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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Effort Required - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Effort Required - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Effort Required - Part 2
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

It's an honor to be with you again. We're continuing our discussion on "Let's do Difficult," and spoiler alert, in this session we're talking about, there's gonna be effort required. You know, for too long, I think we've had the imagination that the point of our faith is just to go to heaven, and that if God brings some blessings to us and kind of upgrades the quality of our life while we're on that journey, that's even better. I wanna suggest to you, there's a greater purpose for our lives, and that's the kingdom of God. To see the kingdom of God coming into the world around us and through us, that's going to take a commitment on our part that extends beyond sitting in church service and singing the choruses with some enthusiasm. I believe God's calling a people for himself to this unique time in history and that he's called you and me to be a part of that.

I'll give you another little bit of our situation that's awkward. We have lost our moral compass. We're redefining marriage, we're making our children prey. Oh, we do it on a daily basis, we do it with fancy letters and big words. We do it with psychiatrists and psychologists signing off on it, we have government programs that encourage it, we have departments in the university that promote it. Occasionally the disease breaks into the open and it's so blatant, it's so awful, it's so disgusting that it's hard to avoid, so then we just don't talk about it because it's not polite. The latest debacle that shows the degree to which our moral rot is devastating us as a people is this Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Well, I'll just attach his name to it because that's how it gets reported, it's far bigger than a person. You know what it's about, Epstein and his friends are a really uncomfortable reminder that amongst us, presidents, princes, celebrities, musicians, thought leaders, hundreds of others, people we have revered in the public square have been leering at our children and teenagers with a predatory glee that is difficult to comprehend. And they've been giving full expression to their perverted desires.

Now, that's not theoretical, that has happened. Venerated people, people of great celebrity, people of great influence. Tragically, neither the media, law enforcement, nor the general public have had much appetite or showed much concern. I assure you it's not just a problem with the most elite people. We're trafficking children at our border, there are more children and people being sold into slavery in our nation today than at any point in our history. And we're busy, we're busy. I would suggest to you that the church is the front line in determining our future. That our choices regarding God, ourselves, and obedience to him will determine the kind of future that we know. People of faith are a more accurate indicator of what is next than the emerging defense budget, than political elections, or the leading economic indicators.

I'm not denying the significance of those, those things are all important components for understanding what is happening, but I would remind you and you should be willing to accept this, as people of faith, that almighty God directs the course of nations, and he responds to his people. If his people capitulate, if we fail to walk up rightly before him, if we choose ungodliness and wickedness, even though we sit in churches and sing choruses and we have Bibles and we have the pretense of Christianity, if we choose ungodliness, God brings destruction. It is the story of the book. On the other hand, if we will choose to walk uprightly before him, no matter how outnumbered we are, no matter the superiority of our adversaries, or the advantages they hold, or how much better resourced they are, or the technological advancements that they may hold over us, that the Creator of heaven and earth gets engaged and brings victories and freedoms to his people.

Are we willing to do difficult things? Can we learn new responses in light of our current environment? Or will we cling to our oft repeated response, then continue on our paths of self fulfillment and simply say we're going to trust the government to fix our problems, after all, it's an election year, we'll get it right this time. We're going to pay more attention at the polls. We're gonna complain more loudly about the candidates we have to choose from. It's somebody else's problem... folks, it's not somebody else's problem. It's not the people who aren't in church, it's the people who are. I understand the church is struggling. I've traveled this country for the last 18 months talking to church leaders and pastors and I understand something of the challenges we're facing. But I still believe that the future lies at the doorstep of the people of God.

We're reading Mark's gospel, if you're doing the Bible reading with us, I thought just a moment in Mark's gospel might be helpful, because I think we have the imagination that Jesus was different, that his life was easy, that there were no challenges, that he wasn't asked to do difficult. We did a little bit of this in a previous session, but we started in Mark 1, I want to start with you in Mark chapter 2, in verse 15, "While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house," one of his disciples, "Many tax collectors and 'sinners' were eating with him and his disciples". Now we've used this passage to say we should go hang out with pagans. It's okay with me if you have people on your friends list that are pagans, as long as they know you're an over-the-top Christ follower. The worldview you hold, the values you hold, the behaviors you will not engage in, you can't act like a pagan and sit in church on Sunday and think you're good to go with God. It's deception.

I care about the church. I care about God's people. I'm concerned with having to report to the boss if I didn't tell the truth. So Jesus is having dinner and there's some pagans in the house. And, "When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the 'sinners' and the tax collectors, they said to his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners?''" So the criticism they had was Jesus, you hang out with the wrong people. Never mind that you heal the sick and you raise the dead. Do you eat in the wrong restaurants? And you sit at the table with the wrong people? Gee, that sounds familiar. It's not an easy assignment. Same chapter verse 18, excuse me. "John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And some people came and asked Jesus, 'How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?'"

May I give you the interpretation? You're a bad leader and your disciples are second rate and undisciplined. Well, there you go. It's not an easy assignment. Same chapter in verse 23, "One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as the disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?'" Again, they're chirping at the disciples because they're not behaving in the way they think they should behave. They eat in the wrong restaurants, they eat with the wrong people, they don't behave right when they go to church. Jesus didn't have an easy assignment. He fulfilled every prophetic requirement for the Messiah. It wasn't hidden, they're experts in the scripture. They are waiting, longing, praying, crying out for the arrival of the Messiah. He's walking on the water and raising the dead and they're complaining because of the food they're eating on the Sabbath. It's not an easy assignment, this following the Lord thing.

Are you willing to be different? Are you willing to stand up? Are you willing to face that kind of stuff? All of that criticism is coming from the religious crew. You're not doing it right. We've been overwhelmed with self righteousness, we've been so smug, and so certain that the group we're in is so correct and so right, and the way we do it is so much better than everybody else's. We keep our noses so high in the air, we can't even see where we're walking, but it's not done, it gets worse. Mark chapter 3, "Another time he went to the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. And some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus," they went to church, they went to the synagogue, it's a fair analogy. They didn't go to learn, to worship, to study God, they went to find something wrong.

Gee, that would never happen in the 21st century. "So they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. And Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or evil, to save life or kill?' But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, and said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, the hand was completely restored. And the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might put him to death".

It's an escalation, we're in Mark chapter 3 and they're already planning how to kill him. He's the anointed Son of God. He's got a pretty remarkable display of the authority with which he has been sent to minister, to the covenant people who are awaiting his revival and their response, the most powerful people amongst them, and understand they're influential, if you go against them, you get left off the best invitation lists. I won't read it to you today, but the disciples, after Jesus returns to heaven, they begin to celebrate that they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for him. Jesus is facing shame and disgrace and criticism and exclusion and rejection from the very beginning of his ministry. Let's do the difficult. We wanted the applause of people, the approval of people, we wanted to be included. It's awkward to say, so we've been silent. We've stood side by side, we've made partners with people who were wicked and evil and immoral and we knew it, but after all, we were on a mission. What mission was that?

This is not a new message. It has never been easy to be the people of God. If you don't understand that, read a little bit of Jewish history. It's never been easy. Let's do our part, let's pray, let's read our Bible, let's do the difficult. I brought you a collection, I'm not going to stay on them long, we've looked at them in some earlier sessions. Again, this is not some new idea to me, it fills the pages of our Bibles. The book of Hebrews is written to Jewish believers that are scattered around the Roman world, and I took a collection of "let us" statements from Hebrews, in chapter 10 and verse 22, "Let us draw near to God". In verse 23, "Let's hold on to hope". If hope was exploding around you, you wouldn't have to hold on to it. You hold on to it because it's in short supply. In verse 24, "Let's lead with our faith".

I know the phrase in the verse says, let's spur one another on, but the implication of that is, let's get our faith out in front of us. We are people of faith, before we're butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers. We got to lead with it. We gotta go to the ball field, stop waiting for somebody on the field to pray, you pray. If you're in a Christian school and they teach something that's unChristian, either change the leadership or move your kids, don't act like it's okay. I'm weary with it. It's not new, when I was in seminary, and it's been a while, they were teaching the most ungodly things. We've been training ministers in this junk for a long, long time, so I'm not surprised that the church is infected with it. We've held those universities in the highest of esteem while they've taught the most ungodly principles and values. We've hoped that our children got included so they could go be indoctrinated with that and then look down on the values which they were taught from their grandparents and their parents, what has happened to us?

Let's lead with our faith, let's gather, Hebrews verse 10:25, let's gather with believers. "Let's not give up meeting together". You want the Living Bible on that, go to church. "I don't have to go to church to be a Christian," you got me. But you do if you're going to honor the Bible. Let's tolerate no self imposed hindrances. In the language of Hebrews 12, "Throw off anything that hinders and the sin that entangles". Let's focus on Jesus, in verse 2, "Fix our eyes on Jesus," put Jesus at the center. Don't go someplace that you don't wanna talk about Jesus, don't go someplace you wouldn't take Jesus. Don't have a conversation you wouldn't want him to sit in on.

Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, folks, this isn't beyond our awareness. We haven't thought it was important because we've been taught a gospel of salvation, that if we got saved, everything was good and I believe in salvation, but the scripture tells us of the gospel of the kingdom. And kingdoms come with boundaries and all sorts of things that describe the kingdom. And if you wanna be a part of the kingdom, but you hate the King, that's a really awkward thing. This is all biblical stuff, we could spend days with each of these. Hebrews 13, "Let's go, then to him outside the camp," let's embrace disgrace. You took things outside the camp that weren't appropriate to be inside the camp. Jesus had to be crucified outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem because you couldn't do that inside the city.

As I told you a moment ago, later, the disciples rejoiced when they were threatened with death. They said, we've been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for our Lord. Are you willing to do that? Or do you want to be accepted polite society by powerful people, by wealthy, won't it impact the business opportunities I'll have, it very may well. It could impact my children, we hide behind that excuse. Stop using your children as a shield for your wickedness. That is awful. If our children suffer because we choose to honor God, I trust God to take them through. They will suffer more because we capitulate the darkness. We have been confused. We've been cowardly. I'll wrap it up with one more passage, Hebrews 11 tells us about our predecessors. Hebrews 11, you know, is kind of the Hall of Fame. It's this listing of these remarkable men and women and their accomplishments.

You know many of the stories, you learned about them in Sunday school or you heard them through the culture. They're the parts of the Bible that everybody knows, they're our hero stories. But we get to verse 32, the author's running out of time. That never happens to us, because I just keep going until you go to sleep, but he says, "What more shall I say? I don't have time to tell about Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, and David, and Samuel, and the prophets". They're our heroes. "Who through faith conquered kingdoms, and administered justice, and gained what was promised," we like that. We like those phrases. "Who shut the mouths of lions, who quenched the fury of flames, and escaped the edge of the sword".

It's fun to talk about how God shut the mouths of the lions, it's not so fun to talk about being so committed to prayer that they throw you into the lion's den. "Whose weakness was turned to strength, who became powerful in battle, who routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground".

We're not the first generation that may have to do something difficult. We called those young people that waded ashore on the beaches of France, in the last century, the greatest generation. What's gonna be said of our generation? The softest generation? I hope not. Maybe you'd say it was a generation where the people repented and humbled themselves and the Spirit of God was poured out on the earth in an unprecedented way. My time's about gone. I'd remind you of our heroes, you know their stories, people like Joseph, became the prime minister of Egypt as a foreigner. Most of you know his backstory, he came from a very dysfunctional family. It did not prohibit him from being used by God. The dysfunction of your life or your family cannot prohibit you from being used by God, unless you refuse to co-operate with God. His brother sold him as a slave, that's a bad family.

I have brothers, we haven't always gotten along. We didn't always treat one another the best. I've locked them in stalls in the barn and gotten the hose out. Explained to them that I thought they needed a bath. And then I facilitated said bath because I didn't think my parents could hear their screams and I was safe. It never occurred to me I could sell my brother. As messed up as I was, as dark as my heart may have been, when I read that, I thought, wow. They sold him as a slave, he finds himself in a foreign country. He managed to secure a position, he's doing reasonably well. He's invited to participate in sexual immorality and he refuses because of his faithfulness to his assignment, then he is falsely accused of rape and put in prison. He did the right thing and it got worse. He's in prison, he continues to honor God, and it seems that maybe there's some good things coming his way and he's betrayed by people he helps. It's a difficult story.

Now, I know he becomes the prime minister, but you need to know the backstory. You see, we're in the midst of difficult places and doing hard things and we're saying this is awful, this isn't why I signed up. There's no promise that every day is fun, that every day is easy. We're creating the wrong imagination in the people that we're training. Let's go to do the things that are difficult so that what's ahead of us can be better. That's the nature of the experience. If you don't break the ground and plow the ground and plant the seed and hoe the seed, there's no food, it doesn't come from the grocery store. We've lost the vision of the difficulty that life demands of us to get to the better places. Daniel is one of our heroes, one of my favorite books in the Bible. We meet Daniel, he's a slave in Babylon. He's grown up as a young man of privilege and power and education in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is devastated by their enemies and he's taken to Babylon.

So there's a lot of hatred and resentment and bitterness, his future's been destroyed, his dreams have been destroyed. He's taken as a prisoner of war, then he's physically mutilated to serve in an ancient court in the near eastern. As a young man, you would be neutered. He has a long list of reasons to be angry and embittered and filled with hate. He's forced to serve a pagan king and he serves with some enthusiasm and some excellence in spite of some horrific demands. You'll be executed tomorrow if you can't tell me what I dreamed last night, and he doesn't say it's unfair or unjust, he says to his friends, we better pray, we need God's help. You couldn't offer that prayer if you were choked with hatred and bitterness and rage in what you deserve. God will help us, he said.

He becomes so committed to prayer that God's blessings become so great that his enemies say we hate him, not because he's cheating or stealing or lying, but because his good behavior was exposing their poor behavior. So they manipulated the system to have him condemned to death. Then Daniel's thrown in a den of lions and it just happens to be a day they're not hungry. So his enemies get a way to visit the non-hungry lions and their appetites return. We all love the triumph of Daniel, God trusted him so much he sent angels to say to him, you are highly esteemed by God. There's a principle you should know about scripture, when you get big direction or big guidance, it's because you're going to need it. If you get an angelic visit, you're going to need the strength that comes from an angelic visit to complete your assignment. I've lived long enough to know that.

So when Daniel gets an angel that comes to him and says you are highly esteemed by God, I assure you that the message that was thundering inside of Daniel is God has forgotten me. And God trusted him enough to show him visions of what was coming that we read, so we can understand what's in our future. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, Daniel was so trusted by God, he told him about our future. Let's do the difficult, let's stop with the easy. Let's raise our hand and say, God, here we go. Let's start to own our faith in some new ways. I brought you a proclamation. We're gonna work on this some more, this is very doable, it's not beyond us. It leads us toward some very promising places. Why don't we stand together for this proclamation? If you're home, you stand with us for this, please. Let's begin to put, each of these statements came from scripture, I didn't bring you the verses, I didn't have enough room in your notes. You don't believe me, you go look, they're there. I'll share them with you later. Let's say it together as a declaration over our lives, our church, our cities, our nation, over God's people in the earth, you ready?

I'm not weary in doing good. I'm not afraid. I'm not discouraged. I know the Holy Spirit is my Helper. I was created to honor the Living God. I dwell in the shelter of the Most High. I rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; He is my God, in whom I trust! Amen.

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