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Allen Jackson - A Journey

Allen Jackson - A Journey
TOPICS: Church On Purpose, Church

It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Church on Purpose". You know, my academic career began in the basic sciences, and one of the things I learned is that our universe is in crazy intentionality. There's a specificity to our world that is truly remarkable. Well, I believe that same specificity and intent is true of church and our relationship with God. It's not a random thing. It's not about my feelings. There's a purpose for our being together, and I believe when we stand before the Creator of all things, we'll give an account. Get your Bible and a notepad, and most importantly, open your heart.

I wanna begin a study we're gonna do for two or three weeks talkin' about "Church on Purpose". There's a reason why we gather her on the weekends. It's not just accidental or somethin' we do occasionally 'cause we don't have somethin' better to do, 'cause we all have somethin' better to do. If we don't understand the purpose for being here, I doubt we'll make a commitment long-term. So with God's help, were gonna unpack that in a little bit of detail. You know, for somebody that just drifted in, a rather casual observer, church could very easily appear to be just a random series of rather diverse activities.

See, I'm of the opinion that the gathering of God's people in a committed community is essential... not optional, essential to our spiritual well-being and maturity. If you've imagined church is optional, that it's really not necessary and that you can meet Jesus in the parking lot and be good, I disagree. You can truly meet Jesus in the parking lot and you don't need a building or a pastor or a podium for that, but you need a community of faith if you're gonna grow up in the Lord. I don't believe we'll do it in an isolated way, and the scripture supports that opinion. Life is more than a worship service, and we very much wanna integrate our faith and our commitment to the Lordship of Jesus into the entire fabric of our lives.

It's not a 90 minute commitment on the weekend to dress up and spray up and sit up straight. I think it's beneficial for us to talk about the "why" of church and why we do some of the things we do, because I'm of the opinion that the influence of the gospel must increase; that there is no better solution for the challenges facing people. I wanna say it again: I believe that the influence of the gospel must increase. There is no better solution for the challenges that face us. Technology isn't gonna deliver us. Science isn't gonna deliver us. A political leader or a political party or a political ideology isn't gonna deliver us. We need an expanded influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's changed my life.

Jesus has brought better things to me and to the people I know and the people I care about, and I believe he'll bring good things to you. I'll tell you what I've discovered through the years I have been involved in church and faith is the growing churches are sustained by growing people. Well, we can start a church and it may flourish for a season, but if we're gonna sustain growth over time, that only happens 'cause the people in that place are growing spiritually. We're not a group of people who have arrived, who've got all the answers in a neat little box and life's challenges are no longer, now life's questions are no longer challenging to us or to our people in transition. We haven't arrived yet. We don't know all that we wanna know. But I very much wanna be a part of a growing, vital, thriving church, 'cause that's a group of growing, thriving, vital people, and that I'm interested in.

Jesus has an opinion about the church. In Matthew chapter 16, you have it in your notes. He said, "I'll build my church, and the gates of hell won't overcome it". Did you know Jesus is in the church building business? It's one of those things it's so easy to be against. We're public expressions of Christianity, and we often get it wrong and we stumble, and we don't get it right, and there's lots of things to be disappointed in the church, 'cause church is filled with people and we're a disappointing crew sometimes, aren't we? All of us. But Jesus is in the church building business. People'll say to me from time to time, "Pastor, aren't you concerned the church is getting too big"?

People that don't know me. No, I'm concerned that the influence of the church is diminishing every day. It bothers me. Keeps me awake at night. It gives me pause. I walk and pray about it. "God, let the influence of your church in the earth be expanded". We need a definition; it's helpful. Church is not about... when I use the word, it's not about this particular congregation, or any single congregation or any single denomination. Church as I understand it, the scripture describes every person that's acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, has chosen to accept him as Lord and serve him as King. So the church is comprised of people of every nation, race, language, and tribe. The church was a multinational entity long before any corporate boardroom dreamt of the possibility.

Before we had internet or transportation tools that shrunk the world, or digital communication platforms. The church of Jesus Christ was a multinational global expression of the love of God for humanity. And one day we will gather before the throne of God with people from every nation, race, language, and tribe. I'm lookin' forward that. Amen! I'm more excited than you, but it'll catch up with you. I've been workin' on this for a few services already. Look at verse 19. Jesus said, "I will give you the church, the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". That's a statement of authority. Jesus said, "I'm givin' you the keys". And what you bind on Earth will be bound, and what you loose shall be loosed.

Your word, your authority in the Earth brings the authority of heaven to bear on planet Earth. When I look at what's happening in our world today, it seems to me something that has been loosed that's very ungodly. And from Jesus's perspective, it would be foolish and inappropriate to rage against the darkness. He's given us the keys. It's our assignment to bind up those things that need bound up and to loose those things that need to be loosed. Our assignment. Look at the passage from Ephesians chapter 5. Says, "Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." Did you know Jesus loves the church? I had to learn to love the church. I didn't like the church. I didn't like Christians. I mean, I wanted to go to heaven; I just didn't like all those people that hung around and talked about Jesus. They got on my nerves.

Somewhere along the line, I realized it was because of what was in me that I didn't like those people; that when I changed, those people got a whole lot better. And if churches and Christians bother you, maybe you oughta talk to the Lord a little bit. Maybe there's too much other junk in you; makes you uncomfortable in those places. Jesus loves the church. There's some real freedom in that. It's a prayer you can pray: "Help me to love the church like you do". I had to work on that. The church was an annoyance for me for a long time. "This is to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word". Jesus doesn't start out with a perfect church. Church is not a collection of perfect people. We're not spotless, unerring. We've been gathered together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ so that the Spirit of God begins to cleanse us and to wash us and to make us whole again. You know, I've discovered that unchurched people, the ungodly people know what the church should be.

How many times have I heard somebody say to me, "Well, that's not the way a Christian should behave". "Well, that's always the way you behave". "Well, I'm not a Christian". They know how the church should be even though they have no intention of doing it. We're a group of people in process. The church is not a museum of the holy. We're not like something under glass so we can show the whole world what perfection looks like. We're a hospital. We're the walking wounded. We're bruised and battered, and we're takin' the hits from life and we are submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus and being transformed. Look at the outcome: "to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless". God is intent, is to fashion us into the expression of his person in the Earth, holy and blameless. We're not there yet, but we're in process. Hallelujah.

Now, I wanna take the minutes I've got left, and I don't have a lot. I wanna take you on a little journey. I just got home a week ago. We got home from a trip to Israel. We've been doing those Israel tours for a long time. I went to Israel the first time in 1970. I was a boy. Little boy. Toddler. Maybe not. But it's not Christian tourism. I'm not into that. It's not a profit center for the church. In fact, it's an investment that we make in the people. I haven't found anything that has the same impact on someone's spiritual life and growth that that ten-day trip to Israel does. 'Cause I have tried. It's a lot of travel; it's a lot of hassle moving people through that many different places and airports. If we could have a three-day seminar at home and get the same outcome, I would be a sponsor of the seminar.

Now, I know we can't all make that tour. It's not practical. But I would encourage you to make the trip, whether you do it with us or another way. It'll change your life. You can read a thousand books about a watermelon or you could eat one. Two very different experiences. But we do, even those tours, we do them on purpose. But we're not just bouncin' along sayin', "Where would you like to go"? or "What would you like to see"? There's very much an intent to what we do and where we stop and how we do it. And at the heart of it is a desire not to learn about historic sites or ancient Christian churches, but to awaken in our hearts an appreciation for the Jewish people. You know, the Christian church is indebted to the Jewish people. And we have missed that badly in our history. This is Jesus's idea, not mine.

Look in John 4 and verse 22. Jesus said, "The Samaritans worship what you do not know: and we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews". Without the Jewish people, we have no story. Our Messiah is Jewish. The first disciples were all Jewish. The overwhelming authors of the scripture were Jewish. The prophets were Jewish. Without the Jewish people, we have no law, we have no covenants, we have no story, we have no Messiah, we have no hope. We are indebted to the Jewish people. And the trip to Israel isn't primarily to learn about the rocks and the hills and the geography and the topography of that ancient place. It's to awaken within us an awareness of the place the Jewish people have held in God's purposes so that we can show them the respect that they deserve. They need Jesus just like we do, but we are indebted to them.

I'm going to take you with me on a little micro tour of Israel. Would you like to do that? No jet lag, no weird food, no lines, no security. If we landed at the Israeli airport, Ben Grunion Airport, at least you'd get a night's sleep, but the next morning, bright and early, I'd bundle you up, put you on the bus, the first stop we would make is at Caesarea. It's a city built on the coast of the Mediterranean. It's a beautiful place. Mediterranean is beautiful. Herod the Great built Caesarea in the first century. He built it out of Italian marble. He named the city after his friend Caesar, and in the center of Caesarea was a temple to a Roman god. It was a pagan city. And it's filled with all the things you would look for in a secular, pagan Roman city.

There's a theater, an amphitheater, a hippodrome where the horses race like Ben Hur. There's the Roman baths with all of their hedonism that they supported. It was a pagan place. But Caesarea is an important part of the Jesus journey. We're introduced to it predominantly in the Book of Acts. In Acts chapter 10, we meet Cornelius. He's a Roman Centurion. He lives in Caesarea, and he has an angelic visit telling him that he needs to talk to Peter. The same Peter that on the day of Pentecost preached when the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the believers in Jerusalem. And when Peter gets to Caesarea, the day of Pentecost, those events are duplicated, this time in a non-Jewish household.

The Holy Spirit is poured out for the first time in the history of the Jesus initiative, on non-Jewish group of people. And Caesarea becomes the flashpoint for the Jesus story around the whole Roman world. It's the harbor at Caesarea where Paul boards ship to leave on his journeys and he comes back. In Caesarea where Paul's put in prison when his life is threatened in Jerusalem. Caesarea is the hub for the Jesus story going viral around the Roman world. Oh, Jerusalem may be the seat of authority where the story took place, but Caesarea is the point of the Spirit where the activity takes place.

So if we got there, I'd get the buses together and we'd sit in the theater of Caesarea, and I'd put a proposition before you: Let's not make this journey, let's not open our Bibles, let's not travel to Israel without having a determination in our heart to say to the Holy Spirit, "You are welcome in my life. No limits, no boundaries, no preconditions. I wanna cooperate with you. God, help me be aware of the messages you give me, of the invitations you put before me. Before we leave this trip, before we leave this land, I wanna embrace your spirit as fully as I'm capable of embracing, without barrier or limit. You are welcome in my life". What are you putting your trust in?

You see, the church isn't about a religious organization or a set of rules. It's about a person. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. I believe he can heal the sick, raise the dead, open the blind eye, walk on water. Nothing is impossible to him. He's my Lord. It's the reason I serve him. It's the reason I call him King. It's the reason he gets to set the priorities of my life. I've never met anybody like him. I wouldn't give you a hoot for being religious, but I wanna get to know Jesus. "Believe in me". We'll spend two or three days exploring Galilea. Jesus did so much, it takes a while to start to absorb it and soak it in. We'll even baptize you in the Jordan River. Or in a couple weeks, we'll baptize you in the water from the Stones River.

Well, we'd load the busses. We're gonna leave Galilea, and we're gonna head south. And a lot of times you get on those bus trips, you nod off, and if you do, you're in for a shock 'cause Galilea is subtropical palm trees, citrus trees, mango trees, banana trees all over Galilea. We're gonna head down the Jordan Valley. We're on our way to Jerusalem. And if you drift off for about an hour and a half, when you wake up you'll think you've landed on the moon. 'Cause there's no green left. No banana trees. No mango trees. It's a desert, but it's not the big sandy sand dunes of Lawrence of Arabia. It's a rocky desert. Oh, there's hills, but there's boulders and rocks. It's brutal looking. And the temperature's frequently north of 110.

Well, it's a dry heat. So's an oven. And we'll get to the very northern tip of the Dead Sea and Jericho is sitting there, the oldest city on planet Earth, and we're gonna turn right and climb up to Jerusalem. And Jerusalem changes everything. There's no city on planet Earth like it. It's illogical, it's irrational, it captivates the center of the world's attention in a unique way until today. It's not that beautiful a place. It's built on the hills but they're not spectacular hills. It doesn't have any beachfront property. It's dusty and hot. For your notes, I put Jerusalem in terms of the past, the present, and the future.

We can start with the past in Matthew 20. It says, "Jesus was going up to Jerusalem and he took the disciples aside and he said, 'We're going to Jerusalem and the Son of man will be betrayed to the chief priest and the teachers of the law. They'll condemn him to death and they'll turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified". And the disciples believed Jesus when he told them that? They didn't, did they? It wasn't that they didn't understand the words; they just couldn't conceive of it. You see, they'd never known anybody like Jesus. They'd been in Galilea where they... for his ministry for the better part of three years. He walked on the water, he speaks to the storms, he makes wine, he speaks to dead people and they come to life again.

Nothing has been even a speed bump in front of Jesus. Thousands of people have gathered. He's a rock star in Galilea. And now they're climbing up to Jerusalem and Jesus said, "When I get to Jerusalem, I'll be betrayed, handed over to the Gentiles, and they will beat me almost to death and then crucify me". The disciples said, "No way! Nobody cold stand before you". But it happened. In Jesus's words, nobody took his life from him; he laid it down. Remember what he said to Pilate? Pilate said, "Don't you know who I am? You better show me some respect. I've got the power to crucify you". Remember what Jesus said? "You don't have any authority unless my dad gave it to you". In good old Tennessee language, "Better not get me riled up, son".

Jesus gave his life in Jerusalem, that you and I could be different. So when I go to Jerusalem, yeah, I wanna bump around and see those places. Do we know exactly which hilltop? No, we don't. But I'm not offended 'cause there's a couple of options. I know I'm standing within a hundred yards or so of where my Lord suffered and died on a cross for me. Jerusalem has a place in our story that makes it unmistakable. You see, Disney didn't craft this faith. There are places, tangible places. I can walk streets in the City of Jerusalem today, unmistakable streets where they walked in the day when Jesus was here. But Jerusalem's a part of our present too. Not just because of the focus of the UN. Jesus gave it a significance.

Look at Matthew 5. It says, "Jerusalem is the city of the Great King". That's never been rescinded, folks. Jerusalem is the city of the Great King. And it is always an honor and a privilege for me to be in that place. I pray for the peace in Jerusalem on a regular basis. 'Cause it's an assignment handed to us from scripture. No place quite like it. But in the future, in Revelation chapter 3, Jesus said, "I'm coming soon. I'm coming soon. Hold on to what you have. See that no one will take it from you, your crown. And he who overcomes, I'll make a pillar in the temple of God, and never again will he leave it. And I'll write on him the name of my God and the city of my God, the new Jerusalem".

Jesus left planet Earth from Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. He's coming back to planet Earth in Jerusalem. He's going to rule and reign over this world from the City of Jerusalem. My Lord and King. Jerusalem matters. It's no surprise to me at all that the nations rage and the different groups argue and complain and fight for control. They don't understand. The one who watches over Jerusalem never slumbers nor sleeps. I'll give you one last passage. Zachariah tells us of a day ahead of us. It says, "The survivors of all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King and the Lord Almighty to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles".

You may not make it to Jerusalem on this side of time, but you're gonna make it, 'cause we're all going to Jerusalem o worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The greatest... you can give the Lord a hand. The greatest invitation of our lives is being invited to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. You better believe I'm an advocate for the church. We live in a remarkable community. There was a time in my life I thought happiness was Murfreesboro in the rear view mirror. And I was workin' hard to make that a prophetic fulfillment about my life. And somewhere along the way, God made it the place where I have the greatest joy and contentment.

When I came to Murfreesboro, it was a sleepy little country town. You could count the places to eat in Murfreesboro on your fingers and have fingers left over. I read a couple weeks ago we're one of the ten fastest growing cities in America. That's funny to me. Most people, I tell 'em where I live, they can't spell Murfreesboro, let alone find it on the map. And it's one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. I believe God did that 'cause there's people here he can trust to tell folks the truth. Amen. So next time you're sitting in traffic and you're tempted to curse the car in front of you, just pray for 'em. They'll get a Jesus is Lord magnet and we'll celebrate together. I found it's harder to signal people when you see that magnet on the back of their car, isn't it?

You know, like, "Ah! Jesus is Lord! Get outta my way". We have an opportunity, and it isn't about us. Oh, we have the privilege of serving and standing and watching, but God will do something through our lives that will enable us to lay up treasure in heaven, and have a purpose to our days under the sun. Amen. I brought you a prayer, but I wanna leave that one with you. I wanna pray with you for our community if we can. Won't you stand with me. I don't want us to be part of the Bible belt; that seems kinda narrow to me. I want to at least be like what, the Bible girdle? Can we grow that thing? What's it gonna be, the Bible robe would be all right?

Let's put on robes. I'll tell you, I'm prayin' about some specific things. That college campuses will become incubators of righteousness. Wouldn't that be good? Our finest universities started out as Christian training schools. I'm praying that the media will begin to celebrate godliness and righteousness more than wickedness and ungodliness. Yes! I wanna celebrate the courage it takes to honor Jesus, not the courage it takes to be wicked. I mean, if we don't have it in our hearts to pray and ask the Lord, where is that gonna come from? The church is intended to make a difference. Hallelujah. We're gonna pray:

Lord, thank you. Thank you for the church. It's your idea and it's your initiative. You watch over it. You're the head of the church. And Lord, I thank you for the community where you're planted us, and I pray that we would conduct ourselves in such a way that when our days are spent and our strength is gone, you can say "Well done". Pour out your Spirit in our community. Lord, we pray for our university that there'll be an outpouring of your Spirit. Give us leadership in that place that fears your name. Faculty and staff who will honor you and encourage the students to do the same.

We praise you for it, Lord. We thank you for the freedoms and the liberties that we have, and the abundance that fills our lives. May we use them for your glory. You've given us influence and platforms and opportunities, people who look to us and care about our opinion. Lord, may we become bold ambassadors for you. Holy Spirit, give us new wisdom, new discernment, new courage to stand up for our Lord. We thank you for an outpouring in your Spirit that will exceed anything we have ever seen, and for a harvest of souls, for we'll make space. We'll serve. We'll make new times. Lord I thank you that we will see it with our eyes. In Jesus's name, amen.

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