hiding thebreakthroughorgOur Lord’s final teaching in the Sermon on the Mount concerns our spiritual foundation (Matthew 7:24-27):

Build Your House on the Rock

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. 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. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

This reading is included in the three-year Lectionary. However, it bears close examination.

True conversion and obedience have been an intractable problem since the earliest days of the Church. Heresy entered quickly, some (Simon Magus) thought it was magic, others applied legalism instead of grace and, for many decades now, some Christian leaders have attempted to make the Church a worldly institution.

Matthew Henry explains how Jesus set out this teaching to the multitude (emphases mine). Henry died early in the 18th century and in his ministry encountered the same mindsets as clergy do today:

The hearers of Christ’s word are here divided into two sorts some that hear, and do what they hear others that hear and do not. Christ preached now to a mixed multitude, and he thus separates them, one from the other, as he will at the great day, when all nations shall be gathered before him. Christ is still speaking from heaven by his word and Spirits, speaks by ministers, by providences, and of those that hear him there are two sorts.

(1.) Some that hear his sayings and do them: blessed be God that there are any such, though comparatively few. To hear Christ is not barely to give him the hearing, but to obey him. Note, It highly concerns us all to do what we hear of the saying of Christ. It is a mercy that we hear his sayings: Blessed are those ears, Matthew 13:16,17. But, if we practise not what we hear, we receive that grace in vain. To do Christ’s sayings is conscientiously to abstain from the sins that he forbids, and to perform the duties that he requires. Our thoughts and affections, our words and actions, the temper of our minds, and the tenour of our lives, must be conformable to the gospel of Christ that is the doing he requires. All the sayings of Christ, not only the laws he has enacted, but the truths he has revealed, must be done by us. They are a light, not only to our eyes, but to our feet, and are designed not only to inform our judgments, but to reform our hearts and lives: nor do we indeed believe them, if we do not live up to them. Observe, It is not enough to hear Christ’s sayings, and understand them, hear them, and remember them, hear them, and talk of them, repeat them, dispute for them but we must hear, and do them. This do, and thou shalt live. Those only that hear, and do, are blessed (Luke 11:28; John 13:17), and are akin to Christ. Matthew 12:50.

(2.) There are others who hear Christ’s sayings and do them not their religion rests in bare hearing, and goes no further like children that have the rickets, their heads swell with empty notions, and indigested opinions, but their joints are weak, and they heavy and listless they neither can stir, nor care to stir, in any good duty they hear God’s words, as if they desired to know his ways, like a people that did righteousness, but they will not do them, Ezekiel 33:30,31; Isaiah 58:2. Thus they deceive themselves, as Micah, who thought himself happy, because he had a Levite to be his priest, though he had not the Lord to be his God. The seed is sown, but it never comes up they see their spots in the glass of the word, but wash them off, James 1:22,24. Thus they put a cheat upon their own souls for it is certain, if our hearing be not the means of our obedience, it will be the aggravation of our disobedience. Those who only hear Christ’s sayings, and do them not, sit down in the midway to heaven, and that will never bring them to their journey’s end. They are akin to Christ only by the half-blood, and our law allows not such to inherit.

The first group builds a spiritual house on the rock of Christ. The second on sand, where they fall prey to temptation and experience problems with faith.

John MacArthur examines the latter group in detail. Note that some appear to be saved and, in reality, are not:

apart from hypocrites, there are two categories of the deceived in the church, the superficial and the involved.  The superficial are the ones who call themselves Christians because when they were little they went to church or Sunday School or they got confirmed or made a decision, quote/unquote, “for Christ”  …

Then there’s the involved who are deceived and they’re a much more subtle and serious group.  They’re in the church up to their neck involved, and they know the gospel, they know the theology but they don’t obey the Word of God.  They live in a constant state of sinfulness.  Now, how does a deceived person know he’s deceived?  How can we spot such a person?  Let me give you some keys, and I want you to think these through

Now, not everybody in these keys that I’m going to give you is really deceived but these are good indicators that someone might be deceived.  If you want to spot someone who’s deceived, look first of all for someone who’s seeking feelings, blessings, experiences, healings, angels, miracles.  Why?  Chances are they’re more interested in the byproducts of the faith than they are the faith itself.  They’re more interested in what they can get than the glory God can get.  They’re more interested in themselves than in the exaltation of Christ.

Secondly, if you’re looking to see who might be deceived, look for people who are more committed to the denomination, the church, the organization than to the Word of God.  Their kind of Christianity may be purely social …

Thirdly, look for people who are involved in theology as an academic interest.  And you’ll find them all over the colleges and seminaries of our land.  People who study theology, write books on theology, absolutely void of the righteousness of Christ.  Theology for them is intellectual activity.

Fourthly, look for people who always seem stuck on one overemphasized point of theology.  This is the person who bangs the proverbial drum for his own little area, some crazy quirk.  And it usually is not some great divine insight.  They’d like you to think that they are so close to God they have a great divine insight no one else has.  The fact of the matter is they’re seeking a platform for the feeding of their ego.  Watch for people with a lack of balance

And one other thought.  When you look for somebody who might be deceived, look for someone who is overindulgent in the name of grace, overindulgent in the name of grace.  Lacks penitence, a true contrite heart, and so forth.  Now, they all may be deceived and on the broad road to destruction, thinking all the while they’re going to heaven

This is a pretty wide net. I’ve fallen foul of at least one of these in years past!

Those of us with websites presenting a ‘Christian’ perspective, even in a secular context, bear a heavy responsibility.

How are we representing Christianity? Are we repelling people unnecessarily through legalism or a misreading of the Bible? Are we discussing the grace and peace of Christ?

Or are we placing the power of man above the power of God? Some of us do by dwelling on things that cannot be fully substantiated. Some of us alarm others unnecessarily about the world, whether that be climate change or conspiracy theories. Others write as if they are carrying a king-size banner of faith when they actually have deep-rooted personal unbelief or issues to resolve.

Are we permanently angry or fearful? Are we banging on about the same earthly thing all the time and not moving on to speak of our Lord? Are we reading the Bible, the Reformers and men of true faith or are we studying what panicked sect leaders have to say? Are we seeking the eternal truth or a dark thrill?

How have our inner lives changed over the past five years? The past ten? Are our preoccupations dark or are they of hope in Christ?

Is ours a foundation of rock or is it one of sand?

May we:

Pray for balance.

Pray for personal faith.

Pray for sanctification.

Pray for increase of all of these.

Pray, pray, pray.

In closing, a thought from John MacArthur on conversion in this sermon from the 1970s:

Christianity has become so superficial.  It just galls me to hear some of the presentations of Christ that are supposed to be legitimate.  Sermons that have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel, and then you give an invitation at the end and people are accepting who knows what. 

There’s no deep plowing, there’s no spadework, there’s no foundation, there’s no brokenness of heart.  Arthur Pink says, “If I have never mourned over my waywardness then I have no solid ground for rejoicing”  …

Dig deep, the one who digs deep empties himself of self-righteousness, empties himself of self-sufficiency, knows he has nothing, knows he’s not commendable, overwhelmed with his sin …  He makes the maximum effort to place the Word of God in his heart that he might not sin

He is interested in a genuine love relationship with Jesus Christ, not a routine of spiritual activity.  He does not build on visions.  He does not build on experiences.  He does not build on supposed miracles.  He builds on the Word of God, and he builds for God’s glory not his own.

Listen.  Many people want spiritual power, look at Simon [Magus] in Acts 8.  He wanted to buy the power of the Spirit of God.  And Peter says, “Your money perish with you,” you phony.  Many people want the power.  They just aren’t interested in living according to God’s standards.  They’re a sham; they’re building on sand.  They want to know what Jesus can do for them.  They want the goodies, chasing signs and wonders, not committed to Christ at all.

May we carefully consider the state of our souls and our personal faith in a humble, contrite way.