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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Kingdom Participation

Allen Jackson - Kingdom Participation

Allen Jackson - Kingdom Participation
TOPICS: Kingdom of God

We're working through this series on the kingdom of God, and in this particular session I'd like to talk a bit about "Kingdom Participation". Our kind of default position in Christian world is we like to study, and that's a good thing. I love to learn and I like to study, but the habit we've fallen into is that we will study endlessly but we don't participate a great deal. And it's been said that if we have a choice between going to heaven or a seminar on heaven, we'd go to the seminar, we want to know more about it before we move. And I think that's a bit true the kingdom of God, and I believe we have progressed to a point in the unfolding purposes of God where we need to understand the authority that's ours, the assignment that is ours, and have the boldness and the courage to actually be participants in the kingdom beyond the new birth.

That is the doorway into the kingdom of God but it's not intended to be the final expression of the power of God in your life, nor through your life. Jesus came to show us the Father, he was a living revelation of the living God, a revelation unlike any that humanity had ever had. He was a king displaying the authority of his kingdom, and he did it in the most remarkable ways: he walked on the water, he calmed the storms, he confronted and expelled demons. I mean, it's truly an expression of authority and power that we didn't understand a human being could have, because it's beyond the physical powers that were invested with in our earth suit. It is an authority from a kingdom beyond any kingdom of this world; he healed the sick, he raised the dead.

You see, Jesus models for us a life with an awareness of power previously not understood. When we read the Gospels, it's not just to marvel at who Jesus was, but to understand the curtain he was pulling back on what it means to be citizens of the kingdom. He said in the plainest of language in John's Gospel to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world". I'm a King but my kingdom is not of this world. Hebrews chapter 1, in verse 1, you have it, it says, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he's spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe". He spoke to us through the one that made the universe.

Do you understand the absurdity of so much of what we've done around our faith? We'll have debates on whether or not God still heals. "Well, it's just hard to know". You say, "Well, I prayed for somebody and they didn't get well". Well, I know people that went to the doctor and they didn't get well, I've gone, it doesn't mean the medicine's not real, it doesn't mean that science is a failure, it means there are things we don't yet understand. And we need to acknowledge we're not going to master God, you're not going to come up with three points to get you what you want every time in the timeline you want it. Somebody tells you that, just smile, turn around and sprint in the other direction. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word".

Now, the revelation that Jesus brought to us, that was unknown until he was here, that no one else could make was the Son gave us a revelation of God as Father. The assumption tonight, this is predominantly a Christian audience, is that you have made the decision to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of your life. That's not about joining a church, it's not about becoming a part of a denomination, it's not about putting your name on a membership roll. It's a decision about a person, Jesus of Nazareth, you believe he's the incarnate Son of God. But you can't stop there you, have to acknowledge him as Lord of your life, repent of your sin, that you have led an ungodly life. You may have been a good person but it was ungodly. Apart from Jesus, we are not righteous, we're not holy, we may have done some good things.

So we acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, then we acknowledge our sinfulness, we ask for his forgiveness and we place him as Lord of our lives. He gets first priority. Now, with that set of things, the Bible describes it in Romans 10, that you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, it says, "You'll be saved". In John 3, Jesus described it as a new birth, we call it conversion, salvation, the new birth, the labels change a bit, it's the same experience. But after that new birth, after you've made that decision, after you've instilled Jesus as Lord, you've chosen him, what are the necessary components to participate in the kingdom of God?

We have a mistaken idea and it's very prevalent, I hear it a lot, people will say to me, you know, "Well Pastor, I'm just open to anything God has for me, I'll just do anything he wants me to do, and I'm just gonna keep doing what I wanna do until God shows me what he wants me to do". Do you know, with that attitude we can go to hell? because unless we choose the Lord, unless we choose to repent, unless we choose to put away ungodliness, unless we choose to crucify our old carnal selfish nature we will stand apart from the kingdom of God. So it isn't always just what God wants to do, it's what are we willing to do. So it's really a more germane question that I think we often process. Once we have negotiated the new birth, conversion, salvation, what are the necessary components to participate in God's kingdom?

And let's stop saying, "Well, I'm just open to whatever God has," 'cause you will miss what God has for you. You have to seek him, you have to pursue him. That's very similar to me saying, you know, "Well, I'd be happy to wake up in the morning an Olympic athlete. In fact, I'd be so happy about it I think I'm gonna eat three desserts tonight". It won't happen. And you won't wake up tomorrow with a revelation of the Lord unless you have a desire to know him. So what are the components? The first and the most obvious, it's a very technical theological word, change. You simply can't grow spiritually or in most ways without change. Now, you can change and not grow but you're never gonna grow unless you're willing to change.

And one of the things to understand as we follow the Lord is he's going to invite us consistently, repeatedly to change, which is a bit of a challenge 'cause we tend to think of ourselves as tradition keepers. And there are some things that are not open for negotiation, the fundamental truths of the Gospel are timeless, they don't change, but the containers in which we serve them have to fit the hand of every generation and we'll have to continue to change. You know, what it means to have an appropriate grasp of the English language at six is not the same thing that it means to have an appropriate grasp of the English language at 16. And we've lived with his mistaken notion that once we have experienced the new birth, we're good; it should be acceptable to have the same battles with carnality and selfishness and some of the things that would be a part of a brand new Christian's life if you have been serving the Lord for 10 years, and that's a mistaken notion.

I won't take you there, but in Hebrews 5, it says, you know, "You should be ready for solid food," you should be ready to teach other people but you're not, "And even though you should be ready for solid food, you still need milk," grow up. Now, we haven't spent a lot of time and effort thinking about growing up in the kingdom of God. We complain, we complain about secularism, we complain about politicians, we complain about ungodliness, we complain about immorality, we complain about all sorts of stuff but we really haven't grappled with this. Lord, what place do you need me to stand? Where do I need to grow? What position do you want me to take? Or do I have to find something that's uncomfortable and stand there anyway? "Pastor, I don't really care about that, I just want to go to heaven".

We cannot negotiate that for a minute, and I'm saying negotiate in a kind way, we have to execute that idea, we have to put it to rest. If the only goal of your faith is to go to heaven when you're through living your life, I don't think you should imagine you're gonna go to heaven. And I don't mean that to be unkind, I don't want you to be unprepared. The goal of the new birth is that we might live for the purposes of God. Now, we grow up in that, we don't start there. When you're born physically, all of your sensory apparatuses and all of your communications tools are completely geared towards signaling to people with more capabilities that you have when you're uncomfortable. If you need a change, the alarm goes off; if you're hungry, the alarm goes off; you don't have the ability to care for yourself, you're just to have a detection system and an alarm.

Now, that's pretty much what we have when we become Christians. As new Christ followers, we have the detection system, "Ooh, that doesn't look right. Wah". It's kinda cute with a newborn but it's an awkward if you're 30, and so my question to each of us is are we really willing to change? Are we gonna grow up? Or are we sitting there kinda smugly with our arms crossed and go, you know, "I'm born again and I've been baptized and I'm not involved and really gross public sins, leave me alone"? God won't; and if he ever does, it's not a good sign. So we'll start with change because it's an essential part of what has to take place. Hebrews chapter 18. "He said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change.'" I'm sorry, it's Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking, "I tell you the truth".

And you know now when you see that little phrase, when Jesus says, "I tell you the truth," kinda buckle up, right? 'cause he's about to hit you right between the eyes, it's something so bizarre that if he didn't say, "I'm telling you the truth," you'd go, "Ah, that's not right". "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God". He's talking to the covenant people of God; right holidays, right foods, right codes, they read Scripture, they go to synagogue. He's not talking to the Pagan nations. "Unless you change". Ephesians chapter 4, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self". He's writing to a church, believers, Christ followers, "Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your mind".

There's an exchange program that has to take place, we have to intentionally put off deceitful desires. It's not just the desire to be deceptive, it's desires that are deceitful, you desire something that promises you satisfaction or contentment or fulfillment, you think it will make you more at ease in the world or more content in the world and you chase that desire, and when you get it, you're not. It's deceitful. And you could spend your life as a Christ follower chasing empty things, accumulating stuff and objectives that will not impact eternity. Or we can follow the assignment to, "Put off that old self," that's, "Corrupted by those deceitful desires," and, "Be made new in an attitude in our mind". We got to be made new in the way we think, it's a reorientation, and it involves far more than learning to be faithful and attending worship. If you're not faithful and attending worship, it's highly improbable you're going to be faithful in the rest of it.

So what's another component if we're gonna experience the kingdom of God, if we're gonna participate? I think we have to recognize the importance of listening. If there's a primary characteristic of God's people in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, it's that they will listen to the Lord, that they will listen to the Lord. The word that describes this change, the mandatory adjustment to benefit from the privileges and the authority of the kingdom of God, when you're willing to change and you begin to listen to God, the way that's given expression in your life and mine is what we call repent. The Hebrew word for repentance means to change direction, the Greek word means to change how you think.

The Old Testament's written in Hebrew predominantly, the New Testament in Greek. So if we take both of those words you get kind of the full meaning of repent, it means to change how you think and the direction you're going. It's a physical change and it's a change in your thoughts, and it isn't just about sin. We've thought of repentance in terms of committing some moral sin or you're stealing or, you know, some gross transgression of the Word of God but repentance, I think, is far more helpful if you'll think about it as alignment. Repentance is about listening so that you can make the changes to be more fully in alignment with God. Cars have changed a lot but once upon a time it was pretty hard to keep your car in alignment. You remember those days? Your front end would get out of alignment, it'd pulled to the right or pull to the left and you are constantly kinda battling the car?

Well, it's really easy for us to get out of alignment with God and it makes trying to be a Christ follower a struggle and a battle. It's much simpler to understand the direction you're being asked to go and to practice repentance until you get that alignment and there's no pull. The things that are pulling you towards ungodliness tonight, your selfishness, your way, whatever it may be, maybe it's anger or unforgiveness or bitterness or hatred or lust or greed or envy, any of those works of the flesh that you can find in Galatians, if you're conscious that that pull is there, what do you do with that? You begin to repent and say, "Lord, I'm sorry if I have opened the door for that, if I have given my say, given that access to my life, I repent of it, I renounce it, in Jesus's name".

If it's forgiveness or anger or bitterness, one of those emotions that you hold, it holds you, you gotta release whoever it is you're holding on to. Say, "Lord, thank you for showing that to me, I can be free of that and I can walk in more alignment with you". And in the same way as you train physically, as you get in better shape it requires more attention to your training. When you first start, you're so out of shape any improvement, just fewer Cheez Doodles will make you healthier. But as you start to make a commitment to that it actually makes a difference what you eat, not just what you stop eating. And the same will be true with your spiritual growth and development, it's not just what you've stopped doing, now it's about what you're willing to do.

How's your serve? How's your generosity? How are you? What's you're discipline with your thoughts and your attitudes? People say, "Well, I don't want to". Who cares, change your want-to's. Some of the greatest alignments that have come to my life is when I was honest with God. "I remember when I said to him, you know, I know I'm supposed to read your Bible but you just didn't really write a good one, and I like to read," I've liked to read since I learned to read. And I'd think, "Man," I'd go to sleep reading the Bible every time I'd open it. I'd think, "God," and I started to tell him the truth. And it didn't happen in a day or a week or a month, and I stayed with the discipline of it, but at some point it became the most interesting thing I could pick up, and I'm still learning.

So a second word I think that would describe this essential component of listening is to meditate. Kind of, meditate, in its simplest form just means to think about, to ponder, to reflect upon. It's not just something obligatory that you have to remember like a code, a passcode or the pin number for something that you need to remember, but something that you really want to think about. We haven't spent a great deal of time thinking about God's kingdom. We often think more about our favorite sports team or our favorite hobby or our dreams for kids or the grandkids or something. We just haven't created a lot of space to think about God and his kingdom. I mean, when we want something or if we're in a difficult enough place we'll get focused for a little bit of a season.

We all go grow bigger ears when we're under pressure, human nature, but if you really want to ignite spiritual growth you'll begin to intentionally think about the Lord more. And when we want a miracle, healing, deliverance of some sort, problem resolution, more money, justice from an unjust world system, we can get pretty focused. Joshua 1, verse 8, he says, "Don't let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you'll be prosperous and successful". It doesn't say you won't have problems or challenges, Jesus said in John 16, in this world you'll have trouble. So don't confuse the two, say, "Well, God, I've been reading you, I've been reading my Bible, three days in a row I've read my Bible and I have not gotten a promotion yet".

I get that way with the Lord, I get that way with life. Don't you? Decide you want to lose a little weight for the holidays so you skip the third dessert and you walk 200 yards, and you go stand in front of the mirror and go, "I think I'm thinner". I have kind of that same problem with the Lord. I've been to church two weeks in a row, I'm expecting some outcomes. I brought you a prayer. Actually, I didn't bring it, Jesus gave it. It's familiar but if it was Jesus's instruction to his disciples I very much want to be one of those. Do you have that notion? You know, when Jesus was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and, uninvited, he'd walk up and say, "Follow me, now follow me," and some did. Do you know, some didn't?

There's some people, in the Scripture it says Jesus loved them and he said, "Come, follow me," and they went, "Nah, not convenient". I hope you live with the notion that Jesus is saying to you, "Come follow me, come on, come follow" me. Not, "Be religious," not, "Sit in church," "Come get to know me". You just simply, if you'll begin to say to him, "Lord, I'd like to know you better, give me a revelation of yourself, help me to hear, help me to see, give me an understanding heart". Get your Bible out, spend a little more time with it, begin to talk to the Lord, talk to him at the beginning of the day, talk to him at the end of the day, think about the in between part, how did your honor the Lord? Where did you lose perspective on him? When did your attitude spin into someplace that wasn't God-honoring? Maybe at the end of the day say, "Lord, I need to clean some of that up. Can we? I wanna go back to that. I'm sorry".

See, it starts with a desire in our heart to be pleasing to him and to break out of the gravitational pull of that deceptive idea that if you said that one prayer you don't have to think about it anymore. That is not helpful, it's just not helpful. I thank God for you, I thank God for you, you're so important, you're so important. Godly people in our schools, godly people in our hospitals, godly people in our businesses, godly men and women standing in the places that you're uniquely created for. We're not created for all the same places, stop wanting to be something else or someone else and start saying, "Lord, what do you want? Where do you want me? What do you want me to do?" just in the sphere of influence he's given you.

Stop telling him you don't like the one he's given you. I had to make peace with Murfreesboro. You know how many people cannot pronounce Murfreesboro? Murfreesboro. There's a lot of words I can't pronounce, let's not make fun of them. I'm done, let's stand up, we'll make it, we'll say a prayer. I was about to get in real trouble. When the disciples asked Jesus to pray this was his instruction. The fact that it's not brand new does not diminish its authority in our lives. Amen? Let's say it together:

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever, amen.

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