Allen Jackson - Developing Skills - Part 2
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 lives. 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 can 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. 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 godly 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 this 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, 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 through 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 are not the delivery, 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 even 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 3,000 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 as 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, they got arrested. See, the 21st century church has a unique idea that, at least in America, we think we're, like, the first generation that's faced a little pushback. "You know, 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 of 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. There may be some short-term difficulty, but I think the long-term benefit will far outweigh the awkwardness of that moment. I don't want you to be belligerent, angry, critical, condemning, I want you to be advocates, I want you to be for something. So Peter and John are released, they've been threatened. In Acts 4, they come to meet with the believers. Say, "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".
Did you hear what they prayed? See if this had been 21st century, we would've gotten together after we were released from jail, we'd got together with the leadership team and said, "Okay, what can we do to soften the approach? We've gotta get more inclusive language. We tried that, it was way too offensive. I didn't like the mugshots, they're not good for our, you know, the momentum in the media. How are we gonna recalibrate this thing"? Sound about right? Listen to what they said, "Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with boldness". They're gonna dial it up. And then they ask God for something, "Stretch out your hand to heal and to perform a miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus".
God, let your power break forth in this city. May it happen all over Middle Tennessee and our nation, amen. We have permission to ask for this stuff. How many sermons do we have to hear before we pray? I'm curious, how many of you here would say, "I have experienced a God event in my life"? How many of you? Look at that. In fact, if you could say that stand up real quickly. Now, I know it's impolite to turn around in church, but I suspend the rule for a moment. I want you to look around. Look at this. You're in a room with hundreds, hundreds of people saying, "I've experienced a God event". So the next time somebody says to you, "You know, I don't know if God does miracles anymore or not". Say, "Well, I know hundreds of people. Where are you hanging out"? You can have a seat.
Now I wanna ask a follow up question. How many people here today need a God event in your life? You all just stood up. I know the truth about a miracle in our lives. I bet most of you if I had time to interview you would say God did something on your behalf when you were far from perfect. When there were things left undone, untended. Is that fair? And the fact that God did a miracle doesn't mean that you don't have a need for God's continued involvement in your life. Miracles, God's supernatural involvement doesn't always drain all the pain out, doesn't take all the fear away, doesn't always change every circumstance, but it adds a layer of confidence that there is a God and he's involved with us.
Now, what I would like to do is help you grow in your confidence to lead in inviting other people towards those points of faith. You can do this. I'm gonna give you a real short assignment in a minute. We're gonna get in groups of four or six or eight, ten at the most, we don't have time for more than ten. When you get in the group, there's three things I want you to do. Introduce yourself. Just your name. I don't want your Twitter handle, I don't care what team you're betting on in the NCAA tournament, we don't wanna know. Okay, just your name, that's all we've got time for. And then if you were one of those persons that said, "I need a God event" in a sentence or two at most, if you wanna identify that event, that would be okay, if you just wanna say, "I need God's help," that's enough.
And then I'm gonna ask one or two or three people that are in that little group with you to offer a sentence prayer on your behalf. You're with me? A name, your introduction, identify that I need God's help, and then number three, somebody to say a one sentence prayer. You're with me? Now something's about to happen. You're about to be in a public place and stand with a group of people, and some of you're gonna say in public, "I need God's help". Some of you are gonna pray for a miracle in a public place for the first time in your life. And at the very least, number three, you're gonna get to be a witness to that. Now that is leading with your faith. Now I know this is a pretty safe space, but if you can't do it here, you'll never do it someplace else. We're gonna learn to do it here 'cause here we go.
I wanna give you one more quick invitation. It's actually a tool. I just want you to begin to imagine it in your toolkit, something you're comfortable with. I believe every one of us needs to know how to help somebody else enter the kingdom of God. Not just invite him to church, or to be a Christian, or to stop doing something, how to help them become a participant in the kingdom of God. 'Cause that's not the arena of any particular denomination, it's not about a theological construct or a doctrinal debate, it's about a person, and his name is Jesus.
John chapter 3, it's in your notes, last passage says, "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, he's a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night," no doubt because he didn't wanna be seen. "And he said, 'Rabbi, we know you're a teacher who's come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you're doing if God weren't with him.'" Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus? He just told you. He didn't say, "I came to you because I've listened, and you are really smart". He didn't say, "I like your preaching style". He didn't say, "The architecture in the synagogue where you hang out is my taste. The worship team that preceded you was top shelf". No, what he said to Jesus, was "No one could perform the miraculous signs you're doing if God weren't with him".
Throughout the New Testament, even in the Gospels the front door to the extension of the kingdom of God was not a clever logical presentation, although Jesus was certainly clever and logical, it was a demonstration of the power of God. And what we need, what it will be required of us in the season ahead is the confidence to invite God into circumstances so his power can be made plain. We will not outthink evil. We will not out organize evil nor outwork evil. The only thing evil will yield to is a power greater than itself. And if we're going to be triumphant, and I believe we will, we will have to become more comfortable inviting the power of God in. Nicodemus recognizes it, he's a leader, he wants to know more about it.
So he's come to Jesus. "In reply, Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth,'" now you know by now when you hear, that buckle up, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he's born again". "You can't see the kingdom, Nicodemus, unless you're born again". Now Nicodemus is rightfully confused. He said, "Wait a minute, how can a man be born when he's old? You can't enter a second time into your mother's womb"! I promise you, if there was any man in Jerusalem that thought he was a participant in the kingdom of God, it was Nicodemus. He was a part of the right people group, the chosen people of God. Their God story went all the way back to Abraham, and they had all the chapters in between in their high school yearbooks.
Jeremiah was a member of the family. David, you know, used to be at Thanksgiving dinner, I mean, "It's our family tree, this is us". And on top of that, he's a Pharisees, he's got a flawless education, he's a ruler of the Pharisees, his adherence to the rules, he's been above everybody else. He's good to go. And Jesus said to him, "Unless you're born again, you'll miss the kingdom of God". And he's not offended. Nicodemus has a remarkable heart, he's not offended, he's not angry, he's perplexed. He said, "Wait a minute, it's impossible, I'm an old man". And Jesus comes back. Verse 5, "Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth,'" here we go again, "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he's born of water and Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit".
Verse 7 is my favorite verse in this little passage. Jesus says to Nicodemus, "You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" It's a very gentle redirecting of Nicodemus. It's not a stern rebuke like those woe statements, but he's saying, "Nicodemus, I'm surprised that you don't understand this. You're a student of the scriptures, Nicodemus. You know the things of God, you're seeking after God". There's no critique, there's no condemnation. Jesus is saying, "Nicodemus, what's wrong? You should understand this".
So should we. Our goal isn't to have people join a church or to get a doctrine right, or even to clean up their life. If you'll bring 'em to Jesus, he will begin to help them find a community of faith where they can grow. He will help them begin to clean up their life. What you and I have to do is be unrelenting advocates, ambassadors, for Jesus of Nazareth. He makes life better. So how do you help somebody be born again? You need to have this in your experience, you need confidence with this. You need as much confidence with this as you have with whatever you're most confident at. The scripture says that to be saved, "You have to confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord". So it begins with an expression of belief that starts in your heart and is verbalized.
So I brought you a prayer. It's in the prayer section of your notes today. And you don't have to stand 'cause I'm not quite done, but I want you to read the prayer with me. I think it's on the back, right? And what I'm gonna suggest is you make this prayer your own. If you're really goofy with it, memorize it. If you're a little more techy, just take a picture on your phone and keep it with you all the time. But you be ready to access it at a moment's notice. Not, "Where'd I put it? Somebody call Pastor. I'm gonna get you an appointment with somebody at the church. Oh, I'm all in for Jesus, you wanna be a Christian? Let me get you an appointment with somebody". You can close this deal. Let's read this prayer together.
Almighty God, I'm a sinner, and I need a savior. I believe Jesus is your Son. He died on a cross and was raised again to life. Forgive me of my sin, I forgive everyone who has sinned against me. Jesus, be Lord of my life. I'll give you first priority, serve you as my Lord and King. Thank you for accepting me into the most remarkable family in creation, the family of God. Amen.
Now the skeptics will say, "Yeah, I prayed it, but they don't know what it really means". Well, you're right, bless your pointed head. Most of you have stood at an altar and said, "I do," and had absolutely no clue what you were committing to, right? If you had fully understood, you might have had the courage to say, "I maybe". In fact, the only reason, the only line you were given was, "I do" is that was deep enough water right there. You can make a commitment without fully understanding all of the benefits or the opportunities. And with that step, something supernatural happens. Today's just a sample set, but our objective is to learn to lead with our faith.
And I wanna close with one last invitation. What I wanna ask you to do is consider hosting a faith group. Opening your home, you can do it at a coffee shop or a restaurant. I don't really care where you do it, but there is an advantage to home. There's a personal part of that, there's an effort in that. I know everybody can't do that, and if you can't, no shame, we'll be doing 'em all over campus too. But if you can't, and if you're not, you say, "Look, I'm not ready to host that". Hundreds, now dozens of you have said that to me in the last couple of weeks. No problem, but at the very least, you'll be a participant this time.
You folks are world class conveners of groups. I watch you. You have Super Bowl parties, neighborhood block parties, you have showers, you celebrate weddings, birthdays for little people that don't even know it's their birthday, you go all in. You bring the neighbors, I see the pictures you post, I know about you. You are amazing conveners of people. And when we talk about convening in the name of Jesus, our courage drains through the floor. I'm not criticizing you, I'm saying we made a commitment today to change. I think for this time if it's a newer experience for you, I'd get a group of people that I already was acquainted with. Get four or six friends.
Think of it as a home court practice session for convening a group in Jesus's name. Kinda get your skillset together with some friendly fire. But don't just sit it out. This isn't about me, this isn't for benefit for me. I do small group every week. Now I'm taking my group and asking them to multiply into three because I want three or four other people to get the courage, the confidence that they can host a group, and maybe you're already in a small group. Maybe your group will take four weeks and say, you know, "We could do two or three groups out of this".
You wanna have the confidence to say you could, you know, next time, maybe you'd be ready to gather a group of people where you work or where you go to school. And this isn't about age, folks. I was an undercover Christian when I was in high school here. And that's an awful place to be. This isn't about your age. If you're young, you can stand up for Jesus with more enthusiasm than some of the rest of us. Peer pressure doesn't go away when you get your diplomas. Learning to face peer pressure and own your faith is gonna follow you through your whole life. We just get more sophisticated names for it.
All right, will you at least pray? All right, let's stand. Get your blue cards out, we're gonna pray over 'em like we're putting our hands on somebody's head. I'm excited about what God is doing. I've heard enough about new deals that have nothing to do with Jesus. Amen, it's time for the church to be the church, folks. We have changed cultures. We have impacted the course of history. The power of the gospel is the only thing that can transform a human life, and as awkward as the reality is, the church is the delivery system. We're not here for entertainment. We're gonna gain some new confidence. Got your card, we're gonna pray for somebody. We don't even know their name yet. Their head's a little slick, maybe they'll grow hair before you see 'em.
Father, thank you. Thank you for what you're doing in the earth and thank you for the privilege of participating with you. Lord, I thank you for where you've planted us in this season in time, and we pray for the people that you're gonna bring across our path that are searching for truth. Lord, as we spend these next few weeks gathering together, I ask, Holy Spirit, that you'll help us. Help us learn to trust you in new ways. Help us learn the sacrifice of opening our home, cleaning the house, rearranging our schedules, disrupting our routines so that we could invite somebody else towards you. But I pray that you'll take those simple acts and those simple investments and you will multiply them in ways that will bring rewards to our lives for all eternity. I thank you for it in Jesus's name, amen.