In “Shifting Sands or Solid Stands?” we discussed a few of the sandy foundations we sometimes build our lives on: self, money and traditions. Today, we discuss a few more. Remember that if we want to be wise builders, we must seek to build our lives on the one true foundation, which is God’s word (Matthew 7:24-27). So, grab your Bible and let’s dive in…
When we come to God’s word, we must come ready to hear what He has to say rather than to look for what we want to hear. Peter tells some of how the prophetic word (remember that in the Bible “prophecy” refers more to speaking from God than to future-telling) comes to us in 2 Peter 1:21. He says that scripture never came from man’s own will, but rather it is the Holy Spirit moving holy men to write. It was never the prophet’s own interpretation or words (1:20). Because of this, we can be sure of the scriptures and ought to pay attention to them just as a light guiding the way on a dark night (1:19). If we differ from one another on a point of scripture, how are we to determine which position is right? It is not by our own understanding, but by the scripture itself. We must use proper study techniques and allow the Bible to interpret itself. If I want to know what God has to say on the subject of, for example, women teaching, I look up all the passages on the topic and piece them together. By doing so, I can understand what God’s will is because I have let the Bible interpret the Bible. Let us not say “that’s just your interpretation;” rather, let’s determine to find the truth and what God was trying to say.
Your momma probably said it just like mine did: if everyone jumped off a cliff would you? And, of course, the expected answer is no. That’s not always how we live our lives, though. We seek to fit in, to be a part of things and to “go with the flow.” Jesus advises otherwise in Matthew 7:13, 14. Jesus compares life to two roads: a broad road with a broad gate, and a narrow road with a narrow gate. There are a lot of people on the broad, easy road and not many on the narrow, difficult one. The broad road is leading straight to destruction, but the narrow is winding its way to life. It’s an oft referenced passage (“stay on the straight and narrow”), but we don’t usually consider all the implications. There are few on the narrow road that’s leading to life. Did you catch it? Few are on their way to heaven! Many are on their way to destruction! So if we pattern ourselves after what everyone else is doing, thinking, believing, we’ll have the same end as they: hell. Consider your motivations as you do the things you do. Are you choosing based on what others think or on what God says in His word?
Religious leaders such as preachers, pastors (elders), and ministers are a particularly slippery foundation. Building our beliefs on what they have to say has the appearance of building on Christ’s word, just as we seek to do. The trick is to remember that these leaders are, even at their best, merely human. They are prone to mistakes, misunderstandings and misleading. Many times, I have sat across the table from someone, Bible between us, discussing the scriptures when something comes up that goes against what they’ve been taught. Plain and simple as the scripture may be, they cannot accept what is in front of them without first checking with their _____ (fill in the blank: preacher, teacher, mother, elder, etc.). Jesus says we must be wary because there are those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). False prophets do not advertise or announce themselves as such. So how do we recognize a false prophet? Jesus says the first thing to do is to look at the fruit of their teachings in their own life (Matthew 7:16-20). Has the preacher been divorced three times? The elder’s job always in jeopardy due to laziness? The fruit of their tree, so to speak, is clearly more thistle than fig.
We all know good, religious people and we often assume that they will be in Heaven. Jesus gives a warning, though, in Matthew 7:21. He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” That is to say, not all who call on His name, not all who ally themselves with Him, not all who call themselves Christians will be in Heaven. Let me say that again: not all who call themselves Christians will be in Heaven. Jesus says it is only those who do God’s will. This goes hand-in-hand with how to identify a false prophet. If what your preacher/ teacher/ elder/ minister is teaching doesn’t match up with what the Bible says, even if their lives seem to be in order, he or she is a false prophet. It also applies to the average Joe—you and me. We can say we love Jesus all the live-long day, but if what we’re doing, teaching and believing doesn’t match up with His word, we will not be in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus explains more after His warning. He says that many will come to Him on that day (Judgment Day), citing their good works and hoping to enter. These are not people who merely believed; they actually did good in Christ’s name… yet Jesus declares He never knew them and sends them away. Are you scared? I am. We must be sure that our lives are truly and entirely based on God’s will as set forth in His word. If not, we will face those words, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
You’ll notice (since I’m sure you have your Bible open next to you, right?) that we have studied through much of Matthew 7 and ended up where we began: with the wise and foolish builders (7:24-27). So I ask you again… What kind of builder do you want to be? If you want to be a wise builder, you must sweep away all sandy foundations and build on the only solid foundation there is: the rock of God’s word.
This series based on evangelistic studies by Curtis Hartshorn.