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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Freedom (Clarify Your Identity) - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Freedom (Clarify Your Identity) - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Freedom (Clarify Your Identity) - Part 1
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity, Freedom

It's a privilege to be with you today. There is so much discussion in our culture about how we identify. It has pushed to the level of the absurd, and at the heart of so much of it to be completely candid, I think is rebellion. You know, the Bible says, God created us male and female. He didn't ask us how we identified. There are some things that God gives to us as a part of our journey through time that we are forced to accept and then learn to live through. Well, today we're gonna try to understand our identity in Christ, what it means to be a Christ follower. And that's a whole lot more than which church you join or which denomination you're a part of. It defines our person for our journey through time, and then for all eternity. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.

So much language these days about how we identify. And we have turned it into a mockery. I mean, it really is, we've moved into the theater of the absurd. In fact, the new releases from the theater of the absurd are coming so frequently, we don't have time to comment about them. It defies imagination. It leaves you a bit groggy that the things they suggest, that you can identify as whatever you choose to. You're no longer even limited to the species, and they want to be treated as if it's healthy and normal and should be given respect and encouraged and all sorts of things. We fundamentally I think, understand there's something askew. But I would submit to you that it's not helpful to be angry, or resentful that the people who are struggling with their identity. It's a horrible thing to be confused about something as fundamental as who you are as a person.

That's not a place to be celebrated, or encouraged, or to be multiplied, or to be held up. There's certainly I can respond with great compassion, but I think the reason we've arrived at this place is, those of us amongst the church. We after all are given the assignment of being salt and light, and if the darkness is prevailing, it's because the light is small. And I don't think we have held in appropriate esteem what it means to be a person of faith. We identify ourselves, you know, our faith description comes down the list. We're Southerners, or we're American, or we're male or female, or we, you know, we put other identifiers in front of that. The simplest language I know for that is idolatry. The single most criteria by which you can define your person has to do with the relationship you have with Almighty God. Anything that comes before that is idolatry, those are commandments.

I didn't really make that up, which is good. And so the point of the series to me is to try to awaken, or encourage, or help the people of God to understand the amazing, how profound it is to be identified as the people of God, that it brings real benefits to your life in time and throughout eternity. And then we've been so idolatrous, we've identified first as the group we belong to. The tradition, or the denomination, or the translation of the Bible we prefer, the style of worship that we like, as if all of those things somehow supersede the relationship we have with Almighty God. And the result of this floundering church, of this distracted church, of this idolatrous church, is we're witnessing the descent into paganism that is unprecedented in western culture. Paganism, historically, and this really isn't a debated discussion. Paganism is violent, murderous, demonic and it ultimately results in destruction.

And we see that unfolding before us as the principles that have bound our culture and society together are being intentionally dismantled. For the Christ follower, those of us that sit in churches in some way or the other, stand beneath this umbrella of being Christian, there's a downward progression. It's not difficult to identify. We give increasing expression to our carnal self. That part of us, that earthly part of us, that part that we have to purposely willfully say no to. And instead of saying no to it, we were given this permissive attitude to give it expression. And then we become practitioners, not just tempted with ungodliness, we begin to practice sin and ungodliness. And when that happens, we get demonic assistance. And that's when we see the power of addiction, and we find ourselves in places where we feel powerless or helpless, against the things that seem to have beset us in our pursuit of wickedness.

And the outcome of that, even for people who stand under this umbrella with some pseudo discussion of faith, is depravity and self-destruction. It's a biblical idea. I put a verse in your notes. It's a statement from Jesus. It's John 10, he said the thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and destroy. That's where evil will lead you. If you're standing in a place tonight where temptation is very real in your life, in whatever expression. If you recognize it as an invitation away from what you know to be godliness or truth, I can tell you, not with my own life experience, but with the wisdom that comes from beyond me, the outcome if you say yes to that. If you embrace that, and you begin to practice that, it will lead you towards death and destruction. Jesus said the alternative is that if we choose Him, we can have life and have it into the full.

Well, these windows into paganism, they're not new, they're a part of history, the history of the church, the history of God's people. I read an article this week. I smiled. You know, we tend to denigrate. It's popular to be critical of the Christian faith, or a biblical world view, or a Judeo-Christian worldview. There's many voices, powerful voices, elite voices, so called elite. I don't consider them elite anymore. If you're protesting on behalf of the terrorism of Hamas, you're not elite, you're deceived. But the messaging so often is that the civilizations that preceded Christianity were superior, they were excellent. They should be celebrated and venerated.

Well, I read a report this week, there was an ancient tomb unearthed and the reports were coming out that it had been unearthed a while ago, but it takes a while in archaeology to do the evaluation. "This ancient tomb was filled with gold and sacrificial victims," I quote, "uncovered by archaeologists. It was a special type of burial". And it went on in the article to say, "Human sacrifice victims were buried in the tomb to accompany the dead person". Now this happened to be in Panama. It was a 1200 year old tomb, and the doctor that's leading the archaeological project, said that the tomb was filled with bodies of other people that accompanied the person who had died to the beyond. It's a form of human sacrifice. Often times more than 30 people would be murdered and placed in the tomb with the deceased, so they wouldn't step into eternity alone.

So that human sacrifice was practiced by these cultures that we venerate. I'm not pointing a finger at any particular group. The emergence of Christianity brought an alternative to pagan civilization. That's our story. Long before we were arguing about which translation of the Bible to read, whether our Communion juice would be purple or red, we were standing in the face of pagan practices saying there's a better way for human beings to behave. It created a pathway towards some transformational ideas like the sanctity of human life, the significance of marriage and family, a way of understanding the world that imagined dignity for people, a God who could be known and one of the best for all people.

Now, you don't have to be very clever warning at this point. Christianity is expressed through human beings. So it's only been expressed perfectly one time, right? Jesus got it right, but he put so much pressure on everybody, we killed him. And the critics don't have to search widely to find deplorable behavior among persons who proclaim adherence to the Christian faith. You don't have to have a Phd in history. A very easy example would be Adolf Hitler. He was a baptized Catholic. Well I'm not throwing stones at the Catholics. We can find plenty of bad behavior amongst Protestants, to which the Christian community typically responds, well, he wasn't truly a person yielded to the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. He wasn't a good Christian. I studied at Hebrew University and I can tell you that distinction is completely lost on the Jewish community.

To a great extent, not simply because of Hitler's behavior, and the heinous things that he instigated, but to a very real extent because the Christian community didn't stop Hitler until he destroyed more than 6 million Jews. But we are witnessing. If you're trying to figure out what you're seeing on the evening news and in the discussions, it's not hidden any longer. It is in the public square. What we are witnessing is this ascendancy of paganism again. The deconstruction of that Christian world view, that Judeo-Christian worldview, those biblical values, that's diminishing the role of family, that's trying to confuse our biological sex, that's trying to prey upon our children and sexualize them apart from the approval of their parents. Those are not things that have emerged from that biblical worldview.

And again, you don't have to be very astute. We can take the news of the week in the most recent state of the union speech, in a nation that was founded upon a biblical worldview, the party in power has put forward a platform, not an individual, the whole party signed off on this. A platform which is centered on the right to kill our children. It was repeatedly reported, they are convinced that asserting abortion rights will carry them to victory in the upcoming elections. Not because that abortion is any longer the law of the land, but promising to establish a law that would protect the privilege of murdering the innocent. They think it's so popular, that they can surf that idea to power.

Now, it's a political evaluation, it's just a political equation. I'm not talking about parties. If it works, all the parties will serve that. They chose this position because they believe it has enough popular support. Get this, the statistics are overwhelming, especially among women. To ensure a victory and their desire to maintain power. It brings forward a very important question for the church. Will we stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves, or will we add momentum to the rise of this paganistic destruction of humanity?

Now, let's not act surprised folks, there are 60 million children already gone. This is not something new. There have been some people with the courage, even within our legal system, even at the Supreme Court level to speak to this. The silence from the church has been deafening. We've got to use our voices with our friends. There are always those people that respond to me, well, pastor, you know, I don't wanna be a single issue voter. I don't want just one single thing to determine my choice. It's all baloney. We make decisions based upon the things that are important to us.

This notion of the church engaging culture. In the Bible reading portion for the day, we're in the book of Acts. We were in chapter 15. I read a verse and it made me think of this. It's a part of the instructions that were given from the the church leaders in Jerusalem who all happen to be Jewish. To the non-Jewish believers, the people throughout the empire now that are beginning to put their faith in Jesus of Nazareth as a Messiah. There were tens of thousands of them making those decisions, and it was creating some confusion because the Jewish people had a world view that had come from the law of Moses, and the non-Jewish community didn't have that same world view. And it was creating, as you could imagine, some confusion and debate, and a great deal of angst. And so it gets pushed back to Jerusalem to the...and really the question is being put to the people who had spent those years with Jesus. And this was their conclusion.

It's Acts 15:29. You have it in your notes, I believe. It says, "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You'll do well to avoid these things". Those are the instructions. You need to stop sexual immorality, don't eat animals or food that was offered to demon gods. Don't promote idolatry, and abstain from sexual immorality. Can you believe that was the message of the people of God to the culture in which they lived? Well, it caused riots. It caused all sorts of disruptions. The contemporary church is reluctant to echo the words of our predecessors, to follow their lead. Those who actually walked with Jesus, they were engaging in the behavior of the faith community, calling them out of the practices of their contemporary culture. They said, you can't act like the culture. You have to be different.

It was unsettling to both sides of that discussion, to the Jewish community and to the Gentile community. Far too often, we hide from such discussions with a rather cowardly excuse that we prefer to study our Bible, and not be drawn into discussions about current events. Folks, if all we do is study our Bible and we have no voice for current events, we have a theoretical faith. And it will not be of much value when you step into the reality of eternity. You're not gonna meet a theoretical God, or be evaluated in a theoretical judgment. And it will be awkward to try to rationalize why we chose not to be salt and light. We don't have to be angry. We don't have to be condemning. We certainly don't need to be belligerent, and definitely don't be violent, but we better find the courage to stand for the truth.

Every time we're silent, paganism gains strength. Which brings me to this theme, there is a seriousness, a matter of belonging that we need to understand. Understand the value of a relationship with Jesus. It's more than joining a church. In Galatians chapter 5, and verse 24, it says, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires". Looks to be a Christ follower means you belong to Jesus. In the simplest, most profound expression of those words. It's not confusing. The New Testament tells us in the clearest of language, you're not your own. You belong to God. If you imagine yourself to be a part of the covenant people of God, you belong to him. It isn't your time, or your calendar, or your cash. And I'm not asking for any of the above at the moment, but we belong to the Lord. We serve at his pleasure. I'm amazed sometimes at our attitudes.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, it reminds us that we've been purchased. The biblical word is redeemed, but to be redeemed means you've been bought out of something. You redeem something that has been pawned. You redeem something that's been put up as a ransom for something else. Says, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit"? In any sentence that begins with, "Do you not know," the legitimate answer is no, we probably don't. "That your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body".

Let me give you a little line. It's worth to begin repeating to yourself. It's even valuable to say out loud. It will help you frame some of these challenges that are coming to us. I belong to Jesus and his kingdom. I mean, I have a passport that says I'm a citizen of the United States. But before that, in my order of allegiance, I'm a citizen of the kingdom of God. I belong to Jesus of Nazareth. That is my primary allegiance. I belong to Jesus and his kingdom. We ought to say that together. Can you say that with me? I belong to Jesus and his kingdom. That's the essence of this exchange that we've entered into. There was a price paid so that you and I can be free.

Look at Acts chapter 20, verse 8, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood". The purchase price, if we belong to him, the purchase price was that he gave his life, that we might have the privilege of participating in his kingdom. Can you understand how offensive it would be to say, well, I want all of the benefits, but I don't want any of the responsibilities. I want all the opportunities, but none of the liabilities. I want to imagine that I'd be included in your eternal kingdom, that I'd be welcomed into your presence, but please don't ask me to be so vocal that I might have to endure something. Can I just be quiet? We were purchased at an enormous price.

1 Corinthians 7 says, "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men". If you'll allow me, don't become slaves of people's opinions. You were bought at a price. Are you one of those crazy Jesus people? Yes. Wouldn't you like to be? You mean you actually read your Bible? Uh-huh. You mean you only really believe God created the heavens and the earth and every... uh-huh. You really, really believe every human life has dignity and value? Absolutely, I do. You really believe there's a God? Some all supreme, all knowing being who's gonna hold us, yes, I do as a matter of fact. But I don't believe that diminishes my intellect, or my awareness, or my engagement in the world in which we live. It doesn't diminish your life. It raises the potential of any life that will believe it.

And 1 Peter 1, this is the big fisherman. "You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect". To his Jewish audience, it's a very familiar set of images, a Passover lamb, a sacrifice. But he's saying to us that we were redeemed, we were purchased out of that empty way of life with the precious blood of the Messiah. Revelation chapter 5, very near the end of the book says, in heaven, they gathered together with this amazing picture of worship before the throne of God. And they're saying, "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation".

We belong to God. Who are you? I'm a Christ follower. What are you? How is it? How is it possible that we teach our children to be advocates for a university sports team, before we teach them to be advocates for Jesus? What has happened to us church? Have we become so idolatrous, so addled, so confused that our priorities are so messed up? Well, I understand, if I put those words in their mouth when they're young, there could be push back kidding. No kidding. This relationship requires of us a voluntary submission, which is kind of fancy language for surrender. Surrender carries with it kind of a negative connotation. It's a yielding. It's a withdrawing. You're not asserting and in the face of Almighty God, the best response is surrender. He's smarter than we are. He's more powerful than we are. He's wiser than we are. He's kinder than we are. He's more generous than we are. It's a safe idea.

In Romans chapter 12, in verse 1, it says, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy," not his harshness, his mercy, "to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship". The language is a little blind to us. We haven't been engaged in the sacrificial system, but it was a part of the culture of Jerusalem, the worship of Jerusalem for a long, long time. And the animals be presented to the priest. And their preparation to be a sacrifice means that, that they would be slaughtered and the animals, the body would be laid on the altar to be consumed by the fire.

By the time the animal was placed on the altar, it was void of any life. There was no self determination left. Nothing jumped off the altar. And that's the imagery that Paul is using in Romans 12. He said, I urge you to offer your body as a living sacrifice. Submit to God. That's not easy. And that's not just a conversation about conversion. That isn't just a discussion about our entrance into the kingdom. That certainly requires some yielding, but to grow up in the Lord, we have to continue to yield to him. Now, there may be some point in my future where that doesn't, isn't difficult. But I can tell you up to this point, and I'm a pretty much, you know, I'm young but it remains a challenge for me. That voice in me that says, I want to do it my way. Nobody's gonna tell me what to do.

And let's close the program today by offering ourselves to the Lord, raising our hand and saying we'll do whatever, wherever, whenever. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you for what you've done for us. And today we come to willingly offer ourselves to you. Living sacrifices. Father, may your will and your purposes be brought forth in our lives. In Jesus name. Amen.

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