Allen Jackson - God or Satan - Part 2
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It's an honor to be with you again. Our topic is "The Power to Be Different," and we're gonna complete this study on the authority over our lives. I wanna plant a seed before you begin the lesson proper. Are you trying to be a Christian? 'Cause, if you are, I wanna give you permission to stop. Folks, when the outcomes matter, trying is not enough. I don't want the person piloting the plane I'm on "to try". I want them to train. And we've been trying to be Christ-followers. We need a different path. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Open your heart.
We trot out our spiritual resume. John said, "I wanna see the fruit of your life". Jesus said, "If you were Abraham's children, descendants, you wouldn't be treating this way". We imagine that we have checked all the right boxes for faith. Again, just a question for your own reflection: Does your life, does my life, do our lives give evidence of that? Your response to Jesus will determine your future and your faith. Here's what we can tell from those passages we're reading. Jesus's audience had very little self-awareness, very little self-awareness. They had some combination of things that had left them spiritually blind. It's not fully spelled out to us, so we're left to try to understand that to a degree, some combination of pride or self-righteousness or worldliness or greed or legalism or covetousness or immorality.
Again, they're not identified by category, but they are spiritually blind. They're talking to the Messiah, who is working miracles and speaking the truth to them, grounded in their Scripture, and they don't recognize him. You see, a struggle in the midst of the people of God to recognize truth is not new, and we are very, very reluctant to acknowledge that about our current generation. We just wanna act like we don't notice. We wanna look the other way. We wanna cover our ears and just say, "It's not that big a deal". It is a big deal if we deny the authority of Scripture. It's a big deal if we deny a biblical worldview around human sexuality and morality. It's a big deal if we deny a biblical perspective on marriage. It's a big deal if we ignore God's commentary on how we deal with our time and our treasure. Once we've had a designer faith for long enough, what's that gotten us?
Look at John 19. This time, it's Jesus with Pilate. Many of you know the story. It's Easter time. It's appropriate from a timing schedule. He's being interviewed by Pilate, and "Pilate said, 'Do you refuse to speak to me?'" Jesus has been silent. "'Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' And Jesus answered, 'You'd have no power over me if it weren't given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'" He didn't say, "You're without sin," but he said, "The ones that handed me over to you have an even greater guilt than you do". Do you understand that? God is a just judge. We've got sloppy justice in our lives. Jesus said, "You're as guilty, but there are those with even greater guilt than yours," but he doesn't stop there. "From then on," it says, "Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, 'If you let this man go, you're no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be our king opposes Caesar.'"
Now, with just a casual glance at that little passage, there are some things we can conclude: Pilate understands political power, political authority. He said it from his own mouth. He said, "Do you not understand? I have the power to have you crucified or to set you free". Pilate has clarity about at least some of the authority that's been entrusted to him. What's equally clear is that Jesus is aware of an even greater power and authority. He said, "That's true. You would happen to be the governor of Judea, but the only way you got the job is my Dad nominated you". Folks, the church today doesn't live like we believe there's a higher authority. See, we don't hold the imagination. At least we don't hold a very high that, if we would change our hearts and change our behaviors and change our passions that there's an authority higher than elected officials that could right the ship.
So we keep investing our hope and our dreams and our future in secular solutions. It's maddening. We keep saying, "The next election will fix us". How many elections do we have to have? Jesus knew that Pilate's political power was granted by God first, not Rome. Pilate lacked the courage to face the public pressure or the possibility of professional failure. He knows Jesus is innocent. He knows he's about to condemn an innocent man, but the public pressure was pretty intense. They're shouting at him, "You gotta do something," and there's a very real chance that there could be some professional sacrifice if he releases this rabbi because, if riots break out in Jerusalem and it gets back to Rome, there'll be a question about his leadership, and he could forfeit a great deal, so rather than forfeit an opportunity or change the trajectory of his career or stand up to public pressure, he concedes.
We've been conceding for decades. Don't bring your faith into the corporate setting, so we didn't. Did God give us permission to go undercover? I'm sorry, did God give us permission to begin denying our faith in the public square? What has happened to us? Who's told us we're okay? We're gonna have to begin to say, "Lord, I'm sorry. I've wanted the approval of people. I thought I had to navigate this thing on my own, so I just kind of put you on the side, and if I can find a safe place where everybody was like-minded, I was all in, but the rest of the time, I kind of forgot your name". I'm intrigued by a statement in that passage we read. Verse 12, it says, "From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free". "He tried to set Jesus free". "He tried to set Jesus free".
Do you think when Pilate stepped out of time, and he stepped into the presence of Jesus again? You know, he'll have that meeting. Do you think, if he says, "Listen, I really tried. Really, I did. You know I did. You were there that day. Remember the crowd shouting? You saw me. I said, 'I don't find anything wrong with him.' I tried. I even went and got Barabbas out of the jail. He was the worst of the lot. I thought there was no chance they would choose Barabbas over you. I tried. Really, I tried. You know I tried". And what was Jesus gonna say? "Oh, group hug. Bless your heart. That was a hard place you were in". Folks, when the outcome really matters, trying is not enough. Trying's not enough.
So here's my question: What have we been training for? If you just took a casual glance, many of you have years of experience around church and contemporary American Christianity. Based on your experience, what are we training for? "Um, parking Places aren't convenient," "Somebody sat in my seat," "Sermon was too long," "Didn't like the music," "That was not the worship leader I like, ugh". What are we training for? What have we been training for? See, what authority have we been living under? Look in 1 Timothy chapter 4. See, the essence of training is the intent to be different. I'm interested, a little poll question, real quickly: How many of you believe, if we're going to experience freedom and liberty for our children and grandchildren, that the current church is gonna have to be different? Okay, that's us.
So training is really about the intent to be different. Now, we would like a different outcome, but what we would really like is a different outcome and us not be different. Well, I'm gonna suggest you, we're kind of in Jonah's boat at this point, that we're more like in Jonah's fish. What are we going to say? 1 Timothy 4, "Train yourself to be godly. Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things". "Train yourself to be godly". Then Paul makes the analogy between physical training and training yourselves to be godly. Spiritual training. And we would think you'd lose a lot of weight and have a tremendous change in your physical appearance if you exercise. Are you focused on your physical health about 40 minutes a week? The other 6 days and 23 hours, you could do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, but for 40 minutes, you are focused, right?
For 40 minutes, I say the right things, and I read the right things, and I sit with the right people, but the rest of the week... how many think you'd think really trim down, get healthy? Yeah, me either. Paul said, "Train yourself to be godly". Physical training has some value. Maintaining your earth suit is a part of the assignment, but spiritual training, he says, has more value. So, if I was gonna give you the components of training, one, it's about learning. You need some information. We gotta grow, but most of us are educated way beyond our level of obedience. So the real learning is how to give application to it, and the best way adults learn is by trial and error.
Adults don't learn principally by accumulating great amounts of information. When you're young and you can soak all that stuff up, that works, but as you get older, you've got to actually have some application. We gotta start acting like this matters, and you'll find the places where you don't know and the outcomes don't work, and then you come back with bigger ears and say, "I need to know something else about this". It includes learning. A second component of training is motivation. You really have to want a different outcome. You can't be tolerant. "It'd be okay with me. You know, it wouldn't offend me if God moved". You have to be motivated. "I'm gonna change. I'm gonna change my habits. I'm gonna confront bad habits. I'm gonna initiate new habits. I'm gonna make sacrifices. I'm willing to be uncomfortable".
If you ever trained for anything, it's uncomfortable. In fact, if you're not getting uncomfortable, your training is not very diligent. And the third part of training is discipline. There is no training without discipline. There's no academic training. There's just no training without some discipline. You have to have disciplined thoughts. You have to have discipline of your emotions. We are so undisciplined emotionally. "Well, nobody can tell me how to feel," as if you've just declared something that is just completely inviolable. "I know how I feel". Okay, but it doesn't mean all of our feelings are godly or right, and when I find myself with feelings that don't honor the Lord and I give them expression through a choice to give them behaviors, I've put myself under an authority other than the Lord. We're gonna have to have disciplined thoughts, disciplined emotions, and we're gonna have to have disciplined actions.
This isn't some new idea. Luke 11, "Jesus was praying. And when he finished, his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray. Teach us to pray.'" Most of us will say things like, you know, "I don't pray that much. I'm not really that kind of a prayer. Don't pray in public. Don't pray out loud. Don't pray with my family. Don't pray with my coworkers. Don't pray much with the people I go to church with". Well, could we talk about when you do pray? And are we willing to learn to pray? Jesus was a person of prayer. So just, perhaps, as Christ-followers, depending upon our Lord, who is our model, maybe we should begin to develop a portfolio of prayer. Teach us to pray.
We're gonna need prayer before we finish this current assignment. I didn't put it in your notes, I ran out of room, but you can check me in Jeremiah chapter 9, in verse 5, there's an interesting statement. It's on the other end of the spectrum. It says that "friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie". I would say there's... when I think about the energy and the effort that is spent, the messaging that cascades over us, teaching our tongues to lie, that we're gonna have to give ourselves with some focus to training ourselves to be godly. Now, Jesus promised us some help. In John 16, he said, "I have much more to say to you". He's preparing his disciples for his exit, and they are not happy. And he said, "I've got a lot more I need to say to you, more than you can now bear".
The compassion of Jesus amazes me. He said, "You're emotionally full. There's some information you need, but you can't hear anymore, but when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own. He'll speak only what he hears, and he'll tell you what is yet to come". He said, "I'm gonna send you help", and he will guide you into all truth. I wonder if we could put, kind of, a benchmark out and say, "Let's stop speaking about the person of the Holy Spirit in terms of limits. Let's stop telling him where he's not welcome and what we won't do". If you find it, it's in the Bible, and you believe it's legitimate, put yourself in line and raise your hand. Are you with me?
We have talked about the Holy Spirit. We have had seminars about the person of the Holy Spirit. We have debates about...we do all of this stuff, but we have very, very, very slight intent of truly participating with him. We say things like, "Well, you know, I don't know how I feel about that". There we go again, giving your feelings the preeminent place in your life. "Well, I don't know too much about that". Well, how about the discipline of learning? Jesus said, "There's a lot you need to know that we can't talk about yet 'cause you can't take it, but I'm sending you help and he will guide you into all the truth". To navigate what's before us, we are gonna need the help the guidance and the direction of the Spirit of God. We're gonna have to be willing to listen.
So I wanna wrap this up with an application. I wanna talk about the power of proclamation. The word "to proclaim," comes from a Latin word, which means literally just "to shout forth," something you're going to say loudly, somewhat forcefully. It's a strong word. There's a related word that's used in the New Testament that we probably know a little better. It's confession. They're similar. "Confession" shouldn't be understood to mean only, you know, "to acknowledge" or "to reveal something". Confession carries with it another meaning, and it's "to say the same as". We have the great confessions of the church where we repeat the fundamentals of our faith.
So when we think about proclamation or confession, we are saying what God has said about us. Most of the great confessions of the church had been written from the Scripture. Hebrews 3. I didn't put it in your notes. I ran out of room. Actually, you ran out of room. It's in my notes, ha. I have more pages, but you can check. It's in the Bible. Hebrews 3:1, says, "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession". Jesus has a priestly relationship with our confession. When we give voice to what the Word of God says about us, we release an authority over our lives. And some of you go, "I don't believe that". I know, that's why I've taken just a moment with it. We're in training. We're learning. "Well, I've never done that much". Great, we're growing up. "Proclamation" is "an assertive confession". The simplest way I know to say it, "I will declare what the Word of God says about my life".
In 1 Peter, chapter 2, you do have this. This is Peter, nearing the end of his life, the fishermen Jesus recruited. He said, "You're a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may", do something, "that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light". I don't believe he's talking about music and some public worship service. I'm not opposed to that, but we've almost idolized those kind of expressions of musical worship. I'm not opposed to it, but you better spend more time proclaiming what God has said about you than you ever spend just singing along with whomever. We want to make a declaration over our lives about what God has said about us because we need his authority. I don't want there to be any question about whose authority I'm leading my life under.
Now, we may do it haltingly, we may do it imperfectly, but we intend to comply with God's direction when we understand it. We don't want to willfully, purposefully practice disobedience or indifference. What is more maddening than indifference? We ever tried to get somebody to cooperate, and they kind of roll their eyes, "Whatever"? You're trying to have a conversation, and they're looking everywhere but at you. On their phone. To what extent have we truly been listening when we were trying to do something other than to get God do our bidding? Do we really wanna listen? I don't want God to have to shout at me. So I brought you some proclamations.
Actually, I really put it together as a single proclamation, and I pulled it out of the Psalms, then I gave you the references to the Psalms. I just took the statements of the psalm and put it in a bit more contemporary English. I'm not suggesting it's an equivalent to Scripture, but it is a way of declaring what the Word of God has said about you, and we're not gonna read them all together tonight. We will. Over these next few weeks, we'll make this entire proclamation of God's faithfulness together, but I wanna give it to you so you can begin to cultivate the habit of saying what God has said about you, amen?
So, well, I did that for three days, and nothing happened. Bless your heart. That's kind of like deciding to get healthy, and you go buy all the new workout clothes and the new shoes. You go get a three-year membership at the gym, and three days in, you're standin' in front of the mirror, and you're so discouraged. We've only been there, you've been there three times, but the first time was to sign up. The second time was to inspect the facilities to be sure you were really gonna be comfortable working out, and you worked out once, and you feel miserable, and now you're standing in front of the mirror, going, "I knew it wouldn't work". That's a little bit with the way we treat the Lord. You know, we go try something, then we go back, and then we went twice. "Oh, I'm in there twice".
Won't you stand with me? This first stanza is taken from Psalms 16. Let's just read it together. It's a declaration. We wanna give it authority in our lives, in our congregation, in our community, in our state, wherever the Lord's given us influence. I want the high priest in my confession to have some tools at his disposal. See, we complain, and we grumble, and we get frightened. People don't wanna look, and they don't wanna talk about what's happening 'cause they feel threatened. Folks, evil should be threatened about the Spirit of God in the earth, yeah. Let's read this first stanza together:
I will praise the Lord with all that is within me. I will praise the Lord in my thoughts, with my words and with my actions. His benefits are magnificent, may I never forget a single one. He pardons all my iniquities. He heals all my diseases. He redeems my life from the pit. He crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion. He satisfies my years with good so that my youth is renewed like the eagle. My God is faithful.
Hallelujah. I bet we could do one more, huh? Can you read that second stanza?
Lord, you have chosen my time and location. You and you alone secure my life. Circumstances have fallen for me in pleasant places. God has reserved for me a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord. He counsels me even as I walk through dark places. I have set my attention on the Lord. God's abiding presence ensures I will not be shaken. My God is faithful, amen.