Allen Jackson - Listening And Preparing - Part 2
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What an honor to be with God's people. Our topic is "End Time Pressures". Specifically, we wanna talk about listening and preparing. Folks, we are watching an unleashing of evil that is unprecedented in recent decades. So how do we respond to that? What are we to do with that? Should we be frightened? Should we be threatened? Should we be pessimists? I don't believe so. I believe there is much in the world to give us hope. In fact, Peter tells us that we have a living hope in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So, the challenge is not to give in to the fear, to succumb to all the negative messaging, but to put our faith and our trust and our hope in a living Lord. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, and open your heart.
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 the 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 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, then 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 or 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 is any longer optional, it's essential. It's not helpful any longer to think of understanding scripture in those ways as some sort of a luxury for hyper-Christians.
Folks, those categories are no longer feasible. Look at 2 Peter chapter 1. Says, "We have the," this is, again, Peter, near the end of his journey, he said, "We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you'll do well to pay attention to it, as a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart". You must understand, there's an earnestness in his language. Peter is not Paul in the way he uses language, and there is an earthiness to it, a plainness to it, and Peter said, listen, you must understand this. "No prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. Prophecy never had its origin in the will of men, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit".
So, what's Peter's counsel? He said you would do well to pay attention to this. Pay attention to the prophets, until when? Until the day dawns. Until you see the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, listen to what he said! When you see him, you wanna go, "Ah, I've been tracking you! I've been readin' and thinkin' about this. This wasn't exactly how I thought it was gonna unfold! I've been workin' on it"! He'll know! If we will pay attention, I believe with all my heart, we'll be prepared for next. We may be surprised. We may get caught off guard.
My best friends in the book got caught off guard regularly. I mean, how many times did Jesus tell the disciples what was gonna happen to him? Up until the evening he's betrayed, and when it happens, they just come all unraveled. They go and look at the empty tomb and go, I wonder what happened to him. I mean, we're reading and going, I know what happened to him! But they got all the emotion in it. They're living in that moment. They're disappointed, they're heartbroken, they're afraid. So, they're having trouble assimilating. I have an imagination and it's not always gonna be easy. We'll need one another. I mean, the women came back and said, look, he's not there. And the guys said, we don't believe you. That brought unity to their small group. The second thing we're gonna need is the commitment to God. Let me state it a little differently. We need an unreserved commitment to God, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the people of God. Not casual, not convenient.
Folks, we're gonna have to revisit what this means. Look at Psalm 110 verse 1, "The Lord says to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing," literally, your troops will be free-will offerings, "on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn until you receive the dew of your youth". It's the most quoted Psalm. It's the Psalm most frequently quoted in the New Testament. It's even quoted by Jesus in verse 1. Says, "Sit at my right hand". That's where Jesus is right now, at the right hand of the Father. But he's not gonna be there forever.
In verse 2 when it says "The Lord will extent your mighty scepter from Zion," as I understand it, Zion is the most inclusive word in the scripture for God's people. It's used in some other ways, but it's frequently used in this way, so when he says, "I'm going to extend my scepter," he's gonna extend his mighty power through his people. And it says, "You will rule in the midst of your enemies". Christ will rule in the midst of his enemies. Now, if you get more occupied with the enemies than you do with Christ, you'll lose your faith. I've encouraged you not to spend too much time listening to what's goin' on, chasin' your favorite conspiracy theory on the internet. It will rob you of your confidence in the Lord. Stay informed, but don't give yourself completely to it.
Jesus is already ruling in the midst of his enemies. If he weren't, they wouldn't be banishing us from every place. The spirit in them rightly understands we're a threat. Now, they don't tell the truth about why, but, you know, we couldn't put something in the schools like "Thou shall not kill". For heaven's sakes, don't do that. No, let's put a metal detector, a magnetometer, and several police officers. And nobody can process the inconsistency of the positions. I was thrilled recently when the mayor of New York said we have to have prayer back in schools. When we took prayer out, we brought the guns in. Good for him! In verse 3, says, "Your troops will be willing". They'll be free-will offerings on the day of battle. It's an interesting perspective. The people of God were used, as we approach the end of this age, are the people who offer themselves as free-will offerings.
Sure, we bring our gifts to the Lord. We bring the things that we think we can do without, or we can overcome. What God wants is us. Here I am. In the language of Romans, offer yourself as a living sacrifice. See, when those animal sacrifices were placed on the altar, the audience in the first entry understood this. Their life had already been drained from them. It was an empty carcass. They were completely free of any self-determination. No sacrifice jumped up off the altar. And the invitation to us is to offer ourselves as a free-will offering. Lord, here I am! It's not my time or my career or my schedule. Lord, what can I do? And that's not the attitude. We know the language and the rhetoric, and I don't wanna induce guilt or shame. That's not my point. I wanna recognize the difference between where we have lived and where we have to begin living.
Let's stop with the rhetoric. Church is filled with all these word salads. The politicians learned it from us. All these flowery sayings with no intent behind them. That same verse, he said, "Your troops will be willing free-will offerings arrayed in holy majesty, the dawn, you'll receive the dew of your youth". Literally, it says your young men will come to you like the dew. I believe we'll see an outpouring of the Spirit of God upon young people. Now, in the years ahead of us, get prepared. It's what's in front of us. Many are gonna be confronted with this decision, what are you gonna do? You gonna be churched, religious, what kind of person will you be? Or will you offer yourself to the Lord, without reservation, without hesitation, not incrementally. Lord, here I am.
Many of us are gonna be confronted with this decision in the years ahead. My suggestion to you is begin your preparation. Get ready to yield yourself to the Lord. Period. Whatever you need, wherever you need me. You won't be able to do it on any significant scale unless you've begun to exercise those muscles before they're all needed. You have to start where you are. Some of you are probably like me, I like to watch real athletes, and from the comfort of my recliner, with the comfort of a bag of Cheese Doodles and a couple liters of Dr. Pepper. I imagine I could do what they can do. 'Cause when there's a commercial, I can run to the bathroom and be back before they resume. All of us athletes being prepared. But the reality is much different. And tragically, we've spent our lives listening to stories of people who have done this, and we've been saying to ourselves, I can do that.
Folks, that's as foolish as me imagining I can be, compete on an Olympic level. It'd be embarrassing to watch. You'd have to look away. Just me in the uniform would make you wanna look away. And tragically, we've done that to ourselves in our spiritual lives. Start to exercise your muscles. Start to serve, start to be obedient with an intentionality that's beyond casual. Don't tolerate willful disobedience to the Lord. In yourself. Forget everybody else. Just don't tolerate it in yourself. Tear up your excuses. Start to walk in the light that you have. Start to do the things that you know to do. Start to exercise those muscles. The day is coming you're gonna need strength. It's too late to figure out what to do with Goliath when you hear him bellow his challenge.
Now, God in his grace sometimes delivers us. But preparing to meet Goliath is different than asking God for a miracle. David said, oh, I got this. I faced a lion and a bear, and he doesn't look nearly as threatening as they did. I can do this. Although so many people who weren't prepared mocked him and made fun of him and ridiculed him and said he was filled with selfish ambition. And he said, well, maybe, but I'm willing to go, and you're hidin' in your tent. The people who aren't prepared will be offended by those who are. Start to prepare. Please. How many seminars do you have to go to before you're gonna start to prepare? How much of your life are you going to say things aren't deteriorating? Really? How absurd will it have to become before you say, you know, there might be something to this.
Number three, identify yourself with God's purposes as fully as you know how. 1 John 2, "The world and its desires pass away. But the man who does the will of God lives forever". Everything in this present world order is unstable and impermanent. I promise. I like it, I enjoy it. I like to go and see it and experience it. I'm not opposed to that. Doesn't bug me at all. I just try to keep my heart from being overly connected to it because I know it's not permanent. I want my heart to be invested in something that is ultimately sustainable. We talk so much these days about "sustainable". You were just as stable as the irresis... and... and...and... you're just as stable... I'm sorry, I can't even read... and irresistible as the purposes of God if you're determined to do the will of God.
If your heart's given to the things of this present world order, you're no more stable than they are. 'Cause when they shift, you've lost your stability. And the shifting is not going away. So, I'll wrap it up. We got two primary purposes of God in the church. Two things I can tell you that he's committed to. We've talked about Israel and the church, but in the church, there's two things I believe that we'll see this period of God do increasingly, one is unity, and the second is I think he will help us reach people in a way we have never reached them before. Now, I believe, we've had rhetoric for that all my life. I've been a part of it in so many different ways. But never in the way we can talk about now. Just never.
Look at John 17. This is Jesus's, this is his prayer before he begins his passion, his suffering. It's an amazing prayer. Says, "My prayer is not for them alone," not just for his disciples that he's mentored, "But I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message," that's us, did you know Jesus prayed for you? "That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I've given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me". What's the ultimate demonstration that God has sent us into the world? That we can stand together. Now again, we have so much language around this, so much rhetoric around this.
Folks, we haven't even begun. We separate ourselves based on worship styles, translations. We won't speak to one another based on a position on the Holy Spirit. It's absurd, what we call unity. It's absurd. The demonstrated unity of God's people will enable the proclamation of the Gospel in the whole world. We don't hear that very often. We had a unity service in this building, few years back. We didn't sponsor it. We'd agreed to participate. It was gonna be in another venue, a venue in a public place, and the attorneys for the public place decided they couldn't have a Christian event. So, we hosted it. There were several churches that had all been on board.
Again, we didn't pull it together. We just said at the last minute, look, you can use our space. It was the only one that was large enough to hold the anticipated crowd, and I think there were seven churches that had platform positions in the unity event. It was on a Wednesday night, and of the seven, three or four didn't cancel their services. Track this with me. We're gonna have a unity service in our community, but we don't want you to go to the place where we're talking about how unified we are. Oh, you can figure it out. There was a lot more rhetoric than there was intent, and I could give you a lot more examples. It's not easy to know, 'cause people that are typically asking you to be united with them need momentum in some way or another.
So, it's not a simple thing, and I don't mean to pretend that it is. It's a tremendous readjustment of our priorities ahead of us. Pressure will change that. You'll have to know the difference between the true church and a false church. Because the false church will betray you. They don't intend to stand for the truth. You haven't had really to know that in the past. There was enough uniformity in the Gospel. Orthodoxy was widespread enough across all the different denominations. We might vary a little bit in how we practice baptism or when we took communion, but we agreed on the role of scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus and his redemptive role. That's not true any longer. We don't typically confess, we're no more forthcoming with that than politicians are with their positions.
The ultimate purpose of God is to reach the whole world with the Gospel. And candidly, we've been pretty casual about it. Today we've arrived at the point where evangelisms, the note of missions, is imagined to be inappropriate. Who are we to go share with somebody else a better way to live? You'd be ridiculed. Condemned. We understand that because we don't even want to be missionaries. We don't wanna take that idea into the corporate setting. Look at Matthew 24. "Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives. The disciples come to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen? What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?'" Two questions. He's told them the temple's gonna be destroyed. And their minds are completely fried. It took forty years to build it. It's one of the wonders of the ancient world, and they think if the temple's gonna be destroyed, it's gotta be the end of the age.
So, Jesus answers their question, but he didn't really, they didn't understand exactly the answer he's given them. Temple is destroyed in 70 AD. So, from Jesus's timeline, and from what he's looking forward to, he understands that's coming, 'cause standing on the Mount of Olives on the day of his triumphal entry, he began to weep. He said, if you'd only known what it would have brought you peace. That's Luke 19. If you'd only known what would have brought you peace, but you didn't understand it. So now, he said they're gonna build an embankment against you and not one stone will be left on another. And they'll dash the heads of your children against the stones of this city. The Romans did that in 70 AD.
So, in Jesus's imagination, he says his understanding, the destruction of the temple is already an accomplished fact. But he goes on in that discourse of Matthew 24 to list all of these signs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, and pestilence. Said you'll be hated by all nations because of me, remember? These are the beginning of birth pains. And he goes on. He listed many signs. And he answered their questions very specifically and clearly in verse 14. It's in your notes. He gives a specific answer to a specific question. "He who stands firm to the end will be saved". We leave that out of our invitations. Salvation requires us to stand firm to the end. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come".
What is the penultimate sign? The gospel of the kingdom proclaimed to the whole world. Let's go. We're having a dialogue right now. We haven't completed it, but it seems we have an opportunity to share what we do here to be translated into Arabic and have it broadcast to the Muslim world in the Middle East and across North Africa seven days a week by satellite, so it's not gon' be cancelled by an internet provider. Yay, God. With the opportunities we have, we've livestreamed the... what we do in this little building can be watched anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. We get messages. People watched it all Azerbaijan. Most of us can't find it on the map. But they know you. God is opening doors that were just unimaginable.
Is there pressure we thought we would never see? Mm-hmm. Let's focus on what God is doing. Let's decide to get all-in. The King is coming. The King is coming. All right, I brought you a proclamation. We'll close with this. Stand up with me, please. It's in your notes. Some years ago, we put a proclamation together about what God has done for us and our response to that, and the essence of it is we're not gonna stop until he comes for us, until he calls us out of time, whether he does it individually or collectively. We intend to be about his business. Amen? May it be. So, let's make this proclamation together:
Our plans are made. Our course is charted. Our heart is fixed. The one who promised is faithful. The one who called us will deliver us to our destination. The author of our faith is also the completer of our story. His strength is sufficient. His wisdom is transcendent. His watchfulness is flawless. His presence is permanent. His joy is our strength. We will not stop. Amen.