Allen Jackson - Live A Radical Life - Part 2
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Well, if you'll allow me just a moment, by global standards, every person listening is crazy rich. We are. We have more than 90% of the people on the planet. No matter where you are in your comparison with the people that you know, we are goofy blessed. Schools are available to us, healthcare is available to us, we have more food than we need, there's too much of us. We have more stuff than we know what to do with. We have to rent spaces to place it. We have so many options, it's difficult for us to do anything with excellence. We have so many things presented to us, mediocrity has captured us. We don't want anybody to feel bad, so everybody gets a trophy, and now we've taken that to the fundamental level of our lives. We think we should have equity, everybody should have the same outcome.
That is the equivalent of a participation trophy. It demotivates the children. The only people that think the kid, there's no score being kept are the parents in the bleachers. The kids know the score. Equity, the notion of equity will not bring us to a better place. Equality of opportunity is what we have always have been held out as the objective. And Paul is reminding Timothy then, to "guard what has been entrusted to your care". Guard is language that suggests there's a threat or a possibility of loss. But it's not something external. He says, "Guard what's been entrusted to you. Turn away from," realign your focus, choose something different to listen to. "Turn away from godless chatter," he says, from ideas that oppose the knowledge of God and are gonna be labeled as high knowledge. He said, "Don't be seduced by that, Timothy. It'll cause you to wander from the faith".
We have such a powerful idea that's been planted in us that our faith is unassailable and I don't really wanna challenge that, but I want you to hear what Paul says. "Careful, Timothy, lest you wander from the faith". Does he mean he's gonna wander completely away from his salvation? I don't know, it's not that, it's irrelevant. He's warning him not to wander from a life that honors God. And I think we have to recognize there's a multitude of voices that chatter at us and goals that are put before us and conversations we have with people who don't intend to honor the Lord and they put before us things that are appealing. And the temptation is just, "Oh, you know, I'm pretty good. I've got some momentum. I'm okay, I've done my God business. I'm just gonna go do this".
And Paul is warning Timothy, "You will miss the best benefits". 2 Timothy chapter 4 and verse 3: "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they'll gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. And they'll turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, Timothy," but you, that's not you, Timothy, don't do that. In 1 Timothy, he said, "You've got to guard yourself. Guard what's been entrusted to you". But now in his second letter, he said, "Timothy, don't be enticed by that. You keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry".
Paul is challenging Timothy to be different, to choose a unique path, and he's doing it very purposefully. He's warning Timothy of a very challenging season that is before him where there'll be a refusal to accept sound doctrine, when people will prefer myth. What's that mean, to prefer a myth? It means opinions will be formed and promulgated, pushed forward, with the intent of satisfying our ungodly cravings. That's a myth: an idea pushed into the public square that says you can do whatever you want to do. What are some of the myths that we see flourishing around us? You can make your own list. They're tearing at the fabric of our society.
Gender is confusing? No, it really isn't. Are there people confused by it? Yes. Should we have compassion? Absolutely. Should we normalize it, encourage it, and promote it amongst our children? Never. The parents' authority over their children, parental authority over their children should be subverted by educators or government bureaucrats is a very prevalent idea because if they can separate you from the authority of your children, they can subvert the generation. The myths flourishing around us. They mock you if you believe there's a creator in heaven or earth. I do. I think the idea that something came from nothing is far more ludicrous than believing in Almighty God. But Paul's counsel to Timothy is important for us. "Keep your head in all situations": don't respond with just emotion. "Endure hardship": if you're gonna lead a radical life, it's not always gonna be easy. Buckle up, Buttercup.
We've raised generations now of these casual Christians. "Well, you know, if I don't like the music, I'm not gonna worship". Are you kidding me? God deserves to be worshiped. It doesn't require music. And it certainly doesn't require music that appeals to my personal taste. "Well, I don't read that translation". Are some translations better than others? Perhaps. Without question. Read more than one but, at the end of the day, the best translation is the one you'll read and understand. "Endure hardships". "Do the work of an evangelist": share your faith. You and I are called to be ambassadors. We need to not only be aware of the people around us who don't know the Lord, we are called to be concerned about that. And we have adopted almost the opposite mentality.
People say, "Pastor, pray for me. I'm the only Christian where I work. It's just awful". Well, that's called "an assignment". That's like a doctor coming and saying, "Pastor, would you pray for me? All the people who come to my office are sick. It's just horrible. Every day, day after day, sick people in my office". Yeah, that stops, you're gonna starve, Doc. If God's put you in a place where there are people that need to hear the gospel, he's given you a story that you can share. Tell 'em your God story. "Well, I tried and somebody didn't like it". No kidding? You ever gone to the doctor and got a report you didn't like? "I want a second opinion".
Okay, it's not personal. Do the work of an evangelist, Timothy. We've got a story to tell, folks. You didn't hire me to preach the gospel to everybody that needs to hear it. It's not reasonable. Paul goes on. This is a lengthy passage. I think it's important to hear it in the context. It starts with the instructions to Timothy, and then Paul gets personal. He said, "I'm already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, but not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing".
Paul's anticipating, I hope you noticed, a crown of righteousness. That's not something he's gonna get here. The Roman government did not award those. They gave a crown for athletic achievement, much like our Olympic gold medals, but they didn't give crowns of righteousness. Paul's anticipating something in another arena, in another realm. I hope you're living in that way. Not just to make the cut, not just to slide in under the door. I hope you're choosing every day, increasingly, to lead a more radical life of faith. You won't regret it. Paul said that's not only available to him, but it's available to all who were longing for the appearance of the Lord. He understands his life is about finished. He's narrowly escaped condemnation once, and he's awaiting a second trial.
In fact, he said, "The time for my departure has come". He doesn't mean his flight's about to leave, folks. The language is a bit poetic, but he says, "I understand my execution could be imminent. I'm about finished here". Then he gives Timothy some personal instructions: "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me". He said, "My friends are gone. Hurry, Timothy. Luke is with me". "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he's helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus," ha, ha. Say that three times really quickly.
"When you come, bring the cloak that I left at Carpus with Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he's done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense, no one came to my support, everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen".
Paul gave you the ultimate objective of his life: it's a heavenly kingdom. He walked away from all the momentum of his professional career when he was a young man. He aligned himself with someone who'd been declared public enemy number one. He was crucified by the Romans and hated by the Jewish aristocracy. And Paul became, arguably, his most effective spokesperson. You know, by every measure that we would use to evaluate success, at this point in the narrative, Paul is an abject failure. His friends have deserted him, he's a prisoner, he's an ex-con, he's been beaten to death so many times that it's affected his physical posture. The churches he's planted around the Mediterranean are barely surviving the onslaught from the Judaizers. Some of them are stepping back into legalism.
There's really nothing at this point to commend Paul as a success. He's led a radical life. From the vantage point of where we stand today, he's influenced more people towards the gospel of Jesus than any other human being we know of. It's a remarkable story. So, you have to decide whose applause you're seeking. You have to decide who's determining the goals and objectives that you're chasing. Have they come from the Word of God and from the Spirit of God and from that perspective, are you allowing a secular culture to put your feet on a path in telling you what you have to chase? I'm not opposed to things or a nice life. I'm not suggesting that's evil. But you cannot evaluate your faith by the system of the secular world and imagine that it's an accurate reflection. I'm inviting you to a different kind of a life.
I'll close with a warning that Jesus gave us. It's a familiar parable. It's in Luke 12: "Jesus said, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life doesn't consist in the abundance of his possessions.'" Stuff doesn't make you happy. You know that to be true. Most of you have more stuff than you had at one time, and it hadn't made you happy. It just made you want more stuff. "So he told them the parable: 'The ground of a rich man produced a good crop, and he thought to himself, "What will I do? No place for my crops". And he said, "This is what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, I'll store all my stuff, and I'll say to myself, 'You've plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'" And God said to him, "That's foolish".'"
Actually, God said, "You're a fool". "'Because tonight your life will be demanded from you, and who will get what you've prepared for yourself?'" And the punch line. This is what Jesus had to say about that. "'This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.'" Again, a radical life is investing in something beyond time. And that isn't just about what you do with your money. That has to do with your intention, your talent, your compassion, your effort. It's possible, clearly, from Jesus's teaching to be rich towards God. That is a more worthwhile objective than being rich by any other standard.
I wanna close with an analogy. It's not mine. It was from Dr. Dobson, James Dobson. I heard it in a presentation some years ago, and it made such an impact on me; I have kept it. It's about Dr. Dobson and his grandmother. She taught him to play Monopoly. You ever play Monopoly? About four of you. What do the rest of you do? It's a board game. Well, he says his grandmother taught him how to play Monopoly. She was a lovely woman, but the most ruthless Monopoly player ever known to humankind. And he said this, he gave this story before the characters.
He said if Donald Trump had married Leona Helmsley, that's a thought, and they had a child, that is how this woman played Monopoly. She understood that the name of the game is to acquire and when he would play, he would get his money from the bank and he thought it was fun to have and he would keep it. And she spent on everything she landed on. And then when she bought it, she would mortgage it and buy everything else she landed on. She would accumulate everything she could and eventually she became the master of the board. He said, "Every time I landed I'd have to pay her more money". And eventually every time, she would take his last dollar and he would quit in complete and utter defeat. "And she'd always say the same thing to me: 'One day, you'll learn to play the game.'"
Well, one summer, Dr. Dobson said he played with the neighbor kids. They played Monopoly almost every day, all summer. In that summer, he learned to play the game. He came to understand that the only way to win was to make a total commitment to acquisition. He came to understand that money and possession was the way we keep score. And by the end of that summer, he was more ruthless than his grandmother. He was ready to bend the rules to win the game. So that fall, it happened. He sat down to play Monopoly with his grandmother and slowly, cunningly, he exposed his grandmother's vulnerabilities. Relentlessly, inexorably, he drove her off the board. He said it happened in Marvin's Gardens. He looked at his grandmother. She had taught him how to play the game. She was an old lady, she was a widow. "She loved my mom," she loved him, and he took everything she had. He said, "I destroyed her financially and psychologically".
He watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat. He said, "It was the greatest moment of my life". And then his grandmother said she had one more thing to teach. She said, "Now, it all goes back in the box. All those hotels and houses and all those railroads and utilities, all the property and all that wonderful money". Well, he didn't want it to go back in the box. He wanted to leave the board out, bronze it maybe, identify it as a memorial to the way he played the game. And she said, "No, none of it was really yours. You got all heated up about it for a while, but it was around a long time before you sat down at the board, and it'll be here after you are gone. Players come and players go, but it all goes back in the box".
He was a shrewd guy, that man in Jesus's story. He learned to play the game and he played really well. It's not a bad thing to play well. There's nothing wrong with that. He just forgot one thing: that the game ends. The game always ends. For every player, the game ends. Every day you can pick up a newspaper and read of people for whom the game ended this week. Skilled businesspeople, aging grandparents, teenage kids thinking their whole life was in front of them and somebody drives through a stop sign. It all goes back in the box. Houses and cars and titles and clothes, filled barns, bulging portfolios.
You have to ask yourself the question, "What matters? What is worth giving your life to? Am I willing to lead a radical life"? The fact is, everything I keep and clutch and hoard, it's all going back in the box. But if we invest in the kingdom of God, we can make an eternal significance. It's not just about money. It involves money, but it's certainly not limited to that. It's our time, our dreams, our aspirations. People who come to understand this stay up at night trying to figure out ways to give it, to invest to make a difference, to be a part of what God is doing. It becomes the great passion of their lives.
You know people like this. There's an alternative road. You can go down it if you want to. The story that Jesus told has been lived out millions and millions of times. You don't even have to believe the Bible. You can just look around you and see it unfolding every day. But you've got to ask yourself this question, it's an important one if you're gonna lead a radical life: "Will it ever be enough"?
Think of the famous and the wealthy, the brilliant businesspeople, the athletes, the celebrities. You can fill in the names: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, LeBron, Oprah, Tom Cruise. Pick your person. If you had a credit card with no limit and you could go out and buy everything you saw, would it ever be enough? Jesus asked that question: "How far do we have to walk down that road before you realize it's never enough"? There's a simple two-word question that the man in Jesus's story never ask: "Then what"? Then what? After you've gotten it all and rung the bell, received the prize, then what? You have to ask yourself, "When I get the ultimate promotion, when I've sold my business, when I got the right house, when I've got the right friends, when I've vacationed in the right spaces, God asks us, 'Don't you know how fast life passes? Don't you understand it all goes back in the box?'"
I wanna invite you to choose a radical life. Lay up treasure for what's ahead. Realign your priorities. God will help you. It's the wisest investment of your time, your attention, your energy, whatever God entrusts to you. You wanna be fully identified with the kingdom of God in every arena where God has entrusted you with influence. Don't let there be any question. Gladly be one of those people. You don't have to be arrogant, you don't have to be condemning, you don't have to be belligerent. You can do it with humility. You don't have to be impoverished. You can do it with great success and achievement. We need people with the ability to achieve that are willing to identify, unflinching, with the Lordship of Jesus. Choose a radical life.
I wanna close with a prayer. I brought you one but if you'd allow me, I'd like to pray for you today. I'm gonna ask God to give us a new heart, a heart for who he is and what he's doing. A heart that would help us see ourselves from a God perspective and not just from our own. I have discovered we can convince ourselves of almost anything. I convince myself I need that third piece of pecan pie. It'd be impolite to my host if I didn't show my appreciation for their hard work making it. In fact, just bring the rest of it over here. Do you have any ice cream? I don't want it to spoil. There's milk in it, it's a health food. It's pretty easy to rationalize. Won't you stand with me?
Father, I thank you for your people. I thank you for those who preceded us in the faith, who had the courage to choose you. Lord Jesus, I thank you for your wise counsel, for what you have done on our behalf. And we come this morning, Father. We recognize how vulnerable we are, how frail we are, how easily moved we are by the messages that wash over us. We stand in your presence today, simply to say we choose you with our whole heart, mind, soul, and body. May we be pleasing to you. May we conduct ourselves in such a way that when our days are spent and our strength is gone, that you would say to each and every one of us, "Well done". Teach us to number our days right that we might truly lay up treasure in heaven, that we not be distracted or deceived, that we not give our strength to things that will evaporate when time is gone. May we give ourselves, our hearts, and our hopes, and our efforts, to things that will stand the test of eternity. We praise you for it, and we thank you for your great love for us. In Jesus's name, amen.