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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Money Matters - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Money Matters - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Money Matters - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Please God, Money

I have been talking to more people far beyond middle Tennessee for the last few days. It has been my habit for a while, talking about what's happening in our world and in our nation. I talked to a man this week in Burma who works on behalf of the persecuted church in places that you wouldn't wanna go. He's lost dozens of team members in various places around the world. Makes you aware of those challenges. I talked to a couple of people who are very engaged in the abortion issues in our country and it's both triumphant and unsettling. Abortion is no longer the law of the land and yet abortion numbers seem to be increasing, partially because of technology.

Now, Big Pharma is involved and you can do it with chemicals. In other cases, because where there are states, such as Tennessee, that have some restrictions, there are other states that are incentivizing people to travel to them for abortions. We lost a million babies in the last 12 months. This is Pride Month. We've had some court decisions this week that are unprecedented in our history. You know, and you stack all of that up and I was walking around saying, "Lord, you know, what should be said"? And I didn't get an angelic visit. I didn't, no bush exploded in flame, but I really felt like the Lord put something in my heart and, I don't know how many sessions we will do, but I wanna spend a bit with you.

How many of you have had a "let's pray" moment? When you weren't in church, you prayed with somebody. That's good. Then we spent several weeks talking about, let's do difficult. I know we did, because wherever I go in the country now, I meet people and they go, "Pastor, I'm doing difficult". I'm like, "Good. Don't stop". Well, my best resolution to where we are right now, and I think it's an important message, I wanna live with it a while, whether I continue to do it with you or not, is let's please God. What do you do in the face of all the different things or all the different faces that we see, that I wanna submit to you the assignment really isn't that complicated. Let's please God. I didn't say it was easy, but this isn't about some complex thing.

Let's just determine in our hearts to a degree that we never have before that we're gonna please God. A declaration of intent, not a whim, not a fashion, not something chic, trendy. Let's determine that the next season of our lives will be defined as no other season ever has been, by a determination to please God. So, I would submit, if we'll make our great passion pleasing God, then God will address anyone and anything which opposes his purpose and his people. I believe that. I believe that is consistent with the narrative of scripture and it's consistent with what I know of the history of the church.

On the other hand, I would say it's equally true that if we're ambivalent, if we're indifferent about pleasing God, no amount of effort on our part will bring victory over those who oppose the purposes of God. Because the difference maker, the power in play, is not us, it's God. We don't have the power to overcome evil, God does. So, pleasing God needs to be moved someplace beyond the periphery of our spiritual lives and awareness. I think it's difficult to understand the degree to which we have become anesthetized by the ungodliness around us. It is so prevalent. It's so consistent. It's in such a magnitude. The voice is shouting at us that it's normal, and if you stand against it, you're immediately labeled with some ugly label. But I don't think we realize the degree to which transformation has come.

What I wanna do during this study is not just talk about pleasing God, but I wanna go through some fundamental biblical precepts that I think we can all embrace, I just think we've stepped away from them. In this session, if we get to it, and I may not. I've been in church all day, so I'm a little fired up. We'll talk a little bit about money matters, but I really wanna start with this notion about how much drift we have in our lives. Somebody shared something with me this week and, it's not directly on point, but, on the other hand, I think it's valuable. It's about the Titanic. You've heard of that ship, right? Hollywood had a little thing.

Well, when the Titanic sank, it carried a millionaire, John Jacob Astor IV. And at the time that he sailed, he had adequate resources in his accounts to have built 30 Titanics. However, when he was faced with mortal danger, he chose what he deemed morally right and he gave up his spot in a lifeboat to save two frightened children. There was another wealthy person on board, Isidor Strauss, he was the co-owner of the largest American chain of department, stores, Macy's. He was on the Titanic and he said, "I will never enter a lifeboat before other men". His wife, Ida, also refused to board the lifeboat, giving her spot to her newly appointed maid. She decided to spend her last moments of life with her husband. These wealthy individuals preferred to part with their wealth, and even their lives, rather than compromise their moral principles. Their choice in favor of moral values highlighted the brilliance of human civilization and human nature.

Wow. I thought that if you were really a go getter, an achiever, you wanted to get all you can, can all you get, and sit on a can. I mean, we have fancier versions of that, but that's kind of the predominant idea these days. And when I read that, and I've walked around with it for a few days, I thought, we have drifted a long way. And I want to start with a passage in your notes. It's Ezra chapter 9. The context of this matters. This is at the end of the exile. And exile has a very specific meaning in the context of the story of the Hebrew Bible. The covenant people of God were promised a land, which is still very much in play in the world.

I hope you're praying for the peace of Jerusalem. The insanity escalates week over week. But because of their unfaithfulness to God, I don't mean they had a bad day or they skipped synagogue on the Sabbath, I mean they were offering their children as sacrifices for economic advancement, they had plunged into immorality, and they put all sorts of things between them and God, which we define technically as idolatry. I mean, they drifted a long, long way. God said, "You can't stay in this land anymore". And by that time, there had been a civil war. There's actually two nations from the twelve tribes and the first, the Northern Kingdom came under God's judgment 721 BC. The Assyrians destroyed them.

About 150 laters, 587, it was the Babylonians that came and destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and the temple. No more sacrifices, no more pilgrimage feasts, everything about their way of life and their way of worship and how they interacted with God. And it wasn't enemies that did it because they had superior military technology or some economic force, Israel was always a small nation and was typically outnumbered. And yet, God protected them and defended them and time and time again gave them supernatural victories. It was the reason they didn't take their adversary seriously because they had become so convinced that God would defend them no matter how poorly they behaved.

Gee, that shouldn't sound familiar. Until in 587, God said, "The Babylonians are coming and Nebuchadnezzar is my servant". And the prophet said, "There is nothing you can do. It wouldn't matter who prayed for you, blood is gonna run in the streets". And for 60 years, they lived as exiles in a foreign country. The instructions were, "Go build houses, start your businesses, have children. You're not coming home for a while. This is not a short term visit. This isn't a summer missions trip. It'll be a while". And at the end of that 60 years, there's an empire change and there's a Persian leader now in charge and he is disposed to let the Jewish people begin to return to their land.

You know some of these characters, Nehemiah goes back and rebuilds the wall around the city. They have the way to defend themselves again. Zerubbabel builds the second temple. Until this day, the Jewish people understand their history, they tell their history, in terms of the First Temple Period and the Second Temple Period. And then Ezra, the priest, is a part of that migration back home and he comes back to help them begin to worship again. So, they've been gone now for 60 years plus and they return home. It's a bit mixed. The temple that's built is so simple, so rudimentary, that those that can remember the first temple wept.

Those that don't remember the first temple are celebrating and the Bible says it was a little difficult to distinguish the tears from the celebration. But when Ezra arrives and he sees the condition of the people, they are already in blatant disregard of the fundamentals that God had given to them. They're intermarrying with the people around them. Oh, gee, redefining marriage is no big deal. We want to be open minded, we want to be compassionate. Folks, we have drifted so far away from the idea of a sovereign God.

So, Ezra comes back and what I really would like you to, if we can, more than we hear it, if we can feel the urgency in Ezra. See, they don't even have their crops yet. They haven't been back long enough to...the new hasn't worn off. They've been slaves in a foreign place. Listen to what Ezra says, it's 9, verse 13. "What has happened to us is the result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this".

We don't deserve what we have. You would have been justified in punishing us more harshly. "Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the people who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? O Lord, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt though, because of it not one of us can stand in your presence. While Ezra was praying and confessing, and weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites, men, women and children, gathered around him. And they too wept bitterly".

Wow, that's not really, like, a little happy scene. Tearing your clothes, throwing yourself down on the ground, weeping bitterly. You can feel the anxiety. We pushed God too far one time and we lost people we loved, we lost our story, we lost our homes and our connection and our freedoms and our independence, the covenant people of God. And we're back and we're gonna act that way again? Except it isn't just Ezra. Did you hear it? It said men and women and children. If you asked me to put a...what's Ezra saying to the people? Is it fair to say... He's saying, "Let's please God". I think we get torqued up and agitated and frustrated and then I think we act a little bit like Jesus's audience.

You know, they said, "We're children of Abraham," and we say, "We're born again". Let me help you with something. The covenant people of God were slaves in Babylon. The covenant people of God got overrun by the Assyrians. The children of the covenant people of God were slaughtered in the streets of Jerusalem. My Bible says God disciplines his children. I don't want you to be frightened in the sense that...but we look around us and we go, you know, "What can we do"? And we want somebody else to change and we want the politicians to be different or the courts to be different or the pastors to be different or somebody be different. But at the end of the day, the only person we have influence over is me. I mean, you and you.

Wasn't that a relief? We just get pastor to do better, everything will be okay. If it were only that simple. So, rather than be agitated and angry and frustrated and frightened and ostrich-like with our heads in the sand and saying, "Well, we're born again. I believe in the rapture of the church. We shall not suffer". Well, okay. It's all right with me. I also believe in the end of empires and that usually comes with tremendous suffering. Have you noticed the millions of people pouring across our border? Do you know what happened when Rome finally collapsed? Enormous numbers of people pour into Italy from the north. The directions are reversed, but the patterns are really similar.

How about we said we're gonna take a summer, or whatever block of time the Lord puts in your heart, and we're gonna begin each day, and when I get together with our friends, and we're gonna watch a ball game or plan a weekend or we're gonna do something, we start with the idea, what could we do that would be pleasing to God? Like, as if we were gonna invite him with us. He gets a seat in the car or a spot at the table. He's actually a part of the equation as we do. What can we do to please God?

And we don't say, "Well, you know, we're children of Abraham. I'm the head, not the tail. I'm above and not beneath. I'm blessed in the city and in the fields. When I come in, when I go out. My enemy will come out before me one way and flee before me seven ways. I know Deuteronomy 28. I believe it". I also believe God is a just God and we're doing things we cannot do and imagine that we will maintain his blessings. So, let's just start to think about pleasing God. That's kind of exciting to me. I mean, again, you don't need to, like what if you just said, "This summer, instead of thinking about my vacations, we're gonna open our home one night a week or two weeks a month, whatever, we're gonna invite some people in and we're gonna pray and have a little small group"? "Oh, that's work". Yeah. What if? Just, what if you said, "I was gonna come to morning prayer. I'm gonna volunteer"?

What if you just engaged? That idea is beyond you, but if we stopped treating it as if they were options and they weren't really necessary and... somebody needs to do something about this fine mess we're in and we said, without reservation, no holds barred, "Let's please God". Let's please God. Let's stop preening about how good we are and how correct we are and how we have so much of it figured out. But I've never seen anything like this. I've never seen children targeted the way they're being targeted, celebrated as profit centers. I've never seen the capitulation of the Christian community in the way we're watching it, embracing apostasy.

We're still debating about which style of worship is most correct, which translation of the Bible offends me. Well, bless your heart. Let's please God. How many of you would you like to please God? Maybe we'll even say, "Well, maybe this summer". We're gonna look at this a little bit. I know somebody's gonna send me a note or they're gonna wanna meet with me. They're gonna wanna say, you know, "Well, pastor, you know, we are not saved by works". Thank you. It's also very difficult to substantiate the reality of the conversion that you say you have unless there's fruit in your life. Because my Bible says that we'll know the tree, the quality of the tree, the essence of the tree, by its fruit. And what we've been doing for a long, long time is getting out our duct tape and writing "grace" on little cards and duct taping it to the trees of our lives.

Now, I'm an advocate for grace. I'm sure in heaven my picture's there somewhere on that wall and I'm okay with that. But the fruit of our lives, the intent to please God, forgive who you know you're supposed to forgive, repent of what you know to repent of, stop being friends with people who practice ungodliness. Well, I'm not talking about pagan, ungodly people. That's what ungodly people do. They're ungodly. But I'm talking about people that you engage with that wanna pretend that they're Christ followers and they practice sin. Those things can't go together. And if you add your blessing to it, you're gonna get the same outcome.

Let's please God. I'm excited. The Lord lifted a burden for me. I've been walking around going, "This is awful," and I thought, he's given us something to do. We can do this. We're gonna turn up the line in our community in all sorts of ways. We're gonna go please God. We're going back to work this next week, not because we've just gotta go earn a living and not just because it's what we have to do, but God's given me a mission field where I can go please him.

You know, most of my biblical heroes were reluctant recruits. They could see all the reasons why God's purposes could not be accomplished in their lives. That's important because I feel that way most of the time, too, and I suspect you understand that. When we look at the need for God to move in our world and we consider ourselves, it feels like I don't have a large enough voice or enough resources or whatever, but God doesn't need my things. He needs my willingness and my obedience and my faithfulness. Let's tell him we're willing. Let's pray:

Father, I thank you that you're moving in the earth and we wanna pause today to say here we are. You may send us. We wanna serve you and honor you and give you our best. In Jesus's name, amen.

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