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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - God Said... I Believe - Part 1

Allen Jackson - God Said... I Believe - Part 1

Allen Jackson - God Said... I Believe - Part 1
TOPICS: Trust, God's Promises, Faith

It's an honor to be with you again. Our topic for this session is "God Said... and I Believe". Sometimes there's a big gap between those two. I would submit that the challenge of being a Christ follower is learning to submit what I think, what I feel, what I believe to the authority of the Word of God. Sounds easy, but in reality it isn't. It takes the help of the Holy Spirit and some self-control and determination to yield to God's authority in our lives. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but, most importantly, open your heart to God's invitations.

I wanted to take a session or two and see if I could add some momentum to that. I'll do it from time to time throughout the year. It's such an important part of our discipleship journey. But, in this session, my title is God Said... and I Believe. I find there's a huge gap between those two things. I hear it a lot within myself, and I hear it in my interaction with people. People will say to me, without any embarrassment, they don't flinch, they'll say, "You know what, I know what the Bible says, but I believe..." And, you know, I'm always fascinated because, like, let's ignore what God said. What is it that you believe? I mean, let's set aside the creator of heaven and earth and focus on what one of us that grew up in Middle Tennessee thinks. And it would be easy to imagine that that's a 21st century problem because we're so sophisticated. But the Bible suggests to us, in fact, it gives us very clear indication that that's been a problem with humanity from the beginning. That we know what God says, we know his opinion, we know his direction, but we intend to assert our own will. And it isn't helpful.

So one of the great benefits of reading your Bible is it gives us a personal exposure to the character of God. It's a presentation of who he is and his sovereignty and his power and his majesty and his glory and his discipline and his judgment. Because all of those things become a factor as we determine the degree to which we will yield and to cooperate with him. It's very unfortunate that we haven't been encouraged to do that as fully as we might. We've been encouraged to be born again or be saved, and I believe in that, it's essential; I don't wanna diminish that. But that is the doorway to a life yielded to the Lord. That's why we call him Lord. And we haven't always had that focus.

So, just for the record, when we talk about our Bible, I want to be on record, I'm not ashamed of my Bible. I do not apologize for believing the Bible to be true, for being the inspired Word of God; it's our rule of faith and practice. I understand it's not popular in many settings, particularly oftentimes in academic settings, to make those type of statements. Unfortunately, even in Christian schools or in theological settings, there's a tremendous attempt to diminish the authority of scripture. You should be clever enough to understand this. If you can diminish the authority of scripture, you're not subject to it. And, if you don't intend to yield to it, then you need to diminish it. And, tragically, that has become the overwhelming tone of most of the messaging that cascades over us.

So it's important, I think, that you decide, you establish in your heart that you're not ashamed of the Bible, that you don't apologize. In my opinion, I've read hundreds of books. I've loved to read since I was a child. It's a gift, I suppose, the Lord gave to me. I'm grateful for it. But, in my judgment, the Bible's the most logical book I've ever read. I've never found anything like it. It doesn't mean I always understand it. And I don't think you should feel awkward because you don't understand everything you read. Your devices very regularly have upgrades. They happen automatically to most of us. And, before you can accept the upgrade, you have to accept all the agreements that come with it. Has anybody ever read all of those?

That tea tiny little print that you just scroll past to get to the box where you go, "Yep". You just pledged them your firstborn child, your automobile, all of your personal information; they will eavesdrop on everything you say or do for the next, "Yep, I'm in". And then we say, "Well, we can't believe our Bible because I can't explain it all". Just nonsense. There's a bigger picture for me, just for all candor in this. We've been talking about worship; we've talked about the Holy Spirit; we're pointing a couple of these discussions towards the Word of God. My objective is, if you want to know what I'm up to, I want to do everything I can to ground the people of God in a way that they know how to cooperate with him.

There's an urgency in me. And I can't fully explain it; I just, I have this sense that it's time for the people of God to be a bit more serious about who we are. It's more than the church where we sit or the denomination to which we belong or the translation of the Bible that we prefer. I think we need to pray. And I think we need to learn to pray and to pray as never before. I think we need to learn to listen to the Lord as we've never listened to him before. I think we're gonna have to learn to trust God in ways we've never had to trust him before. If we get really honest, if we get serious about it, foundational about it, we've had so much, so much liberty, so much food, so much opportunity, so much everything, that trusting God was kind of peripheral to us. We didn't have to trust him until it was a real crisis.

Most of the world has to trust God to make it through the day. And I believe that, that incredible gift that has been given to us, I don't know that it's been withdrawn, but I think we've begun a season that is going to require more of us. And so I'm just inviting you to join me, not out of fear, out of preparation. You don't put a seatbelt on when you travel because you're frightened; you do it for preparation. And I wanna be certain that you're prepared and not presumptive. So that's our target. Hebrews chapter 4, in verse 2 says, "We also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did;" the Exodus generation, "but the message they had was of no value to them".

Do you have the imagination that you can have access to the Word of God, you can have it delivered to you; you can wrap your arms around it, and it'd be of no value to you? That's a biblical position. It was of no value to them "because those who heard it did not combine it with faith". They heard the Word of God, they saw the miracles, they ate the manna, they walked through the Red Sea that God had parted on their behalf. They'd seen the plagues visited upon Egypt. They had the wealth of Egypt in their possession, and they forfeited the promise of God because they wouldn't mix it with their faith. Faith is a biblical idea. The Bible talks about faith as a substance. It's not something ethereal. Faith enables us to take the promises of God and act upon it. Faith is in the moment. Faith means I will do something with what I know. Faith is not about accumulating facts.

It's not Bible trivia. That group of people experienced God. They believed there was a God. They saw his presence on Mount Sinai. They ate the food he provided and drank the water that he made available to them. They followed Moses, the leader that he sent to them, but they would not cooperate with his invitations. So it's a mistake to think that if we saw more miracles or something more dramatic that we would cooperate with God more fully. It requires of us to say "yes" to the Lord. God was asking them to do something they didn't want to do, and they simply said "no". Please don't treat the invitations of God insignificantly. Don't treat them presumptively. It's not incumbent upon God to ever extend to you a second invitation. If he is ever so gracious as to present anything to you, with tremendous enthusiasm say "yes". If you do it with anxiety, if you do it with uncertainty, if you do it unsettled, say "yes" to the Lord.

There are challenges to believing God. I think we need to acknowledge that. And the most significant ones are internal. They're personal. Inside of Allen, there is a chorus that says on a very frequent basis, "I want," and "I feel," and "I think". I'll be reading my Bible, and I'll think, "Oh, that's nice". And then I hear this little thing's chirp in me, "Well, I want," and "Let me tell you how I feel about it. I don't know if I think God was fair in that circumstance, and I think maybe he should have given Moses another chance. I mean, he only hit the rock twice, and he didn't hit it three times. That just doesn't seem right to me. I mean, he'd served God for years and led those grumpy people all the way through the desert, and what business would it have got to keep him out of the..." blah, blah, blah, blah.

Do you have those voices? I want, and I think, and I feel; the Bible talks about it as our old earthly nature, our carnal nature, our Adamic nature. It's present in every one of us. If you're born again, Spirit-filled, water-baptized, Bible reading, King James quoting, you have a carnal nature. In fact, you should look at the person on your right and say, "I have long suspected you had a very carnal nature". We all do, and we have to make a decision, the preeminence that we will give to that. And again, there's all sorts of authoritative voices telling you that those things should be preeminent. "You can't tell me how to feel".

You're absolutely right. We cannot dictate one another's feelings. But we can observe, and you can do this from your own personal observation, that many times your feelings are not great at directional leadership. Because the weather impacts your feelings. How the person in front of you is driving impacts your feelings. How somebody you don't know looked at you impacts your feelings, right? So you probably don't wanna make like enormous life decisions based upon something that can be impacted by someone you don't know and you may never see again, but we do.

We write country songs about it. And, if you'll put a dog in a pickup truck and mom in it, you can write a number one hit. But there's another set of challenges. The Bible gives us the prescription for that. You have to say no to that. You have to overcome it. Actually, the Bible says you have to execute it. You have to put to death that carnal nature. You can't nourish it, you can't feed it, you can't justify it. I find that, when I decide I want to be ungodly, I'll try to go find some authority to support me in my ungodliness. Don't raise your hand if you've done it, we all have. The biblical prescription is we have to overcome. You can't cast that out. You can't deny it. Don't excuse it. "That's just the way we are". You rob yourself of God's best.

The second challenge that I know, and it's equally universal, is there's a collective challenge. You know, in the world in which we live currently, there are values which we have agreed to submit to that have created stability and opportunity in our lives in a way that's been previously unknown across many generations. We talk about the Christian West, our own nation, our own culture, that biblical worldview, a Judeo-Christian worldview. People like to chirp against it, but the reality is that shared set of a worldview has enabled us to put a fabric in place, not that everybody cooperated or everybody embraced it, but it created the standards by which we lived, we educated our children, the way in which we did business, simple things like if you gave your word you were expected to keep it. It seems rather novel today. But at one time that was a principle that really bound us together. You would forfeit almost all credibility as a person, as a business person, as a friend, if you gave your word and you didn't keep it.

Well, we're facing a challenge to that. Those values have been purposely dismantled. And, even more significantly, and this is on us, our children have been taught to disdain them for quite some season now. And we are seeing the evidence of that. We see protests in support of the most heinous, ungodly, violent terrorist behaviors. And we wonder how did that happen? Because for generations we've been distracted. While our children were taught to hate the values that brought strength and freedom and liberty to us. And they emerged from a biblical worldview. So they've been taught not to hold the Bible in high esteem. Lots of statistics to support all of this; it's not just my opinion.

I listened to a podcast recently where a biologist, not a theologian, with a great deal of eloquence and experience and information, described the corruption and the collapse of the Christian West. And he didn't say it was something that was going to happen. He wasn't anticipating it. He was acknowledging it really from a diagnostic perspective, that the reality is that those values that have held us together and brought so many good things to our lives, we have set them aside. You don't have to be a very careful observer of current culture to know that. The headlines this week were about Jeffrey Epstein. Now those aren't new headlines. It's the latest layer of exposure. Hundreds of people involved. We've been asked to peek... What's been described is too depraved to talk about in this setting. It's beyond the pale. Hundreds of people were involved, powerful people, wealthy people, influential people. The media has known about it for a great long time. It's been covered, denied, looked away from.

Folks, it's a reflection of who we are; we have tolerated it. We have followed people that were very fully engaged in it, not peripheral to it. We've held them in the highest esteem and challenged. We've lifted them up as providing excellence in every arena. But, you know, if that isn't to your taste, the other thing that's in the headlines right now is our southern border, our open border. You cannot remain a sovereign nation and not enforce your borders. I have traveled a good bit around the world; it requires a passport. Some will say that's political. No, not in my purview. That's not the objective because all the professional class politicians have signed off on it. What's most troubling about it is we are witnesses to right now, happening today, happening this week, an unprecedented expression of child trafficking.

Human slavery taking place on the North American continent now in greater ways than at any time in our history. And we don't care. This is a self-inflicted problem. We have done this. We could stop this. And somebody will raise their hand and say, "It's humanitarian". I beg to disagree. Trafficking in children is not compassion. We're a nation of immigrants. We have the ability to do immigration in an orderly way. We have proven that; Ellis Island has proven that, when we had far less technology. We have no intent of doing it in an orderly way. I don't suppose that I understand the purposes or the objectives, that's speculative.

I know there's enough drugs pouring across our border that thousands and tens of thousands of American citizens are dying because of it. And those with the responsibility to secure our national defense are ignoring their responsibility. It's shameful. But let's not get too heated up about the politicians. Those of us who imagine ourselves to be Christians have been eerily silent on the abortion issue. For years we said we can't talk about it, it's political, it's the law of the land; we can't oppose the law of the land. Folks, it's not the law of the land anymore. We've been asked to express our opinion, and the voices in favor of abortion have been far louder than the voices who think it's heinous.

Now I understand some of the subtext of that. All of us have been touched by abortion directly or indirectly. There's enough shame around that issue that causes most of us to bow our heads and look the other way. There is forgiveness at the cross. And I would suggest we need to address whatever needs to be addressed with the redemptive work that's been provided for us, and then have the courage to stand on behalf of those who don't have a voice for themselves. It's our assignment. It's troubled me, how is it that we find ourselves in the midst of a church in a culture where the church has been predominant throughout our history, and we're unwilling to engage the ungodliness of our culture? Because the awkward truth of the contemporary church is, for the most part, that's our condition.

And we have all sorts of reasons for that, and I've spent a good bit of time with this, both talking to God about it and reviewing the history of the church. It's not a new thing. The 21st century is not the first time the church has lost its voice. Probably the most celebrated in recent years has been the church in Europe during World War II. While the Jewish community was rounded up across the European continent and shipped to extermination camps, the church was strangely quiet. In academics, we typically talk first about the German church and what happened there. There's some notable exceptions. We know some of them like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Some of you read "The Hiding Place" about Corrie ten Boom, a German watchmaker and his family who hid Jewish people in their homes.

There were notable exceptions, but there were precious few. It wasn't a mystery, it was very well understood what was happening. It was public enough knowledge, particularly for the citizens in those nations, that they harbored enough hatred for the Jewish people that they were willing to watch them rounded up and be exterminated. We've looked at that, and there's enough historical distance that we feel kind of isolated, as if it hasn't touched us. But I would submit to you, we're presiding over something that's even more heinous. Maybe 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. We've lost 60 million children to abortion in this nation alone since the early 1970s. And for the most part we've been silent. It's just been awkward. It's been a little uncomfortable.

The federal government in the last few days has suggested they want to withdraw funding or at least diminish funding to crisis pregnancy centers. They provide prenatal care to women. They're just encouraging moms to have healthy babies, to take care of themselves. Oftentimes women that are more alone or isolated, they don't have great support networks, all across our country. And our federal government is so committed to a culture of death that they wanna diminish funding for those places that provide prenatal care. Well, they will pay for abortions, but they don't want us to encourage the women to keep their babies. Folks, we cannot be silent, even if we have made some poor choices. But, if you want to take one step further back, again, we're not the first generation where we didn't have our voice. The church didn't do a great job during the Civil Rights Movement.

Our denomination split, we had fights, we had debates, we had seminars. There was a clear biblical authority for the dignity of every human being irrespective of the color of our skin. But the church was confused. In the same way there's clear biblical authority for the sanctity of human life. There is no question, either biblically or scientifically, about those issues any longer. Maybe there was some grace a few decades ago; our imaging equipment wasn't as good; our awareness wasn't as firmly developed. But there really is no question any longer. We had clear biblical authority to defend those who couldn't defend themselves, and we were too busy. Now we find ourselves where there's clear biblical authority on the definitions of marriage and human sexuality and sexual behavior.

And once again the church is struggling mightily to find our voice. We seem to be more interested in building bridges into our contemporary culture and finding approval there than embracing God's perspective. There are powerful, powerful voices challenging the authority of God's Word in our lives. Please don't be naive; don't act as if we don't notice. If we acknowledge it, we can galvanize ourselves a little bit. We can determine to listen. On top of our internal challenge and the collective challenge of culture and all the pressure that comes with that, and we all like to say rather glibly, "I don't care what anybody thinks..." Oh, baloney. It matters to all of us. We learn to navigate and overcome and make decisions, but we all live in that cauldron of public oppression. But there's another factor involved. We meet it in the very opening pages of the Bible, that first chapter of Genesis, and, when it says God created the heavens and the earth, in the garden, in that pristine perfect place that God created for humanity, he gave us authority over the world and everything that was in it.

In that garden, there were other voices. If there hadn't been other voices in the garden, there would have been no conflict. But another voice showed up and said, "Did God really say..." From the very first chapters of the Bible, we are taught that there are influences which will contradict God's purpose for our lives. It's true in the opening chapters of Genesis, and it's true at the beginning of this 21st century. There are influences in our world that will contradict God's purposes for your life. And do you know what the majority of us say? "Well, I don't believe that".

As if that negated the reality. We have a decision to make, whether we're gonna believe the presentation of scripture or we're gonna be God. Because half measures won't work at this. We really are going to have to decide if we're going to submit to the authority of Scripture and take its counsel or whether we will live out from under its protection. Again, this is not a new struggle. If time permits, we'll look at it. If we don't, in this session, we'll do it in the next. Don't despair, I'm not gonna finish your outline. Adam and Eve succumbed to the invitation to be like God. What was presented to them was that they could know right and wrong. It's the great temptation; it lives, it thrives in our current culture. The great temptation to establish ourselves as the ultimate arbiter, the supreme judge. "No one can tell me what's right and wrong". We hear that said in many ways, but it cascades over us like a waterfall. I wanna say a prayer with you before we go.

Heavenly Father, we choose to yield to you, to yield our will, our intent, even our futures to you. I believe you're the author and the completer of our story, that you have a good ending for us, and we trust you with that today. I thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.

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