Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Oncoming Storms

“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.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NKJV).

James, the Lord's half-brother wrote in his New Testament epistle, "…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22, NKJV). He was obviously echoing Christ's teaching here, as we near the completion of this incredible Mountain Discourse on how to live as a Christian in this world; in enemy territory.

For that is where we are, behind enemy lines, ambassadors and soldiers of the Kingdom of Heaven, gradually shedding the fetid skin of our old natures, and putting on Christ instead.

There are many points that can be highlighted in the above passage. Among them: the crucial difference between hearing and obeying; the fact that there are fundamentally two choices available to every human being; and lastly, the inevitably of storms in this life.

The entire Sermon on the Mount is a brilliant outline of the best way to live, detailing the best attitudes and best actions for those who know and believe the truth of God's Word. It follows the polemic pattern of premise, then result. Live life God's way and be blessed. Live life your own way and suffer the consequences of failure and pain and eternal death. Jesus presents these truths with all the moral power of being true to His own word. His ministry on the earth was entirely based on His own example; the epitome of "do as I say AND do", so unlike those who profess moral or intellectual authority today.

Knowing what Jesus teaches without doing what He teaches is worse in consequence than complete ignorance of the Christian faith. To be given the truth, and then to discount it as worthless, which is what conscious disobedience amounts to, is worthy of increased condemnation. Likewise, so is twisting the truth to fit your own convenience or preferred manner of life. For “…that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47, 48, NKJV). 
In that sense, it is dangerous to claim to know and believe the Bible, and yet follow the dictates of your own will. Knowing truth, without living the truth is a guarantee of disaster in this life and in the life to come. Jesus' instruction in Matthew 5-7 is binding, shockingly so. While we can never expect to be in perfect compliance this side of Heaven, nevertheless our desire should be to follow the Lord with all our heart, mind, strength and will. To put aside what is right in our own eyes, and like that good and faithful servant, to devote our energies to obeying the Master.

To be sure, this is not a popular viewpoint in the world. It is not even very popular in some churches. But what possible difference does it make what man thinks in the face of the Almighty God. I know people who consider it justifiable to argue with Divine Will. In reality, it makes more sense to stand on the shore shaking your fist vainly at an impending Tidal Wave.

Christ likens an obedient hearer of His teaching to a wise man who built his house on the rock. This is a human who humbly acknowledges his dependence on, and inferiority to, the God of the Universe, who makes the foundation of his life the truth of God, who bases all his decisions, actions and choices in accordance with the revealed will of God. The results is not that no life-storms occur, but that when they inevitably come, there is no lasting destruction. His house, his existence, does not collapse. In contrast is the disobedient fool, who hears, and may even pretentiously spout the words, but does not do them. When the inevitable storms hit, however long they may delay, ultimately, the devastation is total, irredeemable and permanent (And great was its fall…).

I can think of nothing more tragic than the negative outcome envisioned here. We in the West are so very blessed to have free access to the things of God. It is our privilege and responsibility to make the most of these opportunities, and if we fail to do so, we are that much more accountable.

In many modern minds, subservience to anything other than the Politically Correct view of the world is an abomination. Uncompromising adherence to truth is looked upon as retrogressive, primitive, unsophisticated, and intolerably bigoted. Of course, that is what the unbelieving world must conclude. Otherwise, they are left with the terrifying possibility that there is more to life AND death than they are willing to consider, or able to accommodate.

To equate the teachings of Christ with anything even remotely negative is a loud, belligerent declaration of stubborn ignorance. To know them and to ignore them is terminal.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5, NKJV).