Recently one evening about 9 p.m. I was checking on someone who had been admitted to an emergency room in Fort Smith. As I waited to talk to a nurse, I noticed how full the emergency waiting room was. Someone was seated in every chair, and people were standing. It was a collection of people who were obviously sick or very concerned about someone who was sick.

This emergency room is fairly large. A young mother hurried by me. She was carrying an infant, and a three or four year old trailed her, running to keep up. As she passed to the middle of the waiting room, I noticed the remains of a potato chip on the floor. This chip obviously had been stepped on repeatedly so it was nothing but a collection of crumbs.

The mother, only as mothers can, sensed her three year old was not trailing her. She quickly stopped and spun around. The three year old already had stopped dead still from his run. In one quick, smooth motion, he stooped down, picked up some of the potato chip crumbs, and put them in his mouth.

Mom turned just in time to see what he did. Distraught, she immediately called his name and told him not to do that.

How would you feel if you watched your child eat potato chip crumbs off of an emergency room floor?

Obviously, the child, like all children, needed to learn something about what he put in his mouth. What did he need to learn? Would he understand everything he needed to know if all he learned was, "You don't do that!"

  1. A major priority in Jesus' teachings and in the epistles was helping people learn God's value system.
    1. I want to illustrate that truth by using Jesus' lesson we call the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. He taught this lesson to a Jewish audience whose primary religious influences came from Pharisees and Saduccees and whose country was occupied by Roman soldiers.
      1. Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That was a difficult value in a society who had the Pharisees as religious watch dogs.
      2. Matthew 5:28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That was difficult for a Jew in a society in which prostitution was open.
      3. Matthew 5:39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That was difficult in a society policed by Roman soldiers.
      4. Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That was difficult when major religious influences stressed human praise and honor.
      5. Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
        1. God's value system .
        2. That was difficult when some religious leaders declared vengeance was godly.
      6. Matthew 6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That was difficult when religious influences in your society believed God's primary avenue of blessing was material things.
      7. Matthew 6:34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That value is difficult for anyone living in any society.
      8. Matthew 7:12 In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
        1. God's value system.
        2. That also is difficult for anyone living in any society.
    2. I want you to recognize the emphasis on seeing, understanding, and adopting God's value system was routinely stressed to first century Christians.
      1. Consider Romans 12:17-21 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
        1. In the church at Rome, Paul wanted them to understand that God was in charge of vengeance; they were not.
        2. A part of God's value system for Christians is to put God in charge of mercy and vengeance.
      2. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
        1. These Christians lived in sin city--the port city of Corinth was especially known for its sexual lifestyle.
        2. A part of God's value system for Christians is for us to separate ourselves from sexually immoral activity.
      3. Consider Galatians 6:1,2 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
        1. The Christians in Galatia needed to understand the importance of helping each other instead of rejecting each other.
        2. A part of God's value system for Christians is helping troubled people just as Jesus did.
      4. Consider Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
        1. The Christians at Ephesus needed to understand that life had changed; they were not the same old pagans they used to be.
        2. A part of God's value system for Christians is to learn to live a different existence based on different motives.
    3. Trust me, I could illustrate this again and again from New Testament writings.
      1. People converted to Christ, who belong to God, learn a value system that is completely new.
      2. Their everyday life is motivated and guided by this new value system.

  2. Warning: I am going to meddle for minute.
    1. Please understand.
      1. I am meddling because I am concerned about a serious problem.
      2. I am not meddling because I have it all figured out.
      3. I am not meddling because I consider myself the expert who should tell you what to do.
    2. First, I want to identify with you and with the problem.
      1. We live in a stressful society that constantly keeps all of us under extreme pressure.
      2. The time demands placed on our lives are outrageous.
      3. The lifestyle that many of us try to live ruins us.
      4. The primary reason that we adults endure the stress, the time demands, and the lifestyle demands is simple: we want our families to live better than we did.
        1. We are scared to death something will place serious handicaps on our children.
        2. Many of us are paranoid about our families.
    3. My question: what value system are we teaching our families?
      1. Summer is over and many of our children start back to school next week.
        1. This summer, how many weekends did your family devote to "having fun"?
        2. On those weekends did your worship consist of sitting in an assembly once on Sunday morning?
        3. This summer, did you create this impression: if you sit in a church building for an hour on Sunday morning, if you arrive late and leave early, if you can say that you took the Lord's Supper, you fulfilled your religious obligation.
        4. Is that the spiritual value system you taught this summer?
      2. This is the reality of school life: our children's lives will be filled with more activities than we can possibly care for as parents.
        1. The financial demands will be enormous.
        2. The time demands will be unreal.
        3. The scheduling demands will be utterly ridiculous.
        4. In the list of school year things that must be done, will the spiritual be last?
        5. If something has to be bumped, will it be the spiritual?
        6. If something has to be neglected, will it be the spiritual?
        7. If something has to be compromised, will it be the spiritual?
      3. What do our families learn just by watching us?
        1. How often does your family hear you make a last minute call saying you cannot do something you committed to do for the congregation?
        2. How often do they see you arrive late for Bible class or skip it all together?
        3. How often do they see you actually studying the Bible, actually praying, or actually preparing for your Bible class?
        4. From weekly observations, where in your list of priorities does the spiritual fit?

[Prayer: Father, forgive us for reducing your values to a system of obligations. Help us open our hearts to your values, for in your values is the key to life and the meaning of existence.]

As we rush through life's emergency room, our families run behind us. Sometimes we sense they are not following. In alarm, we stop and turn around. And we see them indulging an addiction. Or we see them sexually active outside of marriage. Or we see them having an abortion. Or we see them living a lifestyle that has nothing to do with God. We see them unaware of the danger. And we watch as they eat the crumbs of stepped on potato chips off the emergency room floor. And we shout, "STOP! Don't you realize that can make you sick? Don't you understand that could kill you? Surely, you know better than that!"

And they look at us bewildered. And silently they say, "Our priorities are not that different from yours. What's the big deal?"

When your children become adults, if they live by the values you practice, will they be a spiritual person?

Our families need more than prohibitions to avoid. They need God's system of values to live by.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 20 August 2000

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