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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - God's Persistent Concern

Allen Jackson - God's Persistent Concern

Allen Jackson - God's Persistent Concern

The topic for the weekend, and I mean weekend 'cause we're gonna explore it this morning and again this evening, God willing, has to do with God's concern for us, his persistent, unrelenting interest in the wellbeing of humanity. There's no explanation for it in scripture, and it's a theme of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that God cares about people. In fact, if you read the Bible just casually without any real interference from theology or those things that, the inexplicable part of it is God cares more about us than we care about him. God's far more interested in people than people are in God. Keeps inviting us towards himself and saying, "I'll help you" and "I'll reveal myself to you" and "I'll do these things for you" and we're like "Well, whatever".

We have a hard time holding a God perspective. I mean, that's the story in the scripture, and if we get really honest, I suspect it's our stories as well. We have seasons, just kind of an ebb and a flow to it, and for a while we've got a God, you know, a little God perspective, and then we get busy and we set it aside. So, we're gonna explore a little bit this notion of God's persistent concern. But it really grows out of our Bible reading. Well, right now we're reading through 1 Kings, and it's a part of the historical section of the Bible, that Old Testament, and as I was reading this week, I was thinking, you know, maybe if I could do anything to add a little momentum to that, I wanted to.

So, we're gonna take this weekend and unpack a little bit of the story in that portion where we're all reading right now. But the historical books, you know, most of us learned history from a coach and we didn't care much about it, but there's real benefit to it and understanding what's going on. I'll give you the big picture idea. The big picture idea of the Bible is God's intent to develop a people for himself. He loves all people, but the people who want to have a relationship with him are at the center of God's purposes in the earth. And the story of the scripture is the effort of the Creator of all things to develop for himself a people.

Now, you can choose whether or not you wanna participate, but that's what God is up to. Everything else after that is really a supporting part of the story. God intends to develop a people for himself. Now, I for one intend to be included. But I'll start in Exodus chapter 18. We looked last week in Genesis 12. That proposition really goes all the way back to Genesis 12 and Genesis 15. By Exodus 19, there's actually a group of people emerging. Moses is leading them, and God gives Moses these instructions: "If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. And although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites".

That's Moses's message from God to the Hebrew people. "If you'll cooperate with me, out of all the nations, you will be my treasured possession". That's God's intent. Although he cares about all humanity, God understands not all humanity cares about him. And he extends invitations to those who will participate with him to be the canvas, the demonstration of the grace and the power and the mercy of the Creator of all things for all people to see. Now, some of you'll read that and go, "Pastor, that's Old Testament, and I'm a New Testament person".

Well, bless your pointed head. First Peter, chapter 2, that's New Testament. This is the fisherman that Jesus recruited. He said, "You're a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God", it's the same promise we just read in Exodus, except this time it's not being delivered uniquely to the Hebrew people, it's being delivered to all people, if they'll receive it, "that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you're the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy".

See, when we're reading through Kings and Chronicles, we're not just reading history. It's informative, it's instructive, it helps us learn about being the people of God, because there are some unique opportunities and invitations, and some unique responsibilities. See, we've tended to package being the people of God around church attendance, showing up at the right time in the right outfit, using the right words, learning the choruses, standing and standing at the appropriate time, not evil stuff, but that is not what qualifies you as the people of God. You can stand in church every week, you can stand in church every day of every week and miss the kingdom of God. Sitting in church no more makes you a Christ follower than me sitting in the gym makes me an Olympic athlete. Don't we wish. Think of the contracts we could get.

In fact, I've tried it. I just sat in the gym and got fluffier. Didn't help a bit. What we can learn as we read through these passages is how to flourish as the people of God. What are the challenges and the benefits that come with that? And there's some people, there's a lotta confusion, in particular I think in American evangelicalism when we pick this topic up, and they'll say, "Well, you know, I know the Old Testament. It's about a covenant, but the covenants have been broken and the people didn't keep their ends of the bargain, so they got set aside, and we got Jesus and Jesus said he loves everybody. And God took a Prozac in Malachi and he's chilled out, and we're just gonna hold hands and sing kumbaya and it'll all work out in the end".

And then, that kind of sloppy understanding of grace and that sloppy understanding of scripture, we create a lot of confusion, and honestly a lot of deception. The truth of scripture is the covenant hasn't been broken. The covenant God made with Abraham, that from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he would bring for the people through whom all peoples would be blessed, that covenant hasn't been broken. In fact, it's been extended, that we might be included. Even though our genetic material didn't qualify us, we've been made new creatures in Christ and we've been grafted into the tree, that we might receive the benefits of that covenant. And we need to know enough of the story to understand what truly belongs to us.

Look at Titus chapter 2. Says, "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men". That's a very important sentence. Salvation comes to us by the grace of God. Grace by definition is unmerited, unearned, undeserved. Salvation comes to us not because of something we do or achieve or accomplish or become. Salvation is a gift of God's grace in our lives, and it has appeared to all people. Not all people will receive it, but it's been made available to all people. And then verse 12, "Grace teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age". Do you understand that we have to learn to say "No" to ungodly desires? That is not our default setting. My default setting is I'll say "Yes!" to ungodliness. "Absolutely, all in! Let's go"! I have to learn to say "No".

You see, what God does for us in the new birth and conversion is release a power within us, his power. It says the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is at work within us, and there's a power present to help us orchestrate, make choices towards a new outcome that we were powerless to do before the conversion. The lie that humanity propagates, and it's as prevalent in our generation as any time I know of in human history, says that human beings, if you leave us alone, we'll work together, cooperate, that we are innately good and we'll work for the betterment of one another collectively. There's no evidence of that in human history. It's an expression of the spirit of antichrist.

The message of this Book is that we need a redeemer; that left to ourselves, we'll destroy ourselves, that we need a power at work on our behalf. And Titus reminds us that that power, that grace has appeared to all men, teaching us to begin to cooperate with God, to lead godly lives and upright lives "while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus the Messiah". In many respects, the Bible is a book that's preparing us. The Old Testament, we're prepared for the arrival of Messiah, the prophetic material, pointing us towards his first entry into humanity, which was fulfilled in Bethlehem with an infant that arrived powerless and vulnerable, and offered himself as a sacrifice, silent before his accusers.

The New Testament has us waiting for the return of the Messiah. He's coming back to the earth, and the prophetic material of the New Testament points towards that second coming of the Lord, but he's coming in a different package with a different agenda this time. He's not coming in the vulnerable package of a baby. He's coming back this time as a conquering king with a double-edged sword to bring about the judgment of God in the earth, but the outcome in verse 11, "he gave himself to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good".

There's the punchline, what's God doing? He's preparing a people for himself. So I have a question for you. It's really, you don't have to respond outwardly, but the question is not just of the day, it's the question of our life. Do you intend to be a part of the people of God? I don't mean do you intend to attend church. You want kind of a nice morality or an end... do you intend to be the people of God? Do you intend the defining characteristic of your life to be, "I'm with God's people", is that your first identifier? 'Cause you see, anything we put in front of that to define ourselves is idolatry. Are we will to be first and foremost God's people? I know we're in church and the answers to every question is Jesus, but this one's a little tricky, folks. It has enormous implications.

And it's not a one-time decision. It's not just a decision you make to recite a prayer and jump in a pool and then move on with it. It's a decision that's gonna require constant attention over every season of your life. Will I honor God when I'm a teenager? Will I honor God when I'm single? Will I honor God with a young family? Will I honor God in the most fruitful years of my life? Will I honor God in those years of my life when I have everybody else's permission to be selfish and me-first? My time now, no more calendar, no more schedule, this is my time. Will I honor God in that season too? Do we intend to be the people of God?

I've already told you there's a lotta confusion around covenants and stuff, and one of the expressions of that has been antisemitism. It's a big, fancy word. It just means a hatred for the Jewish people. It's an expression of racism, a hatred for the Jewish people. It's been one of the most persistent expressions of hatred in the course of human civilization. It's transcended empires. It's transcended nations. It has persisted across different ideologies. It flourished under Communism. It flourished under Socialism. It flourished under Capitalism. The hatred of the Jewish people. And one of the reasons it's been so persistent for the last two millennia is that the primary incubator for antisemitism has been the Christian church. And the Christian church has reached across all of those barriers, and we have been a silent incubator.

I know that part of history for the most part is blind to those of us that fill churches, but I assure you the Jewish people are very aware of it. And it's really rooted in this idea that first century Jewish audience didn't accept Jesus fully. I gave you a passage in scripture; the word for that we typically use is replacement theology. It has its own definition. It's prevalent enough it's got its own label, and it's false. In Romans chapter 11, the first two verses, Paul says: "I ask them: Did God reject his people? By no means"! The English there is not as strong as the Greek is. God literally says, God forbid! "I'm an Israelite myself and a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says..."

We've read our Bibles enough by now, you know when that question is posed, the answer is probably not. What does the scripture say? That's why we're being reminded. God hasn't rejected the Jewish people. In fact, it's only together with them will the purposes of God be fulfilled in our generation. In fact, the Book of Romans says we're indebted to them, because without the Jewish people, we have no story. We have no scripture, we have no prophets, we have no laws, we have no covenants. We would have no Messiah.

Did everybody accept Jesus in the first century? Absolutely not, but enough did that they took the message of Jesus to the whole world and it persists until today. The first believers were overwhelmingly Jewish. The first churches around the Mediterranean were predominantly Jewish. They were recruited from the Jewish community. We should humble ourselves and repent of the attitudes, the arrogance with which we have dealt with this topic. We have given foothold to the enemy in a way that we need not do it.

Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 14 says, "He himself is our peace, for he has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of his hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with his commandments and his regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace". Through the cross of Jesus Christ, we have been reconciled to the purposes of God in this generation. God is still preparing a people for himself throughout the earth, from every nation, race, language, and tribe. And it's not about the building in which we sit or the label on the building in which we sit, or the time of day in which we worship, or the translation of the Bible we read, or our genetic heritage. It has to do with our relationship to a person. His name is Jesus of Nazareth.

And God appears to solve in two times we have. The first time, and it's the wisdom negotiation. You know that story. Solomon gets a gift from God, tremendous wisdom, and becomes the wisest leader that Israel ever has. Twenty years later, God shows back up. Twenty years! 1 Kings 9. You've got it: "When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and achieved all he desired to do, the Lord appeared to him a second time. Said, 'I've heard your prayer and the plea you've made before me: I've consecrated this temple, which you've built. I put my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there".

Let's stop just a minute, wow! He's twenty years in, he's built a temple, he's built his palace, he's built a wall around Jerusalem, he's built chariot cities, he has fame, internationally and nationally; all this success. God appears to him and says, "Good work! Good job! I've seen the temple you've built". You talk about the certificate of occupancy, God said "I will watch over that place forever". I stood on the temple mound a couple weeks ago. It's the same area where Solomon's temple stood. I never walk up there without a little bit of a check inside of me 'cause I know that is a place on this planet that God pays unique attention to.

Then he says something to Solomon in verse 4: "As for you", now it's gonna get personal, "if you'll walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and you do all I command and observe my decrees, I'll establish your throne over Israel forever", Wow! I mean I'm usually content to pray for a parking place on the square. Right? I just wanna drive past Krispy Kreme and the sign say "Hot". "I'll leave one of your descendants on the throne forever". And he's not a beginner at this point. He's twenty years in with big credits on his list, and God said, "Listen, you're doin' really well. Hold the course".

Then there's a little warning in verse 6: "But if you or your sons turn away from me and you don't observe the commands and decrees I've given you, if you go off and serve other gods and worship them, then I'll cut off Israel from the and I've given them and I'll reject this temple I've consecrated for my Name. And Israel will become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples". Solomon gets Door 1 and Door 2. They're very clearly articulated. Door 1, you'll get crazy-blessed forever. And Door 2 is if you choose not to honor me, I'mma come upside your head. Right? "You choose"! he said. Now, you don't have to be the wisest king to ever sit on the throne to figure this one out. I'm thinkin' Door 1's better. Two chapters later, 1 Kings 11, we read all this in one day. This one sparked and I thought, "Ah, we could blow through this and miss the whole thing".

1 Kings 11: "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter". He made a political alliance with Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, and he used marriage to secure the relationship between the countries. It's been a habit throughout human history. But he didn't stop there. He also married women from, "the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the Sidonians, the Hittites. And they were nations about which the Lord had said, 'You can't marry them, because they'll turn your hearts away.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth..." He didn't just have seven hundred wives with an attitude. He had seven hundred wives that had papers that said, "I'm a princess".

I'm just gonna leave that right there, okay? And "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord as the heart of David his father had been". It's a very interesting contrast. It said Solomon's heart was not devoted to the Lord. Remember David's story? David committed adultery. He was a murderer. Wasn't just David's choice. David's family system had a lot of trouble. One of David's sons raped his sister, and then another brother killed the brother that offended. A son led a rebellion that forced David to flee the palace and was humiliated in front of the whole nation. It's not like David's story was without blemish, and yet God is saying to Solomon, "Your heart's not in the same place that your father's was".

It isn't always about... there's no imagination that we're gonna lead lives that won't require the grace and mercy and forgiveness of God. That's not about sloppy grace either. But the trajectory of David's life, after David's sin was found out, Psalm 51, David comes and repents, one of the most beautiful prayers of repentance in all of the Bible. He said "Solomon, you're different. The trajectory of your life isn't about me anymore". Verse 6, "Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he didn't follow the Lord completely. On a hill east of Jerusalem, he built high places for the gods of the Moabites and the Ammonites. He burned incense to them. The Lord became angry with Solomon". Verse 10, "Al though he'd forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon didn't keep the Lord's command".

This is his third visit. "The Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you've not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I'll tear the kingdom away from you..." Boom. So Solomon, your attitude... See, Solomon's got a track record that I'm tellin' you is impressive. If you're gonna make a box of things to do, Solomon's checked every box. Built the temple, built the palace, protected Jerusalem, built up the nation, we've prospered. He's got all these markers. I mean, his wall of fame is impressive stuff. And God says to him, "Your attitude, I'm gon' tear this thing outta your hands". It seems to me, if there's a lesson from this period of Israelite history, there's gonna be a civil war at the end of Solomon's life and the kingdom's gonna get torn apart.

I wanna comment, you know, usually when I prepare a lesson like this, when I prepare any lesson, I try to imagine what that outcome will be that I'm asking the Lord for, and my expectation, candidly, when I ask you in public to stand up and say I've been a bit flippant, a bit presumptuous, my expectation was that maybe ten or fifteen percent of us would respond. This is my fourth service so far this weekend and we've had about an eighty or ninety percent participation rate. I wanna commend you for your humility. It's not that I'm going... we're not soft on sin, folks. But your willingness to stand in public and say "I need help" should not be taken for granted. The church is not a hall of fame of righteous acts. We're not a display case for "look how good we are". The church is a place where we come to acknowledge our desperate need for the help of God to become who he created us to be.

Father, I thank you for these men and women. I thank you for their lives, for their courage and their boldness. Oh Lord, we have taken our feet this morning as an expression of humility to you. Lord, you have shown us so much kindness and grace and goodness. You've blessed our lives and opened our hearts to your truth, and Lord, somehow we've managed to imagine that we have brought freedom and success and abundance. Forgive us today, Lord. We come to repent before you, to humble ourselves, to choose a new path, to recognize you as Lord of our lives, Lord of all that we are, all that we have. You're Lord of our calendars and Lord of our agendas and Lord of our resources. You define for us truth.

Forgive us when in our selfish ambition and arrogance, we have turned our backs and stopped our ears. We wanna honor you. We wanna cooperate with you. We wanna finish the course that you have marked out for us. As we stand in your presence this morning, Father, in humility we receive your grace and mercy. I thank you that through the blood of Jesus, we have been forgiven, that his blood continually cleanses us from all sin. I thank you that through the blood of Jesus, we have been justified and sanctified, made righteous, that our bodies are temples for your Holy Spirit.

We praise you for it, that through the blood of Jesus we have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy, that every claim he has against us, that every scheme that has been spread before us, that every unholy or unclean attack that has been waged in the name of Jesus will fail and fall harmlessly to the ground. I thank you, Father, that you would deliver us from temptation, that when our days are spent and our strength has grown small, that you might say to each and every one of us, "Well done". We thank you for it. Help us to encourage one another, to strengthen one another, to remind one another of the great honor and privilege of serving the Creator of all things, for it's in Jesus's name that we pray, amen.

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