Allen Jackson - A Coaching Session - Part
And what I'd like to do for a session or two or three is share a part, some just little snapshots of our history that remind us of a different set of values. They were very much in play in our nation. They're not celebrated by very many of the people who are generating messaging these days. But they are unmistakably a part of our heritage. One of the stories I've shared portions of with you before. It's a bit of a biographical piece about a man, young man, by the name of William Borden. Some of you may know the Borden, Borden Milks. He was born into that family and it was already a very wealthy family, so he was a young man born into a great deal of privilege. But he became a Christian, and at that time in American history, his dates, he was born about 1890. He only lived to be 25.
But at that time many of the brightest and best young people in our nation chose to give their lives to the mission field. They would go to live in other nations. Not short-term mission trips, you know, not adventurers with a spiritual tone. They would forsake the life they had here to go live in other nations amongst other people groups and share their faith with them.
And again, it wasn't the people that didn't have other options, it was people who had many other options choosing to do it. It was common enough that the stories were often carried in our newspapers. It's a part of the fabric of the story. Well, this young man, because of some of the challenges he had, his story got a bit more attention, but I wanna just read you a bit of the background. During his first semester at Yale, he started something that would transform the campus life. One of his friends described how it began, and part of what I want you to hear is what Yale University was like. It's a bit different today.
"It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast, and I can't say positively whose suggestion it was, but I feel sure it must have been originated with Bill. We'd been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us, and soon after a fourth. The time was spent in prayer and after a brief reading of scripture, Bill's handling of the scripture would be helpful, but he would read to us from the Bible showing us something that God had promised, and then proceed to claim the promise with assurance. Well, the small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that spread across campus. By the end of the first year, 150 freshmen were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, 1,000 of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups".
Yale University. "Borden made it his habit to seek out the most incorrigible students and try to bring them to salvation. In his sophomore year, we organized Bible study programs and divided up the class of 300 or more. Each person interested in taking a certain number so that all might, if possible, be reached. We went over the names one by one and the question would be asked, 'Who will take this person?' And when it came to someone thought to be very difficult, there'd be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted that responsibility. Bill's voice would be heard, 'Put them down to me.'"
William Borden went on to graduate, and went on to graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies, he sailed for China. He forsook his family fortune to be a missionary. His intention was to become a missionary to the Uyghur Muslims in Northwestern China, the same ones that are being persecuted today, we might add. But he decided first to study Islam and Arabic in Cairo. He was boarded with a Syrian family there so that he could hear Arabic spoken as much as possible and he'd spend time on the streets of Cairo distributing Christian sermons that were more in a Koranic style.
In March of 1913 while still in Egypt, he contracted cerebral meningitis. He had symptoms on March the 21st, and he died less than three weeks later. He was 25 years old. His mother had just arrived from America to vacation with him, they thought, in the mountains of Lebanon. That's not the "Cedars of," that's the country in the Middle East. She was present for the simple funeral. Following her son's death, she found his Bible, and in the words "No reserve" had a date suggesting, it was written in the back of his Bible, a date suggesting it had been written shortly after he'd renounced his fortune in favor of missions. Later, he was said to have written "No retreat" after his father told him that he would never hold a position in the family business. And finally shortly, shortly before his death, he had added the last of the phrases, "No regrets".
When the news of William Borden's death was cabled back to the US, the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. A wave of sorrow went around the world. Borden not only gave away his wealth, but himself in a way so joyous and natural that it seemed a privilege rather than a sacrifice. That was what one of his biographers wrote about him. "No reserve," "No retreat," and "No regrets". It's a pretty good legacy. That's a part of our heritage.
Now, for several decades, they've been telling us in academics that that attitude towards missions was wrong and inappropriate. It smacked of colonialism, that we were exporting culture, we really weren't that interested in exporting our faith, that we went with grandiose dreams of taking our culture to other places in the world and profiting from it. And those attitudes toward sharing our faith with people who haven't heard about the lordship of Jesus had been tremendously diminished, and our younger people that have been through the academic system in the last several decades have heard that garbage ad nauseam. I know. I was in the system, I heard it. I have to smile today, though. Because we still look at the world with a colonial attitude.
We're not colonizing other nations any longer or exporting our faith with enthusiasm, but we are taking the American corporate system to the world with great enthusiasm. You don't think Google or Nike is exporting culture? You think they don't have a profit motive? They shamed the church into being silent and we accepted their attack, may God forgive us. Jesus gave us an assignment. It was the last assignment before he ascended back to heaven. Peter and his friends took it very seriously. He said you'll be empowered to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. They spent their lives pursuing that. I don't think we should allow the bellowing of people who hold a different world view to drive us from the marketplace that our Lord assigned to us.
I wanna share another story just because I can. I shortened your notes. You should not have been hopeful. You know I'm gonna use all the time. It's a story about four chaplains. We're gonna move forward a little bit. It's World War II. There were four chaplains on the USS Dorchester. They all loved the Lord and served in the military. They, all four, voluntarily worked to help soldiers survive the sinking of the United States Army Transport, the Dorchester.
Some of you may know the story. Not as familiar as the Borden story, but in the midst of World War II, the Dorchester was moving troops from America to Europe, and as they approached Greenland, it was torpedoed by a German submarine just after midnight February the 3rd, 1943. Within twenty minutes of being struck, it plunged beneath the black and icy waters of the north Atlantic. In those twenty minutes, with pitch dark, the cries of the wounded was coming from every direction. The severe lurching of the ship as it filled with water, you can imagine the chaos and the pandemonium that filled the air.
But there were four chaplains, a Lieutenant Alexander Goode, who happened to be a Jewish Rabbi; Lieutenant Clark Poling, who was a Dutch Reformed minister; Lieutenant George Fox, a Methodist; and Lieutenant John Washington, a Catholic priest. In the midst of the chaos and the confusion and the fear, they stepped forward, took charge, and began to give direction to the frustrated and frightened seamen. Quickly brought a sense of calm and assurance to the soldiers aboard the sinking ship. They moved amongst the soldiers calming the frightened, tending the wounded, and guiding the disoriented toward safety.
One survivor testified, "I could hear men crying, pleading, praying, and I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going". They helped the men get into the life jackets and off the boat, and when the life jackets finally ran out, these four army chaplains took off their own vests and gave them to other soldiers to make sure they would be safe. Of the 902 on board, only 230 survived. As the Dorchester finally slipped beneath the frigid arctic waters, survivors in the lifeboats testified that the last thing they saw was the four chaplains standing together on the submerging deck, a Jew, a Methodist, a Catholic, and a Dutch Reformed, their arms locked together, and their voices raised in prayer and song as the ship forever slipped beneath the freezing water.
Now that story's remarkable enough in itself. Can you believe that our military at one time actually encouraged the men and women that served in the military to embrace the Christian faith? Our military. Well, in 1948, President Harry Truman arranged for a special postage stamp to memorialize the four. Three years later in 1951, he spoke at the dedication of the chapital, the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, telling the nation:
"This chapel commemorates something more than an act of bravery or courage. It commemorates a great act of faith in God. The four chaplains whose memory this shrine was built to commemorate were not required to give their lives as they did. They gave their lives without being asked. When their ship was sinking, they handed out all the life preservers that were available and then took off their own and gave them away in order that four other men might be saved. Those four chaplains actually carried out the moral code which we are all supposed to live by. They obeyed the divine commandment that men should love one another. They really lived up to the moral standard that declares 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' They were not afraid of death because they knew that the Word of God is stronger than death. Their belief, their faith in his Word enabled them to conquer death." End quote.
Do you believe the President of the United States would say that in public? Folks, that's our heritage. That generation made their decisions. They took their stand. The question is what's gonna be said of our generation? Now, the good news is we're not the first generation to lose our way. And I believe if we will choose the Lord again, I believe if we'll actually listen to the words of scripture, that God will help us and we can hand to our children and our grandchildren a future with momentum. Our problem isn't economics. And it isn't political. It's a character fail. And that's the business of the church. But the good news is we have a long heritage of men and women who were willing to put themselves at risk so that the generations who came behind them could have greater hope. May that be said of us.
Peter has such an intense awareness of the necessity of the new birth, it's inescapable if you read the messages we have that he delivered in the book of Acts, in particular when we get to the epistles. Let's start in 1 Peter chapter 1 and verse 1. He's describing a new life and a new birth. That's the only way to participate in the kingdom of God. You can't join a group. You can't pass a test. You can't read enough books. It's not about behaviors or vocabularies or beverage lists. You have to have a birth into that kingdom. You have to be born into it. There is no other way. If you've never purposely, intentionally, by decision of your will accepted Jesus as Lord of your life to be birthed into his kingdom, I would encourage you to do so.
Our churches are filled with people that have never done that. They think, you know, it's kind of guilt by association, like watching a ballgame makes me an athlete. You know, I don't listen to much talk radio anymore, but sports talk radio used to amuse me. The people that would call in that imagined themselves to be world-class athletes 'cause they watched a lot of sporting events. There's an enormous gap between being able to actually... well, never mind. But our churches are filled with people that have imagined ourselves to be Christ followers of significance when our lives don't have the fruit to represent that. If there's no fruit, and by that if there's not evidence of your faith, and by that I don't mean that you don't smoke, drink, or chew, or have friends who do.
If there isn't evidence in your relationship network of people coming to faith, of being delivered from darkness, if there isn't significant evidence around you, the transformation of lives beyond yourself, then I would encourage you to go back to the first step and revisit your new birth, and say, Lord, I wanna build this from the ground up. I want Jesus to be Lord of my life because the evidence of being birthed into that kingdom is fruit, and sitting in church does not qualify as fruit, or watching the stream. I'm grateful for the privilege of being together, but I don't want you to be confused. I want you to understand the fruitfulness of our lives. If you're in business and you don't make money, you won't stay in business. And if you're a Christ follower and you don't bear fruit, the Bible says you're only good for one thing, to be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
Peter describes this. He has such an enthusiasm around it. "An apostle of Jesus Christ to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia," wherever. Lotta places. And then he gives us, "They've been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father," chosen according to God, the sovereignty of God. God knew at the beginning. He chose you, in all of our brokenness, me too. "Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit". To be sanctified is to be set apart for the purposes of God. It's the Spirit of God that sets our life apart. That's not a natural inclination within us. The Spirit of God did that in William Borden.
The spirit of God did that in those four men on that ship. The spirit of God is still calling men and women to set themselves apart for the purposes of God. Stop turning down the volume on those invitations. Serving God is more than being a kind civic servant. We've confused the church and our civic organizations. We think if we're kind and we distribute things, that we're fulfilling the great commission. Our assignment is to help people into the kingdom of God. "The sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ". Obedience to Jesus Christ, that's the target, folks. "And sprinkling by his blood. Grace and peace be yours in abundance". It's Peter's introduction. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus cleanses us. It's something beyond us. It's not self-initiated, self-accomplished, self-achieved. It comes to us.
Same chapter, verse 3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he's given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". It's at the center of Peter's message. We have a new birth. He heard it from Jesus. I'm sure Jesus related the encounter with Nicodemus. I'm positive he talked to the disciples about it. That forty days between his resurrection and his ascension when he talked to them about the kingdom of God, I'm sure he wanted them to know the requirements for entering his kingdom. "A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you".
Throughout the scripture, we know the verse from Corinthians, but it's really mentioned throughout scripture, love, hope, and faith. Of the three, I think love and faith have been given a more predominant position. Faith is about now. Faith means I'll act now on what I believe. Love is the solvent that allows all of the things of God to touch our lives. But hope is about the future. Hope is what enables us to endure, and we've acted as if hope was somehow irrelevant, or secondary, or should be considered less. Peter's talking to us about a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
What's our motivation for obedience? See, we have such a kingdom now orientation, your best life now, your best whatever now, how to get hold of everything now. I hope you're making many life decisions based on an anticipation of an inheritance in the kingdom of God. William Borden would have never gotten on a boat if it was just about now. Those four chaplains would have never surrendered a life vest if it was just about now. And we've had a church that's been too enmeshed in now. Can I get what I want now?
We've got to have an orientation that is fueled by a hope of our faith that transcends the immediacy of this moment. Paul said if we only have hope for this life, we are to be pitied above all men. What decisions are you making today, have you made this week, that are driven by an orientation towards what's ahead of you, fueled by hope? "Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials". He says our faith will shield us by the power of God, but in spite of that shield of faith, he said you may have had to suffer. And he'll go on to warn them that the suffering's going to intensify.
I would remind you who's writing this. This is Peter. We've been reading his story for the last few sessions. He suffered the indignity of Jesus, his best friend, being arrested and tortured to death. He had to watch that. Up close and personal. They threatened him with it to the point it was a real enough threat that Peter and his closest friends denied the Lord, hid. Not only they failed to stand with Jesus, they went and protected themselves. But then it wasn't very long after Jesus's ascension that they began to tell their Jesus story, that they became the point of that hatred. By the time we get to Acts chapter 3, they're arrested. By the time we get to Acts chapter 7, they're killing Christians in Jerusalem again.
Peter knows what it is to be arrested, to be beaten, to be told he'll be executed, to have his best friend, James, murdered by a politician. And his numbers went up, his ratings got better, his poll numbers increased, so he arrested Peter and said I'll kill him too. So when he's writing this letter and he said you may have had to suffer a bit, it isn't theoretical to him. He bears the marks on his body and he bears the scars emotionally. And he's saying to his friends, you may have to face some suffering. Church, we're gonna have to be willing to face some suffering. I don't know exactly what that'll look like. I can tell you right now, you gotta be willing to be canceled.
People whisper to me quite frequently when I'm on campus after a service or even when I'm in the community, "Thank you. Thank you for tellin' the truth". Men. And I'm usually polite. Not always, but I'll tell you what I'm thinkin'. Why are you whispering? And number two, let's all use our voices. Not in anger or belligerence, but every one of us has a sphere of influence. And we're gonna have to have the courage to say yeah, there could be some consequence for us. At this point, they're not confiscating our homes and imprisoning us. They may accuse you of misinformation, which at this point it causes your First Amendment rights to be suspended. We hope that'll change, but that is our reality at the moment. I can promise you this, if you don't have the courage to tell the truth now, to stand up now, you will not find the courage when the pressure's greater. You better start to exercise those muscles.
You know, we know a great deal about Peter. We follow him through the gospels, and for most of that time he was a learner like you and I have been. But after he had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus, he was transformed, and I don't want us to lose sight of that. The new birth changes our lives. The gospel is enough. Let's pray before we go.
Lord Jesus, we wanna honor you with all that we are and all that we have and all that we will ever be. We wanna yield to you and give you first place in our lives. I thank you that through your shed blood, we have been transformed from the kingdom of darkness into your kingdom. We thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.