T H E H O U S E
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:
Jesus wasn’t all that interested in houses; He was concerned for people. He is concerned about the spiritual house each person is. Spiritually, you and I are a house (just like we are sheep, just like we are branches).
You are a house.
Houses have foundations. They are built on something. And so are we. In Christ’s day concrete (as we know it) had not been invented, so they dug down to the rock, or built a rock footing. At least the wise builders did. The senseless built on sand. Sand is okay as long as it doesn’t rain too hard. But bad storms do come and one day “the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house”, the sand got washed away, and now the house is carried away in the flood. Like destroyed.
A few christians build their houses – their lives – on rock foundations, most christians build on sand foundations, the double-minded build on both. Oddly, the one building on sand of tradition assumes he is building on the rock of the Bible. Most disobey while thinking themselves obedient. Strange.
We will know at the judgment seat of Christ on what foundation we had built our house.
You can’t successfully build your house until you learn to get prayers answered, at least the ones prayed in accordance to the will of the Lord. How does one get his/her prayers answered?
Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John, chapter 15) So there’s Christ’s formula for answered prayer: 1) We abide in Him and 2) His words abide in us.
What does it mean to abide in Christ? It simply means being tightly bonded to Him, maintaining an ongoing relationship. It means loving Him above every and all.
Abiding in Christ is resting in Christ, but to get to the place of rest is work. It’s a struggle to make (or keep) Jesus the chief person in one’s life. The untamed soul rises up in rebellion to the one daring to try. The soul is not meant to be master but, for most, is. The born-again spirit is meant to be master but, for most, isn’t. To abide in Christ the soul must be dethroned. Dismissed. Kicked off the throne of one’s life.
But that’s not going to happen until we change. To advance from soul-controlled to spirit-controlled takes effort and time. It calls for a major investment of life. I am talking diligence. Casual must go. We start with a quality decision to put God first. And then it’s lots of time in His Word, lots of time in His presence. Many, many alone hours, like maybe a thousand per year. The spiritually lazy will never abide in Christ satisfactorily.
And what does “and My words abide in you” mean?
Well first, it is impossible for the Word to abide in us until we put it in. The learning of the Word is longer than a lifetime process, and it begins at the moment of rebirth. When we become His He becomes our teacher and we become His students – students of His Word.
STUDENT OF THE WORD
A convert is one who has decided to come under the lordship of Jesus. Obviously he must center his life on Scripture. To be in fellowship with Christ while being indifferent or rebellious to The Book is a contradiction. To build one’s life – one’s house – upon the rock of the Word is an ongoing process of founding one’s beliefs, hopes, standard, faith, future, habits, prayers, decisions and conversations from the Bible’s perspective. That is why study should be serious.
The new believer has been a student of the world. Over the years he has adapted quite well to his society, having learned to speak, reason and dress harmoniously. But now he is a new person, dwelling in a new world, having been “born of the Spirit”, having joined “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people”. The old ways don’t work. He must learn again. Since the success of one’s christianity is relative to his relationship with the Word, it necessitates becoming a student (by student I mean serious student) of the Word. “Okay”, thou thinkest, “how do I become a student of the Word?”
I have some suggestions:
1) DON”T COMPARE WITH OTHERS
Comparing yourself with others is a mistake. You attend a church of, say, 100 people. The average time per day they spend reading the word is dismal. Take away the top 5 and the average is really sad. You could be into the Word five minutes and look pretty good. But life would not be fruitful or satisfying.
2) CHOOSE YOUR TEACHER WISELY
Don’t choose a good teacher, choose a great teacher. Choose the very best you can find. Like priest like people equals Like teacher like student. Find one who doesn’t make mistakes. Check out his past performance. Does he have a solid grip on Scripture? Can he rightly divide? Yes, only the Holy Spirit qualifies.
John 16:13: “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Choosing a man or an organization as teacher accounts for the meager results of most. Choosing the Holy Spirit as teacher is choosing Christ – who communicates to us by the Spirit, His Spirit. Yes, he calls some of us to be teachers, and yes, there is something to be learned through every christian. But He said plainly, “One is your Teacher, the Christ.” To call a man “my teacher” (or to consider him to be so) is just as insulting to the Lord as calling an employer “my provider”.
3) BE LED BY THE SPIRIT
Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth. He can’t teach you this if you’re busy learning that. He wants to teach from the gospel of John and you’re way back there in Leviticus. He wants to impress upon your soul you are loved passionately and you’re trying to determine if the rapture is pre- or post-trib. Notice John 16:13 says He will guide us into all truth. Doesn’t say prod and doesn’t say push. The degree of learning isn’t predetermined by the Lord, but regulated by the student.
4) BE DILIGENT
2 Timothy 2:15: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Diligence is needful. Can’t succeed without it. Diligence calls for self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Lean heavily on the Holy Spirit. Convince Him of your desire to be under His governorship. Choose Him, earnestly and often.
Comparatively few of us live victorious, productive lives. Few walk on water, or raise the dead, or heal the sick. Many do not reproduce. Most are in spiritual bondage, having masters other than Jesus. The church walks by sight, not faith. Why? Most christians refuse to take the Word seriously. Missing is reverence for what He has said.
5) BE COMMITTED TO THE WORD
Success calls for commitment. No mixing the words of God with other words. No amendments. No allegiance to tradition. Loyalty to The Book is loyalty to Jesus Christ, is loyalty to the Father, is loyalty to the Holy Spirit.
6) SHUN BONDAGES
Spiritual bondage is accepting self, a man or a system as master, teacher and guide. Most do and most don’t think they do. Peer pressure isn’t only the woe of teens. Controllers are all about. Christians do not tithe in obedience to the Word, but capitulate to the persistent insistence of managers. That’s why they call the man Father/Pastor Whoever. The Holy Spirit is leader in sentiment only.
There are churches in your city/town that are, at least in one category, in doctrinal error. Consider the people who attend. Why doesn’t understanding come? Why doesn’t the light go on? Why does truth continually evade them month after month, year after year, and yes, decade after decade?
The problem is not a head problem but a heart problem. There is something wrong with the relationship between believers and their church. Their teacher is man, their ‘pastor’ is man, they trust in, lean on, are disciples of man. Man, who we are adequately warned not to trust in, is their comfort and focus. Love for christians has long ago usurped love for Jesus. And they can’t see it.
Spiritual bondage is a reality in the body of Christ. Loss of freedom paralyzes. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “If I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Paul was well aware he could not serve two. And neither can we. Paul made his choice. And so have we.
It is difficult to remain free. It really is. There are many in church leadership who feel it an obligation to ‘protect’ you, to slot you into one of their many programs, to teach you to be a team player. They have been schooled to shepherd. Their joy is sovereignty. To be free in Christ, one can never be a denominational person. Again, to be free in Christ one cannot be denominational. Not to say you cannot attend a denominational church. But be careful and prayerful. The denominational people surrounding you want you to become one of them. This ‘want’ translates into pressure to conform. Yes, peer pressure.
Church history has proven man cannot be trusted. Men make mistakes – little men, fat men, intelligent men, honorable men, dedicated men. Most error often and ingeniously. Like the Galatians who accepted a “different gospel”. Like the Corinthians who made wrong choices a way of life. The church of Ephesus left their First Love. In Pergamos they taught doctrines of Balaam. And you know Jesus threatened to spit the people of Laodicea out of His mouth. The early church almost compromised itself out of existence.
Today some attend a house church. One day many will attend a house church. Eyes are opening, hunger is deepening, the Spirit is moving, paths out of the established church system are being forged by the valiant. In a small gathering one does not feel overwhelmed. Nobody is after your money and everyone has, or should have, input. It is, or could/should be, a time of mutual ministry. But caution. Only the naive would assume a house somehow makes a gathering healthy. There is a way of determining the health of a group. Is the name of Jesus being mentioned? How often? How often reveals how healthy.
7) CHOOSE A TIME FOR STUDY AND PRAYER
If you do not manage your day your day will probably be less than victorious. (Victory, you must understand, is gaining Christ.) Life should be a pursuit, an ambition to gain intimacy with Jesus. Little victories accumulated is a large victory at the end of each year. There must be study time and there must be prayer time. If these are not priority they will dwindle until you become ugly average. Average will bring boredom and discontentment and ingratitude.
In order for the Word to abide in you, you must abide in the Word. Read, study, consider, memorize. Immersion will transform you. His sayings will not return void. Other words will lose relevance. Proverbs 4:20-22: My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.
DOERS OF THE WORD
James wrote, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Be doers of the Word and not scholars only. The doer is the wise man, not the scholar. Scholars make themselves more accountable by learning. All professions of love for our Master are mere lip service to the one not keen to obey. The test of love is obedience. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. He who does not love Me does not keep My words.”
In the heart of the lukewarm tradition has preeminence over The Book. The pharisees angered Jesus because of their love for tradition and their insistence others have equal affection. Binding oneself to their traditional teachings bonded oneself to them. That’s how pharisees make pharisees. And that’s how denominationalists make denominationalists.
As the twelve and as the seventy, we are called to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His conditions: “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Whoever of you who does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” The frivolous cannot hear these words. It’s discipleship, not fun. Discipleship, not social acceptance. Ambassadors of Christ, not ambassadors of christians. We represent Christ, not a denomination or the local assembly. We bow to His words only.
We who do do because we believe. Our trust is in the promise giver. He is able and eager to keep His promises.
SPEAKING AND HEARING
Jesus: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
The treasure of our heart has a certain value, and that value is revealed by the words we speak. Had you carried a recorder with you the past year, it would reveal what is inside you.
Can you see that what is inside you is what you allowed in?
Can you see that sitting under the ministry of the man you call pastor affects who you are? All these years his words have been entering your heart through your ears.
And can you see that if you sat under the ministry of another you would be affected differently, maybe better, maybe worse?
And can you see that different words affect you differently?
Can you see that, in a real sense, you sit under your own ‘ministry’? No one ministers to your heart more than you because you hear yourself more than anyone. If that pastor affects you by the words he speaks, why would your words have a lesser effect?
And can you see the importance of speaking wisely? The pastor’s words have a certain worth and so do yours. All words heard help determine the value of the “treasure” of your heart and, in consequence, the outcome of your life. You have no control over what he or others say, but you can regulate your own speech.
Can you see a possible need to learn to speak wisely? (Possible need; only you can determine.) This entails no small effort. Habits are hard to break. You must determine who will be the master of your speech. And whose ambassador you will be.
Can you see the benefit of speaking Bible? Speaking Bible is speaking truth and truth is good for you. Saying what Christ has said will make you more like Christ. (Just like speaking the devil’s filthy language makes one more like the devil.)
Can you see that you have the power to turn your life around?
And can you see that your speech will help determine the wealth of your eternity, that wealth being revealed at the judgment seat of Christ?
Can you see that you depend entirely on the power of God to radically improve the quality of words proceeding from your mouth? James was inspired to write, “No man can tame the tongue.” But Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” With God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” With God through Christ. You must know that God can. And God will – with your cooperation.
David: “I say, ‘You are my God. Let such as love Your salvation say continually, ‘The Lord be magnified!’ Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. I will declare Your name to My brethren. I will declare Your greatness. I will extol you, O Lord. I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.”
David had a superb relationship with the Lord. His saying, declaring, extolling, and singing were not only an indication of the valuable treasure of his heart, but also had the effect of nurturing his heart. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We should envy David and learn from him.
James tells us of the power of the tongue to do evil: “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. It defiles the whole body.” That being so, cannot the tongue be used to do good? To bless others and bless oneself? If hearing condemning words harm us, will not encouraging words build us up?
Can you see a daily dosage of truth, spoken by you and spoken by others, can transform and enrich your heart?
And can you see a daily dosage of useless and contrary words, spoken by you and others, can pollute and devalue your heart?
And can you see how potent your words are to others, to do them good and to do them harm?
Can you see that the tongue is to the christian as the rudder is to a ship? – dictating the direction in which the believer travels through life. (James, chapter 3) The mature believer is slow to speak, always measuring his words and predetermining their consequences.