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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Embracing God's Provision - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Embracing God's Provision - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Embracing God's Provision - Part 1
TOPICS: Freedom From Worry, Provision

We're gonna continue the theme that we have been working on, "Freedom From Worry". Specifically, this weekend, embracing God's provision for our lives. God has not left us without his supernatural provision. Just as he brought the children of Israel through the Sinai Peninsula with manna and pillars of clouds and pillars of fire and quail and water and everything that they needed, God has made provision for your life and my life in this unique season of human history. You can trust him. He's a faithful God. We're talking specifically about freedom from worry. Anxiety, worry, and fear are prevalent in our world today, and they're prevalent in the church.

And through this study, we have realized or acknowledged that anxiety and worry and fear will erode, disable, minimize, diminish expressions of faith in your life. That to the degree that you tolerate, encourage, sustain, or participate in worry, anxiety, and fear, you diminish the opportunity for expressions of faith in your life. So this isn't something casual. It's not a trivial discussion. Our need for God and his power at work on our behalf is an everyday necessity.

And I wanna start in Matthew chapter 6 with a presentation that Jesus made. It's recorded in Matthew 6 and in Luke's Gospel. We'll look at Matthew. Jesus is speaking, he said, "Why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They don't labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothed the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow was thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well".

It's a very straightforward passage. In many respects, it's a simple passage. The language is not complex, the structure and with which it's put together is not complicated. It's very direct; the words are very available to us. And, you know, I think for the most part, we've ignored it. And I think we've taken that passage and we've just kind of set it aside, we said, "We're not sure what Jesus meant, but he couldn't have meant what he said because worry's far too prevalent in our lives". If he had said in that passage, "Don't wear red," I suspect there'd be less red in the church today. But he said, "Don't worry," and worry has proliferated, so we really haven't taken him that seriously. I would submit to you that Jesus gave us a perspective that, if we will embrace it, will change our lives.

Now, there's something to me that is missing in that passage. Something Jesus didn't address that, to me, is glaring in its absence: he didn't talk about big picture issues. He didn't talk about social injustice. He didn't talk about violence, the attitude of human beings towards others, our proclivity towards destruction. There's some big picture global themes that Jesus avoided altogether. I mean, after all, he was in a 1st century Israel that was dominated by Romans, occupied. He could have gathered a great deal of momentum from the Israelis if he'd been willing to acknowledge the injustice of Rome's occupation. But he left all the political discussion aside. He left those out, you know, if you and I are gonna have a discussion about God's perspective on our world, we'll typically reach for the lofty and the global and the big picture, Jesus left all that on the table.

When he spoke to the heart of the matter, he spoke to things that are far more personal to us, and the focus of worry, at least in this passage, is far more personal. He said, "Why do you worry about what you'll eat or what you'll wear or shelter for your lives"? They're the essentials. With no food, no clothing, no shelter, social injustice is not really a big issue for you. He cut to the heart of the matter. The things that have the power to totally disrupt, to totally interrupt the essentials of our lives. He said, "You don't have to worry about the most necessary things". You just don't have to because God knows that you need them. In fact, in those last two verses, he really summarizes his whole presentation. He said, "The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them".

If your life is totally captivated by the pursuit of stuff, food and clothing and shelter, if your life is dominated by that set of concerns, the category Jesus placed us in is pagan, godless. And then in the very next verse, he gives us an assignment. He says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". It's a very remarkable invitation. He's inviting us to choose a life path that is different from those who aren't in relationship with God. And it's really, in essence, a priority statement. He said, "Seek first," let this be your first priority before you get overly invested in stuff and things and accumulating. He said, "First," above everything else, "seek the kingdom of God and a right standing with God. Let that be your heart's desire".

Now, the context of this discussion is important. It's in the context of, "Do not worry". He says it repeatedly over and over again. "Don't worry. Don't let anxiety, don't let fear dominate your life. Seek first the kingdom of God". Well, our reality is, worry has invaded our lives. Anxiety and fear are highly prevalent, so it must be that we've struggled with Jesus's invitation towards priority. This isn't the only time Jesus used this language. In fact, I suspect you're far more familiar with it than you may think. The message Jesus preached throughout his time, as he ministered in Israel, was, "The kingdom of God is at hand".

When he sent the disciples out in pairs, whether it was the 12 or the 72, he said, "Tell the people the kingdom of God is at hand". When Jesus's followers came to him and said, "Teach us to pray. John taught his disciples to pray, won't you teach us to pray"? Jesus taught them a prayer that I suspect you know. He said, "Pray this prayer: 'Our Father, who's in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Your? Your kingdom come, your? Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.'" Before Jesus said anything about praying for your daily bread, before he said, "Pray that your sins be forgiven," or before he said to forgive those who sinned against you, he said to us, "Pray first your kingdom come, let your will be done", how do you suppose that will is going to be done? Through us! Then he said then we can talk about bread, and then we can talk about our needs for forgiveness and to forgive.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you". One of the things we've established in this study is that worry and anxiety and fear typically rage in our lives, in our heart, and our mind, our emotions and our thoughts. So the pursuit of the kingdom of God in the context of worry has to do with our emotions and our thoughts. Now, unfortunately, for most of us, expressions of religion are external. Dress this way, sit in this place on this time during this day of the week. Don't drink that, don't say that. Don't look at that. We're familiar with this outside-in approach to faith. But Jesus said the pursuit of the kingdom of God begins in our thoughts, our minds, and our emotions. True change is from the inside out.

Jesus has given us a resource. He's made some provision for us. Look in John 14. Now, in the context of John's Gospel, the chronology of John's Gospel, by John 14, Jesus is very near his betrayal. He's just about finished his earthly ministry. He's about done with his training session with the disciples, and in John 14, we get to listen, and he's giving them some last minute instructions before his betrayal and his suffering begins. So he's trying to set them in a place to enable them to thrive. It's John 14, in verse 26. Jesus said, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I've said to you".

Let's take that verse for just a moment. Jesus is telling the disciples he's leaving, and he said, "My Father is going to send you a Counselor, the Holy Spirit, and he'll send him in my name, he'll teach you all things and will remind you of everything I've said to you". Why do we need to be reminded of what Jesus said? Because we leak. But it isn't just a memory issue. We have to be reminded of what Jesus said because Jesus is inviting us to a response to the world that is not typical. When Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," the language is easily understood, but the invitation is not typical. Think with me about what you know about the disciples and their time with Jesus. He recruited them, they willingly followed him.

Jesus spoke in the simplest of language. He used images and parables of things that were familiar to them, fishing and sheep and very common imagery for them, but you can, as you read the gospels, the disciples are accomplished people, remarkable people, actually, because in Jesus's absence, they took his message throughout the entire Roman world in a very narrow window of time in the face of tremendous opposition. Very significant people. But if you didn't know the outcome of their lives, when you read the Gospels, you would think Jesus had recruited from the slow group because they're not prepared for what he's asking them to see. They watch him walk on the water, and they struggle with that. The first miracle they saw him do was at a wedding.

Now, you know he was a miracle worker. He got 12 young men to show up at a wedding. And he made wine out of water. They watched him raise the dead. They were in the boat when he said to the wind and the waves, "Hush," and it grew still. They didn't have a frame of reference for this. They were accustomed to going to synagogue and hearing reading from the scriptures. They were accustomed to discussions of religious rules. They had long lists of dos and don't's. They understood that their genetics were important; they've been born to the right group of people and they celebrated the right holidays and they knew the right language, but Jesus was inviting them to an awareness of the world that they were struggling to process. They needed help.

And Jesus said, "Now I'm leaving you. I'm not gonna be here to help you anymore, but my Father is going to send you a Counselor, the Holy Spirit, and he will remind you of everything I've said to you". May I very humbly submit to you, we need to be more cooperative with the Holy Spirit than we have been. You know, a typical weekend around here, we'll have people from about 50 different traditions worship together. It's wonderful. But almost all of us come with some preconceptions, and when it comes to the person in the work of the Holy Spirit, almost invariably we begin with statements about what we won't do. "Well, you know, I don't know. That part I don't believe," or, "I'm not going here," or, "Don't ask me to believe that," or, "I'm not interested in that," or, "This is what I believe," or, you know, "Aunt so and so said".

I appreciate your aunt, but unless she's gonna be on the throne when you get there, she's not the governing body. And I wanna suggest to you that all of us would benefit by opening our heart to the person and the work of the Holy Spirit without preconception. You don't have to be afraid of him. He's not gonna make you roll on the floor and bark like a dog. Swing on a rope, give away all your money. Stop taking your medicine. He's not foolish. You don't, he will never violate your free will. If he were gonna violate your will, he would have stopped us from sinning long before we ever considered it. Amen. Or on me, but it's true. So you don't need to be afraid of the Holy Spirit. He's not an it, he's a person. And it's Jesus's provision for us. He said, "I'm gonna send him in my name. He's coming with my authority. He's coming with my power".

What is the role of the Holy Spirit in your life in our world today? To help us understand who Jesus is and what he's accomplished. The Holy Spirit doesn't have a message apart from Jesus. He's not establishing some new doctrine, some new denomination. The story the Holy Spirit is bringing to us is Jesus's story. You needn't fear him. And look at Jesus's next statement. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I don't give to you as the world gives. Don't let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid". The last sentence captures my attention. He's talking to the disciples, he says, "Don't let your hearts be troubled and don't be afraid". If he says that, it's a certainty that they were two things troubled and terrified. And Jesus said, "Look, don't be troubled and don't be afraid".

Now, what's the remedy? He said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace, I give to you. Not a peace like the world gives". We understand peace in the world. Peace in the world is a negotiation. People are at odds, circumstances are at odd, and we negotiate, we compromise, we give a little bit, we meet in the middle. You get half the baby. We want to minimize conflict, we want to take the temperature down a little bit. We understand what peace means. But Jesus said, "I'm not giving you peace like the world knows. I leave my peace with you". Jesus certainly didn't lead a life that was free of conflict.

In fact, his life is defined almost by conflict. I mean, as an infant the babies in Bethlehem are all slaughtered. His parents have to take him and run for their lives with their new child. Because of the hatred expressed towards Jesus, when he begins his public ministry, no matter what he does, no matter how remarkable the miracle it seems, or how great the expression of the power of God, or how wise the teaching he shares, it's responded to with antagonism. Even Satan himself shows up to tempt him while he's fasting and praying. I mean, he wasn't in a bar at midnight, he was fasting and praying. Most of us don't associate great temptation with times of pursuing God. We associate temptation with times of ungodliness.

Jesus's life is framed by this constant pushback. "My peace I leave with you," he says. "I give you my peace". What you don't find in Jesus is anxiety or worry or fear. In fact, the disciples, most of whom were fishermen, are in a boat with him, terrified they're about to drown, so they wake Jesus up. They don't want him to drown unaware. And he speaks to the wind and the waves. When he confronts death, he's not intimidated, he says, "Oh, sit up," and the young man comes to life again. When he's confronted with devastating disease, Bartimaeus, he says, "Bartimaeus, what do you want"? And Bartimaeus says, "I wanna see". And Jesus says, "Oh, I don't know. We can do that". And Bart could see. His life isn't plagued by worry and anxiety.

Now, he's confronted with challenges and difficulties. Look at 2 Timothy 1, in verse seven. It says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind". God has not given us a spirit of fear. See, Jesus's peace is peace with a foundation, not the absence of conflict. Our peace is grounded in the redemptive work of Jesus, in an expression of power in our lives that lifts us above the anxieties. Remember what he said? You don't have to worry about what you'll eat or what you'll wear or shelters, and God knows that you need that. And he'll care for you. The battlefield, we've said, is in our mind and our thoughts and our emotions.

See, this isn't the approach to Christianity that is most familiar to us. What we're typically told is to be a Christ follower means you respond to an invitation and you say the sinner's prayer, most of you know it. "God, I'm a sinner and I need a Savior". Maybe you take a step and you're baptized, you get dunked in a little bit of water. Maybe there's some class, a little bit of learning you tuck into your portfolio. Maybe even serve a little bit and contribute a little bit of money to the process.

You think, "You know, I pretty much got my God thing gone". And we tend to think of our spiritual journey in terms of establishing our ultimate destination when our life is done, but the Jesus story talks to us about what we do with our days under the sun. It's not just about an eternal destiny, it's about the days we've been given as a sacred trust. And Jesus gave us a life assignment, he said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness". He said, "Why are you worrying about all that other stuff? He'll give you that. Seek first my kingdom. My peace I give to you". But there's a battle. There was a battle for Jesus.

See, I think we mistakenly think that Jesus led this triumphant life and that he danced on the waves and he could do stuff with water that we can't do and blind eyes didn't, so Jesus just kind of lived above the fray. Well, that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says that he was made a human being and that he was tempted in every point just like we are, one difference: yet, he was without sin. The best window, I know we get into that, is in Gethsemane. Just before Jesus is betrayed, within minutes of his betrayal, we get to listen to Jesus pray. Remember the prayer? He's in that olive garden. Olive growth.

And the disciples can't even stay awake to pray with him, and Jesus says, "Father, if there's any other way, I'd rather go that way. God, if there's any other option, if there's any other expression of your power, if there's any other miracle, if there's anything else you can do, God". And the Bible said he was in such turmoil that he sweat blood. A physical expression of anxiety. "God, I don't wanna do this. God, this isn't gonna be fun". He's not unaware. "God, no. But if there's no other way, not my will, but your will be done".

Is it possible we have misunderstood what it means to be Christ followers? How often do our prayers sound more like, "God, let my will be done on earth. God, let my will capture the attention of heaven". "God, this isn't gonna be fun, and I know it can't be from you. Not my will be done, but yours". What awaited Jesus was horrific, but the results of that brought the kingdom of God to an entirely different place in the world, and all of us have benefited from that. Remember Jesus's instructions? Matthew 6 again, "Seek first the kingdom of God. My peace," he said, "I give it to you".
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