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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Listening To Jesus

Allen Jackson - Listening To Jesus

Allen Jackson - Listening To Jesus
TOPICS: Freedom From Worry

The topic for the weekend is "Freedom from Worry". I wanna continue the theme that we began last weekend and we're gonna carry forward for a bit. Particularly this weekend, we wanna talk about listening to Jesus. Now, my observation is this: worry, anxiety, and fear are an epidemic in our culture. And it's the same inside the church as it is out. There's really not a distinguishable difference that I can tell between those of us who are Christ followers and those who aren't. So it's a legitimate topic and we need to hear what Jesus says.

Let's start in Matthew 6. Jesus is speaking. He said, "I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you'll eat or drink; or about your body, what you'll wear. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own". Amen to that.

And then in Philippians 4: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". Doesn't take a preacher to mess that up. Jesus said very plainly, very repetitively, "Do not worry". But let me ask you a question: What's the biblical language for doing something when Jesus tells you not to do it? If Jesus says, "Don't do it," and you choose to do it, what's the Bible call that behavior? Sin.

So technically speaking, at least, from Jesus's perspective, at least in that passage of Matthew, we have to conclude that worry is a sin, to which almost all of us go, "Yeah. But you know, not like a bad one. It's like an okay one. You know, you could come to church and say, 'I'm really struggling with worry,' and people give you a hug and say, 'Well, let me pray for you.' If you come to church drunk, maybe not so much". So, in one sense, I would submit to you, we've been pretty casual with what Jesus had to say. And I get that. What I wanna submit to you is we need a God experience on this theme. I'm of the opinion that if Jesus says not to do something, he has our best interest at heart. He's not being meddlesome. He's not trying to limit us. He's concerned about our wellbeing, and we've missed something.

Something has eluded us. We have tolerated something in our lives, in our thoughts, in our emotions. We've tolerated something, allowed it to flourish, that in reality is destructive, that Jesus has said, "Don't do that". And we need a revelation from the Spirit of God. That's more than a study. That's more than just a reading. That's more than just answering a question. And I suspect we need that kind of a revelation, illumination wake-up on what Jesus said about worry because I think we've really accepted it. We've just kind of said, "Oh, you know, it's all right". We even have language for it.

People say, "I don't worry much, but I do have something of a gift for planning. I just have a gift for contingencies. I can look at life and other people's lives and I can hear their stories and I can pretty much see the trouble that's coming before it gets there. And I can write it out, and I can plan for it and think about it and meditate. It'll even keep me up at night. Now, I'm not worried about it. I'm just planning for it". Or maybe we use more religious language.

"You know, Pastor, I'm not much of a worrier, but I am called to pray and I gather requests from far and wide. I'll listen to anybody. Like to talk to them about their problems. I can even point out some problems they might have if they continue going on the path they're on. Maybe it's prophetic, I don't know. I just like to pray about things that might happen. Haven't happened yet. I'll even be awake into night. I'll pray all night long. Now, I'm not worried, mind you".

Now, I find we'll use all kinds of language to wrap the anxiety and the stress, the fear that we carry. And Jesus said very plainly, "Don't do it". That's the conclusion that it's a sin. The impact, I think we need to take a minute with: worry will erode God's best for your life. It will erode it, diminish it. To erode something means you weaken it bit by bit, step by step, over small increments over time, until finally it crumbles. I have a good friend that's battling an infection right now. And it started rather simply. He just had a little pain in his body and it grew and he was uncomfortable and then he couldn't walk and then they discovered that it had attacked his bone structure and it was eroding the bones in his body.

Now, that's serious stuff. Crumbling, attacking the structural integrity of his person. That's what worry will do to God's purposes for your life. It's biblical. I didn't just make this up. I put a parable in your notes. It's in Mark 4, I just gave you a portion of it because I think you know this parable. It's the parable of the sower. Remember that story? Jesus said a farmer went out to sow seed and the seed, he sowed it randomly and it fell on four distinct different types of soil, and each different type of soil gets a different outcome.

Well, when Jesus was alone with the disciples, they asked him for the interpretation of that parable and that's what we're gonna read. We're gonna read Jesus's analysis for just one type of soil: the thorny soil. Said, "Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word". These are people who hear the Word of God, they're not separate from it. They're not ignorant of it. They have heard God's Word. "But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things come in and choke the word". Circle those three words: "choke the word," and they make it unfruitful. Worry has the potential to make God's Word unfruitful in your life. You can know the truth, you can hear the truth, you can receive the truth. But if you tolerate and encourage worry and anxiety and fear, it can nullify the good things that God would bring to your life.

Now, there's three distinct things spelled out there. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth or the deceitfulness of riches. It's not the point of this lesson, but let's stop there just a minute because it's a topic that gets a lot of attention, stuff. The Bible does not say that wealth is evil. Don't let that get in your heart. Don't let it get in your heart that people that have more than you do are evil. That's a very destructive habit. It will isolate you from the blessings of God.

I will never forget, years ago, I was in a pastors' meeting and there were hundreds of us there and they invited a man to address us, whom I didn't know. Very distinguished looking guy. He was an older gentleman. Well, he was older than I was at the time. He's probably younger than I am now. But it's all relative, huh? But he came onto the stage and they introduced him and they said he'd been this remarkably successful businessman. He owned at the time, as a hobby, two professional sports teams.

So, I mean, he was doing okay. And I remember the question they put to him. They said, "What do you feel when you're with Christians"? And without hesitation, he said, "Most frequently, judged". He said, "What I typically feel, the sense I get, is they think I should be doing more than I'm doing or that I must have done something inappropriate to accumulate what I have". And he said, "It's really awkward on a lot of occasions". They said, "What do you wish Christians knew about you"? And he said, "Well, I think it'd probably be helpful if they knew I paid ten people to work full time just to give away money".

I haven't done that yet, but it awakened something in me because I was sitting there, kind of with the same attitude. You know, he could surely do more than he's doing. And if you don't guard your heart, you get some goofy ideas about stuff in your heart. Well, it's not bad. The Bible doesn't say that. The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. You don't have to have money to love it. You don't have to have a lot of stuff to be filled with envy and covetousness. That has nothing to do with your balance sheet or your bank balance. That's a heart condition. So be careful with that. I can give you an example. I like chocolate. I do. I have none at the moment.

Now, don't feel badly for me. I said that at 8:30 and somebody brought me chocolate after service. So I got some right over there, all right? And don't you touch it, I will break you. But I don't have any chocolate on my person at the moment, but that does not in any degree diminish my anticipation of that chocolate that's mine right over there. Well, you do the same thing with stuff. It's not about how much you have. The Bible doesn't say it's wrong. If yours is bothering you, bring it to me, I'll help you with it. I'll set you free. What the Bible does warn us about is that the wealth is deceptive. Now, to be deceived, is to believe something to be true that in reality is not true.

Wealth will cause you to believe things to be true about yourself that are not true. It'll make you think you earned it. And the Bible very clearly says, God is the one who gives us the ability to get wealth, that all the gold and all the silver belong to him. And that if you're blessed, it's a result of God's involvement in your life. I can't tell you how many people have come to me and said, "Pastor, you know, I heard that thing you said, but the reality is, I've worked hard. I went to school. I got a good education. I got up earlier and stayed up later. I put in more hours. I've been more clever. I've taken greater risks".

And I believe all of those factors can contribute to your effectiveness and your ability to do well. But the reality is you can do all of those things and not accumulate anything. It's when God adds his blessing, those efforts and those factors result in good things coming to you. God's the one who gives us the ability to get wealth. He can take it away, it's his. It's why he invites us to learn to give, to practice generosity, because it helps break the deception of wealth in our hearts. Wealth will cause you to believe that you can control your future, that you can take risk out of your life. It's a logical deception, but I have stood with too many people through the years to see the opposite be true.

I've been standing with them when the information came that some devastating thing had headed their way and all of their resources would do nothing to stop it. That's a terrifying place, if you've lived under the deceit that your stuff would protect you. See, we live under the authority of Almighty God. It's his desire to bless us. That's why Jesus said, don't worry about these things. God knows that you need them. He'll help you with that. He's not diminishing their significance. He's trying to redirect our attention.

There's a relationship between faith and worry. It's inverse. Faith diminishes as worry flourishes, or as your faith flourishes, your worry will diminish. Worry is the negative expression of what faith in God is. Worry, you're saying, "I don't think God can handle this, so I'm gonna pick it up and I'm gonna invest emotional energy, in my thoughts, in my anxiety". I'm not gonna change the outcome a bit. Jesus said, "You can't add one hour to your life". God can add years. He gave Hezekiah 10 more years, that fast. So he said, "Why would you do something that you don't have the control over"?

Matthews 8, there's an interesting story with Jesus and his disciples. He's on the Sea of Galilee with them, crossing the lake, and they get caught in a storm. It's a small boat. Let's read it. He said that there was, "a great storm arose, and the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus was asleep". They're not traveling on a cruise ship. This isn't a Carnival Cruise liner. They're in a small boat. It's open. A dozen guys would have filled it. And so the waves are, it says the waves are covering the boat. Now, I'm a good sleeper. I mean, you pretty much lean me against the wall and I can go to sleep. I have a gift. I'm not complaining, I appreciate it. But I don't think you could lay me, you couldn't lean me against the wall while you hosed me off with water and turned the fan on and I could sleep through it.

Well, Jesus is being sprayed with water in the midst of the winds that are blowing, sound asleep. But the disciples don't want him to drown unaware. "So they came to him and they woke him and they said, 'Lord, save us. We're perishing!' And Jesus said to them, 'Why are you afraid?'" Well, it might be the waves and the wind. "You men of little faith". That phrase intrigues me. Now, these are not just random people. These are Peter, James, and John. These are the crew Jesus has recruited, these are his best. And they know Jesus by now, they've seen him turn water into wine. They've seen him open blind eyes. They've picked up basketfuls of food after they've fed multitudes with much less, and they're afraid. And Jesus turns to them and says, "You men of little faith".

If you have an internal file folder of names you don't ever want attached to you, I do, one of them would be, I don't want Jesus to ever look at me and use my name and "person of little faith" in the same sentence. Do you? I wanna be a man of faith. I'm not sure I always achieve that, but I aspire to that. Let's contrast that with a story in Matthew 15, same gospel, same writer. This time, it's not one of Jesus's disciples; it's a woman, but she's not Jewish. So she has no covenant. She has no legal platform to approach Jesus. She's not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Very clearly, he's not in the business of helping the Gentiles, the pagan world. But this woman has a great need and she comes to Jesus and she will not be put off. She will not be rebuffed. They keep trying. She gets past every gatekeeper. She finally gets to Jesus. She presents her request and he's rather rude to her. He said, "I didn't come to help people like you," Living Bible, and she will not relent. And finally, Jesus answers her and that's the part I want you to see. It's Matthew 15:28: "Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! And your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour". No faith, no request granted, no help for her daughter. That woman's response had an impact on the outcome of her life.

Now, part of what I'm asking you to imagine is that your choices towards the Lord, how you manage your thoughts and your emotions have to do with what God can do in your life. And some will say, "Well, I've never thought about that," or "I don't believe that". It's why I'm taking a moment to read you the scriptures. It isn't about the family into which you're born or the tradition that you observe. It's about your thoughts and your emotions. In that passage in Matthew 6, he gave us some warnings and some promises and you need to be aware of both. He warned us against worrying about some very specific categories of things. He said, don't worry about things predominantly that are under the sun. I labeled them all with "F," it just helps me remember them: fashion. He said, "Don't worry about clothes". "Don't worry about food, what you're gonna eat". And he said, "Don't worry about your future. Don't worry about tomorrow".

Well, those things are important. In fact, the food is one of... you're hardwired with that. If you're deprived of food, you'll do crazy things to get it. So Jesus isn't ignoring the realities of our lives. He's creating an awareness of things that he said you don't have to worry about those because God knows that you need them. And he's on board with this. We've been working on our Bibles pretty diligently for a couple of years now. Remember the Exodus event when God led the Israelites out of Egypt? On our timeline, it's way back over here. Hundreds of thousands of people coming out of Egyptian slavery. They didn't have Krogers or Publix, no Costco or Sam's. God fed them. He gave them manna and then he gave them quail, and then it says that their clothing didn't wear out. They didn't have a way to replenish it, so God just kept it from wearing out.

And he led them every day with a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire, so they would know what to do tomorrow. See, God knows. He said, "I've got you. I know you need those things". It's not an excuse to be lazy or to disengage from the process. He said he'll help us. So if those are the things that are plaguing your thoughts and your emotions, it's not God raising that awareness. Worry becomes a bait and switch tool to convince you to invest your thoughts and your energies and yourself in things that ultimately don't make that much difference and to neglect the things that are eternally significant. And Jesus says, "Don't do that". Don't let the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and desire for things choke out God's perspective in your life. Say, "Oh, I'm not doing that. I just worry a little bit".

Well, a little erosion over time leads to a lot of destruction. Now again, the good news is if Jesus said, "Don't," we don't have to. And you may have inherited worry as a family system trait, you may be the fourth generation, you may have elevated it to PhD status. You may have good reasons to be worried, legitimate reasons, identifiable, quantifiable reasons to have stress. But God will help us and we're gonna keep pushing on this study and picking up tools to help us learn to offload worry and anxiety and fear so that they don't fill our hearts, they don't fill our emotions, and they don't fill our thought lives because we don't want them determining the quality of our life under the sun and we don't want them determining who we are in eternity, amen?

We will keep pushing on this. I'm not gonna finish your outline. Yay, God. All right, I brought you a prayer and I'd like to ask you to read the prayer with me. And then I want to say a brief prayer for you, if I may. So why don't you stand with me? We are learning to pray. We wanna be a people who know how to pray. It makes an enormous difference in our lives. Jesus said, in Philippians, the Bible says, "Don't be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, let your requests be made known to God". One of the most important tools in addressing your thoughts and your emotions is learning how to pray and understanding the value of it. Let's read this prayer together:

Heavenly Father, thank you for caring for me. Open the eyes of my heart to your great provision. Holy Spirit teach me to trust and not be afraid. I choose to lay aside worry and anxiety. I choose to lift my heart and voice in thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, my creator, my redeemer, my deliverer, my sustainer. I can do all things through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.

And Heavenly Father, I thank you for every person here. I believe you gathered us this day. Lord, you know the details of our lives and the circumstances. You know the challenges we face, the opportunities before us, the diagnoses that threaten us. Lord, you know every cause of anxiety, but we choose to turn our eyes to you today. And I thank you that on the cross, you defeated every obstacle that we face. Every principality and power, every wicked thing spoken against us, their power was broken on that cross. And I thank you that when you were raised to life, you were raised for our justification. And today, Lord, we rejoice in your provision for us. We thank you for every promise, for every gift. I thank you, Holy Spirit, that you indwell us, that the angels have been sent to minister on our behalf, that we are not alone in this world, that we are not left to our own resources, our own strength, that we are children of the King, that the resources of Almighty God are at our disposal. That you bring life to our bodies and peace to our minds and hope to our hearts. Our trust is in you and I thank you for the triumph you will bring, in Jesus's name, amen.

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