Revelation 1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

In the early 1900's, members of the Churches of Christ looked at the world from a common perspective. Most of the members and most of the congregations were rural. In fact, in America, Churches of Christ began and spread as a rural movement. The church basically looked at the world through the eyes of a farmer. This world view was simple. It was close to nature. It incorporated hard, honest, physical work. Existence was a family endeavor. Families lived on the same land generation after generation. That was the way the world was intended to be. That was God's way.

This view became the church's accepted view of the world. What we taught and the way we approached life appealed to people who saw the world like we did. We had little contact with and little influence on people who looked at the world differently.

But that was not a problem then. Rural churches existed in rural isolation where little ever changed. Families lived in the same area for generations. In rural isolation, It was an effective approach to life.

When agriculture declined, family farms began to disappear. Grown children looked for work in towns and cities. Then their adult children went to college. Then their adult children pursued opportunity any place any where.

At first, careers had some basic things in common. You did on the job training. You learned the skills you needed. And you were basically set for life because many jobs were lifetime jobs. You bought a house, settled down, reared a family, and eventually retired. It was stable, predictable, and routine. And we did not need to change our view of the world.

  1. Many of us sitting here do not remember those times; many of us do.
    1. Help me illustrate the change. (All you need to do is raise your hand. Don't hold your hand up until I ask, but hold it up long enough for others to see).
      1. I'll ask just three questions.
        1. How many of your expect Fort Smith to be your home for the rest of your life? Hold you hand up, and look around. Thank you!
        2. How many of you expect to retire in your current job? Hold you hand up, and look around. Thank you!
        3. How many of you expect Fort Smith to be just one of the stops you make on the journey of life? Hold your hand up, and look around. Thank you!
      2. Most of you do not expect to retire in your current job, and most of you do not expect to live in Fort Smith the rest of your life.
        1. How do you think members of a rural congregation would have answered those questions fifty years ago?
        2. The transition from rural life to urban life changed the way we look at the world.
    2. Consider just jobs.
      1. The typical person in today's work force will change careers (not jobs) four times in his or her work life.
      2. The growing reality is this: a job can take you anywhere.
        1. Recently a company paid one of my sons to come to California to convince workers in a plant that was closing to move to another company plant in Camden, Arkansas.
        2. In this era of downsizing, reorganizing, consolidating, and disappearing markets, jobs take people everywhere.
        3. One of our members commutes by plane within the country every week, and another member commutes by plane overseas frequently.
      3. What is this reality doing to us?
        1. It produces a different kind of needs.
        2. It produces a different kind of problems.
        3. It produces many different ways to look at the world.

  2. I want to share with you some of the different ways that we, within this congregation, look at the world. (I am talking about us, in this assembly, right this moment.)
    1. Some of us look at the world with some form of the "God is in control" view.
      1. There are several, but consider just two forms of the "God is in control" view.
      2. View one: the world chooses to be extremely wicked.
        1. God is angry and deeply offended by all this wickedness.
        2. God is primarily a God of wrath and justice.
        3. God will take vengeance; He will punish the world for its wickedness.
        4. The world should live in terror of God.
      3. View two: the world has been deceived and enslaved by Satan.
        1. God wants to rescue everyone who has been deceived and enslaved.
        2. God uses Jesus' grace and mercy to rescue the deceived and enslaved.
        3. The purpose of salvation is to rescue people.
        4. The world should find hope in Jesus Christ.
    2. Some of us look at the world with the "God wants me to be happy" view.
      1. God wants me to be happy.
      2. God is for anything that makes me happy.
      3. When I know what will make me happy, God wants me to do it or to have it.
      4. God's purpose for me on earth is to be happy.
    3. Some of us look at the world with the "God exists, but God is not in control" view.
      1. Evil controls this world, and obviously evil is defeating righteousness.
      2. God cannot change things; and He certainly cannot change them in my life.
      3. Church talk, church rules, and church principles do not work in the real world.
      4. I worship to put me in a more favorable position with God when I die--God rules that world, but He cannot do anything about this world.
    4. Some of us have the "God is not the origin of life or people" view.
      1. Life is an accident, people are the result of pure chance, and human life has no purpose beyond earth.
      2. Life is at the mercy of turmoil and suffering.
      3. We need to find ways to escape distress and suffering, and we should experience pleasure every way possible.
      4. Life is depressing; it is full of rejection, betrayal, and disappointment.
      5. There is nothing after death.
    5. Each of those views is held right now by someone sitting here.
      1. And I am supposed to preach sermons that are relevant and life-changing to each one of you regardless of your view of life.
      2. And I am supposed to do it in a way that lets many of you continue to think that everyone here sees the world just like you do.
      3. And every sermon ideally should be only twenty-five minutes long.
      4. And no matter how you look at God, or life, or the world, every sermon should have obvious meaning and value to you.

  3. Too much of the time what we do in our assemblies is not designed to "connect" the real, every day lives of people with God.
    1. We do not know what to do when people do not look at the world alike.
      1. Preachers do not.
      2. Leaders do not.
      3. Teachers do not.
      4. Opinion leaders do not.
      5. The core group does not.
      6. Increasingly, we struggle because we all do not look at the world alike.
    2. A typical congregation rarely makes a significant "connection" with the lives of people who attend.
      1. Every typical congregation has many struggling Christians.
        1. Lost jobs, terrible debt, troubled marriages, sickness, death, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, abusive relationships, unmarried pregnancy, abortion, anger, violence, drug addictions, alcoholism, and a long list of similar things constantly torment struggling Christians.
        2. So they find the motivation to "attend church" one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours on Sunday morning, mostly sit and listen, and then go away to struggle alone for six days and twenty-one hours.
      2. To me it is obvious that the design and intention of the New Testament letters was to connect the every day lives of Christians to God and teach them how to look at the world.
        1. For example, read the letters that Paul or Peter or John wrote.
        2. Look at how frequently they wrote about the common, every day problems of Christians: sexual sins, anger, jealousy, envy, greed, lying, idolatry, drunkenness, and such like things.
        3. Notice how rarely they stomped on Christians for their behavior.
        4. Notice how they consistently challenged them to let God, Christ, and the Spirit teach them how to look at themselves and the world differently.
        5. When God taught them how to look at the world, they became kind, gentle, patient, forbearing, forgiving, merciful, honest, truthful, and helpful.

  4. "David, where ever did you get that idea?" From the New Testament.
    1. See it for yourself.
      1. Paul visited Athens and spoke to the elite leaders of Greek idolatry and philosophy
      2. He tried to connect their view of the world with the living God.
    2. Acts 17:24-31 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

[Prayer: God, open our eyes, and help us see the world as you do.]

"David, how a person looks at the world does not matter!" Really? I wonder how Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris looked at the world before they walked in Columbine High School. I wonder how Benjamin Smith looked at the world before he began shooting people last weekend."

How YOU look at the world matters. If you are serious about changing your life, if you are serious about letting God help you with your struggles, you must change the way that you look at the world. You must allow God, Christ, and the Spirit to teach you how to see life and the world from the eyes of heaven.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 11 July 1999

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