Sunday, 9 August 2020

Life Foundations - Matthew 7

We are familiar with Jesus' story of building the house on rock or sand. We know that buildings need foundations, and we know that unsteady ground spells trouble: storms will come and things will shift. So the natural question for every person is 'what are the foundations of your life?'. What is your life based on, and are those foundations going to be sound when storms come?

Note that Jesus says 'hears my words and puts them into practice'. So the foundations are not to just know of Jesus, or even to know of Jesus and the things he said. No - the foundations are to hear and put into practice. That means basing your life, having as your fundamental principles, the things that set your priorities. If you know about Jesus but do nothing and just live the same, it is no better than building on sand!

When Jesus says 'my words' remember he is now at the end of the whole sermon on the mount. You can view that sermon as the manifesto booklet, spelling out a whole different way of life and a different way of seeing things. In it Jesus talked of blessings, being salt & light, about the law (fulfilling, transforming and going beyond). He talked of loving enemies, your sense of treasure, and then about anxiety (trusting). Then onto how we see others (i.e. don't judge) and asking confidently for good things from God.

You could says that these are great words for a radical way of living, and that you would aim to set your life on the principles Jesus has spelt out. That would be a good thing. However, Jesus is actually going further. Towards the end of this sermon (chapter 7 verse 12) Jesus shifts in his words, talking of a narrow versus a wide gate, of false prophets (recognised by their fruit) and then true & false disciples. He thus leads to the outward signs of good fruit but ultimately saying it is all about knowing and been known by Jesus. Only then does he talk about the wise and foolish builders.

Jesus is therefore going further: he is not just claiming 'these are some good sayings to give you some good principles', he is saying 'base your life on me - I am the rock, the good foundation!'.

In Isaiah 28 verses 14 to 19 there is a passage about people who have looked elsewhere for their help and refuge. The prophet describes them as having made a 'covenant with death'. That is code trusting in the Egyptians to protect them against the advancing scourge of the Assyrians. Then verse 16 says 'see I lay a stone ... a tested stone ... for a sure foundation'. Verse 18 says their reliance on the Egyptians will fail and they will be overrun. In other words: they have chosen the wrong foundation!

Jesus is connecting with this image in Isaiah: he is saying 'base your life on me - I am the good foundation'.

So the question for us is what do we base our life on? Today's culture is mostly consumerism, with the whole economy predicated on ever growing consumption. The virus pandemic is a real head-ache for governments because consumption has collapsed! Many government actions are focussed on 'getting the economy going'. Of course buying and selling are okay in themselves, but growth based on relentless consumption is clearly a problem. It is shallow, it never satisfies, it always needs more ... and there is only one planet earth to supply the raw materials!

Today's culture is "I shop, therefore I am". Another cultural foundation is "I feel, therefore I am". This fuels alot of contemporary debates and issues (e.g. sexuality). It also resonates with consumerism because consumerism thrives by playing to our feelings, making us confuse needs with wants. Another culture has been "I think, therefore I am". That is the mentality that 'with science we can fix absolutely everything'. We still see this of course (e.g. 'When we get a vaccine ...').

The problem is that all these foundations are not good: they are shallow, will be found wanting, and none can withstand the storms and 'scourges' of our day. The foundation I want to suggest is: "I am in Christ, therefore I am".

The Christ foundation means we live different - we don't just live to consume, nor is it based on feelings, or science, or whatever. Instead we trust ourselves in Jesus, into the hands of the living God, and the guidance of His Spirit. That sets the fundamentals for lifelong partner decisions, career decisions, house, lifestyle etc. It doesn't mean that you cannot enjoy life, or go on holiday, have a cream tea - but it does drive your priorities.

It means that as we live in these uncertain times we do so with Christ as foundation and our hope. It means that as we talk and share we reveal our values, and share from a different foundation. We don't just vainly hope for the better: boil us down and you will find we have a basic trust in God and His basic provision for each day.

This is a much better foundation. Life may not be easy, storms will certainly come, but the foundation in Christ will stand the test of time.

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