I would like to share with you an experience I recently had that maybe you can relate to. Have you ever been in a place trying to read or concentrate and certain voices just make it difﬁcult. I had a day when that happened a few weeks ago as I sat in a lodge, attempting to concentrate on something I knew was going to feed my soul from one of my favorite biblical books, the Gospel of John, in conjunction with The Spirit of the Disciplines by the great theologian and leading authority on spiritual discipline, Dallas Willard. Unfortunately, I found it increasingly difﬁcult to concentrate. There weren't many people in the room but there was one voice that I found to be particularly distracting because it was strikingly similar to a voice I knew very well. I actually turned around multiple times just to make sure it wasn’t that person, which makes me wonder how many voices we would be able to recognize if we were blindfolded and asked to identify those who came up to speak to us. There are many voices I would be able to identify right away without having to see a face. I’m sure though, for some, I’d be embarrassed as I guessed and strained to recall where I knew them from, let alone remember their name. Voices are powerful. It’s a mother’s voice that calms a crying baby, and in our house, it’s a father’s voice that brings a feeling of security and obedience. Some voices just make us laugh and there are others that simply make us angry for whatever reason. In that moment the question hit me, “Do I recognize the voice of the LORD?”. Jesus says the “sheep follow Him (the Shepherd) because they know his voice… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:4,14) Do I know the shepherd’s voice? Am I even listening for his song?
As His sheep, sometimes we have wandered so far that the shepherd’s voice is faint. We try to determine which direction his call comes from but we are stuck down in a pit and it echoes off the rocks and we can’t ﬁnd Him. We feel lost and darkness is closing in because the sun is setting and amongst the the shepherd’s call we hear the howling of the wolves. We cry all the louder seemingly to no avail. But maybe we’re drowning out the Shepherd’s voice with our own. So we wait on Him here, stuck in the mud and mire. I would like to remind you of one of my favorite Psalms.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1-3)
How beautiful it is to be part of His ﬂock!
It amazes me that no matter how familiar I am with a passage of Scripture, I can come away with new perspectives, observations, and understandings. That is, of course, if I approach it with an open mind. The problem I face is when I begin to skim over the familiar, because I think I already know all it has to say. Sometimes the new observations and understandings come like an epiphany. One such moment came for me while reading the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
Many of us don’t even have to read the passage to tell the parable. The wise man built his house upon the rock, the rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on the rock stood firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, the rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on the sand went SPLAT! So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings will come down. The blessings come down as the prayers go up. So build your house on the Lord. (Be honest, you sang that in your head, didn’t you?)
Take a moment now and read the parable in Matthew 7:24-27. I’ll wait for you to come back. Do you notice any differences between the song and what Jesus says? Specifically, what trait does Jesus mention as the defining traits of the wise and foolish builders?
Countless times I have skimmed this familiar parable thinking I knew all it had to teach. I had always thought that the “house” was a metaphor for one’s life, and that the wise builder was the one who built his life on Christ. But that’s not quite what Jesus says. In fact, back up and read Matthew 7:21-27. The context suggests quite the opposite of what we often think when discussing this parable. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very wise to build our lives on Christ. However, that is not exactly Jesus’ message here. Furthermore, this parable says nothing about prayers and blessings. The problem lies in the way we define building our life on Christ. From the way we practice faith, it seems that what many mean is accepting Jesus’s gift of salvation, attend church (at least semi-regularly), read the Bible, pray, and receive the resultant blessings.
When it comes down to it, I think this parable is about building our lives on Christ, that is why verses 21-23 are so important. Jesus says if we want to be wise, and truly build our lives on Him, it requires that we do what He says. This sounds similar to what James writes in James 1:22-27.
As we begin 2017, lets commit to being wise builders. May you have the strength and desire to do the things that Jesus calls you to do. May you end 2017 looking back and see that it was a year spent building on the rock.
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