I want to ask your permission to think with you by using a different approach. Please do not "turn me off" or "change channels." My beginning may not appeal to all of you, but please follow me to the end. By the time I reach the end, I hope to connect with every teen and every adult present.

I want to begin simply. What is your definition of spiritual? You have a personal concept. What is it? Should a Christian be a spiritual person? As a Christian, is it your goal to be spiritual? How do you know when you are spiritual?

Is spirituality just a matter of being in a church building on Sunday? Owning a Bible? Believing God exists? Believing Jesus died and was resurrected?

Is spirituality just a matter of rules and regulations? Just a matter of accepting the right set of beliefs? Just a matter of doing right things and not doing wrong things?

  1. On September 1, 1939, Germany began World War II by launching a ferocious invasion of Poland.
    1. By October 6, in only 36 days, the nation of Poland ceased to exist--it was completely absorbed into the Soviet Union and Germany.
      1. When Poland fell to the Germany invasion, Germany immediately did what to us is unthinkable.
        1. The German army arrested everyone who occupied a position of leadership in every sector of Polish society.
        2. All of these people (who numbered in the thousands) were executed.
        3. In the five years of Nazi occupation, over five million Poles were murdered, half of them Jews.
      2. All Polish leadership was systematically destroyed.
    2. In the course of that war, those in charge of the German war machine attempted to exterminate certain ethnic groups from Europe.
      1. Concentration camps existed to control and eliminate people.
      2. A number of those camps were designed to be death camps.
      3. The people killed in concentration camps numbered in the millions.
      4. To us, the scale of death, the scale of starvation, the cruelty used in the work groups, and survival conditions in the camps were unbelievable.
    3. How does a whole society become oblivious to death and human cruelty on such an enormous scale?
      1. How can cultured, advanced, civilized people tolerate such gross inhumanity?
      2. It is a complex process involving many factors, but at the foundation of the process is this: you change the way that people look at life.
      3. When a nation looks at itself as humanity's master race, when a society looks at groups of people as being so inferior that they are not human, that nation (or society) can destroy those people for the good of the world.
      4. "If we are the master race, then the world is blessed if we control the world."
      5. The process begins by changing the way people look at life.

  2. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack.
    1. That Sunday, 2,403 Americans were killed, and another 1,178 were wounded.
      1. American wives lost their husbands.
      2. American parents lost their sons.
      3. American children lost their fathers.
    2. In the next four years, Japan's air force used Kamikaze pilots.
      1. A Kamikaze pilot deliberately crashed into a target to destroy the target.
      2. He willingly, deliberately died in the process.
      3. Can you understand that? Does that make any sense to you?
      4. Why would a pilot do that?
      5. You cannot understand the "why" unless first you understand how such people looked at life.

  3. On August 6, 1945 , an American B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima; on August 9, three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki.
    1. The destruction was so complete that it was unbelievable.
      1. Around the ignition point of the bomb, nothing was left--everything evaporated.
      2. The world had never experienced or witnessed such total devastation.
      3. Nothing ever produced such devastation.
    2. Those bombs began the atomic age and a whole new way to look at life.
      1. Once Russia also developed atomic bombs, Americans lived in the cold realization of what such bombs could do to us.
      2. Unless you lived in the cold war years between Stalin and Kruchiev's Russia and this nation, you cannot image the fear.
      3. Unless you lived through the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, you cannot believe what fear of nuclear attack did to the American people.
    3. The potential of nuclear destruction fundamentally changed the way people looked at life.

  4. In the early 1960s, the Viet Nam conflict began.
    1. That conflict began at a time when some Americans' view of life was undergoing radical changes.
      1. The "flower children" and the "hippies" were feared as a revolution movement in our society.
        1. A whole generation of people shouted, "Make love, not war."
        2. Other generations looked upon those people traitors.
        3. The hate-filled confrontation between Americans was incredible.
    2. The way many Americans looked at life changed as many of us watched, and the change was vicious and ugly.
      1. To those Americans who survived World War II or who lost sons or husbands in that war, the unthinkable was happening.
      2. To those rebelling against what they saw as American cruelty and injustice, the unthinkable was happening.
      3. As a result, this nation's people was forever changed.
      4. Why? It permanently changed the way that Americans look at life.

  5. So you teens say, "Okay. I see your point, but that stuff happened long ago--that kind of change that alters the way people look at life does not happen today. "
    1. Really?
      1. All it takes to change the way people look at life are powerful influences that change the way we think.
      2. Early In my lifetime the influences of arrogance, the dehumanization of people, death, and violence changed the way people looked at life.
    2. Today one of those powerful forces is music.
      1. One of the most powerful international forces known in today's world is music.
      2. Song lyrics and musical sounds powerfully impact people's views of life.
        1. I struggle to get people's attention for less than two hours a week--in a year, the average weekly time is less than that.
        2. How many hours a week do you listen to music on a radio station, on a CD, on MTV, on VH1, on MP3, or on Napster?
      3. What does the music you hear say:
        1. About hopelessness?
        2. About worthlessness?
        3. About sex?
        4. About anger?
        5. About selfish pleasure?
      4. Which influence is the most powerful in the way you look at life--the words of Jesus Christ or the words of your music?
      5. Do the songs you listen to over and over do the same thing to the way you look at life that German death camps, Pearl Harbor, atomic energy, and the "make love not war" did long before you were born?

  6. So everyone asks, "What does that have to do with being spiritual?" Everything! Everything!
    1. Listen to John's thoughts:
      1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
      Listen to the same statement as translated by The Message:
      Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world--wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important--has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out--but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
      1. If you love God's values, God's love lives in you.
      2. If you reject God's values, God's love cannot live in you.
      3. You cannot love the things that oppose spirituality and love God at the same time.
    2. Listen to Paul's words:
      Ephesians 5:15-21 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
      Listen to the same statement translated by The Message:
      So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
      1. Be very careful in deciding how to live your life and use your time.
      2. Do not let drinking determine your songs.
      3. Let your feelings for God and Christ determine your songs.

For a hundred years we systematically created a monster, and now the monster has turned on us. For a hundred years we shouted, "Authority! Authority! Where is your authority?" Every religious issue was reduced to an authority issue.

Most of our divisions can be traced to arguments about authority. No matter what a member does, he claims Bible authority. No matter what position a member holds, he claims Bible authority. Regarding anything religiously important, I never hear a member of the church say, "I have no authority for this, but I believe..." Too many use the Bible anyway they wish to prove or justify anything they want.

Is Bible authority important? Absolutely! Is authority the only important consideration? No! Does something that includes authority go beyond authority? Yes! What? God's will. God's will creates spiritual people who live lives that respect God's authority.

What is the monster we created? We allowed Christians to look at life through what they claim to be Bible authority. We allowed Christians to believe authority excuses ungodly thinking and behavior. Too many Christians justify ungodly thinking and behavior on the basis of authority with no intention of being spiritual. Too many of us fail to realize you cannot combine authority and ungodliness. The basic objective of God's will is to produce spiritual people.

In my life time, I have heard many Christians ask, "Show me where the Bible condemns..." Rarely do I hear Christians ask, "Help me understand how to be spiritual." Too many Christians have no desire to be spiritual. That is the monster.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 3 June 2001

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