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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - What's Next

Allen Jackson - What's Next

Allen Jackson - What's Next

We're continuing the series we've been doing on "Courageous Faith," and the topic for this session is "What's Next"? And I'll explain that a bit more in a moment, but there's two verses of scripture that really form the foundation of this study that we've been doing. Deuteronomy 31 and verse 8 says, "The LORD himself goes before you, and he'll be with you. He'll never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged". Throughout scripture, when God is commissioning his people in a new direction or he is commissioning a new leader, one of the most common direction that is given, both New and Old Testament, is "Do not be afraid," and "Do not be discouraged".

So, we can learn some things from that. One, we are very vulnerable, we're very susceptible to fear and discouragement. If we weren't vulnerable or susceptible to it, we wouldn't be consistently warned about it. We also know that if God says, "Don't be afraid," and "Don't be discouraged," it's possible to lead fearless, courageous lives. We also can discern from that, that two of the most debilitating things that can keep you from God's best in your life is fear and discouragement. They'll immobilize you.

So, I have determined, with the help of the Spirit of God, to not forfeit one of God's invitations in my life because of fear and discouragement. Amen. That's my objective, and it's my objective for you, as well. We are not going to yield the field because of fear and discouragement. They will present. There'll be frightening things and discouraging things, and we will have to determine in our heart that we will not stop, that we're gonna finish the course. We may be like Jesus in Gethsemane. "Father, I'm not sure I want to do this". But before we're done with the prayer, I trust we'll be saying, "Lord, not my will be done, but yours". And the second verse we've been using, 2 Corinthians 4, verse 18, "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal".

That first sentence is a paradox. How do you fix your eyes? How do you look at the unseen? Well, you can't with your physical apparatus. So, we're being invited to look at something that is invisible. That's the paradox. Now, sometimes in Christian circles, when we hear that, we think, "Oh, you're trying to get me to be fanatical". No, I'm not. I'm encouraging you to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Unseen things are not strange or weird. You interact and depend upon unseen things every day. If you use your cell phone, you're depending on something you can't see. "How does it communicate"? "Oh, it's digital". "That explains it". You've got a microwave in your home, you're heating up food with something you can't see. The unseen is a part of your daily life, and it doesn't violate your intellect. I promise you, God can withstand the surging heat of your powerful intellect.

I bump into people that say, "Well, just, Pastor, it's just hard for me to trust God with all my education". I appreciate that. I'm an advocate for education. Get all you can afford. Go for it. I could be a professional student. But at the end of the day, I don't believe it violates my commitment to being a rational person to believe that something I don't see influences my life. So, the purpose of courageous faith is to help us be faithful, fearless and making God choices that are based upon things that our physical senses can't fully evaluate.

If you're evaluating your spiritual journey based upon the input of your physical senses, you are a beginner, no matter how long you have sat in church, because the invitation of scripture is to make life choices, how we spend our time, how we spend our resources, how we spend our energy, how we fashion our dreams, based upon things that we cannot fully understand with our five senses. That's our target in this series. This particular session is about "What's Next"? We're gonna look at prophecy. Look at 2 Peter chapter 1 and verse 19. It says, "We have the word of the prophets, made more certain, and you'll do well to pay attention to it".

That's just Peter the fisherman. He's not a great scholar. He's not a rabbinic scholar. He was a fisherman until Jesus recruited him. And near the end of his life, he says to us, "It would be in your best interest to pay attention to the prophets". Let me ask you a question. "Who's the greatest of all the Hebrew prophets? Isaiah? Jeremiah? Ezekiel? Habakkuk"? No, it's Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth is the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. And in Matthew chapter 24, we have Jesus's most lengthy prophetic discourse. It's actually mirrored in Luke 21 and also in Mark chapter 14. We don't have time in this session to look at all three of those chapters, but if you want to do a little homework and research beyond this session, you can read Luke 21 and Mark 14. They're all relating to us. They're the presentation that Jesus made.

We're going to look at Matthew 24. Jesus is on the Temple Mount with his disciples, and they asked him a question. Jesus says to them, "This temple is gonna be destroyed". And the disciples can't hardly believe it. It's the most spectacular building in the entire nation of Israel. It is the expression of the heart of the nation. It's the national bank. It's one of the wonders of the Roman world. It's their expression and their imagination. It expresses the dominance of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob over all the earth. And Jesus said, "That building's gonna be destroyed". And this is at the end of three years with him, they've learned to believe him.

So, when they're alone with Jesus, they said, "Tell us when this is going to happen". And in their imagination, if the temple is destroyed, it's the end of the world. It'd be a little bit like us saying Washington, DC, is going to be destroyed and never be rebuilt. I think we would imagine that would be the end of our nation, at least. So, they said, "Tell us, when is this going to happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age"? So, Jesus answers those two questions about the signs of the end of the age and his return to the earth. And he gives them several signs. He says there'll be wars, and famines, and ethnic conflict, and all kinds of things that he says will happen. But then he gives them the ultimate sign that will signal his imminent return to the earth.

I'll read it to you. It's in Matthew 24 and verse 14. He said, "This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come". The sign of the approaching end is the gospel of the kingdom preached in all the world to all the nations. I think we typically overlook it, because in Jesus's listing, it's not the sexiest. We'd rather focus on famines, and ethnic conflict, and signs in the heavens, but the sign that Jesus directed us towards is the gospel of the kingdom being preached in the whole world.

I think it's very, very important to understand that you and I have a role to play in facilitating the return of Jesus to the earth. It is a solemn responsibility, and we have shirked that. We've avoided it. We've kind of shrugged it off and imagine, "Ah, it's about pastors and, you know, God doesn't really care about organized religion". I'm not saying he's interested in the organization of religion. He's interested in the news of Jesus Christ being shared to the whole world. And I don't think it's accidental that you and I live in a season where global communication is more accessible, more available to a global population at the least cost in the history of humanity. Your ten-year-old can go on this afternoon with your smart phone, make a video that can be watched by children around the world before supper.

We have never had that kind of privilege. We have an assignment, folks. The only solution to the suffering and the misery of the human condition is the return to the earth of Jesus of Nazareth, the prince of peace. And the sign, the facilitator for making that happen is us taking seriously enough the good news of the gospel that we expend ourselves in the sharing of that around the earth. Though God hasn't opened the door for me to go to distant places, I appreciate that, but he has opened the door for you in the influence he's given you in the arena you have.

There's no reason for God to send you beyond your back fence if you're not being an outspoken advocate for Jesus across the back fence. Why would he visit you upon a foreign nation if you don't have the enthusiasm to share Jesus with your coworkers? Why should Jesus entrust us with a mission, if we're not willing to be enthusiastic for Jesus with the people we watch a ball game with? It begins in the setting where we are, but the assignment we've been given is to be unrelenting, bold advocates for Jesus. And he said we're going to need to be fearless and courageous, which means the things we'll be confronted with will be frightening and discouraging. You ready to go?

Now I want to take the balance of the time we have, and in Matthew 24 look at two warnings Jesus gives us. I said I want to talk to you about what's next. And when we talk about prophecy, sometimes there's this kind of two extremes. There's a group of people everything they see they put through a prophetic filter. You know, if the milk's on sale at the grocery store, there's a prophetic verse for that. And those people scare us. On the other end of the spectrum is a group of people that go, "I don't really care about all that, Pastor. I just want to go to heaven. Tell me how to go to heaven, and you can have the prophets. I can't spell their names anyway". And I think in either extreme, you forfeit something. But a typical habit when we talk about prophecy is we want to figure out everything that's going to happen.

When's the rapture? Who's the antichrist? And when's he showing up? And what color is his eyes? And how's he gonna part his hair? And there may be value in that, but I think what's most important is you and I being aware of what's next. Because if we miss what's next, what comes after that is really not that valuable. You know, if you've been in the hospital this week, and you've given birth to your firstborn child, you don't really need a three day seminar on what to do with teenagers. And you could skip the video on how to cope as an empty nester. What you really need to know is how to get that little bundle of joy to sleep through the night.

I met a father in the lobby. It's been a few months ago. He's a brand-new father. I knew it was their first child. And it was their first visit to church, and I saw him in the lobby, and I went up and said, "How are you doing"? And he looked at me as seriously as he could, and he said, "We should've stayed in the hospital longer". And I said, I didn't know anything was wrong. I said, "Is everybody healthy"? And he said, "Oh, absolutely". He said, "We just needed a few more days in the hospital". He could care less what it was gonna mean when that little rascal was driving. He just needed to know how to get through the day. So, what's next is the most, you may be curious, and that's okay with me, but if we're not prepared and engaged in what's next, what's coming after that is not really going to be relevant to us, agreed?

So, I want to focus with you on Jesus gives us two significant warnings. The first one in Matthew 24 and 23. He said, "If anyone tells you, 'Look, here's the Messiah!' or 'Over here!' don't believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Take note, I have told you in advance. So, if they tell you, 'Look, He's in the wilderness!' don't go out. 'Look, He's in the inner rooms!' don't believe it". In this lengthy discussion about what the world will be like before Jesus returns, his sternest warning is a warning against deception. It's repeated four times. More than we're warned about famine, or war, or violence, or hatred, or immorality, or demonic involvement, more than we're warned about any of those things, Jesus warns us about deception.

I like the phrase in that passage, "to be led astray". I think it's helpful in getting to the meaning of deception. It's to be led astray, it's something that's incremental. You're on the path, and there's an option that opens up, and you're just led astray. And I also think it's helpful to take note of who Jesus is speaking to. He's talking to his apostles, the people he has recruited, that he's spent three years investing his time and energy with. They're his best friends. They're his most faithful followers, and he is warning them in the plainest of language, repetitively, about being deceived.

Now, it captures my attention, because in the contemporary evangelicalism I don't think we have much concern about this. We'll get heated up about the end of the age and, you know, what kind of preparations we're going to make, and whether we need dehydrated food, or water filters, or precious metals. And now, those discussions may be appropriate. I'm not really trashing that, but we've kind of ignored Jesus's instructions on deception. I'll tell you this. If you don't think you can be deceived, you already are. If you think because you've recited a prayer and been dipped in a pool that you're golden and you're insulated from deception, then you're not vulnerable, you're not paying attention to the scripture, because Jesus is talking to Peter, and James, and John, and Mary, his closest friends, and he's saying, "You need to be very careful about this".

It's a repeated warning. It's significant. I spent several days walking around and praying and reflecting on this and saying, "Lord, if you've warned us in such plain language about being led astray, I need to consider a little bit how I would be enticed". I think most of us understand that blatant immorality, or blatant wickedness, or blatant expressions into ungodliness, you get a little warning light with that. I hope you've been around church long enough to know that.

So, those wouldn't really be the points of threat. I mean, you could reject your faith. You could reject the Lord. You could choose wickedness. We all have that capacity. But when you do that, you know you're doing wrong. The alarm bell's ringing on the inside. That's not deception. That's not being led astray. That's choosing ungodliness. Don't confuse the two. We see lots of people with marginal Christian affiliation choosing ungodliness. That's not deception. That's choosing the world. When Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, he said, "Demas has abandoned me. He loved the world. He's gone back to Thessalonica". He didn't think Demas was deceived. He said, "Demas has decided he loved the world more than he loved the Lord".

And you and I have to wrestle with that, every one of us. Me, too. The invitations of the world are before us every day. That's why we read the verse about looking at what is unseen. You'll have to make the choices. You will forfeit opportunities for gain, for fame, for profit, for pleasure, that are not based in godliness. And in the moment the decision will feel like you were forfeiting something of significance, but in truth, you are not. The Bible says of Moses in Hebrews 11 that he chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He refused to be called, he refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter. He refused the privilege of the palace, so he could stand with the people of God. That's not deception. That's choosing God over the spirit of the world.

Deception, being led astray is when you think in pursuit of the Lord that you're on the right path, and yet you find yourself in a distant place. So, again, I've been saying what does that look like? How would that find its way into our lives? How could that happen to us? How could you deceive Peter, or James, or John? And I came up, I felt like the Lord gave me three expressions of deceit that are very prevalent in the contemporary church, and the first is grounded in scripture. I know it may sound odd, but if you don't know the Word of God, it's easy to use scripture to deceive you. I could lead you astray with scripture if you don't know it well enough to know the character of God.

I'll give you an example. Matthew chapter 4 and verse 5. It's in your notes. "The devil took him", who's him? Jesus. "The devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. And he said, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.'" I'm gonna pause just a moment. I would submit to you that the devil knew very well that Jesus was the Son of God. No question about it. In fact, I would submit to you that Jesus knows he's the Son of God. And yet, Satan has the audacity, the unmitigated gall to say to Jesus, "If you are the Son of the God," knowing it full well with absolute certainty who Jesus is. He challenges it. I point it out, because I assure you he will challenge what God has said about you. He will challenge in your mind what you believe the Word of God to be.

Everybody in here, if we had a moment, could give testimony to the fact that you have doubted, questioned, you've had a thought come into your mind, "Do you really believe? Why are you acting so holy? You know that's not the way you want to be. Who do you think you are? Why would you pray for another person? What makes you think you're so good"? You ever had any of those thoughts? It's not a new thing. But watch the tactic that Satan uses. "If you're the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written", written where? In the Jerusalem Post? No, he's about to quote scripture to Jesus. Can you believe this? He's gonna quote scripture to Jesus. "He will command his angels concerning you, and they'll lift you up in their hands so that you'll not strike your foot against a stone". He's trying to get Jesus to be presumptuous, arrogant, prideful, self-indulgent, and he's using scripture to do it. Watch Jesus's response.

"Jesus answered him, 'It is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test".'" He answers him with scripture. One of the ways you and I are vulnerable to deception is with scripture. It's why it's so important that you make a commitment to get to know your Bible. I'm embarrassed and even a bit ashamed that it took me so many years to invite the congregation to collectively, systematically read our Bibles. I haven't discovered anything in all of my years that are more effective at helping us collectively continue to grow in the Lord as that daily systematic reading of our Bible.

We have an assignment. We have an assignment. And if our answer is, "Well, I've said the prayer and been dipped in the pool, I'm good to go," you're deceived. If your answer is, "Well, I don't think God does miracles anymore," you're deceived. If your answer is, "Well, I intend church occasionally, I'm okay," you're deceived. The degree to which we have been led astray and we've been taken away from the initiatives that God has given us is staggering, and we have the clear warning of Jesus.

Folks, we live in a unique season. God is moving in the earth. We have tremendous freedoms and liberties. I didn't come this morning with any intent of bringing a heaviness or a condemnation. I want to bring clarity. The King is coming. And we have a role to play. And he's not opposed to us marrying and giving in marriage, or buying and selling, or eating and drinking. He's giving us the capacity for all of those things, but I want all of those things subordinate to my desire, to my sincere faith, and my purity with regard to the kingdom of God. Now, we've already had a time of ministry this morning, but I did bring you a prayer. We'll work the rest of this outline another time. You know, when I sit at my desk, it looks so simple. When I stand up, I find more words. But there's a prayer at the end of your outline, if you'll stand with me, we're going to read it together.

It is such a privilege to be together. One of the great protections against deception is one another. You need a handful of people in your life who you trust with the truth, the truth of God and the truth of your life, and you need to hear them. You need to cooperate with them when they speak to you. You don't want to give away your authority. We follow the Holy Spirit. I understand that. But none of us will complete the course alone. We need one another. Now, that's the truth. Look at the person on your right and say, "I need your help". Some of you don't know which way right is. Now look at the person on your left. Say, "I'm not so sure about you". All right, have you found your prayer? Let's read it together:

Heavenly Father, give me boldness to acknowledge Jesus each day. Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom to recognize the opportunities surrounding me. Lord Jesus, may you be pleased with my choices in time, that I may serve you for all eternity. All praise to the Lamb. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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