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The Unwise Builder

November 16th, 2018

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

Christ compared two builders – a wise builder and an unwise builder. The wise builder heard the words of Christ and put them into practice. He believed and obeyed, and the result was a life that was prepared for eternity and for this earthly life as well. If you want to prepare for this life, first get prepared for eternity, and then you will be prepared to live this life. This is the recurrent theme of the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

But the unwise builder also teaches us – it is the helpful instruction on how not to do something. We could also subtitle this Bible study, “How to Be Unprepared for Living Life Today,” for he was certainly unprepared for the storms of life. Or, “How to Ruin Your Life,” for surely that is what happened to the man.

First, ignore your life’s foundation

Several years ago I had a discussion with a businessman about the value of formal education. Though a Christian he considered that the only truly valuable education for today’s world was technical in nature. As we discussed the topic, though we agreed on the helpfulness of technical education, I stressed that technology can never be the main thing or the only thing in life. This type of thinking is common in today’s world and is at the root of so many problems: the assumption that all life consists of is making money and gaining power and possessions.

Christ said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Life is more than just possessions, and the foundation of life must be about things that relate to character and to God. It is a very different feeling to gain some possession unethically and immorally, than to gain something by genuinely and honestly earning it. How can you really enjoy anything you gain if you know you did not gain it honestly?

But this is commonly thought in today’s world – that only technology matters in this universe. And we are turning people into robots without souls or spirits, without purpose or any personal knowledge of God, and thereby without the true ability to understand the value of anything. Many in the world are like this foolish builder, who think that spiritual foundations do not matter, only how nice the house looks.

Do not take the teachings of Christ seriously

The man shrugged off the teachings of Christ. Now, this parable is not about that person who never heard of Jesus, who never heard the gospel. It is about the person who had the privilege of hearing of God’s love, and perhaps even growing up in the church. But he walked away from it. We might say that this was his attitude toward the entire Bible, to consider it unimportant. Whenever the word of God is proclaimed the Spirit of God gives an inner witness to the listener, urging him to turn and believe in Christ (John 16:8-11). So this is a sin against Holy Spirit Himself.

Consider wealth an impregnable fortress

This man put a higher priority on possessions than on foundations. He built a house, or he built his life, but never considered the foundation that it rested upon. He imagined that wealth could build an impregnable fortress. The Bible warns us, “Riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations” (Prov 27:24). There is an ancient Chinese proverb, “Wealth does not pass three generations.”

Be unprepared for the inevitable

Storms in life are completely unavoidable. They come in all shapes and sizes, from storms of illness, to storms of divorce, of betrayals, of financial disasters, of heartbreaking loss of loved ones, and your own personal crisis of the purpose of life. Many come to the end of their lives and only then stare into eternity and have a crisis of personal significance, and a great “So what?” hangs over their life. But even if you escape all of these – and no man ever escapes them all –  you still will face the storm of your own personal death.

The Bible tells the story of the rich farmer who thought only of himself, was selfish and ungenerous, and made no preparation for eternity. Yet in the aftermath of an incredibly successful year with a bountiful crop, when his thoughts were all obsessed with increasing his business, building bigger barns, God said to him, “You fool! Tonight your soul will be required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20).

The end result was disaster

This man was unprepared for life because he was unprepared for eternity. The Bible says: “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Prov. 24:16). The first thing that should be prepared in building a house is the foundation, and the first thing that should be prepared for living life today should be the inner strengthening of our souls – especially the strengthening of our souls in Christ.

The experiences of life are all remarkably similar. The Bible says: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind” (1 Cor. 10:13a). The thing that happens to one, happens to all others in some shape or form. And our souls are also remarkably similar – each human soul is made to believe in and to worship and to follow Jesus Christ. Any life can become a disaster, and any life can become a blessing. If you will build your life on Christ the Rock, you will find the perspective, purpose, and strength you need to overcome every challenge.

Daily Devotions, Sermon on the Mount

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