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Building on the Rock

November 15th, 2018

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)

As Christ ended His Sermon on the Mount, He brought home the point of obedience to His teachings and not just knowledge of them.

There are some things in life that we are better just to have seen or heard. To see a great piece of artwork, to hear beautiful music, even to watch a beautiful sunset touches us emotionally. We are better people to have heard and read about different ideas, theories and philosophies, or great literature. But the teachings of Christ are not to be like this, they are not to be things or ideas or thoughts that merely touch us in some strange way and then we go on with life giving them little or no further thought. No. The Lord’s teachings are to be grasped, understood, and done in our lives.

Christ taught in parables, which are basically analogies – whether stories or simple comparisons – and every analogy, even our Lord’s, breaks down if stretched too far. But we do not abuse His truth to take this one of building a life like building a house a bit further than others.

A house must be begun

The essential point that Christ was making here is that just as when someone chooses to build a house they must choose the land to build it on, the precise thing that will become the foundation of the house, so we in life must choose what we will build our life upon. Choose Christ! Choose His work of redemption, His righteousness as a covering for your sins, His wisdom and teachings as the primary values of your heart, His Lordship as your life principle, and His coming as your hope.

In the Sermon Christ taught us that our righteousness must exceed that of the religious leaders’ if we would enter into God’s kingdom (Matt. 5:20). And then He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Christ did not teach a works salvation. ‘Though he stressed here doing the will of God, he also clarified what the will of God is:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

So to do the will of God is to believe in Christ. We must choose Christ’s salvation that He offers us through grace over our own works of righteousness. Our will never be enough to merit entrance into heaven. Christ’s righteousness is always enough for the guiltiest sinner. As Paul wrote:

[I want to] be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Phil. 3:9)

To obey the teachings of Christ in terms of salvation means that we must personally choose Christ. We must repent of our sins and trust in Him. We must repent. We must turn from sin and self and believe in Him.

A house is not built in a day

Houses and lives are not built in a single day. The moment we decide to trust in Christ we become new creatures in Him (2 Cor. 5:17). We are never the same again, yet in the initial days of faith it is so very important to focus on growing in Him, taking His teachings to heart and becoming more mature day by day.

You may have seen a house that was begun, that a foundation was laid, and perhaps even a roof was put up, but then the project was abandoned – probably due to some financial difficulty – and the house sits there unfinished, no windows, no doors, no kitchen, a monument to incompleteness. And some Christians are similar. They did trust in Christ sincerely at one point in their lives, and they did not reject Him, but neither did they grow like they should have. The author of Hebrews rebuked the original readers of his letter by saying:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  (Hebrews 5:11-12)

When someone trusts in Christ, when they decide to build their life on the Rock, the initial days are precious. Their hearts are warm and moldable, and those days we should use to build them up in the faith. To teach them the basic truths of the faith, and help them turn to Christ in obedience.

A house must be maintained

But this also speaks to all of us who have been Christians for some time – that our lives, just like a house, must be maintained. In fact, the older the house the more maintenance is required, and the older the Christian, likewise, the more maintenance is required. We begin to take things for granted – such as our prayer life, our devotional life, our worship, our obedience, our thought life. We cease to depend on Christ, feeling comfortable and confident in our Christianity. These are dangerous days and if we do not remain alert we will find that Satan can take our minds off of Christ, lead us astray into temptation, and compromise our Christian witness and legacy.

We must throughout our lives remind ourselves that our hope is in Christ and in Christ alone. We must remain moldable in the hands of the Potter all the days of our life. You may know the Christian song by Natalie Grant In Christ Alone:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

Is there a part of your life that is like an extension to a house but build over sand instead of rock? Focus instead on making sure that everything in your life is build upon the Rock, that it all is pleasing to Christ, done in obedience to Him, to His commands, to His values, to His will.

Continue to grow in grace and knowledge

Ultimately, the analogy of building a house, like all analogies, has its limitations. Perhaps the greatest limitation of this analogy is in the idea of growth – a house is not a living organism, but the life in Christ is living and growing. A house must be built with our own hands but the Christian life is really more God’s achievement than ours. We build by submitting to Him and letting Him build us up.

Peter’s final written words, the end of his second epistle, are a wonderful encouragement for us all to keep growing in the grace and unmerited favor of Christ. All growth is experienced in the grace of God and is gained by faith. He wrote:

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

 

Daily Devotions, Sermon on the Mount, Spiritual Growth

But Grow!

October 10th, 2018

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)

The Spirit works in our lives instantly if we are believers. One second of surrender brings instant transformation, the type that recreates the personality of God. We receive this new nature at the new birth, as we read: “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

This being true, what need do we have of a doctrine of spiritual growth? If we receive everything instantly upon complete and total surrender, then that takes away the need for strivings and moanings and groanings and effort.

There is a teaching among some Christians that says exactly that, that all we need to do is to “let go and let God.” We should die to sin and to self, “reckon yourselves dead and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11), and simply surrender our hearts to Him. Some have likened this teaching to some type of “spiritual magic” that instantly transforms us without our own thoughts being involved.

But though the Bible does teach transformation by the Spirit, it never removes this issue of growth. And, in fact, because the work of the Spirit in our lives is a living work – Christ came to bring us life – we will by the very nature of all of life be constantly growing. That which is alive grows and that which does not grow is dead.

Instant receiving, yes, but coupled with that is constant growth. The thing we receive is life and life must always grow. And growth takes time. Miles Stanford wrote:

It seems that most believers have difficulty in realizing and facing up to the inexorable fact that God does not hurry in His development of our Christian life. He is working from and for eternity! So many feel they are not making progress unless they are. swiftly and constantly forging ahead. Now it is true that the new convert often begins and continues for some time at a fast rate. But this will not continue if there is to be healthy growth and ultimate maturity. God Himself will modify the pace. This is important to see, since in most instances when seeming declension begins to set in, it is not, as so many think, a matter of backsliding.(from The Principles of Spiritual Growth)

In an idyllic setting we may experience a sudden gift of grace that instantly changes everything about us. We may feel that we are one with the Lord and nothing will ever be the same again. But then we leave that setting eventually and go back into the world, or into a carnal Christian environment. There we need the solidifying growth that comes through constantly focusing on Christ and on His grace.

The scriptural illustration of this is when Jesus and the inner circle of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, were on the Mount of Transfiguration, experiencing the vision of Christ’s holiness. But then they left the mountain and went down into the valley where the other disciples were dealing with a demoniac, and not doing a very good job of it, by the way. (Matthew 17:1-20). Most of us can identify with both of these experiences.

The Holy Spirit by Peter commands us not to grow around the grace of God, not to try and bypass the need of God’s strength and grace in order to grow by our own wits or efforts. Rather He commands us to grow “in the grace” of God. The Transfiguration experience was never downplayed, rather it was seen for what it was – a grace experience that began this work of God in the lives of the three disciples. Peter wrote about it in the very epistle that our text above comes from and says, “We were eye witnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter. 1:16). It was a grace experience and they grew in that grace.

And that is how we are to grow. We are to take the knowledge of God and the ministry of the Spirit in our lives and treasure them. We are to grow in His grace – unmerited favor. We do not earn our spiritual growth. We receive it by grace and it is our part to be constantly and regularly connected to Him and to His love. We grow in our awareness of our dependence on Him, in the distrust of ourselves and our sinful nature, and in the confidence that He fulfills His promises to us.

This should be the passion of our lives – not the receiving of human recognition, or positions and respect by others, but the knowledge of our own hearts that we are being transformed into His likeness. Like the rings of a tree, the quick “summer growth” is wonderful to receive, but it is the tougher “winter growth” that hardens our souls and makes us resilient and strong. But it is all by grace, by remaining attached to Christ, and not to trust in ourselves.

 

Daily Devotions, Spiritual Growth