Some Things Never Change
My great friend, Dr. Leonard Sweet, recently reflected on some of the alarming changes which are happening in our world today. To document his concern, Dr. Sweet shared some statistics from a California Department of Education study which compared the top seven discipline problems in the public schools in the 1940’s versus the top twelve problems in public schools today. Indeed how times have changed! Listen.
In the 1940’s the top seven discipline problems were:
- Talking in class.
- Chewing gum.
- Making noise.
- Running in the halls.
- Getting out of turn in line.
- Wearing improper clothing.
- Not putting paper in waste baskets.
Now put that over against the twelve top discipline problems in our public schools today, and here they are:
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Robbery and assault with deadly weapons.
- Arson and/or bombings.
- Gang warfare.
- Sexually transmitted disease.
Dr. Sweet went on in his reflections to ask, “How do we prepare our children and ourselves to face a world which is changing that dramatically?” Good question. Yes, the old folk singer was right, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” However, I believe with my friend, Leonard Sweet, that the best way to deal with the massive changes all around us is to focus more intently on the things that never change.
You see there are some things in this life we can always count on. There are some things which are pure and eternal, constant and unshakable. There are some dependable spiritual laws woven into the fabric of life, and those laws never change. They fit every age, every generation, every situation. And when we put the full focus of our lives on those things that never change, then we find the power not just to cope with, but to triumph over the threatening changes all around us.
We see that so clearly in the actions of the first Christians in the first century. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon those early disciples rather dramatically. They were then empowered by that Spirit to such an extent that those ordinary women and men confronted a world every bit as frightening and uncertain as ours—and they wound up turning that world upside down. What was their secret? Well, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, they devoted themselves wholly and completely to the cause of Jesus Christ. They focused their lives upon the One who, as the Bible puts it, is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Listen again to these words from Acts 2 which describe what they did: “Everyday they continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” There’s the secret. They put the full focus of their lives on Jesus Christ and the things of Jesus Christ. They worshiped every chance they got. They prayed constantly. They studied the Bible regularly. They hung out with other Christians. They took Holy Communion. As a result a joyous, powerful, transforming faith radiated from them—and they changed the world!
A group of nine and ten-year-olds were asked to attend worship on Sunday morning and then reflect on that experience by writing a letter to the minister. Here are some of the better ones.
Ralph, aged 10, wrote,“Dear Rev,I liked your sermon Sunday especially when it was finished.”
Denise, aged 10:“Dear Rev,My father likes to sit in the last row of the church so he can sneak out during the sermon. Sometimes my mother stops him before he sneaks out, but not last Sunday.”
Margaret, aged 10, wrote,“Dear Rev,I like to go to church every Sunday because I don’t have any choice.”
Justin, aged 9, wrote,“Dear Rev,Thank you for your sermon Sunday. I will write more when my mother explains to me what you said.”
Lauren, aged 9, wrote,“Dear Rev,I think more people would come to church if you would just move it out to Disney World.”
And then here’s the one that caught my attention:This came from Marcia, aged 10,“Dear Rev,My grandparents go to church more than anyone else in the family. I think it’s because they’ve known God longer.”
Well, there’s a lot of truth especially, I think, in that last letter. You see those who are attentive to spiritual matters, those who spend time with the Lord, those who give themselves to Christ in faith, have a growing knowledge of God, a growing love for God, and a growing ability to make a difference in this world for God. Put simply:
Once you get a grip on Christ, then you can begin to get a grip on yourself.
I offer one man as proof. His name is Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I regard him as one of the truly great people of the modem era. It is remarkable when you stop to think about it that, after nearly a century of cruel, unrelenting, atheistic, communistic, totalitarianism in Russia, the best known and most honored Russian on the planet is a radiant disciple of Jesus Christ. He has paid a terrible price for his faith. He has been broken in body, tormented in mind, imprisoned, rejected, dishonored by people who should have honored him. From where does his courage, his confidence, his boldness arise? To find the answer, you have to go back in his writings—back beyond The Gulag Archipelago, back beyond Cancer Ward, back beyond August 1914, back beyond A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. You have to go all the way back to some of the earliest words he ever wrote in an essay entitled “Repentance and Self Limitation.” There Solzhenitsyn said, “It is only when you get right with God that you get right with yourself and know power and the confidence that comes from it.”
He was announcing what is as old as this passage in Acts:
When you get a grip on Jesus Christ, then you begin to get a grip on yourself—and that puts iron in your soul and steel in your spirit.
Some 200 years ago now an enemy of the church said, “I would rather face a whole army attacking me with drawn swords than to confront one Presbyterian who was convinced he was doing the will of God!”
Dear friends, that’s the kind of power which was turned loose in the church on the first Pentecost. And that’s the kind of power that can be turned loose in this church on this Pentecost.
May it be so, O Lord. May it be so…