Jesus is a master story teller and a master communicator. He uses the two to compliment one another often. Reading through the bible you can easily imagine the seamless flow between His daily teachings and the world around Him. He pulls in illustrations using flowers, birds, trees, rivers, soil, etc. to teach foundational truths on provision, commitment, and matters of the heart. Jesus is a boss when it comes to taking complicated eternal principles that hold the universe together and shrinking them down to bite sized nuggets of truth easy to digest. Why? Well, because He knows that this is about all we can handle.
One day Jesus taught about the importance of application. To use a word my generation doesn’t really like to use today…He said “obedience” is crucial. It’s not so much what you know as it is what you DO with that you know (see previous blog “#oneweekHISway” for more on that).
I believe Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 show us three IMPORTANT truths about a topic that is widely misunderstood today. One of the biggest questions people have: At what point will God give up on me? Even in the lives of devoted Christians there is a haunting question about losing salvation. I believe it all comes from the same place.
There is this deep mistrust of the goodness of God’s grace. A world that has shown us consistently that “if something seems to good to be true then it probably is” has jaded our beliefs. We have become skeptical of “good things” and “sure things”. And, when confronted with “really really good things”, forget it.
Lend me your skepticism for the next few moments and allow Jesus, the master story teller, to explain why what you believe about God’s love may be in need of a revision.
Matthew 7:24-27 “24-25 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
26-27 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” (MSG)
1.) You cannot lose the “life” Jesus has given you, but you can lose the “life” you have built.
It’s the house! The house is in danger of destruction. I find it very interesting that Jesus never makes a death threat to the builder. Jesus doesn’t say “if you fail to build on the foundation I have given you, you will die.” The house that is built on a poor foundation is basically sitting and waiting for inevitable destruction…but the man will live to build another day. This might be shocking to some, but Jesus is not sitting in Heaven plotting your ultimate demise. He isn’t building in loop holes so that you screw up and He can hold it over your head.
Jesus isn’t in the business of “I told you so.” He is in the business of “I told you SO THAT you could be spared this pain and heartache.” The truth is, you can NEVER lose the eternal security that is found in Jesus! Once you surrender to Him, once you declare His right to rule in your life, once you recognize the saving grace made possible through Jesus, NO ONE can take it away from you. This is an amazingly freeing thing. And, it really IS that good! But, you can lose the life you have built on dishonesty, greed, lust, impatience, lies, a lack of integrity, laziness, etc.
2.) Consequences and condemnation are NOT the same thing.
I have heard people say it many times. “God must be punishing me for (insert any bad decision HERE).” The builder of the house who Jesus called the “stupid carpenter” would probably be one of those people. He would probably stand there as the storm clouds faded away, the rain and wind stopped, and his life's work washed downstream feeling sorry for himself.
He might feel as though God was punishing him for the massive kegger he threw the night before. Maybe his mind would flash to the series of “one night stands” he had a few years ago. Or, perhaps all the little lies he told to get “good deals” on the building supplies for his house would come flooding back into his memory and he would think to himself…God MUST be punishing me. Well, not exactly.
Getting hammered the night before probably left his head throbbing and made simple thinking difficult. The series of his self declared sexual conquests from his past probably left him empty, created difficulty in connecting with women in healthy ways, and left deep mental scars. All the lying he did to get good deals on the building supplies most likely caused him to be paranoid and convinced that one of the many people he defrauded would eventually come collecting.
All of these things carry with them very real CONSEQUENCES. Bad decisions have consequences! I know, it’s mind blowing. I don’t think this is headline news…but you and I have the freedom to be stupid. God made room for that. Jesus gives us clear parameters to live the full and abundant life He desires for us. He also gives us an eternal unshakable promise of eternal salvation. If you have surrendered to Jesus, your bad decisions today WILL NOT change His eternal promise. But, they will definitely cause you some pain and suffering today.
Don’t confuse the consequences of bad decisions on your part for some kind of earthly condemnation dealt down from Heaven.
3.) Obedience matters…which means disobedience does too.
My son doesn't have to listen to me or my wife. He can make his own decisions. He is quickly approaching the age of three and as such has pretty much hit his stride in terms of wisdom and life experience. JUST ASK HIM, he will be happy to tell you. The problem is that even though he thinks he knows everything about life, at the end of the day his mother and I know that he cannot make his own breakfast, he cannot go to the bathroom by himself, and let’s be honest, shapes and colors are still a little tricky.
Don’t get me wrong, he is becoming more and more capable of making decisions by the day. We notice it! We encourage it! He can make decisions about what to eat for lunch, he knows his favorite shows on Netflix, and believe it or not, SOMETIMES he is even starting to recognize when he is tired and needs to lay down (although not very frequently, lets celebrate the wins where we can).
When Luca makes decisions based on parameters that we as parents have provided it is almost always in his best interest. Isn’t that part of our job description? As parents, we expect obedience and sometimes have to force it. We love him. But, in order to teach him that we are ALWAYS looking out for his best interest and safety sometimes we allow him to make a poor decision that will yield painful consequences. Sometimes, believe it or not, he just doesn’t want to listen to our logic and is determined to do things his way.
Sometimes he insists on learning the hard way that treating the landscaping blocks in the front yard like a bridge means that you will probably fall hard. Sometimes he insists on learning the hard way that trying to drink your bathtub water means you will take in more water than you can drink. Sometimes he insists on learning the hard way that riding the dog like a horse isn’t a good idea (although probably debatable).
The freedom we give him is always calculated and we would never intentionally put him at risk of any real danger. That is our guarantee as parents right!? To love our children unconditionally and never take another easy breath without knowing they are safe. But, sometimes the best lessons have to be learned through hard consequences.
This topic could be unpacked far more (and probably will be at some point). But, today my desire is for you to realize that God is not out to get you. He loves you. He made you a promise to keep you and protect you for all of eternity. He made a way for you to access that through Jesus. That is the only decision you HAVE to get right. But, in this life you are living today you have the freedom to be obedient or disobedient to the parameters He has laid out for you. God doesn’t give up on you because you make a poor decision. But, with the freedom to choose comes the freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail, the freedom to suffer, the freedom to soar, the freedom to be a slow learner, and the freedom to change.
Just because pop-culture seeks to make the word “obedience” into a nasty word…doesn’t mean it has lost its relevancy.