It’s a Heart Thing

[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. [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.”

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

In his first major teaching session, Jesus gave us the masterpiece we call the Sermon on the Mount.  In the closing paragraph He set out a roadmap for building a stormproof life. In case you haven’t noticed, the storms of life come to all of us.  How we weather the storm tells us a lot about our foundation.  Those who build on the rock of His Word, by hearing and doing, will survive the winds of life.  We are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (James 1:22)

As I read this passage today, I noticed He said, “these words.”  He seems to be telling them that the foundation for their lives are in the words He has just finished teaching them.  With that in mind, I looked back at Matthew chapters 5 through 7.  I want to be founded on the rock. I want to know what Jesus meant by “these words.”

  1. Character matters.  No character, no light or salt, and the earth is the worse for it. Put developing the humble, merciful, peace-maker character of the Lord first place. Then you will impact the world. (Philippians 2:12-16)
  2. Righteousness is not a religious activity.  The righteousness that inherits the Kingdom exceeds that of the most religious Pharisees. It penetrates past ritual and theatrics to change the very nature of man.  Righteousness is a heart issue. Hunger for it. (Philippians 3:8-10)
  3. Love is the main thing, even toward our enemies. Keeping a clean heart, free from rancor or unforgiveness, is the biggest challenge of living the Christian life.  Jesus was adamant: we are designed to be superhuman in this area. It is the singular mark of who we are. (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:10-14; etc.)
  4. Motives matter.  Religious activities are a stench in the nostrils of God if they are not motivated by faith and love. Selfishness and self-centeredness are built into every human being.  Striving to live above self-interest is a life-long undertaking.  Obedience to God, faith in His Word, and love for others are the motives that bring freedom and joy. (Isaiah 1:10-18)
  5. Values matter.  Putting the Kingdom first is the antidote for idolatry, greed, and anxiety. People in the world live to meet their own needs.  Greed is a form of idolatry.  God asks that we live to serve and follow Him and allow Him to meet our needs.  Sounds easy, but it’s not. (Colossians 3:2-7)
  6. Judge yourself. Before you attempt to help (not judge) others, motives must be right, Timing must be right, words must be God-given.  “Bull in china shop” is not a ministry gift.  (Colossians 4:5-6)
  7. Prayer changes me. But only if I want it to. It is the place for realizing the selflessness that these things requite.  If you ask, seek, and knock relentlessly, God will transform you.  The miracle of the new birth changes my inmost being.  The salvation implanted there will work its way out if I cooperate.  (Romans 12:1-3; James 1:21)
  8. Ministry comes from the heart. It matters who you follow.  It matters who you listen to.  It’s up to you to find trustworthy, transparent (not perfect) leaders to speak into your life.  Saying “thus saith the Lord” doesn’t make them reliable. Fruit check is your responsibility. Be aware of the motives of those you look to for spiritual guidance. (2 Peter 2:1-3; Hebrews 13:7-8)

As I re-read the Sermon on the Mount, I was reminded that God seems more interested in my heart than in my performance, my preaching, or my prosperity.  We tend to get sidetracked with all kinds of issues. Social ills need to be addressed.  People must be helped. The sick and the poor need to be educated, encouraged, and elevated. Sound doctrine must be taught.  It’s all quite important. But this foundational teaching, this rock on which we build, indicates that if my heart is right, godly results will follow. If I make emulating Jesus priority one, the rest just seems to fall in place.  Don’t get the cart before the horse, seek ye first.

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