Allen Jackson - Let's Get Started - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you today. We're gonna complete our discussion on getting started on stepping out of the crowd. We don't wanna stay on the broad path that leads to a way to destruction. We wanna spend our lives on that narrow path and a narrow gate and a unique reward of life. And to do that, you don't need a special anointing, you don't have to have special strength or special vocal abilities or a visit from a talking donkey. You've got to be willing to say "Yes" to the Lord. That's my invitation to you today. Determine in your heart to say "Yes" to the God opportunities that are before you. Not the ones you want, the ones that are before you. Grab your Bible and get a notepad. But most importantly, open your heart to the Lord.
Again, I think we've had this goofy notion of what it means to be Spirit-filled or to have this dynamic of God's help. It's not about getting everything just lined up appropriately. It's the messy stuff of continuing to invite God into our lives. Requires us to repent and forgive and release and renounce and get clean and get back in the arena. Have to come back and forgive again. 'Cause if you're engaged in the conflict very long, you'll get a response other than "Bless you". Or I will. I get a response other than "Bless you" just driving to Nashville. Don't you all? We get some super-spiritual. "Well, you know, Pastor, many years ago there was an occasion where I needed to forgive". Yeah, me too. It's called Saturday. And the only reason it was better this morning is when I came to work there were no other cars on the road, so I got here, like, free.
Well, there was one and I was a little unhappy with them. That's actually true. When I came to work there was one other car on the road and they happened to be in my driveway when I was trying to pull out and I thought, you know, "That's just not right. One car and I had to hit the brake pedal for them". So I hit 'em. No I didn't. But I asked the Lord about it, so. Paul, I think we could say he lived a relatively fruitful life for the kingdom of God. Two-thirds of the New Testament by title are attributed to him. And yet, when he gave his résumé, he didn't do it in terms of conversions or a litany of miracles that were accomplished through his ministry, or the supernatural things that he had seen. He didn't even list in detailed order the revelation he'd been given, which was extensive, of Jesus.
When he wanted to make a case for his qualifications as an advocate for Jesus, he did it in terms of the hardships that he had faced as an expression of his faithfulness. It's a bizarre way to provide a recommendation. There was an argument in the Corinthian church, a church that Paul had helped shepherd into existence, and the people who'd arrived in his absence were trying to discredit him and disqualify him. And he said, "Many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ"? He said, "I'm a little nuts to talk to you like this. I am more. I've worked harder, I've been in prison more frequently, I've been flogged more severely, I've been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one".
His résumé is what he endured. I don't know if I wanna build a résumé like that. Couldn't I talk about degrees I earned? Or attendance numbers? Or budgets? Or how many meetings I held? I think Paul is giving us an invitation. He's opened a window, he's pulled a curtain back on a life that would enable us to please the Lord, a life that would be rewarded, a Spirit-directed life. It could very well lead us into places of conflict. I know there are voices in the world today that say the Israelis are facing a war because they deserve it. I don't agree with them. I think that's an expression of hatred that, for the most part, is ignored. No one deserves to have their babies beheaded. It's an unthinkable statement. And Paul faced difficulties and obstacles and physical punishment. He was physically disfigured from the suffering that he faced. But he recounts his résumé in terms of his suffering, not his achievements. He celebrates what he's overcome, not the miracles which God performed.
Paul's not whining; he's encouraging. He's not bemoaning what's happened to him. He's saying, "Listen, if you're walking through this stuff, come on, let's keep moving. If you found opposition, if you found injustice, if you found hatred, let's go". We don't need the government to promise us a solution. Almighty God will bring us through. It's a reorientation, it's our family tradition. Paul is showing us the way. He's illuminating a path. He's highlighting the nature of a commitment to the Lord. We haven't had enough of this disgust with us. We thought commitment was surviving another worship service, like, "How often do we have to attend"? And since COVID, the message has been, "You don't have to. Just find a screen".
Whee! Paul led a Spirit-directed life. All of these heroes we've looked at experienced a supernatural intervention of God. But the awkward reality is each one of them had to overcome threats, attacks, fear, impatience, injustice, rejection, temptations of their own, false accusations, powerful enemies. We wanna say, "It's the end of the age and we're just gonna get raptured out of it," so we don't have to think about it. We should pay attention to our predecessors so we have the courage to be people of faith in the midst of this generation. If the Lord returns, we'll be busy about his activities. If he doesn't, we will have represented well on our watch.
Let's go. I'm gonna wrap this up with some simple guidelines for stepping out of the crowd. They're ideas that'll underscore your ability to do this. It's purposeful, it's intentional, it's not accidental. It's not emotional, it's not whimsical. It will take some real determination on your part. I don't wanna mislead you. To honor the Lord will take the very best you have. It'll take more self-discipline than any project in your life. If you've thought you could please Almighty God with a casual halfhearted investment of yourself, you have been deceived. If you think you can make a greater commitment to your hobby of choice or your profession of choice, in your preparation for those things, than you can make in serving the Lord, we have devalued who God is.
And I'm not recruiting for anything today. But some simple guidelines. The first is recognize that those who have preceded us in this family have had confidence in someone beyond time. In someone beyond time. They believed in God and they ordered their lives upon that foundational belief. That seems so simple, but you could walk past it. You see, we don't believe in something. It's not some nebulous whatever. We believe there is a God and he can be known and he's omniscient, he's all-knowing, and he's omnipotent, he's all-powerful. And in his grace and mercy, he's made it possible for us not only to know him but to participate in his eternal kingdom. There's no greater opportunity that will ever be presented to you or to me. I wanna please him. I wanna know him better tomorrow than I know him today.
I really care very little about playing church, but I love to be with the people of God. He can be known. In the language of the New Testament, it's about Jesus being Lord of your life. That is the message, that's the presentation, of the New Testament. Not just knowing Jesus as a Savior. Pilate said, "This man is innocent. He doesn't deserve death". The centurion that was there when Jesus died on the cross, said, "Certainly, this was the Son of God". There's a lot of voices that understood the uniqueness of Jesus, the innocence of Jesus, but there's a great difference in recognizing that and choosing Jesus as Lord. I wanna be certain you're not confused. In Galatians 3 and verse 6 it says: "Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'"
How do we know he believed God? What was the evidence that he believed in God? He totally and completely reordered his life around that. You see, the message of Scripture is, throughout the Bible, God's people have been asked to yield all to him. And I'm not sure we've really meditated upon that. We haven't lived with that idea. We've been told to get saved, get born again, to walk the aisle, maybe take a dip in the pool, and I believe in the new birth and the conversion, but it's the doorway, it's the entry point into the yielding of a life to the Lordship of Jesus. Philippians 2 says: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus". We should have Jesus's attitude. In what way? With him "being in the very nature God, he didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped".
We're not trying to make ourselves Godlike. That's a very important distinction. Jesus's entry into time was about a forfeiture, and our journey through time is about laying things down, not about being served but being a servant. Not about being entitled, but about serving the one who has given us the privilege of participating in his kingdom. It's a different orientation. It's not one we have talked about enough. We've imagined our faith as a way to upgrade. And God does bring blessings and God does bring good things, and I've served the Lord long enough, I can tell you from my own experience portfolio, he is faithful. But there's a yielding that comes with it. And it will continue along your whole journey.
In Philippians 3:8 Paul says: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I've lost all things. I consider them rubbish". I'm not saying you have to go home and have a yard sale. That's not what I'm suggesting to you, but I'm suggesting there's nothing that you're fighting to hold onto that has any value that remotely reflects the value of being identified with Jesus. So if when you identify with Jesus something that you have imagined valuable is threatened, understand your alliance with Jesus is more valuable. See, I interact with people a lot and I'll hear things like, "Well, you know, Pastor, if I stood up or I said something, it would have an impact on my professional life". No doubt. Or, "If I said that, it could disrupt my family system". It could.
All of those observations are very legitimate but they're not legitimate excuses to be a covert Christian. If we're going to step out of the crowd, we're gonna have to do it before we need God to be our deliverer. One of the best examples in all, it's a simple story. You learned it in Sunday school. When Goliath is challenging the armies of Israel. The most valiant warriors in Israel are hiding in their tents. They're nameless, they're faceless. David's own brothers are amongst them. We don't know who they are. Well, shepherd kid shows up and he hears Goliath bellowing his challenge, and he said, "Who is this? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, this man with no covenant with God, that he would threaten the people who have a covenant with God"? He said, "God has delivered the lion into my hand and the bear into my hand, and I mean, he's ugly and he's big but God's bigger".
You see, it's too late to step out of the crowd when you hear Goliath. And what we should all understand us Goliath is in all of our pathways. Takes various forms and presents in different ways, but there are challenges that are intimidating and threatening and frightening and unwelcome and uninvited, and we would rather look around and avoid, but they're unavoidable. And you want to have stepped out of the crowd and say, "I belong to him". So then you can respond like David's responded, "Oh, yeah, that's a threat, but I know God is a deliverer because he's delivered me from other things and he'll deliver me from this". We believe in someone who has an authority beyond time.
A second component to stepping out of the crowd is that that they didn't see the completion of their assignment. This one's not easy. Their lives were an investment in the eternal purposes of God. I think we wanna see the full outcome. We wanna see the completion. We wanna see the end of the story. And that's typically not the case in Scripture. Moses didn't see the end of the journey that began with that bush that was burning in the desert. He didn't see the completion of what happened when the Red Sea was parted. He didn't get to see the outcome of all those people and all the manna, and he just didn't. David didn't get to see the temple built. And on and on it goes. And you and I are a part of a story that's bigger than us.
We've got the baton for a little while, and we wanna carry it faithfully and diligently and very purposefully. But we want there to be an outcome beyond ourselves. Many of you think about how to pass along wealth or opportunities, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I assure you there's something far more profound to extend to the generations who follow you, and that's a legacy of faithfulness to God. It doesn't take long for that to be lost. And if there's an interruption in a family system, then it takes the sovereign intervention of God to bring them back on course. Don't you be the generation where there's a break. It's so important.
Hebrews 11: "These people were", Hebrews 11 is the hall of fame. "These people were living by faith when they died. They didn't receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance". They didn't see everything that was promised. Abraham saw Jesus, but he didn't meet him. He understood what he would be, but he didn't have the Passover meal with him. In Matthew 28, it's Jesus post-Resurrection. Jesus after his Crucifixion and after his Resurrection, he meets with his friends and he said, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore you go and make disciples of all nations".
Jesus came, he said, to seek and to save those who were lost. But the completion of that assignment, he entrusted to the Holy Spirit and his disciples. He said, "It's better for you if I go away and the Father will send another Comforter. There's a lot more you need to know but you can't take it if I told it to you now". So even Jesus didn't see the fulfillment in his days on the earth. He completed his assignment. And so often, we get so inward-focused, so self-centered, we wanna see the fulfillment. Let's begin to say, "Lord, I wanna complete my course. I want to extend the baton to the generation who follows".
I have a memory. I attended Oral Roberts University once upon a time, and when I was there, President Roberts was still very much involved with the campus and they'd begun some big project and, for his 60th birthday, we had some gathering. I remember we were, the whole student body was there. He stepped out and he said, "The Lord has shown me that your ministry will exceed mine". And if you knew Oral, that was not an easy pill to swallow. Boy had a vision. And he smiled for a moment, then he said, "But I think it'll take more than one of you".
And when I was there, there was nobody imagining I was going to do ministry. Be nice. And I look back some years later at the students that were there with me and what God has done in and through their lives, and in truth, God has touched more people through those students that came through that place. But that stuck with me and the imagination that what we do is a small representation of what God will do with the seed of our life if we will offer it to him. The ministry that takes place through this congregation and the ministries that you represent far exceeds what any one of us does. Don't be confused. Don't be confused.
There's a third principle for stepping out of the crowd and that's to know that God searches for people in every generation. Every generation has to speak for itself. There's any number of chapters of... they say that the World War II generation was the greatest generation. You know, I can point to a number of places in American history where there have been very decisive choices made that gave a better future to those who followed. None of those determined what will follow us. We will determine that. What kind of people will we be? What will the heritage we leave be? Will it be a redefinition of marriage and confusion about biology? I hope not. I hope we'll have the courage to step into the public square and say, "I believe there's a better way".
We've been silent long enough. We've acted like we didn't notice long enough. God searches for people in every generation. 2 Chronicles 16: "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him". And the reality is the awkward part of this, you know, you read that and you think, "Oh, in every generation, some..." No, in every generation, they don't. In every generation they don't. Look at Ezekiel 22: "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I wouldn't have to destroy it, but I found none".
Folks, God's judgment is before us as a people. And the only thing that will bring a different outcome is a change of heart amongst God's people. It's not going to be about an election. It's not about the UN or international relationships. It's you and me and our attitudes towards the Lord. If we can align ourselves with him more completely, perhaps God will look upon us with mercy, because his eyes are searching the earth for men and women whose hearts are fully committed to him. Let's decide to become those people. "What would our neighbors say"? They'll say "Thank you" if they have any sense.
And then finally, this stepping out of the crowd thing. Our assignment doesn't require us to do great things. I would relieve you from that burden. We don't have to become great influencers, we don't have to go viral. We're not required to do great things. What we're required to do is be faithful to the One who can do anything, because our faithfulness is what is required. And if we will be faithful in the place where God has planted us, then God brings about outcomes that are so extraordinary that with any honesty at all you would say, "Only God could have done that". Lead a life that when someone looks at it they say, "There had to be an involvement of God. I met them. They had a southern accent, they liked cornbread. Only God could have brought about that outcome".
You're absolutely right: only God. Only God. So when that voice goes off on the inside of you that says you're not smart enough, or you're not well enough resourced, or you don't know enough people, or whatever, you've failed, the accuser is relentless. And you can respond: "You're absolutely right, but have I told you about my elder brother? His name is Jesus. And did you hear about what he did for me? He shed his blood and, through his blood, I've been justified and, oh, by the way, it means just as if I'd never sinned. And through his blood I've been sanctified. I've been set apart for his eternal purposes. And because of his shed blood, every claim of Satan against me has been canceled. Have I told you that story"?
Then, you're right, I'm not that clever. My education was a little spotty, and my discipline was a little inconsistent, but I belong to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and if I will stay in my space, he'll bring an outcome that anybody who looks will know that was God. Just so we're not confused, here's the invitation: Step out of the crowd. Stop hiding. Find your voice, raise your hand, be identified. It's time, church. It is time. I brought you a prayer, and it really, it's not mine. I put the reference in your notes so you would have no confusion. I borrowed it from Romans chapter 11. It's a doxology, it's a public declaration of the glory of God.
There are very few things you and I can do that are more profound than give glory to God. It's more significant than any request I can make. Before Jesus invited Lazarus out of the tomb, he said, "Father, I thank you that you hear my prayers". He started with an expression of gratitude, and I think it's an appropriate way for us to bring this session to a conclusion. So if you'll stand with me, I'm gonna ask you to read it with me. If you're at home, you read it with us too. We can hear you right through that screen. Not quite, but God can.
You know, there's a spiritual authority in your words? Now you can abuse that idea, but there's a truth in it. In the same way, broccoli is good for you, but if all you eat is broccoli, that's not good for you. So you can take any idea and turn it into something that's harmful, but the truth is there's spiritual authority in your words and we need to begin to use them for good. This is a prayer you could repeat every day this week while you're praying for what's happening in the land of Israel and what's happening in our nation. Let's read it together:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen, hallelujah.