Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - A King and A Kingdom - Part 1

Allen Jackson - A King and A Kingdom - Part 1

Allen Jackson - A King and A Kingdom - Part 1
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity, Kingdom of God

It's good to be with you today. We've been walking through a series on clarifying our identity in Christ. In this session, we're gonna talk about a king and a kingdom. You know, I have had a few birthdays and I have seen many things come and go through the church and Christianity in my lifetime. Some of them seem like fashion changes. Well, I've never seen the kind of opposition to the gospel that we're watching right now. It seems to me there is a widespread resistance to the Jesus story. I mean, we've seen it. They wanted the Ten Commandments out of our schools, and they don't want us to pray in public. They don't want a biblical worldview in a corporate setting. But there's something more profound around us these days. We're gonna need clarity on understanding exactly to whom it is we belong and what we stand for or we will forfeit our faith. It's a very important season to know who you are in Christ. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.

We've been talking about clarifying our identity. There is so much discussion these days about how you identify. We have elevated it to something truly remarkable. We've changed the practice of medicine. We've been willing to set good science aside in order to talk about how we identify. We have. We have taken common sense and logic and pushed it someplace into the shadows because we want to give everybody the privilege of identifying whatever, however, whenever, and wherever, and what I wanna suggest to those of us who are Christ followers that understanding our identity in Christ is first and foremost in our lives and is the primary distinguishing characteristic of our existence is essential. It's not the congregation where we worship or the denomination to which we belong or the style of worship we prefer or the translation of the Bible that we happen to understand to be the best.

I appreciate all of those things and they have a place and a point of value and I'm not trying to discredit them, but they are not the primary characteristic of your spiritual life and your faith identification. You belong to Jesus. And if you only belong to Jesus when you're in the church building, you don't belong to him. That's like saying you're married, "but I'm really only married when I'm home. When I leave the house, I take off the ring, it's so intimidating. It causes other people to feel uncomfortable. But when I go home, I'm gonna put that ring back on because, you know, I'm in the house". You kind of chuckle or smile or you think the man's an idiot because you understand the inconsistency of that idea.

But I want you to understand that to imagine you're a Christ follower because of the building where you're sitting or because you're with a group of like-minded people, therefore, it's safe to acknowledge it, is delusion. We will either identify with Christ to cross the width and the breadth of our lives or we don't identify with him. The most significant characteristic of Allen Jackson is that I belong to Jesus. In all of my brokenness and all of my inconsistencies and all that I may be or may not be, I belong to Jesus. And I wanna be known that way and I want you to be known that way. In this session, we're gonna talk about a king and a kingdom because we have been invited into the family, and Jesus of Nazareth, whom I believe is the Messiah and I have accepted as Lord of my life, I serve as the King. I serve at his pleasure. I do the best I know and I don't always do it perfectly, but my intent is to honor his will for my life on a daily basis.

And I would invite you to that as well. That's different from being saved or converted or baptized, which I believe in. I think they are all very important components of becoming a part of a kingdom. But once you join the kingdom, the objective is to carry out the will of the King. We serve at his pleasure. My days are his days. My future is in his hands. As is yours. I wanna unpack this idea of following Jesus a little bit. It's exciting. I know there was times in my life and I meet people frequently who imagine this is something that is onerous or burdensome or intrusive or limiting or diminishing. And it truly is not. And all of that is rooted in a lie that did not begin with truth. Following Jesus is the greatest invitation that will ever be extended to another person.

And if you're not extending that invitation to people regularly, you're robbing the people in your sphere of influence. They won't all accept it and they won't all like it. They didn't all accept it when Jesus extended the invitation. And when his closest friends began to extend the invitation after he left, and many people began to respond, the people who didn't want to accept the invitation were jealous because of the response and angry at those who did. Things have not changed a great deal. But follow Jesus anyway. In John chapter 3, we're introduced to a man. It's really one of those pivot chapters in the Bible. It's John 3, "There was a man of the Pharisees".

So he's a religious leader. He's a biblical scholar. He spent his life in studying scripture, "Named Nicodemus. He's a member of the Jewish ruling council". So he's not just a Pharisee. He has achieved a great deal. "And he came to Jesus at night and he said, 'Rabbi, we know you're a teacher who's come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'" Why do you suppose he came to Jesus at night? Or why do you suppose John pointed it out to us? Because it's an important component of the narrative. He really wasn't ready to present himself as an inquirer of Jesus in public. He came under cover of darkness. I had a friend, he's in heaven now, but he lived in Jerusalem just outside the walls of the old city.

And if you've ever visited Jerusalem or seen pictures of it, you see the ultra orthodox there with their black hats and their black clothing and they are the ultimate rules keepers amongst the Jewish community, or at least they give that appearance. And he would tell me of rabbis who would make an appointment. He said "I'll be at your door at 7:02". And they wanted the door opened at 7:02 because they didn't want to take a chance on somebody seeing them going to inquire in the home of someone who was a believer in Jesus. Things haven't changed a great deal in the world. Nicodemus is intrigued by Jesus. He recognizes something distinctive, something unique. He's trying to sort this out, and Jesus doesn't really make it easy on him. He said, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he's born again". And Nicodemus said, "I'm way too old for that. I don't understand". And Jesus says to him, "How can someone who's a leader of the people be this unaware"?

That is not a friendly dialog that Jesus is having with him. Again, I think we have been coached into some really destructive things. How is it you can't understand this? And so, Nicodemus leaves that encounter. We're left with the imagination that he is interested in Jesus. He understands there's something unique about Jesus. We don't have a lot of information about him. But if you scroll forward in John's Gospel, I chose this. It's mentioned in some other Gospels but same author, same narrative, same story being told. In John 19, this is post Crucifixion. "Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews".

So we're introduced to a category of people that lived in Jerusalem and in Israel who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but they were afraid of the power structure. You see, what we're facing is not new. The cancel culture is not a 21st century phenomenon. Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus because he's afraid of the Jewish power brokers. "With Pilate's permission," the Roman governor's permission, "he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus". And just in case we've forgotten since John 3, John inserts a reminder: "the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night". And then Joseph offered his tomb. He tells us what Nicodemus contributed. "He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds. He took Jesus body. The two of them wrapped it with the spices and strips of linen. This was in accordance with the Jewish burial customs".

John does not tell us that Nicodemus was a disciple. He identifies him as the man in John 3 who was a very interested inquirer. Nicodemus's status in relation to Jesus is not clarified. He's interested enough, he cares enough, that he's willing to come and spend a great deal of money and be identified with the burial of his body. Following Jesus is a personal decision and since Jesus emerged in that stable in Bethlehem until today, he is a dividing line through human history. And you and I, every one of us in the building or listening in another setting, have a decision to make about the person of Jesus: who you believe he is. Do you believe he's the Messiah? If you believe that, will you accept him as Lord of your life? If you'll accept him as Lord of your life, are you prepared to serve him as King? Not everyone will applaud, it will come with some cost involved, but the benefits are truly remarkable. It's an amazing journey. It's true in scripture and it's true in your life experience: Not everyone will accept the invitation to follow Jesus.

I want to do everything in my power to be certain you say Yes. Not just sitting in church, sitting in church does not make you a follower of Jesus. It's a journey of learning and growing and experiencing God. It's not some transaction that is concluded and then can be filed away as complete. I think that's a very destructive, that's as destructive as the idea that you were healthy once, therefore you are healthy. I have pictures of myself in an earlier season of life. I was a lean, mean metabolic machine. But as you turn the pages on the calendar, you have to make a decision every day about how you will care for your health. You have to make ongoing decisions about your spiritual health and vitality. I'm not diminishing the significance of the new birth.

I believe in that. But to imagine that because you had a healthy birth, you are healthy and maturing on a daily basis is a skip in logic. It requires submission on our part, humility on our part, the fear of God on our part. We have to submit ourselves to God. And in the current environment, this is a very problematic issue. I find that men don't want to submit to God. They don't. We really don't. We chafe at the idea of any rules, any authority. "Who's gonna tell me what to do"? We don't even wanna submit that, we don't wanna submit to the least inference. Wives don't wanna submit to their husbands. We don't want to say that out loud in public. We try to bury it in the Bible. Children don't wanna submit to their parents. Parents wanna be their children's friends. The government doesn't want to submit to their own laws. They want you to submit to them, but they don't want to submit to them. This is not theoretical, this is not Washington. When they're widening the highway, the people came to get right of ways. I probably shouldn't say it in public, but whatever.

The person that came to get the right of way said, "Now we know that you've done some construction and you have worked with all these organizations, but you need to understand the rules that apply to you don't apply to us. We will not be obeying the rules that we've asked you and told you you had to obey". They'll just say it out loud and we know that to be true, that we've accepted as if it's okay. It is not okay. We should not be afraid of our government. That's not the nature of the bargain, but it's a reflection of this rebellion that has seeped so deeply within us. We don't even want to submit to our own biology any longer. We wanna act as if we can choose. If you look for a word to wrap all that up, it's "rebellion". We have pushed aside any fear of God, any reverence for God, any respect of God. "Nobody's gonna", God will tell you. I assert, I assure you, that the day will come he will say, "You will bow your knee".

I wanna grow in my understanding of the Lord. And as you do that, a part of growing is recognizing that we don't always get it right. You can't learn to walk if you're not willing to stumble. Isn't that true? You can't learn anything new unless you're willing to make the mistakes that come with learning. I read once that Thomas Edison had over 900 failures in the development of the light bulb. And a reporter asked him once, I don't know if it's real. I read the story, but the reporter said, "Weren't you discouraged after failing so many times"? He said, "Oh, I didn't fail 900 times". He said, "There were 999 steps in the development of a light bulb". And you and I as Christ followers, we go, "You know, I prayed and nothing happened". Oh, you would have been an amazing baby. The first time you pulled up, you ran. So failing is a part of... there is a struggle to understand, to process what you're living through. It's not always easy.

Jesus's closest friends and allies struggled to assimilate what they were being told and experiencing. We know this is so because Jesus would look at them and go, "Are you really that dull? Are you so slow? Don't you understand? Stop doubting. You have such small faith. How long will I have to suffer with you"? Those were all things Jesus said to his closest friends. Think of what he says about us. God initiates change that we would never initiate and that is often difficult to process. It's something we could not or would not have done on our own. In the midst of a global pandemic, God began to awaken us to spiritual things. Who would have thought that out of something that brought that much suffering and fear and loss, that the Spirit of God would move to bring freedom and liberty to his people?

I didn't understand that. I can observe it happened. I can observe in many ways the church was diminished because there were many people sitting around the periphery of church or in the buildings of church that had really small intention of honoring the Lord. And when the sifting and the shaking began, they got shaken. I pray we see them come back. God is not bound by the limits that we know. And this often creates confusion when we see him at work. I have really good news. God is capable of overcoming our failed attempts to be good followers. Remember what he said to Peter: "Peter, I have prayed for you that after your faith fails, Peter, I've been praying for you. I know what's about to happen, Knucklehead. I'm praying for you". And Jesus intercedes for us.

Please, please do not imagine that Jesus's intercession on your behalf is something luxury. Without Jesus as our intercessor and our High Priest, we would have no imagination of a future. When we're reluctant to worship him, to be grateful, to give thanks, we are taking that reality that Jesus is our intercessor and our High Priest is the pathway forward for us. Again, we've been led to believe that we put our faith in so many other things and our pride and our affiliation and we're attached to this and there's so many of us or whatever. No, I belong to Jesus. He is the High Priest of my confession. The greatest honor of our lives is bearing his name. I wanna take a minute and walk through an idea that's a part of this struggle. And it was a place where the disciples had a great deal of difficulty. And if they had difficulty, Jesus recruited them, they did a pretty remarkable job of sharing the Jesus story with their world.

Is that a fair statement? And yet this was one point where it seems to me that they really wrestled to get their brains around the allegiance between Jesus in their lives and what that meant and the other commitments of their lives. And I think we struggle with that as well. In Luke chapter 13, Jesus is entering Jerusalem. Jesus didn't live in Jerusalem. His ministry was not based out of Jerusalem. He visited Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the epicenter of Israelite life in the first century. The temple was there. It's the national bank. It's the point of national identification. The people are directed to go there three times a year to worship. The Herod's Temple is one of the wonders of the ancient world. But Jesus chose a sleepy little fishing village on the shores of Galilee. But he visits Jerusalem, and Jerusalem will be the center of the conflict he has with the power brokers because he is threatening them.

In Luke 13, he's entering Jerusalem. "Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I've longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Now Jesus is the greatest of all the Hebrew prophets. Greater than Isaiah or Jeremiah or whomever you might put at the top of that list in your imagination. And Jesus is speaking about the future of Jerusalem. Did you hear him? Luke heard him. Peter, James, and John heard him. It wasn't lost to them. He said, "Your house will be left to you desolate".

Desolate is a fancy word for empty. There won't be anybody left here. You have persecuted the prophets. He said, "It wasn't my choice for you. I wanted to gather you together, like a hen would gather her chicks, but you wouldn't have it and now your house will be left to you desolate". They're not idle words. They're not complicated. It's not a one-time statement. Same chapter, in fact, I've used the same author for this because I wanted you to see. Luke is presenting to us a theme of Jesus's ministry.

Luke 19: "As he approached Jerusalem and he saw the city". This is his triumphal entry. We celebrate that on Palm Sunday, this victorious day of Jesus coming into the city of Jerusalem as a conquering King. As he approached the city, what did he do? "He wept over it. He said, 'If even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it's hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you didn't recognize the time of God's coming to you.'"

Again, this is the greatest of all the Hebrew prophets. His friends were there that day. They've heard what he said. It's recounted in multiple Gospels. This isn't some side story, it's not incidental. What Jesus is describing is the siege of the city. It would have been very apparent to them. It was the most common means of warfare in the first century. If an attacking army came to a city, Jerusalem was a walled city, you would deploy your troops around the city. You wouldn't allow anybody to come in or to go out, you would starve them into submission. And it's what Jesus described. He said, "Your enemies will build an embankment against you in order to..."

The weakest points in the wall of the city were either the gates because they were typically made of wood or metal. They could be burned or they could be battered open. Or they would pick some part of the wall that was the most approachable. And you would build an earthen ramp up to it, so you could push a siege engine, something to batter the wall, a battering ram, up the earthen ramp, so you could batter the wall. If I could take you to the Mount of Olives today, and we could stand on that hill looking westward at the city of Jerusalem, there's the Kidron Valley and then there's the wall of the Temple Mount, the retaining wall of Herod's Temple Mount from Jesus's day. And about half of it is covered. There's a Muslim cemetery there. But it's built in what remains of the Roman siege wall, the earthen wall that the Romans built up against the foundation of Herod's Temple. They came in 70 AD and fulfilled what Jesus said. If we put it in contemporary language, he said, "The missiles will rain down on your city, the drones will drop bombs, the enemy will murder the children in the streets of your city". It's what Jesus said to them.

Hey, let's make a decision. We won't turn back, we won't stop. We won't hesitate. We will stand with an unyielding determination to honor Jesus. Let's pray:

Holy Spirit, give us the boldness we need to stand for your truth in this season, in Jesus's name, amen.

Are you Human?:*