“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”

VISION

Last week I shared my VISION for the Antrim Church of Christ..and this week we’ll be looking at the “V”. Before that, let’s quickly review the entire V-I-S-I-O-N acronym…or introduce it to anyone who wasn’t here:

  • V — Values — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will only get our values from the Bible and that we will value heavenly things more than earthly ones.
  • I — Integrity — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will always have integrity.
  • S — Seriousness — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will take our calling seriously.
  • I — Intimacy — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will have greater intimacy.
  • O — One — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will be one.
  • N — Nucleus — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that Jesus will be our nucleus.

Everyone seemed to agree on that VISION last week…how about now? Do you see those as a good (and firm) foundation for our church going forward?

Values

Heading back to the “V”…

My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will only get our values from the Bible and that we will value heavenly things more than earthly ones.

Where do you get your values?

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

From your parents?

From your friends?

From books?

From movies?

From yourself?

Where do you get your values?

The reality is that you get your values from all types of things. We can claim we only look to God for our moral underpinnings, but the reality is that “we are what we eat.” Friday night on Facebook, a friend of mine, Keith, posted a note regarding a Harvard study he heard about while driving to work yesterday. He wrote:

Compared to children who weren’t playing a violent video game, kids who played these games had more activation in the amygdala, a brain area closely linked to emotional arousal. At the same time, their brains showed a reduced activation in prefrontal brain areas involved in inhibition, concentration and self-control.

This is the first study that has demonstrated the affects on brain physiology from violent video games. The findings raise significant concern that these types of video games are not only having adverse effects on the brain, but on behavior as well.

Does that really surprise anyone?

Now…those kids aren’t purposely using video games do develop their values…and I’m sure their parents would never consciously provide them material that would teach them to appraise human life less…

But can we really think that virtually blowing-away other humans hour-after-hour…often in gory detail…won’t affect the principles our children are developing?

Pot/Kettle

Now, it’s easy to point at the bad choices of others…I don’t even play video games…

But I could easily start listing the bad “value food” I willingly ingest…for instance…Michelle and I talked about how even though we don’t allow violent video games into our home we do allow Netflix to deliver violent DVDs…

We all allow…even encourage…some bad influences in our lives…

And even if we cut out everyone we choose…we are surrounded…bombarded…by other bad sources of values. It’s the nature of being in a world whose god is the father of lies…

What to do?

Ultimately we cannot avoid all those bad influences…but we can make sure that we do our best to distinguish between the Devil’s values and those we should hold. Paul gives some great advice on what we should do:

Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).

As we try to establish our values:

  • We should rejoice and be thankful to God
  • We should pray…pray without ceasing
  • We should listen to the Holy Spirit
  • We should test everything
  • We should hold fast to what is good
  • We should abstain from every form of evil
  • And we should not despise prophecies

Let’s focus a little bit on that last one the list I derived from that quote from Thessalonians. As Christians when we hear the word “prophecy” we often think of foretelling…seeing the future. However, John MacArthur notes that’s likely not what is meant here:

This word can refer to a spoken revelation from God (cf. Acts 11:27,28; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14), but most often refers to the written word of Scripture (cf. Matt. 13:14; 2 Pet. 1:19—21; Rev. 1:3; 22:7,10,18,19). These “prophecies” are authoritative messages from God through a well recognized spokesman for God that, because of their divine origin, are not to be treated lightly. When God’s Word is preached or read, it is to be received with great seriousness.1

So, along with a bunch of other good advice, Paul is telling us not to despise Scripture…which is a round-about way of telling us to depend on Scripture to test everything and hold fast to what is good. Last week we quickly looked at 2 Timothy 3:14-17…let’s do that again:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Between those two bits of guidance from Paul:

  • Where should you get your values? [ The Bible ]
  • What should you use to test your existing values? [ The Bible ]
  • What is the best inoculation against getting bad values from other sources? [ The Bible…and lots of it! ]

Of course, we can’t ignore how important prayer and the Holy Spirit are…but we can’t expect God to answer our prayers…or the Holy Spirit to enlighten us…if we let dust collect on the extensive manual He’s already given us…

And especially not if we haven’t at least settled on Scripture’s primacy when it comes to comes to forming our values.

That is, if we don’t properly value Scripture to begin with…

What We Value

Did anyone recognize the song the title of this sermon came from? It’s a tune written by Joe South and made most famous by country singer Lynn Anderson. Although it is far from a religious song, it does have some words that you could imagine God telling us humans:

I beg your pardon,
I never promised you a rose garden.

I could sing you a tune and promise you the moon,
But if that’s what it takes to hold you,
I’d just as soon let you go, but there’s one thing I want you to know.
You better look before you leap, still waters run deep,
And there won’t always be someone there to pull you out,
And you know what I’m talkin’ about.2

Why did you become a Christian?

Was it because you were promised a rose garden?

The moon? Happiness? Riches…?

If that is what attracted you, then you’ll either have a true conversion experience or at some point you’ll no longer be a Christian.

Why?

Because the Bible…the place you should get your values…gives a totally different picture of a Christian’s temporal future:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:25-33).

Why do you think Jesus said those words?

Was it because His followers would be worrying about whether they could afford the new Mercedes this year? Or if their mom was going to get them the new iPhone? Or if they were going to get something else so they could keep up with the Joneses?

No…it was because some…perhaps many of them…didn’t even know where there next meal was going to come from. If you think back to last week you can remember two quotes from Acts (Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-35) where early Christians weren’t accumulating riches here on earth…instead they were selling them to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters. In part, that showed two things:

  1. What the early Christians valued (and it wasn’t material things)
  2. That being a Christian didn’t ensure riches…otherwise why would the affluent ones be selling what they had to meet the needs of others?

Jesus said those words in Matthew because He wasn’t promising anything more than salvation (the kingdom of God) and what people really needed here on earth.

He would not have made a good modern-day health-and-wealth televangelist…He even promised instead we would be persecuted! (See John 15:20.)

Seek First

At this point in my sermon I could go several directions to reiterate just how valuable the kingdom of God is and how worthless everything else is…

For instance we could look at the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew chapter 13…and the one of the pearl of great value right after it…followed by sharing Jesus’ admonition…twice…to remove one of our eyes rather than be thrown into hell with a complete set in Matthew 5:29 and Matthew 18:9.

For we know where our treasure is so will also our heart be (see Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34)…

And maybe another Sunday I’ll do just that…”Values” deserves its own sermon series…

But for today, let’s just reread the last verse from that long reference in Matthew:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

I said that the “V” in my VISION for the Antrim Church of Christ is “that we will only get our values from the Bible and that we will value heavenly things more than earthly ones.”

The thing we should value most is the kingdom of God and His righteousness…and He’ll make sure we’ll get anything else we need.

Or we can look for our values elsewhere and be like the contestant on “Let’s Make a Deal” who traded a pretty slick prize for what was behind door #2…

Only to find out Monty Hall had convinced them to trade a treasure for a joke prize.

In this case, however, the joke would be on us.

A cruel joke played by a demonic jokester who wants you to join him in hell.

My commitment to you is that I will go forward doing my best to only get my values from the Bible and valuing heavenly things more than earthly ones. Since you are part of God’s kingdom that also means I will do my darndest to value you more than anything here on earth.

Will you join me in this first part of my VISION for the Antrim Church of Christ?

Footnotes

1MacArthur, J. J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (1 Th 5:20). Nashville: Word Pub.

2Lynn Anderson — Rose Garden‏. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved July 9, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO4wcNVbYOQ


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