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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Followers of Jesus - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Followers of Jesus - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Followers of Jesus - Part 1
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity, Fellowship, Discipleship

It's an honor to be with you today. We're working through a series on clarifying our identity in Christ. In this session, specifically, what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You know, the most important decision you and I can make is to say yes to him. And as an advocate for Jesus to be extending that invitation to the peoples that we care about, in our homes, around our kitchen tables, with our friends, wherever we may go. Spoiler alert, not everybody will say yes. Not everybody said yes to Jesus, but you and I still wanna continue to extend that invitation and be certain that each day we're following him wherever he's leading us. It's an exciting journey. Enjoy the lesson today.

We're working through a series on this theme of clarifying your identity. There is a great deal of discussion these days around how you identify, to the point that we've crossed beyond the absurd. It's in the bizarre. It's like you wake up every morning and decide who or what you'll be, and they tell us that with a straight face and accept us to anticipate that as being normal or it should be normalized or routinized. I don't agree with that. And I think that we got to that place, not because the ungodly communities discovered something new. I believe we've arrived at that place because the people of God have forgotten the significance of their identity in Christ. Folks, that is the most single important determiner of your existence, how you identify. If you're asked to give an explanation of who you are, where do you begin? Do you start with your biological sex? Do you start with your professional credentials? Do you start with the assets you've accumulated? And I don't mean if you're trying to be dismissive of the interview, but if you wanna make an impact, where do you begin?

I wanna suggest to you that the best possible way to begin is with your identity in Christ. "Well, actually, you should know at the beginning that I belong to Jesus". And then we can begin to tell our stories. Because there is no part of your person or your experience or your life journey or your accomplishments that doesn't even come close to your identity in him. That changes everything about your journey through time and for all eternity. Now, tragically, we've tended in amongst the Christian community to identify first with the congregation where we worship or the denomination we belong to or the translation of the Bible we read or the kind of worship we prefer or the color of the juice with which we receive communion or something. Those things aren't evil but they're secondary. They are. We can disagree whether it's better to worship on Saturday night or Sunday morning, but we can't afford to disagree on Jesus.

And so let's begin to cultivate the habit when we identify ourselves, we understand the beginning point is who we are in Christ. We wanna unpack that in some detail. It is so significant. In this session, we're gonna talk about being followers of Jesus. And I wanna start in Luke 18. Jesus is still recruiting disciples. He's well beyond those early weeks and months when he's recruiting fishermen and such around the shores of Galilee. But he's still inviting people to be his disciples. He's still doing that in the 21st century. But in Luke 18, it says, "A certain ruler came to him and said, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said, 'Well, why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: "Don't commit adultery, don't murder, don't steal, don't give false testimony. Honor your father and mother."' And the young man replied, 'All these I have kept since I was a boy.'"

Well, he's not a humble guy. He recognizes Jesus as an anointed teacher, as a rabbi of some standing. And he comes to him and says, "What do I need to do to inherit eternal life"? And Jesus gives him the rules, which he knows. And he said, "Oh, I've kept all of those". Jesus in mercy did not laugh or remind him of his failures. "When Jesus heard this, he said, 'Well, you still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth". I wanna suggest to you that following Jesus is an amazing journey, that it does not require a forfeiture of anything. It may require a submission of some things, but whatever you submit to the authority of Jesus will be returned to you in the most remarkable ways. Maybe not in a one-for-one exchange or even a hundred-for-one exchange.

The timing on that is not under our control. We make the decision to yield to the Lordship of Jesus and his responses to us remain a part of the sovereignty of God and his eternal plan. You will not manipulate God like some benevolent uncle or some heavenly vending machine, even if you quote verses to him. But I wanna be clear that serving Jesus as Lord of your life is not a diminishment. It's not a diminishment of pleasure. It's not a diminishment of opportunity. It's not a diminishment of experience or excitement. There is no more exciting, fulfilling life to lead than a life fully yielded to the Lordship of Jesus. I wanna tell you that because as a young person, when I was in groups of Christians, and I heard people telling their God stories, I didn't hear that. I'm not saying they didn't say it. I'm telling you, I didn't hear it. The part I remember is people saying to me, you know, I hear them give their testimony.

And then say, "You know, I used to be a very ungodly person. I traveled all over the world and I ate in the best restaurants. I had fast cars and fast horses. I spent my time with beautiful clothes and beautiful people. And then I met Jesus," and I remember sitting there listening and thinking, "And what's my motivation"? Because they didn't tell the part after they met Jesus with the same kind of enthusiasm they told the part of their ungodliness. The ungodliness sounded like more fun to me. They didn't tell the whole truth. And so I wanna be on record with you, on a very consistent, regular basis, in every place I have given a place to ungodliness, it has brought enormous pain and brokenness and disruption. What promised to be fulfilling or satisfactory or rewarding or encouraging, in the moment it may have looked like that, but the more engaged I became, the higher the price and the higher the cost and the greater the devastation.

Anything I've been willing to yield to the Lord and oftentimes that has been a struggle for me, I have done it with my teeth gritted and sometimes my heels dug in. But if I have been willing to say yes to the Lord, not always in the next moment or even in the next season, but at this point in my life, the faithfulness of God is unmistakable. And I wanna do everything in my power to encourage, motivate, prod, nudge, point towards, serve the Lord with gladness. You won't regret it. This young man that we read about in Luke's Gospel has the same opportunity that Peter, James, and John did. He could have been a part of Jesus's inner circle. He could have had a future totally transformed. He had a personal invitation.

One of the Gospels reports that when it says when Jesus looked at the young man, he loved him. And when Jesus extended the invitation to him, he perceived that the cost was too high. Really? What would you pay for a three-year journey with Jesus? I hope whatever you have. But for this young man, he said no. It's an amazing journey knowing Jesus. You and I should understand that not everyone will accept the invitation. Keep extending it, keep extending it. You don't want anybody in your sphere of influence to miss the opportunity because you failed to use your voice, and you be certain that you've said yes. If you're on the cusp of a decision today, I don't mean about sitting in church or being religious, because if you're listening to this service or you're present on campus, you've made some decisions, but being present on campus doesn't mean you've decided to yield to the Lordship of Jesus.

Folks, you can sit in church and not be a Christian, like I can sit in the gym and not be an Olympic athlete. Don't laugh. Say yes to him, say yes to him. It's a journey that requires learning and growing and experiencing. The Lordship of Jesus, just to be clear, will require submission in your life. You see, the freedom that's ours, identifying in Christ, means that you know Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ and you serve him as King. Christ is a title. It's a definition that describes who Jesus is. It's not his family name. It wasn't the Christ family that lived in Nazareth. And I don't mean that to be funny. It's the English equivalent of the Greek "Christos," which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach, which we know as Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God. Jesus from Nazareth, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

Now, you can believe that of Jesus and still miss the kingdom of God. That's a point of historical recognition. People say many things about Jesus. He was a historical character. He was a miracle worker. He was a teacher, he led a rebellion against Rome and was killed for his trouble. You can say many things about him. You can even say you believe he was the Son of God and miss the kingdom of God. You need that other term, "Lord". You see, Lord is positional. It means I have handed him the authority over my life. I belong to him. He's my Lord. I serve at his pleasure. He establishes my priorities. Where my will and his will conflict, I am learning to yield my will to my Lord. Where my thoughts and his thoughts collide, I'm learning to accept his thoughts. That is the story of being a Christ follower. If Jesus is not Lord of your life today, you should not imagine yourself as a Christian.

I don't care where you sit, how good you are, kind you are, or generous. Hell will be filled with kind, good, generous people. That's awkward, is it not? Jesus is the distinctive decision of your life. And to grow up in Jesus requires of us some things. That young man missed his opportunity. It requires submission. If he could have submitted to Jesus's invitation, his future would have been different for time and eternity. It requires some humility to recognize we have a need and we have so much, we have such abundance and so much education and so many choices, it's very easy for us to imagine we're self-sufficient. Well, we need some help in crisis times. That's what 911's for, and some of us, we have God on kind of a 911 relationship. We get in a crisis, "Hey, oh God, it's me". But the nature of that relationship is it's daily, it's momentary. "In Christ, we live and we move and we have our being," the scripture says.

Takes humility. And then it takes the fear of the Lord, a respect or reverence for God. Take a minute with that because we do not live in a time when submission is a word that we even like to use. Men don't wanna submit to God. Wives don't wanna submit to their husbands. They don't wanna say that in public. I mean, that'll get you blown up if that makes it to the media. Children don't wanna submit to their parents. Governments don't wanna submit to their own laws. We don't even wanna submit to our own biology. You know it's true and there's lots of authoritative, powerful, influential, well-educated voices that say you shouldn't, knucklehead. It's another Greek word. We'll work on that another day. All of those things are an expression of rebellion. That rebellion flourishes in our hearts, when we push aside that respect, reverence, fear of God.

I don't have to consider his opinion. My opinion, it's what I feel, it's what I want. It's how I identify. And you're certainly entitled to that. God gave you a free choice. But you shouldn't imagine that God is the arbiter of equity. Do you understand the farce of DEI? You understand the farce of equity? They're pushing that really hard at you these days. They have whole divisions now, departments, in our finest, most celebrated universities. They shouldn't be celebrated as good ones. Telling you that we should have equal outcomes, not equal opportunities, equal outcomes. Do you recognize the hypocrisy in that community? If we got equal outcomes, we wouldn't have the Oscars and the Emmys and the Grammys because everybody that ever stood in front of a video camera or ever made music should get an award. That's equity. The notion that says somebody did it better than someone else flies in the face of the garbage they're pumping into our young people.

So how do we grow up in the Lord? How do we learn to grow and experience God and his glory? I'll tell you on the front end, it's challenging. It's not easy. It's challenging to us intellectually. It's challenging to us emotionally. It's challenging physically, because we're asked to experience life in some ways that are beyond us. That's the nature of this relationship. God is omnipotent, omniscient. He's all-powerful and all-knowing and we are finite creatures. So, entering into a relationship with him brings some tension. We learn, we grow, we change. We looked at this in a previous session. As we begin to live that out, it brings friction in our world because not everybody chooses to yield to the Lordship of Jesus. And that by definition, you can understand, very intuitive. It comes quickly.

If everybody isn't gonna walk in the same way, that is going to create some opportunities. I brought you some biblical examples from the book of Acts. Those are the earliest stories of Jesus's followers in his absence. By Acts chapter 4, they're already arresting the apostles. Acts chapter 2, Jesus went back to heaven, the Ascension. Acts chapter 1, I'm sorry. Acts chapter 2 is the Day of Pentecost. The Jesus story really goes public and thousands of people stay in the streets of Jerusalem, "We believe Jesus of Nazareth was actually the Messiah, and we helped to crucify him". And they begin to repent. They say they were wrong and had changed their minds. By Acts chapter 4, they're arresting apostles.

Verse 18, "They called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. And Peter and John said, 'Well, you judge for yourselves whether it's right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. We can't help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'" There is opposition felt by chapter 4 of the book of Acts by those that are standing up for Jesus. The cancel culture is not a 21st century phenomenon. The corporate world saying you don't dare bring your faith to work with you is not a new thing. People in power saying to those with less power, "We don't want to hear about your faith," is not something new. We have a decision to make. We have cowered and been timid and reluctant and we have acquiesced for the majority of our lives. We were told it was inappropriate. We imagined ourselves to be a majority and they told us because we were the majority, we were inappropriately expressing power and we were wrong for that.

We should be quiet. Well, now we're a minority and now we certainly don't hold the power if the corporate expressions of power and the governmental expressions of power are any suggestion. So my question is, how long are we going to be quiet? Those not standing, those choosing to be quiet, I can promise you, they will question the reality of the opposition you perceive because you stand up. The people in hiding, the people in the shadows, the people with no voice, when you share with them what you experience, when you choose to stand, they will question you. They will doubt you. Doesn't stop there. In Acts chapter 5, Peter is with the church in Jerusalem. They're gathering resources to pursue the ministry that is before them. Somebody presents a sum of money from a property sale and misrepresents it to Peter.

"And Peter said, 'Ananias,'" many of you know the story. "'How is it that Satan has so filled your heart so that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and you kept some of the money for yourself? It belonged to you before it was sold. And after it was sold, the money was at your disposal. It was your money. You could have done whatever you wanted to with it. Why did you so decide to come in here and said you were making a sacrifice that you aren't making, because you chose to lie to the Holy Spirit.' And when he heard that, the man fell dead". He sure did. Ananias wanted recognition without sacrifice. There were wrong motives within the community of faith by the time we get to Acts chapter 5, very early in the narrative. They're not some grizzled veteran community.

It's very apparent, early in the story, it's a community and everyone is in process. They're learning, they're growing, and they're changing. Not everybody that lies in church dies, thank God. We would have to have church in the parking lot because there wouldn't be anybody coming back in this building week two, I promise. It's an exemplary judgment. God established an example very early in the story of the church about things that we should understand he considers out of bounds. I think it's important for us to grasp this. You see, the Jesus people at this point in the story is a very new, seemingly fragile movement. Everybody is learning together, and just in case you don't grasp it, people dying in public services typically dampens momentum. Do you get that? And not only does Ananias die, a little later in the day, his wife comes in. And don't you know Peter's going, "Oh"? And she sells the same lie and has the same outcome.

I'm telling you that would dampen, everybody in the giving line is checking their math. It's not a simple story that's unfolding. Same chapter, verse 16. It says, "Crowds gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits and all of them were healed. And the high priest and all of his associates who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy". There's some good things there. It's not just people dropping dead. Their enemies celebrate that. But from all the surrounding communities, they're bringing people and remarkable miracles are happening. We could call that success or effectiveness or whatever label you're comfortable with, when our faith flourishes. And in spite of the most powerful group in the Jewish community, the Sadducees controlled the temple. They're the political power brokers amongst the Jewish people. It's the National Bank, it's the seat of national power, and they're filled with jealousy.

The apostles have totally disrupted their lives. You need to get this story. They've left their homes, their families, their businesses, they've walked through all of the challenges of ministry with Jesus. They followed him through the suffering. They've lived with the fear of being next. They've already been arrested and threatened, and now God is affirming them with this remarkable outcome of their ministry. You can almost hear them breathing a sigh of relief. And now the most powerful people in the community are jealous of the outcome. They've made choices not to follow Jesus, not to believe in him. They said, "We're not going that way". And there's great pressure.

Folks, why would we imagine it will be different in the 21st century? Not everybody's gonna sign up. Not everybody's gonna yield to the Lordship of Jesus. Don't be angry at them. Don't be bitter at them. Keep inviting and extending, but understand, be prepared. Those that choose not to go are probably not gonna celebrate the good things God does in your life. We've been offended. We've had a strong enough sense of self-preservation that we just don't tell our God's stories, we don't talk about our faith in public. We don't share those things, because somebody might be offended. Well, somebody might be encouraged. Somebody might find that they're willing to say, "Well, I'll follow Jesus if he'll do that in my life".

What Peter and John and the crew are doing is very public. That's why there's jealousy. Acts chapter 6, "In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food". Well, what a happy little group, this is. This is the community of believers, again, really early in the story, they're having some growing pains. The Grecian Jews, the Hellenistic Jews, the Jews that lived and were influenced by the larger Greek culture, they had Greek names and they didn't keep all the same rules that some of the more Jewish believers were keeping.

There's factions and segments and sectarianism within the church very early, and they're fighting with one another because they don't like the way benevolence is being handled. That's just hard to imagine, isn't... yeah, don't go there. "So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word in order to wait on tables.'" We've been able to help you up to this point. But our opportunities have grown beyond what... we can't solve that. We will choose. We'll give you some people to help you with it. Growing pains in the church. We should understand that. It's not a stagnant thing. It's not just the keepers of tradition. We've inherited some ideas that we did not derive from scripture. There are some truths that we hold that are timeless, but how we give those away, have to fit the opportunities of every culture, amen.

It can be a challenge to live out our faith. The Bible tells us not to grow weary in doing good. So that's my hope for you today. You'll find the strength so that you don't quit. Let's pray:

Father, we choose you over every difficulty, over every obstacle, over every challenge. Give us the strength to finish the course, in Jesus's name, amen.

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