For a few minutes, this morning I encourage you to have a "rubber neck." I actually want you to scan the audience. Go ahead. I am serious. If you need to turn, turn; if you need to look back, look back. Don't just look in front of you. Look at the people you do not ordinarily see.

Do you see folks you do not know? Do you see folks you are acquainted with but do not have much in common with? Do you see folks whose lifestyle is totally different from your lifestyle? Do you see folks who "are really into" something that just does not interest you?

Do you see anyone whom Jesus did not die for? Do you see anyone that Jesus does not want to forgive? Do you see anyone that Jesus excludes from his mercy and grace? Do you see anyone that Jesus does not want to live in heaven?

  1. Jesus expressed incredible love and mercy for people.
    1. When you honestly study what the gospels say about Jesus, Jesus' concern for people astounds us.
      1. In Matthew 8:3 he touched and healed a person who had leprosy.
      2. In Matthew 8:5-13 he healed the servant of a Roman army officer and said the officer had more faith than any Jewish person he ever met.
      3. In Matthew 8:24-34 he cast devils out of two violent man who could not be controlled by anyone.
      4. In Matthew 9:2 he forgave a paralyzed man of his sin.
      5. In Luke 7:48 he told a woman guilty of sexual sin that her sins were forgiven.
      6. In Luke 23:43 he told a thief dying beside him, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
      7. In Luke 23:34 he prayed for all of those who contributed to and rejoiced in his death, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."
    2. Israel's religious leaders resented Jesus' compassion and kindness directed toward the people that they classified as undesirables.
      1. In Matthew 9:10,11 they denounced Jesus because he ate meals with tax collectors, who were known to be dishonest, and sinners, people the whole community knew were ungodly.
      2. In Matthew 10:19 they said Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard.
      3. In Matthew 12:24 they said Jesus had power over demons because the devil gave him that power.
    3. Yet, astoundingly, Jesus would as quickly forgive and save those who resented, rejected, and killed him as he would anyone else.
      1. It was Paul, the man who arrested Christians and voted for their executions (Acts 26:9,10); it was Paul who helped and encouraged those who executed Stephen (Acts 7:58;8:1); it was Paul who conducted a house to house search in Jerusalem to arrest and imprison men and women who believed in Christ (Acts 8:3); it was this Paul, who after conversion wrote:
        Romans 5:6-9 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
      2. Paul, are you certain that you know what you are talking about?
        1 Timothy 1:12-16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

    In Jesus, God did what no human will do. In Jesus, God will forgive and restore any person who will accept God's gift, no matter how evil he or she has been, no matter how undeserving he or she is.

    Now we want to focus our hearts, our thoughts, and our emotions on the death of Jesus the Christ who died for us while we were yet sinners.

    [Communion song]

    [Lord's Supper]


    Jesus once asked James and John if they could drink the cup that he drank. I want to ask all of us if we can handle what God handles. People who believe in Christ have a history of questioning and rejecting things that never concern God.

    Let me give you an example. See if this sounds familiar. This was the objection to some vocal music introduced in the worship. The specific objections:

    1. It is a new way, an unknown tongue.
    2. It is not as melodious as the usual way.
    3. There are so many tunes we shall never be able to learn them.
    4. The practice creates disturbances and causes people to behave indecently and disorderly.
    5. It is Quakerish and Popish and introductive of instrumental music.
    6. The names given to the notes (do, re, mi, etc.) are bawdy and blasphemous.
    7. It is a needless way since our fathers got into heaven without it.
    8. It is a contrivance to get money.
    9. People spend too much time learning it; they stay out late at night disorderly.
    10. Those promoting it are a company of young upstarts, and some of them are lewd, loose persons.

    These objections were raised in 1700 in New England when singing schools introduced three and four part harmony in worship songs.

  2. As a general rule, people who belong to God can never handle what God can.
    1. The book of Acts contains several specific illustrations.
      1. The good news of salvation in the resurrected Jesus who was Lord and Christ was preached for the first time in Acts 2 to Israelites, some of whom lived in Palestine and some of whom lived in various places in the Roman empire.
        1. Every person baptized that day was either a Jew or a person who had converted to Judaism. But...
          1. They did not speak the same language.
          2. They did not live the same lifestyle.
          3. Worship in Palestine's synagogues and worship in synagogues throughout the Roman empire did things differently.
        2. The baptized Jews who visited Jerusalem for the Jewish holy day of Pentecost stayed in Jerusalem instead of going home.
        3. God was not bothered by the fact that they spoke different languages, followed different cultures, and did things differently in their synagogues--God could handle it.
        4. But the baptized people could not handled it.
          1. That is why the Jerusalem congregation had a major crisis in Acts 6
          2. The dividing line separating the sides in the problem was between the Jews from Palestine and the Jews from the rest of the Roman empire.
      2. In Acts 10 God had a difficulty convincing Peter to go preach to the first non-Jews who were not converts to Judaism.
        1. Finally God got Peter to go to Caesarea to talk to Cornelius.
        2. When Peter began to teach Cornelius, his family, and some of his friends, Peter said, "I got it! I finally understand! God does not care what nationality you are! God welcomes any person from any nation if that person reverences him and does what is righteous" (Acts 10:34,35)
        3. Peter taught them about Jesus and ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
        4. That did not create a problem for God--God could handle people who were not Jews becoming Christians.
        5. But the congregation in Jerusalem could not handle it.
        6. Acts 11 makes it is very plain that they were very upset at Peter for baptizing non-Jews who had never been converted to Judaism.
      3. In Acts 15 some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem went to the large non-Jewish congregation at Antioch.
        1. They told these baptized believers, "Because you have not submitted to the religious rite of Jewish circumcision and do not follow the teachings of Moses, you are not saved."
        2. An emotional debate erupted.
        3. The issue was referred to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
        4. The converted Pharisees said, "They must be circumcised and they must obey the law of Moses."
        5. A big debate followed.
        6. Finally James said, "We should not put this burden on non-Jewish believers who have been baptized."
        7. Not all agreed, and it continued to be a major debate in the church.
        8. It did not bother God--God could handle it.
        9. It bothered the church--Jewish Christians could not handle it.
    2. In some ways, nothing has changed.
      1. Christians still struggle with matters that never bother God.
      2. We divide ourselves in camps, and we fight each other over matters the Bible says nothing about.
        1. And Satan loves it!
        2. Why? The more we struggle against each other the more we leave Satan alone.
      3. Will God save the man or woman who is in Jesus Christ, who keeps his or her heart right, who is devoted to godliness, and who loves fellow Christians? Absolutely. What if:
        1. He or she is conservative? God can handle it.
        2. He or she is progressive? God can handle it.
        3. He or she takes position X on issue A? God can handle it.
        4. He or she takes position Y on issue A? God can handle it.
        5. He or she studies only the King James Version? God can handle it.
        6. He or she studies any translation? God can handle it.
      4. "Oh, David, you are wrong about that! If we cannot handle it, God cannot handle it."
        1. Let me challenge you to study Romans 14 in context.
        2. Let me challenge you to study the problem in context.
        3. Let me challenge you to see Paul's desire in context.
        4. After understanding the context and the situation, carefully examine and think about Roman 14:4.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One of God's richest blessings to me is the blessing of being a part of you. I deeply, genuinely appreciate the 60 plus group. They have a great attitude, a great heart, and are so involved. They are a positive asset to this church. I love the family units. They are in the spiritual trenches fighting the war, and they are growing in understanding what the war is about. I love the teens. At the same time, I grieve for you. Many times I feel very uncomfortable for you. But you also challenge me. You make me realize that if Jesus is not relevant to your battles, there is no future.

Jesus connected people to God. Jesus' church connects people to God. If we do not help people connect to God, we are not Jesus' church. Let me tell you about the congregation I want to be part of before I die. In that congregation, those 60+ are doing everything they can to help teens connect to God, and teens are doing everything they can to help the 60+ connect to God. And families are doing everything they can to help the divorced connect to God. And the divorced are doing everything they can to help families connect to God. And those who are burdened are doing everything they can to help those who are not burdened to connect to God. And those who are not burdened are doing everything they can to help the burdened connect to God. It is a totally unselfish congregation that focuses on helping others connect to God.

As Paul said, "Let each one of you regard one another as more important than himself" (Philippians 2:3).

[Prayer: God, work in our hearts so that we all will help each other connect to You.]

If you need to connect to God, we invite you to the resurrected Jesus Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 April 2000

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