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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Big Changes Ahead - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Big Changes Ahead - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Big Changes Ahead - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

We've been working on this theme of "Let's Do Difficult" and I think it's legitimate. You know, the Christian faith it's so, we're tempted, I think often to frame it in terms of unbelievers and people who don't know us, and are apart from us and we wanna lower the thresholds as low as possible to help them make that decision to step in. But the reality is honoring the Lord with your life will take the very best that you have. For this particular session, I titled it "Big Changes Ahead" because I believe that's accurate. I believe there are great changes ahead of us. What those changes will be is not clear to me yet. They'll turn one of two ways, either the Lord will intervene on our behalf and give us a new season of opportunities and an outpouring of his Spirit, or I believe his judgment is possible.

I really think those two options are in our very near future. And I think the one that will define it is is still being determined by the hearts of the people of God. And so I'm happy to pick up this topic. I don't think it is burdensome or heavy to me. In fact, the more I worked on it, the more happy, more joyful I've become with it. I want to start in Isaiah chapter 1 and verse 18. The prophet is making a presentation to the covenant people of God that I think is relevant for the 21st century, as much as it would have been a few centuries before the birth of Jesus. The Lord said, "'Come now, let's reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; and though they're red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you're willing and obedient, you'll eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you'll be devoured by the sword.' For the mouth of the Lord has spoken".

That's pretty straightforward stuff. You really have to dance a lot to make it confusing or to miss the point. It's an invitation from God himself. He said, I would like to engage with you. I'd like to enter into a dialogue. I would like to have a time of reflection with you. And then he gives us a perspective on ourselves from his vantage point that is invaluable. It's worth everything you could accumulate to exchange for it. He said your sins are like scarlet. They're not small, they're not minute, they're not insignificant. They color everything about who you are. But then he makes his most amazingly hopeful promise. He said they could be as white as snow. They could be eliminated, removed. Though they're as red as crimson, they'll be like wool. And then he gives us the conditions. It's one of those if-then statements. He said, "If". It's such a little word.

You know, most of the promises of God are conditional. If you will confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, you'll be saved. Well, salvation's an amazing thing. It's a supernatural gift. It's the greatest miracle that will ever touch your life as a human being. But there's a condition for it. It's not just cheap gift. You have to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. It takes your whole person, a whole reorientation of a human life. But if you'll do that, you can enter into the kingdom of God, he said. Kind of a similar promise here, "If you're willing and obedient, you'll eat the best from the land". But it's a negative conjunction, it's taking us a different direction. "But if you resist and rebel, you'll be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken". If you're willing and obedient.

So Matthew chapter 10, in verse 37, I want to spend some time with some Jesus perspectives. We'll step into a couple of the epistles, but they're really to gain some insight into what Jesus said. In Matthew 10, Jesus said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; but anyone who loves his son or his daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who doesn't take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me". So he's carving out some pretty big buckets of people that he said you're not worthy if these are your choices. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it".

Again very plain language. I will be the primary commitment of your life or I'm not participating. That seems to me that's a tremendous struggle at this point in the 21st century when culture is so much in flux and values are so much being debated, and what's right and what's wrong. And I hear frequently, I'm involved in discussions where people say, well, you know, that's my family. You don't expect for me to say to them, that's wrong. That would have repercussions. It could impact holidays don't... and it's not simple. I don't wanna pretend it's simple. I don't want to suggest to you it's easy.

I want to suggest to you it's a matter of tremendous prayer and intercession and seeking the Lord. But that we're going to have to make a decision because this is going to intensify. And Jesus didn't stammer when he spoke. He said, if you love your father or your mother more than me, if you'll compromise your commitment to me in order to strengthen that relationship. If you love your kids more than you love me. If you'll compromise me. Wow, that's not an easy word. It truthfully isn't. So Paul, you know, was it just Jesus having a grumpy day? You know, did they not get his breakfast order right?

Well, in 1 Corinthians, Paul picks up an idea that is very similar. He said, "Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever". We've talked about this training metaphor already. We don't have to revisit it. But, but Paul is saying, you know, you can have lesser commitments and get temporary awards. Somebody sent me a note the other day. Usain Bolt, the Olympic sprinter? I think in two Olympics, he won gold medals in and the quote he made was, he said for seventeen years of his life, he trained for a nine second race. For 17 years, he said, everything in my life was ordered around a 9 second expression of time.

Wow, it changed his life. All that training, doing really well, for nine seconds changed everything about his existence. We know his name because of how well he did for nine seconds. And I'm sure it changed his future. And Paul is borrowing that idea. It's a little bit of what Jesus was saying to us. He said, listen to honor me, to serve me, I'll have to be first priority. See that is not really the gospel that we have flourished with. We been, and I believe in salvation and conversion. I don't want to be misunderstood at all. I don't want to diminish that. I don't wanna, but I'm telling you, it's the entry point.

We have to decide to grow up in the Lord. We're not done repenting, when we repent of our sins and acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives, we're just understanding a new way to live, to acknowledge, and we step beyond the grace and the mercy of God, into our willful, stubborn resistance, and disobedience. And we have to come back in repentance. We're gonna, throughout our lives, bump into these places, these decision points. We have to make choices. Whom am I going to honor? What will be first priority? And we won't always get it right. And we'll have to come in humility and say God, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I wasn't confused. I wasn't deceived. I wasn't caught up in a moment. I knew right and wrong. I voted wrong. And God, I am sorry. Those are not insignificant points. If you don't deal with that, you will miss the kingdom of God. You don't outlive your sin. That's not the biblical prescription. It says we repent and we believe.

So we have to come back in repentance to say, God, in sincerity, I am so sorry. I am wrong God. I was stubborn, and willful, and resistant. Have mercy on me. Have mercy on me. It's not easy. Cause we'll have reasons why. We'll justify it, and excuse it, and all sorts of stuff. We're good at that, I'm good at that at least. If you're not good, I can teach you a class, how to justify ungodliness, I've practiced. Giving and receiving. Give God your best, you'll receive his best. Not always in the moment, not always in the day. Like I think you really have to approach it in the terms of, Lord, I'm gonna give you my best. And if I don't see a return on this until eternity, I'm still gonna give you my best. I'm not looking for something in the mail tomorrow afternoon. God, I'm gonna serve you. I am all in. If it brings about some celebratory thing in this side of eternity, amazing! I believe that's a possibility. God delights in blessing his people, but if it doesn't, God, I'm just as in. I am just as in.

God recruits the most unlikely people and I think we probably need to get this on the table. We don't deserve the opportunities he gives us. People, you don't deserve that. You're right, I don't. Absolutely beautiful observation. Go to the head of the class. I'm the least likely, the most undeserving. Somebody would say like, you know you can't earn the blessings of God? No, we can't. I agree with you. Good job, Obi-Wan. You got it right. We cannot earn the blessings of God. We are the most unlikely recruits. And I hope you live with that. You know, most of us don't start there. When we start our journey, we think God is probably receiving a great benefit. That's the nature of... how about children? I mean, if you've got little children around or little people around, one of their favorite phrases is, me do it. Let me help. Let me help. You don't trust them to walk with a pair of scissors yet. And they want to help you whatever you're doing. And they say it with such confidence.

Well, let me help. Right? And if you have enough time to let them totally destroy the kitchen while you make biscuits, you might let them help. And when the biscuits come out, they go look what I did. And they have absolutely zero chance of reproducing that absent the help of whoever let them help. And that's a little bit of the way we begin our journey in the kingdom of God. You know, we're awakened to things of God and we take that step of the new birth, and we think, wow, this was a difference maker now. I'm on the team. Right? Don't you know the angels? They've all put in for vacation, because now they got some real talent. I mean, when Moses sees the burning bush, it's Exodus, you can check me. When he sees the bush, he turns around and the bush calls his name, and he said here I am. Have you seen my card? Former prince of Egypt.

And when God gets done telling him what the assignment is, you don't remember what Moses said, who am I, who in the world am I to do that? I would take a pass, please. And almost uniquely, we start our journey in the kingdom of God, and we think, you know, we're really gonna be difference makers. And with such enthusiasm and we, off we go and we hit that wall, and the challenge of it, and the difficulty of it, then we go, oh, who am I? And so I think it's worth noting that we were unlikely recruits. Look at 1 Corinthians, "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the thing that are not, to nullify the things that they are".

God went and looked for the slowest, weakest and he found us. He did. He went to Maybury and he recruited. You got Barney. Some of you don't know who that is. I'm so sorry. You have had incomplete lives, "So that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God". The only reason we made it into the kingdom is he came looking for us. That's why when Jesus said to us, we'll have to be willing to forsake everything, because Jesus himself did. We're told in Philippians 2, that he laid aside his glory. He didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped. That he made himself nothing. He found himself in appearance as a man, and he humbled himself, and became obedient. Obedient even to death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him. And he's giving us that same kind of an invitation, not to martyrdom, but to follow me is to lay down your life, to love me first. That's how we become salt and light.

The question I'm asking these days more than any other is what can we do? What we can do is go honor the Lord first. In all those places where we have relationships. You know, look, I'm a Jesus follower and this is what it means to be a Jesus follower, and you know, and to start to let that emanate out from our lives. That is dramatic and radical and transformational. We're not unique. Paul in Acts 26, he's on trial for his life, which I find an odd place to give your testimony. But Paul was rather persistent. So he's telling Agrippa his story how he met Jesus, and he said, "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus. And that's just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison," many of them.

I drug them to prison he said, "and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them". Imagine, "Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them". What's Paul saying? Well, it's what he summarized in 1 Corinthians. He said, God chose the lowly things that despise. What he did was despicable, loathsome, unacceptable, wicked. So then he can write to the Corinthians and say, listen, God chooses the despicable and the loathsome and the least likely. So there's no room for us to boast. There's no arrogance in this. When we say to somebody else, this is how I'm learning to honor the Lord, I would invite you to do it and I need you to know I love him so much.

I'm not gonna be quiet in the face of this. I'm going to have the conversation with you. Those are not easy conversations. Those are not easy paths to walk. You don't do them joyfully or gleefully. You do them very cautiously and carefully. Christianity is not easy, it is difficult. Christianity cost you everything. We have a generation of cheap grace and easy beliefism. We spent more time figuring how to welcome sinners than tell the church they have to walk in purity and holiness. We're more concerned we're gonna be perceived as being judgy than we are as being perceived as righteous, because we say, oh righteousness is a free gift. Actually, there is truth in that statement, but the cost of that gift prohibits you from treating it cheaply. Christianity costs you everything. We're going to have to learn to do difficult in some ways we haven't learned, or the outcome before us will not be the blessing of God. Our lives, if you're over 40, your life parallels one of the most precipitous declines of Christian influence in the history of the church.

Now, what are we gonna say? Was it us? It wasn't my life. We're gonna have to be willing to do difficult. Saying no to my carnal nature, that's difficult. I don't know about your old selfish nature. That earthly Adamic nature that wants its way, and wants its will, and wants its thoughts to be preeminent in my life. They got a volume knob. Saying no to ungodliness is difficult. I hear people say, you know, well, once I met Jesus saying no to sin was just not hard. I hear that, and I think liar, liar, liar, liar, liar, liar. Where have you been in solitary conf... where have you been? Saying no to ungodliness is not easy. You wrestle with it, you'll struggle with it. You'll be sorely tempted. Your old carnal self will, it will convince you. You will even seem, you'll seem so entitled. You'll eat cases of entitle-mints. Learning to forgive is difficult.

Well, I hear people say, oh, that's just not, yes it is. Thanks to all the strength I have, leading a generous life is difficult. Now, all these things can be achieved. They're attainable, but they require a willingness to run with the intent of getting a prize. They require a forsaking of some things, of being different. You're going to stand out from most crowds if you choose to begin to honor the Lord're leading a generous life. Folks, we are educated so far beyond our level of obedience. I'm concerned for us. The Bible says to honor the Lord with the first fruits of your life. I believe the first tenth of what the Lord gives to you belongs to him, it isn't yours. The biblical word for that is a tithe. Some people go, well, you know, pastor, that's an Old Testament concept. Got me. So is thou shalt not murder. And in the New Testament, we'll look at it in a moment, that got expanded, not diminished.

In the Old Testament, you had to murder somebody to violate that. Jesus said, if you just get too angry, whoa. Somebody else said, well, you know, the tithe is a priestly thing. I don't agree with that determination. But in reality, the New Testament says you're all a kingdom of priests. I don't see it out of that, other than it's not legalistic, truthfully, I believe that it isn't just the first tenth that belongs to Lord. I believe it all belongs to him, but we struggle with that, we do, it's honest, we don't do that well. We don't raise right... I've had this conversation hundreds of times. Well, pastor, is it a tithe off the gross or the net? I don't know. Where do you want the blessing of God? But honestly, the more we have, the harder it is to do. Well, you know, that's probably just too much for God. You know, as blessed as I am, as clever as I am, as accomplished as I am, if I tithed, that would just be overwhelming. God can take it.

I have lived this one since I first started receiving any compensation for anything, long before it was thought of as a job. And I have seen the faithfulness of God. When I made choices that intentionally seemed to diminish the resources that would be available to me, I've seen the faithfulness of God. But it isn't easy. Giving your word and keeping it, that's difficult. We've almost lost that. Once upon a time we thought, you know, your word was your bond. If you were dishonest, people didn't want to do business with you. They wouldn't be your friend. You'd be shunned because you were thought to be untruthful.

Now, we'll make you the president of a prestigious university. Giving your word and keeping it is difficult. Being patient, that's hard. I mean, I'm happy for you to be patient. But personally, you know, I have an agenda and I need to get done. I'm a purpose-oriented, outcome person. You be patient, I'm going to run over you. Learning to be patient is difficult. Considering the well-being of others, ah! Let them be, they should be concerned about their own well being. Walking in obedience to the Lord, that's difficult. Am I am I the only one? Do y'all find these things to be true? And then we say, oh, following the Lord, it's so easy. It's just a joy. You know, I wake up every morning and the sun's bright and the birds sing and the grass is green. Thank God it is. Turning the other cheek, that's difficult. Going the extra mile, that's difficult. Being a peacemaker, that's difficult. Telling the truth, huh?

You know, I love the idea that God recruits unlikely characters. I know that's how I got on the team, and I suspect it's true for you as well. Don't let the things that you're not, convince you that you can't do everything that God has called you to be. We stand in his strength, not ours. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you that you've chosen us, you have selected us, and you will give us everything we need for triumphant lives. I praise you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.

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