ADULT BIBLE STUDY
AND OUR FUTURE
In one of my teen summer jobs, I worked as a clerk in a country store. The
husband and wife owners were Christians. They were members of a small, very rural
congregation. One day she was "flustered" as she planned a trip. This trip was a rare
visit with relatives in a city for a weekend. She was anxious because she did not have
a hat. In those days a woman commonly wore a hat to church as an act of faith.
Several times that day I heard her talking out loud to herself about what she
should do. Times were difficult and buying a hat just to wear to church in the city for
one Sunday was unreasonably expensive. But, attending a city church where she
would be the only woman without a hat was unthinkable.
Finally she talked to me about her dilemma. I just listened. Then, with
resignation, she said, "Well, you know what the Bible says: 'When in Rome, do as the
I neither had the courage nor the heart to ask where the Bible said that.
- Learning is a constant part of adult life, and never more so than today.
- Considered the essential role learning plays in adult life.
- We spend the first eighteen years of life acquiring a knowledge foundation to
equip us for adult learning.
- We frequently spend four more years learning how to learn.
- The basic objective of university and graduate studies is to advance our
study skills on an adult level and teach us how to apply what we learn.
- The basic objective of specialized training it to teach us how to develop
our observation skills and to apply what we understand.
- In your minds, some of you are challenging me.
- You are saying to yourself, "Learning is not a continuing part of adult life."
- "Many areas of my adult life do not require me to learn anything."
- Let me challenge your thinking.
- How long has it been since you have caught, killed, scalded, plucked, and
dressed a chicken? Now when you eat chicken, how do you get it?
- How long has it been since you swept your entire house with a straw
broom? How do you clean your floors now?
- How long has it been since you hand pumped or hand drew water for your
house? How do you get your water now?
- How long has it been since you hitched a team of mules or horses to a
wagon to make a trip? How do you travel now?
- How long has it been since you owned a straight shift automobile? How
do you get your car in gear now?
- How long has it been since you lived in a house without plumbing? What
do you do when the water goes off indefinitely?
- Please help me make the point. If you ever did any of those things, hold up
your hand. Thank you!
- When you stopped doing these things, did you have to learn anything new?
- Adults, how much better do you understand the message of the Bible today
than you did fifteen years ago?
- How much better do you understand:
- The work of God?
- The will of God?
- God's purposes in your life?
- God's objectives in our world?
- God's purposes and work in Jesus Christ?
- God's purposes and work in the Holy Spirit?
- If you made a list of the spiritual realities that you understand better today
than you did fifteen years ago, how long would your list be?
- If you made a list of spiritual realities in which your understanding had made
zero change in the last fifteen years, how long would that list be?
- In the last ten years, what have you learned about these spiritual concepts:
- We Christian adults are staring at a major crisis that will produce consequences
that exceed our imaginations.
- I have struggled with that reality this week.
- My time is fast running out.
- "Oh, David, you are a young man with lots of time."
- I am not speaking of time, in the sense of years, though no one knows
how much he or she has.
- My "opportunity days" are fast disappearing.
- There is so much from scripture that I want to share.
- There are so many understandings that I want you to develop.
- There are so many ways that I want to motivate, stimulate, challenge, and
- There is so much I want to do to encourage you to let God build a life of faith.
- "You said something about a crisis? What major crisis?"
- We adults are caught in the path of a huge avalanche of spiritual ignorance.
- In my personal opinion, this avalanche had a small beginning in the 1960s.
- For thirty years it has been hurling down the mountain we call society
gathering mass and speed.
- Now this avalanche of ignorance is poised to bury us.
- In our personal lives we have horrible definitions of good and evil.
- In our personal conduct we horrible concepts of right and wrong.
- We reject the concept of loving God with all our being.
- We do not love people as we love ourselves.
- We don't treat people like we want to be treated.
- We easily confuse the immoral with the moral.
- What God declares as major we classify as minor.
- What God gives little or no emphasis to we classify as major.
- Too many Christians spiritually have split personalities.
- We have contributed to the avalanche of spiritual ignorance in these five ways.
- We transformed worship into education.
- The central element of worship in every age has been exalting, honoring,
praising, and reverencing God.
- Today, the central element of worship is teaching.
- Far too many of us, the only spiritual teaching we receive in any given
week is the sermon we hear on Sunday morning.
- We have sanctioned the great divorce.
- We have divorced real life from church life, and church life is not
necessarily spiritual life.
- Real life behavior is for our everyday, real world.
- Church life behavior is primarily for Sundays, with a few exceptions.
- But do not mix those two behaviors; they are not in relationship.
- We endorse an unbiblical conviction: the system saves.
- If you do the right things to plug into the spiritual system, if you remain a
part of the system, the system will save you.
- Faith in the Savior does not save; relationship with God does not save;
the system saves.
- We declare that the foundation of true faithfulness is determined by issues
and positions, not an understanding of Jesus Christ and scripture.
- Too often Christians determine the "faithfulness" of other Christians by
asking: "Where do you stand on...?"
- Too seldom is faithfulness determined by devotion to and service for
- We permitted belonging to take the place of becoming.
- We are more concerned about belonging to the church than we are about
becoming a Christian.
- Church membership has become an acceptable substitute for Christian
- Spiritually, we have no fear of ignorance if we are a part of the system.
- In Jeremiah 10, Jeremiah told the nation of Judah that the stupidity of their
ignorance guaranteed their destruction.
- First, he talked about the folly of idolatry (10:2-9).
- They carved a god out of a tree.
- That god had no more life or power than a scarecrow in a garden.
- Second, he talked about the life and the power of the living God (10:10-16).
- Judah failed to see the difference between an idol and the living God.
- Jeremiah said every man is stupid and devoid of knowledge (10:14).
- Third, Jeremiah said, "Pack your bags and get ready--you are going into
- After stating how pitiful things were in Judah, Jeremiah said:
Jeremiah 10:23,24 I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself, nor is it in a man
who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; Not with Your
anger, or You will bring me to nothing.
(The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
- "I know that people are not capable of finding direction without God's
- "Lord, discipline us, but don't destroy us."
- We have not discovered what Jeremiah knew.
- We believe that we are more than capable of finding our own direction.
- We do not need God to provide us direction; we need God to care for
situations that we cannot; we need God's power not His guidance.
- That is ignorance.
- We respond, "Judah had that problem; we don't. Ignorance won't destroy us."
- In Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents.
- The servant justified his "do nothing" behavior by declaring that he was
afraid of the master because he was a hard man who expected something
for nothing. He did not understand his master.
- His ignorance destroyed him.
- In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gave us a judgment scene.
- The people condemned to eternal punishment protested that they never
saw Jesus in need and refused to help him.
- Jesus declared that their failure to help insignificant people was the
failure to help him. They did not know that.
- Ignorance destroyed them.
- Too many of us have misplaced our faith and do not know it.
- Our faith in is our name, our positions, our system, our commitment to
restoration, or our structures.
- Far too little of our faith in is in God.
- Someone says, "Oh, but it is all the same thing."
- That is the most frightening ignorance of all.
"Well, preacher, you touched my guilt button. You are right. I should actually
study the Bible. I should come to Bible classes."
If all I did was touch your guilt button, I failed. I seek to do something far beyond
making you feel guilty. Spiritually, most of you are much too old just to feel guilty. I
want to open your eyes to life's real purpose. I want you to understand how
desperately all of us constantly need to grow closer to God.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 January 1999
This sermon is also available in French.
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