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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - God Bless America Again - Part 2

Allen Jackson - God Bless America Again - Part 2

Allen Jackson - God Bless America Again - Part 2
TOPICS: Blessing, America, USA

We're the most outwardly Christian nation that remains. We're the most influential Christian nation, partially because of our wealth, partially because of our communications tools. There are several layers to that, but we have a unique responsibility. God has given us liberty and freedom and blessing and abundance so that we can take the gospel of the kingdom to the whole world. And we've been a bit reluctant even to acknowledge the uniqueness of Jesus. We've been a little timid to say what Jesus said of himself, that no man comes to the Father except by him, that he is the way, the truth, and the life. That's our message.

In 1 Timothy 4, in verse 1, it says: "The Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will abandon the faith and will follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons". When the truth is rejected, when we won't tolerate it in our schools, we won't tolerate it in the Supreme Court, when we won't tolerate it in the halls of government, when we reject God's truth, demonic influences fill the void and we begin to descend, to deteriorate, into all sorts of ungodly choices, immoral behavior. We begin to establish new norms.

In James chapter 3, in verse 14, it says: "If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes from above, but it's earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing". James is the plain-language book of the New Testament. If you're having kind of a blue day, maybe you shouldn't read James. He gets in your business. But he reminds us that carnal responses from those who purport to be God's people opens the floodgates for disorder and every evil thing. We don't have to cast about for cause and effect. If we will humble ourselves and pray, God will move. That is such a freeing idea, if we can get our hearts around it.

Now I wanna take the minutes I have left and see if we can craft a response, because I'm not a pessimist. I think we're standing on the precipice of the greatest moving of the Spirit of God that we've ever known. I believe we can see the gospel of the kingdom preached in the world with a clarity and an authority and a pervasiveness that will exceed anything our world has ever known. I believe we'll see the Spirit of God move in power and lives be changed, people walk out of the shadows in humility and repent, that the fear of God will come upon entire blocks of people in ways we haven't seen. I believe for our own congregation, our future, we will see more people coming to faith, being filled with the Spirit, cooperating with God, than any time in our history as a congregation. I believe it. But I don't believe it will happen in a vacuum. It will happen because of our choices, because of our willingness to bend our knee, and to change our heart.

So what can we do? What is our response to be? That's the question I'm asking more than anything else in this season. I think we feel powerless, we feel helpless, we feel overwhelmed. I wanna go back to James chapter 1, and beginning in verse 21. He says: "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says". Again, the language is very plain. It's clear that James isn't writing to pagans, to the ungodly or immoral. He's speaking to people that he imagines to be a part of the church, and he said, "Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, so widespread, so easily embraced. And humbly accept God's word that is planted in you".

If you need a little more definition, if you need something for reflection, if you just casually shrug that off and say, "Well, there's no moral filth in me," I'll give you a little bit of a homework assignment: go take Galatians chapter 5, verses 19 and 20, and just meditate on 'em. Ask the Spirit of God if you've given any place in your life to those expressions of your carnal nature. See, again, I think we often think of sin as being some huge, gross, immoral, serial killer or somebody that's planning acts of terrorism against large groups of people, but it's the small things, it's the things we tolerate, the attitudes of our heart, the behaviors we excuse, the obedience that we don't give expression to. It's what makes us vulnerable. And James's instruction isn't to get rid of most of it, or the ones that are most troubling, but to not tolerate any. "Get rid of all the filth," he said. Don't give your carnal nature an excuse. Don't justify it. The poor behavior of someone else does not justify our equally poor behavior.

Again, we're in a battle. Folks, there's some amazing things happening. Our own State Legislature last week passed a fetal heartbeat bill. It was a part of our governor's legislative agenda. Both Houses have passed it. The governor will sign it. It'll protect the lives of untold hundreds of children across Tennessee. It's a powerful step. There's already enormous dollars flowing into the legal suits to counteract it. But your prayers, your voice, your influence, your awareness, makes a difference. "Get rid of all moral filth". We've been accepting for too long, not of others, of our own selves. James said "to humble ourselves and accept God's word". If you don't read it, you don't know it well enough to accept it. And he said we have to choose to be obedient.

Obedience is a choice. Most choices in my life that have discipline attached to 'em are not always attached to the sense of fun. And if I get to choose, I'd rather have cake than vegetables. If I get to choose, I'd rather have ice cream than broccoli, every time. But I've learned that for my well-being I have to sometimes make choices that reflect discipline more than just a preference towards pleasure. And the same is true in our pursuit of the Lord. I know, to an extent, I'm preaching to the choir, it's a Wednesday night church service, but the choir needs to know the truth, too. I wanna borrow two messages to two churches. They're delivered by Jesus himself.

The book of Revelation opens with messages to seven churches, and I'd like to borrow the message to two of those. We may do the rest of 'em through the course of the week. We'll see how the services unfold, but in Revelation chapter 3, in verse 1, it's a message to the church of Sardis. It says: "To the angel of the church in Sardis write..." Do you have the imagination that there's angels attached to communities of faith? That we're not just here on our own? That we're not just a glorified Bible study society, and we're not just here because of a style of worship or because we have space for an outdoor, that there's actually angelic involvement in who we are and what we're doing?

See, we're typically more willing... I don't know why we're more willing to believe in unclean or unhealthy spiritual forces than we are on the benefit of the angels that stand guard over us. We wanna begin to align our lives, engage in behaviors, listen to the Spirit of God, so that those forces that have been arrayed on our behalf, we can receive the full benefit. "To the angel of the church of Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you're dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains as it's about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you don't wake up, I'll come like a thief, and you'll not know at what time I'll come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches".

It's a sobering passage. Again, it's written to believers, not to pagans or the ungodly. It's not delivered to a group of people that have devolved into pagan revelry; it's written to a church. And he says that you have a reputation, but it doesn't line up with your reality. Your reputation is that you're alive, but your reality is you're dead. Lots of activity, lots of movement. Lots of things you can point to, but you're spiritually dead. And then he says it more plainly: "Wake up, you're asleep. Wake up"! If I had to look for one word to describe contemporary American evangelism, I think "asleep" would be the most accurate. It's not necessarily a description of wickedness or evil. When you're asleep, you're unconcerned, you're uninvolved. You're just unaware. Rest is a necessary thing, but if all you do is rest, you forfeit what you were created for: the productivity of your life.

And we've been inert long enough. We've been told when we were presented with ungodliness and immorality and wickedness that we should be tolerant. And so we were silent. And then we observed when those that had been advocating for wickedness or ungodly or immorality gain a position of authority and power, they're anything but tolerant. They want to eliminate any dissent. We better wake up. We better stand for the truth of the living God that he's put in our hearts. And then Jesus said to the church at Sardis, "You need to get stronger. Your deeds are incomplete".

Again, I think we've got to reimagine a little bit how we've understood our faith. "Pastor, I said the sinner's prayer. I've been baptized. I volunteer some. I even give some". Jesus is acknowledging that they've had some momentum, but he said, "You've got to get stronger. You have things to overcome". I think the first response that comes through people, "I'm not sure I want to. Couldn't we just go back to the safer place where I could nap more"? And the answer is no. That's where we started with Isaiah and Jeremiah, when the people said, "We like it the way it is".

I believe we need to hear what the Spirit is saying to us. We're gonna have to get stronger. We're gonna have to train in new ways. And then Jesus said, "You have to obey and repent". And maybe the most sobering part of that whole message, he describes, he said, "I'll never blot out his name from the book of life, those who overcome". But he's opened the possibility of your name being blotted out. We've been a bit smug. We've been a bit self-certain, a bit self-righteous. We'd rather reflect on the security of our position than focus on the responsibility of our lives as Christ-followers. We don't earn our way to heaven. That's nonsense. We could never qualify or be good enough to justify the grace and the mercy of God, but there is a responsibility that comes with being a recipient of grace.

Now I said two churches. The other is the church of Laodicea. It's the same chapter. It's Revelation 3 and the message is very similar. Jesus said, "I know your deeds". Have you ever thought of that? I mean, really thought about, reflected on, spent days walking around thinking, "Jesus is paying attention to what we do". "I know your deeds". Nothing's hidden from him. It's not hard to fool Pastor. He's not that clever and we're not that close together. I can't hardly, I can't see your faces back there under the trees. But Jesus said, "I know your deeds". And to the Laodiceans, he said, "I know your deeds. You're neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either one or the other! Because you're lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I'm about to spit you out of my mouth". "I don't want you around me. I don't want you in the middle of the road," he said. "I have no tolerance for lukewarm".

"You say", this is our self-evaluation, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and I don't need a thing.' But you don't realize that you're wretched and pitiful, poor, blind and naked". That's an intriguing comparison to me. He said, "We say of ourselves that I'm rich and I don't need anything". But he said, in reality, you're blind and naked. I wanna ask you a question. How deceived do you have to be to be blind and naked and not know it? This isn't like a subtle thing. Jesus describes it as lukewarm.

See, I don't think we imagine that comparison as a lukewarm comparison. That feels like completely frozen. But that's not how Jesus sees it. He said, "If you don't recognize that you have a need, if you're not aware of your dependence, if you imagine that you're self-sufficient, that you have acquired everything necessary for your journey, that if those thoughts have taken root in your heart and your emotions," he said, "You're wretched and pitiful, blind and naked". But then he gives us a solution. He said, "I counsel you buy from me gold refined in the fire, you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see". He doesn't abandon them, he doesn't cast them out. It's not a shamed-base analysis. It's an accurate diagnosis with the resolution. You have a terminal condition and you're about to be terminated, but there's a treatment that's 100% effective. That's good news. You missed the "Amen" spot.

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline". May I make a suggestion? We're about to spend some time this week and next week, God willing, inviting the Spirit of God into our hearts. And if the Spirit of God begins to bring conviction to you, if you become ill at ease with an attitude, with a part of your past, with a behavior, with a habit, whatever it may be, and a lot of times that awareness will be delivered through something somebody says to you, through something you read. It doesn't usually just arrive in the abstract. A lot of times, that conviction of the Spirit of God will begin when... there'll be something, someone, or somehow the idea will be delivered to you, and the temptation is to be angry or a bit resentful. If you do a little comparison, "Well, you know, I'm not taking any coaching from them. They're more wicked than I am".

I wanna suggest a different approach. I wanna take the counsel that Jesus gave us: "Those whom I love I rebuke and I discipline". If you find that happening in your heart or your thoughts or your emotions, in these next few days, rather than be resentful or embittered, how about just staying quietly within ourselves, "Lord, I'm listening. I'm listening. I'll accept a rebuke from a pagan. If you wanna bring counsel to me from an ungodly source, I'm listening". "Those I love I rebuke and I discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. And if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I'll come in and eat with him, and he with me".

My grandmother had a picture in her home. I remember it. It was Jesus standing at the door. Anybody remember that picture? It had that verse of Scripture on it. I remember reading it as a boy in her house when we would visit. I always thought of it in terms of evangelism. Jesus is standing at the door at the heart of somebody who's an unbeliever and he's knocking. And if the unbeliever would open the door and come in, they can be a part of the kingdom of God. It's a nice thought. It's just not the context. It's written to a church. It's written to believers, to a group of believers who were so self-assured, so smug, and so self-righteous, they don't know, they're not aware they have any need.

There's nothing desperate about their faith. And Jesus said they're in the most desperate position, they're about to forfeit everything and be spewed out of his mouth. And he said, "But I'm standing at the door, asking for an invitation. And if you'll invite me in, I'll come in". What do we have to lose by saying to the Lord, "I'm sorry for my heart condition. Even though I haven't understood fully how I sat in the middle of the decay of our social society and the collapse of the influence of Christianity, I presided over that. And I've managed to say to myself, 'It couldn't be me.' I'm sorry, Lord. I wanna welcome you into my life". It's a powerful, powerful message for us. Jesus said he'd give us white clothes to wear. I don't have the time to walk you through that, but in Revelation 19 it's the righteous acts of the saints.

I know righteousness is a gift from Jesus, but our willingness to act righteously earns a reward from our Father in heaven. Not to earn our way into the blessings of God, but God responds to our choices to act righteously. In Revelation 7, it's our application of the cross, the redemptive work of Jesus. I think it's worth noting the sequence of what Jesus said to us: "Be earnest and repent". That conviction will precede repentance. I'm asking the Lord to give us some holy discontentment, to stir us a little bit, that we won't be satisfied. If you lose some sleep, if you engage in some things that you've been fully comfortable in doing previously, I'm praying you're less comfortable with them if they don't honor the Lord fully. That any place where we've been lukewarm, that we'll begin to have a sense of discontentment. If we've put our trust in things or ourself or our strength or our wisdom, that the Spirit of God will begin to convict us so that we can choose then the response of repentance, amen?

So that's our target. We're gonna take a series of lessons and begin to say, "God, we're not asking for you to raise up somebody else. We're not asking somebody else to be different. We're saying to you, 'We're gonna choose you with our whole hearts, like we've never chosen you before. No more excuses, no more sloppiness. We understand the significance of the season". And I believe we'll see God respond. We're gonna get the pools back out. We're gonna baptize folks that say they wanna repent.

I'm gonna invite you to join me in a prayer. I'm just gonna lead you through it. You can say it with me. I know you don't have outlines, but I'll give it to you, line at a time. And then the worship people are gonna come back and close with a song that honors God's involvement in our nation. But I wanna give you an invitation tonight. We're gonna start to use this grass in a little different way. If you would say to the Lord... you don't need me. While they sing, you can simply make your way up here for a moment. We don't have an old-fashioned center aisle to walk, but we've got a new-fashioned grass space. There's enough room you can distance. But if you would say, "Lord, I repent. I wanna turn away from any expression of carnality". If you're conscious of something you've tolerated, something you've accepted, "Well, what would people say if I did that"? Who cares?

Folks, if God smiles at me, I'll deal with what people say. You understood, we're gonna say a prayer, then they're gonna lead us in a chorus as we dismiss. But if you're here, you wanna say to the Lord, "Lord, I'm gonna choose from tonight. I'm gonna walk a new way". If the Spirit of God has touched your heart as we've been unpacking his Word, just a bit, I wanna invite you to take a place down here. You can say your prayer. You don't need me. You know how to say, "Lord, I was wrong. Be merciful to me". If you need to forgive, forgive. If you need forgiveness, repent of your sin and receive the forgiveness. Stop with the excuses. Won't you stand with me, we can say this prayer together. "Heavenly Father, we come before You in humility". Use your outdoor voices, okay? Will you do that for me? You won't bother the neighbors, all right?

We come before You in humility. We have wandered from Your truth. We have become comfortable with deception and darkness. And we turned our attention toward our own ambition. We have valued convenience more than obedience. Forgive us of our sins. Soften our hearts once again. Open our ears to hear Your direction. Bring a spirit of conviction into our lives. We lift our voices to You, for only You can bring salvation to my life. You're a faithful God, a God of mercy and truth, and we choose to yield to You, with our whole heart, mind, soul, and body. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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