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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Revolutions and Revivals - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Revolutions and Revivals - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Revolutions and Revivals - Part 1
TOPICS: Revolution, Revival, Easter

It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "Revolutions and Revivals," but it's Good Friday. We call it Good Friday because of what Jesus accomplished for us, but our friend, it's the most difficult of days. And we don't ever wanna forget the price that's been paid for you and I to have the privilege of being included in the kingdom of God. We don't join a church, we're not just members of a religion, we're not just good people, or tame people, or polite people. We have been welcomed into the eternal kingdom of a living God because of the sacrifice of our Lord, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth. If you don't know him in a personal way, today's the day. It's not enough just to be a church member. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart to the Lord.

The title for this session is "Revolutions and Revivals". I believe in both of them. Revolutions typically begin in urban centers. There's a reason for that. In those places you find greater concentrations of poverty and higher numbers of young people who can be more easily instigated to change, and if led improperly, to violence. Revivals typically begin in more rural settings. There's a reason for that. They're further away from authority and from those concentrations of power, but inevitably once those revivals begin, they spread to the population centers. Our Bible bears that reality out. Jesus's public ministry began in Galilee, the rural, more remote part of the nation of Israel. Tens of thousands of people lined the hillsides to hear him speak and to benefit from the miracles and the things that Jesus was showing to them.

But inevitably he found his way to Jerusalem, and he bumped into the power structure there and ultimately they said they couldn't tolerate the things he was doing. Things like healing the sick and opening blind eyes and raising the dead. They couldn't have that because it disrupted their power structure. Jesus was a revolutionary. You may have thought of him as a Savior or a teacher or a miracle worker or a healer, but beneath all of those things, be certain of this: he was a revolutionary. His kingdom is of another realm. It's not an earthly kingdom. He said that himself to Pilate, the Roman governor. And Jesus's revolution begins within us, not within governments or nation states or population centers. The good news of the gospel is the hope of personal transformation, that you and I can be different.

Now, we can't do that by sheer force of our will or determination or personal grit. We need a power beyond ourselves, and that is the beauty of the gospel. We're not held captive by our circumstances. Our past does not have the power to hold us captive, not even our own failures, nor does the lack of power, or a lack of wealth or education. Those things don't separate us from the promise of the good news of Jesus Christ. Everyone is welcome. It's the message the church has for the world. The access point is the same for all. But there are several of you in front of me, and we're outside, so you have a little bit of license. Don't let the dogs out-worship you, okay? If our canine friends know to respond, so do you. I paid for him to pinch his dog at just that right point. The awkward truth is Jesus has been a stumbling block since he first stepped into history, and he still is.

In fact, your realignment with him will not remove adversity from your life. The awkward truth is it may very well increase. You will, however, discover something: that you have an advocate who fears nothing, who is sovereign over all, and most importantly, who cares for you. In Matthew 10, and verse 32, Jesus was speaking and the words ring true to us today, "Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who's in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who's in heaven. Do not think I came to bring peace on the earth. I didn't come to bring peace, but a sword". Jesus very candidly said, "I came to bring division".

Those who don't know him, they just know about Christianity or know of Christianity, they wrongly say that Christianity should be a force for unification. That's not the message Jesus came. He prayed for our unity, that those of us who are believers would learn to stand together. We don't often do very well at that. But the truth is Jesus is a dividing line drawn through human history. Empires have raged against him. Leaders, dictators, governmental structures, all sorts of expressions of authority have stood in opposition to Jesus, and yet the church of Jesus Christ persists in the earth today. You're far more significant than you know, far more valuable to the heart of God and to the purposes of God. We have wrongly imagined ourselves to think we are church attenders or that we affiliate ourselves with a denomination or a congregation. And none of those things are inherently wrong, but they're the wrong perspective on our faith.

We are children of the King. The One who created heaven and earth knows you by name. You are valuable in the earth. The condition of your heart is the difference-maker in the direction of history. You're not powerless. We've watched a year of unprecedented things, unimaginable things. I've done dozens and dozens of interviews with Christians across the nation and everybody asks the same question, "Pastor, what can we do? What can we do"? And that's the point of this discussion today. I want to hand you three response points, three simple ideas, three separate invitations. You may choose to respond to one of them, you may choose to respond to none of them, or you may choose all three. Well, the first invitation I wanna present to you is centered in the idea that there's been a way opened for you to have a relationship with God.

You know, there is a God, and he can be known. He's not a mystery. He's not just a divine power that's somewhere beyond us or beyond knowing. The great reality of the Bible is that there's a Creator of all things, and he has a desire to be in relationship with you. I don't know what famous people or important people or significant people may be in your sphere of influence, but there is no greater invitation into your life than to know the Creator of all things. He's interested in our well-being. I'm telling you, it's a reason to get dressed up on Easter morning. In Ephesians chapter 2, and verse 12, it says, "Remember that you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world".

If you're without God in the world, you may not know you don't have hope today, but there are circumstances before you that without God will be hopeless. What God brings to the equation is hope. In the face of any circumstance, there's a power beyond that circumstance. There's a resolution beyond our strength, beyond our intellect, beyond our wisdom, beyond our group abilities. The power of the church is not in our number. In fact, the Scripture tells us that God doesn't need our numbers to accomplish his purposes. He needs our hearts yielded to him. There's another verse in Hebrews chapter 10, and verse 19. The book of Hebrews is written to Jewish believers, so they understand the language of the Tabernacle and the temple and Jewish tradition, and the author of Hebrews presumes that a bit. It says, "Brothers, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus".

The most holy place isn't the church or the altar or the front of the sanctuary. The most holy place refers to a very specific part of the temple, and before that, the tabernacle. The first structure where the people of God ever worshiped inside was in a tent. God gave Moses the instructions after the exodus from Egypt. And there was an outer courtyard that the people had access to, but there was an inner part of the tabernacle where only the priest could come. And there was two spaces in there. The outermost space was the holy place, but beyond that there was a thick curtain that separated it from the Holy of Holies. And in the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. There was no external light source in there. It was only illuminated by the presence of the Spirit of God. The shekinah glory of God would illuminate the Holy of Holies.

And the author of Hebrews says there's a new and a living way opened for us through that curtain. You see, only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and he could only go there one day a year. And then he would have to go with the blood of a lamb, a sacrificial lamb, in a basin. Tradition says that if they've made a mistake, they'd be put to death in that place. So they would go in with a rope tied around their ankles so they could at least drag the body out, 'cause nobody was goin' in after them. It's a sacred thing to be in the presence of a Holy God. We've treated God too casually. We've taken him off his throne and tried to make him our buddy. And I believe one of the things God is awakening us to that we need a God who's more than just a buddy. We need a God who's a Creator. We need a God who's sovereign over all. We need a God who isn't intimidated by any threat or any pandemic or any order.

The strength and the courage of the church comes from our relationship with God, not the organizational affiliations we have. He's awakening us to that truth again, a new and a living way opened for us through the curtain. Then in that same book, Hebrews chapter 4, and verse 14, it says, "We have a great High Priest who's gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we don't have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way". Did you know you have a great High Priest? You don't need Pastor Allen as your intermediary with God. You have a High Priest, the man Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father. He makes intercession for you day and night.

It's important to know him. Because Jesus, verse 16 says, "Let us," that would be all. I can give you the Southern translation, "Y'all then can approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". We can approach the throne of the Creator of heaven and earth with confidence. There's been a living way opened through that curtain. Hallelujah! Whatever challenge we face, whatever obstacle is before us, your prayers, your attitude, your voice carry with them an authority that comes before the throne of the Creator of all things. That is good news. Matthew 27 describes the event when the curtain was torn in two. The picture is Jesus on the cross, and he's just about finished. His strength has been broken. His body has been broken. He's just about suffocated to death. It says, "When Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he gave up his Spirit. And at that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And the earth shook and the rocks split".

Matthew chose his words I believe very intentionally. The curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. The tearing of that curtain, the removal of that barrier was initiated by God. When we think of a curtain, we think of a rather flimsy piece of fabric that covers a window, either as decoration or perhaps to mitigate light that's coming through the window. But the curtain in the temple was different from that. Think more like a Persian rug. It was thick, and God tore that in two so the people who kept it, who were responsible for that most holy space, the religious leaders of the people, the people most trained in the truth, at least in theory, would know that there was a new way opened into the holy place. It was an affirmation of who Jesus was, but it was a message for all the ages that everyone was now welcome in the presence of God. It's what the author of Hebrews said, "We can come boldly before the throne of grace".

Not on the day when you feel most righteous or holy or good, but you can come in your time of need, in your darkest hour, in the deepest pit of your failure. You can come before the throne of mercy because of our High Priest. I brought some silly little props for my Easter sermon, 'cause I have a feeling you'll forget the words of my sermon, but you'll remember some of my goofy props, and I don't want you to forget to three invitations. This first invitation is to know that there's a new and a living way into the presence of God. Whoever you are, and whomever you have been, or wherever you have been, there is a way for you into the presence of God. And this is not just an invitation for beginners.

Folks, if there's anything we're being awakened to, it's those of us who are Christ followers and have walked with the Lord for a while. We need to understand there is a new and a living way for us into the presence of the King, because the challenges before us are new. We've never seen them before. The opposition that's being expressed towards us is something we've never experienced in the way we're seeing it now. And there's a hope for us. I can't tear a Persian rug, but I found a piece of purple cloth. Purple for the royalty of our King. But I don't want you to ever forget that the only barrier between you and God is the condition of your heart. There's no demon in hell, there's no expression of evil, there's no failure from a church leader, there's no disappointment, there's no shortcoming in your family system, there's nothing that describes your life that can keep you from God.

When God tore that curtain in two, when he separated it, there was a new and a living way made for you and for me to approach the throne of grace and find help in our time of need. Please don't imagine that's a prayer for the sinner that needs to be saved. That's a prayer that every one of us needs. That's a truth that every one of us needs tucked in our heart. We haven't had anybody come by helicopter yet, but it'd be a good day. We'll get him a chair down front. You'll have to tell them about the curtain. They missed it, all right? I'm gonna ask you to say a prayer with me. It's a prayer we typically associate with the new birth. If I'm helping somebody that wants to be a Christ follower, I tell them they don't have to join the church.

It's not about a building or a denomination or a congregation. It's about church with a capital C, the body of Christ. And you're only way into that group is through a birth, a new birth, Jesus said, and that's initiated by what you believe in your heart and you say with your mouth. But you and I repeatedly need a fresh breath of life. The church desperately needs resurrection life this Easter. And this prayer works for every time we need that resurrection life, so I'm gonna ask you to repeat it with me. If you've never made it as a profession of faith over your life, I encourage do. Welcome to the kingdom. But if you're a grizzled veteran with a long list of Sunday school kids, there are places we need new life today. Let's pray this prayer together. You can just repeat it after me:

Almighty God, I'm a sinner, and I need a Savior. I believe Jesus of Nazareth is your Son. I believe he died on a cross for my sins, and I believe you raised him to life again that I might be justified. Almighty God, forgive me of my sins. I forgive all who sinned against me. Jesus, be Lord of my life, Lord of all that I have, all that I am, all that I'll ever be. I'll serve you with my whole heart, mind, soul, and body. Amen.

Hallelujah! Now, you have a life-giving prayer. It's in your portfolio. You can download it with the sermon app. It's printed right there. Put it on your phone, in your Bible, whatever you keep with you. If you meet somebody that needs it, share it with them. When you're in a dark place, say it over your life. Your words have spiritual authority.

Folks, we're in a new place. So much has happened since we last gathered together for an Easter service. Almost any place you look, the landscape is different. The government is insinuated themselves into our lives in ways that we never imagined possible, exerting ever greater control. For decades, we'd seen the abortion defended in our nation as a person's right to choose. Nobody can tell me what to do with my body, even if it means I want to terminate a life of a child. No one can tell me what to do with my body, until this year and they could. You stand your body here and put a mask on it. Don't stand too close to that person with your body. You take your body home and don't take your body to church. And we said okay. Censorship has been broadly implemented. And shockingly, there's been little response from those that we've imagined who were charged with defending our civil liberty and our right to free speech.

In the current environment, if an opinion is unwelcome in the public square, they just label it hate speech and shut you down or scream racist or sexist or misogynistic And they're not looking for particularly egregious offenders. Mr. Potato Head was singled out. Dr. Seuss, we couldn't tolerate that. We are experiencing the intentional dismantling of the rule of law. It's underway. It's not something in the future. It's happening today in an unprecedented way around us right before our eyes. Our police departments have been defunded, and when violent crime escalates they act as if they don't notice or can't imagine why. Our borders are open. We're opposed to fences, but our schools are closed and the Capitol has a fence around it. Something is being dismantled and something else is being instigated. We've got to be awake and aware and have a faith in God.

The trust in public institutions is cratering, places that we once held in the highest esteem. The FBI, the CDC, the WHO, even churches now seem to be more tools for manipulation and control. The awkward truth is we are bankrupt. We're bankrupt financially, but they send us a check so we pretend like we don't notice. We're bankrupt morally. We can't seem to find our voice to stand up for the truth. I saw a presentation this past week on CNN that said according to science, it was impossible at a child's birth to determine its sex. I grew up on a farm, and long before I knew anything about science, and I've been in a few science classes, we figured that one out. It was so ludicrous. It was so ludicrous even they printed an amendment. We have come to a place of such moral bankruptcy that those kind of statements can be issued into the public square and there's very little response.

So the question I'm asked over and over and over again is, "What can we do, Pastor? What can we do"? And the reality is the way we have behaved as a church in the past is not adequate for this season. Gathering at our buildings and singing our favorite hymns and reading from our favorite translation and fighting over parking places and my assigned seat doesn't make much sense now. We have to be aware of who we are, children of the King, that we are participants of an eternal kingdom that extends beyond time. And before we have citizenship in a nation or a local community, we are citizens of an eternal kingdom.

It's important for the church to be awakened for that. We have to be the church. We have to choose the truth. We have to submit to God, serve the King. We have to say no to ungodliness. It's not the Pagans or the wicked or the immoral who God is trying to awaken, it's us. We're his messengers. We're the ones with the message of reconciliation for this generation. What a privilege. When God looked across the span of human history, and he saw this time at the end of the ages, he chose you and me. Before you get puffed up about that, in Corinthians it says, "God chose the foolish, and the simple, and those that weren't from noble places". That's how we got recruited. Isn't that good to know?

I think we often make being a Christ follower more difficult than it needs to be. It's not so much about a systematic theology or learning Greek or Hebrew or learning when to stand up or sit down at church or the right place to raise your hands during a worship chorus. It's a decision on a daily basis to honor the Lord. There's a distinction between making a profession of faith and deciding to live for the sake of Jesus of Nazareth. Wherever you go and wherever God takes you, we go as ambassadors for him, every one of us could understand that. I wanna pray for you that we'll have a new boldness and a new courage to be Jesus's friends wherever we go. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you for your Word and its truth and for the privilege of participating in your kingdom, and I pray now that you will give us a new boldness, a new courage, that we'll be willing to share with anyone we meet the fact that we love Jesus of Nazareth and we have chosen to serve him as king in our lives. I thank you for it in Jesus's name. Amen.

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