I do not like glaring lights. Glaring lights blind you. I had rather see than guess. Glaring lights force you to guess. A common example is meeting a car at night with its headlights on bright. I do not like that experience. Those glaring headlights blind me and make me guess where the road goes. They make me guess about "my side of the road."

I love lights that help me see. As my age increases, my love for such lights grows. I do not mind meeting a car at night when its lights are dimmed and well adjusted. The car is coming toward me, but I can see the road. I can see my side of the road without guessing. Even on an unfamiliar road, I still can see where I am going.

I never want the other car lights to blind me, and I never want my lights to blind the other driver. When I was a teenager almost all roads were two lane roads. It made me angry when someone did not dim their car lights. In anger, I would turn my lights on bright to non-verbally say to the other driver he was rude. Of course, my act was not an act of rudeness. It was his fault. He was to blame, not me.

One day as I explained my practice, an older, much wiser person calmly said, "I do exactly the opposite. When someone approaches me with his lights on bright, I make certain mine are on dim. I want one of us to know where he is going."

  1. For a while on Sunday evening, I want us to focus on some challenging statements Jesus made in the gospel of Matthew.
    1. I want to explain to you why.
      1. To explain why, I need to explain some personal, basic motivations.
      2. I also need to explain my personal understanding of Jesus Christ.
    2. Let me begin by sharing something about my personal motivations.
      1. I do not preach just to be employed.
      2. To me, teaching, preaching, and helping people is not a job--it's a life.
      3. One of my more sobering decisions weekly is this: "What will I emphasize in my lessons?"
      4. I am keenly aware of some basic facts.
        1. First, I am keenly aware that my understanding is limited.
          1. There is so much more to be known about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God's will than I know.
          2. As a result, I am constantly growing to new understandings.
          3. I often hear Christians speak and judge with such certainty when I know there are truths they don't think about or consider.
          4. I have learned when we speak and judge with such certainty, such dogmatism, such inflexibility that one of two things are true about our certainty: either we have not learned some truths or we are afraid.
        2. Second, I am keenly aware that God knows everything I share, and I will answer to Him and to Him alone for the way I represent Him and His will.
          1. For a long time, I was convinced there were people "in the brotherhood" who could "ruin your reputation" and destroy your future.
          2. That conviction often caused me to "run scared."
          3. I have begun to spiritually mature to the point that I realize what other people say about me is unimportant.
          4. What God says about me is all important.
          5. Sometimes I am asked, "Are you sure you should say that? 'X' people might misunderstand you and misrepresent you."
          6. Increasingly this thought runs through my heart and mind: God says to me, "You understood something they did not yet understand." Then He asks me, "Why didn't you help them understand?"
          7. I am keenly aware of the fact that it is not people's reactions that are important; it is God's reactions that are important.
        3. Third, I am keenly aware that God wants to save people, to help people, to give people hope.
          1. That is why God sent Jesus Christ.
          2. Jesus did not die on the cross to condemn people, but to save people (people were already condemned).
          3. I think we all have a poor understanding of John 3:16-21:
            For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."
          4. I think we all have a poor understanding of 2 Peter 3:8,9:
            But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
          5. I think we all have a poor understanding of 1 Timothy 2:3,4:
            This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
          6. I think we all have a poor understanding of Titus 2:11-14:
            For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
          7. I think we all have a poor understanding of 2 Timothy 2:23-26:
            But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
          8. None of us ever have wanted anything as much as God wants to save people.
          9. None of us ever have loved anyone as much as God loves sinners.
          10. Because we fail to understand the magnitude of God's desire, we often fail to understand God's priorities.
    3. Let me share with you my understanding of Jesus Christ.
      1. I understand Jesus to be God's Son (Matthew 3:17).
      2. I understand that Jesus existed with God before he came as a human to this earth (John 1:1,2).
      3. I understand that the pre-existent Jesus, the being who was with God before he came to this world, was active in the creation of our world and existence (John 1:3, 10).
      4. I understand that Jesus, prior to coming to this world, was a part of divinity.
      5. Carefully follow me:
        1. When Paul wrote about God, he wrote because of revelation, not because of experience produced by "being in the beginning" with God the Father.
        2. When Peter wrote about God, he wrote because of revelation and association with Jesus, not because of being with God the Father "in the beginning."
        3. When John wrote about God, he wrote because of revelation and association with Jesus, not because of being with God the Father "in the beginning."
        4. When Jesus spoke about God's priorities, God's emphasis, God's views, and God's concerns, Jesus knew the Father; he was with Him "in the beginning."
      6. This is my understanding: our understanding of God's will, purposes, and priorities must begin by understanding Jesus.
        1. To the degree our understanding of Jesus is flawed, our understanding of Paul, Peter, John, and other New Testament writers is flawed.
        2. To the degree that our understanding of Jesus is flawed, our understanding of God is flawed.
        3. To the degree that our understanding of Jesus is flawed, our understanding of the church is flawed.
        4. To the degree that our understanding of Jesus is flawed, our understanding of the Christian life is flawed.
    4. For those reasons, for several Sunday nights I want to focus your attention on some things Jesus said.

  2. This evening for a moment I want to focus your attention on a familiar statement Jesus made about our purpose as followers of God.
    Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 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. To gain insight and focus, we need to approach this statement with some basic understandings.
      1. The people Jesus addressed lived in a physical world very different from ours.
        1. After sunset, they had darkness as few of us have experienced darkness.
        2. There was no electricity, gasoline, diesel power, kerosene or candles.
        3. There were no street lights outside and no 100 watt light bulbs inside.
        4. Darkness was an enemy--the work of the thief, the drunkard, and the violent person.
        5. When darkness came, useful activity stopped; evil things, not good things happened after darkness.
        6. With darkness, you were at the mercy of military control and patrols--in most situations, the military were the police of that day.
      2. The people Jesus addressed lived in a spiritual world very different to ours.
        1. In the first century, giving helpful guidance was not a significant objective in much of Judaism.
        2. I am not implying there were no good people--certainly good people existed, but they were the minority.
        3. The overriding concern of Judaism's influential elements was control, not guidance.
          1. The Pharisees were concerned about the control of law (according to their interpretation of the law).
          2. The Sadducees were concerned about the power of material control and the control of the temple.
          3. The Zealots were concerned about control of the homeland.
          4. The Essenes were concerned about controlling their communities as they lived in isolation from society.
        4. The common view seemed to be this: God issued edicts, and if you did not conform to God's edicts, you suffered consequences.
          1. All the Israelite adults who left Egypt died in the wilderness.
          2. Rebellious Israelites in the period of the judges suffered domination.
          3. God took away most of the Israelite kingdom from Solomon's descendants.
          4. God allowed the Assyrians to destroy northern Israel.
          5. God allowed Judah to experience the Babylonian captivity.
          6. Do what God says, or you will suffer the consequences; the issue was control.
          7. The Old Testament prophets wrote a lot about God's love, mercy, and willingness to forgive, but first century Israel was deaf to those voices.
      3. Jesus said the people who belonged to God were like light in darkness.
        1. For a person caught on the road after darkness (remember, no flashlights), the lights of a city on hill were welcome relief.
        2. Light in darkness was welcome relief; that is why they placed one of their small lamps on a lamp stand at night.
        3. Even a dim light in darkness gave guidance, let you see where to move.
      4. When God's light exists in you, you shine in the darkness of the world.
        1. People see your works are good; they are beneficial to life; they guide life.
        2. They realize the light in you is the result of God in you.
        3. They know you live as you do because God provides light for your life.
        4. They credit God because they know your light comes from God.

The purpose of living for God is to provide the guidance of beneficial light, to attract people to God, to make people realize good things can and will happen in their lives if they let God be their light. The purpose of living for God is not to turn your headlights on high in the darkness to blind everyone who looks at you. Our objective is not control. Exercising our control and producing faith in the light are not the same thing. Our object is to provide hope in darkness. We are to reveal hope, not compound despair.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 10 June 2001

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell