Solid Rock or Shifting Sand

Read Matthew 7:24-28
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. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

While we were in Israel, we experienced something in the desert that was very rare.

Flash Floods

The day before we were hiking in the Judean Wilderness, where it was at least 120 degrees outside. I have never cried from being hot like I did on that day. I will never go for a hike in the desert ever again as long as I’m alive.

Wadi

Wilderness

*I don’t know who this nice, contemplative lady is, but it definitely wasn’t me.  I was a hot mess off to the side, crying and praying for a swimming pool.

The next day we’re driving back to our hotel, and something unusual started to happen, in the desert, in June. It started to rain. The very place where we were hiking on dry land just 24 hours before, was now like gushing rivers of water in just a few moments. Cars were stuck in the road, water was flooding the streets, it was unreal.

*This was footage of a flash flood similar to the one we saw.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t access the video of the one we saw in 2012.

When Jesus tells us not to be foolish and build our house on sand, he is giving us a picture of what we saw that day in Israel. A picture of what it’s like building apart from Christ the solid rock, explaining how it will all wash away in a matter of minutes in a storm.

In the book of Proverbs, the wise and the fool are mentioned often. The wise takes heed of instruction, the fool gives way to his own desires. The wise listens and obeys, the fool sees and acts in haste.

Jesus ends his Sermon by reminding us that wisdom comes not just from hearing, but also from doing. Jesus has spent time teaching carefully how to enter the Kingdom, to rid us of self-righteousness, to seek what really matters, to love others and act accordingly.

But merely knowing Jesus said these things is not the same as living differently because of them. Jesus is not concerned about simply giving us life changing information, but He is concerned about changing our lives.

His teaching left the hearers in awe and astonished, in worship. Our worship of Jesus should lead us to repentance and obedience.

As we end our time in the Sermon on the Mount, take some time to reflect on Jesus’ words.

Will you build your house, your life, on the solid rock or shifting sand?

Will you seek first His kingdom or continue to seek and build your own?

Are you emptied of your self-righteousness, poor in spirit to be filled by His?

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A Tree and Its Fruit

fruit-tree

Read Matthew 7:15-23
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In college, every summer my friends and I would go to Santa Cruz for the week. We’d rent the same beach house and spend all week together lying near the ocean, drinking, going out to eat and partying at night. We’d wake up and make cocktails, lay out for awhile, have lunch, more cocktails, take a nap, then get ready for round 3 and go out to the bars in Capitola.

One afternoon we were all in the backyard, enjoying our pre-dinner drinks and fun conversation, somehow we got to talking about God. I don’t know how since we really didn’t talk about stuff like that often. A friend’s brother asked me if I believed in God to which I snapped back “Of course I do. Of course I believe in God!” He responded with a surprised tone “Really? I had no idea.”

I was so offended. How could he even think otherwise of me?? I mean, doesn’t everyone believe in God? Sure I wasn’t the most conservative-church going gal, but I obviously believed in something beyond this life.

After I calmed down a bit, I realized something . . . nothing in my life was evident that I believed in God. The fruit I was bearing was certainly not the kind of fruit that someone who believed in God would bear. I was drunk all the time, cussed like a sailor, smoked close to a pack of cigarettes a day, was super materialistic (thousands of dollars in credit card debt), practically lived with my boyfriend, and was overall pretty selfish.

Looking back, it’s no shock that someone would be unsure of my belief in God. My life told a very different story. That’s when I read this verse in the bible for the very first time, and it scared the hell out of me. Literally.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 7:21)

There are many who simply think that “knowing about God” is the same as knowing God. In fact James 2:19, another verse that scared the hell out of me, speaks to this as well:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Even the demons believe.
Not everyone who calls Lord, Lord will be saved, but the one who does the will of the Father who is in heaven.

This verse stopped me dead in my tracks. Simply saying I believe means nothing. Knowing about God is very different from knowing God. I realized I was nothing more than someone who acknowledged a Creator, but I had no idea what it meant to know God as my Redeemer and Savior.

God is not interested in lip service. He’s interested in those who serve with their hearts and their hands, those that put their money where there mouth is and live what they believe.

This is not a “you must do these works to be saved” messsgae. This is a “If you’re truly saved, your life will show it; you will do the will of the Father” message.

We will be known by the fruit we bear, not the fruit we talked about bearing or intended to bear. We will bear good fruit not by being rooted in our own good deeds, but by being rooted in the True Vine.

1. Read John 15:1-11. Write out your observations below.

2. Read Galatians 5:22 and list the fruit of the Spirit.

3. What kind of fruit would you be known for? When others look at your life, would they know you love God? How so?

The Narrow Gate

gate
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  
(Matthew 7:13-14, ESV)

The Way is narrow.
The Way is hard that leads to life.

For most of us, we want the easy way. From the time we’re babies we learn that if we cry, we will immediately be soothed with a pacifier or loving arms.

We are not wired to readily accept and embrace hard.
At our core, we desire easy, we desire comfort.

We may have even been told that loving Jesus and “accepting Him” will make our lives easy. We enter in a relationship with God expecting Him to take our problems away, give us health, wealth, and prosperity. We think the path that leads to peace should be easy.

But instead, Jesus teaches us here, it’s hard. It’s narrow. At first glance, narrow and hard seem restrictive, unattractive, maybe even impossible.

We glance over to the ways of the world, the ways of immediate satisfaction and instant gratification, and think surely this must be the way to happiness, to eternal bliss. We tamper around with the way that is broad, the way of drunkenness, lust, materialism, etc. and we think that those things will bring satisfaction, when they really end in destruction.

What we can’t see is after the narrow gate, after the hard way, is the green pasture, the pasture of life and life abundant.

We don’t get our best life now, we are being prepared and molded for our best life in eternity, forever.

When we live for the moment, seeking pleasure here and now, we miss the blessing of life abundant in Christ.

We can look at the wide gate and enter in, only to be disappointed once we’re on the other side. Or we can take the hard way, through the narrow gate, and find ourselves in bliss and delight forevermore.

1. What are some things in today’s culture that might seem like “wide gates” or “narrow gates”?

2. Read John 10:1-10. What does Jesus refer to Himself as? What does he promise us at the end of verse 10?

3. What are some ways you are tempted to follow the path to the wide gate?

The Golden Rule

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

I struggle to love well. Sure I’m nice to those who are nice to me, and as long as you don’t do or say anything to upset me, I’m pretty good to you.

But, in everything? In everything, treat others as I want to be treated?

I want others to give me grace when I’m having a bad day or not walking in the Spirit. I want others to make me dinner when I’m tired. I want others to appreciate me and thank me and affirm me.

Yet, I am not so good at doing that for others. If I want to feel appreciated, seems like I should be the most appreciative to those around me. If I don’t to be gossiped about, then I shouldn’t gossip about others. If I want to be shown grace, then I should be the most gracious. If I want to be blessed, then I should be a blessing.

Instead, I’m usually selfish and I expect others to be selfless.

The way we love others really matters to God. In fact, the way we love others expresses our theology. So much so that Jesus tells us several times in the gospels that loving others sums up the Law and the Prophets. This is the heart of God, to love well. And not to love because we will be loved well back, but just to love well.

I don’t love well because the other person loved me first. I love well because Christ first loved me. My love for others, the way I treat others, should be a response to what Christ has done for me.

I don’t keep track of wrongdoings, or treat others well because they made me dinner or sent me a nice note in the mail. I treat them well regardless. I treat them well even if they’ve hurt me. I treat them the way I would want to be treated.

This is the heart of the Gospel. God loved us while we were His enemies. We are to love the enemies of God and treat them well in hopes that we’ll get to reflect that Christ-like love to them.

  1. How are you doing following this Golden Rule?
  1. Do you struggle to show grace to those around you? Why or why not?
  1. What are some ways you want to be treated? How can you do the same for others?

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Read Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:23-24)

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Are you picking up on a theme here?

The LORD tells us to ask. Ask that it may be given. Ask for wisdom. Ask so that your joy may be full.

Ask in confidence that we have a Good Heavenly Father who wants to give His children good things. He wants to give us peace, joy, love, patience, and kindness. He wants us to find delight in Him, ask Him for good things!

Jesus tells us we do not have because we do not ask. We can ask anything in His will, and He will give it.

I do not have because I do not ask. I grow weary in my asking, I grow dull in my faith, and so I don’t ask.

When I look to God and His character, I can renew my hope in Him. I can remember of all things our God is, He is generous. He gives. When I am in need, He gives. When I am alone and heavy-hearted, He gives. When I am living in fear or worry or doubt, He gives.

We can have because we can ask.

  1. What are the things you have been asking of the LORD?
  1. Not asking is a lack of faith and trust in our God who hears. In what ways do you need to believe God and ask Him for good gifts?
  1. How can you remember the character of God and ask in light of that?

Pearls to Pigs

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)

I can remember a time in my life having a conversation with someone I loved deeply and crying, literally tears streaming down my face as I offered over and over the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus saying “Don’t you want life and life abundant?” and their response was not what I expected.

Rather than jumping to receive the gift, they rejected and turned away.

Not everyone who hears about Jesus will embrace his gift. Some will even hate you for offering it.
(Side note: I do NOT recommend this evangelism technique, it’s awkward and weird.)

The Gospel, the most precious jewel of life, won’t be desired by everyone.

There will come a time in your life, if it hasn’t already, when you will have to turn and walk away. At some point though we share and offer our pearls, we have to realize not everyone will receive it.

Jesus even told Peter in Matthew 10:14, that if he is in a household that doesn’t receive the good news, to shake the dust from his feet and move on.

I don’t like this. I don’t like Jesus advice here. I don’t like thinking that some will reject Christ. Deep down, I want to know that if I just talk enough, and explain clearly, and cry people will listen and hear and desire Jesus!

But the reality is, not everyone will accept this precious pearl. At some point, we have to realize when we are talking to others, if they begin to reject or hate or oppose, it may be best to shake the dust from our feet.

This doesn’t mean we stop loving or stop relationship with them, it just means having enough to discernment to know when someone is closed off from God. Our job as peacemakers and evangelists is not to force feed, but to cultivate a hunger and a thirst for God.

If our actions seem to give someone distaste in his or her mouth for the LORD, we need to remember this verse. We need to remember too much salt is disgusting, and shining light directly in someone’s eye is painful. We salt and shine, we speak and offer, but we can’t force others to eat and enjoy.

We have to walk in wisdom and know when it’s time to pull back and walk away.

1. According to these verses, will everyone who hears about Jesus embrace the Gospel? What are we to do if they don’t?

2. Have you experienced a time when someone tried to force-feed you? How did that make you feel?

3. Is there someone in your life who you desire to know Jesus? How can you continue to love them without force-feeding?

Judging Others

Read Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

“Don’t judge me”
“You’re so judgmental”

The most famous verse in the bible used by nearly everyone who doesn’t want to hear someone tell him or her how to live his or her life.

“Well the bible says, “Do not judge” so I don’t want to say anything.”

We have so misinterpreted and misused this verse to basically either continue on in our sin, or become cowardice in speaking truth.   Somehow being “judgmental” has become the worst sin of our culture.

But in reality, we all judge. Every single one of us passes judgment on people every single day. Can I just come out and say, I don’t think all judgment is bad, and I don’t think Jesus did either.

Notice what He is instructing on in these verses? It’s not that we are to never judge, but to not do so as hypocrite. His instructions here are to avoid hypocrisy. Whatever standard of judgment we use with others, we better be sure we can stand up to it ourselves.

In other words, Jesus is warning us of judging others while we commit the same or even worse sin.

He’s referring to someone telling others not to “get drunk” while they have a hangover.

Or the person who speaks out against homosexuality, yet secretly watches porn at night.

Or the religious person who tells others to care for the poor, yet doesn’t lift a finger to help those in need.

How can we call out the speck in our brother’s eye and ignore the plank in our own?

Before we speak into another’s life about sin, we better be sure and search our own hearts for any hypocrisy. For some, this verse means we need to be careful to speak less, and search our hearts for hypocrisy first. For others, it means we need to speak up more, and call out sin if the plank in our own eye is removed.

Notice, the assumption here is not that we will never speak or judge. Jesus tells us; first we must remove the plank from our own eye. We need to speak truth to one another, not as hypocrites, but as fellow partakers in the Gospel.

1. What instructions does Jesus give before judging others?

2. According to this passage, is all judgment wrong? Why or why not?

3. Is there a plank in your eye? If so, what steps can you take to remove it?