One of the eternal struggles in human existence is created by the ever present reality of established thinking clashing with new thinking. In every age, established thought patterns exist and new thought patterns emerge. In every age, people struggle because when established thinking tries to grasp new thinking.

Why the struggle? New thought patterns require you to learn how to think in new ways. It is not just a matter of learning new knowledge. It is a matter of learning how to think as you have never thought before. Experienced adults think easily, naturally, and comfortable in old, established ways of thinking. Experienced adults do not grasp new ways of thinking easily.

When you are young, you are establishing your thought patterns. New ways of thinking do not disturb you because all thought patterns are new to you. After your thought patterns are firmly established, new ways of thinking drive you nuts. New thought patterns frustrate you--maybe even anger you--because your established way of thinking does not easily understand the new thought patterns.

Let me give you an illustration. I cannot think in the language of the computer world. I mean that literally--my thought process does not grasp computer language. To me, the computer world has no language. My "old" thought process just does not grasp the concepts of computer language. Even if I learn the words and the phrases, I still do not understand the concepts. Some very capable, kind, considerate teachers have tried to help me learn the concepts. But I have a basic problem: my thought process is very different to their thought process. All their patience cannot change my thought process.

The only way that I use the computer is to memorize what to do. For over ten years I used a computer software package called Word Perfect. I wrote at least five books using Work Perfect. I wrote my sermons every week on Word Perfect. I did all my correspondence on Word Perfect. Since I have been in Fort Smith, which is less than a year, I have used a software package called Ami Pro. This week I realized I don't remember how to use Word Perfect. Why? Because the new thought patterns that utilize computers and my old thought process are not compatible.

There is an area in which old thought patterns clash with new thought patterns more violently than in the area of computer language. It is harder for old religious thought patterns to learn to think about spiritual truths that are new to the person's thinking. In spiritual matters, when established thinking tries to understand spiritual truths that require new thinking, it commonly produces an emotional, hostile reaction. Being asked to think about spiritual truths that we have never known disturbs us.

  1. That reality created enormous problems for Jesus, the teacher.
    1. Jesus understood spiritual truths that were new to the religious world.
      1. Jesus' thought patterns focused on these spiritual truths that were new to the Jewish world.
      2. Jesus constantly exposed others to new thinking.
      3. Jesus declared that people must not only accept this new thinking, but they also must place their full trust in this new thought process.
      4. One of the reasons that Jesus created so much hostility and opposition among the religious leaders was found in the fact that Jesus teachings required new ways to think and they could only think in old ways.
        1. It was far more than a clash of perspectives.
        2. It was far more than a clash of "correct knowledge."
        3. It was fundamentally a clash of thought patterns.
      5. Jesus powerfully emphasized a new way to think.
        1. In the parable of the wineskins, he said that if you put new wine in an old wineskin, you would destroy the container and lose the wine. (Matthew 9:17).
          1. He was saying that you cannot put my new thinking in the containers of your old religious thoughts.
        2. In the parable of the torn garment, he said that if you patched it with new material, you would make the tear even worse when the new cloth shrunk.
          1. He was saying that you cannot patch your old thinking with my new thoughts.
        3. He said that a scribe who became a disciple was like a daddy who could give his family both old and new things out of his treasures (Matthew 13:52).
        4. When the Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus said they needed to understand Hosea 6:6 meant, "I desire mercy (or compassion), and not a sacrifice" (Matthew 12:7).
          1. They needed to hear the message of the new in the prophets of old.
          2. Even the old revealed the truth of the new.
        5. Jesus told the Pharisees and the Sadducees that they could look at the sky at sunset and predict tomorrow's weather (Matthew 16:3-4).
          1. Yet, they were blind to the signs of the new shouting at them in all that Jesus did.
          2. Their old thought patterns could not even see signs of the new in Jesus' power.
        6. To me, the most powerful images and figures of the old way of thinking and the new way of thinking are seen in the parable of the prodigal son.
          1. The prodigal son who repented and returned to a loving father reveals the new thinking--it presents the loving God of forgiveness.
          2. The insulted older brother revealed the old thinking--the son who failed should forever be rejected for the horrible things he had done.
    2. Consider this question: what is primary in doing the will of God?
      1. If you asked the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rabbis, or any Jewish official, "What is primary in doing the will of God?" you would get a very specific answer.
        1. They would say, "These things are primary in doing the will of God:"
          1. "Go to the temple exactly as is required by the law."
          2. "Offer your sacrifices at the temple just exactly as the law declared."
          3. "Attend the synagogue every week."
          4. "Respect and keep the holy days."
          5. "Pray every day at the hours of prayer."
          6. "Ritually wash your hands before you eat."
          7. "Eat only the foods that the law permits."
          8. "Pass judgment on all violators, for they are God's enemies."
          9. "Condemn all sinners, for they will corrupt the people of God."
      2. If you asked Jesus, "What is primary in doing the will of God?" you would get quite a different answer.
        1. In fact, Jesus answered that question in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. He said these things were primary:
        2. 5:7--Be merciful so you can receive mercy.
          1. 5:16--Let your light shine by doing good works--that brings God glory.
          2. 5:23--Go reconcile with your adversaries before you go worship.
          3. 5:29--Do not allow your body's desires to destroy you as a person.
          4. 5:37--Be absolutely trustworthy in what you say.
          5. 5:39--Be kind to those who mistreat you.
          6. 5:44--In prayerful kindness, seek the highest good of your enemies and those who hurt you.
          7. That is the will of your Father in heaven.
          8. 6:1--Never do religious acts to gain the attention or win the praise of other people.
          9. 6:12--Ask for God's forgiveness because you forgive other people.
          10. 6:19,20--Live your everyday life for eternal realities, not for material wealth.
          11. 6:31-33--Place your confidence in God and refuse to be ruled by anxiety.
          12. That is the will of your Father in heaven.
          13. 7:1-5--Don't judge, and don't try to be the expert who has the answer for everyone else's problems.
          14. 7:7--Actively take the initiative in seeking God's help.
          15. 7:12--Treat other people just exactly as you want to be treated.
          16. 7:13,14--As you live your life, look for God's way, not the easy way.
          17. 7:15-23--Let the teachers who live it influence you, not the teachers who just tell it.
          18. That is the will of your Father in heaven.
          19. 7:21--It is not the people who call me Lord who will live with God; it is the people who do God's will that shall live with Him in heaven.

  2. When you and I have a real "down to it" discussion about doing the will of God, will our conclusion be like that of the Jewish leaders or like Jesus'?
    1. What are the things that we are most likely to classify as being primary in doing the will of God?
      1. Baptism
      2. Name
      3. Church attendance
      4. Instrumental music in worship
      5. Positions concerning the Lord's supper
      6. The role of women in the church
      7. The use of the Lord's money
      8. Judging those who violate the commandments--because they are God's enemies.
      9. Condemning sinners--because they will corrupt Christians.
    2. And we can do all those things and still not:
      1. Be merciful.
      2. Do good works.
      3. Reconcile before we worship.
      4. Refuse to let our greed to destroy us.
      5. Be trustworthy in everything we say.
      6. Be kind to those who mistreat us.
      7. In kindness seek our enemy's highest good.
      8. Live for eternal realities instead of material wealth.
      9. Trust God and refuse to be anxious.
      10. Refuse to judge.
      11. Take initiative to seek God's help.
      12. Treat others as we want to be treated.
      13. Look for God's way instead of the easy way.
      14. Let only the teachers who live it influence us.
    3. Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God in his life, his teachings, and his death--only Jesus has perfectly done the will of God in his life.
      1. Never did he stress as primary:
        1. The temple.
        2. The synagogue.
        3. The sacrifices.
        4. The holy days.
      2. Did Jesus attack those? No!
        1. He went to the temple.
        2. He attended the synagogue.
        3. It is my opinion that he offered correct sacrifices.
        4. On the night of his arrest he observed the Passover.
      3. He neither attacked them or rejected them
        1. But he never classified them as primary.
        2. As he revealed the new, they never had a primary place in the new.

  3. I want you to see how distinctly different the thought patterns were when you contrast the old and the new. Jesus did not think like the religious leaders thought.
    1. Look at and listen to the distinctively different way each thought about the will of God.
      1. Jesus said the merciful shall receive mercy.
      2. They said condemn the law violators.
      3. Jesus said your good works let your light shine.
      4. They said your temple activities let your light shine.
      5. Jesus said do not let bodily desires destroy you as a person.
      6. They said control your acts.
      7. Jesus said be trustworthy in all that you say.
      8. They said deception is acceptable if you technically do it the right way.
      9. Jesus said be kind to those who mistreat you.
      10. They said take those who mistreat you to court.
      11. Jesus said seek the highest good of your enemies.
      12. They said hate your enemies.
      13. Jesus said don't do righteous acts to get the praise of other people.
      14. They said one of the purposes of righteous acts was to win the praise of others.
      15. Jesus said to live for eternal realities.
      16. They said being righteous should produce material wealth.
      17. Jesus said don't judge and don't appoint yourselves problem solver for all.
      18. They said judge the wrong doer, and correct those with problems.
      19. Jesus said take the initiative in seeking God's help.
      20. They said you have to take care of God's affairs for Him.
      21. Jesus said treat others as you want to be treated.
      22. They said treat others as they deserve to be treated.
      23. Jesus said look for God's way, not the easy way.
      24. They said God's way is always easy to see.
      25. Jesus said a teacher's influence should be based on the way he lives.
      26. They said a teachers influence should be based on what he knows.

Can you see the difference in the way Jesus thought and the way those religious leaders thought? Some people really had trouble thinking like Jesus thought. Nicodemus, the 12, the Pharisees, the scribes, and the rich young ruler did. Some people quickly learned how to think like Jesus did. The Samaritan woman, the sexually sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, Mary Magdalene who had seven demons, and Zacchaeus understood his thinking quickly.

Do you think like Jesus thought?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 20 July 1997
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