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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - A Candid Conversation

Allen Jackson - A Candid Conversation

Allen Jackson - A Candid Conversation

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is Determined Faith, but actually, it's just a candid conversation. We're in the process of making plans to change our campus a bit, expand our facilities, change some infrastructure and you get to be a part of that dialogue. I'm going to talk to the congregation about the opportunities of this very unique season. I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that there's a conflict, a spiritual conflict in the Earth, and it's time for the church to step forward. Well open your hearts, grab your Bible. Most off all ask God what he has for you in the place where he's planted you.

Look in Acts chapter 1 and verse 12. Acts 1 is the story of the church after Jesus goes back to heaven: that is the book of Acts. Chapter 1, the Ascension takes place. Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives with his disciples and he lifts off. Now the remainder of the book of Acts is Jesus's friends figuring out how to tell the story. Acts 2 is the day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and it's game on. But we're given an important component in Acts chapter 1 and verse 12, it says: "They returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivette". That's after Jesus Ascension, "which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. When they entered the city, they went to the upper room where they were staying, that is Peter and John and James and Andrew, Phillip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew".

They weren't all here with the chosen the other night, but some of them were. "The son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James". Look at this 14. "These were all with one mind, were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers". I think the defining characteristic of that is they were with one mind and continually devoting themselves to prayer. It's one of the themes of the book of Acts: the effort they made to stand together around a unified purpose.

See we have distilled Christianity down to this personal thing. Gets saved, get baptized and you're on your own, and it's a perversion of the story. I believe in conversion and the new birth but it's a portion of what it means to be a Christ follower. We're asked to be ambassadors for a Kingdom, to stand together as a body of Christ in the world. And I love the opportunity to take a few weeks and in a very specific way, talk with the community where I serve and those who share the journey with us about what it means to work together. I have no sense of apology for that. We come here with many different reasons and with different motivations, but ultimately, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder and link arms and say we will make a difference in our generation for the gospel. Or, we forfeit much of what God has created us for.

In Genesis chapter 11, there is an intriguing verse to me. I've told you many times that those first 11 chapters of Genesis introduce us to the big rock ideas of the Bible, and Genesis 11 includes the story of the Tower of Babel. Some of you will remember it but there's this one verse where God comes down to see what the human beings are up to. And the Lord said, "If as one people speaking the same language they had begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them". Did you hear it? It's an amazing declaration. One people speaking the same language, nothing they plan will be impossible. A unity of purpose. One of the most effective weapons that the enemy uses against the people of God is division. We will argue over translations of the Bible, worship styles, what day of the week to worship, what time of the day and on and on and on the list goes.

And in that he introduces a divisiveness and a separation that weakens us. In John 17, it's Jesus's high priestly prayer, he's praying just before he begins his passion and his, the suffering that will become such an important part of his story. This is his prayer for us, he says, "May they be brought to complete unity". What's the purpose of that unity? "To let the world know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me". You see, in our unity we are joined together for a message that's beyond ourselves. But here's the awkward truth, folks, we just don't care that much about it. We want the Jesus story to be told, we want everybody to know about Jesus. We want there to be a, an awakening, a revival, a renewal, and we hope somebody will do it.

And it wouldn't really, you know, offend us too heavily if it happened someplace that we were in some way contingent with, but we don't really intend to be disrupted by it. But I want to submit to you that God is looking for men and women who will say, "I will yield myself for the purposes of God. I will give myself to seeing the name of Jesus lifted up". Every one of us has a sphere of influence. Every one of us has an opportunity. Oh, I understand there's some risk that goes with that. If you take your faith into the marketplace, somebody's not going to like it. If you take it into the coaching profession some 300 pound lineman that can bench press western Tennessee will feel coerced by you. Pray anyway.

In fact, I would submit to you that a part of this journey that we're walking through is learning to face our fears and to respond with faith. You see, fear is a part of this journey. If you've never been afraid in the context of your faith, you haven't lived very boldly with your faith. And I don't mean you were afraid that you couldn't find the book of Exodus, or that you were going to be asked a question in Sunday school that you didn't have the answer to. I mean in the expression of your faith, in the practice of your faith, in inviting God into a circumstance. If you've never had God present you with an invitation and it was frightening enough to you that you've lost sleep over it, you haven't been listening carefully.

I have found that following the Lord is not always about confidently going into places. Typically, those places when God has put invitations before me, it has taken all the courage I've had just to say yes. On more than one occasion, I was looking for any excuse to decline the opportunity. First time I ever traveled in any sense on behalf of the Gospel, I was headed to the Philippines. I had submitted my name to be a part of some missions teams when I graduated from college. The university where I attended sent them out and I had a little break between , I had between next, and I thought well I could go for a short time, a few months someplace.

So I submitted my name, I voluntarily submitted because I'm just this kind of person. I said I was willing to go to Australia, or Sweden. I was going to take one for the team. And I got the notification that my application had been accepted, so I went to the meeting fully expected to be told where I was going in Australia so I could sacrifice for Jesus. And I gotta, I'll never forget it. They said the first group of people they said it's going to be a little different from all the other groups. They said this group's going to only be guys because we're sending you to the remote area in the Philippines. And they said we were looking for some people that had grown up in rural areas, true story, that's had experience around animals and livestock. Maybe even have been engaged in some manual labor.

And I'm just sliding down my chair, I'm thinking, well just read my resume out loud, huh? And sure enough, the Middle Visayas in the Philippines. And boy did I talk to the Lord. I said, "God, I didn't volunteer for that. I'm not really interested". I'm telling you If I had the sniffles I would have backed out. I did not go with enthusiasm or boldness or courage or bravery. I didn't want any part of it. And to be completely, okay, it wasn't okay to say at 21, but I just was afraid. I mean, I was a Christian but what am I going to do in someplace like that? And we had some victories. The first time I ever preached was that summer. It was in a barrio church, a bamboo church in a remote area of the island. There weren't 20 people there, there was dirt floors and split bamboo benches. And I went with three sermon outlines so I could just be led by the Spirit. And I was through all three outlines in less than 10 minutes.

Now the good thing I did was I had the good sense to sit down. Those poor people have suffered enough. But by the time I was finished with the summer, I recognized that God could use the life of someone that was as incompetent as me because the things I did inadvertently, just, we got up in the mornings and played basketball with the university team. By the time we left, God has moved in a group of young people there that are still serving him until today. And I said, "Well Lord, I may not know how to teach or preach, but I will serve people in your name". I came home and reoriented my life but it was a frightening thing for me, it terrified me. The ministers I knew wore long black robes and vestments, and I didn't ever remember seeing one of them smile.

I thought, Lord if I got one of those jobs I'd be fired in the week. It won't work, I don't fit. And I didn't imagine that I had the abilities to model the people that I respected in ministry. I was stumped. But I said, "God, I'll do my best to honor you". And he's helped me a little bit at a time through all those years. And I've seen the same process in our congregation. He's helped us from when we were a handful of people until there were a few more and until where we are today. And as much as we want to look around and go, "Haven't we done so much"? the truth is, there's a greater need for the gospel in our community than there's ever been. There's more unchurched people here than have ever been in the history of our county, in the history of middle Tennessee. It's a pivotal time. Our children and grandchildren will lose the story of our faith unless we step forward.

In Exodus chapter 15, it says Moses led Israel from the Red Sea. That's where they had parted the place. They had a little party after that, do you remember? A lot of dancing. don't read that if you don't dance, but they did. "And they went to the desert of Shur and for three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. And then they came to Marah," Marah is just the English transliteration of the Hebrew word, the Hebrew word means bitter. So they came to a place called bitter and they couldn't drink its water because it was bitter. You're Hebrew scholars. "So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink?' Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood and he threw it in the water and the water became sweet. And the Lord made a decree and a law for them there".

He tested them. "He said if", you ought to circle that little word, "If you listen to me carefully, the voice of the Lord your God, and you do what is right in his eyes". There's two: you have to listen and you have to do something. "If you pay attention to his commands and if you keep all of his decrees, I'll not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians for I am the Lord who heals you". Literally, it's the modern day Hebrew word for physician. "I will be your doctor". And then they came to Elam, where there were twelve springs and 70 palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

Now that little vignette of coming, they're just 72 hours from the Red Sea, they still got mud from the bottom of the Red Sea on their sandals, 72 hours out of the Red Sea they come to a place and the water is not drinkable and they grumble and complain. Now this little scenario is going to be repeated many times between the Red Sea and the entrance into the promised land. The former Hebrew slaves, before they get into their inheritance, God is determined that they're going to learn something of a life of faith. So this is going to be reenacted around manna, around quail, around the difficulty of the journey. "It's too hard for us". Around their dissatisfaction with leadership, "We don't like Moshe anymore". Around the strength of their adversaries, "Our enemies are stronger than we are".

Folks, they would have never been at Marah if the strength of their enemies was the determining part of the equation; the Egyptians were unquestionably stronger than the slaves, and yet they're free. There's some principles out of that little story that will inform their journey, but they'll inform ours. God led them to Marah, they're following a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. He purposely took them to a place where the water was bitter. It's equally clear that God had provisioned for the water they needed, he wasn't threatened or intimidated. God's not threatened by the darkness in our world. He's not threatened by the demonic hordes that are being unleashed.

Number three, faith was required of them. They weren't going to go forward without an expression of faith: neither will we. Number four, and this is important, most grumbled. The overwhelming majority of them grumbled and complained and moaned, but Moses prayed and responded to his prayer. He did something and God responded with a revelation of himself. He said, "I am the Lord who will be your physician if you will listen and obey". You see, when we respond to God with faith, he responds to us with the revelation of himself. Many of us know God in some very shallow ways because we've been such passive Christians. We've gone to church, we just didn't want to intrude too much.

Fifth: the problems confronting the people were greater than their abilities to solve them. They didn't have some way of distilling the water, of making it acceptable, they were dependent upon something supernatural. We don't like that. We prefer to be able to fix it. God has an invitation before you and before me to lead a supernatural life.

Number six, God invited them to the school of faith but I have to tell you something, you know it if you've been reading your Bible, that generation dropped the class. Did you ever drop a class in school? It was too hard, you didn't like the professor, you didn't want to do the work, you were too busy, you blew off the first few sessions and you got too far behind, you failed the test. For whatever reason you said, "I'm not completing this course," so you dropped the class. That's what they did. Oh they ate the manna and drank the water. They built a Tabernacle, they built a story, but when they got to the final exam, they said, "No, it's going to take too much work, we'll drop the class. We're not doing it, we're afraid".

They gave their fear a triumphant place over their responses of faith. Their choice, not God's. God was angry with them. He said, "I'll give you what you want, but it makes me angry with you". And the seventh point is God gave their scholarship to another generation. I do not intend to leave any scholarships unexplored. In Mark chapter 12, there's an interesting story in Jesus's ministry. It says that Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put, and he watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. So they're giving in public: that's a thought. You know, the one time the Bible tells us to give in private is when we're giving to help somebody who's less fortunate than ourselves.

So when you do that, don't rob them of their dignity by drawing attention to what you're doing. If you do that, he said, you forfeit any blessing that is yours. But the majority of the giving in Scripture is done publicly. Yeah, wasn't that awkward? I mean think about the whole offering system in the Old Testament. You know you bring a lamb or a bull or a goat to be offered to the priest to offer it as a sacrifice. Oftentimes it's attached to behavior, it's a sin offering or a forgiveness offering. Could you imagine if it's your sixth bull of the week? Be hard to explain when you got together with your friends. So Jesus is watching them put their money into the temple treasury and many rich people threw in large amounts, but a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny. She called Jesus called the disciples to him.

And here's the phrase by now you know so well. He said, "I tell you the truth". So you know something, he's getting ready to drop something. "I tell you the truth, this poor widow is putting more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put everything she had to live on". There is no success without sacrifice, not in my life, not in yours, not in a church, not in business. That's how it works. Doesn't mean every time I sacrifice that I get immediate success but I have become willing to make sacrifices because I understand that's the seeds of success. And if I don't realize the benefit someone else will. I'm very certain that I have benefited from the sacrifices of others. I stand on the shoulders of many people who have been advocates for Jesus.

Folks, we didn't arrive at this point without tremendous help. I mean, I'm grateful to celebrate the greatest generation and the sacrifices they made so that you and I might know freedom but I'm very concerned about how our generation will be characterized. Are we going to be the consumer generation? The "everybody gets a trophy" generation? The opportunity to invest in the Kingdom of God is a privilege. It shouldn't be seen as a burden or an intrusion. More than 15 years ago now, you saw a little bit of the video. A group of people said yes to the Lord and invested in an expansion of our ministry together. And since then, God has responded in thousands of lives being transformed.

So I want to ask you a question, what if they had not said yes? What if the answer had been, "It's just not our responsibility. We've got a seat and our kids have got a space and we've got a place in the nursery". What if we hadn't built Three Crosses? Well, I would submit to you, we'd be a very different place. Oh, we would have loved God, we would have honored God but the fruitfulness that God brought through our lives was a direct response to the sacrifices of those people. We don't have to go back 15 years, 3 years ago at the end of the year, we made a commitment to upgrade some of our technology. The audio and video things that were part of this project were aging out. You know how that works, your phones and your computers? Well, our audio and video gear was aging out. We needed to upgrade the technology to continue the ministry we just do on campus.

So we asked you to participate and we've sacrificed our budget some. We invested about a million in upgrading technology. Within a few months of that happening, COVID emerged. And we already had in place the things we needed to live stream, to tell a Jesus story, to share what we're doing on our campus with people beyond our campus. And because of that investment and the things that have gone into it, millions of people a week, literally millions of people every week participate in our worship services across our nation and around the world.

Just what if? What if our response had been it's good enough, we'd just be content? Why should we worry about upgrading? It still works, doesn't it? Well, I believe the lesson of the widow's offering is important to every one of us. I do, and the message it seems to me that's being shouted at us is that you're not insignificant. I have learned this important truth through the years of serving God's people: that every person is invited. Every person is given an invitation, and every person's participation matters.

The enemy would like to convince everyone of us that we're insignificant, that our voice is too small, our resources aren't enough, that we can't make a difference. It's a lie. Christ in you is enough. I want to pray:

Father, I pray that you will awaken us to the fact that you have empowered us to make a difference in this generation, that we don't stand alone nor do we stand in our own strength, we stand in your strength with the authority of Jesus's name. May that truth become real in each of us in Jesus's name, amen.

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