Suppose we were eating together in a small group. Suppose someone began a discussion about what needed to happen in this congregation for it to reach its potential. Everyone in the group shares his or her thoughts on that subject. You also share your thoughts. What would you say?

What do you think would be the focus of that discussion? Would the focus be on how we need to respond to our culture? On how we should address problems in our society? On what we need to do to strengthen marriage? On what families and homes need to do to stabilize? On what ministries we need to develop? On the ways that we need to use our facilities?

What place would we give God in that discussion? Would any of the discussion focus on ways that we could depend more on God? Would we discuss the leadership role that we should give God? Would anyone dare suggest that we need to let God lead?

  1. "Get real, David! God doesn't..."
    1. God doesn't what?
      1. Finish your thought. God doesn't what?
        1. God does not act today?
        2. God cannot do anything today?
        3. So if we depend on God's leadership, nothing happens?
      2. Is the only way that God accomplishes anything is for us to do it?
        1. Do we really think that without us God is helpless?
        2. "If a job is to be done, we will have to do it."
        3. "If a problem is to be fixed, we will have to fix it."
        4. "If our lives are to have strength, we must be the source of the strength."
        5. "If we need answers, we will have to discover them within our own minds."
    2. What kind of God do you think exists?
      1. What kind of God do you believe in?
      2. Or do you believe in God?
        1. "Oh, yes, yes, I believe in God."
        2. Then tell me about the God you believe in.
    3. Let me talk to two groups, and both groups are sitting here.
      1. Group one, what kind of God do you believe in?
        1. "I believe in the God who created!"
        2. "I believe in the God who gave Isaac to the 100 year old Abraham!"
        3. "I believe in the God who delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery!"
        4. "I believe in the God who took Israel across the Red Sea on dry land, who sustained them in the wilderness, who gave them Canaan!"
        5. "I believe in the God who sent His son to be a human!"
        6. "I believe in the God who resurrected Jesus from the dead!"
        7. "I believe in the God who created the church in an extremely wicked world!"
      2. And what can that God do in our world, in our culture, and in our lives today?
        1. "Well, what ever we get done for him."
        2. How many people was God dependent on when He created?
        3. How many people was He dependent on when He gave Abraham Isaac?
        4. How many people was He dependent on when He rescued Israel?
        5. How many people was He dependent on when He raised Jesus from the dead?
        6. How many people was He dependent on when He established the church?
      3. We have great faith in the fact that God was powerful and active up through the first century AD, but we have little faith in the power and activity of God today.
      4. In fact we have swapped places with God: we have the power, and God serves us, so we think.
    4. Group two, what kind of God do you believe in?
      1. "I couldn't tell you anything about God because I don't know anything about God."
      2. "Now I can tell you all about the church."
        1. "I can tell you about proper doctrine."
        2. "I can tell you about proper practice."
        3. "I can tell you about true and false positions on doctrinal issues."
        4. "I can tell you who we should and who we should not fellowship."
        5. "I can tell you the work the church should not do and the work the church should do."
        6. "I can talk to you about anything you want to discuss if we talk about the church, but I cannot talk to you much about God."
      3. "But let's be real honest; it is not important to know that much about God."
        1. "The heart of true religion today is not about God."
        2. "The heart of true religion today is about the church."
        3. "Salvation is not about God; salvation is about the church."
        4. "Salvation involves Christ more than it does God, but it only involves what Christ did, not what Christ does."

  2. In either case we create a very human church and a very human Christianity.
    1. The end result in both groups is the same.
      1. God does not do anything today.
      2. It is all up to us.
      3. So let's not waste a lot of time in prayer.
        1. Pray the acceptable, standard prayer at the acceptable, standard times in acceptable, standard worship.
        2. Now we should really get upset if we do not pray.
        3. But we should also get upset if we pray too much.
        4. Give God a little prayer and He is content; just throw Him a spiritual bone.
    2. What if we placed God and Jesus Christ front and center?
      1. What if we had a group who believed in God's power and the power of prayer who spent time together every Sunday morning praying for the Bible classes and the sermon? Think anything would happen? Or would that be a waster of time?
      2. What if on Wednesday nights we had the elders stand at each side of the auditorium with the invitation that anyone could pray with them about anything on his or her heart. The elders would find a private place to pray with them. Think anything would happen? Or would that be a waste of time?
      3. What if, instead of reading names off a list and giving a generic prayer to ask God to help the sick and comfort the grieved, we had a group to pray for those people by name and by situation? Think anything would happen? Or would that be a waste of time?
    3. "Whoa! Now wait a minute, David! We DO NOT believe ..."
      1. We do not believe what?
      2. We do not believe that the God who created heaven and earth and raised Jesus from the death is capable of independent action?

  3. Brothers and sisters, maybe the reason that we have not reached our potential is because we have no faith in God.
    1. Maybe we think that God depends on us instead of us depending on Him.
    2. Maybe we don't pray as we should because we don't think God can do anything.
    3. Maybe we place our faith in an institution we call the church instead of the God who sent the Savior and created the church.
    4. Maybe we have built a religion that does not require faith.
      1. Faith in God is secondary; faith in us is primary.
      2. Faith in Jesus is restricted to facts.
      3. Faith in the church as an institution is critical.
      4. Success in the church depends on us, not on God.
      5. It is human wisdom, and human leadership, and human energy, and human logic, and human effort that get the job done. Humans, not God, get the job done.

When Paul spoke to a group in Athens who literally knew nothing about God or Jesus, Paul began his lesson with God. This is what he said:
Acts 17:24-28 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'

James, in speaking to Christians who were more like us than we wish to admit, said this,
James 4:1-4 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The God who created the world, who sent the Savior, who resurrected him from the dead, who created the church is active today. He will still be at work long after everyone of us is dead. His existence is not dependent on us. Our existence is very much dependent on Him. When your faith is in God, Christ becomes the center of your life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 January 2000

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