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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Developing Skills - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Developing Skills - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Developing Skills - Part 1

We've been doing a topic. We've been working on this notion of "Leading Faith," and the idea is to bring faith into the arena of your leadership. You're all leaders. I had a revelation some weeks ago. I didn't have a vision and God didn't send an angel and no donkey spoke to me, but it was just as real as if any one of those things had happened. On the inside of me it was like I saw you in the community, distributed through the community. And I saw the confidence with which you interact. And I get little windows into that from time to time.

I had a friend, he went to heaven not too long ago, and he was somebody you might have looked past, but he was a leader in his own realm. He could take a Harley apart and put it back together in the dark. And not miss a link. I mean, he had such confidence in that. And I knew him first through church and so there was kind of a timidness to that interaction or it was a little cautious at least and he said, "I wanna go to lunch with you". And so we worked it out, it took a little while. We got it worked out, and I went to lunch and said, "You just, wherever you wanna go". He said, "I got someplace I wanna take you".

And it wasn't a place I go a lot. They serve lunch but it was more about beverages than it was lunch. And it was dark and smoky and it was okay with me. I wasn't surprised. And we walked into that place, and it was like walking through Memphis with Elvis. I mean to tell you, my friend was large and in charge. There was his booth and his special, and I was privileged to be with him. And I know that is true of every one of you in arenas. And it amazes me. And with that revelation came this awareness that God intends to give us the confidence and the boldness to have that same leadership influence with your faith. You ready for that?

That's different than sitting in church and nodding at the appropriate time. That's cultivating a confidence in who God is in you and what he will do through you that will take our faith outside the walls of the church. Not condemning, not preaching, but extending the power of God. You're leaders in business, and some of you in corporate settings and others in schools and classrooms and courtrooms. Some of you in university settings. You build neighborhoods and houses and lives. You extend medical care to people who are in need of relief with tremendous confidence and authority. You answer alarms for fires, you arrive with ambulances, you stand watch over the rest of us. You show up on time, you do your job, and you help build our community.

When you're afraid, I watch you. You push through it. You overcome adversity, disappointments, and you continue on. You feed, you clothe, you care for others with joy, enthusiasm, and generosity. You juggle tangled schedules, frantic calendars, you balance budgets, and that's just to make your home work. You're a walking display of confidence and courage which makes our community a truly remarkable place to be. That's you. And I can add to that one more layer that I know for certainty: you're people of faith. You believe God is real, is engaged in the lives of people in the 21st century. And yet when I watch and I listen and sometimes I step into your arenas and we interact, it seems to me that we often have far too little confidence in leading with our faith.

And I hear these things coming: "I don't wanna be inappropriate, Pastor," "I don't wanna be presumptive," "You know, I just wasn't sure. I knew the Bible well enough," or "I didn't wanna say something that God wouldn't want me to say". Sometimes your respect for God, I think, causes you to believe that timidity is a good choice. Well, I've arrived this weekend with an announcement: it's time to change. No criticism, no complaint, no guilt or shame. That's not... it's an invitation. There's a doorway in front of us and whoever would like to, I believe the Lord's inviting through it. Because we are desperately needed to lead with our faith. As much as we wish somebody else would, there'd be a politician that would or some person of influence that would. I believe God needs us in our little spaces in the world where we live to take a place, to hold the line, to rebuild the walls, to recast the vision of our heritage of faith, to take our faith outside the walls of weekend worship and engage people around us with the reality of Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, we're not gonna wait for somebody else. This is Tennessee, so we volunteer, amen? And that's what this session is all about today. In fact, that's what this weekend is all about. It's a very practical weekend, so it has a bias towards action. Sometimes, it's all about thought and ideas and information, but this weekend has a bias towards action. I want to invite you to begin to imagine a new response in your life to the Lord. No matter how tenured you are, what a veteran you are, how many capital campaigns you've been through with me, whatever that story may be, I'm imagining, I wanna ask you to imagine a new response to the Lord. Whatever has defined you previously, I believe God has something better for us. And if we have the courage to say Yes to him.

So here we go, all right? You gotta listen fast. There's a lot of Scripture and we've gotta be on time for a whole lot of reasons. All right, I wanna start with a negative which is not typical, but I wanna suggest there's something we wanna be certain we avoid from the jump on this, all right? I wanna start with Jesus's teaching in Matthew 23. His audience is the religious aristocracy of Jerusalem. It's the crème de la crème. It' the powerbrokers. They're influential, they're extraordinarily well trained, they've got sophisticated educations. They have many resources, they're political leaders. They control the social life of the nation. In fact, even though there's Roman governors that are overseeing the area of Judea and Samaria, they really need the cooperation of this Jewish ruling body to hold their space. And Jesus is speaking to that group of people. Listen to what he says: "Woe to you, blind guides"!

I probably ought to stop just a minute. I grew up in a horse barn in Tennessee. So I know woe, all right? What do you say to a horse to get it to stop? Bunch of hillbillies. All right, that whoa is W-H-O-A. So Jesus is not saying, "Stop". This woe has a different meaning. It is not just a warning; it's a forewarning. A warning would say, "I don't think I would do that". Forewarning says, "There's something coming for you". It's a more sober word. So Jesus has chosen a very, very sober word for these people: "Woe to you". And then he pokes 'em: "You blind guides". We were in Italy once. We were doing some research for tours and I had a handful of people with me and I had arranged for a guide to meet us. And when the guide showed up, they didn't speak English. And my Italian is limited to pizza, spaghetti, and I spent 2 days as the middle person between the people with me and somebody that didn't speak English.

It was an adventure. So a blind guide is problematic. "You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple he's bound by his oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if they swear by the gift on it, he's bound by his oath.'" They've diminished the things of God and elevated their own personal opportunity. "You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you're hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices. But you neglected the more important matters of the law. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel".

Sounds awkward. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you're hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you're full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean". I hear people say all the time that Jesus is all about love. And that's certainly a part of his message, but I would point out to you, it's not his only message. That did not feel like a cuddly hug, all right? "Woe to you," repeatedly. "You blind guide, you hypocrite. I'm warning you, judgment is coming to you," he said. And if there's one line I don't ever wanna be in, it's that line. Oh, the labels change, but I don't wanna stand in a space where Jesus's response to me is, "Woe to you". Woe to you.

And I don't care what it takes, I intend to get out of those groups if I find myself in them. I'll change habits, behaviors, friends. I'll do what it takes. I want the Lord to smile when he thinks about me, not ball his fist. Are you with me? There's been a time and a place in our history where I think a passive faith might have been sufficient. You could identify with the Christians, you could make faith choices for yourself and kind of quietly, gently, stand in the shadows and maybe it would be okay. I don't believe in the season that we have entered, your faith will survive in a passive fashion. I believe we're gonna have to understand how to give expression to the faith that we say we have. Same book, Matthew. Matthew 15 this time, Jesus again. This time to disciples, he said, "Leave them; they're blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit".

Now, Jesus is addressing a group of disciples about the leadership in their community of faith. And it's worth... now he didn't say "fast and pray for them, initiate renewal amongst them". He said, "Leave them. They're blind guides". And I want us to understand that there are times we have to separate ourselves from things that limit our opportunity with God. God may send you back as an ambassador. He may send you back with a mission, but when you're redirecting, repurposing, refocusing, trying to find liberty and new cleanliness and new momentum in your life, a lot of times that begins with the laying down of some things. Maybe how you use your time or habits or your resources, or the people that you pull close to you and bringing in new voices to encourage you in your faith. I don't know what that looks like, but I don't intend to get in the Woe line. And I don't mean the stop line. God doesn't spend his time saying "Stop" to you; he spends his time saying, "Come on".

When Jesus gathered disciples, he didn't say, "Stop doing what you're doing". He said, "Follow me". And we've flipped the script on it. I didn't come to tell you to stop doing something. I came to say, "Let's follow Jesus. Let's get out of the bleachers, get down into the floor in the arena, let's get in the game". Isn't that better? Don't worry about the stop. The "stop doing stuff" will come up because it will limit your effectiveness in the game. I don't have to talk to you about what you need to stop. The Holy Spirit will make that real to you, 'cause if you wanna participate with the Lord, you'll realize you can't afford to carry unnecessary encumbrances.

And when you've laid down all the things you know you need to lay down, the Holy Spirit is so good he'll show you the things that still limits you. He'll bring freedom to your life from things you didn't even know were limits. Apart from the Lord standing in the dark, you can't see what you need cleaning of. But as you begin to step into the light, it becomes so much more apparent and the Holy Spirit will help you. Jesus is saying, "Follow me". That is so exciting. He knows the stuff about you you pray never gets said out loud. And he still said, "Follow me".

Well, let's imagine it's game time and we've got to get ready. Now we've only got a few minutes so we're gonna take some fundamentals, but I think, though, the idea at the heart of this is we intend to be practitioners of our faith and not accumulators of ideas. We don't wanna be fountains of information. I like learning and studying, I'm a professional student. I could have stayed in a university setting if the Lord had given me permission. But the goal of our faith isn't the accumulation of information, or my computer is the most holy thing on this campus. Our objective is to be practitioners of what we say we know and we believe. To move it out of the theoretical into the experiential of our lives. Throughout the story of Scripture, God works through people. He doesn't just intervene in human history randomly. Supernaturally, he works through people.

When he sent his Son, he sent him to become one of us. He didn't send an angel with a message. The Holy Spirit will expand our vision of what this means, as we follow him. Look at Luke 10 and verse 1. This is Jesus. It said that he "appointed seventy-two others," beyond himself, and he sends them "two by two ahead of him into every town and place where he was about to go". And this was his message: "The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field". You can't ask the Lord of the harvest, now Jesus's own instruction and planning. He didn't ask them to do something that they weren't doing themselves.

Don't ask God to expand righteousness in our nation unless you're doing what you can do to expand righteousness in our nation. Don't ask God for better leaders in our nation until you're leading with your faith more boldly in our nation. Don't ask God to raise up somebody to stand against some expression or something that you don't like until you're using your voice and your influence in that arena. But when you step into that arena, now you've got authority to say, "Lord, raise up laborers for the harvest field". I mean to tell you, that was a tough assignment. How'd you like to be the advance team for Jesus? I mean, I don't venture, I don't think I'd wanna lead a Small Group and then have Jesus come, sit in, and say, "How'd he do"? Yeah? "I mean, I know he's a little slow, but did he try"?

Well, watch the report they come back with. Verse 17, it says: "The seventy-two returned with joy and they said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'" Can you hear it in there? They were apprehensive. They didn't know what to expect. They knew what to expect when Jesus ministered, but they didn't know what to happen when they showed up, and they came back and said, "Some of that even works for us". Ha ha. Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 1, Jesus went back to heaven. So Acts 2, the disciples are on their own now. First new experience. It's the Day of Pentecost, remarkable things happening. He says, "Every day," verse 46. "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts".

Large group meeting in the temple area. Solomon's Colonnade, thousands could gather. "They broke bread in their homes and they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved". How frequently were people coming to faith? Daily. We gotta redial, we gotta recalibrate. I'm expecting every day somebody to say, "I need to know Jesus". Every day. It'd be tragic if the thousands of us that gather on the weekends didn't have a daily report of somebody coming to faith through our mutual interaction in the community. Thank you for that enthusiastic "Amen".

And the essence of it, it says they broke bread in their homes and they ate together. It didn't say they did Bible studies. They weren't exploring the original languages of the text. They weren't learning the social customs and characteristics of those that had lived a thousand years before him. They were doing life together, talking about Jesus. We've made this harder than it has to be. We have made this harder than it has to be. Now, I wanna take it a little more practical direction. Some time ago, I introduced, I gave you an invitation to take prayer outside the church and begin to integrate it with your life. We called it "Let's Pray". Remember that? It's a real simple notion. It really begins with listening.

We live in the South, it's a social place. When you greet, when you interact, when you meet people they say, "How are you," right? We don't care. It's nothing personal, it's just what we were taught as children. It's the way you greet one another, "How are you"? If you answer too long, we'll stop asking. But what that informality and that expression of friendliness does is means there's a remarkable amount of information that flows your way. And with just a casual acquaintance, people tell you a great deal about themselves. "How are you"? "I'm tired today. The kids were sick last night, and I cleaned up the bathroom three times". Or "I didn't wanna come to work today. I got a hard day, some difficult meetings," or "You know, I don't know if we're gonna make it through the month with the budget we've got".

It depends on how well you know 'em, how much information you get, but there's an enormous amount of information that comes at you every day. And most of it, we just shrug off. We empathize a little bit. We think, "I'm glad I'm not in their shoes. I wanna get away from them". But I suggested an alternative response. When somebody presents you with that, I wanna submit to you today that there's a God opportunity right there in front of you. And there's a simple way that you can respond. The goal, the objective, is simply to invite God into the circumstance. And the simplest way I know to do that is simply to say, "Let's pray". And when you say it, drop your head and say a quick prayer. A sentence, two sentences is the most. Don't say, "May I pray with you? Would it be all right if we invited the Most High God down into the circumstance"?

The minute you ask for permission, you have asked for an expression of faith from them. You're asking them to believe something and they may or may not be equipped, they may not be emotionally prepared to. There's a whole lot of other faith. You simply say, "Let's pray," drop your head, close your eyes, don't look at them. They're not gonna close their eyes and bow their head, they're gonna watch you. You're a freak of nature, okay? Just be prepared. "Let's pray. God, help my friend, they're tired today, in Jesus's name, amen". "Lord, I pray for those kids. Give 'em health in Jesus's name, amen". "God, help us to get our tasks done quickly today, amen". Just a sentence and an "Amen". And when you say "Amen," here's the key: hush. Move on.

Aren't you glad the sun's shining today? Amen, I'm praying the Predators make a run to the playoffs. I'd like a Stanley Cup in Nashville, wouldn't you? How about the Titans? Drafts coming up. Let's pray. What you don't wanna do is when you say "Amen," look up at 'em with bug eyes. Did you feel something? "Yeah, I feel something. I feel like I wanna get away from you, weirdo".

See, it isn't about us. We're not the deliverer, we're not the... we couldn't heal a gnat's wing on our best day. And so much of our reluctance has been centered in who we are: what will they think, what will they say, what if nothing happens? Folks, all I wanna do is invite God into the circumstance. I trust him. I'm a leaky vessel, but I trust him. So listen, have the courage, the boldness, the temerity to say, "Let's just pray". And you drop... give 'em one. "Help 'em, Jesus. Amen". That's enough. And then move right on. If we will take that, we can build on that. That's not the only prayer to pray, it's not the only way to pray, but if you won't do that, there's no need in talking about what's next.

Now, I brought some Scriptures. I want you to see how significant this is. Day of Pentecost, Acts 2. This is the first time the church goes public in Jesus's absence. This is their first public outing without the tutelage of Jesus being present. Peter preaches his first sermon, absent Jesus, and 3000 people say, in Jerusalem, where a few days before, they said, "Crucify him," they said, "What do we have to do to be saved"? "Three thousand were added to their number that day". We are, like, behind.

Next chapter, Acts 3, Peter and John are going to the temple. They're observant Jewish men. "Peter said 'Look at us!'" It's a beggar they interact with and he's about to be healed. "Peter says, 'Look at us!' The man gave him his attention, expecting to get something from them. And Peter said, 'Silver and gold I don't have. What I will give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.'" If you pay close attention, it's a one-sentence prayer. Peter went, "Let's pray on him". He asked for money and Peter said, "Let's pray. In Jesus's name, walk," and he pulled him up. And the man goes on to the temple mount, "walking and jumping, and praising God". The whole city is stirred. In one day the Holy Spirit did what had never happened before. The city of Jerusalem was stirred with enthusiasm about the power of Jesus's name.

Acts 4. You know what happened to Peter and John as a result of that miracle? They got arrested. See, the 21st century church has a unique idea, at least in America. We think we're like the first generation that's faced a little pushback. No, we're not supposed to talk about Jesus at work. And he's really not welcome on our college campuses. Or in our public schools. In fact, if my tax dollars are involved, my Jesus is not supposed to be. I thought we got a lot of this place started because without representation, there's no taxation. We've been sheep too long. We work for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Now, it might impact a relationship, it might impact a friendship, you might lose a business deal. But I'm thinking if God is pleased, it's gonna work out.

You know, the reality of life is that pressure transforms us. It either transforms us in a destructive way into something that's no longer useful or it shapes us into something of greater value. And my prayer for myself and for you is that we will cooperate with the pressure God allows to become something more useful in his kingdom. Let's pray:

Father, we choose you and we choose to say Yes to you and to cooperate with you. Forgive us for complaining. We want your best, in Jesus's name, amen.

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