No one's work is easy. In fact, one of the certain ways to irritate most anyone is to suggest that he or she has a "nothing job" that involves no demanding responsibilities. That is almost guaranteed to make anyone angry.

It is extremely important to me that my opening thoughts this morning are in no way considered to be a sob story. I am not looking for sympathy. My goal is to increase your insights into your own life.

Just like most of you in your work, what I do is becoming more and more difficult. My objective [in my understanding of God's commission to me as a Christian who is alive in Jesus Christ] is to challenge your thinking, challenge your emotions, and stimulate you to grow in Christ.

That is a demanding, difficult thing to do. Many of us do not want changes in the way we think, or changes in the way we feel. Many of us do not want to grow. Most of us want to be who we are where we are--we would like for everyone else to change in ways that make us more comfortable.

Sometimes there is a lot of joy in what I do. When someone is helped and grows because I challenged his or her understanding, I rejoice. Sometimes there is a lot of sorrow in what I do. When someone is resentful because I challenged his or her understanding, I grieve.

There are times when a person thinks I "have it made." Sometimes I encounter the suggestions that say, "You have been preaching a long time. You now work for a sizable congregation. Why don't you just say what people want to hear and take it easy?"

Why don't I? I cannot do that for two reasons. The number one reason is enormous. It is based on this understanding: I have to answer to God for everything I teach. What I teach and how I live must represent Him, must reveal what He does through Jesus Christ, must cooperate with the Spirit's work, and must be true to the full message of the Bible.

The number two reason is also enormous. It is based on this understanding: I must encourage you to live for God and to die in Christ.

After Paul declared that his ambition was to be pleasing to God, he made this statement:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

If we are to live for God and die in Christ, what is our goal?

  1. The journey toward God begins by becoming a person of faith.
    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."
    1. The journey begins by believing that a loving God did send His son to make it possible for us to have eternal life.
      1. The journey begins when a person understands that Jesus came to help people escape condemnation, not to be judged.
      2. The journey begins when a person understands that God sent Jesus to enable us to see ourselves for what we are.
      3. The person who has faith in this loving God and His son Jesus Christ is willing to examine his or her life, is willing to see self for "what I am," and understands that Jesus came to provide me the way to escape what I am.
    2. Faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God is much more than accepting a fact or a set of facts.
      1. It is the understanding that God is the source of life and existence.
      2. It is the understanding that evil separated us from the God of life and existence.
      3. It is the understanding that God promised to reverse what we allow evil to do in our lives.
      4. It is the understanding that God used Jesus' life, death, and resurrection to build a bridge for us to cross back to relationship with God.
      5. It is the understanding that I can be in relationship with God because of what God reversed in Jesus Christ.
    3. Unless I trust what God did in Jesus Christ, the journey cannot begin.

  2. The journey continues with my repentance.
    1. Basically repentance is waking up to the fact that my life is going in the wrong direction and is being lived in ways that are destructive to me.
      1. Because of that awakening, repentance is the resolve to turn my life around and redirect it.
      2. It is the simple understanding that I cannot continue to live, to act, to think, and to feel like I am doing.
      3. When I repent, there are things I cannot do through that repentance.
        1. I cannot remove the evil that already has occurred in my life.
        2. I cannot remove all the flaws that were created in me by evil influences of an ungodly world.
        3. I cannot destroy the guilt that is rightfully mine, cannot perform God's action of justification.
        4. I cannot make myself pure, spiritually clean.
      4. When I repent, there are some things that I can do.
        1. I can redirect the way I act, think, and feel (a continuing process).
        2. I can redirect my emotions.
        3. I can assume responsibility for the way I use my life.
        4. I can turn my life toward God.
    2. One of Jesus' better known emphasis on the importance and nature of repentance is found in his teachings in Luke 15.
      1. Jesus' first two stories were about the lost sheep and the lost coin.
        1. In both stories, something of important value to the owner was lost.
        2. Serious effort toward recovery was made.
        3. When recovery occurred, it was not a moment of frustration but a moment of celebration.
        4. The point is plainly made that heavenly hosts celebrate when repentance occurs--God places a very high value on the recovery we know as repentance.
      2. The third story stresses God's joyful willingness to receive the penitent.
        1. There were clearly things only the lost son could do.
          1. He had to come to himself.
          2. He had to resolve to return to his father.
          3. He had to climb out of the pig pen.
          4. He had to walk the road back to his father to make his request.
        2. There were clearly things only the father could do.
          1. Only the father could welcome him joyfully.
          2. Only the father could receive him as a son instead of a slave.
          3. Only the father could clothe him as a son.
          4. Only the father could order the celebration.

  3. The journey enters a new road with baptism.
    1. Baptism is the point of commitment that occurs because a person believes what God did in Jesus and because a person has resolved to redirect his or her life.
    2. God committed, showed His resolve, demonstrated His seriousness in Jesus' death.
      1. God's commitment to our salvation is never at issue--God is committed to us.
      2. Our commitment to God is the issue--are we committed to God?
    3. Just as God revealed His commitment to me in Jesus' death, I reveal my commitment to God in baptism.
      1. When my faith and my repentance lead me to be baptized, I by baptism declare my trust in God's promises.
        1. I trust God to forgive me.
        2. I trust God to let His Spirit live in me.
        3. I trust God to clothe me in the pure, sinless Jesus.
        4. I trust God to make me a part of His family, His people.
        5. I trust God to place me in the salvation He promised to those who accept the atonement provided by Jesus.
      2. Baptism gives voice to my faith and demonstrates the resolve of my repentance.
    4. However, just as Jesus' crucifixion was not the end of God's commitment to our salvation, neither does our baptism end our commitment to our salvation.

  4. Baptism is only the point of our spiritual birth, not the end of the journey.
    1. If we use the birth analogy, conception occurred when we placed faith in God's work in Jesus Christ.
      1. But the objective is far more than merely to be born.
      2. The objective is to grow to spiritual maturity.
      3. Spiritual maturity is not achieved in a couple of years of growth.
    2. The writing we know as Hebrews was written to Christians who lived difficult, troubled lives for several years.
      1. The reason that caused them to live very difficult lives was their faith in Jesus as the Christ. That faith caused so much difficulty they were seriously considering renouncing Jesus to escape some of their troubles and stresses.
      2. To illustrate how tough things had been for them, read with me Hebrews 10:32-36:
        But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
      3. From our perspectives, these Christians had their confidence and endurance challenged in fundamental ways!
    3. Please give serious consideration to what the writer had to say to these Christians in Hebrews 5:11-6:2.
      Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
      1. The writer wrote [not in a condescending attitude] part of your problem is the fact that you have regressed back into infancy.
        1. When you should have spiritually matured, you have allowed yourselves to become babes again.
        2. All you are eating is milk, baby food.
      2. "What are you talking about?"
        1. You do not distinguish between good and evil.
        2. All you want to focus on are baby subjects:
          1. Repentance from works that have been killed.
          2. Faith toward God.
          3. Teachings about washings.
          4. Teachings about the laying on of hands.
          5. Teachings about the resurrection of the dead.
          6. Teachings about the eternal judgment.

How many of those subjects would you include in your list of spiritual baby foods? Would you think you were pretty mature if you understood everything that could be understood about those subjects?

How is your journey? Where are you on that journey? Because you continue to believe, because you continue to repent, because you continue to commit, do you continue to grow?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 February 2003

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell