Increasing Love and Godly Behavior – Part 2

Posted by on October 31, 2004 under Sermons

One of the objectives of the West-Ark congregation is to increase in love and godly behavior. Last week we learned from Jesus that love is active. We are to love God with our whole being and we are to love our neighbors. We demonstrate that love by actively serving others and showing mercy and kindness. We do not choose whom we will treat as neighbor, rather we choose to be a neighbor.
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 also instructs us that love and mercy are active. They must show up in our every day behavior. He calls us to the sort of behavior that acts in love and grace/mercy and preserves the unity of the church – not unity at all costs, but unity through communication with one another and communion with Jesus himself.

Jesus’ teaching about Church Community (18:1-14)

  • The disciples ask "Who’s the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Who’s the boss? Who’s in charge? Who shows the qualities of the best and the one who gets God’s favor?
  • The Least: Kingdom virtues are quite different from worldly virtues. In the kingdom, the least are not ignored. The weak and the humble are not abused. The kingdom isn’t a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest rule. It is a place where even the humblest child is among the most important.
    • Sin destroys community; love and godly behavior preserve it! The Lord of the kingdom is serious about the deadly forces that bring death to the people in this kingdom community. 1) Sin causes the least, the little ones, to suffer most so in love we discipline ourselves – – self-discipline and self-control. When a father or mother in a family refuses to control anger, addictions, lusts, greed then who suffers? Everyone, including the little ones. This is also true of the church community. How many churches have been hurt by members and leaders who will not restrain their own pride, anger, greed, dissatisfaction? It is better to do without that which causes someone to sin and to live maimed or blind than to have all the resources of the world as one goes barreling straight to hell. 2) Love demands we seek out the lost …
  • The Lost: In the kingdom, there are no acceptable losses. The Lord is not willing that anyone should be lost. This calls us to the kind of love and concern for community that the Lord has. Not just a passive concern, but an active concern that goes out to find the lost. Usually we describe this as evangelism, but evangelism (proclaiming/speaking the good news) is more than recruiting new members. It involves bringing the lost into the kingdom and bringing them back when they stray. That’s evangelism? Sure, if you understand that evangelism is communication of the truth, then understand that evangelism also involves the on-going communication of gospel love in the church. That’s how Jesus chose to describe it. After mentioning the shepherd that goes to bring back the lost sheep, he teaches us very practically what it means to practice church communication …

Jesus’ Teaching on Church Communication (18:15-17)

  • This is not "church discipline" in the sense of a legal outline for organizational control. This is communication in love. Look at this process and consider it in the context of mercy and love rather than institutional church discipline (which is not the context of the chapter):
    1. Go to your brother or sister (note the family language!) who has offended you/sinned against you – just between the two of you – and if he/she listens to you have won him/her back.
      • You do the going and just between the two of you. Sometimes we want to wait around and nurse the wound and we let it fester because the other person doesn’t notice how we’ve been hurt. That is a form of control that tries to punish the other but only hurts you.
      • Sins against you/offends you – sometimes we dilute the meaning by exchanging sin for offense. The term offense in this context goes back to the stumbling mentioned in v. 6. (The one who causes another to sin). We do not use the term offense in our modern usage in that way. We claim offense over things we just do not like or things that make us uncomfortable. We have to let some things go.
      • We need to talk to one another in loving constructive ways that seek to win each other over. And we have to do so humbly because one of two things is possible – either you have misunderstood the other person or the other person needs to overcome sin – and you are there to help them, not condemn them!
    2. If he or she will not listen take one or two others along. Sometimes a sin can be so powerful that we need help. But again the goal is to win the other person over. The goal is reconciliation.
      • This text does not say bring in the authorities. There is no mention of elders or ministers here. Often these are the logical choice as they are those we trust to minister to the wounded or to do the work of reconciliation. But anyone who can preserve the dignity and unity of the few involved and is mature enough to work toward reconciliation in Christ’s name without being entrenched in the conflict is a good choice. But this should not be the starting place. Don’t bring someone in if you haven’t tried the one-on-one approach first!
    3. Tell it to the church. Keep in mind that this is step 3. Everything else has been exhausted. And this is communication – not excommunication. This is an alert for prayer and help. Just as we bring before the congregation the names and needs of those who are ill or injured can’t we also do that with those who are in spiritual crisis? Why would we judge or make that the focus of gossip – we don’t do that with the ill or injured.
    4. If he or she refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him or her like a pagan or tax collector. This is the ultimate step. Now keep in mind that the offender has been given every opportunity to reconcile, but has refused at least three levels of effort to win him back. (And there’s no rule about when to progress to the next level!) Communication has fallen on a harden heart. So, we have here a sad affirmation of what is – this person doesn’t want to live like a citizen of the kingdom. Even at this level however the goal is still reconciliation. Repentance is still a possibility. Maybe the seriousness of this action shows that sin is serious problem.
  • We put more weight on the phrase "but if he refuses to listen" than the phrase "you have won your brother back." And because of this we jump to the last step convinced that someone will not listen to us.
  • Think of how much we miss out on because we don’t even act on step 1. Because we do not go and talk and listen we allow our imagination and emotions to run wild. And don’t think it would be any better if we were all just reasonable. Reason can be distorted also and we can rationalize inaction with endless justifications or institutional proceedings. The anonymous letter is just such a "so-called" rational approach. We think we have met our obligation to communicate peacefully by sending a message but denying ourselves and the other person the opportunity to agree and gather in Jesus’ name. Once a preacher received one of these anonymous letters in response to a statement he made in a sermon. He opened the envelope and it simply said, "Fool!" The next Sunday he brought the letter with him into the pulpit and said, "Last Sunday I experienced something quite unique. I have received many messages without a signature. Now for the first time someone has given me a signature without a message."

Jesus’ Teaching on Church Communion (18:18-20)

  • Binding and loosing: When we are offended we want to go to authorities. Children tell their parents. Neighbors phone the police. Taxpayers write their congressmen. Classes of people summon armies of lawyers to go after faceless corporations. We want authority on our side because we know that someone has to win. Someone has to be right. But Jesus teaches that real authority is the privilege of the church – not the appointed officials. The Lord’s authority resides in the midst of his people where he dwells. They have power to bind and loose not because Jesus transferred power. No, because Jesus lives in his church and we are the agents of binding and loosing authority.
  • We are missing out when we make too much of this business that sins are just between God and me. Often that’s a recipe for self-delusion. We don’t have to bear burdens alone. When one comes before the church it isn’t just to answer for a public sin – it is to affirm the power and presence of Jesus Christ to bind and loose. We not only confess sins publicly, we also confess the Lordship of Jesus. We are saying that sin isn’t going to get the last word in the kingdom of heaven. We are not going to let sin destroy the community or communion we have in Jesus Christ. In his name we forgive. We can confess forgiveness in Christ before six or six hundred. One to another or one before all. This is a godly behavior/action that empowers more godly behavior!
  • Two or three gathered together in my name: This comment is about worship – but has implication beyond that. And it isn’t merely a comment on the quantity of worship, but of the quality of worship. Think about the effect of unresolved conflict in the church. Think about its effect on worship. What happens when two or three are not in agreement and they gather together. Do they gather in Jesus’ name? Is he there with them? How can the Lord answer our prayers when we have unresolved conflict among us?
  • Nevertheless, many of us will continue to fellowship with one another by going through the motions of worship thinking that we are the one justified by God and we have never acted on the process of communication that Jesus just described in vv. 15-17. We have never spoken to the other person privately (whether we are offender or offended) and thus experience Jesus’ power to heal and forgive. We have never relied on the wise counsel of others who love us to reconcile differences and thus experience the presence of Jesus’ spirit. We have never shared our struggles with the church as a whole for fear of judgment, but if we are true to Jesus’ teaching then we do not experience judgment but grace and healing.
  • Paul taught this lesson of Jesus to the Philippian church. He urged two women there, Euodia and Syntyche, to agree with one another in the Lord (Phil. 4). He even urged the leaders of that church to help them resolve their dispute. These disputes can become the "elephant in the room" that everyone walks around but no one mentions.

Epilogue: (18:21-35)
Peter’s Practical Question: How often do you forgive? Can’t we just be rid of the trouble at some point? Don’t we have to take a stand? What will people think if they see us weak on sin?

Good question. It is the sort of question that demands a story for an answer. The parable of the unmerciful servant – is he victim or victimized? Is he offended or offender? Is he greatest or least? Powerful or weak? Answer: All of the above. We cannot break our society down into simple classes of guilty and innocent. We cannot break it down into offended and offenders. We are all in debt. We are all in slavery. We are all bound and need to be loosed.

The dilemma for the unmerciful servant is the dilemma we all experience: It all depends on which side of the forgiveness fence we find ourselves. If we are the outcast wanting back in to the fold of grace yet again, then 70 x 7 sounds hopeful and welcome. If we are on the inside of the fence and we have control of the gate latch, then 70 x 7 is a great challenge. What will it cost us to release the latch? How will things change if we welcome the outsider, perhaps the one who has sinned against us?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 October 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Increasing Love and Godly Behavior” – Part 2
October 31, 2004

Matthew 18:1-20 – Jesus teaches us about love and godly behavior.

  1. Jesus’ teaching about church c______________. (18:1-14)
    • The disciples ask Jesus, "Who is the g_____________ in the kingdom of heaven?" (18:1)
    • In the kingdom, the l__________ are of great importance. (18:2-5)
    • Jesus is serious about our behavior because s______ destroys community, but love and godly behavior preserve it. (18:6-10)
    • In the kingdom, the l_________ are of great concern. (18:11-14)
  2. Jesus’ teaching about church c_____________. (18:15-17)
    • The context of this teaching is grace and mercy, not church d___________.
    • The objective of this process is r__________________. (18:15)
      1. "If your brother or sister sins against you g___ and point this out just between the t______ of you." (18:15)
        • If he/she listens to you, then you have w_______ back your brother/sister. (18:15)
      2. "But if your brother or sister will not listen, take one or two o________ along." (18:16)
        • If he/she listens to you, then you have w_______ back your brother/sister. (18:15)
      3. "But if your brother or sister refuses to listen to them, tell it to the c__________." (18:17)
        • If he/she listens to the church, then you have w_______ back your brother/sister. (18:15)
      4. "But if your brother or sister refuses to listen even to the church, treat him or her as you would a p_________ or t_________________ (18:17)
        • If he/she reconciles after that, then … ? (see the parable below)
  3. Jesus’ teaching about church c_________________. (18:18-20)
    • Jesus shares with the church the authority to b________ and l__________. (18:18)
    • When two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name …
      1. There is a___________________. (18:19)
      2. There is the p_______________ of the Lord. (18:20; see also 28:20)
  4. Peter asks Jesus, "How many times do I f______________ my brother for sinning against me?" (18:21)
    • Jesus’ answer is: ____________________________ (18:22-35)

Making Disciples for Jesus Who Are Eager to Serve Others
“Increasing Love and Godly Behavior” – Part 2
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
October 31, 2004

  1. Read Matthew 18. (If you are with a group, ask someone to read this teaching as a complete lesson.) This chapter is often divided into smaller units; however it is not a collection of sayings but a complete lesson from Jesus. What sections of this teaching have you heard before? When you heard them in their original context, did you notice anything new? What common themes do you notice running through the entire chapter?
  2. Read Matthew 18:1-5. How is kingdom greatness different from worldly greatness? Who are some of the "little ones" or humble ones that may escape our attention? How are weak and vulnerable people treated differently in the kingdom? What does love and godly behavior have to do with treating these people differently?
  3. Read Matthew 18:6-10. Jesus seems to be serious about not causing his "little ones" to sin or fall away. Who could cause them to do that? How would such action be inconsistent with love and godly behavior?
    • Living the Lesson Application: What do you need to "cut off and throw away" to save not only your own life but also to protect the "little ones" who might suffer because of your lack of self-discipline? Ask God to help you "enter into life" without that which you may think you cannot do without.
  4. Read Matthew 18:12-14. We often think of the parable of the lost sheep in the context of evangelism. (See Luke 15:4-7.) How does Jesus use the parable in this context? Is evangelism only concerned with bringing those outside of Christ into the church? How would evangelism (sharing good news, proclaiming truth and grace, making disciples) also focus on bringing a wayward Christian back into the fellowship of Christ and the church?
  5. Read Matthew 18:15-17. Why do we often regard this as a procedure for church discipline? Is the context of Jesus’ teaching institutional procedure? What is the goal of the effort to communicate with another church member? What sort of problems do we create when we begin the communication at a deeper level and avoid the initial "just between us" phase? Do you find it easier to talk to others about someone who has wronged you than to simply talk to that person? Have you ever thought about the obligation you have to the person who wrongs you? What is that obligation?
    • Living the Lesson Application: Is there someone you need to communicate with for the sake of reconciliation? Pray that God helps you win back your brother or sister.
  6. Read Matthew 18:18-20. What is the result of reconciliation? What sort of strengths and blessings are there in agreeing and gathering together in Christ’s name? How might this improve our worship and fellowship? What would we gain if we gathered together for prayer and service in Christ’s name?
  7. Read Matthew 18:21-35. Who do you identify with in this story? The king, the servant forgiven of the great debt, or the servant who did not receive mercy from his fellow servant? How does this parable inspire us to work toward reconciliation? How does it encourage us to increase love and godly behavior?

Prepare for Nov. 14 – Nurturing Spiritual Growth and Holiness – Part 1

    Read Titus

Expressing Love for God in Godly Behavior

Posted by on October 24, 2004 under Sermons

A second congregational goal or objective given us by the elders to encourage us as we seek to make disciples of Jesus who are eager to do good works is this:

We seek to increase love and godly behavior.

This evening I want us to focus on a teaching that I understand to be critical to spiritual existence in Christ. I want to focus on it by looking at Romans 6. Begin with me by looking with me at Romans 6:12-14.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

  1. When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he was concerned about a huge problem that plagued the early Christian movement: Jewish Christians did not want Gentiles to become Christians unless they first were converted to Judaism.
    1. Why? What was the problem?
      1. When Christianity first began (Acts 2-9), only Jews or converts to Judaism were Christians.
      2. When Christianity was taught to and was accepted by people who were not Jews, it gravely distressed Jewish Christians (Acts 11, 15).
      3. It took Jewish people several hundred years to learn, but they finally understood God despises idol worship.
      4. Most of the first century Mediterranean world [in which Christianity began and spread] was composed of idol worshippers.
      5. Most Jewish Christians did not believe anyone could go from being a pagan idol worshipper to a follower of Jesus Christ without first converting to Judaism.
        1. First century idol worshippers were too often drunken, self-indulgent people who had few sexual morals, who lied without conscience, and who were totally untrustworthy–many Jews held the way they lived in contempt.
        2. They did not know God’s rules!
        3. They did not know how to keep God’s rules in the proper way!
        4. However, the Jews had been making gentile converts (proselytes) for a long time, and they understood how to get the paganism out of the pagans.
        5. To teach them grace would not correct the problem–if they were to have their paganism taken out of them, they had to learn the rules and the right way to keep the rules.
        6. Teaching the grace would not get their pagan ways out of them, but making good proselytes out of gentiles would get pagan ways out of them, and then they were ready to be Christians.
    2. Allow me to use an illustration.
      1. In the south and southwest most churches define sin in the same way.
        1. In fact, some religious groups are more conservative in their definition of sin than many in the Church of Christ are.
        2. Thus most of our discussions, disagreements, and issues in the south and southwest do not discuss what is and is not sin.
        3. In the south and southwest, most of our disagreements focus on two things:
          1. Conversion matters. (How to become a Christian.)
          2. Theological positions. (What to believe as a Christian.)
      2. Suppose for a moment you have to move to an entirely different region of this country, far removed from the south or southwest region.
        1. You move just assuming “everybody knows ‘X’ is wrong.”
        2. However, you do not live in this new region long before you are acutely aware that your understanding of sin and the understanding of sin of most of those around you is quite different.
        3. For example, for you, it is a sin not to worship and commune on Sunday, but most of the people you meet could care less about worshipping on Sunday.
          1. In fact, they are more likely to invite you to go do something purely for fun on Sunday than you are to invite them to worship.
          2. And that just blows your mind!
          3. If you meet people who attend a church, often their basic concept of church has little in common with your concept–there are truly fundamental differences in your concept of church.
          4. But more likely, you encounter pure apathy when it comes to Christian concerns–you have never seen that kind of apathy before! People don’t have the same conscience, the same definitions of right and wrong, the same views of what is evil that you have.
      3. If the church is to influence people toward a Christian concept of sin and spiritual responsibility in that environment, what needs to be done?
        1. “Well, I am not certain about what needs to be done–it is a confusing situation!”
        2. “But I know this much–we do not need to convert ‘people like that’ or they will have a terrible influence on Christians!”
        3. That was the Jewish Christians’ concern–if you do not get all of the paganism out of these gentiles before they are baptized, they will have a terrible influence on Christianity–they will encourage Christians to do all kinds of ungodly things, and have no conscience against those things!
    3. Too often we, as Christians of today, are the victim of an enormous problem as we use scripture.
      1. We become [in all likelihood legitimately] concerned about a “now” problem that gravely troubles us.
        1. We in our concern go to the Bible with a big box and find a box full of texts that we can apply to our “right now” problem that troubles us.
        2. Our primary concern as we collect our box of texts is this: “does it say what I feel needs to be said; does it say it in the way I want to say it.”
        3. The question is not: “did the inspired writer address this type of concern when he wrote these words?”
        4. If the writer heard me make my statements and points, would he say, “I did not have that concern or emphasis in mind when I wrote those words; I was not even addressing that type of concern.”
      2. In our concern, we do not emphasize what scripture stresses, but we emphasize what we stress.
        1. If we are not extremely careful, we stress what concerns us rather than what concerns God.
        2. We are not trying to ignore or be disrespectful to God.
        3. The problem is this: we are so confident that we know what God’s concerns are that we do not take the time to actually listen to God.

  2. Consider Romans 6.
    1. I suspect that the majority of sermons most of us have heard that use any part of Romans 6 as text are sermons that stress the importance and the mode of baptism.
      1. I would suspect that many of us who have heard or read Romans 6 would say that it is about baptism.
      2. However, Romans 6 is not about baptism.
        1. It was written to people who already had been baptized.
        2. Romans 6 is about dying to sin.
        3. Baptism is only an illustration to those who had been baptized that “if you follow Christ you must die to sin.”
    2. Paul said, “Christians, you do not accept God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ to continue to live (in a knowing, deliberate manner) an ungodly life.”
      1. The person who comes to Jesus Christ comes to make Jesus the master of his or her existence.
        1. There are only two basic life controlling masters: the resurrected Jesus and sin (evil).
        2. In the biblical worldview, either sin rules you, or Jesus rules you.
        3. The whole purpose of baptism is the conscious choice to allow Jesus to rule you.
        4. That is why in the act of baptism we consciously, knowingly, deliberately die to sin–we begin the deliberate process of killing sin in our lives.
        5. Why?
          1. Jesus was resurrected.
          2. Jesus can give us life.
          3. Jesus can give us forgiveness.
          4. In Jesus, a person can truly begin again, start over.
      2. Romans 6 is not about atonement (a biblical concept), but about responsibility.
        1. The person who becomes a Christian declares to himself, to God, and to the world that he will no longer let sin be his/her master.
          1. “I will not let evil control me.”
          2. “I will not let evil use my physical existence to accomplish its purposes.”
          3. “I will not let evil define who I am and what my life is about.”
        2. The person declares to himself, to God, and to the world that he chooses the resurrected Jesus Christ to be the master of his life.
          1. “I consciously will let Jesus Christ control me.”
          2. “I will let my physical existence be used to accomplish righteous purposes.”
          3. “I will let Jesus define who I am and what my life is about.”
      3. In Romans 6 Paul says the person who becomes a Christian knowingly, deliberately chooses to die to sin.
        1. Paul emphasizes this dying is a continuing process, not a one time achievement.
        2. It is not an irresponsible undertaking.
        3. God’s grace is not to be confused with deliberate, irresponsible behavior.
        4. A Christian cannot claim to belong to God and deliberately choose to live his or her in an ungodly lifestyle.
        5. The commitment to die to sin is a serious commitment, one given and followed without reservation, pursued wholeheartedly.
        6. The person knows what he/she was when sin was his/her master, and the person knows what he/she is now that Jesus Christ is his/her master.
        7. He/she is happy, appreciative to have Jesus Christ as master.
        8. All he/she had to look to in the future with sin as master was death, but with Jesus Christ as master he looks forward to eternal life.

Romans 6 points to a terrible problem among Christians that caused destruction from the beginning. The reason Romans 6 focused on the problem is because the problem existed in the first century. It still exists. It destroyed Christians then. It destroys Christians now.

What problem? The problem of people being baptized when they have no intention of dying to sin. Too often people are afraid not to be baptized, but they have no intention of dying to sin. If we do not commit ourselves to dying to sin, there is no blessing or benefit in being baptized. For baptism to yield the blessing of the gift of salvation, the person has to responsibly commit to (1) Jesus Christ being his/her master and (2) dying to sin.

Increasing my love for God is a process. Increasing my godly behavior is a process. Both involve maturing. Both involve understanding. Both involve growth. Both are an every day process and progression, not a one time accomplishment. I can make today’s commitment today. I can face today’s temptations today. I can place today’s trust in God today. I can make tomorrow’s commitment, face tomorrow’s temptations, place tomorrow’s trust in God only when tomorrow becomes today. I take care of today as a godly person to equip myself to take care of tomorrow as a godly person.

What commitment did you make to God when you were baptized?

Increasing Love and Godly Behavior – Part 1

Posted by on under Sermons

One of our stated goals as a church family is to increase love and godly behavior. Here are a couple of questions: First, why would we want to strive for that? Answer: It is important to making disciples and being disciples. We just won’t be true disciples if we are unloving and ungodly. Second, how can we increase in love and godly behavior? Do I just will myself to love everyone? Do I commit myself to more good deeds to prove I care? Do I have to love more people? Sometimes it is hard to love the people I do know. These are good questions. Response: We might increase love and godly behavior when we realize that they are more than just good deeds or good will – they are the tangible evidence of our eternal life emerging into our life even now. They are visible elements of God’s saving power at work in us.

Jesus made the connection among behavior, eternal life, and love on a certain occasion when an expert in the Jewish law asked him two important questions (Luke 10:25-37): His first question, a very common question for a rabbi, was "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" I sort of hope that if an expert in the law asked me a question I would do just what Jesus did – defer it to the expert: "You’re the scholar here," he says. "You’ve studied Scripture, what do you think?" The expert comes back with an answer Jesus himself has given as the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18)
Now notice that Jesus doesn’t regard this sort of love as just a warm feeling or a compassionate tear in the eye. He regards it as a directive for action and a principle for behavior – "Do that and you will live." Now wasn’t that simple? With two verses and six words Jesus has given the answer to eternal life.

But can it really be that simple? I mean couldn’t this instruction to "do that" be mistaken for works-righteousness? And I think I know how to love God (there was a little more detail there) but how do I love my neighbor and what neighbors are we talking about here. What exactly are my obligations to other people?
That’s just how the expert saw it. Wanting to justify himself he couldn’t accept the simplicity of Jesus’ answer. So he asked his second question – "Who is my neighbor?" There, that will teach Jesus to make such comprehensive statements! I mean really, we can’t go around acting as if there isn’t some sort of exception. Life just isn’t that simple. The scripture says neighbor and not just "love everybody," so it cannot be an absolute. We need to define neighbor, yes?

Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answers this question with a story …
Once there was a certain man traveling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now as we all know, it is a dangerous route and a hideout for bandits. And as you might expect he is ambushed, beaten, stabbed, and robbed – stripped of all his belongings and left for dead. He will die if someone does not arrive to help him.

Now along comes this priest riding along on his donkey. He notices the unfortunate victim but passes by on the other side of the road. Perhaps he thinks the man is a Gentile or that his disregard for the commands of God has led him to this state. It might be a ruse and this is just an attempt to get me over there by the high grass and robbers will attack me. He mulls this over until he is on down the road. Meanwhile the certain man is still there and He will die if someone does not help him.

Now there comes a Levite walking to Jerusalem to do his service in the Temple. He sees the man and passes by on the other side. Perhaps he thinks the man might be dead and it wouldn’t do for him to defile himself by touching a dead body – not that he’s squeamish after all since he deals with the sacrifice of animals – but if he is defiled then who will fulfill the service in the Temple? What can be done if the man is dead? Meanwhile the certain man is still there and He will die if someone does not help him.

Now at this point in the story, we are just waiting for the hero to arrive. Jesus must have offended the expert of the law and any other faithful Israelites listening by making the next traveler a Samaritan. Samaritans have no respect for God’s law. They have no respect for the temple. They are the result of intermingling between Israelites and Assyrians. They claim to be descendents of Abraham but their history and behavior proves otherwise. Everyone in Jerusalem recalls the acts of terror and destruction Samaritans have committed. It wasn’t too many years before Jesus told this story that Samaritans defiled the temple with pig blood and vandalism. That’s an attack that not only destroys, but also creates panic – it is symbolic. Jesus should know what sort of people these Samaritans are. The Samaritan woman he spoke to at the well (John 4) had been married four times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Just before this Q & A with the expert in the law he and his disciples traveled through Samaria and no one offered them hospitality simply because he was on his way to Jerusalem (Luke 9). That was so offensive that James and John asked if Jesus wanted them to call down fire on the Samaritans as if they were Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s your average Samaritan for you.

But back to the story Jesus says (and I can’t believe he’s saying this) that a Samaritan comes along and he has compassion for the man so he stops, makes bandages from his own garments, uses oil and wine (his provisions for his journey) to medicate the man’s wounds, takes him to an inn (where he is very likely unwelcome), pays the bill and leaves some sort of item on credit to insure that he will pay the bill should it go higher.
So, going back to the original question that prompted this story, Jesus has a "neighbor question" of his own – "Which of these three appears to have been a neighbor to the one who was robbed?" The expert of the law – no doubt quite offended by the way the story turned out with a Samaritan cast against type – answers without soiling his lips with the "S" word. "The neighbor to the man who was robbed is the one who showed him mercy."

Two Responses – It is important to notice these two responses. They go back to our two questions earlier. The response of the expert is: "The one who did mercy." Sure, that’s bad grammar, but that’s how it is in the original language. And that fits with Jesus’ response to the response that addresses both the question "Who is my neighbor?" and "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus’ response: Go and do the same.

  • Does Jesus answer the question of the expert about who is my neighbor? (No) He invalidates the question. If one has love characteristic of eternal life, one does not choose one’s neighbor, one chooses to be a neighbor.
  • Christ-like love does not ask "Who is my neighbor?" Rather, it is active. ("Go and do the same.")

Doing mercy and love and good deeds aren’t so we will get saved. We do what we are. Sometimes there is too much distinction made between doing and being – If I ask you what you do you don’t say: "Well, let’s see on Monday I fixed a brake line and before that I changed an oil filter, and then replaced a water pump." No you say, "I am a mechanic." I understand what you do when you tell me what you are. That’s the way it usually works. So why can’t we get the idea that saying "I am a disciple of Jesus. I am a Christian. I am a child of God" sorts out what we do? We love because he first loved us. We behave in a godly way because we share in his divine nature. Growing in the understanding of our life in Jesus helps us understand what we should do, otherwise we are stunned into inaction …

This teaching of Jesus became something I experienced one Saturday in Scotland. A few of us there for a mission campaign were walking down a road in Glasgow – in a pretty rough part of town. As we were on our way, a drunk was thrown out of a bar into the road in front of us. It would have been almost comical if it hadn’t been for the fact that the old alcoholic got up from the ground with a bloody nose. He cursed the bar owner, and not being able to stand he slumped down to the sidewalk and sat next to a garbage can. A human being, thrown out with the trash! As we walked on not wanting to get involved with the intense drama, one of my companions, a new Christian, said "Shouldn’t we help that fellow?" (That’s the problem with new Christians – they are just so naïve and haven’t learned how to justify themselves). Seeking to justify myself I pointed out that the man was a drunk and he had probably done something really wrong to get thrown out a bar. Besides that, I was thinking to myself, I need to get back to work on my sermon because I am preaching on a text I just recently studied, Luke 10 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I learned a valuable lesson through this living parable. If I have to ask "who is my neighbor?" then I do not understand love. Not the sort of love for neighbor that flows out of love for God and the eternal life we enjoy as a result of God’s love for us. After all, if we have been so blessed as to inherit eternal life from our Father who loves us, shouldn’t we be willing to increase – to grow in love and share that love with others?

Conclusion (Increasing Love and Godly Behavior – They go together for Christ-like love is active) – Who do you identify with today – in both these stories.

  1. Can you identify with the priest and Levite? – (Or me in Scotland). We can never justify our inheritance of eternal life by obeying a long list of laws or by limiting our obligations with a short list of neighbors. Both attempts are contrary to love (the love of God)
  2. Can you identify with the victim of robbers/or the drunk or every broken person you encounter? – Their only hope is that others will be merciful neighbors who come with the grace to heal and restore – isn’t that what Jesus did?
  3. Can you identify with the Samaritan or with the naïve Christian who wants to be like Jesus – It isn’t one’s class, nationality, training, or theological affiliation that justifies. What justifies us is love acting in mercy – doing mercy. Being a neighbor.

Maybe you don’t want to identify with a Samaritan and you can’t recall what it was like to be a naïve Christian. Fine, can you identify with the author and perfecter of eternal life – Jesus? Didn’t the Samaritan just do what Jesus would do? And didn’t Jesus do love and godly behavior. He did, and it got him nailed to the cross, but it also got him raised from the tomb. Here’s how we increase love and godly behavior – those of you who’ve been baptized and those who would be – I want you to know that when you were/are submerged into Christ you were/are baptized into his death and live with the hope of being resurrected. God’s love and his behavior live in you.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 October 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Increasing Love and Godly Behavior” – Part 1
October 24, 2004

Luke 10:25-29 – The expert in the law asks Jesus two questions:

  1. "What must I d___ to inherit e__________ l________?" (Luke 10:25)
    • Jesus invites him to answer his first question from Scripture:
      1. "L_______ the Lord your God with all your h________ and with all your s________ and with all your st________________ and with all your m_______." (Deut. 6:5)
      2. "L________ your n______________ as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18)
    • Jesus agrees and replies: "D____ this and you will live." (Luke 10:28)
  2. "W_____ is my n_________________?" (Luke 10:29)
    • Jesus answers the second question with a story.
    • Listen carefully to the story today as it is told and note your impressions of, thoughts about, feelings for, and interest in the following people:
      • A man (Luke 10:30)

      • A priest (Luke 10:31)

      • A Levite (Luke 10:32)

      • A Samaritan (Luke 10:33-35)
  3. Jesus ends with a question about neighbors to answer the expert’s question about neighbors: "W______ of the three appears to h_______ b_______ a n_____________ to the one who was robbed?" (Luke 10:36)

  4. Two responses follow this question, first the expert and then Jesus (Luke 10:37):
    • Expert: "The one who d______ m____________."
    • Jesus: "Go and d______ the same."

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
“Increasing Love and Godly Behavior” – Part 1
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
October 24, 2004

  1. Read Luke 10:25-37.

  2. Discuss the conversation between Jesus and the expert in the law (10:25-28). Scripture makes it plain that we are saved by grace and not works (see Ephesians 2:1-10 among others), but Jesus doesn’t deny that the inheritors of eternal life "do" something. What is the connection between being saved and the way one acts? (See Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-18). What is the connection between eternal life and living?

  3. Notice the answer the expert gives from Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18). What is the common verb in these teachings? Are love and behavior related? Is love an emotion or is it action? In 10:37, the expert admits that the neighbor is the one who "does" mercy or compassion. How do you "do" compassion or mercy? Compassion and mercy aren’t active verbs are they?

  4. Consider the actions of the priest and Levite. Why would they pass by on the other side? Are there reasons that we would accept as valid? How do their actions qualify the definition of neighbor?

  5. Why does Jesus make the third traveler a Samaritan? How would the expert in the law and the Jewish audience hear this? How would it offend them? Were Samaritans following the law? If Jesus were to tell this story in a modern setting and made the third traveler a Muslim, would we be offended? What other type of person playing the role of the compassionate person might offend us or challenge our assumptions? What does this teach us about loving God and loving our neighbors? What does it suggest about being justified?

  6. How does Jesus’ question at the end of the story (10:36) change the question initially asked by the expert (10:29)? We often assume that the answer to "Who is my neighbor?" is anyone who needs our help. Is this really how Jesus answers the question? Is there a difference in choosing your neighbors and choosing to be a neighbor? How will you specifically show love by being a neighbor this week?
  7. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Is there a connection between love and godly behavior? Is love active or is it an abstract concept? How is love superior to experience or following the rules? How does love validate experience and godly behavior?

Prepare for Oct. 31 – "Increasing Love and Godly Behavior – Part 2"

    Read Matthew 18

Despair and Hope

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Once again, the myth is shattering. The last half of the 20th century said hope was in humanity. So much we destroyed in World War II we rebuilt. We said to the defeated, “You can begin again! Do not exist in despair! See the world differently!” We said to ourselves, “Surely everyone has learned the value and joy of peace!”

We declared to the world, “Help us sustain our wonderful culture, and we will learn things that will bless everyone. We are not bad! We share! If the world lets us, we will be Santa Claus to everyone. The world would be a much worse place if it did not have us!”

We declared, “People are basically good; only a few are not. However, good people always will prevail in any society anywhere. If they adopt our values, good is certain!”

We believed science was a wonderful savior. It produced wonderful knowledge. It produced fabulous discoveries and inventions. It made possible things undreamed of decades ago.

Then we were introduced to people who believe there are values more important than peace. We met people who do not believe in our goodness or trust us. We came to know people who believe we reject divine authority and are not dedicated to virtue. Instead, they see us as materialists, or pleasure worshippers, or those who use power selfishly, or those who use technology more quickly to destroy than to help, or those who care more about their lifestyle than they care about people.

What began as a slow process is now a deepening realization — many people in the world just do not like us. Some think they do the world a favor when they kill us. Constantly we are reminded that evil is real. Increasingly, we are aware that we (as a people) are more likely to be remembered for the hurt we cause instead of the good we do. In fact, many say we do good only if our good is self-serving.

We are sobered as we realize that hope in peace is misplaced hope; hope in humanity is misplaced hope; hope in science is misplaced hope; hope in an incredible lifestyle is misplaced hope; and hope in “the goodness of our culture” is misplaced hope.

The only real, enduring hope is hope in the God who knew us at our worst and still loved us. How much did He love us? He loved us enough to give us a Savior to rescue us from evil and ourselves.

Did He love us because we deserve His love? Absolutely not! His love for us comes from His nature, not from our deservedness. Because He is God, He did for us what we never would do for someone like us.

Can we ever transform this world into a “heavenly” existence? To believe we can and will is to be a victim of our own deception! Can we live with the God who, knowing we were sinners, gave us a Savior! Certainly! Therein is hope!

Seeing This World As God Does – Part 2

Posted by on October 17, 2004 under Sermons

Genesis 1 declares God acted. God brought this world and life into existence. In a more detailed account, Genesis 2 gives some of the details about God’s action in crowning His creation with man and woman. The Bible literally opens with God acting.

In Genesis 3 evil reacts to God’s action. God brings human life into existence. Evil deceives human life. When God brought human life into existence, nothing stood between God and the human life forms He created. When God looked at His completed creation, He could say, “It is very good!” (Genesis 1: 31) When evil deceived Eve and Adam followed her into deception, a humanly irreparable separation immediately occurred between God and the humanity He made in His own image. As evil continued to deceive people, the chasm between God and humanity increased. Finally, God looked at the people originally made in his own image and regretted that He made humanity (Genesis 6:5,6). God went from saying His completed creation was very good to regret in only 6 chapters!

This war between good (that comes from God–James 1:17) and evil (that comes from the devil [Satan], the great deceiver–John 8:44) repeatedly is emphasized in scripture. For example, God through Moses acted in seeking to produce the nation of Israel in the exodus (Exodus 3:16-22). Evil through Pharaoh reacted against God’s purposes (Exodus 5-11). God acted in giving the new nation of Israel the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Evil reacted against God by having the golden calf made as an idol (Exodus 32:1-8). God acted in bring the adults delivered from Egypt to the borders of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-20). Evil reacted against God in the report of the ten Israelite spies who discouraged the Israelites (Numbers 13:21-33). When Israel was established in Canaan, God acted in trying to build a relationship of remembrance with Israel (the book of Judges). Evil acted against God by turning the hearts of the Israelites to a family of gods known as the Baal worship (the book of Judges). Much later, God acted by sending Jesus (John 3:16,17). Evil reacted against God by deceiving God’s people and having them reject Jesus (John 6, 8). God acted through Jesus’ teachings and miracles. Evil reacted against God with the crucifixion (Matthew 27). God acted through Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10). Evil reacted against God by declaring the resurrection either did not occur (Acts 17:32), or by deceiving early Christians about the meaning of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).

The world has changed, but the war between good and evil continues. This war is occurring in our lives this very moment. Seeing the world as God sees it means we must learn to discern between good and evil. The only way to avoid Satan’s deception is to allow God to help us discern between good and evil. If we are going to see the world as God sees it, we must see the war. We must understand how easy it is to be deceived in our own lives.

To see the world as God sees it, we must accept two basic realities.

  1. Reality one: no one can live in this physical existence and not be touched by the war between good and evil.
    1. For a long time we Americans lived in the conviction that wars could not touch us.
      1. “Wars are something that are fought somewhere else, not here in our country.”
      2. Then 9/11 happened, and we were forced to realize that wars can be fought here, also.
      3. With the realizations of 9/11, we were introduced to a new kind of fear–the fear of being the battleground.
      4. While we do not want to be the battleground, we now understand that much more is involved than what we want.
    2. No matter how devoted to good we think we are as a person or as a group, if we live in this world our lives will be touched (changed!) by the war between good and evil.
      1. Even if it were possible to do no evil, a person who never did evil would still suffer as a result of the war raging between good and evil.
      2. We must not be deceived into thinking that the key to avoiding the war is embracing good–if you live in the world, the war between good and evil will involve your life in direct ways.
      3. Only one person [Jesus] lived in this world and did no evil.
        1. That truth figures prominently in the message of the book of Hebrews.
          Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
          Hebrews 7:26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens …
          Hebrews 5:7-9 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation
        2. Though Jesus was without sin–committed no form of evil–he still was touched by the war between evil and good.
          1. Though he did not sin, he still dealt with temptation (see Matthew 4:1-11).
          2. Though he did not sin, he could be discouraged by those who did not understand (see Matthew 16:23).
          3. Though he did not sin, he still experienced physical need (see John 4:1-7).
          4. Though he did not sin, he could experience loneliness and weakness (see Matthew 26:36-46).
          5. Though he did not sin, he experienced surrender, pain, and death (the crucifixion of Jesus).
        3. In a true sense, we could say that Jesus was the ultimate casualty in the war between good and evil!
      4. Never be deceived into thinking or believing that if you were “just good enough” your life would not be victimized by the war between good and evil!

  2. Reality two: our lives are touched by the war between good and evil in many ways.
    1. Everyone of us suffers the consequences of this war in many ways.
      1. We can be touched by evil as the consequence of someone we do not even know who is involved in evil.
        1. There are many ways to illustrate this truth; it is a common reality in this physical world.
        2. Consider this illustration: you have a 17 year old child you are close to and who is an all around good child.
          1. In a nearby city there is a drug dealer you do not know and have never heard of.
          2. A teen you have never met, never heard of, decides he wants to try some meth for the first time.
          3. He makes the purchase from the drug dealer, takes the meth, gets high, and starts driving.
          4. Eventually he drives to the Fort Smith area.
          5. Your 17 year old is driving somewhere.
          6. The teen high on meth hits your child’s car and kills your child.
          7. In no way are you involved in the evil that transpired, but you suffer greatly because of that evil.
      2. We can be touched by an evil that exists in our lives that we have not as yet identified.
        1. Let me call to your attention a statement found in 1 John 1:5-10.
        2. The particular statement is found in verse 9:
          1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
          1. I understand this to be written to Christians–John includes himself in the “we” of verse five, and chapter 2 makes it evident he is writing to “my little children.”
          2. The whole section (1:5-10) is powerfully encouraging because it declares Christians will make mistakes and perfection is not a condition of forgiveness. There is a workable, livable solution for our mistakes and imperfections!
          3. Stated simply, if we will confess to God things we know that are wrong as we realized those wrong things, God will not only forgive the things we confess, but will forgive us of everything–all unrighteousness.
          4. If we will accept responsibility for our mistakes, God will even forgive us of things we do not yet understand to be wrong–even though those things are evil!
        3. Everyone of us has evil in us that we have not yet recognized–we do not even realize that the evil is evil.
          1. Because the evil is forgiven does not mean the consequences which result from the evil are eliminated!
          2. Sometimes we endure the consequences of forgiven evil!
        4. Again, that is easily illustrated.
          1. A person sees no evil in living with someone.
          2. As a result of living with someone, a pregnancy occurs.
          3. Because the level of commitment is often low in live-in arrangements, the father-to-be leaves when he hears about the pregnancy.
          4. After the fact, the mother-to-be learns living together is evil, does what scripture says to do to repent, and is serious in her faith.
          5. Is she forgiven? Yes!
          6. Does the pregnancy vanish with the forgiveness? No!
      3. We can be touched with the consequences or evil by yielding to a temptation that we know is evil before involvement ever occurred.
        1. We do something wrong for whatever reason.
          1. We knew it was wrong before we were tempted, when we were tempted, and after we sinned.
          2. But for whatever the powerful motivations were, we knowingly did wrong.
          3. No matter how we react to what we did, we will still endure the consequences of the evil we committed.
        2. This, too, is easy to illustrate.
          1. If anyone of the church leaders in this congregation committed adultery in a moment of temptation, we would have serious consequences to endure.
          2. Did the person know adultery was wrong before the temptation? Yes!
          3. Did the person know adultery was wrong during the adulterous act? The person may have refused to think about it, but, yes, that was known.
          4. Did the person know adultery was wrong after the adultery? Yes–we usually refer to that as “guilt.”
        3. Will the person pay consequences? Absolutely!
          1. Relationships with the congregation will be damaged.
          2. Their marriage will be damaged.
          3. Positions will be ended.
          4. The person’s life will be affected.
          5. Even if forgiveness occurs, there will be unavoidable consequences.

The understanding that the war between good and evil is real has direct impact on the meaning of the gospel (good news). The good news IS NOT “if you devote your life to good you will never suffer because evil exists.” That is a great deception from evil that will destroy your faith the first time you endure serious suffering because of something evil!

The good news (gospel) is this: the suffering caused by evil in this physical world can not take you away from God! Evil in this world can hurt you, but it cannot destroy you!

Romans 8:38,39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview – Part 2

Posted by on under Sermons

Last Sunday we considered what a worldview is. We recognize that everyone has a worldview. We also recognized that in the shifting and conflicting worldviews that are available in our culture (modern vs. postmodern) there is a different option for Christians – a biblical worldview, that sees the world how God sees it. God gives us a new set of lens’ that enable us to see the world clearly.

Today, staying with the metaphor of the lenses, we might consider this: How do we get those lenses and what exactly do things look like through them (what are the characteristics of a biblical worldview)? I have to say from the start that developing a biblical, or Christ-like, worldview isn’t something that happens instantly. Unlike Lenscrafters, we cannot get our new view in an hour or less. However, the good news is that it is simple to enter into the way of life that cultivates and proclaims this worldview. This is a process, not a prescription, because we have to learn to believe and act like our Lord Jesus. And learning to be like Jesus isn’t a matter of studying a handbook; it is an apprenticeship in which we learn the craft of true living. For we don’t simply learn about Jesus as if he is some historical person, we learn from him for he is living and rule as Lord. When we come to Jesus and receive the kingdom rule of Christ through faith and baptism, our "lenses" are reshaped in his presence as we worship him, we come to know him as we spend time being nurtured in Christian community, and we become like him as we actively serve others in the spirit of Christ doing what he would do.

Developing and proclaiming a biblical worldview is a lifelong discipline, but we begin somewhere. So for our worship today, let’s begin where Jesus began when he proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ proclamation of the good news of God’s future rule invading the present. Jesus pronounces blessings and issues a summons to see the world from heaven’s vantage point. He calls us to a way of belief and practice that cuts against the grain of the worldview of the fallen world. Listen carefully to the Beatitudes as a proclamation of a very different way of life not just good news for the unfortunate or proverbs of good basic morals. This is a declaration about the way God is making a new creation …

Read Matthew 5:1-12

This new creation has serious implications for you and me. [Illustration] There’s a sinful order to this present world that is fading away and decaying. And like most of the world, you and I have formed some of our worldview on this order of things. But there’s a new order of things emerging into this world. It’s the way of things that will ultimately endure. It is the order of the world that will prevail. And we are called to actively develop a worldview that shapes our belief and action around this new order of creation. The Beatitudes are the proclamation of a kingdom worldview and we are called by the promise of God’s blessings to be reoriented and changed to adopt this worldview.

And to properly hear this proclamation let’s take a moment to consider how challenging this new worldview really is. First, think about who is blessed. Think about those adjectives without their gilded, sanctified context. Who blessed? Those who are … poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting, merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted. It is not our typical image of blessed. It doesn’t fit the worldview of our age nor does it fit the worldview proclaimed by many churches! We might expect to say that those who are blessed are successful, content, confident, satisfied, determined, benevolent, influential, and respected. [Have you ever thought that leaders in the church ought to be poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting, merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted? Could these be qualifications for elders? Characteristics of the minister a church wants to hire? Are these characteristics of a purpose-driven life?] These adjectives and blessing can only be reconciled by the wisdom of the cross and a kingdom worldview. The wisdom of our world and the worldview of our culture cannot connect these.

The Beatitudes indicate four fundamental characteristics of a biblical worldview that enable us to see the world and live in the world "perfectly." These characteristics are trust in God, hope of God’s Rule, love for God and others, and the peace of God. (Note to reader – I am indebted to two excellent sources for this outline: J. Brownson, et al, Stormfront: The Good News of God, Eerdmans, 2003; and R. Lischer, "The Sermon on the Mount as Radical Pastoral Care," Interpretation 41(2002): 157-183.)

Trust in God – Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and the Meek
In God We Trust! Do we? It runs counter to the worldview of this age: we trust in rights, laws, influence, status, success, and the security and power of wealth (even some of our principles about stewardship are rooted in a trust in the accumulation of wealth rather than trust in God – A church I knew kept it’s wealth in a savings account for years without contributing to much of anything).
Poor? Really? Doesn’t poor in spirit mean something other than wealth? Yes, but it certainly includes those who are limited in the resources of wealth. Maybe the fact that we don’t think the Beatitudes apply to us shows how our worldview is skewed.
Meek? Is anyone really meek anymore? Sure it suits pilgrims and Amish, but can that truly be respected in our media-based, image-driven age?

Churches are sometimes driven to be successful and relevant in the eyes of the world. Seminars and products in the Church growth field promise ways to attract new members and provide something for everyone. These are not nefarious schemes to undermine the church. There are many good motives and intentions, but how many church growth resources invite us to become poor in spirit so we might receive the kingdom of God? It is a subtle distortion of the worldview that creates this problem. When we strive to be like Jesus we see him taking a different path – He had all the power of heaven and earth at his command, but he trusted in God and did not take advantage of that power and wealth. He was poor in spirit.

Hope of God’s Rule – Those that Mourn and the Merciful
In the kingdom we have hope because the worst things are never the last things. A biblical worldview doesn’t deny that we mourn. Perhaps this is how our worldview is so different from the world. [Prov. about wisdom and mourning] Our culture medicates with idle entertainment and pleasure: "We want our MTV!" We spend time basking in the glow of ever-growing television channels. We watch or go to sporting events to purge our emotions. We seek thrills in any number of socially acceptable addictions – shopping, soft-porn magazines and websites that don’t have to be sold in the adult section. These quick thrills are for people trying to escape the reality of hurt and disappointment. They are all ways of insulating ourselves from the disappointment and suffering of the world. And we deny ourselves healing because we do not mourn. The Christian worldview on Mourning is unique because it leads to hope The worldly worldview by contrast is hopeless.
As a minister, people ask me how I can function in tragedy and sorrow: "I guess you are trained to do that?" they ask. Not really! In fact, there’s no secret technique. My training is the development of the Christ-like worldview that reshapes my view of reality. We grieve -but not like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We mourn over the brokenness and death and pain in the world, but we are blessed for we shall be comforted by God.

Mercy cannot survive or exist without hope. Look at the way people responded to 9/11. Those without hope cannot let go of the event. They hate rather than forgive. Something has to be done about evil, but the Christian worldview hopes for God’s justice, and is not satisfied by our temporary substitutes. Mercy and hope take courage and strength.
In history and cultures mercy is often viewed as immoral – As our culture loses hope in God’s Rule and hope for nothing more than our own authority, we lose mercy. In our cut -throat culture of business and government, we call it competition, politics, or aggressive success.
To see the world like Jesus does means that love and hope cast out fear. We are not afraid to show mercy, for we know that we have received mercy under God’s rule. And we are not afraid to admit that we mourn because we know that God’s rule does not shame those who mourn, but offers comfort.

Love for God and Others – Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness and the Pure in Heart
Jesus gives us the core of biblical teaching and that’s a central characteristic of a biblical worldview. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the Greatest Commandment. God sent Jesus so that we might be reconciled to him and Jesus sends us so we might also be reconciled with one another. See what Jesus said about righteousness: "Be perfect (or complete) like God is perfect." Later in the sermon he describes this radical call to righteousness. It is more than following the rules. In fact if all you’ve ever heard are the rules, then Jesus will take it a step further: The problem isn’t just murder, but the anger that is the seed of murder and the opposite of love. The problem isn’t just adultery, but the lust that objectifies others and uses people. The problem isn’t just keeping the law with regard to divorce, but losing the love that is the basis of marital relationship. The problem isn’t the legality of a binding power of an oath, but the dishonesty that doesn’t respect others and doesn’t honor God.
Righteousness is rooted in building the proper loving relationship with God and one another. How practical is this as the basis of our worldview. It can change the relationships between human beings, men and women, husbands and wives, friends and enemies. Beatitudes are communal!
But for our righteousness to be God’s perfect righteousness we have to seek his face. We want to be pure in heart. Self-righteousness is hypocrisy because it isn’t concerned for anyone but self. It is arrogant puffed up and rude. We know we are better than those who don’t keep the rules. That sort of thinking comes from the wrong worldview. In the Kingdom purity is devotion to God even before devotion to self – that’s the single eye Jesus teaches us to have. That the eye that will be blessed, for with it we will see God!

Peace of God – Blessed are the Peacemakers and the Persecuted
This is at the core of Making Disciples. In making disciples, or evangelizing, we are not recruiting new members for the church! (I once encountered this statement in the church – "If we have budget problems then we need to get busy with evangelism – it is the best way to increase membership and contribution." Often the statement is made that crassly, but I think that recruitment and survival of the church is what motivates us.) This is why our worldview has a lot to do with evangelism. Are we trying to grow the church, or are we pursuing the cause of God’s peace? With a biblical worldview we believe that God grows the church and he preserves it. We see ourselves as Peacemakers and we are instruments of Peace. Paul viewed his ministry of making disciples like this: 2 Corinthians 5:16 – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
When we realize how sinful we all are then the way to peace is made clear and we call everyone to be reconciled to God. Of course the peace of the rule of King Jesus threatens the values and ways of the world. They are in rebellion and that creates conflict. Proclaiming a biblical worldview is dangerous. As someone once said, "Living out the Beatitudes will get you killed." Closing charge Matthew 7:24-29 – Hearing and doing (Wise man and Foolish man) What foundation will you build your life on this week?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 17 October 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview” – Part 2
October 17, 2004

  1. Review: A worldview is the composite set of presuppositions, beliefs, and values a person possesses that shape how he or she sees reality and determines how he or she will act. A worldview informs the way a person thinks and acts.
    • It is the lens through which people perceive and understand reality.
    • God gives us a new set of lenses to see the world clearly.
  2. How is a biblical worldview formed?
    • Through w______________ in the presence of Christ.
    • Through g_______________ among the people of Christ (the church).
    • Through actively s______________ others in the spirit of Christ.
  3. Blessed are those who are … (Matthew 5:1-12)
    • P___________
    • M___________
    • M___________
    • H___________ and T___________
    • M___________
    • P____________ in heart
    • P___________________
    • P___________________
  4. The View Through God’s Lenses:
    • T____________ in God
    • H____________ of God’s rule
    • L___________ for God and others
    • Working for P___________ of God

Matthew 5:3, 5 – T__________ in God
Blessed are the p_______ in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the m______, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:4, 7 – H__________ of God’s Rule
Blessed are those who m________, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the m___________, for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:6, 8 – L________ for God and Others
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for r______________, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the p________ in heart, for they will see God.

Matthew 5:9-10 – P_________ of God
Blessed are the p_______________, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are p______________ because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
“Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview” – Part 2
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
October 17, 2004

  1. Let’s learn from Jesus. Read the following sections of the Sermon on the Mount and discuss what Jesus proclaims. What sort of worldview is shaped by this proclamation?

  2. Read Matt. 5:1-12. What worldview does Jesus proclaim in the Beatitudes? How is it different from the worldview of our current age? How can this worldview be shaped in worship? How is it formed in relationships with one another? How is it formed by serving others?

  3. Read Matt. 5:13-20. What is Jesus saying that might help us understand what it means to proclaim a biblical worldview? What do these verses tell you about a biblical worldview? What does it have to do with making disciples?

  4. Read Matt. 5:21-48. How does Jesus’ teaching indicate that the right belief shapes the right practice? How is a biblical worldview different from "just following the rules?" How can this sort of righteousness be developed through worship, Christian relationships, and serving others?

  5. Read Matt. 6:1-18. What does Jesus tell us about our worship and service? How does a biblical worldview shape the way we worship? How does it shape the way we serve others? How is this different from other views of worship and service?

  6. Read Matt. 6:19-34. What challenge is Jesus giving us in these verses? How does a biblical worldview radically change the way we live our lives? How does it reshape our priorities and trust? Can we really be this devoted to God? If not, why not? What worldviews distract us from having "good eyes" (6:22)? How can we develop "good eyes" through worship, Christian fellowship, and serving others?

  7. Read Matt. 7:1-12. How does a biblical worldview shape the way we treat others and view other people? Think of how you typically regard other people. Does it fit the worldview Jesus proclaims? How do our worship, church relationships, and service to others help us to see others as our Lord does?

  8. Read Matt. 7:13-29. What will you do with what you’ve learned from Jesus? Name some very real ways you can act on his words this week. Pray with others about this.

Prepare for Oct. 24 – "Increasing Love and Godly Behavior – Part 1"

    Read Matthew 18

How Do I Define Me?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Ephesians 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household …”

How any person defines self depends on the circumstances of his or her life. What is the person’s life about? Is it about surviving in inescapable poverty? Is it about excelling in opportune circumstances? Is it about giving or receiving pleasure as a person existing in a culture of personal pleasure? Is it about self-indulgence and greed in a social group dedicated to self-indulgence and greed? Is it about acquiring power in an environment that respects little but power? Is it about escape? Typically, a person defines himself or herself in ways that he or she sees as predominant in “my world” or in ways exhibited by “important” people who surround him or her.

Self-definitions are relevant! Typically, “I” seek to become “my” definition of what a person in “my” situation should be. Many people dedicate extraordinary efforts toward becoming what they think they should be as individuals. What is attractive? What is feminine? What is masculine? What is “my” concept of a single? Of a wife? Of a husband? Of a parent? Of an adolescent? Of success? Of failure?

Who defines “me”? Family demands? Peer pressure? Work environment? Social environment? Professional expectations? Academic pursuits? Athletic expectations? Money? Power? Lifestyle?

In most of our lives there are “major defining factors” and “minor defining factors.” A “major defining factor” is always essential regardless of the situation, even when stressful circumstances are full of potential consequences. “Minor defining factors” are essential if the situation is a typical circumstance, but not a stressful circumstance.

Question: which is God? A “major defining factor” or “a minor defining factor”?

In some southern environments, a person is expected to be intensely involved in a spiritual commitment. In other regions, such involvement is looked upon as unhealthy. Religion should be a part of life, but it should not be taken so seriously. In other regions, the healthiest life is the non-religious life. A person should enjoy and experience the moment of now. In other regions, religion is viewed as a fanatical attempt either to cope with the undesirable in life or to escape responsibility.

What role does God occupy in defining “who I am”? How do I place God in that role? Is it simply a matter of “going to church”? Of attending classes? Of performing expected behaviors? Of reading my Bible and praying? Of helping a ministry? Of allowing God to define “who I am” and “what life is about”?

To seek self-definition apart from God is to walk in the darkness of futility. To seek self-definition through God is to walk in the light of self-discovery. Be a person who belongs to God’s household!

Seeing This World As God Does – Part 1

Posted by on October 10, 2004 under Sermons

The declared purpose of this congregation is “making disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others.” Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher. A disciple knows and is not ashamed to acknowledge his or her ignorance. Religiously, the objective of a disciple is to destroy his or her ignorance about the purpose of life in order to learn how to live.

The elders have encouraged us to personally adopt five (5) goals as we pursue the purpose of making disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others. One of those personal goals is this: we proclaim and live by a biblical world view.

What is that? What is a biblical world view? That is a complex, complicated goal. It is a good, godly, worthy goal. However, it is a complicated goal. To simplify that goal without compromising the objective of the goal, I would state it this way: “I am dedicated to learning how to look at everything in life and this world as God looks at it.” How does God look at being single? How does God look at marriage? How does God look at being a wife? How does God look at being a husband? How does God look at being a mother? How does God look at being a father? How does good look at having a job? How does God look at love? How does God look at loyalty? How does God look at truthfulness? How does God look at honesty? How does God define godliness? How does God define sin?

When we talk about a biblical world view, we are talking about how God looks at everything that occurs in life in this world–not just about how God looks at “church.” Nothing is off limits! We literally are talking about how God looks at each thing that occurs in our lives.

We can respond by saying, “Just read the Bible. It is by knowing the Bible that we will discover and develop a biblical world view.” I certainly agree! Yet, I also understand that it is not as simple as that statement makes it sound. The first major challenge we encounter is distinguishing between the times (historically) and the message (God’s ways). If you are tempted to think this challenge is real simple, let me give you a couple of examples.

Example one: from Genesis into Acts, the sacrificial system was a prominent part of worship. Cain and Abel offered sacrifices when they worshipped. Noah offered sacrifices when he left the ark. The tabernacle was the site of sacrificial worship. Later, the temple was the site of sacrificial worship. When Jesus was presented as a baby at the temple, sacrifices were offered for him (Luke 2:22-24). When the 3000 were baptized in Acts 2, they went to the temple every day (Acts 2:46). The apostles went to the temple (Acts 3). Paul, at the request of the Jerusalem elders, took four men to the temple to take a vow and paid for the offering of a sacrifice for each one of them (Acts 21:17-26). This same Paul said we were to offer our bodies as a “living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1,2). Jesus is presented to us as our sacrifice (Hebrews 13:11-13). Christians exist to be God’s spiritual house (temple) to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). What role does the offering of sacrifices serve in Christian existence?

Example two: Matthew 26:30 states they concluded the occasion when the Lord’s Supper was instituted by singing a hymn before leaving for the Mount of Olives. Should we accept that as an example of the way to conclude communion? My understanding is this is the way the Passover meal was concluded. Is this the conclusion of the Passover meal, the conclusion of communion, or the conclusion of both? Should we look at it as an example?

Too often people have oversimplified the challenge of separating first century culture from the eternal message of God.

  1. At the core of a biblical world view is the living, creator God.
    1. The Bible begins (Genesis 1) with the living Creator God bringing life in this world into existence.
      1. Immediately scripture declares that if we are to accept a biblical world view, we must look at ourselves as the product of the creator God.
        1. We are not the result of chance or an accident.
        2. We are the result of intelligence using incredible power.
      2. If we are nothing more than the result of accidental happenings, our purpose becomes purely selfish.
        1. If we are the result of chance happenings, we have every reason to be selfish.
        2. If we are the result of nothing more than coincidences, we have no real reason to be moral in conduct or ethical in decisions.
        3. If everything that exists, exists only as a series of opportune accidents, nothing has been lost, and there is nothing to regain.

  2. One of the ancient questions in human existence is this: did humanity make God or did God make humanity?
    1. If you think this is a modern question asked only in the relatively recent past by science and philosophy, consider some readings. The first I call to your attention is found in Isaiah 44:6-20.
      “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place. ‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.'” Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame. The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.” They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend. No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!” He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
      1. Isaiah writing in the voice of God declares that the entire concept of idolatry is too ridiculous to be taken seriously.
      2. If one compares the concept of god in idolatry in contrast to the reality of God the Creator, he or she is struck by how little they have in common.
      3. In the idolatrous concept of god:
        1. Divinity is disinterested in humanity.
        2. Divinity has its own set of diversions that gods pursue, and being interested in human affairs is not one of those diversions.
        3. Humans must get the gods’ attention before the gods will get involved in human affairs.
        4. Even when humans succeed in getting the gods’ attention, the gods can do more to hurt you than help you.
        5. Thus the concept of worship is humoring the gods to keep them happy.
      4. In the Creator God:
        1. The Creator God is always interested in people because (1) they exist by His decision and action and (2) people originally were made in His image and likeness.
        2. God is never distracted from the realities of human existence.
        3. Humans do not have to get the Creator God’s attention, but the creator God seeks to get humans’ attention.
        4. The Creator God is a source of help and strength to humans.
        5. The objective of worship is to declare faith in, dependence on, and appreciation of the Creator God.
      5. The idea of taking a piece of wood, making a fire to warm yourself and using the fire to cook your food, and then taking to remainder of the wood to fashion a voiceless, powerless image you call god and call upon it for deliverance is totally foreign to the concept of the living God Who creates.
    2. A second reading I call to your attention is found in Jeremiah 10:1-11.
      Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord, “Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. “They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.” There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might. Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You. But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion–their idol is wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
      1. An enormous problem through the centuries is found in people being afraid of things that are not gods, that do not exist, and that neither hurt nor help people.
      2. Jeremiah observes that idols are just a piece of wood taken out of the forest.
      3. They were made by people who crafted them.
      4. They are clothed and decorated by people.
      5. They are fastened down by people.
      6. They are transported by people.
      7. These gods exist because people made them.
      8. Not so with the Creator God–He exists if no one acknowledges his existence.
    3. Allow me to share one more brief reading with you.
      Joshua 24:2,14-15 Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
      1. If anyone ever had reason to place confidence in the Creator God, the people of ancient Israel did–the Creator God delivered them from slavery and brought them into existence as a nation.
      2. Our reading is part of a speech Joshua gave Israel late in his life.
        1. “Your ancestors worshipped idols–the gods beyond the river.”
        2. “You face an immediate choice: will you worship idols from your past, or will you worship the Creator God?”
        3. “If your choice is to worship idols, pick any god you choose; it does not matter and will make no real difference.”
        4. “But my family has made our choice–we will honor the Creator God who brought us into existence.”

  3. A biblical world view includes a correct concept of the Creator God because we can correctly understand ourselves only through a correct understanding of the Creator God.
    1. I call your attention to two facts.
      1. When Paul spoke to a highly idolatrous, elite group in Athens at the Areopagus, Paul began with a correct view of the Creator God.
        Acts 17:23-31 “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
      2. The second point is this: the reason as Christians we seek re-creation in Christ is because we were made aware of what we lost in our original creation, and we want to move in the direction of what God made.
    2. However, it is only what the Creator God did for us in Jesus Christ that permits us to be re-created as His people (see Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:10, 11).

The accuracy of the way you view the Creator God will determine the role you give Jesus Christ in your life.

Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview – Part 1

Posted by on under Sermons

Our purpose as the West-Ark Church of Christ is to "Make Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others." That means that all of us are called to be disciples as well as make disciples. There are five values or qualitative goals that we strive for in everything we do as a congregation. The first is that we will focus daily on Jesus and his cross. The second is that in every way possible we want to proclaim a biblical worldview. Proclaiming a biblical worldview, however, assumes that we, as disciples, have a biblical worldview. And this of course raises the question, "What is a worldview?"

Definition of Worldview – A worldview is the composite set of presuppositions, beliefs, and values a person possesses that shape how he or she sees reality and determines how he or she will act. A worldview informs the way a person thinks and acts. It is the lens through which people perceive and understand reality.

  • Everyone has a worldview that determines how he/she sees, perceives, and understands life. Not all people are able to articulate all or even some elements of their worldview. (Worldviews may be embedded).

  • A worldview is, by its nature, comprehensive. That is, it covers all aspects of life, both internal and external. It influences thought and action. It involves mind, body, and spirit and it involves every dimension of life – i.e. the entire "world"

  • Culture and environment contribute to the formation of worldview. That contribution can be deliberate (intentional) or embedded.

A person’s worldview can be changed into a different worldview. Christians/disciples should desire to have their worldview transformed into a biblical worldview. The revelation of God through his word and through Jesus Christ deliberately seeks to shape our worldview. [This is why focusing on Jesus and his Cross is more that a meditative exercise – it is a transforming event. See last week’s sermon]

Demonstration of Worldview and Differences in Worldview – One of the ways we sometimes become aware of this concept of worldview is by encountering very different worldviews. Some years ago my wife and I were in London. We were waiting to get into the theatre and when tickets were available there were three of us and only two tickets. So my wife and sister-in-law got to go into the theatre and I waited for them. I walked around the town and spent some time with individuals who have a very different worldview. I met a young man named Stephen from Scotland who really didn’t appear all that different from some of my friends in Scotland, but Stephen lived on the streets of London. As we walked through London I noticed how very different my worldview was from his. In London they have public restrooms that you have to pay to use. When we went past a public restroom he was about to jump the turnstile to enter. The attendant was shouting at Stephen. I took out a handful of change saying, "Wait, I can pay for this." Now Stephen shouted, "Hey don’t waste that money on the loo." He grabbed the change and jumped the turnstile going into the restroom with the attendant shouting.

All of that did not fit my worldview. First, that one should have to pay to use the restroom. Second, that what was pocket change to me was a treasured resource to Stephen and not to be wasted when stealing or breaking the rules was convenient.

But you do not have to go to another nation or culture to experience these differences in worldview. David Chadwell pointed out in his sermon last week that there are different worldviews in tension in our own culture. Some of us have a basic assumption or at least can recall when institutions like government were held in high regard and trusted. But for some of us, we have never known a time when government was not under suspicion. Some of us remember when credit was rare and jobs were even rarer. Some of us have never known anything but great prosperity in our nation. Different experiences like these shape different worldviews. But there are also forces at work that create major shifts in worldview. This goes beyond personal worldview and involves cultural or collective worldviews, which of course affect all of us individually.

We are experiencing in our culture the tension, or shifting, from one predominant worldview to another. The two worldviews in tension are the modern worldview and the postmodern worldview. The "modern" worldview is not all that modern. It developed in the Western world throughout the 17th century and remained current through the 20th century. You may read about the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment period. This is the context in which the Modern worldview develops.

This worldview is based on four "pillars" that were major shifts from the pre-Modern worldview before the age of reason:

  1. Nature and reality can be explained apart from God. Since reason and investigation could explain the natural process of the world around us, God is no longer necessary as an explanation for reality. That’s not to say all scientists since the age of reason are atheists. No, some scientists and philosophers attempted to make a reasonable case for the existence of God. We can’t go into all the history, but just understand that with the modern worldview the possibility of understanding reality apart from God is now quite real. The classic example of this involves astronomer Pierre Simon de la Place (1749 – 1827). He presented his book on celestial mechanics to Emperor Napoleon who remarked "I find it strange that in your entire work you make no reference to God." Pierre Simon de la Place replied, "Sire, I no longer have need of that hypothesis."
  2. Scientific Knowledge is inherently good. We are better off because of scientific advancement. Every advance in science improves the quality of life. The Modern worldview has an optimistic outlook on better living through scientific advancement.
  3. Reason is the Basis of Morality. Rather than an external standard of right and wrong, sin and righteousness, morality was defended as being expedient or reasonable. Lack of character or morality was not a spiritual deficiency but a lack of knowledge. The solution was more education. Moral problems could be solved with the application of reason.
  4. Human Progress is Inevitable. The modern worldview has a high view of human nature and potential. There is an optimism about overcoming social and political problems. (Star Trek future)

During the 20th century and into this century we are recognizing more and more that the modern worldview is giving way to the postmodern worldview. Under the weight of experience the limits of the pillars of the modern worldview were collapsed …

  1. The postmodern worldview accepts the possibility of God or gods. This is not just true in religion, but also philosophy and science. There is the allowance that there is more to the universe than all we can perceive or experience. (But note that this doesn’t always equate to the Christian view of God!)
  2. Scientific knowledge may be used for good or evil. Think about the incredible advances in science during the 20th century. Atomic power, information technology, genetics. Our experience has taught us that there is no guarantee that these developments are inherently good. They may bring benefit, but they may also create disaster. It all depends on how they are used.
  3. Individual is basis of morality. Reason was never a very good basis of morality. That’s not to say that morality is unreasonable. But restricting morality to reason deprived morality and ethics of its spiritual and divine elements and now the door is wide open to all standards of morality. There just isn’t any agreement anymore and morality is seen as relative. My moral base may not be reasonable to you – but it is mine and it is not yours to judge. The modern worldview made reason the only absolute but it couldn’t hold the title – now the "king" has been knocked off the hill.
  4. Humanity has failed to eradicate so many social and political problems. We have been humbled and we are no longer optimistic about human progress. World War 1 really destroyed this pillar. Then World War 2 finished off the remains. Now there is pessimisim about the future of humanity (Sci-Fi dystopias)

It is hard to describe what the Postmodern worldview is really about. Mainly, it just isn’t modern!

One creative way to describe the change is to say that if the Modern worldview viewed the world scientifically through the lens of the microscope and telescope, the postmodern worldview views it through a kaleidoscope – a random, multi-colored, ever-shifting image that looks different to everyone who picks up the scope.
Which worldview is best? Neither, they are both limited and they represent the major worldview we find ourselves in. Since they are limited they are subject to shifting and change.

The real question is: "Why does any of this matter?" Does my worldview matter? I think it matters because as disciples of Jesus Christ we need to know that our worldview is not dependent on the reigning worldview of our culture or age. Our faith is not dependent on the Modern worldview. It will not die in the postmodern worldview. We have a worldview that endures through every shift and change in cultural worldview …

In the midst of confusion or concern over what we shall do we can develop a worldview that is consistent with Christ and the revelation of God through Spirit and Word. In other words a Biblical Worldview. And it matters because if God’s enduring revelation shapes our worldview then it shapes our belief. And our belief leads to proper practice and healthy identity.

Christianity and Judaism are unique in that they call for the right belief (orthodoxy) assuming that the right belief with shape the proper behavior and practice (orthopraxy). In fact, God often criticizes Israel, as Jesus did the Pharisees, for practicing religion right without believing right (hypocrisy, white-washed sepulchers)

Israel and the Worldview of God
Deuteronomy 6 Belief in the one true God was the basis for whole devotion. The worldview of Israel was critical to their behavior and their identity.

Once the Gentiles were gathered into Israel after Jesus, the importance of worldview was even greater.

  1. In worship – in the presence of the One God that Israel declared, the One God that has revealed himself in Jesus Christ – in worship we offer our whole self. We are being shaped by God’s view of the world. And that "changes our mind" …
  2. Renewal – that’s what we do in worship as we come together in worship. Transformation of mind/belief from the pattern of this world to a renewed worldview. And it doesn’t end in worship – it continues to our life among the different worldviews. It continues as a pinpoint of light in our kaleidoscope world. We need to continue to hear the "Shema" to Israel. Jesus said it was the core of a biblical worldview. And it shapes our actions so that they are conformed to God’s will …
  3. Is change/transformation of mind really that important? We need to be aware just how little what we say we believe agrees with the world as understood by science and technology, commerce, law, politics, or the arts – or the world as it is understood by many of our neighbors. Think about it! Jesus says that the core of law and prophets, the greatest commandment is to love God and neighbor – to commit so completely to God that we live as very different people. That’s not necessarily the worldview of our culture. Proclaiming a biblical worldview is counter-cultural. So, to what worldview do we conform? The renewal of our mind allows us to know God’s will. But if our minds are not renewed, we do not. What worldview do we have? That’s the worldview we will proclaim

How important is this? – Barmen -living differently with a different View of reality can have serious implications
Almost immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Protestant Christians faced pressure to conform the Church to the ideology of Hitler and the Nazi Party, this included expulsion of Jewish Christians from the ordained ministry and adopting the Nazi “Führer Principle” as the organizing principle of church government. In general, the churches succumbed to these pressures, and many Christians embraced them willingly. The pro-Nazi “German Christian” movement became a force in the church. They glorified Adolf Hitler as a “German prophet” and preached that racial consciousness (Volk) was a source of revelation alongside the Bible.

But some Christians in Germany opposed the encroachment of Nazi ideology on the Church’s proclamation. At Barmen, this emerging “Confessing Church” adopted a declaration drafted by which expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be sources of God’s revelation. The 1934 Barmen Declaration was a call to resistance against the theological claims of the Nazi state.

excerpt from Barmen Declaration …

IN VIEW OF THE ERRORS of the “German Christians” … we confess the following evangelical truths:
1. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, . . . other events, powers, historic figures and truths as God’s revelation.

In Nazi Germany, the German Church accepted National Socialism. Their focus was on what they did – not on what they believed. They even took as their symbol the cross with a swastika in it.

“German Christians” (Deutsche Christen) marched to a worship service at the Berlin Cathedral while SS guards stood at attention. At the lead were members of the movement in uniforms, followed by pastors. Their banners –designed to resemble the Nazi party’s “national flag”– placed the swastika at the center of the cross.

But the confessing church dissented. Some Christians who dissented –like the Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg– were arrested and executed in concentration camps. They did something very different why? Because of what they believed vs. what the German Church believed. Because those different beliefs and worldviews shaped what people did and what the German Church was doing was dangerous. In one worldview, Christ alone rules. In another, the swastika blots out the center of the cross.

This story of what happened in Germany of the 1930’s may seem a bit extreme to us. But next week I want to show you why a Biblical Worldview and our proclamation of such a world view matters just as much to us – right here in Western Arkansas in the early 21st century.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 10 October 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview” – Part 1
October 10, 2004

“The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-5

  1. What is a Worldview?
    • The composite set of p__________________, b____________, and v___________ that shape how one sees reality and determines how one will act.
    • It is a “l_______” through which one perceives the world.
    • Who has a worldview? E___________ has a worldview.
    • Worldview involves a______ areas of life – internal and external
    • Worldview is either e_______________ or d___________________.
  2. The “Modern” Worldview (17th century ~ ) rests on four “pillars:”
    • Nature and reality can be explained apart from G______.
    • Scientific k___________ is inherently good.
    • R______________ is basis of morality.
    • Human p_______________ is inevitable.
  3. The Postmodern Worldview (20th century ~ ) “collapsed” the four pillars:
    • Acceptance of the p_______________ of God or gods.
    • Scientific knowledge may be used for good or e___________.
    • I________________ is basis of morality.
    • Humanity has failed to e___________________ serious moral, social, political, and environmental problems.
  4. Why does this matter?
    • B_____________ Worldview is based on “seeing the world as God sees it”
    • We c_______________ to God’s view amid all “shifts”
    • Right b___________ leads to right p________________

Romans 12:1-2

I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
“Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview” – Part 1
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
October 10, 2004

  1. What is a Worldview? Looking at the description on the page above, how would you describe a worldview in your own terms? Can you give an example of how your worldview was different from others? How is a worldview different than an opinion?

  2. What forces, experiences, and influences shape our worldview today?

  3. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Why is the declaration to Israel that there is one God and that God is the only God so important? How does this statement shape Israel’s worldview? Continue reading Deuteronomy 6. Does it describe ways that Israel is to be shaped by the worldview declared in vss. 4-5?

  4. Is Deuteronomy 6:4-5 foundational to us? Why or why not? What does Jesus say in Matthew 22:34-40? Did he consider it important? Why or why not?

  5. Read Romans 12:1-2. Does this Scripture help us understand how worship is important in shaping our worldview? Does it help us understand what ought to happen in worship?

  6. How may our minds be conformed to “the pattern of this world?” Can you give examples? How does God transform our minds and renew us? According to Paul, why is it important to have a renewed mind (or a biblical worldview)? What does it have to do with understanding God’s will? (Keep reading Romans 12 for answers).

Living the Lesson:

  1. How will you deliberately cultivate your worldview so that it conforms to God’s word? How can we assist one another in this process?

  2. Are the ministries and programs in our congregation affected by our worldview? If so, how? If not, why not? Are all of them affected or just some? Think about this.

  3. Take note of the things you do this week. Take note of your plans. How are these actions shaped by your beliefs? Are your beliefs consistent with a biblical worldview? If not, how will you “change your mind”? (Rom. 12:1-2).

Prepare for Oct. 17 – “Proclaiming a Biblical Worldview – Part 2

    Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-5; Matthew 5 – 7, 13; Philippians 3.

Purpose in Confusion

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

1 Corinthians 9:23, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

The first century world was confusing for the person who dared to be a Christian. In a hostile place, the constant threat of physical abuse loomed–with no one to come to your aid. In pagan society, many things were outside Christian existence that previously were part of daily life. In pagan society (even matters that we would classify as political), events included (often prominently) honoring a god or goddess. In Jewish society, acceptance of Jesus as the Christ increasingly was regarded as the act of a traitor against Judaism. Opportunities for being misunderstood were enormous!

It was rather common in pagan society to exploit weak people, to get drunk, to engage in sexual acts outside of marriage, to sexually violate marriages, or to be self indulgent in numerous ways. A Christian converted from paganism did not fit in pagan societies!

It was common in Jewish society to take advantage of the defenseless, to use religion as a means of control, to get angry with those who disagreed, or to hurt those who were a perceived threat. A Christian devoted to God’s holiness did not fit!

Almost every relationship was complicated through conversion to Jesus Christ. Christian slaves were to act differently toward owners (1 Peter 2:18-21). Christian owners were to treat slaves with a kindness that did not threaten (Ephesians 6:9; Philemon). Imagine the changes and confusion when one spouse in a pagan marriage became a Christian! The challenge: demonstrate through behavior that conversion to Christ makes a person better, not worse (1Timothy 2:1-4). Public opinion declared conversion to Christ made people worse: slave, masters, wives, husbands, citizens, laborers! The only way Christians could change public opinion was for their behavior to defy common expectations. That is a hard and harsh demand!

Today’s American Christian lives in an increasingly complex situation. Our society has become steadily self-indulgent. A common tactic used in advertising is, “You are worth it!” Selfishness often transforms itself into entitlement. “What is in it for me?” are many people’s priority consideration. Personal feelings are an important measurement of validity. We so value “feel good” and “fun” that the world easily could conclude Americans believe that “feeling good” and “having fun” is life’s purpose.

Too often the Christian man or woman finds himself or herself asking questions about “me.” “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “Is the moment all that is important in my life?” “Can anything that is truly good cause pain?” “Can anything that brings me pleasure be truly evil?” “Should I permit other people to decide the meaning and the worth of my life?” Perhaps those are easily answered in theory for others, but they are hard questions when one is personally confronting difficult circumstances.

No matter how confusing your personal world is, allow no one but God to teach you who you are. Life in this society may be confusing, but purpose is found in Jesus’ cross.