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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - God Said... I Believe - Part 2

Allen Jackson - God Said... I Believe - Part 2

Allen Jackson - God Said... I Believe - Part 2
TOPICS: Trust, God's Promises, Faith

It's good to be with you again. We're going to continue our discussion on "God Said and I Believe". One of the most challenged statements in the Bible we meet in the very first verse. It's Genesis 1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". I spent much of my life in school and it seems that that statement has been challenged at every level. Well, spoiler alert. I believe God created the heavens and the earth. We're gonna look at that today. Did you know it's a New Testament concept and not just an Old Testament? Grab your Bible and a notepad, enjoy the lesson.

We've committed many of us, hundreds of us, thousands of us, to read our Bibles this year. I want to suggest that there's a story to the Bible, a purpose to the Bible. Most of us learn Bible stories, but we've never imagined there's a story to the Bible, a purpose to the book. If I pick up a book to read, I want to know what the objective is. I want to know what the thesis is. I want to know the argument is going to be shaped. I want to know the acts that the author is grinding. All of those things are important when I read a book and if I can't figure it out pretty quickly, I won't read the book. Or I'll go to the end and see if they give it away back there.

So, I don't want you to read your Bible without understanding there's an objective. The purpose of this book is to help, it establishes, it invites you to the imagination that there is a God. And it gives you the information that would be necessary in order for you to take a journey through time in a way that would be pleasing enough to God that he would invite you into eternity in his kingdom. That's what the book is for. If you don't want to spend eternity with God, I wouldn't spend my time. If you do want to spend eternity with God, then it's worth thinking about the nature of what's presented. If it was a book on how to do deep sea diving, you'd want to pay careful attention, because if you messed it up, you might not survive.

You wouldn't think the water was harsh. You wouldn't think the laws of the universe were unkind. You'd say to somebody that didn't pay attention to the instructions and didn't survive, you'd think, "You should have paid more attention". And yet, we accuse God of being unkind or unfair. We think God should design his eternal kingdom based on our preferences and our concerns. I won't give you a little timeline, I'm not going to do the whole thing this morning, I'll come back to that, the 12 ideas that'll help you put the Bible in a bit of order. It's a complicated book, there's 66 books written by dozens of authors over a variety of historic and cultural time periods. It's different types of literature. There's poetry and history. Some of it's prophetic, some of it is biographical.

I mean, it's a collection of things. It's written in a part of the world that we're not familiar with, so the places aren't familiar with, the climate isn't familiar to us, the names are not familiar to us. So, there's a lot of reasons that it requires some intentionality to be able to grasp what's happening. But it isn't beyond us. Because God wouldn't do that. If he did that, he would be unfair and the Bible says God is just. So, I don't agree. Well, you could argue with God. In fact, that's where the Bible begins. The first verse says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". You can check me, that's Genesis 1. So, the Bible opens with this presentation that there is a God, and he's the creator of everything in heaven and earth.

If you'll accept that premise, the rest of the Bible will open up. If you reject that premise, the rest of the Bible becomes nonsense and then you decide what you keep, what you won't keep, maybe that's a nice saying, maybe that's a motivational piece, maybe there's some historical something we can glean, but it certainly is authoritative. But if there is a God and he had the power, the authority, the wisdom, the insight, the intelligence, to create everything that's in the earth, everything that flies or swims, and everything that's a'tweener, maybe we should pay attention to him. So, the first point on your timeline is Creation. In those opening chapters of Genesis, those first 11 chapters deal with universal things, all those big picture, big rock, global things like floods. You find all of those in those first 11 chapters.

When you get to Genesis 12, we meet a person by the name of Abram and the narrative changes. From Genesis 12 to the end of Revelation, there's a singular purpose in that story. God intends to create a people for himself. No explanation, really, as to why. It simply says God loves humanity. When we messed up really badly, God put in place a redemption plan to restore us. When the angels messed up and a third of them rebelled, they don't get redemption. He loves us. And Abram is the beginning of that story. And you and I are the 21st century edition, do we want be a part of the people of God? Not a church attender, not a moralist, not a philosopher. Do you intend to acknowledge there's a God and comply with the things that are presented so that you can participate as his people?

It's a very important question, and nobody can answer it for you, you'll have to make that decision. It's not about your parents, it's not about who your parents were, it's not about the circumstances of your birth. Every one of us has to make a decision, God has given us that free will, what an amazing gift. We're not mute creatures, driven by instinct. God has given us a choice. And Abram is the beginning of that. I want to take a minute. So often I meet people, Creation is a real stumbling block. I began my academic career in college, in the basic sciences, and I understand the assault that is launched on the biblical idea of a Creator. But from the very first words of the Bible, we are introduced to this fundamental concept that there is a more powerful being than we are. That's the essence of a Creator. It's the reason we reject it.

If that doesn't exist, if that's not true, then I am God. But if there is a God, and he is totally different in power and ability and understanding and awareness, if in every way he's beyond me, then it might just be logical to submit to him. God is Creator and the presentation of Scripture becomes an essential idea. And I would submit to you that if it's true, maybe we should learn more about God. People say, "Well, pastor, you know, that's in Old Testament. I'm a New Testament". Good for you. I brought you some New Testament verses. Just real quickly, I'm going to tag them, I'm not going to stay long. Ephesians 3, that would be in the New Testament. Written to the church at Ephesus, "and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things". That is, they snuck that right in there into the New Testament.

Then Colossians 1:15. Says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible". Hebrews 1, "He also says, 'In the beginning, O Lord, you had laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands.'" The book of Revelation, some of you live there, says, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you," they slipped it in there, too, "you created all things, and by you they were created and have their being". Even the angels believe God created the heaven and the earth. I know because we have their testimonies in Revelation 10. "The angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it".

Revelation 14, "I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live in the earth, to every nation, tribe, language and people. And he said in a loud voice, 'Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.'" I could go on, but you'd be late to lunch. Suffice it to say, Creation is not just a mythical idea introduced to us in Genesis. It's the fabric of Scripture. The whole story unravels if you remove God as the creator of heaven and earth. It's nonsensical. On the other hand, if there is a God with that power and ability and wisdom and insight and understanding, it might just be in our best interest to yield to him. We might learn something. But, this struggle isn't new. I mentioned Abram to you, this essential character we meet way back in the beginning parts of Genesis, those shadowy parts of human history. But he's a very central character in the New Testament.

Did you know that? Jesus talked about him a great deal in John chapter 8. Jesus is speaking to the crew in Jerusalem and he said, "'Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.'" Did you hear what Jesus said? That Abraham, in Genesis 12, saw Jesus and he's way over here in the New Testament. Thousands of years in between. They're not contemporaries, they weren't neighbors. That Abraham received a call from God that said, "Leave your home in Ur of the Chaldees and go to the land that I show you. I'll make you into a mighty nation". But Abraham understood that that outcome was going to be possible because of Jesus. Jesus told us that, we just read it. His audience, they had made him angry. They thought they had caught him. People playing gotcha is not a new game.

The Jews said to Jesus, "'You are not yet fifty years old," can you imagine debating Jesus? I mean, from where we sit today, it seems... but you and I argue with God. You try to catch him. You try to catch him with his own Bible. You'll quote him a verse from over here and go, "Now". God has to smile at us. "Yeah, I know that's in there". "'You're not yet fifty years old,' they said to Jesus, 'and you have seen Abraham?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth,'" you know, when you see that phrase, you know, oh, y'all went too far. "'I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!' And at this they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds".

What did I say...within every one of us? There is a chorus of voices that said, yeah, yeah, I heard you. But let me tell you what I believe. Then, there's public pressure that comes around us. And then, there's ungodly support. It's not a new thing, folks. In Matthew 3, this happens to be John the Baptist, but the message is inspired. He's talking to the group that have come to watch him doing baptisms. He says, "Do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham".

John is saying, "You put your confidence in the wrong thing. You're pointing to your DNA. You're pointing to your heritage, this notion that you're the covenant people of God, and you are," but he said, "Do you not understand God can make things just like you out of the rocks? He's not interested in your pedigree, he's interested in the condition of your heart". The 21st century version of that is we will say, "Well, I'm born again. I prayed that prayer. I walked the aisle. I got dipped in a tank. I read my Bible through". As if that gives us license to behave in an ungodly way, an immoral way, a self-indulgent way, a self-consumed way. I'm not questioning the authority of your conversion. I'm suggesting that we have lived presumptively and we have a tendency to put our confidence in secondary things. We have to choose to live with Jesus as Lord every day.

There's a lengthy discussion in John 8, and I don't have time to do it all with you, but we'll step into a bit of it, it's on point. Jesus's audience are offended by him a bit. The world we live in is offended by Jesus. You know that, right? That's why they tell you not to bring him to work, not to bring him into academia, not to bring him into the... you understand they're offended by Jesus? And if you attach authority to his perspective, then you're offensive. If you just believe he was a good man or a miracle worker or some shadowy figure in history, they can get away with that. But if you try to assert that he was the Son of God and you've chosen him as the Lord and you yield to him, the derision pointed at him begins to be pointed at you. Not a new thing.

Have the courage to be Jesus people. In every generation, there have been those people. And in every generation, there were people who responded with cowardice. What are we going to do? Don't imagine this is the end of the ages just because there's pushback on people who believe in Jesus. It could be the end of the ages, but that's not the best sign to look for. John chapter 8, "To the Jews who had believed in him," that's an important qualifier for this little section we're about to read. The audience being addressed are people who have believed in Jesus. They're not his front line antagonists. They have some sense that there's something to this Jesus character. "Jesus said to them, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free".

Jesus is talking to them about what it means to be disciples. He said, "You'll have to hold on to my teaching". I'm inviting you to read your Bibles, not just programmatically, not just routinely, but to take some time on a regular basis, whether you do it daily or...I don't care whether you do it daily or weekly, but routinely, you sit down, engage with the Word of God, open your heart to it and say, "Lord, I intend to submit to your authority". If you will hold to my teaching, what imagination do we hold that we're disciples of Jesus of Nazareth if we don't hold to his teaching? We sit in a building, we know the words to the choruses. And then Jesus said something amazing. He said, "If you'll do that, if you'll hold to my teaching, you'll know truth that will being freedom to you".

The implication is we need freedom. Well, they answered him. They're offended by this. "'We are Abraham's descendants and we've never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?'" Even those who believe in Jesus are offended by him. "We're not slaves," they said. "How dare you? Who do you think you are"? We have similar lines that we use: we're believers in Jesus. We're part of his kingdom. We've professed him as Lord of our lives. We don't have any need to be set free. Well, I would remind you that that audience in John 8 are living in the full provision of the covenant that God has made available to them. They're the beneficiaries of the Day of Atonement every year. Their sins are covered. They're in Jerusalem, there's a daily sacrifice, they're participating in everything that's been provided for them. And Jesus said, "There's a freedom beyond that which you currently hold".

Do you have enough imagination, enough confidence in the Creator of heaven and earth that there could be freedom for you beyond the state where you currently are? I believe that about myself. Verse 34, Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth," here we go, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you'll be free indeed". Jesus is acknowledging a struggle with sin. We need to acknowledge it. We can be delivered through the cross from the consequences of sin, but we've not been removed from the arena of sin. We still have carnal natures. We have to address the challenge. We have to seal up the entry points. We have to be determined to honor God with our lives. We can't just cavalierly say, "Oh, I'm sorry. Forgive me". That frightens me. That terrifies me. It's beyond disrespectful.

The Bible warns us about it. People like Esau, who treated the promises of God without any dignity. And then when they wanted the benefits of the promise they sought them with great earnestness, with tears and tremendous emotion, tremendous angst and anger, a full venting of his person, but he couldn't secure the blessing. In Hebrews 12, I put it in your notes, it's down at the bottom of the John passage. Couldn't figure out how to build the outline. It says, "In your struggle against sin, you've not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood". The author of Hebrews is acknowledging to us that we're going to struggle with sin. We struggle both with sin inwardly, the sin with which we're tempted, but we struggle because we live in a world that is filled with sin. Jesus was resisting ungodliness in the world. You and I will be asked to stand in very difficult places.

That's back to our early discussion, the cowardice of the church. We're mute when we could use our voices. Because we understand intuitively, if not consciously, that if we raise our hand or raise our voices, there's going to be push back. It might impede a deal or an opportunity or our children might suffer. Oh, you know, if we could imagine that somehow it would come on our families, we feel we have the license to be as ungodly as we want to be. You understand that's a lie? Right doesn't become wrong. Wrong doesn't become right just because a negative consequence might impact someone you care about.

I want to give you an invitation, certainly to read your Bible, but I'd like to close with an invitation. We'll pick this up some more in the next session, but the idea is that we would purposely, at the beginning of this year, submit to God and say, "God, more than ever before in my life I want your way". Jesus taught us to pray that way, it's not like a new idea that I've dreamt up. He said we should pray like this, "Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," remember that? Who do you think we're praying will do the will of God? Somebody else? Lord, Let the pastor do your will more fervently. God, raise up some pastors with the courage to do your will. You know, I think that's a personal prayer. Let your will be done through me in this world.

So, here's my suggestion. Perhaps we could offer a prayer of repentance. God, forgive us when we have been unwilling. And a prayer of submission. We want to begin this year saying, "I'll do your will," raising our hands. You up for that? Why don't you stand with me? If you're joining us someplace else, you can stand with us. Repentance just means, it's a change of mind and a change of behavior. That you won't do that if you think your thoughts and your behavior are correct, so implied in that is an acknowledgement that I was wrong. I need a new way to think and a new way to go. That is repentance. And then submission simply says, I will yield. Ah, it's hard. I will yield. I'm not suggesting that's easy. I'm suggesting that's very, very worthwhile. Let's pray:

Father, thank you for your Word, for its truth. Holy Spirit, I thank you that you're present to help us. Lord, we have an opportunity before us and we live in a season of tremendous change and you're searching the earth for men and women who will choose you and we want to humble ourselves today to acknowledge, Father, our own duplicity, our own sinfulness. Forgive us. Lord, we don't offer any excuses or any justification we simply come to say that far too frequently we have demanded our way and we've ignored your way. We ask you to forgive us. And Lord, as we begin a new year, we turn our faces to you in humility to ask that your will would be done. But your will be done in the earth as never before. May your will be done in our communities and in our homes and in our schools and our hospitals and our courtrooms, in our boardrooms. But your will be done on our job sites, in our factory floors. May your will be done in our churches as never before. Let your will be expressed in the earth as it's been expressed in the heavens. We praise you for it, Father. We acknowledge you as Lord of our lives. We submit to your authority, to your truth. We accept your invitations. Holy Spirit, help us. I thank you for outcomes that will exceed anything we could do or anything we could imagine. In Jesus's name, amen.

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