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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Discerning The Times

Allen Jackson - Discerning The Times

Allen Jackson - Discerning The Times
TOPICS: Discernment

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "Discerning the Times". Discernment is kind of a fancy religious word, it means understanding, but it's more than just a casual understanding like you'd get from a book. It means you understand. It's about perception. I grew up around horses, so they're familiar to me. I can walk in a barn or look in a stall, and I have some sense of that horse's emotional state, if it's agitated, if it's at peace, if it's angry, if it's hungry, if it's thirsty. It comes from years of being around them in all of those different times and places. Well, you and I want to cultivate that kind of an awareness of what the Spirit of God is doing in the earth. We don't wanna have to be so blatant, so loud, so vibrant that everybody sees it, we want to have the discernment, the understanding to know the season. I bet you have that kind of understanding about your spouse or your kids or the people you care about. Well, we love the Lord, and we want to discern the times.

The title for this session is "Discerning the Times". It's not a new topic to us, but it feels to me like March of 2020, or thereabouts, we we began a journey. It wasn't one we intended. Initially they told us that we'd go home for two weeks, we'd be back, we'd be done. They lied, or at least they didn't know. Either way, two weeks was not enough. Curves didn't get flattened. COVID didn't go away. And there's been one benchmark after another that we thought was going to bring kind of a resolution to the turmoil that was unleashed in that season, but it seems to me that it just increases in intensity. It's no longer just about a virus. We still are living with the virus, but it feels more like an endemic than it does a pandemic.

It's amongst us now, but I'm a preacher in Tennessee. But the other things that are happening around us are happening, they're of such significance, such magnitude, and they're happening with such frequency that its disorienting. And when you're in the midst of a journey like that, it's important to continue to stop and check your bearings, to get perspective, or you can get completely disoriented. And so, discerning the times is not something that I think we would talk about once a decade in a season like this, I think it's something that we need to revisit with frequency, and I'd like to take a few minutes and do that with you, probably not completely unfamiliar ideas, but the landscape is changing so quickly.

You know, our border is no longer just porous, it's open. I mean, tens of thousands of people a week are pouring across our border, and the government not only has no intention at the moment of stopping it, they're encouraging it. And that's not a political issue, because there just doesn't seem to be much will across any of our leadership to address that. The division in our nation seems to grow deeper with each day. The topics around that change. When the most senior military officials will sit before congressional committees and acknowledge that they've betrayed one president after another of both political parties, and everybody listens to that as if it should be expected. We are losing our balance.

And so, understanding the season we're in, when God moves, what's that mean? What's that look like in your life and my life? I'll tell you the most consistent thing I know about it is I have imagined it incorrectly. And the Bible is the best place I know to get a God perspective, and that's what I'd like to do with you for the next few minutes. When God moves, what's that about? And the season we're in is helpful. When seasons change, there are some things that come with seasons. We're in the midst of a season change in Tennessee right now, and we understand what's coming with that. Vegetation, easy for me to say, the growth of vegetation is slowing down.

In fact, we'll probably see the trees lose their leaves before long. It doesn't mean they're dying, it just means the season has changed. And then there'll be a change of wardrobe and a change of activities and a change in weather patterns, and there's a lot of things that will happen with that. And we need to be aware of spiritual seasons. You know, you may prefer summer, but when fall comes, you need to adapt. If you mourn the loss of summer, you'll miss the fall. And some of us are a little guilty, I think, of mourning a season that passed. We liked it so well, there were so many things I like better than I like about this season. Duly noted, but it's the season we're in, so we need to be aware and understand how to prepare. If I had to look for a biblical definition, I think we're in that window of time that will precede Jesus's return.

Now, I'm not telling you it's next week or next month, it could be 100 years. You know, people say, "Are these the last days"? They're yours. Well, they are. That's not being pessimistic or negative. You get one trip under the sun, so you might as well live as if the return of Jesus is imminent. That is the best plan, because when he comes, he's coming like a thief. He's not coming as a thief, he's coming unannounced, at a time when you wouldn't expect him. He himself told us that in many ways. So the most prudent thing I could suggest to you would be to live as if these are those last days. And if I'm wrong, and I've missed it by 1,000 years, it won't do you any harm to live with that sense of urgency, amen?

So Matthew 24 and verse 37, Jesus is speaking, he says, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man". So Jesus is drawing a parallel between Noah's days and the world before he returns, and then he's gonna give us the specifics, otherwise we'd all go build boats. If he hadn't said anything other than that, we'd all be in the boat building business. "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man".

If I had to look for a one-word description of what Jesus is talking about, I think it would be unaware. I mean, there's an enormous boat being built in the middle of an empty field, not on the edge of a lake, not floating in some great river. Noah and his family have undertaken the construction of the ark in the middle of the field. So it's not a secret, it's not subtle. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. He preached for decades with very little positive outcome, and now he's in the boat building business. Everybody knows crazy Noah out there. The lumberyard has built quite the prosperous business with Noah's account. And yet in the midst of that, they're totally unaware. Jesus's description is that they're eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah went into the ark. And the day Noah went into the ark the door is sealed, and they are totally unaware.

So, again, it's people in proximity to what God is doing. It's not the pagans, it's not the ones that are distant and removed, the people that had access to Noah and the story and the message, that's my concern. That's my concern for myself. It's my concern for you. It's my concern for the body of Christ. It's my concern for the church. That we not be lulled into some sense of complacency because we think we've done our God business with the conversion prayer. I believe in conversion and the new birth, but I believe we have to lead lives of awareness. We have to lead lives of intentionally serving, of yielding ourselves to the lordship of Jesus. So one of the conditions will be unaware. In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us another. "At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and five were wise".

What was the condition of the five foolish ones? They were anticipating the bridegroom's arrival. They knew who he was. They'd met the conditions for their own purity, but they were unprepared. When the moment came, they were unprepared. So simply looking for the arrival of the Lord is inadequate, we've gotta be prepared. So, we don't wanna be unaware, and we don't want to be unprepared, and if you think it's impossible for you to be deceived, you already are. Now, Jesus isn't done, same chapter, Matthew 24, the preceding verses, "As Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us when will this happen.'" He's just said that the temple would be destroyed, and they can't believe it. It's the most beautiful building in the nation. It is the symbol of national pride.

People came from all over the Roman Empire to see the temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus has said it's gonna be destroyed, and they're just completely, they're struggling with that. "Tell us when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age". And Jesus said, "Watch out that no one deceives you". The reason I think it's valuable to keep checking the times and paying attention to current events and then tryin' to bring alignment with a biblical worldview. What does the Bible say about what I'm looking at? Because the world's changed since I looked 60 days ago. Because Jesus's most consistent warning when he talked to his friends about the world before he came back, his most consistent warning was against being deceived. So we've got to keep checking our focus on that biblical perspective, on the world around us. "Watch out that no one deceives you".

So I want to take a little time and look at with you how it is that a God story emerges, because this is the part that is the surprise to me. I've been following the Lord for a while. I've wanted to serve him for a while now, this is not the first time a season has changed on me, and I can tell you it's a continual surprise. The church where we worship together today was not an imagination to me when I began in ministry. I didn't see this. I didn't anticipate this. I didn't know something like this was possible. In fact, it wasn't possible, it was most improbable. I mean, there are just so many things that about following the Lord have not unfolded like I thought they would. In some ways far better, in some ways more challenging. Does that feel like your story too? We need to think about it a little bit. We need to process it.

If you just thought in terms of am I gonna go to heaven and the rest of it you haven't thought about, you're missing out on a lot. But that's as uninformed as saying if I was healthy as at 16. I don't need to think about my health anymore. That's a daily set of choices. How does a God story emerge? And it seems to me that there are seasons, both in the history of God dealing with his people and in our individual lives that are seasons of heightened significance. There are defining moments when you're making choices that are going to have long-term impacts upon your life. So, if you're in a decision-making season of your life, and you recognize that, one of the things I would suggest is you do everything you know to walk in a godly way through a decision-making season.

If you're walking through a season that has impact for years to come, don't be sloppy in that season. I mean, you shouldn't be sloppy in any season, but if you're walking through those kind of windows of time, and then in a macro view, there are points in history when great sweeping changes come. When the Babylonians marched to Jerusalem and destroyed the city, or the Romans besieged the city and destroy the walls, and we could go on and on. When Paul Revere rides through the streets of Boston and says, "The British are coming, things are changing".

Now, I'm of the opinion that we're living in one of those seasons of heightened significance. You can disagree with me or you can save yourself some time and agree. Second Corinthians 6 and verse 1, "As God's fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you.' And I tell you, now is the time of God's favor. Now is the day of salvation". Now is a timing word. What does now mean? Now, not later, don't hesitate. "Now is the time of God's favor". And again, that question, are these the last days? Well, I can make it a very convincing case biblically that they are, but again, apart from that they're mine and yours, so let's go. Let's take up the assignment.

Now, what captures my attention in those verses that we just read is this notion of receiving God's grace in vain. Grace is unmerited, it's unearned, but it's possible to have the unearned, undeserved blessing of God upon you and it of be no benefit. Now, you've got my attention. I don't want to be in that category. I would submit to you one way of understanding that is a complete failure on our part to respond to the moment. So we were deceived, we were divided, we were distracted by the lawlessness. We gave into the anger and the resentment and the hatred, and we participated in the betrayal. We received the grace, but it produced no benefit in us because we failed to respond to the moment. I'd like to tell you that I think we're at the end of this season, but I don't think that. I think we're much closer to the beginning than we are the end.

I believe it's the beginning of a God-directed initiative to enlarge our capacity, his people in the earth. I believe it's his intent to enlarge our capacity as agents of grace. We've known one way to be Christ followers, we knew when to come to church and when to sit and when to stand, and we presumed it would always be that way, and God's kinda smiled and said, "Watch this". I believe he's expanding our capacity. Somewhere in the midst of all the financial turmoil that we see and the political manipulation that we see and the COVID confusion and the riots in our streets, somewhere in the midst of all of that, I assure you there is an invitation from the Lord. If we're willing, we can embark on a God journey.

Now, that's more than a holiday trip. You're gonna need more than your flip-flops. I believe what it really is is a declaration of intent. It's a map for our future. Are we willing to follow the Lord? Are we gonna demand to be restored to the place that we liked before the confusion began? Just as Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans or Moses received his commission at the burning bush, I believe we have the opportunity to respond to a kingdom prompt, to say yes, Lord, I'll follow you. And we will have to choose to leave behind some familiar things and some comfortable things and embrace the risk of following a more divine imperative. Lord, I'll follow you. The future seems insecure, the things that I thoughts secured my future don't look so secure today.

Is that the way it looks to you? The markets are unstable, the government wants to monitor your bank account and the activity in your bank account. That does not feel like a secure future to me. The more boisterous amongst us will say that a God-inspired journey is never a risk. Those amongst us that have walked that path know the greater truth. That when you have the courage to tread the stones marked by God's Spirit, it always brings with it a series of questions. I have never said yes to the Lord without a whole series of questions coming up in me. How will God provide? How exposed will I feel? Will I be satisfied in this new adventure? Should I really dare to follow, or should I just stay quiet and think I can stay behind and be more safe?

If you've ever considered saying yes to the Lord in any courageous way or following him or choosing to say no to ungodliness and yes to godliness, you know something of that question set. It lives in all of us. The paradox which exists is that in daring to step out and follow God is the greatest place of security for a human being. It's the most protected position. No matter how vulnerable you may feel or how awkward the steps, when you say Lord, I'll follow you, it's the safest possible way to travel. The Hebrews, whether it was marching through the Red Sea or in the desert where there were no supplies, were far safer than when they were within Egypt's confines, and so will you be when you say yes to the Lord. If I had to find one key, and I gotta wrap it up, it's embarkation. That just means get on board. Just decide to get on board.

And there are places in your life when God will orchestrate unique windows of grace, supernatural invitations to travel with him. Certainly the new birth is one of those, but it's not the only one of those. To travel with him on an adventure which will speak across generations. You'll celebrate it for all eternity. But if you want my best advice, just say yes and get on board. But what if? I'm not sure. I know, but come on, get on board. Don't be like the rich young ruler when Jesus said come follow me, and he said it's not a good time. Don't be that person. I don't wanna be that person.

Joshua 3, it's time to take the Promised Land, and God says to them, "You've never been this way before. You've never been this way before". They've been following him for 40 years. They followed him out of the brick pits, through the Red Sea, and they've been eating manna and following a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. They've gotten Ten Commandments, a tabernacle, an Ark of the Covenant. They've been following God a lot, and God says you've never walked this way before. Are you willing to say to the Lord, yes? Are you willing to believe God's gonna ask you to walk a way you haven't walked before, or do you still want to tell me about Granny?

I'm fortunate, I had grandparents that honored the Lord. I'm so thankful for that heritage, but I'm pretty confident the challenge in front of us is new. Not the adversary, the adversary is the same, but the packaging is different, the season is different. You've never been this way before. There's always a leaving behind when you say yes to the Lord. There's always a leaving behind. Are you willing? This time when they're going to cross the Jordan River, they've been following for 40 years now a pillar of fire, a pillar of cloud, they didn't move until those pillars moved, now Joshua was saying to them follow the priest, follow those men.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. We've been following those. You want me to follow whom? Where, into the river? It's flood stage, couldn't we wait until the flood abated? Who's planned this excursion? Who's in charge here? You're a new leader, Joshua, you don't have much experience. The river is flooded, son. Yeah, I know, but follow the priest. I've been following that pillar of cloud and that pillar of fire for 40 years, and I've eaten well, thank you. Yeah, but tomorrow, we're going to follow the priest into the flooded river.

I feel a little awkward about that. I've got some uncertainty. I bet you do. Let's go. Let's go. There's always a leaving behind, a leaving behind of the familiar, leaving behind of the past, both successes and failures. Success is far more dangerous than failure. Most of us are willing to move beyond our failures, we'll cling to our successes pretty tightly. We think it gives us merit and value and substance. Folks, there's nothing we've succeeded at that God needs. My obedience is the best gift I have for him. We have to leave behind those who will choose not to travel. You'll grieve that. Not everybody's gonna go.

Philippians 3, Paul said this, "One thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead. I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus". We'll have to leave behind a little bit of our certainty and self-righteousness. We'll have to leave behind some of our choices, some of our time and talent and treasure. We've invested a lot in some stuff that we probably can't take with us. We'll have to leave behind our lockstep with all of our peers and our friends. Discerning the times. God is moving. He's stirring the hearts of people all over the earth. I want to say yes. I want to move. I believe you do too. Can we pray? Why don't you stand with me?

Father, thank you for your word, for its truth and power and authority. Thank you for the honor we have of being together. I thank you that you've begun to awaken us to this most unique season. Lord, you're giving us perception and understanding and insight and ears that can hear and hearts that can receive in ways that not too many months ago seemed beyond us. I thank you for that. Lord, we choose to turn our attention to you and our focus to you. You are our hope, you're our foundation, you're our strong tower, you are our deliverer. It's through the blood of Jesus Christ that we have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy. He has no power over us, no authority over us. We rest in your watchful care, and I thank you for it tonight.

Holy Spirit, I ask you to help us. Continue to give us awareness, the discernment we need. Teach us to encourage one another. Teach us how to be a strength to one another. Forgive us when we have contributed to the division or the frustration. I thank you that you have chosen us for this time and this place and this season. We want to say yes to you with all of our heart, mind, soul, and body. May you be pleased with us. I thank you for it in Jesus's name, amen, hallelujah.

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