"I'm a teenager. I am surrounded by teens who cheat, or lie, or drink, or experiment with drugs, or are sexually active. I feel enormous stress and pressure, and I feel very alone. Sometimes I think my parents don't have a clue about my everyday world. Can Jesus really help me?"

"I'm a single adult. I have been out of college for two years. I am now working in my third job. I learned fast that you cannot depend on people's promises. My parents divorced, and marriage scares me. It is so hard to meet anyone that you can really trust. I desperately need to make some decisions about who I am and where I am going. Can Jesus really help me?"

"I married about a year ago. I had no idea that marriage could be so hard. There are so many adjustments, and money is always a problem. There are good days, but there are more days that I wish I had not married. Can Jesus really help me?"

"I'm married, and we have kids--one is l5, one is 8, and our surprise is 4. I never knew life could be so complicated. There is never enough time. Our family seems to move from crisis to crisis. I do not think one person in our family is happy. I do not allow myself think about the next ten years--that scares me to death! Can Jesus really help me?"

"My career crashed and I have to start over." "I am divorced." "I'm a single parent." "I am a widow." "I have cancer." Can Jesus really help us?

  1. In the first four books of the New Testament, how would the Pharisees answer the question, "Can Jesus really help us?
    1. "You are asking the wrong question! "
      1. "Being religious is not about God helping you."
      2. "Being religious is about you serving God."
      3. "Being religious is about:
        1. "Doing what you are supposed to do."
        2. "And doing it in exactly the right way."
        3. "And doing all that you are supposed to do."
      4. "If you want God to accept you, there is only one question to ask and answer."
        1. "This is the question: 'Am I doing all that God wants me to do in exactly the way that God wants me to do it?'"
        2. "That is all that matters to God."
        3. "The question is never about you; the question is about what you do."
    2. "And, whatever you do, do NOT let Jesus answer your question!"
      1. "Jesus ate with the tax collectors, and they were dishonest people. That is bad for God's image!"
      2. "Jesus had close, personal association with sinners, with people that the whole community knew were ungodly. That gives people the wrong idea about religion!"
      3. "On the Sabbath day Jesus let his disciples strip raw grain off unharvested stalks and eat it. That was an act of work, and that violated the Sabbath!"
      4. "Jesus let his disciples eat their meals without practicing the religious ceremony of washing their hands. That violated long accepted tradition!"
      5. "Jesus told the most undesirable people you can imagine, 'Your sins are forgiven.' That is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!"
      6. "Jesus showed compassion to prostitutes. A person who belongs to God simply cannot do that! Prostitution was her choice! Her suffering was her fault! If she suffered, God was punishing her!"
      7. "Jesus healed the blind, the crippled, the lepers, the demon possessed--all the people that God was punishing for being evil. He did not understand that he was interfering with God's justice."
      8. "When you ask Jesus for help, you violate the whole purpose for being religious!"

  2. Let's ask Jesus. "Jesus, what do you say? Can you help?"
    1. Consider Jesus' answer in Matthew 11.
      1. Context:
        1. John the baptizer was in prison and obviously could not preach and baptize.
        2. From prison he sent some disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus was the person God wanted John to introduce to Israel.
        3. Jesus answered him by quoting a prophesy from Isaiah 35 that declared what would happen when God's salvation came: the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
        4. Then Jesus told the multitude that no one ever born was greater than John, but the most insignificant person in the kingdom of heaven would be greater than John.
        5. Jesus then condemned the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum and declared that if the city of Sodom had seen and heard what they saw and heard, Sodom would have repented.
      2. At the end of the chapter, Jesus issued this invitation:
        Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
        1. Can Jesus help? Yes!
    2. Consider Jesus' answer in Luke 5:27-32.
      1. Context:
        1. Jesus invited Levi, a tax collector, to be one of his followers.
        2. Levi immediately left his job and followed Jesus.
        3. He gave a big banquet in his house, and a huge number of tax collectors came the to banquet.
      2. The Pharisees and the scribes who worked with the Pharisees complained to Jesus' disciples.
        1. They wanted to know why Jesus and the disciples ate with tax collectors and sinners.
        2. If Jesus and his disciples were doing God's work, why were they associating with such ungodly, undesirable people?
      3. Jesus answered their complaint.
        Luke 5:31,32 And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
      4. Can Jesus help? Yes!
    3. Consider Jesus' answer in Matthew 23.
      1. Context:
        1. Jerusalem's religious leaders made every attempt to discredit Jesus during the last week of his life.
        2. The Pharisees followed and verbally attacked Jesus most of his ministry.
        3. Jesus, knowing his death was close, renounced the Pharisees.
        4. Commonly, when the Pharisees attacked him, Jesus tried to teach them, but now he renounced them.
      2. Jesus' renunciation is most insightful and very revealing.
        1. He stated that they were experts in the scriptures and taught God's instructions correctly when they taught scripture (verses 1,2).
        2. But, Jesus cautioned, whatever you do, never follow their example because they refuse to live by their teachings (verse 2).
        3. Their emphasis increased the hardships of others (verse 3)
        4. They used religion to gain position and honor for themselves (verses 4-6).
        5. They deliberately blinded people to God's work (verse 13).
        6. They took advantage of helpless people and thought long prayers made up for it (verse 14).
        7. They went to extreme measures to convert people, but their emphasis made converts twice as evil (verse 15).
        8. They were spiritually blind; the things they emphasized were not the things God emphasized (verses 16-22).
        9. They were very strict in keeping small details, but they showed little concern for the important matters that God stressed (verses 23,24).
        10. They were very concerned about appearance (how things looked), but they had no concern about how their hearts looked to God (verses 27,28).
        11. They condemned their ancestors for refusing to listen to God's voice, and then they refused to listen to God (verse 29-36).
      3. Listen to Jesus' grief because these religious experts misunderstood God, His concerns, and His emphasis.
        Matthew 23:37-39 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' "

Monday night Jim Boatright made an excellent point: the world has changed, but the need for Jesus has not changed. Tuesday night David Banks declared Christians need a restoration of their hearts. There was a time in the last fifty years when people were interested in what we had to say. But not any more. There was a time in the last fifty years, in the South, that we could say, "Y'all come!" and people came. But not any more. There was a time in the last fifty years that being a Christian was considered a plus by people who were not religious. But not any more.

Why? There are a lot of reasons. But two should shake us to our souls. People today do not trust organized religion. That means they don't trust churches. That means they don't trust us. Why? (1) We have not allowed Jesus to make us good people who bless and encourage other people. (2) We have used the words of Jesus and Peter and Paul to hurt people, not to help people.

I do not want to forget some of the people I have studied with. Let me introduce you to two ladies from years ago. One tried to destroy herself. She was used in so many ways by so many people she did not trust anyone. We began some special classes on a weekday night for people who wanted recovery. She wanted to come. About 30 minutes before the first class a friend told me she was standing outside crying and shaking. I went out to ask her what was wrong. She wanted to come in, but she could not open the door and walk in. In the past she had some horrible experiences with churches. Church buildings were where you went to be hurt.

As a child, the other lady was an abuse and incest victim. By age ten, she was an alcoholic. Her father thought it was funny to watch a drunk child. But, he insisted that she go to church. One day she and a Sunday school classmate were talking to each other after class. Her teacher rushed up, grabbed her daughter, and said, "I told you not to talk to people like her." That devastated her. From that day forward she was terrified of God, of people who called themselves Christians, and of churches.

Christ's kingdom will never die. The gospel will never die. Jesus will never stop being the powerful Savior of the world. But, if we do not get out of our isolation, if we do not work with Jesus to help hurting people, we will die.

Jesus came to save sinners, not to destroy them. Jesus came to forgive sinners, not to increase their guilt. Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless, not to bury them.

We have fought the wrong war. People are not the enemy; Satan is the enemy. The objective is to oppose evil, not to oppose people who are the victims of evil. God destroys sin through forgiveness, not by destroying people.

If we continue to fight the wrong war, we will die. Why? Because our war is not Jesus' war.

Until people see Jesus making us better people, better neighbors, better husbands and wives, and better parents, they will not care what we believe.

Jesus has always been relevant to the real world and real life. We cannot believe how many people will come to Jesus when they understand that Jesus can help.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Wednesday Evening Sermon, 26 April 2000

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell