've watched it over and over and over again, we approach elections with the imagination that this time some candidate or other is going to provide us with a better outcome. Now, I will freely admit and join you in praying that God in his mercy might use our governmental system and/or some election to provide deliverance. I'm no longer certain of that pathway. But I am certain that only God can secure our future and enable us to live with liberty and freedom for all. We have no pathway forward apart from the intervention of the Spirit of God.

So the question, it seems to me, the question, is are we willing to change and cooperate with him? Are we willing to change and to cooperate with God in ways we never have before? Our answer to that question is what will bring clarity to our future. Thus, this discussion on a spiritual life. We're gonna have to become a more spiritual people. We have lived as if we could out-organize evil or outwork evil or outthink evil, or if we could just recruit enough people, the simple majority. How many times have I heard about the silent majority?

I was in a gathering a few weeks ago of people who share conservative thought. It wasn't really bound together by a biblical worldview, although there was a lot of that present. But I heard person after person after person, many of whom stand in a rather secular place, say the church is the sleeping giant. Well, I appreciated their optimism, but I'm not sure I shared their point of view. How long can we pretend to be asleep before they declare us having passed? We're not the church if we remain inert. We have to have a spiritual vitality. We've quibbled about secondary things and tertiary things and completely irrelevant things: how frequently we receive communion, whether we do it with purple grape juice or red grape juice. We'll have full-fledged arguments about styles of worship.

I listened to a conversation the other day from leaders in the contemporary church answering hard questions that faced the body of Christ. And it was about whether or not it was appropriate to applaud in the sanctuary. And we face some hard questions. But I don't think our applause line probably leads the list. My opinion, at least. We're gonna have to become a more spiritual people, a people who believe in the power of a living God, who entrust our futures to him and understand that he's the one who will sustain us and deliver us and provide for us, even if governmental systems fail. We haven't had to believe that. We've lived in enough stability, with enough consistency, we've imagined the whole world is like that. It is not. We have been uniquely blessed.

And in our arrogance, we've imagined we've caused those blessings and now we're teetering on the brink, it seems to me, of the judgment of God. And the question is what will the church do? So the notion is spiritual things. I gave you a list somewhere along this study, I don't know if it was in the Sunday morning session or not, but the things we're gonna explore together and to some degree your spiritual gifts, those manifestations of the Spirit of God in our midst. When there's a power beyond ourselves that's evident amongst us. The fruit of the Spirit, the transformation that comes to a human character when you cooperate with the Spirit of God.

You see, if you're a Christ follower, if you've made a profession of faith in Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ, and you serve him, folks, you can't pray that prayer and then live on your terms and think you're a Christ follower. If you're serving him as Lord, the Spirit of God lives within you. Not in some building, not in some special component of a temple. You are now the temple of the living God. It's unthinkable in any other system of faith. So the fruit of the Spirit comes when you cooperate with that voice of the Spirit within you to say, "No" to your own carnal selfish desires. We all have them. Gray hair doesn't diminish them.

I know that's a hard announcement to make to teenagers. But they don't go away with the pages of the calendar turning. And we talked about the ministry gifts, those people that God puts within his body, he said, to help us reach maturity: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. God is still anointing those people. We desperately need them in the earth. We need a bit more biblical awareness to understand their relevance. You know, there's only one other person in the New Testament and besides Jesus that's identified as an evangelist? We think of that as kind of an irrelevant assignment. We hand it out rather casually. We need to understand spiritual armor, spiritual weapons, the existence of spiritual forces of wickedness. That all the wickedness in the world isn't just conjured up by human frailty and the failure of government.

There are powerful spiritual forces contributing to expressions of evil amongst humanity. The spiritual authority that God has given to us. They're all very relevant topics and they're gonna have to move beyond the theoretical, beyond another Bible study session. We're gonna have to understand them in the context of our family systems, of our kitchen tables, and our holiday tables. And we're gonna have to have the boldness to bring the discussions forward and talk about our behavior in light of spiritual things and spiritual authorities and spiritual principles. We're gonna have to move our faith from a few moments on a weekend when we sit in a place where we have a God discussion into the broader context of our lives. How we do business. You can't do business like a pagan and then expect Almighty God to bless you like you're one of his kids.

1 Corinthians chapter 12 and verse 1. Paul's writing to a church, the church in Corinth. It's a very spiritual church, a lot of spiritual activity amongst the Corinthian believers. The manifestations of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, are fully in play. They speak in tongues, they prophesy, they pray for the sick. And they're also involved in gross sexual immorality. Paul says, "You're involved in immorality that not even the pagans participate in". They're gluttonous, they're drunkards, and yet the Spirit of God is active in their midst. See, we've wrongly imagined that if the Spirit of God were to move amongst us, it was a stamp of perfection, achievement, accomplishment. Well, the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence that you're yielding your heart and character to him. God's desire to help his people is so desperate he will speak through a donkey. It's biblical. Gives me hope every weekend.

So in 1 Corinthians 12 and 1, Paul writes to this very spiritual group of people. He said, "About spiritual gifts, brothers, I don't want you to be ignorant". The word "gifts" is in italics because it's an addition of the editor in the original language. It's a noun in Greek. We don't have the English equivalent. "About spirituals," he said, "I don't want you to be ignorant". How do we understand it? Well, we could talk about gifts or manifestations. I think the most simple way to approach it is, "About spiritual things, I don't want you to be ignorant". And we read that and go, "Well, you know, we kind of are". I mean, we're just really not comfortable with that discussion. It's not new, it's not new to our generation, folks, it's the enlightenment in the West. We have moved further and further away from spiritual things, and move further and further and further into our intellect.

Now, I'm all for the development of your intellect. Learn as much as you can learn. Read often. I meet people, particularly guys, you know, we'll say, sometimes, guys, we can say some dumb things. You know, I'll meet men and they're kind of saved and they puff their chest, you know, "Haven't read a book since I graduated from high school". Let me help with that. Try it a different way. "I prefer to be ignorant". With audio books and the technology that's available to us, folks, we can't afford to be ignorant of spiritual things. The Corinthians couldn't, and the church in Tennessee can't, and the church in our nation can't. The church in the earth can't. The circumstances in which we find ourselves, we will need the help of the Spirit of God.

Now, in the New Testament the word "demon" is synonymous with some other phrases. It can be demon, evil spirit, unclean spirit. They're really interchangeable. But they're a very prominent part of the ministry of Jesus and, after that, of his disciples. So if Jesus believed in unclean spirits impacting human behavior and outcomes, I wanna plant the seed that perhaps we should consider it. He is, after all, our Lord. "Amen, Pastor, we're grateful for that encouragement". I would point out to you from the passage we just read that the demon had more understanding than anyone in the synagogue. Jesus has just begun his ministry and not done a great deal of miracles yet, no huge crowds yet. They can still gather in the synagogue without disruption, and the demon says to him, "I know who you are. I know who you are".

Are you prepared to live in a world where there are spiritual forces in opposition to you that have more spiritual insight and understanding than you have? And how are you gonna respond to that? Are you gonna do it by declaring, "Well, you know, I just don't believe in that". Oh, that's helpful. That's like saying, "I don't believe in gravity". "I don't believe in the negative impact of white sugar. Let's have more cake with chocolate". We understand it won't protect us. Declaring your unbelief in something does not protect you from the influence. What are demons? We don't have a complete explanation. I'll give you this, just, I don't believe they're fallen angels. Angels throughout Scripture are very powerful beings, very important role. And now a third of the angels rebelled with Satan when he lost his place in heaven, and so a third of that original group of angels are serving the kingdom of darkness.

So there are some powerful spiritual forces arrayed against the purposes of God and the people of God in the earth. But I don't believe those are the demons. There's another phrase there that's used that I think's worth just a comment. Says: "In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit, an unclean spirit". That word "possessed" has caused a great deal of confusion and grief. And it's brought a lot of division to the people of God because they'll argue that as a Christ follower you couldn't be possessed, you couldn't be totally dominated by an unclean spirit. I don't believe it's an accurate translation. It's not always easy to move language from one language to another and get meanings completely accurate. I think a better translation were to say the man was demonized. He was influenced by an unclean spirit.

Now, he's a covenant child of God in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Again, he's not someone without standing, without status, in the kingdom of God. He's standing in all the truth that is available to him at that point in the unfolding story of God and he's still struggling with demonic influence. I assure you, demonic influence is a challenge for the people of God. You don't have to live in fear, but living in ignorance doesn't give you a heightened status. Look at Luke 13. We're back on the Sabbath, we're back in the synagogue. "On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn't straighten up at all". She's been in this condition for 18 years. She hasn't always been in this condition. This condition had a beginning point, and they're aware of the duration of it.

Luke is a physician so he's writing this with a bit of the eye of a diagnostician. She's had this problem for 18 years. "And when Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you're set free from your infirmity.' Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God". Now, some of you know the story. It's gonna cause confusion in the synagogue, because the synagogue leaders are gonna say, "There's six days in the week when you can do work, and this isn't one of them so why would you both this poor woman"? "Well, I wanted her to be set free," Jesus said, "from the spirit that had her bent over".

Jesus had the discernment, the recognition, the awareness, to understand that the root of her problem wasn't physical. It was being made manifest, it was evident in her physical condition, but the root source of the problem was an unclean spirit. Again, amongst the covenant people of God, in a synagogue, on a Sabbath. And Jesus set her free. I'll take you to the book of Acts in chapter 11. In the preceding chapter, Peter has gone to Caesarea, a pagan Roman town, to the home of a Roman soldier, and the events of the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 have been duplicated amongst a non-Jewish audience. Now, you and I from the vantage point that we sit in the unfolding story of the church, we go, "Awesome, a whole new people group have been reached". We've broken into a place where the Word of God had not been previously accepted, but in that particular context it was not good news because the church at that point is a Jewish initiative, overwhelmingly so.

Our Lord was an observant Jewish rabbi, all the first disciples were Jewish. The people who were the primary acceptors and the people advocating for Jesus are Jewish, and they haven't rejected the law of Moses. They're still trying to sort out how to assimilate all of that, but they imagine that the Messiah being Jewish, it's a Jewish message. So when Peter goes back to Jerusalem, it's in your notes, it's Acts 11, "The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the Word of God". This isn't some ragtag group of hangers-on in Jerusalem. It's the apostles. This is the leadership of the church, period. There is no leadership yet beyond Jerusalem and Judea. And they've heard the message that the Gentiles, the non-Jews, have had some sort of a spiritual experience. "So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him". Did you get it? "Just who do you think you are? What have you done? The audacity".

You see, by their current set of rules you're not allowed to go into their home. You can't visit Caesarea. You certainly can't enter their home and if you sat at the table with them, you're unclean. Can you think of any contemporary examples that would make you spiritually unclean? Places if you were caught, people would go, "I thought they were Christian". That's the kind of drama here. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, they criticized him: "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and you ate with them". Oooh. Again, doesn't seem like a transgression to us, but I assure you it was. "So Peter began and he explained everything to them precisely as it had happened". And it's the precision with which he gives his explanation that gives you the clue as to the seriousness of the perceived offense. You're gonna notice, Peter's not taking responsibility for anything. "I was in the city of Joppa praying".

I wasn't smoking something. I was praying. "And in a trance I saw a vision. And I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. And I looked into it and I saw four-footed animals of the earth, and beasts, and reptiles and birds of the air. And then I heard a voice". I'm in a trance, I had a vision, I heard a voice. "And the voice called my name, 'Peter. Kill and eat.' And I said, 'Oh no, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' Well, the voice spoke from heaven a second time, 'Don't call anything impure that God made clean.' Peter said, 'That happened to me three times, and then it went back to heaven. Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. And the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them.'"

Personally, I have some real hesitation. But the Spirit. I mean, Peter's doing everything he can to put distance between himself and this outcome. He's not doing on the banquet circuit, saying, "Let me tell you about the Gentiles". He's back in Jerusalem, going, "Listen, I got drug into this thing, kicking and screaming". "The Spirit said to me, 'Have no hesitation about going with them.' These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house". I didn't go by myself. I took six men in good standing with me. There were seven of us. If a fight broke out, I wasn't gonna be alone.

"We entered this man's house and he told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa, you'll find this guy called Peter and he'll bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.' As I began to speak to them, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he'd come on us at the beginning". But now he's gonna drag Jesus into it. "And then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized you with water, but you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God"? Can you hear it?

Peter's going, "Listen, I don't believe it either. Bunch of pagans. I mean, at the center of Caesarea was a temple to a Roman god. You might have expected the events of Pentecost to have been duplicated in Bethlehem or Nazareth or Capernaum or Bethsaida, Chorizim, but not in Caesarea. Not with the pagans". Peter said, "Listen, I was in a trance, I had a vision, I heard a voice, three times. He knew my name. Strangers knocking at the door, seven of us. Went with 'em. When I got there, they said an angel told them where I was. I didn't even get into my sermon. I was just doing the introduction and the Spirit fell on them like he fell on us".

And if I might remind you, Jesus told us this was gonna happen. Look at the next line. "When they heard this, they had no further objections". They didn't give him a bonus, but "they praised God, saying, 'So God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life". It's gonna be the stronghold that fills the rest of the New Testament. God told 'em it was gonna happen. Jesus's last words to them before he ascended back to heaven in Acts 1:8 was he said, "You'll receive power when the Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, into the uttermost parts of the earth".

They'd had clear direction but they are, it is abundantly apparent now the struggle they're having to reconcile what they're watching with what they believe. Their belief system says, "This is not possible. We don't believe in this, we won't accept this. We won't acknowledge this. We won't recognize this. This is just wrong". And yet, the fingerprints of God are all over it. And I don't believe anybody but Peter could have stuck the landing. There is no more authoritative voice at this point in the fledgling emerging church than Peter. And it took Peter saying, "Listen, I was there and I wasn't alone but I was there. And this is God". So to oppose it, you've got to stand up to Peter. Now, Paul will get to that a few chapters later, but not yet.

If Peter, James, and John struggled to believe what God was doing around them, in spite of all the supernatural activity that they've had life experience with, I think it's a very safe conclusion that you and I are gonna struggle sometimes to believe. No matter how much we wanna protest that that doesn't happen, the truth is belief is a struggle. I wanna pray for you that God will give us believing hearts. Are you ready?

Father, I thank you for your Word, for its truth and vitality and for your spirit within us. Give us hearts that can believe, eyes to see, and ears to hear, in Jesus's name, amen.

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