Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Courage Required - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Courage Required - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Courage Required - Part 2
TOPICS: Jesus; His Followers and Politics, Courage

It's good to be with you today. We're walking through this series on "Jesus, His Followers, and Politics". And we're gonna talk specifically about the courage that's needed to take the gospel into a world that's filled with darkness and evil. It's not easy. It's never been easy. I don't imagine it's supposed to be easy. And tragically, we've been waiting for it to be like a parade, a victory lap, something that's celebratory. There are victories in the midst of the assignment, but the sense is that it requires us to be overcomers. So I wanna commission you today to become advocates for Jesus of Nazareth with whatever sphere of influence God has given you in this season. He will give you the strength you need. Grab your Bible and get a notepad. But most importantly, open your heart.

I wanna submit to you that we have to continue to grow in our faith. That rather than hear this as an indictment of who we've been, understand it as an open door to serve the Lord in a new way. Peter and James and John had not stood before civil authorities prior to Acts 4 and 5 and said, "We're gonna continue to talk about Jesus". They'd hidden behind locked doors, they had run in the face of arresting mobs. They were often confused. They would take Jesus aside and say, "Oh, no, no, no, you don't need to go to the cross". So there's very clearly a story of growth in what it meant for them to serve the Lord. Until we find John in the book of Revelation and he's shown the end of the age and he gives it to us.

So I wanna submit to you that you and I have to continue to grow in our faith. Stop pointing at your birth certificate. You need to be born again. If you've never been born again, don't leave the building today, don't turn off the broadcast until you make that peace with God. And baptism is important. Get in the pool. But having done those things, we have to continue to grow in the Lord, and we really have not had big ears for this. We'd rather argue about eternal security and what we can't lose and why would you suggest that? And it's not important. We believe in grace and mercy. And I don't wanna open that discussion today. I wanna submit to you that we have to keep growing.

Now, I bring that topic up with a little bit of trepidation, at least a little bit, because there are many voices in the contemporary church in our nation that are suggesting that we have to update the gospel, that it has to be presented to keep pace with our evolving culture. And I would submit to you that's a false gospel. Acts chapter 11. This is Peter. He's back in Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, through a series of supernatural events, angels that visited Roman centurions, visions from heaven that Peter had, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that imitates Acts chapter 2 except in Acts chapter 10 it's in Caesarea, which is a very pagan city and it happens to a group of non-Jews which is outside the imagination of the Jewish community.

Up until Acts chapter 10, the Jesus story is a Jewish initiative. The leadership is Jewish, the Messiah is Jewish, the apostles are Jewish. The message is understood in the context of the law of Moses. The message is most frequently preached on the Temple Mount or in the homes of Jewish people. There's just no space in it. There's just very marginal space for anybody that's not Jewish, until Acts chapter 10. And then the offenders, the Roman occupiers, are invited into the game, and Cornelius and his household experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They speak in tongues, they accept Jesus, they're baptized, and in Acts 11 Peter's back in Jerusalem.

Now, Peter is the most forceful personality in the emerging church. Most scholars, even secular scholars, will argue that it was the force of Peter's character that brought stability to the church in those early months and years while it's trying to figure out what this means. So Peter has been the one that Jesus sent to Cornelius's home, and now he's back in Jerusalem. Acts 11, verse 1, "The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him," that's kind of fancy language for the Jewish believers. "And they said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and you ate with them.'"

Then we turn the page. And Peter responds, and I'm giving you just a portion of it. You can read the whole thing. He said, "'As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: "John baptized with water, but you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit". So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?' When they heard this, they had no further objections and they praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'"

There's a couple of things that I think are noteworthy. One, they're growing. They have no imagination that the non-Jews are gonna get to participate. They have no intention of letting them into the story. Their entire experience, their entire expression of faith is that they are unique. That's very difficult to understand if you haven't lived amongst the Jewish people. They have paid a tremendous price for being the covenant people of God. Far beyond most of our understanding. But they have that awareness that there's been something unique in their story, so that this makes perfect sense to me, the angst that the believers in Jerusalem have. "What have you done? What have you done? This isn't right". And Peter gives them all the supernatural things, but the line that I think turns the debate is the last sentence.

"God granted even the Gentiles," what? Three words. "Repentance unto life". They had a change of thought and a change of heart. We didn't embrace their paganism. We didn't cheer for their ungodliness. We didn't affirm their immorality. But God sent me there, there were all of these supernatural components to it, but when I got there they chose repentance. They brought conformity to the truth that we believe. See, a part of the perversion we're struggling against is that we have to embrace ungodliness and immorality. It's an expression of godliness or love or mercy. And then the most stark example that I know of in scripture, when the church in Jerusalem meets, it says, "Peter, we're not cooperating with you". He relates the narrative to them. And then he happened to have witnesses with him and they say, "They embraced repentance".

We have to keep growing in our courage, in our presentation, in our boldness, in our obedience, in our imagination of what our faith means in the world in which we live. I had a professor at Hebrew University. I know how deep-seated this is. He was a brilliant, brilliant man. From my estimation, perhaps the most brilliant I ever had the privilege of studying with. We were allowed to turn papers in in eight distinct languages. I chose English. Actually, I chose Southern. But I remember him, he did a lecture on Jesus. He had the sharpest wit of any professor I ever studied with. You didn't make a casual comment in that class unless you wanted into the arena. But I remember the lecture he gave on Jesus, and he quoted the place where Jesus said, "You'll be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth".

And that brilliant biblical scholar looked at us and he said, "I promise you that both Jesus and his audience understood that to mean the boundaries of Israel". And I smiled. I didn't say anything, but I smiled. And I remember thinking, "Two thousand years later, it's almost still beyond imagination that the non-Jewish people are gonna be welcomed into the story". So what's described in Acts chapter 10 and 11 becomes the greatest challenge for the church in the remainder of the New Testament. It's not a small thing. They're growing. They haven't changed the boundaries of godliness and holiness and purity and obedience. They just didn't understand what God was asking them to do.

Is it possible that God would ask us for a response beyond the one that we have been so fully engaged in up until this point? I'm asking the question. Matthew 15, Jesus this time. He said, "'You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men".' And Jesus called the crowd to him and he said, 'Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean," but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean".'" They're way too worked up again and Jesus is saying, "You have all the expressions of worship and you can quote all the verses, but your hearts are a long way removed from the desire to honor God. You're looking for excuses to navigate the rules, but you're not really looking to yield your heart to me". He says, "Your uncleanness doesn't matter about what's on your fork".

Now that seems bizarre to us, but to a group of people for hundreds of years have been defined because of the diet they maintained, that was at the heart of their faith. Now we've been guilty of some pretty sloppy exegesis or if you'll permit me, some sloppy agape. Agape is one of the Greek words for love. It's the word for the God kind of love. And we've been told that God's love is just so omnipresent that it's infinite, that there's no end to it, that there's no limit to it, it'll cover just whatever, as if we can't read our Bibles and the expressions of God's judgment, as if the Babylonians didn't come to Jerusalem, as if the Romans didn't destroy Jerusalem, as if Moses wasn't forbidden from entering the Promised Land as if David didn't lose the life of a child. Our exegesis has been a little sloppy. See, I would submit to you that love is not an excuse for disobedience, and compassion is not a license for immorality. And we have been the chief sponsors. Look in Colossians 3, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature".

Now just in case you don't know what that means, he helps us a little bit, "Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming". Quick question, if you had to evaluate our culture right now, over the last two decades, are those things increasing or decreasing? Well, if they're increasing, the wrath of God is coming. And the response, the prescription, isn't to point accusing fingers at the pagans or the wicked or the ungodly, but it's to begin in our own hearts, in our own homes, in our own family systems, with our friends. "Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature".

Well, the typical rebuttal, and it is thundered at us, the bookstores and the bookshelves are filled with books, "Follow the way of love". Jesus's new commandment was "Love one another". I believe that. I don't wanna diminish it, but I wanna understand it in the context of scripture. 2 John chapter 5. John is the apostle of love. "Now, dear lady, I'm not writing you a new command but the one we had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another". There it is. Look at the next verse. "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands". We don't love God if we practice disobedience. We don't honor him if we encourage it. We're not faithful to him if we cover it and excuse it and justify it. We will face his wrath. Look at Ephesians 5, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God".

Now, oftentimes, we'll stop right there. It's a powerful statement. "Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us". He was the ultimate sacrifice. There was the divine exchange at the cross. He bore the punishment for sin that we might have the benefit of obedience. And Paul is reminding the Ephesian believers of that, to lead a life of love. But that's not the finish, that's not the end of his thought. "But among you," he's writing to the church, the believers in Ephesus. "Among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed. These are improper for God's holy people". And it's like he has another thought, "And there shouldn't be any obscenity or foolish talk or coarse joking. They're out of place. Use your words for giving thanks". But he's not done yet. He spent years in Ephesus. He said, "You can be sure of this: No immoral, impure or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God".

He's writing this to the church in the context of leading a life of love. But he's not done. "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient". See, if you're an unbeliever, the God's wrath isn't the issue. You're already an object of wrath. God's wrath comes to his people because of their disobedience. That is the story of the book. And then he says something that is really, he said, "Therefore don't be partners with them". The most literal translation is, "Have nothing to do with them". I would submit to you we've misunderstood what it means to follow the way of love. I don't want you to be angry, I don't want you to be obnoxious, certainly don't want you to be violent, but I want you to think about the courage and the commitment to obedience to serve the Lord.

If you've been out of step with that, repent. Talk to the Lord about it. Begin to change your thoughts, begin to change your behavior. One last component of this, and it's important. When evil arrives, and you can be certain that evil will arrive, Ephesians 6, "Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand". Not a threat. It's in a point of awareness. It says, "You need the armor of God so that when the day of evil comes". It assures us that evil will present. And when it comes, we have an assignment, to stand our ground and to do everything we know to do. And when we've exhausted our thoughts and our ideas and our resources and our energy, we still have the assignment to stand.

The victory ultimately depends on the Lord. We can't deliver ourselves from a lion's den or a fiery furnace or powers greater than ourselves, but our God can. But our assignment is to stand. Look at Hebrews 11:25. It's speaking of Moses and it says, "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time". If we had to write a narrative on the behavior of the people of God in our generation, my prayer is we'll become more like Moses. That we would be willing to suffer mistreatment, being identified as the people of God, rather than to enjoy the short-term pleasure of sin. We've acted like sin's not pleasant. That's a lie. In the short run, it's the reason temptation is real.

But the reason it's only a temptation is that it can't sustain the pleasure that it offers us initially. And somehow, Moses had the wisdom, the discernment, whatever, the character, to understand it was better to be mistreated with the people of God than take the short-term gain. May that grow in us. May that grow in us, church. Acts chapter 4, last passage. I didn't put it in your notes. I did. I put it in your prayer. So I'll give you the backstory, then we'll pray together.

You see, and I spent my life in the church, so I'm not pointing, I'm not casting stones or pointing fingers, folks. We've been coached on being born again and getting people saved and baptized, and I believe in those things, they're important. But we really haven't talked much about growing up in the Lord and standing and being watchmen on the walls and practicing obedience. We're more comfortable with discussions of love and grace and mercy.

Let's all have a group hug and sing, "Kumbaya". God's more teddy bear than warrior. Until we find ourselves in a place where our children are being preyed upon. They're filling our public libraries with books about sexualizing our children, and we have trouble finding a voice to say, "You will not do that". And somebody will inevitably stand up and raise their hand and say, "You're being political". No, I really am not. I'm being biblical. And we have an assignment to be salt and light. We all do.

So I read you the threats that were given to our friends in Acts 4 and Acts 5. Between those two episodes, between the one in 4 when they're kind of initially called on the carpet, and the threat is laid down and the execution is kind of hung out there, before they're back for chapter 5, when they get their first physical suffering, they gather with the believers in Jerusalem. And it says when they came back and reported the threats that had been made, this was the prayer they prayed.

It's Acts 4:29. You can check me. Says, "Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus". And it says when they finished the prayer, the building they were in was shaking. Now, it strikes me as a bit odd God didn't deliver them from the lash, 'cause in Acts chapter 5 they will take a beating. But he reminded them that he was listening and that there was a power at work on their behalf that was greater than the Jewish religious authority or the Jewish civil authority or even the power of the Roman Empire.

There's a power at work on your behalf and my behalf as the people of God that exceeds any power of this nation or any power of the United Nations or any economic threat or military threat. It doesn't mean we won't walk through difficult places. The scripture's clear, we will. But that if we will be faithful, God will respond to us in both time and reward us for all eternity. Now, we have to decide. So, I brought you a prayer. Won't you stand with me? And the heart of the prayer came from that passage in Acts 4. I gave you the reference, I just took out the verse numbers. Let's read it together:

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. Forgive us for remaining silent when confronted with evil. Give us wisdom to know when and how to speak. May Jesus be glorified and his kingdom extended throughout all the earth, amen.

Are you Human?:*