In one of my teen summer jobs, I worked as a clerk in a country store. The husband and wife owners were Christians. They were members of a small, very rural congregation. One day she was "flustered" as she planned a trip. This trip was a rare visit with relatives in a city for a weekend. She was anxious because she did not have a hat. In those days a woman commonly wore a hat to church as an act of faith.

Several times that day I heard her talking out loud to herself about what she should do. Times were difficult and buying a hat just to wear to church in the city for one Sunday was unreasonably expensive. But, attending a city church where she would be the only woman without a hat was unthinkable.

Finally she talked to me about her dilemma. I just listened. Then, with resignation, she said, "Well, you know what the Bible says: 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.'"

I neither had the courage nor the heart to ask where the Bible said that.

  1. Learning is a constant part of adult life, and never more so than today.
    1. Considered the essential role learning plays in adult life.
      1. We spend the first eighteen years of life acquiring a knowledge foundation to equip us for adult learning.
      2. We frequently spend four more years learning how to learn.
        1. The basic objective of university and graduate studies is to advance our study skills on an adult level and teach us how to apply what we learn.
        2. The basic objective of specialized training it to teach us how to develop our observation skills and to apply what we understand.
    2. In your minds, some of you are challenging me.
      1. You are saying to yourself, "Learning is not a continuing part of adult life."
      2. "Many areas of my adult life do not require me to learn anything."
      3. Let me challenge your thinking.
        1. How long has it been since you have caught, killed, scalded, plucked, and dressed a chicken? Now when you eat chicken, how do you get it?
        2. How long has it been since you swept your entire house with a straw broom? How do you clean your floors now?
        3. How long has it been since you hand pumped or hand drew water for your house? How do you get your water now?
        4. How long has it been since you hitched a team of mules or horses to a wagon to make a trip? How do you travel now?
        5. How long has it been since you owned a straight shift automobile? How do you get your car in gear now?
        6. How long has it been since you lived in a house without plumbing? What do you do when the water goes off indefinitely?
      4. Please help me make the point. If you ever did any of those things, hold up your hand. Thank you!
      5. When you stopped doing these things, did you have to learn anything new?

  2. Adults, how much better do you understand the message of the Bible today than you did fifteen years ago?
    1. How much better do you understand:
      1. The work of God?
      2. The will of God?
      3. God's purposes in your life?
      4. God's objectives in our world?
      5. God's purposes and work in Jesus Christ?
      6. God's purposes and work in the Holy Spirit?
      7. If you made a list of the spiritual realities that you understand better today than you did fifteen years ago, how long would your list be?
      8. If you made a list of spiritual realities in which your understanding had made zero change in the last fifteen years, how long would that list be?
    2. In the last ten years, what have you learned about these spiritual concepts:
      1. Obedience?
      2. Forgiveness?
      3. Grace?
      4. Mercy?
      5. Atonement?
      6. Redemption?
      7. Righteousness?
      8. Reconciliation?
    3. We Christian adults are staring at a major crisis that will produce consequences that exceed our imaginations.
      1. I have struggled with that reality this week.
        1. My time is fast running out.
        2. "Oh, David, you are a young man with lots of time."
        3. I am not speaking of time, in the sense of years, though no one knows how much he or she has.
        4. My "opportunity days" are fast disappearing.
      2. There is so much from scripture that I want to share.
        1. There are so many understandings that I want you to develop.
        2. There are so many ways that I want to motivate, stimulate, challenge, and encourage people.
      3. There is so much I want to do to encourage you to let God build a life of faith.

  3. "You said something about a crisis? What major crisis?"
    1. We adults are caught in the path of a huge avalanche of spiritual ignorance.
      1. In my personal opinion, this avalanche had a small beginning in the 1960s.
      2. For thirty years it has been hurling down the mountain we call society gathering mass and speed.
      3. Now this avalanche of ignorance is poised to bury us.
        1. In our personal lives we have horrible definitions of good and evil.
        2. In our personal conduct we horrible concepts of right and wrong.
        3. We reject the concept of loving God with all our being.
        4. We do not love people as we love ourselves.
        5. We don't treat people like we want to be treated.
        6. We easily confuse the immoral with the moral.
        7. What God declares as major we classify as minor.
        8. What God gives little or no emphasis to we classify as major.
        9. Too many Christians spiritually have split personalities.
    2. We have contributed to the avalanche of spiritual ignorance in these five ways.
      1. We transformed worship into education.
        1. The central element of worship in every age has been exalting, honoring, praising, and reverencing God.
        2. Today, the central element of worship is teaching.
        3. Far too many of us, the only spiritual teaching we receive in any given week is the sermon we hear on Sunday morning.
      2. We have sanctioned the great divorce.
        1. We have divorced real life from church life, and church life is not necessarily spiritual life.
        2. Real life behavior is for our everyday, real world.
        3. Church life behavior is primarily for Sundays, with a few exceptions.
        4. But do not mix those two behaviors; they are not in relationship.
      3. We endorse an unbiblical conviction: the system saves.
        1. If you do the right things to plug into the spiritual system, if you remain a part of the system, the system will save you.
        2. Faith in the Savior does not save; relationship with God does not save; the system saves.
      4. We declare that the foundation of true faithfulness is determined by issues and positions, not an understanding of Jesus Christ and scripture.
        1. Too often Christians determine the "faithfulness" of other Christians by asking: "Where do you stand on...?"
        2. Too seldom is faithfulness determined by devotion to and service for Jesus Christ.
      5. We permitted belonging to take the place of becoming.
        1. We are more concerned about belonging to the church than we are about becoming a Christian.
        2. Church membership has become an acceptable substitute for Christian transformation.

  4. Spiritually, we have no fear of ignorance if we are a part of the system.
    1. In Jeremiah 10, Jeremiah told the nation of Judah that the stupidity of their ignorance guaranteed their destruction.
      1. First, he talked about the folly of idolatry (10:2-9).
        1. They carved a god out of a tree.
        2. That god had no more life or power than a scarecrow in a garden.
      2. Second, he talked about the life and the power of the living God (10:10-16).
        1. Judah failed to see the difference between an idol and the living God.
        2. Jeremiah said every man is stupid and devoid of knowledge (10:14).
      3. Third, Jeremiah said, "Pack your bags and get ready--you are going into captivity!" (10:17,18)
      4. After stating how pitiful things were in Judah, Jeremiah said:
        Jeremiah 10:23,24 I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. "I know that people are not capable of finding direction without God's guidance."
        2. "Lord, discipline us, but don't destroy us."
      5. We have not discovered what Jeremiah knew.
        1. We believe that we are more than capable of finding our own direction.
        2. We do not need God to provide us direction; we need God to care for situations that we cannot; we need God's power not His guidance.
        3. That is ignorance.
    2. We respond, "Judah had that problem; we don't. Ignorance won't destroy us."
      1. In Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents.
        1. The servant justified his "do nothing" behavior by declaring that he was afraid of the master because he was a hard man who expected something for nothing. He did not understand his master.
        2. His ignorance destroyed him.
      2. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gave us a judgment scene.
        1. The people condemned to eternal punishment protested that they never saw Jesus in need and refused to help him.
        2. Jesus declared that their failure to help insignificant people was the failure to help him. They did not know that.
        3. Ignorance destroyed them.
    3. Too many of us have misplaced our faith and do not know it.
      1. Our faith in is our name, our positions, our system, our commitment to restoration, or our structures.
      2. Far too little of our faith in is in God.
      3. Someone says, "Oh, but it is all the same thing."
      4. That is the most frightening ignorance of all.


"Well, preacher, you touched my guilt button. You are right. I should actually study the Bible. I should come to Bible classes."

If all I did was touch your guilt button, I failed. I seek to do something far beyond making you feel guilty. Spiritually, most of you are much too old just to feel guilty. I want to open your eyes to life's real purpose. I want you to understand how desperately all of us constantly need to grow closer to God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 January 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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