Allen Jackson - A Time of Great Change - Part 2
Hey, we're gonna finish our study today on Jesus and his friends and politics. This session we're talking about change. We're living in a world of tremendous, unprecedented change. It is redirecting our futures. The way we've lived in the past, it's not gonna be adequate for what's ahead of us. But I don't believe the best response is fear. Throughout the Bible, all of our heroes walk through these unprecedented times of change. Abram left home, Moses left Egypt, David went from being a shepherd to being a fugitive. Change is a part of our lives. It doesn't mean God has left us, it means he's leading us. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
If someone declares that they are pro-choice and they support unlimited access to abortion, they're called advocates for freedom. If someone believes that marriage may include any combination of persons, animals, or things, they're celebrated as progressive thinkers. If someone believes a biblical worldview of human sexuality is wrong, that it's too narrow, it's out of date, it's bigoted or just plain unacceptable, they're welcomed as modernist. In our churches, folks, if someone believes that the teacher's unions and governmental authority is the preferred voice in selecting content for our children's classrooms, they're considered enlightened.
When someone places pornographic books in the libraries of our school children, they're labeled as champions of diversity. When someone demonstrates in support of Hamas demanding that Israel and the Jewish people be restrained, they become social justice advocates. When the label misinformation is evoked and speech is censored, or vaccines are mandated for employment, or churches are closed as casinos are left open, the perpetrators are deemed warriors of the public interest. It's a paradox. If we speak to our culture from the perspective of our faith and from a biblical worldview or a Judeo-Christian worldview, we're told to be quiet, that somehow we're trying to deconstruct a barrier between faith and society.
But when people advocate for a worldview that opposes a biblical worldview, they are welcomed into the religious discussion. They're considered experts, or people of heightened compassion, or greater awareness, or heightened sensitivities. We're living in a time of great change and we're gonna have to decide where we wanna be identified. You can't remain silent when our Lord and Savior is being denigrated, mocked, ridiculed, and his values are being separated from the preparation and training of our children and imagine that you're a faithful follower of Jesus of Nazareth. It's an impossible separation to maintain. It's a time of great change. And whenever there's change, there are responses required of God's people.
We can't just resist the changes. We have to change, we have to grow, and we have to learn. You see, you can change and not grow, but it's impossible to grow without changing, and we need the church to grow. We need the church to grow in our ability to communicate a message. We need the church to grow in our ability to impact our culture. We need the church to grow in the influence of the training and education of our children. On our watch faith has been diminished in our classrooms and our college campuses. That's an unacceptable outcome, it's an unacceptable legacy, and we cannot quietly walk that pathway any further. Learning is a catalyst for growth.
I can give you an example. I just picked a couple of verses from Hebrews 11. It's the hall of fame of our faith. And it describes for us the changes that God's people were required to embrace in order to pursue the purposes of God for their lives. And you and I are gonna have to embrace some changes if we will say, "Yes" to the purposes of God for our lives. We're not just trying to hold on to the faith of the previous generation. God called us to this beginning of the 21st century when technology is exploding and the world has been reduced to what we can watch on our portable devices over breakfast.
In Hebrews 11:7, it says, "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family". Is it safe to say that Noah had to assimilate a little bit of change? I mean, he went to small group. And he got some insight in the midst of group that said, "Son, you need to build a boat". So he told everybody in the group and they laughed at him. So he went to the only group that really couldn't say, "No," it was his family, and said, "We're gonna build the boat". And they said, "We're in, but what's a boat"? And they spent years doing that and preaching. It says he was a preacher of righteousness. Nobody listened, they loaded the boat, "God shut them in," the Bible says.
And the next time they were let out of the boat, their entire existence The Bible says to us that "In the days of the Son of man," when he returns to the earth, "It will be like the days of Noah and Lot". Are you ready to change? Are you ready to grow? Are you ready to find a new response? I didn't want a new response. I'm pretty certain Noah didn't wanna take a cruise. And if he went on a cruise, he didn't wanna take all the animals. But God didn't ask for a vote, he gave him a plan that would bring deliverance to himself and his family. Some of us are still so engaged in trying to get God to do what we want that we're ignoring his invitation to a plan that would bring deliverance to ourselves and our families.
But Noah is not alone. In Hebrews 11:8, very next verse, it says, "By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, he obeyed and went, even though he didn't know where he was going". Abraham had a life change. He drove home one afternoon with a U-Haul. "Sarah, we're moving. You get a new house, you get a new address, you can buy new furniture". "Where are we going"? "I don't know". Folks, that didn't play any better in Abraham's day than it would in yours. "Really? Who gave you this idea"? "An unseen God". Abram's family were idol makers. "Well, which one of the gods"? "None of those". "Oh, well, who's going with us"? "Well, nobody really. Maybe Lot". "Oh good, you picked the one troublemaker, he's never cooperated with anything".
Abram changed everything about his life. He changed his location, he changed his routines, he changed his future. See, that's not the way we've come to faith, that's not the way that we look at this season. The fear and the anxiety that we face is we understand fundamentally things are changing, that the world we have known is slipping between our fingers. It's an accurate assessment, that's the truth. Things are changing, but God is saying, "Will you follow me? Will you trust me? Will you walk with me? Will you honor me"? And we've had our heels dug in pretty determinedly saying, "We would really rather you just fix our problems. We would really just rather you fix our problems".
In Hebrews 11, same chapter verse 24, it says, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter". Moses chose tremendous change for his life. He had lived since infancy in Pharaoh's palace with access to all that went with that, the training and the knowledge and the science, the Bible says, of Egypt, the most powerful empire of his day. And at some point as a young man, he chose to walk away from that. It says, "To suffer mistreatment with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of the palace". He chose that. He chose to change. So I'm bringing the question back, and there's not a simple answer and I'm not inviting you on a journey tonight, not a physical journey, but are we willing to change to be the church that is necessary to meet the challenges of this time? Are we gonna act like we don't notice? Are we gonna say, you know, we just need an election. For real? Do you really think next November's gonna fix it?
I mean, I think it's appropriate to participate in the process and to pray. We have an opportunity to choose our leaders, and that's a wonderful freedom that we have. I'm not opposed to it, I'm engaged with it, but I don't imagine it's gonna fix us. They just change church and go back to town and start the same stuff again. The church is the one God is asking to change, the covenant people of God. That would be you and me. That list of biblical characters that face changes goes right on through the story of scripture. David, he makes Jerusalem his capital. There'd never been such a thing in Israel.
Twelve tribes, and David had the audacity to take a city that wasn't into the tribal control of anyone and say, "We have a capital, a place that will be the center of our nation, the city of the king". And now it's the city of the eternal King. His son Solomon built a temple. They never had a physical building where they worshiped. And God said, "You can build a temple in my city". Unbelievable change. I promise you there was a whole segment of people that they were the tabernaclist. "Moses gave us a tabernacle, he showed us how to use it. Aaron taught us how to worship in a tabernacle. We've had a tabernacle for hundreds of years, we had a tabernacle in the wilderness, we had a tabernacle during the conquest, we had a tabernacle with King David, tabernacle's good enough for us. Bah".
And Solomon built a temple. Then there's a civil war and there's two nations from one. We've got Israel and Judah. Same people, same footprint, two nations. Change was afoot. We've never seen it like this. The 12 tribes have never been divided. Oh, they've had their divisions and their arguments, but when there was stress, they stood together. After Solomon, that's not true. There's tremendous, great change in what it means to be the people of God. Voices saying, "Don't go to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage feasts. Don't go to celebrate those things, you stay here". The people had to process their faith, they had to open their hearts. And they didn't do so well and there's an exile. God sends them out of the land. They're still the covenant people of God but now there's no sacrifices.
You can't take your sacrifice to the priest, you can't celebrate Yom Kippur, you can't celebrate the day of atonement as you've celebrated in the past. There's no more daily sacrifices. How do we worship the Lord? How do we understand our faith? There's a lot of change taking place. It goes on and on and on through the story of God's people. Jesus's birth, the Messiah. He arrives, the angels announce it in the skies of Bethlehem, the shepherds hear the announcement and they rush to look for the baby. And there's no royalty. There's no contingent from the palace. The high priests aren't there. The Sadducees aren't there. I mean, there's some strangers, but they spoke funny languages and they dressed kind of weird. Ba rum pa pum pum, but that's... They were humming a song with a catchy little tune. It's gonna last. A lot of change.
And then Jesus grows to maturity and begins his public ministry. And he heals the sick and he raises the dead and he cast out demons. And the people who are leading in the temple and in charge of all the temple worship resent him, they're threatened by him. And there's change again in the land. "Who do we listen to? Who do we trust? I've been reading the Temple News and they say that this Jesus guy's a crazy character. But there's that non-Jewish newspaper from up by Galilee, and they said he's getting some really big crowds. Which is right? Which is the right messages? Do we really think...that's not the Messiah. The Messiah we're looking for is a political deliverer".
And then they hear he was crucified. Remember the two on the road to Emmaus? They said, "We had believed. We had hoped that he was the one. But then the Romans killed him". They had to change their imagination. They had to recalibrate. And the disciples are all in. They said, "Lord, we'll follow you anywhere, we'll even follow you to death, we're all in. We left our businesses, we've left everything to follow you, we're all in". And then Jesus begins to say to them, "Listen, I'm leaving, and where I'm going, you can't go". "Wait a minute, we didn't sign up for that. That was not the nature of the bargain as we understood it". "Nevertheless, it's better for you if I leave you. I'll send you more help". "No, no, we're good, you just stay put".
And in Acts chapter 1 it says, "They went with him to the Mount of Olives". They've done that dozens and dozens of times. And while they're there, he lifted off. A lot of change. You see, to imagine we're the people of God and say, "We don't change," is to ignore the story. Not casual adjustments, not musical styles, we can't even change Bible translations. I mean, after all the Apostle Paul wrote the King James, that's good enough for me. I grew up reading the King James Bible, I still tend to think in 17th century English. But thou does not understand all of the terms. So I would submit to you that if we're going to flourish and fulfill God's purpose for our generation, we're gonna have to understand what changes are appropriate and what are not.
I will tell you this, fundamentals matter. Fundamentals like the authority of scripture. What I think is not nearly as important as what the scripture says. What your favorite teacher or preacher or whoever you like to read, what they say is not nearly as important as what the scripture says. Community, the importance of people who love and serve God. Spend your discretionary time with people who love and serve God. The rest of your life will put you in the context of other people, but when you have a choice, not just people who say they love God, choose people that serve God. If they say they love God and they don't live a godly life, you need new friends. Amen, pastor. It's very difficult to sustain your faith and your momentum with the Lord apart from God's people.
You know this, solitary confinement is a form of punishment. And on the other end of the spectrum, life with people who oppose your worldview is exhausting. Spend your discretionary time with people who love and honor the Lord. 1 Peter 2 says, "You're the people of God. Once you weren't a people," Peter said, "But now you're the people of God". And then the third component is learning. It starts with the authority of scripture. You need the strength that comes from being in community. And then you've got to be willing to be a learner. In Philippians 4:11, Paul said, "I've learned to be content whatever the circumstances".
I've learned to be content. Please notice what he said, contentment is learned. He said, "I've learned to be content. There was a time I didn't know how. There was a time contentment was not in my personal portfolio, but I have learned to be content". In Hebrews 5 and verse 11 it says, "We have much to say, but it's hard to explain because you are slow to learn". Folks, we are educated so far beyond our level of obedience. Oh, come on, we are. How many Bible studies have we been to? How many sermons have we heard? How many services? How many groups do we have to go to before we start to do what we know? To walk in obedience and uprightness. We're slow to learn. That's not gonna work in this time. We're gonna have to become better adapters, better learners. We're gonna have to learn to hear the voice of the Lord.
Many of us given an option, we'd rather go to a seminar on heaven than go to heaven. We'd rather go to a Bible study on the manifestations of the Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit than go stand in line to receive. 'Cause we wanna be sure we fully understand it before we partici...oh, get over it. You don't know how your cell phone works. "Oh, yes, I do, it's digital". Well, there you go MacGyver. Here's a box of paperclips, make one. We've been slow to learn. Slow learners, we're not motivated to learn. There's not teachers that help us learn. There's some things about learning we need to acknowledge. This is so important. We've lost this. We've lost it in the church, we've lost it in our schools. Not all learning is fun or pleasant, nor should it be. Some lessons we need to learn just aren't fun. We've fallen for this myth. It's a part of the turmoil that all learning should be an experience, that it should just be fun. It should make me happy, I should look forward to it every day.
Well, there's some things you and I have to learn to complete our godly assignment. We have to learn perseverance. The only way I know to learn perseverance is by? See, you know. By persevering. I'm here to tell you that's not fun. I hope you persevere. I mean, be all right with me if God chose a path for me that just didn't require any, but he doesn't choose those paths. Perseverance, things like endurance, to overcome. All the promises of God are extended to those who overcome. That presupposes obstacles, resistance, challenges. It's true for us, it's true for our children. If you don't allow them to learn to persevere and to endure and to overcome, you rob them of the strength they will need to run the race. We've had such a perverted gospel. We've tried to turn God into a helicopter parent.
People say, "Oh, I just can't believe God". What, did you read the book? Joseph, your brothers are gonna sell you and then you're gonna go to prison because you said no to an immoral invitation, and I designed it all. Abraham, follow me and I'll bless everybody through you, but you're gonna wait a while. Moses, lead my people to freedom and they will grumble and complain and try to figure out who's gonna assassinate you most days. You see, we have recreated God in this most carnal, self-absorbed way, so that if we even talk about taking our faith into culture, people start saying, "You shouldn't do that".
I learned, and many of you have been taught that a text without a context is a pretext. Well, I would submit to you a text that can't be understood and discussed in time in the light of the context in which we live is the pretext. It's theoretical, and we don't worship a theoretical God. Jesus didn't die on a theoretical cross. Jesus wasn't abandoned by theoretical disciples. Jesus wasn't accused by a theoretical high priest. He wasn't beaten by theoretical Roman soldiers. He wasn't buried in a theoretical tomb and he wasn't raised to a theoretical life. And we have to have the courage to take that truth and plainly communicate it to our generation in the midst of our educational systems and our business systems, and our schools, and our college campuses, and world events, because we believe honoring God is the best way to be. And in all of our brokenness, and in all of our humanity, and in all of our weaknesses, we will hold up that truth, amen. That was more than a minute.
I brought you a proclamation. I want you to stand with me. I took it from two passages of scripture, but it's a very similar idea, and I want us to make it as a declaration over our lives. I haven't changed the scriptures at all, I even left the verse numbers in there. I gave you the references. You can check me to see if I made it up, but I want us to say it. You see, your words have a spiritual authority and when you say what God says about you, it has a unique role in your life. All right, if you found your proclamation, they'll put it on the screens for us as well. Let's make this as a declaration over our lives:
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths: guide me in your truth and teach me for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord, amen.