The Tools

Posted by on August 30, 1998 under Sermons

Listen to a parable I call, “The parable of the tools.”

It is a parable about two carpenters. One carpenter loved tools. Nothing gave him more pleasure than going to a huge hardware store and looking at the tools. A new tool always fascinated him. He was intrigued by the jobs each new tool could do.

He purchased every tool he could afford. He proudly displayed his tools in a special work room. They were displayed neatly with a specific order with special lighting. He invested major money in his tools, and each tool was of the finest quality. He knew each tool well, and he could tell anyone every job that the tool could perform.

Though he was a carpenter, he never used any of his tools. He owned his tools to look a them, not to use them. He never built anything.

The second carpenter loved to build things. He could never afford new tools, and he never had many tools. Rarely did he ever build anything when he had the tools that he needed. What tools he used were old and worn, and did not always work well.

But build he did. He was always building something, and he did excellent work. Everyone who hired him was blessed by his skill and his work.

In the parable of the tools there is a tragedy and a regret. The tragedy: the carpenter who loved to build never had the tools of the carpenter who loved tools.

The regret: the carpenter who loved to build would have been a blessing to so many more people if only he had better tools.

You and I are carpenters. We are apprentices of the greatest carpenter that ever lived. Jesus built lives. He taught us the importance of building lives. We understand that physical buildings are only tools.

May God deliver us. May we never love tools. May we never love buildings for the sake of having buildings. May we never measure who we are or what we are doing by a our buildings.

May God give us wisdom. May we allow Jesus to teach us how to build lives. With fine tools or with poor tools, may we build lives. As God blesses us with better tools, may we in Christ build lives as we have never built lives before.

James 1:22-27
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

The Team

Posted by on under Sermons

As a congregation, we have wonderful, incredible diversity. No where is our diversity more evident than in the occupational and professional backgrounds represented in this congregation.

Several different school systems are represented. We have members who are teacher’s aids, teachers, teaching specialists, and administrators.

Several different hospitals and clinics are represented. We have technicians, nurses, doctors, and those in administration.

Every level of industrial manufacturing is represented. The communication and technology industries are represented. The freight industry is represented. Numerous private businesses are represented.

This diversity is a real blessing. It enables us to accept an important truth.

  1. Every form of professional, business, or industrial organization must deal with a combination of needs, problems, opportunities, and demands.
    1. That is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of necessity.
      1. Every business exists in the highly complex environment of law, need, opportunity, and competition.
      2. The business that succeeds is the business that effectively manages the demands created by law, need, opportunity, and competition.
    2. Even small business organizations are dependent on forming an effective, reliable teams.
      1. Look at the obvious.
        1. That team must have people who can care for accounting, banking, inventory, purchasing, personnel supervision, product or service development, advertising and promotion, and the distribution of product or services.
        2. There is only one way any organization can do that: build a responsible, dependable team.
      2. What if an organization does not develop a responsible, effective team?
        1. At some point, demands will exceed the ability, strength, and time of “the leader.”
        2. When “the leader” burns out, the organization crashes.
  2. God used a team to produce the most important reality that exists–salvation.
    1. Evil entered human existence by human decision and choice.
      1. We made an incredible mess of life and relationships.
      2. The mess we made was too complicated for us to correct.
      3. God did what we could not do; He rescued us from the mess we created.
    2. God did it through team work.
      1. God created the plan; made the promise to rescue us; implemented the plan; and persevered until forgiveness and salvation were realities.
        1. With frustration that we cannot comprehend, God worked through the nation of Israel.
        2. Their failures and faithlessness constantly frustrated God’s purposes.
        3. Israel often made it impossible for God to keep His promises.
        4. But God never quit, never changed His mind, never altered His plans.
        5. In Israel’s worst failures, God repeatedly declared of Himself, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).
      2. God sent His Son as a true human to live the human existence.
        1. Jesus used the last years of his life in a ministry that focused exclusively on God’s purposes.
        2. He died by crucifixion to serve as God’s sacrificial lamb and create atonement for sin.
        3. He was raised from the dead by the power of God, made Lord and Christ, and provided everyone the opportunity for forgiveness.
      3. When the resurrected Jesus ascended back into heaven to sit on God’s right hand, God sent the Holy Spirit.
        1. He guided the twelve apostles into a complete knowledge and understanding of the truth about what God did and was doing in Jesus Christ (John 14:26).
        2. He gave them a perfect remembrance of everything Jesus did and taught.
        3. He worked in doing many things in the lives of those who entered Christ.
        4. He makes each of us who enter Christ the temple of God.
        5. The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God at work in the life of those who belong to Jesus Christ.
      4. We have salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and life in Christ because God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit worked together.
  3. I deeply enjoy being a part of you for many reasons.
    1. One of those reasons is that the elders and staff work together as a team.
      1. We clearly understand that the only way that this congregation can meet the challenge of its potential is through effective team work.
      2. Serving God’s purposes as Christ’s church in today’s world is a challenge beyond description.
        1. When our renovations and Family Life Center are complete, our property and facilities should have a value that exceeds five million dollars.
        2. This year contributed funding in weekly contributions, buildings funds, mission funds, and benevolent funds will easily exceed $800,000 and will possibly approach the $1 million level.
        3. Our current commitments include:
          1. Significant mission commitments in at least three other nations.
          2. Developing a growing, effective spiritual education program for adults and children.
          3. Equipping our families to build better marriages and better homes.
          4. Assisting both individuals and families in crisis.
          5. Continuing an effective youth work.
          6. Sustaining an effective program from 60 + members.
          7. Developing an effective support and involvement system for new comers and visitors.
          8. Sustaining a visitation, support, and outreach work with those who are sick or shut-ins.
          9. Continuing to develop an inner city outreach.
          10. Sustaining extensive benevolent programs.
          11. Sustaining an active jail ministry.
          12. Expanding the work of CURE (The Compassionate Utilization of Resources)–a unique disaster relief and medical missions program that is reaching out to many countries.
        4. There are more than twenty-five active ministries that are a part of the life and work of this congregation, and we have other major needs that we have not begun to address.
      3. The only possible way that we can address our needs and accept the challenge of our opportunities is to build an increasingly effective team.
    2. The leadership and staff are constantly learning how to be a better, more effective team.
      1. First, I want to remind you of the people who are on the team.
        1. We have two secretaries on staff.
          1. Myra Flippo has worked as secretary for this congregation from the day it came into existence. She is conscientious, systematic, and she has a talent for caring for important details.
          2. Debbie Belote has been secretary for this congregation for eleven years. Debbie, too, is conscientious, committed, and an excellent projects person.
        2. As of last week, we have four ministers on staff.
          1. Roy Dunavin has served as a minister for 22 years in this area. He was an evangelism minister in one of the congregations that merged, and has served this congregation from day one of its existence. He works with hospital visitation, one on one teaching, and mission trips.
          2. Brad Pistole is completing his eighth year as youth director, and this is his home congregation. The work he does with our teens is better than excellent. He cares about them deeply, and they know it.
          3. In November, I will have been with you for two years.
        3. Presently, we have five elders who are part of the team.
          1. If I understand correctly, Mat Griffin has served as an elder the longest. God blessed Mat with the gift of compassion, and it touches everything he does.
          2. Sam Roberts retired from years of work as a personnel manager. He has an excellent ability to talk to people one on one.
          3. Earl Flood has served this congregation as an elder on two different occasions. Earl loves to help people, and Earl helps people.
          4. Bob Null has worked many years in upper management. He has incredible communication skills. He is gifted in communicating with large groups.
          5. If I remember correctly, Bill Dickey is “the new kid on the block” among our elders. Bill is steady, quiet, observant, and relates to almost anyone.
          6. Each one of them bring something unique and valuable to the team.
      2. The second thing I want to do is introduce you to the newest member of the team. His name is Ted Edwards, and Ted has given me permission to share these things with you.
        1. Ted came to help work with two enormous opportunities that we have:
          1. To help our over-all spiritual education program grow to new levels of service and effectiveness.
          2. To help us meet the enormous need of better member involvement.
        2. The elders have asked Ted focus his time and energy on our education program for the immediate future.
        3. Ted was attracted to West-Ark because of our positive spirit and attitude, and because we are looking toward the future.
        4. He brings to the team a different background and life experience.
          1. Ted’s father and mother divorced when he was in the first grade.
          2. He lived with his mother until he finished junior high, and lived with his father while in senior high.
          3. His childhood and his teen years were difficult years.
          4. In his late teens and early 20’s he completely left God.
        5. He recommitted himself to God in 1984 and immediately began to share what God was doing for him with his friends.
          1. Some of them did more than listen: they were converted.
          2. Because of his effectiveness, the Iowa congregation he attended paid him to quit one of his jobs and do one on one teaching.
          3. He began correspondence work at Sunset School of Preaching.
          4. Finally, they supported him to complete his studies and degree.
          5. When he graduated, they hired him as second man.
        6. For many reasons I am glad Ted is a member of the team.
          1. He has no desire to “take over” anything; he came to work with others.
          2. He loves to serve, and he enjoys working in the background.
          3. He has a good reputation as a teacher, a hard worker, and a “people person.”
        7. When I asked what should people know to understand him, he read Colossians 1:28 because it reflects his ministry goal–to help people mature in Christ, to help each person grow to a new level.

“David, as a member of the team, what are your goals?” Goal one: every sermon I preach, every class I teach, I want to deepen your faith and your understanding. Goal two: I want to help you grow closer to God and live life fully in Christ. Goal three: I want deepen our desire to be godly people. Goal four: I want to increase our willingness to trust God–with our minds, our hearts, our souls, our sins, our failures, our fears, or worries, and our abilities.

I want to let God work through me to bless you.

As an important part of the team, what are your goals.

We are living in a complex, misguided age. It is taking a terrible toll. It has never been more important that we be successfully. Would you feel that we were successful if we averaged 1800 in Sunday morning worship, a thousand Sunday evening, and a 1000 Wednesday evening?

“David, would you?” No. “What would you consider success?” Success is helping Christ change people’s lives. “What do you mean?” To me, success is Christ helping husbands and wives in distressed marriages; Christ helping teenagers in crisis; Christ helping people who are drowning in stress and anxiety; Christ helping people discover the meaning of life; Christ helping people escape emptiness, loneliness, fear, or hopelessness.

“Why is that success?” The less focused we are on God, the more impossible our lives become. Learn to let the team work in your life. Let God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit give you life and teach you how to live it.

Are you alive in Jesus Christ? Do you know how to live life in Jesus? Does evil have control or does God have control of your life?

Would You Teach Me How?

Posted by on August 23, 1998 under Sermons

If we don’t know how to do something, we can’t do it. The only way that we can do something that we don’t know how to do is to learn.

Some people are perceptive and gifted. They have the confidence and understanding to teach themselves. These people are the creative ones. They are the inventors and the fixers. They can “figure out” ways to do something that they have never done before. They are the exceptions.

Many who cannot teach themselves are “fast learners.” When someone shows them how to do something, they understand quickly. They learn a lot with just a little teaching.

More people learn if they have a good teacher. Learning is not a problem. They need a teacher who can help them understand. When they understand, they learn well.

Some people have difficulty learning. They must be convinced that they can learn. You must prove that they can understand. Once they believe that they can learn, they learn well.

Regardless of how we learn, we all must be taught.

  1. All of us are aware of the fundamental importance of learning.
    1. Do you know how to:
      1. Sew? Could you make clothing without being taught?
      2. Change a tire? Could you change a tire without being taught?
      3. Make cornbread? Could you make it without being taught?
      4. Drive a straight shift car? Could you drive it without being taught?
      5. Swim? Could you swim without being taught?
    2. Virtually everything we do we learned how to do it.
      1. We expect learning to be a part of life.
      2. We expect to be taught.
  2. Two of the best known and most used verses in the New Testament are Matthew 28:19,20.
    “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. Jesus made this statement after his resurrection, not long before his ascension.
      1. The statement contains three instructions.
        1. Go make disciples.
        2. Baptized those who would be disciples.
        3. Teach the disciples you make to observe all the commands that I gave to you.
      2. The primary instruction is to go make disciples.
        1. A person is baptized because he or she wants to be a disciple.
        2. The person expects to learn and to practice Jesus’ teachings because the person has chosen to be a disciple.
        3. You do not baptize a person who does not wish to be a disciple.
        4. A person who does not want to be a disciple will not learn or practice Jesus’ teachings.
    2. Let’s ask the important question: what is a disciple?
      1. The word “disciple” in both the Greek and the Latin mean “the pupil of the teacher;” the literal meaning of the Greek word is “to learn.”
      2. It was common for recognized teachers to have their pupils, and for the pupils to be devoted to that teacher.
        1. The thinking, the understanding, and the views of the teacher became the thoughts and understandings of the pupils.
        2. So disciple came to mean more than just a person who learned; it came to mean a learner who was devoted to a particular teacher.
      3. The New Testament mentions:
        1. The disciples of the Pharisees, or Jews whose thinking and views were determined by the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Mosaical law (John 9:28).
        2. The disciples of John the baptizer, or Jews whose thinking and views were determined by the teachings of John (John 1:35).
        3. And there were the disciples of Jesus (John 4:1).
          1. In a special sense, this referred to the twelve who were hand-picked by Jesus himself (Matthew 10:1-4).
            1. They followed him and learned from him on a daily basis.
            2. They learned from the experience of being with him as well as from his teachings.
          2. But there were also many people who were devoted to learning from Jesus who were not a part of the twelve, and they were also called disciples (John 6:66,67).
    3. Jesus told his hand-picked disciples who had witnessed the fact of his resurrection to go throughout the world calling other people to discipleship.
      1. When I decide to be a disciple, I choose to be a pupil, to learn.
      2. Who will be my teacher?
        1. Obviously, the person calling me to Jesus will teach me.
        2. But whose teachings will that person teach me? Jesus’ teachings.
        3. Is he teaching me to follow him as a person? No, he is teaching me to follow Jesus.
        4. Who will I look to as “the teacher”? Jesus.
        5. Whose teachings will I learn? Jesus’ teachings.
        6. Who will I follow in my life? Jesus.
    4. If I choose to be a disciple, a pupil, a learner who is devoted to Jesus, what will Jesus teach me?
      1. Will Jesus teach me all about worship?
        1. No.
        2. Jesus did not teach about the practices or the ceremony of worship.
        3. His teachings did not focus on worship as a practice.
      2. Will Jesus teach me all about the church?
        1. Will he teach me all about church organization, church leadership, and church responsibilities?
        2. No.
        3. Jesus’ teachings did not focus on the church.
        4. The gospels only record Jesus using the word twice.
    5. Then what will Jesus teach me?
      1. He will teach me how to look at the world, how to look at God, how to look at life, and how to look at death.
      2. He will teach me how to think from God’s perspectives and purposes.
      3. Jesus will teach me how to love like God loves.
      4. Jesus will teach me how to serve God and people as he served God and people.
      5. Jesus will teach me how to treat people.
      6. Jesus will teach me how to commit, in love, to God.
  3. “David, are you trying to say that worship and the church are unimportant?”
    1. Absolutely not.
      1. It is impossible to love God and not worship Him.
      2. It is impossible to be Jesus’ disciple and not be a part of his church.
    2. “Then what are you saying?”
      1. Unless we are disciples, we will never worship God appropriately.
        1. Worship comes from what we are just as certainly as what we do.
        2. Only disciples will praise God as He deserves to be praised.
        3. Only disciples will reverence God as He deserves to be honored.
      2. Unless we are disciples, we will never be the church in the way Jesus intended us to be the church.
        1. Only if we are disciples will we leave a worldly, ungodly life and actually make our life in Jesus Christ.
        2. Only if we are disciples will we learn to live the kind of life Jesus intended for people in the church to live.
      3. We will not worship God as He wants to be worshipped, and we will not be the church as Jesus wants us to be unless we learn how to:
        1. Look at life and death as God does.
        2. How to think like Jesus thought.
        3. How to love like God and Jesus love.
        4. How to serve like Jesus served.
        5. How to treat people like Jesus treated people.
        6. How to commit to God in love.
  4. One of the reasons that we have so many problems with ungodly attitudes and ungodly actions in the church, in our homes, and in our relationships is because we became church members without becoming disciples.
    1. Let me ask you a very basic question: why were you baptized?
      1. “I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins to enter the church.”
      2. When you were baptized did you have any desire to be a disciple?
      3. Did you intend to let Jesus teach you how to think when you were baptized?
      4. Did you want Jesus to teach you how to love?
      5. Were you making a decision to learn how to serve?
      6. Did you want to be taught how to treat people?
      7. Were you consciously making a commitment to God?
    2. Or, were you basically baptized to become a member of the church in order to do church things?
      1. Has your Christian life been one long, internal, spiritual struggle because you have been committed to church rules instead being committed to discipleship?
      2. If you are trying to be a church member without a commitment to being a disciple, a pupil, a learner, you have a lot of unnecessary problems.
      3. It is frighteningly easy to be pro-church and anti-discipleship at the same time.
        1. Being a part of the church and being a disciple are commitments that should bless each other.
        2. They were never intended to be separated.
  5. “David, you talked about splitting hairs this morning. That is what I think that you are doing right now.”
    1. Let me ask you to consider this.
      1. Because we are taught so little about being husbands or wives before we marry, we make some awfully big messes in our marriages.
      2. Because we are taught so little about being parents before we have children, we create some huge problems in our homes and in our children’s lives.
      3. One of our most ridiculous assumptions is that all you need to do to be a good husband or a good wife is get married, and all that you need to do to be a good parent is have a child.
    2. One of the greatest reasons for many of the serious problems in our marriages and in our homes is the fact that we have never been disciples.
      1. When we do not allow Jesus to teach us how to think, to love, to serve, to treat people, and to commitment to God, we will have serious problems in our marriage relationships and our home relationships.
      2. Discipleship is not about how you act in church buildings; discipleship is about how you live your life.

Is Jesus your teacher?
Are you his pupil?
Do you let him teach you how to live?

Splitting Hairs

Posted by on under Sermons

This has been a fascinating week in our nation. Reactions to our President’s statement were as fascinating as the situation. In the seven months of crisis, the President’s approval rating steadily climbed. Immediately after he made his Monday evening statement, his approval rating climbed.

If I asked you to state the most important lesson to be learned from this entire situation, what lesson would you choose? Some would choose a moral lesson. Some would choose an ethical lesson. Some would choose a political lesson. Some would choose a lesson based on the media. Some would choose a global message. And all the lessons would be valid.

I want to focus your attention on a different lesson. This lesson challenges us to look at ourselves as a society.

  1. Several times I have called your attention to the fact that our society has changed in fundamental, basic ways.
    1. This week visibly documented that change is real.
      1. The fact that the President’s approval rating climbed documented that the change is real.
        1. This President is certainly not our first President to do something sexually inappropriate.
        2. Other Presidents have been involved in outrageous sexual behavior while in office–behavior that went far beyond what President Clinton did.
        3. This is the obvious change: if any of those Presidents had confessed what they did, their public approval ratings would have “bottomed out.”
        4. Our society has changed.
      2. The people reactions documented that the change is real.
        1. Many people are tired of hearing about something that is common in our society.
        2. Many people think that it is all a matter of politics.
        3. Many people think that all the concern is ridiculous.
        4. A lot of people think that the nation should forget it and move on to important things.
        5. Our society has changed.
      3. The fact that most personal viewpoints were unchanged by the President’s confession documents that the change is real.
        1. The people who believed what the President did was terrible before his statement still believed it was terrible after the statement.
        2. The people who thought what the President did was an unimportant, private matter before his statement still thought that it was unimportant, private matter after the statement.
        3. His confession did not change the thinking of most people.
        4. Our society has changed.
    2. “David, you keep saying, ‘Our society has changed.’ What do you mean?”
      1. An identifiable group of Americans do not believe any absolutes exist.
        1. Nothing is always wrong.
        2. Nothing is always right.
        3. Nothing is absolute wrong.
        4. Nothing is absolutely right.
        5. Nothing is absolutely true.
        6. Nothing is absolutely false.
        7. In 1992, a credible poll was taken of people born between 1965 and 1980 (people between 33 and 18 years of age); 70% said that absolute truth did not exist. (George Barna, The Invisible Generation: Baby Busters, Glendale, CA: The Barna Research Group, 1992, 81.)
        8. Our society has changed.
      2. An identifiable group of Americans hold a relatively new concept of personal responsibility.
        1. “What I do in my private life is my business and only my business.”
        2. “If I am responsible in my public life, I am responsible.”
        3. “Private character and public character are not related.”
        4. “Being a person of character and integrity has nothing to do with the way I live my private life.”
        5. Our society has changed.
      3. An identifiable group of Americans live by the rule of pragmatism.
        1. “If I do good work,
        2. “If I provide good leadership,
        3. “If I produce good results,
        4. “If I do my job well,
        5. “If other people benefit from my abilities and services,
        6. “Nothing else I do matters.”
        7. “If I can do the job well, how I live my life is irrelevant.”
        8. Our society has changed.
      4. A large group of Americans believe in the rule of technicality.
        1. Criminal acts are made nonexistent through the use of technicality.
        2. Laws are set aside or rendered powerless by using technicalities.
        3. Truth can be distorted and even used to deceive–an still be truth– by the use of technicalities.
        4. Good and evil or right and wrong are determined by technicalities.
        5. Our society has changed.
  2. As the church and as Christians we are poorly positioned to constructively address these changes within our society.
    1. Our past often destroys our credibility.
      1. We have a history of heated arguments about things that no one understands but us–and many of us really do not understand them.
        1. Should communion be served with one cup or many cups?
        2. Should congregations teach the Bible by using Bible classes?
        3. Should congregations cooperate with each other in doing a godly work?
        4. Which translation of the Bible is acceptable?
      2. A person who is not a Christian and who listened to us argue about what is progressive, what is conservative, and what is liberal would quickly conclude that we have a peculiar concept of truth.
      3. The nature of our disagreements and the methods we use in disagreeing often destroy our credibility.
    2. Ungodly lifestyles often destroy our credibility.
      1. I am speaking of Christians who knowingly, deliberately live by double standards; I am not talking about Christians struggling with problems or seeking to overcome a failure.
      2. Too many preachers do the things they strongly condemn.
      3. Too many elders live one life at the church building and another life in private.
      4. Ongoing adulterous affairs are not unusual in any congregation.
      5. Lying, stealing, or defrauding are not unusual in any congregation.
      6. It is not unusual for individuals or families to wear their godly appearance to church on Sunday and be very ungodly at home.
      7. To people outside the church, these people just do not look that different.
      8. Ungodly lifestyles often destroy our credibility.
    3. No one uses technicality better than we do when we discuss “church issues.”
      1. A discussion of what is and what is not worship quickly involves technicality.
      2. So do many other discussions including:
        1. Honesty.
        2. Purity.
        3. Lying.
        4. Hate.
        5. Evil.
        6. Vengeance.
      3. It is not unusual for someone to declare, “Somewhere a verse says . . .”
        1. Who wrote it? “I don’t know, but it says . . .”
        2. What was the context? What was the writer discussing? “I don’t know, but the verse says . . .”
        3. What subject was he teaching? “I don’t know, but the verse says . . .”
        4. What problem was he addressing? “I don’t know, but the verse says . . .”
        5. The conviction: “When I can find that verse, technically, it will prove my point.”
  3. In Isaiah 5 God said, “Judah, I have a question I want you to answer” (5:1-4).
    1. I planted a vineyard of choice grape vines on a fertile hill side, built a wall around it, and built everything needed to protect it and to make wine.”
      1. But when the vineyard produced grapes, they were sour and useless.
      2. I ask you, what else could I have done? Was it not right to expect that vineyard to produce sweet grapes that would make good wine?
      3. Let me tell you what I am going to do to that vineyard.
        1. I am going to tear the wall down so that the livestock can eat the vines.
        2. I am going to let the briars and thorns grow up and destroy it.
    2. Then God said, “Israel and Judah are that vineyard” (5:7).
      1. I expected you to be just and righteous, a godly people.
      2. Instead you are a blood-thirsty people who abuse the innocent.
      3. You buy up houses and land so that the poor have nowhere to live.
      4. Your ignorance of Me has destroyed you.
      5. You tie evil and sin on a rope and drag it with you everywhere you go.
    3. Now listen carefully to Isaiah 5:20-23:
      Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine And valiant men in mixing strong drink, Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. Judah did everything “by the book.”
        1. They worshipped at the right place on the right days offering the right sacrifices.
        2. Technically, they were correct.
        3. But their hearts and minds were corrupt.
      2. Their definitions were horrible–they called good evil and evil good; darkness was light and light was darkness; bitter was sweet and sweet was bitter.
      3. According to them, they were very wise; their understanding was clever.
      4. But their conduct was horrible and ungodly.
      5. The moment of truth had come; the consequences were inescapable.

God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous on the judgment day. If you find yourself with the unrighteous, what will you say to God? “God, technically I don’t belong here. I know that I didn’t love You and that my heart and mind did not really belong to You, but there are some things You need to remember. Technically, I was baptized for the remission of my sins. Technically, I attended worship every Sunday. Technically, I took communion every week–even if I had to leave before preaching. Technically, I followed the five steps of worship. So, technically, I should be on the other side.” If, technically, that is your argument, God will say, “You are where you belong. I never knew you. The truth is that you worked iniquity.”

How can we restore our credibility and become a positive influence in our society? “We should take a strong stand against the evil going on. We should condemn these changes in our society. We must raise our voices and be heard.” The Churches of Christ have existed in the United States for 200 years. For 200 years we have taken a stand to condemn virtually anything you can name. For 200 years we have commonly condemned changes. For 200 years we have raised our voices. And we have little credibility and little influence.

If we are serious about establishing credibility and being a positive influence in a misguided society, we must become godly persons who have godly minds and godly hearts living in godly relationships as we exist as a godly church.

There has never been a time in history that there has been greater opportunity to be a Christian. Even with all that is happening, no time has been better for being a Christian. Be serious about belonging to God. Our society needs Christian influences. Our society can be powerfully touched by godliness. People who know God can redirect lives. Hearts must change. Is it obvious in your life that you belong to God and that Christ is your Guide? Powerful things can be used in your life to touch others if you will be God’s person. Don’t worry about “building” influence; let influence happen. When Christ makes a difference in your life, you can make a difference in this world.

The Resurrection Principle

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

If it died, can it live again? God says yes. How? By resurrection. Christians see resurrection as a fact. Fact: God raised Jesus from death. Fact: God will raise those in Christ from death.

Resurrection is a fact, but it is more than a fact. That fact introduces us to the resurrection principle. The power that raised Jesus’ dead body is the power that functions in the resurrection principle. The person who believes the fact of resurrection trusts the resurrection principle.

What is the “resurrection principle”? God can bring to life that which has died. For example, a person becomes aware of the evil. He finds it enticing and appealing. He indulges in evil by surrendering to temptation. The result: he spiritually dies. He separates himself from God. He abandons God for a godless life.

Spiritually, can he live again? God says yes. Jesus’ blood atoned for all sin. Redemption in Christ is available to anyone. How can he be spiritually alive again? By resurrection. Each person baptized into Christ places his confidence in and hope for forgiveness in the resurrection principle. He is given newness of life by being resurrected with Christ (Romans 6:3,4).

Faith, repentance, and baptism activate the resurrection principle. Can a mind destroyed by pornography or materialism or selfishness or vanity or resentment come to life again? Yes. Can emotions destroyed by adultery or godless pleasures or rage or exploitation come to life again? Yes. How? By resurrection in Jesus Christ.

Can a ruined life be restored? Is that not evident in Jesus’ ministry? Did he forgive prostitutes? dishonest, abusive tax collectors? people known as “the sinners”?

The resurrection principle is activated when sin is destroyed by forgiveness. The principle continues as God recreates the person in Christ. Later, after physical death, the fact of resurrection occurs. Just as Jesus was resurrected to live with God, the forgiven person is raised from physical death to live with God.

The fact of resurrection verifies the resurrection principle. The resurrection principle prepares the believer to live with God. Christians allow God to resurrect their minds and hearts now so that He can resurrect their bodies later.

Being All That You Can Be

Posted by on August 16, 1998 under Sermons

“Be all that you can be” is a statement that many identify immediately. For years it has been the slogan used by the army in its recruiting. Basically the recruiting ad challenges people to consider becoming the person he or she has the potential to be. It declares that a person can do that by creating opportunity through the experience and training gained by being in the army.

“Be all that you can be” would be an appropriate conversion slogan for God. God’s specific challenge for every person is to become the full person he or she is capable of being by developing life in Jesus Christ. God states as fact that evil will never allow you to be all that you are capable of being. Evil will diminish you as a person; it will not develop you as a person. God states as a fact that life in Jesus Christ will develop you as a person spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. God affirms that nothing can develop you as a person as can living in Christ.

But there is a problem. Many people have found that the army provided excellent training and opportunity. More people have decided that army life is not the avenue to opportunity for them. Even if the army has provided you an excellent experience that you deeply appreciate, you likely would acknowledge that army life is not the life of opportunity for everyone. While the majority of us want to “be all that we can be,” the majority of us do not believe that the army creates that opportunity.

The same problem exists regarding God. The majority of people do not believe that God provides them the opportunity to “be all that they can be.” Many people are convinced that God prevents a person from being all that he or she can be. Unfortunately, many who profess to be Christians are convinced that following God is a liability to personal development, not an asset.

  1. The revelation of the life opportunity God extends us actually began in early Old Testament history with a man named Abraham.
    1. God offered Abraham a covenant, an agreement.
      1. The covenant or agreement contained both promises and conditions.
      2. The promises were that (Genesis 12:1-3):
        1. God would form a nation from his child.
        2. God would bless him.
        3. God would cause his name to be remembered.
        4. God would bless those who blessed him.
        5. God would curse those who cursed him.
        6. Through him God would produce a blessing that would benefit people throughout the world.
      3. The conditions were:
        1. Abraham must leave his country.
        2. Abraham must leave his relatives.
        3. Abraham must follow God’s directions to an unspecified destination.
        4. Abraham must be a blessing.
      4. Abraham entered the covenant with God; he accepted the promises and the responsibilities.
        1. Abraham did that in spite of the fact that it would require him to leave one of the most advanced, civilized cities in the world to be a nomad.
        2. He did that in spite of the fact that he had no clue as to the location of this country.
        3. He did that in spite of the fact that he would separate himself from his extended family–in that day his extended family was his insurance, his social security, and his retirement.
        4. He did that in spite of the fact that he had no child.
    2. Knowing what we know about Abraham today, we might say that if God made us an offer like that, we would accept the agreement.
      1. Would we?
      2. “Yes! God made Abraham a wealthy, famous man–for fame and wealth, I would do the same thing.”
      3. Are you sure?
        1. We are looking back at what God did for Abraham; Abraham could not look forward and see what God would do.
        2. Would you really leave your family, your home, your conveniences to roam around living in a tent for the rest of your life as you traveled to a destination that was not revealed to you?
        3. Would you do that when it required that you spend much of your life living among people who would kill you if they had the opportunity?
      4. If you are sure that you would accept without hesitation to the covenant God offered Abraham, have you accepted the covenant God offers you right now in Christ? What God offers you in Christ is greater than anything God ever offered Abraham.
  2. Why did Abraham accept the agreement? Why did he live under that agreement the rest of his life?
    1. Hebrews 11 discusses the people of the past who structured their lives around their confidence in God.
      1. Verse 4-12 discuss the trust that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah placed in God.
      2. Verses 9, 10 says of Abraham specifically, By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Abraham realized that he did not belong to a typical earthly existence.
        2. He was looking for something that did not exist in the context of this world.
        3. He was looking for a city that was not designed and built by people, a city whose designer and builder is God.
      3. Verses 13-16 says of all these people of exceptional faith, All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. They all knew that God was working through them to accomplish something greater than anything that they had received or experienced.
        2. None of them lived long enough to see God fulfill His ultimate promise.
        3. But they clearly understood that they did not belong to this world.
          1. Do you understand what it means not to belong?
          2. Life is about something far beyond living in this evil world.
        4. They did not belong here, and they were looking for a place that they did belong.
        5. At any time they could have changed their minds.
        6. They could have stopped trusting God and start living like everyone else.
        7. But, instead, they were never ashamed of God, and they wanted to live with God where He lived.
        8. For that reason, God was not ashamed of them, and God Himself prepared a special place for them to live.
  3. What does all that mean?
    1. It means many things, but I want you to focus on just one of those things.
    2. It means that they knew that they could never experience the fullest life that can exist if they confined their lives to an evil world.
      1. They understood that they could never be the persons that they had the potential to be by confining existence to an evil world.
      2. The only way that they could become what they had the potential to be was by placing their trust in God and following Him.
    3. Have you understood the same thing?
      1. Do you understand that mentally you will never be the person you are capable of being unless you live your life in Christ?
      2. Do you understand that your emotions will never be the positive force they are capable of being unless you live your life in Christ?
      3. Do you understand that your attitudes will never be the powerful, positive force in your life that they are capable of being unless you live in Christ?
      4. You will never be the person, the father, the husband, the mother, the wife, the friend, the employer, the employee, the citizen that you are capable of being unless you let God remake you in Christ.

The heart and core of Christianity is not about church membership. It is not about theological positions. It is not about traditions. It is not about rituals. It is not about heritage.

The heart and core of Christianity is about becoming all that you are capable of becoming. It is about being all that you are capable of being because in Christ Jesus you belong to God.

Why? Because that is the only place that your mind, your heart, your attitudes, and your behavior can defy the influence and control of evil.

The Lion Is Roaring

Posted by on under Sermons

One of the more terrifying experiences in life is to become the hunted. Suppose that you were enjoying a wonderful vacation in a wilderness area of the Northwest. One especially beautiful day you decide to take a hike. The scenery is breathtaking. The sky is a brilliant blue. The wildflowers are in full bloom.

As you walk the trail, you come to an overlook that allows you to see for miles down through the valley below. You can also clearly see the last 200 yards of the trail that you have just walked. It is such a breathtaking scene that you decide to sit on a large rock, rest a while, and drink the beauty of the moment.

As you sit there, relaxed, feeling “stress free,” you are startled by what you see. You see a mountain lion, a cougar, coming up the trail that you just walked. Its nose is to the ground; its tail is slowly twitching; and it is sneaking along at a very deliberate pace. The animal is obviously trailing something. Suddenly, you realize this mountain lion just may be hunting you. Instantly you sense that you are in serious danger.

The moment that you realize that this cougar might be hunting you, what do you feel? When you realize that you are the hunted, what are your thoughts?

  1. One of the more stupid things that I did was take my family for a hike on an African game preserve.
    1. There were ten of us, four adults, five children, and one guide who did not speak English.
      1. The guide had a 7 mm rifle which I later learned that he shot very poorly.
      2. The humidity was so low that you could not sweat fast enough to make your skin wet.
      3. We were walking in dry grass that was shoulder high on us adults.
      4. We walked by limbs that an elephant had freshly pulled from a tree to chew the bark, and we stepped over python trails in the dust that were over six inches wide.
      5. That is when I realized how stupid that I was.
        1. If we accidentally walked upon a wild animal, we were in serious trouble.
        2. Only the guide who spoke almost no English knew where the road and the landrover were.
      6. I felt too dumb to be stupid.
      7. I realized how easily we could become the hunted.
    2. Peter wrote, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
      1. When a hungry lion is hunting, he roars.
      2. The devil is like a hungry lion hunting.
      3. You and I are the menu.
    3. Job 1:7-9 records a conversation between God and Satan.
      1. God asked Satan, “Where have you been?”
      2. Satan replied, “Roaming the earth and walking around on it.”
      3. God asked, “Did you notice Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is a blameless, upright man who reverences me and turns away from evil.”
      4. Satan had noticed Job, and Satan said that Job reverenced God because it was to Job’s physical benefit to reverence God.
      5. Notice that Satan was prowling the earth taking note of people.
      6. The lion had been hunting.
  2. Does God cause all the good that happens in this world?
    1. Does all good have its origin in God?
      1. Is God the source of everything good that happens?
      2. Worldwide, does God coordinate all the good that is happening?
      3. I think that most of us if not all of us would say yes.
        1. That is why we pray about things happening anywhere in the world.
        2. Why did we pray for the Canfields when they visited Thailand?
        3. Why did we pray for the Dunavins in Romania?
        4. Why pray for special needs and special situations anywhere in the world?
        5. Why pray for persons or congregations on other continents?
      4. We pray for things happening in our world because we believe God is the source of all good. God coordinates all good within our world.
    2. Does all evil have its origin in Satan?
      1. Is Satan the source of all evil?
      2. Worldwide, does Satan coordinate all the evil that is happening?
      3. Do you see all forms of evil as the coordinated activity of Satan, or do you believe that acts of evil are just random, accidental occurrences?
        1. No evil happens by accident.
        2. All evil in all forms is the deliberate activity of Satan.
        3. All evil is interrelated.
          1. Occurrences of evil do not exist as isolated, unconnected incidents.
          2. Evil is linked like an endless coil of chain.
      4. Evil in our world encourages and nurtures evil in our nation.
      5. Evil in our nation encourages and nurtures evil in our society.
      6. Evil in our society encourages and nurtures evil in our community.
      7. Evil in our community encourages and nurtures evil in our families.
      8. Evil in our families encourages and nurtures evil in husbands, the wives, and teenagers.
      9. Evil in the immediate family encourages and nurtures evil in you and me.
      10. One of the truly frightening things about evil is the realization that the evil that exists in each of us encourages and nurtures the evil in someone else.
  3. No one can be free from all evil, but none of us need to be helpless victims.
    1. The first powerful form of help that can deliver us from the slavery of evil is forgiveness in Christ.
      1. Regarding forgiveness, John wrote these two statements to Christians.
        1. “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
        2. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
      2. We of ourselves are not capable of eliminating all evil from our lives.
      3. If we are in Christ, God capably forgives us of all evil as long as we are committed to living a godly life and are willing to confess our mistakes to God.
    2. The second powerful form of help that can help deliver us from clutches of evil is genuine, earnest resistance.
      1. James told Christians, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7,8).
        1. God’s part is forgiveness; my part is submission to God.
        2. Before God can come close to me, I must choose to be close to God.
        3. Satan refuses to stay where he is not wanted.
          1. If you and I fight him, God will not let him control life in our lives.
          2. That certainly does not mean that he will stop tempting us.
          3. When we yield to temptation, we give Satan a personal invitation to come into our lives.
        4. It is a package deal: I either submit to God and choose to be close to God and resist Satan; or,
        5. I submit to Satan and choose to live close to him and resist God.
      2. The Christian who is serious about resisting Satan chooses to submit to God and be close to God.
      3. You resist one or the other, but you can’t resist both.
      4. You choose to be close to one or the other, but you can’t be close to both.
  4. I want you to think in very practical terms about resisting Satan in our lives.
    1. If you or I choose to resist Satan, we have to know how to resist him.
    2. Consider the obvious.
      1. You cannot live your life by Satan’s standards and rules and resist him.
      2. You cannot love what Satan tells you to love and resist him.
      3. You cannot look at life through Satan’s eyes and resist him.
      4. You cannot live your life by Satan’s values and resist him.
      5. You cannot form your concepts on the basis of Satan’s perspectives and resist him.
      6. You cannot let Satan define your Christian concepts and resist him.
        1. You do not resist Satan by using his definition of repentance.
        2. You do not resist Satan by using his definition of conversion, commitment, or faith.
        3. You cannot resist Satan by letting Satan define what loving God is.
    3. If you are serious about resisting Satan and evil in your life:
      1. You let God define holiness and righteousness and live by His definition.
      2. You let God define purity, good, and evil, and live by His definitions.
      3. You let God define repentance, obedience, faith, and love, and you let His definitions become the concepts that direct your life.

This week if you watched what happened in Kenya and Tanzania, you heard the lion roaring.

This week if you listened to the news from Washington, DC, you heard the lion roaring.

This week if you listened to the news from Jonesboro, Arkansas, you heard the lion roaring.

This week if you read Fort Smith’s Southwest Times Record, you heard the lion roaring.

This week, in the congregation, did you hear the lion roaring?

This week, in your family, did you hear the lion roaring?

This week, in your life, did you hear the lion roaring?

Satan knows you, personally. He knows me, personally. He is hungry for each of us. He will swallow us and keep on prowling. You can be certain that he will not be satisfied just to swallow us. Unless we submit to God and resist him, he will swallow this congregation, he will swallow the people we love, and he will swallow our children.

Rest assured, unless we resist Satan, he will accept the invitation to eat with us. When we invite Satan for a fellowship meal, we are the menu.

Every waking moment of your life, Satan is on the hunt for you. He is looking for opportunity to destroy you. That would be a horrible understanding except that there is deliverance in Jesus Christ.

Never did Satan roar louder than in the 24 hours before the Crucifixion of Jesus. When Jesus was raised from the dead, He destroyed the power of Satan to destroy your life. If you understand from the Bible the life God wants you to live, you can resist Satan.

Do you hear the lion roaring?
Jesus provides a place of refuge.

There Is “No Quit” In Them!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

God once promised a man a son. The situation was quite unusual. Previously, the man had not known God. Though married for years, the man had no children.

When God promised him a son, the man and his wife were almost too old to have children. Twenty-four years later they definitely were too old to have children. Twenty-five years later the son was born.

Abraham’s faith was sustained by his hope. For twenty-four years faith produced hope, and hope sustained faith. During that time, Abraham willingly accepted God’s guidance. Why? Why did Abraham choose to trust and follow God rather than quit?

Paul said that Abraham’s view of God would not permit him to quit (Romans 4:17). First, he knew that God gives life to the dead. Second, he knew that God calls into existence the things that do not exist. With those convictions, “In hope against hope, he believed” (4:18). When physically there was no reason for hope, Abraham was directed by hope–because he knew God.

No person perseveres without hope. Hopelessness always results in collapse and defeat. A person will endure in a bad relationship as long as he or she has hope. A person will battle a disease as long as he or she has hope. A person will struggle against insurmountable odds as long as there is hope. When hope dies, he or she quits.

The faith that sustains us in an evil world is the faith that produces hope. Confidence in God without hope will not sustain us. Some people have confidence in God’s power, but they are without hope. They do not question God, but they doubt themselves. They believe that their situation is hopeless. Because they have no hope, they give God no opportunity.

Evil seeks to destroy a Christian’s hope. Even if evil cannot destroy faith, it must destroy hope. Once hope is destroyed, faith is ineffective.

The faith that constantly regenerates hope is the faith that sees two truths about God. (1) God gives life to the dead. (2) God calls into existence that which does not exist.

Evil assaults every Christian–in the home, in the marriage, in parent-child relationships, on the job, in the business, in the church, and in every other sphere of life. Evil shows no mercy. Who will endure? Who will have “no quit” in them? The Christian whose hope is in God even when it would seem that there is no reason to hope. In God and Christ, there is always reason to hope.

Did Jesus Give Me A Job?

Posted by on August 9, 1998 under Sermons

On the Sunday evening of July 19 we considered the question, “Did Jesus Have A Job?” First, we focused on a section of the book of Isaiah called the “servant hymns.” It is from these chapters that the promised Christ received the title of “the servant.” Suppose that you were talking to a devout Israelite in the late period of the Old Testament. If in your conversation with him, you talked about “the servant,” he would think of the promised Christ, the anointed one of God.

Next we noted the strong connection between the prophesies that the Christ would be a servant and the fact that Jesus was a servant. By Jesus own declaration, he came to this world to serve, not to be served.

On earth, Jesus’ job was to serve. Jesus’ mission was to die. Jesus’ purpose was to make the forgiveness of sins available to everyone.

The fact that Jesus’ job was to serve should cause every Christian to ask a second question: “Did Jesus give me a job?” We are not asking did Jesus give elders a job, or deacons a job, or preachers a job, or teachers a job, or Christian men a job, or Christian woman a job. Did Jesus give every person who accepts him as the Christ a job? Did Jesus give every person who becomes a Christian a job? Yes. We belong to “the servant” to serve. That is the job of every Christian.

  1. Did Jesus leave heaven, live in poverty and hardship on earth, and sacrifice his physical life on the cross to create a self-centered life of ease for us?
    1. Jesus is our Savior.
      1. He saves us from our sins by forgiving us.
      2. He destroys our sins so that each of us can be a son or a daughter of God.
    2. Jesus, as God’s child, made it possible for each one of us to be God’s child.
      1. Jesus was God’s son.
      2. He did made it possible for us to be sons and daughters of God.
      3. He did that so that we as sons and daughters could be what he as Son was.
      4. He did not do that so that we could become something that he was not.
      5. If he was a servant, we must be servants.
  2. Jesus personally selected twelve disciples to follow him daily during his earthly ministry. These twelve men found it extremely difficult to understand that they were to be servants.
    1. These twelve men had an incorrect concept and a mistaken conviction, and Jesus could not get those thoughts out of their minds.
      1. Their incorrect concept and mistaken conviction followed this reasoning:
        1. Jesus was God’s son, the promised Christ.
        2. He proved that he was God’s son by healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and controlling nature.
        3. He came to restore the kingdom just as God promised that Christ would do.
        4. So Jesus would become the literal king of Israel.
        5. When that happened, Israel would become a prominent Nation.
        6. Then these twelve men would serve with Jesus in his administration in this restored kingdom.
      2. This was the burning question among the twelve of them: which one of them would be the most important person in Jesus’ administration when he became king.
        1. They were thinking of prestige, of position, of power, of importance.
        2. All of them would be important in the restored kingdom, but which one of them would be the most important?
        3. Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus could not change their thinking.
        4. However, Jesus did make something very clear, and it is as certain for us as it was for the twelve.
        5. Their purpose as disciples was to serve; our purpose as disciples is to serve.
    2. I want you to examine Jesus’ efforts to get the twelve to understand this truth.
      1. Matthew 10:24,25 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign the members of his household! (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Jesus used the obvious for the purpose of illustration.
        2. A student is not more significant than his teacher; a slave is not more significant than his owner.
        3. The ultimate accomplishment is for the student to equal to his teacher or the slave to be equal to his owner.
        4. Jesus was saying to the twelve, “Look carefully at the way my enemies treat me. They will treat you no differently. Do not expect things to be hard for me and easy for you.”
      2. Look at Matthew 20:20-28.
        1. James and John, two of the twelve, had their mother go to Jesus personally and request that they be allowed to sit to the right and left of Jesus’ throne when he became king.
        2. She obviously was expecting Jesus to be on the throne of Israel.
        3. Their request made the other ten disciples indignant because they each wanted one of those special seats of importance.
        4. Jesus explained: “My kingdom will not be like other kingdoms.”
        5. “In my kingdom people will not seek to possess a position or power or authority–in my kingdom that is unimportant.”
        6. “If you want prominence in my kingdom, you will serve everyone else.”
        7. “The number one position in my kingdom will go to the person who does the work of a slave.”
        8. “I did not come to be served, I came to serve.”
        9. The point is clear: if Jesus did not come to be served, Jesus’ disciples do not exist to be served.
        10. We Christians do not exist to be served; we exist to serve.
      3. Look at Matthew 23:1-12.
        1. The Pharisees, prominent religious leaders in Israel, loved high positions.
        2. They were on ego trips that filled them with a sense of self-importance.
        3. They demanded that others be responsible, but they did not have to be responsible.
        4. They loved to sit in places of honor and be addressed with titles of respect.
        5. Jesus said of those who would follow him, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. The proud will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted.”
      4. Look at Mark 9:33-37.
        1. As they were walking along a road, the twelve were arguing among themselves about which one of them was the most important.
        2. When they arrived at their destination, Jesus asked them what had they discussed, and they refused to tell him.
        3. But he knew what they talked about.
        4. So he said, “The most important person will be last of all; he will serve everyone.”
        5. He emphasized his point by taking a child and saying, “If you receive a child in my name you receive me.”
        6. Working with children was not the business or the concern of important people. Jesus defined importance differently.
      5. Look at Luke 22:24-30.
        1. The twelve were arguing about which one was the most important.
        2. Jesus said, “You are not to function like other rulers function.”
        3. Ordinarily, the youngest adult had no status, but in Jesus’ kingdom the most important person would be like a no status person–just like a young adult.
        4. The leader would be as the servant; servant and leader were not words that belonged together.
        5. Jesus asked, “Who is more important, the person who is served the meal, or the person who serves the meal? Remember, I work among you as a servant.”
    3. To me, the most powerful and emphatic statement Jesus made about the true nature of those who belong to him was made in John 13:1-17.
      1. It was the end of a magnificent, power filled, triumphant week.
        1. Jesus spent every day in Jerusalem walking openly among his enemies who wanted to kill him.
          1. Jesus had defeated and humiliated them in every discussion.
          2. They could not stop him, and the people loved him.
        2. Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem as king.
          1. His enemies saw this as a definite political statement.
          2. The disciples saw it as a giant step toward the throne of the nation.
        3. So guess what they were thinking about? “Which one of us is the most important?”
      2. When they arrived for what would be their last meal with Jesus, none of them considered washing the others’ feet.
        1. That was a lowly, dirty, humiliating job–something commonly delegated to the least important servant.
        2. Jesus got up, took off his robe, got a towel and basin of water, and without a word began to wash each of their feet.
      3. He finished, put his robe back on, sat down, and said this:
        1. “Do you know what I have done?”
        2. “You rightfully call me Teacher and Lord–that is who I am.”
        3. “If I can serve you in this lowly manner, you must serve each other in lowly ways.”
        4. “I specifically did this to be an example, to teach you a necessary lesson.”
        5. “If you understand this, you are blessed if you do it.”
      4. Please note:
        1. Jesus did not say, “You are blessed if you understand this.”
        2. Jesus said, “You are blessed if you understand and do it.”
      5. The emphasis is not confined to the task of washing feet; the emphasis is on providing lowly service because you belong to Jesus.

Some one says, “Oh, I get the point. We are to be servants. That means that as Christians we should set aside some hours to work for the church every month.”

I would never knowingly do anything to discourage anyone from being involved in one of the ministries of the congregation. In fact, I would do anything possible to encourage each one of you to be involved in one or more ministries of this congregation.

But setting aside some hours to work for the church is not Jesus’ point. That is not the point he was making. That is not the point that he intended for the disciples to gain from his washing their feet.

If you belong to Jesus Christ, you are a servant just like he was a servant. Being a servant is not merely what you do. It is not merely what you do for the church. It is not how you use some time that you schedule to be involved in a ministry.

Being a servant is what you are. All the time. Seven days a week. At home. On the job. In the community. As a spouse. As a parent. As a neighbor. As an employer. As an employee. As a citizen.

Christians are servants. Their Lord and Savior was a servant and is a servant. Christians are servants because they belong to the Chief Servant of all servants–they belong to Jesus.

God’s “On and Off” Switch

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What is your understanding of this statement? “That turns me off!” “That turns me off” is a negative response–in the absolute sense. To me, it means, “Physically, that disgusts me! Mentally, that repulses me! Emotionally, that deeply offends me!” It is a “whole person” negative response.

Could you make a list of things that “turn you off”? Teenagers, what “grosses you out”? At school? At home? With parents? With brothers and sisters? At church?

Adults, could you make a list of things that “turn you off”? In society? In marriage? At work? With your kids? With your husband or wife? At church?

What do you think “turns God off”? All of us could make a list of things that we are convinced that “turn God off.” Few of our lists would be identical. We differ a lot in our convictions about the specific things that disgust God.

  1. Let me anticipate some things that many of us think disgust God.
    1. I understand that our lists would vary greatly.
      1. Those variations probably would reflect our age and background differences–different ages think different things disgust God.
      2. Some things that a teenager would put on a list likely would not be on the list of a 40 year old.
      3. Some things on the lists of those above 40 years of age would not even be understood by teenagers.
    2. Some specifics things that might appear on many lists could be:
      1. Disobedience.
      2. The failure to respect God’s authority.
      3. Ignoring God’s commandments.
  2. Allow me to use the concept of commandments as an example.
    1. Consider disobedience and ignoring God’s commandments.
      1. Disobedience is rebellion; deliberately doing something God said that we should not do.
      2. Ignoring commandments would involve refusing to consider God’s instructions–we do not deliberately rebel; but we just do not listen.
    2. Most Christians would say that obeying God is important.
      1. Many Christians believe some instructions are very important commandments.
        1. If you refuse to obey these commandments, God is immediately disgusted.
        2. Just as quickly, God’s disgust turns to anger.
      2. But many Christians think that other forms of disobedience are not that serious.
        1. Some kinds of disobedience “turn God off,” and some kinds do not.
        2. God is never happy when we fail to obey, but some kinds of disobedience do not upset God.
      3. If you are thinking, “David, no Christian thinks that,” consider an example.
        1. If we did not sing an invitation song this morning, would that “turn God off?”
          1. Many of you say, “Absolutely!”
          2. “That would ‘turn God off’ fast! He would really be upset! And so would I!”
        2. If we deliberately deceive someone in a business deal this week, would that “turn God off?”
          1. Many of us would say, “Well, it would be wrong, and God would not like it, but I don’t think God would be that upset.”
          2. “God knows that will happen–that’s life.”
        3. Which would disgust God quicker: not offering an invitation song or deceiving someone?
          1. At least some of us would say, “Not offering an invitation song.”
          2. Possibly most of us would say, “Not offering an invitation song.”
  3. What is the most important set of commandments that God gave people?
    1. The number one nomination would be the Ten Commandments, and I agree.
      1. These commandments were given in an exceptional situation and circumstances at a unique time.
      2. God gave Israel these commandments about ninety days after they left Egypt.
      3. These freed slaves knew very little about God.
        1. They knew that over four hundred years earlier that God communicated with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
        2. But the people who left Egypt had received no instructions from God while they were in Egypt.
        3. In their ignorance, they understood idols better than they understood God.
      4. The Ten Commandments are the first commandments that God gave Israel.
        1. They were the foundation, the core of God’s expectations of Israel.
        2. They were the “ground level” basics that God expected of these people.
    2. Consider the ten commands spoken to Israel by God Himself in Exodus 20:1-17.
      1. #1: “I and I alone am God, and you will accept only Me as God.”
        1. “I delivered you from your slavery–you did not deliver yourselves.”
        2. “All you did was walk out of Egypt into your freedom.”
        3. “Therefore you will not look at anything else as being God.”
        4. “You will not call anything else God.”
        5. “You will not worship anything else as God.”
        6. “You will not serve anything else as God.”
        7. “I am God, and you know that I am God.”
      2. #2: “You will not make anything to call God.”
      3. #3: “You will show me respect.”
        1. “You will reverence me.”
        2. “You will not demean my name or look upon me with contempt.”
      4. #4: “You will keep every Saturday holy.”
        1. “Just as I created the world in six days, you will work only six days.”
        2. “The seventh day you will keep holy by doing no work.”
      5. #5: “You will respect parents and take care of them.”
        1. “You will not neglect their needs.”
        2. “You will not abandon them in their old age.”
      6. #6: “You will not murder anyone.”
      7. #7: “You will not sexually violate the marriage of another person.”
      8. #8: “You will not steal.”
      9. #9: “You will not lie about your neighbor.”
        1. “You will not ruin his reputation.”
        2. “You will not create a wrong impression of your neighbor.”
      10. #10: “You will not look with greed on anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
        1. “Not his house, his livestock, or any possession that he owns.”
        2. “Not his wife or his servants.”
    3. Please notice something that is very obvious in these ten foundation commandments that God gave Israel.
      1. Four of these commandments dealt with the way that they were to treat God.
      2. Six of these commandments dealt with the way that they were to treat each other.
      3. None of them are worship instructions–they were to worship God, but these commandments did not tell them what to do.
      4. None of these commandments were ceremonial commands–the “correct way to do it” commands.
      5. None of these commandments were procedural commands–the “how to do it” commands.
    4. I would affirm that these ten commands declared God’s top priorities for Israel.
      1. God’s top priorities focused on how they treated God and how they treated each other.
      2. No matter what else they obeyed, no matter how correct their worship was, if they failed to obey one of these commandments, they “turned God off.”
      3. That fact is confirmed again and again in the messages of the Old Testament prophets.
        1. Israel thought because they worshipped God correctly that they were caring for “the important things.”
        2. God told them plainly, “Because you also worship idols and because you do not treat people properly, your worship disgusts me.”
        3. God’s top priorities for Israel were treating God properly and treating each other properly.
  4. “But what about us? What are God’s priorities for us?”
    1. If I asked you, “What is the most important obedience that a Christian gives to God?” what would your answer be?
      1. If we listed and ranked areas of obedience, many would rank obedience in worship as the most important obedience that a Christian gives.
      2. Many of us hold two common convictions.
        1. Conviction # 1: nothing pleases God more than correct worship.
        2. Conviction # 2: nothing disgusts God more than incorrect worship.
        3. Therefore, obedience in worship is the most important obedience.
    2. Listen to some things that Jesus said.
      1. Matthew 7:1,2 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. Matthew 12:36,37 “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      4. Matthew 18:34,35 (The parable of the unmerciful servant) “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    3. How do Christians “turn God off”?
      1. When Christians fail to treat other people as Jesus Christ treats them, they “turn God off.”
      2. Does God expect us to worship him correctly? Absolutely!
      3. Can Christians successfully substitute correct worship for obedience? Absolutely not!
      4. Listen to this statement Jesus made concerning the Pharisees.
        (Matthew 23:23) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”
        (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. They were careful to give ten percent of everything–they even gave God ten percent of their herbs.
        2. But they neglected deeply important matters–justice, mercy, faithfulness.

In the Old Testament, God was completely disgusted with Israel. He was disgusted because Israel tried to substitute worship for obedience. Listen carefully to what God said in Jeremiah 7:22,23.
“For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.'”
(The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

God said, “When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, the first commandments that I gave them were not worship commandments. I asked them to obey me, and they did not.”

God, what commands did you give that they did not obey? “I commanded them to treat me properly and to treat each other properly. And they did not do it.”

So I ask you again, “What turns God off?”

In human relationships you can destroy love. You can never destroy God’s love for you. There is never a failure or mistake that is so tragic that God won’t love you. At some point everyone does something which turns God off. Everyone eventually does something which He finds offensive.

He wants us to worship Him out of our love for Him. It is just as important that everything else we do bring honor and glory to God and the resurrected Jesus.

Have you responded to God’s love?
He wants you to build or revive a relationship with Him. Will you let God know that He is your God and that Jesus is your Savior?