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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Coaching From An Apostle - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Coaching From An Apostle - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Coaching From An Apostle - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

We've been working through this series on "Let's Do Difficult". I will stop it eventually, I promise. But I understand it's a bit of a recalibration, a bit of a refocus. We prefer easy. All of us do. If I have a choice between something being easy, I'd choose easy. But my suggestion to you in the context of our spiritual lives. And development and the season in which we're living is we did easy yesterday. What's in front of us is going to require a determination to do the difficult. In this particular session, we're going to take some coaching, God willing, from an apostle that took an assignment pretty seriously. Had about and 180 degree change in his life and he began to serve the Lord with an enthusiasm that speaks to us across the ages. And we'll see what we can glean from that.

I've been sharing some quotes with you. My favorite thus far has been Yoda's: do or do not; there is no trying, but I brought one for some of you. This will be very difficult to hear a quote from this person in church. But I'm hoping that retirement heals many wounds, says: we're not going to talk about what we're going to accomplish; we're gonna talk about how we're gonna do it. And that's from that guy that used to coach football south of here. I think that's important, you know, in church world, we love to talk about things. Talk about revivals, and this, and that, and we see something happen and we start to label it as a global movement or whatever, whatever. And I'm far more interested in how we're going to accomplish the transformation. We've gotten the pornography out of our schools, and we're not sacrificing our babies to convenience. And we're teaching our children to honor God in public places.

When our government returns to truthfulness and integrity, when we see those things happening, we can talk about what God has accomplished. In the meantime, I think we need to stay focused on the people. We need to be to allow those things to happen. Amen. And then a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, this one's not new, but I thought it was worth repeating. "It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or when the doer of deeds could have done them better. There's plenty of those folks. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust, and sweat, and blood, and who strives valiantly. Who at best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly".

Folks, we need a church with the courage to say we can make a difference. We have adopted, if you'll allow me, the rather cowardly approach of saying I'm going to heaven. Nothing else makes any difference. We're called to be salt and light. That while I'm very interested in my destiny beyond time, I'm equally concerned about the impact that my life makes in the context of the purposes of God while he gives breath to me. And I believe we need a greater awareness of that. If you'll allow me, I think we have to recalibrate a bit our imagination of what it means to be a person of faith. How are we to understand the struggle with faith? What does that mean to us? Is it primarily a spiritual struggle where we wrestle in prayer? Or we take a spiritual stand? I believe in those things. I believe they're important and essential.

In fact, I believe they're fundamental and foundational, that if you don't do them, we won't see it in other arenas. But I don't believe that's all there is to it. Is there a component that is actually physical that deals with our material lives? In general, it seems to me, I've spent my life in the church so I certainly don't know everything, but I'm entitled to an opinion. In general, we've removed ourselves from the arena of the difficult in regard to our faith. We'll do difficult things professionally. We'll do difficult things to achieve objectives, do one in other ways. We'll do difficult things in pursuit of hobbies. We'll sit in awful weather to watch a ball game to support a team that we like. Or we'll get up far before sunrise in pursuit of hobbies, if they're important to us, things that would seem absurd in the context of our faith.

The highest level of expectation and participation typically centers around our volunteering of time and perhaps a financial donation. That's kind of what we've asked of the church, maybe give a little time, give a little bit of money. Does that sound about right with your experience? And again, I'm not bringing commitment cards today. I'm trying to describe what I've lived in and what I've listened to. And I believe those are important components of obedience and development. However, I also believe that the mantle of faith is to be worn at all times, not just in the context of our church affiliation. And I don't think we've been nearly as awake or alive or engaged with that. I believe we're called to be biblical advocates in our homes, and work, as citizens, with our friends. Throughout the context of our lives, we hold up the truth that we have discovered.

Now warning and this is important, you know it intuitively that we need to say it out loud. This commitment will not always be easy, because not everyone is going to choose the lordship of Jesus. And quite candidly, most will want the blessings of obedience, even if they choose rebellion in their lives. Tragically, for far too long now, our primary message in the church has been, everyone is welcome, regardless of behavior. After all, Jesus loves everyone. Well, it is true that Jesus died for sinners as an expression of God's love. I would do nothing to diminish that. But it's not true that Jesus died so that we might continue to practice sin. The church is a hospital for the broken to find freedom in the lordship of Jesus. The church should not be a sponsor of ungodliness and immorality wrapped in religious language, in a faith that is separate from the authority of scripture.

And if you find yourself in the midst of such a place, I would strongly encourage you to leave to be just quite candid. Doing the difficult. Here's the imagery that I have in my head, and it seems to be a practice and I'm suspect of this as well. I've been in my life at times, I was guilty of this. But you know, we imagine kind of a correlation between the church and spiritual leadership, whatever that may look like, and our doctor. And we're looking for a church that's healthy. They want somebody to tell us the truth, and those are good things. You know, if they can make it somewhere where it seems survivable, that's even better. In the same way, we want a doctor that's competent and trained and professional. But in the church world, if we get those things in place, and we occasionally attend and present, it's kind of like we're good. If there's something I need to know, they'll tell us.

If I feel like we need a little more spiritual vitality, I'll pray that they get it. No, I'm not saying you would do that, but it's a little bit like going to a doctor. And you know, my doctor is a triathlete. He competes in those crazy things. The picture of health. I mean, I may be a few pounds overweight, and I think exercise is for people that don't have enough dessert. But my doctor is the picture of health. Have you seen him? He runs that Iron Man thing. You can see him on television. Just makes me feel healthy watching him. We chuckle because we know it's absurd. If I eat jelly donuts four times a day, it doesn't really matter how healthy my doctor is or isn't. And tragically in the church world, we've had that notion. There's kind of a guilt by association.

And I know there's a tremendous value in being in a healthy spiritual environment. We learn together, we grow together, we strive together. All of those things are important, but ultimately your spiritual health and vitality is the result of your choices. The same way your health is. So what I'm asking you to consider, it's what I understand to be a difficult assignment, to take your faith with a great enthusiasm beyond the campus, outside the walls of the sanctuary. The most difficult place in the world to be a Christ followers, is at the kitchen table. And the second most difficult place is at the holiday table, because you know all those people, and it impacts your life how they respond to the messaging of that. So it's much easier to be quiet and to hit mute and just to go silent, because you can explain away and you don't want to disrupt it. It'll have an impact on something. And then to take your faith into the marketplace.

See, we used to say we didn't want to do that because if somebody was offended, we were being intrusive, and it wasn't our business to take our worldview and push it on anybody else. But now we find ourselves where worldview dominates most of the marketing, and corporate opinion, and boardroom decisions, and even the government. They've introduced a whole new category of misinformation. And if you say something they don't agree with, you get labeled and you get shut down. They want to start a bureau of misinformation. So I would say to you, we got played, and we need to take our voices back into all those places we go. But I want to freely acknowledge that I understand how difficult that could be. It will mean you will forfeit some opportunities. You'll be left off some invitation lists. It will impact your children, but it won't impact them nearly as negatively as it will if you encourage your children in ungodliness.

Listen to what Jesus said. Matthew chapter 5, and verse 11. It's the Sermon on the Mount, so it's kind of the heart of his message. He said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me". Not insulting you because you're lazy, or sloppy, or a liar, or a thief, or immoral. If they insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, he said you're blessed, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you". He said you're not special. If they persecute you because of me, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the end of the age. It doesn't mean it's the culmination of all things. It means you're standing in line with what the people of God have faced in every generation.

Again, I think we've been coached towards too much cowardice. I believe we've been far more concerned about the ungodly feeling loved than we have the Godly understanding what it means to be holy, and righteous, and missional. But I'm in favor of loving the ungodly, but Jesus admittedly, plainly, blatantly said to us, this is what you can anticipate. So if our goal has been to stay below the radar, to stay below the criticism, to stay below what could be perceived or described as persecution. Then we're ignoring Jesus invitation, and I would point out to you that's the invitation that will be rewarded. He said you should rejoice when you find yourself on those, what seems like the wrong end of that. Because when you find yourself in that place, there is a great reward for you.

I'm pulled from time to time into Bible studies with folks, and I'm glad to do it but one of the things I find that is pretty frequently resisted is they'll say to me, I don't believe there's any rewards in heaven. And I'll start to read scriptures to them and they go, no, I just don't believe it. I said, so you think like God's a socialist? God made fruit. Remember that? How many varieties and colors and shapes of fruit do we have? If the government made fruit, it would all be green, or gray. It'd be the same size. You know it would. God's not gonna treat us all the same. He will respond to you based on how you have responded to him. You don't earn your way to heaven. Nonsense! But once you've established your participation in the kingdom, your response to the Lord makes a tremendous difference. Don't confuse it. You're not earning righteousness points.

Coming to church more frequently will not cause God to answer your prayers more quickly. It might help you learn to pray more effectively. John 15, Jesus is still speaking, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you don't belong to the world, but I've chosen you out of the world". When the New Testament talks about the world, it talks about this present world order. Not this ball of mass, hurtling through space in an orbit around the sun. "That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master,' If they persecuted me, they'll persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they'll obey yours also".

Again, it's very plain language. Jesus said, if you perceive them to have hated me, they'll hate you. If they know you're aligned with me. I think we understand that intuitively. It's why we typically become a little more timid. We're reluctant to identify as Christians with our clothing, or we're told not to bring our Bibles to work. You can bring every other confusion to work and demand that it be recognized and honored. What do you mean my faith is not welcome? I'm not preaching on my desk. I'm just identifying. And we've said, okay. Jesus said, if they persecuted me, so you can answer that based on your biblical knowledge. If you imagine that Jesus suffered persecution, then he says, they'll persecute you. John 16 to his friends, Jesus is speaking. He said, "I've told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you'll have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world".

I know some people think that's a negative confession. Well, if it's the case, Jesus made it. I call it a fair warning. It's prophetic. He's giving us a God perspective and we could anticipate. If you're willing to be closely aligned with me, in this world, you'll have trouble. There is a conflict in this world that transcends governments or nationalities. There's something far more fundamental about it than that. And if you align yourself with the kingdom of God, you inherit by definition an adversary. And there sometimes, the resistance to you and the responses to you won't be logical, because they'll have a spiritual motivation. That doesn't make you weird or strange. We still work hard, we still do our best to bring discipline to our lives, and our homes, and our families, to show grace and mercy when it's needed. But we live in a world of conflict.

Jesus raised the dead, walked on the water, healed the sick and he was hated for it. They said he did it on the wrong day of the week. I mean, mind you not the person that received the healing, the people that were threatened by what he represented. The people who choose not to align themselves with Jesus, will be increasingly intolerant of those of us who do. I assure you, that's what's before us. If you don't believe in the spirit in the world that hates the people of God, meditate just a little bit more on October the 7th. I don't believe there's any other way to understand those events that happened.

Acts 14, it wasn't just Jesus words. Now it's his followers, "Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith". This were the instructions. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of Heaven". Wow, you're gonna go through more than one. You see, sometimes when it's difficult, they're challenging, we think God's abandoned us. He's left us. We've strayed off the path, we missed the mark. We didn't listen, we weren't responding to the Holy Spirit. Some will even suggest to you that if you learn to listen to the Spirit of God carefully enough, and you deep dive deeply enough into your Bible, you'll never have trouble. It's a wonderful idea, it just doesn't happen to be biblical. It wasn't true in Jesus's life and I think he was a good listener. It wasn't true in the lives of our friends that we meet in the gospels, as they took the Jesus story to their generation. And it hasn't been true in any generation of the church.

1 Thessalonians 2, "You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure". If he's having to tell them it wasn't a failure. There's something that could cause them to think, perhaps it didn't work out so well. I'm not gonna take you back to the story. "We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition". So, you know, we suffered in the city before we got to you. And you know that when we got to you, there was strong opposition, but we dared to share the gospel. Let's do difficult. Let's decide to be the generation where when the historians review it, they say something happened to the church at the beginning of the 21st century. There was some pretty intense opposition but they found the courage, a strength, a boldness and awareness, a determination.

Well, I want to take the minutes we have left and listen to some coaching from Paul. Jesus, recruited him. And the first assignment, the the first message he got was skin on. When Ananias was sent to pray for Saul of Tarsus while he was still blind from his encounter with Jesus. God said to Ananias, I didn't put it in your notes. You can check me. It's in the book of Acts. He said, I want you to tell him, show him what he's going to suffer for my name's sake. And we could argue that as much as any single individual, any Jesus follower, Saul of Tarsus becomes the Apostle Paul whose impacted the world with his faith. By title, he wrote two thirds of the New Testament. In his generation, he took a very promising career. He had a great deal of success.

Very early in life, he had an extraordinary education, he had a zeal to match it. He was getting outcomes that had brought him to the attention of the most powerful figures in the city of Jerusalem to the point that they'd commissioned you to travel around the region. His assignment was to persecute Christians. With joy and glee, he brought men and women in chains to be in prison because they acknowledged Jesus. So that early group of believers understood the cost. The ones that were close enough to Jesus to have listened to him deliver the "Sermon on the Mount," or to have known somebody that was there, or to have had a personal experience or had a friend that had a personal experience, that generation of believers were willing to face imprisonment to acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as Lord of their lives.

And Paul is the antagonist, until he meets Jesus. And we're gonna scroll forward in a few decades. He's an old man. He's in a Roman prison. He's in prison in Rome and he writes a letter to Timothy, a young man that has been his protege. He's been mentoring him. And you get a little window into the kind of coaching. Timothy's been on some of these journeys with him. He's seen the challenges and the the difficulties, and Paul begins to talk to him. In 2 Timothy chapter 2, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David". Both the redemptive work of Jesus and the Jewish heritage of Jesus.

Timothy, don't forget that Timothy's Gentile. "This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. And therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory". How will people get the message? Those that God has called, because people are willing to endure whatever is necessary for the message to be communicated. Is that a passable interpretation of what we read? We just had to put it in all good Tennessee English. He said I may be suffering, but I may be in prison today, but I'm more than willing to endure that difficulty so that those that haven't heard can hear the gospel. Wow. I wanna get mad at him.

Well, if they want to hear the gospel, they should get themselves to church. I teach three times a week. We'll make empty seats, we'll go outside, we'll make room. Paul seems to have a different attitude. Same book, next chapter. "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, my persecutions, my sufferings... what kind of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra". Not just once, not randomly. Consistently, repeatedly, "The persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them".

That's not the answer I want. I would prefer the Lord warned me about all of them and I almost faced them. Yeah, I would have rather had a dream saying, don't go there, you'll go to jail. That's more fun than getting let out of jail. I mean, I know when we read the stories about these midnight intrusions where God comes and the chains fall away, it's like, wow. But if you're the participant and you've already taken the beating, and you've already had the humiliation, both publicly and privately of being arrested, beaten and incarcerated. I mean, if I get to choose, I would have a church chosen the advanced notice, right? You would call me a poor planner, if every time I took a short term mission trip, myself and whoever's with me got arrested. What are you doing? What are you thinking? Not traveling with you.

Before we go, I wanna pray with you. You know, life comes filled with more difficulty and disappointments than I wish it did. They come to all of us and they tend to come in groups. They don't seem to get spread out evenly. It feels like a lot of times those troubles pile in, but God has not withdrawn from you. You're important. You matter to him. Let's pray.

Father, I pray we'll be more aware of your presence than any problem we have. That by your Spirit, we'll find a joy in the midst of the struggle and a hope that you're bringing relief in the days ahead. In Jesus's name, amen.

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