Since the end of World War II, America has increasingly grown into an education oriented society. The basic objective of education was dedicated to acquiring knowlege. For many decades, as a society, we have been convinced that proper, accurate knowledge is the most important factor in resolving problems.

We are told that the key to stopping our national epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases is knowledge. We are told that the key to reducing our national epidemic of teen pregancy is knowledge. We are told that the key to reducing our crime rate is knowledge. We are told that the key to healing the alienation between ethnic groups who dispise each other is knowledge.

It is probable that today's living generations in America collectively have more education than in any previous time period in this nation's history. As a society, in this age of technology, today's living generations have been exposed to more information than in any other period of American history.

Yet, even with superior preventive methods and superior medicines, a higher percentage of Americans have been infected with sexually transmitted diseases than ever before. Of all the industrial nations on earth, we have the number one teenage pregnancy rate. In Arkansas alone, our prison population increases by three persons every day. Ethnic tensions have assumed sophisticated expressions previously unknow in our society. The divorce rate among first marriages is fifty percent, and the highest percentage ever of our children will spend at least a portion of their childhood in a one parent home.

Knowledge without understanding does not solve problems. Knowledge without moral responsibility does not solve problems. Knowledge without sound values does not solve problems. Knowledge without relationship skills does not solve problems.

  1. As Christians, as the church, we believed that the solution for all spiritual problems is Bible knowledge.
    1. "If people just have enough knowledge of the Bible, every problem that concerns us will disappear."
      1. "Bible knowledge will bring an end to sexual activity among teens."
      2. "Bible knowledge will bring divorce to a halt."
      3. "Bible knowledge will end criminal activity."
      4. "Bible knowledge will eliminate racially based problems."
      5. "When people learn enough Bible, problems will come to an end."
    2. In spite of the reality of our own experiences as individuals and as a church, we typically accept this unquestioned assumption as truth.
      1. Collectively, there is a lot of Bible knowledge in this room.
      2. Has your knowledge solved your problems? Has your knowledge eliminated problems within your immediate family?
      3. Has our collective knowledge as a congregation solved all our problems?
      4. "Well, Christians just don't know as much Bible as they used to know. If they did, we wouldn't have any problems in the church."
      5. Have you ever lived when there were no problems? When the church had no problems? I have preached for four decades, and I have never seen that time. The problems were different, but they were just as real.

  2. Knowledge of itself is just knowledge; the way knowledge is used makes it constructive or destructive.
    1. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul emphasized that true, correct knowledge can destroy God's purposes.
      1. Within the Corinthian congregation were many members who worshipped idols before they were converted.
      2. Some in the congregation had the correct, absolutely true knowledge that idols were not gods and did not represent any god. That was the truth.
      3. Those that had this true, correct knowledge reasoned in this way:
        1. "We know that idols are spiritually nothing and spiritually represent nothing."
        2. "We know that there is only one God."
        3. "Only because of ignorance do people worship these 'so-called' gods."
        4. "The one and only God created everything, sustains the world, and allows us to exist in Him."
        5. Every bit of that is correct knowledge.
      4. But these knowledgeable Christians were using their correct knowledge in a way that destroyed other Christians. How?
        1. They used their correct knowledge to draw these conclusions.
        2. "Food is food--even food sacrificed to an idol is still just food."
        3. "When we eat food that has been sacrificed to an idol, we are just eating food."
        4. "Eating that food is an act of worship to the person who believes the idol is a god, but because of our knowledge, it is not an act of worship for us."
        5. "It is not an act of worship for us because we know that god does not even exist."
    2. But there were Christians in that congregation who truly believed that the idol gods did exist, that they were alive.
      1. When an unlearned Christian saw a knowledgeable Christian eating food that had been sacrificed to an idol, he or she believed that Christian was worshipping the idol.
      2. So the unlearned Christian drew one of two conclusions:
        1. Either this Christian was honoring the idol to the dishonor of Christ,
        2. Or this Christian was affirming that it was perfectly okay to worship both the idol and Christ.
        3. Either way, the unlearned Christian, with limited knowledge, was offended and left Christianity to return to idolatrous practices.
      3. Paul said that when a knowledgeable Christian used his correct knowledge to ruin a weak Christian, the knowledgeable Christian sinned again Christ.
        1. Christ died for the unlearned Christian.
        2. The knowledgeable Christian had no right to use his knowledge to destroy God's purposes in the unlearned Christian.

  3. For decades, one of our unquestioned assumptions is the direct correlation between Bible knowledge and godliness.
    1. I want you to examine that assumption.
      1. I do believe that there is a direct correlation between understanding God and Jesus Christ and godly living.
      2. But I question the correlation between Bible knowledge and godly living.
      3. I have known preachers who had a lot of Bible knowledge, but who had adulterous affairs and visited prostitutes.
      4. I have known elders who had a lot of Bible knowledge, but who were not trustworthy.
      5. I have known Bible class teachers who knew a lot about the Bible, but who had earned reputations for being manipulators who used people.
      6. I have known Christians who were very knowledgeable in the Bible, but used their knowledge to justify abusing their wives or their children.
    2. Which would you prefer?
      1. A teenager:
        1. Who can name the books of the Bible, name the apostles, list the beatitudes, and give 100 proof texts from memory, or
        2. Who understands what it means to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and has such a living relationship with Christ that he or she cannot yield to sexual temptation without struggling with his or her love for God?
      2. An adult Christian:
        1. Who can explain the technical basis for the contribution on Sundays complete with a logical explanation of what percentage of your income you should give, or
        2. Who understands the meaning of being God's steward and looks at his or her total existence as a gift from God?
      3. An adult Christian:
        1. Who can explain in detail the biblical teaching on baptism, or
        2. Who understands in his or her own life what it means to be born again and to be a new creature who has been recreated in Christ Jesus?
      4. An adult Christian:
        1. Who can take the Bible and, in detail, share his or her knowledgeable judgment on the latest issue that is consuming our brotherhood, or
        2. Who understands from the heart and the mind that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners?

  4. Because I love God, because I love Christ, because I love the church, because I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, because I love people who are still enslaved to evil:
    1. I would choose:
      1. The teenager who understands what it means to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and has a living relationship with Christ.
      2. The adult Christian who understands what it means to be God's steward and looks at everything in his or her life as a gift from God.
      3. The adult Christian who understands what it means to be born again, who understands what it means to be recreated through the forgiveness and blood of Jesus.
      4. The adult Christian who understands from the heart and the mind that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.
    2. Why?
      1. Because the teenager who understands what it means to love God and has a living relationship with Christ will survive sexual temptation--he or she will even survive sexual sin through repentance; but the teenager who has only knowledge will not only yield to temptation, but will also justify his or her sexual activity.
      2. Because the Christian who understands the meaning of stewardship will use his or her whole life in God's work and purposes; while the Christian who has knowledge will drop some money in the collection plate and believe that he or she has done 100% of his or her duty.
      3. Because the Christian who understands what it means to be born again and to be recreated in Christ Jesus will, by his or her life, attract people who want to understand how to be a Christian; but the Christian who has correct knowledge will use knowledge to turn people off and close their minds.
      4. Because the Christian who understands from the heart that Jesus Christ came to this world to save sinners will use Jesus' mercy and compassion to reach out to people who do not have Christ; but the Christian who knowledgeably discusses the issues does not have time to help people find hope and forgiveness in Christ.

Do you know what I really look forward to? I really look forward to being in heaven with you. God's greatest miracle will be performed when you and I reach heaven. That miracle will be bigger than the miracle of creation. It will be bigger than the miracle of Jesus' resurrection. "What is that miracle?" All of God's people will be together. And everyone of us will love each other. And every difference that we experienced on earth will vanish. There will be no tension or awkwardness. Everyone of us will truly like each other. No one will feel awkward or be embarrassed. Every influence of evil will be removed from every mind and heart. Every single flaw of every single one of us will vanish.

Every saved person from Adam and Eve on will be there. People from every age of the earth, from every culture. Joyce's and my African friends will be there; Jim and Deborah Wilson's Ethiopian friends will be there; Michael and Jeannie Cole's friends from Guyana will be there; Jerry and Meg Canfield's friends from Laos will be there; Roy and Joyce Dunavin's friends from New Zealand will be there. Chinese Christians, European Christians, Australian Christians, Christians from India--Christians from everywhere will be there.

There will be no language barriers and no cultural differences. For the very first time we will love each other like God loves us. We will love being together. We all will fall on our faces and thank God that He was so patient and forgiving of us when on earth we were so concerned about our differences. And in our heavenly love for each other, for Christ, and for God will be seen God's greatest miracle.

Human beings have so many problems.
We will get to Heaven and not have these problems.
There are some people who don't like me. There are some people that are hard for me to like. Becoming a Christian is letting God change you. The more He changes you, the more people there are that you like.
We are here because we love Jesus Christ.
God wants to change you. It is because we love Jesus that we learn to love each other more. You can become one of the best friends of a Christian or a sinner.
Jesus wants you so much He was willing to die for you.
Are you His?
Will you be baptized into Christ?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 July 1997

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