Keep It Real

Have you ever checked your foundation? When we go to buy a home, we trust that we have a good home inspector who will do his due diligence and ferret our any issues for us. In a similar thought, every sport begins its new season with fundamentals, checking and affirming the fundamentals. These simple acts like catching, passing and footwork are the basics no matter what level we compete at. Moreover, each new school year begins with a refresher of what we already know. As Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount, He tells us to be doers. Matthew 7:24~Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (ESV) Matthew 7:25~And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (ESV) Jesus is referencing the storms of life. Have any of you encountered a star or three in your day? I cannot tell you how many times in difficulty I have sat on my porch swing and sang the words of the Hinson’s “And I thank God for the lighthouse, I owe my life to Him. For Jesus is the lighthouse And from the rocks of sin; He has shone a light around me That I could clearly see If it wasn’t for the lighthouse Tell me where would this ship be.” 

We truly don’t know what our faith is built upon until we experience one of life’s horrific storms. Everyone who hears these words of Christ and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the whipping storms of life arrive, when the torrential rains strangle the toads, when the flooding waters that sweep all things away, when the winds bluster, howl, and spiral, we had better know that our foundation is secure. Else our demise will come with a great fall. (27)

The basic difference between these two builders is the foundation upon which they have built their houses! One built atop the sandy shore and  one upon the rock. Is Jesus your rock? Then you must be a doer of His word. Referring to the words of Jesus, 1 John 2:3~We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (NIV) When Jesus finishes saying these things, the crowd’s astonished at his doctrinal teaching (7:28). If you did not know the word doctrine simply means teaching.

Matthew 7:29~for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as a scribe. (ESV) You dang right, He is the Son of God, the firstborn among many, the Word spoken, the bread broken, He was and is and is to come, for a spotless bride, I’m talking about Jesus crucified for my sins, and rose for me to walk in everlasting life. And He wants a personal relationship. That’s right the Lord and Savior of the world died so you could get to know Him, personally. God isn’t asking you to quote chapter and verse, stand on a street corner, or move to Africa. Rather, He is inviting us into a life-altering journey through faith. As a reformed sinner, our heart ought to sing the old slave song, “Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.”

What I believe the Lord wants us to takeaway this week is found in the simple question: Is Your Faith Genuine? Are you a genuine believer in Jesus Christ? Our Fruit will bear us witness, we can Examine our Faith, and Check our Foundation. 1 Corinthians 3:11~For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (NIV) 

As you take time to pray, worship, listen, and reflect today; make sure your life and hopes are built on nothing less, then Jesus Christ. Because all else is sinking sand.

Faith In Action

When is the last time you took your faith out of it’s box and gave it a  examination? We are to examine our Faith from time to time as we journey with Jesus. Over the next 6 verses of Matthew 7:21-26 Jesus deals with false prophets. However, in verses 21-23, these are more concerned with false followers. Jesus warns these false followers in Matthew 7:21~“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (ESV) Notice Jesus is not talking about atheists, agnostics, or even nonreligious people. He is speaking to very religious people who have their names on church membership rolls, have been baptized, and are leaders in their churches. 

They think they are going to heaven, but they are not. Why? Because they have a faulty faith. The Greek word translated faith (PISTIS) in the Bible means more than just believing something. It means to have a firm persuasion. It is to believe and be persuaded, to the degree our life is permanently changed. Romans 8:38~For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, (KJV) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (KJV) We must believe so firmly that we’d die for that belief. Biblical faith means we’re totally, permanently sold-out for Jesus. Listen to Christ himself explain this in John 8:31~To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (NIV) Don’t say yes and walk away, that’s not faith.

If we are a genuine believer, we will abide in Him, as He commanded in John 15:4~Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (NKJ) Examine your faith, are you a follower of Christ? True followers of Jesus may stumble, like Peter did in Luke 22:57, saying I don’t know Him, but they get up and follow Jesus until death. Martin Luther said We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. Faith is always accompanied by a permanently changed life, revealed in good fruit. Some very religious people and even famous preachers will say to Jesus on Judgment Day: Matthew 7:22~Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy (προφητεύω prophēteuō) in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (ESV) The word (προφητεύω prophēteuō) doesn’t refer to telling the future, rather it is preaching or teaching in the name of God or the Lord Jesus. 

Jesus responds saying they were counterfeit believers, working iniquity or lawlessness in their deeds. (Matthew 7:23) No, I don’t know these. In other words, I never had a personal relationship with you. Pastor D is that why you are always telling us to cultivate a quiet time, to have a devotional life, to practice spiritual disciplines. Resoundingly yes! There is another great saying about faith: Adrian Rogers used to say, A faith that fizzles before the finish had a flaw from the first. The flaw is that the faith is not biblical, nor is it life-changing. 

Saints, I don’t want any of us to hear Jesus say, Matthew 7:23~‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (ἀνομία anomia).’ (ESV) The word (ἀνομία anomia) lawlessness, or iniquity, means lawbreaker. Christ Jesus says don’t be a lawbreaker. All counterfeit Christians have broken the greatest commandment of all, found in Matthew 22:37~Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (NIV) 

Don’t be a counterfeit believer who doesn’t obey the command of our Lord, and thus, is a spiritual lawbreaker. Understand that faith is an active part of our spiritual lives. It needs rest, that’s why we have a sabbath that we keep holy. Our faith needs exercise, so we study to show ourselves approved by applying the wisdom of scripture to our lives. Take some time today and work on your faith. Celebrate the spiritual disciples and be sure to give the Lord some time to share with you.

What it means…

As we open our devotion for today, it reads in Matthew 7:20~Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (ESV) Now, we must remember that as believers, we are to let go of our judgy ways. Any reformed judgy people here with me? Instead, become a fruit inspector. Not just looking for a false prophet but for all those who falsely claim to be Christians. Christ Jesus asks, Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (7:16). No! Grapes and figs were the two main agricultural crops in Israel. Therefore, all His parishioners at the Hillside Chapel clearly understood His point. 

Continuing in Matthew 7:17~So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (ESV) Thus, a genuine believer is recognizable by what? Good fruit, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. So, what does good fruit look like? Well let’s turn and look at what good fruit is in Galatians 5:22-23~But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. (NIV) First, notice how they cluster. Love joy peace these deal with us and our relationship with God. Always, He always has a process that begins with our life, attitude, and focus on  Him. Then us as a person, and finally us moving out into the world.

Love comes first because it is like a painter’s canvas to which the paint adheres. Love is the trunk of the tree to which all fruit is supported. Without love, none of the other fruit can be produced in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit describes the character of a true prophet and a genuine believer. After all, it is the deathbed confession of our Lord, who teaches on the edge of His betrayal, the eve of sacrificial death. Understand that a violent atonement is coming for Jesus Christ, and He says bear much fruit. John 15:8~ This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (NIV) Saints, how do we show that we are disciples of Christ, by our fruit. 

Jesus continues in Matthew 7:19~Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (ESV) This is a picture of the final judgment. Saying a sinner’s prayer, repeating a profession of faith, joining a church, being baptized all mean nothing, apart from following after Jesus’ own example as we bear good fruit. Don’t just be a hearer of the word or a knower of the word, be a doer of God’s word. (James 1:23-25) So, What Is Your Path? Where are you heading in your life?

Today, I want you to have an honest conversation about the direction or trajectory of your life. Does it include Jesus, or are you following Christ? As you reflect, listen because I know the Lord would love to speak into your life day and help you draw closer as you walk the strait and narrow.