Allen Jackson - Alignment - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. We're continuing our study on "Effective Prayer". We're gonna talk about alignment with God. You know, it's really popular in the culture today to suggest that God's a little out of date, that there may have been a time and a place for people of faith and believing in a creator God, but we're a little too sophisticated for that now. After all, we've got the Internet and we've got AI and we can leave those values behind, they're a little antiquated. Folks, I would submit to you there is a God and he did create the heavens and the earth. And that means not only is he not out of date, he's more relevant today than he's ever been. Don't apologize because you believe in a living God. In fact, have the courage to declare it in any conversation you're a part of. Grab your Bible and get a notepad. We're gonna look at the Word of God and see if we can understand our assignment with just a bit more clarity, enjoy.
Our topic this week is "Effective Prayer". We've been working on a series, actually, that is part of a larger study we've done this year. We began our year talking about "Let's Pray," and the idea was really pretty simple. We wanted to let prayer move outside the walls of the church. We wanted prayer to become more of the fabric of our lives and not just something about what we do with a religious service or for a few moments on the weekend. We want prayer to become a part of our homes and a part of our offices, our businesses, a part of our schools. We want prayer to be a part of our neighborhoods. We want prayer to be a part of the fabric of our lives.
And so we suggested a less formal way to approach prayer, that in our interactions with one another, we exchange a lot of information. And people give you little windows into their life and their circumstances and that you can respond to those rather than just commiserating or sharing your own stressful story. You can say, "Let's pray". And you get one sentence then. You only get one sentence to pray. You can't pray a library. You can't exchange a sermon from the weekend. You just get one sentence. "Lord, help my friend, give him strength today, amen". Or "Lord, bring strength to their body or help their children or bless their business or let your joy fill our hearts today. Lord, we're tired".
Well, just one sentence, and when you're done, move on. You know, will the Predators ever win a game seven? Will the Titans ever have a good draft? Whatever, just move on. Don't stand there and wait for something spiritual to happen, just keep moving. They may not figure out you prayed for them for 30 or 40 minutes. That's okay. And when you pray, just use your voice. Use your voice, your vocabulary. Don't speak in 17th century English like the King James. "Almighty God, how art thou today"? Even God doesn't know what you're talking about. You don't need some strange voice. "O God, we approach thee now". Huh? Just talk, your voice, your words.
Let's pray one sentence and let's move, okay? We can do this. How many of you've had at least one "Let's Pray" opportunity this year? Good for you. I've heard dozens and dozens and dozens of stories coming back about how God is responding to your prayers. Start in your home, pray for your children, pray for one another. Pray for your neighbors, your families. Pray for the things that are your life. Invite God and it will change everything. Now, what happens when you begin to do that is you become conscious of the great needs that exist. Once you start listening to people, the pressures that they have and the burdens they carry, and the problems that confront them. We need God's help, don't we?
And so the challenge becomes, how do we pray more effectively? Not just to pray. We saw the verse on the screen just a moment ago where James said to us that the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. Well, logically, if you can have an effective prayer, you can have an ineffective prayer. And if an effective prayer accomplishes a lot, what does an ineffective prayer accomplish? Not so much. Well, I don't wanna pray ineffectively. And if I'm gonna pray, I wanna learn to pray increasingly in an effective way so the outcomes will be more real. That's really the topic of this weekend, that the theme we're gonna explore together is alignment. How do we bring alignment to our lives with what God has said to us? Because the more alignment we bring to our lives, the more effective our prayers will be, all right? And let's start with Jesus, he's our example.
In John chapter 4, in verse 34. "Jesus said, 'It is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.'" "My food is to do the will of him who sent me". My nourishment, my strength, my energy comes from doing the will of God. Now, I know we're in church and the right answer is always Jesus. But the truth is, I don't think most of us are dialed in on a daily basis. We don't bound out of bed this morning and say, "Today my agenda is to do the will of God. Usually, my agenda is trying to get God to do my will. I want God to use his juice, his power, and his authority to give me my way. I didn't accuse you of that, but that's the battle in my heart". And Jesus said just the opposite. He said, "My food, my strength is to do the will of Almighty God".
I want to submit to you that the goal of our lives under the sun isn't to get ahead or to achieve or become a celebrity or powerful or wealthy, it's to do the will of God. And the reason that doesn't happen more often is we really lack the intent. We don't intend that to happen. We don't necessarily want to miss heaven and go to that other spot, but we're just not all that committed to doing the will of God, that I wanna suggest to you that God's will is not burdensome, it isn't loathsome, it won't diminish you. It won't bring suffering and pain and less to your life. God's will bring contentment and joy and fulfillment and purpose and happiness that will not come to you any other way. Don't believe the lie that cooperating with God will take something from you. It will not. Godliness will.
"Amen, Pastor, that's good preaching". I've already done this three times. I can do your part and mine. There's no problem with that, okay? The idea is very simple. Know what God has said and express it in your behavior. Now, you can't do that if you don't know your Bible. Read your Bible daily basis, little increments, time on a daily basis. Reading your Bible will change your life. You are incredibly vulnerable in so many ways if you don't have any input or knowledge or awareness of God's Word. You won't understand every verse, you won't be able to pronounce every word. Don't be deterred. It's okay. Nobody knows. When you come to a big word, just make it up. Call it what you want to. I rename 'em. Nebuchadnezzar is too hard to say so I just call him Bill. He hasn't complained a bit. It works for me. But read your Bible. It will help you. You'll be amazed at the tools you put in God's hands.
When you spend ten minutes a day, you can read through your whole Bible in the course of a year. It's worth the investment. So often we use scripture so that we can see our purposes fulfilled. It's not a helpful pattern. The purpose of reading your Bible isn't to find a verse that where you see God's promised to do what you want him to do. When you read your Bible, it changes our hearts. Let scripture inform your life choices. You see, in the simplest statement I know, God is not beyond knowing. You can know God. You can. You don't have to go to seminary. You don't need a Ph.D. in biblical languages. You don't have to move to a foreign country. You can know God. Remember the theme is that praying more effectively, bringing alignment to our lives with what God has said to us, you can know the purposes of God. There's such freedom in that. There's joy in that. I can give you an example.
Look at Romans chapter 1, in verse 18. You have it in your notes. It says, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness". Let's stop there just a minute. I think it's worth noting, at least in passing, that the wrath of God will be expressed in the earth as certainly as the grace of God has been expressed in the earth. You know, it's more fashionable to talk about the grace of God and the mercy of God and the love of God, and I'm very thankful for those things because I have needed them. And I stand today as the poster child for the grace of God.
But it's an equal truth that the wrath of God will be expressed in the earth, not randomly, not arbitrarily towards those individuals that choose wickedness, the Bible says, who practice godlessness, and be certain of this, as much as you believe in the love of God, the wrath of God is an equal truth. It's irrational to believe in one and not the other. I don't wanna put myself in any line. I don't wanna affiliate or associate with any group of people that are destined for the wrath of God. That's just not some place I wanna be. And no matter how far it may seem to put me on the outside or how unique it may seem to make me, I wanna stand in the line of people where the grace and the mercy of God is gonna be bestowed. I grew up in a... you give the Lord a hand. I grew up in a barn in Tennessee, I'm not the most complex character. I like pretty simple stuff. I wanna stand in the line God blesses and I wanna avoid the line that makes God ball his fist.
Do you imagine that the God rules have expired? I know we're in church and the right answer is Jesus, and I expect you to go, "Oh, no, Pastor, absolutely not". You know, let me ask it a different question, a different way. Do you imagine that God's rules are a little out of date? And again, I know the setting where we are and the answer's most obviously no, but the reality that we're probably less likely to acknowledge is the tremendous weight of messaging that is coming at us every day that says absolutely God's rules are out of date. It's as if there's an expiration date and the messaging comes in many ways from many places, from academic settings to the media to just all kinds of ways. There's a torrent flooding at us that says to us, you know, a biblical worldview is just a little out of step.
This is the 21st century and human beings have matured, we have grown, we have elevated ourselves to some new levels so that we don't want some moral perspective or some worldview that comes to us from antiquity. And the Bible is just a little bit out of date and do you really believe in that? And if you say you do, then there's a temptation, and it is not so subtle any longer, that says you are a little out of date. You're a little old-fashioned. You're a little Neanderthal. You must drag your knuckles on the ground. And you really believe in that stuff? Well, folks, I wanna submit to you, number one, there is no evidence in the history of human civilization to suggest to us that human beings, apart from God, will work for the betterment of one another. There is no evidence of that.
For all of our boisterous chest-thumping and arrogant, prideful rejection of God, we have no story in all of our history that suggests, apart from God's influence, that we'll work together for one another's good. So not only do I not think God's rules are out of date, I think they are essential to the well-being of planet Earth in the 21st century. But the challenge to that isn't the... the real nexus, the impetus for the challenge that... isn't coming from the secular world. It's coming from the equivocation, the waffling, inside the church. Then I want to... look at Romans chapter 10 and verse 4 with me. It says, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes". Must be on the next page. Romans 10:4, it says, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes".
Now, it's fashionable in many settings to add some punctuation to that sentence. And where it says, "For Christ is the end of the law," to put in a period and say that when Jesus came, the law was no longer necessary. That's not talking about the law of the land, the Constitution. As Christians, we are under the authority of the law under the nation in which we live. The law that's being referenced is the Law of Moses, the Mosaic Law that God gave to the Hebrew people after the Egyptian exodus that put in place an understanding, a revelation of God's holiness and purity and what that looked like reflected in the behavior of human beings. And as many Christians in the setting of many churches, it's fashionable to say that Jesus was the end of the law, that the law is no longer relevant, that God's rules are kind of outdated, that we have a more expansive representation of that today.
Well, what that verse really says, if you read it, is that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. Now, righteousness is a big old religious word. It means the right standing with God, the ability to stand in the presence of God without fear, guilt, or shame. Now, since every one of us will stand before God, it's in your best interest to know how to get to that appointment without fear, guilt, or shame, agreed? So "How am I righteous"? is the $64,000 question. And what Paul is saying to us in that verse is that Jesus was the end of the law as a means of righteousness, that keeping the rules isn't what gives us right standing with God.
So how do we find right standing with God? Well, the New Testament says it's through faith in Jesus, that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you can be saved and you will be given the gift of righteousness. It says God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. Jesus was made sin with my sinfulness that I might be made righteous with his righteousness. You see, it's the reason Jesus is at the center of our faith. He said it himself. "I am the door, no one comes to the Father except through me". There aren't many pathways to God. Jesus is the door. And the reason for that is the story of the cross. Buddha didn't die on a cross. Muhammad didn't die on a cross. The higher power of New Ageism didn't die on a cross. Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Son of God, gave his life on a Roman cross.
Now, but it wasn't just an arbitrary thing, it was a very carefully orchestrated plan of God to redeem human beings. The sinless, obedient, perfect Son of God willingly gave his life on a Roman cross. It was a brutal thing. He suffocated to death. Being beaten almost to death, then they nailed him to a cross, a brutal way to die. And God placed on Jesus all of the judgment that was due by divine justice, my godlessness and rebellion, that I, in turn, might receive all of the blessings that were due his perfect obedience, so that if you will choose Jesus as Lord of your life, you can receive the gift of righteousness. It's the only way you'll qualify. You can't do it on your own. You can't be good enough or kind enough or generous enough or moral enough, because God's standard is holiness, absolute purity.
And if you transgress on one point, you are guilty and disqualified. We needed someone to do something we couldn't do for ourselves. That's Jesus. And when you choose Jesus as Lord of your life, it's a priority statement. Jesus gets to establish the boundaries and the parameters and the directions. It's not your time. They're not your days. It's not just your stuff. Jesus is Lord. And the more alignment you bring to your life and his will, the more effective your prayers become. Now, why does that matter? Because we face challenges and obstacles and problems in our lives that we don't have the ability to negotiate. There are diagnoses that come. There are challenges that emerge. We need a power greater than ourselves. The Bible says there is a power in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power to help us be different, a power to help us overcome our weaknesses, a power to help us overcome our failures, the power of God extended to us in the good news about Jesus.
So what's Paul saying? Jesus is the end of the law as a means of righteousness. But do you imagine that God's gotten chilled out? We get to the New Testament, God just took a Prozac, said, "Well, maybe those ten commandments were a little harsh". Instead of "Thou shall not commit adultery," do you imagine that God said, "Thou shall commit adultery discreetly"? No, I don't think so. I don't think God's standard for holiness has been diminished in any way. I don't think he said to his people, "Just live however you want. We'll go along, get along, it'll all work out in the end". Jesus said to us the law says, "If you commit murder, you're guilty. But I say to you, if you're angry enough in your heart to want to commit murder, you're guilty". Jesus said the law says, "If you commit adultery, you're guilty. But I say if you just wanna commit adultery with somebody, you're guilty".
Did Jesus lower the standard or elevate it? He raised it, didn't he? So the standard for holiness and purity and righteousness hasn't been diminished. It's just what makes us righteous before God has changed. Our goal is to live a holy life, a pure life before Almighty God, to bring alignment to our lives and the purposes and the will of God. And the more you intend to do that, the more effective your prayers will become, the greater the power that will emerge in your lives. You can't live any way you choose to live and imagine that Almighty God will honor you with his power. That's naive. You won't master God. He's the Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth.
Now, I wanna take the time we have left and start to unpack just some simple expressions of this idea, some biblical principles that are very straightforward that you and I can implement into our lives that will bring more alignment with our lives and God's purposes for us. But I've got a lot more lengthy list than we can unpack this morning. We'll continue this, this evening, God willing. But I wanna start with the first one. God has said to us that we should be a people of prayer. It's not something the ministers dreamt up to mess with you. God said it. Let's start in Luke 18 in verse 1. "Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up". Jesus is gonna tell his disciples a story but the objective of the story is this message: you should always pray and not give up.
I can't tell you how many times people have said to me, "Pastor, I would do whatever Jesus wanted me to do if I just knew what Jesus wanted me to do. I'd do whatever it was. I'd go wherever it is, I'd say whatever he wanted me to say, I wanna do, whatever Jesus wants me to do". I can help with that today. He wants you to always pray and not give up. Yeah, I know that but I want something important to do. I want something meaningful, something I can really sink my teeth into. What... tell me what... I got it. He wants you to always pray and not give up. "Yeah, I heard you, but now really, come on. This is me. I want something to do". He wants you to always pray and don't give up. "Yeah, I know, but you know".
Can't the old ladies do that? I'm meaningful. What's Jesus want me to do? If Jesus stood here today, I'm quite confident one of the things he would say that is vital for you to do would go something like this: "I want you to always pray and don't give up". And how do we answer that? "Well, you know, Pastor, I don't pray much. You know, I mean, I go to church but I'm just not a verbal person. I'm kind of an introvert, I'm kind of quiet. You know, I don't know how to pray. I don't know what it means. I just haven't prayed much". It's as if Jesus said that just to hear himself make noise.
Why do you think he should give you any other revelation of himself until you pick that one up and treat it like it has some sort of integrity to him? Don't make prayer harder than it is. It's about a dialogue with God. It's about opening your heart to God. You can say a one-sentence prayer that's meaningful. Jesus said many of... he said, "Lazarus, come here". And a dead guy came walking out. He didn't preach a 30-minute sermon. You know, people say to me, "Pastor, one sentence isn't enough". It worked all right for Lazarus. You know, when you've emptied Evergreen, you come back and see me. We'll graduate to two-sentence prayers.
Let's pray, folks. Jesus said to, said there's a lot more. Look at the next passage, it's from Luke's Gospel as well. Jesus again, "He said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine is on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him".'" If that's me, I'm gonna get a new friend. Don't call me at midnight for bread, call Domino's. "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, my children are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 'I tell you, though he won't get up and give him the bread because he's his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he'll get up and give him as much as he needs.'"
Now, so far it's just a parable, it's a word picture, but Jesus is about to give us the punchline. He said, "So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you'll find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened". What did Jesus say we could do? He said we could ask and seek and knock. And that's not just about getting your way. So often in prayer, we are the ones who are changed. Remember what Jesus said? "My nourishment, my food is to do the will of the Father". Jesus didn't come just to get what he wanted. We've had a little misunderstanding about prayer. Prayer's not about calibrating God to satisfy your every whim and desire. There an immaturity in that, folks.
I need God's help in my life and I bet you do too. We've been given permission to pray, so why don't we invite God's help into our lives today?
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your great love for us and your provision through Jesus. Lord, you know the details of our lives, every challenge, every place we need healing or deliverance or hope, and we invite you today in your power and strength to move on our behalf. Thank you for your faithfulness, in Jesus's name, amen.