Allen Jackson - Equity Is Not The Objective - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Equity is Not the Objective". You know, I know equity is a buzzword these days and it's an objective that many seem to be striving for, but I don't believe it comes from a biblical place. God doesn't intend us all to have equal outcomes. But I believe in Christ we can have an equal opportunity. We're gonna open our gospel today and see if we can understand how to take our faith and engage our culture in a way that invites them towards the truth and brings freedom to my life and to yours. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
I wanna continue the topic we have been pursuing on "Stepping Out of the Crowd". And in this particular session, we're gonna explore the way that Jesus invited some of his friends to do that. We're gonna talk specifically that "Equity is Not the Objective". Equity is a word that's gotten a great deal of usage in recent months and years. We did a little bit of a word swap. We used to talk about equality, which meant that we were all equal before the law, and we should have equal opportunities. I believe equality is a biblical idea. It emerges from God's idea of justice. Equity is something very different. Equity says we should have equal outcomes, which means someone has to put their thumb on the scale. Equity says that if you choose to work 14 hours and I choose to work 4 hours, we should get equal outcomes.
I think equity is a very destructive idea, amen. Equity requires the creation of permanent victim status for some. And whoever's in control defines which that group is. And it leads us towards authoritarianism and the forfeiture of personal rights and freedom and liberty. The words seem very similar, but they are very, very different in the outcomes they have on culture and society and your life. And I can tell you that equity is not a biblical idea. We're not going to have equal outcomes. We read the verse in our previous session. I won't go back there tonight. Well, I won't go back there for long, but Jesus said there is a broad road that leads to a wide gate and many will enter that way and it leads to destruction. And he said there's a narrow path that leads to a small gate and few will enter in there, a way that leads to life.
Everybody doesn't get the same outcome. The Bible very clearly talks to us about rewards, being rewarded for what we've done in our lives, that you and I as Christ followers will face the judgment of God for how we have led our lives. Not a judgment of destiny but a judgment for the rewards for our lives in time. And it says that everything we have done in time can be consumed in a moment of God's judgment, and we will escape the flames but we'll escape as someone with nothing. So, we're going to explore some invitations to step out of the crowd, a willingness to be different, to distance yourself from people of faith, people of religious language and people of religious behavior, and people who would say, "Oh, we share a common set of," whatevers. You wanna identify fully with obedience to the lordship of Jesus.
That's the crowd you wanna diligently give attention. And it will require you to consistently make new choices. So that's our target, and I think it's worthwhile to take just a moment and look at crowds in Jesus's life in ministry because Jesus's public life can be understood in terms of the crowd. You know, it's fashionable in some segments and it has been for a while, to talk about, you know, the Small Groups, and I'm an advocate for Small Groups. Our church began with a Bible study in a home, so I'm an advocate for those things, but to imagine that the New Testament church is a house church is to ignore the Scripture. Were there churches in the New Testament that met in homes? Without any question. But the gospel message begins almost immediately with enormous crowds of people.
And it continues right through the book of Acts with the Day of Pentecost to all of those cities where the Epistles are written. City after city after city was stirred, not because of a minute expression of some subtle thing, but a presentation of the gospel that impacted so many people that it threatened the status quo in those major cities. Would to God that the church would have the courage to say, "We should rattle our cities for the sake of the kingdom of God". In Matthew 7 it says: "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching". It's very early in Jesus's ministry and there are already enormous crowds gathering from great geographical regions.
Again, another idea we've had that I don't think is overly helpful is that the church is a neighborhood initiative. There was a time when Christianity was the fabric of our society. We were overwhelmingly Christian in our worldview, in our practices, in our education, in how we did business. That enabled us to have churches in every little community of people because if there was a dozen or so people together, that they were predominantly Christian and they would gather for worship. We are not that. We don't live that way. We readily drive distances for dinner, for recreation, to meet with friends and yet we cling to some ideas around church and it chafes us and we forfeit the opportunity to be with God's people. Jesus's ministry began with a crowd. Jesus's ministry was concluded by the verdict of a crowd, or at least a season of it.
In this passage, it says: "The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him". Two statements there, but they were noteworthy. Jesus attracted large crowds, but the crowds followed him. Wherever he went, they went along with him. Now, that is something different. They didn't, like, hear him and go, "Oh yeah, we've been there and done that". There was something being communicated, something being presented that was so engaging that the crowds would follow him and he would purposely make difficult journeys, climb high hills that would take 2 or 3 days away from the major cities and centers of resources and supplies, and the people would follow him.
And then he'd be concerned that they're too hungry so he'd turn to the disciples and go, "You need to feed these people". And the disciples go, "You've lost your mind". Can you imagine... never mind. "Lord, you have no situational awareness". Look in Luke chapter 5. It says: "The news about Jesus spread all the more, so that the crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But he often withdrew to lonely places and prayed". So Jesus ministered to large crowds of people, but he understood the necessity of having a relationship with the Lord. And the crowds were so persistent and so consistent that the Gospel writers in multiple places point out to us that Jesus had to make an intentional effort, often very early in the morning, or he would pray through the night, in order to escape the attention of the crowds.
Jesus withdrawing from the crowd to commune with his Father to maintain his relationship with the Father, I think is a very important component of this story 'cause we're gonna look specifically at that and what it means to step apart from the crowd, the courage that takes to be willing to deviate from what the majority of people are raising their hand and say, "We think that's what conventional wisdom dictates". And we haven't really coached that in American evangelicalism. We have coached that you've joined the right group, stay in lockstep with us. Read from our publishing house. Only read the authors that we ordain.
Stay with us, because we're more right than those other groups. That has been the predominant message for decades in the American church ecclesiastical community, until we find ourselves with that unraveling. The highest form of commitment in the Bible is a covenant. There is no higher form of commitment that can be made between human beings or between a human being and God, than the idea of a covenant. The Hebrew word means you cut a covenant, literally. There was a bloodshed as a part of the covenant. And perhaps the most notable of those covenants was the covenant between Abram and Almighty God.
Remember the story in Genesis 15? We won't go back and read it, but God made a covenant with Abram. He said, "If you'll leave your home and your family, I'll bless you, your name will be great. All nations, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you". Remember the story? And God executed that covenant. He took animals and parted them in half and Abram walked between them and they made a covenant. And the essence of that covenant is you say, "Everything that I have I commit to you". And you, in turn, commit your resources to me. Nothing held back, no reserves, we are fully committed to one another.
Now, I tell you that because you and I are part of the new covenant. There's no such thing as a partway Christian. Conversely, there's no such thing as, like, a super-disciple. You know, there's not, like, Type A Christians and Type B Christians and then those that are just gonna squeak by. You're either all in or you're not one. It's the principle of Scripture. Some years after God made that covenant with Abram, Sarah conceived when it wasn't probable that they could have a child, and she delivered and God said to Abram some years after that, "I want you to offer your son as a sacrifice to me". And Abram did the most improbable thing. No argument, no debate, he said, "I made a covenant".
And he took Isaac and all the things necessary for a sacrifice and he headed for Mount Moriah, which, oh, by the way, happens to be the same place where Golgotha, same structure. He built the altar, he bound his son, put him on the altar, and raised the knife. Then God said, "Don't you dare. I know you won't even withhold your son from our covenant". And Abram finished his run. It says: "He saw the days of Jesus and anticipated them". But scroll forward a few thousand years and one day the needs of humanity were such that God said, "The only way to resolve that is with the life of my Son".
And he offered him up as a part of a covenant, that you and I might be delivered from the kingdom of darkness and welcomed into the kingdom of his Son, because there's no other way for us to qualify for that kingdom. We can't join the right church or the right denomination or read the right translation or be generous enough or busy enough. It takes faith in Jesus, because he gave himself as a sacrifice that you and I might receive all of the benefits due by divine justice, his perfect obedience. He exhausted the curse for my sin and yours. That's a covenant. Now, Jesus modeled this in so many ways but, again, the invitation before us is do we have the courage and the willingness to step out of the crowd? And for far too long, our answer has been, "We're not sure".
Then I wanna look with you at one particular aspect of Jesus's ministry tonight. This isn't our first time with this topic, so I wanna step back in. In Luke chapter 8, in verse 51, we're gonna get to witness a miracle that Jesus initiates. He's in Capernaum. It's his base of ministry, and the synagogue ruler has sent a message that he needs help. And Jesus agrees to go, but before he gets to his house, the message come, "It's too late. The sick person you were gonna pray for has already died. Don't bother". But Jesus perseveres. We can step into it. It's Luke 8:51.
Remember, Luke's a physician. "When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he didn't let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. And Jesus said, 'Stop wailing. She's not dead but she's asleep.' And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, 'My child, get up!' And her spirit returned". That phrase intrigues me. You see, the Bible invites us to the imagination that you are a spirit. Your spirit is eternal. When your body stops functioning, when your earth suit stops working and your physical heart stops pumping, your spirit continues right on.
In this case, this little girl's physical body had broken. We don't know the cause or what had happened, but it was non-functional. And Jesus goes to visit and he says to her, "My child, get up". And it says: "Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. And Jesus told them to give her something to eat. And her parents were astonished". Do you think that's adequate? Do you think that's an adequate expression for what her parents felt? "Why, dear, I'm a bit astonished". I don't think so. I love the gift of understatement in Scripture. "The parents were astonished, but Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened".
Now, what I wanna point out, first of all, is who Jesus took with him when he went to pray. The suggestion seems to be that a number of the disciples were there. Everything he's doing is marked by a crowd of people, and in the midst of that crowd are his disciples that he's recruited. They have front-row seats for all of these things. But in this case, when they get to Jairus's home, it says he only took Peter, John, and James. Well, that's not fair. Do you think there was any eye-rolling from the others? Think there was any grumbling? "Well, why didn't we get to go? Peter can't even keep his mouth shut. Almost drowned in the lake a few weeks ago. Wanted to walk with Jesus. Why did he get to go with him"? It's really, I think, it's worth at least making a little side note in the margin of your Bible or wherever you're taking your notes that Jesus gave Peter, John, and James a front-row seat.
Now, we're gonna find this pattern is repeated. He didn't treat all 12 of the disciples the same. He didn't give them all the same opportunities. I put a passage in your notes. It's from Acts chapter... I wanna step out a little bit of this theme and this narrative because, to me, it was so clear that Jesus was training these three. He's anchoring them in lessons they're going to need for what he knows is ahead of them. And he knows their hearts and their willingness to be obedient and he knows that they're gonna step out of the crowd because Peter does. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter steps up and says, "Let me tell you what this is". And he points the Jesus story right back at the people who, just a few days earlier, had stood in those same streets and said, "Crucify him".
I promise you Peter understood he was putting his life at risk in Acts chapter 2. So Jesus understood that and he gives them these unique learning opportunities, and it paid some really rich dividends. Acts chapter 9, now this is after Jesus's Resurrection, after his Ascension. This is after Pentecost. Peter is really the most stabilizing component of this early church in Jerusalem. But he's out traveling about a bit and there's a young woman who dies. And they send a message to Peter and say, "Won't you come"? Not to officiate the memorial service. "Won't you come pray for her"? How many of you wanna receive that call for prayer? But Peter's had some training. He had a front-row seat way back in Luke chapter 8.
So "Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. And all the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that she had made while she was still with them. And Peter sent them all out of the room". It sounds so similar to what he'd seen Jesus do. When Jesus arrived at Jairus's home and they were crying and wailing and mourning, he said, "Oh, stop. She's just asleep". And they mocked him, laughed at him. So he put 'em all out and he only took those in with him, the parents and Peter, James, and John who would believe with him. So Peter is modeling just what he'd seen. "He sent them all out of the room and he got down on his knees and he prayed. And turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Get up.'"
Sounds a lot like what Jesus did. "And she opened her eyes. She saw Peter and she sat up. And he took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. And he called the believers in and the widows and presented her to them alive". Just like that's what happens at every afternoon prayer meeting. Peter imitates what he had witnessed with Jesus. So the seed I wanna plant, and we're gonna look at it in a couple more contexts, is that Jesus is training his friends. So here's my suggestion to you. Step out from the crowd and determine to become a person he can trust. We quibble, we argue with the Lord, we resist obedience. We try to explain to him why we're not gonna do that or this. "Well, you know, I don't believe that. Or I don't believe", just let's go.
Let's go. Luke chapter 9: Jesus invites his friends to experience life beyond the limits of time. This is the most amazing story. Says: "About eight days after," this is just after the passage we just read in Luke chapter 8, "Jesus took Peter and John and James with him and he went up to a mountain to pray". Well, what about the others? "Y'all stay here. I'm taking these three". I mean, this group is not the holiest group. They argue about who's the greatest, right? Mom rolls in and says, "I want you to promise that my boys get best seats in the house".
So I don't think we're being unfair to anybody to imagine there was probably a little friction because Jesus kept giving Peter and John and James these, he takes them with him up to a mountain to pray. "As he's praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. And two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. And they spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem".
So, Peter, John, and James are not only there, they could hear, they can understand the conversation. They hear Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah about what's gonna happen to him when he gets to Jerusalem. I didn't make anything up. It's all right there. "And Peter and his companions were very sleepy," yeah, 'cause that's a very sleep-inducing thing that they're watching. "And when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. And as the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, 'Master, it's good for us to be here.'" Bless his heart. "'Let's put up three shelters: one for you, and one for Moses and one for Elijah.'"
You know, I haven't been able to verify this, but the best I could tell from the historical record, WiFi in Jerusalem in the first century was very weak, so it's unlikely that they were checking the Moses and Elijah against their Facebook pictures. So I have a question. How do you suppose they recognized them? Name tags? "Big Mo". "Fiery Eli". I don't know. I mean, you can have an opinion and I can have an opinion, but they knew who they were, they recognized them, 'cause Peter's just talking out of his mind. "And while he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them. They were afraid as they entered the cloud," yeah. "And the voice came from the cloud and said, 'This is my Son, I have chosen him; listen to him.'"
Now, neither Scripture nor God waste words. And they have to hear a voice from a cloud say, "You should listen to my boy". "And when the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and told no one at that time what they had seen". Now, they may not have told anybody 'cause they wouldn't have believed them. They may not have told anyone because it would have created more agitation. We're left to our own conjecture about that. It isn't spelled out for us.
What we do know is they held that until at some point, I suspect it was after Jesus's passion and his Resurrection that they all began to fill in the parts of the story with one another. But I think it is worth noting that Jesus provided a very unique learning moment for Peter, John, and James. It wasn't to be discussed. He didn't send them out to tell that story everywhere. I think it's also worth noting that you could be very close to Jesus, responding to a personal invitation from Jesus, and be very frightened.
And before we go, I wanna pray that God will give you the courage to step out of the crowd, to be willing to be different because of your faith in a way that will enable you to lay up great treasure in heaven. We'll need the help of the Spirit of God to do that. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you for the privilege of having this time together of opening your Word. I pray that you will cause it to come alive within us and that you would give us the boldness and the courage to step out of the crowd and to be bold advocates for Jesus of Nazareth. It's in his name we pray, amen.