Allen Jackson - Not My Problem? - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Spiritual Warfare in the End of Time". In this session, we're gonna look specifically at an idea that I hear more and more frequently expressed. People say, "It's just not my problem. After all, the Bible says things are gonna get worse and worse, and things are gonna deteriorate, and then the end will come. So why should I be concerned about it"? Folks, with all due respect, that's a goofy response to the world we live in. It's one of absolving ourselves of our responsibility. It'd be much like saying, "I took a shower yesterday and I got dirty, so I'm just not gonna take any more showers, it doesn't do any good". I hope you don't make that choice, and I hope you don't make that choice to remove yourself from the spiritual arena simply because there are some challenging things before us. It's time for the church to be the church, to be salt and light, no more excuses. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
We began a new series in a previous session on "Spiritual Warfare and the End Times". "Spiritual Warfare and the End Times". I added "The End Times" because I think there are some things that, spiritual warfare is a part of human existence on this planet. It goes all the way to the opening chapters of Genesis. But as we approach the end of the age, there are some characteristics that the Bible tells us about so that we can be prepared that will become increasingly prevalent. So we're gonna talk a bit about spiritual warfare and the implications of that for our lives, and then specifically, as we approach the end of the age. For this session, the topic is "Not My Problem".
You know, we've come in here to be encouraged, to be strengthened, to provide some opportunities for our children, for all the things that come from those corporate gatherings, but the real measure of the church is our influence when we leave campus. And so that's the goal of this series, and we'll look at some basic training components, then I'll start, really, with the first, and it really has more to do with a set of questions, I think, about how you view the world and our faith. Do you imagine that our objective is avoidance, appeasement, apathy? Much of the church has been totally engulfed by this notion that our goal is to be tolerant, to be kind, to not bring any division, to not bring any disruption. We wanna be peacemakers.
Well, I would submit to you, both biblically and historically, for what that's worth, that avoidance, appeasement, and apathy is not an effective strategy. Appeasement has been tried in some rather enthusiastic ways. I give you one example, Neville Chamberlain. Some of you will know who he is. He was a British prime minister that served the United Kingdom in the years approaching World War II. It was in that window while Germany was rapidly expanding its power and its influence, building up its military, and as fascism was growing in Europe. And it was growing rapidly enough and powerful enough and it was looking with enough aggressiveness around the opportunities of Europe that all those observing it understood the threat and Chamberlain continually led his nation in the practice of capitulation and appeasement.
Now, he excused it with some historical things, the Treaty of Versailles had been too harsh, they had compassion on the Germans, they'd been humiliated by the defeat of World War I. No one would imagine that they would wanna face the horrors of another global conflict. I mean, there was a logic for the rationale. There always is. I find that cowards always have logic. We very seldom just walk up and say, "I feel cowardly today".
Well, Chamberlain even went as far as signing the Munich Agreement in September of 1938. Now I know most of you probably don't remember that. I'm sure you learned it and you passed the test, but it was an agreement with Germany. There were four nations that signed it. Germany had already occupied Austria, and in the Munich Agreement the most influential voices in Europe gave them a significant portion of Czechoslovakia. They just surrendered the territory and the people who lived there to the Nazi Party. They didn't ask their opinion, they wouldn't consider the opinion of the leaders of that nation when they signed the agreement. They just surrendered it away.
And Chamberlain then had the brazen audacity to declare publicly, "Peace in our time," as if he was the orchestrator of peace. Not so much for the Czech people. You should also know that appeasement in that window of history was strongly supported by the British upper class and big business, the powerbrokers in London. It was supported by the House of Lords. It was supported broadly by the media, at that time the BBC. The most powerful voices, the most influential people were all on board saying the best thing we can do is yield to our adversary. The government at that time practiced censorship, limited what was said in the media so that the general public would not be agitated by their policies.
Censorship is not a new thing, but it's a real thing. Chamberlain preferred, it's a matter of the historical record. Chamberlain preferred popularity to the challenges associated with confronting an adversary. Now I don't say that to be critical of him. I say that because it feels eerily similar to the posture that the church has held for quite a while. We're reluctant to embrace a biblical worldview, we're reluctant to acknowledge the principles of scripture. We prefer silence. We're aware enough to understand that if we use our voice or we dared cite a passage of scripture or a biblical principle that it could incur some responses. I believe we'll have to choose a new course or we will lose our liberties and freedoms completely.
I don't want you to be angry, I don't want you to be belligerent. I've told you many times, you shouldn't be violent. But we have got to become more aware and more courageous regarding our faith. Quite candidly, there will be a cost involved. Not everybody will appreciate your perspective. We see people who hold a very different worldview from our own, with great determination, taking their worldview and pushing it forward. And when there are tremendous financial costs, I don't hear coming from them apologies. I don't see them changing strategy. I see them wagging an accusatory finger or a demeaning response towards those who don't agree with them. Surely we can at least have the courage that we see being demonstrated by those who hold a different worldview from our own?
Matthew chapter 27. This is not a new thing. Shouldn't be limited just to history. It's a part of our biblical narrative as well. Jesus is on trial for his life. The man that holds the ultimate decision over his future is the Roman governor of Judea. You know him. He's Pontius Pilate. And Jesus has a private interview with Pilate, and Pilate determines that he's innocent, that he's done nothing worthy of execution, of crucifixion, of being tortured to death, but there's tremendous political pressure on Pilate. The religious leaders of the Jewish community want Jesus executed, and they want him executed in the humiliating fashion of the Roman crucifixion.
So Pilate is caught in this awkward place. Even his wife has warned him not to have anything to do with this man. She's had a dream. It terrified her. And Pilate's on the horns of a dilemma. His career could be on the line, his fortune, his future, his retirement, his status. All of those things are in play. It's Matthew 27, "When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and he washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I'm innocent of this man's blood,' he said. 'It's your responsibility!'" May I ask you a question? How do you think Pilate's declaration played in heaven? Do you think Gabriel looked over at Michael and said, "Well, thank God we don't have to deal with him now, he is innocent".
We should all understand that before an Almighty God, a God who is sovereign over heaven and earth, we do not have the privilege of declaring our own innocence. We're not the evaluators of that. There is a God. There's a God who created heaven and earth, to whom every one of us will ultimately give an account. And the great honor of having access to the Word of God and the presence of the Spirit of God within us is that, with the help of the Spirit of God, we can see ourselves and prayerfully have the humility to turn to God in repentance. It's not a popular message. We understand why, in the most practical terms, when we fight wars in the earth, it's not the wealthy or typically the best educated or the most powerful who become the front-line soldiers.
Those assignments go to others. We understand that. Many of you are veterans. Tragically, we've adopted that attitude regarding spiritual conflict. So we have this imagination that those of us who have the greatest tenure, the most experience, we imagine ourselves to be the most mature spiritually, the most spiritually sophisticated, or those with the most experience. We don't imagine we should ever become front-line combatants. That's for others, the pagan, the less aware, the less initiated. I wanna remind you for a moment or two that Jesus established our pattern, and he trained the disciples. So I'm gonna ask you just to look with me at that for a moment.
Matthew chapter 20 and verse 25, "Jesus called the disciples together," the apostles, "and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man didn't come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"
I wanna make a suggestion. I don't believe we can ignore obedience and imagine that God's blessings will continually fill our lives. I believe those of us who know the truth, who have spent time in church, and spent time serving and learning and growing and understanding, we are called to be the voice, the salt, and the light for the kingdom of God in our generation. I don't believe we can delegate that, just to the professionals or to the political class or to whomever we imagine should carry that banner. And I think if we ignore that, if we choose to turn away, I believe we need to understand that the deterioration will continue, not just beyond us, but it will accelerate within us.
Look in Romans chapter 1. Romans chapter 1 is the introduction to arguably the greatest theological presentation that we have available to us. The book of Romans is a masterful presentation of the redemptive story of Jesus of Nazareth. And the very first chapter establishes a downward progression of humanity when we refuse to acknowledge God and give thanks to him. As we're nearing the end of that downward progression, Paul makes a rather remarkable statement. He says, "Since they didn't think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God," so the assumption is that the persons being discussed have a knowledge of God. He's not unknown to them.
The scripture isn't unknown to them. Biblical principles are not unknown to them. It was just inconvenient to remember it. We all understand that. We have all been in places where it was a little inconvenient to know right and wrong. So we're just kind of hoping for a little memory hiccup, we can plead ignorance, maybe get a bowl of water and wash a bit. "Since they didn't consider it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done". The language, I believe, is important. God gave them something. He gave them the freedom to do without hindrance what they wanted to do. He released them.
That suggests there had been some restraining influence, some sense of conscience. Perhaps some voices scattered, suggesting an alternative. But God released them to their choices of embracing depravity. And watch what happens. "They became filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity. They're full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They're gossips, slanderers". It's worth noting, I believe, that gossip and slander are rolled right in there with envy, murder. Another day. "God-haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they're senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree," this is affirming what I suggested to you a moment ago.
These aren't the unprepared. They're not the uneducated. They aren't the unchurched. "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but they also approve of those who practice them". We talk a bit about spiritual gifts, manifestations of the Spirit, the things that the Spirit of God will bring to our lives, demonstrations of his power, his grace, and his mercy, to help us accomplish his purposes. We need to understand there's another kind of gift as well. If you choose not to retain the knowledge of God, if you choose to hide it, to ignore it, to bury it, God will give you the gift of having what you want. He will release you. Church, it should sober us.
How do we find ourselves in a place where we are today? Where marriage is redefined, where our children are being mutilated? With the support of the state, and far too frequently the applause of the scientific community. How did we arrive there? Because our salt and light is so small, so dim. We've had a knowledge of God but it was awkward to have to acknowledge it. And God, I believe, has given us over to some things. And I believe it can be reversed. I believe it can or we wouldn't have been given the message. We're not the first group who's had the challenge.
Look at 2 Corinthians chapter 12. It's a church Paul helped form. It's a church that was very spiritually active and a church that was very, very carnal. Paul said, "There's immorality amongst you that even the pagans don't do". That is not a compliment. When the founder of your congregation says you're more immoral than the ungodly people in your community, he's not cheering for them. Chapter 12 and verse 20, he said, "I'm afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there could be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I'm afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I'll be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, the sexual sin and the debauchery in which they have indulged".
I just point that out. I don't want us to imagine it's because it's the end of the age that we're struggling. Carnality and selfishness have flourished in the church as long as we've existed. But we don't have to capitulate. Now Paul warned Timothy, a young man he's mentoring, that as we approach the end of the age, it'll become more intense. So those tendencies will intensify. We'll have to be on our guard even more carefully. 2 Timothy 3, "Mark this: There'll be terrible times in the last days". The literal translation is, "The times will be exceedingly fierce". I think it's a better description. And then he lists 18 attributes of the human character that will deteriorate. He didn't point to political deterioration. He doesn't point to the increase in wars. He doesn't comment on climate change.
The Bible talks about all those things but those aren't what Paul is pointing Timothy towards. He said, "Beneath all of that is the deterioration of human character". Listen to the description. Let me ask you the question before you listen. I want you to decide the degree to which it sounds like contemporary life in the world that we hear about. "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them".
Again, I would point out to you that it's descriptive of a group of people who stand underneath the umbrella of some sort of an organized expression of faith. We would call them church folk. Paul said they'll have a form of godliness. They'll have religious language and religious services. They'll have religious books. They're gonna use a lot of good phrases. He said have nothing to do with them. They love pleasure more than they love God. They love themselves more than they love God. They love money more than they love God. Don't have anything to do with them. I don't believe that's the message that we've been encouraged to adopt.
But Paul didn't stop there. He said, "They're the kind who worm their way," he's gonna describe these people now. "They're the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses," they were the sorcerers of Egypt. When Moses came with his staff to throw it down before Pharaoh and it became a snake, he called for the magicians of Egypt, and they threw their staffs down as well. Remember the story? They became snakes. But Moses's snake swallowed theirs. He said, "As we approach the end of the age and the times become fierce, there'll be expressions of the occult that oppose the purposes of God. So also these men oppose the truth. Men of depraved mind," it's language very similar to Romans 1, "who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected".
Now, there's two groups of people specified in those last three verses, before you turn your page. I wanna be certain that I've offended everyone equally. It helps with my emails. Paul references weak-willed women and some of you lost all your courage. But in the same passage, he also reprimands men of depraved minds. All are included. I don't believe it's an attack on any particular segment of the population. I think he's acknowledging the failure across the board. It seems to me that what Paul is suggesting, the counsel he's offering, is to limit our exposure to people who have chosen these behaviors. Even if they demonstrate a form of godliness, I wouldn't spend my discretionary time there.
We live in the world, we go to work in the world, we send our children often to school in the world, and even if you send them to Christian schools, I assure you those Christian schools are filled with ungodly principles and ideas. That's not theoretical to me. I attended some Christian schools a long time ago and it was true then. I assure you it's true today. So Paul suggests that we limit our exposure. Don't use our discretionary time to multiply our exposure to those things. In Paul's writing and thought, it's an important point to add to this. To deny the power of God... he said these people have a form of religion but they'll deny the power of God.
In Paul's thought, and I'm not gonna walk you through it all in this session. To deny the power of God is to deny the cross, 'cause Paul said the cross was the expression of the power of God for all of us who believe. So what this group of people will not do is acknowledge the necessity of the cross. Not acknowledge the depravity of sin that it has to be addressed. You see, sin suggests there's right and wrong, that there's a sovereign God who can define behavior as moral or immoral, appropriate or inappropriate. And if you deny the power of the cross, you're denying that role to God. Who's to say what's right and wrong, the message goes. Who has the audacity to judge someone else? Well, the Creator does.
Now, the good news, he's identified for us the pathway that will allow us to flourish, to find happiness and contentment and peace in our journey through time. If we reject that, we'll find the opposite. Jesus said, "I come that you might have life and have it abundantly to the full". He said, "My adversary comes to steal, to kill, and destroy". So when you find people that suggest to you the cross is really not that central, that Jesus isn't that essential, and no one really has the right to define right and wrong, that we are emerging, we're evolving in how we understand human behavior, understand they're diminishing the redemptive work of Jesus. And limit your exposure.
Hey, before we go, I wanna pray:
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you called us to this season in history, and that you've given us everything we need for life in godliness. Give us the boldness, the courage, the wisdom, the discernment, we need to lead triumphant lives in Jesus's name, amen.