“That was then, what is it now?”
Until I was 27 years old God not only didn’t play a significant role in my life He basically had NO role in my life. Just like Paul, I thought Christians were weak and foolish. But at 27 years old I was confronted with the “Gospel” through a situation that I will save for another day. I began to see the relevance of the Christian faith and to feel a sneaking suspicion, that scared me more than I can say, that not only was the Christian faith true, but it was going to become a very significant part of my life. So I stand here as Val Grieve puts it “A fool for Christ”…and proud to say it. Why? One of the main reasons I am a Christian is that I believe the Christian faith is the most relevant, up to date, and verifiable, body of truth we have today, bar none…just like it has been since creation. People that knew me before ask, “what happened? Why did you become a Christian?” I can think of two easy answers. One, I have found out that Christianity is true. There is more verifying evidence outside the Bible historically, through literature and scientifically, proving the Bible true than any other piece of literature on earth. This is important to someone like me who looks at things analytically, but even more important is the common “horse sense” method of something along the lines of reasoning through the resurrection. So that is one reason, I found God’s Word and Christianity to be true. But I want to concentrate today on my second reason. I found that Christianity is the farthest thing in the world from being foolish, weak or irrelevant. As a matter of fact it is the single most relevant thing in the world that you and I live in!! How many of you know a doctor? We are in church so you must know a Pastor. How many of us have had the opportunity to know, use or to desperately need a lawyer? I like the way someone has said that the pastor the doctor and the lawyer look at life. The pastor sees you at your best, the doctor sees you at your worst and the lawyer sees you as you are. Today I want to take a look at the world we live in and see what it’s like.
(Read Text John 3:16)
My Grandma lived to be 89 years old. It’s amazing to think of all the changes that happened in her 89 years. When she was born space was what there was between your house and the neighbors not something that you traveled through to get to the moon. There have been amazing advances in science on every front. But though we live in a “digital world” now, with unimaginable speed…we lack direction. Val Grieve is a British theologian and legal expert; he tells the story of when he managed an “Approved School” to you and me that means that he was the warden of a boys home. On one occasion he asked about a dozen boys what he thought was a very basic, logical question…”why are you here?” Not “What did you do to get here?” He was trying to communicate the idea that they were there to be helped, not punished. Despite court appearances, social and probation reports, lawyers and years in boys’ homes. They were there to be helped. He was shocked to find that not one of those boys had a clue. As I think about that it makes me think that those wayward kids are typical of most people in the world today. We have careers, social calendars, church, appointments and we zoom from one to the next with tremendous speed but with little direction. Busy, busy, busy…but not effective. Now if we have speed but no direction and never stop to think about our purpose in life, we are foolish. Speed without direction is getting nowhere fast! Of course, men, we know all about that…I mean why stop and ask directions when you are making great time?
The second way I would describe the world we live in is existence without life. Just look at the advances in medicine, it’s staggering. Any doctor will tell you that most drugs used today had not even been invented 15 or 20 years ago. We are living longer than ever but one patient who recently went to visit her doctor commented, “we are prevented from dying, but we are not helped to live!” “Prevented from dying, but not helped to live.” Not only are we aimless, we are also empty.
Anyone bought a Sega or Nintendo lately? They are already working their way to being obsolete. Are your kids satisfied or do they want the newest edition? Amusement without happiness. There has never been, if you think about it, a generation that has been more amused, or amusing depending on your perspective. Televisions, cable, videos, DVD’s, pop music. People are being constantly entertained. In fact, it seems that we are constantly on the go…but are we happy, fulfilled? A Christian doctor carried out an interesting survey recently involving his patients. As they waited in the waiting-room, they were asked to fill out a little survey on themselves. One of the questions asked was “What is your number one wish?” On analyzing the answers the doctor found that the number one wish of 67% of his patients was to have peace of mind. Beneath all the amusement, entertainment and busy-ness, there is a sort of restlessness. If we have amusement without happiness, it seems to me that we are foolish indeed.
Let me ask you if you’ve noticed something else, even here in the south don’t you think the front porch mentality is gone? I think we live in a world that has acquaintances without friends. This is very true, for better or worse, of my family and myself. It is the nature of my work that I move around and come into contact with many people but I can count the people that I feel I can count on no matter what, on one hand. This is ironic since we live in a world that has more people around than ever before. In Great Britain it is said that if everyone there went to the beach on the same day they would have 4 inches per person. More people than ever but suicide rates are astronomical because we have more people than ever; that feel alienated, disconnected and lonely. We talk to people, number without end, make new acquaintances every day, but we make very few friends. Does this seem foolish? Well it’s the world people love.
Have you heard about the day the scientists had it all figured out. (Tell the story) That is where we are at, and it is strength without control. Modern man has made tremendous advances, for example, nuclear power. Now I agree that it seems that we can to a degree; control it but the sad thing is, we don’t seem to be able to control ourselves. Do you believe that man is under control? Then watch the news. As a matter of fact, let’s have a moment of silence. Eight people have just died of malnutrition somewhere in the world and $350,000 was just spent on explosives and weapons of war. In a world of almost limitless resources people are starving for food…but there’s plenty of weapons! If this is true internationally it is also true personally. I read not to long ago about a middle aged Christian that was the managing director of a large firm that if mentioned you would immediately recognize. He approached a clergy friend under the guise of talking about business. It didn’t take long for him to get to the true purpose of the meeting. He was having an affair with a 16-year-old summer hire in his office. This was a man of strength, and character a professed Christian; but he could not control himself. I know this is an extreme example but in so many ways modern man is powerless. Each of us has a standard of what is right and wrong that we love to apply to others. But if we look at ourselves right now, most of us will admit we fall far short of our own standards! This is exactly what I am talking about: we are a contradiction. I know how I should act and live my life, but if I am going to be honest with you I have to say that I fall terribly short. If you don’t admit to that and think I am just a weak man, (Which I Am) then read Romans 7:21-25 I am keeping good company with Paul. We have strength but no control, if we don’t face this we are foolish.
Here comes a sticky one. We have sex without love. Just in my lifetime we have had a sexual revolution. Dennis my oldest is 18, so there is twenty years between us and I can’t tell you how many times I have sounded just like my parents and said, “Oh! We never did that in my day”. Can you imagine what my Grandma would say with over 70 years difference? I think we can all agree that in some ways times have changed. Sex drives our society. One marriage in every two ends up in divorce. My youngest brother Ryan just got married recently and I had opportunity to speak with the pastor. He told me that he did a wedding the night before and had another coming soon after Ryan’s and it is daunting to think that of these three weddings at least one couple would divorce. Marriage was originally established as a form of mutual support in living not so that the team captain could marry the head cheerleader because she’s drop dead gorgeous. I think every man in here should be looking for, dating or married to the most beautiful women on the face of Gods’ green earth, I know I am. But where do you look for beauty? Think about abortion, you may or may not know that 1 out of every 6 pregnancies ends in abortion. We definitely live in a world of sex without love, as a matter of fact a world that is very short on love. If we don’t consider this aren’t we being foolish?
The last thing I would like to address is how our world has today without tomorrow. In the 1700’s people never talked about sex but the subject of death was freely discussed. Today we talk about sex openly but don’t want to even broach the subject of death. When I was young I just knew that I was invincible and bulletproof now, due to a couple experiences during my military days I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I AM NOT BULLETPROOF!! But obviously I am still invincible. Death is a forbidden subject. Well let me tell you George Bernard Shaw once said, “The statistics about death are very impressive. One out of every one dies!” Nothing is more certain than death. But we never know when it is coming, we have had tragedy strike people in this church a couple of times recently, they will tell you. Ask a man who has that zipper scar on his chest from open-heart surgery how close we are to the other side; from this side.
That’s the world we live in. So who is foolish? Jesus in all his teachings and parables only called one man a fool. In Luke 12 Jesus tells us about the successful businessman, a farmer who had big plans for his immense wealth. He was going to rebuild everything only bigger and better so he could accumulate more. He said to himself, “take it easy, eat, drink and enjoy yourself” But suddenly God said, “You Fool! This very night you will have to give up your life. This night your soul will be called to account.” It’s obvious that it’s important to think about your job and your estate even Ute and I have discussed putting everything into a trust so that our children are not killed by estate taxes. But we need to think about the tomorrow of the soul: Eternity…If we don’t aren’t we foolish? Jesus Himself called the farmer foolish…Now I have painted a grim picture of the world we live in, but when I was faced with the gospel I started to really think. The reason I became a Christian wasn’t because I stopped thinking and became brainwashed and close-minded, but because for the first time in my life I really started thinking. The devil wants us to be comfortable and think that everything is as it should be, “Just go with the flow.” Then you realize the world is aimless and empty, people are restless and lonely, powerless, without love and without hope. That’s where we live.
But wait a minute, I am a Christian, and what excites me is that there is an answer. That is if you finally admit at long last that this world is just full of contradictions and questions. You may be one of those people who realizes that there is indeed a question; things aren’t as simple as they once appeared to be and something appears to have gone wrong in this world. The exciting thing I want to share is that the answer lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This world would think that answer foolish; they did in Paul’s day. When he wrote to the Corinthian church. Corinth was a great but very permissive city, so much so that to be called Corinthianised meant you were permissive or sexually loose. Corinth was a cultured Greek city, which knew about Jewish law, Greek wisdom and the power of the Romans. Paul told the church that, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who were being saved, it is the power of God. (I Cor 1:22-25) There is a saying; “the man who tries to change the world is an optimist, but the man who tries to change the world without first changing human nature is a sheer lunatic.” That is where the Gospel comes in! Christians believe in changing the world BY changing human nature. We proclaim the extraordinary power of Jesus to heal the pains of this world. Christians say very humbly and I say to you as humbly as I know how, this Gospel is not foolishness, it is THE POWER OF GOD TO SALVATION!
How can this be true? Let’s look back at the things we’d be foolish not to have considered. Does the Gospel of Jesus Christ meet those needs? The first thing was speed without direction, aimlessness. The first thing that happened when I became a Christian was that I found a purpose, a meaning…direction. I was somebody! God loved me and created me and God doesn’t make junk! Everything clicked, it is cool being a Christian Dad, husband, friend and worker. To realize there is something in the body of believers that only I can be and do for God. We are not alone in this big universe, we have knowledge and a purpose in life. Christians know where they are going.
Next we discussed existence without life, emptiness. The French philosopher Paschal said, “each person is born with a God-shaped void.” People in the world are busy trying to fill it with all kinds of things. I was too, until I became a Christian, but it is a God shaped void and it is only God who can fill it and He gives us the fullness of Jesus Christ.
Take amusement without happiness. Please! We are restless in so many ways, and then we hear Christ’s words, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Remember Augustine, who left North Africa for Rome; he had a mistress, slept around, but deep down he was restless. Then one day he accepted Christ as his Savior, and look at what God did through him. He composed a beautiful prayer that says, “Lord, You have made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”
Then acquaintances without friends, loneliness. One of the greatest things I have found about being a Christian is that I literally, have family all over the world, wherever I go. I have found places to worship and fellowship in Germany, Bosnia, Paris, Hungary, Africa and in the deep dark reaches of Savannah, Georgia. And even though we live in a world that is incredibly short on hope, I know the true church is the only organization in the world that has never lost a member through death. For the Christian the best is yet to come. In a world that lacks hope, where death is the last thing we think about, Christians can look at death and echo Paul when he wrote, “Death; where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!” That is what I am saying today, the world would say I am crazy, but I say that the wisdom of the world is nothing in God’s eyes. This Gospel is the power of God, the answer, the way to salvation to everyone that believes.
Then I mentioned sex without love. The very heart of the Christian message is that God loves the world and He loves each one of us. I like the story about the Swiss theologian Karl Barth who came to America to lecture in theological colleges. At the end of one of his lectures during a question/answer session, a student asked him, “what is the greatest thought that has ever crossed your mind.” There was silence for a moment; the student thought he had Barth stumped. He put his head in his hands, then lifted up his head and said, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!” If you don’t remember anything today if you are bored stiff or have slept through most of this, please wake up and don’t forget that! In a world of sex without love, where it seems that nobody loves and nobody cares, every time we come to church and think of Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, we are reminded that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) that is the message. Foolishness to this world, but the very power of God.
To close, what are we going to do about it? No lawyer or judge ever appeared in court without asking for a verdict. I too ask for a verdict, a conclusion. I think that if we understand what I have been talking about, that this message, which the world hates, is the very power of God, then we must do something. First we need to apply it to our lives. I think the very best definition I have ever heard as to what it means to be a Christian is that it is ONE BEGGAR TELLING ANOTHER BEGGAR WHERE TO GET BREAD! I STAND HERE SIMPLY AS ONE BEGGAR TELLING ANOTHER WHERE TO GET BREAD. THE BREAD OF LIFE!
After applying it to our lives, the next thing we need to do is to demonstrate it. Jesus said some very remarkable things about Christians: He said that we are the salt of the earth; the light of the world. In every church, in every circle where Christians meet, including North Salem Baptist Church, Gulfstream, Ft. Howard or HAAF, we should be demonstrating the power of the Gospel.
Apply it to our lives, demonstrate it to the world and lastly, proclaim it! Most of us here are probably Christians, but I want this to be a challenge to you. Are you ashamed of your faith? Are you the same man, woman, teenager Monday-Saturday as you are on Sunday. What’s that saying? If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?
We have already strayed too far from the faith of our fathers. As the song says, give me back the joy of when I first believed. And if you have never experienced that joy, that excitement, that feeling that if nothing else, you belong to the family of God and are bound for Heaven, wouldn’t right now be a great time? God Bless.