Allen Jackson - Listening And Preparing - Part 1
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It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is "End Times Pressure". We're going to talk about listening to the Lord. You know, the closer we get to the end of the age, the more imperative it will be to be able to recognize the voice of the Lord. There's going to be a whole chorus of voices, lots of information coming at us. It's hard to know even today what's true and what's not true. The only way to walk through that with confidence is to be able to discern God's perspective. To do that, we'll need the help of the Holy Spirit. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, and open your heart.
We've been talking about "End Times Pressures" because there, between where we stand today and the return of the King, we will face some challenges. We will have some of the greatest victories humanity has ever known on behalf of the Kingdom of God, and we will face some of the greatest expressions of evil. Those things will go together, and so oftentimes people prefer not to think about it, not to talk about it, but you will forfeit your opportunity to be a part of that. I don't believe you will do anything of significance in your life unless you're willing to make the sacrifice that is really necessary for the seed, is the seeds of significance. And then that's true in the Kingdom of God as well.
It's true, Jesus paid the price that we cannot pay, but to benefit from the sacrifice of Jesus requires you to go all in. The Bible doesn't give us categories of Christ followers, you know there's not like, grade A and grade C. And then those by the skin of their teeth, there's only one kind. And so end time pressure shouldn't frighten us. I believe they should be an encouragement to us. And in this session I want to talk about listening and preparing the most significant character, the single characteristic that follows God's people through scripture, from Genesis of Revelation is those that listen to him. And if you haven't cultivated that listening skill, it's a good time to start to develop it. But I don't, I'm not really primarily saying you should hear voices.
God can speak to you through a book, through his scripture, through the voice of a friend, through that still small voice, he can do, I mean, it's God is infinite, he can speak to you in many, many ways, but you need to recognize his voice. You need to have the discernment to recognize his voice versus voices that would impersonate his. And so listening and preparing is the assignment. And I'm gonna start with a question that I hear a lot, you know, do you really believe there's end times or is this just something preachers use to manipulate us? Or whatever. I mean, I hear that question and I came to biblically tell you there really is an end of time, time will run out.
Now the when of that is none of us know, Jesus said none of us know that. So if you meet somebody that tells you they know, no they don't. Somebody tells you Jesus is coming on September the 2nd at 2 a.m., I wouldn't argue with them, I would just smile, turn around and sprint in the other direction because they're either confused, a deceiver, or something in between. Jesus said no one knows the hour, the day or the hour so no one knows. And if he said we don't know, I wouldn't, personally, I've decided not to spend my time and energy trying to figure out what day or hour. There are things he has told me that I need to know and need to do, and that's where I would prefer to invest my energy, but I promise you there is an end to time and you don't want to be caught unaware.
In a far more personal way, there's an end to your time and to my time. Let's start with the first. 2 Peter chapter 3 says: "First of all you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They'll say, 'Where is His coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of time since the beginning of creation.'" Now that's Peter, the fisherman that Jesus recruits and he's very near the end of his life because in that same letter he said, "Listen, I'm about done here. This tent I'm living in, I'm about to fold up". But his counsel to those of us who would listen was, he said, "You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come".
The mocking of the idea that there's an end of time will grow more intense the closer we get to the end of time. Okay, Revelation 21, that's very near the end of the whole book. It says, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away". There's going to be a new heaven and a new earth. 1 Corinthians 7: "This world in its present form is passing away". So regardless of your timelines and your charts and all your interpretations and all those things, just establish in your heart there is an end of time and live like that, prepare for it. Which I'll add to that one other idea, there are there's something ahead of every person that you cannot escape. Actually, there's two things the Bible tells us, and I put them for you there in your notes, it's Hebrews 9, it says: "Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment".
That's it, we all have those two appointments. You can't pay somebody to go on your behalf, you can't skip them. You can't say the dog ate your homework. We will all face death and then we will face an evaluation for what we've chosen to do in time. Don't be frightened by that, it's not a threat, it's an open book test. That is the ultimate get ready invitation. If the Creator of all things is going to review what you've done in time, how about choosing to do something in time that pleases him? Well, it's not fun. Okay, duly noted, I'd do it anyway. Well, everybody isn't doing that. I got it, okay, let's do it anyway. Well, I don't always understand. I got that too, I'm gonna choose to please the Lord.
Well, I've tried that and I didn't get it right. I know, me too, but I'm gonna try again. Why? Because I truly believe I'm going to see him one day and he's going to take a review. Then I'm not gonna be able to dance around It, I'm not going to be verbally adept enough to... Nope, I'm gonna have to have an honest conversation. Oh well, everything's forgiven. It has been but that's not an excuse for sloppy living. Do you really want to stand before the boss and tell him you used presumptively the shed blood of his Son? I don't really think that's a meeting you want to take. I don't want to see him and say, "I lived presumptively because you made a sacrifice so I could live carnally". I don't think that's gonna workout so great.
So again, it's not a threat, there really is an end of time and if that's the case, what can we know about it? How can we be prepared? How do we understand whether it's approaching or it's really not relevant yet? You know, if you're on a traveling on an airplane, they give you all kinds of messages. We're you know, we're preparing for landing, everybody fasten your seat belt, remain in your seat. Then you get ready to feel that bump. Well, usually there's kind of a collective sigh. If you're in school, you know you're coming to the end of a semester or you get ready for the finals or the exams or whatever passage there is to complete that assignment. April 15th is coming up, that's the deadline we all know about too.
Well, live in such a way that there's not only an ultimate end of time, there's an end of our time. Which one arrives first? We don't know but I'm going to live as if they're concurrent. Amen, Pastor, us too. I'll add to that a couple of things that I think are very relevant to this unique season, because if I look across the window of time from when Jesus was here until now, there's some things that have changed significantly in recent history. The prophetic passages that discuss or present to us Jesus's return to the earth, his second coming, presume that the Jewish people are living in their Promised Land. And for almost 2000 years, they weren't.
So May of 1948, when the modern nation of Israel was reborn when the modern nation of Israel was born, we took a step that said, that marker hasn't been in place for 2000 years. We're almost 75 years into that and tiny little Israel has flourished in the most improbable of ways, and I believe that will continue. I think God is beginning to change the hearts of the people there, which is a part of the promise. There's still some things to be fulfilled, but we are clearly closer to the end than we have been at any point since the story was told, with demonstrable characteristics from scripture.
So God will continue that regathering and the establishment of the Jewish people in that land, much to the consternation of the United Nations and just many aspects of the world. The second thing that God is doing is purifying his church. He's coming back for a church without spot or wrinkle. And as much as the pressures upon the Jewish people forced them to some behaviors in the land of Israel, he's allowing pressures to come on his church to prepare us. I can speak for the American church with a little more authority than I can the rest of the globe. We have lived lives that were for the most part, dominated by comfort and convenience. And God has begun to say to us, that won't get the job done.
And so as we talk about this, I would encourage you... my suggestion as we walk through this, because I'm going to try to complete it, is let's try to hear what Jesus said would take place and then to order our lives as if he were telling us the truth. Rather you step away from it and go, "Well I wonder when that is"? Or, "I wonder how I should feel about that"? Or, "That's kind of frightening to me," let's just imagine Jesus told us the truth and we wanna use it as if we we have the directions now for how to prepare? So if you'll do that, let's get into it, just for a brief recapitulation, we looked at what Jesus said in Luke 17: "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it also 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's really it's a harsh passage. This is Jesus.
Now you read all these people, I hear all these people say, you know, they don't like the Old Testament cause it's harsh and the New Testament is all about love. I wonder which New Testament they're reading? It's like the flood came and destroyed them all. "And 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 sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of man is revealed". And we've spent a good deal of time in previous sessions looking at the days of Noah and Lot.
Jesus didn't give us the characteristics if that they're most notorious for because I believe the assumption was that his audience understood that. His audience would have been more biblically literate than the ones we have today. They didn't all have their personal copies of scripture, but they were more familiar with their stories. We have access to scripture, but it matters less to us. I think the characteristics of Noah's day and the characteristics of Lot's day would have been familiar to Jesus's audience. What's surprising is what he highlighted. He highlights these pairs of behaviors. He talks about eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building.
None of those are immoral or ungodly or wicked but they're very unnecessary and inappropriate if you are facing impending judgement. If the ark's gonna be sealed tomorrow, real estate investment is not an overly significant concern. If fire and brimstone are about to fall upon you, planting your summer garden might not be the best use of time. And so Jesus combines these things, that in spite of the impending and intervention of God, the people were engaged in activities of this present age.
Now I don't think we can stop eating and drinking, nor should we stop marrying and being given in marriage, but I don't think we should allow those things to supersede our awareness of what God is doing, amen? And I think it's a caution light not to live so far in the world that we are totally oblivious to the spiritual climate of our day. The language we've been using for quite a few months now is to watch and to listen, to think and to be prepared to act. And we haven't had to do that. We haven't had to have a great deal of spiritual discernment. You will not survive what is ahead of us without some pretty significant spiritual discernment. And discernment begins by an awareness of the character of God that we learn from scripture, which is a step beyond simply saying I'm born again and baptized.
I believe in the new birth, I'm an advocate for conversion, salvation, the new birth, but folks, we gotta we we've got to continue to grow. We've got to learn to recognize the voice of our Father. We've got to recognize the voice of the Shepherd. We have to learn to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. We're going to have to learn how to cooperate with him. How long are we going to have seminars arguing about whether miracles are still happening while we're living in a world where without the supernatural involvement of God, we won't survive? There is no Noah story and there is no Lot story without the supernatural deliverance of God. They're not dark stories, they're triumphant stories. God delivered his people. He warned them and he made a supernatural way of deliverance for them.
You and I are dependent upon that same thing. Jesus said it will be just like that when he returns. We will be dependent upon his supernatural direction and his supernatural deliverance, but he provides it. So how do we respond? What's our response? If that's the given... we spent a lot of time looking at Matthew 24 and a little bit of time peeking at Luke 21, parallel prophetic passages, It talks about all these things that will happen, says they're the beginning of birth pains. Nobody volunteers for pain unless you're goofy, but some pains bring benefit. If you're in the habit of exercising for your physical health, you have to exercise until it's uncomfortable or it doesn't do a whole lot of good. You have to get like sweaty. Might even like get short of breath a little bit or get tired because the point of gaining new strength or additional strength requires you to exercise to the point of fatigue.
People, you know I talk to people frequently they say, "You know pastor I'm tried of standing, tired of resisting, tired of walking through a shadowed place". And I think yeah, me too, but you know what, that's the only way you get stronger. We've been sloppy, flabby, out of shape spiritually, for so long. You see, our spiritual model has been feed me, feed me, feed me. I don't go to that church any longer, I don't feel fed when I'm there. I used to listen, they used to be anointed, but they're not anointed anymore. I'm looking for somebody to feed me. How much, how much truth do you have to know before you decide to do something with it? It's a pertinent question at this point for every one of us, because we've got this model built into us. We want to gather the facts and get the information and do another study.
How about giving expression to the truth you know? Like, you can't come back until you bring a sinner. Well, yeah, I know we're supposed to go into all the world, but hey, you know, my world doesn't have any of those people in it. I mean, just what if we started acting like it was true? So when I talk about our response, it's in that kind of a context. And I would submit to you a realistic grasp of the situation is about 50% of the objective. If you can if you can walk yourself forward in this to the point you say, I believe we're approaching a season where the world is going to continue to change rapidly and dramatically and the pressure increased because there's a birth that has begun.
See, if you can emotionally get to that place as opposed to you know, well I'm waiting for it to get stable again. I don't think stability is coming until the delivery has happened. Now I don't know the frequency of the contractions, but I can tell you they're accelerating. It's unsettling, it's disorienting, to be told in the public square that Christians are dangerous, Christian student teachers are dangerous to put them in a public school, they're dangerous to the students? And to not have an outcry, a hue and a cry of people saying, "Who would say such a thing"?
Imagine if you said women were dangerous in the public school, they'd be dangerous if our children were exposed to women, so we don't want any more women in the schools? There would be a voice. Pick any subset you want, we would appropriately go, "That's insane". And they said it about you and me. I had that I did an interview yesterday with somewhere, Detroit and they said, "Oh yes, but we think there's been a lawsuit post". And I'm like, yeah in three years from now when that gets resolved. The point it was stated, it stood, so now it's a safe statement to make again.
When did a Teacher's Union get the idea they were more of an authority on what children should learn than parents? How did we arrive at that place? When did it become okay to say that a biblical worldview wasn't welcome in a public school or a corporate boardroom, but a secular worldview was? And why exactly did we comply with that? Because they threatened our job? Take it. Build your business with lying, cheating, stealing, self absorbed people and call me when you need integrity. The difference in our character shouldn't be the building we sit in for a few minutes once in a while, it should be in the way we conduct ourselves, the values we hold. That's what will speak more loudly to the people in the darkness than our sermons, a realistic grasp of the situation. We gotta do this.
Come on, let's go, stop. Focus. Three things all right? One is be optimist. I mean that. This isn't frightening, it shouldn't be fearful, it isn't dark, it's not a threat. A legitimate and logical response to what the scripture is telling us is to be optimistic. Matthew 24 and and Luke 21 are that lengthy prophetic passage from Jesus, his most lengthy prophetic discourse, and in Luke 21, the conclusion he said: "When these things begin to take place, when you recognize this is beginning". Jesus gave us some counsel, he said, "Stand up, lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near". Jesus said, "When you see this, Hallelujah".
Now, do we have some things to do between here and there? Looks like it but the King is coming. If that wasn't what he meant I believe he would have said, "Buy a cave". But that is it, he said, "Look up in anticipation". In spite of the deterioration of human character, it's a season of opportunity. There'll be hearts open for the Gospel in the way we've never seen them. Oh there will be, we will betray one another, lawlessness will increase but there will be a moving of the Spirit of God unlike any we've ever seen. Where I think the church has struggled is we haven't owned the side of the darkness. We haven't talked about the weeds in the field, we've just talked about the harvest. It's the classic story, is the glass half full or the glass half empty? If you'll allow me, it's the same objective situation. Whether the glass is half full or half empty is a matter of fact, what is subjective is your observation.
Now the reason I think it's optimistic is a tremendous proportion of what God has predicted has already taken place. I mean, we could spend lesson after lesson, session after session looking at scriptures that God has already fulfilled that, it keeps me from getting through this outline and it brings great hope to me about the faithfulness of God in our lives. His plan and his purposes are being fulfilled before us. You don't even have to have great discernment, it's just happening right out there in front of God and everybody.
Now, if you have no awareness of scripture and you have very little thought of God and very little intuition for spiritual things, than what you look at the world around us and we see rapid inflation and economic insanity and blatant, brazen immorality and an intentional dismantling of the strength of our nation. And it'll make you panic. Or it'll make you medicate. You'll shop yourself into oblivion, you'll vacation yourself into oblivion or whatever your distraction of choice is. But if you have an awareness of scripture and what God is doing, it's this wonderful invitation into the arena. You see an awareness of scripture and general knowledge of biblical prophecy, I don't believe any longer optional, it's essential. It's not helpful any longer to think of understanding scripture in those ways is some sort of a luxury for a hyper Christians. Folks, those categories are no longer feasible.
We're living through a difficult season in the world, but we're not without hope, and I don't believe we should be pessimist. We have much to look forward to and we can find purpose in every day, in spite of the darkness. Let's pray:
Father, we ask for your perspective. May we not see the world around us through our weakness and our limits, but may we see it through the power of your Spirit and the provision you've made for us through the redemptive work of Jesus. I thank you for a triumphant church in the earth preparing to meet our Lord and King. In Jesus's name. Amen.