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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - A Revelation of Great Things - Part 1

Allen Jackson - A Revelation of Great Things - Part 1

Allen Jackson - A Revelation of Great Things - Part 1

You know, 20/20 vision is the standard for normal vision. If you can read an eye chart, that's the objective, you've got good vision, it's 20/20, you can see what you need to see to navigate life, you don't need any adjustment, you don't need any artificial help. They'll give you a driver's license. Always seemed to me there should be some skills other than just being able to see, and I want to use that idea to talk a little bit about our vision, our perspective, our awareness. I would submit to you that something spiritually changed in our world in the year 2020. Seems a lot further away to me than just 3 years right now. But something far more than COVID-19 was introduced. Something far more this significant than election manipulation based on the response to a virus occurred.

If I had to define it in a sentence or two, I would say a curtain was opened, that God began to give us new eyes, new understanding, even new insight. We had a background, we were churched, we had Bibles. We knew when to sit and stand. We knew the words to many of the songs or hymns, but God began to give us a new awareness of the world in which we live. I would also have to say from our vantage point today that at that same time that God began to move, that it seemed to me something demonic was unleashed. We've seen expressions of evil growing in magnitude and a rapidity that is almost difficult to imagine. And I don't wanna focus on that portion of it. What I want to submit to you is that we need to see our world with new eyes and with new understanding.

In the plainest of language, our world has changed. And if we keep looking for the world which we new prior to the year 2020, we're gonna be unaware and unprepared for what's unfolding around us. We're not finished with the changes. And God hasn't abandoned us. He hasn't left us. And if we're simply longing for a place where we used to live and a world order that we used to know, and a pace of change and a pace of life that used to define us, it's no longer a fruitful attitude to hold. I believe we have to be awakened to the time and the season that's confronting us now. We're changing seasons here in Middle Tennessee and it has impact for our wardrobe and our plans and how we'll spend our days and our evenings and our weekends.

Well, there's been a change of spiritual seasons. And if we haven't acknowledged that and we're still living in a previous time, we'll be unprepared and we'll forfeit the opportunities of the world we're living in today. I wanna start in John's Gospel in the first chapter, in verse 44. Jesus is recruiting disciples. He's looking for young people, predominantly, who will follow him. He's gonna make an investment in them. He's gonna spend 3 years coaching them, giving them insight into the kingdom of God beyond anything they've ever imagined. They're Jewish, they know how to keep the laws of Moses, they have kosher rules, so their food, what they eat, is regulated. They know the holidays to celebrate, they know to go to synagogue on the Sabbath. They're very well acquainted with all the Sabbath rules, the things you can do, and the things you're not allowed to do.

But Jesus recruits them for a different kind of assignment. He's going to show them the kingdom of God. He's gonna pull back the curtain, if you will. In fact, very quickly into this arrangement, they're going to be amazed. They said, "We've never seen anybody like this. He teaches with authority. When he speaks, even the demons obey him. The wind and the waves obey him". They'll see blind eyes opened and the dead raised to life. They're gonna see an amazing hatred poured out towards Jesus. They'll become fugitives before they're done. Are you emotionally prepared to follow Jesus even if it means you're less popular?

I didn't ask you yet if you were willing to be a fugitive. I simply said are you willing to follow Jesus and forfeit some popularity? We're gonna have to recalibrate a little bit, folks. Jesus is recruiting these young people. They didn't understand the bargain. So Jesus simply said, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men," and they signed up. Most of us sign up with the Lord that way. We don't understand fully the ramifications of what we've said yes to. That's not surprising. We do that throughout our lives. We do that when we stand at the altar and exchange vows. Don't laugh, just nod sagely. You do that when you bring that first child home from the hospital. Yes, you read the book, and the book's incomplete. The challenge never goes away. Well, following the Lord is like that. There's a bit of on-the-job training. We learn while we progress.

In John chapter 1 and verse 44, it says: "Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. And Philip found Nathanael and told him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.' 'Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?' Nathanael asked. 'Well, come and see,' said Philip. And when Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here is a true Israelite in whom there's nothing false.' 'How do you know me?' Nathanael asked. And Jesus answered, 'I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you.' Then Nathanael declared, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.' And Jesus said, 'You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig-tree? You'll see greater things than that.' And he then added, 'I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'"

It's a long passage but I believe it is helpful to us. Nathanael is a skeptic. He's a friend of Philip and many of his friends from the fishing villages on that northern end of the Sea of Galilee have begun to turn their faces towards Jesus. Some of them have signed up to be disciples, to follow this new itinerate rabbi. Nathanael, not yet. He's a skeptic, and Philip comes looking for Nathanael and, with great reluctance, Nathanael agrees to go meet Jesus. Low expectations, high degree of skepticism. And when Jesus sees Nathanael, he commends him for his character. He said, "You're an Israelite in whom there's nothing false". And he has Nathanael's attention at this point, but Nathanael's holding on to his skepticism and he expresses his doubt: "How do you know me? What do you know about me"? Can you imagine saying that? "Just what do you know about me? Who do you think you are"?

You know, we live with this imagination that God doesn't really know what's in our heart. It's unfortunate. We're kind of coached into this. It's not wrong, but you think if you can fool the pastor, you've fooled God. Folks, he's brighter than me. Our goal isn't to fool one another. It's not to convince the people we work with, or even our families or the pastor or whomever that somehow we have a heart yielded to the Lord. God knows what is within us. And he's interested in Nathanael. He knows that his heart is in the right place. He said, "Nathanael, there's nothing false in you," and Nathanael's still not willing to yield. "How do you know me"? And then Jesus reveals that he's had a vision of Nathanael. He's seen something about Nathanael that he should not have been able to see. He's seeing with something more than his physical eyes. He said, "I saw you, Nathanael, when you were seated under the fig tree, when Andrew came for you".

Now he has more than Nathanael's attention, because Nathanael understands that something is happening before him, something is unfolding that doesn't have a logical explanation. Nathanael is completely amazed, and he responds with a statement of faith. He said, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God". So the skeptic has now become a follower, and he leaves this encounter to follow Jesus. And Jesus follows that up by saying, "You're gonna see things far greater than that simple insight or revelation or vision that I just told you about". Jesus recruits Nathanael by telling him that he's going to change his vision. And if you'll allow me, as we walk through these next few sessions together, I'm gonna join with you in asking God to give us new vision. I've worn contact lenses since I was a teenager. I'm grateful for 'em, they make life easier for me in many ways, but I'm very conscious that I need to see spiritual things in a new way. I wish it was as easy as putting a lens in.

Don't you wish you could have your spiritual eyes checked, and just put on a pair of spiritual glasses, and go, "Oh, that's simple"? But the reality, that vision comes from a combination of other things. We need eyes of faith, we need eyes of understanding, we need eyes of recognition, we need eyes of discernment. It's so easy in the circumstances that we're confronted with today to look at the world with fear or apprehension or anxiety or uncertainty, because the things we've counted on are shifting. The places that we've trusted, they don't seem trustworthy any longer. The things that seemed stable are apparently not stable any longer. The values that have shaped our lives and our families for multiple generations are being put in the shredder. They're being mocked in public. It's hard to see, it's hard to understand. It's hard to process in real time what's happening.

There's another familiar passage to you, I suspect. It's in 2 Kings 6. It's an event in the lives of Elisha the prophet, and he has been telling the king of Israel what his enemies are planning. Every time they plan an ambush for the armies against Israel, Elisha tells the king and their plot is foiled. I look forward to the day when we have leadership in our nation that takes spiritual advice. That will be a good thing. Far more important than a party affiliation. They'll have a heart for God, to be willing to listen to the Spirit of God. But eventually, the foreign king calls in his trusted servants and he said, "One of you is a traitor. And we're gonna spill some blood until you tell me who it is". And they said, "Not so, it's a prophet in Israel. And what you whisper in your bedroom, he tells the king".

So the king's not clever. If the prophet, if Elisha, has been knowing every time he set an ambushment, you know what the king's response is when he hears that bit of information? He sends up a contingent of soldiers to go get Elisha. If he's known about the previous six abushes you set, he might have a clue they're coming for him. I'm just thinking. When they wake up in the morning, the little village where they live is surrounded by this foreign army and Elisha's servant sees it and he's completely stressed. And he said, "Lord, what are we gonna do"? And Elisha says this little simple prayer. It's really a play on words in this passage: "'My lord, what shall we do?' And the prophet said, 'Don't be afraid. Those that are with us are more than those who are with them.'"

If you look really carefully in your imagination, you can see that young man rolling his eyes. "Grumpy old prophet, can't even count anymore". "And then Elisha prayed, 'LORD, open his eyes, so he may see.'" He's not talking about his physical eyes. He doesn't need new glasses. He's asking him to give him discernment, to see the spiritual reality of their circumstance and not just the physical reality of their circumstance. Folks, we've been more aware of our physical circumstances than our spiritual circumstances for so long, it's the reason we find ourselves in this deficient position. We've been better at reading the markets and better at anticipating weather and better at evaluating the recruiting classes at our favorite universities or evaluating the draft for our professional sports team, we've been better at planning our fantasy teams, than we have been at being aware of spiritual trends and what the Spirit of God is doing.

And I don't offer that as a condemnation. I offer that as an opportunity for realignment, to begin to recognize that there's another set of eyes with which we can see. How many seminars do we have to have about the Holy Spirit before we decide to say he's welcome in our lives? How many discussions do we have to have about God being a God of miracles and a God of power and a God who intervenes in the lives of human beings before we begin to welcome him in? We have lived for too long as skeptics, and I believe if we will change, we will see God change the way he responds amongst us. "Amen, Pastor". "'LORD, open his eyes, so he may see.' And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and he saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha".

I smile. He saw something he could understand. He saw a scenario that made sense to him. If he'd seen battle tanks and F-16s, he wouldn't have known what they were. God gave him a vision of his protection that made sense to him. "As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, 'Strike these people with blindness.'" Well, in the last prayer he prayed, was, "Lord, give this young man eyes to see", and he gave him spiritual discernment to see the forces of God arrayed as their defense. "And as the enemy began to move towards them, Elisha prayed again, 'LORD, strike them with blindness,'" and they physically lost their sight. A spiritual influence impacted their physical lives. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to believe that spiritual forces impact you physically, that the spiritual world intermingles with us?

You know, we tend to think of heaven as something that happens when your Earth suit wears out, but between here and heaven, we're left to our own selves, our own thoughts, our own energy, our own efforts. And I believe in all of those things but I am very dependent upon the power of the living God. We use phrases that betray us. We say things like, "Well, you know, I've done everything I know to do. I guess we should pray". How about praying before we do anything else we know to do? How about when we're discouraged or where our hearts are heavy or we're frightened, if we stop and begin to thank God that there are more with us than those who are against us? When we get agitated at the world we live in, what if we stop and say, "God, I thank you that you're gonna pour out your Spirit on all flesh"?

Let's begin to live as if what we say we believe is actually true. Elisha said, "Make 'em blind". And the next sentence is very understated. "So God struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. And Elisha told them, 'This isn't the road and this isn't the city. Follow me, I'll lead you to the man you're looking for.' And then he led them to Samaria," the capital. "And after they entered the city, Elisha said, 'LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.' And the LORD opened their eyes". He prayed they'd be blinded and they were. He prayed their sight would be restored and it was. But the whole story begins, the one with the greatest lesson in the story is the young man who was given discernment, an awareness of spiritual things.

Folks, with what is before us, we're going to need to know the Lord in a new way. We've argued enough about worship styles, we've quibbled enough about translations, we've had enough debates about all the secondary and tertiary aspects of our faith. Let's begin to get to know the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and King, and become familiar with the voice of his Spirit in our hearts. I wanna take the balance of this session and talk a little bit, or at least look at some Scriptures with you about insight and understanding. How do we begin to open our hearts to that? One of the best ways I know is to meditate, to think about the verses of Scripture that invite us to imagine when that happens. It's not unique. It is the characteristic of the people of God.

There is no scriptural story. There is no triumphant story of God's people, unless in every generation, there are men and women who have insight and understanding into the purposes of God. And I believe the same is true with this generation. I'll start in John's Gospel. Jesus is speaking. And there's a little debate going with the religious leaders. They have no discernment. The Son of God is standing in front of them and they don't recognize him. Do you believe that's possible? Do you believe you could be religious? They're not pagans, they've got the laws of Moses, they've got the right pedigree. They've got a temple where they worship. They go to synagogue, they read Torah portions, they keep the right holidays. And they are oblivious. They have no vision, they have no insight, they have no understanding.

I'll give you a simple little prayer if you have the courage to pray it. "God, in those places where I am spiritually blind, begin to open my eyes. God, where I have no understanding, God forgive me, I've been more interested in other things. I know the nuance and the subtleties of my favorite hobby. I know the details about so many things, but for the most part I'm ignorant about the things of the Spirit. Lord, I'm sorry. I would like to know you better". Jesus is having this little bit of a public debate and they get heated up and they say, "We belong to the right family, you know? Abraham is our father". And Jesus goes, "Oh, bother". That's the Living Bible. You can read it for yourselves. But in verse 56, Jesus makes this statement about Abraham and it's what I wanted to call your attention to. He said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and he was glad".

Jesus is alive in the 1st century. We meet Abraham in Genesis chapter 12, hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus was born in that stable. Jesus says to us, "Abraham saw my day". He didn't see it with his physical eyes; he saw, he understood it, he perceived it, he made life choices based upon something that he knew would happen generations upon generations after his Earth suit was completely worn out. Abraham knew his faith was greater than me, myself, and I. Our faith has become too self-centered. It's too focused on what's in it for me in the moment. It's almost been entirely co-opted by that idea.

Now, I believe God wants to help us in the moment and he does it in the most remarkable ways, but God will invite you, if you're willing to cooperate, on a journey that will impact the generations who follow you. "Amen, Pastor Allen. I'll sign up for a little bit of that journey". God is moving in the earth. God is moving in the earth. Look at the next segment. Joel chapter 2, it's a promise from the prophet Joel. Time was limited, I couldn't give you the whole prophecy. He said, "Afterward". After what? After God restores the Jewish people to the land of Israel. After he restores them from everything that has been destroyed, taken away from them, the suffering that they incur. God said, "After that, I will pour out my Spirit on all people," not just the Jewish people. "Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days".

God's gonna give us visions. We're gonna be able to see in a new way. We'll have insight and understanding beyond just our physical eyes. We're gonna need something more than our five senses to navigate the world that's before us. That prophecy from Joel is picked up on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The Holy Spirit is poured out. The disciples that look more like Keystone Cops or Three Stooges than world changers are transformed in Acts chapter 2. The Holy Spirit is poured out upon them and they begin to have an insight, an understanding, that simply was not present prior to that. They understand more about who Jesus is and what he's accomplished. They have a new boldness and a new courage. They have a new willingness to stand before the people who are threatening their very existence and say, "We will not stop".

All of that is unleashed. That transformation happens in the 2nd chapter of the book of Acts. I wanna read you just a portion. A crowd gathers and Peter begins to speak to them. "Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, and raised his voice and addressed the crowd: 'Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men aren't drunk. It's only nine in the morning!'" They're behaving in a way that's caused the crowd to say, "Well, you know, there's something wrong with 'em. They're too happy, they're too enthusiastic, they act like they're drunk".

I don't believe Peter's just manufactured that. That's not a great introduction. He's responding to the accusations that are being bantered around in the crowd, and he said, "No, it's a little early for them". Oh, come on, you can laugh at that at church. "This is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel," and then he quotes Joel 2. "'In the last days, God said, I'll pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.'" They'll have an awareness and an insight. "'Even on my servants, men and women, I'll pour out my Spirit, they'll prophesy.'" Prophecy is a God perspective. You're gonna have understanding, insight, awareness, a perspective of what God is doing. Folks, we need that. There is no solution for us beyond that.

Hey, before we go, I wanna pray with you. I think all of us would benefit from a God-sized vision. You know, the pressures of life and the challenges of the day-to-day responsibilities so often seem like they close in on us and we lose the perspective that God changes everything. If God is for us, it doesn't matter who's against us. So I wanna pray that by the Spirit of God, you and I would gain a God-sized vision of what he's created us for today. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you for your Word and the promise that it brings to us, that greater is the one who is for us than whatever it is that may stand opposed to us. I thank you for your great love and your great power that's been expressed on our behalf. Open our hearts. May we be aware and understand what you created us for, in Jesus's name, amen.

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