Allen Jackson - The Rest Of The Story - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you again. We're continuing our study on the strategy and tactics of the spiritual conflict that defines our lives. I titled this session "The Rest of the Story," but we're really gonna look at the book of Acts. Folks, we're facing a challenge in the church. We're called to be salt and light, and we're in the midst of a culture that is plunging into the darkness, which suggests that the light's not bright enough. I don't want you to be angry at the ungodly. I don't wanna point through the windows of the church and say those people are the problem. I think we have to go look in the mirror and say we have to understand the Lord in a new way. We've gotta get over ourselves a little bit. We've been pointing to our spiritual heritage, our conversion, our baptism story, and our years in church. We need to be more fruitful. Well, we're gonna look at the book of Acts and find some help. Enjoy the lesson.
I'm gonna continue the theme that we've been working through on "Strategies and Tactics and our Unseen Adversary". The greatest challenges of our lives are not the physical things that we see and the ones that we typically focus our time and attention on. I believe the greatest threats to our peace, our well-being, to our eternity, are really motivated in the spiritual realm. I'm more convinced of that tonight than I've ever been. In the last three weeks, I've made two trips to New York... I'm sorry, two trips to Washington D.C. and one trip to New York. I can tell you I came home from all of those places more convinced than I've ever been that the solution will not begin in Washington D.C., the solution will begin in the hearts of God's people.
Now, it could ultimately be reflected in those places where policies are made, but if we expect them to lead with policy that will change the context of what's happening around our kitchen table, we're deceived. That's just not the way the system is structured. They are a reflection of what's happening in our lives, and as long as we tolerate pornography in our children's libraries at school and the mutilation of our children when they're minors by a medical system that sees it as a profit opportunity, and we don't care enough to defend our unborn children from those that would prey upon them for comfort and convenience, it's ludicrous to imagine politicians to fix the problems. They will follow our lead. Amen, church.
Now, we're gonna have to move beyond just passively saying that really shouldn't happen, and use our voices and our energy and our strength, if your children are in school or your grandchildren are in school, the people in those schools need to know what you think and believe. Do you wanna be one of those people? I'm tired of people being more vocal and more assertive and more determined with ungodliness and wickedness and immorality and perversion than God's people are determined to see righteousness and purity be extended to our children. And I'm really tired of Christians that wanna do another Bible study on the book of James or the 9th chapter of the book of Romans rather than engage our culture with the truth of God's Word.
How many sermons do we have to hear before we'll decide that we'll live out the truth that we know? And I'm an advocate for studying your Bible. As you know, I like to read mine. But the purpose of learning the truth is that we can live it out in the world in which God has placed us. And we have avoided that for so long that now we find ourselves on the brink of being silenced. And when that happens, the devastation that will come will come quickly, and I am concerned for us. There are some good things that have happened lately.
I wanna recommend the book, I don't do that a lot of times. This one's not a Christian book, but I read it in preparing for an interview. Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote it. It's called "The Real Anthony Fauci". It's a very well-documented book. It's well-footnoted. It's not just opinion. We've been told to follow the science for a long time. There's a lot of science in that book. It's worth the read. There's a tremendous amount of manipulation involved with COVID. No doubt the virus was real, I'm not questioning that or suggesting it wasn't, but the policies that grew up around it had very little to do with science. But the truth is being told. If we have the courage to read it, and to look at it, and to consider it. It's uncomfortable, but the best way I know forward when you have been in those places is to humble ourselves and repent, and then find a way through that.
I think another piece of good news, we've been praying for months, we've been praying since the pandemic started that the truth would be told in the public square. And there have been many instances of that happening, and I think we had another piece of that this week with the Durham report. It's really good news to know that the Russians did not manipulate our election, that they weren't colluding with the sitting president. That's wonderful news. Irregardless of who you like or who you vote for, that's very good news to know that. And after a multiple-year investigation and multiple millions of dollars being spent in that regard, we should celebrate that truth that makes its way into the public square.
That's not a political statement or advocating for a party or a person. That kinda truth matters. Amen, Pastor. I can do both sides of this, it's okay. But God is moving. But at the center of what he intends to do is the heart of his people. And if we are determined to stay focused on the quality of our vacation and the ball teams that our children get to participate with and the labels in the clothing we wear, more than the moral tone and the spiritual life of the culture in which we live, we are by definition idolators. And I've spent my life in the Christian church. I have a love for the church. But I also feel like I'm at least entitled to an opinion, and I think it's safe to say we have been a bit distracted. But God is awakening us. I meet people every week now across this nation of men and women who are awakening to the opportunities of this generation.
And I pray for myself as well as you, that we will not miss this unique time when God has placed us in history. I didn't get to ride the streets of Austin with Paul Revere, and I didn't get to travel with Paul on his missionary journeys. And I didn't get to be there when George Whitfield preached in such an amazing way to those marvelous crowds of people, or when Charles Finney called the generation to repentance. But God did call our name in the 21st century, and we're writing a story.
Now, let's write a story, a legacy of faith and courage and boldness and determination that the generations who follow us will be inspired by, not have to make an excuse for. You willing to be that kind of person? Me too. Me too. So this session I'm gonna call "The Rest of the Story". We've been doing this in a little, I've been pursuing this theme, but I've approached it from some different perspectives. I wanna go back to the book of Acts and really pick up where I was a couple of sessions ago, and I wanna push back a little bit on these... there're some prevailing ideas that flourish in the church. People say things like this to me on a very frequent basi... you know, Pastor, just preach the gospel. Just help people be saved. Just focus on church. Avoid current events, avoid divisive topics. Our message is all about love.
Well, I believe in the church and I believe in the new birth and I believe in the gospel, and I believe in all of those things, and I do my best to avoid controversy. I don't have time for it. I truly don't, I don't have the energy or the interest in opening controversial topics for the sake of establishing right and wrong. But I believe we have an assignment, a responsibility to take the biblical worldview to the generation in which we live. And I wanna do my best to walk with you through the book of Acts and see if we can understand what we might anticipate, because we're given the Bible to help us be prepared for our own generation. It's not just so we can understand first century culture or understand what it was like during the times of the monarchy in ancient Israel. The purpose of scripture is to help us understand God's truth in the light of the world in which we live.
And by Acts chapter 15, Saul of Tarsus has been recruited in rather dramatic fashion to be an advocate for Jesus of Nazareth. And by the time we get to Acts 15, Paul has already begun his travels along that endeavor. He's begun to travel and visit the cities of the Mediterranean. And he doesn't get too far until a theological, a doctrinal dispute erupts. Imagine the people of God having a disagreement. Can you imagine something as bizarre as that? How could that happen? Well, in Acts 15, he says, "Some men came down from Judea," Judea is the region where Jerusalem is, and at this point Jerusalem is still the epicenter of the expanding Jesus initiative. They came down from Judea "to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you can't be saved.'"
So they've added something to the work of the cross. This brought Paul and Barnabus into sharp dispute and debate with them. That's biblical language, for they had a public fight. So Paul and Barnabus were appointed along with some other believers to go back to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. "The church sent them on their way; as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the non-Jews had been converted, and the news made all the brothers very glad".
Now, they're in the midst of a... I call it a mission trip, but that really diminishes it, I think, in our hearts. They're traveling from city to city telling people that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the anointed Son of God, and they're having such a remarkable success that the persecution has begun. The Jews who don't believe in Jesus as Messiah begin to start persecution against them. And in the chapter before Acts 15, the physical violence of that has already begun. Paul has already been stoned and left for dead. There's that much jealousy, there's that much contention. Are you prepared for that? Are you prepared that when the Spirit of God begins to move and lives begin to be changed and people are being transformed and people are excited about the Good News of the gospel, that there'll be a group of people that for whatever reason feel threatened by that, challenged by that. They'll be jealous of what the stories they're hearing, and they'll do their best to shut down the messenger and thereby the message.
That's the pattern. It's not logical. It isn't rational. It can't be understood just in terms of human psychology or human behavior. There's a spiritual root to that. You may think if you don't like what he's saying, don't listen. If you don't like the message, quit paying attention. Why are you upset because other people are excited about the good things God is doing in their life? Tell me again why it is you're mad because the sick person got healed? Explain to me again the logic why you're so frustrated and so angry that you're violent over somebody who was blind being able to see? That's not a logical response. Well, if there were spiritual responses to the good news of the gospel in the pages of scripture, I promise you there'll be spiritual responses to the good news of the gospel in the 21st century.
Are you prepared? Well, how can that be? And by Acts chapter 15, now they're not just arguing about a healing. Now they're adding things to the gospel. Well, you can't be saved until you do this too. And they're having public debate about it, so Paul and Barnabus head back to Jerusalem. In verse 22, "The apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own," and they had a lengthy debate about this in Jerusalem. And they required Peter and the crew to solve it. I mean, they had to get the heavyweights, the people that had walked with Jesus, "to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabus. And they chose Judas and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. And with them they sent the following letter," and I gave you the letter 'cause I thought it was interesting, the detail they go into. "'To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and they disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul.'"
Now, they don't name the troubling disturbers. They no doubt know their names. They say some people left here and we didn't authorize 'em, but we're sending our dear friends. Words make a difference. "'Men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we're sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: Abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.'" Get on with it. Stop the debate.
Now, that's Acts 15. The very next chapter, Paul and his crew are on the road again. I would play a little Willie Nelson music at this point but I wasn't sure it was appropriate in the sanctuary. You know the song. You can hear it in your head. Although if it's not appropriate in the church, it's probably not appropriate in your heads, but they pick up their travels again and they intend to go into Asia, but it says they were prevented from doing so by the Holy Spirit. So their travel itinerary has been a little scrambled. They seem to have made a wrong plan, and in Acts 16 verse 9, it says, "During the night, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over into Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them".
Now, the is the first time the gospel is going to make an entrance into Europe. Up until this time, it's been in the Middle East into Asia. This is the first time, and it's under a direct invitation of the Holy Spirit, and by this time in the book of Acts, if you're reading that book, you know that God prompts some supernatural beginnings. Jesus in Acts 1 tells the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they're baptized in the Holy Spirit, that they'll be empowered to be witnesses for him in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to the outermost parts of the earth, and Acts chapter 2, that happens and then Peter has a vision when he's in Jaffa, of a sheep let down from heaven, and the kill and eat, and I won't do that, then Cornelius has had an angelic visit, then Peter ends up in Cesaria in a Roman Centurion's home when the events of Acts chapter 2 are duplicated.
The apostle Paul, or Saul of Tarsus at the time, is interrupted on the road to Damascus by Jesus himself, said "What do you think you're doing"? And Ananias is sent to pray for him because he said he's the chosen vessel to carry my name. So by the time we get to chapter 16, we're not really surprised at all as a reader that Paul has the dream. We're going, "Uh-oh, somethin's comin' now. We got another course change. God's opening a broader door". Verse 11, I'm just gonna walk through this chapter. You'll notice I really just put the text in your notes. I've broken it into some segments so it wouldn't be quite so discouraging. But it says, "From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight to someplace".
Well, none of us know how to pronounce that word, so let's just go with it, okay? "And the next day on to someplace else, and from there we traveled to Philippi. It was a Roman colony and the leading city in that district of Macedonia". It's a Roman town. This is not a Jewish community. "And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside to the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there, and one of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. And the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us".
So they had made some inroads. By an invitation of the Spirit of God, they find themselves in Philippi. They'd never been there before. They have a new message. It's a Gentile city. It's a Roman city, and now they have a convert, Lydia and her household, a woman of some substance and some means, so she's invited them to be her guests. Same chapter, very next verse, there's a little momentum. Maybe that was God in that dream after all and not just pepperoni. Says, "Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future".
Do you have an imagination that spirits are real? That they're not just mumbo jumbo or the invention of Hollywood or novel authors? I assure you that our Bible makes room for spiritual activity, unclean spirits that impact human beings. And Christians have this rather self-righteous attitude that they can't bother us. Well, the attitude isn't derived from scripture. This woman has "a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortunetelling".
Unclean spirits have some insight and understanding that we don't. I'm not gonna take the time to run all the references, but in Mark chapter 1, it's not in your notes, when Jesus went into the synagogue in Capernaum, which is his ministry base, there's a demonized man and the demon says, "I know who you are". The disciples don't know yet. The rabbi in the synagogue doesn't know yet. The leaders in Jerusalem don't know yet, but the demon knows. Are you prepared for that? We're in a spiritual conflict with adversaries that have some insight and understanding we will not have from our own intellect. It's why we are so dependent upon the person and the help of the Holy Spirit. And if that's just rhetoric for us and it's not a part of our practice and our habit, we leave ourselves in a tremendous deficit position.
So the spirit, through this woman, predicts the future. "The girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.' And she kept this up for many days". Now it that happened in church, you could probably tolerate it. But if you went to the ballgame to watch your kids play or your grandkids play and somebody stood up next to you and said, "These are the servants of the Most High God, and they've come here to tell you how to be saved," and you're tryin' to eat your snow cone, and she says, "No, really, did you hear me? These people are the servants of the Most High God. They've come here to tell you how to be saved".
And it's in a city where nobody's heard that message before. It could get annoying, you think? I mean in church, you'd go, "Yeah". But they're in the marketplace. And the next sentence says, "After several days, Paul," he kinda said, "'That's enough. Yeah, you said that yesterday, and you said it the day before, and I think you said it the day before.' So finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit", he didn't say it the first day. In the synagogue in Capernaum when that demon spoke up, Jesus said, "You be quiet. You come out of him. You hush". Paul tolerated this for several days.
So there's not a formula. "'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' And at that moment, the spirit left her". Yay, God! That girl got delivered. She'd been tormented by an unclean spirit. If you think it's awkward for Paul and his team, how awkward do you think it was for that woman? She'd been manipulated by greedy people. She's simply a means of profit for them. It's the most demeaning of lives. It's a victory! It's the Spirit of God.
Remember in Ephesus there were seven sons we're told, we'll look at it before we're done with the study I think. Not tonight. We're never leaving. There was the seven sons of a Jewish high priest, and they had observed other people casting out unclean spirits, so they said to a person they believed was demonized, "In the name of Jesus that Paul preaches, you come out"! You know what the spirit said? "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but we don't recognize you". And then one person overwhelmed those seven brothers, and they left naked and bleeding. So here, we have a little prelude to that, where he says to an unclean spirit, "In the name of Jesus, you come out," and this girl is set free.