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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Power To Change The Future - Part 2

Allen Jackson - The Power To Change The Future - Part 2

Allen Jackson - The Power To Change The Future - Part 2

Well, I wanna take the balance of our time and look at a life in scripture, the life of a king of Israel. This is Israel after there had been a civil war. Imagine that, a civil war in the midst of God's people. The nation of Israel, the covenant people of God, the 12 tribes, have a civil war and the nation's just split in two. The northern kingdom retains the name of Israel and the capital of Israel becomes Samaria. And at this particular point in time, the king of Samaria, the king over Israel, is Ahab. Some of you know his name, some of you know his wife's name. And I put the passage from 1 Kings chapter 21 and it's a consistent passage. I broke it apart in your notes 'cause I wanna make a comment or two. But if you were just reading it in your Bible, it's one consistent. So I haven't cherry-picked verses. This is just one consistent passage.

1 Kings 21 and verse 17 says: "The word of the Lord came to Elijah". Now, Elijah's a prophet whose life happens to correspond with Ahab. Did you know you can be a godly person in a time when you have an ungodly leader? That you don't withdraw from being godly waiting for a more godly leader? Oh, we would never do that. See, I believe the purposes of God should go forward whether the people leading are godly or ungodly. Now, the consequences can be different. If the leadership is more godly, there may be more reward and less push back and less of a headwind. But the purposes of God don't change. We should be just as committed to the voice of God, the truth of God, the integrity of what we believe, being expressed in the public square, regardless of the spiritual choices of those who have authority over our lives.

"The word of the Lord came to Elijah: 'Go down to meet Ahab the king of Israel,'" but don't be political, "'who rules in Samaria. He now stands in Naboth's vineyard, where he's gone to take possession of it. Say to him, "This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man who seized, and seized his property"? Then say to him, "This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood, yes, yours"!'" Now, before you turn the page, that won't make me hurry. I appreciate your enthusiasm. That's a very difficult message to deliver. That would be a difficult message to deliver in any setting. It'd be a difficult message to deliver to somebody in your family system where there was, for the most part, an equitable expression of authority. That's just an uncomfortable message: that God knows and God told me to tell you that he knows that you're misbehaving.

In this case, that you're a murderer. To have to give that message to someone who has ultimate authority, an ancient near-eastern monarch, who was an absolute despot. There was no balance of powers, there was no court of appeals, there was no HR Department. If they didn't like the way you looked at them, they could have you executed, your property confiscated. In this particular case, the king wanted a vineyard that belonged to someone in his realm and the man didn't want to sell it to him, so he orchestrated a way for the man to be murdered and he could confiscate the property. Today we call that imminent domain. It still happens in the world, and God sends the prophet and said, "I know what you did".

Now he says, "God told me to tell you," but Elijah is the one standing there with the skin on. So I promise you, Ahab hears that like some little bandy-legged rooster had the audacity to walk in front of me and say, "You're a murderer". If Elijah had stopped there, you'd go, "Whew, dude's got a little courage," but he didn't stop there. He said, "This is what the Lord says," but I promise you, Ahab's hearing this in a different way. In the place where the dogs addressed the man you murdered, the dogs are gonna address your body. It's a message. It's a message we need to understand. God is just. He's a God of love, but he's also a just God. God responds to evil. He doesn't always do it in the timing we would like. God didn't respond to Ahab's mistreatment of Naboth in the timeline that I suspect Naboth would have preferred. Is that fair? You see, you and I may not see God's response.

There's a great temptation to say, "Well, God's not fair. He's not just, I didn't get to see". I think we've all felt that. The Bible doesn't tell us that we always get to see God's expression of justice. It simply tells us that God is just. We're asked to believe that, to order our lives based upon that, to walk with a respect for God in the understanding that he's just. It also seems to suggest that God is sovereign, that if God says you're being unfair and you're a murderer, he is the ultimate authority. There is no court of appeals. You're unfair and you're a murderer. "Well, I don't like that, and I don't agree". Duly noted, but he created the place. When you're under real authority, the best decision is to figure out how to cooperate. But the story doesn't stop there.

In verse 20, same chapter, very next verse: "Ahab said to Elijah," he's not gonna take that. "'So you have found me, my enemy!'" Elijah just said to him, "This is what the Lord says," and Ahab says, "You're my enemy". Ahab thinks that Elijah's his problem. Not so much. "'Well, I found you,' he answered, 'because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. I'm gonna bring disaster on you and I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel, slave or free. I'll make your house like that of...'" He gives him some historical references of people who were decimated because of their attitude towards God. "I'll make your house like Jeroboam or that of Baasha, because you provoked me to anger and you've caused Israel to sin. And also concerning Jezebel," that's Ahab's wife, "the Lord says dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country".

I would submit to you that from a biblical perspective, the spirit of Ahab is worse than the spirit of Jezebel. The spirit of Jezebel is kind of a label that's made its way into the vernacular in some segments of Christendom. I mean, I'm not saying it's wrong or that it doesn't exist. There's some biblical support for that. But from the presentation of scripture, the spirit of Ahab is worse than the spirit of Jezebel. Elijah says to Ahab, "You have sold yourself to do evil. You have fully given yourself. You imagine that evil brings a reward and you are all in, and the consequence of that is destruction for you, for your household, and for generations who follow you". Selling yourself to evil is a bad bargain. God says to Abraham, "Judgment is imminent and there's gonna be generational consequences for your evil". We go, "Well, that doesn't seem fair".

Well, if that is the nature of creation, if that's the nature of the world in which we live, it's not about fair or unfair. It's how do you conduct yourself to get the best benefit? It never really felt fair to me that whenever I put my face underwater, I couldn't breathe. If I have a mask, I can see all sorts of beautiful fish living under the water, thriving underwater. They swim through the water like it's so easy and I'm floundering and flopping and gasping for air. It doesn't seem fair to me. I'd like to swim like a dolphin. Wouldn't you? Make the beach more fun. It's not fair. No, but it's reality. "Well, I don't like reality so I'll ignore it. I'll hide it. I'll go find a PhD that says, 'That's not really real'". Well, go stick your head underwater and read the letter from your PhD, as long as you can.

Same chapter, chapter 21, look at verse 25. Says: "(There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, and he put on sackcloth and he fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. The word of the Lord came to Elijah: 'Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I'll not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring on his house in the days of his son.'"

Now, biblically speaking, Ahab is the gold standard of evil. Do you understand what I mean by that? If you're gonna have a evil hall of fame, he's the leader of the pack. He's the most wicked of the wicked. It says, "There was never a man like Ahab". The Bible says of Moses that "he was the meekest man on the face of the earth". The Bible says about King David: "God said about David that he would do anything I ask him to do". The Bible says about Ahab: "There was never a man like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord".

So I brought you a passage of scripture. It's a familiar passage to many of you. It's Psalm chapter 51. It's a psalm attributed to King David at the time when his sin with Bathsheba, his adultery and his murder of her husband is exposed. God sends another prophet. In the same way he sent Elijah to Ahab, God sent a prophet to King David. And you know, David murdered a lot of people. I'm telling you when God sent that prophet to David, I promise you he went in there with sweaty palms and weak knees. I know he was anxious because he told him a parable before he called him out. Tells him some story about some wealthy man and some poor man and a lamb. Got David all heated up. There was injustice in his kingdom, he's gonna hurt somebody. And then Nathan said, "Uh, from God's perspective, you're that guy".

And the remarkable part of David is he chose to repent, and Psalm 51 is his prayer. I didn't bring the whole psalm, but I brought enough. I wanna read it to you because I think it will inform for us some ways we can respond. "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions". Now, I would remind you, David is king. God's made some amazing promises to him, remarkable. He's had tremendous victories. He could point to a resume that would put him in the hall of fame. He's defeated giants and consolidated a kingdom. He lived with a great deal of humility while he fled from Saul and wouldn't murder his enemy. I mean, there are so many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many things on David's ledger that are good until there's some things that aren't. Again, we've been so sloppy. "Oh, I'm born again. I'm baptized. I've led groups and I've served and I've given and I've done all these things. You expect me to, like, honor God in my home? Whoo, that's difficult".

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you're proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I'll be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all of my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Well, then I'll teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness".

I didn't bring you a prayer to take home today because I wanted to send you home with that psalm. I would encourage you to make it a part of your devotional on a daily basis until you feel like the Holy Spirit has released you from those prayers. I would encourage you to read it, out loud honestly, and to say to the Spirit of God, "If there's anything in me that limits what you would do, anything in me that limits what you've called me to be, help me to see it. Forgive me". It's so important. It is so important. This isn't some Old Testament concept. When Jesus taught us to pray, the disciples, Jesus's disciples, came to him and said, "John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. Won't you teach us to pray"? And then Jesus gives them what we call the Lord's Prayer, the "Our Father".

I don't think of it as a singular prayer. I think it's a portfolio of different categories of prayer. But in the midst of that, Jesus gave us this prayer: "Forgive my sins as I forgive those who sin against me". You know the change that would come if the body of Christ, if the people of God, would, on a regular basis, in sincerity and humility, in a public way, this notion of private Christianity, that nobody around you needs to know, well, it isn't grounded in scripture. Ahab repented in a public way. Meekness is expressed for people to see and experience. Forgive me of my sins, forgive me of my sins. God, forgive me of my sins. Some of them are long in the past and I'm grateful they're in the past and it was a really hard place and I didn't have good options and I didn't know what to do and it was really exposed and I was vulnerable.

So I chose wickedness. God, forgive me of my sins. And now God, I wanna forgive those who sin against me. I'm not gonna demand they do something. Unforgiveness has seized us as a people by the throat. We cultivate generational anger and hatred and hostility. We see it as a means of consolidating power. And that's possible because the church is so anemic, so weak, we haven't learned to ask for forgiveness, to recognize our need of forgiveness, to be aware of our own failures. We're so focused on the failures of everybody else. "I'm a great driver, but everybody else on the interstate's an idiot".

I'll tell you when that's so clear to me. When you're not here, the church is peaceful. I walk through this room and you just feel the presence of the Lord, and then you show up. And you know the reality? God doesn't dwell in buildings. He dwells in us. The presence of the Lord is exponentially more real when we're here together, than we're in an empty building. But we've been so convinced, we've drunk so deeply of this cultural poison, that we think other people are the problem and the other generations are the problem and we're entitled to something better. We're not gonna forgive. Church, if we want to secure our kids and our grandkids and we wanna secure our own eternities, we need to take Psalm 51 and begin to say, "God forgive me. Lord, show me if there are places that I have not yet yielded to you. If there are parts of my life, I've lived past them, I've overcome them. Nobody really thinks of me in those terms, but I've never made it right with you".

Just give the Holy Spirit permission to begin. He will begin to remind you. You'll find a picture, you'll see something, a memory will show up in the social media. Somebody will mention a name and you'll get mad. Some of you are still angry and filled with hate at people that have been dead for a while. Some of you are mad at God because of the circumstances of your life. So you're only partially in because you don't think he's trustworthy. Holy Spirit, if there's any place that I need to forgive, if there's anyone I need to forgive. Forgiveness is a decision. It's not linked to the other person. Doesn't mean they're doing better or they're sorry or they've asked or...I'm not suggesting you get back in line for further abuse. I'm just telling you you've got to be willing to forgive. Some of you need to forgive God. I believe God will change our future. I believe he'll change your future.

If he changed Ahab's future and David's future, that same Almighty God of majesty and power and glory that we read about a while ago and got kind of excited about, he's still in business. He's still running the place. He doesn't need huge armies. He took Gideon and a few cracked pots and some bad trumpet players and did something really cool. Let's decide we're gonna be those people. Just tell the Lord we've been lukewarm, we've been indifferent. We've given our hearts to so many other things 'cause we thought we had God all sewed up and buttoned up, "and he didn't need my attention. He certainly didn't need my emotion. I gave all those things to something else". Let's have the courage to tell him we're sorry, we haven't taught the generations following us. We've modeled something else for them. And let's just see what future God will write for us. Are you game? Won't you stand with me?

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Word, its truth and authority and power. I thank you that you love us, that you desire the very best for us. Lord, we gather today with an awareness that there's much change taking place around us. That security is hardly available, but we turn our faces to you as the Creator of all things, the sustainer of all things. Nothing is hidden from you. Nothing in darkness, nothing that's quiet. We praise you for that, that you know us by name, that you know our circumstances, and you know the details of our lives, and we stand in your presence today to offer ourselves to you as living sacrifices. You've called us, you made provision that we could be forgiven and delivered. You have released your power on our behalf that no part of our past or no expression of evil or no expression of wickedness has the power to hold us, that we can be free in the mighty name of Jesus.

So Holy Spirit, now we ask for your help in those places in our lives where we have ignored, walked past, tried to forget, overlooked, our choices that were displeasing to you, that were rebellious against you, that were sinful. I ask you now to begin to remind us that we can come in humility and repent, that we can be forgiven and washed clean and made new. If there are persons or institutions or places or families that we need to forgive, I pray that you'll bring those to us as well. May we have the courage and the boldness to choose obedience to you over the prompts of our emotions. Father, I thank you for your great love. And that is we choose to humble ourselves and to walk in obedience in new ways and choose new behaviors and new responses, that you'll write new futures. That you'll write new futures for us as individuals and new futures for us as families and new futures for us as a community of faith. And perhaps even in your mercy, a new future for us as a nation. Lord, we're a people in need of healing. And the problem begins within us. Holy Spirit, I thank you for your presence, for your guidance, and your direction. I praise you for the good things ahead in Jesus's name, amen.

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