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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Great Outcomes

Allen Jackson - Great Outcomes

Allen Jackson - Great Outcomes
TOPICS: Bold Faith

The topic is "Bold Faith". We've taken a few weeks to explore this idea, to understand what it means to be people of faith, a significant faith, a faith that makes a difference. And we've approached it from a variety of perspectives. The first week we looked at Jesus with his disciples, in that window of time between his resurrection and his ascension, there's a 40 day window. And Jesus invested his time almost completely in his closest friends and followers, establishing the fact that he was in truth alive and then committing to them a vision, an assignment for the future, different from anything that they had embraced in the three years they'd been with him previously. He said to them, "You're gonna go into all the world".

Jesus launched a multinational global initiative before the world was digital. Jesus went global when the fastest way to travel across the ocean was in a boat. Jesus went global before we could Skype or Google, before there was a multinational corporation or a United Nations, before the rest of civilization had awakened to the fact that we would one day be a global community, Jesus assigned the church a global mission. It's stunning to me. And those men and women that were his closest friends and followers, they embraced the initiative. Their lives had been described by a very narrow geographical radius, and when Jesus said, "Go into all the world with the Jesus story," they packed up and went and they shook the world.

It's a phenomenal story. It was bold faith. But what we learned from reading their stories is bold faith isn't about outsized initiatives and super sized projects and extravagant plans, bold faith is lived out in daily faithfulness to God. In faithfulness to the assignments of this day, in faithfulness to the assignments in your home, in faithfulness to the assignments this day of purity and integrity and holiness, bold faith emerges from your life because in those responses to life, God can respond to you and to me in bold ways. When he knows we can be trusted with the daily routine and honoring him, he will entrust us with assignments of significance, bold faith. And then last weekend we looked at the unique season that we now find ourselves in. Not the climate, the seasons of the climate, but the spiritual season.

It's a polarizing season. It's a season of extremes when there are expressions of wickedness and immorality and ungodliness in bolder, more brazen ways than any time in recent human history. But at the same time, there are expressions of the power of God and the glory of God and the movement and the purposes of God on the earth in bolder and more remarkable ways than at any time in recent history. It's a remarkable season, what's in trouble is the middle. And so we looked at some of the things we would need to thrive in this season. This weekend I wanna unpack with you the notion, a very specific idea, and it has to do with outcomes in your life. When you arrive at a place where faith is the only way to navigate a circumstance, it's almost impossible to establish the faith you need in that moment. It's necessary to be prepared.

And what I wanna identify for you is, is three or four faith responses that are almost certainly, you're going to need in your journey. Maybe not all today or even this week, but I've had enough birthdays. I hope I still got a little bit of road left to travel, but I've had enough birthdays to know that these things populate all of our lives. And I wanna do my best to help you be prepared before the circumstance presents itself. It's too late to figure out what to do with Goliath when you hear him bellowing his challenge. David said, "I can take this guy down because when a lion or bear came against my father's flock, the Lord delivered them into my hands and he'll deliver this Philistine into my hands". He wasn't trying to figure out what to do with Goliath, there was a whole Israelite army trying to do that. He said, "I got this because the God that has helped me before will help me now".

And I want you and me to have that kind of a faith response tucked into our portfolio so that when life circumstances emerge, you're prepared with a bold faith response. You're up for that? Let's start in Revelation chapter 3. The book of Revelation begins with a letter to seven different churches. And the letter includes a diagnostic perspective, a God perspective on where they are, and a resolution to the challenges they face. It says, "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you're neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you're lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth".

The presentation to this particular church, this is the church now remember, these are people that conduct public worship services, and they endure sermons, and they worship the Lord. They talk about God things and a godly morality. These aren't pagans of the immoral. God says to them, the message to them is, it says, "You're really not hot or cold, you're just kind of lukewarm, you're tepid. You're not really in and you're not really out. You're willing to say, 'Jesus is Lord,' but you'll worship a lot of other things. Your hearts are distracted, your energy's dissipated, you're passions are not focused. You're lukewarm". And he said, "I wanna be distant from you. I wanna spew you out of my mouth, go away from me".

It's not a good place, it's not a good place at all. We're talking about a different kind of a response. Listen to what he says to them. "You say, 'I'm rich and I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you don't realize that you're wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked". It's an interesting contrast. It says, "You say of yourselves, 'I'm rich and I have need of nothing.'" And he said, "But you don't realize that you're blind, you're naked, and you're wretched".

May I ask you a question? How can you be blind, naked and wretched and not only lack an awareness, but imagine yourself to be wealthy and have no need? How can that exist in one person? There's only one way I know, deception. Deception means you believe something to be true that in reality is not true. And these folks in the Laodicean Church are exactly in that camp, aren't they? They said, "We have everything, we need nothing". And Jesus says to them, "You are naked, blind, and in need of everything". Now listen to this, he gives them a resolution. He said, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich: and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness: and salve to put on your eyes so you can see".

It's worth noting, he doesn't condemn them, he doesn't criticize them, he doesn't in any way push them away, he gives them a resolution. He said, "There's a way for you to clothe yourselves, there's a salve so that your sight can be restored and you can be made righteous and clean before me". That's the goal, "Bold Faith". If I had to look for a passage that is descriptive of the contemporary American church, it would be hard to find one, it seems to me that's more accurate than that one. In our abundance, in our liberties, in our freedoms, we think we have no needs. And in reality, we are presiding over one of the most precipitous declines of Christian influence in the history of the church.

And that's not on the doorstep of the wicked, or the ungodly, or the immoral, or the White House, or the Congress, or the Supreme Court, or anyone else, that falls at the doorsteps of the church because we are the light and the salt in our world. Look at what Jesus said at the end of the book of Revelation chapter 22. He said, "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong: and the one who's filthy, still be filthy and that the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness: and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy". It's kind of a startling expression from Jesus, isn't it? He said, "If you wanna be filthy, be even more filthy, but if you wanna be holy, determined to be more holy". "Bold Faith".

Now, I wanted a biblical example that would help us unpack that and I chose a character that I think is familiar to you. I thought it would be simpler, we could focus on the outcomes and not have to learn the story of the individual. So I chose Samson. We just read the book of Judges together. Samson is one of the judges, one of the leaders of Israel, and God used him in a powerful way. Samson had some great strengths, no pun intended, and some tremendous failures. But in judges chapter 13, it tells us a bit of Samson's story. It says, "A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah," Manoah is Samson's father, or will be. "From the clan of the Danites, had a wife whose wife was sterile and remained childless. An angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, 'You are sterile and childless.'"

Let's stop. That doesn't seem helpful at this point. She didn't need an angel to announce the obvious, or it almost feels like the angel's mocking her. But I would suggest there's another way to read that. The angel came and expressed that God was aware of her circumstance. That she wasn't alone or unknown to God. Sometimes you know, when you're suffering, or when you're in a difficult place, or there's pain and pressure in your life, you feel like God doesn't know about it. If you could just get his attention. And the angel showed up and said, "I know specifically what's going on". And look at his resolution. He said, "But you're going to conceive and have a son and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines".

And the Son who's to be conceived and delivered, we will know is Samson. What I wanna identify with you, is that before Samson was even conceived, God had a plan for his life. Before Samson's ever filled his lungs the first time with atmospheric oxygen, God had a plan for his life. Before his parents could tell their best friends they were expecting, God had a plan for Samson's life. That just makes me smile. Do you know God has a plan for you? He has a plan for your life. You were born. The Bible says, "Before, the foundations of the earth were laid, God knew you". He had a plan for you. You are not insignificant.

You say, "Yeah, but you know, I just got, I'm a little person with a little life and a little..." It all may be, but you're not insignificant to God. Almighty God imagined you with the purpose for his eternal kingdom when he put you on planet Earth. You, we don't know a lot about Samson's parents, but we know they're Samson's parents. That's a pretty significant role. And God created you with a... you matter. There is a crushing weight of messaging that says to you, "You don't matter". So you better do something to be a celebrity or to stand out or be unique or be bizarre. I'm telling you, Christ in you makes you of eternal significance. You do matter. You are precious to Almighty God. I don't care who lines up to say that you're not.

If Almighty God is for us, you've read the book, you are quoting the scriptures that I was only half using. That's not good. "If God is for us, who can be against us"? I'm telling you, if God's on my team, I'll give you the field. 'Cause if he need to, he'll make the day a little longer or he'll make your field uphill. I'm gonna win, if God's on my team. You matter to God. Look at the person on your right and say, "You're important to God". Look at the person on your left say, "You, I'm not sure about". 'Cause usually in our lives there's a voice on either side of that, isn't there?

Now, most of you know the Samson story. He is the strong man of the Bible. And God gives him this enormous physical strength, and Samson uses it to defeat the enemies of Israel, in his case, the Philistines. And the big question of Samson's life is what's the source of his strength? His enemies cannot understand where Samson derived such tremendous physical strength, because they try all sorts of things to defeat him. They bind him in different ways. They try to limit his strength, but they're totally unsuccessful. They cannot identify his strength. So I don't think Samson looks like a gym rat. I don't think he looks like Arnold or The Rock. He's not some incredibly pumped up guy where his bicep looks like you slipped a basketball under the skin and closed it back up.

I think Samson looks a lot like you or me. He's just normal 'cause if he'd been one of those huge people, we'd go, "Well, I know why he's strong, he looks like a moose". But he looked normal. And they said, "How can he be this strong"? And if you've read that you know, he had a covenant with God from before his birth. It began with his parents' choices. Well, there's an assignment parents, your choices influence spiritual outcomes in your children. But they were so desperate, they finally hire someone to seduce Samson.

You know, Samson has tremendous physical strength but his character has some holes in it. And he careens through life from triumph to some really poor decisions, and finally he runs off the rail, they hire someone to seduce him. And Samson begins to toy with that seduction. And he lies about the secrets of his strength. And every time he gives an answer, he's betrayed. He has tremendous strength, but you think he maybe didn't have the highest IQ 'cause every time Delilah betrays him, he goes back. "Me, Samson". Until finally he tells her the truth. "If you shave my head". And she seduces him again and shaves his head. It's where we step into the story. You've got it, you know this story. "So she called, 'Samson, the Philistines are upon you!' And he awoke from his sleep and he thought, 'I'll go out as before and shake myself free.' But he didn't know that the Lord had left him".

It's one of the most tragic statements in the scripture. "And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza". It's the same Gaza we read about in the news today. "They bound him with bronze shackles and they set him to grinding in the prison". It's hard to imagine a more humiliating, a more shame filled story. Delilah shaves his head, his strength is gone. She betrays him to his enemies and rather graphic language that says "They gouged out his eyes and they took him to Gaza," which was a Philistine stronghold city. "And they made him grind like an animal". They still ground grain with a stone.

It was typical to take a large stone and you'd take a long pole through it and you would tether an ox or a donkey to that, and they would walk in a circle and grind the grain. And they removed the ox or the donkey, and they tethered Samson to that. And the great champion of Israel and the great enemy of the Philistines was made to grind the grain like an ox, day after day, after day. He'd been the leader of his nation. A man of such strength and such ability that he couldn't be contained, he couldn't be defeated. Time and time again, he overcame the threats they put before him and the riddles they challenged him with. Samson was a triumphant character and now he's grinding, blinded and mocked. And he's not there because he was overpowered by his enemies, he's there because of his own choices. He's not there because he made a strategic error, he's there because of his own character.

And I would submit the weight within him was far greater than any external burden they put on him day, after day, after day. The story of scripture is not a story of people whose life trajectories are on an exponential growth curve, the reality is God uses people in all of our inconsistencies, in all of our brokenness and all of our humanity in all of our frailty, he still does. I love the next sentence, it's one of my favorite sentences in all of the Bible. It says, "But the hair on his head began to grow again". And I made fun of Samson's IQ. Compared to the Philistines, he's a genius. 'Cause if you could take this dude down... if his hair was a secret to his strength and you finally got him, if I was in charge, I'd be shaving that dome three times a day, wouldn't you? Samson would've never had stubble on the top of his head.

And I don't know when it finally mattered to him again, but I know there was a day that came when he put his hand up and he touched his hair. And I suspect there was a wry smile. And someday along the way when he felt it touch his shoulders again, and just maybe, just maybe, just maybe. I have to wonder if from time to time, when he's pushing that stone, if he didn't reflect on the strength that he once knew, and then the day comes and they take Samson, they're having a celebration to celebrate their victory over their enemies, and they bring Samson and they wanna mock him. So they have the great champion of Israel led into the temple where they're all celebrating thousands of people. He's led in by a small boy. And Samson says, "Could I rest against the pillars that support this place"?

Be careful son. And the little boy lets Samson lean against... you know this story, you've learned it from your childhood I hope, many of you. And then Samson prays. For those of you who are skeptical and you think a one sentence prayer doesn't make much difference, I give you Samson's prayer. It's in verse 28 in chapter 16, you have, it says, "Samson prayed to the Lord. 'O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more.'" I don't think Samson missed his strength.

I think after all the days that have passed and the pain that he's lived through, he recognizes the Spirit of God that would come upon him. And he said, "God, for all I've done, if I could feel your presence one more time, just one more time". And God said, "You loser, you wicked, inconsistent, backslidden, no good, go back to grinding". No, he didn't. God anointed him again. And I wanna close with a prayer, but I wanna... very specific, if you're here today and you'd say, "You know, I'm in that Samson place. Nobody's shaved my head, but I need to know a God of restoration and renewal".

I'd like to pray for you and I'll expand it one more step. If there's somebody that you love and care for that is in one of those places and you'd like to stand on their behalf, if you'll just stand real quickly, we're gonna close with that prayer, okay. Whichever sanctuary, New Harvest, I can see you through the screens. Not really. And I've done this all weekend long, and the overwhelming majority of people have stood, and it's such a powerful reminder to me that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a collection of perfect folks, but it's a collection of people who know the power of God. What a wonderful message we have to give. What a wonderful message. Don't ever apologize for Jesus. Don't apologize for the Word of God. The boundaries of the Word of God will help you, they'll protect you. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you for every person here. I thank you for each man and woman, I thank you for their lives and your great love for us. Lord, we stand in your presence this morning in humility. We come to you Lord to acknowledge our needs. As Isaiah said, "Lord, our lives have been stained. And for all we can do to hide it or address it up, or to excuse it, it is our reality". And we come this morning before you to acknowledge it, to confess our sin, Lord, and in humility to choose a new path and to ask for your forgiveness in our lives. I thank you that through the blood of Jesus, all our sins are forgiven. I praise you today that the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses us from all sin. That through the blood of Jesus, we have been redeemed out of the hand of the devil, that through the blood of Jesus we have been justified, made righteous just as if we've never sinned. That through the blood of Jesus, we've been sanctified, made holy, set apart to God. That our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. That we've been redeemed, cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

And I praise you today that because of that Satan has no place in us and no power over us through the blood of Jesus Christ. That we are free, redeemed, cleansed, delivered. I thank you for it. Lord, we stand together and pray for one another. I pray that the heaviness, the discouragement, the oppression that settles over our lives will be broken in Jesus' name. That those wicked spirits of darkness that speak into our lives and fill our hearts and minds with their lies, in Jesus' name, may your power be broken over us this day. We don't come in our wisdom or our strength, but in the name of Jesus Christ, we speak life to one another. Let the hope of God, and the joy of the Lord, and the peace of God fill our hearts and minds. We lay down our rebellion, and our stubbornness, and our self-defenses, and we choose you today. Lord, I thank you that we will leave this place differently than we came. Empowered by the power of God, clean and whole and renewed with a new hope for today and a hope for tomorrow. We praise you for it, and we thank you for it. In Jesus' name, amen.

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