The Christian Worldview (part 4)

Posted by on February 26, 2006 under Sermons

part 4

Romans 6:8-18 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 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. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

If we are to be Christians, sometimes we have to stop thinking like Americans. This in no way is intended to be a “slam” on this nation as a nation. I am deeply grateful to be a citizen of this country. I am deeply appreciative of the many things life in this nation gives me access to. I have experienced ‘red tape’ in another nation, and there are very few [if any] processes in this nation that begin to equal that experience. I have seen the bribery system at work in another nation, and I have never seen anything in this nation that equals that. I have seen injustice and abuse in another nation, and I have seen nothing here that equals that. This nation is far from perfect, but its imperfections are much superior to the flaws of many other nations.

However, if we are to be Christians, sometimes we cannot think as typical Americans think. The Christian’s concept of life’s purpose and the typical American’s concept of life’s purpose are quite different. The Christian’s understanding of joy and the typical American’s pursuit of pleasure are quite different. The Christian’s view of money and the typical American’s view of money are quite different. The Christian’s concept of relationship and the typical American’s concept of relationship are quite different. The Christian’s understanding of commitment and the typical American’s understanding of commitment are quite different.

To be a Christian is to look at the world, at life, and at death quite differently. No one looks at the world, life, and death as does the Christian.

This evening I want to direct your attention to Romans 6. To challenge you to think about Paul’s point, I need to set a context.

  1. I want to share with you my understanding of the reason that prompted Paul to write the letter of Romans to Christians in Rome.
    1. The Jews, the city of Rome, and the “happening”:
      1. Nobody was like the Jews–they did not work one day each week and they had some very unique beliefs and traditions.
      2. Consequently, a lot of first century people did not like the Jewish people–they lived in isolation; they often acted superior to other people; and they were constantly influencing other people to leave accepted religious practices.
      3. There was a history of the Jews being forced out of the city of Rome.
        1. In 139 BC [over a hundred years before Jesus was born] the Jews were expelled from Rome for “attempting to corrupt Roman morals.”
        2. In AD 19 the Jews were expelled from Rome because there were too many of them and they were converting to many Roman natives.
        3. In a third incident, Acts 18:1, 2 states:
          After these things [Paul] left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.
          1. The Roman emperor once again expelled the Jews from the city of Rome because of an argument about “Chrestus” in the Jewish community in Rome.
          2. The greater majority of scholars believe this was an argument in the Jewish community about Jesus Christ.
          3. It was such a passionate argument that it caused riots.
          4. Evidently at this time the Roman authorities made no distinction between Jewish people and Christians.
          5. The expulsion likely occurred around 49 AD as an Imperial edict that was automatically canceled when Claudius died.
          6. In Romans 16:3 we read this greeting from Paul:
            Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
          7. Thus when Paul wrote Romans, Aquila and Priscilla already had returned to Rome.
      4. While the Jewish religious practices were protected in Rome because Judaism was an ancient religion, Jews throughout the Roman empire were often the subjected to anti-Semetic feelings.
    2. The problem:
      1. When Jewish Christians left Rome, the church had a distinct Jewish expression.
        1. Jewish practices and customs were respected.
        2. Things were done the way Jewish tradition dictated.
      2. When Jewish Christians returned to Rome, the church had a distinct gentile expression.
        1. Things were not done as Jews did them.
        2. Jewish ways and traditions were not respected.
      3. Jewish Christians generally expected to find the church doing things exactly like they left them, and they were not–and gentile Christians had no interest in going back to the Jewish way of doing things.
        1. Both sides were arrogant; each group of Christians felt superior to the other.
        2. That caused all kinds of problems in the Christian community in Rome.

  2. With that as a brief background, go with me to Romans 6.
    1. I want you to think about this focus as we begin our thinking.
      1. This was written to Christians.
        1. Everyone addressed was baptized because he or she believed in Jesus Christ.
        2. Romans 6 is not an evangelistic sermon on baptism.
        3. This is a continuation of Paul’s argument on the attitudes of superiority which had no place in the Christian community.
      2. Paul’s primary point is not focused in the atonement of Christians but in a Christian’s continuing death to sin or evil.
      3. Their baptism is only an illustration Paul used.
    2. Some tried to make Paul’s concern ridiculous enough to be rejected by making it silly.
      1. It is true that grace increases as sin increases (5:21).
      2. So some suggested the best way to magnify God’s grace is to sin as much as possible.
        1. Is that true?
        2. Is it true that Christians should sin as much as possible to highlight God’s grace?
      3. Paul said that was a foolish argument that had no merit!
        1. Christians who would make that argument did not even understand the purpose of their own baptism.
        2. Just as Jesus gave the ultimate act in death to sin by dying on the cross, the person who decided to be a Christian shared in Jesus’ death to sin [by rejecting temptation] and renewing life through following Christ.
        3. The basic purpose of baptism is to die to sin by choice; how can a Christian deliberately continue to sin if he or she has died to sin?
    3. I want you to notice throughout this chapter the emphasis on death to sin.
      Romans 6:6,7 Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
      Romans 6:12,13 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.
      Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
      Romans 6:15,16 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
      Romans 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
      Romans 6:20,21 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.
      Romans 6:22,23 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
      1. What I call your attention to is this one fact: there is enormous emphasis in Romans 6 on the Christian’s choice/decision to die to sin.
      2. That is how we choose to be like Jesus Christ on a continuing basis: he was free from sin, and we choose to accept him to be free from sin [by God’s mercy and grace] every day of our lives.
      3. Just like he said, “No!” to temptation frequently, we say, “No!” to temptation on a daily basis.

  3. When people became Christians in the first century, they made a decision to change purposes for life and lifestyles.
    1. Certainly, circumstances were a little different then.
      1. As far as we know, everyone we read of in the New Testament was a first generation Christian.
      2. The church began in Acts 2.
      3. The only specific information we have indicates that adults responded to the teaching.
        1. Jews came from a background of Judaism which worshipped the same God and embraced the same basic moral values.
        2. Gentiles came from a background of idolatry which worshipped different gods and had different moral values.
        3. A few came from an atheistic background which did not believe in any god or any set of moral values.
    2. Today, at least in the southern part of this country, our situation is in contrast to that situation.
      1. How many of you here tonight come from at least two generations of members of the Church of Christ? [show of hands]
      2. How many of you come from at least three generations of members of the Church of Christ? [show of hands]
      3. Is anyone here who comes from four or more generations of members of the Church of Christ?
      4. Realize we would not ask those questions in the congregations in the New Testament–they all were first generation Christians.
    3. With that change has come another change that I personally consider hurtful spiritually.
      1. Today among many Christians there is much more likely to be the concept of “joining or placing membership in an institution” than adopting a new purpose for life expressed in the way we live.
      2. For example, if we ask a person if he or she is a Christian today, we will often get the popular answer, “I go to church regularly.”
        1. Granted, “regularly” means different things to different people.
        2. Yet, many people prefer to say they have membership in an institution than to say they follow Jesus Christ on a daily basis.
      3. Perhaps more to the point, we had rather they talk about membership in an institution than to talk about following Jesus every day.
        1. We simply do not know what to do with the talk that focuses on following Jesus daily–we do not know how to determine what that means.
        2. If someone talked about dying to sin and being alive to Christ, though that is very biblical, it would confuse us.
    4. The end result is one that many of us do not like.
      1. Far too many Christians live like people who have no commitment to Jesus Christ.
      2. Yet, they can be quite comfortable spiritually because they say they are members of an institution.

People who are Christians choose to die to evil influences in themselves, evil influences in the community in which they live, and evil influences in the world.

I know this is a very complex issue that has many different causes. ONE [and I emphasize one] reason many younger people reject the church is because we stress institution so much and lifestyle so little. Christians can be as materialistic or pleasure-centered as they want to be, and it is okay with the institution — we do not say much about it as if that is perfectly moral. Young people know enough to know that simply is not God’s way.

It was not that way in the New Testament! The major stress there was on how Christians in the first century lived. I urge us to do two things. (1) Be a functioning part of the Christian community. (2) In your life and your choices, follow Jesus Christ every day. Be dead to sin and alive to righteousness!

Being Shaped By Scripture

Posted by on under Sermons

One of the reasons I preach is because of the words that shaped me into a preacher. I was often encouraged by the good folks at the Winslow congregation. They complimented me when I preached on occasion and I have to believe they were encouraging me for the future for I doubt there was much benefit in what I had to say.

There is one moment from those days that stands out. A Christian brother named Wayne Dockery, the son of our preaching minister at that time, was visiting his parents and I was preaching the sermon that evening. Wayne had been involved in ministry and shepherding. He had preached good sermons and heard good sermons I am sure. As everyone was leaving the service that evening Wayne took my hand and stared directly at me. He did not compliment my sermon as most had done. Instead he blessed me. He said “You have a gift. Do not squander it.” I replied, “Thank You.” He emphasized again, “God has given you a gift. You need to nurture it. Use it for Him.”

Wayne’s words did not sink in that day. In fact, I think I forgot about them for quite some time. It wasn’t until later in my life when I was struggling to understand why I was in ministry that I recalled his words. His words gave me perspective – they reminded me that I do not preach for myself but I preach for the good of God’s people and also for the Lord. His words gave me hope – they reminded me that what I have is a gift of God and not dependent on my own ability (thank you God for that). I remembered his words and I still remember his words even now. They have been an influence on me and even though Wayne is gone, I will never forget his words to me.

clay being formed on pottery wheelWords shape us. When God created the universe he did not use tools or lightning, rather he used words. God spoke and it was so. And that was just the beginning. God’s words continue to create reality. He called Abram and a nation was formed. He gave Jacob a new name and he had a new future a new identity. God spoke through his prophets and declared that some nations would rise and others would fall. (Jeremiah 18:1-10). After the people of God had lost their way, after they were sent into exile, and after they returned they were rebuilt not through the restoration of cities and houses but when Ezra read to them the words of God. When Jesus was born God announced the birth. A proclamation of good news was sent out to kings and shepherds. Nothing would ever be the same, a new age had dawned. Words shape us – and the word of God creates reality.

When Jesus was being tested for ministry he fasted for 40 days. Satan knew very well that Jesus had the authority to use words to create. “You’re hungry,” he says. “You have the authority to make hot rolls out these rocks,” he says. “It won’t hurt anybody, so why not?” he says. Jesus also knows that words have the power to shape reality and identity so he says, “A person needs more than bread to live, one is fed and sustained by every word of God.” (Matthew 4) Better than bread when one is hungry is the word of God. Food can feed the body, but the word of God nourishes the whole person.

13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

I appreciate my heritage of faith. I am interested in the history of the Restoration Movement in America. One of the values of the Restoration Movement that I cherish is the reverence for Scripture and the desire to be biblical. This is another reason I preach, because I believe that God’s word is not only foundational but formative. Of course this also intimidates me because I know, from personal experience and the study of history, that revering Scripture and being shaped by it can be two very different things. The lump of clay in the potter’s studio can admire the work of the potter and extol the beauty of clay jars and the treasure they contain, but to actually be thrown on the wheel and molded by the potter is to be changed.

Sometimes our relationship to Scripture has been like a stroll through a museum. We behold the artistry of God and extol the beauty and perfection of God’s work, but we don’t really own the work and we are only involved as an observer. Sometimes our relationship with God’s word is a little more intimate and we see ourselves as those who are blessed to enjoy the useful instruments that God has provided in his word. Like a chef who delights in the useful stoneware and pottery that she has the privilege to use.

But what if we turned the relationship around? What if we understood ourselves as the instruments in the service of the word? What if, instead of seeing the Bible as a constitution for the church that we debate, discuss, and apply like a code of law we regarded ourselves as the parchment or stone upon which God writes his word? (2 Corinthians 3:3)

God’s word is so unlike the “sacred writings” of religion and even the way we have perceived it at times. For Islam, the true Quran cannot be translated. The true Quran exists only in Arabic. It is a message rooted in a particular language and culture. Though cherished and revered, it is a work that exists in a set form. For Mormons, the Book of Mormon has a divine origin that is rooted in mystery. The angel Moroni revealed golden plates to the prophet Joseph Smith and gave him the power to translate the heavenly language before taking the plates back to heaven. Over against these the Bible’s origin is really sort of mundane and messy. It is written in two languages and translated many times over into other languages. It did not fall out of heaven but was collected over the course of centuries by ordinary. And there were periods during the first century when the first century church did not have the complete New Testament. That might seem alarming. Anyone who admits to this might seem to be discrediting the word of God. That would be the case if the word of God were just a book – but it is more than a book. The word of God cannot be reduced to words written on pages in a book or scroll. The word of God is living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. The words we read and speak were never destined to rest quietly on a page, but they are intended to penetrate our lives and cut away sin and shaped us into God’s people for the sake of his mission. If we believe them, then we will be shaped by them, and we will speak them in word and action …

13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, … Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Faithfulness to God’s Mission demands that we must be shaped by the Word of God. His word is renewing us day by day. We tend to think of Scripture as something that we use on others: as though the word is case law that we can form into a crafty argument, or a quote that we can use to gain advantage in debate. But Scripture is meant to equip us – to shape us and prepare us to live out the word and not just use it in arguments.

Making Disciples and Being Disciples. – A disciple is a learner, one who is learning a discipline. Not just head knowledge, but discipline in thought and action. It is a way of life. When we think about our mission statement, let’s be aware that some of the disciples being made are you and I. There’s no way we can make disciples if we are not concerned about being disciples.

We dare not invite people to share in the journey of following God’s call if we do it from a position of arrogance or superiority. We are being shaped and discipled just as much as the disciple who is baptized today. We know the power of words, so don’t be surprised that we are being shaped by the word of God.

Why do you preach? Why do you speak?
What do we believe? What we believe is how we shall live. Words shape us.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 February 2006

Treasure in Clay Jars
Lesson Three: Pattern 2 – Feb. 26, 2006
“Being Shaped By Scripture”

What is this lesson all about?

  1. Your group will understand that the Bible has a formative role in the church’s life and that all church members must learn what it means to be a disciple.
  2. Your group will explore the role of Scripture in missional formation and discipleship.
  3. Your group will develop opportunities to practice the pattern of biblical formation and discipleship.

Getting Started:

  1. You might open with a conversation starter. Ask the class to share with one another what they think of the old line: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Is this true or false? If it is false and words do hurt, what does this say about the power of words and the enduring nature of this old proverb?
  2. Can you recall something someone said to you or wrote about you that impacted you negatively? How long ago was it? Does it still affect you today? How have you overcome it?
  3. Can you recall something that someone said to you that impacted you positively? What was it? How has it shaped you? Do you come back to that moment?

Searching the Word:

  1. Read Genesis 1 (read verses 1-5 if time is critical). Discuss how God uses words to bring creation into existence. Invite the class to respond to what this means about the power of words.
  2. Do our words have the power to shape reality? How much more then does God’s word have the power to shape our reality and identity?
  3. Read Hebrews 4:6-13. You might acknowledge that verses 12-13 are more familiar than the context starting in verse 6. (Note: It may be useful to show that the context involves disobedience). Have the group identify the adjectives, verbs, and images used to describe the word of God. Are these the sort of words will typically use to describe the Word of God? If not, what words do we typically use?
  4. Explore the context of Hebrews 4:6-13 and the images used to describe the word of God.
    1. What does the description of God’s word as sharp, penetrating, dividing, living, and active tell us about the function of the word as it relates to obedience? What do these words tell us about the way Scripture is supposed to shape our lives?
    2. What is the relationship between obedience and discipleship?

Making It Real: Exploration and Response

  1. In this closing section, it is important to emphasize that the role of the Bible in our life together is to shape us into the kind of people God wants us to be. The goal of biblical teaching is obedience and discipleship and not just knowledge.
  2. Exploration Strategy: Divide into two groups.
    1. Give Group A the following assignment (It is best if the other group doesn’t know this assignment): Ask Group A to answer the following question for a skeptic/non-Christian – “Why should I study the Bible?” Have someone write down the answers that the group gives.
    2. Give Group B the following assignment (It is best if Group A doesn’t know this): Ask Group B to answer this question for themselves – “Why do you read the Bible for yourself?” Have someone write down the answers the group gives.
    3. Bring the two group back together and compare the two lists. Do we read the Bible for the same reasons we tell seekers or non-Christians to read the Bible? Why or why not?
    4. The purpose of this exploration strategy is to make the group aware of assumptions that we might have about the role of Scripture in evangelism and discipleship. Do we regard the Bible as containing information that converts must accept, or do we view the Bible as the living word of God which shapes all of us (converts and Christians) into disciples? This is important to the way we “use” Scripture in our lives.
  3. Consider the reasons you study the Bible. Is it for your own “benefit?” Is it to gain guidance for a difficult decision? Is it to build an argument? Is it part of a routine discipline? How might we go beyond these and dwell in God’s word so that it transforms and disciplines us?
    1. Alternatively, imagine ways we might read the Scriptures together as a called and sent community. Invite the group to suggest ways we could collectively discern God’s word for us in our current context (recall pattern 1 – missional vocation).
  4. Read Matthew 28:18-20. What is involved in the process of making disciples? (Note: baptizing and teaching). How long does this teaching last? What are the essential elements of this teaching?
    1. Exploration Strategy: Distribute cards and have the group members write on the card what they consider to be the “essential elements” of the teaching commissioned in Matthew 28. Encourage them to write down as many elements as they can. Invite discussion from the class: “Have we included everything? How long will it take us to educate on all of these?”
    2. The purpose of this strategy is to demonstrate that training in discipleship is not simply a matter of knowledge but a discipline for one’s life.
  5. Encourage the learners to go on “field trip” (literally or imaginatively) around the congregation’s facilities. Notice what Scriptures are on display. Gather samples of congregational literature. Notice what Scriptures are on display.
    1. Why are these Scriptures on display? What do they say about our “vocation” (Recall Pattern 1)
    2. How do they shape and form our life together? How should they shape and form us?
    3. Are these scriptures “equipping us for righteousness?” Are they forming us into a called and sent people? Why or why not?
    4. If not, what should we do to allow the word of God to judge our thoughts and attitudes?
    5. How does being a disciple enter into these everyday situations: 1) buying a house, 2) purchasing a car; 3) choosing a career; 4) dining together as a family; 5) choosing what books to read, movies to watch; 6) the way you treat those who serve you; 7) the way you treat those you serve. (Please add your own everyday situations.)

When Darkness Is REALLY Dark

Posted by on February 23, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (NIV)

If I had to make a list of the order that physical abilities were taken from me, I think sight would be the last thing I would want to lose. We live in the time of the incredible. “Need cataract surgery with a high probability of success? That is common!” “Need eye surgery that eliminates the need for glasses? That is common!” “Need a cornea transplant? That is certainly possible!” “Need eye glasses? That is super common!”

What is common for us did not exist in Jesus’ society! Eye glasses? Forget it! Eye disease, cataract surgery, cornea transplant-do not mention those things! Do you realize how many of us would be ?legally blind’ in Jesus’ lifetime?

The only ?window’ to admit light into this body is the eye. If the eye has a cataract, vision slowly decreases. When the condition was bad enough, blindness came. Once a person was blind, the situation was irreversible. The body went from light, to dim, to total darkness. When total blindness came, total dependence also came. What a complete blackout! It was the darkest form of darkness! Remember Jesus healing the blind? Remember the gratitude?

Jesus declared he was the light of the world by being life’s light and making life in darkness unnecessary (John 8:13). John made numerous associations between light and Jesus. Jesus’ life was the light of people (John 1:4), the true light who could enlighten every person (John 1:9). He was God’s light to the world, but some preferred darkness (John 3:19). The evil hate the light because they do not wish to see their lifestyle’s reality (John 3:20). Only they who base their lifestyles on truth are not fearful of the light (John 3:21).

Some exist in darkness yearning for light, but will never see light unless we dare reflect Jesus’ light (Matthew 5:14). In Jesus’ day light did not exist to be hidden but to dispel darkness (Matthew 5:15). God does not intend for us to hide Jesus’ influence in our behavior, but for us to share his light with others (Matthew 5:16). As you live your life, radiate Jesus’ influence in the way you live and the way you treat others!

The Christian Worldview (part 3)

Posted by on February 19, 2006 under Sermons

part 3

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

There is an enormous crisis facing the Christian community which the New Testament refers to as the church. The fact that any minister would declare a crisis is facing the church probably does not surprise any of you. Ministers have been making that statement for generations. From that statement we usually begin talking about a matter that concerns us personally or concerns other ministers we respect.

The crisis I refer to is not one created by my personal concerns or by other ministers. It is a crisis in its own right and will overwhelm us whether we admit it exists or not. This crisis threatens the existence of the “organized church” as we know it today. It does not threaten the existence of God’s kingdom–that kingdom is eternal and cannot be destroyed. But the expression of God’s kingdom as we know it in the form of the 21st century church in American is facing an immediate, severe crisis.

This crisis has existed for a long time, and it is almost too late for us to respond to this crisis. It is a crisis created by the lack of a worldview among Christians. The crisis exists because we have failed, ourselves, to look at the world as Christians. Instead, we Christians look at the world as do people who do not believe in God. Instead of us influencing others to see life and death as God declared, we have adopted the godless world’s way of looking at life and death.

We have been so preoccupied in opposing change that we have not realized the way we look at life and death has made an enormous transition. I am not talking about opposing religious traditions. I am talking about our basic understanding of life’s purpose.

  1. The issue is not, “Does the worldview crisis exist?” The issue is, “Do we as Christians have the courage to face the worldview crisis?”
    1. I would like to suggest that there are at least four approaches we can take to the worldview crisis.
      1. We can take the approach of “denial.”
        1. “Crisis? What crisis? There is no crisis! Everything is fine and is going to remain fine!”
        2. “Do not worry about! Do not let it make you anxious! Do not let it make you fearful of anything!”
        3. “Just ignore it and give it time, and it will go away like everything else has.”
        4. If we take that approach, when that tsunami wave crashes upon us, our last words as we drown will be, “What happened?”
      2. We can take the approach of “isolation.”
        1. “Keep your cool! Never examine us or question anything!”
        2. “Just keep the world out there and us in here.”
        3. “Tell folks ‘out there’ they can ‘come’ in here if they want to.'”
        4. If isolation is our approach to the crisis created by worldview, we are fooling no one but ourselves–our isolation is imagined, not real, and everyone but us knows it.
      3. We can take the approach of “conformity.”
        1. “If you are going to come in here, you must agree with us exactly on these issues.”
        2. “We do things this way, and so must you if you are to be part of us.”
        3. First, do you really understand that to be the gospel message? Do you really think Jewish Christians and gentle Christians saw every religious procedure just exactly alike in the first century?
        4. Second, we do not even agree with each other! How dare we demand conformity from other people?
      4. We can take the approach that allows us to learn how to engage the crisis.
        1. Is outreach to our world to be on our terms or the Lord’s terms?
        2. Do we dare examine ourselves and honestly ask if there are differences in the Lord’s terms and our terms?
        3. I am reminded of a statement Jesus made to John’s disciples when John inquired from prison if Jesus was the person or should they look for someone else.
          1. Jesus did not answer with a simple, “Yes.”
          2. He quoted from Isaiah 35:5 following as he gave this answer in Matthew 11:5, 6
            “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
          3. Maybe our visions are not the Lord’s visions.

  2. I want to try to illustrate the worldview crisis to the Christian community in practical terms by asking six questions.
    1. Question one: Who defines love for the typical Christian–the American culture or God?
      1. If you want the American society’s definition of love, go to the movies or watch television.
        1. Love is commonly and strongly associated with what are portrayed as incredible sexual experiences.
        2. Love is basically self-centered and selfish–the greatest question is, “Are things good for me?”
        3. Love is frequently found with “everybody” [if “I” cannot find love with one person “I” just go to the next person] or is excluded to a “soul mate” [real love can be found with only one ideal person who was born just for me].
      2. Listen to God’s definition of love:
        • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
        • John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
        1. In God’s definition of love, there is an unbreakable bond between love and serving others.
        2. Quite a contrast!
      3. For just a moment, consider the “soul mate” concept as an illustration.
        1. In the formation of any enduring relationship, there are times of struggle!
        2. If, when you marry, you are convinced there is only one ideal person in the world for you, what will you do when the inevitable moments of struggle come?
        3. Split and run! Why? “You are not my ‘soul mate’!
    2. Question two: Who defines success for the American Christian–the American culture or God?
      1. The American culture says success is defined by materialism, the world of money, or both.
        1. It says the evidences of success are wealth, lifestyle, pleasure, and being able to afford to do whatever you want.
        2. If you do not experience ‘the good life’ on earth, you are not successful!
        3. God says success is measured by service and sacrifice, and has nothing to do with money.
          Matthew 6:19-27 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
    3. Question three: Who defines wealth–the American culture or God?
      1. The testimony of the American culture is consistent: wealth is always defined by “things.”
        1. If you do not have “things,” you are not wealthy.
        2. So get “things” even if you have to use people.
      2. Paul wrote of God’s values in 1 Timothy 5:3-7.
        1 Timothy 6:3-7 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
    4. Question 4: Who defines commitment–American culture or God?
      1. I heard an interesting interview recently as an outgoing CEO and a possible incoming CEO were questioned.
        1. The outgoing CEO defined commitment to the company in terms of 20 years.
        2. The possible incoming CEO defined commitment to the company in terms of 5 years.
        3. The first talked in terms of paying your dues; the second in terms that there were no dues to be paid.
      2. Jesus plainly said Christianity was a lifetime commitment.
        Luke 14:25-35 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
    5. Question five: Who defines happiness–American culture or God?
      1. American culture defines happiness in terms of personal pleasure.
        1. No one can be happy if he or she has a horrible lifestyle.
        2. No one can be happy if he or she lives in true poverty.
        3. “I” decide what is an acceptable lifestyle and the poverty line.
      2. God defines happiness in terms of service and in terms of living for eternal values.
    6. Question six: Is death the worst tragedy we can experience?
      1. People of today tend to answer that question with “me” centered answers.
      2. Where do those answers come from–American culture or God?

  3. Someone says, “Preacher, that a bunch of junk! We have had all religious matters figured out for generations!”
    1. Really?
      1. Let me see the hands of everyone one here who is a member of the Church of Christ.
      2. How many of you know what it means if I raise up my five fingers and spread them? [hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized]
      3. How often have you heard that in a sermon or class?
    2. Where in the Bible are those five things declared to be God’s plan of salvation?
      1. Acts! No.
      2. The writings of Paul! No.
      3. It is not found in one place in the Bible.
    3. The history:
      1. Walter Scott while preaching in the Western Reserve in the early 1800’s began to speak of a “plan” of salvation.
      2. However, his “plan” at first had six items–three human and three divine.
        1. The human–believe, repent, be immersed.
        2. The divine–forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, eternal life.
      3. In 1827 he condensed the “plan” to five parts to fit the five fingers of one hand.
        1. He used it as a means to advertise his meeting.
        2. He would tell the school children on their way home that each finger stood for believing in Jesus as the Messiah, repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving remission of sins, and receiving the Holy Spirit.
        3. The school kids made a fist, went home and opened the fist by explaining what each finger meant, and told the family that the man who taught them that would be preaching that night.
      4. By 1900 the “plan” had become entirely human response [hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized] and was the only way to enter the Church of Christ.

We must stop acting like we know all the answers. We must start taking our Savior to our culture and stop letting our culture decide who we are and how we live.

Following God’s Call

Posted by on under Sermons

Read text 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1. When I first heard the language of “being called to ministry,” I thought it strange. I was not accustomed to this language. I believed that my choice to be a minister was simply a choice of a career no different than choosing to be a lawyer, an engineer, or a banker. When some would ask me how I was called to ministry I did not understand what they meant. “Well, one of my professors from the Bible college called me before I moved there. Is that what you mean?” No, that’s not what they meant.

My uneasiness with a sense of calling was due to the fact that I wasn’t exposed to such a way of describing things, but also because I had an aversion to seeing my life as a minister as somehow different and distinct from those who chose another vocation. But I am no longer uneasy talking about a calling. In fact, I think this way of describing ministry and vocation is much better than the secular way we use a very spiritual word.

What is vocation? This word is now associated with business and career. We tend to think of vocation as one’s chosen career. I recall hearing this word as a teenager in reference to the vocation technical program at my school. That program was designed to teach skills that could lead to a career.

But the word vocation comes from the same root word from which we get the word vocal, as in voice – a voice that calls out. Before our language and culture was split up into secular and spiritual components, one’s vocation was the same as one’s calling. A vocation is a calling by someone and toward someone or something. A vocation is not just a career choice, it is “a career that is chosen for us.” And the implication behind the word is that God has chosen the occupation for us. What do we mean when we say that someone has missed their calling? We mean that this person has chosen to follow one vocation when they are obviously called to another. We mean that a person is not living out the life God has envisioned for him or her.

Who Follows God’s Call? I am no longer uneasy talking about calling because in rediscovering the meaning of the word I am convinced that calling is not just for “clergy.” The term “calling” has been used in a restricted way and limited to ministers, missionaries, and other church leaders. Everyone else is left to a secular career. But that’s not an accurate. In the truest sense of the word vocation, everyone is called by God to follow God. It is true for ministers, missionaries, doctors, lawyers, millwrights, welders, teachers, plumbers, and police officers. Everyone is called to follow God – even non-Christians are called to follow God, they are simply missing their calling.

I am no longer uneasy talking about calling because the word is vital to understanding what church is all about. The entire church, as a community of people, has been called to follow God. In the text we read, Paul is clear that we have “this ministry” because of God’s mercy. It isn’t something that we choose. We do not take a test to qualify. God calls us to participate in his mission because of his mercy.

The Hebrew term translated “to call” is used to describe the people of God who are summoned to participate in God’s purposes for the world. The Greek terms used in the NT describe calling as a summons to holy living and service to others. In fact, the term calling is rooted in the word for church – “the ekklesia” which is “the called out.” The church is called and sent by God so it is right for us to say that the church has a vocation.

Questions We Ask So That We May Follow God’s Call (Our Vocation): We understand the church’s vocation in general terms easily enough. We follow God’s call by participating in his mission. But how shall we be faithful to that vocation in our immediate circumstances? That is a little more challenging, but it isn’t hopeless.

Our situation is similar to Robert Scott and his team of explorer’s searching for the South Pole. At one point in their journey the weather was so bad that the white haze blended with the falling snow so that the horizon was no longer visible. They had a compass to show them which direction was south, but they could not aim toward a fixed point. They thought they were going forward but soon found they were traveling in a circle when they came upon their own tracks. Their solution was to use the compass to tell them which direction to throw snowballs out in front of them. The snowball gave them a fixed point to head toward. After more aiming, throwing, and following their artificial horizon point, they made it to the South Pole.

We might discern what it means for us to follow God’s call by using our general understanding of the church’s vocation to follow the fixed points we cast out ahead of us in our surroundings. To do this we need to ask four questions and determine how we should answer these in a way that keeps us faithful to the mission of God.

Where Are We? We need to be aware of our local setting. We expect that missionaries in Vietnam and Laos must be thoughtful in how they follow God’s call in those nations. But we also have to be thoughtful. Where are we? What does it mean for us to be faithful in our location? We are across the street from a growing university. We are in the most culturally diverse region in Arkansas. Our city and the surrounding cities are challenged by increasing poverty. How do we follow God’s call and live out our vocation in this place?

When Are We? Of course we need to qualify this place with “at this time.” Anyone who has lived in this area for very long will tell you that a lot has changed. And no doubt there will be many more changes ahead. It is irresponsible for us to come up with a single response to how we shall be faithful to God’s call in this place and assume that will last forever. Think about the historical roots of this congregation. Before there was a West-Ark congregation there was Park Hill, then Midland, then Windsor Drive and College Terrace and then those merged to form West-Ark. Decisions were made at various stages to respond to changing times. Would the members of Midland Blvd ever have foreseen that there would need to be an Iglesia de Cristo? Maybe not, but they knew how to be faithful to their vocation in their time and those who are part of this congregation now know that our WHEN is in the 21st century when the Hispanic population in this area is growing at an astonishing rate.

Who Are We? All of this change over time and place may make us anxious that we are somehow tampering with the gospel truth. It’s good to think about that, but let’s not get overly anxious. A clay jar from Mexico in the 18th century may look very different from a first century B.C. Greek clay jar – but we recognize them as clay jars. Remember that we are conformed to a pattern and are not a reproduction. We look to the first century church for wisdom, but we are not the first century church. That was a different where and when. We are the 21st century church in Western Arkansas. And we are God’s people. Each generation, including our own, must reflect on our identity in Christ. We are baptized and we worship and partake of the Lord’s Supper. We are shaped by these traditions, but we must adopt them as our own if we are going to be faithful. And the generation after us must do the same.

Why Are We? Bring the other three questions together causes us to reflect on WHY we follow God’s call. God has a purpose for us. One of the reasons that the Purpose-Driven material as been so successful, I think is because it addresses purpose – that’s a powerful concept. Too often we amble through “church-life” without purpose and uncritically accept things as they are. But joy and hope will carry us through even the toughest times if we have a purpose that gives us passion.

In the text we read that “as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” We are following a path to become more like Christ. We have a vocation thanks to God’s mercy. Why do we live like we do? Because we are following God’s call and he is calling us to become more like the treasure he has placed within our clay jar lives.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 19 February 2006

Treasure in Clay Jars
Lesson Two: Pattern 1 – Feb. 19, 2006
“Following God’s Call”

What is this lesson all about?

  1. Your group will explore what it means to have a “vocation.” (We’re talking about God’s call, not a career!) God’s calling for the church is to participate in his mission and live within the reign of God. That may look different in individual lives or the local setting of a congregation, but in general the call is the same.
  2. Your group will explore what it means to be faithful to God’s calling.
  3. Your group will discern God’s specific missional identity for each person and for our congregation.

Getting Started:

  1. Open by asking everyone to talk about their vocation. (If someone’s vocation is well known to the group, ask that person to tell how he/she decided on that vocation).
  2. Explore the meaning of the word “vocation.” We typically talk about someone’s chosen career. Point out that the word “vocation” comes from the same Latin root from which we get words like “vocal.”
  3. Before the modern worldview divided our lives into spiritual and secular activities, everyone’s vocation was considered a calling from God. Does this insight change the way we would answer the question “What’s your vocation?”

Searching the Word:

  1. Read Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 28:16-20.
    • What does this text tell us about the vocation of disciples?
    • We have called this text “The Great Commission.” What do we mean by that shorthand title?
    • How does Jesus’ charge shape the future mission of his disciples?
  2. Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1.
    • What is the reason we have been entrusted with the mission (“this ministry”)?
    • How does this text make us aware of God’s calling?
  3. Scripture tells us that as clay jars we display the glory of God. It is not about us, but his all-surpassing power (2 Corinthians 4:7) Using the theme of disciples being God’s vessel as clay jars, we want to develop a missional identity as the church in the 21st century.
    • Definition: The word “missional” denotes every member of a congregation living as a missionary and minister in the settings where we find ourselves.
    • We have emphasized that it seems more accurate to say that the mission has a church rather than the church has a mission. Would you agree? Why or why not?
    • Pattern one speaks to the importance of a congregation developing an identity around the mission of God. Being a missional church is all about a sense of identity, shared pervasively in a congregation that knows it is caught up into God’s intent for the world. It comes from having heard the still small voice of God that says, “You are mine. I have called you to me. I join you to my compassionate approach to the whole world for its healing. You are witnesses to what I have done and what I will yet do.”

Making It Real: Exploration and Response
[This section includes two possible activities. You will need to decide which would be best for your group. If your group wants to take the time, you may do both. Whichever you choose, it is important to encourage learners to integrate the mission principles of scripture with the current missional identity of the congregation.]

  1. Distribute handouts made from attachment 1 – Where/When/Who/Why Are We?
    • Ask group to respond to the “Where Are We?” question, in reference to our congregation. Record responses on attached sheet. (See Attachment 1.)
    • Following the same pattern, discuss the “When Are We?”, “Who Are We?”, and “Why Are We?” questions and record responses.
    • What common responses did people give?
    • Do these help you discern our congregation’s missional calling?
  2. Divide the class into two groups. Assign each group one of the scenarios describing Church A and Church B. (Attachment 2 & 3) Each group will read the scenario assigned to the group and discuss it using the following questions:
    • How realistic is it to expect Christians attending a regional congregation to move into the neighborhoods near the church building?
    • What are essential commitments a congregation needs to adopt to minister effectively to the people in their vicinity?
    • In way ways is this congregation living out the mission of God as described in scripture?
    • Allow 10 minutes for group discussion, then bring the two groups together. Assign one person from each group to summarize their scenario and observations for the rest of the class.
  3. Conclude with a prayer for the congregation to continue maturing into the mission of God.

    Attachment 1

    Geographically, Socially, Culturally

    In the flow of history and change

    Living out the gospel in our homes, workplaces, recreational venues

    Welcoming God’s call, entering God’s coming reign

    Attachment 2

    Church A

    When Church A outgrew its facilities in one neighborhood in Detroit and moved it to another, it assumed that many of the members would now move into the new neighborhood. The new building was once a grand Packard showroom in a half-mile-square area that had once been housing for management in the hey-day of Detroit’s automotive industry. Now the housing had become run down, and the area was know for its drug dealing, alcohol consumption, and downward economic spirals. Families were mostly broken ones. Despair had become the normal way of life. But the members of Church A knew that the divine intent was to bring healing and deliverance to this neighborhood, and the fortunes that landed them in this facility were not an accident.

    Henry Lewis, the preacher for Church A, believed in the mantra of “Love everybody” in whatever context you find yourself. That means, when you establish your worship center in the middle of a new neighborhood, your new neighbors are the obvious prime candidates for the same “love everybody.”

    From the moment the move was confirmed, the idea of “loving everybody” from a comfortable commute didn’t seem to make much sense to the people of Church A. At least half of the families found homes in the new community and lived alongside the “everybodies” that God was sending them to “love.” One of the staff members was among those who left a comfortable house in the suburbs to move to the Packard community.

    Shortly after the move, a new staff member, was added for worship and community development. He had been taught that the three Rs of Christian community development were relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution. He quickly joined many of the other staff and elders in relocating to the new location. If Church A was to be the healing presence of Christ in this neighborhood, anchored in this new worship center, it would be so as a community of new neighbors sharing life as other neighbors saw and experienced it.

    Attachment 3

    Church B

    Church B, in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn had experience a severe decline by the late 1950’s. Originally a congregation of German immigrants, the character of the community had chanced. Increasingly Puerto Rican immigrants lived there along with many Jews. When the preacher arrived there, he knew he was ill-prepared for ministry among poor Puerto Rican immigrants. His first instinct was to seek permission to live in an apartment among them. His own sense of vocation was formed by reading about how God entered the human condition and in fact took up residence among the poor of Israel. That vocation has passed to the new congregation that formed and flourished. It is now a large vibrant Hispanic congregation. Their reason for being is to be “present with Christ in the Lord’s Supper and present with the poorest of the poor.”

    Church B’s understanding of its vocation is rooted in Philippians 2:5-11 – God leaving behind power and glory to take the form of a peasant in a land of poverty. Small group leaders meet together on Saturday mornings for reflection and discussion, where the focus of worship is the life-giving and life-saving sacrifice of Jesus. After their worship time they share lunch with a group of formerly homeless men who reside at a church facility. Obviously, this church seeks to be what it believes. It’s vocation is to be the living incarnation of Jesus Christ. In other words, they say, “We are Matthew 25.”

In Righteousness, Sorrow Often Accompanies Joy

Posted by on February 16, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

It is unlikely that any time of the year is more associated with joy than the Christmas season. The Christmas trees, lights, food, and gifts all declare joy. One of the most popular songs of the season declares, “There is no place like home for the holidays.”

Weeks are devoted to “peace on earth, good will toward men.” Churches talk ceaselessly about the wonders of God sending His son. Both talk and pageants include Mary, Joseph, the baby, the wise men, the angels, the shepherds, and even the animals-all declaring the joy of this wondrous event.

If one heard only what we say about Jesus’ birth, he/she might conclude it was all joy. That would be concluded only if he/she heard our version of the story and ignored all other sounds from Bethlehem.

The rage of a godless man is immune to the sounds of sorrow. Herod the Great was so insensitive, paranoid, and jealously protective of his position that he killed babies. When this crafty man angrily realized that the magi would not make it easy for him to pinpoint his opponent, he killed male infants two years of age and under. He took no chances!

He did not stop at Bethlehem! He also killed male infants in the surrounding area! Because of the insecurity of one adult, infants were killed! Do not talk to the grieving parents of Bethlehem about the joys of Jesus’ birth!

The sorrow and grief created by the loss of a child is unique! In that ancient world-without our modern medicines and procedures-the male infants survived nine months of pregnancy, birth, and perhaps several months of life. For what? Only to be torn from the arms of grieving parents to satisfy the cruelty of an insecure man!

Can you hear Bethlehem’s grief? Can you hear the sorrow created by the flash of a sword or the thrust of a spear as a family’s next generation needlessly disappeared?
In the words from Jeremiah 31:15 the author quoted this poignant statement:
“. . . she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.”

As often is the case, when God gives us a great moment of joy, Satan gives us a great moment of sorrow. Yet, Satan’s sorrow is never stronger than God’s joy! Never forget your joy is in the Lord-and keep your joy in the Lord!

The Christian Worldview (part 2)

Posted by on February 12, 2006 under Sermons

part 2

Acts 26:12-18 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'”

Last Sunday evening we focused on the question, “What is a worldview?” I tried in practical ways to illustrate what a worldview is. I stressed: (1) A worldview is the way we look at life and the way we look at death. (2) From that personal view we determine how to use life, the purpose of life, and what to expect after death. (3) Our view of the world is a significant factor in every decision we make from how to work to who to marry, from how to maintain a marriage to how to be a parent, from how to live to how to die.

This evening I want to focus on the Christian worldview. The point I wish to make is this: the way Christians look at the world and the way people who are not Christians look at the world is distinctly different.

The Christian worldview involves too many concepts to cover in a single lesson. I want to consider only four major considerations.

  1. The Christian accepts God as the source of life and the world.
    1. The role of God as the Creator is a basic truth in the Bible.
      1. The Bible begins with God (1) creating the world and creating us and (2) declaring all He created was good. (Genesis 1)
      2. Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 4:32:
        Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it?
      3. In a Psalm that called upon everything created to praise God, Psalms 148:5 says
        Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created.
      4. The prophet Isaiah wrote in speaking of God’s greatness:
        Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.
      5. Malachi called Israel to better conduct with these words:
        Malachi 2:10 Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?
      6. Paul wrote in 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.
      7. Paul also wrote in Ephesians 4:23, 24:
        … that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
      8. Paul wrote again in 1 Timothy 4:1-5:
        But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
      9. So strong is the connection between God and His creative acts that several times the Bible refers to God simply as the Creator.
    2. For a moment, consider a perspective:
      1. From chaos God created the world and life.
      2. From Adam and Eve’s failure, God created grace in God-human relationship.
      3. From the flood, God created a new beginning.
      4. From Abraham, God created Israel.
      5. From Israel, God created Jesus.
      6. From Jesus’ death and resurrection, God created the savior.
      7. From the savior, God created our salvation.
      8. From our salvation, God created a new “me.”
      9. From our physical deaths, God will create an eternal existence.
    3. While we look at God and see a Creator of good, the world does not believe in creation and blames God for the existence of evil.
      1. Those are two distinct worldviews.
      2. We will never share Jesus Christ with the world unless we understand the world does not look at God as we do.

  2. The Christian looks at the world through the concepts of a fall and a restoration.
    1. The Christian accepts these matters as fact:
      1. There was a period of time when there was no evil in human existence.
      2. The deception we know as “temptation” resulted in humans being deceived, willfully surrendering to evil, and thereby corrupting human life and God’s good creation.
      3. The Bible is basically about God’s efforts to reestablish relationship between Him and fallen humanity.
        1. The first two chapters of the Bible are about the period when there was no evil in our world.
        2. The third chapter of the Bible is about the deception that resulted in evil becoming a part of human life.
        3. The rest of the Bible (the huge bulk of it) is about God’s determined efforts to reestablish relationship between Himself and humanity.
    2. For just a moment, let me challenge you to cultivate an insight.
      1. God understood that the defeat of evil is accomplished through humility.
        1. Adam and Eve failed, and God humbled Himself.
        2. Noah failed, and God humbled Himself.
        3. Isaac and Jacob failed, and God humbled Himself.
        4. Israel failed in the wilderness, and God humbled Himself.
        5. Israel failed repeatedly as a nation, and God humbled Himself.
        6. God sent Jesus, and in doing so God humbled Himself.
        7. Jesus was rejected and crucified, and God humbled Himself.
        8. God forgives us, and to do so God humbles Himself.
      2. It should be no surprise to Christians that if we are to defeat evil in our lives, we also must humble ourselves. Consider just two scriptures:
        1. (Jesus to a Jewish audience in the sermon on the mount) Matthew 5:43-48–You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
        2. (Paul to Jewish and gentile Christians) Romans 12:17-21–Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    3. While the Christian looks at the world in the conviction that evil is defeated by doing good, most people in the world are convinced that evil will be defeated through acts of human justice.
      1. That is two distinctly different worldviews.
      2. We will never succeed in communicating Jesus Christ to the world unless we understand that mercy and not justice is the message of the gospel.

  3. The Christian understands that the purpose of life is, in the name of Christ, serving other people.
    1. I want to affirm this Christian view by citing three familiar scriptures.
      1. Jesus made this statement to his disciples in Matthew 20:25-28:
        But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
      2. Jesus also made this statement to his disciples in Matthew 10:24, 25:
        A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
      3. The third is a statement by Paul to the Christians at Ephesus in Ephesians 2:8-10:
        For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
    2. The Christian says, “The purpose of my life given to me by Christ Jesus is to serve others.”
      1. That is a very different worldview from the worldview held by many in this society or most in the majority of societies.
      2. We will never communicate Jesus Christ to the majority of people in our world if we do not understand we see life’s purpose quite differently.

  4. I want to make one brief comment on the fact that Christians look at death differently.
    1. There is a very different worldview in regard to death.
      1. The Christian sees death as (1) a matter of accountability on how one used physical life and (2) a beginning of the “good life” with God.
      2. The person who is not a Christian rejects the concept of accountability and thinks the “good life” can be experienced only in physical existence.
    2. If we do not understand that many look at death quite differently than do we, we will never communicate Jesus Christ to them.

  5. I want to end with two examples.
    1. The first is found in Ephesians 4:28:
      He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
      1. Two things jump out at me.
        1. First, some of those converted had been thieves.
        2. The converted were to stop being thieves and get a job.
        3. Second, the purpose of Christian wages was to be able to share with the one who has need.
      2. What a striking change in worldviews!
        1. What you have is not mine.
        2. What I have is yours.
    2. The second is very personal.
      1. Since my health problems were diagnosed, my life situation has changed significantly, and with time it will change more.
      2. Are there moments I struggle? Yes!
        1. There are very frustrating moments.
        2. There have been moments I stood on the edge of despair.
        3. There are moments when I come face to face with depression.
      3. Has my life changed in ways I never expected? Yes!
        1. I planned to retire from here, probably make Fort Smith my home, and do short mission efforts here and abroad if the money was available.
        2. I have spent a significant portion of my life working in small congregations here and in mission fields in other nations.
      4. “What do you plan to do now?”
        1. I have no idea.
        2. I just know my voice and my balance will not let me do what I planned to do.
    3. “Then why do you continue to do what you do?”
      1. Very briefly, I do what I do because of the Christian worldview.
      2. I have no idea how God will use what happens, but I have no doubt God will use it.

We desperately need this understanding in the church: No matter what happens in the world or in our individual lives, God can and will use it for good if we cooperate with Him.

Shaped by the Potter

Posted by on under Sermons

typical world mapupside down world mapStory of Jack Russell welding in the mag-cell plant. [An experienced welder on first encountering a work site within a powerful magnetic field cannot accomplish seemingly simple repair work by doing the job “by the book.”] What do you do when everything you know no longer works? What do you do when the world as you know it turns upside down?

What happened to Jack in the mag-cell plant is similar to the church’s experience in our culture. Some of us can remember when faith and Christian values were held in high esteem in our culture. Chick-Fil-A is regarded as exceptional for closing on Sundays, but there was a time when every store closed on Sunday. Some time ago evangelism and outreach were aided by a society that embraced religion in public life. Now faith is considered a private matter and the subject is rarely approached in public.

A worldview includes the presuppositions, beliefs, and values that shape how we see reality and determines how we will think and act. Our worldview is often shaped by our culture. Our culture is changing, and that means that worldviews are changing.

What do we do? Is the church threatened by a shift in culture? Should we be concerned or worried because worldviews are changing? Throughout the ages the church has survived and sometimes even thrived in cultures that were hostile to the Christian worldview or in cultures that had a plurality of worldviews. A good example is the city of Rome in the first century. How could the church in Rome live in a culture ingrained in idolatry, pluralism, and permissive morals? The apostle Paul writes to the churches in Rome saying … (Read Romans 12:1-2)

Regardless of the worldview of this age, the church is conformed to God’s will – not the pattern of this age. There is no age, culture, or worldview in any society that the church requires to live within God’s rule. In fact, a particular culture or worldview that we prefer or feel comfortable with might be more of a problem than one that is hostile to Christian faith. Why? Because we are tempted to conform to “the pattern of this age” rather than be transformed by the will of God. It is risky to be conformed to the pattern of this age because the pattern of the age will always be shifting and changing.

And that’s what is happening in our culture. We are transitioning between a modern and a postmodern worldview. The modern worldview is the result of the age of reason that followed the renaissance in western civilization. The universe and human existence were explained in rational and scientific terms. That doesn’t sound so odd to us, but at the time it was a major shift in worldview. The assumption in the modern age was that humanity would continue to progress and science and reason would usher in an enlightened utopian age. But as the 20th century rolled along and science and technology led to anything but utopia and enlightenment, people began to lose confidence in the modern worldview. So now we are entering into a new age. Now one is sure what the foundation of this new age really is. In fact the only thing we seem to know is that there isn’t a foundation. All we know is that it is after the modern, or postmodern. So here we are living in a culture that draws from both worldviews. As I have said before, it is like wearing eyeglasses that have two different lenses. Such a mixed perspective is sure to give us headaches!

We needn’t be forced to choose either the modern or postmodern worldview. The shift from one to the other is inevitable. It will not be stopped and there’s no reason to stop it. There is much that was good about the modern worldview, but much that was not good. There’s much to be concerned about with the postmodern worldview, but don’t assume that it is all bad – there’s much that is hopeful in it. Yet, neither of these is THE worldview that the church requires. We can thrive in either worldview is we are shaped by the gospel rather the culture or worldview. The church is transformed and renewed by the gospel and we are able to test and approve what God’s will is. We have new lenses that enable us to look with discernment on all worldviews and cultures. Paul was able to do this in Athens when he stood among idols and immorality and say, “Well, it seems that you folks are quite religious.” And out of that renewed and transformed outlook, Paul was able to participate in God’s mission to Athens. Like Paul, we too can live out God’s will within the worldview wherever we are. So let’s not be conformed to the pattern of this age or any other age, but let’s be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

We are clay jars that carry the treasure of the gospel. We are shaped by the potter. In the weeks ahead we are going to consider the patterns that are imprinted upon our life together by God. We should not think of these patterns as specific qualities that must be present in exactly the same way in every congregation and always as it was in every age. Rather, these are distinct patterns – they are recognizable, but they vary.

For instance, take a look at this pattern.
What is it?

And what is this one?

(Also plaid)
And what is this?

(Again plaid)

You recognize all three as plaid, but they look different.

In this image you see what?

(Clay jars)

You recognize them all as clay jars but they each look different. There is something basic about “jarness” that we recognize despite the variation. Conforming to a pattern is not the same thing as reproduction.
Applying this to our congregation we need to understand that our congregation will not look exactly like any other congregation, but there are basic characteristics that show how we are “transformed by God.” Not only will we not look like every other congregation, but over time this congregation will not always look the same – but that doesn’t mean we have deviated from God’s pattern. As the church we are always being renewed and transformed according to God’s will.

As long as we participate in God’s mission to the world, we are always a work in progress. We are being molded and shaped by the potter. Like every good artist, we recognize in God’s work certain patterns that identify us as his work. We will consider eight of these that have something to do with being faithful participants in God’s mission – in other words, these are patterns that show us to be missional. 1) Following God’s call; 2) being shaped by scripture; 3) contrasting against the culture as a different community; 4) living out God’s intent for the world; 5) worshipping God for the sake of the world; 6) Depending on God’s spirit; 7) pointing toward the kingdom; 8) shepherding leadership.

Yesterday, our shepherds gathered for a day of prayer and serious conversation. They didn’t do this to set out a grand agenda or make plans and set budgets. They did this to draw closer to God and one another. They believe, as we all should, that this congregation is not shaped by their personalities or agenda, but that it is shaped by God. They believe, as we all should, that God is active in our lives and our life together and we fills us with the treasure of the gospel. They believe, as we all should, that they need God every day. I am thankful that we have shepherds who humbly yet without apology turn to God and follow God’s call to serve others. I want to affirm that their lives are an example for all of us and we should not only lift them up, but we ought to follow their example and turn to the Lord, the potter, who shapes all of us and fills all of us with the gospel treasure.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 February 2006

Treasure in Clay Jars
Lesson One (alternative A) – Feb. 12, 2006
“Finding Our Way in the Story in Which We Find Ourselves”

Outcome Objectives

  1. Group will examine a Christian worldview that endures through every shift and change in cultural worldviews.
  2. Group will identify ways in which the revelation of God provides disciples of Jesus with a biblical worldview that is based on seeing the world the way God sees it.
  3. Group will distinguish the difference between a modern worldview and a post-modern worldview.
  4. Group will identify how influence and power were vested in Christendom from the fourth century through the twentieth century.
  5. Group will examine the tendency of congregations to entrench in a world of modernity rather than courageously take the gospel to the prevailing culture.

Opening Discussion
[Note: Rather than go over all these in detail, be selective in what discussions are most interesting and beneficial in your group. The opening discussion should only last for about one-quarter of your time together.]

  1. Observe that one’s worldview includes the presuppositions, beliefs, and values that shape how one see reality and determines how one will think and act, yet Scripture endures through every shift and change in cultural worldviews.
    • The apostle Paul addresses the importance of living in whatever worldview one finds oneself as disciples of Jesus, with a biblical worldview based on seeing the world as God sees it.
    • Christians are to test every worldview according to Romans 12:1-2, and to base their worldview in Christ (“the renewing of your mind”). Discussion question“Have you ever changed your mind? Give an example of a time you changed your mind about something and it influenced what you did thereafter.”
    • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom on humanity. Verse 31 instructs Christians to boast only in the Lord.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:16 declares a Christian worldview, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Through we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
  2. Observe that scripture provides disciples of Jesus with a biblical worldview. Naturally Christians live in the world, but we are not to be of the world. How are disciples of Jesus to exist in the world, remain true to God, but not isolate themselves from living out the gospel in the culture in which they find themselves?
  3. Historians describe four major worldviews: 1) classic, 2) middle-ages, 3)modern and 4) postmodern, which have formed worldviews throughout the history of humankind in Western Civilization. To investigate how contemporary Christians will live out the mission of God in the culture in which we find ourselves, it is important to review the two most recent worldviews: modern and postmodern
  4. Define a modern worldview by giving examples such as [note that a modern worldview isn’t really so “modern!”]:
    • The Enlightenment (18th century) ushered in a worldview of rational thought and reason. Education, knowledge, literacy, belief, progress and scientific reasoning replaced the irrationality, superstition, and tyranny of the middle ages.
    • The Restoration Movement began in the early 19th century firmly rooted in rationality, reasoning, and right beliefs. Early on, the movement invited all people to “come and reason together.” Since reason and science were seen as the ultimate absolutes, leaders of the Restoration Movement (Campbell, Lipscomb) made a case for a rational and reasonable basis for gospel and religion.
    • Churches of Christ that emerged from the Restoration Movement interacted successfully with the modern worldview in early America. They were successful on the American frontier, emphasized Bible study, biblical preaching, and scripture memorization. Rational thought, biblical literacy, and an emphasis of always going back to the Bible were the hallmarks of the movement. Compare this to the worldview of the “Founding Fathers” who worked to establish a reasonable and rational set of laws and constitutional government in America.
  5. Define a postmodern worldview by giving examples such as:
    • In the later part of the 20th century, philosophers and social scientists began to describe a worldview turning toward globalization, consumerism, fragmentation of authority, deconstruction, and relativism.
    • In the modern worldview science was seen as a means to a better future. After two world wars in the 20th century, science was seen as the potential means of destruction of the human race.
    • Some have described this worldview change by stating that “the golden dome of rationality” collapsed. No single canopy emerged to replace rationalism.
    • Postmodernism rejected any single absolute, such as reason. In a world of no absolutes, diversity, tolerance, and multiculturalism carry the day.
    • In postmodernism, nothing can claim to be totally absolute, but neither can anything be proven to be totally invalid. All claims are considered.
  6. Additional information to distinguish the difference between a modern worldview and a post-modern worldview is available on the attached chart (Attachment 1)
    • The important thing to remember is that King David enlisted the men of Issachar because they understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32) As the biblical passage notes, Christians live to the glory of God, and are charged with living out the mission of God in the culture, in the dominate worldview in which they find themselves.


  1. Identify the genesis of Christendom and provide a historical overview of Christendom from the 4th century through the 20th century.
    • Constantine the Great, Roman emperor in the 4th century, made Christianity the religion of the state, which before that time had suffered persecution.
    • Instead of martyrdom and persecution, Christians were welcomed into the center of power and influence. Cathedrals, positioned near the city center, provided clergy with a strong voice in political affairs and in all aspects of society.
    • The political kingdoms of the world were equated with the spiritual kingdom of God. This is the meaning of “Christendom.” So, the Roman Empire became known in time as the Holy Roman Empire. In time treaties drawn up in Europe established that the religion of a territory was determined by the religion of the ruler. For seventeen centuries (4th through the 20th), Christendom enjoyed authority and significance in Western thought.
    • America, founded in the dawn of the Enlightenment, in the 17th century, emphasized freedom of religion. Clergy provided an influential voice in schools, government, and commerce. Currency proclaimed “In God We Trust.”
    • As the worldview turned toward post-modernity in the late 20th century, Christendom’s voice weakened and society began to marginalize Christendom. Churches became one of many influences in society, no longer providing a sacred canopy over the state.
  2. Display the graphic found on Attachment 2, and invite the group to identify ways in which they observe Christendom being marginalized (pushed to the side) in the 21st century. Possible responses include banning prayer in schools, nativity scenes removed from Courthouse lawns, and the Ten Commandments removed from some public venues. How are these both a challenge and opportunity for the church?


  1. Congregations today may reflect characteristics of modernity more than post-modernity. For more than a quarter of a century, Churches of Christ have asked questions about our identity as a movement. This period may have served as a time of forging a new missional identity for our movement. The book of Exodus tells of the people of Israel serving as slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, and when freed by God through Moses, spent forty years wondering in the wilderness. Could it be that God was forging a new “identity” for his chosen people? Did he allow them to travel for years in the desert to rid themselves of their identity as slaves and take on a new identity of free people in the promised land? Could God have used the time to cause the people of Israel to claim the Spirit of God in living daily as his chosen people?
  2. Could it be that the cultural turning from a modern to a post-modern worldview during the past thirty or so years has forged a new missional identity for God’s people? Is our current state as failure and loss, or is the Spirit of God inviting us to rediscover a missional heart in unimagined and unexpected places.
  3. Consider this statement by author Alan Roxburgh: “One fears that in North America, rather than hearing this call of the Spirit to embrace and listen to the voice of God in a place of strangeness, the churches are continuing to work hard at rediscovering modes of existence and symbols of power that will move them back to an imaginary center. A return to a remembered Christendom or the old detent with modernity is impossible.”
    Alan J. Roxburgh, The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality, (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997).
  4. Roxburgh challenges readers with the observation that, “The only meaningful way forward lies in understanding and embracing our new position in the culture, in society. We must live with confusion and humiliation, as a hopeful people ready to discover the new things the Spirit will birth. The continued assumption of cultural symbols of power and success will only produce an inauthentic church with little gospel, much religion, and no mission.”
  5. Respond to Roxburgh’s claims about the current status of congregations in a postmodern world by answering the following questions:
    • Which of Roxburgh’s claims do you agree with?
    • Which of his claims do you disagree with or challenge?
    • In what ways is our congregation successfully taking the gospel to the post-modern culture?
    • Where do you see the Spirit of God leading us in regards to taking the gospel to this culture?

Attachment 1

Missional Church in Post-Modernity
“Understanding the Times”
I Chronicles 12:32

“… men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32) “… you can tell the weather by looking at the sky, but you are unable to read the signs of the times!” (Matthew 13:6)
Attachments compiled by David W. Wray, Abilene Christian University (2005)




Organizing Principle







Propositional/Right Answers (Absolutes)

Experiences/Story (Narrative)


Commitment to the truth of Scripture-nurture by church

Abstract concept, shaped by one’s own reality and understanding


A place where something happens (Provider of “goods and services”) “Build it and they will come”

Living the reign of God as a community of disciples prayerfully joining together for missions, ministry and worship


Sending of missionaries to distant lands

Missional lives being lived by all of us in our? families, marketplaces, in every context


Husband (father), wife (mother), marriage, children

Pluralistic lifestyles (same sex attraction, co-habitation, traditional family, etc.)

Christian Education- “Bible School”

Informational (literacy), formal classroom, curriculum, manuals (rationality primary)

Relational, narrative, non-formal (small groups, retreats, children’s musicals, Bible Time? Marketplace)

Spiritual Leadership

Administrators, Managers, Trustees, Protectors

Shepherds, Visionaries, Strategic, Missional, Authentic Lives,


Christendom, Center of Power and Influence

Post-Christian, Marginalized, Center moving to Africa, China


Centered in congregation, led by staff over each division

Every member a minister, living out practices of Jesus in all of life.

Spiritual Formation

Dependent on Sermons, Sunday School, home devotionals, Lectureships, and Christian society

Events (feasts, celebrations, fasts as in O.T.), relationships, and journeying together

Attachment 2

Who Is Weak?

Posted by on February 9, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

Numerous forms of the old joke about the army who shoots its wounded soldiers exist. The joke is funny only to those never wounded! For those wounded, the joke is cruel!

Some people who have spiritual wounds say of the church, “It shoots its wounded.” Who are the wounded? They are the weak. Who are the weak? That is a fascinating question!

First, weakness is a comparative term. If we compare two when one-in a specified consideration-is stronger than the other, one is weak and the other is strong. Take the weak one and compare him or her to someone who is weaker than he or she. Instantly he or she becomes strong and another becomes the weak person.

Second, none are always the strong. Someone always is stronger then “me.” However, the “eternal comparison” is never between two humans. It is always between Christ and us or God and us. In that comparison, we all are weak. If the church shoots its weak, we all will be shot.

Is it God’s objective to save or destroy us? Jesus’ cross is about saving people, not destroying people. Jesus’ resurrection is about hope, not about despair. The testimony is astounding! One in the Bible wrote, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16, 17). Another wrote, “For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died” (1 Corinthians 8:11). He also wrote, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy l:15). Still another wrote, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Arrogance arises from confidence in our strengths. Wisdom arises from acknowledgement of our weakness.

All of us are weak. Please do not shoot me when you see another weakness. Help me! Encourage me to move to greater strength! Do not be concerned about “protecting the church.” God capably does that. Concern yourself with reflecting God’s character in helping the weak. Invest as much in my salvation as God does!

The Christian Worldview (part 1)

Posted by on February 5, 2006 under Sermons

1 Kings 18:20-39 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.” So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”

Last week Joyce and I went to the movie, The End of the Spear, that one of our elders encouraged all of us to see. There are many memorable statements in the movie as it draws a distinct contrast between a very primitive, violent people and what you and I would consider to be very civilized people. Some of those statements were shared with us on a recent Wednesday night.

What I want to share with you is not a statement, but a situation. The movie reflects on at least three different ways to look at the world. (1) There is the view of the world held by the missionaries. (2) The view of the world held by civilized people who were not missionaries. (3) And there was the view of the world held by the primitive, violent people. All three views clashed with what most of us would consider horrible consequences.

(1) Because of their view of the world, the missionaries made an extraordinary effort to make contact with the primitive, violent people. (2) Because of their view of the world, the civilized people killed the primitive people in an attempt to produce self-protection. (3) Because of their view of the world, the primitive, violent people killed everyone–including their own people–because they were convinced the way to be strong after death was to kill people in this life.

(1) The missionaries’ view of the world was huge including not only this physical earth but another world that exists after death. (2) The civilized people’s view of the world was limited primarily to what was good for the Amazon basin. (3) The primitive, violent people’s view of the world was limited to existence in the rain forest.

(1) The missionaries view of the world declared there was more to life than physical survival. (2) The civilized people’s view of the world was basically restricted to physical survival. (3) The primitive, violent people’s view of the world was becoming strong enough to “jump the great boa” when they were killed.

About two years ago the elders announced five goals for us to adopt as a congregation. The fifth of those five goals was this: “To proclaim a biblical worldview that is obedient to Christ.”

This evening I want to ask and seek to answer the question: “What is a worldview?” All of us have one. Likely most of us do not even recognize it. How would you answer the question, “What is your worldview?” Some of us might even declare we do not have a worldview because we do not know what it is. Yet, whether we know what it is or not, we all have one.

  1. What is a “worldview”?
    1. Basically a worldview is the way a person explains physical life and explains physical death.
      1. The understanding produced by the person’s worldview affects everything we do, everything we are, and every goal we personally have.
      2. All these things are powerfully influenced by our personal worldview:
        1. How should parents raise their children?
        2. At what age should a person stop being considered a child and start being considered an adult? Is this decision behavior based or age based?
        3. As an adult, do you have the “right” to defy authority and the “right” to violate law?
        4. What is the purpose of marriage?
        5. What is the purpose of divorce?
        6. Why do we work?
        7. Why should people help people?
        8. What people should receive help?
      3. Attitudes toward intoxication, attitudes toward pleasure, attitudes toward every aspect of sexual activity, value systems, basic definitions of right and wrong, and the basic concept of truthfulness are all determined by an individual on the basis of his or her worldview.
    2. Let me give you some examples of the worldview of a person and its power.
      1. In the early 70s Joyce, our children, and I lived for four years in a West African country.
        1. Where we lived, it was rude to greet a person through a screen door.
          1. We lived four degrees from the equator just above sea level, so it was hot all the time.
          2. All our windows were open all the time.
          3. Our door was open all day long.
          4. Most of the hours of the day, you could see into or through our house.
          5. Yet, if anyone walked up on our porch and we did not open the screen door and shake his/her hand, we were insultingly rude.
        2. We were supposed to greet everyone we saw by asking, “You de well for skin?” or, “Are you healthy today?”
          1. Even before you started preaching, you asked the congregation that question and they answered aloud.
          2. Once while we were at a night meeting of the missionaries, my office was robbed.
          3. The thief or thieves went through tripple locks to the exact file in which I had some cash to use to help an arriving missionary family.
          4. The next morning in great concern I went to the police station as soon as it opened to report the robbery.
          5. The police were very upset with me and threatened to arrest me.
          6. The primary problem: I forgot to greet them properly and therefore I was rude to them.
          7. Worldviews were clashing: I was concerned about the robbery; they were concerned about respect.
      2. Let me give you an illustration from Russia in the early 1990s.
        1. I have a huge pet peeve personally about being late to an appointment–and if we are not thirty minutes early, we are late–ask Joyce!
        2. An institute in Kaliningrad invited me to come talk to their English students.
          1. I could speak about anything I wished, including religion, as long as I did not “evangelize and proselyze” in my speaking.
          2. I had to speak in English–a translator would be provided to be sure the students understood me, but I had to speak in English.
        3. On one occasion, we were very late to speak to the students, and it was obvious to me that we would be at least thirty minutes late.
          1. My professor host said, “Do not worry! It is okay! They are students. It is their job to wait.”
          2. “They will be there when you come;” and they were.
          3. Contrast that with a student who told her professor at registration at the University of Mississippi that she would not be attending his morning class because “I am not a morning person.”
        4. See the pronounced difference in worldviews and the way in which worldviews affected behavior?
          1. One said, “I am owed no consideration.”
          2. One said, “In my world, the most important thing is me.”
      3. You do not have to travel outside Fort Smith to see the effects of different worldviews.
        1. How many of you parents have children who use words and concepts in their vocabulary you cannot even define?
        2. How many different concepts of work ethic exist in this community?
        3. How many different concepts of leadership exist in this congregation?
        4. If two people of radically different backgrounds marry right here in Fort Smith, what is likely to happen?

  2. A difference in worldview is obvious many times in the Bible.
    1. Consider the reading heard earlier.
      [Briefly tell the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel.]
    2. Consider the difference between Elijah’s and the prophets’ of Baal concept of deity.
      1. The prophets of Baal thought there were many god who lived as families; Elijah declared there was one God.
      2. The prophets of Baal thought it was acceptable to worship all gods; Elijah declared it was acceptable to worship only the one God.
      3. The prophets of Baal thought the gods were far away; Elijah knew God was near.
      4. The prophets of Baal thought you had to get an unconcerned diety’s attention; Elijah knew God was near.
      5. The prophets of Baal thought the gods were basically unconcerned about human affairs; Elijah knew God always was concerned about human affairs.
    3. Please note the behavior of both was determined by how they looked at things.
      1. Their worldview determined how they acted.
      2. Their worldview determined what they did.

Your worldview is a significant factor in your choices. If you are going to change how you live, you need to start by changing the way you look at the world.