part 3

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."

There is an enormous crisis facing the Christian community which the New Testament refers to as the church. The fact that any minister would declare a crisis is facing the church probably does not surprise any of you. Ministers have been making that statement for generations. From that statement we usually begin talking about a matter that concerns us personally or concerns other ministers we respect.

The crisis I refer to is not one created by my personal concerns or by other ministers. It is a crisis in its own right and will overwhelm us whether we admit it exists or not. This crisis threatens the existence of the "organized church" as we know it today. It does not threaten the existence of God's kingdom--that kingdom is eternal and cannot be destroyed. But the expression of God's kingdom as we know it in the form of the 21st century church in American is facing an immediate, severe crisis.

This crisis has existed for a long time, and it is almost too late for us to respond to this crisis. It is a crisis created by the lack of a worldview among Christians. The crisis exists because we have failed, ourselves, to look at the world as Christians. Instead, we Christians look at the world as do people who do not believe in God. Instead of us influencing others to see life and death as God declared, we have adopted the godless world's way of looking at life and death.

We have been so preoccupied in opposing change that we have not realized the way we look at life and death has made an enormous transition. I am not talking about opposing religious traditions. I am talking about our basic understanding of life's purpose.

  1. The issue is not, "Does the worldview crisis exist?" The issue is, "Do we as Christians have the courage to face the worldview crisis?"
    1. I would like to suggest that there are at least four approaches we can take to the worldview crisis.
      1. We can take the approach of "denial."
        1. "Crisis? What crisis? There is no crisis! Everything is fine and is going to remain fine!"
        2. "Do not worry about! Do not let it make you anxious! Do not let it make you fearful of anything!"
        3. "Just ignore it and give it time, and it will go away like everything else has."
        4. If we take that approach, when that tsunami wave crashes upon us, our last words as we drown will be, "What happened?"
      2. We can take the approach of "isolation."
        1. "Keep your cool! Never examine us or question anything!"
        2. "Just keep the world out there and us in here."
        3. "Tell folks 'out there' they can 'come' in here if they want to.'"
        4. If isolation is our approach to the crisis created by worldview, we are fooling no one but ourselves--our isolation is imagined, not real, and everyone but us knows it.
      3. We can take the approach of "conformity."
        1. "If you are going to come in here, you must agree with us exactly on these issues."
        2. "We do things this way, and so must you if you are to be part of us."
        3. First, do you really understand that to be the gospel message? Do you really think Jewish Christians and gentle Christians saw every religious procedure just exactly alike in the first century?
        4. Second, we do not even agree with each other! How dare we demand conformity from other people?
      4. We can take the approach that allows us to learn how to engage the crisis.
        1. Is outreach to our world to be on our terms or the Lord's terms?
        2. Do we dare examine ourselves and honestly ask if there are differences in the Lord's terms and our terms?
        3. I am reminded of a statement Jesus made to John's disciples when John inquired from prison if Jesus was the person or should they look for someone else.
          1. Jesus did not answer with a simple, "Yes."
          2. He quoted from Isaiah 35:5 following as he gave this answer in Matthew 11:5, 6
            "the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."
          3. Maybe our visions are not the Lord's visions.

  2. I want to try to illustrate the worldview crisis to the Christian community in practical terms by asking six questions.
    1. Question one: Who defines love for the typical Christian--the American culture or God?
      1. If you want the American society's definition of love, go to the movies or watch television.
        1. Love is commonly and strongly associated with what are portrayed as incredible sexual experiences.
        2. Love is basically self-centered and selfish--the greatest question is, "Are things good for me?"
        3. Love is frequently found with "everybody" [if "I" cannot find love with one person "I" just go to the next person] or is excluded to a "soul mate" [real love can be found with only one ideal person who was born just for me].
      2. Listen to God's definition of love:
        • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
        • John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
        1. In God's definition of love, there is an unbreakable bond between love and serving others.
        2. Quite a contrast!
      3. For just a moment, consider the "soul mate" concept as an illustration.
        1. In the formation of any enduring relationship, there are times of struggle!
        2. If, when you marry, you are convinced there is only one ideal person in the world for you, what will you do when the inevitable moments of struggle come?
        3. Split and run! Why? "You are not my 'soul mate'!
    2. Question two: Who defines success for the American Christian--the American culture or God?
      1. The American culture says success is defined by materialism, the world of money, or both.
        1. It says the evidences of success are wealth, lifestyle, pleasure, and being able to afford to do whatever you want.
        2. If you do not experience 'the good life' on earth, you are not successful!
        3. God says success is measured by service and sacrifice, and has nothing to do with money.
          Matthew 6:19-27 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
    3. Question three: Who defines wealth--the American culture or God?
      1. The testimony of the American culture is consistent: wealth is always defined by "things."
        1. If you do not have "things," you are not wealthy.
        2. So get "things" even if you have to use people.
      2. Paul wrote of God's values in 1 Timothy 5:3-7.
        1 Timothy 6:3-7 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
    4. Question 4: Who defines commitment--American culture or God?
      1. I heard an interesting interview recently as an outgoing CEO and a possible incoming CEO were questioned.
        1. The outgoing CEO defined commitment to the company in terms of 20 years.
        2. The possible incoming CEO defined commitment to the company in terms of 5 years.
        3. The first talked in terms of paying your dues; the second in terms that there were no dues to be paid.
      2. Jesus plainly said Christianity was a lifetime commitment.
        Luke 14:25-35 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
    5. Question five: Who defines happiness--American culture or God?
      1. American culture defines happiness in terms of personal pleasure.
        1. No one can be happy if he or she has a horrible lifestyle.
        2. No one can be happy if he or she lives in true poverty.
        3. "I" decide what is an acceptable lifestyle and the poverty line.
      2. God defines happiness in terms of service and in terms of living for eternal values.
    6. Question six: Is death the worst tragedy we can experience?
      1. People of today tend to answer that question with "me" centered answers.
      2. Where do those answers come from--American culture or God?

  3. Someone says, "Preacher, that a bunch of junk! We have had all religious matters figured out for generations!"
    1. Really?
      1. Let me see the hands of everyone one here who is a member of the Church of Christ.
      2. How many of you know what it means if I raise up my five fingers and spread them? [hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized]
      3. How often have you heard that in a sermon or class?
    2. Where in the Bible are those five things declared to be God's plan of salvation?
      1. Acts! No.
      2. The writings of Paul! No.
      3. It is not found in one place in the Bible.
    3. The history:
      1. Walter Scott while preaching in the Western Reserve in the early 1800's began to speak of a "plan" of salvation.
      2. However, his "plan" at first had six items--three human and three divine.
        1. The human--believe, repent, be immersed.
        2. The divine--forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, eternal life.
      3. In 1827 he condensed the "plan" to five parts to fit the five fingers of one hand.
        1. He used it as a means to advertise his meeting.
        2. He would tell the school children on their way home that each finger stood for believing in Jesus as the Messiah, repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving remission of sins, and receiving the Holy Spirit.
        3. The school kids made a fist, went home and opened the fist by explaining what each finger meant, and told the family that the man who taught them that would be preaching that night.
      4. By 1900 the "plan" had become entirely human response [hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized] and was the only way to enter the Church of Christ.

We must stop acting like we know all the answers. We must start taking our Savior to our culture and stop letting our culture decide who we are and how we live.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 19 February 2006

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