Allen Jackson - It Is Our Turn - Part 1
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It's an honor to be with you again. Our topic today is, "Determined Faith". Specifically, "It's Our Turn". I have a question. What's gonna be said of our generation? Are we gonna be described for our athletic prowess, for the stadiums we built? Are we gonna be described for our turn towards green new energy? What's gonna be the story that's said about the church? That's up to you and me. It's not somebody else. We are the church, as awkward as that is. Folks, this is our turn, and we're gonna need courage and boldness and faith to see the name of Jesus proclaimed throughout the earth. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
The topic has been "Determined Faith" because I believe it will take determination and faith to complete our course. I have been inviting you for some time now beyond just an idea of the new birth, or being saved, or converted. I believe in those things, but they're not the destination. They're the entry point. It's the launch ramp. It's your admittance into the Kingdom of God, and it's a gift. It isn't something you earned or you deserve. But once you've been given the gift, the question becomes what do you do with that? Do you lead a presumptive life and keep showing your gift card, or do you intend to honor the Lord? In this particular session, I just wanna, it's about the fact that it's our turn, and I like that a lot. I'm grateful to be able to stop glancing backwards and to turn our attention forward.
And I wanna start with Revelation 22. That is very near the end of the book. It describes a time in the earth that is surprising. In fact, this passage to me is shocking that it's included in the narrative of scripture. But I think it's a pretty accurate description of the world we're watching. "Thus he told me, 'Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book: because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong: and let him who is vile continue to be vile". Not really expecting, it's not the counsel I would expect from the Spirit of the Lord. Let the one of you who wants to do wrong go all in. And let the one of you who wants to be vile be more vile still. Wow! "But let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold, I'm coming soon! And my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End".
I would submit to you that we are living in a season of tremendous contrast, where the wicked are becoming more wicked. Shame, it seems, is no longer a part of the public square. It's just unimaginable, what we are watching. And you don't have to go to some big city that you don't like. You don't have to go any further to Nashville to see that is a part of our reality. A city that was once known as the Athens of the South and the center of biblical publishing and Christian learning has become something vastly different. Folks, that's our backyard and that's our watch. It's not okay. We gotta take the Gospel back downtown. I'm looking forward to that. I hope you're ready. But I truly believe with what we've been doing in these last weeks and months together that as a congregation, we're getting ready for next. We are witnesses to a tremendous shift, an unprecedented one.
It isn't political. It's not even ideological. It's fundamentally spiritual, and we're slow to awaken to that. We keep thinking an election's gonna fix us. How many failed elections are we gonna have to have? How many times will we have to choose somebody from either side of the aisle and then everything stays the same before we reach the conclusion the elections aren't the problem? We've had godly people to choose from. We don't choose them. Oh, we have all of our reasons, they have the wrong personality or the wrong accent or something. Folks, we have to awaken to something, the challenges we face are fundamentally spiritual. There is a deep darkness around us. But there's also a great light. If you'll allow me, I would submit to you that the time for sitting on the fence is concluded. Even if you prefer a neutral posture, I would remind you that to do or say nothing is a choice. To sit silently in the face of evil is affirmation.
Now, it's an exciting time, because I believe the Spirit of God is inviting us to participate. And I don't mean principally because of a new capital campaign. I believe he's inviting his people into this season to be ambassadors for his kingdom. To be in a church. We were accustomed to being religious and being polite and having manners, and we talked about our little Bible studies, and those things aren't wicked or evil, but God's inviting us into the heart of what's driving the earth. That's an amazing thing to me. Now, just in case you haven't been paying attention, the theater of the absurd continues to sponsor performances. Regretfully.
This week, perhaps the most amazing to me was we celebrated National Women's Day. I hope you caught it. The Woman of Courage award was presented by our First Lady to a biological male. You have to think about that a little bit. 'Cause it is irrational and illogical. It is the fulfillment of what we were reading in Revelation 22. And the whole exercise was conducted with straight faces and cameras rolling and narratives being provided. The only thing that was missing was the little boy to say that the emperor had no clothes. A bit more troubling though, at the Arizona School Board, an Arizona School Board this week voted, I don't know if you read it. It was distressful. It created some emotion in me for more than one day. They voted to stop allowing student teachers from a local Christian university. They had a five-year contract. It wasn't that the students had misbehaved or broken protocol.
Members of the School Board said that they went and looked at the University's website and they said they intended to lift up the name of Jesus. And they said that was problematic, that it would make the schools where those teachers were being engaged with children not safe. So, the School Board members broke the contract. The last thing they wanted was student teachers from a Christian university engaging with the children because it would make them less safe. You had to read on to get the full weight of what was happening. The School Board member who brought the opinion and started the discussion identified those Christian students as dangerous, but she describes herself on the district's website in this way, and I quote, "A bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent, queer Black Latina who loves a good hot wing, but only with the right ranch, and things that sparkle".
This is also included in her bio. She frequently wears cat ears. But Christian students shouldn't be available in our schools because they're dangerous. You couldn't make statements about almost any group of our society like they make about Christians. I don't want you to be angry. I don't want you to be violent. I don't want you to be belligerent, but I would encourage you to wake up. You better take your faith with you. You better take your faith with you to work. You better take it with you when you take your children to school. And anybody that tells you it's not welcome, you need to get them to explain to you why that's the case, because there are all sorts of world views and ideologies and moral perspectives that are being pushed into the public square, in the corporate board room, in the corridors of our hospitals, and I will not relinquish the privilege of sharing our Christian faith. Don't wait. Do not wait. We've tried being tolerant and kind and retiring. Again, I don't want you to be angry and belligerent, but you've got to be awake.
Now, how have we arrived at this place? It isn't because evil has pushed us out. We've arrived here because the church has withdrawn. We've given our hearts to other things. We've given our passions to other things. We've wanted our children to be identified in other ways than as Christ followers first. We didn't want them to have the stigma of being one of those people. So, it really is about vision and what we understand the role of our faith to be. Look at Proverbs 29 and verse 18, says, "Where there is no revelation," it could be translated either way, equally, legitimately. It could be that where there is no revelation, where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint... When the preaching's so hot it sets off alarms. "Where there is no revelation or vision, the people cast off restraint: but blessed is he who keeps the law".
Hebrew poetry is written in couplets. You need both ideas to get the full meaning. So, when it says there is no revelation or vision, the people refuse any restraint, the alternative, the rest of the story is those who keep the law. You see, when we reject the God perspective, we will cast off increasingly any restraint. There are no boundaries, there are no limits. Anything quite literally goes. And then the greatest threat becomes anyone who would bring a God perspective back into the discussion because it's seen as limiting, diminishing. I've told you many times, one of the great lies that is settled upon this generation is that honoring Jesus will diminish your life. It is not true. The truth of Jesus brings freedom to every human life. Darkness brings bondage. Darkness will break you down physically.
Jesus is a healer, and the church has got to be awakened. How many seminars does the church gonna sponsor on whether God still heals or God still does miracles while we've stepped back from the power of the one who died for us? Where there is no vision, we cast off restraint. We have to have the awareness, the revelation that honoring God brings life and health and fulfillment and contentment. You can't secure your future apart from God. What a myth! Look at Exodus 32. This lives so real in our hearts. It's so close to us. This isn't about someone else or some other generation. Exodus 32. It's the Exodus generation. These are the people that began as slaves in Egypt, Moshi. Moses walks in out of the desert and says we're leaving. And there's a little bit of a dust up.
When Moses is going up Mount Sinai, the people lose their balance, and it's a consistent tug of war in their hearts. In chapter 32 it says, "Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So, he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, 'Whosoever is for the LORD, come to me. And the Levites rallied to him.'" I read that not to make fun of or to highlight the inconsistencies of the Exodus generation. I read that so that you'll understand this is a challenge in every generation. Yielding to the Lord, accepting the restraint of God's truth. You see, your carnal nature and mine says I think and I feel and I want and I will not be restrained. And the new birth, conversion, salvation does not diminish the intensity of that carnal nature.
It introduces a new authority so that sin is no longer your master, but we face the challenge of it, and we have to put to death that old carnal nature. Which means we have to be willing to speak the truth to one another, to lift up God's truth, to be willing to say that godliness and holiness and purity are legitimate goals and objectives. They're more valuable than anything else. They're more valuable than any achievement, anything we accumulate, any degree we earn, any resource that we accumulate, honoring Lord and walking uprightly before the Lord has value, church. We've gotta be willing to say that again.
Amos, the prophet Amos, he's a farmer. Isaiah is a functionary of the court. Isaiah, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but Isaiah was very comfortable with the intrigue of the palace. He's a court prophet. Isaiah spoke to kings and leaders of nations. And they sought his counsel when the pressure was great enough. Amos is a farmer. He's a simple man. And Amos says, "'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it".
Again, what we're witnessing is not something new. It's so easy to get excited. You know, we're the terminal generation. We're the ones standing at the end of the ages. And it could be, but the characteristics of the world we're standing in have been repeated over and over and over again. The question to that terminal generation will be a question of magnitude and scope, and we're truly in the process to know that. We don't know how far the disease process will go. But in the meantime, we have the assignment of holding up the light, of lifting up the name of Jesus. It's gonna require of us the courage to lead. We've lacked this. We've wanted the courage to be born again, we've wanted the courage perhaps to go to church, we've wanted the courage to be polite, but we certainly didn't want to have to be in any... leadership is influence. Leadership's not a title, it's not a position, it's not a name plate.
You've all known people. I've known people that had titles and positions that said they were leaders and people could have cared less about their opinions. Unfortunately, they're usually the last ones to know, but ultimately leadership is about influence. And what we've been called to do is influence the world in which we live, the places where we have been given an opportunity, a sphere of influence, where people's opinions when they care about your opinion, when they will listen to what you have to say, if they will accept your professional advice, your faith needs to roll into that. If they care about what you think about their fantasy sports teams, your faith life better roll into that. If they care about your opinions on restaurants or where to recreate or where to vacation, your faith life better roll into that.
Do we have the courage to be an influence? Or do you think you've hired me to do that? I'm asked with some frequency these days if I'm afraid, if there are threats. May I ask you that question? Is your faith a public enough part of who you are? In your professional arena, does it frighten you that you're gonna forfeit opportunities or you'll be censored or you will in some way, there's a possibility of some pushback? In your friend group, are you concerned you're gonna be left off an invitation list, or you're going to be in some way excluded? Are we leading with our faith? Folks, this is very important question. One of the classic examples in all of scripture is the handoff between Moses and Joshua. Moses, in the Hebrew Bible, is the leader par excellence.
When we get to the New Testament and the Jesus narrative in the book of Hebrews, the author of Hebrews goes way out of his way to demonstrate to the reader that Jesus was more faithful than Moses, because for hundreds of years, there was nobody more faithful that Moses. And Moses didn't lead the people into the Promised Land. Joshua, that assignment fell to him. So, in Deuteronomy 31, Moses is preparing Joshua, and he says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you". Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified. What's the problem? Lots of terror. Big enemies, powerful enemies, the odds aren't great, we're weak. We don't have the resources. The Lord will go with you. He'll never leave you nor forsake you.
"Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he'll never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged". There's the theme emerging. What's necessary to have the courage to be an influence? The courage to lead. It's gonna take strength and courage. Who knew? That's not what our churches have been cranking out. I've spent my life in the church world.
We've learned Isaiah's middle name, we've learned original languages, we've learned how to spell the 12 tribes and Hebrew letters. I'm not opposed to those things. I like to learn. I'm all for learning, but I want to grow in strength in the Lord and the courage to believe him. It's repeated in chapter 31 in Deuteronomy again in verse 23, "Be strong and courageous". It's a commandment again. In the book of Joshua chapter 1 and verse 5. This is God's promise to Joshua. Moses is gone now.
"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I'll never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; don't turn from it to the right or to the left, you'll be successful wherever you go. Don't let the book of the law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you'll be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous".
Makes you think Joshua was from the slow group. Seven times from Moses to God, Joshua, be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. What's he struggling with? Terror and discouragement. Moses couldn't get 'em in. Moses and that staff, I mean they parted the Red Sea, water from a rock, manna on the ground, 10 Commandments down the mountain. The earth opened up then swallowed the complaint line. But Moses couldn't lead the people. He couldn't influence them in, he couldn't silence the dissent. He couldn't tap down the complaints. So, for forty years we've wandered in the desert and now Moses is gone. This is frightening. Have you seen Jericho? Then God said, be strong and courageous.
Look, we see expressions of darkness. We can gather in our church and talk about what we see happening, but the reason we're silent is we understand the forces are readied against us. If we don't understand it consciously, we understand it subconsciously, so we're polite. We don't wanna poke the bear. There's a cost of leadership. Let me say it a different way, there's a cost to use your faith as a point of influence. We gotta say this out loud, there is. You can cheer for professional athletes, you can be for professional sports, you can invest in the Food Network. There's lots of things you can do, you can develop your hobby. You can be accepted into all sorts of places, but you bring your faith out and say I will allow myself to be identified with this set of principles, that's our future, or the lack thereof.
More than seven times God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. That was his commissioning. Not go to theology school or read your Bible more or do a Greek word study. Be strong and courageous. I think strength and courage are more necessary for you and me as Christ followers today than any other set of attributes I can think of. I wanna pray.
Father, I thank you that we have Bibles and churches and fellowship and community, but we need your help to be men and women of strength and courage. Holy Spirit, we ask you, let a boldness for God grow in us. In Jesus's name, amen.