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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Authority In The Heavens - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Authority In The Heavens - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Authority In The Heavens - Part 1
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity, Authority

I wanna continue. We've been working through this series on clarifying our identity. And on this Palm Sunday weekend, it seemed appropriate. This is the day when the church pauses in our annual calendar to remember Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. It was a day of great triumph, of victory, perhaps the greatest public celebration of Jesus that the city of Jerusalem would see, until he returns to that city. It was also a bittersweet day. It was the day Jesus prophesied over the city that the Romans would build a siege against them, that the stones of the city would be torn apart, and their children murdered in the streets, that God's judgment was coming to the city. It's hard to reconcile that sometimes.

The triumph of Jesus's arrival, the Messiah coming into the city of the King and the pronouncement that judgment would come. God's love for us, as great as it is, doesn't separate us from God's discipline. It's very important. I think the church, we have had an emphasis on the blessings of God and the grace of God and the mercy of God. I believe in those. I'm the poster child for those. I'm pretty sure if you look "mercy" up on Wikipedia, you'll find my picture, as someone in need of. On the other hand, the justice of God is an equal part of his character. So we've been walking through this little study on identifying with Christ. Identity, we're told these days, is a very confusing issue, that it's a multiple choice question, and you can choose any way you like. In fact, it's entirely up to you.

I don't believe that's good science, nor a good pattern for our wellbeing. But I would submit to you that your identity in Christ is the single most important criteria in defining your existence. It's the one to whom we belong. The Bible's very clear that we belong to Jesus. And every other description of you, your success, your academic career, your education, the accent with which you speak, your height, whatever else might be a descriptor for your life is secondary to the fact that we belong to Jesus.

And our goal is to learn to acknowledge that we're Christ followers in every context in which we find ourselves, so that we don't compartmentalize ourselves to a few minutes on Sunday, and then the rest of our lives, we belong to Jesus. But I wanna begin the discussion by acknowledging the season we're pushing through, the reason our identity seems to be such an important topic is there's so much confusion around it. The theater of the absurd continues to release new productions. I'm amazed at their productivity and their creativity. When I think they couldn't do anything more bizarre than last week, they seem to find something new. This week, a federal judge said that people who are in our nation illegally have a right to the Second Amendment. No fool, a federal judge said if you're here illegally, you have a right to bear arms. They've been telling us for years, if you're a legal citizen here, they'd like to diminish your right to bear arms. You can't make this stuff up.

The list is lengthy and it grows every week and, to be completely candid, I believe it will continue, and honestly, it will escalate. I believe we would all be wise to pay attention and to ask God for his understanding. I don't think we can any longer afford to gather in our churches and simply rehearse the facts we know of our conversion and anticipate heaven. I think we have to be prepared to be salt and light, and to do that, we have to be aware of the world in which we live. Once upon a time, we did cross-cultural training amongst Christians. And if you're going into another culture, they would tell you to learn the attributes and the characteristics of the culture so that you wouldn't be offensive. To learn a bit of the language, even if it was a short-term initiative.

I was in the Philippines one time. I was there for a bit longer, so I thought I was comfortable with the language. You can make some really foolish mistakes. Pride will take you to some places you shouldn't go. We were invited into someone's home for dinner. And at the end of the meal, I was using all of my language skills. Now, I knew I had a vocabulary of about 10 words, but I was trying to appear far more eloquent. The end of the meal, they asked me if I wanted more dessert. And I said no, and I patted my stomach and I meant to say, "I'm full".

What I announced to everyone that was gathered was that I was pregnant, and that was before we knew that was even a possibility for discussing, when I ask you to pay attention to the culture in which we live, I'm not asking you to be absorbed by it or distracted by it, but I would submit to you that you can't be salt and light without awareness of the culture in which you live. And we live in a rapidly changing culture. And so, I don't believe we any longer have the privilege of simply gathering in our churches and rehearsing our historical faith. I don't think we can lose sight of that. We have to understand and to be able to articulate it, but we have to understand. The propaganda around us escalates day over day. The censorship, the limiting of free speech, is now part of our existence.

I never imagined we would say that. For most of my adult life, I imagined that that was protected by our First Amendment. That's no longer true. The reasons are intriguing. Sometimes they tell us it's algorithms. Wouldn't you like to meet Mr. Algorithm? Or it's labels that they attach to things that we say or think or feel or express. They'll call it misinformation or disinformation or malinformation. The language keeps shifting, but the reality is the same: it's censorship. We never imagined that you had to say something that was true in order to have the right to speak. In fact, my lifetime, we have spent defending some of the most heinous things because we believe people had a right to say what they wanted to. That right seems to have been at least set aside if not totally disregarded. We're watching a disregard for law and justice that has never been a part of our nation to the extent that it is today.

Maybe the most striking, and I think intuitively, you know this is true because it's rendered us quiet. It's made us act as if we're in a bit of a stupor. We don't notice, we don't see, so we don't respond. The plainest expression is that I find that good citizens, people that are occupying their space doing the things that would be imagined to be appropriate, are afraid of the government and the power that they exercise, and that is wrong. That should not be the truth. And we should never accept that. We should never coalesce to that. It's a form of bullying that will lead to tyranny and authoritarian domination of everyone. This is our generation. What will be said of us? The awkward part of this discussion is I believe without any question that the church has an assignment to be the conscience of the culture. We're the ones that have to use our voice.

Now, a casual glance at history will tell you that we've often been a bit late to the party. We have been the voice that said every human being should be treated with equality and dignity. And so it was the moral authority of scripture that fueled the Civil Rights Movement. Our timing on that was not great, but we still stood for the moral authority of scripture. We did the same for women's rights. We've done the same for children's rights. The history of freedom and liberty that has come to civilization has predominantly and most frequently come from the authority of a biblical worldview. This isn't just ancient history, folks. We have failed to find our voice while 60 million children have been swept away. For so long, we said it was the law of the land as if we were powerless to object to heinous laws. We're not. It's no longer the law of the land, but the drumbeat for the privilege of murdering our children continues.

Will we find our voice? It isn't clear. It isn't clear. Well, I wanna start biblically with this notion that we belong to Christ. We've stated it in a variety of ways. But in Galatians chapter 3 and verse 29, it says, "If you belong to Christ, then you're Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise". What a wonderful passage of scripture. "If you belong to Christ," that little two-letter preposition poses a question. You don't necessarily belong to Christ. You have to choose that. You have to willingly submit to him. God will not dominate your life. The Holy Spirit will never dominate you. If it's something that dominates you, it's not the Holy Spirit.

You know this to be true, your life experience underscores it. Either yourself or people you've cared about have been caught in cycles that they felt powerless to break, whether it was addiction or habit or behavior. Those things are not driven by the Holy Spirit. They're driven by powerful, unclean things, but it's not the Spirit of God. God will never dominate you. He won't manipulate you. He won't intimidate you. He'll put before you an invitation. You'll have to make the decision to yield your life to the Lordship of Jesus. If you do that, if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the Christ, the incarnate Son of God, then there's another choice that comes behind that.

I think it's a logical choice, but it's one that many will avoid. You choose him as Lord of your life. That has little to do with the reality of who Jesus was. It has everything to do with the position that he occupies in your life. If he's Lord of your life, you serve him. You serve at his pleasure. It's no longer my time and my calendar and my choices or my day. I serve at his pleasure. It'll take us a lifetime to live that out, to understand that, to grow up in that, to mature in that, to come under the authority of Jesus. He is Lord of our lives and we serve him as King. And Paul is reminding the church in Galatia that if you belong to Christ, you're Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.

You know, for a while now, I have been introducing you to some disciplines with the objective of strengthening your faith and the way that you can communicate it to the world. So there's some things we have shared together. For a while now we've talked about watch, listen, think, and act, to pay attention to the world in which we live, to be culturally engaged. We've worked on a Bible reading plan so that we systematically read through our Bible. Ten or fifteen minutes a day, you can read through the whole Bible from the table of contents to the maps in a year. We've raised the emphasis on that in recent years. We've done it as a congregation for quite a season. But the necessity of being grounded routinely in a systematic reading of the God's Word is an essential in a season of tremendous instability.

We learned to do a little exercise called "Let's pray," so that we could take prayer outside of a worship service and introduce prayer into the places where we work and where we go with our kids and when we gather with our friends, so that prayer doesn't remain something that's distant from us and apart from us: it's integrated into the way that we live our lives. How many of you had a "Let's pray" moment at least once in the last, what, 30 days? What are the rest of you doing? We weren't bidding. This wasn't an auction. You weren't about to buy something. You were acknowledging a godly behavior. That's a good thing to do at church. Well, I wanna introduce another idea because I believe the season we're in is intensifying. I wanna ask you to begin the habit of memorizing scripture.

Now, you're not limited to a verse that I would share with you. But I will, as a matter of routine, bring some verses to you to memorize. And I think this is a good one to start with: Galatians 3:29: "If you belong to Christ, then you're Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise". I think it's a good place to start because it's short and, for some of you, that type of memory work will be regaining a habit. You're not too old and you're not too young and you're not too busy. It's not unimportant. You need the Word of God in your heart. It becomes a resource for the Spirit of God to illumine your thinking. It will bolster you when you're discouraged, it will give you strength when you're overwhelmed with what's happening. It'll put a resource within you when you face challenges, and until you've cultivated the habit of memorizing scripture, I don't really believe you can imagine how valuable it is.

So please don't just wait me out on this. You know I'll move on in a moment and if you'll watch the carpet carefully enough, you can kind of slip through this little moment here and maybe it won't mean you. But I do mean everybody. When you get together with your friends or in your Small Groups or when you go to dinner, do a little self-check: "Anybody memorize the latest verse"? Hold one another accountable. Let's put the Word of God in our hearts. Songs stick in our heads. If you're a sports person or you have a fantasy team, you know the statistics of an unlimited number of people. If you like to cook, you got more recipes stuck in your head. Whatever your hobbies are, you don't have any trouble learning the details around that. If you play golf and you know the rules, you can memorize the whole Bible. It's shorter than the rules of golf. I took that little verse and I put it in a proclamation, just a summary sentence that takes those central points.

I want you to say it with me. I put it in your notes. Let's read it together. "I belong to Christ, I'm Abraham's seed and an heir according to the promise"! Let's do it again. "I belong to Christ, I'm Abraham's seed and an heir according to the promise"! Now, the piece of that that could be a little blind to us if you're newer to church world is: What difference does it make if I have anything to do with Abraham and his seed? Am I part of his garden? Well, no, it has to do with from whom you've descended. But what's the connection with Abraham, and why is it relevant? I gave you just a couple of verses because it's biblically very significant. We go all the way back to the book of Genesis when God recruits Abram, and he says, "Abram," it's Genesis 12.

The whole story of scripture changes, the tone of the narrative changes, in Genesis 12. "Abram, if you'll leave your home and follow me, go to the land that I will show you, I'll make you into a mighty nation. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you," wow. I brought you just a couple of the follow-up passages. Genesis 18: "Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him". Can you imagine? God said, "Every nation on the earth will be blessed through Abraham". In the New Testament, some of you prefer it, Galatians 3. Says, "God redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles". Gentile is the New Testament word for "You're not Jewish".

If you're not Jewish, you're a Gentile. If you don't believe that, ask someone who's Jewish. They understand it, they will explain it to you. "That the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit". God pronounced a blessing upon Abraham that extends into eternity. He made a covenant with him. And the New Testament teaches us that by faith in Jesus, you and I become beneficiaries of that covenant. We're not separate from it. We're not apart from it. Although we don't have access to it by physical descent, by faith in Jesus we have been grafted in, and that covenant informs our lives and our future. Galatians 3, verse 8: "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham".

That's a staggering statement that way back in the beginning chapters of the book of Genesis, God gave to Abraham a vision of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, a Bedouin. Long before Jerusalem was in the story, long before the nation of Israel was a discussion, God gave to Abraham a vision of what he would do in the earth. See, I think we've accepted a very diminished form of our faith. We think of it so often in terms of eternity, where we're going to go when we die, and that certainly matters and it's important, but I would submit to you it's very important to be engaged with the purposes of God in the earth, that God will give you a vision beyond yourself. He'll allow you to make an impact beyond your years under the sun.

If you will serve him with gladness and joy and humility and the fear of God, God will bring an impact to your life beyond anything you could do in your own strength, ability, resources, or power. And we have traded that away, almost like Esau traded his birthright. We've kind of said, "Oh, that doesn't really matter to me". We've lived in a place where we had so much, so much abundance and so much opportunity, and there were so many things we could do, we thought it was stable and reasonable. I mean, we've kind of relegated God to an eternal security plan. When in reality, our faith is intended to transform our lives day by day. Abraham had a vision of the good news about Jesus millennia before he was born.

What are you meditating on? What are you dreaming about? What are you longing for? What are the aspirations of your life? What are the connections to the kingdom of God and the purposes of God? Or have you been co-opted to a degree of our current culture that it's almost blinded us? The Bible talks about being blinded by the God of this age. Look at John chapter 8. This is Jesus speaking. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, he said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and he was glad". They're offended. They said, "You're not 50 years old. How can you tell us you knew Abraham"? He said, "Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day. He saw me. Abraham understood me".

That's a stunning statement. We act as if God is such a mystery, that he's unknowable, but I'm gonna go to heaven. How much time do we spend with our Bibles open, putting the Word of God in our hearts, saying, "God, I'm interested, what are you doing in the earth"? Not just presenting our shopping list and our wish list for where God would demonstrate his power to bring freedom or the things that we need, but actually leaning forward in our hearts with our thoughts and whatever God entrusts us. "God, let your purposes come forth in this generation". We've almost lost this, church, we've been so co-opted by this idea that I wanna go to heaven. We share our faith and that's the only objective, it seems, so often. I wanna be prepared for that transition between time and eternity. But I wanna spend my days under the sun serving a Most High God, don't you?

We all have assignments. We've got routines and responsibilities and things that have to be done and things that we would like to do. I'm not trying to diminish that. But whether you're a butcher or a baker or a candlestick maker, you approach those things as an ambassador for the King. That's why we go to those places. He will prosper you. He'll bring good things to you. We've lost this for far too long. We've got to bring it back. If they say you can't pray in schools, we say, "Well, you may not... we may not... you watch us pray in school, all day, every day". They can't take prayer out of our schools until we take prayer out of our hearts and out of our lives. It's who we are. We're a people who pray. They don't like the Ten Commandments posted. Post them in your heart, they'll leak out of you all the time.

You know it's true. If you're a UT fan, it leaks out of you all the time. We have to clean up behind you. If you're an Alabama fan, we're all happy. Satan quit, so we got a chance to win again. I'm kidding. Do not send me an email. What you care about, you talk about. And the reason those things have been removed is we didn't attach value to them 'cause we thought we were going to heaven. We didn't have to pay any attention to that because we were going on spring break or planning our summer trip or whatever else we were gonna do next. And we were far more excited about that than anything else. Our kids are clever. They soak that up. They recognize that, they understand that. It doesn't take very long, two or three generations, and your faith is so diminished.

And some knucklehead says, "I don't believe in God," and they go, "Well, okay, whatever". We have to change. We have to change. We have the privilege of changing. The biblical word for that is repentance. I don't believe that the cause of the problems we face as a culture right now are truly the responsibility because of the depravity of the wicked. I believe it's the indifference, the ambivalence, of the faithful. We need a transformation. To be completely candid with you, I think we have to prepare ourselves to walk through some of God's judgments.

We have presided over immorality and ungodliness. We've institutionalized it, and it's been awkward for us to do much about it. It appears, just as an observer, that most times we're more afraid of the consequences of embracing the truth than we are for the consequences of ignoring God's truth. We understand there's a consequence if we stand up and say, "I don't agree with that," or "I don't think you should do that," or "I don't believe that behavior is right". There's professional consequences, there's consequences to our families, there could be consequences for our children. We understand that, so we've been silent, not just this week or this month, for quite a season.

Hey, the idea that we belong to Christ is not oppressive, it is the identity of our lives, and with that identity comes amazing benefits. Please don't imagine that when you begin to grapple with this notion that we're his, that you're forfeiting something. It's an inheritance that comes to every one of us. Let's pray:

Holy Spirit, we need your help. Open our hearts and our minds to who we are in Christ, the great benefits of that, the privileges it brings to our lives, just as well as the responsibilities. We thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.

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