Sermons of David Chadwell
THE AGONY OF CHANGE
Click here to listen to this sermon read by Greg McAbee.
Everything changes! Ask anyone 60 or above, and they will confirm that truth.
For generations, the American elderly have talked about "the good old days."
Mostly, when we talk about "the good old days" we talk about pleasant childhood
With serious, honest reflection, the old days were not so good from one
perspective. What is good about outhouses, no running water (of any temperature)
in the house, wood-burning cook stoves, houses with little or no insulation,
long hours of hard work, no safety rules, very limited medical help, lower life
expectancies, and a constant struggle against poverty?
I am not a big fan of technology. Computers mystify me. Modern vehicles confuse
me. I still understand repairing instead of throwing away and getting a new one.
I am freaked out by systems that understand me better than I understand them.
The availability of far more information than I can master intimidates me.
Do not get me wrong! I love microwaves! I greatly enjoy fast hot water! The
comfort of modern vehicles is astounding! Our current standard of living is
wonderful! Air conditioning is awesome! Quick information is addicting! Medical
options are incredible!
When change occurs, it always is a combination of the desirable and the
frightening. Religious change always challenges Christians to be a people of
faith in God rather than a people of anxiety.
In every generation there will be something to learn and understand. The problems and
challenges of one generation will not be the problems and challenges of the next
generation. The conclusion of any age group that says: "We already addressed
that so it does not need to be discussed or understood," or "Just accept the
conclusions of the past and you will not have that problem," solve nothing.
- Have you ever taken the time to consider the changes confronting Christians in
the first century?
- Consider the Jews who became Christians.
- They came from a focus that said the nation of Israel is all that concerned God
to an understanding that all people were of concern to God (consider Genesis
12:3--all families of the earth; Jonah 4:10, 11--Should I not have compassion on
Ninevah; Isaiah 42:6, 49:6--a light to the nations or Gentiles; Matthew
28:19--all the nations).
- They came from the concept of holy geography [the city of Jerusalem from the
time of Solomon] (Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 13, 14; 1 Kings 9:3) to the concept that
the whole world is God's and appropriate for worship.
- They came from the concept of a priesthood (Exodus 28:1-4; Numbers 18:7) to the
concept of a community of priests (1 Peter 2:9, 10).
- They came from a controlling high priest (Leviticus 16) who represented them
before God to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11,12).
- They came from a temple which was the only site of sacrifice and a place of
prayer (see 1 Kings 8:27-53) to the concept that their bodies were God's temple
(see 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
- They came from a concept of national worship in one geographical place
(Deuteronomy 16:16) to a concept of personal worship with no national center
- They came from an emphasis heavy on structured ways to an emphasis on committed
- Those are enormous changes!
- Consider the idolatrous gentiles who became Christians.
- They came from a faith that there were many gods to acknowledge and not offend,
to an understanding there was only one actual, living God (Acts 17:22, 23; 1
- Most of them came from understandings that regarded anger, lying, drunkenness,
stealing, and sexual exploitation as morally acceptable to an understanding that
declared all those things were immoral.
- They came from acknowledging all temples as sacred places to an understanding
there were no physical temples or sacred places.
- Those are enormous changes!
- Many changes that create in us great anxiety are small in comparison to those
- Learning how to combine gentile believers in the resurrected Jesus Christ with
Jewish believers in Jesus Christ was an enormous challenge!
- To increase our understanding of their problem, it would be as demanding as
combining former Caucasian adulterers, former African-American pimps, and former
Hispanic alcoholics into an established congregation that ignored members who
- The variety of needs would be enormous!
- The only common thing all those people would have is faith in Jesus Christ.
- The challenge would be enormous--and only possible through God's grace!
- Again, if you think this is an exaggeration consider carefully Acts 15:1-29.
- Paul and Barnabas just returned to Antioch (a gentile congregation) that sent
them on their journey into principally gentile areas (Acts 131-3)
- Often in their work, they first went to a synagogue (the Jewish place of Sabbath
assembly) and then to the gentile community.
- For an example, consider Acts 13:16-49.
- The "men of Israel" were Jews.
- "You who fear God" were gentiles.
- Gentiles engaged in serious study of Judaism were welcome to attend Jewish
- What Paul and Barnabas found upon returning to Antioch shocked them.
- Some Jewish Christians from Judea told the gentiles Christians in Antioch that
they could not be saved (forgiven of sins) unless they were circumcised as a
Jewish religious practice.
- Paul and Barnabas strongly confronted these Christians, but they could not
settle the issue.
- All decided the matter must be referred to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
The first recorded instance of using outside resources?
- On the way from Antioch to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas reported in gentile
areas the conversion of gentiles.
- They reported in detail.
- The end result was "great joy."
- In Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas reported all God did through them to the
apostles and elders.
- Some converted Pharisees insisted that gentile converts had to be circumcised
and observe the law of Moses in order to be Christians--it was "necessary."
- The apostles and elders called a meeting to be dedicated to discussing this
issue of gentile conversion (the Jews [before Jesus] converted gentiles to
Judaism--such was known as making proselytes. See Matthew 23:15.).
- The meeting:
- The meeting resulted in "much debate"--it was an emotional, contested matter
that definitely contained two strong opinions.
- Finally, James quoted from the Old Testament prophets verifying God's interest in
- He declared it was not necessary for gentile Christians to be circumcised and
keep the law of Moses.
- He said gentile Christians should observe four Jewish standards--not to eat
things given to idols, not to commit fornication, not to eat strangled things,
and not to eat blood.
- He affirmed Jewish Christians should not be concerned about the teachings of the
law of Moses because those teachings were emphasized every Sabbath in
- As Paul affirmed (15:11), gentiles must depend on God's grace for salvation just
like Jews must depend on God's grace for salvation.
- A letter was sent to gentile congregations verifying the Jerusalem decision not
to place Jewish practices on gentile Christians.
- Gentiles were saved by God's grace just as were Jews.
- Gentiles did not have to accept Jewish practices to be saved.
- As you will see from scripture, this Jewish decision in Jerusalem did not end
this highly controversial, highly emotional issue--Jewish converts to Christ and
gentile converts to Christ were just too different in their behaviors. (Their
cultures and backgrounds clashed.)
- The Jerusalem Christian Leadership understood more about God's concerns than did many Jewish converts.
- Just like today, a decision made by informed people with evidence from scripture
did not end the matter.
- Just like today, personal preferences and expectations were superior to God's
intent stated by scripture.
- Just like today, there were people more concerned about their fears than God's
- Solutions are never as simple as making an announcement.
- We do not quickly turn loose of matters we feel passionate about.
- There is no substitute for understanding God's character and concerns in
reforming our passions expressed in our desires.
- Consider some things you should notice in Acts 15:
- Paul, Barnabas, and the Christians at Antioch felt no shame in seeking help
beyond themselves when they could not resolve a matter.
- The meeting the Jerusalem elders called was open to all factions and views--it
was not an announced decision enforced on uninformed people.
- It was a meeting dedicated to one matter.
- James, who was in charge of the meeting:
- Recognized God at work where God was at work--even when God's work was unpopular
with one group of Christians.
- Understood God's purpose and kept the focus on God--not human preferences.
- Refused to let anxiety determine the outcome and the course taken.
- Asked gentiles to exhibit their faith in Christ by their behavior--live
consistently with their new moral understandings.
- Included the "whole church" in the decision to send a letter to gentile
- Focused on the positive and the encouraging.
The solution to challenges must always arise from mutual respect because we all
are in Christ. Never seek a solution by questioning and destroying people's
confidence in Christ. The effects of character assassination produce
consequences that last a long, long time.
sermon posted 1 May 2007
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