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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Visible Neglect - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Visible Neglect - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Visible Neglect - Part 1

Hey, it's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "2020 Vision". We're talking specifically about some visible neglect. I'm excited about this series. You know, I've worn contact lenses since I was a teenager. I need a little help to see what's going on in the world. Well as true as that is physically, we need our spiritual vision corrected from time to time. All of us get trapped in our favorite habit or our favorite perspectives or our favorite style of worship or even our favorite preacher on TV, and the reality is we need to see our world from a God perspective, not just from my selfish perspective. Well, here's good news, the Holy Spirit's present, and he wants to help us. Let's explore that a little bit. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.

You know, sometimes we come to church and think, "Well, I'm not going to be emotional". And I get that, the logical side of my brain overpowers the emotions most frequently, so I don't really want you to be emotional, but I can tell you the things that really matter to you trigger your emotions. And if your emotions are never interjected into your spiritual life, you need to turn up the the intensity of that a bit. You don't have to do it at church, do it when you're alone, take a walk, get in you car, go sit in the car and lock the doors and praise the Lord. But you want to meet that thing that has beset you with the same intensity that it has come after you.

If it kept you awake at night, you want to meet it with that same intensity, with a joy and enthusiasm. This is better than the sermon, I promise. I know it's not in your outline, but this has kept me through some very, very difficult places, and it it's made a pathway for God to intervene in my life, time and time again, not because I deserved it or understood what I needed, I just found that in his presence, there's a place of peace and comfort and direction. And when you need that, you need to know where that doorway is. Okay. I'll plant a seed. You should have received an outline when you came in if you're on campus, if you're not, you can download it from the website or the apps, it will help you. The scriptures we're gonna use are included there. I began a new series in the previous session under the general title of "2020 Vision," and in this session I want to talk specifically a bit more about some visible neglect.

You know, most of us have had an eye exam, if you haven't, you will, and normal if you can see as you're intended to, if you can read that eye chart, they'll say your vision is 2020. You won't need any correction, you won't need any assistance, you won't need glasses or contacts, hallelujah. Some of us aren't that fortunate. And I want to use that idea and talk to you a little bit about vision. You know, when God created us, when we're born into this world, you get five senses with which we interact with our material world, you can see and hear and taste and touch and feel. And that's our way of interacting with this physical universe. There are limits to all of those senses. There's light that we can't see, we don't have the equipment for it. There are sounds we can't hear, so there there are some limits to those physical senses.

And the Bible invites us to the imagination that there are ways to see with more than just our physical eyes. That there's a vision beyond what they can measure at the ophthalmologist office with an eye chart or some sort of a scope. And I want to use that imagination to visit with you a little bit because I would like to make a suggestion to you, that 2020, the year, in many ways begin to change how we see. And I'm willing to give God credit for that. I don't think it's primarily about a virus that came from Wuhan or the threats of the pandemic or all the messaging that washed over us. I think there was something that began to change in 2020 that changes how we see. And I credit it more to God and a spiritual awakening than I do to a physical change. I don't think the events of our lives are dramatically different than they were before 2020, but God began to awaken us to what was happening in our world in some new ways.

And I say that very much conscious that I began to be awakened as well. And I'm a professional Christian, and I have been one for quite some time now, and I wasn't being lax in my pursuit of my faith, but God graciously began to awaken me in some new ways in 2020. The imagery in my heart I use is that a curtain was opened. When Jesus died on the cross, we're told that the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in the temple, was torn in two from top to bottom. It was a signal that the way into the presence of God had been opened. Well, in some ways spiritually, I believe there was a curtain that was parted in 2020 and God began to give us new insight, new understanding, new vision if you'll allow me. He began to give us new eyes, new insights. I meet people all across the country on a regular basis that share stories in a similar way. I see the fruit of that on a weekly basis here on our campus. God is moving in some new ways.

I would also tell you to be completely candid, I think in 2020 something demonic was unleashed. I think something began that with an intensity and a frequency that we had not seen in the same way before. I want to start in Matthew 15. Jesus is speaking, there's a crowd gathered, imagine that. And Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand," which means he's about to tell you something you're not going to believe. "Listen and understand what goes into a man's mouth doesn't make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that's what makes him unclean". Now that doesn't seem very dramatic to us, but to the audience to whom Jesus was speaking, their spiritual fervor, their perception of righteousness and godliness and holiness had as much to do with what was on their fork as where they worshipped. They had a whole list of dietary rules that dominated their lives. And Jesus has just said to them, "What's on your fork doesn't really matter. What's inside of you matters far more".

Now we read that and go, "Oh bother". I'll tell what I've learned about religious rules, my rules make sense and your rules are stupid. So when you're listening to somebody tell you about the rules they believe and you think oh that's stupid, just understand they're probably thinking that about yours. None of us can earn our way into the good graces of God, it's a gift, but what we do with that gift is how we express the value we attach to it. Let's finish the narrative. "It's what is within him that makes him unclean". Verse 12, "And the disciples came to him and said, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?'" This makes me smile, the disciples having to explain to Jesus how to read his audience. You know, they're having a hard time learning. They've never known anybody like Jesus, he does things they've never seen, he expresses authority they don't understand. He can speak to the wind and the waves and all sorts of stuff that they just can't process it.

And you can hear kind of the tension in them if you read the Gospels and listen because... here they come say, "Did you understand that those people were mad at you"? I'm thinking pretty much if he can speak to the wind and the waves and they'll listen, he's got a handle on what the Pharisees are thinking. Didn't you know? "And so Jesus replied, 'Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them, they're blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.' And Peter said, 'Explain the parable to us.' This is the one day Peter sat at the front of the class. He's got his hand in the air. I got a question. And Jesus looked at him and said, 'Are you still so dull?'" Just for the record, if an angel shows up at your house today and he's sitting on the front step and you get out of the car and you walk up and he says, "I've been sent to ask you a question. Are you still so dull"?

It's not a compliment. Peter, can you not pay attention? Are you not listening? For the people that think, Jesus was all about love and all he gave out was hugs, I just give you this passage. He's saying, they're blind guides, leave them, change your orientation, redirect your lives, arrange new channels of authority. You need new trusted points of information. If you keep following them, you're going to fall into a pit. What's on your fork doesn't matter as much as you have thought it mattered. In fairness to that audience, it's very difficult to assimilate changes which fundamentally alter our understanding, it's not easy. It's easy for us because we don't believe that about our food. We're killing ourselves with our forks. Big Pharma and the medical industry would change if we would keep kosher, not as a means of righteousness, just as a means of health. Peter and his disciple, the disciples are a part of a culture that understands what they eat is to be a part of honoring God, and Jesus is trying to bring to them realignment, and they are struggling.

The kosher rules are more about their physical health than their spiritual health but they've never thought of that. They've just thought that's what made them good godly young men. And in the realignment, even when it's coming from the Lord himself, in the wake of all the miracles and the supernatural and the power, and all the admiration and respect they have for him, they are struggling mightily to hear what he's saying. They're having vision trouble. Well if you'll allow me, I would submit to you that in 2020, God began to awaken his people to see what's happening in our world in a new way. I certainly feel that way about myself. I've spent my life in the church. I certainly don't know everything about the church or understand it fully, but I've spent enough years that I'm entitled to an opinion. And if you'll allow me, we have been idolatrous. We have worshipped comfort and convenience.

We want to park next to the building and sit in our favorite chair and have somebody lead us in our favorite chorus. We have trusted our government to provide for us. I know it's not appropriate to say in polite company, but it's the truth. We've expected them to provide safety, but we don't feel safe. We scream at whoever we've elected to make us more safe. We've expected them to provide security. We've looked to our government to provide justice in our lives. We expect them to create opportunities for us, to guarantee our healthcare, to teach our children. We have outsourced the teaching and training of our children. And then we're offended when they're not being taught what we want someone else to teach them. We've asked the government to guarantee an income for us, to protect us from our enemies.

And the list goes on and on and on. In short, we have replaced trust in God with the trust in the government. We have, those of us that fill churches and sing our hymns and our choruses and have Bibles in our homes. Now I would point out to you that nothing in human history suggests that humanity is willing or capable of treating one another with respect and dignity. It has not happened on a large scale platform over an extended period of time unless we have been transformed by the power of God. And yet, with that awareness, with all of those things in view, we are witnesses to the intentional, purposeful removal of God from our most important cultural influences. Even many churches have reduced God to a to a position secondary to government or cultural values. We're trying to figure out how we can make our faith fit the current fashion trends of the culture.

Well, I want to submit to you, we need some vision change. We don't need glasses or contact lenses, we need a spiritual change so we can see with different spiritual eyes. And there's an almost limitless number of ways we could describe that from current culture. I chose a couple for this session, we may look at some more in others. But I thought we could start with the First Amendment. I hope you know that. If you've never read it, it would be a wonderful idea. You don't even know how to pray for those in authority over us if you don't know what they are committed to uphold and we have a biblical assignment to pray for those in authority over us. I think I put it in your notes. It says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people of peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

There's a lot of ways we could talk about that, but just for the sake of brevity, I took the big rocks that seemed pretty apparent to me, free speech, it's protected by our documents not by who's elected, not by who's in power, the documents that bind us together as a nation say we have a right to freedom of speech. And we are witnesses to the most extensive, profound expression of censorship in our history. And if that word doesn't mean something to you, I'll tell you how to identify it. It's when opposing ideas to the established narrative are not tolerated. And we see that on the most widespread practice in our lifetime, it's the modern day equivalent of book burning. We don't like those ideas, so you can't share them in the public square. Many labels are added. Shadow banning, we'll limit your opportunities and access on the digital platforms and you won't know it.

Cancel culture, we see expressions of intolerance on college campuses that for decades were celebrated as a place where all ideas were welcome. In fact, we were told that was important. Not these days. We no longer tolerate differing opinions. In spite of what the First Amendment said, we've been witnesses to churches being closed and we smiled and said, "Thank you," for the most part. Freedom of the press. From my vantage point, it's no longer free, it has become little more than a government propaganda arm. They operate in conjunction. We have data for this now. It's not speculation or imagination. Whether you like it and you like what they're producing or you don't, the reality is the media is almost inseparable from their connections with the FBI, intelligence services, other government agencies, and they, day after day, week after week, repeat what they seem to understand to be false information.

That is technically propaganda, and it's dangerous to ourselves and to our children. It's not new, it's not the first time it's happened, it's not unique to us. Does it signal the end of the age? It might, but it's not unique to the end of the age. Don't play your eschatology card so you don't have to deal with it. These challenges have faced the people of God from the beginning of the story in the book, through the history of the church until today. The question is will this generation have the courage to stand up for the truth? Isaiah addressed it, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, it's in your notes, Isaiah 59. "Justice is driven back and righteousness stands at a distance. Truth is stumbled in the streets and honesty cannot enter".

Sounds pretty accurate to me. "Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey". And then we get God's perspective. "The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice". This is the covenant people of God, they have a temple in the center of town. They offer daily sacrifices, they have a priesthood. They have all the accoutrement of religion and faith in the covenant people. They know who God is and yet, in that generation, God's diagnosis is that justice is driven back and righteousness is at a distance, and truth has just stumbled and fallen in the streets. God is calling them back. The Lord was displeased. See what I want to begin to ask you to consider with me is if we recognize that God is displeased with what's happening in the world around us, we no longer have the the liberty of behaving as we did before we had that awareness. We're salt and light.

Another way I would submit we need a vision change, primarily spiritually, has to do with lawlessness. Now Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and other places that lawlessness is going to increase in the earth, but that doesn't mean we're to sit in the bleachers and cheer as it happens. And I'll give you just one vantage point. I don't think there's any question, and for the last several months, there's been an overt attack on certain public expressions of authority. most notably, the cry to defund the police. It has become a fashionable policy for many people in the public arena. In fact, they will fast track you to notoriety and talk shows and public acclaim, defund the police, replace them with a social worker.

Most of the people calling for that have private security. Curiously, to me, the same group calling for the defunding of the police are encouraging a lax response to criminal behavior. Defund the police and don't punish the criminals, release the criminals, fail to prosecute people who are breaking the law. And equally bizarre if you just step back and look at the messaging and the scenario, those who want to defund the police are advocates for an open border. They no longer want to make a distinction between legal U.S. citizens, those who obey the laws, who pay their taxes, and everyone else that wants to drift into our country, from whatever nation in the world. And it's really misleading to think that they're just people that are fleeing from the poverty and the challenges of Central America any longer.

The most frighteningly in this scenario, the same group of people, those who cry to defund the police, the ones who ignore the violence and the crime in our cities, the ones who want to release prisoners, the ones who want to keep our borders open, they also want to confiscate the guns of our citizens. There's a logic break in that set of suggestions, and I would submit to you that that set of behaviors should concern everyone regardless of our political affiliation or our persuasion. Folks, it's as if we can't see, it's as if we're deaf. And most importantly, far more important than the previous two, I would submit to you the church needs new vision. For the most part, we are afraid and compromised. Inexplicably, in too many instances, we're reluctant to acknowledge the uniqueness of Jesus. We're more comfortable saying there are many ways to God. It doesn't really make that much difference which path you choose. Just choose the one that makes you happy and walk.

Folks please understand that's a denial of the Lordship of Jesus. We're unwilling in too many occasions to advocate for biblical values or a biblical worldview. Our message is presented from a majority position for so long, it's defined our lives. We've understood our faith to be the fabric that's held our social systems together, so we're used to thinking and responding from that platform in the same way the disciples were used to understanding that what was on their fork made them holy, or not. We've imagined that our faith was the substance that we all stood upon that we're unaware of the nature of the opposition. See in truth, we need a demonstration of strength and power, not anger and violence, strength and power, a different kind of vision. Our passive distracted responses are understood as weakness, and we're not awake to that yet.

Historically, and I mean beyond our generation, from the scripture forward through the history of the church, the Gospel has been presented in power, in the power of Almighty God, not just with reason and discussion. And we've been very disinterested in the power of God, we didn't need it, we could secure our futures without it. We thought our children would be great. We had hospitals and schools and futures for them and we find ourselves in a place, if God isn't intervening in his power and his strength, our freedoms and liberties and our children's futures are very much in question. Look at what Paul said in first Corinthians 2 and verse 4, he said, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom but on God's power".

May I suggest that the contemporary church needs an open heart to the power of God? It's a little bit messy, it's uncomfortable, it's awkward, and it's going to be as difficult for us to embrace and to walk towards as it was for the disciples to imagine that what was within them was more important than the food they were eating. But Jesus believed they could make the change. His words to them were, "Listen and understand". And it's my invitation to you today not to listen to me and understand, but to listen to the Word of God. You take it, you think about it, you spend time praying about it. Please don't leave this building today and say, "I agree with Pastor," or "I don't agree with Pastor," and imagine that the issue is closed. You're responsible for the Word of God, you have access to it. And God is asking us to see in new ways. The question that is before us is are we going to have the courage to do that?

You know, I interact with a lot of people and one of things I frequently hear is, "I don't want to think about the things that are wrong with our culture, I just want to stay focused on my Bible". Well, I want to stay focused on my Bible too, but we need an awareness of what's happening in our world so we know how to pray, how to respond, what to say. It's like going to the doctor and then not reading the report he gives you. We need God's perspective on our world so we can be salt and light, and then we need the Spirit of God to give us the boldness to do that. Let's pray:

Father, give us understanding hearts. May we understand the time in which we live so that we can respond with your purpose and your courage and your boldness. Forgive us when we have been frightened or ambivalent or withdrawn. I thank you that you're calling your church to be a living representation of Jesus in this generation. In his name, amen.

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