Sermons by Marlin Harless

HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH

THIS IS THE FOURTH IN A SERIES OF SERMONS:
"ASSESSING CHANGE IN THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST"

THE THEME OF THIS STUDY:
AN AGE OF REBELLION

By Marlin L. Harless

INTRODUCTION: Part II, The Fuel For Change. The Israelites had survived centuries of Egyptian slavery and oppression. They exited in stunning fashion, observing the marvelous miracles that enabled them to elude Pharaoh's retaliatory grasp and sustain themselves in the harsh, unforgiving terrain of the Sinai Peninsula. Encamped in the Paran Desert at Kadesh, they anxiously awaited news from the reconnaissance personnel who had been sent to investigate Palestinian land conditions and their future homeland. Upon their return, ten of the twelve men reported to the populace that the nation lacked the necessary capability to conquer the current residents.

As the community showed signs of panic, "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" (Numbers 13:30). The entire nation stayed up all night weeping, their national hopes and dreams dashed. By morning, they had begun to make alternate plans to appoint a new leader who would guide them back to Egypt and slavery.

The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding Good land. If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not" (Numbers 14:7-9).

Their hesitation to comply with God's instructions amounted to rebellion. During the final year of his life, Moses, at the age of 120, delivered a farewell address to the nation whom he had served as leader for forty years. He wrote a song that was to serve as a sort of national anthem to remind the people that their future disobedience would inevitably bring upon them trouble. He summarized the crucial importance of the song as a formal witness against them by announcing:

"For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold while I am

yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the

Lord; and how much more after my death?" (Deuteronomy 31: 27).


Their inconsistent compliance with God's words amounted to "rebellion."

I. GOD INSTRUCTED SAUL TO ENGAGE THE NATION OF AMALEK IN BATTLE: He was to completely annihilate the human and animal population (due to previous treachery---(Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Saul complied with the order to go to war. However he made some slight adjustments in the execution details by sparing the life of the Amalekite king as well as the best of the animals. God considered the compromise to be a failure to follow Him and perform His commandments (1 Samuel 15:11), "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night." Saul, on the other hand, twice insisted that he, in fact, had obeyed God (1 Samuel 15:13, 20), "And Samuel came to Saul and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Saul said unto Samuel, yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord hath sent me, and brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites). He even represented his adjustments of God's instructions as noble efforts to honor God through sacrificial offerings (1 Samuel 15:15, 21).

"For 'rebellion' is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…" (1 Samuel 15:23).

Saul's failure to comply completely with God's instructions was an act of "rebellion!"

II. WHILE ZEDEKIAH WAS KING OVER THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH, a prophet named Hananiah arose. The message he presented to the remaining inhabitants of Jerusalem was a positive message of optimism, encouragement and reassurance. He assured them that within two years the Babylonian oppressions that had been inflicted against them would come to an end. When Jeremiah heard this announcement, he said, "Amen" and offered his well-wishes that the Lord would do as Hananiah said that he would. However, the Lord informed Jeremiah that Hananiah was, in fact, a false prophet. Jeremiah was instructed to go to Hananiah and make the following pronouncement:

"Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord hath not sent thee, but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth. This year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught 'rebellion' against the Lord" (Jeremiah 28:15,16).

Hananiah died within two months. Why? Because he promoted "rebellion" against God's will.

III. THE REBELLION OF THE 1960s, COMES OF AGE AND BEARS A SUPER HARVEST IN THE 1990s. Looking back to the 1960s, one is surely struck by the fact that rebellion was a central feature of what took place. The younger generation and the older generation came into sharp conflict creating "the generation gap." The younger generation was, in reality, rebelling against the older generation by changing and rejecting the values and principles that characterized the preceding generation. The cultural turmoil that was manifested in the 1960s in the form of long hair, antiwar, anti Establishment, use of drugs, acceptance of Eastern religion, etc., was nothing more than a rebellion against authority. The rebellious younger generation behaved in precisely the same fashion as any over-indulged, spoiled child behaves. Lacking the discipline he so desperately needs to inculcate self-control and personal restraint, he clamors for his own way---even though he is uncertain from moment to moment as to what that way is.

Now that we have moved into the 1990s, we are seeing the fruit of the 1960s decade of rebellion against authority. A full-scale break down of authority is in effect. The baby-boom generation has achieved adulthood and are now in positions of leadership. Their influence has spread throughout society. They have created a climate in which the following circumstances are free to flourish.

America has more crime and more criminals than ever before. What are criminals? People who refuse to submit to the authority of the legal system. Our judicial system is clogged and backed up with cases. The self-indulgent, "me first" mentality of the 1960s is further seen in the widespread, commonplace practice of suing others. You can even sue a restaurant if their coffee is to hot---and win.

The lack of respect for authority is seen in the fact that lawyers are no longer interested in ascertaining guilt or innocence and seeing that justice is served. Now the objective is to beat the system, look for technicalities to short-circuit the process, and do whatever is necessary to acquit the guilty. We have made a complete mockery of justice and respectful submission to the laws of the land is a laughing stock.

"Because sentence against an evil work is not

Executed speedily, therefore the heart of the

Sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Policemen were once held up as paragons of virtue and they commanded respect in society. No decent, upstanding individual in America would dare to have an encounter with a police officer. Such would have been disgraceful. The average American was inevitably a "law-abiding citizen." But now, the authority of the police is openly challenged and undermined. They were called "pigs" and "fuzz" in the 1960s. Now it is even worse. Citizens even resist them, cuss them, and even shoot them.

The rebellion against authority has been transmitted to succeeding generations. Children are no longer being taught to respect and submit to authority. Consequently, gangs are on the increase. Parents are fading into irrelevance and cannot control their own children. Public school systems are out of control with children shooting one another and inflicting violence against their teachers. Teachers are leaving their profession or retiring early because time ordinarily spent teaching is spent simply trying to maintain control of the classroom.

Can we see that the fuel for change in churches of Christ is simply an extension of the widespread refusal to submit to authority?

Can we not see that the push for change and the introduction of new worship practices is simply the same restless inclination to have one's own way that mushroomed in the 1960s? It matters not that the change agents are at least remaining with the church and are pushing religious concerns. Saul remained with the people of God and pursued religious concerns. So did the Israelites and Hananiah. God still denounced their manipulations as stubborn and "rebellious." One key ingredient in the fuel for change is the incessant inclination to rebel. 1 "And, behold, God himself is with us as our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper" (2 Chronicles 13:12).

IV. AT THE MEETING OF THE WAYS: THIS IS WHERE MANY ARE! "Thus saith the Lord, 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. But they said, We will not walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16). The young especially. Paths stretch out on either hand, some of them inviting, some repelling. But for the young, and for many others beside who have not yet fully chosen their path, the present is a time when a decided choice must be made. If the matter were to be settled according to the inviting or other aspect of the beginning of the ways, the one we should choose would soon be fixed upon. But we have to take into consideration the progress of the way, and, above all, the end of the way. Carefully observe, and set your sights very high!! Here the text gives---

GOOD COUNSELS FOR ALL WHO HAVE COME TO THE MEETING OF THE WAYS. We are bidden: 1. Pause a while. "Stand ye in the ways." Oh, if we could but secure this thoughtful pause! If we could but induce those we are now contemplating to "ponder" a while the paths before them! If it were but realized that the way we take is a matter for consideration, and that only a fool would rush heedlessly on! 2. Investigate. As one at the meeting of the ways, but not certain which was the right one for him, would look along each way in turn, "see" which appeared to be the most likely to bring him to his desired destination. Therefore we are bidden, not only "stand," but "see." 3. Inquire. Other travelers come along---men who are familiar with the district, who have traversed one or the other of these roads themselves. Then let us avail ourselves of their knowledge and experience, and "ask" as to these ways. 4. And let your mind be made up as to the character of the way you desire to walk in. Let there be no mere vague, listless looking over all the paths without much concern which of them you take; but we are bidden, "Ask for the old paths . . . the good way." GREAT ENCOURAGEMENTS TO FOLLOW THIS COURSE: 1. It is implied that if such guidance be asked it will be given. For, if that guidance were not given, how could any walk in these paths? That it is open to them to do so proves that the guidance asked has been given. And so it will ever be. 2. It is promised that, if we walk in the old and good way, we shall find "rest" for our souls. After all, this is everything. If a man has inward rest and peace, heaven for him has begun below. What matters it what we have if this rest be not? What matters what we have not if this rest be ours? And it is a true rest---not a mere lethargy of the soul or sleep of conscience, but that "rest" which remaineth for the people of God," the rest of faith, [and obedience, emphasis, mine, MLH], The rest promised by the Lord Jesus when He said, "Come unto me,…and I will give you rest," (Matthew 11:28-30). Consider that,

V. CONCLUSION: CHRIST HIMSELF IS THE WAY---THE OLD, THE GOOD WAY. Let your "will" be utterly surrendered to Him, 2 in loving obedience, by obeying the gospel of Christ! Why? "Not every one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the 'will' of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). If you aren't a Christian, then, it is the will of the Father that you become a Christian! To execute the "will" of God and become a Christian, you must do the following: 1. You must hear the true gospel, [there are many counterfeits], (Romans 10:14); 2. You must believe the true gospel, (Romans 10:14); 3. You must repent of past sins, Luke 13: 3, 5); 4. You must confess Christ, (Matthew 10:32, 33); 5. You must be immersed or baptized for the remission of sins, (Romans 6:3-6); 6. You must be faithful until death, (Revelation 2:10). My friends, will you do it, Today! Today! Today? My friends, hear me, are you listening? Never "rebel" against God, because, you will surely lose!!!

ENDNOTES:

1. Piloting The Strait, by brother Dave Miller, Part II, The Fuel For Change; Chapter 5, An Age Of Rebellion, pages 47-51. This Book Should Be On The Shelf Of Every Christian's Library, And In Every Public Library On The Planet!!

2. The Pulpit Commentary, Volume 11, Jeremiah 6:16, Homilies by Various Authors, by S. Conway, pages 173-174

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

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

2. The American College Dictionary

3. The American Heritage Dictionary

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

5. The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament

6. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament

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

8. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology

E-Mail Address: (mlharless@kvinet.com); Telephone number: (304) 247-6895. Dear reader, In the event you find errors in this sermon, misquotes, scripture references, etc., please inform me of same at your earliest convenience! Thank you!! (MLH).



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