Allen Jackson - Insight and Understanding - Part 1
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It's a privilege to be with you again. Our topic today is insights and understandings into the end times pressures that we see all around us. The pace of change, the scope of change that we are witnesses to is unprecedented, certainly in our lifetime. Of the outcomes, God will determine. What we're asked to do is to be faithful in the midst of the turmoil. I don't want you to be discouraged, and I certainly don't want you to be frightened. God has called us to this season and he will give us everything we need for life and godliness in the midst of the turmoil, in the midst of the change. You don't need a cave in some hidden place with a stockpile of dehydrated food. We need to know how to recognize the voice of God so that we can follow his direction day by day. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly open your heart.
The topic is "End Times Pressures". And in this particular session with God's help, we're going to try to pull back the scripture to see if we can gain some insight and understanding about where we are and what God is doing and what we can anticipate. I would submit to you just in general terms, that we are witnesses to the approaching end of the age. And I understand there's a whole menu of opinions around that, and it's been an idea that has been bantered around for a long, long time, far beyond any of our lifetimes, for at least a thousand years in the church. But I'll start in John chapter 8, in verse 12. Jesus is speaking and he said, "I'm the light of the world and whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life".
I would submit to you: to successfully negotiate what is before us, the only reasonable imagination is to walk in the light. And I'm not talking about physical light, we will need spiritual light to navigate what is before us. It's one of the most deceptive times in history. You know that instinctively because you no longer know what to who to trust. You don't know what sources of information are actually telling you the truth. It's almost impossible to discern. And so we have to begin by being able to negotiate what true north is. If you can't establish true north, you will wander aimlessly. It's true physically and it's true spiritually. So Jesus said he's the light of the world. We have been given the necessary insight that we need to negotiate what is before us, if we will accept it.
So I'm going to invite you at the very beginning of this session not to sit in judgment apart from it. Decide that you're going to submit to the authority of the Word of God, not my opinion, not my interpretation, you wrestle with it on your own. When you see the Lord you will not get a pass because I was a poor presenter. "I'd have been a better Christ follower if Pastor Allen had been a better teacher". It won't work. So it's ultimately it's up to you, but we have been given the light that is necessary if we can accept it. I would add to that, it's not God's will that we walk in the dark. That's really good news because if you've ever had to walk in true darkness, it's dangerous. You can't see the obstacles, you can't see the threats, you don't know the terrain, and you it's a very...not only is it a slow process, it's a very dangerous process. But if we're going to have light, we're going to have to pay attention to God's Word.
2 Peter 3 and verse 3. This is the fisherman that Jesus recruited, but he's writing this letter very near the end of his life. His strength is diminished, his hair is gray, some of the brashness has been worked through him. And he gives us some counsel. He said he knows he's very near the end of his life. And he says, "First of all you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come". It intrigues me that when Peter knew his life was concluding that he was concerned about the Body of Christ, God's people generations beyond him. Folks, we've been pushed into a very self-centered corner. I hope you're living with an awareness beyond yourself. The narrowest possible circle you can live in is what's good for me. That's important and I'm not suggesting it isn't but don't let your life be dominated by that. "You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. And they'll say, 'Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'"
Now Peter wrote that almost 2,000 years ago but you can put it in the headlines today, lots of scoffers. You believe Jesus is coming back to earth? You think there's going to be an end of something? Things have always gone on like this, there have always been people that talk this way, why should you be any different? I just want to point out that 2,000 years ago a fisherman recruited by the shores of Galilee told us we would have to face that. There's one significant difference in this time than all the others and it's a very significant one. It was 70AD when the Roman legions surrounded Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, tore down the walls of the city. From 70 AD until 1948 Israel did not exist as a nation.
The Jewish people were scattered to the four corners of the earth, in most cases suffering great persecution. But in 1948, at the end of World War II, with all the drama around that and when the tragedy of the Holocaust became public knowledge, the leaders of the nations of the world knew it when it was happening. When it became public knowledge, Eisenhower sent the media into the camps. There was enough sentiment for the Jewish people that the nation of Israel was born. It was May of 1948. And the biblical presentation of the world at the conclusion of the age includes the Jewish people living in their promised inheritance, that piece of land at the end of the Mediterranean.
So there's a component in this puzzle that has not been true for almost two millennia. And as it's not only true today, it continues to flourish, tiny Israel continues to flourish. The regathering of the Jewish people to the land that was promised them set the stage for the final drama that will bring about the close of this age. There there's two things I can tell you that God is doing. There's many, but there's two that are very clearly happening and they're happening simultaneously. One is that reestablishment of the Jewish people in the land. He didn't just bring them back, he has begun to cause them to flourish. I have watched this with my own eyes.
I made my first trip to Israel when I was a boy, my parents took me. I was in the 6th grade and it was still very much a developing country. You couldn't drink the water unless it was boiled, you couldn't eat, if they served you food that wasn't cooked, you shouldn't have eaten it. The roads we drove on were all two lanes, many of them were gravel and tarred. It was very clear it was still an emerging country. If you visit Israel today, many people do, the food is remarkable, the hotels are beautiful, the beaches are delightful. Many people visit Israel, not on a pilgrimage, not to understand biblical history, they just go for a vacation because of the beauty of the nation. They lead the world in so many categories. God has fulfilled his word in a very short span of time amidst the most improbable of circumstances.
In 1948, May the 7th, when the nation of Israel was recognized formally, war was declared immediately. Six Arab armies. The British, as they withdrew from the land, gave the strategically significant places to those Arab legions. They represented more than 40 million people sworn to the destruction of the state, newly formed state of Israel, and at that time there were only about 650,000 Jews in the land of Israel. It was impossible. And they survived. And in the midst of that hatred and constant pressure, there has been continual, unrelenting pressure upon the state of Israel since its inception. And tiny Israel has flourished. God is doing that. He is also purifying his church. You missed a good chance for an amen. He's not just expanding it, he's purifying it.
The same pressure that has been applied to the Jewish people that has forced them to stand in unity together or be totally overrun. There's pressure being applied to the church of Jesus Christ because Jesus said we would stand in unity. God is purifying his church. In fact, I would submit to you there are significant parallels between the restoration of Israel and the restoration of the church. If you'll allow me, I would submit that Christ followers have a need of restoration that's just as great as the needs confronting the Jewish people. I talked about that in great, or at least in more detail in a previous session. I don't want to spend our time there today. I do want to go to the days of Noah and Lot with a message that Jesus gave us in Luke 17.
Again, Jesus is speaking, he said, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of man. People were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up till the day Noah entered the Ark. And the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot, people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from Heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of man is revealed".
Now the days of Noah and the days of Lot, I don't believe were a random choice by Jesus. They're two well known dramatic segments of God's dealings with humanity. And for Jesus's first century audience, certainly when you mentioned Noah or Lot, it would have required no significant explanation, the audience would have understood the details behind those two chapters of history. But I'm a bit intrigued, the language that Jesus uses is not what I would have anticipated. Jesus describes rather routine activity in summarizing the days of Noah and Lot, two seasons where God's judgment was imminent. But Jesus doesn't talk about necessarily what we would have imagined would have caused God's response of judgment. He said they were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building.
Those are all appropriate, they're all appropriate activities. They're not immoral or ungodly. They're a natural part of life, unless you're walking in the light enough to know the rest of the story, unless you are aware of what Noah was aware of or you were aware of what Lot was aware of, that there was the imminent impending involvement of God in a dramatic way. And if that was the case, purchasing a piece of property was illogical in Noah's day. They were stumbling in the dark. See, I think we imagine that it's wickedness or immorality or some sort of pagan activity, something that you imagine whatever you would imagine that to be beyond the pale. But you see, the real tragedy is walking in the dark, unaware of your surroundings, oblivious to the season you're in, what God is doing, what the assignment may have been.
What Noah did was not done in quiet, he built a boat in a plain, not on the ends of the lake. It took years. Everybody that knew Noah knew what Noah and the boys were about. And with this in mind, Jesus is describing a people so immersed in the world, in the world's system in this present age that they had no awareness of the purposes of God. Now if you ask me to describe the condition of the contemporary church, it's not that we don't believe there's a God or we don't believe there our bibles, we're just so busy, so invested, so consumed with the present age that what God may be doing or may not be doing, you know. No, we're born again, beyond that we don't wanna talk about it, we don't wanna think about it. So that passage to me is very, very relevant to us.
We looked at days of Noah previously. I'll give you one line summary. The characteristic of the days of Noah is, satanic intervention and pressure from the supernatural realm. What drove the whole Noah experience was supernatural pressure, satanic intervention. Folks, we're witnessing that again. I don't believe there's a way to understand what's happening in our world, apart from the imagination of spiritual forces of darkness. We're abandoning family, we're abandoning traditions that have kept the West for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. They have brought prosperity to us, they have brought peace and safety to us, they have brought freedom from oppressive things that were diminishing us.
Our story is not perfect, but our story shows a trajectory of growth and improvement that is not matched by the other worldviews that we can look at. And we're walking away from that. We're not just walking, we are sprinting in the opposite direction. We're dismantling the things that have caused us to flourish, to prosper, that have made our families safe, that have given our children a future. I don't believe it can be understood in any way other than a spiritual way. People continually say to me they're not happy with me because I'm political. I'm not political, I'm offering a spiritual understanding of what's happening in our world and for people who ignore God, they don't want us to talk about it. But Jesus said it would be just as it was in the days of not... "Not". Just as it was in the days of Noah, and as it was in the days of Lot. Let's look a little bit more at the days of Lot for a moment.
Again the description Jesus gave were very common, mundane, routine human behaviors. But his audience would have understood the rest of the story. We're not as biblically literate, unfortunately. In Genesis 19, we're going to step into a scene from Lot's life, at this point in his life his living in Sodom. And he's had a a visit, two angels have arrived to provide Lot a warning. It's an important note before you read the passage. It's an unsettling passage but the context is very important. Two angels have arrived to warn Lot to come, to bring him to deliver him from Sodom. "Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom, both young and old, surrounded the house".
You need the context. Men from every part of the city, young and old, surround the house. "They called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them'. Then Lot went outside to meet them and he shut the door behind him and said, 'No, my friends, don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they've come under the protection of my roof.' 'Get out of our way,' they replied, 'This fellow came here as an alien and now he wants to play the judge. We'll treat you worse than them.'" They kept bringing pressure on Lot and move forward to break down the door. "But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they couldn't find the door".
That's an uncomfortable passage, it's one of those you just want to read quickly past, but Jesus referenced it and he said before he returns to the earth, the circumstances in the world would be a great deal like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Now the characteristics he gave us were something else but in the midst of that kind of a culture, there was a groups of people as Jesus told us, fully engaged in buying and selling, planting and reaping, marrying and giving in marriage. Seems pretty familiar to me. The conspicuous feature of Sodom, as it's presented to us, was brazen, aggressive, violent expressions of homosexuality. The scripture has told us what to anticipate. Now it's up to us whether we will walk in the light, or whether we'll just look another way and say, "Well, I'm making other choices".
Now I want to give you two positive aspects of the days of Noah and Lot because I don't believe it's a distress call, I believe it's an invitation to listen to the Lord. In Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 7, it says: "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen". Please note that he's giving a warning about something that is not visible, that means it's easily dismissed. "Too much pepperoni pizza. Spiritual fanaticism. I'm a good man, I'm a righteous man, I'm an upstanding man, why should I be bothered"? "When warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear he built an ark to save his family. And by faith he condemned the world and became the heir of the righteousness that comes by faith". There's two things you should note there before you turn the page. It's not in your notes, but it's in the verse. One is God provided a warning for his servant. He warned Noah about what was coming so that Noah could walk in the light.
The majority of the people around him were stumbling in the darkness, buying and selling, planting and reaping and harvesting but Noah saw something else, he had a different agenda, a divergent agenda. And the second thing I would point out is that God provided a plan for deliverance for both Noah and for Lot. That should apply to our days as well. You've gotta decide what you're going to focus on, what you're going to give your heart to. If you're going to live in panic and anxiety and worry and fear, or if we're going to choose a path of faith walking in the light that we have. Our responses should be different than the secular world around us.
In God's warning of Noah there was a supernatural element and I would submit to you that our plans for next have to include a this notion of a supernatural preparation or warning. It's not just up to our IQ. We must be in a position with God to hear and understand his warnings, and I'm not certain we've spent the last few years cultivating that skill set. We've been coached to be certain of what we've accomplished and that it's unassailable and doesn't need to be reflected upon. So there's really not much initiative to listen. Oh we have rules lists that we believe in forgiveness and we kind of negotiate that. We can live in the world.
Folks, if you walk into the darkness purposefully, it means you have walked out of the light. I believe in forgiveness, I don't want you to be fearful of your salvation, but I don't want you to willfully walk in the dark. There are elements in our future that I promise you, no human is anticipating. You share with me on a weekly basis, dozens and dozens of perspectives about what's coming to our world. From time to time I will listen or read or give some attention to it and I have no doubt there's some validity to it but I promise you that what's ahead of us, no human being has fully anticipated. We've witnessed that ourselves in the last three years. It's just almost beyond belief, and I don't mean... If you took COVID out of it, if you just imagined COVID as the vehicle to drive the change, the difference in the world we live in today and the world we were in three years ago, it's almost unrecognizable.
I would also point out the intervention of God's angels to deliver and protect his people. None of those things that God did for Noah or Lot were luxuries. They shouldn't be understood as having been hyper-spiritual. It was necessary to survive. I'm inviting you away from this notion that you can be a quiet good, inert Christian. There's no such thing. Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice and they will follow me". If you're not living in a way to listen and follow, wake up. Wake up.
If you don't read your Bible, it feels intrusive, it's cumbersome, "I don't understand it very well..." It's because you're not familiar with it. Let's get familiar with it. You know, once you've jumped out of the plane, it's too late to Google how do you use a parachute? There's not enough time. And we have entered a season where familiarity with the character of God and the purposes of God are a necessity for being the church. We've had group think. We could belong to the right group, sit in the right church, know the right people and we might be able to deviate a little bit or waffle a little bit but we we felt pretty secure because we were just kind of walking in the group and the group said to one another, "We're okay". Folks, that's not going to get us through what's ahead of us.
Hey, we're living in an exciting time in the unfolding of God's purposes. The news is, he's chosen us. He called your name and my name for this unique period, just as certainly as he called Peter, James and John to walk with Jesus when he was in the land of Israel in the 1st century. It's an exciting time. Don't be discouraged, God's prepared us. Let's pray:
Father give us listening ears and understanding hearts that we might recognize the season to which you've called us. And may we be salt and light in such a way that when we see you, you may say, "Well done". In Jesus's name, amen.