To those of us who are older, the American society and culture is very confusing. We have things today that are an everyday part of existence that older people just one generation ago did not dream of existing, let alone becoming common place in the lives of people. To some of us it seems as if young adults of today have everything, and often they are discouraged as if they have nothing. It is not unusual to encounter people today who are deeply depressed or deeply discouraged or deeply frustrated, and who have basically decided that life is pointless. To some of us, that is quite confusing.

Joyce's Mom and Dad did not have an indoor bathroom until Joyce was in college. Would any of us consider buying a house without a bathroom today? I remember when my Mom cooked on two kerosene eyes (no oven), and that was advanced technology--we knew people who cooked on a wood stove. Would we consider living permanently without ovens and a microwave today? Joyce and I both were in the eighth grade before our homes had just one party line telephone. How many people today think they cannot live without a personal cell phone?

Joyce and I grew up in an area where religion was a serious matter. By and large, religion is not a serious matter today.

Why? How can our society experience so many advances, and life become increasingly without point at the same time? How can our society experience so many advances, and being religious become increasingly unimportant at the same time?

Why? I do not conclude there is just one reason. Conditions among people in our society are caused by a number of factors. Among the important factors, there is one we should note, understand, and take quite seriously. Increasingly, as we make advances, more and more of life is viewed as pointless.

More and more it becomes a matter of going through the motions without understanding the point of what you are doing or making any application of what you are doing. Get a college education! Why? That is what your are supposed to do! Get a job with benefits! Why? That is what you are supposed to do! Get married! Why? That is what you are supposed to do! Go to church! Why? That is what you are supposed to do.

  1. Allow me to call your attention to a statement Jesus made the last night of his earthly life.
    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
    1. Context:
      1. In less than 24 hours Jesus was not going to be with the 12 in the same manner (physically) that he has been with them throughout his ministry.
        1. This initially will be a very traumatic experience for them.
        2. He wanted to reassure them that it was going to be okay.
      2. Thomas said, "We do not know where you are going and we do not know the way there."
        1. Thomas' response increases Jesus' distress for them.
        2. Yet, Jesus still seeks to encourage them.
      3. Philip says, "Just let us see the Father and everything will be okay."
        1. This further distresses Jesus.
        2. However, he still tries to encourage the 12.
    2. It is in this context that Jesus made the statement that he was the way, truth, and life to the 12, and declared that he is the only way to the Father.
      1. If I understand Jesus' statement correctly, it is by examining and understanding Jesus' teachings and earthly life that they were given insights into God's character, purposes, values, and priorities.
      2. It was only by understanding Jesus that they would correctly understand God.
      3. Jesus is the key to understanding the nature and desires of God the Father--that is an incredible statement!

  2. Let me challenge you to see what an incredible statement that is by calling your attention to some statements Jesus made in Matthew 5:21-48 and Matthew 6:1-18.
    1. In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus discussed the subjects of murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, justice, and concepts of compassion, and the neighbor-enemy concept in the Jewish society among the Jewish people.
      1. In the discussion of each area, Jesus drew a contrast.
      2. The contrast is between their religious society's position and God's position.
      3. To me we could summarize the entire discussion in this manner: "You missed God's point!"
        1. "Your emphasis and God's emphasis are not the same."
        2. "Your values and God's values are not the same."
        3. "The religious stance your leaders and society take is just that--a religious stance; it is not godlike."
    2. In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus addressed three very common religious acts in first century Jewish religious society: benevolence to the poor and disabled (alms); praying; fasting.
      1. The simple, basic point he made in all three was the same: motives matter!
      2. "If your motive is to attract attention to yourself and win the praise of people, when that occurs you got what you wanted."
      3. "Do not expect anything from God!"
      4. "You did not do it for God!"
      5. "God owes you nothing!" (This is not endorsing an attempt to place God in one's debt, but simply acknowledged the act was not about God, so God was not a factor in rewards received.)
      6. You practice benevolence, prayer, and fasting to honor God, not to win people's praise for yourself.
    3. Though Jesus represented God the Father as no one else has or ever will, Jesus' observations were neither appreciated by religious leaders nor popular with the general religious population.
      1. People are very emotional about their personal convictions.
      2. They feel deeply about their convictions.
      3. They had rather allow what they feel determine their convictions rather than sound information determine their convictions.
      4. Too often people listen to agree or disagree, not to learn.
      5. Quite often people did not like what Jesus said and responded by thinking, "Surely that is not what God thinks or wants!"

  3. I have spent my life teaching under an assumption that I now wonder if it is correct.
    1. All of my life I have studied scripture and people in a genuine effort to understand each.
      1. I genuinely believed that anything I understood I could help someone else understand.
      2. I studied to understand in the conviction that if I understood I could help others understand.
      3. The result would be that people would not base their trust on me but on God.
    2. Here is the assumption I now question.
      1. I thought if I made information available to people through my teaching, they would understand and in understanding they would make application.
      2. To me the sequence was this: (1) sound information; (2) understanding; (3) application to oneself.
      3. The assumption I now question is the application.

  4. Allow me to illustrate my point.
    1. There is not a person here that would go to one of our hospitals, walk into a sick stranger's room, and kick him or her.
      1. Why not?
        1. "That would be a very unchristian thing to do!"
        2. Why?
        3. "A Christian is supposed to show compassion and treat other people like he or she wants to be treated."
      2. Absolutely true!
        1. Being a Christian forbids you to go into a hospital and kick a sick stranger.
        2. However, many Christians do not think being a Christian forbids him or her to go home and make your spouse or your children miserable.
      3. Application!
    2. There is not a person in this audience that would walk up and take a sandwich away from an obviously hungry person.
      1. Why not?
        1. That would be a very unchristian thing to do!"
        2. Why?
        3. "A Christian is supposed to show compassion and treat other people like he or she wants to be treated."
      2. Absolutely true!
        1. Being a Christian forbids you from taking a sandwich away from a hungry person.
        2. However, many Christians do not think being a Christian forbids him or her from abusing his or her employer!
      3. Application!
    3. I hope there is not a person in this audience who would walk up to a guest at one of our fellowships and criticize him or her.
      1. A person visiting with us at a fellowship has never seen so much home cooked food and does not know how to act.
        1. His or her actions might offend you, but you likely will not say a word.
        2. In fact, most if not all of you will probably be kind and helpful.
      2. Why will you act that way?
        1. It is the Christian thing to do!
        2. We need to treat them like we would want to be treated in the same situation!
      3. Absolutely true!
        1. Being a Christian in that situation means showing kindness, not voicing criticism.
        2. However, we often will treat a stranger with more kindness than we will show another Christian who does not agree with us!
      4. Application!

  5. I want you to go home thinking about something and I want you to think about it all this week.
    1. Being a Christian involves the way I treat everyone all seven days of each week.
      1. Why?
      2. Simply because being a Christian is about who I am, not just what I do.
      3. If anyone should receive the benefit of my relationship to God through Jesus Christ, it should be those who are closest to me.
      4. It is my relationship with God that defines who and what I am as a husband, a wife, a child, a sibling, an employee, an employer, a neighbor, and a stranger
    2. After declaring the deeds of the flesh (which oppose God and His influence in us), Paul declared the contrasting fruit of the Spirit with these words in Galatians 5:22-26.
      But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
      1. Allow me to use an old analogy.
        1. The fruit surrounds the seed.
        2. It is the fruit that attracts a person to the seed and make that person want to plant that seed.
        3. Few people would want to plant a peach pit if he or she did not see and taste the peach!
      2. Live the kind of life, treat the people around you in a manner that attracts people to the gospel that makes you who you are!

May nowhere your Christianity be more evident than in the way you treat your family! May they see "the point" in the way you live and the way you treat others!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 August 2005

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