Practical Christianity

Sermon Notes of
Reverend Harvey Alford Matney
(1868 – 1951)
October 15, 1910 – Chappell Hill, Texas

Introduction

Recently, I spoke with a female friend who had been scolded for wearing pants to church. And even worse, as a kids’ music leader, she was performing music that was too “upbeat” and not reverent enough for her accusers’ taste. It reminded me of Paul’s letters, particularly the one to the Corinthians. Their church was in upheaval because some had long hair, some covered their heads and within such a culturally diverse church it was causing strife.

Why do Christians get so caught up with man-made rules and matters of appearance? Throughout Jesus’ ministry I can find few places where he condemned anyone because of appearance. The only exception was the religious leaders of his day. They were blasted primarily for their religious hypocrisy, not just the long flowing tassels on their prayer shawls. It was what was in their heart that was at issue.

We must all remember to follow Jesus’ example and love one another. Love, peace, and joy are essential in the Church. Let’s not let our human ideas of appearance and worldly rules cause strife. Be like Christ – Don’t act like a Pharisee.

Preached almost a century ago, my grandfather’s sermon still rings true today. — Harrison Woodard

Micah 6:8 KJV

He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Romans 14:17-18 KJV

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

The Struggle

The gospel and the Church of God must contest every inch of ground they cover. Their progress and success have often been retarded by things, which have attached themselves to the movement.

The cumbersomeness of the time spirit in which the fads of the age have made a pitiful appeal to public sentiment and tried to ride into credibility on the gospel wagon has always hindered more or less.

The scientific theories of all descriptions have been and are now, elevated to the plane of essential verities: while many are more interested in their methods than in the principles of Christianity.

There is a severe struggle to establish the power of the gospel even in the land where it is preached most.

 

What are the reasons for this?

It is not all in the perversity of human nature, for the gospel came to change, to remove this perversity.

Nor can the sin biased condition of the intellect, or the fault of circumstances be charged with any large share of it, for Christ was given to create circumstances and to free the mind from its bondage of sin.

Is it not possible that we in our time have mistaken accidental for essential, and placed emphasis on means and material things, instead of the things that Jesus emphasized?

There is a kind of malpractice with truth in the treatment of sin after the modern fashion. Do not sins of sensual debauch and crime receive the main, if not sole emphasis in the modern series on sin?

And yet when you turn to the New Testament you find that the primary emphasis of his whole life ministry was directed against sins of disposition.

The spirit of inhumanity, of greed, pride, selfishness, narrowness, was the sin on which fell the weight of his rebukes.

The only element of rebuke in the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son was directed toward the ungracious elder brother. The highest compliment of the story was directed toward the forgiving father. He was compared to God.

The codes of rules in Bible times were criticized severely by our Lord; and the codes of rules today might tremble under his gaze.

But the spirit’s conscious relationship to God is treated as essential in both New and the Old Testaments.

The religion of the Bible is essentially supernatural. God’s law covers the whole range of man’s relationships, and demands lofty attainments.

The piety He demands is essentially practical in its character, and enters into all detail of daily life.

 

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