New Years Eve – How will you build?
Thursday, December 31, 2020
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How Will You Build?
There are places you just don’t build. I grew up in the mountains of MT. And when I was a child we used to go rafting down the beautiful rivers. And, as we were rafting, we’d go around a corner to a beautiful river bank with trees and grass. And there would be nothing there. I asked my dad once why nobody owned that part of the river. And he mentioned that in the spring the rains come. And when the rains come, the river rises. And if you build there, your house will be carried down the stream. So, in MT, you build high, on the solid ground. Years later my first congregation was in Colorado. And what’s fascinating is that there, in CO, the opposite. Nobody builds their home on the top of hills there. If you’re on the top of the hills, the winter wind will come and suck all the heat out of your house. No, instead, you build it in the nooks, crannies, and valleys to have a decent view, but to also be sheltered from the wind. Notice what is going on in both places: How you build is determined by where you build. What you have in your mind when it comes to building is determined by where you are going to build. In God’s word this evening, we see the same truth. In Matthew 7, we read: “24 “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. 25 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.” (Matt. 7:24–25 NIV11-GKE)
Jesus tells us a parable. He wants us to compare our every day lives to our spiritual lives. So he speaks about a thoughtful man.1 When it came to building his home he thought it through ahead of time. He built on the rocky outcropping above the stream because it had a solid foundation. Now, we have to think this through a little. Notice that it would have taken more time, more effort, more planning to build higher on the solid ground. But the man goes expends this energy and effort for a reason. The thoughtful man knows that there will be rain. And when the rains come, they will swell into rivers. And, sure enough, the rains came. The rivers rose. But his house and home still stood there after it was gone. But there’s another man who builds. It doesn’t go so well for him. We read: “26 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. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”” (Matt. 7:26–27 NIV11-GKE)
While the first man was thoughtful. The second man is thoughtless.2 He built his home on sand. And we know how that it going to turn out for him. But my dear friends, realize that there would have been great incentive for him to build this way and on this place. It would have been so very much easier to build on the sand. Less time, less effort and more time and energy to spend other places. And, after all, when things go bad, there will be time to adjust and intervene. And if not, he could always rebuild if he had to. He didn’t think it through.
And my dear friends in Christ, Jesus in these words wants you to think it through. How will you build? What you have in your mind as you build determines where you will build. Jesus helps us in these words by letting us know that the solid foundation to build on is “these words” that Jesus speaks. Notice what Jesus is teaching us. Whenever we open up a bible and read it; hear it read to us from in front of church, or study it with our fellow Christians in bible study class a very specific and amazing action is taking place. God is speaking to you. So if we ask the question, “what is happening when in God’s word,’” we realize that first, God is giving you forgiveness now. But also, God is giving you wisdom for later.
Sadly though, we have to admit, we often do not look at God’s word this way. Just as the thoughtless man built on shallow ground, so also do we. And that is shown by how we treat God’s word. Look at the many thoughtless ways we treat God’s word. First, we can forget that there will be rain and rivers in our own lives. And therefore, we conclude that there’s not really a need to read and study God’s word. Tragedies are what happen to other people. And after all, we can read God’s word when there’s a need. I bet the guy who built on sand was thinking the same thought—at least before his house was dragged down-stream and demolished. A second way we build on shallow ground is to treat God’s word like it’s a talisman. Grandma dies and hands down to us our cherished family bible. Grandma read this bible every day and wrote so many notes in it. Do we read that bible? No, of course not. It’s a holy relic. And you can tell that it’s a holy relic by the amount of dust on it. You don’t read holy relics. Instead, you gaze at them with wonder from afar. Shallow ground, isn’t it? Third, we read God’s word as if it’s a “to-do” list. There are many, many churches that fall into this trap. Go to this church and listen to those sermons. Why? You can learn five ways to make a better marriage. You can learn ten ways to get ahold of your personal finances. And it never works. It’s building on sand because it’s misunderstanding what God’s word is. And finally, we can read God’s word and then not have it have an impact in our lives because we don’t think about it and ponder it.
In all of these areas we build on shallow sand because we forget what God’s word is. God’s word is not a rabbit’s foot. It’s not a “getting things done” list. It’s not meant to warm us up and over like a glass of wine as we are sitting by the fireplace. No, instead, it’s God’s living, active, powerful voice speaking to us. When we realize that a real person is speaking to us it changes how we look at God’s word—and not just any person, God himself.
How then should we look at God’s word? Or to word it differently, in this new year, how will you build? Build looking for forgiveness. Whenever you read these words or hear them read, look for forgiveness. Look for your Savior who doesn’t just say these words, but also fulfills them. How amazing it is to think about the fact that in every part and page of the bible we find our Savior Jesus fulfilling it in a new and different way. Here in these words we find such forgiveness in these words: “28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matt. 7:28–29 NIV11-GKE)
Jesus spoke to these desperate hearts the truth—all of the truth. And he also showed them that he was the one—the only one who fulfilled these words. My dear friends in Christ, build wisely by looking for forgiveness on every page of scripture. Look for Jesus, and you will find him.
But, my dear friends, don’t just build looking for forgiveness. Also build looking to the future. The thoughtful man in the parable built where he did because he knew that there would be rain and rivers in his future. What is so amazing about God’s word is that Jesus himself is coming to each of us and saying to us, like every person we every cherished hearing as we grew up, “you are going to need to know this.” Because Jesus cares for us he tells us not just what we need to know for today. He also tells us what we need to know for the future. This too, completely changes how we look at God’s word. There will be those times in our lives Jesus tells us a truth in his word. And it means very little to us. We aren’t going through the problems that Jesus is speaking about. And we can so easily stop reading and hearing God’s word, saying to ourselves, “I didn’t get anything out of that.’” Maybe, just maybe, Jesus is speaking these words for you for your future. Maybe there will be a time when the rains arrive and the rivers run. And your life is flooded over with tragedy. And when those days come the Holy Spirit will remind you of these words. The wisdom he gives you now will not abandon you in the future.
So, my dear friends in Christ, how will you build? Build your life on the solid foundation in two ways: First, build looking for forgiveness. Second, build looking to the future. Amen.
1 “ⲫⲣⲟⲛⲓⲙⲱⲟⲥⲧⲓⲥ” (Matt. 7:24 GNT-WAS)
2 “ⲙⲱⲣⲱⲟⲥⲧⲓⲥ” (Matt. 7:26 GNT-WAS)