I want to begin by reading from a New Testament translation called The Message, a modern English translation. My purpose is simple: I want you to hear Paul's thoughts in familiar words. The reading begins in Colossians 2:6. [Certainly, you may read from your translation. But I encourage you to listen and to read from the screen.]

"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

"Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spiritual beings. But that's not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything."

  1. Can you picture your concept of the ideal society?
    1. Describe the ideal society that you would like for your family.
      1. There would be no divorce, no broken homes, no single parent homes, no hostile marriage relationships.
      2. Husbands would genuinely love and respect their wives, and wives would genuinely love and respect their husbands.
        1. Men and woman would come from loving homes and understand how husbands and wives should treat each other.
        2. Men and woman would possess good relationship skills and learn to build relationships of trust.
        3. Men and women would know how to be open and honest in their marriages; their relationships would use good communication.
      3. No alienated children, abused children, rejected children, lonely children, or unloved children would exist.
      4. Every child would know that he or she was loved, wanted, appreciated, and valued for who he or she was.
        1. Parents would be friends as well as parents.
        2. Every child would know that both Mom and Dad were there for them, and that Mom and Dad would love them even when they made mistakes.
      5. People in general would know how to love, how to be compassionate, how to show mercy, and how to be understanding.
        1. No hate, violence, or dangers created by society would exist.
        2. Because crime and injustice did not exist, no one would be afraid.
      6. You would not have to worry about protecting your property.
        1. You could be a good neighbor without hesitation.
        2. You could help a stranger without being nervous.
        3. No one would take advantage of anyone.
        4. Everyone honored honesty, integrity, and character.
        5. You could trust what you heard and never be hurt.
    2. We could continue, but is that enough to describe your dream society?
      1. While we understand such societies will never exist (and never have), I think all of us would agree that would be a dream society.
      2. Would you like to live in such a society?
        1. I would!
        2. Wherever that place existed, that would be a great place to live, to work, to be married, and to raise children.

  2. Now I want to ask the hard question: if all those conditions existed, would those situations make it a Christian society?
    1. No.
      1. It takes more than successful marriages to make a society Christian.
      2. It takes more than stable homes and good parent-child relationships to make a society Christian.
      3. It takes more than people knowing how to treat each other with respect, compassion, and mercy to make a society Christian.
      4. It takes more than destroying hate, violence, prejudice, crime, and fear to make a society Christian.
      5. It takes more than good neighbors and kindness to strangers to make a society Christian.
      6. If you doubt what I am saying, let me illustrate its truth.
        1. From the 1940s to the 60s in this society people knew nothing about the dangers of tobacco.
        2. Nothing was known about the links between tobacco use and cancer, heart trouble, or emphysema.
        3. Commonly, when people gathered, there was a cloud of tobacco smoke.
          1. If you went to a high school basketball game, the cloud of tobacco smoke filled the gym--so heavily it burned nonsmokers' lungs.
          2. In restaurants, nonsmoking sections did not exist, and the cloud of tobacco smoke could hang heavy.
          3. No smoking facilities and no smoking zones did not exist.
          4. One of the difficult experiences of airplane travel was enduring the tobacco smoke.
        4. People smoked on television, people smoked in the movies, people smoked everywhere.
        5. Cigarette ads were everywhere, and tobacco companies had broad sponsorships. [Do you older folks remember, "Call for Philip Morris" and the Lucky Strike ads?
        6. If the people living then heard about today's restrictions on tobacco use, no one would have believed it.
        7. What did Jesus Christ have to do with the change? Nothing.
          1. I am well aware of the stance the church took against smoking.
          2. I am also well aware that the men used the break between Bible classes and worship to go smoke.
          3. The enormous opposition against tobacco products in our society has nothing to do with faith in Jesus Christ; it is based on health concerns.
      7. The great sexual revolution in America began in the 1960s.
        1. That complex evolutionary process included opposition to the Vietnam war, rejection of religion, and the rejection of past marriage customs.
        2. It accelerated at an incredible pace.
        3. Moral warnings and cautions were not a serious issue in society at large.
        4. Then AIDS exploded on the scene of homosexuality and promiscuous sexual activity.
          1. And things changed when the AIDS crisis exploded on the American scene from 1979 to 1981.
          2. Did sexual morality have anything to do with putting the brakes on? No
          3. Did faith in Christ have anything to do with putting the brakes on? No.
          4. The fear of a disease that ended in almost certain death put the brakes on for a while, and reshaped sexual behavior.
          5. It has nothing to do with faith in Christ, but with physical health concerns.
        5. You doubt it? What do you think would happen if a proven vaccine protecting against AIDS was released within the next twelve months?

  3. I want to share a thought with you for you to consider. I do not ask you to agree with me; I just ask you to think.
    The thought: the church is more concerned about its desire to control society than it is about building faith in Jesus Christ.
    1. Christians are very concerned about social issues and laws.
      1. We want to control the behavior of people in society who are not Christians.
        1. We believe Christian behavior is good for society.
        2. So we want to control society "for its own good."
        3. Our desire is basically selfish--we want our children to grow up in a good social climate.
          1. Is that wrong? No.
          2. My point is not that it is wrong to want a good moral environment.
          3. My point is that our desires often have little to do with faith in Christ or God's eternal purposes.
      2. Will proper faith in Christ have a positive impact on society? Absolutely!
        1. Will it influence people to be more compassionate, kind, merciful, and forgiving? Absolutely!
        2. Will it improve marriages? Absolutely!
        3. Will it stabilize homes? Absolutely!
        4. Will it improve situations and conditions for children? Absolutely!
        5. Will it improve the way people treat people? Absolutely!
    2. However, there is an enormous difference between placing our faith in Christ to pursue God's eternal purposes and seeking to control society to accomplish our own purposes.
      1. When we create the impression that God does not care why people do the "right thing," we misrepresent God and trash Jesus Christ.
      2. When we reduce the Christian life to nothing more than doing the "right thing," we misrepresent God and trash Jesus Christ.
      3. God did not send Jesus because He thought Jesus would provide the "right touch" of completion; He sent Jesus because the Christ is essential.
        1. We dare not think it is possible to produce the results of Christian existence without faith in Jesus Christ.
        2. It is impossible to produce godly existence without faith in Christ.

[Prayer: God help us see and understand what we must know and understand in Jesus Christ.]

How much of your life is the result of your faith in Christ? Whose purposes does your life target--yours or God's?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 19 November 2000

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