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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - What We Can Do - Part 1

Allen Jackson - What We Can Do - Part 1

Allen Jackson - What We Can Do - Part 1

I spent a good bit of last week in preparation for Mother's Day, thinking about all the implications of that and why it was relevant to us. And I was asked a few weeks ago to tape a television program today with regard to Father's Day. In particular, to think about the fatherhood of God and its implications for us, so all of that has been in the boiler for me for several days. And what I wanna share with you in this particular session is, really, kind of a mash up of all of that. So, that's the back story. The title is "What We Can Do," but we're walking through a really unusual season where, you know, right seems to be declared wrong and wrong seems to be celebrated, and down and up and sideways, and places that you've trusted don't feel as trustworthy and churches that have stood for biblical principles and orthodoxy, you're stepping away from them, and then they say they're not stepping away from them.

And it's confusing. I live in that church world and I'm telling you what's happening just, in the church segment of the discussion is incredibly disorienting and it costs us two or three things to happen. You either wanna withdraw and not pay attention, which I don't think is helpful. I think we have to maintain our awareness of what's happening in the world around us. It can be frightening because the change is coming with such speed and in such sweeping ways, it's disorienting. But if we understand the who it is that we follow and what our foundation is established upon, we're not looking for the culture to establish right and wrong for us anyway. It was simpler when the culture reinforced the biblical world view, it is certainly more disorienting when the culture chooses to take a stand in opposition to a biblical world view and oppose those who do.

That elicits fear. I've never seen the amount of fear existing in the hearts of the general public that I see today. We're afraid to tell the truth. We're afraid to say something, we believe something is sinful. I mean, it is stunning to me how that has happened and it didn't happen all at once and it certainly didn't happen just with the lockdown in 2020, but it has happened. So, this session is what we can do because people ask me all the time. "Pastor, what can we do? I don't know what to do. What can we do"? Well, this is at least one approach to what we can do. So, I wanna send you away from this bit of time we have together with at least an imagination of something that is within your authority, within your realm of possibility, to respond to God in a way that would bring his best to you.

See, no matter what comes to the earth, God will take his people through. Everything about us could be disrupted. There's numerous biblical examples of when that was to happen, sometimes because of the adversaries of God misbehaving and sometimes because of God's judgment in the midst of his people. When either of those things happen, it brings disruption to God's people. Now, he takes them through. But it could mean we see some realignment and some things that change, and change is usually not particularly welcome. So, I wanted to start with some primary assignments. When the pressure is great, you need to know the fundamentals really well. It needs to be second nature. It needs to be intuitive.

So what are some of the primary assignments? We're just, really, gonna look at a couple. Primary assignments of what God wants me to do so that when all else fails, I know my assignment, I know where to stand, I know what my response is to be. And if I peel it back down to some fundamentals, I would say to you, gentlemen, that God wants you to be, first and foremost, godly men. No matter what happens in the broader world, no matter what the economic markets do, no matter what the United Nations decides, if you want to know what you can do, you can say, "I'm determined to be a godly man". That has little to do with conventional wisdom or "The New York Times" or social media. I think you can add to that. His intent is that you would be a godly husband, and if you are so privileged, to be a godly father.

In fact, I would suggest to you that how you do in becoming a godly man, a godly husband, and a godly father could be understood to be the three most significant assignments of your life. I'm not saying they're the only assignments, but I don't believe you can fail in those three things and imagine yourselves successful in the kingdom of God. I would say to the women, I believe God wants you to be godly women. Aren't you glad you got dressed up and came to church for this just nugget of revelation? But in the times of disorientation and confusion and, if you know what a godly woman, what is embodied in that, you give your whole heart to that. It may be countercultural. It may go in the face of conventional wisdom. It may call you to be labeled in some ways you'd prefer not to be labeled, but let the determination of your heart be to be a godly woman, to be a godly wife.

And I'm not talking about sitting in church and being a woman. You can sit in church and be wicked. Happens every week in churches just like this one. There's a huge difference in sitting in church and pretending to be religious and being a person who has fully yielded your heart to honoring God with your choices, to allowing the Word of God to inform you in your decisions, to set your moral boundaries, to set your priorities. Godly women, godly wives, and godly mothers. Folks, our world would change, our nation would change, our schools would change, our cities would change if the men and women who gather in churches would completely devote themselves to becoming godly men and women, godly husbands and godly wives, and godly parents. They would change everything. That's what we can do. That is within our reach. That has nothing to do with elections or economic trends or international intrigue or Russian collusion. That is available to us, accessible to us. It's biblical.

In Matthew 15, Jesus is speaking. He said, "God said, 'Honor your father and mother.'" Jesus is quoting from the Ten Commandments. But then he tacks another part of the Mosaic discussion onto it. Again, this was Jesus saying it, "'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'" Jesus takes the curse that was given upon dishonoring your father and mother and abuts it to the commandment. So, Jesus is not softening the tone of the Ten Commandments. In fact, it's a more harsh presentation. We have a biblical assignment for which we will be held accountable by God himself to honor our parents. Wow.

John chapter 19, Jesus is on the cross. Horrific, just horrific, indescribable, the pain, the humiliation, the agony, the suffering, the weakness by this point. He's just about done. He's been beaten almost to death. Too much of a loss of blood, too weak to even carry his own cross, which was normally expected of someone condemned a crucifixion. And now he's been crucified, he's on the cross, his life is just about over. So through the haze of the pain, the torment, and the exhaustion, John 19. "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'"

It's John. John is being given an assignment from the cross. "From that time on, John took her into his home". There's some background information you should have. It can be uncomfortable sometimes, but God chooses our parents. We don't vote for those. God chooses them. In some places you say, "Yay, God," in some places you say, "Oh, me". When you dishonor your parents, you dishonor God. When you reject them or rebel against them, you reject and rebel against God. Now, honoring your parents doesn't mean, as an adult, that you slavishly do everything they say. We'll come back another time and unpack this notion of what it means to honor, but in just simple terms, as we walk past it, to honor your parents means you're willing, as you mature and grow in life, to share tangible expressions of concern. They showed concern for you, you reciprocate. "Well, I don't like them". That wasn't the discussion. "I think they could have done better".

Okay, honor your parents. Secondly, it would mean you have to be willing to forgive. There are no perfect parents, I promise you, your parents made mistakes. Yours weren't the only ones. It's a universal condition. If you've been a parent, you might be willing to admit you made one once. The system is not perfect because the individuals implementing the system are broken. If we didn't need a Savior, God would not have sent his Son. You have to forgive your parents. It's not an emotion. It's a choice. It's a decision you make.

And if you're holding in your heart animosity, anger, hatred, resentment, bitterness, because of a failure in your family system, I would invite you, in this session, before we leave this building or you get off of this presentation, to forgive them. It can be something as simple as you saying, "Father, I forgive them," and if you need to articulate what you're forgiving them for, do so. If they've already stepped out of time and into eternity, if it's helpful, you can sit down with an empty chair and say, "I need to say something. I wanna forgive you. I've been angry, I've been filled with bitterness, I've hated you. I forgive you".

See, when you and I hold on to unforgiveness and anger and resentment, it makes us captive because every time we remember or the scene comes back to us or there's something that triggers us, we get all the emotions. We walk through the hurt again. Forgiveness doesn't mean they get away with it, God is just. I trust him as the judge of all, but please do not extend to yourself the emotional luxury of maintaining anger and resentment and bitterness. Forgive them. The great motivation Jesus gave us when he taught us to pray was we forgive others so that we can be forgiven. And I think most of us understand our own needs for forgiveness. The third piece I would submit in honoring your parents is about respect. Be sure to practice, cultivate, ways of giving expressions of honor. They put you first when your strength was small, lend your strength to them when it's appropriate.

I would submit to you that as a culture we have forgotten, for the most part, how to honor our elders. It doesn't get a lot of discussion. It doesn't get a lot of consideration. We have more conversation around how to protect the youngest amongst us, how to care for our children, what they're deserving of, the opportunities we want them to have, how important it is that they be affirmed, that their self images be maintained whole and intact. Now, I will grant you, we don't protect the young particularly well. We've sacrificed 60 million children to abortion or more. Sometimes I feel like we protect the nest of the sea turtles more carefully than we protect our own children. But I would submit to you that we have almost a total disdain and disinterest in helping those that are our seniors.

In the midst of this we can see God at work, and I wanna take the balance of our time by trying to see if we can turn some lights on in how God is working in these arenas. I think, first of all, he's at work for us. The biblical word for that is restoration. Restoration in our lives, in our family systems, typically emerges from desperate places. Until we're desperate, we're not usually too interested in making significant changes. I wish I was different, but that's typically the way we work.

In Luke chapter 7 there's a beautiful picture of restoration. Jesus is involved in this one. They're on the edge of the Jezreel Valley, approaching the village, it's near the end of the day, he says, "As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, 'Don't cry.' And he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said to the young man, 'I say to you, get up!' And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother".

I think the last phrase is critical to understanding it. The point of Jesus's compassion was to restore to the mother her dead son. And Luke the physician puts the ball around it. He said he gave him back to his mother in a better condition than he'd found him. He interrupted a funeral procession. It's a picture of restoration. It's what God does in our lives. It's the point of the Jesus initiative. He came to this earth to offer himself. He said, "To seek and to save those which were lost". We were dead and we're made alive to God again. And as we live out our redemption, as we live out our salvation, God brings to life again those places in us that have been damaged by evil in the world. Whether it's come to us through our family systems, through our own choices, the God we serve is a God with the power to restore.

That is a very, very important message. He doesn't just, there was a movie, they remade it, but the first time I saw it, I was in high school. We had electricity. I know some of you would wonder, so I was just gonna go ahead and, it's called "Gone in 60 Seconds". It's a movie, the whole movie is a car chase. And at the beginning of the movie, somebody steals a car. And by the end of the movie, it's damaged on every section of the car. And at the end of the movie, the person who's stolen the car drives past one of those car washes where you put your car in one end and it comes out the other and he takes the car that's completely trashed and there's one that looks just like it coming out the other end, clean. So, he puts his car in the back to get washed and he steals the new one.

The reason it stuck in my head is I remember at the end of the movie, the person who put their car in, they're standing there, when it comes out of the car wash, it's completely trashed. Well, my point in that story is, I think, I imagined, at least, for a long time, that when God restores us, it's like he hammers out all the dents. We get a little Bondo. You might get a new quarter panel. You're gonna get a new paint job. You'll look significantly better, but you've had some hard miles. And that's not at all what the scripture teaches us. The scripture says we're made a totally new creation, that the old is gone and the new is come, that God doesn't just hammer around our dens, he restores us to a better condition.

I had some friends a few years ago that took a historic home in our community and restored it. They called us when they bought it and asked us to come walk through it with them. And it was horrible. I remember standing in the kitchen and you had to be careful because you'd break through the flooring and you'd break a leg, you'd break all, I mean, it was just in awful condition. The plumbing wasn't good. The electrical wasn't good. It didn't have central. I mean, there was nothing about it, it was not a house, it was a more barn-like. And they're gonna restore it. But when they got done, they didn't have a house that was like it was when it was new. When it was new, it didn't have a microwave. When it was new, it didn't have central heat and air. When it was new, it didn't have tankless water heaters so that you had an endless supply of hot water.

When they were done restoring it, it was a complete upgrade over what the original had been. God is in the restoration business. That's both good news for us. And it's the reason we're such advocates for him. We live in a broken, fallen world. What can we do? We can tell people they can be restored. Their lives can be restored, their future can be restored. Say, "I'm so anxious about what's happening in the world". Stop focusing on it and focus on what God is doing. Find some people in the process of being restored. Get in line, say, "Can we make this journey together"? Our God is in the restoration business. He is in charge of prodigal power. He got the prodigal son from the pit where he was slopping the pigs, and for a young Jewish man, that's the bottom rung on the ladder, and brought him home and restored him to the family.

In Luke 15, the commentary, the father says, "This son of mine was dead, he's alive again; he was lost and he's found. And they began to celebrate". There's a celebration to our faith, it's good news. And in the midst of the storms and the turmoil, don't give into the darkness and the heaviness. We're celebrating a God of restoration. He is at work for us. This book is a search and rescue mission. From the earliest pages when we betrayed the trust of God and chose disobedience, God said, "I have a plan," and it concludes in the book of Revelation with our Lord returning as a conquering King and vanquishing the enemy. It's a good news story. God is in the prodigal business.

Now, I would remind you, as parents, we started with godly men and godly women and the outgrowth of that. Parenting is a biblical assignment. It's not for your fulfillment. It's not primarily to fulfill your dreams. We have made it a bit perverse. We've allowed parenting, and it's infected the church almost as deeply as it has the secular culture, to imagine it as something about our own gratification. We refer to the children as if they're ours and, I'm not suggesting that's inappropriate, but, ultimately, God said, "I knew them before you saw them". "I have a plan for them," he said. "I knew them when they were being knit together in their mother's womb".

We may contribute some genetic material, but God is the one who's the author and the completer of their stories. And parenting, from a biblical standpoint, is the ultimate train and release program. In Mark 10, I suspect you know it, it says, "At the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'" He hasn't redesigned the system. I'm gonna continue to say that because it's under such significant assault. "'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, the two will become one flesh.' So they're no longer two, but one". Parents, the system is designed. They're leaving. There'll be times along the journey you think, not soon enough. In fact, you may start reading that to them as their life verse. But the purpose of parenting, it's a sacred trust for a season. Our assignment is do everything we can to prepare them to succeed beyond us.

In Proverbs 22 in verse 6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go. And even when he's old he will not depart from it," train up a child in the way he should go. It's impossible to train without effort, without discipline, and without expectations. I've had a variety of trainers in my life. Some physical trainers, some who were designed to coach me with a variety of physical skills or abilities. And I can tell you, I never had a trainer that was particularly interested in being my friend. In fact, they always seem to find some joy in the fact that I would be agitated with them, accuse them of being unfair. My trainers had no interest in equitable things.

I had one trainer for a while that was trying to get me in better condition. He would give me a course to run and he would follow me in his car. That's wrong. But he wasn't the one in training, I was. It's a really helpful image. Trainers are not always in a friendly posture, because a good trainer will require effort of you that you would not make in their absence. Isn't that the nature of the relationship? So, when Proverbs says to us, "Train your children," your engagement with them goes beyond friendship or camaraderie or mutual appreciation or the perception that everything you're saying is kind. Inherent in that bargain, in that description, is an awareness of a preferred future for them that they might not even understand for themselves, and you will encourage the discipline necessary for them to be their best.

Hey, before we leave today, I wanna pray with you. You know, our adversary is an accuser, it's one of the titles given to Satan in scripture, and he's relentless in that. He will point out our flaws, our failures, our weaknesses, our inconsistencies to try to convince us to abandon the arena. Don't you do it. Our God is a God of restoration. Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, we need your help. We need you to help make up the difference, for we have stumbled or failed or chosen wrongly. I thank you for your grace. In Jesus's name, amen.

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