Allen Jackson - Growing Season - Part 1
We don't just do Bible studies about first century culture, we desperately need to understand our faith in light of the 21st century culture. And that's not always simple, or easy, or straightforward, it's much easier to have a polite Bible study and ignore what's happening outside the windows of the church. But I think that would be salt that has lost its saltiness. And I'm concerned 'cause the Lord told us what would happen if we became like that. So, it seems to me that most of the markers we have would suggest that we are approaching the conclusion of something. It's possible we're approaching the conclusion of this age and that we could see our Lord return. That is not beyond the realm of imagination, based on scripture I could make a pretty convincing argument of that. I could also argue it's simply the end of the American dynasty, because we are crumbling from the inside out.
And I don't know, in each of those cases I know the church has a very unique role to play, and it isn't exactly clear to me yet entirely what next is, but I can tell you this, that biblically the end of the age is a growing season. That was the title I chose for this particular lesson. Jesus described it as a field that had been planted and the crop had come to ripen. It was harvest time, thus it was the end of the age. But at the same time that the intended crop was ripening, the weeds had flourished in the midst of that. And the workers in the field came and asked if they should go and remove all of the weeds, and the orders came from the Lord, "No," he said "The angels are the harvesters and they'll separate the wheat from the tares, the wheat from the weeds".
So what I want us to be aware of is the same climactic conditions that allow the wheat to ripen, allow the weeds to ripen. So if you are aware that wickedness is proliferating and ungodliness seems to be more bold than it's ever been, I would submit to you, you should be looking for the expressions of faith to be increasing and be more bold and transparent than you've ever known them to be. Now they don't get quite the same coverage on the evening news, and they don't have quite the same interest in the social media, but I assure you God is moving in the earth.
Now to understand what God is doing, we have to maintain some at least marginal awareness of what's happening elsewhere. I have fallen into the habit of describing it as the theatre of the absurd, because it is theatre and it is absurd. And if you haven't been paying attention for the last few days, they are opening and continuing to present new material. It takes very little imagination. It takes imagination to read it and believe anybody that is sober minded would purport it to be real, but it's happening. The debt ceiling has been raised again, did you notice? Apparently $32 trillion was not enough. I'm not a prophet, but I can speak prophetically, it will never be enough. They'll never be satisfied until there's a change of heart in our nation. The people providing leadership and direction will never be content. They will demand more no matter what the consequences are.
You know of Alexis de Tocqueville? He was a French diplomat and political scientist, who wrote a great deal concerning American democracy in the early part of the 19th century. And he made a statement that has become prophetic about us. He said, "The American republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money". Hello. Folks, they promise us all sorts of trinkets and bobbles. They'll reimburse this, or cancel that, or give us this, and we clamor like spoiled children for more.
A trillion dollars is a lot. Thirty two trillion is beyond my imagination, I can't understand it, so I went back to 1 trillion. It's difficult to imagine what that is. If either of us had a trillion dollars, it would take us more than 2,700 years to spend a trillion dollars if we spent a million dollars every day. It's a big number. And if you had that much and you spent $1 per second, it would take you 32,000 years to spend it all. A trillion dollars in $1 bills would weigh 2.2 billion with a B pounds. It will never be enough. We have to have a heart change. There is no free, folks. Thirty two trillion dollars in debt, and it will have to be repaid or the things we have will have to be devalued to the point to make the debt less. Either way we pay.
The plain reality of it is there's tremendous economic confusion before us. I don't say that to be frightening or to be negative, we have to understand the circumstances. If that's not enough, it seems to me there is renewed determination to normalize the most blatant forms of immorality. Now be clear, our assignment as the church is to overcome evil. Our assignment is not to be tolerant of evil. It's troubling to see the refusal to yield to public sentiment. You know, for many years, most of my lifetime, we were told that our faith wasn't welcome in the corporate sphere, wasn't welcome in the corporate boardroom. That if you took Jesus into the public square, and one person raised their hand and said, "I'm offended," then everybody should be quiet.
And so we rather meekly cooperated with that imagining that when the time came that we raise our hand and say, "Oh, I'm offended by that," that they would withdraw that assertion the same way they demanded that we withdraw our assertion of Jesus and his uniqueness. But we find ourselves in a very different place. When Budweiser decides to make Bud Light cans a social experiment, and the people respond and they forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, they don't apologize, they don't adjust their plan. They condemn us. When Target follows suit, they're not discouraged, they double down. And if corporate America isn't enough, then they've turned our American military into a social experiment.
The last time I checked, I think the real objective of the military is to win wars. What's troubling is there's no sense of remorse, there's no repentance, there's no shame. Yes the standard is double, yes justice is not applied equally, but no one cares. Shut up and do what you're told. No, we have an assignment from a different King, we have a different worldview, we live under a different authority, we have a different responsibility. We don't have to be angry or belligerent, and we certainly don't have to be violent, but we have to be determined to stand for the truth of Almighty God, it's our only hope. Governments throughout history, as long as we have kept history, governments accumulate power and refuse to relinquish it. Our nation has been a very unique experiment.
A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And if we don't pay careful attention in every generation, the government will usurp the authority that was intended for us to have. And there's a tremendous amount of voices within the church saying, "Oh, just shut up and sing a hymn". Well I will gladly sing a hymn and with great enthusiasm I will teach from the Word of God. But the hymn and the Word of God is intended to impact the culture in which we live. It's not theoretical, it's a message of freedom, and liberty, and hope. It assigns dignity to every human being of every nationality, of every race. It gives us hope that we don't have to lead our lives under the cruel, hobnail tyranny of sin and darkness. The church has a message for our nation and for the nations.
I read a verse this week. I felt like the Lord gave me a verse this week, and I'll share it with you 'cause I think many people are afraid, they're frightened. They have the good sense to recognize the path we're on is unsustainable. That significant changes seem imminent. I know the messaging is different, and we're told otherwise, but it seems impossible to me to sustain what's happening. And this verse, Proverbs 3:25 says, "Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence, and he will keep your foot from being snared". That's worth committing to memory. It's Proverbs 3:25 and 26, "Have no fear of sudden disaster or the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and he'll keep your foot from being snared".
You see, change doesn't have to terrify us. God has seen change before. He's not threatened. He's not threatened by a media that refuses to look at the truth. He's not threatened by the things that cause us fear. What we wanna learn to do is trust him more fully. He began to awaken us in 2020. They thought that a pandemic would change the balance of power, and God looked from heaven and laughed. He used the threat of a pandemic to pull back the curtain on expressions of deception, and lies, and manipulation that had been being carefully placed for many, many years. And I believe he did it to set his people free. But he's asking us to respond to him in new ways.
Acts chapter 18 and 19 is where we're first introduced to the believers in Ephesus. We will eventually, God willing, will get to the Ephesian letter, but not in this session. In Acts chapter 18 it says, "A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus". Now that's an interesting sentence to me, and I don't wanna take a lot of time, but for a Jewish man to be named Apollos, that's a Greek name. Apollo was a Greek god. For a religious Jewish man to take a Greek name after a Greek god would suggest that he wasn't living in the orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem. And so Luke tells us that he's from Alexandria, from Egypt, the largest library in the ancient world was in Alexandria, it was a center of learning.
There was a large Jewish community there. And that's where Apollos came from. "He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. He'd been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately". Wow. How'd you like to make the big book, and the comment on you was that you spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately? I'm in. So he's received quite the commendation. It says now, "He knew only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. And when Priscilla and Aquila came, heard him, they invited him to their home, and they explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go on, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah".
So Apollos understands Jesus to be the Messiah. And he understands the scripture well enough that he can refute the Jewish community that doesn't believe he was the Messiah. Which is a very similar message to Paul. So he's a man of tremendous faith, of great courage, of great zeal. He's traveled a long way from Alexandria, he's engaging a community they're reluctant to believe, and he has the blessing of the disciples. I think his message... and this is the beginning, these are the seeds for the church in Ephesus. I think it's worth us taking note because if we are going to see a resurgence of the church in the earth, it will begin with a correct understanding of the person of Jesus. We've waffled on this, folks. In the church, we find ourselves where you are in a very unique group of people when you assert the uniqueness of Jesus.
I gave you the apostle's creed, it's one of the oldest creedal statements in the history of the church before we had printing presses and certainly before we had the social media. This will be hard to believe, people used to memorize things. That sound weird. I'm like, you know, I didn't take a picture of it with their phone, they, like, committed it to memory. And so they would take the essential components of something and put it into a creedal statement so that it could be easily remembered, easily shared, and it was the way you would evaluate orthodoxy. If you were traveling or in another place, you couldn't whip out your concordance or go online and ask Google, but you could learn a creedal statement that would help you understand if those to whom you were listening were Orthodox or not. So it's one of the oldest statements about the person of Jesus that we have in the Christian Church. It's the center paragraph.
I grew up in a church where we said this on a regular basis. Some of you may have, some of you may have not, but it's been broadly accepted universally across Christian and whether it's a part of your spiritual formation or not. It says, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth". And why don't you read that middle paragraph with me. It's a series of statements about Jesus. "And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; and from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead".
And you've seen it in some various translations, depending on whether it's old English or new English, the older translations will say, "He'll judge the quick and the dead". It doesn't mean he won't judge the clumsy. Quick was an older English word for living. But it's a series of statements about Jesus that you and I need to be at peace with, it's the essence of our faith, they're really non-negotiable. If you don't accept those series of statements, it is not Christianity. Certainly not in the Orthodox historical sense of that. It may be some wonderful philosophical system, but it doesn't meet the standards of biblical orthodoxy in the history of the church for being a Christ follower.
And so we need to make peace with those things. That Jesus the Messiah was God's only Son. He's our Lord, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He wasn't born as the result of human initiative. Jesus's birth was God initiated, born of a virgin. He suffered under a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was crucified. He physically died on a cross. He was buried because that's what they did with dead bodies. He descended into Hades. The scripture says he went and preached to those who were in captivity. On the third day, he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He's seated at the right hand of God the Father. Now he stepped into time a handful of times in scripture. He met Paul, Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. He went to Cornelius's house 'cause he needed a little prompt to go visit with crazy Saul.
There's several times that Jesus has stepped back into time in the same way he stepped into time repeatedly before we got to the incarnation, but it says he's returning to the earth. But he's not coming this time as a suffering servant, he's not coming as a harmless, helpless child born in a stable in Bethlehem, he's returning this time as a conquering King. He's coming as a judge. I'm always a bit amused when I hear people say, you know, they prefer the God of the New Testament. I'm like, oh really? That one on the white horse, whose clothing is spattered with blood? They haven't read the New Testament very carefully. There's some portions of it that are extraordinarily intense. The Creed goes on to say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of Believers, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen".
It's not a bad thing to have tucked into your heart, at least photographed on your phone. You can't stray from that and imagine that you're standing in the midst of orthodox Christianity. It helps us understand the biblical worldview. I gave you just a couple of passages of scripture that support it. Its Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there's no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved". And if you imagine salvation to only include your eternity, that's not the way the Word is used through the gospels, it's not the way the Word is typically used in reference to that notion of being saved, it's intended to include every aspect of our lives, our physical healing. The provision we need for our journey through time. Our emotional stability, our mental wellbeing. To be saved is a total transformation of a human being.
So if you understand it in that way, when it says, "Salvation is found in no one else," the only way for a human being to negotiate time as the creator of all things intended us to is in relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. You see, we have been an idolatrous church for a long time in America, because we've looked at our gifts, and abilities, and freedoms, and liberties, and thought education, or prosperity, our ability to accumulate resources, or to impact the processes, we thought we could secure our future. And so it's enabled us to treat God as a novelty item. We do Bible studies with marginal interest because at the end of the day, what we really wanted to do is be sure if there was a hell, we weren't going. So we try not to be rude about it, but what we really have wanted to know is like, "What's the minimal daily requirement? What is required of me? What is the lowest possible threshold that gets me in the club"?
We don't really like to say it like that, that's a little crass. And can you imagine negotiating a proposal for marriage like that? So, like, how many nights a week would I have to come home? And then let's just talk about money. Like if I brought one paycheck every what? Ninety days, would that be good? I mean, you don't, like, really wanna, like, see the whole thing, right? It's not like it's... yeah, it wouldn't go well. And yet we've done it to the Lord. 1 Timothy 2 says, "He wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah".
Says there's one God and there's only one mediator. There's not a Catholic God, and a Protestant God, or a Baptist God, or a church of Christ God, or a Pentecostal God, or an independent God, there's one God and there's one mediator and his name is Jesus. And we've diminished him, we've been reluctant to say this. I understand the avalanche of messaging that says, "Oh, there's many ways to God and who is so narrow minded, or so bigoted, or so phobic of something that you would dare to suggest that Jesus is really necessary"?
What about this group? And what about that group? And what about the bad history of the Jesus people? Yes, there's some bad history. There's been some underachievers, and there's been lots of hypocrites. Come on in, we'll scoot in, make room for one more. But the Bible is very clear, Jesus is unique. What I wanna invite you to do, and if you don't take anything else away from this presentation, I wanna plant a seed that it would be to your benefit or to my benefit to know Jesus better than I know him now. I wanna know him better.
You know, we face many challenges in our lives, and the great temptation is to imagine it's somebody else's problem. Somebody else would be different, our lives would be better. But the reality is the only person we really have influence over is ourselves, and I believe the root of most of the challenges we face is we don't have a complete understanding or a complete relationship with the person of Jesus. That's my prayer with you before we go today, that God would give us an understanding heart, that he would give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation regarding the person of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is within us to help us understand who Jesus is and what he's accomplished for us. It will change our lives, our homes, our communities, and our world. Let's pray:
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will give us an understanding heart to hear and recognize the voice of your Spirit that we might know Jesus of Nazareth in a more personal way than ever. In His name we pray, amen.