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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Triumph of the Cross - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Triumph of the Cross - Part 1

Allen Jackson - The Triumph of the Cross - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult, Triumph, Cross

It's a privilege to be with you today. The series we're working through is "Let's Do Difficult". Now, Christianity, I don't believe is really intended to be easy. It's free and it's available to all, but to yield your life to the lordship of Jesus, takes all that we have. It's not something you can do with a partial commitment. We're trying to understand that better. In this session, we're gonna look at the triumph of the cross. I hope we understand the tremendous victory Jesus won on our behalf through his redemptive work. The reality is he did that, it can't be reversed, it can't be diminished, it can't be taken away. On the other hand, we have to live that out, in a world where evil is still prevalent, and that will take courage and perseverance and discipline. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, say yes to the Lord today.

We've been working through a series under the theme of "Let's Do Difficult". And I think this weekend we'll at least wrap up this portion of it. But the idea is important. I really think we have to adopt a new attitude in American Christendom. We've had so much and we've been so blessed and the Lord has shown us so much grace and mercy, that we have been able to think of our faith largely in terms of comfort and convenience. And we've come to expect that, and I'm grateful for that, I'm not opposed to that, comfort and convenience do not bother me. You know, I'm not volunteering for suffering, that's not required. On the other hand, I don't want to understand my faith only in terms of what's easy, because the best things in life are not. In fact, I would submit to you that the best things in life are on the other side of difficult.

And I think we all understand that, if we'll pause and think about it, and I think for too long, we have built our spiritual lives and imagined our spiritual journeys in terms of what's easy, and I'm here to announce we've done easy. We've done all the easy. What's in front of us is gonna be more difficult. If we're gonna see our schools return to a biblical worldview, and they'll train our children in things of godliness and righteousness and holiness, and stop the division and the Marxism and the garbage that is being pumped into so many places in academia, it's not going to be easy. And if you think an election is going to fix it, you're deceived. You know, solutions may come through some of those arenas, but the ultimate momentum for change will emerge from a heart change in the people of God.

And I honestly think the best description of the season ahead of us involves, in some way, the word trouble, both for the Christian and the non-believer. It's time for an awakening and to turn our hearts to the Lord. I've said to you, God will help us, but it's gonna require a different imagination on our part. This casual notion of Christianity is not adequate. The world has changed, the conflict around us is different. You know, faith, separated from a cultural reality, is just a theory. We've said that before, and Jesus didn't come to the earth and die on a cross to set up these little units for theoretical, theological debate. Because that's what we like to do, we wanna go deep.

Well, actually what Jesus said was to go out. There's a difference, compartmentalizing our faith into church time and my time is a false construct. It's a very deceptive way of considering your faith. And it's not derived from scripture or the experience of church history. Our faith is intended to impact how we spend our time, our energy, our resources, and to shape our aspirations for our future. If your dreams for your children does not include a very real component of faith, and what it means to honor God, it's an incomplete dream. I was reading a book on the history of the church, a slice of that at least, and there was a statement made that caught my attention. It said, a reform is a correction of abuses, but a revolution is a transfer of power. What starts as reforming often ends in a revolutionary movement.

As an observer of what's happening in our culture. I think it's fair to say we're experiencing one of those times and the outcome of the unannounced revolution, at this point, isn't clear. There's clearly a struggle underway for the kind of future that we're going to live in, and I believe the result will depend upon two things: and for the record, neither of them are fundamentally political. One is God's involvement. Will God bring deliverance or will God bring judgment? Now, I think without question, we probably deserve judgment. We've sacrificed 60 million children, we have endorsed new definitions of marriage. I mean, it's a lengthy list, you don't need me to recite it. But I also know the Bible says that God delights in showing mercy, even to the wicked. And then throughout scripture, if God's people will humble themselves and seek his face and acknowledge their wickedness and turn from it. God shows mercy.

I assure you our future includes God's involvement, how he's going to be involved is not clear to me just yet. The second thing I think that will determine this is the degree to which God's people awaken to the truth, and become involved, and I mean involved beyond our church services. I'd be happy for church services to be busy and all of this good, good thing. I live in church world, but the engagement in our culture for those biblical principles is essential. If we're greater advocates for the sports teams that we support or the hobbies we engage in than we are as vocal advocates for Jesus of Nazareth, there's reason to question the significance of our faith. It's probably worth noting that the development, the progress of the church, throughout history, does not progress evenly.

So this isn't something new, we're not some unique group of people, to face these kind of disruptions or these breaks in continuity. There are times of rapid growth and development and there are periods of decline and decay. The New Testament records for us a season of growth and development. The participants were trained by Jesus, personally, complete with his instruction, not to begin anything until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit in Acts 1, so it seems to me, both a little bit naive and uninformed to imagine the history of the church as an even progression. It just simply is not that. So that every generation has to contribute to their story. We stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us, the sacrifices that were made before us, and we determine what we will hand off to the generation who follows us.

So it's necessary for every generation to understand the times, in order to interpret or accept our assignment for our turn in the arena. I like that imagery. In this session, I want to go with you to the New Testament. We're going to look at that season surrounding Jesus's resurrection. It's a very triumphant time, spiritually, in the story of God's people. Jesus's crucifixion, his death, burial, and resurrection, that set of events described in that redemptive work of Jesus, changed the course of human history forever. It was anticipated in Genesis, the opening chapters of Genesis, and it makes possible the triumph of the book of Revelation. It is the core, the centerpiece, the essential component of our faith. And what I'd like to do in these minutes with you, is do our best to step in amongst the disciples.

You know, we can tell the story in theological terms, or in principles accomplished, or in ideas, or spiritual gains that were made, and we can discuss their impact, but I think there's a perspective, if the Holy Spirit would help us, that if we could imagine we were in the group. With my imagination, I wanna look at John's face or listen to Peter's response, because it's an uneven response in the midst of all the events as they unfold, they certainly don't get every answer right or every response correct. But by the time it's all said and done, they only had three years with Jesus. Think of that, they only had a three year time with Jesus. They never expected it to be abbreviated. I think when responded to the invitation to follow me and I'll make you fishers of men, I think they imagined it was a commitment for a lifetime, and it was, but they didn't understand the brevity with which they would be with Jesus.

And as much as they seem to stumble through this little window that we're going to step into, they were so profoundly transformed by that very brief period of time, that all the remaining disciples, apostles that Jesus recruited, ultimately gave their lives for the faith, with the exception of John, and we meet him as an old man as a prisoner. They gave their lives. We tend to think of volunteering as an intrusion. Cutting a check or giving our money, you know, that's a sacrifice. They were so transformed by that little three year interlude, that they upended every...they never went back to whatever normal had been. Remember that promise, shelter in place for two weeks and you can go back to normal. Jesus had more integrity, he invited them to follow him, they never went back to whatever normal had been.

I believe a relationship with Jesus is intended to write a new normal for us. child 1: See I am doing a new thing. child 2: Now spring's up; Do you not perceive it? child 3: I making away in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. child 4: So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. child 5: I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. child 6: I lift my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness, I will sing the praise of his name of the Lord most high. child 7: Jesus said, if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciple. child 8: And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Well, we'll start with this post resurrection period in Jesus's life. He has people to see and things to do. He's gonna do more than hum. We're gonna start with Mark's Gospel, honestly, because it's the most succinct summary of this post-resurrection activity. All four gospels contribute to this time period. It's after the resurrection, and before Pentecost, and there's a great deal that's gonna happen. Mark chapter 16, in verse 9, "When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week," and it wasn't like he just got out of bed, he rose from the dead. "He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons". I'm always intrigued at how the scripture records our stories. Rahab the harlot. Not the believer that gave the spies a place to hide, not the one survivor of the drama in Jericho, the harlot.

And Mary Magdalene, whose life is transformed by Jesus, on resurrection day, Mark reminds us that she's the one that had seven demons. "She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. And when they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they didn't believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. They returned and reported to the rest; but they didn't believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; and he rebuked them for their lack of faith in their stubborn refusal to believe those who'd seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'"

That's a pretty stark line in the sand. Jesus isn't discussing multiple options. You should go tell them what you know, and those who believe you will be saved and those who don't will be condemned. Do you imagine that you carry something of that significance with you every day? Do you hold the imagination that you have relationships with people, people you're doing life with, that you celebrate with, that you gather for holidays, or recreation, or just for some downtime. Is it possible that you do that, and you don't bring your faith into those discussions? That you leave the most significant component of your person outside of those relationships? I hope not. Well, I don't know what to say, or I'm not perfect, duh. Thank you for sharing that, the rest of us have been laboring under the assumption you were perfect. Those who don't believe will be condemned.

"'These signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they'll drive out demons; they'll speak in new tongues; they'll pick up snakes with their hands; when they drink deadly poison, it won't hurt them at all; they'll place their hands on sick people, and they'll get well.' And after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it".

Now, that's the summary statement, Mark does it most succinctly, more than any of the other gospel writers. It's a casual read, it seems so simple and straightforward. What you and I understand is that life is neither simple nor straightforward. It's a mess most of the time. I mean, we managed to pull it together for church for a few minutes, we have advanced notice of when that's gonna happen, so we get emotionally prepared, and we're thrilled if we just get off campus and we've maintained. Some of you don't make it through the parking lot. It's a mess most of the time. Not always bad, doesn't mean it's always awful. It's just more challenging than I would like it to be.

Have you noticed that? In fact, and I think this is really important, what we will see as we look at our friends, is that God purposefully, intentionally asks us to do difficult things. God makes our lives better, but it doesn't mean he makes them easy. Following God is not just about the divine power to assist us in our private journey. We have been invited to serve the creator of all things, we're on assignment, and that's an idea of which we've either avoided or we haven't grasped to a great extent. And I think this little window of time in particular, Mark 16, is a helpful passage to learn about discipleship. These are the best of the best. These are the ones Jesus recruited. They were in the boat when he walked on the water, they were there when Lazarus came out of the tomb, they had that Passover meal with him, the night when he said, yeah, Judas is the one. The disciples are going to struggle with fear and discouragement and unbelief.

When people come back and say, the tomb is empty, I saw the Lord, they're going, oh shut up. He told them what was gonna happen, but an eyewitness that is one of them steps into the room and they all, "Stop". Personal experience seeing Jesus brings a total transformation. Mary Magdalene understood that, the disciples on the road to Emmaus understood that, ultimately, the 12 understood that. You and I need to understand that. The places we have personally experienced the Lord, it's transformation. So one of the goals is to move from theoretical to experiential. Truth will remain theoretical apart from our personal experience. Again, not my idea, they didn't believe Mary, they knew Mary, they knew Mary to be trustworthy. She'd been with him for this whole journey, but at this point, it was straining, their disappointment was greater than their trust in Mary.

You and I can understand that. Belief is not fundamentally an intellectual exercise, it's expressed in obedience and action. That's very important. We've spent enormous amounts of energy, I'm an advocate for learning and study, but in church world, we have exchanged a study for the notion of the reality, then we have a gap. Most of us are educated way beyond our level of obedience. We just think if we can find a contradictory argument, we can engage in an intellectual debate and we can defer our obedience. You can defer your obedience all the way to the point that you missed the kingdom. We have been given an assignment and it's to be pursued. Those basic principles were true for the disciples, and they are every bit as much true for you and me.

So I've chosen just some groups of words. I might re-craft this if we did it again, but some groups of words to help us follow Jesus's best friends through this very unique period of history. Here we go, let's start with defeat, despair, disheartened, and discouraged, it's not a happy group. John 20 describes it for us. John said, "Early on that first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, we don't know where they've put him!' So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb".

Who's the other disciple, John. They start for the tomb. Same chapter, "Disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. And as she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and she saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. And they asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' And she said, 'They've taken my Lord and I don't know where they put him.' And she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn't realize it was Jesus. And he said, 'Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you're looking for?' She thought he was the gardener, so she said, 'Sir, if you've carried him away, tell me where you put him, and I will get him.' Jesus said, 'Mary.' She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!'"

Now you can read that if you choose to, from some distant historical perspective, but if you imagine those are your friends, with broken hearts, they're crushed by despair, they have found the Messiah, they've said that, they've watched him cast out demons and speak to the wind and the waves. He seems indomitable. He's not frightened or threatened or intimidated, and when they try to trap him, he always walks through the traps. And then they see him arrested, horribly beaten, and then suffer the humiliating death of a criminal. The crowds in the streets are shouting, crucify him, and the Jewish religious leaders have orchestrated the entire plan. To call them discouraged, I think, is an understatement. And Mary finds the tomb empty and she goes back and gets the rest of the crew, and they come investigate, yeah, it's empty, but they can't take it, they just withdraw.

And then Jesus says, "Mary". I like Psalm 34, I thought it was appropriate at this point. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and he saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all". A very significant part of Jesus's effort, after his resurrection, is his ministry to his closest followers. In fact, it's probably worth noting that as far as the larger population is concerned, the unbelieving, the last scene they have of Jesus was him suffocating on a Roman cross. The resurrection remains a mystery to them, at best it's a rumor. After all, that story is spread, we're told in scripture, but Jesus spends an enormous, significant amount of time and energy and effort with these close friends of his, his closest friends are devastated. The events have turned into a completely unanticipated way, they've lost hope and courage. He told them what was coming, he told them repeatedly, explicitly, they would interrupt him and try to discourage him, and he would rebuke them.

So there was enough emotion around it all the way, it wasn't a lack of information. I think we need to understand it's possible to follow the Lord, to raise your hand, to be all in, to have the information of scripture, and the presentation of what may be ahead of us, but still struggle to process it as it unfolds. I didn't know, Lord, following the Lord would be like this. I didn't know I'd have to face these emotions. On the road to Emmaus, those two men said, we had believed. Before this happened, we thought he was the Messiah, but now that this has happened, we're having to reconsider everything. You had one of those moments in your life where you had to reconsider everything, I've had a few. Where everything that you thought was the cornerstone, the stability, and yet God remains triumphant.

In the moment, it feels like everything is losing equilibrium, but on the other side of it, you find a new strength because you've learned to trust the Lord in a new way. And their despair is not the result of some great failure on their part, they're walking the path that God directed them toward. I mean, could they have responded with more understanding and more insight and more... well, perhaps, but Jesus understood what was gonna happen, the prophesied about it, so I don't think they're outside the bounds of what we would expected to have been normal. I think it's arrogant on our part to assume we would have behaved differently, more insightful than Peter and John.

Jesus's closest friends, even while close to him, doing their best to be obedient and to walk in an upright way, they struggled to believe, it was hard to process everything they were watching and seeing. I suspect that could be true for you and me as well. Let's pray:

Father, we want to follow you, we want to be obedient. I pray you'll give us understanding hearts and listening ears and the courage to say yes. That we won't be turned aside by fear or discouragement or threat, but that we will be faithful with the season you've called us to. In Jesus's name, amen.

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