Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Sermon on a Mount, A New Creation in Christ

Jesus is now set to conclude what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. He has taught us how to live as a Christian and in turn be a witness to the world of the power of God in our lives.  Here is his conclusion.
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Matthew 7:24-29 NKJV
What are the foundational principles that your life is built upon?  Is it something solid like rock or is it something shifty and unstable like sand?  The answer to that question will determine the overall soundness of your life.  Jesus likens those who who hears and does the sayings of Jesus as one who builds his house upon a solid rock.  Those who do not do what Jesus said are likened to those who build their houses on sand.  The foundation is where you begin building your house.  All else depends on the foundation.  The foundation is the strength of a house.  If you do not begin with a good foundation then you will never end up with a good house. 

The foundation for our lives in Christ must be the teachings of Jesus.  We must build our houses (that is lives) upon the rock of His teachings.  Our salvation is founded in His doctrine of grace and our lives after salvation must be founded upon His doctrines on righteous living.  This goes right back to yesterday in that we must actually believe Jesus to be Lord and that it is not enough to merely speak the words if that truth is not in your heart.  The doctrine established by Jesus Christ is not just for us to learn, but it is for us to do.  Doctrine is useless just as an intellectual belief, but must become the foundation for our lives.  It is only upon the solid doctrine of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that we can build our lives successfully.

The problem is that we so often fail at the first step at becoming a disciple of Jesus.  We fail to deny ourselves.  That is why we sin, that is why we deny parts of the instructions of Jesus we do not like, that is why we "disagree" with God in some parts of the Bible, and that is why we stray from the only true and perfect wisdom found in God.  You see, building on rock is harder. I can attest to that as I work in a place that has been expanding over the years I have been there.  The city the business is located in is basically solid rock.  They need heavy machines to cut, grind, and pound through all the stone in order to lay the foundation to build.  It is long, hard, grueling work.  On the other hand, building on the sand is easy.  You can usually just smooth it out a little bit and begin to build.  The problem is that when a storm comes, that sand washes away and the foundation and all that is built upon it collapses.  On the other hand, the building built upon the stone still stands. 

Building on the sand caters to self.  It does not involve committing extra time and work in order to build, but it does ignore sound wisdom.  When we build our lives on the sand of our own desires, we ignore God's wisdom for our own and when the storms of life come, our lives and even our very foundations, are destroyed.  Building on the stone is harder work, but it premised on sounder wisdom.  Building our lives upon the teachings of Jesus lays a sure foundation that will last beyond any storm life can throw at us.  Even if our house is damaged, the foundation still stands and our lives can be rebuilt.  Even if our house is knocked down, it can be built again because the foundation still stands.  The reason is that sand is premised on our own desires which are dependent upon our life circumstances whereas the stone is premised on the eternal and unchanging Word of God.  

So how does one build their lives upon the rock?  Jesus tells us "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock."  Note that it is not just hearing, but doing.  We must live what Jesus has taught us.  We are not to just think that the Beatitudes are a good teaching, but to make them a part of our identity in Christ.  We are not to just think that loving our enemy is a nice idea, but actually do it.  We are not to think that performing our works to God in secret is good for our humility, but to actually be humble and do it.  We are not to think that it would be a good witness to go the second mile, but to actually walk it.  The teachings of Jesus can not just be a list of instructions that we may or may not adhere to depending on our mood, but they need to be the very foundation of how we relate to God and the world.  We can not just think of Jesus as a pretty smart fellow and a really good teacher, but we must actually make him Lord of our lives. 

I know some would say that I am being legalistic that we are dead to the law and that these things are not relevant to someone saved.  Fine, you can disagree, but you also disagree with the one you claim to be your Lord.  If you think these are means of gaining favor with God then you have the wrong idea of everything Jesus has been teaching us.  These lessons are not what we do to get favor, but the natural reaction of someone who has His favor.  When we come to Jesus God says we are a new creation, Jesus just shared with us what that new creation will look like.  It is your new nature in Christ.  It is the new heart of flesh created in you.  It is the freedom from the bondage of sin, but not a freedom to do what you want to do, but the freedom to deny yourself and do what you were created to do.  If you are in Christ, this is not what you are to become, but what you already are.  We need to live what we learn.  We need to act on the Word of God.  His teachings are not just words for life, but they are the Word of life.  We need to put away that old man and put on Jesus Christ, it is only then when we will truly experience the abundant life in Jesus Christ, our Lord. 
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues [in it], and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:21-25 NKJV

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