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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Experience The Power of the Spirit - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Experience The Power of the Spirit - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Experience The Power of the Spirit - Part 1
TOPICS: Holy Spirit, Step Out of the Crowd

It's a privilege to be with you again today. Our topic is "Experiencing the Power of the Spirit". The turmoil in our world is ratcheting up again. It's coming to us in many formats and from all over the globe these days. We're going to need the help of the Holy Spirit to be triumphant and victorious even just to maintain our peace in the midst of the turmoil that's unfolding. Well, here's the good news. Jesus said he would send us a helper, and he did. So grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly open your heart.

Unless you have been completely out of touch for the last few days, you know there's a war in Israel. On October the 7th they were attacked. It was the last of the High Holy Days, Simchat Torah. And while the families were gathered a very well-coordinated, orchestrated attack came from the Gaza Strip, and now we know over 1,000 Israelis were brutally murdered. This wasn't five or six young men that had too much to drink on a weekend and threw Molotov cocktails at their neighbors's homes, this was a very well-coordinated, planned attack with the support and help of Iran and others, and hundreds of Israelis were subjected to the most inhumane of treatment. Babies have been beheaded.

I know, the one thing that caught my attention was a Holocaust survivor taken hostage. The Holocaust survivors are the most celebrated amongst the Israelis. And if there's one single thing that would cause the people to unify and respond, it would be that. What's next is Israel's response, and it will be, I think what we will see in the media in the days ahead is how inappropriate it is, and I disagree. I don't believe you respond proportionally to blatant expressions of evil. You have to do everything in your power to eliminate their opportunity to repeat such behavior. And I don't expect the global community to celebrate that, but I would remind you you know, when we walked through 9/11, and on a percentage-wise this was a far more egregious attack.

Now, we didn't respond proportionally to Al-Qaeda. Our determination was to eliminate them and destroy their ability to ever repeat such behavior. And I don't believe Israel has a choice but to do that, but it's going to be a very difficult assignment not simply because of Hamas and the planning they've had in advance and the hostages that have been taken but because of the pressure that'll be put upon them by the international community. And your prayers will make a tremendous difference. They will make a tremendous difference. So please don't just watch the news transfixed by what's happening. After ten minutes or so of the news, you know the story. Turn down the volume and get on your knees and begin to pray. Spend more time praying than you do hearing the loop repeated over and over and over and over again. Will you do that?

The things that are not clear yet and I don't think we will know just immediately, but what will happen in the northern part of Israel and the borders with Syria and Lebanon if Hezbollah will choose to get involved in an active way. There have been a handful of rockets launched, but that's kind of normal operating procedure there. More significant would be thousands of rockets being unleashed. They have the power to reach all the way to Jerusalem. Many of them are Iranian or Russian-made. And if Hezbollah gets in on the engagement, that will multiply the issues for the Israelis and the West Bank. It's possible they would, even Iran could take a more active hand. I have a friend in Israel and, you know, he said, "If Hezbollah wants to get involved, we're ready for that. If Iran wants to get involved, we'll deal with that".

This is the most egregious attack on Israel in decades, and it will require the most determined response from their part. There's only about 7 million Jewish people who live in the land of Israel, and if they don't respond purposefully and forcefully, they won't stay there very long. They're surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who are sworn to their destruction. And so it's a very tense time. We've been in touch with our friends throughout the week and talking to them and praying with them and asking for God's mercy in their lives and the one constant that they ask for is the prayers of the believers here.

There are hundreds of thousands of Israelis mobilizing. It was their High Holy Days, very similar, I know it's not an exact correlation, but similar to our holiday season around Christmas through New Year's, and in the same way we're displaced and we travel and we're busy, Israelis travel far more broadly than we do, and their young people especially were scattered all over the world, and in order to mobilize to respond, they needed the young people back home. And so they've been streaming back to Israel from all over the globe, and you can imagine the anxiety that brings to grandparents and parents to know that the young men and women of Israel are lining up to stand watch on the northern border or to cross into Gaza to root out those people who behave in such an inhumane way. It simply cannot be accepted.

Pray for our nation. It's inexplicable what we're watching happen in our nation. It's simply, it's either a terrible lack of awareness or misinformation or a blatant expression of evil amongst us, because if you stand on behalf of evil, you can't separate yourself from it. And so it's a time not only to pray for our friends in Israel, but it's a time to pray for one another in this nation, that we will stand up for what is right. Our awareness of history is so small and our interest is probably even less, but can you imagine if we had stopped bombing Berlin in World War II because civilians were involved? It's a war. It's a heinous thing. We pray we would never have to take up arms again.

That day is coming when the Prince of Peace returns, but in the meantime the only thing that keeps us from behaving as animals towards one another is the strength to hold at bay those expressions of evil. Evil will only yield to a strength greater than itself. You can't negotiate with evil. You can't bargain with evil. They won't respect that. They will interpret that as weakness and look for an opportunity to exert greater damage. So it's a time for prayer. God knows how to intervene. God knows how to bring about a victory, and he'll bring about a victory through which his name receives the glory and the honor. And so can we unify in that prayer tonight? I'm going to continue the general theme that we've been looking at for a bit.

This notion of stepping out of the crowd, it's not a complicated idea. Christianity is never intended to be an exercise in groupthink, and I have suggested to you in a variety of ways that for too long we've been covert. We've been undercover. We've tried to blend in and fade in and we didn't want to stand out and we certainly didn't want to offend anyone and we didn't want anybody to be put off by our affirmation of the lordship of Jesus, but we've reached a point in time, I believe, with the unfolding purposes of God where God's people have to step out of the crowd. Christianity, the people of God has always been a minority response, and I believe that will be true in what's ahead of us.

And if you're not willing to be identified as a part of the minority, you'll not be prepared for what God is doing in the earth. I'll start in James chapter 2 and verse 18. In this particular session I want to give you an invitation to experience the power of God, not just to talk about it or study about it, but to make it a part of your experience portfolio. In James 2 and verse 18 he says, "Someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I'll show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that... and shudder".

I've often said to you James is the in-your-face book of the New Testament. If you're having kind of a blue day, don't read James 'cause he will slap you upside the head, and he's bringing forth this idea that your faith is demonstrated in how you behave. It's not a gospel of works. We don't earn our way to heaven. Nonsense. But it's impossible to imagine yourself to be a biblical person of faith, a Christ follower, and there not be fruit in your life. We do not have a theoretical faith. We don't have a faith that is attributed to us simply by joining a group or sitting in a building or reading a book.

The evidence of our faith is in the transformation of our life from the inside out. It's not an outside-in transformation, it starts with a transformation of our character. Our want-tos change. Our behaviors change. And that's not just a characteristic that takes place at that moment of conversion or new birth or salvation, I believe in that, but it's a transformation that continues throughout the breadth of your journey under the sun. If you've been a Christ follower for 60 years, you've just begun to understand who Almighty God is. We've just barely scratched the surface. He's just begun to initiate in our hearts and our lives what he will do as we continue to cooperate with him.

This whole concept of experiencing the power of the Spirit, I think, is one that lives in the rhetoric of the church but lives far from our practice. I'm not even sure we hold the intent. For clarity's sake, I'm not inviting you to some sort of a flurry of spiritual language or activity, nor in asserting some unique theological position or some special insight. I'm asking you to think about something different, something around a steady, disciplined, purposeful momentum towards listening to God. Time with the Word of God on a daily routine basis. Time with godly people who seek him. Be willing to accept a biblical filter for seeing and understanding the world in which we live.

You see, we have been lulled into a place. We spend time with people who give some sort of acknowledgment of being Christian, but they don't lead Christian lives. They live like pagans. They live in the world. Their aspirations, their dreams, their hopes, their dreams for their children are almost indiscernible from our friends who are not Christians and don't pretend to be Christians. I'm asking you to consider something different. I'm not asking you to be weird or strange. I've had my fill of weird people and telling me it's spiritual. The most intensely spiritual people I've ever known have been the most normal.

So it's not about being bizarre. Being spiritual doesn't mean you're just spontaneous or you're unprepared. But I'm asking you to purposefully, intentionally give your time and energy and effort to honoring the Lord in what you read and listen to and what you think about and the people you'll spend your time with. And if you don't like that, have the courage to say to the Lord, "That doesn't sound appealing to me". Stop the pretense. Stop telling me the date on which you were born again and showing me your baptismal certificate while the joy of your life is standing in the midst of the pagans. Have the courage to begin internally. You don't need to do it with me, but between you and the Lord, begin to process that.

"You know, I want to honor you, but I'm not really that comfortable with people who want to honor you. I'm more comfortable in the midst of the ungodly. I'm more comfortable in a place where profanity is bouncing around the room than I am in a place where people's hands and voices are raised in worship to you". I'm not bringing a criticism to you. We've got to do a little self-diagnosis because we need an outcome different from the one we've been harvesting for several decades now, and I believe it begins with the people of God. We're going to have to step out of the crowd. We're going to need the help of the Holy Spirit. We're going to need the power of the Holy Spirit. I don't believe we will flourish in what's immediately in front of us. I don't mean three years from now or five years from now. I don't believe between now and the months immediately before us we will flourish apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.

Now, with his help I believe we can run through a troop and leap over a wall. I'm not frightened. I'm not anxious. Truthfully my heart is filled with a real sense of anticipation. God is moving in ways I've never seen him. Satan always overplays his hand. He's done it recently. We've watched it on our television screens and now we'll see God's response, but it's time for those of us who are the people of God to begin to honestly evaluate with the Lord the nature of our relationship with him and say, "Holy Spirit, you are welcome in my life more fully, more completely than I've ever welcomed you before". It'll require a bit of humility. It'll require a willingness to change.

In Luke chapter 4 and verse 14 it says of Jesus that he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and the news about him spread through the whole countryside. Jesus is 30 years old. He's already spent the majority of his life. He left Galilee. He traveled south. He was baptized by John in the Jordan River and the Holy Spirit descended upon him physically with a voice from heaven saying, "That's my boy, and I'm proud of him". And the Spirit led him into the wilderness. For 40 days he was tempted. He fasted for 40 days. Satan himself came to tempt Jesus, Satan himself. And it says he returned from that experience to the region of Israel where he had spent the majority of his life, but this time he came back in the power of the Spirit and his public ministry began.

Within a matter of days, Jesus was a name that was known throughout the region. People came from hundreds of miles away. He'd been there for years and years and years anonymously, but when the Spirit of God was present in his life, the outcomes began to change. Church, we need outcomes different than what our journey up to this point have been defined by. We have measured what God would do based on seats that were available, or how much room was in the nursery, or whether it was inconvenient for us to come and worship at that time, or how far we would have to walk from the parking lot. God help us. A generation going to hell, losing a future in the kingdom of God, and we have thought about it in terms of how far we would walk or what time we preferred to worship or the style of music or the translation of the Bible.

Our hearts have been so far from the Lord. When we began to think about the things of God, we would begin with what we preferred. But God is moving. He is shaking us. He's reorienting our lives. It wasn't just Jesus. In Acts chapter 1, Jesus said to his friends, "It's not for you to know the times or the date the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth". It wasn't just Jesus who led a life in the power of the Spirit. A primary consideration of his post-resurrection was that his closest friends and followers would lead their lives in the power of the Spirit to experience the Spirit of God in a personal way, and I believe God is preparing a whole new generation for that. I intend to be a part.

And if you're sitting outside on a Saturday night for church, so do you, in case you didn't know. Now, I want to take the time we have left and simply look at, I don't know, one or two or three people who have preceded us in the faith. They're my heroes. I've lived with these men and women's names and stories for as long as I can remember. I look forward one day to seeing them, but in the meantime their lives speak to us from the pages of scripture and prayerfully are informing our own choices and our own decisions.

You know, when I look at the church and the years I have spent in the church, and I don't mean just this congregation but the broader church, church with a capital C, it seems to me we've spent decades debating about spiritual things. Arguments like this: "Did miracles cease? Did they end with the death of Jesus's original apostles? Does God still do supernatural things? Is it appropriate or presumptive to pray for healing? Are the gifts of the Spirit real or have they been supplanted by technology, science, and modern medical care"? I mean, we can have seminar after seminar and study after study and opinion after opinion and we all swell up with what I think.

Honestly what I think is very much secondary to what God's Word says, and we've got to begin to align ourselves with what God has said to us. We have divided ourselves into spiritual camps based on what we believe to be true as if we're the arbiters. So we imagine we're Pentecostal, or Charismatic, or Baptist, or Church of Christ, or Roman Catholic, or whatever, whatever, whatever, and we're so smug and confident that we're with the right little group and how we know whatever is the best way. We've imagined that if we join a larger group, we must be closer to the truth, and we've avoided the practice of our faith. We've just almost completely stepped away from it. We read our Bibles, we act like, "Oh, that's not for today anymore now". We go to the doctor or we go to school or we go to church. That biblical stuff, that's not for us, and in its place we've accepted this rather weak soup of an intellectual safety in our faith.

You see, a debate is far less messy than engaging the problem. Of all the leaders in the Bible until you meet Jesus, Moses is the expression of leadership. In the book of Hebrews when they're trying to make the case for Jesus, they first have to explain to the audience that they're addressing that Jesus exceeded Moses in what he did. Moses is the pinnacle until we get to Jesus. Well, in Exodus chapter 3 and verse 11 it says, "Moses said to God, 'Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?'"

Some of you know the Moses story. It's why I wanted to start with him. Either "The Prince of Egypt" or "The Ten Commandments" have given you all the backstory. So whether you've seen it in animation or with Cecil B. DeMille's help, you've seen it, but the reality is Moses was intimidated by the assignment which God presented to him. Moses knew Pharaoh. Moses knew Egypt. He knew the power of Pharaoh's armies. He knew the Hebrew slaves and the circumstances with which they lived. And when God presented him with the opportunity to see them delivered from slavery, he agreed with the objective but he felt completely inadequate for the assignment. I understand that feeling. I feel completely inadequate for lifting up the name of Jesus in the midst of a culture that we live in when we've been told he's not welcome in the public square or the public schools or the college campuses or the corporate boardrooms and that we should peel him out of the government. What a bunch of baloney. That's a Greek word. It means I disagree.

Now, when you say, "Well, that needs to be changed," my first sense is I'm completely inadequate for that. I'm not up to that task, and that's what Moses said. Moses said, "Listen, I don't disagree with your premise that slavery is bad and they're suffering and it would be better if they were free, but who am I? I don't want to go". And God said, "I'll be with you". And Moses said, "Thanks but no thanks," to the point that God was angry with him.

I don't know to what extent you've thought about Moses, but I would submit to you he suffered for some pretty serious identity confusion of his own. He had some real anger issues. He was conflicted. He was murderous. He was so torqued that even though he lived in Pharaoh's palace, that even though he understood all the privilege, he had the opportunity for all the learning of Egypt, he understood he'd come from the Hebrew slaves and it left him in a very emotionally tenuous place so that when he saw an Egyptian abusing a Hebrew slave, he murdered him, and in that he forfeited his position.

Moses had a tremendous battle with rejection. Not just fleeing Egypt and forfeiting all the privilege of the palace, his parents floated him in the river. Now, you can say they were trying to save him, but you would forgive him if the nuance of that was lost on him. "You put me in a basket in the river"? There were some tremendous hurdles Moses had to overcome. God called to Moses from the fire. Now, we know it in terms of a bush that was on fire and not being consumed, but I would submit to you God called to Moses from the fire of his own internal conflict. And if you'll allow me, God calls to every one of us through the fire. He doesn't call to us because we seem so well prepared and so emotionally intact and so spiritually sophisticated and because we are so competent in all things godly.

God calls to us from the fire. Most of us are hiding somewhere on the backside of some desert very aware of our previous failures and inconsistencies and inadequacies, and we begin to hear this voice and we think, "You know, that might be God, but I don't think so". And then we have a sense that perhaps God could do something and would do something and maybe there's an opportunity even for us to participate, and then we begin to say like Moses, "I don't speak well, and I'm not particularly powerful. What will I say when they say to me, 'Just who do you think you are?'"

I mean, God gave him some pretty good parlor tricks, a shepherd's staff that become a snake and when you'd pick it back up it'd be a staff again. That's not bad. But Moses said, "With all due respect, I know the magicians of Egypt. They do that". "Well, put your hand in your coat, Moses". And it came out leprous. And put it back and it was healed again. He says, "There's a power with you". "It's all right. There's power over there, too". You see, we are more aware, more confident of the power that stands against us than the power of the Spirit of God within us, and it leaves us mute and frightened and cowardly, and we have to change.

And before we go, I want to pray with you that you'll have the courage to say yes to the assignment that God has for you, that we'll step out of the crowd and be the people God created us to be. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you that you know the details of our lives and the circumstances. You've given us everything we need for life and godliness. Now I pray you'll give us the boldness to say yes to you, to be willing to bear the name of Jesus in the circumstances where you've planted us in a way that will enable us to lay up treasure in heaven. In Jesus's name, amen.

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