Allen Jackson - Masculinity That Honors God - Part 2
You see, this notion of the fatherhood of God gives us identity and a place in the unfolding purposes of God. It gives you a confidence when you pray, when you talk to him, when you imagine inviting God into your life. It helps you understand God's discipline. He loves you too much to allow you to do whatever you want to do. A child that's never disciplined is not a child that's loved well. It's a child that's abandoned. It's the abdication of parental responsibility. And God loves us too much to leave us to ourselves.
Fact, in Hebrews 12 it says he disciplines every child that he loves; that if we're not disciplined, we're illegitimate children. But the fatherhood of God begins with identity. We belong to him. We're his kids. We belong to his family. It defines our future in time and for eternity. We have an inheritance in his eternal kingdom. I'm not just churched or religious or following a set of rules or trying to fool my neighbor into thinking I'm good. I'm a child of the Creator of all things. Now, I'm a crackpot, but he's good at repairing crackpots like me. The second thing, the second benefit of knowing God as Father has to do with your self-worth.
1 John 3 in verse 1: "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God such as we are". We tend to establish our worth based upon the family system that we come from, or the achievements of our lives, or the educations that we accumulate, or the resources that we can marshal, or the power at our disposal, or our influence in some media platform. And none of those things are inherently wicked or evil or wrong, but they're all very temporary. See, it's the reason I don't like hyphenated Christianity. I'm not a Southern Christian or an American Christian, I'm a Christ follower. It's the defining characteristic of my existence. It will define my life on time under the sun and it will define my eternity. It's where my identity begins.
We are children of God. We get way heated up about things whether we're Methodist kids or Baptist kids or CUC kids or Presbyterian kids or Pentecostal kids or Independent kids or home churched kids... are you kidding me? Do you believe we're gonna be in separate neighborhoods? Some of you do, apparently. We won't be. The presentation in scripture is that we are an innumerable group of people gathered before the thrones of every nation, race, language, and tribe, because we belong to the kingdom of our God. You need to think about that because it's pounded into us and we have adapted to it. We have put our own minds to it. We imagine that our self-worth and our value is because of what we've achieved and what we've accomplished and what we've done.
Do you think God needed me to pass a test for his kingdom to flourish? Do you think the angels got together when I hit my goal weight and thought, "Now we're gonna be okay". I doubt it. I doubt it. You see, we have been distracted, and this is... we have forfeited much of our value. The third benefit of knowing the father is the awareness of our home in heaven. John 18 verse 36: "Jesus says, 'My kingdom is not of this world...'" He's on trial for his life. He's being interviewed by the man who will condemn him to death. It is a pressure-filled moment, and under the hatred and the rejection and the enormity of what Jesus is being asked to do, he doesn't crumble, he doesn't flinch. He doesn't compromise, he doesn't negotiate. He looks at Pilate and says, "'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But my kingdom is from another place.'"
And when he said that, he signed his death warrant, because the one thing for which you could most certainly be crucified is if you claimed to be a king up against Caesar. He would not tolerate any pretenders. Jesus didn't deny it. He didn't make an attempt to be inclusive. He didn't hide the truth so he could witness to Pilate. You know how many excuses we've come up with for burying the truth that we know? Jesus said, "You're right in saying I'm a king. You're absolutely right. But my kingdom's not from this world. If it were, you would be dust". You and I need to spend a little more time cultivating an awareness of where our true home is. I've had the privilege of traveling a bit around our country and around the world, and I can tell you something I didn't expect when I was a young person. There's no greater joy than coming back to Middle Tennessee. That's the truth.
Now, I never thought that would come out of my mouth. There was a time in my life, I was quite confident that happiness was Murfreesboro in the rearview mirror, and I chose a path to help me accomplish that objective, but I have come to the realization (Kathy would tell you the truth) wherever we've been, wherever we've stayed, whatever we've done, when we drop our bags back in the house in the simplicity that it may represent, there's no finer place to be. And if we can be aware of the home we have in the kingdom of God, that we are temporary residents here... the language of the New Testament is that we are aliens and strangers. There's an old hymn that we would sing. It says, "This world is not my home, we're just passing through. Our treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue".
I'll spare you my singing, but the words are powerful. And we get so heated up. What's the economy going to do? What's gonna happen in the election? What about this, and what about that? Folks, and it's okay to pay attention. You need to be aware. I don't want you to withdraw. But we have an eternal home. We are participants in a kingdom beyond this, which leads me to the fourth benefit: we have total security. Luke 12, Jesus again: "Do not be afraid, little flock, your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom". What are we gonna be afraid of? Jesus said don't be afraid if somebody that'll just kill your body. I mean, well, that's pretty much like a heavy threat. He said you should be afraid of someone after they've killed your body could cast your soul into hell. We are not really aware of the security that is ours in the Lord.
Paul said, "You know, it's really better for me to leave you people, but it seems that for the while, the Lord's asked me to stay and serve, so serve I will". That's the Living Bible, but it's what he said. If you live with fear and anxiety because of the uncertainty in our world, spend more time meditating on the passages of scripture that remind you of the security we have in the Lord. Folks, there's no security in anything else. Do you think Wall Street's gonna secure us? Do you think corporate America is fighting for your best interests? Do you think the manager of the mutual funds you've invested in woke up this morning goin', "I hope I can protect my friends in Tennessee"? I don't think so.
And finally, that revelation of God as Father brings a real motivation for service in our lives. John 8, Jesus said: "He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him". Again, I don't like the way that our faith has been presented to us. We think about volunteering for church, and so we volunteer for our little assignments, and I'm a part of that, so I'm in the soup with you, but I don't serve God because of my little church project.
When I was at Vanderbilt many years ago, they offered me a scholarship into a PhD program, but I couldn't do it if I was working beyond the program, and I was serving the church. So we negotiated with it and they labeled it my little church project. And it's representative, I think, of how we often think about how we engage with God... well, it's that little church project. I've agreed to do this, or to do that, or to hold this space, or to accept that assignment, now, they're important. They make all the difference in the life of the community for us here. But we tend to think of God in these little blocks of time that we have apportioned to him, but the real significance of our life is someplace else. The real value, the real opportunity.
So we go sell our soul to do something that we can't take with us, it's temporary. And we kind of begrudgingly squeeze out a few minutes to invest in something that will bear fruit for all eternity, and we haven't thought about how to integrate the two so that every day no matter what we're doing, no matter what the assignment, that we are there as ambassadors for the kingdom of God. That's the biblical perspective, that we lead with our faith, whether we're going into the factory floor or a job site or a hospital corridor or a courtroom. We are ambassadors for the kingdom. It's our motivation for living. So no, I won't compromise my integrity to gain an economic advantage. I won't betray my family for the pursuit of something that is ungodly, because I'm called for a higher purpose and I have a higher assignment and another initiative. We have to help one another with that.
If you'll allow me, biblically men matter. And I'll say it once, but don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that women don't. But the messaging has been way the other side. It's a bit like "defund the police". You know, it seems like we've spent decades trying to defund the fathers, or defund men. And we're awakening to the reality that the police are pretty important if we're going to live in a lawful society. If our public places are going to be safe and our families are going to flourish, we actually need authority expressed in the midst of our communities. And it's even better when the rule of law is applied equally. And we go back to antiquated concepts from today's standards like justice and equality, that we should be equal before the law. Men matter. Godly men, godly husbands, godly fathers are important, in the same way as godly women and godly wives and godly mothers. They're all important roles, but they are not interchangeable.
Now, our families are not perfect and our lives are not perfect, and because of the brokenness of that, we compensate and we overcome. I'm not suggesting that it leaves us with deficits that can't be overcome, but the reality is they're not interchangeable roles. There're some responsibilities that God has given to men. In Genesis chapter 2 in verse 15, I've told you on many occasions that the big rock ideas of the Bible are introduced to us in the opening chapters. They're fleshed out, the stories are told in greater detail and repeated throughout the rest of the book, but we're introduced to the ideas and in Genesis 2:1, it says: "The Lord took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it".
It's a little blind to us in English, but the word that's translated "keep the garden" is from the root as the modern Hebrew word for a night watchman. The assignment that Adam was given was to protect the garden, and he failed. And the consequence was enormously disruptive for his family. He failed. Fellas, we have an assignment. It's not discussed a great deal. It certainly isn't reinforced in the media or much of the contemporary programming we see that's created by those who create content for us, but we have a God-given assignment to be watchmen in our homes. And watchmen comes I think with two contexts. It's not just to protect, it's also to prepare. And I take a moment with that because you have to acknowledge the time and the place when you live, and those responsibilities will shift based on what's happening in the time and place.
If you imagine you're protecting your children by not talking about the things that are happening in our world, I would submit to you you're not preparing them, because they know what's being discussed. They know what's being discussed. They know more about it than we do. Every time I can listen to young people, I find out they are far more informed of what's happening in our world than I am. Those little crazy boxes that we hold in our hands, I still think of it as a telephone. They understand it's a communication center, a library, a learning device. It's your go-to when you have a question. I work with people and before they ask a person, they ask Google. I haven't caught up with that yet. I just want the thing to make a phone call when I need a phone to ring. And I don't wanna ask Siri to find the number for me.
Watchmen. We have to protect and we have to prepare. That's not easy. I don't wanna suggest it is. Our failures in that can be understood, I think, in two ways: The sins we commit when we purposely abandon that, we make other choices, ungodly choices, selfish choices. We all understand that; we've all done that. The other category is a little less discussed, it's those sins that are omitted. Things that we should have done that we simply didn't do. Too busy, too distracted, too disinterested. Maybe we didn't know.
In Matthew 25 in verse 45, Jesus picked this category up and he said, "They will answer me", he's talking about judgment, when we stand before the Lord. You know we will do that. He said, "I will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life". You know, that larger conversation, they'll present to the Lord and they'll say, "Lord, you know, Lord, Lord..." He said, "I don't know you". And you said, "Well, we did miracles in your name," and he said, "I don't know who you are". In another setting, he'll say that "'When I was hungry, you didn't feed me, and when I was thirsty, you didn't give me something to drink, and when I was cold, you didn't bother to give me a coat.' And they said, 'Well, when did we fail to do that?' Then he said, 'When you failed to do it to the least of these'".
You see, when we know the right thing to do and we fail to do it... again, those are the things we've been told we can just live through those. Power past them, hurry up, roll up the windows, and speed up. The church is on an assignment. We're salt and light, and if we crumble, if we lose our liberty and freedoms, it's not because of expressions of darkness. It's because of the weakness and the apathy of the church and God's people. I believe we can be different. I believe God is helping us. He's waking us up. We're different than I've ever seen the church in my lifetime. We're more motivated, we're more responsive, our hearts are more open, we raise our hands more frequently. We're more generous with our time and or treasure.
God is moving our hearts. It's awkward, it's uncomfortable because we're looking at the carnage that our previous choices have given rise to and we would like to blame it on the end of the age. "Well you know, the world's ending. There's an airlift coming. Can we just talk about the airlift"? Well, I think to be prepared for that, we have to talk about the ambivalence with which we have lived and the consequences that has brought, and we've got to with some sincere humility begin to say, "Lord, I'll choose a new response. I'll never be content just sitting in church or filing in and filing out and bein' grateful I got that over for another week. I'll begin to use my voice and lead with my faith".
The Bible gives us a picture of two men. I'll wrap it up with this. I think it's an interesting comparison. Abraham and Lot, I suspect you know them both. They're related. Their journeys are parallel. They're not from different periods of time. They're not from different cultures. They come from the same place. They live through the same circumstances. They hear the same revelations, or at least have access to the same revelations. They have very different outcomes. In Hebrews 11, it says of Abraham that "he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God".
Wow! I was just lookin' for an opportunity. And Abraham was looking for the city whose foundations and architect and builder is God. I don't believe that's hyperbole. Abraham understood something. It's the only way to understand his life choices. Now, he was a flawed person. On more than one occasion when there was a little external pressure, some person more powerful than himself was lusting after his wife. He said, "Well, you know, she's not... she's just my sister". You know, one time you might have looked at that and gone, "Well, you know, it was an awkward moment. He was caught off guard," but I'm thinkin' by the time Sarah got returned through God's sovereign intervention, I suspect there was a conversation of correction. Does that feel right? Think maybe Sarah had like a follow-up dialogue? "Sister"? Just maybe. So you know, like a, "Well, you know, he's a Bedouin, what's he know, it's okay, so..." Except he did it again.
Now, you know there's a God 'cause he survived the second time. So in spite of his frailty, his weakness some of the time, he was looking for a city whose architect and builder is God. That challenged him. What am I lookin' for? I'm tryin' to get my work done. Tryin' to get my to-do list checked off. Lot on the other hand, Genesis 13 says, "Lot lifted up his eyes and saw the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zion. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and he journeyed eastward. They were separated from each other. Now the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinners against the Lord".
Abraham and Lot had flourished, each of them to the point that they're shepherds, that they needed more territory. They had to separate, and Abraham said, "Choose wherever you wanna go". And Lot looked at the Jordan valley, it had a permanent source of water; it was the most lush part of the entire land, it is until today. And Lot looked at that and said, "I'll take that". He didn't care if it was wicked. He didn't care how ungodly they were. Both of these men had visions. Abraham's vision focused on a glorious eternal city that God had prepared for his servants who followed him completely. That's what the author of Hebrews tells us. You can decide whether you believe it or not, but that's the message. Lot's vision focused on the material prosperity of an earthly city and it blinded him to the sinfulness of its inhabitants.
Now, here's the punchline. Each man's vision determined not only the course in life that he himself followed, but it also determined the destiny of his family. Fathers matter. Godly men matter. A father imparts to his family the vision that directs his own life. Parents must protect their children. But parents must also prepare their children. We can't take them out of the world. We live in the world, and we may rage against that, but we have to prepare out children. There's a tension between those two assignments. The different times and seasons require considering the responsibilities that go with those unique times and seasons. And if you prepare your children for a time and a season that we're not facing, we're not protecting them nor preparing them.
We need God's wisdom. We're back to those prayers we prayed at the beginning where we felt like we were bruised or hurt or damaged because of the choices that people with authority made in our lives. And through God's mercy and strength, he keeps us and delivers us, and we overcome. And he will help us. Our desire is to honor the Lord, to give him our best, to be more than churched people. To be more than religionists. To be more than people with a higher ethical code. To be kind. Stop it. I'm not opposed to kindness, but I also wanna be faithful.
I brought you a prayer. We can pray this one together. Why don't we stand for this. My Father's Day gift... I'm on time. Somebody make a note. Let's read this prayer together.
Heavenly Father, thank You for my father. I believe You chose him for me. Today, I ask your blessing upon his life. Holy Spirit, help me to understand God is Father, to trust Him, to value Him, and to rest in His great love for me. I thank you that I'm not alone and abandoned, but that Almighty God is watching over me and will deliver me from all my trials. In Jesus's name. Amen.