Allen Jackson - It Is Our Turn - Part 2
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It's good to be with you again. We're going to continue our study on "Determined Faith" and finish this discussion of the fact that this is our time. That is such an important principle, folks. This is our turn in the arena. We're not spectators of what God is doing. We're given one brief invitation into the arena, into time to make a difference for the kingdom of God. This is our assignment. God's not caught off guard by the expressions of darkness, or wickedness, or immorality, or the government redefining family, or all the craziness you see going on. God looked at all of that and he called your name and mine. So this is our time in the arena. He will give us the strength, the wisdom, the courage, and the boldness we need to make a difference for him if we're willing to accept the assignment. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly open your heart.
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 got to just 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. Paul in Philippians chapter 3 he said, "Whatever was to my profit I now consider a loss for the sake of Christ".
Paul had a brilliant education. He had some of the finest training of his generation. His future was written. He'd made the sacrifices to put his education in place, and he had matched it with a zeal that had forced him to the top of his peer group. He was a leader in the city of Jerusalem to the point that his effectiveness was so great they began to dismiss him to go to the cities of the surrounding region, and on the way to Damascus he had an encounter with a rabbi from Nazareth named Jesus and he said, "Just exactly what is it you're doing"? And Paul, a clever man, said, "Who are you, Lord"? And his life made 180-degree change, and so now he's writing to a church in Philippi. He said, "Whatever was to my profit I consider a loss for the sake of Christ. I walked away from a career, a profession, accolades, affirmation. I was used to seats of honor and professional acknowledgment and I consider it a loss for the sake of Christ".
"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I've lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him". Do you think that was easier for Paul to say than for you or me? I don't. I read that and I think, "What has he done? What has he focused his mind on? What has he given his emotions to that he could look at the professional ladder that his peer group is climbing so feverishly and he said, 'I consider it rubbish?'" Something happened in him. We haven't even talked about this. We haven't treated this like it was an objective. We just think it happened to him. You know, I find that we impute to other people that it's easier for them or they just like being godly. "Fasting is easier to them. They just don't enjoy food as much as I do".
Whatever it is, you know, you meet skinny people and you think, "Oh, they just have better metabolism". Yeah, 'cause they're at the gym at 4 o'clock running like a hamster on a treadmill. I'm at the donut shop ordering three fritters 'cause I'm going to share a fourth of one of them. You know, we have that same attitude towards our faith. "Well, it's just they like to read their Bible". No. They may have learned to like it. Listen to what he said. "I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith". So we cheap it and we say, "Oh, it's a gift. Just receive the free gift". You're absolutely right. Salvation is a gift, but a life of faith is built one decision at a time one day at a time. That's our reality.
Have we arrived at a church that is inert, inept, easily swept aside, declared insignificant, nonessential? In 2 Corinthians, this is still Paul, 11 he said, "I've labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep. I've known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I've been cold and naked. And besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches". That's how he got there. Day after day, week after week, month after month he said, "I'll do what it takes. I'm going to go tell a Jesus's story. I'll tell it where it's welcome. I'll tell it where it's not. I'll tell it when there's applause, and I'll tell the story when it means there's going to be imprisonment". He said, "I know what it is". He's put an invitation in front of us, folks.
I don't know all that the future holds. I have some ideas and I have some little windows into some snippets of it, but I can tell you that it's going to require of us a different response than who we have been in the past. Look at Hebrews chapter 11. This is Moses this time. It's says, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter". Remember the topic. It's the cost of leadership. It's the cost of influence. We say we want the influence for the kingdom of God to become a part of our schools again, and our hospitals, and our courtrooms, and our classrooms, and our college campuses. There's a cost to that.
"Moses, when he'd grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger. He persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn't touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days".
The author of Hebrews gives us Moses's choices. This was the pathway Moses had. It was the cost he had for leadership. It was the cost he paid for influence. We looked at Paul's. They're right there. It says, first of all, Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He refused privilege. Well, he could have hidden in the palace. Secondly, it says he chose. He refused something, and he chose something. Two different directions. "I refuse that. I choose this". He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God. And what that meant in a practical way, the author of Hebrews tells us that he declined the pleasures of sin.
So we got to have a little honest conversation. Sin in the short run is pleasant. It's why it's a problem. If sin wasn't pleasant in the short run, it wouldn't be tempting. Anybody tempted to pay extra taxes? No, I didn't think so. Anybody tempted to do extra cardio work? No, I didn't think so. Sin is pleasant in the short run. It's a lie. It's a deception. It promises you something it can't fulfill, and Moses made a choice regarding that. He chose mistreatment with the people of God. We're going to have to be willing to choose that.
"I'm one of them. I want to be identified with them. I'm one of those Jesus's people, those Bible-reading, Spirit-filled praying people. I believe there is a God and that he created the heaven and the earth and that Jesus of Nazareth was his son, that he was born of a virgin, that he died on a cross; that he was buried in a tomb, raised to life again. I believe he ascended back to heaven and he's coming back to the earth. I believe he's the head of the church. I believe the Spirit of that Almighty God indwells those people who will choose Jesus as Lord".
Can I explain all that? No. But I believe it. Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasure of Egypt. That is not an easy decision. He could have been a one percenter and he regarded disgrace. That's sentence, do you understand that, did you hear what it said? He regarded disgrace for the sake of whom? Christ. Christ is the English transliteration of the Greek word christos, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Meshiach, Messiah. He regarded disgrace for the sake of the Messiah. Help me here. Moses lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Moses saw something beyond the immediate, and he ordered his life around that. He made choices around that. God gave him this unique influence because he regarded disgrace for the sake of something that was in front of him of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. That's the church we're becoming.
Number four said he was looking ahead to his reward. He knew it wasn't just sacrifice for sacrifice sake. I hope you are purposefully on a daily basis making decisions to lay up treasure in heaven. And number five it says he left. He left Egypt not fearing the king's anger. He chose not to be paralyzed by it. We all know what it is to face anger because of your faith. If you haven't felt it personally, you've seen it. You've heard the victory all. You've seen the threats. You've seen the lies and the manipulation. If you have the audacity to stand in the public square and say marriage is between a man and a woman and that the designer created us with a place for human sexuality, but it's not just left up to the individual. Friends with benefits was not God's idea. We all know why we're silent.
Number six, it says he persevered. That means he kept going even though it was difficult because he saw him who is invisible and he kept the Passover. The outcomes are what amazed me. It says the people passed through the Red Sea. The author of Hebrew is the pattern of chapter 11 as he introduces you to these heroes and then tells you their outcomes and included in Moses's outcome is that they passed through the Red Sea, but he also includes in verse 30 that the walls of Jericho fell. Folks, Moses was dead before the walls of Jericho fell, but it's part of his legacy. Moses's influence made it possible for a new generation to have a victory. Joshua is still figuring it out. He's still sorting it out. Oh, he gave the instructions. Joshua's on point, but Jericho is credited to Moses's account. Let's live in such a way that the generations who follow us have kingdom victories because of choices we've made.
Now, I'll wrap this up. We got work to do, with the joy of giving. We've talked about this a bit more lately, but it's a part of the narrative. Jesus on the Temple Mount in Mark 12 where the widow who gave a few small coins. Jesus gathers the disciples and said, "I tell you the truth. She gave more than all the rest of these". We value our gifts by the zeros, and God evaluates how much we retain. When we come to this point in capital campaigns, there's one particular group that I always am concerned for. It's the people who are in that widow's line and they think, "My gift is insignificant. There's a $30 million objective and I can't make a gift that has enough zeros to move the needle on that. So why would it matter what I do"?
And I want you to understand that every gift is significant. Jesus said that woman had done more than all the people with their enormous gifts. That's not to say the people that can give more shouldn't. It's to say that it isn't the magnitude of the gift. The Lord looks at our heart and our circumstance and he attaches value. I would rather stand in the midst of the people of God saying yes to him than any group of people I know. So I don't want you to feel overlooked or insignificant. You are not. Don't forfeit participation waiting to win the lottery. You'll miss the opportunities of the kingdom in your life. If you'll participate at the place God has you today, he will expand your opportunities in the future. I have lived that out.
I want to close with that passage from Exodus 36. I love this. Moses is receiving offerings for the tabernacle. They've escaped Egypt. They've crossed the Red Sea. They've learned to like manna, kind of, and they're going to build a place of worship. They've never had one. They know Egyptian gods and Egyptian holidays; and Moses is giving all these community rules, and they're going to build the tabernacle. He has seen the heavenly tabernacle. He's seen the blueprint. And so he invites the people to give.
"And they received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offering morning after morning. So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses, 'The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.' Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: 'No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.' And the people were restrained from bringing more". Amongst the lines we have not heard frequently at church. "Whatever you do, don't give any more".
Now, there's something, you read that and it feels almost nonsensical. If you put it back in its context, it's beyond amazing. The people making the offerings are the former slaves of Egypt. They're giving for the tabernacle. They've never seen one. They've never worshiped in one. They don't know anyone that's had one. The person who's giving them the instructions for the tabernacle says that he had a vision from God. They have no way to replenish the gifts that they are giving. They're in the Sinai. They're in the wilderness. They have whatever they manage to plunder from Egypt, but they don't have a way to replenish the gifts they're giving. They're making a sacrifice that is supported by nothing more than gratitude. That's not an easy gift. They have every reason their children, their grandchildren, the needs of the journey before them, what they're going to need to occupy, I just traveled Israel.
Do you know how much junk we take on a 10-day trip to Israel? We take suitcases of snacks. We take enough changes of clothes. I'm pretty confident a group of 30 people could live out of the gear we take for about two people. We are oversupplied. And I'm hauling all that junk, too. And I read this and these people are giving what they can't replenish. It's an expression of trust in the God who delivered them. "If he delivered us, if he's feeding us manna, I guess we're going to have to trust him for tomorrow". They were not living lives of stored abundance. They were receiving daily provision, and if they tried to take provision for 2 days it would spoil and yet they gave with such abandon. They said, "Don't bring any more". Giving was an expression of trust.
And I would add, and yet when they got to the banks of the Jordan River, they said no more. Folks, I want to continue to say yes to the Lord. I've said it to you repeatedly in these weeks. If God's moving, I want to move too. Now, I may grumble a bit at the initial invitation and look at my calendar and say it's inconvenient or I don't want to do the work or... but I pro... when it gets down to it, I want to say yes to the Lord. You know, I have a habit I like to walk and pray. In fact, when it gets serious, I'll start walking and praying. When COVID happened, I saw sunrises for many weeks walking the fields talking to the Lord. Well, I've been out walking and praying these last few days again in the mornings. I like sunrise. I've told the story.
Some of you may remember years ago when the church was small, a couple hundred people, and we began to understand God was asking us to do something else, to be something else. We spent a couple of years doing work on the community trying to understand it and one of the numbers we came up with was that there was 100,000 people at that time in Rutherford County who didn't go to church. And we didn't want them all to come to our church, but we put a goal out there that we said for Easter 2000 we wanted to have 2,000 people for Easter worship. And we were a few years in front of that. It seemed impossible. I didn't think 2,000 people would come to church if we gave away $100 bills and the Hooters girls took up the offering... just to be candid.
But we set our goal with a 20% shift in participation and that first year it meant about 30 people, and I could believe God for 30 people if we all worked together over the course of a year. And we began to make those amends and we lived with that. We just lived with it year over year, and it became a point of prayer in my life day after day. And I remember I was in my car one day. I'd crossed, I was on Memorial, if you live here. I was coming back towards the church. I know the traffic light I was at, and I heard the Lord on the... I was praying for those 2,000 people 'cause it was just, I heard the Lord say, "Why so few"? And I'm thinking, "Well..."
And I took a lesson away, from that day until today, I never again made the ministry that I am engaged in with a number like, "We're going to go reach this many people," or do that 'cause I thought, and God true to form has multiplied it beyond anything anybody would have imagined. I tell you all that... some of you know me. You can get ahead of me on this story. So I've been out praying 'cause $30 million is a huge number to me. I don't, like, have that in my pocket. Scary zeroes. And so I'm out praying, walking and saying, "Lord". And the Lord doesn't talk to me like every day. He doesn't shout at me. I heard inside of me that same voice, "Why so small"? I'm not moving the target on you, but I can tell you based on my experience with the Lord, whether it's today, I don't know God's timing and all of those, but we're going to see the Lord do things we haven't seen him do before. I trust him.
Jesus commended the widow because she gave her reserve away. Here's the important part. She didn't know that. She didn't hear Jesus's affirmation. He gave that message to the disciples. You and I are making life choices and we won't see the full reward of that until we step out of time. Choose the Lord anyway. Forgive frequently. Be generous with your time, your attention, even your resources. Lay up treasure in heaven. Stop clutching at something you can't keep. That's insanity by definition. Let's pray:
Father, give us the wisdom to know how to prioritize our time, our energy, our resources that we might lay up treasure in heaven. May you be pleased with us. May you use us as an example of wisdom for living. In Jesus's name, amen.