Allen Jackson - True Church, False Church - Part 2
What a privilege to be together again. We're continuing our study on "Lessons from Peter," and we're talking about the true church and the false church. It's not a fun thought, but both exist in the earth, and we have to understand the truth so we can recognize the false. You know, one of my favorite things about Jesus and his ministry were the people he chose to recruit, to invite to follow him, to invest his time in. If I'd have been in charge of that initiative, I would've gone to the most educated, the most influential, the people with the highest IQs.
Jesus did something different. He recruited people based on their character, and if you follow him through the gospels, lots of times you feel like he recruited from the slow group, and yet that group of men and women changed their world. It gives me hope because I often feel inadequate or incomplete or unprepared for the assignments before me. But Christ in you and Christ in me, that's enough. We're gonna look at the Bible today and see if we can gain some momentum for the Jesus assignment we each have. Enjoy the lesson.
You should have gotten an outline when you came in, "Lessons from Peter". Title looks strangely similar to Sunday because on Sunday I didn't do well. I went off the rails early, but I wanna come back and see if, if we can walk through this. It's really primarily derived from the second epistle of Peter. When we meet Peter in the gospels, he's a young man, and he has a lot of the brashness that you would imagine would come with that kind of youth, maybe even a teenager. And we get to the Book of Acts and after the day of Pentecost, Peter and the apostles are really transformed. Kinda the Keystone Cops prior to that, and after that it's remarkable how they're able to cooperate with the Lord and see the Jesus story take root in Jerusalem and Judaea and Samaria.
The Gentiles are invited in. They respond to the pressures with tremendous strength and courage and bravery, really in a way that challenges us today. This same group of people that Jesus said to more than once, "Are you really so slow"? become courageous and stand in the face of tremendous persecution. They begin to be martyred. They're tortured, murdered, and imprisoned, and they say, "We have to obey God. We will not yield to your demands". They gave us a wonderful heritage to follow. You know, the Book of Acts has no conclusion. We, we, the back of the Book of Acts comes to an end when Paul is in Rome preaching the gospel, but there's no formal conclusion like there is in the other books that we have, and I believe the reason for that is it isn't over yet. We're the 21st century edition.
The Book of Acts is still being written, and we will break bread with the characters on that journey at some point in our future. Jesus ate after his resurrection. I believe we'll eat when we step out of time. Isn't that good news? Won't be countin' carbs. But the stories that we wanna share want to reflect the courage and conviction and boldness in our generation that we see expressed in theirs, and I wanna invite you to come beyond sitting in church as a great expression of boldness. I'm glad you attend church; I think that's important. I attend church a lot, but I don't imagine that that's the fullest expression of my service to the Lord, and I don't want you to do that either.
I wanna start this session a little differently. We'll get to Peter, I promise. There's a point to this. But I wanna start in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. We've talked a lot about Peter and James and John and the crew that Jesus recruited. In, in 1 Corinthians, Paul's writing to a church, a group of believers, and he says, "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called". Called by God. "Not many of you were wise by human standards and not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong". If, if you're wondering if you're understanding it right, you are.
Paul said, "You were not recruited because of your outstanding characteristics". He said, "You weren't very smart if we're just evaluating you next to people. You came from the slow group, and not many of you were influential, and there weren't many of you that were from noble birth. Just ordinary folk". And he said, "God chose you because you were foolish. And he chose you because you were weak". And in verse 28, he said "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things... and the things that are not... to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It's because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God", that is, "our righteousness and our holiness and our redemption. Therefore, it is written, 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'"
We spent a lot of time in the last few sessions thinking about Peter and his friends and those that he traveled and ministered with, and they're pretty ordinary people. Fact, when you read the stories about 'em, I'm, I'm amazed at the candor with which they tell their stories. They tell about their failures. They tell about Jesus reprimanding them. They tell about almost drowning while they're trying to demonstrate their great faith. They, they tell stories about arguing who's the, about who's gonna be the greatest. They tell the truth about denying the Lord. They tell the truth about being so afraid of the Romans that they hid behind locked doors. They were so afraid that only the women were willing to go to the tomb on resurrection morning.
Jesus had told all of them what was going to happen. I mean, it's a pretty candid story. And now Paul is writing to the Corinthians and he said, "I need to remind you all you're not in the midst of this Jesus story because of your pedigree or your resources or your IQ. In fact, God chose you because most of those things were lacking. And anybody that looks at you will go, 'That has to be a God thing.'" And I think when we read the gospels and we follow our friends, they're heroes to us because of the place they came to occupy, but even when their opponents got them together in the beginning of the Book of Acts, they said, "They're unschooled, ignorant people. But they sure did hang out a lot with Jesus". And I think it's something to aspire to, to confound your adversaries. They're just a bunch of unschooled, ignorant people, but they spent a lot of time with Jesus.
There really is a biblical pattern to that. I'm not gonna take the time to chase it down with you, but you know the pattern. Samson, they couldn't figure out why Samson was strong. If they could of figured out why he was strong, they wouldn't have needed Delilah. Samson did not look like some muscled-up fitness nut. He looked like a normal person. But God gave him supernatural strength, and God is still giving people the strength they need to complete his purposes. I brought you a little sample. It gets us to Peter. We know Peter denied the Lord, almost drowned in the lake of Galilee. I mean, on and on and on. Peter, you know, he, he wasn't the top of the class. Thomas was a doubter. The other apostles were filled with selfish ambition, were slow to understand.
Look at Luke 9. It says, "As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven". I mean, this is at the end of three years. They've had three years of personal training with Jesus. And he sets out for Jerusalem, and he sent messengers on ahead who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him, but the people didn't welcome him, because he was heading to Jerusalem. The Samaritans and the Jews hated one another. When the disciples James and now James and John and Peter are the inner circle. They're the best of the best. When, when James and John saw this, they asked the Lord, "Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them"? The head of the class turns to Jesus after three years and said, "Can we nuke 'em"? But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. And they put it in the book! They told on themselves. I'm amazed at the integrity.
Paul, most of us know him, I mean he wrote two-thirds of our New Testament. By title, when we meet him he isn't the apostle Paul. He's something else altogether. Acts 8:3, "Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison". You understand, I hope, that cancel culture is not new. And if we don't stand up to it and turn it back and demand the right to tell our truth, they'll be doing that to us. This is not a joke. This isn't about comedians. It's not about politics. They don't intend for the Jesus story to be told in public. And they'll find words or lies or intimidation to shut it down. You know it's true, you've already faced it in schools. You've faced it in your places of business.
If you'll stop and look at it and be honest with yourself, it is escalating day over day. They'll promote every form of immorality and perversion and ungodliness and celebrate it and institutionalize it and protect it while they shut down your faith. You better find the courage to use your words now. It's the only resolution. Saul of Tarsus was looking for men or women, and the language is not incidental, dragging them off to put them in prison. They weren't immoral. They weren't arguing against wrong, they were simply saying, "We believe Jesus from Nazareth, a Jewish rabbi, was our Messiah". That was their crime. They weren't embezzling, they weren't angry. The spirit of antichrist that was present in the 1st century that you read about in the Book of Acts is operating in the 21st century.
And we have been so distracted or disinterested or whatever that we just keep smiling and going, well, we should love them. No, you should use your words. 1 Timothy chapter 1, this is Paul's own self-evaluation. "I think Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service". It's the same language of 1 Corinthians. "God called me," he said. Look at his self-description in verse 13. "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man". We first meet Saul of Tarsus in the Book of Acts when Stephen is being tortured to death in public. He's being stoned.
Remember, Stephen was appointed by the apostles, Peter, James and John, the crew, the church was growing so rapidly there was administrative tasks that needed more attention, so they expanded the circle. They recruited seven men and gave them the assignment, and one of them was Stephen. And Stephen is a young man, younger than the other apostles, and they're young enough as it is, and he gets pulled into this public debate that ends with him being tortured to death in the streets. And Saul is an instigator, a participant and an advocate for what happened. That's when we meet him. Well, he meets Jesus, and in Acts chapter 9, it says of him, "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple".
Smart folks. He's been arresting 'em all over town. "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and he told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him". Not because he was stealing. Not because he was greedy or immoral. It's the spirit of antichrist. "When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and they sent him off to Tarsus". Caesarea was the port city. It's like taking him to the airport. We gotta get him outta here.
In Galatians, Paul tells us, "After three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter, then I stayed with him for fifteen days. I didn't see any of the other apostles, only James, the Lord's brother". After James the apostle was murdered by Herod, James the brother of Jesus gained, began to take a more influential place in the church in Jerusalem, particularly after Peter had to flee. I thought it was worth the thread because Corinthians tells us that God recruited the most unlikely characters; and if you pay a little attention to the messaging we're given, he recruited angry, violent people, and the disciples, the same Peter whose shadow is falling on people bringing them healing is afraid to meet with Saul 'cause he's an angry, violent man with a great deal of authority.
God uses ordinary people, broken people, people who don't always get it right, people who have stumbled. It's not an excuse for sloppiness, because the ones he used are the ones that decided to go all in. What you won't find is any half-hearted ones, any partially committed ones. You won't find double-minded ones, not after they accept the assignment. Now, I wanna go back to that meeting with, with, with Peter to me would have been so much more difficult because Peter knows that Saul was an instigator in the murder of Stephen. Can you imagine how, what that would be to get over, to forgive? "Yeah, I'll meet with him. We'll have a little closed-door session. You bring him in here". Paul's an academic. He spent his life studying Torah. He has a finely-tuned brain. Peter spent his life hauling fish out of the Sea of Galilee.
Did you see the forearms on the guy in the video? I bet Peter thought, "Yeah, I'll take a session with him. Just turn the radio up really loud when I get him in here". So I'm not surprised at that, and yet they managed to, to work through it, to overcome. Folks, we need to read this as more than some sort of an academic exercise or checkin' the box on reading Scripture. We are in the midst of a spiritual conflict unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime, and we're gonna have to respond in some ways that has not been a part of our pattern in our past. Up until now you could think, "Oh, I'm gonna go to heaven". So now church just becomes a matter of convenience, it's not, you know, it's, "I've got my God business kinda wrapped up in a neat little box". We're in a different world. We're called to be salt and light. We have to be faithful.
So back to Peter in this coaching session. 2 Peter is written from a time when the persecution in the Roman Empire was escalating rapidly. We've talked about that a bit. In fact, before it's done, Peter gets swept up in that, and he'll be martyred. But he writes these two letters to his friends, people that he's influenced in the faith, encouraging them not to buckle in the face of growing persecution, really encouraging them on what to do in the midst of that antagonism. He talks to 'em about yielding, yielding to God in the midst of the face of persecution. Most of us resent it, and Peter said in the midst of it, yield to the Lord. And he warns them about the impact the pressure will have on the people of God.
Pressure changes things. Pressure changes coal into diamonds. Pressure also makes a tin can lose its contents. And you, we need to be wise enough to understand that the increasing pressure is going to change the responses of people. Some that you have thought would stand the test will not. I wanna follow this through with you with, with Peter. He talks about a false church, and in order to have a false church, you have to have a true church. You can't have a false prophet unless you have a true prophet. Make sense? It's a, it's a matter of logic. Physics, for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction.
Well, in 2 Peter chapter 2 he said, "There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They'll secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who brought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping". You get the sense Peter's not talking about theoretical stuff, but he's speaking to a group of young people... he's already told them, we looked at it in the last session, he's already told them that his time on earth is short, but he knows the tent he's living in is about finished.
So he's giving his, it's his parting advice for the people he's mentoring in the faith, and he said there's gonna be false teachers the same way you know there's been false prophets. You know, we get all heated up. We don't know if we believe in prophets. Well, do you believe in teachers? If there's good ones, there's false ones. Don't live in fear. Too many of us have grown up in systems that taught you to fear. If the people didn't come from the seminary, the group you believed in, you wouldn't listen to what they had to say. You better know your Bible well enough to know true and false. Why do we read our Bible? So you'll know the truth. Why do you learn to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit? So you can benefit from his counsel.
If you don't know your Bible and you don't know the voice of the Holy Spirit, there is an incredibly high possibility you will be deceived. So start with your Bible. Get it out. The minimal daily reading we give you will get you through the Bible once a year. Folks, don't get too puffed up about that. That's like the minimal daily requirement. "Well, I've already done that". Good, next year, read it twice. Raise the bar. It's the only way you'll get stronger. You know, if you're accustomed to exercise, once your routine gets easy, you better up your routine. You start losin' benefit. He said there'll be greed and exploitation. Exploitation means they'll take your money without providing a benefit. But he reminds us you don't need to get heated up about it. Their condemnation is a certainty. God is watching this.
Don't spend your time torqued up because of the false. Don't do it. And I would expand your definition, if you'll allow me, of a prophet. You know a prophet primarily, biblically isn't a future-teller. A prophet's assignment was to tell God's truth to the people. So if you'll allow me a bit, I think it's appropriate to expand your definition of prophet. It's whomever you would expect to tell you the truth, whoever's in a position of authority or responsibility that you would trust to tell you the truth. When they fail to do that or intentionally mislead you, they're a false prophet. If you use that definition, our world is filled with it.
In the churches, in the media, in positions of authority, in power, people that we expect to tell us the truth are filled with lies and deception and manipulation. It's a spirit. 2 Peter 2 verse 9: "The Lord knows how to rescue godly men..." From what? From false teachers, from the spirit of antichrist. "He knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority".
Gee, we don't see anybody despising authority today. Let's just open our border. Let's defund the police. Let's take all punishment away from criminal behavior. It's not shoplifting, it's appropriation. We despise authority to the point that we won't even accept the biological sex with which we're born. We think we should get to choose. We won't even accept the species to which we were born. That is rebellion at a whole new level. How do you identify today? Are you watching? Are you listening? Are you thinking? How are you acting?
I wanna make a suggestion: don't live in fear. Turn your face to the Lord and trust him to bring us through. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that Jesus is victorious over every expression of evil and in him, so are we. In Jesus' name, amen.