Allen Jackson - Confused Message, Confused Messengers - Part 1
It's good to be with you again. We're continuing our discussion on "Jesus, His Followers, And Politics". You know, I wanna be really clear, we'll work on it more in the lesson but the gospel is the solution for the transformation of human lives and for the ills that face us as a people. But the implications of the gospel have to be understood in light of current events. We can't just do Bible studies based on first century circumstances, we have to understand our Bible in light of the 21st century. That's how we get heart change. So we're trusting the gospel but the gospel has to be introduced to the culture of the world in which you and I live. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
Now we're working through a series and I wanna continue it through this session and I believe the next talking about Jesus's followers and politics because I'm not annoying enough when we just talk about scripture so I wanted to throw the word politics in there. Now there's a lot of confusion around that in the church and we've been working to see if we could bring some clarity to that. In this session, I wanna talk a bit about a confused message that results in confused messengers because I think we're struggling with this in the church in our nation. We're not sure what's appropriate or inappropriate and we're oftentimes allowing our conversations to be defined by people that don't share our worldview and that would be a mistake.
We need to understand who we are, what we believe, and what our assignment is because we'll be held accountable for it. We'll be held accountable to our faithfulness to the Lord more than we'll be held accountable to our faithfulness to governments. We shouldn't be confused we live under various realms of authority and I'm not questioning that or the significance of that, but our primary allegiance is to the Lord and we need to understand our assignment and there is a tremendous amount of confusion on that topic but hopefully we're gaining a little clarity. We're living in one of those pivot points in history.
They don't happen every year or even every decade but there are times when events seem to come to a culmination and changes are initiated that bring sweeping changes and I believe we're in one of those seasons and the outcomes seems to me to still be in the balance. But with just a casual glance, you don't need to be a particularly astute observer there's some things you can tell that we are witnessing a rather rapid descent into paganism. The Christian worldview, the Judeo-Christian worldview that has shaped our culture for decades and hundreds of years is being pushed to the sides. There's tremendous forces, unrelenting voices advocating against that Christian worldview.
And the result of paganism if you haven't paid attention previously it leads to demonism, to violence, to immorality, to the loss of freedom. What isn't often said but is very much true and can be demonstrated throughout history is that the church, the people of God are the point of restraint. It isn't governments that stand in opposition to that, governments don't do that. The church does that. And when the church is not present or the church is distracted or the church is disobedient, the darkness intensifies. So what we're watching is not a darkness problem, it's not the rise of evil, it's the diminishment of the light. And if we confuse the message that we've been entrusted with, or if we fail to deliver it because we're reluctant to embrace our assignment, the darkness intensifies.
And I've said this to you in multiple ways but I've said it consistently and I will continue to do so, that our public policy problems are a small matter compared to our problems within the faith. What we're facing is not primarily a political problem it's a problem with God's people. And I say that having spent my life in the organized church. I don't say it as pointing an accusing finger I say it as a point of empowerment. If we will change our hearts, God will move heaven and earth to provide the opportunities that are necessary to share the good news of Jesus Christ in our world. And if we give our hearts to idolatry and ungodliness and immorality, we will face his judgment and we'll see our children and our grandchildren lose their freedoms and liberties. It isn't a political issue nearly as much as it's a spiritual issue.
Now on this particular topic, I would remind you as I have been reminding you that words matter. They have meaning, they shape culture, they shape thought, and ultimately they shape behavior. Words convey authority and the manipulation of language results in the manipulation of people. And we are witnessing a very dramatic shift in language and the ensuing change in culture that you would anticipate that would bring. Standards of behavior and ways of understanding our world are being rapidly altered. And the result of that is confusion. That kind of rapid change and manipulation results in confusion and often to conflict. The common line that's directed at Christians and the one that I have heard many, many times is Christians should not be political, that it's not appropriate, "Don't be political," we're told.
And there's a great deal of confusion on this topic. I've been working for a few sessions to try to bring you a bit of a biblical perspective on that because that's more important to me than what our secular culture says. So the answer that's often given is, "Do you know that Jesus didn't run for political office"? "You're right Obi-Wan, he did not, but he did announce that he was a king, and that he presided over a kingdom, and he informed us that our primary allegiance should be to that kingdom". It's equally true that Jesus didn't endorse a candidate who was seeking some political office. But I would remind you that Jesus recruited the persons who will judge the 12 tribes of Israel. That's an expression of authority over our lives under the earth.
And Jesus spent his years in public ministry training those people that he recruited for that assignment. If you wanna check me later, it's Luke 22 with all the scripture I gave you I didn't give you that one. Jesus frequently addressed current events of his day and the cultural practices which contradicted scripture. He was hated by many powerful people because he pointed out the ways that they disobeyed scripture. By current standards and current definitions, Jesus's messages would've frequently been called political. When we say we oppose abortion, that we believe in the sanctity of human life and that every life is sacred no matter how young or how old, how strong or how weak, those who don't embrace our worldview say we're being political. I disagree I think we're being biblical.
When we say that God ordained marriage and that marriage is between a man and a woman. Our critics will say, we're being political. I disagree and I think we're being biblical. And that list goes on and on. You need to be aware that definitions are being manipulated to silence you. Don't be quiet. That has nothing to do with parties or candidates I look forward to the today where all the people we could select for an office hold the biblical worldview. That'd be a wonderful thing. But please don't be confused and more importantly, don't be quiet. Don't be quiet. We've been told for decades that our faith was not welcome in the public square.
That it shouldn't influence our behavior in the corporate setting, that if someone was offended we should be quiet so don't bring those ideas, don't bring those things into play, don't bring 'em into academia, don't bring 'em into our schools, don't bring 'em into the government. And for far too long I'm ashamed to say we capitulated. We understood there were threats, we understood there were problems, we understood so we have been silent. And now we find ourselves in all of those same arenas they are very assertively, even aggressively advocating for a worldview, for definitions of marriage, and definitions of family, and definitions of life and human sexuality, and if we raise our hands and we say, "We're offended," they don't respect us and say, "Oh, we'll be quiet, we'll withdraw". We face the challenges.
So the answer isn't to be angry, the answer is to understand the significance of the gospel and bringing transformation to a human life. But we have to have the courage to acknowledge the gospel. Which brings me to your outline, there's hope. I wanna do a little comparison and a contrast with you. We're gonna borrow something from the history of Paul's ministry. Paul's given the assignment to be the apostle to the Gentiles, to the non-Jewish world. Interestingly, intriguingly to me, he's the best educated of all those that Jesus recruited and his education is primarily in the law of Moses, he's a Pharisee. So he's an expert on Jewish law and God sends him to the non-Jewish world. God will not waste any aspect of your life if you will yield your life to him.
And we're gonna look at two cities in Athens and in Corinth. Paul visited them in succession. And the method he used in Athens yielded rather modest results so that when his next stop in Greece was Corinth and he changed his methodology. And that's what I wanna call your attention to initially and then we're gonna explore a little bit what that means because we are in a time and we desperately need to see the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But there's a lot of confusion in the church. Should we capitulate the culture? Should we build bridges to the ungodly? Should we embrace immorality? Should we soft-pedal the pages of scripture? Is it easy to know?
Because there's a tremendous amount of confusion in the church and it's giving rise, in my opinion, to a false church and a false gospel, which is not new it's happened throughout the history of the church, but we're gonna have to become a bit more discerning. It has nothing to do with denominational labels or styles of worship, folks, we have got to grow up. I am tired of listening to the empty debates about how we take communion. We're gonna have to grow up a little bit. Our faith is founded on something beyond our personal preference and the time of day in which we wanna worship or the translation of the Bible we read.
If we lose our freedom and liberties and subject our children to authoritarian domination while we quibbled about secondary issues, we'll be held accountable by the king. So what I hope to look at somewhat briefly is what Paul was doing. Let's start in Athens in Acts chapter 17. "While Paul was waiting for his team in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols". So we're not the first generation to wake up and find ourselves in the midst of ungodliness. Stop lamenting, let's get busy. "So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there".
So he went to the place of worship and then he went into the public square and in both places he told the Jesus story. So we have to take our faith outside the walls of the church. Now Paul's method in Athens is driven by what he saw. It says, "They brought him to the Areopagus". It was a gathering place where they exchanged ideas about life and culture and their world. And they said, "That we know this new teaching that you are presenting? You're bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we wanna know what this means". It says, "All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas".
That was the precursor of social media. "Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and he said: 'I see that in every way you're very religious 'cause I walked around and I looked carefully at your objects of worship, and I even found an altar with this inscription: to the unknown god. Now what you worship is something unknown and I'm going to proclaim to you.'" So he goes on to tell 'em about this God and he does it in the language of the city, in the context of the exchange of ideas that they're accustomed to.
If you look down to verse 27, he said, "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he's not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and we have our being.' And some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'" He's quoting the ancient Greek poets. "Therefore since we're God's offspring, we shouldn't think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He's given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead".
Who's he talking about? Jesus. "When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We wanna hear you again on this subject.'" And at that, Paul left the council. And a few men became followers of Paul and believed. Paul's message in Athens, if I use the contemporary language of the church, was pretty secret-driven. I'm gonna explain my faith to you in the context of the culture in which you live. You're a very religious city, I see you have idols all about. You worship many things in many ways and I saw one idol in particular to an unknown god and he said, "I'm gonna introduce you to that unknown god and I'm gonna quote your poets in doing it".
Now, this is the Apostle Paul I'm not throwing stones at him, folks. His curriculum vitae exceeds mine. I'm a hillbilly preacher, I grew up in a barn. But I also know as we follow him through the scripture, we watch him learning and growing. And it says, "In Athens, a few people believed". Well, his very next stop on his circuit is Corinth. And when he gets to Corinth, he chooses a different approach. I put the passage in your notes. Again, we're not gonna read the whole thing but we're gonna explore it in a little more detail. It says, "After this, Paul left Athens and he went to Corinth. And there he met a Jew named Aquila, and a native of Pontus, who'd recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla".
The Jews had been driven out of Rome, persecution of the Jews. So they find themselves in Greece and Paul bumps into them, they're believers in Jesus. He works with them. And in verse 4 he said, "Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive," which is his pattern in city after city there has been opposition and he's frequently subjected to physical suffering. He's beaten to death or almost to death multiple occasions, he's arrested by civil authorities and by Roman law, he's been beaten multiple times. And now he's in Corinth and there is opposition once again.
"So he shook his clothes out in protest and said, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I'm clear of my responsibility. From now on I'll go to the Gentiles.'" That's not as quite as cuddly of a statement. "Your blood be on your own heads". "Then Paul left the synagogue and he went next door where the man was a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord". The ruler of the synagogue believed but he couldn't change the tone in the synagogue. I would not stay in a place, I would not worship in a place that dishonors Jesus, that dishonors the uniqueness of Jesus. And by that I mean all of the things necessary for his redemptive work: the virgin birth, the supernatural circumstances surrounding his birth, his bodily death on the cross, his physical resurrection.
Folks, if we don't believe those things, it isn't Christianity and I won't call it worship if we dishonor the Lord in those things. That doesn't deserve applause that just deserves awareness. "So the synagogue ruler believed and many of the Corinthians who'd heard believed and were baptized. One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. 'Don't be afraid; keep on speaking, don't be silent.'" There was opposition to his message, he bore the marks in his body. See, we've lived in the church for so long that if there was opposition we thought the Lord was closing a door, that he was telling us not to do it. When someone said, "We don't want you to mention that name," we have rather timidly said, "Oh, okay".
When we were aware enough or alert enough to recognize there might be actually some consequence if we persevered in our faith, we have withdrawn. And we've usually done it beneath the banter of some description or other of saying, "Well, I don't wanna be political". We're not called to be political. No, but we are called to be advocates for Jesus of Nazareth and for that biblical worldview and the truth that Jesus represents. "'Don't be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.' Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the Word of God".
And then it tells a story. They have Paul drug before the council, the governor of the region and they accuse him of misbehavior. And the governor listens for a minute and he said, "I'm not getting involved in your debate, get outta my court". I'm giving you the Living Bible Version it's in your notes it's right there I promise. And when they got out of the court, those that had brought the complaints against Paul were so frustrated with what had happened that they beat the man who had initiated the whole thing and the governor did nothing about it.
So the next stop on Paul's tour of Greece, he's moved from Athens to Corinth. He's tried a different approach. And the outcome this time is dramatically different a whole city is going to be shaken. Many people are gonna come to faith. Yes, he's drug into a civil court. His opponents are accusing him, if you'll allow me of being political. "He's come here to disrupt us. He's trying to change our patterns, he's trying to change our behavior, he's trying to change our culture and we don't like it". We are supposed to be culture changers. The whole notion of the church, the "Ecclesia" is the one who are called out. We're not to be so blended in, so undercover that we're indistinguishable.
Jesus said, "If the salt has lost its saltiness it's only good for one thing, and that's to be thrown out and trampled underfoot". He said, "Nobody lights a candle and puts it under a basket". So we're salt and light. We're supposed to be distinctive in our behavior, in our moral views, in our worldview. And everybody's not going to cheer. And typically before they approach you with physical violence, they will assault you with words. They'll label you, they'll call you unkind names, they'll censor you, they'll limit your opportunity to communicate. You'll be dropped off invitation lists. Your circle of friends will change. Honor the Lord anyway.
Before I go, I wanna join you in praying that the gospel of Jesus Christ will be presented across our nation with clarity, with boldness, and with the authority that comes from the Spirit of God. Can we agree on that? Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that the name of Jesus will be exalted in this generation that the gospel of Jesus Christ might be heard clearly, concisely, and with the authority of the Spirit across this nation. In Jesus's name, amen.