WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS?
In the late 1980s, a national research institute gathered information on Americans
and American evangelical Christian groups (religious people who actively try to convert
people to Jesus Christ). Based on that research, a book was published that predicted
what would occur in our society by the year 2000. Consider some of the predicted
- We would be more self-centered, materialistic, and driven to play (p. 25).
- We would be too selfish to make hard commitments and sacrifices to preserve
relationships (p. 25).
- Loyalty to institutions would go into serious decline. We would not presume any
institution was credible. Every institution would have to reprove itself constantly (p. 25).
- Commitment would be out because commitment was not regarded to be in our personal
best interest (p. 33, emphasis mine).
- We would be a deeply skeptical people (p. 36).
- Instead of accepting limitations on our lifestyles, we would rewrite the rules (p. 37).
- A decline in interaction among people would make it more difficult to make friends (p.
- The religious attentiveness of adults would decline (p. 112).
- The momentum would be against integrating spiritual belief with daily behavior (p. 111).
- While 4 in 5 Americans described themselves as Christians, only 1 in 5 would say that
being a Christian means having a personal relationship with Christ (p. 113).
- The primary goal of life is to be happy (p. 156), but most Americans doubt that they will
find enduring happiness (p. 158).
The research was gathered by the Barna Research Group and published in a
book with the title, Frog in the Kettle: What Christians Need to Know About Life in the
Year 2000. The book was published in 1990. As we stand about 10 months from the
year 2000, do any of those things characterize our society?
- I challenge you to consider where we are in 1999. Five widely accepted "facts
of life" are accepted by the majority of Americans as "truth."
- Accepted "truth" # 1: Absolute truth does not exist.
- Nothing is always right in every situation and in every circumstance.
- Nothing is always wrong in every situation and in every circumstance.
- Because absolute truth does not exist, something may be right for me and
wrong for you.
- And, something that may be wrong for me may be right for you.
- Therefore, you and I can do totally opposite things and both be right; I did what
is right for me and you did what is right for you.
- Accepted "truth" # 2: unless my behavior hurts or destroys someone else, I should
not be condemned for anything.
- If I believe it is right for me, it is right.
- Every person has the right to decide what is right for him or her.
- No one is to be condemned for making that personal decision.
- Every person has the right to live his or her life as that person chooses.
- As long as two persons act with consent, what they do is right.
- Anyone who condemns your behavior is wrong; what you do is your business
and no one else's.
- Accepted "truth" # 3: a person is to be judged only on the basis of performance.
- If you do your job well, produce good results, and earn your salary, that is all
that matters; that is the only legitimate concern of your employer.
- Your lifestyle is not a part of your work performance.
- An employer has no right to be concerned about anything but job performance.
- What you choose to do with your private life, or how you choose to use your
private life is no one else's business.
- Accepted "truth" # 4: The concept of repentance is an invalid concept.
- The basic concept of repentance is a redirection of life that results in a
complete change of life.
- That concept is false.
- You are what you are.
- Your responsibility is to accept what you are, not to change what you are.
- You did not choose the genes that determined who you are.
- You did not decide the family in which you were born.
- You did not choose your mother and father's relationship.
- You did not choose to be neglected or rejected by your parents.
- It was not your choice for your parents to fight, or to divorce, or to remarry,
or to be single parents.
- All of those things are powerful, determining factors in who you became.
- No one has the responsibility to repent; everyone has the responsibility to be
himself or herself.
- Accepted "truth" # 5: The greatest single wrong is to refuse to protect a friend.
- A friend is someone who accepts you for who you are without judging or
condemning what you have done or are doing.
- All that matters to a friend is right now.
- A friend honors your right to be or do anything you want to be or do.
- In an age of no absolute truth there is one absolute responsibility a friend
never betrays a friend, never!
- Whatever my friend decides, I must honor his or her decision.
- Whatever my friend does, I must hide his or her secret.
- There is no worse evil than a friend betraying a friend.
- May I make some "right now" predictions about the 650 or more of us who are
here this morning?
- About 35% of you think I have lost my mind.
- You think all five of these accepted "truths" as too preposterous to be given
- You are certain that virtually no one thinks that way.
- You think I am wasting precious pulpit time to even mention them.
- Have you talked to your family recently? More importantly, have you listened to
your family lately?
- At least 35% of you know exactly what I am talking about because that is what you
believe, that is what your friends believe, and that is how you determine your
- Anyone who does not believe those five "truths" is living in the dark ages.
- Those "truths" deal with reality and the real world.
- You are amazed that only 35 or 40% of those present believe those "truths."
- Up to 30% of you realize enough to know too many people may believe these
"truths," but that makes you very uncomfortable, so you prefer not to think about it
unless you just have too.
- You really don't want to know how many people think that way.
- You just pray that no one in your family thinks that way.
- But you do not plan to ask because you really just don't want to know.
- The first captives of Judah were marched as prisoners of war hundreds of
miles to the land of Babylon.
- The adults knew that they would die in this strange land.
- There was no chance for the situation to change and let them go home.
- They could not worship God in the way that He clearly commanded.
- Without the temple, the priests could not function.
- Everything was hopeless; they were a dead nation.
- Ezekiel was a prophet in that same exile, and God him gave a message.
- Most of his message declared things would get worse.
- The wicked of Judah were worse than Sodom and Gomorrah; they would
not be spared.
- Their beloved city of Jerusalem would be destroyed with a great slaughter.
- Babylon was doing to Judah what God wanted done to Judah.
- Then Ezekiel declared that this horrible situation was not hopeless.
- In the future God would restore and bless the Nation.
- Ezekiel 37 was a vision of hope given because their God was gracious.
- God placed Ezekiel in the middle of a valley filled with the dry bones of human
skeletons--a huge valley that was a huge human bone pile.
- God asked, "Ezekiel, can these bones live?"
- Ezekiel said, "God, you know."
- Then God put the bones together, formed bodies upon the bones, put life in
the bodies, and they became a huge army.
Ezekiel 37:11-14 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of
Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are
completely cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God,
"Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My
people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord,
when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My
people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on
your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it," declares
the Lord.' "
(The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
- Listen to everything you hear all around you.
- The economy is great, prosperity is great, material contentment is great, things
are better than they have ever been.
- There is no connection between the spiritual, the moral, and the good life.
- Let's stop obsessing with meaningless moral questions and get on with
addressing the real needs of the nation.
- And everywhere I look, I see bones; not corpses; bones.
- I look at teenagers and see the bones of those who believe the lie and sell their
souls before they know what their soul is.
- I see the piles of bones hidden behind cardboard marriages.
- I see bones of children, men, and women devastated by failed marriages.
- I see the bones of people who flushed life by chasing pleasure.
- I see the bones of Christians who have divorced faith from every day life.
- And I hear God ask us, "Will these bones live again?"
- And I hear God say, "They can if they allow me to give them life."
- "And when I restore your life, finally you will understand that I am God, and life
begins and ends in Me."
What we worry about in the church amazes me. We worry about baptism. And as
I look at the baptized, I see too many bone piles. We worry about the existence of the
church. But as I look within the church, I see too many bone piles.
We can be as deceived as was Judah. They thought as long as they had the
temple and the priests, everything was A-OK. We think as long as people are baptized
and do church, everything is A-OK. Just as Judah became a valley of dry bones, the
church is becoming a valley of dry bones.
I earnestly want you to be baptized into Christ because you place faith in the God
of life, because you surrender to the Savior of life, because you are converted to Christ
and freely give God your life to use for Christ.
Because we are converted, because we live for God, I want us to be the church
Jesus died to create.
If your life has become a pile of dry bones, God can make you live again. God can
resurrect your life in Jesus Christ right now.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 February 1999
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