Allen Jackson - Different, How? - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you today. We're gonna complete our study on "Step Out of the Crowd: But Different, Just How"? I think we struggle with that. Being weird does not make you more spiritual. I know a lot of people that are weird, but they don't really know the Lord any better. The point is to be obedient to him. If you choose to honor God with your life, that will bring a distinctiveness to who you are. We're gonna look at that in a little more detail. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart to the Lord's invitations.
Well, I do life in this place. I'm here most weekends of the year. And I wanna take a few minutes and talk to you about what it looks like for us to step out of the crowd. What's it look like for us to raise our hand? What's that mean to step out of the crowd? How do we differentiate ourselves? Different? Just exactly how? You know, there's no perfect time in history, so if we said we were going to abandon electricity, that doesn't make us more godly. It just means we'll be ungodly in the dark. You know, sometimes we imagine that the good old days were somehow better, and I'm not suggesting that. I'm grateful for the season in which we live. I like all the technological opportunities that come with us, the ease with which we can communicate with one another around the world or travel.
We have many, many blessings. I'm not lamenting this point in time, but I think we have to process this question: different how? Just exactly what does it mean to be the people of God? And we're not left without direction. The Bible gives us a wealth of instruction. But I'm gonna take some cultural points around which there is a tremendous amount of confusion swirling, and see if I can give you a biblical perspective. Not my opinion. I'll try to anchor it in Scripture. I'll start with this notion of marriage. Marriage has been redefined, so we're told. We've heard that at the highest levels of our nation, a nation with a Christian heritage, a nation founded upon biblical principles, a nation whose legal system and educational system were grounded in a Judeo-Christian worldview has decided in recent years that we're no longer gonna use those definitions for marriage and family.
And it's left the church confused. A little bit addled, I think. Well, I would submit to you that marriage is a biblical idea. It's a biblical principle. And it's presented to us as a union between a man and a woman. In fact, fundamentally, it's a covenant between a man and a woman and God. It's about yielding and honoring. Look in Genesis chapter 2. If you're not familiar with the Bible, Genesis chapter 2 is very near the beginning. So it's one of those big rock ideas, as we begin to explore who this God is. And he said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh".
It's not confusing, church. I understand there are alternatives. I understand there may be people that you know, that you care about, that you have shared life with, that you're invested in, that have chosen another definition. I'm not saying that that doesn't exist. I'm saying if you want to walk under a biblical mandate, under the authority of Scripture, that God hasn't redefined his terms. Different how? By having the courage to take a biblical view of life and submit to its authority. Look at Hebrews 13:4. It even gets a little more intense. "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators," that's a big old word: sexual activity before you're married, "and adulterers," sexual activity beyond your marriage vows and your covenant partner, "God will judge".
So, biblical morality, sexually, is defined by that marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Different how? Just suppose we returned weddings and all the preparation around those weddings to a God-honoring establishment of a covenant. Different how? Different in how you spend your time. If you'll allow me, other people matter too. It's not just about us. I understand self-care counts. I've read a lot of those books, but that's been our focus for a while now. We've lost our imagination that how we lead our lives and how we treat one another and how we respond to one another in community is a reflection of the faith that we have in our hearts. It's a declaration of who is Lord in our lives.
Look at Hebrews 13:16: "Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased". Church, we can't afford to forget to do good, and that's not just when we're collecting food for the less fortunate at some point on the calendar. It's not just when we launch an initiative. It's how we live our lives. It's how we view our neighbors that live near us and the people that we interact with in the restaurants and the families that our children go to school with. It's a sacrifice to serve God in this world. It's a sacrifice of your time. It's a sacrifice of your rights. It's a sacrifice of your privileges. It's a commitment to serve, not just randomly, but under authority.
But I think we watch other people and we think, "Well, they don't do that," and I'm telling you no matter where you are in your journey, no matter who God has called you to be or what he's put in front of you, you wanna live in such a way that you routinely, regularly, make a sacrifice to see God's people strengthened. Build that habit into your life. Different how? By serving the people of God. I mean, there was a time in this place I got to mow the grass and clean the bathrooms. I don't get to do that so much anymore. Look at what Jesus said, Matthew 23: "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted".
Folks, our families are a primary ministry center of our lives. Our children will benefit from the focused routine of family life. If you'll allow me, less busy, less activity, and dinner at a table together will change the spiritual quotient of your home. It'll also make you different from your peer group, because it'll mean you'll have to say to your children, "We can't do everything. We're gonna have to be a bit more selective," and they will not rise up and call you blessed with that announcement. I understand an evening meal is a lift. It's hard work, it's difficult, it's a sacrifice. But it's an investment in your family and in your children.
Look at Deuteronomy 6: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you get up". Wherever you go and whatever you do with your children, bring your faith to bear. Take Jesus to the soccer fields. Take Jesus to the dance classes. Take Jesus to the swim lessons. Take Jesus to the public schools. We go under the authority of Jesus's name. We've apologized for too long. We've been timid and reluctant. If you're a UT fan, you've taught your kids to sing "Rocky Top". You better teach 'em to say, "Jesus is Lord". Different how? Different in our attitude regarding work.
Ephesians 4 and verse 28: "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need". Folks, we've gotta step out of the crowd a little bit in how we live, in how we behave, in how we use our time, and the discipline that we will submit our lives to. Your attitude and investment in work is an expression of worship. Worship is honoring God with your mind, your heart, and your body. Work involves your whole person. Honor God in those places where you work. In your words, in your attitudes, in what you talk about.
Work isn't something you do while you're waiting to get on with more important things. Work creates better opportunities for your family. Therefore, work is an expression of your love for your family. If you don't work with diligence, there is reasonable question about the value you attach to those who are trusting you. Otherwise, we depend upon someone else's work to benefit those we care about. That's not the biblical presentation. We are struggling on this point as a nation. We are being encouraged by those in authority over us to become a nation of thieves, filled with envy and covetousness. We have imagined we deserve what someone else has, and we're willing to have it taken away from someone else and presented to us. The technical definition for that equation is stealing.
Look at 1 Timothy 5 and verse 8: "If anyone doesn't provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the truth and is worse than an unbeliever". Pay your debts. Don't borrow what you can't pay. Hollywood's made a hero out of Robin Hood. He's had great PR agents, but at the end of the day, Robin Hood was a thief. Psalm 37 and verse 21 said: "The wicked borrow and don't repay, but the righteous give generously". Proverbs 22: "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender". A part of the discipline of the narrow path is learning to avoid the love of money. Our culture doesn't help us with this one. We're told we're evaluated by what we drive and what we wear and the labels and the places where our kids go to school, and the trips that they're able to take and what we can post on social media about all of the above.
But the Bible encourages us to avoid the love of money, and the love of all the things that money can bring to you. The Bible's not against money. It just simply says that the love of money opens a trap door in our hearts. Look at Hebrews 13:5: "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, and be content with what you have". Contentment is a remarkable thing in your heart. It's not easily held. It's not about how much you have. It's not about a little or a lot. Contentment comes from a relationship with God. Look at 1 Timothy 6: "Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment".
See, if you'll cultivate contentment, God can trust you with more. But if your heart is grasping and never satisfied and never content and filled with envy and covetousness, God can't bring more, it would destroy us. I like the next verse: "We brought nothing into the world, and we're not taking anything out of it". Godliness, by definition, is living with an awareness of our life beyond time, that I will not forfeit my decision to honor God by some short-term opportunity in my days under the sun. I'll not trade my place on that narrow path for a moment of something that I can't keep beyond time. Godliness plus contentment will bring tremendous gain to your life, increase to your life, a return on investment for your life. Different how? Not different weird, not different by your vocabulary. Different by the formation of your character and how you choose to order your life.
I wanna close with a series of one-sentence prayers. We've been talking a little bit lately about let's pray. How many of you have had a "let's pray" moment in your life? I can't tell. I'll trust you all raised your hand. It's a really simple idea. When you interact with people at work, in your neighborhood, at school, with your friends, on a night out, whatever you're doing, people, if you'll listen, we're social beings. They'll give you windows into their lives. And when they do, they often express needs. "How you doing"? "I'm not great. My husband's sick. My kids aren't great. I just got a report card". Whatever it may be. When that happens, you've got a little moment of opportunity right there to say a prayer. They've opened the doorway.
Now, don't ask them for permission. We get weird on this point. We lose our minds. You know, we wanna appear spiritual. I don't want to appear spiritual; I just want to be guilty of inviting God into the midst of everything I do. I want to appear normal. I want godliness to be normal. We perspire just like non-Christians and when we do, we stink just like non-Christians. When I hit my thumb with a hammer, "Praise the Lord" may come out, maybe not. You know, the goal isn't to try to appear something we're not. It's to try to bring integrity between who we say and what we do. So when they've expressed that need, don't ask for some hyper-spiritual permission, "Would it be all right with you if I invoked a blessing from the Most High God, because I've had a 36-week course at my church and I'm an expert in anointing oil and biblical quotation and proclamation declaration".
Folks, they think you're so weird, they don't wanna have anything else to do with you. But when you hear that need, if you'll simply say, "Let's pray," and then close your eyes 'cause they'll understand you're praying. They may sneak off. If they do, it's okay. Just say, "Let's pray," and you only get one sentence. "Lord, help my friend bring peace to their home, in Jesus's name, amen". "Lord, I pray for those kids that next semester they'll be better in school, in Jesus's name, amen".
Just one sentence, no Scriptures, no sermons. Just one sentence. And then when you're done, and this is so important, you know if you've done this, you've heard me say it. Don't wait for them to affirm you. We would all like that, but don't wait for that. Let the Lord affirm you. So don't stand there and wait for them to go, "Oh, that was the most meaningful thing that's happened to me all day. When you prayed, I felt something from the top of my head to the soles..." Don't do that. And don't give them all those non-verbal cues that we Christians know how to do: that creepy look. Don't do that. After you've said, "Amen," just move on. "Think the Titans will ever win again"? "Don't you love fall in Tennessee"? "Wasn't it nice to get some rain this week"?
Just whatever gives you a sentence to help you escape that moment so that you're not waiting for some spiritual, if they've got another question, they'll follow up. Don't you worry about that. Now you've done two things in that moment: you've invited God into their lives and you've introduced them to a person who's willing to pray. Both of those are life-changing moments. And you have directed all the attention to the Lord. "Let's pray". Well, I wanna give you some "Let's pray" prayers for yourself tonight. Some prayers you can pray. They're in your outline. You can take 'em with you, and they're bundled into three categories.
There's a prayer of repentance, there are some prayers of renouncing, and there are some prayers of release. Because if you haven't been living a life that makes you different, if you've been so undercover that the angels in heaven can't quite find you, then there are some prayers that you need to pray. If you've been bypassing the opportunities that God has given you, if you've been living like you're on that broad road, but when it's convenient you go jump in a group of people and say, "Jesus," they're prayers you need. I feel like I need them. This is our watch. This is the place in human history where God called our name and gave us an assignment, and we're witnessing the most precipitous decline of Christian influence in the history of the church.
I'm not okay with that, so I'm busy about changing. I am busy about reorienting my time and my effort and my calendar. Wherever the Lord opens the door, I'm willing to stand up and say, "Let's go honor Jesus". So I brought you some prayers. I'm gonna ask you to pray 'em with me. I think they're gonna put 'em on the screens. It may be too dark for you to read your notes. I wanna start with a prayer of repentance. It's just one sentence. If you don't get in on the beginning you'll miss it. I don't want you to leave here feeling guilty. I don't want you to leave here with a sense of shame. I want you to be free. We gotta go. Are you ready? Let's pray it together: "God forgive me of my sin, restore to me a tender heart, in Jesus's name, amen".
Now, I wanna give you three prayers of renunciation. To repent of your sins is good, but you wanna separate yourself from all those activities where you invited ungodliness into your life. You opened a door for something unclean and we've got to break those invitations. So we're gonna withdraw those invitations now. The first one is a renunciation of any form of the occult, any spiritual pursuit other than an invitation to the Holy Spirit: horoscopes, Ouija boards, fortunetelling. There's a whole menu of ways we have done that. You say, "Well, I didn't mean anything by it". Folks, you don't have to mean it.
Let's say that first prayer together: "Almighty God, I renounce my involvement in all forms of the occult, in Jesus's name, amen". And then in every form of immorality. If you have led an immoral life while you bore the name of Jesus, you can't just live through it and say, "Now I'm married and I'm behaving better," or "I've changed my pattern, my behavior". We've got to go back in repentance and clean up those places or we leave a stronghold for darkness. So there's the prayer of renunciation. Let's say it together: "Almighty God, I renounce my involvement in every form of immorality, in Jesus's name, amen". And then in every expression of greed where we've allowed the culture to influence us. Together: "Almighty God, I renounce my involvement in all expressions of greed, covetousness, and the lust for more, amen".
Now, finally, we're gonna release some people. We're gonna release some individuals, some families, some organizations. We've all been hurt. We've all been mistreated. Some of us have had to deal with evil. And we've got to be set free from that, and a part of that comes from our willingness to forgive. So let's start with that first prayer. We're gonna release all those who have wronged me. Together: "Heavenly Father, I forgive all those who have wronged me, in Jesus's name, amen". And now we're gonna release all of our anger and our bitterness and our resentment. You can't afford that luxury any longer. "Well, what they did wasn't right".
I'm not saying it was, but you can't afford to hold on to the bitterness. Together: "Heavenly Father, I release all anger, resentment and bitterness towards those who caused me pain, in Jesus's name, amen". And now we need to release some organizations. Some of you hate the government. You can't do that. We're called to pray for those with authority over us. "Well, I've suffered because of them," or "They've caused me harm". I'm not arguing that. I'm telling you, you don't have the luxury of holding hate and resentment and bitterness in your heart. We can't do that.
Let's pray this together: "Heavenly Father, I release all persons and organizations who have caused me harm, I release them from all expectations of restoration, in Jesus's name, amen". And finally, I want you to receive a release from the Lord. If you've forgiven others, you leave here tonight forgiven, hallelujah. Let's say this last sentence together, then we're gonna stand up and give the Lord a hand: "Almighty God, I rejoice that You have forgiven me and set me free from all my iniquities, in Jesus's name, amen". Hallelujah.
Now you can stand with me. I believe if you prayed those prayers and you meant 'em, that spiritual forces of wickedness were broken over your life tonight, that you found a freedom through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, that there's a new momentum in your life and a new opportunity in your future. You take those prayers and make 'em a part of your devotion this next week. They're one sentence. You can do this. Teach them to your children. Pray them in your Small Group. Pray them with your friends. Invite the Spirit of God into your heart. Now, can we give the Lord a hand? Hallelujah, Lord, we praise you. We worship you. We give you glory and honor and praise, in the name of Jesus Christ.