I want to talk to you this evening. Were I to pick a mode of talk, it would be a conversational mode. My objective is not "to tell you something." My objective is to challenge you to think and examine.

For me, for most of my life, preaching has been and is a form of teaching. It is not an effort to draw attention to me. It is the effort of using a message to draw attention to God. My primary objective anytime I preach to you or to any other audience is to challenge people to think and through thinking to reach a higher level of understanding and thereby a higher level of faith. To me, this opportunity is about much more than a 30 minute presentation.

My goal is to get inside your mind in a manner that you think and reflect on the ideas and concepts presented throughout the next week. I do not want you to emotionally react; I want you to reflect. I am not seeking a 'that cannot be right' reaction. I am seeking for a 'I need to think about that' reflection.

All of this has to do with my understanding and concept of faith in God and Jesus Christ His son. Faith is not a "blind trust." Faith is not a matter or listening to someone who is obviously sincere and committed and accepting what he or she says as unforgettably correct. Neither is faith just a matter of placing confidence in your religious heritage.

I once lived in a community where most individuals held to the faith of the grandparents. What the person was religiously was principally determined by the convictions of the grandfather. The person might not know why grandfather held the conviction, but knowing why grandfather believed what he believed was unimportant.

Faith in God and Jesus Christ is the product of a combination of knowledge and understanding. David Chadwell is just one stepping stone on the path to greater understanding. The goal of David Chadwell must be this: to share realities that will help you understand that which you have not yet known.

God is much too big for one person or one person's heritage fully to encompass. Our faith must be in what God did in Jesus Christ, not in a human movement or endeavor. What God did in Jesus Christ will always remain the same. Our challenge is to grow in understanding of what God did in Christ.

  1. I want to begin with a simple, but often disturbing, understanding.
    1. Part one of the understanding is this: "When I confuse personal preference and divine command, my confusion is dangerous to me and to God's will."
      1. Everybody has personal preferences--me, you, and everyone you have ever met.
      2. Having personal preferences is absolutely okay--as long as I do not transform my preference into God's will.
        1. Never assume your preference is God's will.
        2. Never assume that you 'think just exactly like God thinks.'
        3. Those assumptions were at the foundation of the most significant problem in the first century church.
    2. Part two of the understanding is this: "When I actually substitute my personal preferences for God's will, spiritual disaster occurs."
      1. Likely more religious error is taught in this world because a person thinks his personal preference is God's will than for any other reason.
      2. When that substitution occurs in your convictions, error will result.
    3. Let me share with you two personal illustrations.
      1. When I was a child, in my home congregation, I learned and sang "Showers of Blessings."
        1. In my home congregation during my childhood, that was a very popular song.
            The chorus: "Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need;
            Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead."
        2. I personally cannot sing that song.
        3. I cannot look at my life in so far as physical blessings or spiritual blessings and call what has happened to me "mercy drops."
        4. As far as I am concerned, my plea does not need to be for an abundance that I do not have, but for wisdom to use the abundance I do have.
        5. However, that focuses on my personal preference.
        6. Not everyone has my life.
        7. Because I cannot sing that song does not mean no one else can sing that song--some have struggles I do not have.
      2. Some use the word "hallelujah" in comical ways.
        1. The word comes from a Hebrew word that means "praise the Lord."
        2. It was used to give adoration to God.
        3. I cannot understand what the word means and use it for purposes other than giving praise to God.
        4. My personal preference is to acknowledge the word and use the word only for its original intent.
        5. However, I cannot impose my preference on others as God's law.
      3. There are many areas of personal preference that we need to recognize as preference.
        1. I use the New American Standard translation in my studies, teaching, and preaching--the translation a person uses is a matter of personal preference.
        2. The times of assembly are a matter of personal preference.
        3. The songs we sing are a matter of personal preference as long as our songs honor our God.
        4. Because you follow my preferences does not prove you are a person of faith, and because you disagree with my preferences does not mean you have left faith.
        5. Yet, we are more likely to get emotional about preferences than we are clear instruction from scripture.

  2. One of the most common arguments we use to assert the control of our preference is the 'slippery slope' argument which is closely related to the domino theory.
    1. The 'slippery slope' argument is 'you cannot do that because of what it will lead to.'
      1. Thus it has to be wrong because of what may eventually result.
      2. 'We occupy the high ground here at point A.
        1. 'Everything is tilted downward toward evil.
        2. 'If we start down the slope, we cannot stop--we will just keep sliding toward evil.
        3. Point B is down the slope.
        4. No one can stop at point B--even if they try to stop, the person will surely slide to the bottom at point C and will be overcome in a horrible situation.
      3. The 'slippery slope' argument is not confined to religious considerations; it is used against many considerations we opposed.
        1. One of the largest poor decisions made in my lifetime was based on a 'slippery slope' argument.
        2. This argument was used as the justification and rationale for the Vietnam war.
        3. The rationale was this: if South Vietnam fell to communism, then all Southeast Asia would fall to communism. If all Southeast Asia fell to communism, then India would fall to communism. Then other major population areas would fall to communism, and before Americans know it, communism would take over this nation. Therefore, if we wish to keep communism out of America, we must stop it in Vietnam.
        4. America was forced to pull out of Vietnam, and, in time, the power behind the communist movement ceased to exist.
        5. Today, there are 5 Communist countries in the world. [China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba]
        6. There was no slippery slope.
      4. The same argument was presented in the 1960s that the 'slippery slope' of Medicare would inevitably lead to a socialized America which would produce a communist America.
      5. The 'slippery slope' argument often is an appeal to emotion and fear, not fact.
      6. It is the argument that because C at the bottom of the 'slope' is wrong, that B is the middle of the 'slope' has to be wrong.
        1. First, one needs to prove the 'slope' in fact exists.
        2. Second, one needs to show that is the objective or agenda of specific people to move things down the 'slope.'
    2. A form of this argument is the domino theory.
      1. The argument goes if A falls, B must fall, and if B falls, C must fall, etc.
      2. As a result, something far, far down the line that is most undesirable will occur.
      3. So to keep the undesirable from happening, we must not let A fall.

  3. Allow me to use the 'slippery slope' argument and scripture to challenge you to think. Let's begin by reading 2 Peter 2:20-22.
    For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."
    1. Let's use the 'slippery slope' argument in regard to this passage.
      1. Peter clearly wrote that it was worse for someone to convert to Jesus Christ and then desert Jesus Christ.
        1. For a person to escape the defilement of the impure forces that oppose God through the knowledge of Jesus Christ,
        2. For the same person to be again entangled in that which they escaped and be overcome by those impure forces that oppose God,
        3. The result of leaving Christ is worse than the result of never coming to Christ.
      2. It would have been better for them to never have become a Christian than to become a Christian and leave Jesus Christ.
        1. He is like the dog that eats its own vomit.
        2. He is like the cleaned pig that goes back to the mud.
    2. Solution:
      1. If it is worse for a person to return to the rule and control of sin after he has accepted the control of Christ,
      2. If the end result is worse than if he never became a Christian,
      3. Then lets refuse to baptize anyone into Christ.
        1. No matter how genuine he is,
        2. No matter how much he begs,
        3. Let's do him a favor and refuse to baptize him--because he may leave Christ, and if he does he will face worse consequences than he would face if he never became a Christian.
        4. Slippery slope!
    3. Hopefully, every single one of us would say, "Ridiculous! Stupid reasoning!"
      1. A person who enters Christ not only has the potential of succeeding,
      2. God will work with him so that he will succeed (Romans 8:31-39).
      3. Yet, the 'slippery slope' argument says be controlled by your fear, not by the promises of your God.

In closing, let me issue a challenge. Think! Use your faith! Never substitute your personal preferences for God's will!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 6 February 2005

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