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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Responsibility of Truth

Allen Jackson - Responsibility of Truth

Allen Jackson - Responsibility of Truth
TOPICS: Responsibility, Truth

We're in the midst of a study on prophecy. Prophecy is a topic that it seems to me draws two very distinct and different reactions from Christ followers. One group of people run towards it and immerse themselves in it, and in every activity they see some prophetic signal. And there's another group of people, that group of people scares many of us. And there's another group of people who just avoid it altogether. They think it's either irrelevant or irrational or unimportant or beyond knowing, that they just choose not to encumber themselves with it.

I would submit to you that God gave us his prophetic Word, and he gave it to us to help us and as a tool for us, and that we need a prophetic understanding. God put three offices in the midst of his people in Scripture: the prophet, the priest, and the king. The king clearly is an administrative role. We're told in the New Testament to pray first and foremost before we do anything else, to pray for those who have authority over us., that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness. Our assignment is to pray for whoever it is that has authority over us that godliness might proliferate. The notion that the church should be separate from the state, we don't want a state-controlled church or the church to control the state. But if the church doesn't speak to the state, the state will be immoral.

Amen is the word you're searching for. The priestly role represents the people to God. The priestly role is more of an intercessory role. The priest would receive the sacrifices from the people and offer them to God. You couldn't just bring your own sacrifice and offer it to the Lord at your own choosing and the time of... you had to, you needed a priest to intercede on your behalf. Today, our great high priest is nothing less than Jesus of Nazareth. The Scripture says he lives to make intercession for you and for me. The prophetic role is different. The prophetic role is not so much about anticipating the future, predicting who's going to win the Super Bowl. The prophetic role is predominantly in Scripture about delivering God's perspective to the people.

What does God say about our lives, our choices, the world we're living in? How does God see us and understand us? What would God say to us? Without a God perspective, we are left to our own self-evaluation, and given the nature of our character, we can convince ourselves of almost anything. True? So we desperately need a prophetic perspective. The priestly role typically feels softer, a bit more cuddly and embracing. It's the priestly perspective that extends the message to broader groups of people. The prophetic message is primarily for the people of God. They are the ones who will listen. So this message, and it's really imagined to be delivered principally for God's people. I don't imagine that the people outside the church really care about God's perspective. If they did, they'd be inside the church.

We've entitled this particular study "God Bless America". I understand, I said it last week; I wanna reiterate it just so we don't get off course, that I understand God's not an American. Okay? When you get to heaven, they won't be playing the Star Spangled Banner and My Country 'Tis of Thee in the elevators. Right out in front of the pearly gates there won't be a big flagpole with the red, white, and blue flapping in the breeze. So I'm not confused. I understand God loves people around the earth, that the church is truly an international initiative. Long before we had multinational corporations, God put the church in play.

The name of our church suggests we're awake to that. But having said that, I do believe our first and primary responsibility is in the place where God planted us, that we have to be responsible as Christ followers across the back fence before we can be responsible Christ followers across the oceans. And I would submit to you that God has given us a land of liberty. God gave us a land of freedom and liberty, that God in his sovereignty placed us in this nation. The overwhelming majority of us didn't choose it, anymore than we chose our parents. God chose it for us, and with that came tremendous freedom and liberty and opportunity, and it also comes with responsibility. If we accept the liberty and the freedom without the responsibility, we will lose the liberty and the freedom.

So understanding God's perspective so that we can honor him and serve him with our lives is a significant part of what it means to be a Christ follower, I wanna begin with a couple of places in Scripture that I think are familiar to you, because they underscore a principle that I don't want us to miss. I'm gonna start in Exodus chapter 3. It is an interview that God is conducting with Moses. He's recruiting Moses. Moses, you'll remember, was born a prince of Egypt. He got into some trouble and fled Egypt and is living in the wilderness and God arranges an appointment with Moses in a rather dramatic fashion. He doesn't call ahead and get on his calendar. He interrupts his journey one day with a bush that's burning and is not consumed, and Moses is inquisitive enough that he goes to inspect, and when he does, God speaks to him from the bush and says, "Moses, what are you doing? Get your shoes off, it's holy ground".

And Moses, after all, is a prince of Egypt, and he responds as you might imagine when he hears the voice in the bush. He said, "Here I am". I mean, he wasn't even put off by a bush that talked to him. "Here I am". Then God said, "Moses, I want you to go back to Egypt and I want you to go to Pharaoh and tell him you're taking the Hebrews out of Egypt". Now, they've been slaves in Egypt, they've been in Egypt four hundred years. They went into Egypt as a family and by this time they are a mixed multitude. They have no memory of freedom. They have no internal stories of autonomy. They've never been an independent nation. And God said, "Moses, you go tell the slaves and then you tell Pharaoh, 'We're leaving.'" And now Moses says, "Who am I"? Who am I.

In my own journey, I find that when you don't really understand who God is, there's a lot of "Here I am". And the more you come to understand the Lord and his invitations to you, there's a whole lot more "Who am I"? But in Exodus chapter 3 in verse 8, God said, "I've come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of the land into a good and a spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites". Those last few words in that verse are not something to be sprayed for. They are people groups, and what God said to Moses is "We're leaving Egypt and we're going to another land". And he identified the land so Moses would know where they were headed.

It's the land where these people live. God had promised that land to Abraham and his descendants forever, hundreds of years earlier. But God said now that the Scripture says that the cup of their unrighteousness had been filled, so they're gonna be displaced. God's gonna put the Hebrew people in that land he's promised them forever. It would help the United Nations a lot these days if they'd just read the Book of Genesis. Lot of consternation in the planet about the Jewish people on that piece of land. God said they belong there and nobody's movin' 'em. It's not a very fruitful way to spend your life, raging against God. He doesn't move much.

So, God said we're leaving Egypt to go to a piece of territory, a place on the globe. In Ezekiel chapter 11, we've stepped forward hundreds of years. God kept his promise to Moses. You know the story, the plagues. Egypt is decimated. The Red Sea's parted. They escape Egyptian slavery. God feeds them with manna. He brings water out of the rocks in the desert. He leads them with a pillar of cloud. They get all the way to the Promised Land. Moses doesn't finish it. Joshua takes 'em in. They conquer the Promised Land. They live for hundreds of years with judges, Gideon, Deborah, Sampson were all judges. The last of the judges is Samuel, and they say, "We want a king". And God said, "All right". And he chooses the king for them. He chooses Saul, and then David, and then Solomon. They've lived in the land that God's promised them for hundreds and hundreds of years by the time we get to the Book of Ezekiel.

There's a temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. They have no memory now of Egypt. It's a part of their story. They have holidays when they tell the story, but none of them remember Egypt. It's hundreds and hundreds of years removed from them. And while they are still the chosen people of God living in the land he promised them with a temple and with daily sacrifices and a high priest, their hearts are a long way away from God. They're still keeping kosher rules. They still have the Torah; they have the law. They still have the Ten Commandments, but their hearts are a long, long way from God.

In Ezekiel 11 in verse 9, listen to what God said. "I will drive you out of the city", Jerusalem, "and hand you over to foreigners and inflict punishment on you". God said, "I gave you the land, but now you're leaving. You can't stay here anymore". Their right to live in the Promised Land was connected to their relationship with Almighty God. And he said, "If you'll turn your back on me and it doesn't please you to honor me and you don't wanna accept my boundaries, you're not staying here. You're leaving".

May I ask you a question? When they were in Babylon and God sent the Babylonian armies in 587 BCE. Nebuchadnezzar's armies encircled Jerusalem. They destroyed it. They literally tore the wall down, destroyed the temple, slaughtered many of the inhabitants of the City. They took some of brightest and best with them back to Babylon, the first Jewish ghetto in history. There were to be many more. In Babylon, are they still God's chosen people? Absolutely. The Scripture says that God disciplines those he loves. I would submit to you, God loved them in the midst of the judgment, but he said, "You can't stay in the land if you don't intend to honor me".

Now I wanna look at another familiar passage of Scripture with you. It's in the Book of Genesis this time. Genesis chapter 2, it's a part of the creation narrative. The Bible opens, as you know, by explaining that God is the Creator of heaven and earth and everything that's in them. And in Genesis chapter 2, the culmination of creation is humanity, Adam. And God gives instructions to Adam. It's Genesis 2:15, "The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it. And the Lord commanded the man, 'You're free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'"

Now, just as certainly as God placed the Hebrew people, the descendants of Abraham, in that land at the end of the Mediterranean, God placed Adam and Eve in that garden. He created the earth and everything's in it, but the Scripture says he planted a garden, a specific place, and he put Adam in the midst of that garden and he said, "I give you authority over it. Tend it, take care of it, that's your job". That God called it work, did you catch it? Said the Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of... did you know that work is God's idea? This is before the fall. Sin hasn't entered. God created us to work. Work is not evil. Work is not an intrusion into your life. Work is an expression of your faith.

Now after the fall, God amended it and work became disproportionate. The benefit that comes from the work diminished and the effort that was required increased. But don't imagine work is an intrusion into your life. We have perverted it and made it, we put a burden on work that it can't sustain. I hear people say, "You know, my job doesn't fulfill me". It's impossible. We bring fulfillment to our jobs. God gave Adam an assignment to tend that garden, but he placed him in a very specific place. He gave him one thing, he said "It's all yours. Enjoy it, it's for you. But there's one tree, and that one tree you can't touch. If you do, you'll die".

You know the story. What did Adam do? Got in line by that tree. If he had'a been keeping the work that God had given him when the serpent made his way into the garden, Adam would'a addressed him before they ever got to the deception or the sin. Now watch what God says. Genesis 3: "The Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. And he drove the man out and he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden a cherubim, an angel to guard the entrance to the garden". The place God created for Adam, he forfeited because of the condition of his heart. He drove him out.

Now, I've told you on many occasions that the first chapters of Genesis establish for us the central principles of Scripture, that the big ideas of the Bible are introduced to us in those first chapters. We meet God as the Creator of all things, as the initiator, the sustainer of all things. We meet God as judge of all the earth. He brings a flood; that God defines righteousness and unrighteousness. Well, I believe we're also introduced to another one of those fundamental ideas of Scripture, that God in his sovereignty, he places us at his decision, at the point in time and the point in the planet where he wants us to be. We don't control the day of our birth, nor the location of our birth. We don't choose our parents, nor our nationality, nor our ethnicity. God makes that choice. It's an expression of his sovereignty.

And back to the point where we ban this morning, I believe God in his sovereignty placed us in this nation. We're a nation of immigrants. We've all come from other places. But God in his sovereignty has orchestrated our presence in this place at this time. And it happens to be a nation on planet earth in this season that has unprecedented liberty and freedom. We have greater opportunities, more blessings, more privileges than any nation on this planet. It's not perfect, far from it, as a matter of fact, but amongst the options, it is very unique. That is the blessing of God in our lives. But that blessing does not come without responsibility. It has come from Almighty God. We're not a nation defined by a specific ethnicity, by the color of our skin or the shape of our eyes. We are a nation of immigrants. We're defined by an idea. We are one nation under God.

You know, God's discipline in our lives is a necessary part of growing up in the Lord. The Book of Hebrews says if God doesn't discipline you, he doesn't love you. You're an illegitimate child. We want the blessings of God, but we really don't want the discipline of God. Now, I would encourage you if you're in a place where, you know, Bible says endure hardship as discipline. If you're walking through a season that's not easy, perhaps you should say to the Lord, "Lord, I wanna learn the lesson". I'm not tellin' you if it's a difficult, get back in line for mistreatment or inappropriate treatment. I'm not saying that. I'm saying to say to the Lord, "Lord, I want your perspective on my heart in my life. If there's anything in me that's harmful or hurtful or diminishes my relationship with you, help me to see it".

We need a God perspective, folks. We've spent most of our energy trying to convince God that our perspective he needs to pay attention to. We need to invest a little energy in saying, "God, help me to see myself and my home and my business and my life and my nation as you see us". Two phrases God used with Ezekiel that I'll hand you really quickly. One, it's used dozens of times in the Book of Ezekiel and almost nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. It's this little phrase, "They'll know that I'm the Lord". You see, lordship is the question to be resolved in every individual heart. And God says over and over and over and over and over again in Ezekiel that "They will know that I am the Lord".

In Ezekiel 12 it says to the Israelites, "They'll know that I'm the Lord when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them throughout the countries". They have a temple, holidays, rules, high priest, and God said, "They have forgotten that I'm the Lord. But they'll know that I'm the Lord when I scatter them around the earth. They will remember. They will look back and they will know there is an almighty God in heaven". You know, we lose sight of that. We kinda distill God down. It's like we have a divine reduction, and we kinda come out with a morphed God. He's kinda like a cuddly teddy bear or a benevolent uncle that visits once in a while with a sack full of goodies. And then as soon as we've got his goodies, we hope he leaves 'cause he's kind of an intrusion. And God said, "They will know that I'm the Lord".

The Book of Ezekiel closes with another prophetic statement in chapter 38. He said, "I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I'll make myself known in the sight of many nations. And then they will know that I am the Lord". He starts out saying the Israelites will know that I am the Lord, and then he says the nations will know that I am the Lord. You know, the point of the Book of Revelation, the endgame in this whole scenario in time is that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And the assignment of the church is to hold up that banner, and if we lose sight that he is the Lord of all, we are failing in our assignment. It's important. The courage to own our faith in the sphere of our influence matters.

There's one last idea in Ezekiel that I'll give you today, or this morning. It's in Ezekiel 14. Most of you, I suspect, are familiar with the idea the reason the Israelites were sent into exile, at the heart of it was their idolatry. They worshipped other gods. The first commandment, "You can have no other gods before me". And we think of idols as something that's crafted out of wood or stone or maybe shaped from metal, and you place it somewhere and you worship that little figurine. That's a very, very, it's an appropriate definition, but it's a very narrow definition of idolatry. Idolatry is defined much more broadly, look at Ezekiel 14: "Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any Israelite sets up idols in heir heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face'".

Where was the idol set up? In their heart. So it wasn't first and foremost about some image that was carved out of something else. He said in your heart. Idolatry begins in our heart. Idolatry in its essence is about priority. It's about whatever you give first priority to. What do you look to as the resource of your life? The stabilization of your life? The hope of your life? The joy of your life? So what do we do? I think we go back to the beginning. We remember that we're one nation under God, that the best things in our lives have come from Almighty God, and rather than be ungrateful and complaining and embittered, we begin to say, "God, thank you. You have blessed us. You have been good to us. Our lives may not be perfect, things around us may not be perfect, but you have been good to us".

We have the best healthcare system in the world. It's not perfect. We complain because we'd like it to be free. That's the truth. It's awkward to have to pay for. We have consumed every blessing and stomped our foot and demanded more. And I don't expect the people outside the church to be different, but inside the church we have an assignment to care more about the things of God than our own idols. So, we don't want to accuse anybody else or condemn anybody else or be angry at anybody else. We want to say to God, "Be merciful to us. Help us, Lord. We don't wanna forfeit the great blessings of God to learn the lessons. Help us to change". And he will. Isn't that amazing? We're not powerless, folks. We don't wanna be afraid of the conflict. Let's come out of our tents and say with that teenager David, "Our God can do this".

You know, folks are heated up about the millennials. I read a lot of stuff, they're not this or they're not that. Folks, it's not on their heads. We made that generation. It seems to me they're behaving in the marketplace like we've behaved towards God. We wanted all the blessings and none of the responsibilities. And if we'll change, we'll help them have a different future. We can do this. Greater is he who's for us than everything that's arrayed against us. My time's up. Why don't you stand with me. I brought you a prayer, but we're not gon' pray that one. You can read that one at your leisure, but I pray you'll read it. It'll help you. I'd like to pray with you. Why don't you join somebody's hand. You don't have to make a circle around the room. I just don't want anybody by themselves, okay? If you don't know who they are, tell 'em who you are. If they won't talk to you, turn loose of 'em. God doesn't listen to rebellious prayers, I promise.

Father, I thank you fore your Word, for its truth, for its perspective on our lives. Holy Spirit, I pray you would give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to receive God's perspective, not the opinion of a person, but help us to see ourselves and our circumstances from God's vantage point. Give us the humility to choose to honor you. Forgive us, Father, for the hardness of our hearts. Forgive us for turning our backs upon you, for being more focused on our own convenience and comforts and our own pursuits than we have your purposes. Lord, you have blessed us as no one that you've ever blessed before, and we come today to say we're sorry for imagining that we've caused those blessings. Lord, be merciful to us. We pray that you would awaken your people across our nation from coast to coast and border to border, and I pray we will once again see them standing in the public square giving glory and honor to Almighty God, lifting up the name of Jesus without shame or embarrassment. I praise you for it. Lord, we need your wisdom. We need your direction. We need your strength. But I thank you that greater is he who is within us than whatever is arrayed against us. We praise you for the victory that you will bring. In Jesus's name, amen.

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