Jesus teachings, and particularly in the sermon on the mount, are his way of helping us to lay a firm foundation for our lives in general, and for our faith in particular. As he states quite clearly, “Those who hear my teaching and live by it are wise, those who hear my teaching and ignore it are stupid.” That is pretty direct (and painful for me at times). I can see in my life, and in my ministry, when I have stupidly ignored Jesus teaching, and what has resulted – failure, brokenness, heartache, struggle, loss. Presumably, Jesus teaching is directed at churches (since Matthew wrote his gospel for the Church) and not simply to be applied in individual lives. So, how has Forest Grove lived out Jesus’ teachings, thus being like wise people laying a firm foundation against the challenges that come. Where have we been stupid, by hearing and understanding Jesus’ teachings but failing to follow them, out of fear, simple neglect, or stubborn sinfulness.
Part of what I hear Jesus saying in this chapter, even beginning with the passage about taking the log out of our own eye before offering to help someone else be free of an obstruction in theirs, part of what I hear is that we are to be regularly and fearlessly self-aware, and humbly repent when we, individually or collectively, have failed to heed Jesus’ instructions. How often do marriages, parents, children, leaders, each of us need to hear and follow this teaching so that we will be able to weather the storms of life with security and confidence. What will it mean for you to undertake this kind of work for the kingdom. Laying a foundation is difficult – are you willing to do the prep work to avoid haveing foundation problems later, or even worse, having everything you’ve built wash away down stream or out to sea?
Make no mistake – bad weather is coming. The rains will come. The winds will blow. The water will rise. Will you, will we, be ready. So much of the spiritual life is about preparation and training. Just as a few examples, Paul says: 2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (training is a process of development and maturation in preparation for challenges and tests to come). 1Ti 4:7 Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness. AND – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
We train ourselves so that when the tests come, we will be ready. For as Paul writes – 1Co 10:13 Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
The way out is often found in the firm foundation that is built daily, even hourly, as we seek to walk with the LORD in the light of His love. The more of God is present in your life, the less room there is for the temptations of the flesh. The more of the Word of God you have written on your heart and committed to your memory, the less opportunity for the words of the world and the temper to come to you. And when they do, just as they did for Jesus in the wilderness (MT 4), you will be equipped with the very Word of God to defeat the temptations that come – because you laid a firm foundation. Proverbs 22:5 tells us to train up a child in the right way so that when they are old (and the temptations of life come to them without the defense of parents to protect them) they will be able to stay on that path of righteousness. This is the responsibility of Christian parents, and of the church where the parents can not or will not do this. AND, even as adults are young in the faith, are babes and children in Christ, they too must be trained up – though they are already in the midst of the trials and temptations, so perhaps the church can also serve as a buffer from some of those storms.
FINALLY, The church leadership in particular MUST be mature in faith, with strong foundations built on Rock, so that they will be able to stand on behalf of the church against the storms that will come against a faithful congregation seeking to fulfill Christ’s commands.