We want to make disciples for Jesus Christ who are eager to do good works. Most of us are disciples of Jesus Christ who are not ashamed to serve him. We want other people to be disciples of Jesus Christ because we want them to have the blessings in Jesus Christ that God has given us. The greatest blessing anyone can receive is the blessing of discipleship in Jesus Christ.

A common concern weighs heavily on most of our hearts. This concern is growing bigger, not smaller, and the concern is getting heavier, not lighter. What is this common concern? It is our concern for the salvation of other people.

Let me acknowledge two focal points of concern from the start. #1--We want our children to be saved (become disciples) very quickly. In fact, we would prefer that our children be saved before they are lost. The route we desire is from safe to saved, not from safe to lost to saved. It is very simple to want our own children to be forgiven before they have ever committed any sin. We feel that way because we love them very deeply.

# 2--We want people that we love and care about to be in a saved relationship with God whether they want to be or not. So it becomes imperative that we convince them to be baptized. Believing is not an urgent matter if they are baptized. Repenting is not an urgent matter if they are baptized. For us the key is to convince them that they needed to be baptized. If we convince them to be baptized, we can assume they believe. If we convince them to be baptized, we can assume they repent [if we are not careful, repentance becomes an attitude of sorrowfulness rather than a redirection of life].

Therefore, the key question to us is not "do you believe?" or, "Have you repented?" The key question is, "Have you been baptized?"

May I make an observation: there are no "faithless" paths to salvation in Jesus Christ. I cannot receive forgiveness from the one who died for me if I do not believe in the result of his death. I cannot receive atonement from the one who was resurrected to assure my resurrection if I do not believe in his resurrection. I cannot receive redemption and be freed from evil by God and Christ's forgiveness unless I believe in the one who redeemed me. If Jesus Christ is to provide me the blessings of salvation, I must believe in God's work in Jesus' death. I must believe in Jesus' resurrection. If my baptism is not based on faith in the crucified, resurrected Jesus, my baptism has no meaning.

The power is not found in what I do in baptism. The power is found in what God does in my baptism. God can and will act in my baptism because of my faith in Jesus Christ. But for God to act in any person's baptism, he or she must have faith in Jesus Christ.

That brings us to an important problem. The problem: how are we going to encourage people to be disciples of Jesus Christ? I am going to share a reading with you. You can follow the reading on the overhead screen, and that is fine. But I also would like for you to take a Bible and mark Galatians chapter 5. I want you to see something for yourselves in Galatians chapter 5.

First, the reading from Galatians 5:16-21. Read with me.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

  1. Let's begin by admitting the obvious: we are scared.
    1. We are afraid for a lot of reasons.
      1. We are afraid for our children.
        1. Will they have the courage to be a source of godly influence, or will they be influenced by ungodly forces?
        2. Will faith in God be the primary force in their adult lives, or will they as adults abandon faith?
      2. We are afraid for our marriages, and the marriages of our children, and the marriages of our friends.
        1. We seemed surrounded by a sea of failed marriages.
        2. Today people as casually commit adultery, fornication, or have affairs as people a few decades ago had a meal.
        3. It seems increasingly true that people do not know how to be people of integrity, how to be responsible, how to commit.
        4. Couples successfully married have been a minority for a long time.
      3. We are afraid of the future.
        1. We have no idea what yet lies ahead.
        2. We have no idea where the American society is headed.
        3. We have no idea about the kind of society or the kind of world our children and grandchildren will be in as adults.
        4. For a long time we have watched "ways of life" die in this country.
      4. We are afraid because it is becoming increasingly obvious we are not in control of anything.
        1. The world does not seem to like Americans, or Christians, or us.
        2. Too often we as a church are regarded a curse instead of a blessing.
        3. We just do not like the feeling and awareness that we are not in control.
    2. So, what shall we do? How shall we react to all these fears? Is there a solution?
      1. Solution # 1: "Let's get people to turn to God."
      2. Reaction # 1: "Let's make it happen fast!"
        1. It took 25 years for God to give Abraham the son He promised--"that is too slow!"
        2. It took almost 1500 years for God to send Jesus into this world--"that is way too slow!"
        3. It took approximately 30 years for God to offer Jesus for our salvation--"that is much too slow!"
        4. "We want a quick fix!"
      3. Two questions:
        1. How will we produce a quick fix? What route do we need to take?
        2. How will we know when it happens--is getting everyone to "think and do like we think and do" the gauge?

  2. Suggestion # 1: we need to scare people to God to fill our church buildings, and make people afraid to do evil things!
    1. I realize I run a considerable risk in being misunderstood.
      1. I know fear often is a constructive, helpful emotion when we repent.
      2. I am not talking about the fearful awakening to the need to redirect life and accepting responsibility for our mistakes.
      3. I am talking about replacing faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the fear of eternal consequences.
      4. You cannot scare people to a godly existence and a heavenly destination.
    2. May I anticipate a response: "But you just read how that people who practice any of that list of ungodly things will not inherit God's kingdom!"
      1. "Just look at that list! Paul condemned sexual immorality, all forms of idolatry, all forms of division, ungodly attitudes, and ungodly forms of indulgence in pleasures!"
      2. "He made it quite clear if those things were practiced, the person would not inherit God's kingdom!"
      3. "Those verses look like an attempt to scare people away from ungodly things!"

  3. Earlier I asked you to take a Bible and mark Galatians 5; now I ask you to turn there and let me call some obvious things to your attention.
    1. First, I ask, "To whom did Paul make the statement in verses 19-21?"
      1. Paul made the statement to Christians, specifically to Gentile Christians.
      2. These were not presented as a text for an evangelistic gospel meeting.
      3. It is very important to note and to understand that Paul was talking to Gentiles (like us) who already converted to Jesus Christ.
      4. The problem was that those Christians were not living like people who belong to Jesus Christ.
      5. That is our problem right now in this society--Christians are not behaving like Christians.
    2. Second, I ask, "Why did Paul make this statement to these Christians?"
      1. For a full answer we need to go back to the basic reason Paul wrote the letter of Galatians to the churches in the area of Galatia.
        1. Jewish Christians visited them and convinced them they were not saved unless they adopted Jewish teaching and ways.
        2. Many of these Gentile Christians were convinced and turned to Jewish indoctrination.
        3. Basically Paul said, "I cannot believe you abandoned the gospel that saved you in Jesus Christ for another teaching that is seeking to take advantage of you."
      2. In keeping with that emphasis, let's focus on chapter five.
        1. Note verse one: Christ gave you freedom (we don't discuss that freedom much).
        2. Note verses 2-12: if you Gentile Christians adopt Jewish teachings and ways, you destroy the freedom Christ gave you.
        3. Note verses 13-15: if you Gentile Christians act like Christians, Christian behavior will fulfill God's emphasis in Jewish law: you will learn to love your neighbor as yourself.
        4. Note verses 16-18: You must understand a basic truth: there is a war going on inside you (Paul was concerned about the war inside these Gentile Christians)
          1. You cannot live like the pagans you once were!
          2. Pagan lifestyle and behavior is not Christian lifestyle and behavior!
          3. If you revert to a pagan lifestyle in the name of Christian freedom, God does not rule you and your abandon God's inheritance!
      3. Now I please ask you to notice something that should be very obvious.
        1. The war going on inside Christians is the conflict between the physical and the spiritual.
        2. Verses 19-21 focus on the physical lifestyle these people had lived before they became Christians.
        3. Immediately following in verses 22-24 is an emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit which must characterize the lives of people who belong to God through Christ.
    3. It should be obvious that there is a basic contrast.
      1. There was a pagan then and a Christian now.
      2. There was a pagan way to live, and a Christian way to live.
      3. Paul said Christians cannot claim the freedom in Christ to revert to living a pagan lifestyle.
        1. The answer was not the traditions, practices, and lifestyle of the Jews.
        2. The answer was not the traditions, practices, and lifestyle of paganism.
        3. The answer was living like a Christian, guided by God's Spirit, and behaving like a person who belongs to Christ.
      4. Christians kill their old way of life--deliberately--so they can live by the Spirit.

We will not succeed in scaring people to a godly lifestyle of faith in Jesus Christ. If that approach worked, this society would have become a godly society a long time ago. It does not work with us--never mind the people who are not Christians! I have preached a long time. There has never been a time or a place I have worked in the church that there were not incest, affairs, adultery, failed marriages, pleasurable indulgence, hate, jealousy, division, and ungodly attitudes among Christians.

The problem has not changed! It has just continued to grow and become increasingly open. The greatest single problem in attracting people to Jesus' cross and Jesus' resurrection is found in the fact that too many Christians live and behave like people who do not belong to God!

If God is to work through us as His people, we must live and act like His people. If we do not, there is no contrast to see! If there is no contrast to see, there is no power to attract people to godly living!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 November 2004

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