Allen Jackson - Jesus, Unique and Essential - Part 1
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It's good to be with you today. Our topic is "The Power to be Different," but we want to talk specifically about Jesus. You know, he is unique and essential in every life. The bottom line, folks, we need a Savior. There's so much confusion in our world. We act as if the next election will fix us or a better economy will fix us or cheaper gas prices will make our lives better. Those are insignificant components to the reality that we're lost and we need a Savior and only Jesus can meet that need. I pray today that you'll understand how Jesus will make a difference in your circumstances far beyond your eternal destiny. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
We've been working through a series under the title of "The Power to be Different". Folks, we need a power beyond ourselves to help us, not simply to survive, but to flourish in this particular time. There are pressures we haven't seen before, of a magnitude we haven't experienced before, and changes coming at a pace that we have not had the experience to be familiar with. And it's important to remember that the only thing, ultimately, that evil will yield to is a power greater than itself. So a church apart from the power of God is a church that will be easily set aside, diminished, dismissed, overlooked. We'll be impotent, inert, whatever word you choose to use for useless.
So let's not ever imagine there is any expression of the church apart from the power of God. For too long we've had seminars and debates and questions about whether God still does miracles or just on and on and on. We've wanted this neat, clean, sterile, antiseptic, inert, inactive Christianity. It's a false gospel. We'll see it in a moment. In Hebrews 13 says Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever. And we need a power in our faith that will enable us to lead the triumphant lives that our Lord has died that we might have. So we've been exploring that. In this particular session, I wanna talk specifically about Jesus and the unique and essential role he plays in our lives. Why Jesus is unique, why there has to be something different about him, that all faiths don't lead to the same place, all paths don't end up in the same place, that it doesn't really matter how you envision God or understand God.
As long as you kind of believe there's some sort of heavenly Santa Claus, it'll all work out. It's not true. The Scripture presents to us a Jesus that is totally and completely unique and essential for our lives if we intend to honor the creator of heaven and earth. But we've been beginning each of these sessions with the notion, the reminder, that we're lost. Apart from Jesus of Nazareth, all of us are lost. And I wanna go to John chapter 8. It's a familiar story to many of you, I suspect, from the New Testament. It's a story of a woman who's brought before Jesus. She was in the midst of adultery. They didn't bring the man.
That's another lesson. Last I checked, that's a two-person event. But there's a great deal of information about the woman, her life status, just in the notion that she was committing adultery. And they bring her to Jesus, not because they have any compassion on the woman, any concern for her whatsoever. They wanna use her circumstance, her pain, her humiliation and shame, as a way of entrapping Jesus. And so they present her to Jesus and say, "The law says this is her penalty. What do you say"? They very much are looking for a reason to imprison and to ultimately kill him. So John 8 and verse 7, you have it in your notes. It says: "When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and he said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'"
So Jesus, in one sentence, completely changed the narrative. He said, "Let's stop talking about her circumstance. Let's stop talking about her behavior. Let's find a mirror". He said, "Before you speak condemnation over her, evaluate yourself". And the tone of the mob changed immediately. "And he stooped down and he wrote on the ground. And at this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there". I heard someone say once that when he stooped down to begin to write in the dust, he began to sketch out the secret sins of the people who were gathered there. I don't know if it's true but it makes me smile. Either way, the crowd dispersed, from the oldest to the youngest, and he's left with no one but the woman there. "And he straightened up and he asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' And she said, 'No one, sir.'"
Can you imagine, she was just spared a horrific fate. And there's no one left to accuse her. There's no one left to condemn her. And Jesus is standing before her and he said, "Then neither do I condemn you". What a powerful message. But the next sentence is equally powerful. It says: "Jesus declared". He didn't suggest, he didn't give her a hint. He didn't say, "Let me give you some travel tips for your journey through life". He made a declaration over her. He's opening a door for her, just as certainly as when he was walking along the shores of Galilee and he said to Peter and James and the crew, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men". He opened a doorway for them that could change their future if they had the courage to walk through it. He opened that door for some others and they declined the invitation.
The rich young ruler said, "No, I can't do that. The cost is too high". Well, he opens a door before this woman for an entirely different kind of future. It wasn't simply a refusal to condemn her. He didn't stop there. He said to her, and you need to hear these words. We all need to hear them. "Go now and leave your life of sin". Go away from this place, go away from this moment, go away from this encounter, go away from this expression of mercy, and change your behavior. Leave your life of sin. He didn't give her a hug and say, "You know, I understand completely. You've suffered a lot. You've been rejected, you've been hurt. Why wouldn't have chosen that? Anybody would have chosen that. I understand fully".
That's not what he said. In fact, we don't know any of the back story, we don't know any of the circumstances. We simply know Jesus said, "There's no condemnation, but you can't stop there". He said, "Now you've got to go and leave your life of sin". That's our Lord. He's our pattern. We're talking about this notion of being lost. We all understand what it is. Not lost in the sense that something has been misplaced. It's not like you lost your car keys. This is lost in the sense that something has been forfeited, something has slipped past you, it's gone. It can't be retrieved, it can't be regained. It's been lost. We talk about because of choices we lost our youth, that's the sense of lost in this place. This woman's reputation, her character's in question, her future was very much in question. And in Jesus's refusal to condemn her, he writes for her an opportunity. Doesn't guarantee it.
Folks, we have led lives that have resulted in us being lost. We've made choices, we've chosen pathways, we've embraced behaviors, we are lost. One of the things that's been lost in our current culture and, tragically, even in much of the church, is we have lost the concept of sin and its consequences. We've been so focused on compassion and understanding and tolerance that we hardly have any imagination any longer that there's right and wrong, good or evil. We don't wanna be labeled as narrow-minded, as judgmental, as harsh, as critical. So we will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to almost any expression of ungodliness or immorality. We excuse it, we justify it.
If we continue that, the judgment of God will fall upon us in its full weight and it will not be because of the hardness of the hearts of the ungodly and the immoral and the wicked. It will be because of the compromise of the people of God. Throughout the story of Scripture from the earliest pages of the Bible to the conclusion, the enemies of the people of God never have the power to overwhelm them. When God's people are overrun, when they suffer, when they're persecuted, when they forfeit things because of their enemies, it's because they have capitulated. And we are facing a season where the church is capitulating to ungodliness and immorality at an unprecedented rate.
You see, with the loss of sin, we become the arbiters of good and evil. Understand what's happening. The pressure to say "Who are you to decide what's right and wrong? Who are you to say there's good and evil? Who are you to say that behavior's inappropriate"? What that's doing is taking God and setting him aside and establishing ourselves as the arbiters. We're the ones who decide, we say. We'll redefine marriage. We'll define human sexuality. We will establish what's right and wrong. When we do that, we become the ultimate authority, and God simply becomes an emotional support, an emotional comfort. He's a theoretical security. And the creator of heaven and earth will never accept that role in your life or mine. To be Christ followers means Jesus is Lord of our lives. He establishes the boundaries, he establishes the priorities, not Pastor, not churches, not denominations: the Lord himself.
You have to know him well enough to know his character. And there's a tremendous amount of pressure, and enormous numbers of people rejecting this fundamental principle of what it means to be the people of God. The benefits of Easter will not accrue to our lives unless we acknowledge Jesus as Lord. We need a Savior. We cannot resolve our own problems. We need to humble ourselves just a little bit on this. The arrogance to suggest that we can solve our problems is stunning. We have millennia, not decades, not centuries. We have millennia of evidence to establish the folly in the idea that we can fix ourselves. It's never happened. They talk about us being a new, you know, it's a new global age where we all cooperate. Baloney. It's a Greek word. Means I disagree.
Now, you know this fundamentally. We can't get churches in a community to cooperate, and you can pick the community. We can get a few or some or some others, but even if we kind of cooperate, we're still sitting there looking at one another, going, "I'm better than you". And that's amongst the churches. If we push that, you know from experience, we cheat. We lie, we steal. We can't cooperate and play baseball fairly. C'mon, we know this, folks. So when somebody stands up in front of you and says, "We're gonna get the whole world to cooperate. We are unified," you know they are lying to you.
We can't play baseball without cheating. We'll steal signs. "It's part of the game". No, it's pretty much called cheating. "Well, it's just how the game's played". Oh, you mean it's designed because it knows the frailty of the people who are participating so we've just accepted cheating as a part of it. We need a Savior. The church has good news: there is a Savior. His name is Jesus, he makes possible transformation from the inside out. It's not defined by how we look or the color of our skin or the accent with which we speak. Everybody is welcome at the foot of the cross. It's good news for all humanity. And the church is gonna have to have the courage to say we believe there's a Savior. We don't have to look very far these days.
In the last 30 days around us there are some things that are happening that if they have not caused you to wake up, you need to pause and think. I'm telling you, it's moving so rapidly, with such a magnitude, that if you're not paying attention and responding, if you're not prayerfully engaged, you're gonna wake up very soon in a place that is so unfamiliar to you and you will wonder how you arrived there. In the last 30 days, we've seen Christian student teachers be told in public, by a school board, that they were too dangerous to be around children. They would not allow Christian student teachers in a public school because they posed a threat to the children. And the idea was passed. The contract was canceled, the Christian student teachers were removed, and there was very little noise about it, which means somebody else can repeat such an insane idea.
It can be implemented in another way. It can be expanded. It got far closer to home in the last few days. We say children and adults in Nashville murdered because they were Christian. That's difficult to say. "Because they were Christian". And the media coverage and the reporting of that tragedy in Nashville very quickly began to attach cause for that horrific behavior to a Christian worldview. Somehow the Christians brought that on themselves we were told. Something they did, something they believed. In fact, with stunning frequency, the Christian worldview these last few days has been presented as so toxic that it creates violence. And by definition, anybody who would stand in the public square and hold a biblical worldview and have the audacity to give expression to it, has invited violence, we're told.
Please understand that the marginalizing of Christians, the dehumanizing of Christians, somehow we're "less than" because of what we believe, extends permission in a very broad way to limit civil liberties, you can't work in our schools, to become targets for increasing violence. If it is left unchallenged, and I don't mean challenged by anger or belligerence or violence, but if in your heart, in your sphere of influence, in the place where you have a voice, if it's left unchallenged, I assure you it will lead to the limiting of economic opportunities, to the confiscation of properties, to further exclusion from participation in public life. The momentum is already there.
Again, this is something we understand. It's just inconvenient. We don't like to think about it. I'll give you a very simple example. I suspect most of you in a candid moment would acknowledge because of my worldview, because of what I'm willing to say in public, I'm unelectable. True. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe God created us male and female. I believe there is a God and that he created the heavens and the earth. I believe Jesus of Nazareth is his Son. I believe that he was born of a virgin. I believe he died on a Roman cross. I believe he was buried and he was raised to life again 3 days later. I believe he ascended back to heaven, and I believe he's coming back to the earth, not as a suffering servant, but as a Savior for his church, amen?
But here's the stunning part. You and I understand that that set of statements in the public square is unwelcome. They're unwelcome in a corporate boardroom, they're unwelcome in many of our public schools. They're unwelcome on many of our college campuses. They're unwelcome in place after place after place. You can come in and demand to go in a restroom that doesn't match your biological sex, and you'll be cheered. There are many ungodly things you can do and it will be overlooked. You can be promoted, celebrated, lifted up, but if you have the audacity to hold that Judeo-Christian biblical worldview, there is permission for you to be excluded, diminished, your job limited or removed.
How long will we be silent for that kind of inappropriate attitude? We have participated. Absolutely, there are Christians who have misbehaved, people who wore the label of Christian and have behaved in evil manners. There's no defense for that. We wouldn't attempt to. But that doesn't mean we should be excluded. That is not a legitimate ground for dehumanizing and marginalizing people with a Christian worldview. If we took that same attitude, we'd have to cancel professional sports if any professional athlete behaved in an inappropriate, immoral, or violent way. We'd have to cancel Hollywood if anybody behaved in an ungodly, immoral, or unethical way.
We have accepted something, we have cooperated with it, because we didn't think our faith was that important. We thought we could secure our futures without really having to honor Jesus. We thought we could provide for our children a pathway to a good lifestyle and a successful future if we allowed Jesus to be set aside or diminished. We have been the problem. We have yielded. If we will humble ourselves and begin to tell the Lord the truth: we have been idolatrous. We thought dollar bills or education or larger homes or whatever it was we were chasing could secure our futures. And so we could say a little prayer that really didn't mean a great deal to us and maybe jump in a pool and say we've been baptized, and then lead our lives on our own terms with our own agendas and our own objectives and our own moral perspectives, and imagine that we were at peace with God.
We have been deceived and, tragically, we've been encouraged far too frequently in our deception. But I couldn't think of a better time of the year for the church to begin to humble ourselves and say, "Lord, we're sorry. We wanna honor you". The security of our children depends more on the condition of our heart and our relationship with God than any other single thing I know.
Now I wanna take the balance of our time and I wanna talk to you about Jesus. Jesus is someone unique and someone essential for every human being. Even that idea has fallen out of favor. The notion that you wanna be evangelical, evangelistic, that you wanna be missional, that you wanna take the story of Jesus to someone else, is viewed with intense skepticism, if not outright hatred. How dare they? How dare they? How dare anyone say we don't have the privilege of sharing the good news and the hope that we have found in the person of Jesus? We will share our opinion about fashion. We'll share our opinion about UT sports. We'll share our opinion about how to grill a steak. We will share our opinion, Lord knows, social media is filled with people with opinions.
How dare they suggest to us we shouldn't share the good news about Jesus that has transformed us and what has caused us to accept such absurdities. How have we yielded to that point? I've taken all of these Scriptures from the book of Hebrews. If you're doing the Bible reading with us, you know that we're just beginning the book of Hebrews. And I thought maybe I could run ahead a bit and perhaps open the book a bit more to you. If you're not doing the daily Bible reading with us, you're really forfeiting something. While we have the privilege of having Bibles in our homes, take advantage of it. Read them, spend time with them, think about it.
Hebrews chapter 1 and verse 1 begins with establishing a point that is essential to the whole book, and essential to our lives: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he's spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe". There's a couple of very essential points established in those opening verses of Hebrews. It identifies God as the creator of heaven and earth. It's not just an Old Testament idea; it's a New Testament idea. Jesus believed that God created the heavens and the earth. Just maybe we should go ahead and accept the premise. But it says: "In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son".
It's the unique role of Jesus as the Son of God. Not just a prophet, not just a healer, not just a miracle worker, not just someone to establish a religion. Not just a person with great wisdom. The Son of Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth. Perhaps we should pay attention to his counsel. And it says: "In these days God has spoken to us through his Son, and he's appointed him the heir of all things". Jesus has all the power. Jesus has all the juice.
Now, I grew up in a barn in Tennessee. I'm not that complicated. If there is one human being that has all the juice, here's my suggestion: become his friend. Aren't I deep? Aren't you glad you got dressed up and sat outside for church today? Become his friend. We get way heated up about this faith thing and professional Christians like me sometimes over-complicate it to some crazy degree. And we get into word studies and Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic and ancient cultures and whatever.
Folks, here's the goal: you become his friend. You decide what pleases him and give yourself to that. You find out what he doesn't like and you avoid that. You understand how to be a good friend. You know what you want from a friend, you know what's required of you to be a faithful friend. Become Jesus's friend. You're gonna see him one day and, when you see him, you want him to greet you like a friend, not like an adversary.
I think too many times we make our faith more difficult than it needs to be. Now, I'm a professional Christian so I get this, but sometimes I think we distract you with word studies and language and original Greek or original Hebrew or culture from another point in time. Fundamentally, I wanna be Jesus's friend. That's the essence of my faith and that's my prayer for you today:
Heavenly Father, I pray we'll understand how to be Jesus's friend, to acknowledge our relationship with him in every circumstance and every place where you open a door for us. I thank you for that, that you love us and you have called us out of darkness. May you be pleased with our lives, in Jesus's name, amen.