Allen Jackson - False Gods and a Different Gospel - Part 1
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It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "False Gods and a Different Gospel". Folks, for far too long, we've looked for our salvation, our deliverance, from almost every imaginable source except Almighty God. We've been in church. We've had our Bibles. We've even made professions of faith, but we've imagined governments or politics or economics or a better job or academics, something would be our salvation. Jesus of Nazareth is our Savior, and we've chosen other things. We've chosen unwisely. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
We're beginning a new series this week. This would be the second session. It'll lead us up to and, I really imagine, through Easter. Talking about the "Power to Be Different". I would submit to you that it was just a casual glance at the world in which we live. You don't need a great deal of discernment to understand that there's some changes needed, that the direction in which we're traveling is not leading us to a good place, and we seem to be gaining momentum. The question is "How do we change that course?" and "How do we alter the momentum in which we're plunging, it seems, into destruction and chaos"?
Well, I don't think we're to out-organize evil or out-think evil or out-work evil. I think the only thing ultimately that evil will yield to is a power greater than itself, and therefore, we have to understand where that power resides, and it isn't within us in our strength or our intellect or our academic training that there is a God, and in a relationship with him, there's a power available to us to make a difference in our world. And in this session, I wanna look in a little more detail at "False Gods and a Different Gospel," because it seems, to me, they're flourishing around us, and they're creating a lot of confusion amongst those of us who fill churches.
I wanna start with a notion that's pretty simple that humanity apart from God in the biblical language is just lost. There's something that's been forfeited, that we're designed, the intent of the designer is that we be in relationship with the Creator, that absent that relationship, there is something forfeited in our life experience. It's incomplete. It's inadequate. In fact, it ultimately is destructive, and so this notion of being lost isn't about something that has been misplaced. It's the notion that something has been forfeited. You're familiar with the definition. We talk about "our youth being lost". It wasn't that we misplaced it. We didn't utilize it. Well, and that's the sense in which the Scripture presents to us the notion of "humanity is lost".
I wanna start in Luke 18, with an event from Jesus's ministry. He's approaching Jericho, one of the oldest cities on the face of the earth, and he meets, there's a blind man who's begging, and when the blind man hears the crowd that's going by, he asked what's happening and they tell him that Jesus from Nazareth is passing by. This is later in Jesus's ministry. By this point, he has a reputation of a miracle worker, a healer. And the blind man, we don't know how but has some awareness of who Jesus is, and he begins to cry out, "Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me". Then those that are leading Jesus through town, you know, it's a whole convoy of black SUVs. He's rollin' through town. They've got a destination.
A luncheon has been scheduled, and he's on his way, and this man interrupts the parade, and they tried to shut him down, but the more they tried to quiet him, "the more loudly he spoke, 'Have mercy on me,'" until finally Jesus stops, and he orders the man to be brought to him, and when he came near, Jesus asked him a question: "What do you want me to do for you"? Now, you know, with a casual read, you think, "What an obvious question," but I don't think it's obvious at all. I don't think there's anything obvious about this man's answer. He could've asked for alms, for lunch money. He could've asked that people in the community be reprimanded and told to treat him with more dignity.
When there are many things that seem more logical, more approachable, we're reading it with the vantage point of history and perspective and hindsight, which always brings a different kind of clarity. We've made some decisions about Jesus that were still very much yet in the breeze. Jesus was not being lauded in the way that we hold him in esteem. And when Jesus asked the man what he wants, he answers him with a sentence that, to this day, touches me. He said, "Lord, I wanna see. Lord, I wanna see. Lord, if you could do anything for me, I wanna see". He's lost. I'm not suggesting that physical limits make you lost. I'm suggesting there's something in that man's life that is forfeited, and you hear the desperation in him. He has disrupted something.
He's climbed over the obstacles and the people who would silence him, and when he finally gains Jesus's attention, he doesn't go in just a little bit. He's not halfhearted. He closes his eyes on the bottom of the ninth with two strikes and swings for everything he's worth. "I wanna see. I wanna see". Jesus says, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Here's a 20". "And Jesus said, 'Receive your sight. Your faith is healed you.' And immediately he received his sight, and he followed Jesus". No kidding. How close would you stay to Jesus?
See, I question the degree to which we understand what it means to be "converted," "born again," "saved," whichever language you prefer for that entrance into the kingdom of God to the degree we understand the magnitude of what's been done for us, we will stay close to Jesus because there is no one, there is nowhere, there is no thing that can do something that even remotely resembles what's done for us in that conversion. Something supernatural happens. We were lost, and we are found. Something that had escaped us, something that was beyond us, something that had been forfeited is restored to us, and the one who restored it has a name. It's not an institution or a denomination or a congregation or a building or a pastor or a minister or a politician. Jesus of Nazareth did that.
You wanna be as close to him as possible. You wanna do everything in your power to cause him to smile. If he has a suggestion, jump. If you think it is remotely pleasing to him, cooperate. Folks, being a Christ-follower is not really that complex. It's not easy, but it's not that complex, and if we recognize what he has restored to us, we will step close to him. Look at Matthew 9 and verse 35. It's another event in Jesus's ministry. "Went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom, healing every disease and sickness. And when he saw the crowds", he was annoyed by them because he didn't have any privacy. We've come a long way from actin' like Jesus. People are not an intrusion. "Amen, Pastor".
I can do both sides of this. It's all right. You just sit there. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.'" It's not a new problem. They were working from home back in the first century. Oh, come on. The definition, Jesus's observation, Matthew gives us the insight. He said Jesus thought that the people were harassed and helpless. He must've relayed that to the disciples. That was his analysis, his overview, his diagnosis. They're harassed. By whom or what are they harassed? Not Roman soldiers. There seemed to be something harassing them to which they were helpless to fend themselves.
There's a spiritual component to this, and Jesus's response is to look upon them with compassion and begin to alleviate their suffering. I just wanna walk those words past you because there's a lot of pretenders today in the public square for compassion. Jesus looked at the crowd with compassion. Compassion is when you recognize a need that you have sympathy for another person and you're moved to action, an action that will alleviate the suffering. Pity is different. Pity recognizes a sympathy, but you're just busy, and you move on. What I see as more prevalent and more destructive, to me, is a rather merciless response.
You see, if you recognize somebody's suffering and you offer them a solution that you know is no solution, that's not compassion, folks. It's a very destructive behavior. It's a false solution. Fundamentally, it's hatred. It's an indifference, but it's beyond indifference. It's a destructive indifference. "I not only don't care about you, but I'll offer you a platitude," and if you embrace it, it will put you in a greater deficit than where you are today. There's a quote that makes its way to us. I don't know if the attribution is really correct, but it's attributed to Marie Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution.
It's a very difficult time in France, obviously, and she was informed that the peasants were starving, that they didn't even have bread to eat, to which she famously responded, "Let them eat cake". It was an expression of complete indifference. She couldn't be bothered with it, and it seems, to me, we have too many voices in powerful places that simply wanna quiet the masses, and they'll offer them platitudes or false solutions, and they wanna be lauded as being compassionate when, in reality, if you embrace their solutions, they leave you with a greater deficit than you were at the beginning. We need the discernment to recognize the difference.
From a Christian perspective, I would bring you back to a very simple idea. This is not a complicated or complex series. We're gonna look at fundamentals of our faith because fundamentals matter in almost any endeavor. If it's a business, if it's athletics, if it's rearing a family, if it's preparing a meal, if it's building a building, the fundamentals matter. If you don't get the foundations right, everything that rests upon the foundations is suspect, and we've drifted a bit from our fundamentals. I'll give you an observation, if you'll allow. The fundamental condition of humanity today on a global basis, we need help. For all of our technology and all of our sophistication and all of our accomplishments and all of the things we can point to, you know, there's an arrogance with every generation.
With every generation, we think we're the most sophisticated and the most accomplished and the most technologically wonderful, and we point at the things that we believe ensure that, but the quality of our lives has far more to do with the character of humanity than it does with the things around us, and if we look at human character, it seems to be deteriorating rapidly. We need help. I spent a few minutes pulling some statistics, and, honestly, it became overwhelming to me. It was discouraging. I had to quit. It doesn't take much effort with the help of Rabbi Google to get some statistics about our world that are rather troubling.
Now, we've heard a lot about socialism and communism lately and the attributes that they represent to us as an ideology for authority, and without going into a great deal of the history, I would give you, over the last 100 years, and these statistics don't come from me. They come from people with a worldview that would be differently, different than mine, honestly. They say, over the last 100 years, more than 100 million people have died because of the influence of Communism, 100 million people. And about half of that number have died because of starvation and disease. It should forfeit any place at the table of community discussion about a way of exerting authority over human beings. It has failed.
We hear often about China and what a wonderful place that is and what a remarkable partner they are in building a better world order and establishing an idea in our world that will promote the development and the furtherance of humankind. I'm an ally for the Chinese people. With any strength the Lord gives me, I think they have suffered tremendous oppression over a lengthy period of time, and someone in the planet needs to have the courage to say that the freedom to share the gospel in China should be an absolute before we do business with them. But just a bit of recent Chinese history, not history from antiquity, from 1980 until 2016, some of you are old enough to remember those dates, China's official state policy from the Communist government was that each family was allowed one child.
Can you imagine the government dictating how many children you can have? That was their policy from 1980 through 2016. The result of that, the conservative number, for people with a different worldview than mine, was that it allowed, it incurred more than 300 million abortions in China. January of 2016, they had a change of heart. They expanded the policy to two children per household. Wow, what an expression of grace and mercy. In 2021, they expanded it to three children per household. Not because of compassion or mercy. Their demographic numbers were in the tank, and their future as a culture and society was written by statistics, and they responded to that. But we shouldn't rest on just one nation. Globally, annually, there's more than 75 million abortions that are induced. That's according to the WHO, that august body of truth and fact.
If you're counting, that's more than 200,000 a day, children's lives ended. Slightly different lane, but the children still suffer: 3.1 million children a year die from causes related to poor nutrition and hunger; 25,000 people a day die every day because of hunger. It's not a lack of food. It's not our inability to sustain the population. You know, some of you are old enough to remember the '80s and the '90s, and they told us we were all gonna starve to death. We couldn't grow enough food. The U.N.'s been scaring us for a long time. But it's not because there isn't food available. It's not delivered to the people who need it. There's a whole host of reasons. Some of them are political. Some of... they're ideological. Some are just reasons of selfish ambition. People are using the food and the relief aid that is delivered for their own personal gain, and people are starving.
There are 110 armed conflicts in our world according to the Geneva Academy. There are 45 in North Africa and the Middle East, places you're familiar with in the news: Syria, Turkey, Egypt. There's another 35 non-international conflicts in Africa alone. There are 21 armed conflicts in Asia. Again, names you are somewhat familiar with, I hope: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Myanmar, China. But it doesn't stop there. We can come home and just look at our nation, "the land of the free and the home of the brave". We are witnessing the intentional dismantling of the family. The building block, the foundation of our culture, of our peace, of our prosperity, it is being dismantled before our eyes. Marriage has been redefined by the state, and we're told not to talk about that. "It's a political issue". No, marriage begins in my Bible, not with a government agency. It's been redefined to include configurations which cannot create families, and nobody will say, "That doesn't seem right to me".
Parental authority is being questioned and diminished. Parental authority is being questioned and diminished in the public square. We hear absurd things being accepted as reality and promoted as law, ideas such as the teachers union should have more authority over your children in what they learn in schools than parents do. I don't think so. Children are being victimized in so many ways. If you prefer another lane, our economy, it's on life support. I know what they say, but the reality is printing dollars is no longer a feasible treatment for what ails us, and that's going to become abundantly clear in the near future. Lawlessness is escalating around us on a weekly basis, and they blame it upon everything, it seems, except the things that are really driving it.
We face a consistent denigration of law enforcement. They hold those people, who put their lives on the line for our protection and safety, up to a scrutiny that no profession could withstand, and when they find someone who misbehaves, and you can find people who misbehave, they become a national talking point to mock and denigrate and tear down those people who are serving us on a daily basis. It's unthinkable. Our military is no longer being trained and mobilized to protect us from adversaries or to win wars, but if we need to disband a group of people to host a seminar on equity and social change, we're apparently well prepared. And perhaps most distressing in the list is the church. I've spent my life in the church. I'm at least entitled to an opinion. And for the most part, we huddled in our buildings, afraid and distracted. We'd just rather not talk about it. We're having dinner on the deck of the Titanic.
"Please don't bother us about noises you heard". On the awkward part is the degree to which the church is becoming apostate. We still gather in our buildings, and we still have religious language, and we still choose occasionally a verse of Scripture that we like to think about while we relegate others to irrelevant or antiquated or certainly not inspired. We are rejecting the Orthodox tenets of our faith in a magnitude and a rapidity that we have never seen in the history of the American church. Where did we start this? We need help. The fundamentals matter. And we've got to come back to the fundamentals and embrace them and communicate them as if we believe they really matter. We were threatened by a virus from Wuhan. We started doing some radical things like washing our hands, paying attention to upon whom we sneezed, I mean, really radical stuff. It wasn't like we weren't aware of it. We just paid a whole lot more attention to it.
Well, I would submit to you, we're in a place where we need to pay a whole lot more attention to the fundamentals of our faith. First and foremost, as a fundamental, we need a Savior. Folks, we're not gonna save ourselves. We're not gonna work our way through this little downturn. It's more than an economic cycle or a season of bad leadership at some point because you don't particularly like the group that's been elected. As a somewhat interested observer, it seems, to me, no matter who we've sent, for several decades, from which side of the aisle or from wherever we found them, the outcomes have been eerily similar, and, yet we're so deluded, we imagine, "Oh, a new crop will change us". We need a Savior, and it's not a party or a politician.
Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 12, says, "Remember that at that time 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. But now". "Now" is a timing word. When does "now" mean? "Now". You are clever. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ". What brings us near to God in our world? Joining the right church? The right denomination? The right translation of the Bible? The right style of worship? The right day or time of the week to gather? No, it's through the blood of Christ.
"Christ" is the English equivalent of the Greek "Christos," the equivalent of the Hebrew "mashiach," "Messiah". The blood of the Messiah, the Son of God, is the only way to draw near to God. We need a Savior, and the church has to have the courage to deliver that message in every generation, or we drift further and further away from God. We are lost because we are apart from God. We're forfeiting contentment and hope and peace and security and a future for our children, not because of bad politicians but because we are lost and apart from God. We need help. We need a Savior, and that is the unique message of the church. We have apologized for it. We've been shy about it. We've been reticent. We've been reluctant to deliver the message. We act like, "Oh, I've heard that," and then we live like pagans. You can't choose the moral code that you want and ignore Scripture and imagine you're near to God. That's deception. It's a false gospel. God intervened. It's the second fundamental. We not only need a Savior. God intervened on our behalf. He sent Jesus.
Look at John 3, verse 14: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life". So how do you gain eternal life? How do you find your way into the kingdom of God? Is it the frequency with which you receive Communion? Is it the invitation at the end of a service? Is it sitting in a particular building? How do we secure that? This isn't a mystery. We need clarity on this, and we need to act as if we believe it's true. We need to act as if we believe it's more true than washing our hands would help us protect ourselves from things that might beset our immune system.
Hey, before we go, I wanna pray a prayer with you that we'll have a revelation of Jesus. I know we've talked about him a lot. You've read your Bibles. You've been in church. We need a fresh revelation of a living Jesus. It'll change everything.
Heavenly Father, I pray you'll give us an understanding heart to know more than history, to know more than pages from a Bible. Give us a revelation of a living Christ, that Jesus of Nazareth might be real in our hearts. It's in his name we pray, amen.