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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Without and Within - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Without and Within - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Without and Within - Part 2
TOPICS: Battle With Good and Evil

I mean, I'm amazed at our ability and our adeptness at dancing away from actually having to live out in obedience and intentionally the invitations of scripture. You know, the church pattern is: ready, aim, let's form a committee. We need more information. "Let's study the possibilities more completely. What about the economic trends? What does our peer group say"? Well, that's not the way we do it here. I think Jesus gives us permission for a little different model, at goes something like this, or at least this is my interpretation of it: ready, aim, fire. Fire, fire, fire, whoops, adjust, fire, training sessions.

And then Jesus gives us some very clear discussions on good and evil, instructions on how to cooperate in Matthew 6 and verse 31 he said, "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What will we wear?'" That's pretty straightforward. You probably need a theology degree to mess that up. Jesus said, "Don't worry about stuff". I won't ask for a show of hands. None of you would do that, but you probably have lived with someone who might. He said, "Just don't worry about stuff". "The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".

Jesus, in those simple verses, and again, they're easily accessible to all of us, establishes a contrast between pagans and the godly. He said your status, in one of those two camps, is established, determined, by what you're running after, whatever it is you're seeking. He didn't say your status is determined by where you sit on the weekend. He said, "I can tell you the group you belong to by what you're chasing after". That's an expression of your time and your resources. He's telling us that God's provision for his people is complete, lacking nothing. He said, "The pagans, they run her after all of that stuff nonstop". They're never content, it's never sufficient, because they're not driven by a kingdom awareness. They're driven by their own carnal desires and no matter how much you have, you want more.

That's true, statistically supportable. Apart from the Spirit of God helping us to temper our own selfish impulses, we will never be content. That's why addictions are such a problem, but it's not just addictions to the things you're most familiar with. We can be addicted to power, we can be addicted just about any form of physical gratification you could imagine. Jesus said that's the way the pagans behave. He said, "I'm encouraging you to run after something else". He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God". Again, it's really plain language. My question is, do we have the intent? And if so, how are you giving expression to it? What's your obedience in that context look like? We're watching a struggle between good and evil, and evil is flourishing in the most remarkable ways.

If a professional athlete identifies himself in some unusual sexual orientation, he's celebrated as heroic, courageous. But if they identify themselves in a traditional biblical way, they're vilified. What are you seeking? God's provision for his people is complete, it lacks nothing. That's the story of scripture when he brought the slaves out of Egypt. The people with no central government, of no history of independence, of no provision. They had nothing. And the Bible says that there were no sick people amongst them, that their clothing didn't wear out, God fed them every day with manna, he brought water forth in the one of the most brutal deserts in the world. He protected them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Do you think God's lost his juice? Do you think he's lost his interest?

In 2 Peter 1:3, it's not in your notes, but you can check me later, it really is in the book. Peter said, "God has given us everything we need for life and for godliness," instructions on good and evil. And we're also warned that our character can be corrupted by our choices, and that the fact that we've chosen to honor Jesus as Lord of our lives does not remove us from the arena where temptations present and we can still become people of corrupt character. That's why we have to encourage one another, challenge one another, spur one another on, the Bible says, because every one of us are vulnerable to corruption. These leading universities where they're protesting for this bizarre, nonsensical, wicked, evil things these days, many of them started as training places for Christian ministers.

Harvard, Princeton, our oldest and most celebrated universities began as Christian institutions of Christian learning for the purpose of training people to rightly divide and discern the Word of God. They've been corrupted. It doesn't take hundreds of years. We can manage that in moments in our lives. 2 Timothy 3 gives us a description. Paul's writing to a young man he's mentoring and he says, "There'll be terrible times in the last days". And then he lists 18 aspects of human character that will deteriorate. It sounds like a description of the world we're in. They hinge on three things. He said, "People will become lovers, they'll become lovers of themselves, lovers of money, and lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God".

Perhaps the most unsettling statement in there is the last verse, I made it bold, if you're looking at my notes. He said, "They'll have a form of godliness," they will have a form of godliness. They will have a form of godliness. They'll use religious language, they'll go to religious services, they'll put Christian in their label, they'll have a form of godliness, "But they will deny its power". Paul wrote this. In Paul's thought, the power of God is inseparable from the cross. When he wrote to the church in Corinth, he said, "I decided when I was with you to know nothing except Christ and him crucified," that a Savior who was crucified was foolishness, said, "it was nonsense to the Jews and foolishness to the non-Jews, but to those who are being saved, it's the power of God".

See, the cross says, "I can't save myself. My ideas have to be submitted to the authority of God. I have to choose God's way and not my way". So, when Paul writes to Timothy and he said, "Things will deteriorate, human character will deteriorate, people will have a form of godliness, but they'll deny their need to repent". They'll be self-determined, they'll begin to redefine, they'll establish new norms and new patterns. They'll have a form of godliness, they won't change the labeling, but they're gonna deny the power of God. It's the next phrase you need. He said, "Have nothing to do with them". They'll corrupt you. They will corrupt you. Please don't imagine that because you've recited the sinner's prayer and presented yourself at worship that you are free from the possibility of character deterioration. We have to choose the Lord. We have to guard our hearts. In fact, the counsel of scriptures, "Above all else, guard your hearts".

My time is slipping away, I wanna take a moment with good and evil. In Isaiah chapter 5, it describes the time, and it happens repeatedly throughout history, where we confuse good and evil. Not confused in the sense that we're incapable of discerning. We intentionally want to muddy the line. Well, it seems to me that we are world class at confusing good and evil. We'll do just about anything we can to muddy it. "Well, my marriage is not determined by a piece of paper". I agree with you completely. It's determined by Almighty God. And if you're fortunate enough to live someplace where the state would recognize it in a biblical way, that's a double blessing. Confusing good and evil.

Isaiah 5, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil". That's woe, W-O-E. I grew up around horses. We have another word. Sounds similar. Not exactly a homonym, but it sounds similar. With a horse, it's whoa, W-H-O-A. What's that mean? Stop. There's still enough country folk, yeah. If you wanna talk to a horse and you speak horse, you say, "Whoa," as opposed to screaming. Screaming means, "hurry". But if the horse has been trained and you say, "Well, there's a reasonable chance he might stop". This is not the word that's used there. That's W-O-E. That means "warning". If you want the expanded definition, it means "I'm about to come upside your head". Judgment is impending. It's not stop. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil," don't be one of those, "who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter".

I think it's safe to say we're living in a season where it's quite fashionable to call evil good and good evil. Do not lend your support. Whatever the cost, find your voice and say, "I don't agree with that. I'm not up for that. I won't do that. Not at my table. Not in my world". Everybody won't love you, but those that are seeking to honor the Lord will. Proverbs 17:15 says, "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent, the Lord detests them both". Now, I'm a pretty simple guy. I grew up in barns across middle Tennessee. I've been asked several times lately to explain that. City people. My father was a veterinarian. He treated horses. My brothers and I were the assistants.

So, we spent a disproportionate time in our childhood in barns. It's no more complicated than that. My parents did not lock me in the barn and feed me through a slot. That might explain much, but that's not what happened. "The Lord detest them both". In spite of that training in my life, I do not intend to be included in any group of people that the Lord said he detests. I wanna get as far away from that group as I know how. Don't confuse good and evil. Don't be a party to that. Don't encourage others to do that. Distinguish good from evil. That's the assignment. It's not always easy. Forget the intentional obfuscation, it's just not always easy.

In Hebrews 5 and verse 14 it says, "Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil". You have to, by continual expression of intent, train yourself to distinguish between the two. It's really easy. If you spend time with permissive people, if you spend time with people who blur the lines, who don't have a recognition of good and evil, it will be far more difficult for you to make the distinction and you'll start calling evil people good. You'll start calling people to do evil things, good people, because they have some exceptional characteristics. There are evil people that are gifted athletes. There are evil people who are gifted ministers. I don't want to pick on any one profession.

The fact that you have skill sets or abilities or unique gifts doesn't make you good in the biblical sense. Goodness comes from that desire to honor God with your life. And it takes intent and training, purposeful discipline, in order to be able to identify, to distinguish good from evil. And then we're advised in scripture to turn from evil and do good, turn away from evil. 1 Peter 3, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech". Peter's writing to believers, Christians, God's people. "He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil".

Again, very plain language. Peter writes very plainly. Paul writes some crazy stuff. One sentence is a whole page long. Not Peter. He put seven things in that little passage. He said you have to keep your tongue from evil. You have to do that. James says the most unruly part of our body is our tongue. Well, I can give him an amen on that. You know, at this season of my life, I don't bounce as well as I used to, it takes longer to heal. I'm much less interested in physical confrontation. There was a time in my life, "Let's go". But not so much anymore. But my mouth... oh. That's why sometimes I write this stuff down because if I don't, I'll get up here and, well, I'll just get in trouble.

You have to keep your tongue from evil. Keep your lips from deceitful speech. Do not give yourself to deceit. Deceit hides the truth, reveals portions of the truth, manipulates the truth, tries to hide intent. We have a whole new vocabulary set for deceit. Don't do that. Then Peter says, "Turn from evil". Turn away from it, it's a physical expression, but then he gives us something. He said, "Don't just turn from evil, do good". Don't just know what good is, go do the good. You and me, every one of us. And then he says we have to seek peace. It's interesting. He says, "Seek peace and then pursue it". You have to seek it to find it, to identify it. And once what identify what will bring peace, then pursue it, run it down, secure it. And we're gonna close our service with Communion. I'll finish the outline. There's more sessions.

If you're on campus this morning when you came into the sanctuaries, the ushers were there with the elements of Communion, and if you missed that, they're in the aisleways, they'll share now. If you're at home, you got a minute. Go grab a glass of water and a saltine cracker. You can use a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk. I don't wanna be disrespectful, but you don't have to have one of our little handy-dandy Communion kits. Communion seemed appropriate today because the purpose of the cross was to deliver us from evil. You see, we needed help that we could not accomplish on our own. God is a just God. Not justice in the way it's used in the current setting, but God, by his very character and the nature, is just.

So, he wasn't just gonna wipe away our guilt. He wasn't going to, by executive order or divine fiat, erase our guilt. A third of the angels rebelled, lost their place in heaven. Satan was an archangel. He lost his place and there is nothing in scripture that suggests God has any plan or intent of redeeming the fallen angels. They await his ultimate judgment. But when humanity rebelled, God, in the very opening chapters of the Bible, made an amazing statement promising our redemption. And then he sent his Son, who led a perfect, sinless, obedient life, and we crucified him through the intervention of the evil one. The Bible says if Satan and the kingdom of darkness had understood God's plan, they would have never crucified Jesus because on the cross Jesus exhausted the curse, the punishment, that was due all of our godlessness. He took the weight of it, that in return you and I might have all of the blessings that were due his perfect obedience.

So, Jesus met the standards of God's complete justice. He paid the price that we might have the blessing. Some people mistakenly, and quite honestly, in a mocking way, say, "A loving God would not have done that to his Son". It was the expression of the love of God for you and for me that took Jesus to the cross. Jesus went willingly. He offered himself. And then the scripture says that because he was willing to do that, God has given him the name that's above every name, that the name of Jesus, it's in Philippians 2, "Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord of all".

Now, Jesus himself put Communion in place, not a pastor or a church or a denomination. He had the Passover meal with his disciples and our Communion is a derivative of that practice of Passover. At the end of the Passover meal, he took bread, the bread that was set at the Messiah's place, and he broke it and said, "This bread is my body, broken for you". And then he took the cup, Messiah's cup, and said, "This cup is a new covenant sealed with my blood". The night he did that with the disciples, he hadn't yet begun his passion. He hasn't been betrayed or arrested or beaten.

So, it's a little obtuse to them, it's not exactly clear, but after the events unfold and they watch him suffer and see him resurrected, the events of that evening become uppermost and it becomes a part of the practice of our faith, a tangible reminder of God's love for you and me. And we incorporate it into our worship services because we have need of the power of God. We need to be forgiven and we need to forgive. We come today to say, "We will turn away from ungodliness," and we will do good. Not that we earn our way to heaven, but we will give our strength to doing good. We will live generously with our time and our treasure and our talent. We will stand up for what we know to be right.

We come to the Communion table to say, "Lord, we intend to align ourselves with you. You offered yourself as a sacrifice and now we come as living sacrifices to offer ourselves to act righteously". And in the bargain, God's power is released in our lives to bring health to us and peace to us and hope to us. We don't have to run after all the same things the pagans run after. God said he will watch over us. So, we come as disciples today. If you're a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you don't have to be a regular part of this congregation, we welcome you to the Lord's table to follow the instructions Jesus gave us. When he took that bread and broke it and said, "This bread is my body, broken for you. As often as you eat this, do this in remembrance of me".

Let's receive together. Then he took a cup. He said, "This cup is a new covenant sealed with my own blood. As often as you drink it, you proclaim my death, until you see me again". Let's receive together. Now, rather than me simply say a prayer for you, I brought you a proclamation and I'd like to ask you to say it with me as the declaration over your life and our lives and the people of God in this season. You willing to do that? Why don't you stand with me for that? It's at the bottom of your outlines. It's a little longer than our normal prayer, but not much. Together:

God has uniquely blessed us, the best is yet to come. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. He is the sovereign creator of all things. Nothing is too difficult for Him. His love sustains us. Jesus, His only son, is our savior, Lord and king. We live in a season of shaking. God is shaking the earth. He is restoring the Jewish people and purifying His Church. If we look at the things which can be shaken we'll be filled with terror. If we look at the eternal Kingdom of our Lord, we will be filled with anticipation. Our determination as we gather today is to declare before one another and Almighty God, we will not stop. We are not satisfied. We are not distracted. We are not weary in doing good. We are not discouraged. We have our eyes on the cross and our hearts set on the prize. We believe the One who has promised is Faithful. We believe the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We believe that what we ask in Jesus' name our Father provides. We believe that the King of Kings is returning to the earth in all of His glory, and we intend to be about His business until that moment in time. We will not stop. Amen.

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