November 19, 2019- Christ, the Foundation, and Trials by Fire-1 Corinthians 3:11-23, 2 Timothy 2:8-13

refiners fire

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.                                                                    

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”  and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. 1 Corinthians 3:11-23 (ESV)

The apostle Paul makes it clear that we aren’t saved by the things we do but by who we ARE in Christ, which is a good thing.   God has made us for doing good works – as we learn in Ephesians 2:10.  But the doing is the result of being– that old analogy of “cats meow because they’re cats,” “dogs bark because they’re dogs,” and good works are the fruit of Christ within us.

We also know that we fallible humans are also sinners.  We sin because we are sinners- even though we are living the paradox of being saints as well as sinners at the same time.  Even our good works- apart from the grace of God- have no goodness in them.

We are – collectively as the body of Christian believers, and individually as those named and claimed as Christ’s own in baptism- are temples of the Lord.  This is not due to anything inherently great about us, but because the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Our works will be tested by fire, and only that which lasts and that which is valuable will stand.  Paul, as he always does, points us to Christ, the foundation of all things.  Our works can only build upon His foundation.

God speaks to us in the Bible- He tells us what is good and what is evil.  He reveals to us what is good doctrine and practice, even while knowing that none of us can observe perfect doctrine or practice.  God is patient with us and our shortcomings even as the Holy Spirit is working in and through us here and now.   In Christ we can see beyond different teachers and different traditions and know that it is in Him alone that we stand or fall.

It’s a fine line we walk between knowing that our efforts fall short, and seeking our own will versus submitting to God’s will.  What it does mean is that God is in control of the results, and even though we might get a little bit scorched and a little bit worn along the way, God will get us through.

God is trustworthy and His words are true.

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:8-13 (ESV)

 

 

 

 

August 16, 2017 – Wooden Idols and Other Gods Who Cannot Save – Isaiah 45:20-25, Daniel 4:28-33

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Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge—those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior;  there is no one besides me.

Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”

Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.

Isaiah 45:20-25 (NRSV)

 

In Western culture a wooden, man-made idol is seldom seen as having any other power other than that of an aesthetic appeal. We can appreciate the craftsmanship and the artwork involved in the manufacture of such idols, but generally we don’t regard such things as being divine or deserving of worship.

Our idolatries are much more subtle and perhaps more insidious. The first commandment of God is “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  That sounds easy enough until we are put on the spot.

Who (or what) do we run to in times of trouble? Who (or what) do we rely upon for our provision?

Do we think money will buy our way out of problems? How many times have we thought, “If only I had enough money I wouldn’t have to worry about this or that problem?”

Do we think our own intelligence or our connections with other people will see us through trials?

It has been said that the root of all sin (sin being anything that goes against God’s will) is pride- trusting in our way instead of looking for God’s way. There is another old expression that states, “Pride goes before a fall.”

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king of Babylon who had convinced himself that he was omnipotent (all powerful) and in control of everything.  God had different ideas, and found it necessary to let Nebuchadnezzar know who was really in charge:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king said, “Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: The kingdom has departed from you!  You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the sentence was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from human society, ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws. – Daniel 4:28-33 (NRSV)

 As much as we would like to believe the idolatry of Western society at times, especially the myth that each of us is “captain of our own souls,” in truth, God is the one in control.  It took Nebuchadnezzar a rather harsh lesson to understand the sovereignty of God, but ultimately he got the message.

When that period was over, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.

I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored the one who lives forever. For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does what he wills with the host of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can stay his hand or say to him, “What are you doing?”

At that time my reason returned to me; and my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom. My counselors and my lords sought me out, I was re-established over my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride. Daniel 4:34-37 (NRSV)

Intelligence, financial resources, friends in high places, and even political power are not necessarily bad things. However, everything we are and everything we have are gifts from God.  God expects us to put the gifts He has given us to good use, however, when we value the gift in higher esteem than the Giver, we lose our foundation and perspective.  When we put God first, He brings the rest of our lives into balance.

Are we putting our trust in the One True God?

March 15, 2017- Foundation on the Rock-Matthew 7:24-27

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(Jesus said): “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NRSV)

It’s funny the things we put our trust in. Every day we hear of athletes who have earned multi -million dollar contracts to play sports games, only to have an injury or other setback that makes that “guaranteed money” not so guaranteed.  Even celebrities who appear to “have it all” can very well be living in houses built on sand.  TV shows and hit songs don’t go on forever, and the public can be quite fickle.  Today’s hit performer is tomorrow’s has-been.

Even we, “regular people,” tend to put our trust and our sense of security and well being upon how well we are esteemed at our jobs, or in the money we earn- only to set ourselves up for devastation when those situations change.

The apostle Paul was one who learned (the hard way!) that true security, rest and stability are all found in Jesus Christ, our Rock and Savior, alone.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NRSV)

Do we trust in the solid Rock Who is Jesus, or are we putting our trust in sandy, temporary things such as our own resources?