Allen Jackson - Visible Neglect - Part 2
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It's a privilege to be with you again. We're gonna continue our study on "2020 Vision". Most of us have used something to aid our physical vision. We've looked through a microscope, a telescope, binoculars. We've received the benefit from some lenses that change how we see. Well, the Spirit of God will change the lenses of our spiritual vision. It'll lift us beyond our personal selves or my problems or my desires. Now, that's a multiplier that we need, particularly in this unique time in history. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
So how do we learn to see with something other than our physical eyes? Well, if I just get to choose one chapter and, for the sake of time I do today. I chose Hebrews 11. If you'll look with me in your notes, it's talking to us about a vision that has more to do than with your physical eyes. We'll start in Hebrews 11 and verse 1. It says: "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don't see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command". It wasn't an accident. I understand science is trying to figure out how the world was formed. That's a difficult challenge. They've never seen a power that could bring into existence this material world in which we live. I'm not offended by the big bang theory. It may have been initiated when God said, "Bang". But I don't believe it's intellectual superiority to believe that something came from nothing. That's absurd.
So I have no problem intellectually saying that I believe the universe was formed at God's command. And if you'll accept that, the next phrase is of equal importance: "So that what is seen was not made out of what was visible". That's a paradox. That the physical world, the world we can see and interact with with our five senses, emerged from something that is not visible. So here's the invitation at the beginning of this chapter. It's the Hall of Fame of the people who have trusted God, that faith is being certain of something unseen. Certainty of something that your physical eyes can't focus on. That's not as bizarre as you think. Most of you believe in radio waves. You've never seen one and if you have a tuner you can hear them. You've seen the benefits of an x-ray. You can't see the x-ray but you've seen the film that captured the image. I'm not asking you to do something that you don't do in any number of other areas in your life.
How does a CD play music? "It's digital". Oh, that explains it. Can you reproduce it? "Sure, it's a bunch of ones and twos". That helps. For some reason, when it comes to the invitations of Scripture, we reject it as if we're too intellectually sophisticated. Baloney, it's a Greek word. It means I disagree. Faith is being certain of something unseen. Faith brings understanding. We need understanding. Things are happening too quickly at a magnitude too great, simply to process them with our tools of perception. And the author of Hebrews reminds us that the material things we see were made out of something unseen. Same chapter, look in verse 7: "By faith," by faith, "Noah, when he was warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark".
Noah made plans and provisions when he couldn't see a threat. There was no impending threat. He couldn't measure it, it wasn't being reported on the talk shows, it wasn't on the headlines. Even the conspiracy theorists on the Internet in Noah's day were not warning about a flood. There was no flood threat anywhere. There wasn't even a flood warning. It wasn't even raining in Kentucky. The radar was clear. And Noah was warned and by faith he built an ark. He had a different kind of vision. Folks, we have been clueless, following the same messaging of the secularist for too long, and then huddling in our churches on the weekend and having a seminar on whether Jesus still does miracles. We have to be different, not the ungodly or the immoral or somebody else. We have to be different.
Same chapter, look at verse 22: "By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones". You need a little biblical back story to know that. Joseph wasn't born in Egypt. He was born in Canaan, the youngest of a whole bunch of brothers. He was an arrogant young man, he was his father's favorite and his father parented poorly and his brothers hated him. And he would boast about the privilege he had, to the point that his brothers sold him as a slave and lied to his father. If you look that up, that is dysfunctional in case you're not certain about that. If you're waffling on, and through a series of seemingly unfortunate circumstances, Joseph finds his way to an Egyptian prison and from there, because of the interpretation of a dream, finds himself before Pharaoh and ultimately becomes the prime minister of the nation.
And that's the end of his life. And his brothers that sold him as a slave, they've been reunited, they've flourished in Egypt, they've been given the finest agricultural land in the nation. And Joseph's life is ending. He's gonna end his life in Egypt. And it says that he leaned on his staff and he spoke to his extended family now about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Joseph saw something. He looked beyond their prosperous farms and their growing asset base, and he said, "There's a threat coming, and you're gonna have to leave here. You're not gonna be able to behave as you're behaving now". And he didn't explain to them there were hundreds of years of slavery in between, but Joseph had an insight, an understanding. We need a God perspective. Verse 23, it says: "By faith Moses's parents hid him for three months after he was born". They didn't hide him because they were ashamed.
There was an edict from Pharaoh that every male child born to the Hebrew slaves was to be murdered. They were growing too fast, the Egyptians were frightened of them, and they wanted the males murdered. So Moses's parents hid him. "They saw he was no ordinary child, and they weren't afraid of the king's edict". You read that and you go, "Well, that makes perfect sense". No, it doesn't. We've witnessed, we have stood in the bleachers, at least silently, if not cheering, while more than 60 million children have been sacrificed on our watch. We didn't see them as special or unique. We didn't have the courage to stand up to the edict that had given that permission. We still don't. The Supreme Court's done it, we're still waffling. Moses's parents had a remarkable courage. They saw something other than a child that woke 'em up several times during the night. They saw something through their sleep-deprived haze that somehow they recognized an anointing from God upon this child.
I don't think it just means he was cute. Most of the Hebrew slaves were complying with the orders of Pharaoh. There were serious penalties. Verse 26, same chapter: "Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward". To what reward? "Moses considered disgrace for the sake of Christ"? Moses lived more than 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Moses has vision that didn't come from his glasses. He's aware of something. He imagined that aligning himself with the incarnate Son of God was more valuable than the immediate treasure of Egypt. We have trouble saying No to a business deal that will compromise our character or our values. We don't wanna be left off an invitation list, so we've dialed back our faith a little bit so people don't think we're fanatical or over the top. "By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible".
Again, generation after generation after generation of the people of God have a different kind of vision. See, I think, and I've spent my life in the contemporary American church, and I like to learn. I'm all, I spent as much time at university as I could and I'd go back. But we've imagined that it's just about collecting information. We've had very little interest, very little attention given to the application of our faith. What are the implications of believing this? How is that lived out? "Oh, don't drink that," or "don't watch that," or "don't wear that". It's a childish way of approaching our faith. It's as childish as saying that what's on your fork is gonna get you in trouble. Hebrews chapter 12. I'd remind you what it's originally written, there are no chapter breaks. We added those just so we could reference the text.
Same idea, rolling right forward. "Let us," you and me. We're in the South, let y'all, "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that we won't grow weary and lose heart". I don't know how you feel about the world today. It's wearying to me. People say to me, "I've quit watching the news. I can't take it. I just can't bear to think about it. I'm weary with it". No kidding. We've been given a prescription. It says we've got to fix our eyes on Jesus. Now, he left here in Acts chapter 1. He's coming back, but at the moment we have to see him with something other than our physical eyes. We need eyes of faith, we need an understanding heart. We need discernment. We need a knowledge of the Word of God so we know what Jesus's perspective on our world is. He didn't say, "Go to church," or "Be polite," or "Be tame," or "Be kind," or "Be tolerant".
None of those things are evil or wrong, but we've interchanged those. We've exchanged them for the vision of Jesus. I think there'd be a lot of blind guy speeches coming out of Jesus's mouth if he were to talk to us these days. "Are you really that dull"? Yeah, we probably are. If you'll allow me, I think there's some visible neglect in the church. Some forms of neglect are invisible. You can neglect your health for a long time before it shows up. The human body is an amazing thing. Its recuperative abilities, its ability to heal itself, I'm always amused at Christians who say they don't believe God heals. Folks, he built you to heal. He did. You cut your finger, you don't go to Amazon and order a new one. You just cover it up for a little while and it'll heal. God built it. It's in your DNA, your body responds immediately to threats you don't even know are being presented.
Some forms of neglect are not visible, some are very apparent. And I would submit to you that in 2020, God began to reveal to us, began to awaken us, to the degree to which we have neglected his great provision. It's not just my opinion. Look at Hebrews 2: "For this reason we must pay close attention to what we have heard, so that we don't drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation"? There's two warnings in that passage. Did you catch them? One is about drifting away, drifting away from what we know, the author of Hebrews says. I think with just a casual glance at culture, the Christian culture, in which we live, 'cause we have been a nation with a Christian culture since our inception.
I know that's not popular, but it's an undeniable part of our history. We've never been a uniquely Christian nation, but our legal systems, our leading academic institutions, the way in which we conducted business, how we have treated one another, the freedoms and the liberties that have come to people, to women, to minorities, have all come from a biblical worldview. It was the fabric of our culture. But we have drifted away from it. Our Bible says God created us male and female. That's a point of tremendous confusion and contention these days. We've drifted. God established marriage between a man and a woman. The government didn't do that. Our government reflected a God idea, a biblical worldview. We've drifted away from that. God tells us very clearly that there's a parental responsibility for their children and their families. We've drifted away from that for a long, long time. God very clearly tells us the place that sex has within our lives. It belongs within the context of marriage and no place else. We've ignored that in the church for so long we no longer have moral authority to talk about all the things that are happening in our culture.
The Bible tells us if you don't work, you don't eat. It tells us not to spend more than we earn. Tells us there's a God and he can be known. All sorts of rather fundamental ideas that have shaped our lives for generations. We have drifted away from those, to the point we don't even want to talk about it in public. We're aware we'll be labeled or shouted down or canceled. And then the author of Hebrews says not to neglect our great salvation. It's an interesting word to me. It didn't say "Ignore it". It didn't say, "Never accept it". To neglect something you have received, something's been entrusted to you. Neglect is a failure to care for something that's been entrusted to you. Don't neglect your salvation. So he's not talking about people who said, "I'm not interested in Jesus". He's talking to people who sit in churches and have Bibles, they have a forum with all sorts of religious activity, but we've neglected. We haven't opposed it. We've embraced it. We just didn't care about it. We've been ambivalent.
Something has been accepted and then neglected. So how do we understand that neglect? I got three minutes. No problem. Piece of cake. We'll look at some other ways in the sessions that follow. I'll give you one. I would submit to you we've neglected the most prominent help that's been provided to us as the body of Christ. Jesus's greatest concern for his friends when he was leaving them, he was stepping out of time, back into eternity, he had some concern for his friends, rightly so. They're the dull group, remember? And in John 16 he's giving them instructions. He said, "I tell you the truth," and those of you that are here frequently, you know by now when you see that phrase, what's coming next is bizarre, so Jesus has to say, "No, no, really, this is true". "I tell you the truth, it's for your good that I'm going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I'll send him to you. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He'll not speak on his own; he'll speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come".
In the plainest of language, I would submit to you we have neglected the help that has been provided us in the person of the Holy Spirit. We have language for him, we have liturgy that is beautiful for his presence in our midst. Every major tradition has all sorts of liturgical language and description for the person of the Holy Spirit, but we have very little intent of welcoming him into our midst. He's described for us in a variety of ways, as a helper, an advocate, a teacher, someone who will represent us. Someone who will advocate on our behalf when the systems against us are beyond us. Now that's a powerful gift. He's our guide, we're told. I've traveled a number of times to Israel and one of the questions I'm often asked, people say to me, "Pastor, I want to come back but I don't wanna have to have a guide. I just wanna come back and walk around".
Well, I lived in Israel for a while. My brothers and I studied there, so I was in Jerusalem for about a year and no guides. I'm telling you it's a far more effective trip if you have help. A good guide provides information that you didn't have to ferret out. I'd take a walk through Jerusalem and go back and spend 2 days in the library trying to figure out what I'd looked at. A guide could have spared me the library time. A good guide gives understanding, context, of what you're seeing. A good guide enables you to make more efficient use of your time, to benefit from the learning or the wisdom of other people. It's a leverage. A guide enables you to stay safe and secure when you don't have enough local knowledge. I was standing on the street in Jerusalem, my brother and I were. We'd been there a couple of days. We were downtown Jerusalem in the shopping district, looking for something to eat and the letters are all in Hebrew and we weren't doing well.
And all of a sudden, on the street, people started shouting and pointing. And I didn't understand what they were saying. We didn't know Hebrew yet. We didn't pay much attention. We kept looking and they started shouting more loudly and more intensely. And we noticed they were pointing. And before long, we realized that everybody on the block had backed away from us and we're standing in the middle of the block and they're shouting and pointing at us. Clueless is the word you're searching for. There was a backpack in the middle of that block and it had been left unattended. In Jerusalem, that's a very frightening thing. I didn't have enough local knowledge to pay any attention. I'm just hungry. And the locals shouting at us in a language we didn't understand, finally made enough noise that two hillbillies woke up and answered the clue phone. A guide makes a great deal of difference. And we have neglected the guide that Almighty God provided for us.
I listed four ways in your notes. I don't have time to unpack them but I'll hand 'em to you. They're worthy of your reflection and your thought. Without the help of the Holy Spirit you cannot enter the kingdom of God. You will never. It's impossible, per our Lord. In John 3, "Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he's born of water and the Spirit.'" That's a capital "S," that's the Holy Spirit. We are birthed into the kingdom of God through the help of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that we should be baptized in the Spirit. Mark 1: "I baptize you with water, but he, Jesus, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit". Every Gospel introduces us to Jesus that way. It's the Holy Spirit that lets the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of his presence in our lives is the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5: "The fruit of the Spirit's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law". We are so blind, so unaware. Our vision is so impaired. We look for kindness and peace and goodness from people who aren't born of the Spirit. It doesn't come from human character. We are selfish, self-absorbed, greedy. Read history. That's why our faith makes up at such a difference. The gospel really is enough. And the gifts of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12, Paul's writing to a church, not to pagans. He says, "About spiritual gifts, brothers, I don't want you to be ignorant". We're not ignorant. We're just get to have seminars that we don't believe in 'em anymore. As if we could vote God off the island.
Now, and if I could just in the simplest of language, those four expressions of the Spirit of God, they're separate but they're related. And they all matter to you and to me if we're gonna complete our assignment. We need new eyes. We need a vision correction. We need an understanding that we have not been living with. We're gonna have to begin to treat God's perspective as if it's more important than the cultural perspective that is cascading over us. That is extraordinarily difficult 'cause we can't compete in volume or frequency or the number of celebrities that are willing to stand up and spew. But the authority of God in our lives, we're his people and we gather on the weekends, not just to be entertained or to salve our consciences. But to try to understand how we can more completely align ourselves with God's invitations in our world.
Our faith has to have a practical expression in the world in which we live or it is useless. In Jesus's language, salt that is not good for anything except to be cast out and trampled underfoot. How did we ever accept the notion that in polite company we won't talk about our faith? If I understood Jesus correctly, he said, "If you deny me before people, I'll deny you before my Father". I understand it's contentious, trust me. But it's worthwhile. With the help of God, we're gonna spend a few sessions trying to understand how to get a little bit of a vision correction. I brought you a prayer. It's not the one I brought you last night. You'll have to pray that one on your own. But why don't you stand with me, we can pray this together.
The corporate prayers of God's people change the destiny of nations. It's true. It's a truth we've stepped away from. We think of prayer as some way to end the meeting or to begin a ball game. Comes right after the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. It's a part of the order of a service or a public gathering and I'm grateful for all those places where prayer has been included, but because of that, it's caused us to imagine it's not significant, it's preliminary or it's just an expression of a conclusion. Prayer is an invitation to the Creator of heaven and earth into the midst of the world in which we live. And there are many, many things God will not do unless he's invited into. So I tend to be guilty of giving him multiple invitations, and I would encourage you to do the same. Let's read this together:
Heavenly Father, forgive us of our idolatry, we have placed our trust in many things other than you. Forgive us for our choosing comfort and convenience over obedience and faithfulness. We have ignored your precepts and neglected your great provision for our lives. Look upon us now with mercy, respond to us with expressions of grace. Holy Spirit, we are listening. Lead us, direct us, that we might once again walk uprightly before God. Through our lives may the name of Jesus be honored and esteemed. May the purposes of God be brought forth in our generation, in Jesus's name, amen.