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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Victory Over Darkness

Allen Jackson - Victory Over Darkness

Allen Jackson - Victory Over Darkness

But the topic this weekend that I wanna continue with has to do with spiritually aware lives. Leading our lives with a heightened spiritual awareness. I've spent much of my life around church, and we know a lot about religion and religious activities and religious services, but it seems to me we know less about spiritual things. And we do that, we forfeit something when we do that. So I wanna take a week or two and see if we can unpack that idea a little bit.

What I wanna suggest is that you can be spiritually healthy the same way you can be physically healthy. And to help create an awareness of what it means for us to be, lead spiritually healthy lives. You got a pretty good idea what you need to do to be physically healthy. You need to eat a reasonably balanced diet. You need some modest amount of exercise. You want to practice some hygiene to help you stay as healthy as you can, to help your immune system to function as well as you can. In fact, we learn as kids, one of the parents' assignment is teach their kids how to practice good hygiene. You know, little people don't get that. They'll just sneeze right in your face. They don't apologize.

In fact, they'll do all kinds of things right in your face if you, you know, they haven't learned those rules and boundaries yet. But as we grow older, we learn that and it helps us. Well, we need those same awarenesses in a spiritual way. What do you need to make you spiritually healthy? It's not God's responsibility, it's yours. What nutrition do you need to be spiritually healthy? What, what kind of spiritual hygiene do you need to help your spiritual immune system function? Most of us live with a, a very modest awareness of the things that impact us and if we do, it's almost as if we're afraid.

Folks, demons are as real as angels. Evil, an evil that wants to destroy you is as real as the God who is for you. And to live without that awareness is to forfeit a great deal of what you need to lead a healthy, fruitful life. But you don't have to do it fearfully. You know, I'm not afraid of germs. Well on a typical weekend I'll shake hands with hundreds of people. I'll hug two or three dozen little kids. By the end of the weekend, I'm a living petri dish. But it doesn't frighten me. A good bar of soap and some hot water and I'm good to go. And you don't have to lead spiritually fearful lives. Does evil exist? Yes. Is it potent? Absolutely. You're no match for the devil. Neither am I.

We're never gonna out-think him or out-organize him or out-work him. He's been incredibly effective over millennia, but thank God there is a power at work within us to enable us to lead triumphant lives. I wanna share a couple of verses with you. They're not in your notes, but they'll put 'em on the screens just in case you didn't bring your Bible. The first one comes from the Book of 1 Peter. It's in your New Testament. It's 1 Peter chapter 2 and verse 11. This is Peter, the fisherman that Jesus recruited. He said to Peter as a young man, a teenager, "If you'll follow me, I'll make you a fisher of men".

And Peter followed Jesus. And we have two letters in the New Testament that he wrote near the end of his life, a very different man than the one we meet on the shores of Galilee. He has given his strength, the strength of his life, to honoring Jesus. And he writes these letters to us. They're filled with wisdom. But in 1 Peter chapter 2 and verse 11 he said, "Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world..." Let's pause there just a moment. It's a, there's a, a prompting in this. He's urging us toward something, but he gives us a perspective on how to see the world. He said you're aliens and strangers here. He's not calling us weird. He's saying to think of the current world system as a temporary residence.

There's two words used in the New Testament for the world. One has to do with the physical sphere that's hurtling through space, this ball of matter that we call planet Earth. The other word has to do with the systems, the world order, the present order of this world. And that's what Peter's talking about here. He says you're aliens and strangers in this present world order. You, you have in your mind a different calling, a different set of priorities, a different set of values. You're striving for something different. We're aliens here, strangers here. I've had the privilege, I don't travel a lot, but over the course of my life I've had the privilege of traveling to a lot of different places in the world, Africa and the Middle East and Asia.

I love to go and see and meet the people and experience the foods and see all those places, but there's no place like home. I've never visited any place and thought, "Oh, I'm gonna stay here". You know, there's somethin' about sweet tea and sausage gravy and biscuits. When they're feedin' you somethin' that you're quite certain isn't food, sweet tea and ham and biscuits sounds like somethin' from heaven itself, I promise you. And Peter's kinda using, he said we're aliens here. We don't get too comfortable. There should be something different about what we're aspiring to and longing for. I know we're in church and the right answer's Jesus, but truthfully, fundamentally in our hearts. But he goes on beyond that. He said, "You're aliens and strangers in the world. I urge you to abstain from sinful desires..."

Now he's stopped talkin' to you, he's meddling. He's acknowledging, he's writing to Christians and he said Christians struggle with sinful desires. If we didn't struggle with them, he wouldn't urge us to abstain from them. If it was something we knew nothing about, he wouldn't have to say abstain from it. I urge you to abstain from sinful desires. Look at the next phrase, "which war against your soul". Those are very intense words. Warfare in my soul. Your soul is your mind, your will, and your emotions. Peter's saying there is a war in your emotions. I feel inclined to something that has very little to do with God. And it's not a passing feeling, it's a strong thing in me. I think, I have thoughts. It'll take me in a very ungodly direction.

I want, I have wants and desires that don't reflect godliness at all. And Peter says, I urge you to abstain from those things 'cause it's a war in you. Can we be honest enough to say that even though we come to church and we have Bibles and we volunteer our time and give our money, that there's still a war in our feelings? See, if we don't acknowledge it, if we don't recognize that there's a spiritual influence here. If we're nothing more than a, a mass of protoplasm that drifted up out of the primordial ooze and has evolved into our current state, if there really is no higher calling to our lives, then, then there's no war in us. You just do whatever you feel like. But if we are created by God, in the image of Almighty God.

And if there is within us an awareness of, of good and evil, then there is a conflict within us, there are forces at work within us, and being a Christ follower we're signing a sinner's prayer and being dunked in a baptistry and sitting in a church seat doesn't remove you from that arena of conflict. We need a power greater than our self-will. We need a power greater than deceiving the people we worship with. We need a power greater than being able to deafen ourselves at church when the pastor's talkin' about somethin' we don't wanna listen to. We need a power to help us honor the Lord.

You see, a spiritually healthy life isn't about jumping through hoops to please God. It's about living in such a way that God's greatest blessings can fill our lives. I wanna conduct myself in such a way that the blessings of God can fill my life. And candidly, that often feels like a battle in me. Being a pastor doesn't remove me from that arena. You cut me off in traffic, "praise the Lord" may not be the first thing that leaps to my mind. I hit my thumb with a hammer. Hallelujah. May not be what comes up on the screen in me. It's why I have to monitor what I watch and what I listen to. It's important. There's a war in us.

I've still got a couple of minutes left and I wanna use 'em to do very briefly a case study with you. See if we can give some application to this idea of spiritual forces changing the outcomes of our lives, enabling us to stand in places we could never stand with our own physical strength. And I've taken the story from a place that we just completed in our daily Bible reading a couple days ago. It's in the Book of 2 Kings. It's focused when Elijah is the prophet in Israel.

Now you'll remember with me that after King Solomon, there's a Civil war and the Nation of Israel is divided into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom is Judah and the capital of Judah is Jerusalem. The northern retains the name of Israel and the capital now of Israel is Samaria, go to the head of the class. Bright folks at 10:30. Well, Samaria has been besieged, encircled by a foreign army. And when a city is besieged, they wouldn't allow anyone into the city or anyone out of the city, so there was no longer any food supply. It was a means of starving a population into submission. And the siege is in place in, been in place long enough that there is a famine in the City of Samaria.

In fact, it has grown so horrible that the people have resorted to cannibalism. It's almost beyond imagination. And it's reported in the scripture. It says that two families made an agreement to offer their children, and one, one parent complied, and when it was the other family's turn, they hid their child and the mothers come to the king to complain. It's beyond imagination. And the king tears his clothing and he said no one could, it's beyond me. What can I do? There is no hope. And Elisha the prophet says, "Tomorrow there'll be bread for everybody". It's impossible. There is no way. There's no military solution. If they had a military solution, they would've implemented it long ago. There's no economic solution. There's no negotiation. There's nothing. Elisha says, "Tomorrow there's bread".

Now that's the part of the story I put in your notes. I think you probably know this story or a bit of it. It's about these four leprous men. "There were four men with leprosy at the entrance to the city gate". Leprosy was an incurable skin disease. You weren't allowed to mingle with the general population. These four men are in a worse condition than the people in the city. They're so bad, they're not even allowed in the city, and in the city they're practicing cannibalism. So these guys are, they're be, wherever you tie a knot at the end of your rope they're below the knot. Says these four men, "They said to each other, 'Why stay here until we die?'" They said if we just keep doin' what we've always done, we know we're gonna die.

So if we say we're going to the city, the famine is there and we'll die. If we stay here, we'll die, so let's go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we'll live. If they kills us, then we die. These guys are not optimists. They say look, if we sit here, we're gonna die. If we go in there, we'll die. If we go over there, they'll probably gonna kill us. But if they do, they'll kill us more quickly than this miserable death we're facing right now. So let's go. I mean, this is not a happy clapping group of people.

And in verse 5 it says, "At dusk they got up and they went to the camp of the Arameans and when they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there. For the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so they said to one another, 'Look, the king of Israel has hired foreign armies to attack us.' So they got up and fled in the dark and abandoned their tents and their horses and their donkeys and they left the camp as it was and ran for their lives".

There was no army. It just says God caused them to hear one. And "The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp", now they didn't hear the army. They were expecting to find it populated with Arameans. They "reached the edge of the camp and they entered one of the tents and they ate and they drank and they carried away silver and gold and clothes and they went off and hid them. And they returned and they entered another tent and they took some things from it and they hid them also".

Our heroes in this story are not really great folks. All their friends and families are starving to death, and they find a buffet table and they eat until they have gorged themselves, and then they decide to plunder the tents. The gold and the silver and the clothing, and they go bury it. They come back and find another banquet table and they start it again. So their bellies are distended with food. Their hands are covered with blistered from burying the bounty, and then they said, uh, maybe we should tell the others. Ya think? Think that would be the good thing to do? And they do and the whole city is delivered from the siege.

Now, there is a challenge I think in any group of Christians. There's always someone who's gonna say, "I don't have any needs, Pastor. I got it pretty much together". God bless you. We're just grateful to hang around with you. But I would give you one cautionary note, because sometimes the religious systems we design reward, seem to reward those of us who have no needs. The Book of Revelation is written to seven churches. It's a revelation God gave to John. Jesus came to his friend John with a revelation. It was a message that he wanted delivered to seven churches. So there were seven churches so close to the heart of God that he wanted to give them a private message from Jesus.

So it's not written to reprobates or to the immoral or to the pagans. It's written to God's chosen people. And one of those churches is the church at Laodicea. And I put a little passage in your notes. It's Revelation 3. Jesus said, "You say, 'I am rich, that I have acquired wealth and I don't need a thing.'" That's the self-analysis of these believers. I'm rich. I have acquired much and I truthfully have no needs. And then Jesus gives them a diagnosis. He said, "You don't realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked".

That's a very startling contrast. Again, this is written to believers, man. Jesus said, you say I have no needs. And I say, you don't even realize you're blind and naked. I wanna ask you a question. How messed up would you have to be to be standing in public naked and not know? You have to be in a pretty seriously altered condition, don't you? I mean, that's more than too much communion. Fair enough? To stand in the public, blind and naked, and say "I really have no needs".

The second piece of that story is they were dependent on God's timing. It's the most problematic part of the story. Why didn't God intervene before the horrific things were happening in the city? I don't know. I honestly, I don't know. I could give you an opinion, but I don't know. I can tell you what I have discovered through my life is the deliverance comes when I'm capable of receiving it. It comes when I'm capable of receiving it, 'cause even if it's present, until I'm capable of receiving it, I'll miss it.

And the third piece is there always seems to be more discouraging voices than I would like there to be. There's enough people to say you can't or you shouldn't or why would you do that, you don't wanna be a fanatic, or you know, no, don't go too far. Discouraging voices are never in short supply. I read you those verses from 2 Kings. The verses immediately preceding them I put back in your notes. They're 2 Kings 7:1 and 2. "Elisha the prophet says, 'Hear the word of the Lord. This is what God says: This time tomorrow, there'll be food for everybody.' And the officer on whom the arm of the king was leaning said to the man of God, 'Even if the Lord should open the floodgates of heaven, this couldn't happen!'"

The one person you could expect to have been a voice of affirmation, the officer in charge of defending the city, that they are starving to death because he's not capable of doing his job, and rather than embrace the announcement from God, he has a discouraging response. And I have no doubt that if you're standing in a place of great need, that there is an ample number of discouraging voices around you. I'll tell you what I've discovered, even if there aren't any externally, there are plenty internally. Even people that don't intend to be discouraging will say things and you will be able to interpret them, interpolate them into discouraging messages. Isn't that true?

And we'll have to decide what we're gonna put our faith in. God in this case, there was provided help from some rather unlikely candidates. He recruited four leprous men, the least qualified, the most unlikely, they were unseemly. You wouldn't even wanna look at them. They were an uglier picture than the people inside the city. Four gaunt, broken men marching forward, and marching is an overstatement. They stumbled and fell and helped one another up and staggered. They had no hope of a good outcome. They had no hope of a victory. They were just going for a quicker death than the one they were dying. See, some of you have imagined that following God's this pretty thing. Like a parade. Like close order drill with our finest uniforms and everything is neatly pressed, and we stop at the right time and we turn at the right point.

I thought that, I thought if I ever gave my heart fully to the Lord, life would just get easy. 'Cause I'd been a hypocrite for so long, I thought if I ever got all-in with God it would just get easy. I woke up in the morning, I would wake up with fresh breath and every hair would be in place, and when the sun broke the horizon and the birds began to sing, they would awaken me from sleep and I would leap from the sheets, say "God, I'm so glad to meet the day. What holy thing might I do for you this morning"?

I thought that. But I can tell you at this point in my journey, when I wake up in the morning I need a toothbrush, and I need a hairbrush, and a lotta days I say, God, you know, a couple more hours of sleep woulda been really good, and I don't know what you have for me today, but if you'll give me the strength, I'll walk towards it. Folks, I have discovered being a Christ follower is not about some pristine neat, orderly thing. God took four gaunt, leprous, broken men and in their simple act of faith and steps forward, he caused an outcome. What did he say at Habakkuk, he'd make our feet like the feet of a deer, that you'll stand in a place nobody would think you could stand.

There's a power at work on your behalf. A force at work on your behalf. Don't deminimize it. Don't ignore it. Don't do anything to diminish it. Open your life as fully as you can to cooperate with the Lord. Don't allow anything that would diminish he presence of God in your life to stay in your life. Not anger, not resentment, not unforgiveness, not bitterness. Don't tolerate it. There's a war in us, in our thoughts, in our emotions, in our mind, between moral and immoral, between anger and peace, between jealousy, all kinds of things. Determine to cooperate with the Lord. It's not easy. But the outcomes are remarkable. God is able. Our God is a delivering God.

I wanna pray for you. If you're here this morning, there's a prayer in your outline. You can, you can pray that throughout the week. But if you're here this morning and you're in a circumstance where only a God event can bring about a satisfactory result, I'd like to pray for you. If that's you, I'm just gonna ask you to stand really quickly wherever you are. We might as well all stand, it's okay. Everybody get up. I love that about church, it's a safe place to say pray for me. Isn't that good? Church is not a compilation of perfect people. We gather in this place because we need God's help. Why don't we join hands. I just don't want anybody by yourself. You don't have to make a circle, just don't be anybody alone. If you don't know the person, introduce yourself. If they won't talk to you, turn loose of 'em. Okay?

God, I love you. Father, I thank you today for every person here. I thank you for their lives. Lord, I know they're precious in your sight. But I believe you have called us out of darkness into the kingdom of your Son, that you have given us everything we need for a life in godliness. We praise you for it today. We rejoice in it. But we pray for those standing near us. You know every detail and every circumstance. You know every need. Lord you know the pain and the loneliness, the brokenness. You know the challenges, Lord. I thank you that none of them were unknown to you or beyond you, that you're not intimidated or threatened by any challenge we face. We praise you today that the power of the living God resides within us, the same Spirit that brought Jesus from the tomb is at work within us and on our behalf this day. We praise you for it. We thank you for your health in our bodies, for your peace in our minds, for your hope in our souls.

Lord, give us the courage to take the steps forward. Forgive us when we have stopped and sat down. Lord, we became mired in why me and poor me. We come this morning in humility to say we're sorry and to stand again. Lord, when we've done all that we can do, we sill stand in Jesus and thank you for your victory, for your health in our bodies, for your deliverance in our lives. Let the oppression and the heaviness and the darkness be broken in Jesus's name. May every lie that has settled over us, every curse that has come, go in Jesus's name. Let the life of the living God touch us. We praise you for it. I thank you for what you will do. For it's in Jesus's name we pray and believe. Amen.

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