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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Great Gifts, Great Expectations - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Great Gifts, Great Expectations - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Great Gifts, Great Expectations - Part 1
TOPICS: Spiritual Gifts, Expectations

I really built the weekend to try to add a little momentum to the Bible reading. You know, it's so easy to put that in the category of something else to do and I'd rather not do that. It's an invitation to spend some time with God. So, in this session we're going to talk about "Great Gifts and Great Expectations," because they go together. In Luke chapter 12, Jesus is speaking and he said, "For everyone who's been given much, much will be demanded. And for the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked". That's a good news statement, because God has blessed us with a great deal. More freedom, more liberty, more opportunity than any people have ever known on planet earth. That's just the truth. You know, people say to me, "You know, I don't agree with your perspective," and I'm like, "Okay, I wish I could send you for six months to some places around the globe".

You know, I'm not saying that everything around us is perfect or that we live in a sin-free culture, I have no imagination of that, but I'm telling you the blessings that fill our lives are unique on planet earth. And God has been good to us, and from that comes expectation. We have access to the gospel, to the Word of God. If you want to be a serious student of Scripture in the world today, it almost presupposes that you would have to learn the English language, because so much of what has been written with regard to Scripture is not printed in all of the other languages of the world. And whether you call that privilege, whatever you may call it, it's simply a reality at this point. It's a blessing that is yours if you speak English. We are blessed people. And Jesus gave us a cation here. I don't think it's a threat, I think it's to help us calibrate expectation.

If we've been given a lot, we can expect God to give us a big harvest. If you plant a garden and you only plant to a patch of ground that's six feet by six feet, your expectation of harvest is different than if you planted sixty acres. And we have been blessed with a great deal and Jesus said we should anticipate a great deal. We can't create the outcomes, folks. We can't heal a gnat's wing on our best day. We can't change lives. We can't open closed hearts. Only God does those things, but he has opened the windows of heaven and poured out his Spirit upon us, we should anticipate bigger things. In Matthew 11, Jesus again, and he said, "And you, Capernaum," he's speaking to a community that is his base of ministry.

When Jesus began his public ministry, he left the hills of Galilee and the little village of Nazareth, and he moved to a fishing village on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, which was located on a major Roman road. It would be like he moved to an ideal place. And he says, "You, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you".

I have been to Capernaum dozens and dozens of times. It's an archaeological site, but it's no longer a living city. And every time I visit there, I'm reminded of those words that Jesus spoke. Two-thirds of the miracles that Jesus did took place within about a five-mile radius of Capernaum. It was the epicenter, for a brief period of time, multiplied thousands of people moved towards Capernaum and the surrounding area because of the ministry of Jesus. They had front row seats. He spoke in their synagogue. He attended their synagogue. He did remarkable miracles there, and yet Jesus is saying to them your hearts are hard.

Now, he has my attention because of what I said to you at the beginning of this discussion, that we have so many blessings. I listened to a podcast recently, and it was a biologist that was speaking, he wasn't a minister, but he had a very biblically informed perspective. But he talked about the corruption of the Christian west and how the values that gave rise to the civilization that we have known for hundreds of years have collapsed. He didn't say they were going to collapse, he said they've been so eroded that we're left with a shadow of them.

Now, we can debate the merits of the west and the Christian influence of the west. I understand in the university setting there's a lengthy list of courses that we could undertake on that topic, but the reality is the impact of Christianity has impacted generation, upon generation, upon generation of civilization, and brought unprecedented freedoms, and liberties, and opportunities for the most diverse group of people that the world has ever known. It has been anything but perfect, and its shortcomings don't take great discernment, but it has done that, and yet we're presiding, we're living through a season when we're having to acknowledge the foundations of those values. They're not crumbling, they have dissipated.

With just a casual glance at the news, this week it was the Jeffrey Epstein story. We don't have to go into that, it's a window into a depravity that is too dark to talk about in this setting, and it's included so many people, and it's been so widespread that it's impossible to imagine it was secretive. It was intentionally buried and hidden, and those people who tell us they're investigative whatevers chose not to talk about it. If you don't wanna pick that up, our southern border is open. Tens of thousands of people on a weekly basis, hundreds of thousands on a monthly basis, we act as if we don't notice. Children are being trafficked in unprecedented numbers. Human trafficking in the highest numbers ever conducted in North America are taking place now, principally because of that border.

The values we have held have collapsed upon themselves. The drugs pouring into our country, the lives that are being destroyed, the abortion debate. It's not really a debate, because it seems to me the loudest noises are coming from the people that demand abortion on demand. They're even proposing at the federal level diminishing support for places like crisis pregnancy centers whose fundamental purpose is prenatal care. They simply help women in pregnancy who are having a difficult time, encouraging them to love their children and help them have a healthy pregnancy. And the federal government is so committed to a culture of death that they want to cut funding to crisis pregnancy centers, and we're distracted.

The church to a great degree is unwilling to engage in discussions about ungodliness in our culture because we're afraid that we might offend someone, and there's a high degree of probability we will if we talk about ungodliness. I've thought a good bit about this because I studied history at various points in times, both just in general and in the church, and I've come to an uncomfortable conclusion that it's not unique in the history of the church. You know, the topic that typically comes up is the church in Germany during World War II. It's a bit unfair, it was the church throughout Europe.

Some of you have read books like "The Hiding Place" with Corrie Ten Boom, and they celebrate the stories of those exceptional people who stood on behalf of the Jewish people when they were being hunted across the European continent, but for the most part, the church in Germany and on the continent was silent. It was inconvenient. And while we talk about that, it's the 1930's and it seems safely removed in the distance, so we're kind of insulated from that, but you really don't have to go that far. We've lost 60 million babies in this nation since the time in the '70s when abortion was made legal. And for the most part, the church was eerily quiet. For a long time we said it was a political discussion, and we don't discuss politics, and so we stayed away from it, but it's no longer a political discussion and we're still uncomfortable with it. And I understand abortion has touched all of us directly or indirectly, and the shame of that and the stigma of that tends to cause us to want to just look the other way or try to live through it or live past it, but the children deserve our voice.

But if that is insufficient, you can give the Lord a hand, it's okay with me. But our own history, the Civil Rights Movement, most of us were way too young, but you know of it. And moral authority that Dr. King stood upon to challenge this nation came from the Word of God. But the awkward reality is that the church for the most part was eerily quiet. We ignored the principles of Scripture. We weren't willing to stand on the plain truth of the Word of God in the same way we weren't willing to stand on the plain truth of the Word of God around the sanctity of human life. In the same way today we struggle to stand on the plain truth of the Word of God about marriage or family. We have an assignment. There is a great deal been given to us, and there's a great deal that we will be held accountable for.

So, what I'd like to do in the time we have is just in a very simple way invite you back to some of the basics that come to us from the Word of God. I imagine most of the people that would listen to me talk are either Christian, or have a Christian background, or some interest in Christianity. We share something of a common set of awarenesses. In Matthew 22 and verse 29, Jesus said to an audience in the first century, to a Jewish audience, to a group of people who kept kosher, it means the food they ate was according to the principles that Moses had given. They kept Jewish holidays, they participated in the sacrificial system. They were highly-religious people. They understood themselves to be the covenant people of God. It's very difficult to understand fully how deeply that idea has settled upon a group of people, but the Jewish people understand they are different. The rest of us are goyim, we are not Jewish. And Jesus said, "You are in error because you don't know the Scriptures or the power of God".

Now, they had a whole menu of religious activities. They tithed off the spices they got in the marketplace. And I would say to our generation, we're kind of the current version of that. We've had more exposure to the Word of God, to churches, to Bible teaching, to worship music, to all the things associated with our faith than any group of people that have ever existed on the planet, and we attend church, and we do all the things, and so it felt very personal to me when I read that. Jesus said we're in error because we don't know the Scriptures or the power of God. In Hebrews, the Book of Hebrews is written to a Jewish audience who are believers that Jesus is the Messiah, and in the 5th chapter, the author of Hebrews is really chastising his audience a bit. He said, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil".

He's suggesting to his audience what I suggested to you. He said you're the covenant people of God. Our Scriptures are filled with the stories of our people working out this thing with the Lord, from the Exodus, to the wilderness, to occupying a Promised Land, to the whole narrative. Jeremiah was a part of the family. Daniel was a part of the family. He said you know the God story, and he said but you're still an infant. You're not acquainted with teaching about righteousness. You're not prepared for solid food. I have an expectation that you should be ready for solid food but you don't. You've had the knowledge of Scripture for generations, yet you still require the diet of an infant.

If you'll allow me, I would submit we have a responsibility to grow up, to be prepared for more complex nourishment. Our spiritual development is not determined by time. I believe it's evaluated by the type of food that we can receive, and it can't always be just comfort food and convenience food. How do we mature? Well, I believe it's a matter of practical experience that's gained, it brings a confidence. In the Word of God, we learn to trust him. We have to move beyond the theoretical. I'm an advocate for study, and learning, and discussion, but the real learning is when the theoretical truth is put into practice and it becomes a part of your experience. It works, I know it works, I've tried it. It held up under expression in my life and it'll work for you, too.

In Revelation it said we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Our testimony is when we give personal expression to the truth that we have lived out. It's a point of victory in your life that you can encourage another person who's kind of wobbling, trying to learn to walk through that place. And you can say, "I walked that valley, let me take your hand, we'll walk it together". That's different than just another study, a group of theories. It's messier, it's more complicated, it's not always fun. I think it's unfortunate how easily Christians can be fooled. How so frequently we're exploited. How we're often deceived. The author of Hebrews said it's by constant use that we have trained ourselves to distinguish good from evil.

The expectation we are handed is that we would learn to distinguish between good and evil. The differences in the world where we live today oftentimes is not easy to see. Training is the word that's used. We've talked about this in the past. Training is engaging in a set of behaviors that enable you to accomplish something in the future that you couldn't accomplish today, even if you tried sincerely. Christians very frequently mistake sincerity for preparation. They're not the same. If you needed surgery tomorrow, if you needed brain surgery, how many of you would rather have a sincere surgeon or a well-trained one? Suppose they come back for the little pre-op meeting and say, "Listen, you know, Pastor, I'm so grateful that we've got this. We've got the best operating suite, we've got the best team, you've got the best anesthesiologist in the building. You've got the A-team, and I want you to know I sincerely want you to get better. Now, I didn't go to medical school, but I'm going to try really, really hard".

I'm out, I'm gone. And in Christianity we've confused it. We thought, well, I was sincere, I tried. Folks, if the consequences truly matter, trying is not enough. And so, what I'm inviting you towards is let's imagine this year we're gonna go into training. You say, "I've trained before," good. "I've lost five pounds before but I'm gonna do it again". I've lost hundreds of pounds, five at a time. I keep finding them again. Training, it's not a complicated idea, It's just uncomfortable. I don't find training very often to be pleasant. It requires discipline. It requires consistency. It requires perseverance. It requires intentionality. And those aren't things I typically like to associate with my faith, I just don't, but if we don't train, if we don't train, we won't be able to distinguish good and evil.

We live in a time where deception is unprecedented. They're creating new tools to make the world around us more deceptive. You know it's true. We have to be able to help our children, and if we haven't trained, we don't know how to help them. So, I'm really giving you an invitation to think for yourself. You don't need my formula, what are you doing this year so when you get to the conclusion of the year, you say I prepared myself to be more mature spiritually? You say, "Well, I did that last year". Okay, maybe you ate clean last year, so what's this year, everything deep fried, rolled in sugar and chocolate? Health requires constant attention, whether it's your physical health, or your spiritual health, or your intellectual health, or whatever it may be. We get some really goofy ideas.

If you're going to stay spiritually clean, you've got to give attention to that. No bitter roots. No purposely involvement in things that would clutter your life spiritually. We've had some bizarre theology, it's deceptive stuff. We thought, you know, well, I've confessed to the Lord, I was born again, so I don't have to pay any more attention to that. Really, have you read the New Testament? If you haven't join us, we're going to do that. It will be helpful. We're in training for something that matters. Spoiler alert, ignorance is not an excuse. "Well, I didn't know that was bad for me". That's not a protection. "Well, I didn't understand". That will not deliver you from the consequence. "Well, how was I to know"?

Look at Hebrews chapter 2. "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we don't drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? The salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him". It's that phrase, "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation"? I think the fallacy we've had is we thought of salvation in terms of the new birth, being delivered from the kingdom of darkness and welcomed into the kingdom of God, not an inappropriate understanding, it's just incomplete.

Salvation as it's used in the New Testament deals with the entirety of our lives before the Lord. Our physical health, our spiritual health, our emotional health, our whole person. And what the author of Hebrews is challenging his audience on is we can't afford to ignore the magnitude of this salvation, if we ignore such a great salvation and we live presumptively. We don't want to do that. Look at 1 Peter 1, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance". I have been reflecting on this for a bit. There's a contrast that's presented to us between obedience or conforming to our evil desires. "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had".

We're gonna do one or the other. We're either gonna live obediently before the Lord, or we will conform with the ungodly desires of this present age. And he describes it as a time when we do that, he said we lived in ignorance. Evil desires from the passage are the result of ignorance. I would suggest to you that in the context, ignorance isn't a lack of knowledge, it's ignoring the truth. It's the warning to the Hebrews. Don't ignore this great salvation. Ignorance has the root ignore in it. To live in ignorance isn't a lack of awareness. It wasn't that you were uninformed, you didn't choose obedience. You may not understand fully the implications.

I suspect most of us could not write the chemical equations that would accurately represent what happens when you eat a bite of broccoli until your body digests it. I doubt very many of us could accomplish that task even if we had to, but I think most of us have an idea that broccoli would be better for us than a Twinkie. So, even though we may not have full awareness of all the chemical reactions that are taking place, if we'll be obedient to the truth that we know, we have a better outcome. So, it's not ignorance that causes me to eat the Twinkie, it's a lack of discipline. And I think the invitation of Scripture is, we say, well, you know, I didn't know.

Well, we knew things to be obedient to we weren't being obedient to. We didn't understand all the implications. We didn't understand all of the outcomes. That may be true. We may have learned enough that it has strengthened our resolve to be more disciplined, but simple obedience to the truth that you know will put you on the best possible path. That is training. Do this repeatedly, you'll gain some strength, and I'll show you the next step. If you won't do this, you don't qualify to get to the next step. You should be ready for solid food but you still need milk. Milk is easier. It's a challenge not just to a first-century audience, I believe it's a challenge to the 21st-century church.
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