For thirty seconds I want you to dismiss the fact that you are sitting in a church building. For thirty seconds I want you to forget that you are supposed to give "church answers." Can you do that? Can you be honest with yourself for thirty seconds? Can you answer this question as you would while sitting at home?

Give me thirty seconds of honesty with yourself and answer this question: what do you believe in? Nothing is not an honest answer. Everybody believes in something. Do not tell me what other people believe in. Quietly, in your own mind and heart, tell me tell me honestly what you believe in.

Let me ask the question in another way. Do you believe in anything bigger than you? Do you believe in anything bigger than your feelings? Your wants? Your desires? Your priorities? Your personal convictions?

Or, what is supreme in your life? When you absolutely must make hard a choice, what consistently comes out on top? You? Your feelings? Your wants? Your desires? What is important to you? In hard decisions, what consistently is the deciding factor?

  1. May I share with you what I personally believe?
    1. These factors lie at the foundation of my hard decisions.
      1. I believe that God is the origin of life.
        1. I do not know how He made the world.
        2. I do not know why He made the world.
        3. I do not understanding why He made humans the unique life form that they are.
        4. But I accept as fact that life came from God; God is the origin of the person.
        5. My existence is not the product of accident, chance, and time; I exist by the design and power of God.
      2. I believe that God talked to, guided, and made the world's key promise to Abraham.
        1. I believe that God was able to work through Abraham because Abraham trusted God's promises.
        2. I believe that Abraham lived as a nomad in the land of Canaan because he followed the specific direction of God.
        3. I believe that Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah by an act of God to fulfill God's promise.
      3. I believe that God made the nation of Israel from the descendants of Abraham.
        1. I believe that God began with one couple, one child, and two grandchildren and produced a nation.
        2. I believe that God intended that nation to live by the same faith that produced the same dependence on God that Abraham had.
        3. I believe that God gave that nation specific reasons to trust His promises.
      4. I believe that God brought Jesus into our world through the nation of Israel.
        1. I believe that was God's specific intent and purpose before Abraham lived.
        2. I believe Jesus came to reveal the purpose and intent of God for people.
        3. I do not believe that Jesus was an accident or a convenient opportunity.
      5. I believe that Jesus is the Christ.
        1. I believe that he was executed by people and was resurrected by God.
        2. I believe that he gave his life and his blood for our atonement and was raised from the dead to become the Savior of all people.
      6. I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.
        1. As Lord, I believe that he has the power to destroy the sin of any individual through his forgiveness.
        2. As Lord, I believe that he has the power to sustain the forgiven through his the grace and mercy by continuing forgiveness.
        3. As Lord, I believe that he can and will enable forgiven people to stand before God unafraid in the judgment.
    2. Now, permit me to share with you what I know: I know I am going to die.
      1. "Oh, David, how morbid can you get!"
        1. Accepting a fact that I cannot alter is not morbid.
        2. I cannot appreciate what God did for me, does for me, and will do for me in Christ if I do not accept the fact that I will die.
      2. Death is a fact.
        1. Everyone born dies.
        2. Have you personally ever known an exception?
        3. Do you actually think that you will be that exception?
    3. Americans are a strange people.
      1. We do everything we can to remove ourselves from the reality of death.
        1. For example, I grew up on a farm and like many, many Americans we grew, killed, and preserved our meat.
        2. Today meat comes from the grocery store and does not involve death.
        3. Another example, our hospitals, as much as possible, separate the living from the dying.
        4. There was a time when death was a family experience.
      2. At the same time, Americans are enthralled by violence.
        1. Violence is a major part of American entertainment.
        2. We enjoy violent sports.
        3. One formula for making a movie financially successful is to include graphic violence in the plot.
        4. Many successful television series must include at least occasional violence.
        5. Many of the most successful video games are based on violence.
      3. We want to remove ourselves from the reality of death, and yet we want to be entertained by simulated death.
        1. We do not wish to deal with the fact that we will die.
        2. Yet, we want to be entertained by simulated violence and death.

  2. What I believe and what I know makes me confront a necessary choice, and I must make a decision, in fact I will make a decision--and so will you. The choice:
    1. I will decide that this life is it and indulge myself.
      1. I will make me supreme.
        1. I will make my feeling supreme.
        2. I will make my desires supreme.
        3. I will make my preferences supreme.
        4. I will make my priorities supreme.
      2. I will not allow anything to get in the way of the importance of "me."
        1. I will not let my marriage get in the way.
        2. I will not let my children get in the way.
        3. I will not let people get in the way.
        4. I will structure everything in my life around the importance of "me."
      3. And the older I get:
        1. The more selfish I become.
        2. The lonelier I become.
        3. The emptier my life becomes.
        4. The more afraid I become.
      4. And I will die.
    2. Or, I will decide that this life is not it, and the One I meet after this life is bigger than I am.
      1. I will understand that the purpose of life is to allow God to live in me, to change me, and to teach me how to treat people.
      2. There is a tremendous emphasis in the New Testament on the fact that belonging to Christ changes the way I treat people.
        1. Jesus placed enormous emphasis on:
          1. Forgiveness
          2. Mercy
          3. Kindness
          4. Compassion
          5. Humility
        2. We are told that love is a part of God's nature, and that the Christian who does not love cannot know God (1 John 4:8).
        3. We are told that the Christian who loves, lives in God and God lives in him or her ( 1 John 4:16).
      3. When I live in God, God lives in me.
        1. My marriage gets better because the person I married is important.
        2. I become a better parent because the people I brought into this world are important.
        3. I become a better person because people are important.
        4. I structure my life around my concern for people because my God teaches me how to love people.
      4. And the older I get:
        1. The more unselfish I become.
        2. The more purpose life has.
        3. The fuller life becomes.
        4. The less afraid I become.

  3. There are about 700 of us sitting together right now. If I asked you, "What is the purpose of the West-Ark Church of Christ?" what would you say?
    1. I am sure that we would give many different kinds of answers.
      1. There are many appropriate answers.
      2. There are also some highly questionable answers.
      3. I have no doubt that many of you would disagree with some of my answers and that I would disagree with some of your answers.
      4. And I understand that agreeing or disagreeing would not make any of our answers God's answers.
    2. Let me anticipate one answer that I disagree with: "The mission of the church is to preserve the Church of Christ."
      1. If we are truly a part of the church that God built on Jesus Christ, none of us individually nor all of us collectively could destroy it if we wanted to.
      2. God is still able.
      3. God who is the origin of life, who made a nation from Abraham, who sent his son through Israel to be Savior of the world, who resurrected Jesus to be Lord and Christ and head of the church is still able.
      4. God will preserve the church; we just need to be the church.
      5. Our decision is not how to preserve the church; our decision is how to serve God's purposes as the church.
      6. The Christian assists God by doing this: (1) we belong to God only, and (2) we allow God to teach us how to treat people as God wants us to treat people.
        1. If we do less than that, we oppose God.
        2. If we do more than that, we try to be God instead of serve God.

[Prayer: God, increase our faith in Your ability.]

In Luke 12 Jesus told a parable about a wealthy farmer who had an enormous harvest. His harvest was so big he did not know what to do with it. He made two decisions. He decided to build bigger barns. He decided that he would have enough to take care of him for many years, so he would live the good life and take it easy.

God called him a fool. He said, "Tonight you will die, then who will all this belong to?" Jesus said so it is with every person who uses wealth for himself and is not rich toward God.

What do you believe in? Is anything bigger than you? Is God still able?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 March 2000

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