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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Battle Between Good and Evil - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Battle Between Good and Evil - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Battle Between Good and Evil - Part 1
TOPICS: Spiritual warfare

I wanna begin a new series (short series, I think) on a discussion about the battle between good and evil. Have you noticed? That used to be kind of theoretical. You know, and we had to kind of scour the history books to find those blatant expressions of evil or go to dark chapters in our history or the hidden places in our family systems, but the reality is that these days, the battle for good and evil is a very prominent part of what's playing out in our lives on a daily basis. We talk about it around here oftentimes as the theater of the absurd. It's as if they say things in public that are just patently absurd, but they say them with straight faces. It's disorienting. It's confusing. And I don't know a way to understand it other than in the context of spiritual things.

So, I wanna spend a few sessions with you walking through some scriptures to see if we can gain some perspective. But at the heart of it is the church. I don't think we need to focus our attention on the ungodly or who you consider to be immoral or whoever the problems are. I believe if we can change the hearts of the people of God who gather in churches and imagine themselves to be Christ followers that God will intervene and we'll see a change that will give a better future to our children and our grandchildren. I spent my adult life in the Christian church. And my observation is that we have arrived at a place where we imagine ourselves to have become a bit too sophisticated for God. We don't really like to say it that way, but we live that way. We're too enlightened. We're too understanding of our world.

After all, now we're global citizens. We're too experienced in human behavior. We're too technologically sophisticated. We're too aware of our appetites and our desires, God seems like a completely antiquated idea. And if you haven't embraced that for yourself, I assure you that those ideas are careening around our educational establishments and our messaging centers. There's two thinkers, you'll be familiar with both of them, I believe, who present us with perspective, and they represent messages which are polar opposites. I've shared some quotes from Alexander Solzhenitsyn with you before, a Russian dissident. But in his celebrated address at Harvard in 1983, when he was given the Templeton Award, he made a statement that men have forgotten God. That that was the reason Russia had been so beset by troubles.

In fact, he quoted an old Russian grandmother. He said, "Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men have forgotten God.'" That's why all this happened. Well, I told you there was another philosopher, another thought leader: Karl Marx. He said something very different. Mark said that religion was the opiate of the people. Well, if you take those two men and their perspectives, in '83, when Solzhenitsyn was receiving the Templeton Award, it was unthinkable to imagine that what he was saying would be pushed to the back of the shelf in our own culture, but it has.

Today, we find ourselves to a stunning degree, at least in my opinion, to have ignored Solzhenitsyn, and we have heeded Marx, rejecting God. We say we don't want prayers in our schools, we don't want the Ten Commandments posted. The corporate boardroom, we've been told for decades, was not a place for us to bring our faith, but now they embrace a world view and an ideology that is very much opposed to a biblical one. Now we have the opiates of self-indulgence and a whole bevy of mind-altering substances that we're determined to subject ourselves to. Even though we can tell it's destroying our health, our families, and our productivity. We've allowed Marxian ideas to fill our universities. We've tolerated administrators and faculty members who reject God, that embrace Marxist ideologies. Then we're surprised when our children come home from those places and reject their faith.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed protests on our college campuses demanding that Hamas be celebrated. If you're not paying attention, and it's easy to do, if you don't know, Hamas is a terrorist organization committed to the elimination of the Jewish people in the modern state of Israel. They're violent, murderous, hate-filled perpetrators of evil, and they found support on our college campuses, and in far too many instances, administrations unwilling to discipline those protesters. Marxian ideas have informed our thoughts about money, resources, and one another. The result of this indoctrination is bold expressions of entitlement, expectations that we should benefit from the efforts of others, the repudiation of personal responsibility, and the almost complete rejection of biblical attitudes regarding work, family, and faith.

The outcome of this, and it's been unfolding for decades. It's not new. It didn't happen with the current political cycle. The outcome is a very divided and intolerant public square. A long list of leaders who garner power by convincing subsets of the population that they've been mistreated, preyed upon, and are deserving of benefits. And the church has had very little to say to thwart the momentum of that movement. We've abandoned biblical perspectives on equality, forgiveness, overcoming, and sin. These ideas, we are constantly told, are now out of date or patriarchal or racist or misogynistic or xenophobic, something. Some label they will affix to you if you have the temerity to step into the public square and be an advocate for a biblical worldview. This bizarre scene was played out recently.

The latest edition, if you'll allow me, of the theater of the absurd. When a professional football player speaking at a graduation ceremony for a Catholic university. At a graduation ceremony of a Christian school, a Catholic university. Was so brazen as to advocate for biblical principles regarding things like sexuality and family. He had the just bizarre idea to use the term "homemaker" as an affirmation of his wife. And if you haven't noticed, he has been broadly vilified. Many, thousands, tens of thousands, calling for his termination, that he should forfeit his position as a professional athlete. It's a pretty stark contrast to Colin Kaepernick, who not too long ago, refused to stand for the national anthem. And preferred to repudiate our flag and our own history. He was hailed as a hero, and his behavior emulated by many others. Just for the record.

And this idea has to start in the church. God does not oppress people. Evil does. Evil does. And in the swirl of ideas that are a part of the public square these days, you should know, even if you are absent much historical perspective, that Marxist ideas have left a very clear historical footprint. It is easily tracked and understood. Millions have died brutal deaths because of Marxist principles. They should not be emulated. They shouldn't be held up as standards for behavior. The question, it seems to me, that's relevant for those of us who imagine ourselves to be Christ followers and gather in churches, do we have the courage to listen once again to the council of scripture? And in humility, return to God. This is not the first time.

We are not the first generation where a godly people has chosen an idolatrous detour. It is the story of scripture repeatedly shown to us, and it is also reflected throughout the history of the church. I will encourage you, as I have been, to choose to return to God. Our children and grandchildren and the generations who follow will benefit from our determination to seek God and live. So when I talk about the battle between good and evil, I'm not talking about the election cycle or political parties. I believe if the church changes, we could see outcomes reflected through those systems. But until we have a change of heart, I don't believe we should expect godly leaders.

As long as we excuse immorality and ungodliness, and the churches are our centers and sponsors for things that are apart from and separate from the scripture, I don't think we'll see a change in those more prominent places. So I'm gonna start our discussion with Jesus and his followers. We'll get to the evil portion in a minute, but I wanted to start with the good news. In Luke chapter 8, and verse 24, Jesus is on the boat in the Sea of Galilee with his disciples. They get caught in a storm that's frequent on that body of water. "And the disciples woke Jesus up, and said, 'Master, we're going to drown!' And he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; and the storm subsided, and all was calm". And he asked the disciples, "'Where is your faith?' And in fear and amazement they ask one another, 'Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.'"

It's a familiar story if you've read your Bible. Jesus, the carpenter, is in a boat with fishermen. And there's a storm, and the fishermen think they're going to drown. And the carpenter is asleep. You have to enjoy the contrast. And they wake the carpenter up to see if he can help the fishermen with their boat. And he does the opposite. He stands up, but then he does something completely unexpected. He speaks to the wind and the waves. The statement I wanna draw your attention to is in verse 25. It says the disciples response was twofold. It was a response of fear and a response of amazement. If you'll allow me, I wanna suggest we need a little more amazement in the midst of the people of God and a little less hand-wringing. Let's stop looking through the windows of our church and decrying how dark the darkness is. Let's stop being agitated and angry because the wicked people do wicked things. Or advocates for evil keep advocating for evil. That is their nature.

Let's find, once again, our amazement at the supernatural, miracle-working power of an almighty God that we've chosen to submit our lives to. It also says the disciples were afraid. They were filled with fear. Again, I would submit we need a lot more fear of God and a whole lot less fear of what others are going to say. I'll give you a little bit of advanced notice. If you decide to stand up for biblical principles, biblical definitions of marriage, and family and human sexuality, somebody's gonna call you a name. Stand up anyway. You don't have to be angry or belligerent or hateful. We've stood in the shadows and equivocated, trying to figure out how we could be liked by the ungodly long enough. We have good news. You don't have to live under the bondage of sin and humiliation and failure and dissatisfaction. You can have a peace with God that, in the midst of a storm, you can sleep through it.

Let me add to that. Luke chapter 5, "When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.'" Jesus has borrowed Peter's boat as a platform. The Sea of Galilee is several hundred feet below sea level, and it's surrounded by hills, so if you wanna address a crowd of people, there's kind of a natural amphitheater, and if you can get a little space between yourself and the shore, it's easier to heal. So Peter's boat has been recruited as a speaking platform. And they're done, and now Jesus is giving him instructions to catch some fish.

"And Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and we haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I'll let down the nets.' And when they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help 'em, and they came and filled both boats so full they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I'm a sinful man!'"

Jesus is recruiting disciples. It's the beginning of his public ministry. He doesn't have a reputation yet. The miracle stories are few and scattered. He's an itinerant rabbi, and he's borrowed the boat of these fishermen. And when he's done, he gives them instructions. Now, local knowledge helps here in Galilee, the lake, and the water is so clear, they fish at night. And Peter says to Jesus, "Lord, we worked hard all night and we didn't catch anything. We worked hard all night and we had no outcome from that".

You need that for the rest of the story to make any sense because the next sentence is bizarre. I mean, it really is difficult to understand because this isn't the Jesus of three years from now. This isn't the Jesus where they've seen him raise the dead and walk on the water and open blind eyes. They don't know him in that way yet. And Peter says to him, "We worked hard all night and we haven't caught anything, but because you say so, we'll let down the nets. Wrong time of day. We're exhausted. We let you use our boat. Are you kidding me? But because you say so".

Folks, I spend most of my time talking to church people, and at some point in the very near future, we're going to have to decide to respond to the Lord because he said so. We are. The trends that are in place, the momentum that is building, the things happening around us, the way our children and young people are being targeted, if we don't begin to respond to the Lord because he said so, they will look back upon us with scathing questions about our capitulation to darkness. I earned one degree studying history, and I spent a good deal of time reviewing the history of the church, and there are chapter after chapter where that God's people lack the courage to engage. Now, there are many things that contribute to that, but when we imagine that we have an endless period of time and we can decide to marshal our resources or focus our attention or to raise our hand that we have decades to go, "I don't believe that's true".

I look forward to what's in front of us. I think we will see unprecedented responses to God, different than anything that has marked our church experiences to this point. We've stood and quibbled over secondary and tertiary things, and I believe God is awakening a people who will give him a preeminent place. Matthew 16:18 is a verse that changed my life. Jesus said, "I'll build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it". It's a declaration of intent from the name that we're told is above every name. The name in which every knee will bow, every knee in heaven and earth and under the earth. So there's no greater authority, there's no greater expression of power, and Jesus declared his intent. He said, "I will establish my church, and hell will not overcome it". We've apologized enough. We've been frightened enough. Jesus is the head of a triumphant church. I believe he will give us the resources that we need.

In Luke 24, and 49, this is post-Resurrection. Jesus has endured the cross. He's alive again, and they're parting instructions for his closest friends. He said, "I'm gonna send you what my father has promised; but stay in the city until you've been clothed with power from on high". I'll spare you the New Testament word studies. The various ways to understand power and authority maybe in another time. What I think is worth noting for our sakes in this session is that Jesus said we would be clothed with power. To be completely candid, I don't think it's the church we know. We imagine we have to have enough people, that if we could get big enough crowds, that if we can marshal enough people, if there's a big enough movement, but we don't have to have the majority.

There's an authority in God's truth. God very seldom looked for a majority. He looked for men and women who would yield themselves to him, who would humble themselves and embrace the Word of God and the instructions they were given from him. We've got to stop being agitated with other people. And we're gonna have to have the courage to say "yes" to the Lord. In Ephesians 6, it describes a struggle that is unfolding around us. A battle between good and evil. In verse 12, it says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood". It isn't against political parties. It isn't against networks that you don't like. It isn't against your neighbor. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".

Within the churches. We are more likely to have a seminar and discuss whether or not we believe in spiritual forces than we are to give our time and attention in praying against them. It's time for us to change. And again, I spent my life in the church. I don't intend to throw rocks at us. I'm simply saying that our patterns of behavior and our habits have to be different if we're going to get to a better place. In John 10, Jesus gave us his perspective. He said, "The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and destroy; but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full". We have to understand that when we step away from a biblical perspective, when we take a godly principle that we know to be true and we choose not to embrace it, that we put our feet on a path that will lead us ultimately towards destruction.

We've treated ungodliness as if it was inconvenient. Wasn't that significant. We could live through it. We could negotiate. We could navigate. We could find somebody with letters at the end of their name that would affirm us in our ungodliness. I believe what Jesus said. That to be in relationship with him will bring a richness to your life that you cannot achieve any other way. And that if you choose to reject that invitation, then it will lead inevitably, in every instance, to ultimate destruction. Hebrews 12. The author of Hebrews invites us to consider Jesus. "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you've not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood". The invitation, excuse me, the admonition is to not grow weary and lose heart. The author of Hebrews is not describing our struggle with personal sins.

Now, we have those. I'm sorry, I have the wrong room. There are groups of people who come here occasionally who have struggles with sins. You know sitting in church does not remove you from that arena, right? You can look up from the carpet now. It's okay. You know, we want to pretend that, but it's a pretense. We have struggles with sin. The tempter doesn't abandon us. He doesn't stop putting things in front of us that are enticing and appealing in the short run but ultimately destructive in the longer run. We will face those battles as long as we have breath under the sun. But that's not the point of this passage. That's not what's being discussed. It's not what the author of Hebrews is trying to remind us of. He's giving us a different perspective. And he said, "In your struggle against sin, you've not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood".

We are asked to consider Jesus and the opposition that he faced from sinful people. Jesus was sinless, perfect, obedient, the Son of God. He was guilty of doing these heinous things, like healing on the Sabbath, of pointing out the hypocrisy of people who are in positions of leadership and authority. People say he wasn't political, and it's true. He didn't run for office or advocate for political parties, but he was very much engaged in the current events of the world in which he lived. And so are we. If we leave our faith out of that engagement, we're simply hiding our faith. It's not that we're not engaged. But the author of Hebrews is reminding us that Jesus, because he stood against ungodliness, paid an enormous price.

And we're given instructions not to grow weary and lose heart. The assumption is that we are making an effort to stand against sin. We are tasked with resisting sinful behavior. And here's the reality: that is both tiring and disheartening. That's the reason the instruction we're given is to not grow weary and not to lose heart. It isn't easy. It isn't easy to do that at our kitchen table. It isn't easy to do that at our holiday table. It's not easy to do that with our friends. It's easier to talk about current events. It's easier to talk about what we're doing with our summer vacations. But the church, to be salt and light, we have to engage the world we're in with the perspective of the faith that we hold.

I have learned through the years that a part of following the Lord is the willingness to do difficult things. Being a Christ follower is not always about the easy. I wanna pray today that you'll have the courage to say "yes" to the Lord, even when it's a difficult assignment.

Father, I thank you that you have chosen us and created us for your purposes. And I pray that not one of us would turn aside or shrink back. That we have a spirit of boldness. In Jesus's name, amen.

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