So begins the conclusion to the greatest sermon ever given. And so reflects the cover art to the devotional study book Claiming Christ. Our family continues our search through the Holy Scriptures to hear what God defines regarding a true Christian and one of the several verses we read tonight comes from the biblically recorded Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus uses an analogy to make the point that not everyone who hears his words will respond with wisdom. In context, he makes the same distinction without an analogy when confronting those who claimed to be his followers by saying “Lord, Lord” and by doing some amazing things, but who ultimately don’t “do the will of my Father”. With even stronger language he warned those who were intended to be his special “salt” representatives on earth, that if they lose their saltiness, they can never be made salty again.
The point in all three references is the same. God expects those who claim to be Christians to do what he says, not in part, not in close approximation, not in combination with worldly desires, but in full. All or nothing—that seems to be the call.
We all contribute to building our house—that set of life choices through which we demonstrate our belief. However, according to Jesus, many prefer to locate their house where the view is best, where the access to the beach is easiest, where the community is most favorable, and few will go through the life-long effort to carefully build only where the evidence is clearly based upon the word of God.
In fact, many of our denominational theologies profess that comfort food idea that once we profess faith, we are good for eternity. Somehow, God has to save us, because we said the right words, or do most of the right things, or call ourselves Christian. But that doesn’t match with what Jesus says about his true followers.
True worshippers, as Jesus calls them, persist in doing the will of God. That means, among other things, that whenever they recognize personal failure in sin, they do what God says and openly repent (and all that Scripture attaches to such submission). They don’t pick-and-choose passages that fit their church doctrine or background or partial obedience. They surrender fully to the will of God, strive to “hold to my teachings” no matter what the personal cost, and daily carry their cross in actively reflecting Jesus into a world that hates him.
Biblical Christians recognize that such a life of the cross results in regular rejection, suffering, hardships, and losses that could be avoided if they shifted ever so slightly towards compliance with those who have found a way to make it work in this world. Those who teach otherwise are unwise.
Those who attempt to build their house anywhere other than exactly where the Bible defines a true Christian will base their every move, act or thought, fool themselves by claiming Christ. God is not bound by our claims. He upholds his gracious promises to those broken individuals who demonstrate their surrender to the Lordship of Jesus by pouring their entire life into honoring his name according to his instructions.
Christianity is not about getting ourselves right, but more about showing our complete devotion to the One who is right and doing so not by our definitions but according to his every word. It is about being “in him”.
As attractive as running our feet through the warm sand may be, let us be diligent in seeking higher ground upon which to continue building our reflection of Christ. Let us mature by carefully putting all his words into practice and trusting the outcome to his guiding grace and power.
Have you reviewed lately the evidence of a consistently solid foundation upon which you are building your faith? Jesus says that few will do so. Will you be one of those few?