Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Danger of TIVOing Jesus' Words

The Parable of the Wise Builder begins with Matt. 7:24: "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

But let us stop right there. We are often so quick to reach the end that we fail to see the beginning. Like using TIVO, we scan through the "unimportant" parts to get to the interesting parts of the story, like dramatic rain beating down on the two houses, and one house sliding into the sand with a great crash.

But let's slow down a bit. Jesus in this parable has already given us some great lessons in this first sentence. He says all who hear his words and DOES them are wise.

This tells us first that we may actually hear his words. This seems obvious, but to many in Christendom, his words are not that important, or are at best something that we can treat casually and overlook. Some claim that his words were meant to set up an impossible ideal - something that "convicts us" of being sinners by birth, rather than sinners by action, and therefore, we cannot do what he asks. But this of course cannot be found coming from the mouth of Jesus, who in direct opposition to this idea says that his words will not pass away (Mark 13:31; Matt. 24:35)

He goes on to say that all who hear him, and DOES what his words command are wise. To "do" his words is an action on our part, and a command. We must completely reject Jesus if he is telling us to do things that we are incapable of doing. We must reject him also if he claims God wishes us to act a certain way, but we are from birth condemned to do the opposite and cannot physically or spiritually do otherwise.

To hear and obey, however, are things only free people can do. Only those endowed by their Creator with the ability to hear can hear. And if God grants that only SOME may have the ability to obey Him, by His capricious grace (as some claim) then this God would be unjust, and guilty of an oversight, because he failed to tell Jesus about this arrangement. But since God is not unjust, so we must conclude we have the free will to hear the message God sent through His Prophet and spokesman, Jesus, and respond to it, and then, with the help of God's spirit and the example of Jesus' life, grow toward that Perfect Ideal.

So we may hear and obey God's message. But the final part of this opening of the parable is that those who do hear and obey are "wise." There are numerous examples of wise and righteous men in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus says he came not to call the Righteous to repentance, but Sinners. Both categories of people exist in our world, as they did in his.

To throw up our hands and claim that we're genetically unable to obey and perform Righteous Works for God in the name of Jesus is to "TIVO" past the difficult work of following Jesus' words, but it's exactly what we're called to do as Jesus Followers.

With this parable, as with many others, Jesus sets before us an ideal of God's Righteousness and tells us "Follow me" (Mark 2:14) and "Obey my teaching" (John 14:23.) God chose and sent Jesus as our perfect ideal, and tells us to follow Jesus - in whom He was "pleased" (Matt. 3:17.) We are to put his words INTO PRACTICE (Matt. 7:26) so that we do not end up in the shifting sand of man-made beliefs that tell us that obedience to God is an impossible ideal.

This is the challenge of the Good and Beneficial Message ("Gospel") - that we take up the challenge and follow Jesus, doing whatever he said we should do. And in doing so, we build our houses on Rock by ACTING ON his words and putting them into practice (Matt. 7:26) so that we do not end up mired in the shifting sand of a man-made, dangerous belief that obedience to God is an impossible ideal, and can easily be ignored.

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