Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Challenges to Our Faith - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Challenges to Our Faith - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Challenges to Our Faith - Part 1
TOPICS: Challenge

Hey, it's an honor to be with you again. Our topic is the challenges to our faith. You know, we live in a world where there is pushback if you hold a biblical worldview, if you're an advocate for Jesus. I don't believe that's going to diminish. Jesus told us it would. In fact, he said we would actually be hated by other people because of our advocacy for him. I prefer to be applauded, not to be hated, not to be left off of invitation lists. But we're gonna have to have the courage to own our faith, even when we understand there'll be challenges. The 11th Commandment is not, thou shalt be kind. I believe our assignment as ambassadors for Jesus trumps the approval of our peer group. Let's determine to honor him no matter what the circumstances. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most importantly, let's open our heart to what God has for us today.

And we've been talking about gifts and expectations, and I have submitted to you, suggested to you, that the gift we have of the availability of the Word of God comes with expectations and that we don't wanna live presumptuously or arrogantly imagining that we would always have that privilege. There have been tremendous sacrifices made so that you and I have access to the Word of God. That's hard for us to imagine. We live in a time and a season where it is so available to us. But I've traveled around the world. I've been in many, many places where there are people that have never had the privilege of even holding a Bible. I have been in multiple places where adults would stand in line for whatever amount of time was necessary if I was distributing some sort of a portion of Scripture or a biblical outline or a Bible study, it was something that just was not available to them. And for the majority of us, we have an abundance of riches where it comes to the availability to the Word of God. So, let's not be presumptuous with that. I can assure you that with that blessing, there comes an expectation. In the language of Scripture: to whom much is given, much is required. So, that's our target.

I wanna start in 2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 12. Says, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". Isn't that a happy little note? If you intend to live a godly life, persecution is a part of the journey. That's not something about the 21st century or the end of the age or the decline of culture or politics. That's simply a spiritual conflict that is in place in the earth in every generation. When you determine to honor God with your life, you inherit an adversary. I don't believe that. Okay. Let me read it to you again. "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". It's not a negative confession. It's not being pessimistic. It's just a cautionary note. Doesn't mean you'll be overwhelmed or defeated. You shouldn't be frightened or threatened. It's a reality.

And then he goes on to amplify, "while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus". I like that promise, that the Scripture can make us wise in our salvation. I think we've imagined salvation is kind of a gift we receive and we unpack it and it's fully formed and there's nothing to be done with it. But, the invitation here seems to be quite different, that we can grow wise. If you can be wise in salvation, by definition, you can be foolish with your salvation.

So, Scripture affords us the privilege of being wise in our salvation, "which you were able to make you wise for salvation in faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work". It's a fascinating passage. We could spend a great deal of time with it. I don't intend to, but there's a contrast made between everyone who wants to live a godly life and evil men and imposters. There is no third option. There's no middle ground. And if there is anything that seems to becoming increasingly clear to me, it's that middle ground that is evaporated. I think we've imagined that there was like some third option. You know, you could either be a zealot or you could be ungodly or you could just be like a good Christ follower.

I believe that construct is faulty, both biblically and in what I observe in the world around us. I think we'll either desire to lead a godly life or we will join those who are evil and imposters. So, amongst those who want to be godly will be people who are imposters. Then, the concluding sentences are important: that all Scripture is useful. All Scripture is God breathed. Leviticus is useful. Job is useful. Numbers is useful. All Scripture is useful. You better look at the person on your right and say, "I believe all Scripture is useful". Because I don't think, most of us, you know, we have favorite passages and favorite books. It's not wrong, but all Scripture is useful. It's God-breathed and it's useful in some very specific ways for teaching, rebuking, correcting, for training.

All of those are in the portfolio of what the people of God will need. We're gonna need to get taught, we'll need to be rebuked, we'll have to be corrected, we'll need training. And the outcome of all of that is to equip us. I hope you live with that imagination that we've got to be equipped. That's really my point in this short series as we begin a year, is to do whatever I can to equip us for the disruptions that may be before us in the weeks and the months ahead. You know, one of the men with whom I work is very, very bright. And he has a line that I've heard him use multiple times and I have learned from him. He said, "The job is much easier if you have the right equipment".

You know, I haven't always believed that. I thought you could just make up for it with brute force. You know, sweat equity and determination. You go get your equipment, watch me. And I've observed he does much better when he has the right equipment. And the same is true spiritually. And then, rather than saying what you do and don't believe or what you've closed your heart to or what's not a part of your family system or you didn't learn, whatever, begin to give the Holy Spirit permission to show you the equipment you need to flourish with the things that are before us now. Let's become adept at the tools that God has given us. Let's become familiar with them. Let's overcome the stigma, that reluctance we have to say, "I don't know". I give you permission to be a learner.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, I absolve you from the burden of knowing it all. Go forth and say in the words of Pastor Allen, "I don't know, but I'd like to learn". Let's adopt the posture of learners. That's hard for those of us that live in the church. We wanna pretend like we've heard it all, seen it all, been there. Folks, he's an infinite God. We're his creation. If we learn something new about God every day for a hundred thousand years, on the next day, there'll be more to learn than we've learned in the preceding hundred thousand years. I don't know it all. Dumb as a stick. But I was a dumber stick in the past because I'm a stick in training. Join the crowd, I give you permission.

And then let's add to that Romans 15, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us". Wow, all those who have preceded us, everything that's been recorded is for our benefit. "So that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope". We don't have hope because of the economy or the elections or our constitution. We have hope through the encouragement of the Scriptures and through our willingness to endure. "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the spirit of unity amongst yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth, we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ".

I think we ought to make that as a proclamation over ourselves. Can we do that? Are you paying enough attention? If you wanna wake, wake up. It's verse 5, I just wanna change one word, "that with one heart and one mouth, we may glorify God". We're gonna change you to we. You're with me? All right, can we read that verse together? "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us a spirit of unity among ourselves". I lied, we're gonna change more than one word. My bad. All right, I confess. Now having confessed, if you'll forgive me, we'll go back and do it. Verse 5, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us a spirit of unity among ourselves as we follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". Amen. Hallelujah.

See, if you read your Bible, God will expand your heart for him. We made him so small, "You know, I don't know if God can do that or not". Folks. Folks. We read to understand who he is. So, open your Bible with the intent of presenting yourself to the Lord. I'm listening. I'm interested. I'd like to know. You'll read things you won't understand. I do that. You know, I read my Bible and I don't know how to pronounce all the words. Spoiler alert, neither does anybody else. So, just take your best shot. But I take it and say, "Lord," you know, "thank you for a few minutes in your presence. I'm so grateful I have the opportunity. Of all the things I could do today, I can't think of any place I would rather have an audience than with the Creator of heaven and earth. Thank you that I could have a Bible".

It's such a gift. It isn't a burden. It's not onerous. It's not intrusive. My preference is to have more than 10 or 15 minutes because sometimes it takes me 5 or 10 minutes to get my brain to focus off of wherever it's been running. And I need a few minutes to kind of get settled in. That doesn't happen that way for me every time, but that's my preference. So, if I have a little larger block of time, it's easier for me to kind of climb into the narrative a little bit and to begin to make some notes. I write in my Bible. If your Bible is too good to write in, somebody taught me years ago, throw it away and get one you can. Because I find real value when I go back and I read the little notations I put in there. I thought, oh, that was interesting.

You know what the Lord was saying to me? But that daily time when you're not in a crisis, when there's not crushing pressure, is an expression to the Lord that you have a desire to know him. Do we give enough attention to him that there's credible evidence that we are living with a desire to know the living God? I'm not recruiting you for something, I'm not trying to enlist you, there's no commitment cards any place. I just wanna suggest that the privilege of knowing God, having access to the Word of God, is such an honor, is such an honor. And I think so often we have viewed it in another way. If you're newer to it, if it's a newer habit for you, it may seem dry, initially. I found it very helpful to tell the Lord the truth. You know, we've started in the Gospels, so we're reading through the Gospels, that's pretty lively stuff. I mean, the narrative flows, it makes kind of sense to us, most of the names are familiar.

So, that's not such a reach, but when you get to some of those portions where it's more challenging, I'll say, "God," you know, "that's helped me today. I want to see you even in the midst of this". And one of my habits is I try to, after I've read the passage, I'll sit for a minute and imagine that I was a part of the scene. I like to imagine I was sitting on the hillside in Galilee when Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Or that I was one of the disciples when Jesus said, "Feed these people". And we went, "You have got to have lost your mind". Or you were in the boat when Jesus came walking across the lake and Peter said, "I wanna walk," and I'm sitting there going, "He's always shooting off his mouth". And I'll imagine, I'll put myself in different places around the... not in an arrogant way, I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, but to try to imagine what it would have felt like to have been there in the middle of that.

Or when somebody, they bring someone to the disciples and they pray and they don't get an outcome and Jesus comes up and they say, you know, "We prayed, nothing happened". And Jesus said, "Oh, you of little faith". When Jesus calls you a knucklehead, living Bible. It's such a privilege to be able to read our Bibles and it's so essential because we live in a time and a season and a place where we are subjected to an unprecedented... there's never been a season in human history when there was so much information cascading over the lives of people. You know, we used to have a local newspaper and a 30 minute news broadcast and that was the total expression of news that was available most of the time. But now, there's a 24/7 news cycle and it chirps into your phone on a regular, I mean, it's overwhelming. It's impossible to decipher.

So, guarding our hearts has become more important than ever. There are personal challenges to belief. We talked about this in some previous sessions. I brought you a verse of Scripture, Galatians 5:13. Says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another". That's a really helpful language to me. You know, I told you that we're all possessed with this temptation to say what I feel and I want and I think, and they tend to become dominant in our thoughts and our emotions because it's what I feel and it's what I want and it's what I think. The Bible refers to that as our carnal nature, our Adamic nature, our earthly nature, our old man, different labels. They're all referring to that same essence in every one of us, even as born again Christ followers, that is in rebellion to God.

And Paul's writing to the church in Galatia, he says, "do not use your freedom," your freedom in Christ, "to indulge that sinful nature". And indulge is a really good word because I think sometimes we understand that's probably not the most godly thought, but I'm having it anyway. Or, I know I shouldn't feel this way, but blah. And we indulge ourselves. We know we use words in ways that are not good. We use them to bludgeon people or to intimidate people or to manipulate people. And it's not that we're unaware, we give ourselves the privilege of indulging our carnal nature. And so, biblically, now we have this direction, do not use your freedom that way. Jesus, with a similar statement in Matthew 23, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you're hypocrites".

They're biblical scholars, they're experts. They've memorized enormous portions of Scripture. Their whole lives are leaning into rule keeping. He said, "You clean the outside of the cup". On the outside, you look really good. You know the right words and you wear the right kind of clothes and you sit in the right places. "But inside, you're full of greed," and what? "Self-indulgence," you indulge that self. You give first place to that. A part of the discipline of following Jesus is saying no to ourselves. You know, the fruit of the Spirit that are listed in Galatians, nine aspects, nine characteristics that will be evident in your life or mine if we cooperate with the person of the Holy Spirit.

One of those nine is self-control. I will not indulge that carnal nature. So many voices these days. It's overwhelmed us. We've become more concerned about our self-image than our self-control. It's so important to us that... and we've got to submit to the authority of Scripture. We see this being lived out in the culture of around us with these collective challenges to the authority of Scripture. It wasn't too many years ago in our culture where there was a biblical worldview that underheld things and things like keeping your word and telling the truth were values that were understood to be widely shared. And if you didn't keep your word or if you were known to be a person who lied, you would forfeit your place of trust or honor in a community.

Look, those days are gone. We make heroes out of people who are inveterate liars. We choose them to lead us. We put them in powerful seats in the corporate world, wherever. We've got a whole new vocabulary list that are all synonyms for, "I'm a liar". There's a collective challenge to choosing the Word of God. We're watching the corruption, the collapse, honestly, of the Christian West. But, I'm not suggesting it's going to collapse. I'm suggesting that what we're looking at is really a vapor of what was once in place. The values that held us in place, we have set aside. It hasn't happened this week or this month or with the current administration. This is not about some party. All aspects of the political spectrum that we know in this nation have contributed to this.

That's an awkward statement to make, which means most of us, if you've participated in the process, you have supported people who have cooperated with the dismantling of a biblical Christian worldview. We need to humble ourselves and repent and say to the Lord, "I'm sorry, we haven't been that vigilant. We thought we could continue to make ungodly choices and have the blessings of God". I don't believe we can continue to do that. There's a tipping point. There's a tipping point in your physical health. If you continue to abuse your health, there's a point at which you'll not be able to overcome it. Your body's adaptive processes will not circumvent your destructive behaviors.

And the same is true spiritually. We cannot consistently ignore the counsel of the Word of God and imagine that the grace and mercy of God will compensate for our determined bent towards ungodliness. So, the question I believe that is uppermost before us these days is: will the people of God choose to honor him with their whole heart, mind, soul, and body? And one of the most encouraging things I've seen is the wave of people stepping forward and raising their hands and said, "I would like to do that". We make greater efforts to be together. We value the opportunity more. We're more willing to read our Bibles. Hundreds and hundreds of people downloaded the apps to read their Bibles after just this last weekend. That's not typical. That hasn't always happened. God is moving in some remarkable ways, but you don't have to have great discernment. If you just a casual glance at the news, in the last few days, what?

Jeffrey Epstein, that whole sordid scandal, it's so depraved, it's so wicked, we can't discuss it in this setting, it would be inappropriate. What's startling is how widespread the participation's been. In every segment of our culture and society, it's impossible that it escaped the attention of the people in the media, and yet they've buried the stories for decades. But you can look in completely different directions. We have an open border. And church after church after church will describe that as an expression of compassion. That is deceptive. It's a genesis for trafficking in children. It's the genesis of sexual exploitation and perversion. Which part of illegal do we not understand?

If you go to the bank and you make an illegal withdrawal, that's not good. We have all this language that we're using to cover something that is a gross abuse of freedom and liberty. We are forfeiting the future of our children and our grandchildren, and we have lacked the will to say anything about it. We're a nation of immigrants, I'm an advocate for immigration. We have all sorts of ways to make immigration legal, but you can't do it illegally and then say, "Now we're gonna wave a magic wand and you're legal". That's perverse. That's as perverse as living together and then showing up at the Justice of the Peace and getting married and say, "No harm, no foul". We mock God. Do you understand the degree to which in so many ways in our lives, we have engaged in behaviors that are mocking of God? We think God can be manipulated with his language. "Well, you're a God of grace, therefore the fact that I've been ungodly and immoral and wicked and practiced illegal things for a long season of time, now I'm going to genuflect in your presence and you will just absolve me".

Open our Bibles, Begin to submit ourselves to the authority of God. He will change us. We have received the blessings of God in an unprecedented way, but we have moved further and further away from obedience to him. But I see indications that that is changing. That's so exciting to me. That is so exciting to me. That there's a group of people that are gonna link arms and say, "We're gonna honor the Lord. We're gonna lift up the name of Jesus. We're gonna take him to school again. We're gonna take him to work with us again". I'm telling you, it is happening all around. Be an early adopter, say, "Lord, I wanna honor you. I wanna honor you in my home and my family". Folks, all of us come from broken families. There is no perfect family system. That's why we need a Redeemer. Hey, I want to pray for God's boldness. Let's pray:

Lord, I thank you that you've called us to this season and that you've given us everything we need to stand on your behalf. Now give us the wisdom and the courage, the determination to be your advocates wherever you send us. In Jesus's name, amen.

Are you Human?:*