This past week in Jonesboro, Arkansas, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson warned friends, "He had a lot of killing to do'' after he was jilted by a girl. A day later, he and his 11-year-old cousin, Andrew Golden, lured classmates out of school with a false fire alarm, then mowed them down with gunfire.
Four girls and an English teacher, who shielded a student from the attack, were killed in the ambush Tuesday. Eleven others -- 10 students and a teacher -- were wounded.
Students described Mitchell as a troubled boy who had recently begun bragging about involvement with a gang and was upset over a breakup with a girlfriend, who was among the wounded. Students said he made numerous threats Monday.
"He told us that tomorrow you will find out if you live or die,'' seventh-grader Melinda Henson, who described herself as a good friend of the boy, told the Sun.
"He told me yesterday that all the people who broke up with him, you know, he's going to come to school tomorrow and shoot them,'' said 12-year-old Charles Vanoven, another seventh-grader. "I thought he was just kidding around.''
Gov. Mike Huckabee said he was angry, as a parent, that such a tragedy could happen at a public school.
"It makes me angry not so much at individual children that have done it as much as angry at a world in which such a thing can happen,'' he said.
How did you react to the news of the shootings? Were you angry, hurt, frustrated? Does it make you want to somehow escape from this world?
"There's no explanation in my opinion why an 11-year-old or 13-year-old would do something like this,'' Craighead County Sheriff Dale Haas said. "It breaks my heart.''
Is there an explanation as to how something like this can happen? I think there is; It's called the depravity of man. Man apart from God is evil, wicked, destructive, self-seeking and murderous. This violence is a growing trend in our society.
The Arkansas shooting was at least the third fatal shooting in a school in the past five months.
Dec. 1, 1997 -- A youth opens fire on a student prayer circle in a hallway at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky. Three students are killed and five others wounded. A 14-year-old student, described as emotionally immature, is arrested.
Oct. 1, 1997 -- A 16-year-old outcast in Pearl, Miss., is accused of killing his mother, then going to school and shooting nine students. Two of them died, including the boy's ex-girlfriend. Authorities later accuse six friends of conspiracy, saying the suspects were part of a group that dabbled in satanism.
Feb. 19, 1997 -- A 16-year-old student opens fire with a shotgun in a common area at the Bethel, Alaska, high school. Killed are school principal Ron Edwards and classmate Josh Palacious. Two other students are wounded. Authorities later accuse two other students of knowing the shootings would take place. Evan Ramsey was sentenced to two 99-year terms last month.
Feb. 2, 1996 -- A 14-year-old student turned an assault rifle on his algebra class, killing two classmates and a teacher, in the central Washington city of Moses Lake. Barry Loukaitis was sentenced to two mandatory life terms for the attack at Frontier Junior High School.
Jan. 18, 1993 -- Scott Pennington, 17, walked into Deanna McDavid's seventh-period English class at East Carter High School in Grayson, Ky., and shot her in the head. He then shot janitor, Marvin Hicks, in the abdomen. Pennington was sentenced to life without parole for 25 years.
May 1, 1992 -- Eric Houston, 20, killed four people and wounded 10 in an armed siege at his former high school in Olivehust, Calif. Prosecutors said the attack was in retribution for a failing grade. Houston was convicted and was given a death sentence.
In 1946, a poll was taken of high school teachers, asking them to name the top offenses their students committed. They were:
talking, chewing gum, making noises, running in the halls, getting out of turn in line, wearing improper clothing, and not putting paper in the waste basket.
You can tell these teenagers were out of control.
Fifty years later, what do you think the top offenses committed by teenagers are? In order, they are..... rape, robbery, assault, burglary, arson, murder, suicide.
It's a different world we're living in today, and though most would agree that the ideal for families is the biblical model of one mom, one dad, together for life, the fact is 83% of Americans find themselves in a different family situation.
Students -- and adults -- across our nation struggled Wednesday to understand the state of mind that allowed two Arkansas boys to pour deadly rifle fire on classmates and teachers.
Some of the halting answers that people have come up with are; disconnection from family and friends, easy access to guns, violence in the media. Add it to the normal growing-up pains and fears and you have a toxic mix.
J. Stevens, in commenting on the shooting in Pilot online talknet, wrote, "Perhaps what is needed is a moral code to which everyone can subscribe that includes admonitions such as thou shall not kill and thou shall not commit adultery.
The major problem is the moral bankruptcy of families, churches, schools, businesses and government bodies. These young people do not have role models who display self control and inhibition of the urge toward self gratification of either anger or lust."
I agree, what is needed is a moral code. Where is the world to get its moral code from? The Church. Who is the Church? I am, you are! Paul writing to Timothy said this:
1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NKJV) These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
The Church is the pillar and ground of truth, God's truth. Our moral code comes from the God
who created us. Listen, please listen, this is the reason we exist on earth. We are the pillar and
ground of truth. We alone, have the solution to society's trouble. And that solution is the Gospel
of Jesus Christ, God's healing power.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Romans three gives us a picture of man and it is not very pretty.
Romans 3:10-17 (NKJV) As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." 13 "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; 14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known."
Men, all men, every man is wicked. Knowing this, the violent acts of men shouldn't surprise us. Paul describes fallen mankind as, "swift to shed blood." As our nation progressively moves away from God, our nation will continue to worsen. As man moves away from God, God turns him over to suffer the consequences of his own depravity. We can see what is happening to our society in the text of Romans 1.
Romans 1:25-28 (NKJV) who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
America indorses homosexuality, it accepts adultery even from its highest leaders. We murder
unborn babies at the rate of I.5 million per year. We no longer believe in disciplining children. As
we continue to walk away from God and His principles of morality, our country will continue to
self-destruct. As a nation turns away from God, God gives it over to judgement.
Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The word "gospel" means good news. The good news is that God has provided redemption for sinful man. Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. The word "ashamed" could also be translated "disappointed." Paul is not disappointed in the gospel. By that he means that he is not afraid that it will not work. He believes in its power to save. He is not disappointed in the gospel because it is the power of God. The Greek word that Paul uses here for power is dunamis, from which we get our word dynamite. It doesn't refer to explosive power, the Greeks knew nothing of gun powder. It means inherent power. The gospel is the inherent, omnipotent power of God, operating in the salvation of a lost person to accept it.
The Romans were proud of their power. Their military power was unstoppable. But when it came to changing men's hearts, the Romans were powerless. The Roman empire was full of violence and corruption, and the suicide rate was extremely high. Seneca called the city of Rome, "A cesspool of iniquity." Juvenal called it, "A filthy sewer into which the dregs of the empire flood."
Paul was bold and confident to preach the good news of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God to do the very things men cannot do. This power can take a sinner who is depraved in mind, body and spirit and cleanse him from all sin, make him righteous in the sight of God, and give him eternal life.
The Gospel carries with it the omnipotence of God. Power! The gospel is not something that tells us what we must do to save ourselves. It is God's power "unto," signifying result, resulting in salvation. Salvation delivers man from the wrath of God and the power of sin. It is God's power, resulting in salvation to everyone who believes. Everyone, without distinction of race, color, social standing, or background.
What is it that they need to believe? They need to believe that Jesus Christ has done for them what they could never do for themselves. He has paid their sin debt in full. Salvation is God's gift to all who trust in Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
God's gift to man is faith to believe in Jesus Christ.
Why is the gospel the power of God to everyone who believes?
Romans 1:17 (NKJV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The righteousness, which the gospel reveals is God's own righteousness, which He gives to all who believe.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
God solves man's problem by giving him the very righteousness that He demands. God takes out our stony heart and gives us a heart of flesh. He makes us new creatures with the capacity to love and obey His laws. That is the gospel and that, people, is good news.
Look with me at the Gospel of Mark. I want to show you God's power of healing, God's power to transform.
Mark 5:1-8 (NKJV) Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me." 8 For He said to him, "Come out of the man, unclean spirit!"
Here we see a man under the influence and control of demons. This is a vivid picture of God's power over sin and evil. Here we see a violent wicked man healed. The power of Jesus Christ sets this man free. Notice verse 15:
Mark 5:15 (NKJV) Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
So complete and miraculous was the transformation that the townspeople were afraid. Only the power of God can change people. Only the power of God can make a violent man into a man of peace. The gospel is the power of God. Notice this man's desire after his transformation.
Mark 5:18-20 (NKJV) And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. 19 However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." 20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.
This man, now fully aware of God's transforming power, goes throughout the ten city region proclaiming to others what God had done for him. That's what witnessing is all about.
I know you might be saying, "Well that guy is a little hard to relate to, I mean the demons, the chains, living in tombs. It's nice to read about God's transforming power but, I need to see it."
Let me tell you about another violent man, a young man, a teenager. He was filled with hatred and violence. He continually sought out fights. He would use his girlfriend as a decoy to start fights. He would have his girlfriend sit at the bar while he played pool, and if anyone tried to talk to her, he would start a fight with them. He would give obscene gestures to people in other cars, trying to get them to stop and fight. This young man wore a belt with a very heavy brass buckle, it weighed about a pound, to use for fighting. He would wrap the belt around his hand and hit his opponent in the face with the buckle, which would cause a lot of pain and damage. Then, one day a friend at work shared the gospel with me, and I believed it and was transformed. The first thing that God did was to take away my fighting spirit. He dealt with my anger and gave me peace. Several weeks later, I got into a fight at a party with a couple of guys who were picking on someone. I took one of them down and was about to drive my fist through his face when Cathy yelled out, "He doesn't' fight anymore, he's a Christian." Instead of hitting the guy, I helped him up and apologized to him. Everyone in the room was in shock. They were seeing before their eyes the power of a transformed life.
Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. Only the gospel can turn an angry punk into a passionate preacher. I am so thankful that in June 1975, Kenny Ross shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with me. It is the gospel, and the gospel alone, that transforms lives. How I thank God for Calvary.
A sailor aboard ship on a six month cruise gets word that his wife has left him. When he gets home from the cruise, he seeks to restore the relationship. His wife wants nothing to do with reconciliation. He is deeply hurt, alone, even contemplating suicide. Then a neighbor shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with the man. He trusts Christ, and his life is given meaning and purpose. In time, he meets and marries a godly Christian woman. As a team, they raise their children according to the principle of the Word of God. They are a testimony to their neighbors and friends. He goes from the depths of despair to a life filled with love and joy. He is greatly used of God to minister to others. God has transformed David Bailey and given him abundant life in Jesus Christ. Only God can do that. Only the power of the gospel can change lives.
A rock-n-roller, with hair half way down his back, involved in the sex and drug culture of the rock-n-roll scene, is invited to visit a church. He visits, and to his surprise, the people are warm, accepting and friendly. A few weeks later, he is saved. Under conviction from the Holy Spirit, he leaves the rock-n-roll scene, marries a Christian woman, and now plays the guitar for us each Sunday for the glory of God.
People, the gospel has the power to transform lives. It can take violent, broken, purposeless lives and make them whole and loving.
Let me ask you a question, church. Do you believe that the gospel is God's power to transform lives? Sure you do. Let me ask you another question. When is the last time you shared the gospel with someone? If it has been quite a while since you shared the gospel, do we need to wonder why our society is like it is? If the church won't proclaim His gospel, who will? We can't expect depraved man to act any way but depraved. Until a man is transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can't expect him to be anything but evil and sinful.
What is our responsibility? Since we are the only ones who have the message that gives life, our responsibility is great! Let me give you four "P's" to help you understand your responsibility.
It we're going to tell the world about the gospel that changes lives, we had better live transformed lives. If our lives are a mess with sin, we hinder the proclamation of the gospel. The man who shared the gospel with me was living a consistent Christian life. His testimony made his message very attractive. Do you want to hear about how to diet from someone who is 300 pounds over weight? Do you want to learn how to lift weights form someone who is built like a toothpick? Do people want to hear about a gospel that changes lives from someone who's life is a mess? Practice it!
If you don't spend any time around lost people, I think you should plan a way to get around them. How can you affect the world if you are never in it.
Some years ago a young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. "That depends," replied the foreman. "Let's see you fell this tree." The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, "Start Monday!"
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by, and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, "You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today."
Startled, he replied, "I thought you paid on Friday." "Normally we do," answered the foreman, "but we're letting you go today because you've fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you've dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday."
"But I'm a hard worker," the young man objected. "I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!"
The foreman, sensing the boy's integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, "Have you been sharpening your ax?"
The young man replied, "I've been working too hard to take the time."
How about you? Have you been too busy, too hard at work to sharpen your ax?
Prayer is the hone that gives you that sharp edge. Without it, the more work you do, the duller you'll get. We need to be praying for lost people.
We need to get much more aggressive in our evangelism. We have the solution to our society's ills.
The Lord's desire for us is the same as it was for the man he healed in Mark 5, it is this:
Mark 5:19 (NKJV) However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you."
We have the cure for the sin sickness of our culture. What are we doing with it? As we close this morning, I have an exhortation to share with you from the heart of God. "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you."