Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Without and Within - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Without and Within - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Without and Within - Part 1
TOPICS: Battle With Good and Evil

Previous session, we began a study on "The Battle with Good and Evil". It doesn't take much imagination to recognize that something like that is happening around us. In fact, it's happening on a global basis. It's confusing, the speed at which it's happening, the deterioration of values that have held us together for decades are being shredded it seems like almost on a daily basis. We talked about the theater of the absurd, things are presented to us on a regular basis that are so bizarre, so beyond the norm of many of our lifetimes that it's difficult to process. Almost seems like it's a parody, but it's not.

In this session I wanna talk about that battle that's taking place both within us and around us, because it's taking place in both arenas, and it requires some awareness on our part. I've spent a good bit of time in the last few months engaging with the church across our nation and beyond, and from my perspective, I believe the church is at a crossroads, and there are some very active decisions being made in some very different directions. Major expressions of American evangelicalism rejecting orthodoxy, stepping away from biblical practice, and doing so without apology, doing it with a great celebration and enthusiasm. They're not doing it in a hesitating way or reluctance. And those things have impacts on educational institutions, how Christianity is understood. We're at a crossroads. There's a separation taking place.

I wanna read a verse. It's not in your notes, sorry. But it is in that big book. You can check me later. It's Joshua chapter 24. It's Joshua nearing the end of his life. He has led the children of Israel into their inheritance in the Promised Land. He, in many respects, continued the mission that Moses began in the brick pits of Egypt. But he says this in chapter 24 and verse 15. "If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose lands you're living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord". It's a familiar passage. I share it with you to remind you of something, that the separation that's taking place and what we're watching happening is not new.

I don't believe it's appropriate to link it to the end of the age and the imminent return of the Lord. Those things could be, but I don't believe that that's an adequate explanation for what we're seeing happen. The pattern of scripture and the history of the church suggests to us that each generation has to make decisions for themselves. No matter how dramatic the interventions of God, no matter how remarkable the miracles, no matter how much the blessings of God may have filled our lives, you and I have a decision to make. Will we honor the Lord? Not go to church, not get saved, will we honor the Lord with our lives? And at the moment the current trends suggest that's not very fashionable.

In fact, it seems to me that even within the church, for the most part, we've imagined ourselves to have become a little too sophisticated for God, and we certainly don't want to bring any emotion to that or much enthusiasm. We might tolerate Christianity when it's convenient, and we don't necessarily wanna separate ourselves and declare ourselves of another faith, but we're happy to be labeled as kind of religiously ambivalent. "Well, yeah, I mean, I'm kind of sort of a Christian". We're too enlightened, too understanding of our world, too experienced in human behavior, too technologically sophisticated to submit ourselves to the authority of a book that was written in antiquity. We're too aware of our appetites and our desires. There's too much permission being given to pursue them and gratify them and to indulge them. God seems almost like a completely antiquated idea.

So, even if we don't reject him, we just kind of want God-lite. Well, there's two thinkers that have stood on the human stage whose ideas reflect very different outcomes, very different choices, but I think they inform this crossroads we're at and the decisions that are before us. They have some footprints through history that we can trace. There are outcomes, very divergent outcomes to these two ways of thinking. One we were reminded of by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Some of you will remember him. He was a Russian dissident, a writer, suffered a great deal because he had the boldness to identify with Jesus. He received a Templeton Award in 1983 at Harvard University, and he made a very celebrated speech that year when he received the award. And he said this: "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 is why all this has happened".

That was the thesis of his presentation, that men have forgotten God. He introduced it from the perspective of a, he said, an old Russian grandmother that had seen so much suffering and so much pain and so much death come to her people. And when asked, she said, "It's simple. We have forgotten God". I think we could say that about the culture around us. We have flourished and prospered like no people in history, no civilization that is really to compare, because I believe from the blessing of God. But we've been busily trying to forget him. And I don't mean in recent weeks or months or current political administrations. That's incredibly naive. We've been doing our best to forget God for quite some time.

On the other side of the spectrum was a Jewish man, a German, philosopher of sorts, Karl Marx. And Marx said that religion was the opiate of the people. Not something necessary, but something that impacts behavior. Well, you don't have to be a very careful student of history to know that Marxism hollowed out Russia under the cruel leadership of Lenin and Stalin and their followers. It devastated the island of Cuba, took a place that was beautiful and spectacular and people who were vibrant and energetic and left it devastated through Fidel Castro. It brought great suffering to the people of China, which continues today with President Xi. We try to celebrate them as something remarkable, but it's a very cruel system that the Chinese people are surviving under. It's impolite for us to say that, because we benefit from much of the abuse that they suffer, but it's true.

In the last century more than 100 million people died because of Marxist ideology. Nations you probably can't find on a map, the population suffered greatly, places like Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. If you can spell that, you go to the head of the class. Hungary, Poland, Romania, they all know the suffering of Marxism. It's almost unbelievable to survey our current landscape today and find ourselves to a stunning degree to have ignored Solzhenitsyn and have heeded Marx. Culturally, we're rejecting God. Abundant evidence on that. And we can hold ourselves out and say, "Well, we're still gathered in churches on Sunday," but you understand very well, if not consciously, intuitively, because you're hesitant, you're fearful, most of us terrified to take Jesus into the public square.

There's real consequences, not for just saying his name, but if you stand up for biblical values, so we give in to corruption and immorality and all the things they bring to the marketplace. We've allowed Marxian ideas to fill our universities. We have tolerated administrators and faculty members who reject God and embraced Marxist ideologies. They wrap their concepts in all sorts of manipulative language. I know, I sat in those classrooms. It's not new, folks. This has been happening for a long time. Critical Studies, Critical Race Theory; DEI, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. A lot of fancy language, a lot of manipulation of ideas promising a better future without the interference of faith in God. We send our children off to these universities, these institutions of higher learning, and now and tragically, it's not limited just to those places.

Then we're surprised when our children reject their faith. We are currently witnessing protests on our college campuses, our celebrated centers of learning, our young men and women with a number of provocateurs amongst them demanding that Hamas be celebrated. If you just haven't been paying any attention whatsoever, Hamas is a terrorist organization, globally understood to be such. Their charter says that they are committed to the destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of the Jewish people. They don't apologize for that, they will tell you in the plainest of language, and we're demonstrating on their behalf. And our administrators and leaders are reluctant to say anything about it. Just for the record, Hamas is violent, murderous, hate-filled perpetrators of evil. They do not deserve support.

Marxian ideas have informed our thoughts about money, resources, and even one another. The result of it is bold expressions of entitlement, expectations that we should benefit from the efforts of others. We want benefits we didn't sacrifice for. The repudiation of personal responsibility, the almost complete rejection of biblical attitudes regarding work, family, and faith. You can celebrate about anything in the public square today, but if you bring forth a biblically informed perspective on family, the outcome is a very divided and intolerant public square, leaders who garner power by convincing subsets of the population that they have been mistreated, preyed upon, and are deserving of benefits. We've abandoned biblical perspectives on equality, forgiveness, overcoming, and sin. These ideas, we are told repeatedly, are out of date, they're patriarchal, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and the list goes on and on. Expressions of oppression.

You know it to be true, you understand it intuitively, because in many respects we don't wanna say anything because we don't want those labels being affixed to us. The bizarre scene, this theater of the absurd, they presented a new chapter recently. The professional football player, a kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, was speaking, was invited to speak at a graduation service at a Catholic university. So, the setting is a Christian school, their graduation, they invited a professional football player to speak, and big surprise, he spoke affirming biblical values, particularly regarding sexuality and family. He had the brazen audacity to use the term homemaker as an affirmation of his wife. Celebrating the good things that had brought to his life and to his children and to their world. He has been vilified. Many tens of thousands of people have called for his termination as a professional athlete, that he should be denied the opportunity to participate.

That's quite a contrast to Colin Kaepernick. If you don't know, another professional football player who refused to stand for the national anthem, preferring to repudiate our flag and what it represents. He was hailed as a hero. He was celebrated broadly by his peer group in the national media. His behavior was emulated by many other professional athletes. Look, we need just a bit of clarity for the record. God does not oppress people. Evil does. Evil does. So, the question is, do we have the courage to listen once again to the council of scripture and in humility return to God? Our generation is facing one of these Joshua moments. We've experienced the blessings of God and the deliverance of God and the freedom that has come from God, but what will we choose?

Again, it's not the first time. Godly people have chosen idolatrous detours many times throughout the story of scripture and the history of the church. I wanna implore you, invite you to prayerfully consider choosing to return to our God. Our children and grandchildren and the generations who follow will benefit from our determination if we choose to seek God and live. There is a battle raging around us between good and evil. But let's not imagine it's someone else that's engaged or involved. Folks, we are participating. We are participating within ourselves, and we are participating in the world around us.

I want to start on your notes with Mark chapter 1. There is hope. Jesus beginning his ministry, Mark chapter 1. Mark, the scholars believe, was the first of the gospels that we have to be written. So, Mark chapter 1 would be very near the beginning of the story, and I don't believe it's accidental. It says, "They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. And the people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law". The synagogue was a learning institution. It was very much a part of the fabric of social life, religious life, of the behavior patterns of the 1st-century Jewish community. There were synagogues in all the communities.

If you had 12 Jewish men, you could have a synagogue. So, it's a learning place, the scriptures are read, the Torah is read on a weekly basis. But Mark offers the commentary that Jesus in the synagogue was different. He's not just reciting scripture, he's not just reviewing history, he's not just telling their family story, he's actually speaking as if there is an authority in scripture. If you'll allow me, I would submit that we have to stop doing polite Bible studies and begin to imagine that the Word of God has authority in the world in which we live. It's a vastly different place. I'm an advocate for study and learning, and I don't wanna diminish your study, but I would like to give you permission to begin to act as if the Bible were true. "Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!'"

That's pretty insightful. There's a demonized man in the synagogue. Not in the local bar. He's not a bookie. He's not doing something illegal or untoward. He's gathered on Sabbath in the synagogue, a demonized man, and the demon in the man has something to say, because the demon recognizes Jesus. This is Mark chapter 1. Jesus has not revealed himself yet to his disciples, to any of his contemporaries. The demon has insight and understanding that nobody else in the synagogue has. We're talking about a contest between good and evil, a struggle between good and evil. Please understand that evil is better prepared for what's unfolding around us, probably better informed on the Word of God, more aware of what God is capable of.

In the New Testament it says, "You believe there is a God". It's in the book of James, it's not in your notes, you can check me. It says, "You believe there's a God, good for you". James says, "The demons believe that, and they shudder". This demon says, "Have you come here to torment us? Why are you here"? There's an anxiety present. We can't even decide if we want to worship the Lord. "Well, I mean, I don't know if I wanna be emotional, pastor. You know, I'm just a bit more reserved. What do you want me to do, raise my hands"? No, I think you could probably stretch out on the carpet and say, "Lord, I'm sorry for my arrogance".

But please don't do it at church until you've done it in private. Your worship of the Lord in public should be nothing beyond a reflection of how you worship the Lord when you're not. I'm a lot more demonstrative when I talk to the Lord and engage with him and say thank you to him when I'm by myself than I would ever be in a place where you're watching. I'm willing to do it in a public place because perhaps it would help somebody else and encourage or model or give permission, something, but the real expression of your gratitude to the Lord is who you are when you're not here. The demons shudder at the thought of God. Again, there's a separation taking place, folks. We've been taught that we should attend church and be kind and polite and perhaps a bit timid, and you wanna be sort of kind of religious, and you wanna give deferential reference to some of that stuff, but you don't really give your heart to it and your strength to it and your effort to it.

Oh, yes, you do. Do you think Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, is gonna be fooled because you give him a polite nod for a few minutes on convenient weekends? The invitation of scripture is to serve the Lord with your whole heart, mind, soul, and body. All in, every part of us, every part of us. This demon is terrified, and he can't remain silent. He could have stayed silent and been undetected, unresponded to, but the fear was so great, he can't help it. "What do you want with me, Jesus"? "And Jesus said sternly, 'Come out of him!' And the evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. And the people were so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching, and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.' And news about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee".

I have an announcement. If somehow you've missed it, you've been around church and Christians and all the thing for a long time, folks, there is an authority in the kingdom of God, an authority that transcends any earthly government, any economic system, any military power. I'm not denying the reality of those things. They are very real and they have great strength and they can impact our lives. The authority of the kingdom of God can not only affect you physically, it can result in defining your eternity. It's worth understanding. If you've diminished it, Jesus said to us, "Don't be afraid of people who can kill your body".

Well, I don't know about you, but that's kind of high on my list. I mean, if we get really honest about it, if you meet somebody and they present a viable physical threat to you, that can create a little anxiety. You all look so innocent. Yes? Yes. But Jesus said, "Really, that's not so bad". He said, "I will show you who you should be afraid of". He said, "You should be afraid of someone that after they've killed your body, they could throw you into hell". There is an authority in the kingdom that we have chosen to raise our hand and say we want to be a part of that defines something far beyond physical strength or physical threats, and it's time for us to begin to wake up to that a little bit.

As you read through the Gospels, we're invited into these training sessions. Jesus is providing his disciples and you and me indirectly with opportunities to understand the authority of the kingdom. In Matthew 14 Jesus is ministering. This time there's a larger crowd, it's not just a synagogue with a few dozen people. There are hundreds, thousands actually gathered, and says, "As evening approached, the disciples came and said, 'This is a remote place, it's getting late. Send the crowds away.'" To get the emotion of that, you need to talk to the staff at the end of the weekend. What they're really saying is, "We're tired of these people, make them go home".

Go visit with the people in the nursery after service this morning. They love your children, but they are glad to see you when I say hello, right? They're ready for a break. And the disciples said, "Listen, we're in a remote place. There's a lot of people, it's the end of the day. Can you help a brother out"? "'Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.' And Jesus replied, 'They don't need to go away.'" That's like me about 45 minutes into the sermon when I say I have just one more point. [congregation laughing] You think, "Oh God, please". "'They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat.' And they said, 'We've only got five loaves of bread and two...we don't have enough for ourselves.'"

Now, Jesus knows what he's going to do. This miracle is recorded in all four Gospels, that's unique. Most of the miracle narratives around Jesus aren't recorded across all the Gospels. This one's picked up by everyone telling the Jesus story. He's helping his disciples to learn some lessons. They're gonna learn to trust him in new ways. They're gonna learn about limits that aren't limits. They're gonna learn about God's provision in ways they've never understood or imagined. There's an awareness of what God can do, there's an intent to co-operate with him. Without the intent, it's highly improbable you'll get to the outcome.

You see, we've lacked the intent. We've said, "Well, it'd be okay with me if God intervened, if God broke into my life and he did something, that would be okay". But we didn't have enough intentionality about ourselves to actually invite him in. We're reluctant to pray, we're reluctant to ask, we're reluctant to seek, we've lacked intent. We said, "Well, God could be God," and with that attitude, most of us would go to hell. I'm not trying to be coy. The Bible says that in order to be saved, we have to confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord. If we were to say inwardly, "Well, if God wants me to go to heaven, I guess he'll get me there," you'll miss it. You have to have the intent.

When the Spirit of God begins to move, one of the most important things we can do is to continue to say yes to him. No hesitation, no reluctance, we're all in. Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, yes. Yes to you, we wanna cooperate in obedience and faithfulness and steadfastness to serve your purposes. In Jesus's name, amen.

Are you Human?:*