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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Listen And Receive A Blessing - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Listen And Receive A Blessing - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Listen And Receive A Blessing - Part 2
TOPICS: Blessing

I wanna take the balance of our time and do just a brief overview of the presentation of the Old Testament and the New Testament. We might as well have a big objective. I've got about 12 minutes, what's the problem? I find in the Christian community we tend to favor one over the other. Right now our Bible reading is taking us through the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, we're in the Book of Exodus, and with great anticipation looking forward to the book of Leviticus. I think we all understand fundamentally there's typically more enthusiasm for reading the Gospels, or the Epistles, or the book of Acts, but what has grown out of that is kinda this false dichotomy.

And you know, some say, "Well, I'm kind of an Old Testament. I like that," or some like the New Testament. In reality, they are both absolutely necessary. The Bible is a collection of books. That's just the reality of it, it's a library. It's an entire library, differing styles, different authors, different places in history, different context, different types of literature. It's not easily understood, it's not arranged chronologically, but together it provides for us a revelation of the God of creation. Therefore, it's worth understanding, it's worth the effort. None of us understand it all. None of us understand everything about the English language, and most of us have studied it since we were about six.

So the notion that you have mastered either English or God is simply foolish. It seems to me that the majority of the Old Testament is written for one of two purposes. It's either written for God's people, this is what it means to be holy, or this is what it is to walk uprightly before me, or it's written to them, a bit of a corrective for them. The New Testament is slightly different. A significant part of the New Testament is written to people with a much newer faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So the New Testament makes a much greater effort to explain the nature of that relationship with God. Again, both are very important. I think I can illustrate that with just a couple of passages.

We'll start with the New Testament, Acts chapter 10. Peter, the fisherman that Jesus recruited that spent three years with him, walked on the water, you know Peter. He is sent through supernatural interventions to Caesarea, it's a pagan Roman city in Israel, to the house of a Roman centurion. There's just no reason Peter should ever go there. Whatever place you can imagine would be the most inappropriate place for me to visit, that's what it was like for Peter to go to Cornelius's house. And he went under the direction of the Spirit of God. You have to kinda meditate on that a little bit. "And Peter began to speak: and he said, 'I now realize how true it is that God doesn't show favoritism.'" Up until this moment in time, Peter was certain that God played favorites. And he said, "Wow". "God accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right".

Peter thought he was going to give a message to Cornelius in his household, and Peter got the biggest lesson of the day. He said, "'You know the message God sent to the people of Israel.'" No they don't; that's why the angel told them to come get you. They don't know the message at all. "Telling the good news of peace through Jesus the Messiah, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea". No, they don't know; that's why the angel said to go get you at Joppa. "Beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him".

That message was not just for the people gathered in Cornelius's house; that message was for the men and women of the 21st century, just as certainly. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. That's our message. See, when we open the New Testament it's written, it's like it's gonna help us build an awareness of what it means to be God's people, because we don't know so much about that. Acts 13, Paul and his team are in Antioch. "When the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous, and they talked abusively against Paul. Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: 'We had to speak the word of God to you first; but since you reject it, you don't consider yourselves worthy of eternal life.'"

You understand how sobering that is? You're gonna stand there in your self-righteousness and reject eternal life. Please do not cultivate self-righteousness. We now turn to the Gentiles, we're gonna turn to somebody other than you. "This is what the Lord has commanded us: 'I've made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed". Honor the word of the Lord, it's an important attitude. How do you honor the Word of the Lord? By giving attention to it, by giving time to it, by giving your heart to it, by acting as if it might be true. Well, how do we read our Bible with such a spirit of skepticism? You don't read the paper that way. I gave you a passage from Corinth, we'll skip that.

Look at Roman 6. Paul's writing to the church in Rome, he's writing to the church, he says, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death"? If the phrase starts with, "Don't you know," you could assume that the audience to whom he's writing either don't know or have forgotten. "What's wrong with you people"? he said. 1 Corinthians, he's writing to the Corinthian church. "Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God"? No, they don't know that. Why? 'Cause they're acting wickedly. When they get together there's sexual immorality, there's drunkenness, there's gluttony, the church.

So Paul's writings says, "Listen, don't you know"? He's trying to help them; "they've lost their boundaries, they've lost their bearings". Pretty relevant message for the church today. To the Ephesian church, he says, "Of this you can be sure: No immoral, no impure, no greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Don't let anybody deceive you otherwise". He said, "You can be certain of this," they're not certain of that or he wouldn't have written it. He's done a lot of life with the people in Corinth and Ephesus, but he's writing, he says, "What's happened to you? Have you forgotten? Don't you know you can be certain of these things"?

Again, the New Testament is like a compass pointing us to what it means to be the people of God. He says to the Ephesian Church, "You're in a wrestling match, not with flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. So put on your armor and take your stand and when you've done everything else, stand there," he said. He's helping them; they don't know. The Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible gives us a little different perspective. And to be candid, I think it's a more valuable, they're both of great significance. But if you ask me for a perspective that is necessary for the church in our nation right now, it feels a bit more like the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. It's written to and for the people of God.

Once we get into the Book of Exodus, the underlying assumption is the people that God is talking to know who he is, what he has asked of them, and they're making decisions about obedience or disobedience. That is the stuff of the Old Testament. That's the stuff of the prophets, that's the stuff of the books of Moses: "This is how you're to worship me. This is the way you're to worship me. This is what holiness looks like, this is what purity looks like, not the holiness and the purity of the Egyptians or the other nations around you, or the other people that say they have a God or a pathway to God".

This is God said, "This is the way you're to worship me". And the people have a tremendous problem with obedience. They can't even pick up their food on the right day of the week. They cannot follow the menu. I brought you one example, Josiah is king. He becomes king when he's a very young man. "He was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem 31 years". His mother's name was hard to pronounce, and she was from someplace that we don't know where it is. But "Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and he walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left". It seems like a simple sentence in verse 2, but it's very significant. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord".

I'm a bit amused at the discussion, it's been pretty prevalent for several decades, it's not new, you know, that churches should be just utilitarian. I'm not advocating for lavish extravagant things, but I do think we can understand a little bit of the value we attach to the Lord by what we invest in that. Now, I say that having started with a tent and spent 20 years in ministry with very modest resources and facilities. But I'm grateful when I see things done well in the name of the Lord. It bugs me when athletic arenas, or training facilities for college athletic teams are considered that no cost is too great. They should be as lavish as possible so that no one has anything superior to what the whoever it is we support has.

When we talk about our faith, we want it to be modest we don't wanna be too extravagant. There have been times in the history of the church where the most beautiful buildings that were constructed, were built in the name of the Lord. I'm not suggesting we should return to that; that can be an excess, and we can worship buildings. That's not the goal, but your heart follows where your resources go. I'm not raising money tonight, you're safe. But Josiah gives permission to begin remodeling the temple. "Hilkiah is the high priest, and he says to the secretary, 'I found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.' And he gave it to Shaphan, and he read it. And then he informed the king, and 'Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.' And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king".

It's really simple, it's so simple, you can miss it. They didn't have printing presses, so there weren't like 50 copies of the Torah hanging around the temple. They were written by hand, hand copied. And at some point under threat, they had apparently hidden the Torah in the wall of the temple and forgot it. The people who have hidden it perhaps were killed, or died, or were deported, we don't know, but they lost the Bible. We have lots of copies, but in our public life we have lost the Bible. We have lost it as our compass, as our point of navigation. Jesus is the head of the church. Not me, not any other elected person or appointed person. "When they read the book, the words of the Book of the law to the king, he tore his robes".

It was an expression of great grief and turmoil. He said, "We have deviated so far from what's in that book". He understands what that means. He understands you can't write your own script, you can't design your own map, that if we've deviated from that, judgment is coming. So he sends to inquire of the prophets. And this is the message that came back in 2 Kings 22:15. "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: 'Tell the man who sent you to me that 'This is what the Lord says: I'm going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book, the king of Judah has read. Because they've forsaken me and they've burned incense to other gods, and they provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.'"

Wow. I broke it apart, but it's one passage, the very next verse says, "Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I've spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I'm going to bring on this place.' And they took the answer back to the king".

Now, there's two ways you can read that. You can read that and think, "Wow, God was merciful to Josiah in his generation," or you can accuse God and say, "Well, he's not being fair. He's delaying a judgment". Well, let me ask the skeptics in the room a question. Suppose the next generation adopted the same attitude of Josiah. They didn't; the king who followed Josiah was wicked again. But let's just imagine for the sake of discussion that the king who followed Josiah modeled Josiah's pattern. You see, every generation has to make a decision for themselves. We inherit some blessings or some challenges. There's such a thing as a curse of sin; but in spite of the blessings or the curses that have influenced our lives, every one of us has to make a choice. We benefited from the courage of some previous generations.

We've written about the greatest generations and the sacrifices that were made, sacrifices of blood and sweat and lives, people doing courageous things in the face of almost paralyzing fear. And from that, we have reaped a benefit. There is a question before us church: what will our legacy be? Will we capitulate and bemoan the wickedness, or will we choose the pattern of Josiah? Josiah, in spite of that pronouncement... that's 2 Kings 22, the next passage is chapter 23. In spite of what's been spoken, Josiah does not take an extended vacation. He doesn't say, "Well, God said we're good, let's have a party". It says, "The king ordered the high priest".

Now the high priest brought him the book. I'm reading, I'm expecting the high priest to be helping the young king, and the young king is guiding the high priest. "He ordered the high priest and the priest next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah," the Canaanite fertility gods. It's an agricultural society, so when I say a fertility god, the worship of the gods involved sexual immorality, prostitution, with the imagined objective that your crops would be more plentiful, and you would prosper. So imagine it's an unholy union of sexual immorality, the pursuit of hedonism and pleasure with the promise of prosperity. Does that sound familiar? Maybe just a little?

And so the king says, he orders the priest. I'm just thinking maybe the priest should've known to do this on his own, but he doesn't. "To remove from the temple the articles made to worship these Canaanite fertility gods," the starry host. "He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley". It's the valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. "He did away with the pagan priest appointed by the kings of Judah". The kings appointed priests for other gods. We're not the first generation to have a little leadership challenge. "Those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon, and to the constellations, to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and he burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the corners of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the Lord and the women for Asherah".

Male and female prostitutes on the Temple Mount. And Josiah says to the high priest, "You're gonna need to take those down". Now, I can tell you what isn't stated in the text. If they are on the Temple Mount, and they have existed for a lengthy period of time, if those shrines exist on the Temple Mount, it means there's an infrastructure around them. There's a group of people that frequent them. There's a group of people who profit from them, there's a priesthood attached to them. So when Josiah says those have to be deconstructed, he has just made enemies with a very significant portion of the population. He's not changing a worship chorus, he's challenging a revenue stream, he's challenging a place people are accustomed to pursuing pleasure. And he's saying, "We're not doing that anymore". And he's saying that after God has already said to him, "You're golden, you're gonna be okay".

Now again, do I think we need the instruction of the letters to the churches in the New Testament? Absolutely. But I think we need to hear the message to the people of God in the Old Testament. We know right and wrong, we understand good and evil. I don't care what the headline says, or what Budweiser declares, or Target implores, or Disney wants to entice our children with; God has given us a perspective on right and wrong. And if we will have the courage to choose him and to use our voices on behalf of that, I believe he will respond to us. If we don't, the outcome is very clear. It's important, it's important. We live at such a pivotal time.

I wanna encourage you, we don't have to feel strong, we don't have to feel powerful, we don't have to feel triumphant. What we have to choose is to be faithful. Josiah's a kid, there's a power structure all around him, and he leads in spite of that. The condition of his heart was such that it changed the destiny of a generation. How about deciding to be that person in your family system? How about deciding to have the courage to say, "We are going to honor God"? Everybody won't cheer, if you want everybody to be happy when they see you, sell ice cream. It's an exciting time to serve the Lord, and I believe God has prepared us. I believe if he put us in this unique season, he's given us everything we need for life and godliness, amen. I wanna pray for you. I'm long, Dr. Washington's influence, just stand with me. I'm kidding.

Lord, I thank you for your Word, for its truth and authority and power, and I thank you that in your great mercy you've awakened us. You've called us out of the kingdom of darkness and welcomed us into the kingdom of your Son. And through his blood, we've been forgiven, and cleansed, and delivered, We rejoice in that tonight, we thank you for it. And Holy Spirit we ask you now for your help. May we not live under deception. May we not be filled with self-righteousness, and pride, and greed, and idolatry and immorality. May we choose the truth, each of us in our own lives, in our own homes, in the midst of our own circumstances, may we choose to honor you. Forgive us for our indifference, forgive us for our casual attitudes towards ungodliness. Forgive us when we have wanted the approval of others more than we've wanted yours. Give us a new boldness, may the fear of God grow within our hearts. May our love for you be greater than our love for anything in this present age. I thank you for your church. May you be pleased with us, in Jesus' name, amen.

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