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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - You Are Blessed

Allen Jackson - You Are Blessed

Allen Jackson - You Are Blessed
TOPICS: The Benefits of Serving Jesus

We've been doing a little series around "The Benefits of Serving Jesus," and the premise of the study is really very simple. There's a benefit in serving the Lord with your life. I think it's unfortunate that we have presented Christianity almost overwhelmingly and the objective of Christianity is being an address in eternity. It's as if the only goal we've really imagined or thought about in the context of our faith is getting the right address for whatever's next. We don't want to go there, we want to go there. And once we've established that we're kinda like, "Ah, there's nothing more to it. I know where I'm headed".

Well, I think being a participant in the kingdom of God is certainly an important objective in your life, and I don't want to diminish the attention we give to conversion or being born again or salvation, whichever label you're most familiar with. But I do wanna suggest to you that there's far more to your life in time, to the life that you lead under the sun than just securing the right address for eternity. And the more we're aware of that, I believe the greater our opportunities in eternity. We're not all gonna be treated the same. We're not all gonna be given the same rewards. We won't all have the same outcomes. And I know it's not politically correct, but it's true. And it's important to understand it'll change, I believe how we live our lives.

Look in Romans... I'm sorry, Hebrews chapter 11, in verse 6, says, "Without faith it's impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him". It says there's two things you and I have to believe about God. One that he exists, and two, that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. God rewards people who seek him. There is a reward for seeking God. Say, "Well, Pastor, there is and the reward is getting to go to heaven". No, that's a gift. Your invitation into the kingdom of God is not a reward, you didn't earn it. Rewards are merit-based, it's a response to a choice. Our interest into the kingdom of God is a part of an inheritance. It's a free gift to everybody that will choose Jesus of Nazareth as Lord of your life.

That's amazing. That is the good news of the gospel, that you don't have to stay under the mastery of ungodliness and habits and sin, that power is broken over our lives and it's available to any person regardless of your IQ or your bank account or the color of your hair or the length of your nose. That is truly good news. But once you've been birthed into the kingdom of God, how we choose to lead our lives will bring a response from God, he will reward you for seeking him. Thank you for your great enthusiasm at that revelation. Romans chapter 3, I think speaks to this from a slightly different perspective. Paul asks a question, "What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew or what value is there in circumcision or in keeping the law"? And then he answers that question. He says, "Much in every way".

What's the value in being a Jew? What's the value in keeping the law? He said there is much value in every way. Seems like an odd question. Why would we be asking it? Well, one of the realities of our world is there has been a consistent, persistent, unnatural hatred of the Jewish people across the centuries. It's one of the inexplicable parts of human history, apart from the spiritual awareness. The hatred of the Jewish people you see it extends beyond nations, it extends beyond empires, it extends beyond time periods and cultures. In fact, it's been such a persistent part of human history that it has a special word for it. Anti-Semitism is the word we use for the hatred of the Jewish people. And unfortunately, it's been very much a part of the history of the church as well.

One of the great instigators of anti-Semitism has been the Christian Church. And it's been a part of our story almost from the very beginning. When Paul wrote the book of Romans, it was one of the challenges he was addressing. You see the church in Rome began primarily as a Jewish institution. The first leaders came from the Jewish community, and there was an emperor that came to power in Rome that hated the Jewish people and he expelled them all from the city. So the leadership in the church was driven out and those voids were filled by the non-Jewish believers. The New Testament word for that is Gentiles. And about a decade later, another emperor invited the Jews back. And when those leaders returned to Rome and to the Church of Rome, they weren't welcome, there was conflict. And a significant portion of the book of Romans is helping the church resolve that conflict to understand that God hasn't rejected the Jewish people.

And so Paul poses the question here, what advantage is there then in being a Jew? And his answer is, much in every way. Now, it's not that complex to get to it. Our Messiah, the Lord of lords and the King of kings is a Jewish man. If you hate Jews, that's gonna be a very awkward meeting with the King of all kings. When you get to the new Jerusalem, the gates into that city have inscribed above them the name of a Jewish man. Without the Jewish people, we have no story, we have no faith, we have no Messiah, we have no prophets. We have no law, we have no history. We are deeply indebted to the Jewish people. It's through the Jewish people that God delivered his redemptive purposes for all humanity. That's the truth, but it also presents us with an awkward reality that there's a price to be paid for participating with the purposes of God. And the Jewish people embody that in a most remarkable way. We're celebrating something this weekend for the first time in modern Israeli history. The United States of America has an embassy in the city of Jerusalem. Wow! Yay, God.

Now, that's amazing. Amen. We can stand and give the Lord credit for that. He's done it. The embassy itself is secondary to the idea it represents, and that's the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of a Jewish state. That's not a modern idea. Jerusalem was recognized as the capital of a Jewish state 1000 years before the birth of Jesus. They recognized capital of a Jewish nation for 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, that's more than three millennia ago. And the contemporary group of nations was reluctant to embrace Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people because of political alliances around the world. And the larger issue is God has chosen that city for his purposes. He's established at the center of that piece of terra firma that he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever. There was one exception to that.

I told you there hadn't been any embassies in Jerusalem. In 1980, the Christians from around the world came together and established the international Christian embassy in Jerusalem. And for these intervening years, the lone embassy in Jerusalem has been that Christian embassy, a message to the Jewish people that the Christians believed that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish nation. It isn't first and foremost a political decision, it is about God's stated purposes in the world. And if there's a lesson in that for the church, I think it's the awareness of the challenge it takes to represent God's purposes. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It's a tiny dot of people. About six million Jews live in the land of Israel surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who are sworn to their annihilation.

Israel is a tiny place, it's not much larger than Middle Tennessee, about the size of the state of New Jersey. And yet that tiny little piece of ground with a handful of people in it has thrived in the midst of a cauldron of unrest and hatred. And for the most part of the world is mad at them. We act as if the Jewish people, the state of Israel is the impediment to peace in the Middle East. Doesn't seem like to me that what's caused the turmoil in Lebanon or the turmoil in Syria or the turmoil in Iraq or the oppression of Iran or the turmoil in Egypt or the turmoil, and we can go on and on and on. And the Israelis spend a disproportionate amount of their energy and effort and resources in providing for their defense. The young people when they graduate from high school, both male and female serve in the military. The entire nation understands that if they lose their vigilance, they will lose their freedom and their existence.

It's a lesson that I think would help the church. If we forfeit our freedom and we set our hearts on being like all the other people, we will forfeit our liberties and freedoms. God welcomes us into his kingdom, awakens us to his eternal purposes so we can be salt and light in our world. And then he promises us, he will reward us if we will yield our lives to his purposes. And for the most part, we say now we're really not interested in that. If we're just certain we got our ticket punched, we wanna live our lives for our purposes. And so, I've taken a couple of weeks to invite you to begin to imagine your life as an investment in the life to come. I don't believe you'll be disappointed.

Look with me at 1 Timothy 4. It says, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come". Godliness has value for all things and it holds promise for the present life and the life to come. I have repeatedly invited you to the awareness that you have a life now in time. You've got a body in earth suit but it's very much a life with the termination point. We all understand that birth and death are a part of life. Nobody gets out without it.

So the larger question is what's next? And the Bible very clearly says we have a life to come that your existence is not done when your earth suit wears out. Hallelujah. In fact, the invitation of scripture is for you and for me to live our lives in time in such a way that when we step into the life to come, we have invested in it so that the goal of our faith isn't simply an address in eternity, but it's to invest our days under the sun in such a way that God will richly reward them.

I gathered some scriptures and I wanna walk through 'em pretty quickly that illuminate for us some of the blessings that God has promised both in time and in eternity. What I'm really asking you to do is start to lead your life with the awareness that you're a participant in eternity and do not allow every emotion, every opportunity, the ups and downs of daily life and the challenges and the difficulty, and sometimes the hardness of the way to steal your joy and to recognize we are on an assignment that reaches beyond time. That there are rewards from the Creator of all things that will stretch beyond time into the life to come. I know that's not easy 'cause I've ever hard time saying no to dessert at the end of lunch. So I'm not suggesting that it's an easy mental adjustment, but I am suggesting to you, it's one that will pay rich dividends if we will cultivate the practice into our lives.

Look at Ephesians 1, in verse 3. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight". I wanna start with that last sentence, the fourth verse. It says he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless. It's a verse that clearly acknowledges God's existence and yours outside of time. Before the world was created, before time was initiated, God chose you. God and his sovereignty and his wisdom looked across the coming span of time, and he chose this unique season for you and I to occupy space on planet Earth. He originated, he orchestrated the circumstances of our birth, he chose our family systems. And then he says he chose us, he chose us.

Did you know God chose you? Have you ever been left out of something you wanted to be a part of? Did you ever desire for somebody to choose you, to include you, to want your presence and the invitation didn't come? Well, I want you to know the Creator of all things chose you. I'm telling you there's healing in that. If the One who created all things selected me for his team and you don't want me, I'll be all right. God chose you and he chose you for a couple of very specific things it said, to be holy and blameless. Now, we can't do that on our own. We'll never achieve that in our own strength, our own ability, but God chose us before creation ever was initiated to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Folks, being a Christ's follower will not diminish your life, it won't take something from you. It won't steal from your joy or opportunities. It will enrich your life both in time and for all eternity. In Luke chapter 12, Jesus is teaching, verse 15. He says, "Watch out". I would make a suggestion. If Jesus is talking to you or me and he says watch out, it would be in our best interest to watch out. This is the clever group. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed". If Jesus hadn't said it, I wouldn't have thought of it. I would've thought of greed being something that was singular, but he says there's many kinds of greed. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, because a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions".

Now I know Jesus said it and we're in church on Mother's Day, but if you step away from the scripture in that presentation, the world lives, the secular world and many of us are caught in this. We lead our lives, spend our time, focus our energies on our emotions as if our life consistently abundance of our possessions. We get upset if they're being diminished, we get excited if it seems like they're growing. We'll ignore people, we'll step over values, we'll set things aside if we can increase the possessions of the abundance of our possessions. And Jesus said watch out because that's not really a good definition of your life. And then he tells a parable to help us understand it.

In verse 16, he said he told them this parable, "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. And he thought to himself, 'What'll I do? I've got no place to store my crops.' And he said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and I'll store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.' But God said to him.'" Did you know God has something to say about how you lead your life? He does. So I didn't ask him to say anything. He's the Creator of all things, he's sovereign over all. He doesn't need our invitation. In fact, it's a gift that God would reveal his opinion to know how to evaluate our lives. And God said to this man, "You're a fool, because this very night your life will be demanded from you, and then who will get what you have prepared for yourself".

It seems that the weakness in the man's choices is that everything he'd done, he'd prepared just for himself. Now, there's a cautionary note in this because if we didn't have God's perspective on him, if we didn't know God said that that man's choices were foolish, most of us would go to this guy for counsel. We'd go to him for business advice. We'd take our children to him and ask for his counsel and his coaching on their educational opportunities and how to get started in the business world. He's a model of success. He's bucked the trends, he's thrived through economic cycles. He's had bumper crop after bumper crop. He has enough that he doesn't have to stay in the game anymore if he doesn't want to.

There's nothing in here that cast any questions about his character or his moral values, it's just a discussion of how he imagined success to come to his life. And God said to him, "You're a fool 'cause everything you've done is for yourself and you're done in time and everything you have done in time is finished right where you are". One of the questions we wanna learn to ask is, what are the outcomes of my choices today? Will they have any benefit for the life to come? Because all of us are going to give an account for how we've led our lives, not a judgment of whether we go to heaven or hell; as a Christ's follower, you've settled that, but an evaluation of how we've spent our days. Look at the end of this.

Jesus said, "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God". You ought circle that last little phrase. That's the target. The purpose of the warning at the beginning of this passage is to enable us to make choices so that we can be rich towards God. Looking 1 Timothy 6, "Command those who are rich in the present world not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment". I don't believe I don't understand these passages to be a condemnation of wealth. The Bible doesn't do that. The Bible very clearly teaches that abundance is a blessing from God and poverty is a curse. There is not heightened spirituality in being impoverished, nor is there a heightened wickedness in abundance and success.

Oftentimes, I think we look at people who are more successful than ourselves and we imagine they've had to do something immoral to get there. I've had people say to me, "Well, the only reason the church you go to is larger than mine is you've gone soft on sin". Said, "You should interview the people in the church where I go, they wear steel-toed boots". Watch what he says, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life".

Again, we're being invited to this idea that we can lay up treasure for the age to come, not simply establish a residence, but our choices in time can enable us to be rich towards God. I think that's worth understanding, don't you? Now I brought you several passages. I can't do your whole outline this morning, I have tried three times. So I'm just gonna surrender. All right? Forgive me. We'll come back tonight, I'll pick up some more pieces of it. I want to add some others to it, but in Matthew chapter 5, let's go there. Jesus is still teaching. It's a part of the Sermon on the Mount, one of the most familiar passages in the New Testament.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God. And blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you".

In that short passage, nine times, it says explicitly, there's a blessing attached to a behavior. Blessings of God are not arbitrary. In the book of Proverbs, it says, "A curse causeless does not come". A curse is not arbitrary. And I can tell you if it's true in the negative, it's equally true in the positive. The blessings of God are not arbitrarily distributed, they are a response to your life choices and mine.

Too often, I think we imagine sin in terms of a category of behaviors, things that I don't do, things I won't drink, things I won't watch, words I won't say, and it may fit into those categories, but the reality is, I think in its fundamental essence sin is a spiritual disease, and it isn't something we want to toy with because when you invite a disease process into your physical body, you invite destruction. When we invite sin into our spiritual life, we invite destruction. So I wanna pray a simple prayer with you to ask God to forgive us of our sins and help us see anything in us that's spiritually unhealthy. You willing to do that? Let's pray:

Father, I thank you that through the blood of Jesus, we have been redeemed out of the hand of the devil. That he has no power over us, no authority over us, in Jesus's name. Forgive me of my sins and if there's anything that limits my wholeness in you, help me see it. In Jesus's name, amen.

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