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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Jesus' Experience - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Experience - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Experience - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

Hey, I'm at NRB this week doing some podcasts with some friends. These particular sermons, our theme of "Let's Do Difficult," in this session, we're gonna talk about Jesus's experience. I think we wrongly think that doing the will of God, being in the middle of the will of God means life is easy. Jesus's life wasn't easy. His ministry wasn't easy. His message wasn't easy. We're gonna look at the scripture and see if we can understand a bit of what that means for you and me, and what the implications are for how we live out our faith in this generation. Grab your Bible and get a notepad. But most importantly, open your heart.

We've been working through this series on "Let's Do Difficult". And the premise is really pretty simple. I believe we have to recalibrate our imagination and our expectation of our faith. For a long time, most of my adult life, we've imagined that church could be evaluated based on the quality of a sermon, and the presentation or perhaps the music, or the comfort and convenience of the facilities, and the quality of what's provided for the children, and the ease of parking and all of those components. So it was, you could kind of bundle that whole thing up, and understand it in terms of comfort and convenience.

Now, I don't know that that's evil, but I can tell you for the season in which we are currently walking through, it's incomplete and inadequate. That it's going to take a more courageous faith, a more determined faith than I have experienced in my lifetime, because the pressures that are being exerted against the, towards the people of God. And it's not just in our culture, it's globally, are greater than I've ever seen. So the shortest answer I know is we're going to have to recalibrate and be willing to do some difficult things. We did easy yesterday. That don't, that isn't discouraging to me, because the best things in life are on the other side of doing something difficult. The effort and sacrifice it takes to earn a degree.

If you've planned properly, we'll bear good fruit in your life. As much as we celebrate the wonder of pregnancy and giving birth, it's a very difficult time, a strenuous time. It's a very vulnerable time for both mother and child, but on the other side of that, there's a new life. It's wonderful. Almost any issue we would pick up, we understand that if you're willing to do difficult, it leads to some wonderful rewards. Well, in the church, we are going to have to begin to demonstrate consistently, not intermittently or occasionally, we're going to have to bring a determination to do difficult. And after several weeks of this discussion, I very much appreciate your enthusiastic response.

I understand it's a recalibration, but I do believe it's biblical. The heroes that we like to talk about, the stories we teach our children in Sunday school, are all birthed out of some rather traumatic events. I mean, we celebrate Daniel that he survived a lion's den, but nobody wants to volunteer for the ticket. Or the three Hebrew young men that survived a fiery furnace, but nobody wants to stand before the king and refuse to give in to his invitations to idolatry and face that outcome, and on and on. Well, in this session, and really I believe is the conclusion of this, at least for a bit. I wanna look with you at Jesus's experience. Our reading portion right now is the Gospel of John. And we'll be in it for a few days, and so I just took a couple of sections from John's gospel and I'm going to ask you to look at it with me to see if we can capture a bit of the tone, both of what Jesus is saying and what's being said back to him.

Well, I think we have some mistaken ideas around this. There's a conflict between faith and secular culture that's raging today. You don't need any discernment to know that. It isn't new. That's where I think the church is a bit misguided. We think it's, we talk about it in terms of the end of the age or the imminent return of the Lord, and I'm not opposed to that. But to recognize that, that kind of a conflict and suggest that it's the indicator that it's the end of the age reflects a lack of awareness of the history of the church or even the people of God. It isn't a new thing but it is startling to our current sensibilities. It's disruptive to us, because we have been programmed to both tolerate and support to a large degree, ungodliness.

I spend my life in church world, and the literature and all the things that happened. And we spend far more words on how not to be offensive and how to build bridges than we do talking about godliness. We have walked further and further away from the biblical principles of holiness, or purity, or ideas like the fear of God or respect or reverence for God. The result is an expression of the Christian faith that doesn't embrace the authority of scripture. It's a bit startling but it's increasingly widespread, or the reality of a God is judge, and God is judge of all the earth. We have preferred to focus on the rules that we have chosen. And I interact with lots of groups of Christians. We all choose the rules that we like.

That's another day's discussion. And then to expound on a rather perverted definition of love, that seems pervasive. Well, throughout scripture and the history of the church, a conflict is continued between people submitted to God in faith, and those who masquerade as faith disciples. And we're gonna have to have the discernment, and the wisdom to understand the difference and to make the choices for our own lives. And I think the Gospel of John helps us with this. There's so much discussion that Jesus's message was love. And that is certainly a significant part of Jesus's message. But I don't believe you can understand what Jesus had to say to his contemporaries, if the only filter through which you look as you think he had a message of group hug. We talked a little bit about that on Wednesday night, and looking at some different definitions, but with that bit of background, we're just gonna step into the text.

John starts his gospel with this affirmation that Jesus is the Messiah, that he's the son of God that he brought us a revelation that without him, we could not have. That all things were created through him. You know, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the one that we have been looking for. By the time you get to John 3, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. He's a leader on the ruling council and he said, Rabbi, no one could do the things you're doing unless he's come from God. And then Jesus completely blows his mind, changes his frame of reference and says, to enter the kingdom of God and requires a new birth. And Nicodemus says, I am too old for that.

And John continues this theme, and we get to John chapter 7, verse 13. This first section is really just a bit of Jesus's testimony. I don't mean his his personal life story, but I mean, it's the message that he delivered. Said, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I'm not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come". It's time to go to Jerusalem and he's not quite ready, "Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, 'Where is that man?' Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, 'He is a good man.' Others replied, 'No, he deceives the people.' But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews".

Now, I think verse 7, gives you a key that Jesus's message is gonna deviate a little bit from what we so frequently hear. Jesus says, I'm going to be hated. I understand that hate is going to be directed at me. This is the Messiah, the promised anointed Son of God, long awaited. That, that message resonates throughout John's gospel, that they're waiting for the Messiah. Is this the one? Could it be him? And the Messiah is amongst them, and Jesus said, I will be hated by this people, not by the pagans, not by the godless, not by someone else. By the covenant people of God. And he said the point of that, what is going to initiate that or ignite that, is I testify as to what is evil. I'm gonna turn the light on behaviors and attitudes, and practices in the midst of the covenant people of God, and daily sacrifices, and keeping kosher, and going to temple, and all their activity that in the midst of all of that, evil flourishes.

See one of the unique characteristics of religious people, and I consider us religious people. We're in church on a Saturday night, and it's cold. Is that we have a tremendous tendency towards self-righteousness. That we imagine we're just better than most. I mean, think of all the people who didn't get out in the cold tonight. They're watching on live stream on their sofa, but they feel really good about themselves because they're watching on live stream on their cell phone and they're not watching something else. And you can just take that exponentially, we will find a way to feel better about ourselves and imagine that we're superior. And Jesus is looking at this group of people and he said, I came to help you identify that you're tolerating evil and you'll hate me for it.

We're gonna walk this message forward, but I want you to understand the context in which it begins. This is a significant differentiation from how we have imagined our message should be towards our community and towards one another. And it says amongst the crowds, there's a lot of whispering. First, Jesus goes in secret in verse 10. That's kind of a clue. He has to go with a private way and there's whispering amongst the crowd. The crowd is divided. Even Jesus didn't achieve unity in his audience. In fear of the Jews is so oppressive, so real, so tangible that it suppressed public opinion. They're not gonna say anything publicly in favor of Jesus, because they're afraid of the political power of their own people.

So if you can begin to see if we could emotionally find the circumstance in which Jesus is ministering, there's hate directed at him. It's significant enough that he has the minister privately or at least somewhat travel without drawing attention to himself. The crowds are divided, there's not a unanimous support from him. And there's enough resistance to him and it's well known enough that the people aren't about to say in public, they're for him. Is it safe to just say that Jesus is doing something that's difficult? The anointed Son of God, I mean, we understand the redemptive work of Jesus, his crucifixion, his passion, the difficulty, the challenge, the physical suffering. I think our minds automatically gravitate to that, but the years of his public ministry, being hated and rejected.

Same chapter, verse 14, "Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and they said, 'How did this man get this much learning without having studied?' And Jesus said, 'Well, my teaching isn't my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own". That's a very interesting premise to me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, again, remember his audience, he's speaking to God's covenant people. They're keeping all the rules, well at least they think they are. None of us keep all the rules. But they certainly imagine themselves to have a unique relationship with God. They're his covenant people living in their Promised Land. And yet Jesus says to them, if you choose to do God's will, that's different than just being religious.

That's different than just showing up at synagogue, or at the temple, and complying with whatever the outward regulation is. A choice to direct your life, to orient your life towards God's will. You see if we scroll forward a couple of thousand years, we have kind of reinvented that, and we talk about conversion and being born again, the new birth. I believe in that. I believe it's an absolutely essential element for entry into the kingdom of God. But we've tended to stop the conversation at that point. So, you know, if you've been born again and you've been baptized, and you're not committing some overt expression of wickedness, you're in. Well, I think it's a very similar circumstance. Jesus is talking to this audience who are very engaged in the appropriate behaviors and being in the right place at the right time. And he said, you have to choose to do God's will. What's the outcomes?

Verse 19, "Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law". Ouch. I mean, that'd be like standing in here and saying, you know, a bunch of sinners. They didn't chuckle. "'Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?' 'You're demon-possessed,' the crowd answered. 'Who's trying to kill you?'" See, there's a conflict in Jerusalem. It's significant enough that Jesus doesn't travel openly. There are death threats already being discussed, plots being put together, assassination schemes being considered. How are we going to silence this? And they look and say, "You're demon-possessed". The tension in it. This is Jesus's Ministry. This is the middle of John's Gospel. We haven't gotten to the point of arrests yet.

Same chapter, verse 25, "At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, 'Isn't this the man that they're trying to kill? Well, here he is, speaking publicly, and they're not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he's the Messiah? But we know where the man is from; when Christ comes, no one will know where he's from.'" Look at verse 30, "At this time they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time hadn't yet come. Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, 'When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?' And the Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. And the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him".

It's an escalation now. There's this tension in the crowd, is he the Messiah? He does some remarkable things. Well, others say he's an impostor. Some say he's demon-possessed. The authorities want to arrest him. Surely they wouldn't arrest the Messiah. And in the midst of all of this, Jesus messaging the words, he uses the behaviors, he goes into the temple and he drives out the money changers, and the people that are extorting the people. Exorbitantly, they're required to make sacrifices and to offer sacrifices. And the priest and the power brokers in the temple have turned it into a profit motive. And Jesus is angered and he overturns the tables and drives them out. I mean, he is pushing the envelope, he's agitating.

Now some are putting their faith in him, but it becomes apparent very quickly that there's a price for acknowledging Jesus, for putting your faith in him. You're not going to be as embraced as fully, and in fact, John goes on to explain to us, if you do it in public, if you say you believe in him, you're gonna be excluded. You're gonna lose your place and it becomes a line of division. There are people who would rather have the approval of people than the approval of God, so that they may, whatever they think about Jesus, they're not saying anything. We see a lot of that today. We see it amongst ourselves. What pornography in schools? I'm not paying any attention, I don't have any kids in those schools. Those are the kids in our community. If we ignore evil because we think it isn't touching us, by the time it does impact us, it'll be too late for your voice to make a difference. We're gonna have to find a different kind of courage.

John chapter 8, it's the same discussion. The chapter numbers were inserted much later. It was just to help us as reference points. They answer Jesus, "'Abraham is our father.' And Jesus says to them, 'If you were Abraham's children, you'd do the things Abraham did. As it is, you're determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You're doing the things your own father does.'" Again in that context, in that culture, those are some very aggressive words. You're trying to kill me because you're illegitimate children of God. They understand. Look at the next sentence, "'We're not illegitimate children,' they protested. 'The only father we have is God himself.'"

Now, at this point, you would think Jesus to go become the reconciler. Well, we share many things in common. After all, could we just sing "Kumbaya" for a moment and take the temperature down? But he does something quite different. It's really surprising if you don't know the scripture, but you just listen to public discourse. "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here.'" If God were your Father, your attitude towards me would be dramatically different. That is not a sentence of reconciliation. "I haven't come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say".

And then if that's not enough, he turns up the intensity, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he's a liar and the father of lies". Boom! I mean, this is not a peaceful discourse and it's not a one time message. This is a series of days in the heart of the city. And it's known on the street amongst the people that there's an interest, a desire, and intent to kill Jesus. And he said, your murderous attitude comes from hell itself, because you're children are the devil. Those were not peaceful words at any time.

Verse 48, "The Jews answered him, 'Aren't we right in saying that you're a Samaritan and demon-possessed?' 'I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my father and you dishonor me.'" Again, that's just not a happy clappy little interchange. "'I'm not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he's the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.' At this the Jews exclaimed, 'Now we know that you're demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, you'll never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham?'" Remember John's message, the recognition of Jesus, his Messiah and they're unwilling to turn loose of their imagined relationship with Abraham to acknowledge who is in front of them. "Just who do you think you are?" they say.

You see God in their midst is offensive. I think we find that tone very prevalent today in the midst of much of the discussion amongst religious people. In many expressions of the Christian faith, I know it's true in many institutions where we train leaders. The notion of the authority of scripture or the uniqueness of Christ. To assert that is against the grain of the intellectual approach to Christianity that has captured so much of our world. Jesus's language is both challenging and provocative. "You belong to your father the devil," he said in verse 44. It's a very tense exchange. Jesus tells them plainly that their faith is illegitimate. They understand it because they protest, is the word John uses. "We are not illegitimate children". They in turn accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. And they question his authority, "Just exactly who do you think you are"?

None of us, if you'll allow me, I don't believe any of us would want to have such a conversation. It seems very far removed from the tone of faith conversations that we have been coached into. We don't want to confront our world. We don't want to sit at our family table or our holiday table and talk about godliness or ungodliness. It's uncomfortable. Somebody might not be happy. It would have consequences. Oh, you mean like them wanting to kill Jesus? How is it that we have found a faith that is so timid, so reticent, so reluctant, that we've taken the truth that has delivered us from darkness, and repositioned it so we could stand in the shadows and be embraced more broadly, and diminish the light.

I believe we're gonna have to be willing to do some things that have been more difficult than we've been willing to do in the past. We don't have to be angry or belligerent. We don't have to be condemning. We certainly don't need to be violent, but we're gonna have to have the courage to own the truth for ourselves, for those that we love. The crowd becomes so agitated that they attempt to murder Jesus. Jesus hid himself, he hid himself. You have to think about it, you're going to read it in the next couple of days that Jesus, the water walking, storm stopping, dead raising, blind eye opening, wine making, Son of God hides himself. I mean, there were other options, there were other alternatives, certainly, but Jesus boldly declares the truth to the crowd that's gathered to the point of fomenting a murderous rage. But then he withdraws, hides if you prefer, rather than demonstrate his authority. It's all there in the pages we're reading.

And before we go, I wanna pray that God will give us the courage to speak the truth in the places he's planted us. Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your great love for us, for your word that's in our hearts and your Spirit. I pray that we will have the courage and the boldness to speak the truth to those we love and the places you've planted us. In Jesus name. Amen.

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