Founded Upon a Rock

The ending of the Sermon on the Mount is majestic, imposing, ominously authoritative and frighteningly demanding. After laying out what looks like an impossible standard of conduct, Christ says all who don’t obey Him and do what He says will be eternally destroyed (Mt 7:26-27), including many who call Him Lord. (22) If the Gospel is simply a free gift of salvation to all who are willing to receive it, how do we square this up?

One way is to ignore the warning and hope for the best, that God’s love and grace will cover our sin and we’ll be fine in the end even if we don’t obey Him. This isn’t wisdom, to say the least; it’s building on the sand: equivalent to rejecting Christ Himself. (Jn 12:48) We can say we’re receiving Christ while we’re ignoring what He says, but it’s pointless doubletalk. (Ja 2:20) Christ is saying something exceedingly profound, and He means exactly what He says; we ignore Him at our eternal peril. (De 18:19)

Another way to deal with this is to claim we’re saved by obeying Christ, reject the idea of salvation is a free gift and try to earn it. Another dead end, hopeless approach. (Ga 3:10)

The correct way to resolve this must be that those who are justified freely by His grace also obey Him (1Pe 1:2), not to earn salvation but as a necessary consequence of believing in Christ. Though works aren’t the cause of salvation, they must be the evidence that salvation has taken place. In other words, faith alone is a myth (Ja 2:17); faith and works always go together, we can’t separate them.

This implies those who are saved cannot live in willful disobedience as a manner of life. If our lives don’t reflect faith in the Son of God, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves; we should seek God until we find Him, until He reveals Christ in us and begins to sanctify and transform us. (Ep 2:10)

It also implies that Christ is not demanding absolute, sinless perfection from the start of our spiritual journey; there’s a sanctification process where we grow in faith and love over time. (Php 1:9) While we’re growing, we find within the longing to be more holy and obedient (He 12:14); continuous, stubborn defiance does not characterize the child of God. (15)

If we’re justified in Christ, we’ll be able to see how Christ is working within us obedience to all of His words, ensuring our lives are bearing out the fruit He says will come. Where we aren’t obeying too well yet in a particular area, we ask Him to show us why and heal us so we become more like Him. (Ja 5:16)

This is how we dig deep, laying up for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, and lay hold on eternal life (1Ti 6:18-20), grounding our eternal home in the Rock Himself: Christ Jesus.

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The Everlasting Gospel

Clearly and accurately identifying Christ, the Holy Spirit and His eternal Gospel (Re 14:6-7) is central to the Christian faith, yet given the many attractive counterfeits (2Co 11:4), it’s evidently no easy task.

Consider the claim that repentance, turning from our sin, is optional, that one may receive the gift of free grace in Christ with no strings attached. The claim is that God offers forgiveness to those who remain hardened against Himself, who intend to continue in rebellion against Him, who will not submit to Him as Lord. It’s claiming we can receive the gifts of Christ without receiving Christ Himself (Jn 1:12), that we may have eternal life without giving up our own life (Jn 12:25), without offering up ourselves to the Son in Whom this eternal life resides. (1Jn 5:11-12) Is this a false gospel, or the true?

It’s true we’re not saved by our works; there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation, or to add to what Christ has done to save us: justification has nothing to do with our obedience to God. But it’s also true that all who don’t love Jesus Christ will be cursed at His coming. (1Co 16:22) Those who pursue sin as a manner of life don’t yet know God (1Jn 2:4) and are heading for eternal damnation. (Ro 2:8-9)

So, offering unrepentant sinners a get-out-of-jail-free card may seem like free grace, but it’s a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Gospel: that would give us a license to sin and make Christ a minister / enabler of sin, and this isn’t Love. (Ga 2:17) Yet we don’t need to clean up our act before we come to Christ either: Christ didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Lk 5:31-32)

The biblical Gospel isn’t merely an offer of forgiveness, it’s an offer of holiness, without which we’ll never see God. (He 12:14) God’s inviting us not only to justification, but also to sanctification: He’s offering to transform us from rebels into saints. (Ro 8:29-30) The redeemed are elect unto obedience (1Pe 1:2), predestined to good works. (Ep 2:10)

The New Covenant in Christ writes God’s Law into the very fabric of our minds and hearts (He 8:10), equipping us to obey and honor Him: receiving Christ involves pursing this transformational relationship, in which He starts cleaning us up and making us more like Himself. (Ti 2:11-14) He enables us to start submitting to and obeying God from the heart so we can walk in fellowship with Him, in more and more alignment with Him. (He 12:28) If we aren’t interested in that good news, we aren’t interested in the Gospel at all. (Ps 119:155)

If we have faith to believe God is Who He says He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him by enabling us to find Him, then the Gospel invites us to come (Re 22:17); it’s the only way we can come to God. (He 11:6) Saving faith works in us not only to rest in God (He 4:10-11) but also to pursue God. (Php 2:12-13)

We’re to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Mt 6:33), believing Christ is both our righteousness and our sanctification (1Co 1:30), obeying Him with what strength He’s already giving us as we rest in Him, trusting He will deliver us yet more and more from our sin (Ga 1:4), confident in His promise to ultimately present us faultless before Himself with exceeding joy. (Ju 24)

This is the Good News, the everlasting Gospel; it has never changed, and it never will.

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Make Friends

The parable of the Unjust Steward is challenging, putting it mildly. When Christ says, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Lk 16:9), is He saying befriend the wealthy so when we fall on hard times they’ll be there to rescue us?

The mammon of unrighteousness would be material things this unrighteous world values, tools for good and evil. They aren’t ours (Ps 24:1), so we’re all stewards, and like the steward in the parable (Lk 16:1-2) we’ll all be accused of mismanagement (Jn 5:45) and held accountable. (Ro 14:11-12)

So, we all find ourselves in a similar crisis: we’re flawed in fundamental ways, our record shows this and judgment is coming; we should prepare to make the best of it using every means at our disposal. Pass or fail, the consequences will be eternal. (Ro 2:6-11) In this predicament, Christ is telling us, “make friends.” In other words, live such that when Judgment Day comes those testifying in the heavenly court will be on our side, welcoming us into Paradise.

Consider that everyone who has ever lived will be present at this final Day of Judgment, and those we’ve impacted through our lives will be testifying about us (Ja 5:4), agreeing with God in how they view us, being for or against us. (Mt 12:41-42) Our own works will also bear witness (Ja 5:3), our every act testifying in heavenly court. (Mt 12:36) There will be no deception or partiality; if we’ve walked in holiness before God even the wicked will be forced to agree. (1Pe 2:12)

So, the kinds of friends we should be thinking about here aren’t those who’d pay our bills when we’re unemployed, but those who’ll be receiving us into everlasting habitations, standing between us and our eternal home, inviting us in or barring our way. We must keep short accounts (Mt 5:25-26) and manage our affairs with an eternal perspective. (Col 4:5) As the unjust steward wisely navigated his crisis to secure his earthly comfort for a season (Lk 16:8), Christ is calling us to holy intensity (Mt 5:29-30), striving to secure our eternal welfare. (2Pe 1:10-11)

As we steward earthly resources we’re laying an eternal foundation (1Ti 6:17-19), so let’s make it solid, grounded firmly in the Rock of our salvation (Ps 95:1), to withstand the blasts of God’s penetrating inspection. (Mt 7:24-25)

This isn’t salvation by works; we’re saved by faith (Ep 2:8-9), but our works do reveal our faith. (Ja 2:18) We show what we believe by what we do, so when our actions don’t align with faith in Christ it’s a faith issue (Lk 6:46), a peril of sobering consequences. (Ro 8:13)

To find healing we examine ourselves (2Co 13:5), confess our faults to those who are praying for us (Ja 5:16), and root out the lies which bind us. (Jn 8:32) Living this way doesn’t produce salvation – it’s the life salvation produces. (Ep 2:10)

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