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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Effort Required - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Effort Required - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Effort Required - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

We started a discussion last week. I want to continue it for the next few sessions. I want to focus on one aspect, and we started talking about some of the "Let us" statements that have helped shape our congregation, that are a part of Scripture, those calls to community action. We use that contraction, "let's". The Bible gives us a whole list of them; we'll look at a few again today, but I wanna introduce one to you. I want to invite you to, "Let's Do Difficult". Thank you for that overwhelming response. Truly, it's heartening, the enthusiasm with which you respond to what God puts on my heart. We've done, "Let's Pray;" we've done, "Let's Read;" we've learned to read our Bibles. We're learning to read our bibles. We're learning to pray. We're gaining a little momentum. We've learned to pray outside a church building or outside a formal religious setting.

Well, I want to submit to you, there's another thing I believe we have to put in our portfolio if we're going to lead, find our way through what's ahead of us. And that's, we're going to have to be willing to do the difficult. And, in this session, I want to focus on the obvious, there's effort required in that. Folks, being a Christ follower doesn't mean you walk the aisle of a church, that the greatest display of courage in your Christian experience is not walking an aisle to say the sinner's prayer. That's the beginning point. It's a necessary point; I don't want to diminish that, but we're gonna have to overcome this idea that, once you've done that, we're just golden. After all, we're not saved by works, we're saved by grace. So I'm gonna go climb on the sloppy agape boat and just float my way to heaven. Folks, that is a very misleading, a gross misrepresentation of the Scripture.

I brought you some quotes. We're going to read a lot of Scripture; these are just some fun quotes. Sam Ewing, he said, "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some just don't turn up at all". Muhammad Ali, "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights". Important reminders that work is not an obscene four letter word. You better teach your kids the value of work, the dignity of work, the necessity of work. Hard work is not something that is forced upon us; it's something we're privileged to do. And, if nobody cared about you enough to lovingly teach you the value of work, you have forfeited something; find someone who will help you. It's one of the great honors of your life.

There's some ideas I just want to introduce to you. I'll revisit them in some more biblical context, but let me go ahead and get them on the table. Folks, other than God, there's no one coming to help us. I promise there's some good news in this message, but we gotta get to the, you need to get this established. Other than God, there's no one coming to help you. There is nowhere for us to run. There's no border for us to cross where someone will provide education for our children or extend healthcare to us or give us social security checks. If we don't value what we have, we will lose it, and there's nowhere to run to replace it. It's time for the church to decide to become part of the solution. The voices for wickedness have been too loud for too long, and the voices for obeying God have been too timid and too soft for too long.

Now decide which side you're going to be on. There's no neutral, there's no middle ground. You're either going to be a part of the chorus for the wickedness and the ungodliness... If you're silent, that's where you are; there's no covert Christianity. Jesus said, "If you deny me before people, I will deny you before the Father in heaven". It's time for us to find a voice. We're going to have to realign some expectations, that's really the point of this service, this series. I've been a Christ follower the majority of my life; I've been involved with Christians and churches for the majority of my adult life. And there's some expectations I believe we're going to have to realign if we're going to flourish in this season. I'm grateful for much of what we've learned, but life is about continuing to learn.

Imagine if, when the microchip made its way into broad use and we began to get computers and all the technology brought to us, if you'd folded your arms and just said, "I'm against it," you would have missed out on the opportunities that have come over the recent decades. Well, the church can't afford to fold our arms and say, "We don't have to meet the challenges". The truth that we hold is timeless, but the delivery systems have to fit the hand of every generation. What was required of faith for those who stood in the midst of the civil rights movement is different than what was required afterwards. Amen is the word you're looking for. What was demanded of the church in Europe when the Nazis were marching around, searching for Jews to ship them off to camps to annihilate them, was a different response than had been required 20 years before.

It's nonsense to say that the church can behave the same way, decade after decade after decade and fulfill the purposes of God. The truth that we hold doesn't change, but the, the expressions of it have to fit the needs of the culture in which we live, and we've been pretending we didn't notice. In fact, our get out of jail free card is, "I don't want to be political". I don't want to be political; either; I'm not advocating for candidates or parties, but I am advocating for a Biblical worldview, for Judeo-Christian principles that have shaped our culture that have brought good things and freedom and liberty and life to us. And we're gonna have to have the courage to say, "I'm for those things," and we're gonna have to say them in the face of the threats that are facing us now because they are coming for them. Our government is taking note of people who purchase Bibles. That's not theoretical; that's a matter of fact; it's in the public record. It's so awkward, we don't want to talk about it; we go, "I don't know if I believe that".

Well, you can choose not to believe it's cold outside, but it won't raise the temperature. I actually brought a verse of Scripture; Luke chapter 9. It's one of the pivot points in the whole narrative of the Bible. We're going to read, we're going to get to sit in on a conversation in Caesarea Philippi; it's the northern part of Israel up in the mountains near one of the springs; it's the headwater of the Jordan river. Jesus has traveled there with his disciples. He's been with them a while now; they've seen the miracles, and it's the first time one of the apostles is going to publicly acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. I mean, it really is a hinge point in this whole story of Scripture. "'But what about you?' Jesus asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Peter answered, 'The Christ of God.'"

Christ is the English equivalent of the Greek Christos, which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach. You are the Messiah; you're the anointed Son of God. "And then Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, 'The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day, be raised to life.' And then he said to them all; 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste to death before they see the kingdom of God.'"

Now, as I said a moment ago, this is the first declaration from a disciple, one of Jesus apostles, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. It's difficult for us to understand the magnitude; this is the long awaited answer to the prayers of a whole nation. There was greater anticipation in first century Israel for the arrival of Messiah than in the contemporary church for the return of the king. That's the truth, I promise you that is true. They had a greater anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah. They're under Roman oppression; they don't have the ability to free themselves; they imagine the Messiah to be a political military deliverer. They're crying out for the Messiah to come. We think that the return of the king is going to interrupt our lives.

Come on, everybody in this room at some point in your life prayed he wouldn't come this week because you had something you wanted to do. Everybody's looking innocent at once. Not true in that first century; they needed help, and they knew it. They were desperate, and they have said, "You are the one". It's just, it's impossible for, I don't have the language to describe the breakthrough of that moment. Immediately upon revealing his identity, Jesus begins to explain to them what's ahead of him. He doesn't say, "I can walk on water, I can make wine out of water, I can raise the dead or open blind eyes".

He will show them those things, but that is not the first instruction. On the heels of the revelation, listen to what he says to them, "I'm going to suffer many things. I'm gonna suffer from the elders, from the chief priests, from the teachers of the law". Those are all the people we would expect to go embrace him. They're tucked away in the mountains of the northern part of Israel; they're far from the center of power in Jerusalem. "I'm going to suffer many things," he said. "I must be killed, and, on the third day, I'll be raised to life". That's not what you expect the Messiah to say. "I'm here to devastate some Romans. I'm gonna get rid of the injustice. I'm going to see they stop extorting taxes inappropriately from you". He didn't say that; he said, "I'm gonna suffer a lot". But he didn't stop there; he said, "If anyone would come after me", who's excluded from anyone, no one.

So, anyone that's gonna follow Jesus, he's about to speak to, first century, 21st century, everywhere in between. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". At this point, they're not even, they don't imagine Jesus is going to the cross; they can't process that. Now, they know what a cross is for; they've seen crucifixion; they've seen the Romans torture other people to death. They can't imagine the Messiah is gonna be tortured to death. These words become far more personal to them after the fact; it's why they're recorded in Scripture; it's why they're introduced to us at the point where Jesus is introduced to us. "If anyone would come after me, you've got to take up your cross and follow me daily".

I've got an invitation for you, Let's Do Difficult. Let's decide we're going to do difficult. We're done with easy. We did easy yesterday. We've used up easy. We're addicted to easy. We have marketing campaigns about easy; major change, the whole campaigns is to give you a button, an easy button. Somebody gave me one; I loved it. I used to hit that thing all the time. It didn't work, but I was helpful. Let's decide we're willing to do what's difficult in the context of our faith. It's not gonna be easy; you can't park where you want. You're gonna have to serve. You can't come to church just when it's convenient. You can't only mention Jesus's name when there's an applause group around. You can't decide you're for biblical morality when everybody else in the group is and be mute when people aren't. You can't raise your hand and say, "I think children should be sacrificed for convenience" or that "God has redefined marriage" or "sexual activity is just up to me".

It isn't Biblical. I understand it isn't popular to hold a Biblical worldview right now; I get it; churches are capitulating on a daily basis. I've traveled the country; I've seen it. Let's decide we'll do difficult. How many of you have done the Bible reading at some point since we're... good, good for you, pretty good group. What are the rest of you doing? It changed us as a community of faith; it changed us. We committed to the overwhelming sacrifice of 10 or 12 minutes a day. How many of you ever had a "let's pray" moment outside the church building? Look at that, bunch of radicals, praying for people out there in the grocery store and work, buying gas... bunch of fanatics. Yes, I am. Would you like to be one? I can help. I'm embarrassed of how many years I served the church before I gave you an invitation to read. I'm sorry for how many years I served the church before I said, "Let's pray". Then it's awkward to have to say to you, "We have to do difficult things".

Folks, Jesus told his closest friends that the day he said, "I'm the Messiah". Let's go do difficult. What's that look like? Well, you know somebody who's right up against difficult; they've had a bad diagnosis. How about if you say, "Let's go do that together. I'll stand with you. I don't know how God's gonna intervene. I don't know if he'll use a doctor or he'll answer a prayer. I don't know what God will do, but I'll walk with you". I'm struggling with my kids; let's do difficult together; we'll go stand, we'll climb that hill together. My job is not easy; I'm the only believer in that place. Let's go do difficult together. You don't have to do it alone. We know how to do this. We haven't cared enough. We've been looking for easy. We get agitated.

I've had the meetings, "Pastor. I don't like the parking". Boy, we get indignant around parking. First you just park like pagans, and I put pictures on the screens. And then, because you love me, you started taking pictures of how I park wherever you see me. I appreciate that note of encouragement. It helped me a bit. We're going to look at this from several angles and unpack it from different perspectives. But, I want to be honest with you, I do not believe that we will flourish, that we will see the wickedness and the ungodliness and the immorality that is flourishing around us change, unless we're willing to change our response to it. In the 1940s, Europe didn't change just because the West got together and said, "You're being really mean". It took a tremendous sacrifice. Our schools didn't get integrated, and we didn't begin to treat one another with new dignity and respect, until people were willing to do some difficult things.

Now, what are we gonna do? I want to consider a perspective with you, a perspective grounded in our faith that is discussed less frequently than many other topics. I'm not introducing something new. I don't want to suggest that, I don't want to intimate that, I'm not discussing something that hasn't been previously considered in other generations. I'm just asking you to stand with our brothers and sisters who preceded us. This is no new gospel. What I would like to do is turn the light on in the room of our greatest accomplishments. Then I want to stand there with you and review them. We'll celebrate the victories, many of those you've learned as children, you've gathered as Bible stories through the 'years.' You're not unaware of them; they're some of our most unexpected triumphs.

However, as we review them, I want to help focus our attention, not on the end result, but on the things which preceded that wonderful moment when the enemy was vanquished. We all like that part. We all like to stand victorious at that point of triumph and stay focused on that. But we've also got to recognize that the threat being eliminated or fear being routed is not the whole story. And, if you'll allow me to be candid, I believe we've lived for too long on the sacrifices of others, the effort of love that was born by predecessors. They led harder lives, they did more difficult things, they made greater sacrifices. And we watched that, and we said, "I don't want to do that or I don't want the people I love to do that".

And so we've done everything in our power to protect them from difficulty or stress or work that was too difficult, and we have robbed them of much. Too much of our success has been birthed by the labor pains of others. We live in comfortable homes. Many of us have kitchens and bathrooms large enough to be apartments in most places in the world. We have access to global communication tools which were once reserved for the leaders of nations. We have some expectations; it's a long list. We expect to travel frequently and to accumulate experiences for ourselves and for our children. For many years, we have celebrated; interest rates were low, energy was abundant, opportunities were frequent. Good character really wasn't required anymore.

You know, there was a time, if your character was known to be flawed, if you gave your word and broke it, it was hard to find somebody to trust you to do business with. If you led an immoral life from a Biblical perspective, you wouldn't be welcomed into public service. I know it's hard to believe that that was ever the case, but it has been the case. But, for quite some time now, there's been no character requirements. We make heroes out of people that we know are blatantly immoral, wicked, evil, self absorbed, destructive. But, if they can stack cash or run fast or entertain us. Moral boundaries or limits, those have been for deconstructing for quite a while now; we've been told so frequently that we're amazing, that there are no limits for us, that we can do anything we want to do, that nobody can tell us who we can become or what we can do, that we believe to lie, that we believe we deserve all of these things. And more, well, spoiler alert, we need to consider more than the advertisements of greatness and self satisfaction.

Let's pause for just a moment for some situational awareness. Can we do that? Because the opportunities of our lives have a great deal to do with the circumstances in which we live. And a glance at our personal communication tools... Let's just turn on our location finders for a minute. Every time I download some new app or try to use something I haven't used in a while. It wants more permission to intrude on my life. Do you notice that? Can I track everything you're going to read? Tell me where you are. No, thank you. Well, you can't get direction, you can't get any clarity, you can't even get much information unless you're willing to turn on that location finder. The church needs to turn on our location finder. Most of us said the sinner's prayer, and then we went dark. We thought we'd got all our business with God done and we didn't want him tracking us anymore.

Until we got into some difficult place, then we want to turn it on again and say, "Hey, quick right now, I need an answer". We need a little situational awareness. It'll help you understand the world we're living in. Most of these things are uncomfortable; they're awkward; we don't talk about it a much in polite company. We'd rather talk about positive things; I understand. But, if you don't know your circumstance, you can't get to a better place. Just as an opener, it's probably worth some consideration, we're more than $34 trillion in debt, largest debt in the history of our nation, $34 trillion. And that's probably the lowest possible way of giving an account of that; there's probably at least three times that much debt that we're committed to. That's just the number that we kind of use. We're operating at a national deficit that's unprecedented.

The numbers are so big, they're really almost impossible for us to understand. A million seconds, do you know what a million seconds looks... Let me give you an example. A million seconds is about 12 days. A billion seconds, it's about half a lifetime, let's say 32 years or so. A trillion seconds, it's more than all of recorded history, more than 32,000 years. Thirty-four trillion dollars; that's a lot. And it's just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn't bother us; we don't care. Because, when somebody in Washington raises their hands, they say, "I'm gonna give you something else. I'm gonna cancel the law. I'm gonna do something with you".

Oh, good, please. You know why we don't care? We don't think we have to pay it back. Because we have become a nation so accustomed to people giving and rewarding and caring for us and promising us things, if we'll give them a little power, they'll promise to give us something else, that we've completely lost the imagination that we have to pay our debts. We've got thousands and thousands and thousands of people in that domain. "I'm not paying that debt. It's uncomfortable. It's inconvenient. They tricked me. I didn't understand. I didn't know. I didn't imagine. I expected. So I don't want to pay it". And we think we can click our heels together or close our eyes twice, and it will just disappear. Folks, we have adversaries, enemies, people who would like us to fail, that are gleefully watching our debt skyrocket. And it has to be paid. And every generation points at another. The younger ones point at the old people and say, "You did this". The old people look at the younger people and say, "Why don't you wanna work"? The generational blame doesn't solve the problem; it isn't helpful. What if we work together?

We wanna pray before we go. You know, we find ourselves as a nation where only God can bring a solution that's acceptable. Well, that brings a sense of desperation. I also think it's a very fruitful place. We understand he is our God, and we can't save ourselves. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you, I believe you have planted us at this time and place in this nation for this season. Now, may the name of Jesus be exalted, your church strengthened, and your purposes break forth in the earth. In Jesus's name, amen.

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