This morning please consider a powerful Bible truth emphasized in both the Old and New Testaments. This truth is clearly taught, but it is not easily shared. To make the point as clear as I can, I want to use my Dad to create an illustration.

When I was a child my Dad was called "Chad" (short for "Chadwell"). I was Chad's oldest living son. At times when I was with Chad, someone said, "That is Chad's son." What does, "That is Chad's son," mean? It can mean three things.

First, it can be a simple statement of identification. "Chad has a boy with him. That boy is his son. That is Chad's son."

Second, it can be a statement that explains the unusual. Suppose Chad has some strange peculiarities, some weird habits. People who know Chad understand he has some weird ways. As Chad's son, I adopted some of his weird ways. So when I leave a group of adults after behaving strangely, someone who knows Chad explains, "That is Chad's son." Everyone who knows exactly what he means.

Third, it can be a compliment that explains wonderful qualities. Suppose Chad has some outstanding inner qualities. If you are around him, those qualities are obvious. He has a life focus, a spirit, an attitude, and a heart that are impressive. It is impossible to be around Chad and not see those genuine qualities. When you are around his son, you see the same qualities. So as a honest compliment, people say, "He is Chad's son," meaning the boy reflects his Dad's inner qualities.

Obviously, every man who is lovingly serious about being a father wants the third usage to be true. He wants the statement to be a declaration of good inner qualities rather than an explanation of weirdness.

  1. Jesus explained to a large audience of Jews that the purpose of being religious is reflecting God's wonderful qualities.
    1. Jesus said his disciples are religious for two reasons.
      1. The first: they are a part of God's family, His children.
      2. The second: as children they want to reflect God's wonderful qualities.
    2. In Matthew 5:9 as Jesus gave this audience the beatitudes, he made this statement:
      Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
      1. One of God's greatest desires in reaching out to people is to make peace.
        1. God sent Jesus into this world to make peace.
        2. One objective of Jesus' ministry was to create the opportunity for peace with God for people who desperately needed to make peace with God.
        3. Jesus' death on the cross made peace possible between God and people.
          1. John recorded this statement Jesus made to Nicodemus:
            John 3:17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
          2. God finds no pleasure, no joy in any person being alienated from Him.
          3. God finds pleasure and joy in each person who is at peace with Him.
      2. All of us as Christians need to understand that God's mercy, grace, and forgiveness are certain evidences of God's enormous desire for peace with us.
      3. God's children are peacemakers because they reflect God's desire for peace.
    3. In Matthew 5:44-45 in the same sermon to the same audience, Jesus made this statement:
      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.
      1. Why would Jesus' disciple want God to teach him or her how to love an enemy?
      2. Jesus explained his disciples would want to do so because that is what God does.
      3. Only God loves his enemies.
      4. Jesus' disciples want to reflect God, so it is never enough just to be religious, just to be faithful to their religious system.
        1. They want to reflect God in all of His goodness.
        2. If they reflect God's goodness, they will love their enemies.

          [An Elder leads a prayer asking God to open our hearts to His heart.
          A songleader leads # 484, "You Are My All in All"]

    4. Please let me focus your understanding on the Matthew 5 audience to whom Jesus made those statements.
      1. Most of the people in that audience were absolutely certain that they were God's children.
        1. They were convinced that they alone were God's children.
        2. It was impossible for any other people on earth to be God's people like they were.
        3. So they were convinced that no other people on earth could possibly be God's children.
        4. They were the descendants of Abraham through Isaac.
          1. They were the living fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
          2. They were the people and the nation that God promised Abraham.
      2. For a long time Israel was taught that being God's children was a matter of biology and a matter of correct procedures.
        1. The biology part was having Abraham as an ancestor.
        2. The correct procedure part was following all the correct religious rules and regulations that governed Israel.
          1. They made a check list of all their responsibilities.
          2. When they could check things off the list, they were faithfully religious.
          3. When they could not, they invited God's wrath.
          4. If they just did the right things in the right way, they were religiously okay.
          5. Just be faithful to the approved check list!
        3. They composed an elaborate check list from Old Testament commandments.
          1. "How often am I supposed to offer a sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice am I to give? For what? Exactly how am I suppose to do that? Okay, did that."
          2. "What am I supposed to do on the Sabbath day? How officially do I keep that day holy? What am I forbidden to do on that day? Okay, did that."
          3. "What foods am I not supposed to eat? What is the approved way of cooking on the Sabbath? What will make my hands spiritual impure before I eat a meal? How do I purify my hands just in case they are impure? Okay, did that."
          4. "How many times a day am I supposed to pray? At what time of day am I supposed to pray? What am I supposed to pray at each of those times? Okay, did that."
          5. And on and on and on it went.
        4. In the sermon Jesus basically said, "No, no, no, no! You miss the point of being religious.
          1. "In fact, you are so caught up in the process of being religious that you fail to be spiritual.
          2. "You are very careful to do all the right things in what you conclude are the correct ways, but you are not focused on God.
          3. "Nothing you do is concerned with reflecting God's goodness.
          4. "Everything you do is merely a matter of keeping the rules."
        5. What understanding did Jesus try to get them to accept about being God's child?
          1. "If your focus is on reflecting God's goodness, you will obey God."
          2. "If your focus is on your system and your check list, you will pervert the rules and miserably fail to reflect God."
          3. "Then end result of rules keeping is that you create a system and follow the system instead of reflecting God as His children."
      3. Paul, the preacher, the missionary explained the same difference in Romans 8.
        1. Paul explained the difference in following the same law with a completely different focus in Romans 8.
          1. If you follow the law with your life focus on physical existence and fleshly desires, the law is impotent and the end result is sin and death (Romans 8:3).
          2. BUT, if in Christ you yield to God's Spirit, you relate to the same law in ways that produce life (Romans 8:4).
        2. As Paul explained that truth, he made this statement in Romans 8:14:
          For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

  2. A common problem among Christians is this: the focus of our lives is controlled by the physical, not by the desire to reflect God.
    1. Perhaps many of us react to that statement by saying, "David, that is not true! We are Christians! We are spiritual people! We are here this morning, are we not?"
      1. This is not an accusation. This is a request for each of us to examine our own lives.
      2. We want to look and act like our godless society.
        1. We want to dress like our godless society dresses.
        2. We want to find our pleasures like our godless society finds its pleasures.
        3. We want to prosper in the same manner our godless society prospers.
        4. We want to spend money in the ways our godless society spends money.
        5. We want to act like our godless society acts.
        6. We want to speak like our godless society speaks.
        7. We want to live by the same value system our godless society uses.
    2. And what is the end result?
      1. When people look at us they do not see God's goodness, they see us living for the same things godless people live for in the same way godless people live.
      2. They see people who are jealous of godless people, not people who are filled with praise for their God.
    3. So if we follow the system and keep the right check list:
      1. We can watch pornography.
      2. We can commit adultery.
      3. We can cheat people.
      4. We can use godless language.
      5. We can get high or get drunk.
      6. We can abuse or take advantage of people.
      7. We can indulge any sensual desire.
      8. AND STILL BE PROPERLY RELIGIOUS because the church we attend sings a cappella, because we take communion every week, because we put our "time in" by sitting on a church pew. We keep the system.

Jesus told people who used the same approach, "God's children do not live that way. God's children reflect His goodness." Paul said God's children keep God's law because they let God's Spirit focus their life on God.

A hard question: do people look at the focus of your life and say, "That person belongs to God," or say, "That person belongs to the Church of Christ." To understand the difference between those two statements means you understand what Jesus said about God's children in Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 December 2001

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