The M.A.D. House Artists (Mom And Dad)

Grand Lake Artistic Chaos Foundation

WHO CAN BE BELIEVED?

                Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

                                 First presented September 5th, 1971

     

 

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                                            "You will know them by their fruits"
                                              Scripture:         Matthew 7:13-20

                                                               Sermon by
                                                          Dr. Robert R. Ball
                                         Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
                                       Houston, Texas       September 5, 1971

     What's the truth about marijuana?
          What's the truth about Vietnam?
               What's the truth about sexual morality?
                    What's the truth about National Banker's Life stock manipulations?
                         What's the truth about man and life and God?

          A man used to feel he could know most of what he needed to know, but
     suddenly the world got terribly complicated. Today we rely on experts if we want
     to know the truth.

     * Just to have and rear a child today you need an obstetrician, an
        anesthesiologist, a pediatrician, a dermatologist, an orthodontist, an
        opthamologist, a child psychologist; and, after all that, a psychologist for
        yourself.

          * Then we discover that all the experts don't agree. So five experts are called
             in on the case and they vote. It comes out 3 to 2. Who can be believed?

     It's very confusing. Sometimes we wonder if we will ever know the truth. Some
     people say, "Since no one seems to know, that must mean there just isn't any
     truth."

          That may be how it seems but we can't live that way. There are some
     decisions that have to be made: to operate or not to operate; to spank or not to
     spank; to turn on with drugs or not to turn on; to study or not to study; to obey or to
     rebel; to trust or to doubt. We have to decide, but who can be believed?

          Jesus Christ says he can be believed. He says he is the truth. He may be lying
     or he may be a misguided mystic with a messianic complex. These are both
     possibilities. I am persuaded that He is the truth. The church of Jesus Christ has
     survived, and more than survived, through political and philosophical revolutions
     that have cratered every other institution. The teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have
     changed the whole complexion and direction of the entire world. Through 2,000
     years of human living and dying, who Jesus is and what he says have rung
     authentic in the lives of millions: brilliant and uneducated, artistic and common,
     rich and poor, black and white and brown and yellow. He rings authentic to me.
     So I join with the Church in its witness to Jesus Christ as the truth - in a world
     bleeding for someone who can be believed.

                                                                        I.

          If Jesus Christ is the truth, then truth, finally, in not propositional but personal.
     What I mean is, when God chose to reveal his truth to the world he did not do it
     through statements in a book, but in person. The distinction is important.

          Truth is not found by trying to "live by the book." We keep trying because it
     would be so much simpler that way. It would end a lot of painful frustration. We
     could just read it in the book and then do it. If anyone ever questioned us, we
     could just pull out the book and show them. We could prove everything. Life would
     be clinically clean and surgically neat and completely impersonal.

          How would you women like to have a husband who does everything he is
     supposed to do? Before you jump at the offer, I must confess that I have no such
     husband available. But I'm not at all sure you'd want him if I did. You disagreed
     with him, you'd be wrong. It's in the book! If your tastes or needs ever changed,
     you'd be out of luck. It has to be the way the book says. Even if he agreed to
     rewrite the book to allow for some things that didn't used to be - like TV and drugs
     and pollution and computers and trips to the moon - what about the things that will
     come after them? Living by the book is a defense mechanism - designed to
     protect us from truth rather than leading us to it. Anyway, whose book are you
     going to use? Living by the book makes life COLD and STERILE and
     ARBITRARY and HOPELESS.

          If truth could be contained in words, then we would be satisfied when we get
     people to say the words we want to hear; but even when they do, we aren't.

     * A wife wants to know and needs to hear her husband say "I love you," but what
       she really wants to know goes much deeper than words. "How do you really feel
       about me?"

          * The Church is full of people who will recite orthodox creeds, but where are
             those people when some loving and caring and sacrificing is needed?

               * I am impressed when a doctor has a wall-full of degrees, but my real test
                 comes from knowing the kind of person he is. Does he care about me?

     The truth that makes the difference, finally, is personal. It has to do with feelings
     and loyalty and openness. Truth can't be canned in propositions. So let's quit
     hiding behind the notion that truth can be wrapped up in the right words.

                                                                        II.

          If Jesus is the truth, then the way of truth is agonizing and hard. Truth can't be
     had easily or superficially. Jesus makes this explicitly clear.

                        "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the
                         way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who
                         enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way
                         is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

          The Church customarily backs away from hard teachings. We have a great
     fear of offending someone, especially if they have power or money. And not
     without cause! The Church has often been threatened and intimidated. I have
     received more than one letter saying, "Do what I want or the church will not get
     one more cent of my money!"

          Words like "humbling one's self" or "sacrifice" are seldom heard anymore
     except as slogans no one expects to be taken seriously. We have taken the word
     "love" given to us by bleeding hands from the cross, and have made it mean
     "nice" and "sweet" and "comfortable." We have actually encouraged the idea that
     there can be love in marriage without pain, love between parents and children
     without responsibility, and love between races without "our side" having to make
     any serious sacrifices. This isn't truth.

          We deny our Lord and do a disservice to others when we make it appear that
     Christianity is a popular movement, that truth can be found down the path of least
     resistance.

          * I have never known a person of real depth and wisdom who had not
            endured some times of deprivation and disappointment and made
            some lonely, tough decisions.

          * I have never known a marriage that was genuine and vital that had not
            faced up to some personal differences and made some painful
           decision to forgive and forget.

          * I have never known a church with an authentic word to speak and an
            authentic love to give that had not been willing to risk its life for the
            sake of Christ and in service for mankind.

          The fellow with the quick smile and the hearty slap-on-the-back may be a
     pleasant sort to have around, unless you really need help. Then you go to the
     person who has been through some long nights of pain and questioning, and
     faced them honestly - the person whose conviction that life is good and worth
     living has been pounded out on the anvil of adversity. He's the man you can
     believe.

          Truth, real truth, will not be found by going through the wide gate with the
     crowd. Truth requires some lonely moments when a person stands face to face
     with his God, makes a personal commitment, and accepts the disciplines that go
     with it.

                                                                       III.

          If Jesus Christ is the truth, then the final test of truth is the love it produces.
     Whatever works for human dignity, for self-respect and respect for others, for
     reconciliation between those who are separated - that is truth. Whatever makes
     for division and depreciation of human beings - that is untruth. Who can be
     believed? Jesus says,

                                          "By their fruits you shall know them."

          Jesus was willing for his own claims to be tested by their fruits. John the
     Baptist, in prison because his preaching had offended King Herod, heard about
     the ministry of Jesus. So he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he were the
     true Messiah. Instead of trying to snow John with a bunch of impressive logical
     proofs, Jesus said,

                        "Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind
                        receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are
                        cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the
                        poor have good news preached to them."

          This is our final test of truth. "By their fruits you shall know them."

          This is our test of truth among politicians. Whose program results in making
     human life more human? Who shows the greatest concern for those who are in
     real need? Get behind the words they speak; look for the fruit they bear. Who is
     grappling with the real issues of our day? Who seeks for a genuine, human
     existance for all people? This is the test of truth.

         
          This is our test of truth among religious groups. Who is willing to sacrifice his
     own pleasure and prestige that the love of God in Christ may become real in the
     lives of real human beings - the outcasts, the foreigner, those who are hungry for
     hope? The love they share authenticates the theology they speak.

          This is our test of truth within our own lives, and that may be the most difficult
     task of all.

     * Which of my warring ideas and impulses are true - and which of them are born
       out of my confusion and my fear of weakness and my greed?

          * Whatever makes for genuine self-respect and honest self-confidence and
            increased understanding, for me and for others, those things are true.

               * Whatever makes for jealousy and rivalry and hatred, putting other people
                 down in an effort to lift me up, those things violate the truth.

     Truth is known by what it produces, which is not necessarily success by human
     standards. The test of truth is love. Who can be believed? By their fruits you shall
     know them.

                                                       C O N C L U S I O N

          A member of this congregation met a woman at the tennis court. She had
     never known her before. As they sat there having a coke, this new friend began to
     pour out a heart full of pain and disappointment. After about an hour of
     conversation, this hurting soul turned to the MDPC member and said, "You must
     belong to that church over there where they really do believe in the love of God
     and in loving everybody."

          I think that Christ would be pleased for his Church to be known in that way.
     That's how he was known, and he calls us to follow his steps down that path. It is a
     narrow way, a way of sacrificial love, and it is the fullness of every possible joy.

          When Christ sent his disciples out into the world, he was utterly realistic about
     what they would find. "You will be like sheep among wolves," he told them.

     * But there  is nowhere in the gospel the slightest hint of doubt as to what the
       outcome of their dangerous mission would be. There is only the promise of joy.

          * The power of evil is real, real enough to kill God's own Son; but the power of
             love is the truth, and it is that truth that rules the world forever.


                                               Once to every man and nation
                                                 Comes the moment to decide,
                                                In the strife of truth with falsehood,
                                                  For the good or evil side.

                                                Though the cause of evil prosper,
                                                   Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
                                                Though her portion be the scaffold,
                                                   And upon the throne be wrong.

                                               Yet the scaffold sways the future,
                                                  And behind the dim unknown,
                                               Standeth God within the shadows,
                                                  Keeping watch above his own.

          Our world is pleading for someone who can be believed, That someone is
     Christ. He is the truth. But they cannot believe him unless they are able to believe
     us, his disciples. They will believe when they see us serving the truth in
     committed, sacrificial love.



RRB/cghl
From the collection of
Pamela Mudd Conlan


                                              




                                                      



LINKS TO OTHER SERMONS

YOU ARE MY CENTERFIELDER

January 26, 1969

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN?

Sermon from January 25, 1970

FOLK WORSHIP SERVICE

 from April 5, 1970

WHAT SALT IS FOR

Sermon from June 21, 1970

BOLD ENOUGH TO FAIL

Sermon from September 6, 1970

DON'T PUT ME DOWN

Sermon from September 13, 1970

I BELIEVE THAT GOD BELIEVES IN CLAUDE

Sermon from September 27, 1970

WHERE AUTHENTIC PEOPLE MEET

Sermon from December 13, 1970

 T H E    S E R P E N T    D I D    I T

Sermon from February 14, 1971

FROM: M O N O T O N Y

TO: M E A N I N G

Sermon from February 28, 1971

                    FROM ANXIETY

                                                TO FAITH

                                               Sermon from March 7, 1971

                         

                          Y E S,

                                      N O,

                                                and

                                                         W O W!

Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

May 23, 1971                          CLICK HERE

                         

Sermon by Dr. Robert R. Ball

July 11, 1971   

Here Come De Judge

Sermon from August 1, 1971

        BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

Sermon by

The VERY young seminary intern minister

Mr. William J. Carl III

(Now president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

presented at

MEMORIAL DRIVE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Houston, Texas                          August 8, 1971


SMILE GOD LOVES YOU

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 12, 1971

Seriously But Not Literally

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented September 19, 1971

Authority Figures I Have Known

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon, September 26, 1971

IT'S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS,

NOT RULES

Dr. Robert R. Ball, Sermon presented JULY 31, 2011

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