What Difference Does It Make?

Posted by on July 27, 1997 under Sermons


“David, I have a question. This is the fourth week that you have talked about the old and the new. In examining the old and the new, you have shown us how the Old Testament law was specifically given in God’s attempt to gain control of and redirect those Israelite slaves who had just been released from Egypt. I understand that.”

“You have shown us that God did not send Jesus to ‘fix’ the law and make it work through Jesus because it did not work the first time. I understand that.”

“You have shown us that Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity have some general similarities, but they are actually distinctly different. I understand that.”

“You have shown us that Jesus’ thought patterns were distinctly different from the thought patterns of the legalistic Jewish leaders. I understand that.”

“But here is my question: what difference does it make? If you look at New Testament teachings as though it were law, you will try to obey God. If you see Jesus as the Savior and a completely new revelation of God’s will, you will still try to obey God. Either way you will try to obey God. So what difference does it make?”

That is a very good question! It does make a difference; in fact, it makes an enormous difference. That difference is to be seen in the contrast between legalistic behavior and relationship behavior. Let me share two examples.

  1. Example one: how should Christian husbands and wives treat each other?
    1. Consider two scriptures that give us insight into proper treatment of each other in marriage.
      1. The first was given by Jesus in a sermon in Matthew 7:12, and it applies to all relationships of all kinds–in marriage or out of marriage.
            Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the law and the prophets.
        1. That applies to your wife or your husband as certainly as it applies to your neighbor.
        2. In your marriage you treat your spouse as you want to be treated.
      2. The second is given by Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33.
        1. Paul said wives were to:
          1. Be in subjection to their husbands (v. 22).
          2. Respect their husbands (v. 33).
        2. Paul said husbands were to:
          1. Love their wives sacrificially, totally as Christ loved the church (v. 25).
          2. Love their wives as they love their own bodies (v. 28, 33).
    2. Consider legalistic behavior:
      1. The legalist says that the two most important principles in all this are that the husband is the head of the wife and the wife must be in subjection to her husband.
        1. If the wife will simply be in subjection to the husband, the marriage will work.
        2. No matter how the husband behaves, no matter how incapable the husband is, no matter how poor the husband’s judgment is, the marriage will work if the wife is in subjection.
      2. The legalist’s definition of subjection:
        1. The wife does whatever the husband wants her to do and tells her to do.
        2. The husband is in charge of and in control of the wife’s life, decisions, and use of herself, her time, and her abilities.
        3. The wife must therefore have the husband’s consent before she does anything–but the husband has no responsibility to consult with his wife about anything he decides or does.
        4. The only exception occurs if the husband attempts to keep her from being a Christian woman.
      3. Spouse abuse has been and continues to be a significant problem in churches of Christ (and in most religious groups that accept the Bible as their spiritual authority).
        1. Many Christian women who never say a word are emotionally, physiologically, or physically abused by their Christian husbands.
        2. Among abusive husbands who are Christians, It is not uncommon for preachers, or elders, or deacons, or Bible teachers to be abusive to their wives.
        3. The tragedy is even greater:
          1. The Christian abuser rarely regards his actions to be abusive.
          2. He has biblical justification for what he does: the Bible says that he must be the head of the wife and she must be in subjection to him.
          3. If she suffers, it is her fault; her failure to be in subjection is responsible for any problem she has in the marriage.
          4. He has no responsibility to treat her as he wants to be treated if she does not comply with his concept of subjection.
    3. Consider relationship behavior:
      1. Relationship behavior understands that treating my spouse as I want to be treated will always be relevant, even in stressful times.
      2. Relationship behavior understands that headship and subjection are not the key concept in Ephesians 5.
      3. The key concepts are the unconditional, sacrificial love and respect.
      4. Relationship behavior understands that a woman perceives love through affection and that a man perceives love through respect.
      5. Relationship behavior never finds justification for either abuse or exploitation.
      6. Relationship behavior focuses on the unending Christian commitment to goodness, kindness, and the best interest of the spouse–not merely the declared rules of the marriage.
      7. Relationship behavior does not create a definition of subjection that serves the husband’s purposes and exploits the wife.
  2. Example two: how sexually active should unmarried teens be?
    1. Most of us react to that question in shock–“What a ridiculous question! If they are not married they absolutely should not be sexually active.”
      1. Then we would cite numerous scriptures condemning sexual sin.
        1. Exodus 20:14–“You shall not commit adultery.”
        2. 1 Corinthians 6:13–“The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord.”
        3. Galatians 5:19-21–Those who practice sexual immorality will not inherit God’s kingdom.
        4. Colossians 3:5–Consider your body to be dead to immorality.
      2. Fornication and adultery are strictly prohibited.
    2. Consider legalistic behavior of many of our teens, our college students, and our young adult singles:
      1. For several years, many in these age groups have biblically justified being sexually active.
        1. The only way I can discuss this is by being straightforward.
        2. I am not trying to offend anyone by being plain.
        3. But this is the actual reasoning many teens and young adults in the church use.
      2. # 1: There is no sexual sin unless there is actual intercourse–if literal intercourse does not occur, there is no sin.
        1. Anything short of that is not sin.
        2. Anything other than that is not sin.
      3. # 2: Adultery is the primary sexual sin that the Bible condemns.
        1. Adultery is having sexual intercourse with a married person who is not married to you.
        2. While it is sinful to have intercourse with a person married to someone else, it is not sinful to have intercourse with an unmarried person.
      4. # 3: If you are a virgin, it is a sin to have intercourse.
        1. But if you have already lost your virginity, there is no sin in continuing to be sexually active.
        2. Once I am forgiven of the sin of destroying my virginity, I am free to be sexually active.
        3. The sin is in losing my virginity, not in being sexually active.
      5. These conclusions are regarded to be in perfect keeping with the laws of the New Testament.
        1. It is regarded to be in technical compliance with New Testament teachings.
        2. As long as there is technical compliance, there is no sin.
    3. Consider relationship behavior:
      1. God created our sexual natures and desires to be used as the highest expression of commitment in the responsible love of companionship.
      2. Sexual activity without commitment and responsibility easily becomes:
        1. Sexual addiction.
        2. Sexual idolatry.
      3. By its very selfish nature it involves:
        1. Using and exploiting other people for my own selfish pleasure.
        2. Selfishly abusing my own sexual nature to the extent that I can destroy my ability to make a serious commitment in marriage.
        3. Abusing my relationship with Jesus Christ.
      4. Outside the responsible commitment of marriage, sexual activity is an act of passion, not an expression of love.
        1. Its primary goal is personal gratification.
        2. It commonly is pleasure without responsibility or commitment.
        3. It is spiritually destructive to self and an abuse to Jesus Christ.
      5. Read with me Ephesians 5:1-14.
          Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
      6. Loving Christ and understanding the purposes of God in Christ and in us is the greatest single reason for refusing all forms of sexually immoral conduct.
      7. Relationship with Christ will never lead me to participate in or justify sexual immorality in any form.

So you ask me, “David, are you really serious? Are there really Christian husbands that abuse their wives and biblical justify it by saying that they are the head and the wife must to be in subjection? Are there really Christian teens who justify their sexual activity biblically?” I am really serious. And you don’t have to go to Nashville or Dallas to discover those situations. They are found throughout our brotherhood.

“Where in the world did Christians learn to reason that way?” They did not have to learn it; they just had to apply it. They listened to the way that we legalistically have proven right and wrong in the church for decades. They have listened and watched as we used proof texts and reasoning in the very same way to prove our case in whatever matter that concerned us. All they did is take the common approach used in the typical church and apply that approach to marriage or to being sexually active outside of marriage.

Though we have not intended to, and though we have rarely realized it, for too many years we have taught that it was more important to keep the laws than it was to live the Christian life. We have even convinced people that being a Christian has little to do with how you live; it has everything to do with what laws you keep. So for almost a decade we have created a generation of our own children who have learned from us how to use the Bible to justify whatever they want to justify. It is just a matter of definition and reasoning.

And that is the difference between the old and the new. And that is the difference in legalistic behavior and relationship behavior. And that is the difference it produces when you look at Jesus and his teachings as law instead of understanding the relationship behavior that God revealed through Jesus.

We want the old to end and the new to begin.

Does Knowledge Help You or Hurt You?

Posted by on under Sermons

Since the end of World War II, America has increasingly grown into an education oriented society. The basic objective of education was dedicated to acquiring knowlege. For many decades, as a society, we have been convinced that proper, accurate knowledge is the most important factor in resolving problems.

We are told that the key to stopping our national epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases is knowledge. We are told that the key to reducing our national epidemic of teen pregancy is knowledge. We are told that the key to reducing our crime rate is knowledge. We are told that the key to healing the alienation between ethnic groups who dispise each other is knowledge.

It is probable that today’s living generations in America collectively have more education than in any previous time period in this nation’s history. As a society, in this age of technology, today’s living generations have been exposed to more information than in any other period of American history.

Yet, even with superior preventive methods and superior medicines, a higher percentage of Americans have been infected with sexually transmitted diseases than ever before. Of all the industrial nations on earth, we have the number one teenage pregnancy rate. In Arkansas alone, our prison population increases by three persons every day. Ethnic tensions have assumed sophisticated expressions previously unknow in our society. The divorce rate among first marriages is fifty percent, and the highest percentage ever of our children will spend at least a portion of their childhood in a one parent home.

Knowledge without understanding does not solve problems. Knowledge without moral responsibility does not solve problems. Knowledge without sound values does not solve problems. Knowledge without relationship skills does not solve problems.

  1. As Christians, as the church, we believed that the solution for all spiritual problems is Bible knowledge.
    1. “If people just have enough knowledge of the Bible, every problem that concerns us will disappear.”
      1. “Bible knowledge will bring an end to sexual activity among teens.”
      2. “Bible knowledge will bring divorce to a halt.”
      3. “Bible knowledge will end criminal activity.”
      4. “Bible knowledge will eliminate racially based problems.”
      5. “When people learn enough Bible, problems will come to an end.”
    2. In spite of the reality of our own experiences as individuals and as a church, we typically accept this unquestioned assumption as truth.
      1. Collectively, there is a lot of Bible knowledge in this room.
      2. Has your knowledge solved your problems? Has your knowledge eliminated problems within your immediate family?
      3. Has our collective knowledge as a congregation solved all our problems?
      4. “Well, Christians just don’t know as much Bible as they used to know. If they did, we wouldn’t have any problems in the church.”
      5. Have you ever lived when there were no problems? When the church had no problems? I have preached for four decades, and I have never seen that time. The problems were different, but they were just as real.
  2. Knowledge of itself is just knowledge; the way knowledge is used makes it constructive or destructive.
    1. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul emphasized that true, correct knowledge can destroy God’s purposes.
      1. Within the Corinthian congregation were many members who worshipped idols before they were converted.
      2. Some in the congregation had the correct, absolutely true knowledge that idols were not gods and did not represent any god. That was the truth.
      3. Those that had this true, correct knowledge reasoned in this way:
        1. “We know that idols are spiritually nothing and spiritually represent nothing.”
        2. “We know that there is only one God.”
        3. “Only because of ignorance do people worship these ‘so-called’ gods.”
        4. “The one and only God created everything, sustains the world, and allows us to exist in Him.”
        5. Every bit of that is correct knowledge.
      4. But these knowledgeable Christians were using their correct knowledge in a way that destroyed other Christians. How?
        1. They used their correct knowledge to draw these conclusions.
        2. “Food is food–even food sacrificed to an idol is still just food.”
        3. “When we eat food that has been sacrificed to an idol, we are just eating food.”
        4. “Eating that food is an act of worship to the person who believes the idol is a god, but because of our knowledge, it is not an act of worship for us.”
        5. “It is not an act of worship for us because we know that god does not even exist.”
    2. But there were Christians in that congregation who truly believed that the idol gods did exist, that they were alive.
      1. When an unlearned Christian saw a knowledgeable Christian eating food that had been sacrificed to an idol, he or she believed that Christian was worshipping the idol.
      2. So the unlearned Christian drew one of two conclusions:
        1. Either this Christian was honoring the idol to the dishonor of Christ,
        2. Or this Christian was affirming that it was perfectly okay to worship both the idol and Christ.
        3. Either way, the unlearned Christian, with limited knowledge, was offended and left Christianity to return to idolatrous practices.
      3. Paul said that when a knowledgeable Christian used his correct knowledge to ruin a weak Christian, the knowledgeable Christian sinned again Christ.
        1. Christ died for the unlearned Christian.
        2. The knowledgeable Christian had no right to use his knowledge to destroy God’s purposes in the unlearned Christian.
  3. For decades, one of our unquestioned assumptions is the direct correlation between Bible knowledge and godliness.
    1. I want you to examine that assumption.
      1. I do believe that there is a direct correlation between understanding God and Jesus Christ and godly living.
      2. But I question the correlation between Bible knowledge and godly living.
      3. I have known preachers who had a lot of Bible knowledge, but who had adulterous affairs and visited prostitutes.
      4. I have known elders who had a lot of Bible knowledge, but who were not trustworthy.
      5. I have known Bible class teachers who knew a lot about the Bible, but who had earned reputations for being manipulators who used people.
      6. I have known Christians who were very knowledgeable in the Bible, but used their knowledge to justify abusing their wives or their children.
    2. Which would you prefer?
      1. A teenager:
        1. Who can name the books of the Bible, name the apostles, list the beatitudes, and give 100 proof texts from memory, or
        2. Who understands what it means to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and has such a living relationship with Christ that he or she cannot yield to sexual temptation without struggling with his or her love for God?
      2. An adult Christian:
        1. Who can explain the technical basis for the contribution on Sundays complete with a logical explanation of what percentage of your income you should give, or
        2. Who understands the meaning of being God’s steward and looks at his or her total existence as a gift from God?
      3. An adult Christian:
        1. Who can explain in detail the biblical teaching on baptism, or
        2. Who understands in his or her own life what it means to be born again and to be a new creature who has been recreated in Christ Jesus?
      4. An adult Christian:
        1. Who can take the Bible and, in detail, share his or her knowledgeable judgment on the latest issue that is consuming our brotherhood, or
        2. Who understands from the heart and the mind that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners?
  4. Because I love God, because I love Christ, because I love the church, because I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, because I love people who are still enslaved to evil:
    1. I would choose:
      1. The teenager who understands what it means to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and has a living relationship with Christ.
      2. The adult Christian who understands what it means to be God’s steward and looks at everything in his or her life as a gift from God.
      3. The adult Christian who understands what it means to be born again, who understands what it means to be recreated through the forgiveness and blood of Jesus.
      4. The adult Christian who understands from the heart and the mind that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.
    2. Why?
      1. Because the teenager who understands what it means to love God and has a living relationship with Christ will survive sexual temptation–he or she will even survive sexual sin through repentance; but the teenager who has only knowledge will not only yield to temptation, but will also justify his or her sexual activity.
      2. Because the Christian who understands the meaning of stewardship will use his or her whole life in God’s work and purposes; while the Christian who has knowledge will drop some money in the collection plate and believe that he or she has done 100% of his or her duty.
      3. Because the Christian who understands what it means to be born again and to be recreated in Christ Jesus will, by his or her life, attract people who want to understand how to be a Christian; but the Christian who has correct knowledge will use knowledge to turn people off and close their minds.
      4. Because the Christian who understands from the heart that Jesus Christ came to this world to save sinners will use Jesus’ mercy and compassion to reach out to people who do not have Christ; but the Christian who knowledgeably discusses the issues does not have time to help people find hope and forgiveness in Christ.

Do you know what I really look forward to? I really look forward to being in heaven with you. God’s greatest miracle will be performed when you and I reach heaven. That miracle will be bigger than the miracle of creation. It will be bigger than the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. “What is that miracle?” All of God’s people will be together. And everyone of us will love each other. And every difference that we experienced on earth will vanish. There will be no tension or awkwardness. Everyone of us will truly like each other. No one will feel awkward or be embarrassed. Every influence of evil will be removed from every mind and heart. Every single flaw of every single one of us will vanish.

Every saved person from Adam and Eve on will be there. People from every age of the earth, from every culture. Joyce’s and my African friends will be there; Jim and Deborah Wilson’s Ethiopian friends will be there; Michael and Jeannie Cole’s friends from Guyana will be there; Jerry and Meg Canfield’s friends from Laos will be there; Roy and Joyce Dunavin’s friends from New Zealand will be there. Chinese Christians, European Christians, Australian Christians, Christians from India–Christians from everywhere will be there.

There will be no language barriers and no cultural differences. For the very first time we will love each other like God loves us. We will love being together. We all will fall on our faces and thank God that He was so patient and forgiving of us when on earth we were so concerned about our differences. And in our heavenly love for each other, for Christ, and for God will be seen God’s greatest miracle.

Human beings have so many problems.
We will get to Heaven and not have these problems.
There are some people who don’t like me. There are some people that are hard for me to like. Becoming a Christian is letting God change you. The more He changes you, the more people there are that you like.
We are here because we love Jesus Christ.
God wants to change you. It is because we love Jesus that we learn to love each other more. You can become one of the best friends of a Christian or a sinner.
Jesus wants you so much He was willing to die for you.
Are you His?
Will you be baptized into Christ?

Jesus Emphasized the New

Posted by on July 20, 1997 under Sermons


One of the eternal struggles in human existence is created by the ever present reality of established thinking clashing with new thinking. In every age, established thought patterns exist and new thought patterns emerge. In every age, people struggle because when established thinking tries to grasp new thinking.

Why the struggle? New thought patterns require you to learn how to think in new ways. It is not just a matter of learning new knowledge. It is a matter of learning how to think as you have never thought before. Experienced adults think easily, naturally, and comfortable in old, established ways of thinking. Experienced adults do not grasp new ways of thinking easily.

When you are young, you are establishing your thought patterns. New ways of thinking do not disturb you because all thought patterns are new to you. After your thought patterns are firmly established, new ways of thinking drive you nuts. New thought patterns frustrate you–maybe even anger you–because your established way of thinking does not easily understand the new thought patterns.

Let me give you an illustration. I cannot think in the language of the computer world. I mean that literally–my thought process does not grasp computer language. To me, the computer world has no language. My “old” thought process just does not grasp the concepts of computer language. Even if I learn the words and the phrases, I still do not understand the concepts. Some very capable, kind, considerate teachers have tried to help me learn the concepts. But I have a basic problem: my thought process is very different to their thought process. All their patience cannot change my thought process.

The only way that I use the computer is to memorize what to do. For over ten years I used a computer software package called Word Perfect. I wrote at least five books using Work Perfect. I wrote my sermons every week on Word Perfect. I did all my correspondence on Word Perfect. Since I have been in Fort Smith, which is less than a year, I have used a software package called Ami Pro. This week I realized I don’t remember how to use Word Perfect. Why? Because the new thought patterns that utilize computers and my old thought process are not compatible.

There is an area in which old thought patterns clash with new thought patterns more violently than in the area of computer language. It is harder for old religious thought patterns to learn to think about spiritual truths that are new to the person’s thinking. In spiritual matters, when established thinking tries to understand spiritual truths that require new thinking, it commonly produces an emotional, hostile reaction. Being asked to think about spiritual truths that we have never known disturbs us.

  1. That reality created enormous problems for Jesus, the teacher.
    1. Jesus understood spiritual truths that were new to the religious world.
      1. Jesus’ thought patterns focused on these spiritual truths that were new to the Jewish world.
      2. Jesus constantly exposed others to new thinking.
      3. Jesus declared that people must not only accept this new thinking, but they also must place their full trust in this new thought process.
      4. One of the reasons that Jesus created so much hostility and opposition among the religious leaders was found in the fact that Jesus teachings required new ways to think and they could only think in old ways.
        1. It was far more than a clash of perspectives.
        2. It was far more than a clash of “correct knowledge.”
        3. It was fundamentally a clash of thought patterns.
      5. Jesus powerfully emphasized a new way to think.
        1. In the parable of the wineskins, he said that if you put new wine in an old wineskin, you would destroy the container and lose the wine. (Matthew 9:17).
          1. He was saying that you cannot put my new thinking in the containers of your old religious thoughts.
        2. In the parable of the torn garment, he said that if you patched it with new material, you would make the tear even worse when the new cloth shrunk.
          1. He was saying that you cannot patch your old thinking with my new thoughts.
        3. He said that a scribe who became a disciple was like a daddy who could give his family both old and new things out of his treasures (Matthew 13:52).
        4. When the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus said they needed to understand Hosea 6:6 meant, “I desire mercy (or compassion), and not a sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7).
          1. They needed to hear the message of the new in the prophets of old.
          2. Even the old revealed the truth of the new.
        5. Jesus told the Pharisees and the Sadducees that they could look at the sky at sunset and predict tomorrow’s weather (Matthew 16:3-4).
          1. Yet, they were blind to the signs of the new shouting at them in all that Jesus did.
          2. Their old thought patterns could not even see signs of the new in Jesus’ power.
        6. To me, the most powerful images and figures of the old way of thinking and the new way of thinking are seen in the parable of the prodigal son.
          1. The prodigal son who repented and returned to a loving father reveals the new thinking–it presents the loving God of forgiveness.
          2. The insulted older brother revealed the old thinking–the son who failed should forever be rejected for the horrible things he had done.
    2. Consider this question: what is primary in doing the will of God?
      1. If you asked the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rabbis, or any Jewish official, “What is primary in doing the will of God?” you would get a very specific answer.
        1. They would say, “These things are primary in doing the will of God:”
          1. “Go to the temple exactly as is required by the law.”
          2. “Offer your sacrifices at the temple just exactly as the law declared.”
          3. “Attend the synagogue every week.”
          4. “Respect and keep the holy days.”
          5. “Pray every day at the hours of prayer.”
          6. “Ritually wash your hands before you eat.”
          7. “Eat only the foods that the law permits.”
          8. “Pass judgment on all violators, for they are God’s enemies.”
          9. “Condemn all sinners, for they will corrupt the people of God.”
      2. If you asked Jesus, “What is primary in doing the will of God?” you would get quite a different answer.
        1. In fact, Jesus answered that question in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. He said these things were primary:
        2. 5:7–Be merciful so you can receive mercy.
          1. 5:16–Let your light shine by doing good works–that brings God glory.
          2. 5:23–Go reconcile with your adversaries before you go worship.
          3. 5:29–Do not allow your body’s desires to destroy you as a person.
          4. 5:37–Be absolutely trustworthy in what you say.
          5. 5:39–Be kind to those who mistreat you.
          6. 5:44–In prayerful kindness, seek the highest good of your enemies and those who hurt you.
          7. That is the will of your Father in heaven.
          8. 6:1–Never do religious acts to gain the attention or win the praise of other people.
          9. 6:12–Ask for God’s forgiveness because you forgive other people.
          10. 6:19,20–Live your everyday life for eternal realities, not for material wealth.
          11. 6:31-33–Place your confidence in God and refuse to be ruled by anxiety.
          12. That is the will of your Father in heaven.
          13. 7:1-5–Don’t judge, and don’t try to be the expert who has the answer for everyone else’s problems.
          14. 7:7–Actively take the initiative in seeking God’s help.
          15. 7:12–Treat other people just exactly as you want to be treated.
          16. 7:13,14–As you live your life, look for God’s way, not the easy way.
          17. 7:15-23–Let the teachers who live it influence you, not the teachers who just tell it.
          18. That is the will of your Father in heaven.
          19. 7:21–It is not the people who call me Lord who will live with God; it is the people who do God’s will that shall live with Him in heaven.
  2. When you and I have a real “down to it” discussion about doing the will of God, will our conclusion be like that of the Jewish leaders or like Jesus’?
    1. What are the things that we are most likely to classify as being primary in doing the will of God?
      1. Baptism
      2. Name
      3. Church attendance
      4. Instrumental music in worship
      5. Positions concerning the Lord’s supper
      6. The role of women in the church
      7. The use of the Lord’s money
      8. Judging those who violate the commandments–because they are God’s enemies.
      9. Condemning sinners–because they will corrupt Christians.
    2. And we can do all those things and still not:
      1. Be merciful.
      2. Do good works.
      3. Reconcile before we worship.
      4. Refuse to let our greed to destroy us.
      5. Be trustworthy in everything we say.
      6. Be kind to those who mistreat us.
      7. In kindness seek our enemy’s highest good.
      8. Live for eternal realities instead of material wealth.
      9. Trust God and refuse to be anxious.
      10. Refuse to judge.
      11. Take initiative to seek God’s help.
      12. Treat others as we want to be treated.
      13. Look for God’s way instead of the easy way.
      14. Let only the teachers who live it influence us.
    3. Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God in his life, his teachings, and his death–only Jesus has perfectly done the will of God in his life.
      1. Never did he stress as primary:
        1. The temple.
        2. The synagogue.
        3. The sacrifices.
        4. The holy days.
      2. Did Jesus attack those? No!
        1. He went to the temple.
        2. He attended the synagogue.
        3. It is my opinion that he offered correct sacrifices.
        4. On the night of his arrest he observed the Passover.
      3. He neither attacked them or rejected them
        1. But he never classified them as primary.
        2. As he revealed the new, they never had a primary place in the new.
  3. I want you to see how distinctly different the thought patterns were when you contrast the old and the new. Jesus did not think like the religious leaders thought.
    1. Look at and listen to the distinctively different way each thought about the will of God.
      1. Jesus said the merciful shall receive mercy.
      2. They said condemn the law violators.
      3. Jesus said your good works let your light shine.
      4. They said your temple activities let your light shine.
      5. Jesus said do not let bodily desires destroy you as a person.
      6. They said control your acts.
      7. Jesus said be trustworthy in all that you say.
      8. They said deception is acceptable if you technically do it the right way.
      9. Jesus said be kind to those who mistreat you.
      10. They said take those who mistreat you to court.
      11. Jesus said seek the highest good of your enemies.
      12. They said hate your enemies.
      13. Jesus said don’t do righteous acts to get the praise of other people.
      14. They said one of the purposes of righteous acts was to win the praise of others.
      15. Jesus said to live for eternal realities.
      16. They said being righteous should produce material wealth.
      17. Jesus said don’t judge and don’t appoint yourselves problem solver for all.
      18. They said judge the wrong doer, and correct those with problems.
      19. Jesus said take the initiative in seeking God’s help.
      20. They said you have to take care of God’s affairs for Him.
      21. Jesus said treat others as you want to be treated.
      22. They said treat others as they deserve to be treated.
      23. Jesus said look for God’s way, not the easy way.
      24. They said God’s way is always easy to see.
      25. Jesus said a teacher’s influence should be based on the way he lives.
      26. They said a teachers influence should be based on what he knows.

Can you see the difference in the way Jesus thought and the way those religious leaders thought? Some people really had trouble thinking like Jesus thought. Nicodemus, the 12, the Pharisees, the scribes, and the rich young ruler did. Some people quickly learned how to think like Jesus did. The Samaritan woman, the sexually sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, Mary Magdalene who had seven demons, and Zacchaeus understood his thinking quickly.

Do you think like Jesus thought?

Mom and Pop Stores in a Wal-Mart World

Posted by on under Sermons

Several years ago I preached a series of lessons in a small town in northern Arkansas. A Wal-Mart store at the edge of town had been open for about five years. Within the time that Wal-Mart had been in business, most of the stores on Main Street had closed. Not more than three or four stores on Main Street were open.

Typically, most Mom and Pop stores cannot survive “head to head” competition with Wal-Mart. There are a few that can. Those that can fall into one of two categories. Either they sell a needed product that Wal-Mart does not sell, or they offer a personal service that Wal-Mart cannot provide.

Why? Why is it so difficult for Mom and Pop stores to go “head to head” with Wal-Mart and survive? That question has many answers. “Wal-Mart has superiority in size, superiority in cash flow, superiority in buying power, superiority in pricing, superiority in advertising, and superiority in exchange policies.” And all of those are real factors. But they are not the basic reasons. Wal-Mart has correctly “read” our society in two essential matters. They have correctly targeted America’s obsession with time. And they have correctly targeted America’s insatiable appetite for choice and variety.

Wal-Mart has made one-stop-shopping a “science.” I can make one trip to one parking lot and one store. There I can buy anything from car batteries to bagels, from dish drains to dresses, from water hoses to wrenches, from plungers to pillows, from film processing to phenergan. Wal-Mart’s basic objective is to save the shopper time and give the shopper variety at competitive prices.

Whether you love Wal-Mart or hate it, you have to admit that Wal-Mart understands the reality of today–just drive by their parking lot and count the cars.

  1. Jesus understood the reality of people’s lives, and he changed people’s lives–profoundly!
    1. In a country much smaller than the state of Arkansas, Jesus changed lives in ways that were to change the world.
      1. Without the printing press, newspapers, books, brochures, or literature, Jesus profoundly changed lives.
      2. Without television, radio, or advertising, Jesus profoundly changed lives.
      3. Without church buildings, educational centers, schools, or colleges, Jesus profoundly changed lives.
    2. I do not mean that he changed habits; I mean that he changed lives.
      1. He understood the reality of evil in human life.
      2. He understood human need and suffering.
      3. He understood how evil worked in minds and hearts to create suffering.
      4. With his understanding, he changed the lives of everyone who allowed him to touch their minds and hearts.
    3. You can see Jesus’ power to change lives clearly by looking at the twelve men who followed him every day.
      1. I thank God that I do not have to work as one of those twelve men.
      2. Most of them, if not all of them, came from Galilee, a region more known for manual labor, not religious knowledge and education.
      3. For a man who planned to teach and preach, these 12 men were a very unsuitable group of followers–they just did not seem to be the people Jesus needed to do the job.
      4. And their personalities clashed.
        1. James and John once wanted to burn a Samaritan village to the ground because the Samaritans snubbed Jesus (Luke 9:51-56).
        2. Peter dared rebuke Jesus when Jesus started talking about dying (Matthew 16:21-28).
        3. James and John asked to be given the two most prestigious positions in Jesus’ kingdom, and the other ten were extremely angry because James and John dared ask for what they wanted (Mark 10:35-45).
        4. All twelve argued among themselves about which one of them was the most important to Jesus’ (Luke 22:24-30).
        5. The last night of Jesus’ life all of them were too arrogant to wash the others’ feet (John 13:2-l7).
        6. That same night Peter cursed and swore as he insisted that he had never known Jesus (Matthew 26:73,74).
      5. Being a part of that group guaranteed stress, tension, and stomach acid.
    4. During the entire time of Jesus’ ministry, these men did not understand Jesus.
      1. They did not understand Jesus, the person, when he taught.
      2. They did not understand Jesus, the person, when he healed.
      3. They really did not understand him when he was arrested.
      4. They were totally confused about Jesus when he died.
      5. They were just as confused about Jesus when he was resurrected.
      6. They still did not understand him when he ascended back into heaven.
    5. The first time that they understood Jesus, and his mission, and his purpose, and what he accomplished was in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
      1. And, immediately, upon understanding Jesus, they were profoundly changed men.
      2. After they understood Jesus, they served unselfishly, sacrificially, and powerfully.
      3. Before they understood Jesus, they fled into the night when he was arrested.
      4. After they understood Jesus, they died for him.
  2. To this very day, the same thing is true–when we understand Jesus, our lives profoundly change.
    1. You can be baptized and learn many religious truths, but you, yourself, change very little.
      1. You can change your habits, but your, yourself, change very little.
      2. You can control your behavior, but you, yourself, change very little.
      3. You can rearrange your priorities, but you, yourself change very little.
    2. However, when the moment comes that you know and understand Jesus, you will be changed as a person–and that change will be profound.
      1. Certainly, your habits, behavior, and priorities will change.
      2. But they will change because you have changed as a person.
    3. And when Jesus changes you, your understanding of the meaning of life changes, your understanding of the meaning of service changes, and your understanding of worship changes.
  3. Last Sunday, 517 people (476 were members) were kind enough to fill out demographic surveys to help the leadership better understand the composition of this congregation.
    1. This morning after worship you will receive a synopsis of the survey and the written comments that were made.
    2. I want to share just a very few things about the survey.
      1. But before I do, I want to express my appreciation for members that I have always held in high esteem and great admiration.
        1. I have great admiration and appreciation for mothers and fathers of young children who bring their children.
          1. It is a struggle!
          2. Joyce used to struggle with all three of ours when they were pre-school age, and, on the very few occasions that I was free to help her, the child care exhausted me more than preaching ever did.
          3. God bless you for caring enough to bring your children!
        2. I have great admiration and appreciation for those who work with our child care services during assemblies.
          1. That is a demanding task.
          2. They provide a great blessing to fathers and mothers as well as the congregation.
        3. I have great admiration and appreciation for members who have chronic health problems and still attend.
          1. It is very difficult to sit on a pew when you are physically suffering.
          2. I admire the faith that motivates you in your discomfort.
        4. I have great admiration and appreciation for those who have disabilities and attend.
          1. None of us can imagine just how demanding and difficult it is for these brothers and sisters to get ready and be here.
          2. I also admire your faith and your desire.
        5. We have no desire to make worship more difficult for any of you–our only desire is to increase the meaning of our worship and our spiritual effectiveness as we praise God.
      2. Let me share some brief information about the demographic survey.
        1. There were 476 teen/adult members who gave us information. The information that I share with you comes only from members.
        2. Just a little over 24% indicated that they were spiritually struggling or weak.
        3. While several people wrote suggestions or expressed personal preferences, only 9 people out of 476 wrote criticisms–that is .018%, far less than one percent.
        4. I hope that you take the information you will receive as you leave and look at it carefully.
      3. Regarding the statements of preference (and it was a statement of preference and not a vote) concerning increasing our time for worship by song:
        1. 58% preferred to meet earlier.
        2. 20% preferred to extend the time of assembly.
        3. 9% wrote on their sheets that they wanted no change in the time of assembly or the amount of time we spent in worship.
      4. There were 43 people who wrote that they preferred not to lengthen the assembly. Of those 43 people:
        1. 19 (44%) come only on Sunday morning, and several of them come only for morning worship.
        2. 17 (39.5%) come all four assemblies.
        3. Of those 17, at least 8 are above 60 years of age.
      5. There is one very simple thing we can do–it would be completely painless and would make an enormous difference in our time.
        1. I am not offering this as a request; I am only making an observation.
        2. On the average Sunday, this auditorium will hold almost three times the people in attendance, and we sit all over the auditorium.
        3. If, after Bible classes, everyone would move to the front and sit in the front and center, singing would improve, serving communion would take much less time, and our fellowship in worship would dramatically improve.

Someone asks, “Why are you trying to make us to do these things?” I learned a long, long time ago I cannot make anyone do anything. When church leaders try to herd a congregation, we are not doing what God asked us to do. God did not ask us to function as cowboys; he asked us to function as shepherds.

With great respect, some told me last Sunday, “I hate name tags. But for you, I will wear one.” Please don’t wear one for me. I promise you that I will not pressure anyone to wear a name tag. If you wear one, wear it for the benefit of the congregation because you love the Lord and love the other members.

We live in a Wal-Mart world–that is reality. Mom and Pop congregations will struggle in a Wal-Mart world. Are you going to allow a Wal-Mart world to determine what you do religiously? Or, will you understand Jesus and let him change you as a person?

To those of you above 60 who want to go back to the “good old days” in the church just like it was in the 1950s: I remember those days well. Bible class lasted at least an hour. And the preacher preached at least an hour. And you took care of your young children on wooden pews. And you didn’t have a nursery. And you didn’t have a water fountain. And you didn’t have air conditioning. And the congregation probably didn’t have indoor plumbing. And you rarely got home before one o’clock. Has the Wal-Mart world changed you more than you realized?

I want Jesus to change you and me as persons. That will happen when we truly understand Jesus. When that happens, we will worship God from our hearts as never before.

Has it happened in your heart and in your life?
Do you understand Jesus?
He came to change you. He paid for the opportunity to change you with His own blood. Has your life profoundly changed because of Jesus?

Have you let Him change you?

Looking Past the Old to See the New

Posted by on July 13, 1997 under Sermons


As Christians, many in Churches of Christ have an unusual way of determining and interpreting the basic nature of Christianity. We declare that we are not under the law of Moses (the law that was the foundation of Judaism in both the Old and New Testaments). Yet, we use the format and approach of Old Testament law to dictate the function of Christianity and to declare what Christians are required to do. Our reasoning commonly following this line of thinking: God is the God who gave and relied on law in Old Testament Judaism. Since He is the same God, we should interpret Christianity on the basis of law.

An objective, unprejudiced person who is not familiar with Churches of Christ could conclude that Christianity is just a reformed, improved version of Judaism. God did not accomplish what He first intended to do through the Law of Moses, so He perfected His efforts in Christianity. Therefore, Christianity is the revision of the Law of Moses. It is the law of Moses perfected.

When a Christian holds that view, I am convinced that one of three things is true. Either his knowledge and understanding of the law of Moses is limited. Or, his knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ is limited. Or, he has a limited knowledge and understanding of both.

It is very easy to know a lot about our religion but actually understand very little about Jesus Christ. We can know a lot about what we have always been told in the church, but know little about what Jesus actually taught.

It is easy to assume that the Old Testament law and Judaism are very similar to New Testament Christianity. It is easy to assume that the divinely revealed religion of the Old Testament is very similar to the divinely revealed religion of the New Testament.

There certainly are similarities. This evening I want us to see beyond the similarities.

  1. Consider some basic comparisons between Judaism and Christianity.
    1. Similarity: Both originated from the same Creator God. But:
      1. Old Testament Judaism was founded on a law code that God gave to the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:3-6; 20:1-17; the book of Deuteronomy)
      2. New Testament Christianity is founded on a Savior that God gave the world (John 3:16-18).
    2. Similarity: They both commemorate the fact that God delivered and freed them. But:
      1. In Israel, once a year the Passover sacrifice and meal commemorated the fact that God released them from physical slavery and gave them freedom as a nation (Exodus 12:1-20; 12:43-51; 13:1-16).
      2. In Christianity, the weekly observance of communion commemorates the fact that God released the Christian from the slavery of evil and gave him freedom from the eternal consequences of spiritual and moral failure (Matthew 26:26-29; Ephesians 1:7).
    3. Similarity: They both worship the same God. But:
      1. In Israel, their primary act of worship was through sacrifice by slaughtering an animal (Leviticus 16).
        1. The animal’s blood provided a temporary solution, not a permanent solution.
        2. The effect of sacrificial worship was to confirm guilt.
      2. In Christianity, the primary act of worship is through praise or thanksgiving singing, praying, and remembering (John 4:23,24; Acts 2:46,47; 1 Corinthians 14:15-17; Hebrews 13:15).
        1. The Christian thanks God and praises God for using Jesus’ blood to permanently forgive him.
        2. The effect of Christian worship is to acknowledge and confirm sanctification through forgiveness.
    4. Similarity: Both address the problem of guilt. But:
      1. In the Old Testament, a legal system used justice to reveal guilt, to confirm guilt, and to impose the consequences of guilt (note the consequences of violating the law in Deuteronomy).
        1. The law provided instruction and guidance.
        2. The law liberated through obedience.
      2. In Christianity, the goodness of a Savior destroys guilt through unconditional forgiveness and liberates the Christian from eternal consequences (I Peter 2:21-24; Hebrews 9:26-28).
        1. A Savior provides instruction and guidance.
        2. The Savior liberates through forgiveness.
    5. Similarity: Both sought to provide forgiveness. But:
      1. In the Old Testament, forgiveness was temporary (Hebrews 10:1-4; Romans 3:24,25).
        1. It was based on an inadequate form of atonement.
        2. In many sacrifices, the sacrifice addressed one specific violation of law.
      2. In Christianity, the forgiveness is permanent.
        1. The forgiven sins with their guilt are destroyed and no longer are recalled by God (Hebrews 8:8,9,12).
        2. As long as the Christian remains in Christ, the forgiveness is continual (Romans 4:7,8; 1 John 1:7,9).
        3. It forgives both realized and unrealized sins (1 John 1:9).
    6. Similarity: Both are concerned with the holiness of the person. But:
      1. In the Old Testament, holiness is dependent on human achievement.
        1. It exists only if the person is completely obedient to the total law.
        2. Consequently, it is an unattainable goal.
      2. In Christianity, holiness is the gift of forgiveness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:20,21; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
        1. A person is holy because he has been and is cleansed through forgiveness.
        2. It is his responsibility to preserve this gift of holiness (1 Peter 1:13-19).
        3. This incredible gift is cared for in a sense of sober responsibility.
    7. Similarity: Atonement is at the heart of Judaism and Christianity.
      1. In the Old Testament, an annual day of atonement was held on the same day of the same month of each year (Leviticus 16).
        1. There was a cleansing of the high priest, then a cleansing of the nation.
        2. The ritual was precise, specific, and included the slaughter of animals and a scapegoat that carried Israel’s sins into the wilderness.
      2. In Christianity, atonement occurred at the death of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18,19; Colossians 1:13,14,19,20; Titus 2:14).
        1. His single death produced potential atonement for the world in all ages.
        2. Since the cross, atonement has been a perfect, established reality.
        3. Jesus was the “once for all” blood sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:12).
    8. Similarity: Both use a high priest who represents the people before God.
      1. In the Old Testament, the high priest was an imperfect human who had failed to perfectly keep the law (Hebrews 5:1-4).
        1. He functioned in an earthly tabernacle/temple using an earthly altar.
        2. Because of his human limitations and imperfections, he was an imperfect representor.
        3. His representation was limited to his human life span.
      2. In Christianity, the resurrected Jesus is every Christian’s high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:5-9; 8:1-2).
        1. He functions in God’s own sanctuary beside God Himself.
        2. As a human, he was without evil or mistake, but because of his human experience he is the perfect representor.
        3. His representation is unlimited and unending.
  2. The contrast between Judaism in the Bible and Christianity in the New Testament go beyond areas of similarity.
    1. Consider:
      1. Old Testament Judaism was dependent on earthly rituals.
      2. New Testament Christianity is dependent on eternal, heavenly realities.
      3. Old Testament Judaism was a covenant extended to one nation.
      4. New Testament Christianity is a covenant extended to all nations.
      5. Old Testament Judaism limited the individual’s access to God by making the Israelites dependent on the priesthood.
      6. New Testament Christianity gives the individual direct access to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22).
      7. Old Testament Judaism began as control through a legal system.
      8. New Testament Christianity began as a relationship with God through a Savior.
      9. Old Testament Judaism wanted to compel by love, but commonly controlled by fear.
      10. New Testament Christianity compels through a Savior’s love–even fear must be transformed to love (2 Corinthians 5:14,15; 1 John 4:18,19).
    2. Christians must never base their service to their Savior on the approach, perspective, and mentality of the Old Testament legal system.
      1. Though we obey, our faith is in our Savior, not laws, not in human achievement.
      2. Though we hold God in awe, we do not serve Him in terror.
      3. Though we submit our bodies to God’s control, our hearts and spirits rise to the heights of freedom in love.
      4. Though we worship God, we never reduce worship to habitual ritual–worship must always express the spirit and the heart, not merely comply with instruction.
      5. Though we seek to do God’s will, our spiritual confidence is based on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; our confidence is not based on “doing the right thing the right way.”

Until we understand that God’s accomplishments and provisions for us in Christ are distinctly different to what God did for Israel through law, we will never become what God wants us to be.

Israel never had the opportunity to have what every Christian has in Jesus Christ. The most devout Israelite would swap places spiritually with any Christian in a heart beat. Not even greats like Moses, David, and Elijah have what you have in Christ. Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12:

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.

It is not a superior or improved law that would make them want to swap places. They would swap places with us because the relationship we have with God did not even exist for them.

What Is Softer Than a Silk Thread But Stronger Than a Steel Cable?

Posted by on under Sermons

Question: How many people do you know that you would actually die for?
Answer: How many people do you love with all your heart?

I often read of someone who died attempting to save someone else. Intellectually I ask, “Why did he do that? That situation obviously offered virtually no chance of rescue.” But in my heart, I know why. That happens for two reasons. The first reason: the person did not think about risking his life. In the moment of crisis, he did not think about dying; he thought only of saving. In that moment, he was certain that he could do it. The second reason: the person knows that he is risking his life, but he loves so much that he has to try. And, because he loves, he dies.

You might say that you would never die for someone else. But you might surprise yourself. If the person you love the most is dying, you likely would take any possible action to save him or her–even if that action meant risking your life. In fact, if you could save the person you love by dying yourself, you probably would.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is the love Jesus had for us. He knowingly, deliberately surrendered his life to death to save your life–and mine. The night before he died, Jesus made this statement: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).

If, tonight, your house caught on fire while you were asleep, and someone literally kept you from being burned to death, how grateful would you be? If this person died in the process of saving you, how grateful would you be? Would you find ways to express your gratitude?

  1. Jesus, who died in the act of saving us, did so because he loved us.
    1. That is what it took to rescue you and me from evil.
      1. He knew it was the only way–there was no other way.
      2. So he did what had to be done–he laid down his life.
      3. When you surrender your life, you give it all.
    2. His request was simple.
      1. It is simple to understand, but it is not simple to do.
      2. Basically, he asked us to do two things: love him enough to belong to him, and love each other.
      3. That is the bottom line of all his requests.
  2. Paul did his best to get the Christians in Rome to understand that request.
    1. These Christians were like Christians today–too often their differences got in the way of their love.
      1. In the book of Romans Paul powerfully explained that Jesus loved each of them in spite of their differences.
      2. Because Jesus Christ loved each of them, Paul said they must realize the importance of building a love bond between each other.
    2. Paul emphasized the reality of this love bond by using the words “one another.”
      1. 12:5–We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
      2. 12:10–Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
      3. 12:16–Be of the same mind toward one another.
      4. 13:6–Owe no man anything except to love one another.
      5. 14:13–Therefore let us not judge one another any more, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
      6. 14:19–Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
      7. 15:5–Now, may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.
      8. 15:7–Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ Jesus also accepted us to the glory of God.
      9. 15:14–Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.
      10. 16:16–Greet one another with a holy kiss.
  3. How can we at West-Ark improve this “one another” bond, this basic evidence that we each love Jesus Christ?
    1. There are many things we need to do in many areas, but this morning the one area that I want you to consider is the area of our Sunday morning assemblies.
    2. First, we each need to help each other be better acquainted.
      1. I have heard several people say, “I have been a member at West-Ark for several years, and I don’t know 20 people.”
      2. May I ask a question: what do you mean when you say, “I don’t know 20 people?”
        1. Do you mean that you don’t recognize 20 people?
        2. “Oh, I probably recognize 100 people. I recognize their faces, but I don’t know their names.”
      3. How many people can you call by first and last name? 10? 20? 30?
      4. “Well, I can’t call many people by name because the congregation is so big.”
        1. That raises an interesting question: what is the relationship between the size of the congregation and the number of names you know?
        2. Can you learn 30 names more quickly in a congregation of 300 than in a congregation of 600?
        3. I have discovered that size does not prevent me from learning names.
        4. Size keeps us from trying to learn names if size intimidates us.
      5. “But when there are 600 people, you can’t know everybody.”
        1. When you worshipped with a congregation of 200, you know everybody?
        2. When I preached for a college congregation of 300, I did not know everybody and could not call everyone by name.
      6. Do you wonder how many people know your face but not your name?
      7. Wonder how many of those people wish they knew your name?
    3. We will do two things, soon, to assist all of us with names and getting acquainted.
      1. Our new directory will be out early this fall (and I can hardly wait).
        1. I think it will be our first pictorial directory that will allow updates as often as we need them.
      2. This week we ordered the equipment to make name tags for everyone.
        1. We can make them ourselves as often as we need to.
        2. Everyone will have one–it is yours.
        3. It will be laminated, it will attach easily to our clothing without harming our clothing, and it will be simple to use.
  4. The second thing we can do is advance the quality of worship.
    1. I want you to look forward to being in worship–I want you to look forward to worship because you know you will be blessed, encouraged, and moved.
    2. I want our Sunday morning assembles to be one of the most uplifting, beneficial experiences of your entire week–I want worship to “make your week.”
    3. I want the impact of our whole worship assembly to encourage you so much that you literally do not want to be out of town.
      1. These are things I want you to say to yourself about worship.
      2. “When I am down, it picks me up.”
      3. “When I am happy, it makes me happier.”
      4. “When I have made a mistake, it moves me to repent.”
      5. “When I feel all ‘used up’ inside, it renews me.”
      6. “When I feel lonely, it reminds me that I am not alone.”
    4. When visitors are a part of our assembly, I want them to say to themselves, “These people know God, and they love God.”
      1. “I can hear it, I can see it, and I can feel it.”
      2. “I want to know God like these people know God.”
      3. “They don’t have a ‘doing church’ habit; these people really worship.”
  5. This morning I am asking you for some demographic information; it will help all the leaders better understand the composition of the congregation–which will help us better address your spiritual needs.
    1. I am going to walk you through the form. It is really simple. All you need to do is make check marks. Do not sign the sheet.
      1. Check male or female, and then check
        ( ) visitor,
        ( ) a frequent attender, or
        ( ) a member.
      2. Check your age group.
      3. Then check the “I am” categories:
        1. I am a college student.
        2. I am a single
          ( ) out of college but unmarried,
          ( ) single as a result of divorce, or
          ( ) single as a result of the death of my spouse.
        3. I am married and this is
          ( ) my first marriage,
          ( ) remarried after divorce, or
          ( ) remarried after the death of my spouse.
        4. I have
          ( ) preschool children,
          ( ) preteen children,
          ( ) teenage children.
        5. Spiritually, I consider myself to be
          ( )struggling,
          ( ) weak,
          ( ) adequate,
          ( ) strong.
        6. On average, I attend these assemblies three times or more a week:
          ( ) Sunday am Bible classes,
          ( ) Sunday am worship,
          ( ) Sunday pm worship,
          ( ) Wednesday pm Bible classes.
    2. One thing we need to do and want to do is to have more time for singing in our Sunday morning worship assemblies–singing is a powerful.
      1. There simply is not enough time to sing more.
      2. We want to have time for worship in song by increasing the time of our morning worship assembly 15 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes.
      3. This time will be used for singing, not for announcements or preaching.
      4. Would you prefer to add the time at the beginning of our worship assembly and meet earlier? If so check:
        1. “I would prefer to add 15 minutes at the beginning of Sunday morning assemblies,” and check the time you prefer to begin–
          ( ) 9:00 for Bible study and 10:00 for worship, or
          ( ) 9:15 for Bible study and 10:15 for worship.
        2. Or, if you want the starting times to remain as they are and add the time to the end of the assemblies, check
          ( ) “I would prefer for Sunday morning assemblies to begin at the same time but extend the assembly by 15 minutes.”
      5. Just leave the forms in the pew, and the teenagers will pick them up after we have been dismissed.

Now let me have your full attention. I am dead serious about this congregation becoming a more powerful spiritual influence in Fort Smith. To do that, we must reach out to this community. If we touch a person, the first thing he or she is going to do is come worship with us. When he or she attends our worship, that should be a powerful moment. If he or she says, “The singing was bad; communion was strange; the sermon was interesting,” many will show no interest. If they say, “These people know God. I can hear it, I can see it, and I can feel it. I want to know God like these people know God. They don’t have a religious habit; they worship.” If these people say that, they will want to know and understand more.

When will visitors say that? When our worship picks you up when you are down, when it makes you happier when you are happy, when it moves you to repent when you have made a mistake, when it renews you when you feel “used up” inside, and when it reminds you that you are not alone.

That is what I want for you when we worship. I don’t want you to “come to church.” I want you to come worship God. I want all the worship, including the singing, to move you.

The way you worship, the face you wear, the joy in your heart, the way you live your life, etc., probably will do more to change someone’s destiny than anything I will say.

They will see it in you more than they will hear it from me.

Do We Need a New Gospel for the New Age?

Posted by on July 6, 1997 under Articles

There have been more changes in our lifetime than in any other period in the history of the world — changes in travel, communications, medical science, education, etc.

Our present world is dreaming and planning for a more modern age. The world will continue to change with a more rapid pace. But does this mean we need a new gospel for the new age? Many modernists think so. They think the Bible, as it is, is not adapted to man as he is.

Can we take the inspired writer, Jude, seriously when he says, “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints?” Yes! Man has not changed. We live in a changing world, but man remains basically the same. His needs and desires are the same. He is still flesh and spirit. His body still needs water, food, air, and sunshine. We are still dying spiritually because of our sin (Romans 6:23) and the only power to save our soul is the gospel (Romans 1:16; James 1:21).

Man is still struggling with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). No man in this modern age is tempted any more or less than men were in the first century. Man’s adversary, the devil, has not changed; he still walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan still works today, as he always has, through agents who appear as servants of God. The Bible says, And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

The message that “we need a new gospel for the new age” is from Satan and not from God. The simple gospel of Christ met every need in the first century and it will meet man’s every need as long as the world stands.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

God Makes Everything New

Posted by on under Sermons


Tonight I will begin some studies with you that can actually change your life. I will share with you insights and understandings that have changed my life. I am not talking about changing your faith. I am not talking about increasing your knowledge. I am talking about advancing your insights and understandings. These insights and understandings helped me see God differently (with greater accuracy), they helped me see salvation differently (with greater accuracy), and they helped me see Christ differently (with greater accuracy).

Tonight I want you to focus on one basic understanding: when God sent Jesus to be our Savior, He was not “fixing” the Old Testament law or Judaism. The Old Testament system, which came from God, did not need “fixing,” or “adjusting,” or “improving,” or “restructuring,” or “amending.” If we have developed the idea that God did not do it right the first time with Israel so He corrected it with Jesus Christ, we need a better understanding of Jesus Christ.

If that is a new thought to you as a Christian, or if that is something that you already understand, I want us to allow the Bible to reveal to us the meaning of that understanding.

  1. What God did in and with the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament, and what God did through the law with Israel, was temporary.
    1. God designed and intended what He did with Israel to be temporary–God knew what He was doing.
      1. God had a specific purpose in what He was doing.
      2. Go had a specific objective in what He was doing.
      3. Though Old and New Testament Israel often made it difficult, God still accomplished what He intended.
    2. People commonly use the temporary and transitional to achieve a permanent solution or to fulfill a need.
      1. I am confident that each one of us could illustrate that fact.
      2. For example, that has always been true when I have a root canal on a tooth.
        1. You drill the tooth to treat the abscess.
        2. You pack the tooth to destroy the infection.
        3. You place a temporary cap on the tooth until it is certain that the infection is destroyed.
        4. Then you put a permanent crown on the tooth.
      3. I am making just one point with that illustration: we know the necessity of using temporary solutions in order to the achieve permanent solutions.
  2. When the Israelite slaves crossed the Red Sea into true freedom and independence, God had an “out of control” group of undisciplined, disorganized, distrustful people to work with.
    1. God faced enormous challenges–and those people came very close to exceeding God’s patience (Exodus 32:21-33:6).
      1. These people had terrible concepts of good and evil–the ten commandments addressed some of those wrong concepts.
      2. Their concept of deity was horrible–just remember the golden calf they built at Sinai which Aaron said was “the god who led us out of Egypt” (Exodus 32:1-6)
      3. They were delivered from a horrible, inescapable life of slavery, but did nothing but gripe, complain, and wish that they could go back.
    2. God gave these out control people a legal system designed to completely regulate their lives in every aspect of their existence.
      1. That law put in place what was necessary to seek to bring this out of control people under control.
      2. It was given specifically to Israel (Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 4:1,2; etc.).
        1. It certainly was structured around eternal principles.
        2. But it was specifically designed for this people, for this new nation, for their specific situation and needs.
      3. God had two objectives: get these people under control; and advance them from a controlled life under God to genuine relationship with God.
        1. When these people left Egypt, they were not capable of accepting and sustaining a relationship life with God.
        2. At the time they first received the law, they were not even under God’s control.
  3. If you have someone who is out of control and you want to lead that person to a successful life of relationship, what must happen?
    1. Let’s begin with an illustration we all understand: a good woman falls in love with an “out of control” man–it happens all the time!
      1. He is a typical “out of control” man.
        1. He does not have a clue about how to build or sustain a relationship.
        2. None of his friendships are based on relationship–all his friendships are based on beer, good times, or some form of mutual self-indulgence.
        3. All his companions are companions in his self-indulgence.
      2. She sees in this man things worthy of her love.
      3. What she wants is a permanent , successful marriage relationship with the man.
      4. What must happen if this “out of control” man is to become a man capable of building and sustaining a successful relationship?
    2. If he is to go from an “out of control” life to the capability of relationship life, these things must happen:
      1. First, he must discover the fact and honestly accept the fact that he is “out of control.”
        1. He must discover a totally new concept of “good and bad.”
        2. Until he does that, there is no chance he will come under control.
      2. Second, he must come to a basic, new understanding of “good and bad.”
        1. He must understand why what he considered good in the past is bad and why what he considered bad in the past is good.
        2. He must understand, truly understand, that good is not defined by personal pleasure.
      3. Third, this new understanding must produce a new perspective.
        1. He must see life, people, and himself differently.
        2. This results in a new comprehension–he begins to grasp the concept of responsible existence.
      4. Fourth, this new perspective and comprehension actually produces in him a new heart and a new mind.
        1. He thinks differently, and his thinking is produced by a new process.
        2. He feels differently, and he learns to value feelings he never had before.
      5. Only when these things happen is he capable of building and sustaining relationship.
      6. Now, the woman can marry him while he is still out of control.
        1. She can marry him with the determination to reform him–and she may reform him if that means she changes his habits.
        2. However, even if she changes his habits, he still will not understand how to build and sustain a relationship.
      7. Each of us knows that is the truth–we have either seen it or experienced it.
    3. If you understand that, then you can see and understand this: that is exactly what had to happen to transform these “out of control” slaves into a people who were capable of having a relationship with God.
      1. The first major thing God did after He freed these people from slavery was give them a legal system.
        1. From the beginning, the law was intended to begin the process of discovery–they needed a whole new understanding of good and evil.
        2. From the beginning, the law was intended to bring these “out of control” people under control.
      2. God’s desire, His deep desire, was for this multitude of slaves to become a nation who:
        1. Lived in successful, fulfilling relationship with Him.
        2. Was motivated in all they did by their love for the God who freed them.
        3. Belonged to God by their own choice, not out of necessity.
      3. That is what God wanted, but it never happened.
        1. Israel never advanced from “controlled by law” to “genuine, loving relationship with God.”
        2. The law of itself never had the capacity to generate and sustain relationship through successive generations.
        3. Individuals who developed relationship with God were the exception: Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah.
      4. Rarely did relationship with God characterize a generation.
        1. If you want to impress yourself with how frequent and total their failures were, read the book of Judges and the reign of Saul again.
        2. Read the messages of the Old Testament prophets again.
        3. Remember the captivities in Assyria and Babylon.
  4. When God delivered these “out of control” slaves from Egypt, this is what had to happen if they were to come under control and move from a controlled life to a life of relationship with God.
    1. First, they must discover and honestly accept the fact that they are “out of control.”
      1. They must discover a totally new concept of good and evil.
      2. They must understand that a whole new concept of good and evil exists.
      3. Their past understanding of what is good and bad is incorrect and must change.
      4. Until they understand this, they cannot come under control.
    2. Second, they must develop a basic, new understanding of specifically what is good and evil.
      1. Idolatry with its drunkenness and sex rites are evil, not good.
      2. Refusing to defraud people is good, not evil.
      3. They must learn that good is not determined by pleasure or profit.
    3. Third, this new understanding of good and evil must produce a new perspective.
      1. They must see life, people, and themselves differently.
      2. This will result in a new comprehension–they will begin to understand responsible existence.
    4. Fourth, this new perspective and new comprehension will actually produce new hearts and minds in them.
      1. They will think differently, and they will use a different process of thinking.
      2. They will feel differently and learn to value the new feelings.
    5. Only when these things happen will they be capable of building and sustaining a love relationship with God.
    6. Control, alone, will not create the understandings, the mind, the heart, and the perspective that will permit them to have a relationship with God.

From the beginning, God wanted a relationship with Israel. But Israel never truly came under control, never truly grew and matured from a control life to a relationship life. There are many ways to illustrate that truth. But let me use the book of Hosea to let you hear that truth.

As I read Hosea 11:1-4, I want you to hear how a loving God wanted relationship, not control. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images. I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” Do you hear God’s love for this rebellious, unappreciative people?

As I read Hosea 14:1-4 I want you to hear how God is still trying to move them toward relationship even though it is late and they love evil. O Israel, return to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, And return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria shall not save us, We will not ride on horses, Nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’ For in You the fatherless finds mercy.” “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him.” Do you hear God’s yearning to forgive?

Now listen as the book closes. Hosea 14:9. Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them. The tragedy–with all of God’s love for them, they never entered a loving relationship with God.

God’s ultimate objective in Israel was not control, but a loving relationship. God’s ultimate objective in your life is not control; He wants a loving relationship.

Worship: Do You Know It When You Do It?

Posted by on under Sermons

Let’s suppose that this morning you and I worship with a group of Christians in the area where Jesus lived. We are actually stepping back in time to worship with a group of Christians just twenty years after Jesus was executed. In fact, there are a few men and women in this congregation who actually saw and heard Jesus when he lived.

For us, three circumstances make this Sunday morning worship strange and unusual. The first strange thing: Sunday is the day that begins their work week. Saturday is that country’s religious day. For them, Sunday is the same thing Monday is to us. It’s not a weekend day; it’s the day to go back to work. Normal everyday life and normal work are occurring just like it would on Tuesday or Thursday. In fact, only Christians worship today; everyone else worshiped yesterday.

The second strange thing: there is no church building. These Christians do not own any property. Early Christians owned no buildings dedicated to Christian worship. If one of the Christian members owned a home with enough space in it for Christians to gather, this group will likely be meeting in that home. If the number of Christians were too many to meet in one home, they likely are meeting in several homes. If there isn’t a home available, they just meet somewhere that they will not be disturbed.

The third strange thing: since today is a work day, all of them have to go to work. So they meet very early in the morning before work. This morning we are meeting with them before sunrise–that is the only time everyone is free to come. Everyone is dressed in his or her work clothes because they will walk from worship to their job. This helps us understand what Paul meant when he told the Christians in Corinth that when they assembled to take the Lord’s Supper that they should wait on each other (1 Corinthians 11:33).

When we meet with this group, two things really impress us. (1) Everybody there wants to be there. (2) Worship is obviously important to each one of them.

From the collective information that we have about Christians at that time, as this group worships they take the Lord’s Supper, they sing about Jesus Christ, and they charge each other with their moral responsibilities as Christians. “Don’t cheat anyone. Don’t steal anything. Don’t engage in sexual sin. Don’t deceive anybody. Be trustworthy.” This sounds like the instructions written in the epistles. This was the kind of moral instruction that was given to a person wanting baptism, and it was the kind of moral commitment Christians were urged to remember.

  1. In the New Testament epistles are verses of some of the early songs Christians sang about Jesus.

    1. Ephesians 5:14 is probably one of those verses.
        “Awake, sleeper,
        And rise from the dead,
        And Christ will shine on you.” (NASV)

    2. Philippians 2:6-11 is likely one of their songs.
        “Who, being in very nature God,

          did not consider equality with God
          something to be grasped,

        but made himself nothing,

          taking the very nature of a servant,
          being made in human likeness.

        And being found in appearance as a man,

          he humbled himself
          and become obedient to death–
          even death on a cross!

        Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

          and gave him the name that is above every name,

        that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

          in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

        and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

          to the glory of God the Father.” (NIV)
    3. 1 Timothy 3:16 is likely another one.
        “He who was revealed in the flesh,
        Was vindicated in the Spirit,
        Beheld by angels,
        Proclaimed among nations,
        Believed on in the world,
        Taken up in glory.” (NASV)
  2. When you, as a Christian, think about worshiping, what are your basic thoughts about worship?
    1. Let’s begin with your personal view of worship–what is your personal view of worship?
      1. Which of these three views of worship are most like your personal view of worship?
      2. Worship is:
        1. An obligation that each Christian must fulfill.
        2. A command that each Christian must obey.
        3. A spiritual opportunity created by a privilege.
      3. If worship is basically an obligation, why should anyone who is not a Christian be interested in Christian worship because of your sense of obligation?
        1. Have you ever been religiously attracted to someone else’s obligation?
        2. “Why do you worship on Sunday?” “It’s just something I have to do.”
        3. “Why do you go every Sunday? ” “I was always taught that is what I had to do.”
        4. “I really don’t understand why you are so religious.” “It’s my obligation.”
        5. “Oh, well, I understand–when can I go with you?”
      4. If worship is primarily a command, is worshiping a matter of bowing before divine power?
        1. “God is powerful, and He said do it.”
        2. “You don’t have to understand it or to like it–you just have to do it, so we do it.”
        3. Is that the essence of worship?
      5. This is my view of worship: worship is a spiritual opportunity created by the privilege of having salvation in Jesus and being God’s child.
        1. It is the opportunity to join my spiritual family as we thank God for salvation.
        2. It is the opportunity to publicly renew my commitment to Christ.
        3. It is the opportunity to publicly affirm my faith and my hope.
    2. Do you think worship is:
      1. A mechanical, formal, prescribed procedure that a Christian must perform as he meets with other Christians on Sunday?
        1. It does not involve what you feel or what you think, only what you do.
        2. It is based on specific formalities to be done exactly in the proper procedure.
        3. If you just do what you are supposed to do and do it exactly as you are supposed to do it, God is satisfied and you have done your duty.
      2. A commitment to a movement or a church?
        1. You are committed to the restoration movement, so everything about worship must be prescribed by the restoration movement.
        2. You are committed to the Church of Christ, so worship must done the way the Church of Christ does it.
        3. It is not unusual for me to hear someone explain, “This is the Church of Christ way of doing it,” or “That is Church of Christ,” and that is the total explanation and understanding.
      3. A biblical fellowship experience with other Christians and with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit?
        1. I am encouraging and being encouraged by every other Christian who has been baptized into Christ.
        2. I am affirming that we are brothers and sisters together in Christ.
        3. I am rejoicing in the fact that God has accepted me as His own.
        4. I am declaring my faith in the resurrection and return of Jesus.
        5. Thus, as I worship with fellow Christians, I am renewing and strengthening the bond between us and between myself and God.
      4. Worship occurs when:
        1. “My body is seated on a pew in a church building when the congregation assemblies.”
          1. “What I do while I am there is not important.”
          2. “What I think about while I am there is not important.”
          3. “What I feel while I am there is not important.”
          4. “All that is important is physically being there.”
        2. “When I pay attention to the sermon.”
          1. “The real heart and core of worship is the sermon.”
          2. “If I don’t go to sleep, if I pay attention, and if I remember something that the preacher said, then I have worshiped.”
        3. “When I physically take communion.”
          1. “No matter what I am thinking or what I am doing,
          2. “If I swallow a little piece of the bread,
          3. “If I swallow a small swallow of grape juice,
          4. “I have worshiped.”
        4. “When my heart and mind talk to God–when I sing, when I pray, when I commune, when I contribute, when I listen to the sermon, when I greet my brothers and sisters.”
  3. Why do you attend worship assemblies on Sunday morning? I am truly thrilled that you do, and I don’t want you to give me the answer to that question, but I do want you to answer yourself.
    1. Which of these following answers would you give yourself?
      1. “I would feel guilty if I did not come.”
      2. “I don’t want to go to hell, and I am afraid that I would if I did not come.”
      3. “I am doing my duty.”
      4. “I want to give my life the right balance, and that must include some worship.”
      5. “It is important to my marriage.”
      6. “It is important to my children.”
      7. “There is some good in all of those answers, but all those answers are inadequate.”
    2. If these kind of reasons are your reasons for worshiping God, then you are missing one of the greatest joys and blessings that God offers us.
      1. Worship to praise the God who forgives you of all sin because He loves you and is filled with mercy–to show genuine gratitude to someone who loves you is rich and fulfilling.
      2. Worship to thank Jesus Christ for dying on the cross so that you will not have to die without salvation and spend an eternity separated from God.
      3. Worship to declare your faith in the resurrection and return of Jesus Christ.
      4. Worship to affirm your sense of family with every person who is in Jesus Christ.
      5. When we learn and experience the deeper meaning and value of worship, there is joy, encouragement, strength, and renewal.
        1. Consider a simple illustration.
        2. You can marry for security, to have kids, and to escape living alone and have a marriage that is somewhere between miserable and bearable.
        3. Or you can marry to build a companionship based on love and respect and discover one of the greatest joys and blessings God gave us.
        4. The same thing is true with worship.

    This world pounds on each of us every day. Evil is constantly looking for ways to invade our lives, to create guilt, and to cause us pain and suffering. Everything in our lives is under attack. If it is just “me” against the world, “me” will lose.

    We do not worship an arrogant God who has to have His ego stroked. Worship is for our personal benefit. It is to strengthen and renew us. When we personally do not worship when we come together, we are the loser, not God.

    We just celebrated the 4th of July. This is a national holiday dedicated to grateful remembrance of the birth of this nation and to reflecting on all the blessings we have because this country exists. But for many Americans, the 4th of July has nothing to do with remembering or reflecting. Instead, the 4th of July is a free day, a fun day, a family day, a food day, and a fireworks day. None of those things are bad, but they all miss the point.

    It is so easy for the same thing to happen with worship. We can attend and never worship. We can come for many reasons that completely miss the point. Worship, and when you worship, please, don’t miss the point. Please, don’t miss the blessings.

Talking To God, Christ, the Spirit, and Each Other

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Music always has been a powerful language. It eloquently expresses moods and emotions that words without music cannot express. Music is a rare form of communication that is universal, transcultural, transgenerational, and ageless. Amazingly, music from a specific age and specific culture can powerfully touch and move people of all ages in numerous cultures a century later.

Music is a primary means of communication within our society. You doubt that? Have you “noted” the role music plays in television programs? movies? commercials? For teens and young adults, it is the number one vehicle of communication.

We listen to it in our cars. We listen to it as we exercise or do routine chores. We hear it so frequently during the day that we often do not notice it. Because it is ingrained in daily life, the CD and tape music market is a major, world wide industry.

We relax to music. We “psyche up” to music. We stimulate patriotism with music. We “supercharge” crowds at ball games with music. We express joy with music. We grieve with music. We pursue romance with music.

Music and life are inseparable. Important occasions, important events, and important moments always include music.

Singing allows us to express feelings, thoughts, and emotions as can nothing else. We can “say” things in song that we cannot express as meaningfully or powerfully in any other way. Whatever our mood, we “experience” it with music.

The music of song must assist our worship. We “say” things to God by song that we likely could not even say in prayer. Emotion, attitudes, and feelings can be expressed meaningfully by every individual in the assembly. By song we all talk to each other, to God, to Christ, and to the Spirit simultaneously–without confusion! By song we converse with our hearts and spirits and well as our tongues.

We want our singing to be a more significant part of our Sunday morning worship assemblies. We do not want merely to sing more songs. We want our singing to give voice to our hearts as we celebrate life in Christ. We want each Christian to feel our Lord’s presence as the congregation expresses itself in song. We want our visitors to be moved by the praises that are offered by song.

For the next two weeks I will share with you the ways in which we hope to use our singing to worship God more meaningfully.