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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - An Amazing Life - Part 1

Allen Jackson - An Amazing Life - Part 1

Allen Jackson - An Amazing Life - Part 1
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity

It's a privilege to be with you today. We're working through a series on clarifying our identity. There is so much discussion in the public square these days about how we identify. There's almost literally an endless number of options. Some of them are bizarre. Some of them push it to the point of just patently absurd. Well, I would submit to you that the most important single criteria of your life is how you identify with relation to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Do you know him as a historical figure? Do you know him as a religious leader? As a miracle worker? Do you know him as Lord? How you identify in relation to Jesus will change your life in time and for all eternity. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.

I've been working through a little series. Last Sunday, I stepped out of it. If you weren't here or you weren't able to hear the message, I would encourage you to take a minute to go back and listen to it. It'll take a few minutes. But it was something I felt like the Lord really put on my heart for us. He at least put it on my mind. But I wanna go back to that little series. We've been talking about "Clarifying Your Identity". A lot of language these days about how you identify, and it's used in many contexts, in many settings, around many objectives. And the idea that's being pushed forward is you can choose any identity you want, that everything is fluid. And I would submit to you, and I have been suggesting to you scripturally, that the most significant identification of your life is how you identify with relation to the person of Jesus, that if you get that right, the rest of the decisions become more simple.

If you don't get that right, all the decisions do become confusing. When you find confusion, you know that God is not at the center of that because he's not the author of confusion. And I think it's unfortunate that for too long in the Christian community, even the evangelical community, we've identified more by a congregation, or a label, or a tradition, or a whatever we felt the translation of the Bible we preferred, or the kind of worship we like, or how we take communion or we don't, and we've made Jesus somewhere down in the midst of that. But we begin the identification of our person and our journey through time with the relation with Jesus of Nazareth. That changes everything. You have no standing with Almighty God other than you're created in his image, apart from Jesus.

And so, we've been walking through this. And in this session, I wanna talk to you about why I think that's so important. The great lie we have to overcome is that Jesus will diminish you, that he wants to take something from you, he wants your money or your time or your talent or your joy or your happiness, that being ungodly is really fun and being godly is sitting in church. That's the way I heard it as a kid. You know, I hear people give their testimony. You know, I was ungodly, and I had fast cars and fast horses and a wonderful life. And I travel around the world with beautiful people. And then I became a Christian. I remember sitting there as a kid thinking why? Well, because I wasn't in a very fast-moving place, and they weren't wearing any fun clothes anymore. And I thought, why did you do that? And I never really heard them say.

And so, I wanna be on record saying that the best possible, most amazing, remarkable life you can lead is a life fully yielded to the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. I believe that. I don't have anything he needs. He won't take anything away from me other than guilt and shame and a great deal of pain and the burdens of life. And he brings hope into the midst of the darkest days. He will not eliminate the challenges of your life. That's a myth. It's bad theology. But in the midst of those dark places and shadowed valleys, he will lead you through, and there's a strength other than yourself. I wanna unpack this notion of an amazing life, and I wanna start in Romans. It's a part of our reading for today. I hope you're doing those daily Bible readings. It's one of the best things I know for your spiritual health and well-being. Takes 10 or 15 minutes a day, but the benefits far exceed the investment of time.

Romans chapter 4 and verse 25 says, speaking of Jesus, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and he was raised to life for our justification". That sentence changes everything. Jesus was delivered to death because of my sin. The pronouns there are plural, but you can make them singular without doing any injustice to the text. He was delivered to death for my sin, and he was raised to life for my justification. Justification is a fancy religious term, particularly in the New Testament. It needs to be acquitted, declared not guilty. It means that that whatever the offense was, it's been washed away. If you need a little wordplay, to be "justified" is to be "just as if I'd never sinned". So it's more than just forgiven. The accounts have been settled. And the only way that can happen is because Jesus offered himself to be delivered to death.

So verse 5 begins, "Therefore," because of that. Therefore is a summary word. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith," not justified because we joined the right church, or we did enough good things, or we gave enough money away, or we volunteered enough time. Our justification, the atonement for our sins, comes by faith in Jesus, not by faith in our good efforts. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now that is how do you have peace? There is an almighty God, a creator of heaven and Earth, and it is possible, we're told, to have peace with him.

Now, you and I have an appointment with him ahead of us, it's on the schedule, you will not be able to cancel it. You can't send someone as a surrogate in your behalf. And when you get there and you're not prepared, you can't blame pastor, or your parents, or the government, or the political party that you don't like, or whomever else you think the villains in your life have been, and we all have them. You'll give an account for your choices. And the promise here, the information we're given, is that it's possible to have peace with that Almighty God. I would tell you there is no price that you shouldn't pay to have peace with God. That should be the primary objective of life. How could I have peace with God? Well, it says through our Lord Jesus Christ, "through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God".

The glory of God is the manifest presence of God. It's when the majesty and power of God are made visible to us. It's not just some ethereal thing. It will be tangibly revealed to you. You will see God in all of his splendor, in his power, in his beauty, in his authority. That's the glory of God. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. We have not yet seen that. "Not only so," we don't just rejoice in that our God is powerful and majestic, "we rejoice in our sufferings," whoa, "because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope doesn't disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he's given us".

Now, this chapter of Romans gives us a pathway to peace with God, and it's worth understanding, every one of us. The only way to peace with God is through the lordship of Jesus Christ. It's stated very plainly, but it's so easily read past. We have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ, not through "The Sinner's Prayer," not through church attendance, not through being good, not through attending a Christian school, not through whatever else you wanna put into the list. The only way to have peace with God is through the lordship of Jesus Christ. The next statement is equally significant and remarkable to me. It says, "We gain access into grace". Look at verse 2: "through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand".

If you gain access to grace, then by definition, grace is not universal. Grace is the unmerited, the undeserved favor or blessing of God. That God looks upon you favorably, that is not a universal condition. We gain access to that. If Jesus is not Lord of your life, you're outside the grace of God. That doesn't mean that the grace of God won't touch your life. God, in his mercy and his sovereignty, does that. He's done it in my own life. But if you want to live in the grace of God, it requires a relationship with Jesus. You see why the urgency in us to share this message. Why would he make the effort to make room for thousands of people who aren't typically here on an Easter weekend? I'm not compensated by Easter attendance, nor is anyone else on the staff. We're not gonna turn the numbers into some higher authority that gives us all some better status in some group.

Why would we make that kind of effort? Why would we ask you to do that? Because we don't want anybody that lives in our community to miss the invitation to participate and receive the grace of God. And we don't imagine we're the only person given that message, but we do imagine that it's important for us to make the very best effort we can because perhaps that would influence other Christ followers to make the very best effort they can. We don't want anybody to miss the grace of God. Let's make it hard to go to hell for Middle Tennessee. Wouldn't that be good? Verse 2 interests me. It says, "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God," this revelation of his power and his majesty. But verse 3 then says, "We also rejoice," and then it's a list of things that we don't typically rejoice about, "We rejoice in sufferings and perseverance and character and hope".

So now, we're giving a pathway to a more mature response to our faith. When we're asked to endure or to suffer or to persevere, we'll rejoice in that. Because we know the grace of God, and we know that we have peace with him. And that even though we may be walking through a shadowed valley, we trust that God will bring an outcome. You see, we've wanted, we've majored on convenient and comfortable. And it seems to me, that in these presentations of grace, we're invited to more. Same chapter, we're in chapter 5, verse 9, it says, "Since now we have been justified by his blood," remember? That was our first verse, and it was the last verse of chapter 4 when it says, "We were delivered over to death for our sins," Jesus was, "and raised to life for our justification". Now, in verse 9, it says, "We have now," now. "Now" is a timing word. What is "now"?

If I said you can leave now, you can't, but if I said it, you would know what it means. "Now we have been justified by his blood," not at some point in the future. When God looks at us, he responds to us as if we've been justified because we're in Christ, not because we're in church, or in WOC, or in the NIV, or whatever. We're in Christ. "We have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him"! This is such an important point, and it's important to have at the front of your consciousness, not at the back. Again, we fall into this notion of thinking, you know, we've been born again, and so it's just kind of murky. And it's somewhere in the past, and it's not important. But we either live now today, understanding our status with God and recognizing that we have been saved from the wrath of God, God's wrath will be displayed towards everyone who is unjustified by faith in Jesus. You may not like that, but the creator of heaven and Earth has made that declaration.

Now, he's invited everybody by faith to receive that gift, but outside of that gift of grace, we face the wrath of God. He has my attention. "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son," again, language is so clear here. Your identity in Christ changes everything. We were reconciled to God by faith in his Son. We weren't reconciled to God by all those other things that are on our list, our haircut or our hem length. Now, I do believe that your life pattern and your life choices reflect the value you attach to this gift you have received. And if you prefer to live like a pagan, it makes me think you don't value the gift. Sitting in church and living like a pagan does not make you a Christ follower any more than sitting in the gym makes me an Olympic athlete. Don't laugh. That would be impolite. Be true, but it would be impolite.

"We were reconciled to him through faith of the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation". Just in summary, we read it together. It's not complex, but it's very significant. We have now been justified by his blood. The outcome of that is we've been saved from God's wrath through Jesus. Please understand, outside of Jesus, God's wrath is in your future. Say, "I'm a pretty good person". Okay. I'm not arguing that point. I'm just telling you from the standpoint of Scripture, which is my rule of faith and practice. Apart from Jesus of Nazareth, every one of us will face the wrath of God, I would prefer not to do that, I would prefer no one I know do that. "Apart from Jesus," in that passage, it says, "We are God's enemies, destined for wrath".

Can you imagine being the enemy of the Creator of heaven and Earth? That's why, when I hear a story like what we just heard about Patrick and his impact on Ireland, and the outcome, and how he's been revered by many in the body of Christ, why would somebody endure that kind of a thing? Why would you willingly choose persecution? Why would you willingly face forfeiture of opportunity, or forfeiture of career opportunity, or why would you do that? Because you believe the message is that valuable.

Because you believe pleasing the Lord matters that much. It's what has been so debilitating about this gospel of salvation, that the only thing we cared about was a ticket to heaven and then we could live any way we wanted, and it is robbed of us. It's caused us to become men without chests, cowardly, frightened, timid, withdrawn, silent, covert. And the message through most of the church history has been very different. Apart from Jesus, we're God's enemies, destined for wrath. Reconciliation, to be reconciled to God required the death of God's Son. That's why the language used throughout this chapter is so important. We read it in verse 1 of chapter 5, and we saw it again in verse 11 of that chapter. "The Lord Jesus Christ..."

Christ is a title. It's not the family name of Jesus's family. And I don't say that to be cute or clever. Christ is the English equivalent of the Greek "Christos," which is the equivalent of the Hebrew "mashiach," which in English is "messiah". Jesus the Messiah, literally the "Anointed One". So it says, "We've been reconciled through Jesus of Nazareth," the Messiah. There were many people named Jesus in the first century. Wasn't the only Jesus. This was Jesus of Nazareth who met all the criteria from the prophets to be the Messiah, but Lord is different. Lord is positional. It defines your relationship to the individual. You could believe Jesus is a Messiah but still not serve him as Lord. You can believe he's a historical figure, or a religious leader, or a miracle worker, or a charlatan. You can believe what you want about Jesus.

What's transformational is when you choose him as Lord of your life. That is a positional decision. It's about whose authority rules over your life. In fact, when Jesus becomes the Lord, it becomes his life. We belong to him. He purchased us is the language of the New Testament. He purchased us out of the kingdom of darkness and brought us into his Kingdom, and the purchase price was his shed blood. So we serve him not out of a sense of burdensome intrusiveness, but out of the honor of being included in his Kingdom. The benefits accrue to the individual for whom Jesus is Lord. That is so important. How do you identify? As in Christ. Are you one of them? Absolutely! I'm one of them. One of those born-againers? Uh huh. One of those people that believe the Bible is inspired? Yep, that's me. You mean you actually try to adapt your behavior to that old boo... yeah, I do, on a regular basis. You really volunteer time and give money? I sure do. Wouldn't you like to? I'm in Christ.

I want it to be known. Most of all, I want it to be known in the heaven. I'm not trying to be on a covert mission. We've been reconciled to God. We have peace with him. There are no barriers, no hostility, no wrath, and we serve at his pleasure. The greatest honor of your life is being included with the people of God. It's better than being a VIP in any group you could imagine on this Earth. Now, I wanna take a bit of time and talk just a little bit about this following Jesus thing. Because I think we have sold it as something that is really simple, and I don't think it really is. I don't think it requires a great high IQ, but it will require some intentionality.

In John chapter 1, Jesus is recruiting disciples, and we're gonna step into the narrative because he's still doing that. Did you know that? Just as certainly as he did it in the first century around the shores of Galilee and those little fishing villages, Jesus is in the earth today recruiting men and women who will follow him. I want to be a part of that. "Finding Philip, he said to him, 'Follow me.' Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida," it's a little fishing village on the northern end of Galilee, not far from Capernaum, where Jesus set up his base of ministry, "Philip found Nathanael and he told him, 'We found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'" And he brings Nathanael to Jesus. And Jesus said, "You believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree. You'll see greater things than that". And then he added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man".

That group of young people that you're introduced there at the very beginning of an amazing journey. Jesus is still inviting men and women on an amazing journey, a journey of learning and growing and experiencing. I can tell you what we can learn by following them is that that journey will require submission. You'll have to submit to the authority of God. You can't follow Jesus and demand to be on the throne. It will not work. That journey will require submission, humility, and the fear of God, and we'll have to continue to cultivate a reverence of respect and awe of God, not fear in the sense that you shrink and cower in the corner but that you recognize he's not like you. His strength is not like my strength. His wisdom is not like my wisdom. I'm not comparable. I'm a finite creature, and he's an Infinite Creator that deserves a respect. We've lost much of the respect in the church.

And I thought about that submission, but it seems to me if I just casually look across our culture, I don't believe I'm out of bounds in saying these things, that men don't wanna submit to God. Wives don't wanna submit to husbands. Children don't wanna submit to parents. Governments don't wanna submit to their own laws. We don't even want to submit to our own biology. We don't. And if you search for the word that summarizes that set of responses, it's rebellion. And the reason rebellion, it seems to me, has flourished, and it's flourished in the church every bit as much as it's flourished outwardly, is we have pushed aside this fear of the Lord, that respect and reverence for God. We think that we can interpret his Word any way we want and set aside when he said, "Thou shalt not". We think we're free to redefine whatever we want to redefine from marriage, to sexual behavior, to right and wrong, to stealing. God will not be impressed with our new definitions.

And following Jesus is the greatest adventure we can have under the sun. I wanna pray for you today that we'll have the courage to continue to say "yes" to the Lord. Let's pray:

Father, thank you that you called us out of darkness into the Kingdom of your Son, that you have a purpose and a plan for our days, that we have the courage to choose you each morning and say "yes" to every invitation you put before us. In Jesus's name, amen.

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