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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Breaking Our Addiction To Easy - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Breaking Our Addiction To Easy - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Breaking Our Addiction To Easy - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

We're working through a little series under the general theme of "Let's Do Difficult". Thank you for that enthusiastic response. I know how much you like it. Several of you stopped and asked when we're gonna do a series on, "Let's Do Easy". We've done lots of those. In this particular session, the topic is "Breaking Our Addiction to Easy" and quite candidly, I think we're addicted to it. I think we'll choose it every time. And I think the things that accompany that is our conviction that our lives should be filled with comfort and convenience.

Now, I'm not opposed to either of those. I prefer convenient and comfortable when they're available to me, but I refuse to make my decisions about my destiny, and my future, and my character, and what I will invest myself in based upon comfort and convenience. I simply will not. Now again, I'm not opposed to them, but I don't want them to be the idols at which I worship. The reason I think this is such an important topic, and I don't want to unpack details today. I'm not afraid of them. We'll do it another time, but I believe 2024 has all the hallmarks of being a year when there could be some significant disruptions. Many of the same circumstances which described the beginning of 2020 are in evidence now. And the powers which brought so much disruption to 2020 are stronger today than they were then.

I pray I'm wrong. I will gleefully and happily report to you that I was wrong if that proves to be the case. But most importantly, I want to be prepared, and the people that I'm serving and doing life with, I want to do my best to help them be prepared. And my best counsel this morning from a biblical perspective would submit to you the idea that we should learn to do difficult. The reason we're able to do difficult things is not because we're smarter, or more determined, or we persevere with greater intensity. But it's because Almighty God is our helper. We are not alone, we're not left to our own strength, our own resources, our own wisdom, and whatever else you may want to add to that. We may have some of all of those things. But I live with the anticipation of outcomes in my life, and through my life that exceed the sum of the parts that represent Allen.

I mean, at the end of the day, I'm a lump of clay. I mean, I've got enough electricity running through me and all the other components that let it function for a while. But if something good comes out of my journey under the sun, it reflects the involvement of Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, far more than it reflects anything I have done. So, here's the suggestion, I'm inviting you to decide that we did all the easy yesterday. It was a good day. Let's break our addiction to easy. In fact, I'm gonna ask you to consider doing something difficult every day. Start to exercise the muscle. Start to say I won't avoid it. I won't not think about it. I'll do difficult, do the right thing. I assure you there's a whole crowd of people doing easy things.

I brought you a couple of quotes. I've enjoyed pulling these quotes. They're not usually places I bring to sermons but they're worthwhile. "Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can". That was Arthur Ashe, a man who had a great deal to overcome and he did. The one from Churchill is appropriate. "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It's the courage to continue that counts". We talk about doing the difficult. It doesn't mean it's always gonna work, or you'll always have the right idea at the right time, it just means you're determined to stay the course. You see, we have had, we have such a deep commitment to easy, that we have raised several generations now from the parental and grand parental suites, that we have no intention of them doing difficult. We've informed them that if you're not invited to a birthday party when you're a child, you've been bullied.

Hello. We just had some friends here from Israel. Tens of thousands of Israeli children have been displaced from their homes, and they're living in temporary shelters, and they've been there for months. So they've missed birthdays, and athletic seasons in school, and all the school activity, all those normal things that we think are so essential to the formation of our self image, they've been stripped away from them. And the children in Gaza, they didn't vote for Hamas. Their parents may have, or someone else may have, but they're caught under the brutal, horrific murderous regime that would terrorize the world given the opportunity. I think those children would have a hard time understanding our definitions. I communicated this week with a good pastor, friend of ours. He's been here to the church from Belarus that works with pastors throughout Ukraine. There's a whole generation of Ukrainians that have been destroyed. They're gone. They have spilled their blood. The routines they knew just a few short years ago that it defined their families are gone from them, and they're not coming back.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we have to live in a war torn place in order to find a heart or a will to honor God. But I am suggesting that we have chosen easy and made a God out of it that has caused us to walk away from responsibilities that are very much an important part of maintaining our freedom and liberty. So let's decide to change. Let's stop looking through the windows of the church and identifying the culprit, and let's just quietly begin to bend our knee before the Lord, and say we will become a people through whom you could do remarkable things. We'll change our hearts and our attitudes. Christianity in recent decades and I mean, decades, it's been more than a year or two, it exceeds any administration or even any group that would currently be in power. It's been happening for a while, but Christianity in our nation has largely been co-opted by easy believism. It's a rather self indulgent approach to faith that is for the most part, just completely eliminated the presence of a sovereign God who issues commandments.

Now we have, kind of a benevolent higher power who grants wishes and indulges our dalliance with evil. In the contemporary church world, to far too great of an extent, the premise of judgment is so yesterday. We are after all now more enlightened, we're a little bit more advanced, we're a little more sophisticated, and everyone has a right to do what they feel is right. Now, we should understand we're not the first generation to wander into the weeds on this. It has happened repeatedly, and I think it's unfortunate right now that there's a bit of escapism in contemporary American Christianity. Rather than address our own moral laxity and our own lukewarm condition, our own ambivalence, we'd rather hurriedly say it has to be the end of the age. Now, I'm all for the return of Jesus. This afternoon is great.

Before my sermon is done is better, but I don't want to hand you that as a crutch to avoid the hard work of leading lives that honor the Lord. Whenever he returns the best possible circumstance for every one of us is to be fully engaged in doing his business. The distraction or the diminishment of the church was an essential first step into this abyss where we find ourselves and it is an abyss. There are expressions of darkness around us that are impossible to believe. It is difficult to get your brain to accept the facts that are being presented to you. Presenting pornographic material to our elementary children in school libraries and defending it, it's difficult to get your brain to acknowledge it. We are several decades into these pursuits. And surprisingly, the outcome has not been more freedom, because that after all has been the promise. And just a bit of careful observation reveals, we are sliding further and further under the authoritarian domination of a few.

The message that we hear promises us freedom. And it's a message that cascades over us. I mean, it is celebrated in the streets. We have the freedom to do things we didn't have before. We have the freedom to deny our biological sex. We have the freedom to kneel when the national anthem is played. We have the freedom to identify as a female on that particular day and walk into the women's locker room. We've been promised some freedom. You know the promises, freedom from debt. We'll just forgive your loans. Freedom from the worries of sickness and disease because everybody deserves free health care. Freedom from competition because everybody should have an equitable outcome. The shocking part is in spite of all the promises of greater freedom, we have less liberty and choice. We have relegated God, and I mean this to God's people. Those of us who gather in churches too frequently, we have relegated God to a secondary place, or maybe even forgotten them all together. After all, we don't really have to gather together anymore. It's an old fashioned idea.

So I want to reintroduce to you an idea that has shaped the people of God from the beginning of the story. We're going to learn to do difficult because life is more difficult than we would like. Challenges come, problems emerge, families aren't perfect, evil exists, that's the journey we're on. And if we're willing to do difficult, we can extend a hand to one another and say, I'll walk with you for a season when your strength is small. And you'll be able to return the favor in another time when using somebody in your sphere of influence is wobbling a bit, and you can come alongside them and say, may I walk with you for a bit? We don't have to have the solution or an immediate answer. We can't always take away the pain, or the brokenness in our hearts, or the grief we feel, but we can walk together. It's a biblical notion.

I know that seems bizarre. I wanna start maybe with the most obvious verse, somebody's already mentioned it to me, and I thought we might as well get it on the table early. It's Jesus, Matthew 11. Somebody quoted it to me. Actually, I knew it was there, but thank you. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I'll give you rest. And take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light".

Most of us know that verse, I preached that verse. I have taught it, i've built it in the series. It's important, it's true. I believe it. Jesus is extending an invitation. But I think to understand it better, we need a little bit of context. How would Jesus audience have understood that message? How would Matthew have understood that message when he put it down as a part of Jesus's message to us who would read it generations later? By the time Matthew recorded it, he knew Jesus had been tortured to death on a Roman cross. He'd been betrayed by friends. He'd been abandoned by all who were close to him. And ultimately, he suffocated to death alone. So Matthew understood Jesus words about an easy yoke and a light burden in some very personal ways that don't just leap off the page if you're just looking for the easy button.

It seems to me that Jesus is suggesting, he's not just suggesting, he says it, that we have to take his yoke upon us, that obedience lightens the load. And if you're looking for a first component in flourishing when you're given a difficult assignment, I would submit to you that you make an unyielding commitment to the obedience to the truth that you know. Just do what you know. We don't know at all. We're still learning. I hope we're still growing. I hope we're gaining greater clarity on the character of God and the nature of God, and what it means to honor God, but live obedient to what you know. Forgive the people you know you need to forgive. Be kind to those you know to be kind to. Maintain the moral boundaries that you know, are right or wrong, no matter what Phd says, they don't count anymore. No matter what church leader says, they've evolved beyond them. Be obedient to the Lord.

You know, I have discovered that doing what you're told, lightens the load of the assignment. I'll tell you what, I learned that in a very unusual way and I was far further along in life before I got it. Some years ago, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and he said there was way too much of me. I considered another doctor that was more appreciative of my diminished height. But instead I went to the gym and decided I would pay somebody to help me work out. And they gave me this perky little 20 something person. And the first day I went into the gym, he said to me, we have to do an evaluation. And I thought, well, that's reasonable enough. What I didn't understand that he was going to put me in the middle of the gym with everybody watching, and put me through a series of exercises until I failed.

So I got to fail in a very public way, at a very embarrassingly low threshold. You're afraid to laugh because I may send you. But something happened over the course of that. I found, because I've been active my whole life. I mean, you don't need the biography, but I discovered something. If I go to the gym, and I made the appointment number one. If I made the appointment, I was more, far more likely to keep the effort. And when I showed up, I didn't have to decide what to do, he just told me. You're gonna do this many reps with that much weight, and I think, you and God think that's possible. But it changed the nature of my routine. It didn't require me to go in with the self determination, and the self control, and the commitment. I simply said, what's the assignment? And he handed me assignment, and I'd go do it. And I got to an outcome far more quickly, than you left it to me, because today, you know, I don't feel great, and my shoulder is a little sore and it's humid. And when it's humid it slows down your O2 pick up.

So I probably don't want to do any real excessive cardio today. And I heard that it snowed in Ohio. I think I'll go get a doughnut. Obedience to instruction changed the entire nature of the relationship. Same building, same equipment, but I got a completely different outcome. And for far too long, we've been coming to church and we've been doing it as if we were the determiner of what obedience was. And if you didn't like the preacher, you think, well, you know, I think I don't agree with him. And then something you should know is I'm not the judge. When you stand before God, I will not be standing there marking boxes. You won't be held accountable to whether I did a good job of presenting or a poor job. Whether I taught you the whole council of the Word of God or not, I'll have to own that. You'll be accountable for obedience to the truth that you know, and it will change the nature of your relationship with the Lord, if you will say to him, I'm in. And unless you accept the Jesus yoke, unless you accept that obedience, there is no rest.

Now, that's biblical. In Hebrews chapter 3, the Book of Hebrews is written to a Jewish community that are scattered around the Roman Empire. So the author of Hebrews presupposes his audience understands the Hebrew Bible, the feasts, the rules and regulations of the mosaic law. All of those things are just included in the Book of Hebrews. It's a given. So in Hebrews chapter 3 says, "Who were those who heard and rebelled"? He's talking about a particular generation of people who uniquely rebelled. We are a race of rebels, but this particular generation got called out in scripture as being the ultimate generation of rebellion. Wouldn't you love to make the book that way? "Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt"? It's the Exodus generation, "And with whom was God angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed"?

There's a connection between obedience and God's rest. So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief. Now, that little passage in the book of Hebrews, that's a New Testament book. If you don't know, is a New Testament commentary on the events of the Old Testament. So we can read several 100 years after the fact what the current Jewish thought was on their family, because that was family in the desert. It gives us insight into how they had come to understand their history, how they understood the story of scripture. Now, with that little bit of background, I want to go back and read the original account we have in the book of Numbers. This is the Exodus generation. They began their lives as slaves in the brick pits of Egypt. They've been that way for hundreds of years. They cried out to God and he heard them, he came and recruited Moses. Moses didn't want anything to do with this.

And God said, I have heard, it's Exodus 3, you can check. It's not in your notes, but he said, I have heard the cries of my people and I've come down to deliver them and I'm sending you. So God was aware of this particular generation of people and he sent the leadership they would need and all the displays of his power necessary for them to be delivered from slavery, generational slavery. And the promise was, I'm gonna bring you out of Egypt and bring you into a land that flows with milk and honey. That was the bargain. The the interim was really just kind of thrown in. I'm gonna bring you out of here and I'm gonna bring you into a land. That was the bargain, we're coming out and we're going in. God never delivers us without the intent to bring us into something.

Some of us had mistakenly thought, you know, we were delivered from a life of sin so we could be set free to do whatever we want. That's really a mistaken understanding of the nature of the covenant. We were delivered from the kingdom of Darkness so that we could be brought into the kingdom of light. That we could live as the people of God. If you don't want to live as the people of God in your journey through time, why would you want to spend eternity with him? If you think being Godly is oppressive, and diminishing, and is gonna take things from you, why would you trust him with eternity? God brought them out of slavery to bring them into the promised land, in the same way the scripture tells us, that he brought us out of the kingdom of darkness to bring us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.

So they've made the journey, they've seen all the plagues, the Red Sea is parted. They've eaten manna that they pick up six days a week. Their enemies have been defeated. There's no sick people amongst them. I mean, they are truly living a supernatural existence, and they get to the Jordan river and they decide that they'll send spies in, they'll do their due diligence. They'll go search out the land before they begin the conquest. And they choose a leader from each of the 12 tribes, and the 12 men come back. And two, they all say it's an amazing place. It's a very fruitful place, it's an amazing place. But 10 of them say it looks like a pretty tough lift. And two of the spies said, no, we can do this. And that's what you have in Numbers, "They gave Moses this account: 'We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here's its fruit.'"

They brought it back, "But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. And we've seen the descendants of Anak there," giants. "The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, and the Jebusites and the Amorites, they live in the hill country". You better call Orkin, "And the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan". There's people in the land, "And Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, 'We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.' But the men who'd gone up with him said, 'We cannot attack those people; they're stronger than we are.' And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land that they had explored. And they said, 'The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw are of great size.'"

Now I'm gonna submit to you that this passage would have been in the minds of those people that Jesus was addressing in Matthew when he talked about rest. Because the ultimate example of rest in the mind of the Hebrew people at that point comes from that penultimate invitation to rest in their promised land. God's commitment to them when he delivered them from slavery. And to affirm my opinion, because it's my opinion is the passage from Hebrews, because in Hebrews, hundreds of years after the fact in the first century, they wrote to the Jewish community spread around the Roman world, that, that was the most rebellious generation on record because they refused the rest that God offered them.

So that when Jesus talked to us about easy and light, he's not talking to us about the absence of conflict, or the complete elimination of resistance, because Jesus's life was filled with that. There's something else involved. The one message Jesus gave repeatedly and I didn't bring you all the references. It's beyond a single lesson, but that he was committed to do the will of the Father, to do what God had sent him to do, that he was on an assignment. I hope you and I can live with the awareness that we're on a God assignment.

None of us want to say no to God. You know the fact when God promised us his peace, Jesus said my peace I give to you. Doesn't mean there's an absence of confusion and conflict. If your life has some turmoil in it today, you may be right in the middle of God's will. Let's ask him for his direction to lead us to his very best.

Father, I thank you that you have a purpose and a plan for our lives and often it requires us to endure or overcome or to persevere. Give us the courage to continue to say yes to you. Deliver us from evil in Jesus name. Amen.

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