4 As you come to Him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him - 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
It is impossible to over-emphasise the significance of Jesus Christ as the foundation for the life of faith. A life in Christ is the rock on which we must build our personal lives and the life of the Church.
The mantra of the world is the exact opposite. By our very nature we are fiercely independent, and we always admire the trailblazers in life. Robert Schuller rose to fame during the 1970’s as a televangelist and self-help guru. The title of one of his books is, “If It’s Going To Be, It’s Up To Me.”
There are endless self-help quotes on the Internet, and this is just one I found by Jim Clemmer, a Canadian motivational speaker: “Choose not to lose. Whether we choose to focus on our problems or our possibilities is a key leadership issue. When we are faced with obstacles and failure, those who can overcome adversity and learn from their experiences, turning them into opportunities, are the ones who will be truly successful.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of mindset, but in the corporate world, not the Church. Successful businesses need strong leaders. Someone has to have vision and courage in order to make things work, but unfortunately, too often, we allow and even encourage this kind of thinking in the life of the Church.
The Church is built on Jesus Christ, not on human wisdom and intelligence.
Paul took the Galatian Church to task in chapter 3: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
The background to this statement that Paul made was that the Galatian Church had to a large extent slipped back into a works-based understanding of the Gospel, rather than the grace of God. They were beginning to revert to the old system of legalism in the Church in order to justify themselves, and this is why he called them foolish.
When the Church or individual believers do this, we find things like pride and self-righteousness rearing their ugly heads. A lot of the joy of salvation is lost as you find people competing with one another, and unless this behaviour is addressed and dealt with, it can result in there being little or no difference between the Church and the corporate world.
When a Church slips into legalism, or the joy of serving and ministering is lost, one of the best ways of dealing with the problem is to ask, was this the work of Christ or of us? Are we partnering with God in the work He is doing in our community or have we set the agenda and the programme? Have we placed the burden of holy living and effective ministry back on our own shoulders?
The best way to guard against this kind of thing is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, as Hebrews 12:2 tells us.
Build your faith on Christ as the sure foundation.
He is the one who gives us security through His love for us and by His mercy. Last Sunday we considered the significance of Pentecost. It is the Spirit of God at work in the Church and in our own lives that makes all the difference.
We have to keep going back to Jesus as our foundation. What are we called to do first and foremost as the Church? To preach Christ crucified. Keep the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus as the focus, then everything else built on that foundation will be just as sound.
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” And what was the rock He was referring to? Peter’s great confession of faith in verse 16. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and this is the foundation upon which we are to build our own lives, and the life and witness of His Church.
The Bible teacher Paul Washer, in his book entitled The Gospel’s Power and Message writes, “There is no word or truth of greater importance than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are full of many messages, the least among them being more valuable than the combined wealth of the world and more important than the greatest thoughts ever formed in the mind of man. If the very dust of Scripture is more precious than gold, how can we calculate the worth or importance of the Gospel? Even within the Scriptures themselves, the Gospel message has no equal. The story of creation, though lined with splendour, bows before the message of the cross. The law of Moses and the words of the prophets point away from themselves to this singular message of redemption. Even the second coming, though full of wonder, stands in the shadows of the Gospel. It is no exaggeration to say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one great and essential message, the acropolis of the Christian faith, and the foundation of the believer’s hope.”
The Apostle Paul was consumed with the reality of Christ as the foundation. In Philippians 3 he contrasts the failure of a life lived in the flesh with a life lived for the glory of God. Remember that his background before coming to Christ was that of a Pharisee. He knew what it meant to try and please and appease God in his own strength because he had tried it. He warns the Philippian Church against those who want to re-introduce legalism, and pulls no punches when he writes, “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh, though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the Church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Philippians 3:2-6) That is the shallow, empty religious life he had come from, and was warning his readers to guard against making the same mistakes.
Now, since encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, his whole life had changed, and was now built on Jesus Christ. Paul continued in Philippians 3, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)
Paul used to use religion as a way to bolster his self-foundation and as a way to display his own strength. But once he saw Jesus for who He really is, everything changed for Paul. His whole focused changed. He now wanted to know Jesus in a real and personal way. He wanted to be “found in Him,” as he wrote in verse 9.
His identity, in fact his very existence was no longer based on himself and his work, but on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He wanted to experience the kind of power that Jesus experienced from God when He was resurrected. Paul had a new foundation.
It’s important for us to understand that this kind of life is not some kind of mystical experience. When we are properly grounded in Christ as our sure foundation, we don’t become ecclesiastical hippies, seeking spiritual experiences, detaching ourselves from the realities of life. In fact, we do the exact opposite when we ground ourselves in the Truth of the Bible as we meditate on God’s Truth and how His Truth is to affect our daily lives. As we study the Scriptures, God, by His Spirit points us to Jesus as the foundation of our lives. The point is that it is only through Jesus that we can begin to make sense of many of the challenges we face every day. When we see life and all of its ups and downs through the lense of the Bible, we are building our lives on Jesus as our foundation. We need to be praying that God will help us to see and understand things in the light of eternity, rather than our own flawed and sin-tainted wisdom.
A good, Biblical, solid foundation is crucial for us to build our lives upon.
An architect knows that the substructure, the foundation, determines the final superstructure.
Good schooling, a good college or university education provides a foundation for a future career. At school we quickly learn that simple arithmetic provides the foundation for complicated calculations later on. Just the other evening we were talking about how much education has changed since I was at school. Jess then showed me her grade 12 maths workbook that she used just 3 years ago. I was horrified when I saw how complicated the geometry and trigonometry was. If I had to write a matric maths exam now, I doubt I’d score better than 10%, but Jess learned the same things in grade 1 as I did in the ‘olden days’: 1 plus 1 is 2, 2 plus 2 is 4. We learned the same foundations at school. It’s no coincidence that grade R to grade 3 teachers in our schools today are called foundation phase teachers.
Foundations are fundamental. An architect or builder can leave out the windows in a building, but he cannot leave out the foundation.
You cannot build up without first building down. It’s architecture 101. If you’re going to build a house, you have to start with a firm foundation.
Ravi Zacharias tells a wonderful story of when he was invited to the Ohio State University’s centre for the performing arts. He was shown around a building which was just weird. He said the building had pillars with no purpose, staircases that went nowhere, skew walls and just general chaos wherever you looked. He was told that this was America’s first post-modern building. So he asked what the purpose of it all was. His guide replied, “The architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind, because if life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning? If life has no purpose and design, why should our buildings have any design?”
Zacharias replied, “I have just one question. Did he do the same with the foundations?”
The Sydney Opera House was opened in 1973. It is one of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century and instantly recognisable all over the world. Many of you have been there. It’s an impressive building, and a triumph of human ingenuity and design. It even has its own Wikipedia page, where we’re told, “The facility features a modern expressionist design, with a series of large precast concrete shells, each composed of sections of a sphere of 75.2 metres in radius, forming the roofs of the structure, set on a monumental podium.” It goes on to say, “It is supported on 588 concrete piers sunk as much as 25m below sea level.” The building itself might be artistic and beautiful, but the foundations are straight, they are deep, and they are solid.
In Jesus’ parable of the houses, He taught that a house built without a firm foundation would fall in a flood, whereas a house built on rock would stand firm.
Jesus Christ is the only true foundation upon which to build a life that is safe, secure and satisfying. The world is a confusing and a confused place. They can’t even define the truth anymore because everyone makes up their own minds about what is right or what is wrong. You hear things like, “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not necessarily true for me.” How can you build any kind of life on a wobbly foundation like that? Pleasure, materialism, politics - the modern gods of the 21st century society, just cannot provide any kind of foundation for a person’s life. We need the foundation that is already laid: Jesus Christ.
He, being fully man and fully God is the one and only true foundation on which to build Christian character.
The world is confused, and sadly, so is the Church on many issues. By allowing false doctrines and man-made philosophies into the teaching of the Church, we have lost our way when it comes to understanding and proclaiming God’s Word. We have to get back to the basics of our faith, starting with Jesus as the foundation, and we must build on Him and Him alone. We need to rid the Church of false teaching. People will often say that we are not to judge others, but that is a complete misunderstanding of what Jesus meant.
Most Christians read only Matthew 7:1, and they stop there. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Building a life of faith on that kind of cut and paste understanding of Scripture is dangerous, because when we do, we just accept all and everything. We must judge and deal with heresies in the Church, but (and this is the important part), our judging must be Biblically sound, which is the context of the next verse. Jesus goes on in verse 2, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And what is the measure we are to use? Biblical truth, built on the foundation who is Jesus Christ.
The next time another Christian tells you that you shouldn’t judge another, point them straight to Philippians 1:9-11. “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” But again, before you start throwing stones at a Christian brother or sister, remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:2. “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Test everything, but test it against Scripture. Make sure that your truth is Biblical truth, and not your own truth, and (and this is crucial), we are not to judge others in order to win little games of one-upmanship. In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul tells us that our love is to abound, we are to be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God.
Our lives are to be lived for Him, not for ourselves.
Christianity is not merely a life lived according to principles or a list of do’s and don’ts. It is a life dependent on the person of Jesus Christ. He, through His Holy Spirit, leads, works and motivates those who love and serve Him.
A live truly lived for God begins and ends with Jesus. He is our only true foundation.
“Jesus is not a way. He is the way, and all other ways are no way at all. If Christianity would only move one small step toward a more tolerant ecumenicalism and exchange the definite article the for the indefinite article a, the scandal would be over, and the world and Christianity could become friends. However, whenever this occurs, Christianity ceases to be Christianity, Christ is denied, and the world is without a Saviour.” (Paul Washer)
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Luke 6:46-49
What is your understanding of the term “relative truth,” and how do we see this principle practiced in the world today?
Discuss some of the problems relativism has created in society.
How has relativism infiltrated the Church, and what is the result of a lack of applying Biblical Truth to the life and witness of the Church?
Christians who refuse to compromise and Biblical Truth, who are determined to build their life of faith on Jesus alone, are sometimes accused by other Christians of being narrow-minded fundamentalists.
Would you accept this accusation as a compliment or an insult? Why?
Contrast the different lives that Paul describes in Philippians 3:2-6 and 7-11.
Discuss how building a life on the foundation of Jesus changed Paul’s life.
What can we learn from Paul?
Close by praying that God’s Spirit would give you the discernment you need to build your life on Jesus, and Him alone.