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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - An Amazing Life - Part 2

Allen Jackson - An Amazing Life - Part 2

Allen Jackson - An Amazing Life - Part 2
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity

It's a privilege to be with you today. We're working through a study on clarifying our identity, knowing who we are in Christ. You know, I'm a professional Christian. I've been in the church most of my adult life and I think we live with too much pretense. I think we imagine that following the Lord is simple, that we always understand, that we're always excited to say yes to the Lord. That really hasn't been my experience. Even when I know God is moving and I know he's invited me into it, it's not always easy to process, understand, know what to do, know how to respond. In that uncertainty, God is just as faithful. You keep saying Yes to him, and I trust him to lead us forward into the very best possibilities he has for us.

So this following Jesus thing, I would submit to you it's about learning and growing and experiencing the glory of God. And that is an ongoing thing. I believe in conversion, in the new birth, and salvation. But that's an entry point. And it's a beginning point. It's the beginning line for a life of learning and growing and experiencing God. I brought you some examples from our friends that you know well, from the Gospels. They were recruited to follow Jesus and they left everything to follow him. They left businesses and friends and they disrupted their lives. Most of us would say they'd raised their hand, they'd made all the commitments, and yet everything we know from that day forward is they continued to learn and grow and change until they disappear into history. So my question is, are you following the Lord in that way? Do you identify as that kind of a Christ follower? Or do you imagine that your story is defined by some singular point in the past?

Let's just watch a bit of their challenge in this, Mark chapter 4: "Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were other boats with him, and a furious squall came up". Jesus is in the boat with the fishermen. "And the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped, and Jesus is in the stern, asleep on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?'" That seems to me an odd question. "Don't you wanna panic with us"? "Don't you wanna be afraid with us? We're terrified out of our minds. Help us row. Bail, Knucklehead". I mean, The Living Bible, that's closer to what I think they're saying: "Listen, we're doing our best here and you're sleeping? Wake up".

It's very clear from what happens next, they didn't expect any more than that from Jesus. "'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?' So, he got up". In the boat. The fishermen were, "Ah, not.. no". Stand up on a little unstable boat. You'll get on Facebook. "He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' and the wind died down and it was completely calm". You need verse 40 to make sense of the rest of it. "He said this to the disciples: 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' Then they were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'" They didn't expect him to speak to the wind and the waves. They're completely, they're terrified. Who is this? We've never seen anybody like this. They had no frame of reference. We thought he'd help us bail. We need somebody else to row. The wind and the waves obey him.

Now, they've left everything. They're in. They're traveling with him. They're on the travel squad. They're not just coming for special events, but they have no imagination of who Jesus is. Do you and I have the courage to say we truly have a very limited imagination of who Jesus is? Are you willing to say that or are we still going, "Well, you know, I've been around a while"? Well, we do. "I've taught this class and done that Bible study and I've read this commentary and I've got a list of Easter pins. Have you seen my lanyard? It bends me over, it's so heavy. I've been here so long, I worked in the hoedown". Some of you don't even know what a hoedown is. "And I was at the hoedown". We all have our version of that. I would submit a different posture is better. We've just begun to scratch the surface, to understand who Jesus is. Peter 14... Matthew 14, I'm sorry. It's about Peter. You know the story.

Jesus is walking across the lake and the disciples see him. And Peter says, "Lord, if that's you". They're all terrified out of their mind because nobody walks on a lake. They're frightened. They've seen all the zombie movies like you have. "And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and he came towards Jesus," and he almost drowned. They're figuring this out. Who are you? There was only one of the 12 that was willing to get out of the boat. This was not the group decision. The other 11 are rolling their eyes. "There he goes again". Matthew 14, same chapter, Jesus replied, there's a big crowd. It's the end of the day. Everybody's tired. Food trucks are out of food. The disciples say, "Send these people away, they're hungry and we're tired of them". Doesn't really say, "We're tired of them," but that's what, in The Living Bible, it's there.

"And Jesus said, 'They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat.' And they said, 'We've only got five loaves and two small fish.' And Jesus said, 'You feed them.'" You can see them looking. What do you mean, we feed them? Does he not see all these people? We said five loaves, two little fish. Count. "Put them in groups of 50. Feed them". Okay, they picked up basketfuls. You know the story, they're struggling. They followed Jesus, they're all in, they walked away from their businesses, they liquidated assets, they're identified with him, but their minds are going: he talks to the wind, he makes us feed a crowd. Peter just about drowned. He said we've got little faith.

See, we wanna pretend like, "Well, you know, I volunteered to lead at one of these groups". You know, the reality is like, "What am I gonna do? I invited three people over to my house. I don't even want to clean my house and I don't like two of the three people. I'm praying they don't come. On the inside I'm really afraid they're gonna get here and they're gonna ask me some questions. And I'm not gonna even know where to look. Stupid Pastor's not here. It's just a video. Video pastor. How about video Q and A"? It's a bad idea. Don't suggest it. It seems to me that our journey is not that much different than our friends.' And every time we're willing to follow and every time we're willing to face that vulnerability of understanding we're not competent and we're not capable. We don't pray for people because we can heal people or forgive people or mend the broken heart or drive out fear. We pray for people because we know the one who can. But there's a vulnerability in that because what if I pray and nothing happens? It's not nearly as scary as if you pray and something dies. That's really frightening.

Luke 7: "Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd were going along with him. He..." You know the story. There's a dead person, there's a funeral. He interrupts a funeral procession. Verse 13: "When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to the mother and he said, 'Don't cry,' and he went up and touched the coffin, and said to her only son..." She's a widow with an only son. She's lost everything. Now, she's an outcast. So Jesus is compassionate towards her. "And he says to the young man, 'Get up!' And the dead man sat up and began to talk".

This is written by Luke, the physician. He remembered this one. "And Jesus gave him back to his mother". And it says of the disciples in verse 16, in a rather understated way, "They were all filled with awe and praised God". How many of you think it was hard to go to sleep that night? You think the disciples are going, "You know, we were just hungry, trying to get to dinner before the restaurant closed and we thought, 'Oh no. Here he goes again, Captain Compassion.'" And that young man sat up. See, following Jesus. This is different than going to church and being polite and pretending that you don't struggle and trying to hide your real struggles from the people you go to church with because they're not very forgiving. And the reality is these same people. I'm reading these stories that Jesus showed them. And as they began to implement, they struggled, they failed with some consistent frequency.

God is capable of overcoming our failed attempts to be good followers. I wanna say God is capable of overcoming my failed attempts to be a good follower, and I'm not special. He'll help you with yours too. You say, "Well, I've tried". Stop trying, start training. Trying is just a loud way of saying I'm not really doing anything. Stop. "Well, I've tried". Stop. Tell me how you're training for a different outcome. I brought you some examples. Matthew 15: "Jesus called the crowd to him and said, 'Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth doesn't make him "unclean".'" They have a whole set of rules about what they can eat and can't eat. And they believe if the wrong thing goes on your fork, God hates you. They believe that just as much as some of you believe the wrong thing in your glass or that if you got photographs sitting in the wrong place.

Well, in this case, for them, it was what was on their fork. And Jesus said, "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that's what makes him unclean". And Peter, this guy that's all in, walked on water. Was at Nain when that young man sat up, interrupted the funeral procession. Peter says, "Explain the parable to us". And Jesus says, "Are you really that dull"? What you and I can deduce is there's a struggle in growing. There's a struggle in learning to let the possibilities of God become a part of your imagination, because we know our rules and our routines and our habits. For some of us, just visiting a church outside of the tradition we're most familiar with, feels like we have just taken a walk on the wild side. I know because you'll say, "I'm not one of those raising my hand people. Nope".

And then some of you think if you leave church and you haven't perspired, you didn't worship. So you have no imagination. You could worship in some sort of a liturgical setting and in reality, both are true or you could worship in neither. We get so limited, so focused. It's a struggle to grow. It's a struggle to understand. Matthew 14: "When Peter saw the wind and he was afraid and he began to sink and he said, 'Lord, save me!'" He is standing on the water, but it's hard to understand the power of God. We should stop with this pretense, this false whatever it is. "Oh, I", I don't, I truly don't. I mean, I know just a tiny little bit. You know, we say of attorneys or doctors or many professional groups that they practice what they do. The implication is that they haven't perfected it. It would be good for us to talk about the practice of following Jesus. We haven't perfected it. It's continuing to emerge in our lives and from time to time we almost drown. "Lord, save me".

John 14, Jesus is with his friends. This is near the end of his ministry. He's had almost three years with them now. He's giving them final instructions. This is like, you're sitting on the plane and they're on the intercom, "Fasten your seatbelt". I mean, it's too late, the door's locked, we're leaving, we're moving. These are final instructions. "And Jesus said, 'You know the way to the place where I'm going.' And Thomas said, 'Lord, we don't even know where you're going. Not only do we not know the way, we don't know what you're talking about.'" There is a struggle to follow. They've been with him now for three years. Transfigurations, water to wine, storms stilled, dead raised, sick healed, blind eyes opened. Well, what are you talking about? "I'm going away and where you're going I can't..." No, that's not the bargain. We don't like that one little bit. "I'll send you a..." We don't want a comforter. You stay right here, we'll go with you. They are struggling to follow.

Folks, you and I, from time to time, in places will struggle to follow the Lord. I don't like these hyper-spiritual tests. "You know, I was born again in July the 2nd, 1842. And from that day to this, I've never struggled one day". Oh, stop, stop. You haven't followed very far. You know, who would report they've never struggled is all the babies over in the nursery because when they're hungry, they cry and somebody feeds them and when they're dirty, they make more noise and somebody changes them, and if you'll keep that up, they're happy. I did not call you a baby. I will, but I didn't. Matthew 26. Let's do John 21st. How much time I'm done. John 20, we'll do that. The women have been to the tomb. It's Resurrection Day and the tomb is empty. And so they go report to the disciples. The women went before the men did. "She came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, John, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They've taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they put him!'"

And you and I are reading that and going, "He's alive". What are you thinking? He's told you a dozen times. Were you not paying attention? What's wrong with you, Mary? Come on, tell her, Peter. John, say something. What's very clear is the struggle with awareness. They've heard what Jesus said, but they watched him tortured to death. We never thought that could happen. They've seen him walk through angry mobs. They've seen him speak to the wind and the waves. They've seen him be victorious over death. They never imagined that a Roman soldier or a Jewish high priest would triumph over him. They've watched him out-respond every time they've come to trap him in his words, he's had a response that was wiser than the question that was a trap. And now he's arrested and betrayed and beaten and tortured and humiliated. We didn't expect that. We didn't see that coming.

I know what he said, but I can't process it. You ever look through the windows of your life today, and think, "I don't know how to process this"? You know what's missing? We're not listening to what God has said. We're his disciples in this scene. And we're as adult as the ones that have preceded us. "They've taken the Lord. We don't know where he is". A third grader reading the Gospels could tell 'em where he is. Well, he's alive. Hello? Psst. But the emotions are too much. The reality is overwhelming.

Folks, God will take care of us if this nation we live in experiences the judgment of God and every system we know collapses. God will lead us through. We're his people. We identify in Christ, first. I pray that never happens, but we've got to sort this out to whom we belong. Jesus's friends have been given information, a timeline, a list of events. I mean, Jesus has said it to them over and over again. But when the fulfillment begins, it's very disorienting. They have lots of emotions, their thoughts and their experiences pushed the facts to the background. Under pressure, under great emotional stress, is not a time to count on great rational interpretation of events. And we're living in a world where the stress is growing because there's a spiritual conflict. You want to get to know the King, you want to be familiar with his Spirit, you want to recognize his voice. And most of all you want to have made the decision that he is Lord of your life.

How do you identify? If someone wants to know about you, what are the essential components that you want to lead with? If you want someone to be impressed with you, that's really the key. If you're in one of those circumstances, what are you gonna lead with? I would encourage you to find a way to incorporate into your story, well, first of all, you should know Jesus is Lord of my life. Well, I may have studied here and I may have accomplished that, and I may have done this, but truthfully, we should begin the conversation with "Jesus is Lord of my life". I understand the risks in that. Trust me, I do. You want to chill a conversation with a complete stranger, start with, "I'm a pastor".

I'll tell you a story and then we'll pray. This is not a spiritual story. I don't play golf anymore, but once upon a time I did a little bit. I'm not sure I ever played, but I was on a golf course and hit the ball. And we were playing one day and we picked up a foursome, the fourth person in the group, and none of us knew him. And we start to play and he had a very colorful vocabulary and he had a very broad vocabulary. They weren't all words that you would use in this context, but he had a very broad vocabulary. And he used them frequently to describe his engagement on the golf course. And we got to about the fourth tee because we were kind of doing that normal, you know, figuring out who one another were, and where do you live? And we got to the fourth tee and he's on the tee box. He's the best golfer in the group. It's humiliating.

So this was the way God helped me. He's putting, I remember the day. He's bent down, put his tee in the ground, putting the ball on the tee and he leans up and he's getting ready to hit the drive. And so he looked over at me and he said, "So, what do you do"? Now, in this case, I enjoyed it way too much because I said, "Well, actually I'm a pastor". And he didn't say anything. He just looked down and he hit that drive so far out of bounds. He never recovered. But without his words, which he didn't feel apparently nearly as free to use, he couldn't play golf. Now, in that setting, it's funny. But there are many settings, when you lead with, "I'm a pastor," that it's not so funny.

So I understand when I say to you that you wanna practice identifying as one of Jesus's people. That in some settings, it'll get you a slap on the back. In some settings, it'll just get you a slap. Do it anyway. Not in arrogance. If it's a setting where, you know, there are places where I go in the world where Jesus is not held in high esteem. And I don't say it in those places to be annoying. You need wisdom. But there's a difference in wisdom and hiding, and I'm quite confident God knows the difference.

So I wanna be on record whenever he gives me the opportunity that I'm for him, I identify as one of his people. It's an amazing journey. Don't miss it. Don't settle for being churched or religious or kind or polite or tame or whatever. Get to know the King, choose him as Lord of your life. He'll change everything. I know it sounds awful but it really won't be. He'll give you a whole new set of desires and a whole new set of outcomes. I brought you a prayer. Why don't you stand with me? It's on your notes. I made space. And I finished an outline. It's an Easter miracle. Oh, don't applaud, that'd be rude. Let's read it together:

Heavenly Father, you've called me from an empty way of life into the kingdom of your Son. You have opened my eyes and set my feet on a new path. Give me wisdom and courage to follow you. I choose to follow Jesus, to take up my cross, and complete the course for which I was created. May the name of Jesus be exalted in all the earth, amen, hallelujah.

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