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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Learners - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Learners - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Learners - Part 1
TOPICS: Church On Purpose

We are gonna continue the topic we've been working on, talking about church on purpose. You know, if a casual observer walked in, never been in a church before and watched a church service, they might rather easily conclude it's, you know, it's a little bit of singing and a little bit of a Bible study and some casual interaction amongst people and that's what church is. And it's not an evil conclusion, it's just inadequate. Church is an expression of the will of Almighty God on planet Earth. Jesus is the head of the church, and we are here to conduct his purpose and his will, that his will might be done on earth as it is in heaven. That's what church is about.

So it's not just a formal religious activity or an educational society or about moral values. We intend to give expression to the purposes of God on planet Earth, and that's a very important concept to tuck in our hearts. We've been doing this little study, because we wanna understand God's vision for his church more fully. You and I are part of the church, not just somebody else, you and I. There's no mysterious closet where the church exists. It's us, folks. If we don't like what the church is doing, go home and look in the mirror and have a good stern talk with the church. We are the church and there's no singular vision for church.

There are many persons who comprise the body of Christ. And just as we come in all kinds of heights and shapes and eyes, all sorts of differences amongst us, there are many congregations which collectively represent the church of Jesus Christ. And it would be inadequate and unfortunate to imagine that God has a singular expression of his church in the earth. When God made flowers, he made an incredible variety of shapes and colors and sizes and seasons when they bloom. When he designed birds, he made hummingbirds and bald eagles, flamingos and pelicans. So God is creative, and not all congregations are the same, nor should they be. Yet in Christ, we have a common bond and a common Lord.

And for far too long, I think we have squabbled and quibbled over secondary issues, and we have forfeited much. There are some things that are simply not open for debate. Jesus is the Son of God, the incarnate Son of God, God come in the flesh born of a virgin. Do I believe that really happened? Absolutely. Or our faith is foolishness. I believe that he died physically on a Roman cross, that he was buried, that he was raised to life again, that he ascended back to heaven, that he's coming back to the earth as a conquering King to judge the living and the dead and to rule and reign on planet Earth.

Now, if you don't believe those things, it isn't Christianity. It just isn't, I don't care what the building's label says or what style of music is presented or what the architecture reflects. If you don't believe Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, it isn't Christianity. You know, we have had a luxury in our country for many years. The Christianity was the predominant social influence in our culture. And you could visit a community like ours in the South and you could go downtown and you probably find a corner where there'd be three or four churches located on that corner. And on Sunday morning, you'd see a lot of the significant people filing into those churches and looking across the street at their brothers and sisters in Christ thinking, "I'm better than you". Because the Wesley Brothers wrote our music or we take communion in a more correct way than you do or whatever reason we had.

And I'm not sure that was evil, I'm not sure it was helpful, but it was a reflection of the fact that Christianity was the predominant social influence, and we had the luxury to behave that way. Well, that's no longer true and we no longer have that luxury. We no longer have the privilege of arguing about secondary and tertiary issues. I knew a pastor whose church divided, people packed up and left in a debate over the color of the softball jerseys. We don't have the best track record, folks. Here's my determination. If you and I can disagree on a point and we can both still go to heaven, I will extend to you a hand of fellowship. We're gonna have to figure out how to hang together. or we're gonna hang separately. We need one another. Now, having said that it doesn't mean everything in the Scripture is up for debate.

As I said a moment ago, there's a set of things that are simply non-negotiable. There are not many pathways to God. Jesus said, "I'm the door and no one comes to the Father except through me". If Jesus was not the Messiah, if he isn't the anointed Son of God, he wasn't a good man. He was a liar and a deceiver. And the church of Jesus Christ advocates for him. We are the expression of God on planet Earth. We have an incredibly significant role to play. I know the expressions of church are often denigrated and made fun of. And it's not hard to find weaknesses in the church 'cause church is filled with people and we're a frail lot. And even the people that don't want to be Christians know what the church should be. So they're pretty quick to point out when we're not, makes for good news. But the reality is, with all of our imperfection and all of our weakness, we're the delivery system God has chosen.

Look at Matthew 16 in verse 18. Jesus said, "I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out". Jesus is in the church-building business. He's an advocate for his church. I wanna be the same. I am weary with hearing the church maligned, criticized, diminished. Following Jesus will not diminish your life. And it seems to me we're way too tolerant. We sit quietly by. Well, they say, "Don't mention Jesus' name here, don't put a part of that book on the wall of my office. Don't talk about him over here".

Folks, that's my Lord; that offends me. We live in a nation with a Christian heritage. We've never been a uniquely Christian nation in the sense that everybody here was Christian nor was it ever expected. And our founders went to great pains to see to it that our state never established a singular church that was a requirement, which is a very good thing. So they couldn't require us to be Baptist or Episcopalian or Presbyterian. They offered us the freedom of worship. Now, the separation of church and state is not a part of our founding documents. It's made its way into our body of law, but it's not a part of our founding documents. And again, I don't think it's a good idea for the church, the state to establish a singular church. But it is unmistakable beyond question, unassailable that our founders and our nation has been a nation predominantly influenced by the Christian faith.

Scriptures are carved into our most celebrated buildings in Washington, DC, that is our heritage, and the liberty and freedoms that we know have emerged from that faith shaping the character of the people who have led this nation. And to the degree that we continue to allow our character on Main Street to be shaped by the principles of the Word of God, we will maintain liberties and freedoms. If we reject that and we diminish the church and its influence in our culture, we will forfeit liberty and freedom. A state apart from the church is an oppressive force in human life. There is a broad expansive history to support that assertion. So don't ever apologize for the church. The church is a force for freedom and liberty and tolerance and inclusivity and opportunity. It raises the quality of our lives; it doesn't diminish it. I am privileged and honored to be a part of the church. Amen.

Now we're followers of Jesus. And in following him, we find a meaning and a purpose and a value for our lives in both time and eternity. Jesus changes everything. You see, without Jesus, we're simply well-intentioned people trying to do good things. And while that's not inherently evil, it's far less impactful. The characters you know from your New Testament, Peter and James and John, Mary and Mary Magdalene, the whole cast and crew that you know so well, their lives were dramatically transformed, because they followed Jesus. Their lives weren't transformed because they decided to be good people or to be more kind or to steal less than their peer group. Their lives were transformed because they followed Jesus.

That same thing is still happening. We're not just good people doing good things. We are Christ followers, and he will elevate your life. If you have been deceived by the lie that being a Jesus person will somehow diminish you, diminish your pleasure or your joy or your opportunities, understand this; you have believed something that is false. Jesus is a force for freedom; he'll change your life. Now, I believe the church in a community makes a difference.

In Jeremiah chapter 29 and verse 7, we're given a little window into this. Jeremiah is a prophet in Jerusalem; he has a very difficult assignment. God gave Jeremiah a tough job. When I read Jeremiah, I often do it with tremendous compassion. Jeremiah is a prophet in Jerusalem, and the message that he's asked to deliver is that God is gonna judge his people. He says, "Your hearts are so hard and your wickedness is so entrenched, that judgment is coming and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. Get ready". And they hated Jeremiah. They physically mistreated him. His message was rejected. He was not on a bestseller list. They threw him in a pit. I mean, he suffered for the message.

Now, God vindicated him in what Jeremiah said came true. And Jeremiah had the privilege of many things. But one of the messages he gave was that when they left Jerusalem,, because he said, "You're gonna be carried away as exiles. When you get to the destination where you're going, pray for the city where you are". I put it in your notes, I thought the context would be helpful. It's Jeremiah 29. He said, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I've carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper". He knew they were going to a pagan city. They lived in Jerusalem, the temple was in the center. The daily sacrifice, the aroma from the animal sacrifice lifted over the city every day. They're leaving Jerusalem to go to a pagan city, a godless city, a city by their standards it's immoral. And he said, "When you get there, pray for the city. Don't condemn it, judge it; because you are there, the blessings of God will come".

I believe the church in a community draws the attention of God and the unique blessing of God. We have a role to play. We're not a blight on a community, we're a blessing. Really. I would expect them to be skeptical if I were in a secular environment for this, but in the church, we should be kind of somewhere around coalescing around this idea that God's intent is to bless his people; and where we are, his blessings overflow on others. In Isaiah 62, there is a verse that has been an important part of what God has called us to as a congregation. It says, "Pass through, pass through the gates and prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway; remove the stones, and raise a banner for the nations".

Pretty straightforward language. "Pass through, pass through the gates". It's about bringing people in. The gates are the entryway into a city. There's an invitation, it's like a town crier. "Pass through the gates. Come this way". We understand we have an assignment as a congregation to help people into the kingdom of God. We welcome people here whose lives don't look godly, who don't know how to spell God, who don't know how to behave in a godly way, means they'll come with stories and clothing and life experiences that don't fit into the portfolio of a disciple of Jesus. We welcome those people not to go soft on sin or to reduce our boundaries or to look the other way. We wanna help people get to know the Lord. Prepare the way for the people. It's an interesting assignment.

Who is to prepare the way for the people that are coming through the gates? The people who are present are the ones who do the preparation. I understand the value of this. I've been a part of this congregation for many years. I was here before we had beautiful buildings and lovely parking places and so many of the things that our children enjoy today. I was here when we had a tent and a gravel driveway. In July, church was a sacrifice. There was nothing about it that was convenient or comfortable or a blessing. If you were here, you loved God or had very few options. And I've watched the people in every generation of the church make sacrifices so that other people could join them. They've given their time and their energy and their effort. They have served and they have given, they have done many, many things, and they've always done it with a vision that there were other people who would benefit from knowing Jesus as they had known him.

Not that their lives were perfect or easy or unchallenged or without difficulty, but they believed there was enough value in what they had experienced that, I watched them make preparation so other people could join them. And our future as a congregation is really rest upon that attitude continuing to flourish in our hearts today. Do we believe there's enough value in what we have experienced with the Lord that we'll make preparations for others to join us? Will we be inconvenienced so others can hear the truth? And I believe we've said yes to that many times in many ways to build up the highway, Isaiah said.

A highway is about an easier route of travel. You can travel on a highway or a goat path. They're both equally valid means of travel. But if you have a great distance to go and you need to travel with very many possessions, a highway is better than a goat path. And our assignment as a congregation is to make the way as easily traveled as we know how. Sometimes if you listen to Christians, we almost act like we're some sort of a special group. You know, we had to suffer to get in, so we want to haze all the newcomers. As if there's some rite of passage. Bless God. We had to suffer so they should, too. And that's not exactly what the Scripture says. "Remove the stones, all the impediments to be removed".

You know, what I have discovered is the impediments to people experiencing God in this place starts within me. And I mean that personally. I believe one of the greatest impediments to this congregation being exponentially more effective is my willingness and ability to change and yours, but it starts with me. It's not about the pagans being different or the culture being different or technology being different, it starts with our willingness, so Lord, don't let there be any obstacle in me, any idea, any thought, any habit, any attitude that diminishes what you could do, what you would do. God, I'm willing to be different. God loved the world so much, he sent his Son to die on a cross.

You and I have to care enough to say, "Lord, I'll be different". And then he said raise a banner for the nations. We're not just about our own congregation. It's not about our campus and our kids and our people. Yes, we have some responsibilities there, but we're not in the Christian entertainment business. It's not just about me. We have an assignment, a global assignment.

You know, I've told you many times, and I'll continue to confess to it, I think it's helpful for me. I wasn't here when they named the church. I was in another state and they called me and they said, "God has given us a name for the congregation". And I waited a beat, and they said, "It's World Outreach Church". I was embarrassed for them. There were 29 people here. They were meeting in a rented space, sitting on rented chairs. The space that they were meeting in made available to 'em because of the largesse of a businessman. We didn't have the wherewithal to pay the light bill. And what was the name? World Outreach Church. All 29 of us. Maybe it was because nobody in the world wanted those 29 people, so we decided, and when they told me, I just shook my head and thought, "Well, God bless them. I won't ever go back there and visit".

But you know, decades later, there isn't a week that goes by without people coming to us from the nations of the world or us sending resources to the church, to the nations of the world. Last night, a family stopped me after church. They were visiting here, they're from Norway. And the father had come to get me and he said, "Would you speak to my family? We're visiting here". And I went over and sat down and they said, "You talked about us in the sermon tonight". And the father had tears in his eyes. He said, "We stand together in Jesus". And there were some teenagers in the crew. And I said, "Tell me what's your favorite American food"? And they said, "Macaroni and cheese". God bless 'em. If they said asparagus, we'd have thrown 'em out.

So it was a... but it's amazing the opportunities that God gives to us as a congregation in Murfreesboro. A few weeks ago when Malcolm was traveling in the United Kingdom, he was at the congregation and they asked for some help with small groups. And we bundled up some curriculum and sent it to him a few weeks ago, but they reached out to us this week. We had a conference call, video conference call with a church in Liverpool, England that's launching a whole new initiative to reach their community. And they're gonna use our small group, the whiteboard curriculum. And they'd had the stuff for a few weeks. Yeah. So we were trying to tell them the things that had helped us and hadn't helped us. And they were gonna, well, they said, "Could we get back together in a month after we've kind of gotten some..."

And so a church in Murfreesboro and a church in Liverpool working together. Only God, only God, remove the obstacles, build the highway so people can find their way. This isn't just about us, folks. It isn't just about us. I was preparing for another group this week and in doing it, I came across a set of stuff I wanna share with you, it's "A Tale of Two Lives". Contemporary stuff. This isn't history, it is folks that were in the news in 2015 and 2016, but the trajectory of their lives was very different, and the response from the world around them was very different. And I don't tell you the stories to criticize or condemn either but to be aware of what's happening in our world and the value that is or is not attached to the church.

One of the individuals was given the Congressional Medal of Honor. President Obama welcomed him, presented the Medal of Honor. They also that same year received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Individual had been an Olympic gold medalist. In 2016, there were a number of lists where different publications, different groups in our nation honor the individual as the Woman of the Year, highly celebrated. Multiple magazine covers, national honors, interviewed widely, great deal of attention. The individual was Bruce Jenner underwent, I think the language they used was gender reassignment, Caitlyn Jenner. Recipient of the Medal of Honor, Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Multiple organizations highlighting that individual.

Now, without attaching of value, I wanna give you an alternative to that. Another gentleman I suspect you know, provides leadership to a couple of organizations that are a bit lesser known. One is called Doctors Without Borders. It's a global initiative which responds quickly to medical humanitarian emergencies. If there's a conflict in the world or a natural disaster, this organization will mobilize an emergency field hospital with all the staff necessary to treat the people in those locations without charge.

Well, in 2015, Doctors Without Borders collected and resourced over $335 million from private donors. No US government funds. Over $330 million to Doctors Without Borders around the world. The individual that provides leadership also sponsors another organization called Samaritan's Purse. It's a non-denominational, evangelical Christian organization that provides physical and spiritual aid to hurting people around the world. In 2015, same window of time, both lives, both making choices, both trajectories, Samaritan's Purse received contributions and goods and services in excess of $590 million. So collectively between Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan's Purse, more than $900 million were invested in serving people that had significant needs. Franklin Graham provides the leadership for those organizations. Now, he wasn't interviewed as widely, no medals of honor. He wasn't celebrated as broadly, but I would submit to you, his life is making a tremendous difference.

Now, the reason I took a minute with that wasn't to belittle or to diminish, but you see what we champion, what we celebrate, what we highlight as being exemplary is what we get more of. And the role of the church is to be a light in our world, to highlight something, to help make it known. I don't want us to be angry and condemning and raging against the darkness. I would submit to you, we have an assignment to turn up the light, to celebrate good things, not in a self-serving, egotistical way. Why is it self-serving when we celebrate the good things that Christians do? And when people that are choosing ungodliness celebrate it, have programs to give themselves awards and pat themselves on the back and highlight it, that comment isn't used in most cases. We have to be wiser. We have an opportunity to make a difference in our world, to be an expression of the grace and the mercy and the love of God. And we have to have the wisdom and the courage to celebrate it, to champion it, to say it's a good thing. Amen.

Before we go, we want to invite the Holy Spirit to help us be the church in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, I thank you that Jesus is the head of the church, that everything we do, our life, our mission, our assignment comes through him. But it's your Spirit within us that is leading and directing. Give us understanding hearts. May we cooperate with your invitations, and may we have the boldness to be advocates for Jesus in a way that impacts this generation; in Jesus' name, amen.

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