Saturday, September 3, 2016

3 September 2016
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:24-29 (NRSV)
“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.” James 1:22-25 (NRSV)
“Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.” 1 John 2:3-6 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Today we have come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wraps up His teaching with a parable challenging His listeners to put what they have heard into practice. Matthew finishes it up with a note designed to emphasize Jesus’ authority, reminding his readers that with Jesus the Kingdom of Heaven has been ushered in.
            This parable represents the two ways we have been seeing since vs. 13; two opposing worldviews. The sand represents the ways of the world, constantly shifting and changing according to whatever outside influence happens to be acting upon them. There is no stability here; no lasting protection, no peace. The rock, of course, represents Jesus and His teachings. With Him there is eternal stability, protection, everlasting peace. Whatever storms rage around us, our faith anchors us to the Rock that is Jesus, the Christ.
            But you knew all that. What I would like to focus on here is the act of building. My background is not in construction but I know enough to know plans or blueprints are usually involved; there is a vision for what the finished building will look like and quality of construction determines durability and longevity. So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at the building process to see what Jesus may have had in mind.
            We begin with the vision-that is, what we would like our lives to look like, what is important. Or, in this case, what we would like others to see in us. Do we want to reflect our Lord, do we want to glorify The Father as Jesus did? Or are we concerned more with promoting our own agendas, even if this comes at other’s expense? This will be what determines our plans-our blueprint for life, our values. I once had to identify 10 personal core values for a political science course and present them in a video. Defining personal values is important-especially with an important election coming up-and I recommend taking some time to do it, if you haven’t already. Or review them, if it’s been a while.
            Our values determine how we build and, to some extent, what we build with. The act of building represents the decisions we make and the habits those decisions form throughout our lives. This is where the rubber meets the road and it will happen whether we are aware of it or not. Jesus is simply saying the wise builders, the ones who have a vision for the Kingdom, a desire to follow Him and demonstrate His presence, will focus intentionally-and intently-on forming Godly habits. This is how we build on the rock. We are talking once again about Spiritual Disciplines; becoming disciples. Jesus’ teachings are the blueprint; practicing the Disciplines is the act of building; how we form the habits that will shape our character. Habits of character are important-we can only fake ‘being nice’ for so long. Sooner or later something will come along and our true self will be revealed. We are aiming for a character formation which is deeply ingrained and natural; where anything other than Christ-likeness would be unnatural, even difficult. This is possible but it takes intention; it takes practice.
            Spiritual Disciplines are also the quality materials that allow us to weather life’s storms. You see how it all connects-Jesus, teachings, disciplines, habits-all combine to work their way out in demonstrations of Christ-like character-which themselves become habits. And on and on; the upward spiral. Vision; values; habits; behavior. As I said, we will be formed in some way whether we like it or not. Kingdom behavior does not just happen-it must be intentionally cultivated. And speaking of habits, we never really break one, we simply replace it with another one. Again we see why this whole idea of Spiritual Discipline-discipleship-is so important.
            I hope I’ve given you all some ideas. There is just a ton of good stuff out there about Spiritual Discipline; some pretty good apps too. As I have said before, Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is my favorite; it’s a classic now and he continues to influence me. And, of course, remember-the goal is to bring Jesus’ presence into a world that desperately needs to see Him.
            One final word about vs.28-29. This may seem a little strange to our ears. Jesus taught without any reference to other Rabbis or teachers-it was always ‘but I say’. Rabbis of the day were accustomed to quoting other Rabbis when they taught. That practice is carried on today whenever anyone quotes another authority or commentary. Jesus spoke on His own authority and the crowd recognized it. Matthew slips this in to remind us in Jesus Christ the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God) has indeed arrived; proof positive ‘God with us’ has come.
            Thank you all for joining me. I pray these little blogs have helped in some way. Monday we start a new adventure; I’m looking forward to it already. Don’t forget to worship with your sisters and brothers this weekend.
May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. JRG


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