Allen Jackson - Authority and Power - Part 2
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It's good to be with you today. Our topic is "You Are Not Alone". We're gonna look at the apostles. In Acts chapter 1, Jesus goes back to heaven, they're alone. They've been recruited by Jesus to travel with him, to share ministry with him, and now he's left. And I know they felt alone, but in Acts 2, the Holy Spirits poured out, but then the temperature gets turned up. They're arrested, they're threatened, they're ultimately beaten, they're imprisoned again and again, the martyrs begin. And yet, in the midst of that, the spirit of God is moving in the most dramatic ways. Even Peter's shadow falling on people brings healing to them. They learn something that in Jesus's absence, the presence of the spirit of God within them prepared them to impact their world. The Holy Spirit still doing that. Enjoy the lesson.
We have lacked courage. We think putting a Jesus is Lord magnet at the back of the car is a bold statement. When they're released, they're threatened and released. They go back to the believers that are praying and they says, "Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and to perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus". There's a theme emerging. Can you hear it? Jesus says, "You're gonna do what I've done". They said, "No, no, we know that. We don't really wanna do that, we just wanna hang with you, Jesus". No. He said, "I'm going, but I'm gonna send you help, and don't you start until the Holy Spirit's here".
And the Holy Spirits poured out, and they're all blown away, brains are afraid. There's no way they were prepared for the events of Acts chapter 2, or Acts chapter 3, or Acts chapter 4. And now they're praying, this is their prayer in private. "Stretch out your hand to heal and to perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus". What if you started to pray that over your neighborhood or over the place where you work, or the school where your children go, or over your holiday family gathering? God stretch out your hand to heal and to perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. May your adversaries be frustrated. May there be consternation because of the demonstrations of the power of God.
Acts chapter 5, they're arrested again. "They called the apostles in and they had them beaten, and then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go". You gotta stop this. We'll open your backs. It was decades later before they had the first church council. Sounds really fancy. They called the gathering of the faith leaders from the major cities around the Mediterranean. And when they gathered, the records show that most of them who arrived either had their Achilles tendon cut, or they were blind in one eye because by that point, it was a common punishment of the Romans for Christians. I'm not suggesting that we should be thrilled about the physical suffering of our faith, I'm suggesting we need to imagine a different kind of courage attached to being a Christ follower.
They were flogged, and they said, "Don't you ever mention his name again". "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they've been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name. And day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ". They just wouldn't stop. They didn't try to throw out the Roman governor. They didn't say, "We've got to put a new Sanhedrin in place". They told anybody who would listen who Jesus was and what he would do and put an invitation in front of them. They were relentless. We only get a tiny portion of the account. I'm sure it didn't all turn out as well as that one man on the way to prayer, but he was happening with enough frequency and enough consistency that growing numbers of people until all the surrounding villages around Jerusalem are stirred. They're bringing sick people and putting 'em in the street so Peter's shadow can fall on them. We couldn't do that yet we'd be offended.
"No, he didn't need to pray for me. Wait for his shadow". Who do you think you are? Acts 19. This is interesting to me. Ephesus, there's a little spiritual conflict, it's not new to the 21st century. "There were Jews who went around driving out evil spirits, and they tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed". They've seen other believers doing it, they don't personally know Jesus. They've seen other people doing it, and they've seen enough of an outcome that they're gonna try it. If nothing could happen, they wouldn't have tried it. "They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' And there was a Jewish chief priest named Sceva, had seven sons and they were doing this. And one day the evil spirit answered them".
The demon speaks to these seven young men. "'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' The man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all, and he gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding". I bet they didn't try that again, but the part that intrigues me is the emphasis on knowing Jesus. The demons know who knows Jesus. You see, and we've treated it, I think a little casually, a little presumptively. "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I did that. What's important? What can I do now? I wanna know something deep". Look, I don't know anything more powerful than knowing Jesus better. I don't, I mean, I've spent a lot of time and energy and effort. I'm an advocate for knowing the culture of the 1st century and I've done a good bit of work in original languages, and I'm grateful for all of that. It's a benefit in my life, but it is all very much secondary to knowing Jesus, I think about him a lot.
What would he say? How would he respond? What would he do in this circumstance? This pacifist-cliched Jesus that is introduced to us is not the one I know from Scripture. God doesn't wait for us to fully master who he is. He asks us to be obedient. How is that man healed when Peter extended a hand, or John, to encourage him to stand up? Did God create new bones in his ankle? Did he recreate the ligaments? We don't know. And if we did, it doesn't matter. We don't know how to do that. We put ourselves in front of Jesus. I want to know him better. It's not that God, I say it to him a lot. I really, I'd like to know, I'd like to know, I'd like to understand. I'm not content just to rinse and repeat and play the game and have the routine.
Last Wednesday, we talked about humility and courage and leadership and how necessary it is to understand where the strength comes from, and it's not from us and to never be confused by that. "Jesus I know, Paul I know, but you"? You don't want the demons to know more about Jesus than you do. You know, there's something of a theme of that in Mark's first chapter, when Jesus goes into the synagogue and Capernaum the demonized man begins to cry out. "We know who you are than nobody in the synagogue did". The disciples haven't figured it out yet, it's Mark 1. The demons knew we have been reluctant learners because we've wanted to imagine, we've wanted to tell ourselves and we've wanted to live with this pretense that we have gotten it all.
And we may have gained the legal authority to everything that is ours, but to bring that into our experience means we're gonna have to walk a path with a little different kind of a courage and a little more boldness. It's a little messier. Jesus authority in Matthew 28, "Eleven went to Galilee," this is post-resurrection, "To the mountain where Jesus had told him to go. And when they saw him, they worshiped him, and some doubted. And Jesus came and said, 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.'" All authority in heaven and earth. There's nothing left out of that. There's no kingdom, there's no power. There's no law of nature, there's no spiritual force, there's no principality or power.
When he sees John in Revelation 1, he says, "I have the keys of death and hell". He's defeated death. He has completely paid the price for sin, he's exhausted the curse of sin, that it no longer holds authority over humanity. "All authority has been given to me". We need to meditate on that. We get afraid and intimidated and anxious. 1 Peter 3, this is Peter years later, decades later, talking about the resurrection. "Saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who's gone into heaven. Is at God's right hand with angels and authorities and powers and submission to him". Decades later, Peter sounds convinced that what Jesus said in Matthew 28 is true. In Romans 14, Paul says it. "For this very reason Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living".
That's an interesting statement, he's the Lord of the dead. When your physical body is done, you are not done. Your spirit's eternal, you just have a brief period of time where you have an earth suit. Boy, that thing wears out quick. Huh? Poof! Don't look at anybody else, just look straight ahead when you say that, okay? And get you in all kinds of trouble. Ephesians chapter 1, "God placed all things under his feet," Jesus's feet, "And appointed him to be the head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way".
Again, all authority, he's the head over everything. That means there's no thing that's not under his headship. Colossians 2, "In him, all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form. And in him you have been made complete, he is the head over all rule and authority". See, we are wringing our hands about darkness and evil and wickedness and perversion and immorality. Folks, we gotta get to know Jesus better. He's looking at Pilot, going, "You got no power over me. Backup. My Dad's given you a really good day job, but you should tread lightly, sir". That's the Living Bible translation of that.
And in Romans 8, Paul, again. "In all these things we are more than conquerors". How can you be more than a conqueror? That's an interesting question. If you're the conqueror, I think to be more than a conqueror means you not only have the victory, you take away all the plunder. "I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor demons, nor the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God". There's nothing external that will separate us from the love of God. The only thing that has the power to do that is you or me.
Now, I've given you several Scriptures really to reflect upon, even to meditate upon if you'll borrow the word. But the real question is, why does it matter? And this is the punchline to this whole little reflection because there are spiritual forces opposed to you. That's one component, there are spiritual forces opposed to you. They oppose the purposes of God on your behalf, they oppose what God created you to become, they oppose the assignment that you've been given. If they can't cause you to ignore Christ or to reject Christ, they'll do their best to annoy, to delay, to disrupt. There are spiritual forces opposed to you, but the rest of that, the sentence is that which you are powerless to defeat without an authority greater than yourself. We're not gonna do this by effort or determination or focus or memory, we need a power.
Jesus said, "Don't even think about getting started until you're baptized in the Spirit". I'm not arguing for an experience, I'm suggesting we need to know Jesus better and listen to him more carefully and begin to imagine living under his authority. I'm a citizen of his kingdom before I'm a citizen of any other realm. I'm not a hyphenated Christian. Yes, I pray for this nation. Yes, I love the nation where God placed me, but I'm not confused. Nothing, not height, not depth, or anything in all creation can separate us. So what are the things that we see besetting our cultures, you can make your own list, pornography, greed, sexual immorality, anger, gluttony, behaviors, thoughts that dominate us.
Folks, it's as prevalent in the church as it is without. Unquestionably, it is not even a debate, it's as prevalent amongst us as it is in any other sample of the population. And we say we're saved, yes, but we're not living under the authority of our King. Our desire for righteousness or holiness or purity. We make friends with the world, we cheer for it and support it and live amongst it and act like there's no... Three years ago at this time if you knew somebody had cold, we didn't invite 'em to dinner. You might have left something on the front step for them, but you weren't going and give 'em a hug and lay hands on them. We hadn't yet, we didn't have our first service together until the first week of May, but I remember that service. We were outside and we put our chairs on the lines in the parking lot, nobody would shake your hand. We'd stand 8 or 10 feet apart and go, like we were superheroes exchanging something.
God's raising us up to recognize there is a power to deliver us, to set us free from the bondages that beset us. We can be forgiven and cleansed and delivered. You know the pathway, it begins with repentance, "Lord, I'm sorry". It's a change of thought and a change of behavior, than we renounce it. You have no power over me any longer because I've repented, in Jesus's name. Your authority over me is broken. Don't say no harm, no foul, you open yourself to spiritual influences and spiritual forces when you make choices against God. And then we've got to know how to be free of those, you have to renounce it, and then you have to release it. We can't afford anger and bitterness and resentment, the division that is being pumped into our nation by fomenting hatred, dredging up anything we can to fuel anger and resentment and bitterness.
The church has a message that's important. There's a power to set you free, to be free from the of sin and darkness. You can be freed from your past and your failures. Jesus really is enough, it is such good news no wonder they hate his name. Do you know that's not new? Don't ever mention that name again. That sounds familiar to me. Don't talk about that in this boardroom, don't bring that into this classroom. I was on the Temple Mount, I don't know, last year. The Temple Mount, the Israelis retook it in '67 and Moshe Dayan, do you remember the Israeli general that had the black eye patch looked like Yul Brynner? Bald head.
Some of you have seen in pictures of him. He was the most influential military leader in Israel at the time, and he put forth the proposition. He said that if we give the authority of the holiest site in Judaism to the Muslims, they will understand how serious we are about peace, and we can live at peace with our enemies. So for the first time in 2,000 years, the Israelis had sovereignty over the place where Solomon's temple had been built, and Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice, and they gave it back to the Muslim world.
So if you visit Jerusalem today and you go up on the Temple Mount, you go through a checkpoint, and the Israelis ultimately have authority over it, but the Muslims are in control of the Temple Mount. And we walked up there and the Israeli's guide that was with us turned to start to tell the story of the Temple Mount. And one of the Muslims, they could be a little chippy, came up and said, "Don't say Temple Mount on this space I we'll throw you out". And Ronnie said, "Temple Mount, Temple Mount, Temple Mount, Temple Mount". He's a lieutenant colonel in the IDF, he's not a four-year-old arguing with his brother. But we've been a little bit like that. They say, "Don't you say the name of Jesus".
And I think Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I have a little game, occasionally I'm invited to say a prayer at some public function dedicating some building in the community and they would say to me, "You know, we would like you to come and pray, but can you not... it will be a diverse audience. Can you not say Jesus"? And you know how well that went, but it turned into a little game in a 30-second or a 90-second prayer, how many times can I say the word Jesus? So Kathy will keep count and I'll get done and go back and sit down and she'll go 11. I don't always try to be annoying, but when I do, I'm really good at it. But there is an authority that is ours, but it we have to be willing to express it.
And in order to express the authority, we have to come under authority, and that requires the humility we talked about last week. We serve at his pleasure, whatever assignment he gives us, and we treat it with the dignity as if the King himself asked us to stand in this space. And we will do it with zeal and attention and focus, and we will exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of it until he chooses to give us another assignment. And if anyone is interested and would ask, we will tell them about the One under whose authority we stand and in whose name we serve, because he has changed our lives and he'll change your life.
We're not inviting you to be religious or to join a church. We're asking you to get to know a person, the most remarkable person we've ever met. He's changed my life, he'll change yours. Well, I've known a Christian, I understand, I know we've all got reasons, but get to know Jesus, folks. Begin to talk to him, tell him you wanna know him better. We are being saved, let's grow up past the notion that there's nothing left. And we're like toddlers walking around and going, you know, me do it. And all the adults that know us are terrified that me will try to do it. And I believe God is asking us to grow up. I brought you a prayer, my time is up. It's really a proclamation; we can stand and stay it together. You found it? All right:
Almighty God, I thank you that in Jesus I am more than a conqueror. Your love is greater than any expression of evil which confronts me. I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. Through the blood of Jesus I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil, amen.