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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Are We Awake? - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Are We Awake? - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Are We Awake? - Part 2
TOPICS: Jesus; His Followers and Politics

Leading with our faith in various realms of authority is at the heart of the narrative of Scripture. You know this intuitively if you'll just stop and reflect for a moment. It's just a little bit against conventional wisdom that we hear so frequently. Moses, the greatest leader in the Bible, until we get to Jesus. Notably, for leading the children of Israel, the Hebrew slaves, out of hundreds of years of Egyptian slavery. In Exodus 7, Moses, standing before Pharaoh, the powerful leader of the most powerful nation on the earth in that time, said, "The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go". That was Moses's message to Pharaoh. He didn't say to him, "You need to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".

I would submit to you that Moses's call to Pharaoh was quite political. "Let my people go". And Pharaoh, in turn, desperately wanted to enforce a separation of church and state: "You keep your faith but don't you meddle with how I'm leading this nation". Pharaoh didn't wanna consider God's perspective or entertain his preferences. Pharaoh felt that to acknowledge God, the God of the Hebrews, would weaken his authority, so he refused to acknowledge God, and the outcome was his empire was devastated. The idols of Egypt were humiliated and if we preside over the faith of this generation and we watch God continue to be rejected and idols to be lifted up, if we imagine we're the wealthiest or the most powerful or our military is the strongest or that our technology will save us, their idols, we will watch them be decimated.

If we will stand for the truth of Almighty God, we will see the deliverance. It didn't stop with Moses. It steps right into the New Testament. In John chapter... I'm sorry, in Luke chapter 3, it's John the Baptist. Do you know his story, many of you? It's Luke 3:19: "When John rebuked Herod the tetrarch". It's fancy language. Herod was the Jewish governor over the land, and John the Baptist, a man who lived in the desert with no formal claims to power, he didn't have a large following. He may have had a small band of disciples but he certainly didn't sit in the midst of the Pharisees or the Sadducees or the powerbrokers amongst the Jewish religious community. He was an outsider. His ministry didn't take place around the temple in all of its opulence and wealth.

His ministry took place in the desert, on the shores of the Jordan River. "And John rebuked Herod the tetrarch". He rebuked the governor, "because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done". John's message was not simply to the people to repent. His message was to those that were leading the nation. He called them on their evil behavior, and it says: "Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison". It's the plainest of language. John publicly rebuked the Jewish governor for his evil behavior. Imagine if we did that today. The labels that would begin: "You're being political".

I would submit to you John was being pretty political. And I would honestly tell you he probably could have lived a much longer life if he would have avoided that. But I would remind you that Jesus had nothing but praise for John. He said, "Of those born amongst women, there was no one greater". I would have expected Jesus to tell us the truth. His response when he heard John had been imprisoned, wasn't, "You know, he could never figure out when to be quiet". He didn't look at John's disciples when they came with a message and respond to them as he did to his own disciples so often, "Is he really that dull"? He didn't do that.

Jesus had nothing but commendations for John. It's worth reflecting. God recruited Moses to lead his people, to stand against Pharaoh. God identified Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and stand against all the Canaanite cities and their influence. In the book of Judges, for almost 400 years, God recruited leader after leader after leader to stand against the Philistines or the Midianites or whoever might be oppressing his people. You know the judges: Samson and Gideon. God chose Samuel, the last of the judges, this powerful transitionary figure in our Bibles. God recruited the first king of Israel, Saul. It was God that sent a prophet to anoint a shepherd boy named David to be the greatest of all the Hebrew kings until we meet the Messiah.

God sent his Son in the language of Scripture to rule over all creation. Jesus recruited himself, personally, the leaders for the church. "Come follow me," he said, "I'll make you fishers of men". And then he took them on a private course for a 3-year period, preparing them to be the leadership that would be needed for the Jesus story when he went back to heaven. Please don't imagine that God doesn't care about the authority over our lives. Civil, religious, varying realms of authority. Jesus and his friends in Matthew 10:17: Jesus said, "Be on your guard against men; they'll hand you over to the local councils and they'll flog you in their synagogues. On my account you'll be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles".

Again, he's coaching his followers, and he said, "You're going to face resistance and hatred. They'll hand you over to religious councils; the religious community will not be happy with you". We're gonna have to be wiser. We're gonna have to understand the difference between true and false. For far too long, we've been able just to hide beneath the umbrella of church and think we were in a safe place. The apostasy, the falling away, within so many expressions of the organized church right now is staggering. In Matthew 27, Jesus himself "stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' And Jesus's response: 'It is as you say.'"

Jesus, himself, between his arrest in Gethsemane and his Crucifixion, he faced the religious leaders in Jerusalem, the chief priest, he faced the Jewish governor and he faced the Roman governor. In that 24-hour window, he faced the religious authorities, the Jewish and the Roman civil authorities. Jesus's behavior and the behavior of his closest followers resulted in them being interviewed by political leaders. Are you prepared? Are you prepared to take a biblical worldview to our school boards, to our local congregations, to our hospitals, to our court rooms? Or are we gonna retreat to our private little Bible studies and whisper what we believe about God? We don't need to be angry or belligerent. It's not simply about candidate selection; it's a worldview that we're willing to be associated with.

In Acts 19, when Paul is sending Ananias to a new convert, a Pharisee, a dangerous person, by the name of Saul of Tarsus. God's message to Ananias was, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings". Before Paul had ever begun his first message as an advocate for Jesus, God sent to him a prophet with a message that you'll stand before kings on behalf of the gospel. That sounds pretty political to me, if we use the current definitions. Again, he wasn't advocating for a candidate or a Party, but he was willing to stand in the face of civil authority and be an advocate for a biblical perspective, for God's truth.

I can give you an example. In Acts 13. This is a part of Paul's commissioning: "When they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them.' And after they'd fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on 'em and they sent them off". So you think they're just gonna go do missionary work in the cities around the Mediterranean. But by Acts 26, it says that "Agrippa called for Paul, 'You have permission to speak for yourself.' So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 'King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today.'"

He's standing before a king in defense of his life, but he doesn't really spend his time or his opportunity on defending his behavior. He tells him the good news about Jesus, with such intensity, with such enthusiasm, the king says, "You're out of your mind". To which Paul said, "Except for my chains, I wish you were just like me".

You see, wherever God opens the door, whether it's in our jobs or in our communities, our neighborhoods, our kitchen tables, that's where it has to begin. We've got to be willing to take our faith and share it with the generation in which God has planted us. It's not always welcome. In fact, they've told us for decades that if we're in some public arena, if you're in a corporate setting or a business setting or an academic setting, and some aspect of your faith is interjected into your conversation and one person raises their hand and says, "I'm offended by that," we've been told now for several decades, at least through my academic career, if that were to happen you should be quiet, that there's no place in the public square for your biblical worldview, for your advocacy for Jesus of Nazareth as Lord, Christ, and King.

And for the most part, we have complied. And I can tell you from where I stand today, I'm ashamed that I ever complied. I'm embarrassed. Because now we find ourselves in those same corporate settings or those same academic settings or those same university settings or those same hospitals or courtrooms and they very much have a worldview they're driving through the heart of our culture. And if you or I raise our hands and say, "Excuse me, I'm offended by that perspective. I believe God created us male and female, I don't really believe there are 30 options," we're told to be quiet, that there's no place for our faith in the political arena.

We're just trying to be political. Well, fool me once, shame on you. You fool me twice, shame on me. I would submit to you we're gonna have to find the courage to speak as advocates for the truth that we know. Throughout Scripture, God responded to the people, to his people, in the light of the moral compass of those that he called to lead them. And that will be true in our generation. In the nation in which we live, our leaders are a reflection of our hearts. If you don't like the current version, that's uncomfortable. If you do, you feel pretty good about it. It doesn't change the truth of it.

So I've got a couple of minutes left. The question is what can we do? Well, I have said to you many, many times, and I'm gonna continue to repeat it: an election won't fix us, folks. How many elections do we have to have, walking up to them saying, "This time it's gonna be better," and it's not, before we recognize that what's needed is not another election but we have to have a change of heart in the midst of God's people? So what can we do? First of all, three simple things. We begin by seeking the Lord. Isaiah 55:6 says: "Seek the Lord while he may be found; and call on him while he is near". The implication is God's not always available. We've lived with so much sloppy grace.

Now I believe in grace. If you look up grace in the biblical dictionary, you'll find my picture. I'm an advocate for grace. But we have lived with sloppy grace as if God should stand at constant attention, waiting for me in some weakened moment to cast my attention to him. That's not the biblical presentation. The Scripture says: "Seek the Lord". Look for him like silver or gold or precious stones. You have to move a lot of dirt in order to find a little bit of gold. And I wanna invite you back to this attitude where we seek God, where we wake up every morning, say, "God, I wanna know you today. I wanna find you in the midst of my day. I have assignments in work and things to do and responsibilities to attend to. And my menu's full but in the midst of all of those things, I'm looking for you, God. I wanna know you, I wanna hear your voice. I wanna understand your heart".

Amos 5 and verse 6: "Seek the Lord and live". Did you hear it? If you seek the Lord and live, what does it mean if you don't seek the Lord? Creeping death. You lose vitality, you lose hope, you lose your balance, you lose your orientation. "Seek the Lord and live". Secondly, repent and believe. The greatest catalyst to growing your faith, your confidence in the Lord, it's not another class. It's not another study, and I like to study, I like to learn, I like to read. I listen to sermons, but the greatest catalyst is repentance. You see, repentance opens your heart to God. To repent means a change of thought and a change of behavior.

Matthew 4:17: "Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" He's talking to the covenant people of God. They celebrate the right holidays, they eat the right food, they keep the right rules, they go to the temple, they offer sacrifices, and Jesus didn't begin his message by saying, "Atta boy". His message began with "Repent". And I believe that is at the heart of what God is saying to us right now. We desperately need his help. Repent and believe. In Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, when the crowd is gathered and Peter is addressing them in Jerusalem. It says: "When the people heard him, they were cut to the heart and they said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What shall we do?'" It's the question I hear. "What shall we do"?

It's not a new question. When you begin to sense God's conviction in your life to the point that you're willing to say, "What should we do"? understand the Spirit of God is moving. That sense of almost desperation you feel, something has to happen. We need to do something. What should we do? Peter gave them an answer. "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ". Repent, church. We're gonna have to humble ourselves. We're gonna have to bend our knee and bend our will to the Lordship of Jesus. We've relegated God to a worship service or a building or joining a group or belonging to a denomination.

I'm not opposed to any of those things, but we've got to begin to say, "Lord, I am sorry. I have been self-absorbed, I've been carnal. Oh, I said the sinner's prayer, I belong to the people, I celebrated the right holidays and I didn't do those big moral things you said not to do, but my heart, it's been a long way away from you. It's been filled with ambitions that were almost indistinguishable from my ungodly friends. I've been chasing things that were limited in time. God, I'm sorry. I don't even know what it means to seek you first. But, Lord, help me. I wanna change how I think and I wanna change how I spend my time".

God will meet you in that. We're gonna start baptizing folks here in just a minute. There's about 100 on the list tonight. Some of you that didn't sign up need to get in the pool. Don't call me next week and ask me when we're gonna baptize folks. And I said three things. There's one last one and I'm gonna close. Live as if you were convinced that Jesus is Lord. Live every day as if you were convinced that Jesus is Lord. Now you know how to interpret that. It'll depend a little bit on the passions of your life. If you're a UT fan, you know where they're playing football this time of the year, you know whom they're playing, you know what the odds are, you know what the point spread is. You know whether you're excited or sad. You know whether the referee stole it again.

It forms how you look at this time of the year. You planned your weekends around it, you planned your social events around it. You make travel plans based on that set of priorities. I'm not saying it's wrong or it's wicked or it's evil. I'm telling you, begin to live as if Jesus were Lord of your life more than any given hobby or habit or preference. I'm not saying you have to eliminate those things that bring renewal to you and refreshing to you. I'm saying you may have to reprioritize them. We have not lived as if Jesus were Lord. We've lived as if Jesus were convenient, and we could fit him into our schedules.

In Romans 10:9, you know the verse. It says: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you'll be saved. Because it's with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it's with your mouth that you confess and are saved". Repeating the sinner's prayer is an entry point. Living as if Jesus is Lord is growing up in your salvation. Let your life be a declaration of your allegiance to Jesus. Take Jesus with you everywhere you go. Don't go places where he's not welcome. If you're going someplace where you're not willing to stop and say, "Jesus is Lord," what exactly are you doing there?

Let your reputation be defined as a person who seeks to please the Lord. More so than any other single descriptive of your life, more than any other talent or ability or gift or accomplishment, may you be known as a person who seeks to please the Lord. Continue to invite the Holy Spirit to refine your life, your thoughts, and your behaviors. You may have been a Christ follower for 50 years. Folks, we are beginners. We are beginners. We've got to continue to say to the Holy Spirit, "I need your help. My heart is too hard and I'm too often and too easily distracted. I wanna know how to honor you, to fulfill what you created me for".

Folks, you may have retired from your profession, you haven't retired from the kingdom. Get in the game. Your life may be filled 'cause you've got little people running around the house. I would tell you that's a God assignment, a kingdom assignment. But it's a train-and-release program. Keep learning, keep growing, keep expanding your serve. Reject the voices that suggest that you temper your efforts. Reject the voices that tell you you should dial back your enthusiasm, that you're born again and you've been baptized and you're a good person, why are you so focused on this faith stuff? Why do you have to bring Jesus into so many conversations? Why do you spend so much time around all those Christian people? You're good enough. Give yourself a little latitude.

Folks, it's the voice of the enemy and his objective is not to limit you or to hinder you or to annoy you or to slow you down. His objective is your destruction. Live your life as if you were convinced that Jesus is Lord. Have you got your response points? Seek the Lord. Repent and believe. And live every day as fully as possible as if you're convinced Jesus is Lord, amen. Now, you'll be surprised to know I brought you a prayer. It's in your notes if you're in a place where you can see 'em; if not, they'll put it on the screens. It's not original to me. I borrowed it from Psalm 51. It's David's great prayer of repentance when he sinned with Bathsheba, his adultery and the murder of her husband.

When that became known, David had a choice to make. He's an ancient near-Eastern monarch. He could have eliminated all the opposition. He controlled the FBI and the Department of Justice. It's not new. Except in the ancient near East there was no one to ask a question. God sent a prophet and he said, "You're guilty. I know what you've done". Do you understand the degree to which Nathan put his life at risk? David's already killed a warrior. He's already committed adultery. It would seem, as an observer, that his moral compass is broken, and God said to Nathan, "I want you to go talk to the king".

You know what Nathan said? "I don't wanna be political". No, fortunately, he didn't. He went to the king and he said, "I need to tell you a story". And at the end of the story he said, "God knows what you've done. And God came to tell me you won't escape". And Psalm 51 is David's prayer of repentance. It seemed like a good place for us to begin. Why don't you stand with me. If you're here and God convicted you and you haven't been honoring him, we're gonna pray this prayer of repentance. Some of you need to get in the pool. They'll put this on the screens, I believe. Let's pray it together:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

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