Sermons by Marlin Harless


By Marlin L. Harless

INTRODUCTION: Brother Dave Miller, in the Forward of his Book: "Piloting The Strait," which should be in every Christian's Library on this planet, since it is a Masterpiece: a Superb Resource of Material, which explains the how, what, where, when, and why, of many spiritual problems confronting the Lord's Church in the 21st. century; he said, churches of Christ are experiencing shock and heartache all over America as they are being torn asunder by those who wish to restructure the Lord's Church. The church is under siege from within. Parents are sending their children off to Christian College, only to have them hammered by advocates of change in the classroom and the local congregation. Young people are leaving their homes and heading for the big cities for jobs where they encounter large urban congregations where illicit change is the order of the day 1 Accordingly, we ask a noble question: "Is the young man safe?" {or woman, emphasis, mine, MLH} "And the king said unto Cushi, is the young man Absalom safe?" (2 Samuel 18:32a).

In the first paragraph of his Introduction: brother Miller addresses the American value system. He says, "we live in changing times. American civilization has been in a state of cultural flux for the past three decades. From the Christian perspective, this disorientation has not been good. The overall social shift has dramatically weakened the American value system---religiously, morally, and spiritually." Consequently, "hurricane force winds of change are pounding down upon the body of Christ. The instigators insist that change is absolutely essential if the church is to remain "relevant" to society and "appealing" to human culture." 2 A ccordingly, let's tune into Isaiah: "That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: which say unto the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." (Isaiah 30:9,10).

Why must we speak out? (1) To alert the sleeping giant of our brotherhood and warn them of the Trojan Horse in our midst; (2) To provide assistance and encouragement to those being raked by the destructive effects of illicit change; (3) To reaffirm the simple truth of God's will to all who will listen. We need to be reassured---

"Stand ye in the ways, and see,
And ask for the old paths,
Where is the good way, and walk therein,
And ye shall find rest for your souls.
---Jeremiah 6:16

We need to be reminded and reassured that the "old paths"---are still new. Jesus, Himself, described Christianity and the way to Heaven as "narrow" and "strait" (Matthew 7:13,14). "Strait" means rigid, confining, and difficult to negotiate---like the Strait of Gibraltar or a straitjacket. Rather than opt for the wide, broad way of contemporary culture, God help us to choose the narrow way that leads to life. May we devote ourselves completely to the lifelong task of "Piloting the strait." 3

I. CURTURAL CURRENTS: American civilization had managed to survive the devastating and catastrophic economic depression and world war. Anticipating a bright and prosperous future, our parents attacked their environment with unleashed optimism and settled into a way of life, which has been the envy of the civilized world. The post war era brought technological and material prosperity. Into this cultural matrix came the generation of the fifties and sixties---we "baby boomers"---the postwar product of parents who had been tried and refined in the fires of suffering and hardship. Nevertheless, American society in general remained linked with and committed to certain clear-cut foundational principles. These values included a common recognition of what is right and wrong, that God had blessed America and seen her through trying times, and that America had been blessed with freedom---not freedom FROM religion but freedom FOR religion. 4

The baby boomers in the 1960s. Something happened in the 1960s. The uncontrolled nature of rock and roll music, motorcycle gangs, and the beatniks that appeared in the 1950s were no doubt harbingers of the chaos that was to characterize the 1960s. We were bombarded with a whole new set of rules for playing the game of life. A new world view and a new set of explanations for the meaning of our existence were introduced. Accordingly, Rehoboam listened to the young men, rather than the elders: "Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, my little finger shall be thicker than my fathers loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions" (1 Kings 12:10,11).5

We were made to realize the tenuous, shaky uncertainties of even our own political system when we saw blood from our president's head splattered all over the dress of a grieving wife. We experienced cataclysmic cultural progress within just a few short years; from props to jets, from sputniks to men on the moon, from eight millimeter film to video tape, from mimeograph to xerox, from the atomic bomb to nuclear missiles and star wars, from polio vaccine to organ transplants.6 consider this, "God's chastening rod is greater than our progress!! Why? Because "righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).

We were told by our teachers at school that the old ways of teaching, (which consisted of lecture and information transfer), and the old ideas being taught (absolutes of right and wrong, views of God and morality) were traditional, outdated, and ineffective. We were faced with a "brave new world." We were introduced with new methods of teaching that centered on group consensus and "individual tastes." We were told, by our science teachers that, oh, we could still believe in the bible if we chose to---but that it just didn't happen the way the bible said it did. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

Baby boomers in the 1990s. We still, to a large degree, perceive ourselves as movers and shakers---thinkers who can promote changes that are useful. We still want big changes, forward movement and momentum. We want to make things happen---with a big splash! We are seeing outright rejection of "traditional" doctrinal positions---like the once unacceptable status of the denominations in exchange of a virtual wholehearted fellowshipping of them.7 Beloved, we are either in darkness or light---one or the other: it is impossible to be in both!! "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20) faithful Christians are "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14a). We must "walk in the light…" (1 John 1:7). There is no light in denominationalism!!!

II. MATERIALISM FEEDS, AND, THUS, STRENGTHENS AGNOSTICISM!! TOGETHER, THEY FORM A WRETCHED AND FORMIDIBLE TEAM!! America has achieved a higher standard of living and enabled its citizenry to amass more wealth and possessions than any society in the history of the world. Material prosperity contains within it a subtle, deceptive barb---the tendency to forget God and render strict obedience to his will!! Notice God's warnings to the Israelites:

"For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou shalt dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware lest thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes which I command thee this day: lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold hath multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thy heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" (Deuteronomy 8:7-14; cf., 6:10-12; 11:10-17).8

"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness" (1 Timothy 6:9-11; cf., verses17-19).

Agnosticism is totally against God!!! America… (like Pilate---(John 18:38), "Pilate saith unto him, what is truth? And when he said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all:" …has been made to believe that truth can not be known. Clear-cut distinctions between right and wrong have been blurred!! Values are now viewed as subjective and relative rather than objective and absolute. Current culture celebrates ambiguity and uncertainty. With moral principles effectively undermined, people feel free to indulge their unfettered impulses. But Jesus still says:

"…To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 18:37; 8:31,32).

Aversion to being judgmental. The removal of moral absolutes naturally leads to the insistence that no one take issue with anyone else's behavior. Opposition to that which is wrong is stopped dead in its tracks by a simple appeal to "you're being judgmental" (i.e., insisting that moral absolutes exists) is about the only objective wrong that exists for many Americans. But Jesus still says:

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. He that rejecteth me, and recieveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 7:24; 3:18-20; 12:48).9

Lack of discipline. As a result of materialism and the absence of hardship, the generation promoting change is characterized by a sense of laxness and unbridled passion. The hard work ethic of the bible, endorsed by previous generations of Americans, is no longer recognized nor valued. Ditto for self-denial. "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies, Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-12; Matthew 16:24).

Craving for entertainment. As the work ethic, so foundational to the development of American civilization, has been seriously undermined and eroded, younger generations have naturally occupied themselves with anything that promised to relieve bordom!10 But the wise man said, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

III. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION: Allan bloom well summarizes the cultural fluctuation which has transpired in America. The younger generation believes that truth is relative. "There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything." Religion is assigned to the realm of opinion as opposed to knowledge. "there are no absolutes; freedom is absolute." The whole cultural diversity movement in this country "ignores the fact that real differences among men are based on real differences in fundimental beliefs about good and evil, about what is highest, about God." Suffice it to say at this point that the changes being advocated in the church of our day have roots that may be traced in part to the soil of modern American culture. The present element within churches of Christ who are initiating the change are mirror reflections of the cultural currents flowing through American civilization at this moment in history!! 11

"There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Cf. Proverbs 30:11-14; Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 3:7,8).

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 3:20; 22:14,16,17).

To become a Christian: you must---1. Hear the gospel, (Romans 10: 14), 2. Believe the gospel, (Romans 10:14), 3. Repent of past sins, (Acts 2:38), 4. Confess Christ before men, (Matthew 10: 32, 33), 5. Be baptized or immersed for the remission of past sins, (Mark 16:16), 6. Be faithful until death, (Revelation 2:10). Beloved, Will you do it Today? Today? Today?


1. King James Version of The Bible, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fifth Improved Edition

2. The American College Dictionary

3. The American Heritage Dictionary

4. The Expanded Vines, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

5. Theological Dictionary of The New Testament

6. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology\

7. Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of The New Testament

8. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Berry

With notes from the Book: "Piloting The Strait," by Brother Dave Miller, excerpted from pages 9, 11, 12, 15-22, by permission of the author. MLH

E-Mail Address: ( Dear reader: In the event you Find mistakes or errors in this sermon, misspelling, scripture references, etc., please inform me at your earliest convenience! Thank you! (MLH)

Telephone number: (304) 247-6895)


1 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 9, Forward, parag. # 2

2 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 11, Introduction, paragraph # 3

3 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 12, Introduction, paragraph Lst.

4 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 15, Cultural Currents, para. 1&2

5 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, pages 15 &16, Baby Boomers, 1960s

6 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 16, Baby Boomers, 1960s

7 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 18, Baby Boomers, 1990s

8 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, pages 19 & 20, Materialism

9 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, pages 20 &21, Aversion To Being Jud.

10 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, page 21, Craving For Entertainment

11 Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Sain Publications, pages 21 & 22, Summary & Concl.

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