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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Clarify Your Identity - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Clarify Your Identity - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Clarify Your Identity - Part 2
TOPICS: Identity, Clarify Your Identity

In Ephesians, it's another church. This one at Ephesus, another Gentile, non-Jewish, community, predominantly. A pagan city. Revival came to Ephesus and they had a public bonfire to burn all the things they had used in pursuit of spiritual activity. Unfortunately, it was unholy spirits. We call that the occult, but millions of dollars' worth of paraphernalia in the public square, which means they're dragging all their junk into public, going, "This has been my life, but I wanna separate myself from it". See, we're pretty much in favor of private repentance, like the people who've known you didn't know you were ungodly. I didn't call your name. Ephesians 2, quickly: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient".

You see, when we try to live above, we've kind of diminished spiritual things. We're more intellectual, we're more rational, and now we're more feeling-oriented. How you feel matters, folks. You hear that every day. "You can't tell me how I feel". No, I can't, but I can tell you your feelings are wicked. All of us knows what that is like. We've all had feelings that would take us into ungodly directions. Don't act surprised. There's a spirit at work that causes disobedience to God. Don't give place to it in your life. Don't invite it in. Don't entertain it. Don't justify it. Don't excuse it. Don't welcome it into your family. Acknowledge the struggle, help one another.

Same book, Ephesians chapter 4: "They're darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts". It's a dangerous thing to harden your hearts. It truly is. It's a bad habit. It is not wise when you feel the Spirit of God prompting you to make a change, to humble yourself for whatever you feel those prompts are. Don't ignore it. Don't imagine, don't live so presumptively that it's incumbent upon God to give you that invitation ten more times because every time you say no, the callous grows a little heavier. "Having lost all sensitivity, they've given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more".

Folks, he's describing people that are under this umbrella of the church. They've lost all sensitivity and they indulge in every kind of impurity. You don't need an imagination about the world in Ephesus; all you have to do is look at the world we live in. "You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires". You were taught that when you came to faith. You had to deal with that old nature. This is not about your profession of faith. This is about that part of you that tends towards ungodliness. We're all hardwired for this. All of us.

Being a preacher, a Small Group leader or a nursery school worker or an Easter volunteer does not remove you from the arena. Don't we wish? "But you were taught to put off your old self, which is being corrupted, be made new in the attitude of your minds, to put on a new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness". There's a transformation he's describing. Not something done to us, something we have to co-operate with. And this is where the church is struggling. We have trouble with this message. It's difficult to say that we need to do that if our primary assignment is to act like we don't really have any struggles. "Therefore, because of that, each of you," each of you, he says to the church in Ephesus and to the church in Murfreesboro and the church wherever you're listening, "each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor".

We're all members of one body. Now, the challenge that is so prevalent in contemporary evangelicalism has to do with how we understand God. Is he a God of grace, a God of mercy? And that seems to be a lead line. I've got lots of friends, lots of acquaintances, at least in the ministry that tell me, you know, the lead message that we deliver is a message of grace so that everybody knows they're welcome. Well, I will readily agree that the church is a hospital, not a Hall of Fame of Faith. I did a meeting recently. John 1:17 was quoted by somebody that was speaking. He said, "The law was given through Moses and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ". It's a large gathering of Christians, myself and some other pastors, and one of them in sharing quoted that verse and said it was the foundation message in the churches he served. And he suggested that, based on that verse, our messages should begin with grace.

And then at some point, we're able to introduce the truth. His perspective, I have to tell you, is very widely embraced and I have no interest in being controversial. I don't have time for it. It takes too much time and effort. But I believe that opinion is an incomplete reflection of scripture. In the book of Romans, and I won't take you there for the sake of time in this session. We will look at it. In the book of Romans, we're taught that without the law, we have no awareness of sin. That until the law came, we didn't even know what sin was. So that if we gather a group of people who know nothing about God, and we don't tell them that God has boundaries, they have no awareness that they even need to repent. So if the primary initial message is you're golden, you're good, you're wonderful, you're amazing, you're awesome, no matter how ungodly you may have been or no matter what your practices are, we're creating a very false sense of security. Knowing the law is a necessary first step in understanding our need for a Savior.

Now, while I believe John 1:17 and I'm a poster child for the grace of God, I'm pretty sure if you looked it up, if you could find a dictionary, my picture would be there. Luke 12:49, Jesus is speaking. He said, "I've come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled. But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it's completed". His baptism is because of our sin. "Do you think that I came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on, there will be five in one family divided against each other and three against two and two against three. They'll be divided father against son, and son against father, and mother against daughter, and daughter against mother, and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law". You get the picture. Jesus said, "I didn't come to arrange a group hug. I didn't come to teach you a new verse to 'Kumbaya.'"

Well, I believe in a God of grace and mercy. I also believe the truth of God is a dividing line, that there's a narrow path and a narrow door and a broad path and a broad door. And we have to have the courage to tell the truth in the world in which we live, certainly the people that we care about and the people that we're doing life with and the people in our sphere of influence. So is our message primarily a message of kindness and hope? John 8 is often a proof text for that line of thinking. And I'm a big fan of John 8. It's a woman caught in adultery. They don't really care about the woman; they want to accuse Jesus. They wanna kill Jesus, they wanna shut Jesus down.

So they bring him a woman that's kind of a problematic circumstance. She was caught in the act of adultery and the law says she should be condemned. And Jesus, "Well, I'll tell you what, I'll help you. But before we start throwing rocks would the one of you that has no sin, you pick up the first one". "And the crowd breaks up and Jesus straightens and looks at the woman and says, 'Where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said, and here Jesus says, 'Neither do I condemn you,'" and boy, that message is powerful. And I believe in that.

My Bible says, "There's therefore now no condemnation to those of us who are in Christ Jesus". We don't have to face the condemnation for our failures and our shortcomings and our sin because Jesus took them. He exhausted the curse of sin on the cross. I'm an advocate for the message of grace. I'm also an advocate for what Jesus said next. "Go and leave your life of sin". If you're practicing sin, you shouldn't imagine you're gonna cover that with grace. God's grace is not infinite. His mercy is not infinite. If it was, we wouldn't have needed the cross. If it was, we wouldn't have a presentation of Jesus coming as a conquering King to bring judgment to the earth at the end of the New Testament. I believe in the grace of God. I benefit daily from the mercy of God. But it's not the whole truth. Jesus gave equal instructions to go and leave your life of sin. And we need that message in the church.

I've brought you some examples and I'm gonna touch them really quickly. I would submit to you that the message of our heroes that took the kingdom message to their generation, that are recorded for us in the New Testament, had words that were other than friendly. John the Baptist, someone Jesus gave remarkable accolades to, said, "There was no one born among women that was greater". He had the assignment of preparing the way for the Messiah. John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: "You brood of vipers". And just for the record, that's not some 1st century phrase that meant, "I think you're really cool". He called them a bunch of snakes. He said, "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance and don't begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'"

I mean, he's going after them generationally. "I tell you out of these stones God could raise up children for Abraham". It'd be difficult to say something more offensive to a Jewish audience. "The ax is already at the root of the tree and every tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire". What intrigues me is the response of his audience. We're told that if you tell the truth to people, they'll be offended and withdraw. In this case, the crowd said, "What should we do then? What should we do"? And John said, "The man who has two tunics should share and if you have none, you should share your food". The tax collectors came to be baptized. They're the biggest thieves and cheats in the whole country. "The tax collectors came and said, 'Teacher, what should we do? We're those snakes you're talking about. What should we do?' 'Don't collect any more than you're required to.'"

Some soldiers ask him, "We're probably worse than the tax collectors. What should we do"? "Don't extort money. Don't accuse people falsely. Be content with your pay". In case you weren't paying attention, John used some very harsh language, but his audience is not repulsed. They're receptive. Is it possible that the propaganda has existed within the church and not just without? We're wise enough to know there will be voices of dissent if we take a biblical worldview and we hold it up. Not everybody will cheer. We could be excluded. We could lose some opportunities. I think all of those things are very possible. But the Bible also suggests to us that many people will respond to the truth and be transformed because of someone's courage to speak it. Not everyone embraced John's invitation. We know a crowd did and the tax collectors did and some soldiers did. But ultimately, they responded to John with violence. He lost his head.

Literally, Acts chapter 2. It's after Pentecost. It's actually the Pentecost Day. Peter stands up to address the crowd. He says, "Let all Israel be assured of this. God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Messiah". That is combative language. It's a predominantly Jewish audience in the city of Jerusalem where a few weeks earlier they had shouted, "Crucify him," and Peter stands up and reminds them of it. Peter's support group was backing up a little bit. "And when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and they said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What shall we do?' And Peter said, 'Repent, change how you think and change how you behave and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus, the Messiah.'" That man you shouted, "Crucify," about, you go get in the Mikvah and you dip yourself in the water in his name.

That is not a soft message. Peter's using some very harsh language, and it's worth noting his audience is receptive. Thousands of them engage. Acts chapter 5. Now Peter's been arrested, he and John. "They said, 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name. You filled Jerusalem with your teaching. You're determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.'" That's their assessment of Peter's message: "You keep telling everybody we killed him". Duh, yeah. That's an intimidating, if they had the Jews to see Jesus nailed to a Roman cross, you would feel vulnerable. And Peter and the other apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior, that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel".

I don't have the language to describe for you how aggressive that language is. "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead. You had him killed. But then God exalted him to his own right hand. That through him, all Israel might have repentance". Not through your message, not through your peer group, not through your petty power structure, but through the name of Jesus. Again, I can't imagine a way for Peter to have been more assertive with his message. Verse 33: "When they heard this, they were furious and they wanted to put them to death. But a pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and said, 'You better think about what you're doing. If this really is God, you won't win. And if it's not God, you don't need to be concerned by it.'"

Peter and John are very pointed in their words. The audience is infuriated, but there was a voice of intercession on this particular day. Again, I simply wanna point out to you that there is a consistent, repetitive nature to the way the story is presented. And it isn't an attempt to spare the audience of the truth of the gospel. Is it possible that we have taken a wrong tack? We've worked so hard to be friends with the world that the world doesn't understand why they need a gospel? Is it possible that they have done life alongside of us, and we have lived so far in the world that they haven't seen the distinctiveness in our own lives? Acts chapter 7, this is Stephen: "You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears".

Again, those are not complimentary phrases. "You always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute"? Again, he's going after their parents and their grandparents and their great-grandparents. "They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you've betrayed and murdered him". I mean, this is like getting your spurs out and sharpening them and burying them. "'You who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.' And when they heard this, they were furious and they gnashed their teeth at him, and Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven".

I think that's a very important phrase. He is pushing them, prodding them, challenging them, antagonizing them, calling them generational sinners. He's talking about their mamas and their grand-mamas. I mean, he is pushing hard, and they are furious with him. And Luke's very next sentence says that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He wasn't on some carnal rant. He wasn't on some self-imposed, self-righteous platform. "He was full of the Holy Spirit, and he looked up to heaven and he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at his right hand". Jesus was, he stood for Stephen's message. His audience is filled with murderous rage. Church, we're gonna have to have the courage to speak the truth. But first, we'll have to have the courage to live it, to humble ourselves, and to repent and then to speak the truth. The wicked are not the problem. It's the indifference of the faithful.

I'll close. Our objective, I would submit to you, is to see clearly in the mirror. James picks this up and we're gonna push this a little more in the next session, God willing. But he said, "Don't merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves". How many Bible studies do we have to have before we're gonna start practicing? Folks, if it's biblical, raise your hand and get in line. Do what it says. "Anyone who listens to the Word but doesn't do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror, and after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do so, not forgetting what he's heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does".

The only real insight into our nature, our true nature, comes to us from the Word of God. Not through us, from our culture, not from their definitions of what's fashionable or appropriate or inappropriate, not a judicial ruling, not a pastor's opinion, God's Word in your life. And in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul again, writing to a church. He said, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through". Sanctify, remember the word? We talked about it a moment ago. To be made holy. May you be made holy through and through.

"May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". He talks about our whole person, our spirit. When you're born again, when you acknowledge Jesus as Lord, your spirit is made new, a totally new creation. We'll look at that in some detail because it's the beginning of your identity. It's the foundation of how you identify in your journey through time. But your soul, typically, it's understood to be your thoughts, your emotions, and your will, you have to surrender those to God. Our thoughts don't just immediately line up with godliness.

My will doesn't just say, "Oh, I think I wanna be more godly today". And our emotions, they're affected by the weather and the sunshine and how somebody looked at us and how long the sermon last. And your body. Whoo-ee, that's not easy to bring discipline to. It just isn't. And the message is may our whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We're gonna need God's help to do that. We're gonna have to be determined. We're gonna do it on purpose, with intent. There's a battle raging in the earth and we desperately need the church to be the church. I want to close with a proclamation. I just took that passage. I don't like religious lectures. I think we have to practice the truth we know. So I'm gonna ask you to make that as a declaration over your life.

Why don't you stand with me? I wanna say it more than once. I'm gonna warn you, so you don't start running after the first one. It's short, but it's powerful. I left it right there with the 1 Thessalonians passage. I just changed the pronouns to make it more personal for us. Let's read it together. "Now, may the God of peace himself sanctify us completely. May our whole person: spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen," hallelujah. You know, Jesus is coming back, folks. We wanna be ready. Not frightened or threatened or anxious; prepared. Let's say it one more time. "Now, may the God of peace himself sanctify us completely. May our whole person: spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen," hallelujah. God bless you.
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