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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Freedom Through The Cross

Allen Jackson - Freedom Through The Cross

Allen Jackson - Freedom Through The Cross
TOPICS: Freedom, Cross

The lesson today is really a very simple lesson. I wanna hand you three ideas that I would submit to you are fundamental to our faith. See, fundamentals matter. In times of upheaval, or times of uncertainty, or times of stress, the fundamentals make the difference. It's true, in every endeavor in life, the success that you have is directly related to your comfort level and your mastery of the fundamentals. Because when there's stress, you will respond with those things that are most routine to you. It's true in athletics; you practice over and over and over and over again a set of things so that under the stress of a moment, when there's high anxiety, you can perform at the highest possible level.

It's not usually the complexity, it's your, the excellence you can demonstrate on those fundamental issues. This is football season, and the teams that typically win are the teams that tackle and block better than the others. We can have all the schemes and the plans and many of you live in that fantasy world, but those that do the best are the ones that are best at the fundamentals. It's true in athletics, it's true in business, it's true in cooking, and it's true in your spiritual life.

So, I wanna hand you three simple ideas that are really foundational to a thriving relationship with the Lord and that's, at the end of the day, what our faith is about. The first is about the cross, we're gonna talk about what it means to lead our lives through the cross. No surprise, it's a theme this year. We've talked about it dozens of times, and we'll continue to talk about it for the weeks ahead. The second component has to do with truth and the necessity and the existence of truth and the role it has in our lives. And then the third and final point is to talk about praise. Not music, or a style of music, but being individuals of praise. That our lives reflect a consistent praise to almighty God. If we can understand the place that the cross, the truth of God, and praise holds in our lives, we will be prepared to thrive in any circumstance that presents itself.

So, let's start: 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, in verse 18, it says, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it's the power of God". Pretty simple verse. The verb tenses are important. It's in the continuing present tense, it talks about us who are being saved. It's not in the past tense, it's not punctiliar, it's not something that happened one time and was completed, it's something that happens and continues to happen.

Now I believe in conversion, salvation, the new birth, whatever label you prefer for that initiation into the kingdom of God. But I don't believe that that's the completion of the agenda. I believe that's the entry point in the same way that your physical birth is the beginning of life, not the full accomplishment of life, the new birth or conversion is the beginning of a new life, a new spiritual life. We are born of the spirit, so that we can grow up in the Lord. So, we are being saved, we are being transformed, day by day, more completely into the image of Jesus. We're not just learning rules and pretending to be better; we are being transformed. The power of God is at work within us.

Now to those who believe, that is a demonstration of the wisdom and the power of God. To those who don't accept that message, it's just foolishness. And we see that dichotomy in our world. That line of distinction is being drawn with increasing clarity, isn't? There are many voices, educated voices, sophisticated voices, successful voices, that will very readily tell you the whole notion of God's son coming to the earth, born of a virgin, dying on a cross, and being raised to life again is just foolishness. But I also remind you there are multiplied millions of people, who believe it to be the truth. But there's a distinction: if you believe it to be true, it unleashes the power of the creator of heaven and earth on your behalf. To stand apart from it, you can sit in church and stand apart from it.

You can have a church membership card and participate in activities, but not choose to believe it. You just think it's foolish. At the heart of that notion is this premise: I'm a sinner and I need a savior. I can't save myself. I can't do it through education, I can't do it through power, I can't do it through kindness, or goodness, or morality, or ethics. I'm a sinner and I need a savior. That's the story of the cross. That we could not deliver ourselves from the bondage of sin, we needed an intervention. And God intervened by sending his son, who offered his life for us on a cross. So as Christ followers, the pathway to freedom and victory and wholeness in our lives comes to us through the cross. We are being saved, it's not a fully accomplished fact yet. And we may have been birthed into the kingdom of God and we may understand what our ultimate destiny is, but we're still in time being transformed.

Now that message is offensive in our world. See there's an enormous momentum behind the idea that humanity, if we will work together and cooperate, and be tolerant enough, we can accomplish anything. It's a wonderful idea, the problem is, even a casual review of human history will quickly establish for you: it's a bad idea. There is nothing in our history to suggest that's the truth. We haven't cooperated, we haven't worked together, we need a power beyond ourselves to help us change. And that is the good news of the gospel. That no matter what your educational background is or the shape of your eye or the accent with which you speak or the part of the nation or the world you come from, we can come to the cross of Jesus Christ and be accepted into the kingdom of God and the power of God begins a transformation within us. Hallelujah.

That's the story we have for the world. That no matter how gross your sin, or egregious your mistakes, or how dark the wickedness that has touched your life, there is a power present to redeem us. What an amazing story. Paul explains it a bit, in 1 Corinthians, beginning at the 20th verse. It says, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world"? It's a contrast in that verse, between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God. And he said by comparison, men just look foolish, but he didn't choose the uneducated or the unsophisticated. He said you can choose the wisest of men or the scholars or the philosophers and compared to God's wisdom, they just look foolish.

Now verse 21, "Since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe". I love that verse. It says that God was pleased to save those who believe. The Bible leads us to this conclusion. That when you and I were still rebellious and apart from God, disinterested in God, that he reached out to us, he called us, he sought us out. Because it pleased God to see us saved. Isn't that amazing? Do you have anybody in your sphere of influence, anybody in your life circle that is ungodly? I don't mean somebody that waffles, but I mean somebody that has voted ungodly. I mean they're in full bloom. I bet you know somebody like that, you work with somebody, or there's somebody in your neighborhood, you got a neighbor like that.

Did you know that it would please God to see them saved? The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies, to bless those that do all manner of evil against us. Do you pray for those kinda people, do you pray for your enemies? Do you pray for the people that you look and go, "They're evil," or do you pray for them? Do you pray they'll get the botch, the itch, and the scab? Do you pray that the earth will open up and swallow 'em, the God's judgement will be visited on them, maybe a little lightning bolt, something dramatic? Maybe leprosy? Slower. Or do you pray that God will save them?

See it changes everything if we believe that, that it pleases God to see people come into his kingdom. And in fact, one way to understand how the character of God is growing in us is if it pleases us to see people that are clearly opposed to God moving towards him. God was pleased through through the foolishness of our lives, to see other people make their way into his kingdom. It's a majestic statement. And in verse 22 he said, "Jews demand miraculous signs and the Greeks look for wisdom".

In the New Testament there's really only two groups of people, there's the Jewish people, and everybody else. Everybody else is called gentiles. But in the language of the New Testament, you're either Jewish, you're the delivery system for the redemptive purposes of God, you're God's chosen people. You're the people through whom all the world is gonna experience the redemptive power of God. Or you're everybody else. And it says, "Do the Jews demand miraculous signs and the Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified". The English word, Christ, is the equivalent of the Greek word, Christos, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew, Mashiach, Messiah. The anointed one of God, so as he said, Paul said, "We preach a Messiah who was crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles".

Why was a Messiah crucified a stumbling block to the Jews? The prophets told about it, Isiah 53 is almost an entire chapter committed to a suffering Messiah. It wasn't like a subtle prophetic theme. Well, the first century Jewish audience had a different hope. You see, first century Israel was an occupied nation, they're occupied by the Roman legion. They have to billet Roman troops, their women suffer the indignities of having an occupying army in the nation, they pay taxes to Caesar. And that authority and a great distance oftentimes imposed requirements and responsibilities on the Jewish people that were offensive to them and their understanding of who they were as a people.

So, they had a national dream, that they would be restored to autonomy, that God would send a Messiah that would repel the Romans and the freedom and liberty to the Jewish people in their promised land. In the same way that he'd sent Moses out of the desert to deliver the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage, God was going to send his Messiah to deliver the Israelites. And Jesus came, born in a stable, he met one prophetic marker after another. He fled to Egypt, he came back from Egypt, when he grew to adulthood and began his public ministry, they'd never seen anybody like him. He walked on the water, he made wine out of water, he called the dead back to life again, he opened blind eyes, he spoke to the wind and the waves and the demons with authority.

Great crowds of people gathered, there were hushed whispers when we'd go up to Jerusalem to the seat of power, where the power brokers in Jerusalem recognized him. He was gaining tremendous momentum, his last journey into the city of Jerusalem, the whole city turned out and said, "Hosanna to God in the highest"! And then the Romans arrested him. Well surely, in the same way Samson broke the cords with which the Philistines tied him, the Messiah would break the chains of the Romans. And then they handed him over to the governor, the Roman governor, to be interrogated, well surely, he'll come out of the governor's chambers triumphant. And the governor presented him to the crowd along with another prisoner and said, "I'll release one, who do you want"?

Well surely, now the people will say, "Give us the Messiah"! But they said, "Give us Barabbas". And then the soldiers took him and blindfolded him and said, "If you're the son of God, tell us who hits you," and they nailed him to a cross, and his enemies stood at a distance and heckled him, and said, "If you're the son of God, take yourself down from there". And he died and they buried him in a tomb. And his closest friends went and hid, because they were afraid they were next. So, a Messiah crucified was a stumbling block to the Jewish people; it wasn't what they wanted. Jesus didn't meet their expectations. They had a dream about what a Messiah would accomplish, and Jesus didn't seem to be accomplishing that.

May I ask you a question? Are you ever disappointed because God doesn't meet your expectations? Whew, I am, I have been. You ever threaten God, "God I'm not gonna serve you if you don't do better than this. Your job performance is a little sloppy. If you were a boss, I'd change companies, if you were an employee, I'd fire you. If you were a sports team, I'd change allegiances. God, you're not living up to your bargain". There's disappointments or discouraging events or life things happen that seem unfair or illegitimate or prompted by something that's inappropriate, and you think God has abandoned his post. It was the problem the first century Jewish community had. It's not who we want the Messiah to do or to be.

And you and I still face that challenge, I would encourage you today, if you've kind of stepped aside from your faith, maybe you didn't renounce it or deny it altogether, you've just stopped being an active pursuer of God. Because of hurt or disappointment or pain or a broken heart. That maybe you released God from your obligation, from your insistence that he beat your obligations. And you accept his grace, and his mercy, and his love into your life. The Jewish community, crucified Messiah was a stumbling block, to the Gentiles, to the non-Jews, it was just foolishness. I don't know what you know about Greek or Roman gods, you probably know a little bit about Greek or Roman Mythology, the Roman gods. They toyed with human beings, they played with them, they tormented them. To imagine that humanity would've crucified one of those gods, it was just foolishness.

But Paul gives us the summary sentence in the next verse, he says, "To those whom God has called, whether it Jew or Greek, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God". Through the cross, through the cross of Jesus Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God have been demonstrated for every one of us. The power of God to set us free, the wisdom of God to put our feet on a pathway, towards fulfillment and contentment and satisfaction in life. Whatever challenge we face in life, whatever sin we recognize from within us or that stands without us as opposition, has been defeated through the cross. The power of God and the wisdom of God made evident in human history, to bring freedom to every human being. It's a wonderful message we hold. Everyone is welcome to the cross.

There's one last piece, my time's up. It has to do with the power of praise. And what I want to suggest is that you and I, I believe we're created to be expressions of praise toward almighty God. Now I'm not talking about worship services or music or vocalists or hymns or contemporary music. I'm talking about the expression of our lives. You see, praise begins in the core of our being. We praise the Lord with how we interact with one another everyday. How we greet the people that we work with and how we interact with our families and how we treat our neighbors.

Praise is an expression of who we are. They're words of encouragement that we distribute or words of kindness that we express or words of mercy that we show to people that are in difficult places. Or when we simply will stand quietly near someone with a broken heart and lend them our strength for a moment, while they regain their footing. Those are expressions of praise to almighty God. It's a recognition of his grace and his mercy to us, of the kindness that he's demonstrated towards us. We respond to him with an open heart, recognizing that we have not made ourselves. That we are the sheep of his pasture, and we aren't self-made people. We are creation of almighty God. We want to become people of praise, we have twisted this a bit and so we argue about styles of worship.

When the musicians play, we think we've done something remarkable if we just participate with them. Folks, if we put animals in the lobby, they will respond when music plays. We do it from time to time, we put camels in the lobby at Christmas, and when the band plays, the camels dance. One Christmas Eve, we had a burro out there, and when the musicians played, the burro would begin to bray. So, we had two donkeys speaking in the church that weekend. We've misunderstood, we get filled with pride, because, "Oh the music moved me"! Yeah, it moved the camel. Praise is something different, it starts within us, it's an expression of recognition of who God is.

See it's so important because it changes our perspective, God doesn't need us to praise him because his ego is so fragile that he needs the support from his creation. We have to offer ourselves as instruments of praise so that we don't lose sight of almighty God who watches over us. Because so often, the battle in our mind and the battle in our lives pulls us down.

Look at the last passage of scripture in your notes, it's Psalms 30. Beginning in the first verse, it says, "I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and you didn't let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. Lord, you brought me up from the grave; and you spared me from going down into the pit. Sing to the Lord you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning". An expression of praise.

You see, life comes with challenges. Nobody gets through life without challenges. Now sometimes the challenges we face emerge because of our own life choices, we've done some dumb things and the stupid tax shows up. And sometimes, life's challenges come because of the decisions of other people, we didn't ask for 'em, we didn't invite them, we didn't deserve them, but they rolled in, nonetheless. In either case, praise is a powerful, powerful response. What do you do when you get a diagnosis you never wanted to hear? What do you do when you get a report on a child or a family member that you didn't want to hear? What do you do when your best ideas crumble? What do you do?

Well, if we have learned to open our hearts to the Lord, to lead lives of praise, we have a response ready. Lord you are my redeemer, you are my strong tower, you are my healer, you are my provision, you are my resource, and I'll step into my day and interact with the people around me as I have been interacting, as an expression of praise to you. I can pray for those who despitefully use me, I can walk through a shadowed valley, I can sit at a table with my enemies that you prepared for me, because you have anointed my head with oil. And you have caused my cup to overflow. I trust you Lord. To be a people of praise, it will change the trajectory of your life.

Now it's not something you have to announce, it's just something you have to tend. The cross of Jesus Christ, the truth of God, and being people of praise will bring a stability to your life in every season that comes. Triumph or tragedy. Now I wanna close with you this morning, I brought you a prayer, we have a prayer at our outlines every week. But I'm not gonna pray that one with you today. It's a good prayer, you can read it later. But I want to ask you to join me in an expression of praise this morning. We come from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different churches so we're gonna color outside the lines for just a minute.

I want you to stand with me if you will. What I wanna ask you to do with me is to offer a sentence or two or three, of thanksgiving to the Lord. I would suggest everybody here has something to be thankful for. You can be thankful I'm done. M'kay, you can be thankful we're not gonna take up another offering, there's many things you can be thankful for. We are remarkably blessed people, we have food and clothing and shelter, our children have schools to attend and healthcare available to them, we've been forgiven of our sins, we are blessed people.

So, what I wanna ask you to do is just collect two or three of those ideas that you would be willing to say to the Lord, thank you for. And then I'm gonna ask you to offer those sentences of thanksgiving, quietly, you can do it respectfully, but I want you to do it with an audible voice. We will all offer those expressions of thanksgiving to the Lord at the same time. It's gonna be like a choir of praise. My Bible says that God inhabits the praises of his people. I've watched a little bit, lately, in trying to prepare for what was coming to our community, I've watched expressions of people filled with hate. It pours out of them. Well, if we are God's people, something else needs to pour out of us. And it begins when we're in a safe place.

So, I wanna ask you to take those three or four sentences of thanksgiving that you have and I'm gonna be offering a few sentences of thanksgiving myself, and then I'll close it with a sentence or two. But will you join me for just a moment and quietly life our voices to the Lord in praise? So, you can do this when you're alone, you can do this, if I'm really having a tough time, I'll go find something, some kind of manual labor I can do by myself. I'll drive the tractor, because when the tractor's going nobody can hear me anyway. I couldn't hear my phone if it rang, so I don't have to answer. I'll fire up the chainsaw, because I got the chainsaw, nobody's coming close to me when I got a chainsaw. So I can talk to the Lord: vroom! So if I bring a chainsaw to the pulpit, you know it's not been a good week, it's just like a... But you can make it a part of your routine, this is simply a practice while we're with the people of God. We're gonna be a choir of praise for just a moment. All right?

Father we come today to say thank you. Thank you for your goodness to us and your mercy in our lives. That you have called us out of darkness into the kingdom of your son. We praise you for it today, Father. You have forgiven our sins and cleansed us, you've made us righteous and holy in your sight. We thank you for it, we give you glory and honor and praise today, Father. You bring health to our bodies and hope to our souls and a purpose to our days, we thank you for it. Lord, you have helped us when we've fallen down and given us strength when we're weak. We praise you for it.

You've poured out abundance on our lives, Lord we have food and clothing and shelter and options for our lives, we thank you for it today, we rejoice in it. We recognize you as the provision of our life, our sustainer, you are our Lord and our king, we worship you today, Jesus. We praise you for your mercy towards us. That you've brought purpose to our lives, we bless your name, that all the earth give glory and honor to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We worship you today. Let the name of Jesus be lifted high in this generation. We welcome you into this place, into our homes, into our lives. Jesus be lord of all, thank you for what you've done for us. It's in Jesus's name we pray, amen.

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