October 11, 2009
INTRODUCTION – We come today to the end of the three chapter section – typically referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), in our ongoing series through the gospel of Matthew. In this long – saturated in reality sermon – Jesus Christ is giving an invitation to you and I to be a part of a people – – who are to be an ever visible expression of the glorious kingdom of heaven – on earth. This is to be our prayer; and as it becomes our prayer – it will also become our passion; and as it becomes our passion it will become our practice.
As we learn to walk in true righteousness – as opposed to pharisaic righteousness – or the kind of religious façade that seeks to please and impress men – rather than God – – we increasingly as a people – have the opportunity to be a living demonstration of what the kingdom of God looks like to our fellow citizens and neighbors – – citizens and neighbors, who are trapped in the kingdom of darkness, and who are encouraged to stay there by false prophets and false teachers, who demonstrate the saying or truth that “misery loves company.”
Because our society has on the most part embraced the kingdom of darkness – that is run and inspired by the father of lies and his demons; and that seeks to enslave people – by convincing them that life revolves around them and their pleasure; and that they have no one to answer to but themselves; and that this life is all there is.
Because of this – – there is an ever greater need for a people to rise up who can be an ever brighter flashing neon light – – that there is indeed a better way – – and who demonstrate that – by their love, unity, compassion, strength in adversity, wisdom and sharing of resources to meet pressing needs. So how can we make sure that we are doing our part to be this kind of people? Well the answer is to cultivate an obedient life. Only obedient people can experience and exemplify kingdom life.
Let’s look at our passage for today. In Matt. 7:24-29 we are going to take a look at 3 things: First, the fruit of an obedient life; Second, the destruction of a disobedient life; and third the ultimate example of an obedient life – that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Follow along with me as I read Matt. 7:24, 25
Please note this morning brother and sisters, that the leader of this people the Lord Jesus Christ is building that He calls – the church – is none other than Himself. That is why the New Testament refers to Him as the “Head of the Church”. He never intended to give this Headship over to fallen men. He will always be the Head; He will always be the captain of the army; He will always be the CEO of His church; and He has plenty to say – every day – to the individuals who make up congregations; and to the individual congregations who make up His church; and to His church at large as it develops a unified corporate expression in cities and in nations.
The wonderful news in this culminating passage of the sermon on the mount is – – no matter how the society around His people may crumble – – if His people learn not only to hear, but to heed His voice – – if His people learn not only to read, but to act on His word – – we will thrive – – and we will have a stability and strength that will weather every single storm that comes our way; and that will be a huge flashing light bulb of hope in the darkness and fear and insecurity all around us.
Jesus Christ says the wisest thing you can do for a stable, fruitful, steady, kingdom life in the midst of the storms that are sure to come – – is not to invest every penny you can find in gold; it is not to acquire a cache of arms and build a hideaway in the mountains; it is not to get all you can in any way you can while you still can; but rather it is to cultivate a lifestyle of obeying His every word. Let me ask you: Is it wiser to listen to and heed the advice of Oprah or Sean Hannity, or any other so called sage, who were born in sin, and who see through a glass darkly; or is it wiser to listen to and heed the Creator of the Universe in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and in whom everything is held together, and who gives to the Oprahs and the Sean Hannity’s every breath of life they breathe?
Using the imagery that Jesus used in this passage – – every one of you is going to build a house, which represents your life. The question is: what kind of foundation are you going to build that house or life on – – Because foundations are everything!! The house or life you build may be freshly painted, three stories high, manicured lawn in front, state of the art technology in the lighting, etc., But unless it is built on rock, when the earthquake hits; when the wildfires burn; when the floods hit – – your house or your life is going to crumble and float away and nothing you can do can stop it. Only an obedient lifestyle ensures a strong unshakeable foundation. Because only an obedient lifestyle will be able to go where God goes, and do as God does., and see as God sees.
When Anne and I and the kids lived in Fort Wayne, IN – in the 2 and ½ years before we moved here – – we had a pretty good income for the first year; and then some storms came our way. Anne worked as an occupational therapist that first year and made very good money. I worked as an English teacher to foreign students in one area college and one area university and made decent money. Then after six months our stream of non English speaking foreign students dried up; and I found myself working in sales for a time and made o.k. money.
After our first year there, Anne felt the Lord leading her to quit her job and be home full time with the kids. When she first mentioned this to me on the ride home from a home group meeting, inside my heart sunk because I had been working for the last six months selling Britannica Encyclopedias; and because the Head guy in Chicago hated my manager – there in Fort Wayne – – in spite – – he literally closed down our office. We were all immediately without jobs. And thus I was in the process of transitioning to selling for World Book Encyclopedias, which was Britannica’s main competitor. I was not yet making any money, and benefits had not kicked in yet either. But in spite of all this, by the time we arrived back home from the home group meeting, I knew this was the right decision. Soon after this, we all got sick; and while Josh, Caroline and I fairly quickly recovered, Anne’s flu turned into pneumonia; and the next thing I knew – we were in the emergency room – without insurance; without income; and with a slip of paper in hand for a hundred dollar prescription. For the next two months we were in for the fight of our lives to get her well, and to survive financially.
At the same time God was telling us that Anne was not to work outside the home, He was also telling us that I was not to pursue a ministry opportunity. Now God called me to the ministry when I was in highschool; and to some extent I had been preparing for that ever since. I served for three years as part of a mega church in Dallas; and then I served for five years with OMF – four of those overseas. God had always blessed and used us in ministry; and for those who had followed us and knew that – – my trying to make it in the business world in the depressed economy of Fort Wayne, IN, with my wife at home with the kids – did not make any sense. God had always blessed me in ministry really since my days in college; God had never blessed me in the business world. As one of the successful business men in our church in Ft. Wayne once told me – Randy, You are a true Levite. That was my obvious calling. But for this season God was telling me not to pursue it.
For another year and a half – we obeyed what we felt the Lord was telling us – even though it seemed like financial suicide; and it caused some who had followed our ministry to this point to wonder if we weren’t hiding some serious moral or family problems. Only God knew that the best way to prepare us for leading this people and work here was to have Anne give renewed devotion to our family; and for me to get a feel for what it is like for the average American husband and father in the workforce. Storms of financial stress, and misunderstanding and judgment from those who had followed us were our lot in those days. But by the grace of God, a foundation of obedience was layed that enabled us to stand and weather all the storms.
You see – Our God sees the whole picture. He sees down the road and around the corner. He has an amazing plan for our lives and knows exactly how to build the character to enable us to fulfill that plan. But the only way we are going to get there is to trust and obey His every word – even when it seems crazy and foolish.
Jesus Christ is looking today for obedient sons and daughters. By the way, did you notice the “Therefore” in vs. 24? The therefore is there for us to reflect back on the prior passage, where Jesus made it emphatically clear that many will address Him as Lord, whether in their singing or praying, and they will even do miracles (or seem to do miracles in His name); but they will not as a lifestyle do His will – – and to their great surprise when they face Him at the judgment – – He will utter those terrible words, “I never knew you, Depart from Me, You who practice lawlessness.” You see – you will either learn to practice obedience; or you will practice lawlessness. One builds a life of stability , wisdom and inner strength. One builds a veneer of stability and strength until the storms of life come – – at which point the veneer falls away, and we are found spiritually bankrupt, unstable and foolish.
Both the wise and the foolish hear; the foolish just fail to heed what they hear. Let’s read vs. 26,27. Listen folks – – it is not enough to agree that this is the word of God; and that I should meditate in it day and night. That is hearing. Only when you actually carve out time to meditate in it day and night and you actually meditate and ponder what God is saying to you through that passage – – are you building a house and a life that will withstand the storms of life.
It is not enough to say “yes prayer changes things” or “Prayer is our greatest priority” or “prayer unlocks the kingdom of God”. It is not enough to be able to quote your favorite bible passage that talks about prayer. Only when you go beyond that and actually pray are you heeding what you have heard. It is not enough to agree that God loves cheerful givers; and that Jesus called for sacrificial givers, and that everything I have belongs to God. Only when you pull out that checkbook and write a check and put it in the offering are you heeding what you have heard.
It is not enough to agree that God desires that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance; and that we are His ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation – we are His witnesses; It is not enough to believe that – we have to then find ways to come alongside the lost and help them be reconciled to the living God.
James puts it this way, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Every time I read His word or I hear Him speak His specific will to me (which is always in keeping with His written word); and I choose to ignore it or put it off or explain it away – – I deceive myself, and I set myself up for foolishness and instability and ultimately failure.
But God’s will and expectation for each of you and for myself is that we will cultivate a lifestyle of both hearing and heeding His word. And that as we do that, we are going to increasingly be a people who no matter what comes at us; and no matter what happens in our society – – we will be found to be full of faith and the supernatural ability to weather the storms of life.
So how can we cultivate a lifestyle of obedience to His word that results in unflappable strength and stability when everyone else is freaking out and failing?
Well we need to be constantly sitting at the feet of our Savior – learning from Him as the author and finisher of our faith. Look with me at the last two verses. – vs. 28,29
One of the things that caused our Savior to stand out in the crowd of religious leaders in His day was His authority, which came primarily from His authenticity, which came primarily from His absolute obedience to the will of the Father. Jesus Christ knew no self will; there was no duplicity with Him. There was no compromise; no hypocrisy; no ulterior motives. He never had some secret that an extortionist might expose. He lived to please the Father and do His bidding. He was a crucified man before He was ever crucified. He was dead before He ever died. He fulfilled His calling to the T; and never veered from it. And the scripture often speaks of this. Just Thursday morning in my quiet time I read these words in John 5:30, where Jesus said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative.” Friday morning I read these words of Jesus in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Do you want to have increasing authority and influence in your Jerusalem? Then get rid of self will. You were created for a specific purpose that requires specific words and specific directives from God to fulfill it. When you hear and heed those, and deny your right to self expression and self determination and self initiative – – that purpose will unfold before your eyes – – and the people around you will definitely notice the difference because most people today – even some in the church – even some in the leadership of the church – – like the Scribes – are going through the religious motions; but are living their own life and setting their own terms – a lifestyle Jesus calls lawlessness.
Now the Father knew we would struggle with keeping Jesus’s example before us. So He gave us this practice called communion or the Lord’s table to keep the ultimate expression of obedience and selflessness on our radar screen. Jesus Christ would have loved to have found a different way – than the way of the cross. But His overriding prayer was, “not my will, but Thy will be done.”
If you are here this morning – enjoying a relationship with God and forgiveness of sins and the wonderful hope of eternal life – – there is only one reason for that – – His absolute obedience. I Peter 1:1,2
CONCLUSION – Prayer for us as individuals, families and a church family to hear and heed.