I want you to recall, specifically, the worst class you took in high school or college. I do not mean the hardest class. I do not mean the class you feared the most. I mean the worst class. The worst class was the class you regarded to be completely useless and totally unnecessary.

For most of us, the worst class was a required class. It was a class not directly related to our major or minor. But it was a necessary class. We had to take it to get a diploma. We dreaded it because we regarded it to be useless. Every class session was torture because we resented being forced to take the class.

One such class I took was a college course in German. Languages other than English are not my strength. My high school was too small to have a single foreign language course. I had zero exposure to any language but English. But my college major required a course in a foreign language, preferably German.

My German teacher was around eighty years old. She never visited Germany. She never had a conversation in German with people whose primary language was German. A student's grade was determined by three things: where you sat in class, what you wore, and your hair style. If you looked at her she called on you. If you did not look at her, she did not call on you. It was a horrible situation and experience for two semesters.

But all of us endured our worst class. Each of us took a worst class. We "played the game." We may not have learned anything, but we "played the game." We may not have taken anything useful from the class, but we "played the game."

  1. "Going to church" or "being religious" or "church membership" too often is approached with the same feelings and attitudes that surrounded our worst class.
    1. It is like the necessary class that we hate to take but we have to take.
      1. We come because we "have to play the game."
      2. It is one of the "necessary things" that we "must do" if we are to receive God's diploma.
        1. .On earth, diplomas open the doors of opportunity.
        2. Church attendance opens the doors of opportunity after death.
    2. Church attendance is a strange occurrence.
      1. Those whose hearts were not converted attend with no expectations.
        1. They physically attend and are bodily present.
        2. But that is all that matters.
      2. Some who attend are simply doing what is necessary.
        1. They are convinced that attending is important, and that is why they come.
        2. But they really do not know why it is important.
        3. If someone asks them to explain the importance, their answer is vague.
        4. They simply accept as a fact that attending is important.
      3. Many of our children grow up asking "why?"
        1. Children are perceptive.
        2. They know when we are "playing the game."
        3. Their question: "Why do you play the game?"
        4. They also know that we do not have any deep, personal explanation.
      4. Many of our friends, neighbors, and associates wonder about the same question.
        1. "Next month we plan to spend every Sunday doing '__X__'."
        2. "Join us. We are going to have a great time!"
        3. And they see you really want to join them.
        4. But your answer is, "Aw, I'm sorry. I can't. I have to go to church."
        5. Obviously, you are "playing the game."
        6. Why? Why is it so important for you to "play the game"?
      5. If our children or someone close to us is bold enough to ask, "why play the game," it alarms us; it shakes us up.
        1. No one should be forced to explain why they "play the game."
        2. Everyone should understand the importance of "playing the game"!
        3. You don't ask why.
        4. You don't understand why.
        5. You just do it.

  2. Do you have a hero? "A what?" A hero.
    1. I understand that word is not used much any more.
      1. It is out of date, politically incorrect, obsolete.
      2. It has been replaced with words like role model, mentor, or icon.
    2. "What is a hero?"
      1. A hero is someone who captures your heart and your imagination.
      2. A hero is someone you admire to the point of devotion.
      3. A hero is someone you willingly permit to influence your thinking and life on your deepest levels.
      4. You likely do not refer to this person as your hero, but I do not doubt such a person exists in your life.

  3. I have a hero.
    1. No one influences my life as much as my hero.
      1. In all honesty, my hero has changed me as a person more extensively and deeper than anyone else who has been a part of my life.
      2. The person I am today is distinctly different from the person I was twenty years ago.
      3. The person I was twenty years ago was distinctly different from the person I was thirty years ago.
      4. The person I was thirty years ago was distinctly different from the person I was forty years ago.
      5. And I am very aware that my hero is not through changing my life.
      6. In fact, my life is in greater transition right now at this age than ever before.
    2. The better I understand my hero, the more my life changes.
      1. He does not change my life by using pleasure, or success, or money, or status, or anything material.
      2. In fact, those things distract me and reduce my hero's influence in my life.
      3. My hero never deceives me, but all those things constantly try to deceive me.
      4. I have lived long enough to know that the foundations of pleasure, success, money, status, or materialism are illusions.
      5. My hero teaches me how to live instead of promising me things.
        1. He sustains me on a daily basis in a hostile world.
        2. And every single one of us live in a hostile world, whether we realize it or not.
    3. "Can you explain why he is your hero?"
      1. I never had anyone who accurately knew me for what I really am and still loved me enough to die for me.
      2. He covers every ungodly thought, every wicked emotion, and every evil deed I committed in my life, and he will keep right on doing that.
      3. He builds our relationship on a forgiveness that literally acts as if I never did anything wrong.
      4. Every single day of my life he gives me the opportunity to be a different person.
      5. When I was immature and stupid, he was patient.
      6. He makes me a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better brother, a better friend, and a better neighbor.
      7. He helps me build a life that matters, a life that death cannot stop.
      8. He gives me an identity that cannot be stolen.
      9. He teaches me how to be at peace in my life.
    4. But for all of that to happen, I have to trust him.
      1. My most difficult lesson in life is learning to trust him.
      2. Often what he teaches me does not make sense when I learn the lesson.
      3. But it always make sense after I change my life.
    5. Why is Jesus Christ my hero?
      1. Because he shows me God.
      2. Because he teaches me how to live so life is blessed and not destroyed.
      3. No one else shows me God; no one else teaches me how to live without destroying life.
      4. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to His people; He told Jeremiah before he began to teach that no one would listen to him.
        1. Jeremiah was surrounded by the spiritual disaster of idolatry among God's people.
        2. As he looked at that disaster, this is what Jeremiah said, (Jeremiah 10:23) 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.
      5. Centuries later God sent His son to His people knowing that His people would kill His Son.
        1. Jesus knew how desperately God's people needed a Shepherd, and he came to be that desperately needed Shepherd.
        2. When explaining that he came to be the good shepherd who cared for and protected the life of his sheep, Jesus said, (John 10:10) I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
        3. Note that Jesus did not come that we may have things.
        4. He came that we may have life.

[Prayer: God, help us let Jesus be our hero. Help us permit Jesus to show us who You are. Help us permit Jesus to teach us how to live. Increase our ability to trust You, and to trust Jesus.]

Every time I preach I try to challenge your heart and mind. Every time I teach I try to touch your heart and mind. Sometimes as I prepare my lessons, tears flow. It is that important to me that God use me to touch your hearts. What I do is not a job. What I do is a life.

We need to stop "playing the game." We need to let Jesus be our hero. Unless we let Jesus teach us how to live, we cannot know how to have life. You don't agree? Let me meddle by asking some hard questions. Those of you who have experienced divorce, before you married the first time did you intend to divorce? Those you who struggle with adultery, or promiscuity, or pornography, was that your plan for your life? Those of you whose controlling god is addiction, is that the god you want? Those of you whose god is pleasure, does pleasure deceive you? Those of you whose god is money, does that god give you an empty life? Those of you who are killing yourself and neglecting your family to acquire things, do those things depress you?

Do you honestly want failed relationships, sex, money, addictions, or things to be your god? Do you honestly believe that they can give you life?

One last question: when are you going to stop "playing the game" and start letting Jesus teach you how to live?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 September 2000

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