Allen Jackson - Which Side Are You On? - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you again. We're continuing our study on "Spiritual Warfare," and we're gonna talk with a question today. We wanna begin with a question. Which side are you on? Folks, it's time to make a decision. You know, for too long we've been double-minded, we've had our foot in the world, and a foot in the middle of God's things. It's time to choose, the middle is in trouble. It begins with humility and a willings to come back to the Lord and say, "Forgive me, I'll follow you no matter where you lead". It's an exciting time; you wanna be amongst God's people. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
Spiritual warfare is not a new thing, it's not a 21st-century thing, neither is it out of date in the 21st century. The same forces, the same authority that were driving it in Israel or driving it in our world today. Ahab refuses to acknowledge his sin or the impact of his leadership. Ahab has opened the doors for evil, sponsoring those who encourage the people to do wrong. That's a very important point. He's the one that established to... we looked at it in a previous session. He established the worship of Baal. He built the temple. He put up the Asherah pole, he put those people in place. He made it possible to multiply the wickedness of the people. He provided people to lead them in the wrong direction.
Again, it's something we're familiar with, we're witnessing it. We would be wrong to think of that as an Old Testament concept. I gave you one verse just for the sake of time, it's actually a principle in scripture. Romans chapter 1, that would be the New Testament for those of you who are keeping score. Is describing the downward progression of human character and very near the completion of that downward progression is this verse. It says, "Although they know God's righteous decree". And I assure you, Ahab knew God's righteous decrees, as do many of the people leading us.
The definition, biblical definition of marriage is not very well hidden. It's been a part of Western civilization for hundreds of years. To have the audacity to redefine that is not an accident. It is a willful setting aside of God's righteous decrees. But we want to duly noted, but it doesn't change the definition of it in God's sight. Romans 1, "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 practiced them".
Ahab was guilty not only of choosing the wrong thing, marrying a foreign wife. There's something already in the history of the kings about that, think of Solomon. But he wanted to open the door more broadly to provide leadership to take the people further and further away from God and Elijah and Obadiah and some others we'll meet in a moment, have stepped into that breach at significant cost to themselves. 1 Kings 18. "So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. And Elijah went before the people and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.'"
You got to love his directness. Look, decide what you're gonna do. Worship God or don't. The next sentence is uncomfortable. The people said nothing. For the record, these are the same options available to us. We're either gonna serve God or we're not. There's no third rail. This middle ground thing is the fabrication, it doesn't exist any longer. We're either gonna honor God with our lives or we're gonna honor evil. You can't negotiate with evil. It doesn't work. Same options available to us. Notably in this story, the people were silent. They had no answer. What's the implication of that? It's the same one for us. When we're silent, don't be confused. To do nothing is to make a choice. To do nothing is to make a choice. To remain silent is to align with evil.
You see, the event could have concluded at this point, it would've been done. This is his famous confrontation on Mount Carmel, fire comes from heaven. You know the story most of you, but that wasn't really necessary. If the people at this point had simply fallen on their knees and said, "We are sorry". We know right and wrong, and we've chosen wrong, but they didn't do that. They're gonna play this all the way out. We've been a lot like that. We don't really have to change, an election will fix it for us. Economy hadn't been too bad, there's a lot of cash flowing around. It's gonna be pretty good. Let's just not talk about that. We don't wanna get involved with that.
Let's do a Bible study. We've remained silent. We've stood there acting as if it's not us. It is us, folks. This is our watch. We're the church. We're the salt and the light, so if we're stumbling in the dark, the light's too dim. Now you know this story because of the silence of the people. The only way forward is for Elijah to make himself more vulnerable. Please don't miss that. The people stay silent, so Elijah says, "All right, showdown. We're gonna build altars, and the real God will send fire. We won't start the fire, God will send it". You know the drama? He lets the prophets of Baal go first, and when nothing happens, it's his turn. You don't think they're stressing that. Oh, he was a man of faith, uh-huh. Uh-huh. So are you? Is it stressful to stand up for the right thing?
Occasionally, I meet people so dishonest. They say, "It's not hard for me to stand". It is for me. I would rather be liked than reviled. I'd rather be cheered than criticized. I'd rather be included than excluded. I would. I'd rather eat dessert than vegetables. I would. I would rather start with Oreos and chase them with hot fudge cake. And just to be healthy, I'll chase it with some fruit, but I choose to eat vegetables. And I choose when I'm aware to stand for the truth and the consequences we will trust the Lord for. It's a very important narrative. Elijah has to make himself more vulnerable. Now, in chapter 21, the narrative begins to change. The focus is on Ahab's choices. We've seen Elijah's choices.
In verse 20, it says, "Ahab said to Elijah, 'You have found me, my enemy.'" This is after the victory on Mount Carmel and a lot of drama. "'I Have found you,' he answered, 'because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.'" That's a very important, "'You Have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.' He said, God says, 'I'm gonna bring disaster on you.'" And then Elijah uses some rather graphic languages. "Dogs Will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country".
If you'll allow me, I think there's a principle here that's relevant for us. God's people and you have to imagine Ahab in that context, I'll show you in a minute, included with God's people. God's people typically sell ourselves to evil. And this is what I mean. We imagine that there's something to be gained by cooperating with evil. So we cooperate. We fail to trust God. We willingly put ourselves under the authority of another spirit because we think there's something to be gained. It's what Ahab did. He thought there was advantage for him, so he sold himself to do evil.
See, I would make a distinction. People who have never known God, people who haven't been a part of the people of God, they're simply choosing power and authority that they're familiar with. They've worshiped demons, they know they're real, they've seen the outcome. I've been in those places. I've been in those places where people have worshiped demons and have witch doctors, and they understand the authority of the spiritual world in a way that those of us that are more educated struggle with. But the biblical presentation, and we need to note it, is that God's people sell themselves to do evil. It's a bargain.
There's something we want, so we conveniently push aside what we know of the Lord. Same chapter, in fact, the next verse. This is Ahab's response to what Elijah has said to him. It's one of the most stunning passage in all of scripture to me. It says, "There was never anyone like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel, his wife". Again, he's the gold standard. "He Behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols like the Amorites the Lord drove out before the Lord. When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, he put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah. 'Have You noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me?'"
Are you kidding? "Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, I'll bring it on his house in the days of his son". Now, we find that line in some other places in scripture, usually attached to godly kings and judgment, and they've sought to do an intervention or to lead a renewal. And God said, you know, "I will spare your generation, but your children are gonna have to make a decision for themselves".
And now he's using it in the context of Ahab. Ahab has repented publicly, not some little private session with the chaplain. He's changed his wardrobe. He's put on the visible sign of humility, and he's walking around meekly, this haughty, arrogant, murderous, vile, and those are all biblical words. He's walking around meekly. Ahab humbled himself. This is a snapshot of the power of humility, the most wicked of the wicked. He chose this. He chose to humble himself. And please don't miss, God's enthusiasm regarding Ahab's attitude change. He says, "Elijah, have you seen him? The clown has repented." Living Bible.
Now, this is important for us because we've been haughty and arrogant and prideful, and on our watch, wickedness has exploded. The power of repentance should not be overlooked. Look at Micah 7, "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You don't stay angry forever, but you delight to show mercy". Did you know that God delights in showing mercy? But God is just, he doesn't show mercy just arbitrarily. He directs his mercy to those who have a change of heart. Isaiah 55 says, "Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts".
Again, this is the prophet talking to the people of God. "Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon". Some of you'll remember with me, when Jesus was presented to the streets of Jerusalem and they had a choice between Jesus or Barabbas, the insurrectionist, Israel chose Barabbas. Well, I would submit to you from the vantage point that I hold, that we have chosen a long line of treacherous people to lead us. Oh, they've carried labels and pointed to their faith, but they haven't led with it very often. They have failed to honor God, and we have sold ourselves to do evil because we imagined there was something to be gained.
We imagine if we sold ourselves a little bit to do evil, and we kind of pushed our faith aside that perhaps we could be included among the powerful, the elite, the insiders. Or perhaps we thought there was a greater opportunity for us in the moment if we chose the wrong. We knew right, but if within this instance we choose wrong, we can gain an advantage or get something we want. Or perhaps we recognized a threat if we stood for what was right. So we sold ourselves to do evil.
It feels to me when I read these narratives that is uncomfortably similar to the world we live in. And rather than imagine we're powerless, I wanna invite you to say a prayer of repentance with me. I'm not done, is not our final prayer, so hang on. I'm almost done. But if you're conscious as we've walked through this, or if you have the courage to say to the Spirit of God, if there's any place where I have sold myself to do evil, let me see it. I'm gonna ask you to simply say a simple prayer of repentance with me. You don't even have to stand.
If you wanna pray it with me, you can just repeat it after me. Remember God's attitude towards Ahab when he repented? I want God to point at me and go, "Have you seen my servant, Allen? He humbled himself". Stop justifying it. Stop excusing it. Stop telling me about the good you're going to do. When you turn back away from evil, it doesn't very often work that way, because there's nothing we achieve or accumulate or accomplish that God needs. Everything is his already. What he most desires from us is faithfulness and integrity. Would you like to say a quick prayer of repentance? Let's just bow our heads. You can repeat it after me if you would like, all right:
Almighty God, I thank you for your great love for me. That you have called me out of the darkness and welcomed me into the kingdom of your Son. And I come now in humility to acknowledge my sin. I have chosen against you. I sold myself because there was something I desired. Something I desired more than you. I wasn't confused. I wasn't deceived. I chose wrongly. And I ask you to forgive me. And today I choose you. I choose to establish Jesus as Lord of my life. Lord of all that I am. Lord of all that I have. Lord of all that I'll ever be. I thank you that he is my Lord and I belong to him. He establishes the priorities of my life. In Jesus's name, amen.
Now, I want to add one more component to this because I believe it's equally important, and it has to do with choosing the Lord for ourselves. We've met already the voice of Elijah and the courage of Obadiah. And some of you'll know, you know, the 7000 other overcomers that are a part of this narrative. When Elijah complains he's the only one left, God said, "Don't bother, there's 7000 more". So I want you to be aware of Elijah in the role he held and Obadiah in the role he held, but there's 7000 more overcoming in their own places as well.
1 Kings 19. This is Elijah, he's worn down. He said, "I've been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant and they've torn down your altars and put your prophets to death with the sword". All of that's true. That's a difficult season to have to live through. You suppose he thought it was the end of the world? I bet it felt like it to him. They're killing off the men and women of faith that he knows. They're tearing down the public places to worship God. In the land of Israel, in the covenant people of God, there's not like plan B, there's not somewhere to go to. He's not a globalist.
These are the covenant people of God, they know you're unique. And he said, "The leadership we have is shutting down the connection we have to Almighty God". I promise you, it felt like the end of the world. Up to this point, he's telling the truth. The next sentence is a little more self-directed. "I'm the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me too". And then he put his paci in, and he sat down for a moment. We all have those moments, every one of us. And this is God's response. He said, "I reserve seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him".
Now, we can read that narrative and we can think about Elijah and fire from heaven and all the drama, or even Obadiah and his courage and the 7000 overcomers, but it's easy for you and me to go, "Well, I'm not a prophet. God didn't call me to that. You know, I'm a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick baker and I'm not even sure prophets exist". You know, we just kind of distance ourselves. But I would submit to you that we each one receive the Spirit of God into our lives when we become Christ followers, every one of us in a way that Elijah didn't have available to him, he didn't experience the new birth.
Look in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Again, New Testament. "If you prefer to each one, to each one, to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good". The Spirit of God has put in our lives for the good of the community, not for the pursuit of selfish ambition. And then it lists some expressions of the Spirit of God in our lives. Every one of these manifestations of the Spirit is a manifestation of the Spirit, not something unique apart from him. If you've received the Spirit of God when you were born again, and you do, then every one of these manifestations is in your portfolio. "To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit".
What's the point of emphasis? The presence of the Spirit. "To another faith by the Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy". Oh, that's awkward. Biblically, prophecy is not primarily foretelling, future predicting, which team to bet on, which lottery ticket to buy. That's not the primary role of biblical prophecy. Prophecy is the delivery of God's perspective on current events. Isn't that what Elijah is doing? He's saying this is what God thinks about what's happening, and it says every one of us is Christ followers, have the Spirit of God to give us a window of God's perspective into the world in which we live.
Every believer receives the Holy Spirit at conversion. We're all equipped to serve in the fullness of the Spirit. And I'm quite confident that often we imagine we should feel more godly or feel less frightened, but that doesn't line up with the narrative of scripture. We serve the Lord in our brokenness, not our strength. That's our story. We stand for the Lord with quaking knees, not some false bravado. I don't trust people with that false bravado. If you've never been afraid, you haven't paid attention, the right thing is very seldom easy. It's just not easy. Who said it should be? Many of us have served together for years, some of us for many years.
Together, we have learned to serve God and his people. We've done it in a variety of ways, from hoedowns to parades, to classes, to small groups. I mean, it's a lengthy list, but we have learned together to serve God and his people, and we've seen God honor that with many transformed lives far more than we ever imagined, and certainly, more than we're capable of in our wisdom or our ability. I trust the Lord in you. We've been walking together for a while and at every critical juncture he has helped us. Then I believe we're at another one of those inflection points.
So I brought you a prayer. That's what we do. We've repented, now let's assert our determination to say yes to the Lord. Amen? May it be said of our generation, God could trust us. God doesn't need a majority. The truth is powerful in and of itself. What he's looking for is men and women who will stand with his truth. I wanna be one of those, and I believe you do too. Let's stand together, we can say this prayer. Have you found it? I don't want you to miss it. I wouldn't leave it to a one time prayer at church. I'd take it with me. I'd put it in my phone, I'd start my day with it, wherever you need to put it as a reminder. Old school tape it to the mirror, not the mirror on your car. Together:
Heavenly Father, you delight in showing mercy. Through your compassion and mercy we have been delivered out of the kingdom of darkness. Give us now understanding hearts that we might know you more fully. Give us boldness to stand for your truth, give us discernment that we might see as you see. Deliver us from evil. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth, in Jesus's name, amen.