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Series Theme:   Sermon on the Mount Meditations

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PART FOUR: Chapter 7

Meditation Title: Overview




Part 1: The Beatitudes

    Requirements of the Kingdom









The Poor in Spirit



Those who Mourn



The Meek



Those who Hunger



The Merciful



The Pure in Heart



The Peacemakers



The Persecuted



Part 2: Remainder of Chapter 5

    The General Nature of Jesus' Followers



Insulted & Slandered












Fulfilling the Law




    Practical Righteousness beyond the Law



Murder & Anger



Offerings & Upsets



Adultery & Lust



Radical Action












Loving Enemies



Be Perfect?



Part 3: Chapter 6

    Practical Righteousness through Piety



Hidden Righteousness



Giving to the Needy



Hidden Prayer



Praying to Father



Praying for God's Rule



Praying for God's Provision







    Values & Priorities






What you see



One Master



Be at peace



God's Will first



Part 4: Chapter 7



Beware Judging



Right assessment



Persist in Asking




Do to Others



It's a Narrow Gate



Be Discerning



Doers not just Hearers



The Fruits of Obedience



The Fruits of Disobedience







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Meditation No. 38

Meditation Title: Beware Judging


Mt 7:1,2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.


When I was a younger Christian I heard these verses quoted as if to say, “Don't say anything against my wrong behaviour, let me be!” which of course, is the cry of pluralism – nothing is wrong, everything is right. Yet I find myself a pastor and part of my role is to speak against wrong, for I have a Bible that constantly does that. How then do we square the two things? We do it by coming to understand what ‘judging' means and we do that in the light of the rest of Scripture.


Here's the short answer: we are called to assess, but NOT to assess and write off. ‘Judging' reaches a conclusion (that may or may not be right) and then ‘passes judgement' or writes off that person, thus condemning them. Judging in this context has an element of condemnation about it, and we are not to condemn.


We'll see in the next meditation that we are called to be wise in our assessment of people (v.6 & 1 Cor 5:11 ), and we are to have spiritual discernment (v.15 & 2 Cor 11:13 -15, 1 Jn 4:1, 1 Thess 5:21). Oh no, the Christian above all people, is to be alert to the true nature of people or situations, but that is very different from assessing and writing off people. I recently talked with a non-Christian lady who did not believe in God yet was wondering about dedicating her new baby. She had the honesty to say what she wanted yet also to acknowledge that she wasn't a Christian and didn't believe in God and saw the contradiction there. My reply to her was, “Well, know you don't believe today, but you might in six months,” and this she acknowledged could always be a possibility and so was happy to wait, realising we hadn't written her off but respected where she was.


Isn't this what Jesus did: faced the truth of where people were at – tax collectors, prostitutes and sinner – yet held out hope for them? So often in Christian circles we write people off because we see the life they are living. Yes it is wrong, but Jesus loves them and desires them to come to know His Father; that is the hope. No, it may not be a fulfilled hope, but we don't know that now. Part of our difficulty is that we don't know what people are going through. Take that grumpy person, that Christian who rarely seems to have a smile on their face. Perhaps you didn't know that they struggle daily with intense pain, and if you or I were in their shoes we'd be the same! Let's have compassion rather than condemnation because that's what Jesus did.


But the second part of our verses above gives a chilling warning: if you judge others, you'll be judged as well, and how you judge, will be how you will be judged. There is a story told of a family living together, including grandma who increasingly was infirm and tended to spill her food. One day the father, her son, in exasperation, snatched away her plate and roughly took her to the kitchen table and dumped her food on it. “Very well, if you eat like a pig, you don't eat with us and you don't need a plate!” Some months later the father noticed the son carving out a long wooden bowl. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Oh daddy, I'm making a pig trough for you for when you get old.”


Whether we see God directly bringing such similar judgement on us, or whether we see it working out with the way others write us off, if we write others off we too will find the same thing happening to us. Verses 3 to 5 that follow also warn not to think like this when we are the same. Us pigs have got to stick together! Think about it!







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Meditation No. 39

Meditation Title: Right Assessment


Mt 7:6   Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.


We observed in the last meditation Jesus teaching us not to write people off, not to judge and condemn them. The last thing Jesus does is condemn, hence the apostle Paul could say, There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) The work of Jesus is to remove condemnation but there is a great deal of difference between condemning and rightly assessing. As we noted in that meditation we are called to be spiritually discerning and alert to people and circumstances. This verse brings in a balance that is always necessary. Why is it necessary? It is necessary because Jesus' teaching always accords with how life is. Christian teaching, above all others, fits how the world is, and so in this passage Jesus is just warning us to realize this aspect of it.


Jesus speaks of two animals: dogs and pigs. The dogs were not domestic pets like we might know, but wild dogs that roamed the streets, scavenging for whatever they could find. Pigs are known as animals that scuff around in the mud. Neither creature is discerning, both just grab at whatever is there, regardless of what it is. But then he also warns of the things not to give them: what is sacred and pearls. His obvious intention is to speak of things of value. Don't give things of great value, is what he is saying, to those who do not appreciate them. Why? Because they are not discerning and will simply trample under foot what is precious to you, and finding it is of no use to them they will turn on you.


So what is Jesus saying? Be discerning and don't try to give things of great spiritual value to those who cannot appreciate them, those whose hearts are far from God and who are not ready to receive the truth. Now please note that this is not to write them off, but simply to recognize where they are at the present moment. Do you remember in yesterday's meditation I cited the illustration of the non-Christian atheist lady who was wondering about dedication? Was she there looking for the Christian gospel? No, she was still at a place of unbelief. Was she looking for answers? No, she didn't even realize she had questions. That is where she is at the moment – but she may not remain like that. We hope that as she comes and mixes with the Christian community she will start to question, and in questioning, find answers, and finding the answers, come to faith, but for the moment she's not ready for the truth.


This subject is terribly important for the Christian community in Britain , which purports to be a largely unbelieving nation. There is a double teaching in these two meditations which is vital for us to understand. On the one hand we are not to judge and condemn and write off our unbelieving neighbours. On the other hand we are to recognize where they are at and, accepting where they are, not trying to get them to believe before they are ready. The major task of the church in Britain today, in an unbelieving culture, is to open the hearts of the people by loving presence. As hearts open, we are then able to speak the truth about God and His love and about what has happened to us. However, if we try to do that before we have won the hearts of the people, then the word will simply be trampled under foot. Again, isn't this exactly what Jesus did? Didn't he go and mix with the undesirables, accepting them as they were – such as Zacchaeus – and then bring them to salvation? May we do likewise.







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Meditation No. 40

Meditation Title: Persisting in Asking


Mt 7:7,8   Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.


Chapter seven that we are looking at, after the call to be at rest in God's will found at the end of chapter six, focuses on the way we are to be at rest in that will. In that sense it is an expression of various facets of life that could stop us being at peace in God's will. First there were other people who we may think are less godly than us, and we were told not to judge, but to ensure we sorted ourselves out first. To bring a balance to that Jesus then told us to rightly assess and, implied in the light of what we have just said about this being a continuation from chapter six, be at peace when you do discern the reality of other people. Now we come on to another aspect of the Christian life where Jesus sees we might be lacking peace.


Sometimes to see the significance of what Jesus is saying, it is wise to ask, why is he having to say this thing? Now in that closing passage of chapter six, Jesus clearly said don't worry because your Father will provide for you. Yet the truth is that sometimes in life we look and He doesn't seem to be providing. At that point we wonder and have to overcome the temptation that comes when Satan whispers, “See He doesn't care.”


To remedy that situation, Jesus gives us very positive teaching and the verb used in the original Greek is an ongoing one each time, so he says, ask and go on asking, knock and go on knocking, and seek and go on seeking. Sometimes for a variety of reasons we can ask something in prayer but it seems quite a while before an answer comes. For example, in Daniel 10, Daniel prayed for three weeks before the answer came and he was told that he had been heard from the moment he started praying, but spiritual warfare had meant that the answer was delayed. Sometimes, I am sure, the Lord waits before answering, simply to see if we are genuine, sincere and clear in our desires of His will.


The thrust of Jesus teaching that follows is, don't be put off, God is your loving heavenly Father and He wants to give to you and bless you. He starts with human examples: Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” (v.9,10) The listening crowd would probably have laughed at the absurdity of these two thoughts. Of course a caring parent doesn't give something unpleasant when there is a need expressed. Then he turns it to apply to God: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (v.11) Come on, he chides, if you who are less than perfect respond with goodness to your children, how much more will God who is good and perfect, and who is your Father in heaven, give good things to you, His children, when you come to Him asking?


Do you see the power of these two sets of verses? Verses 7 & 8 exhort us to keep on asking and seeking God if we consider we have a need not being met. Then verses 9 to 11 give us the reason why we can be both confident and persistent in asking – because God is good and He is our loving heavenly Father. Yes, this is all about prayer; yes, it is all about provision, but more than that it is about being confident in who God is and who we are. Father and His children is the background theme to this Sermon that keeps on coming through. Rejoice in the fact that you are God's child and He is your loving Father.







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Meditation No. 41

Meditation Title: Do to Others


Mt 7:12   So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.


We often say in these meditations, check the context, and see how the verse fits in. When we do that with this verse, it seems it doesn't fit in! So far in chapter seven, Jesus has been dealing with issues that might be things that take away our peace over God's will. First there were other people that we might consider less righteous than ourselves (v.1-6), and then there was the question of apparently unanswered prayer (v.7,8). These, we have suggested, are issues that might upset Jesus concluding comments about ‘not worrying' in chapter six. We might say they are issues about other people and issues about God. That is where the Sermon has reached thus far. And then we come to these two verses starting with, ‘So' or ‘therefore' depending which version you use, and both words indicate a continuation of thinking based on what has gone before, but what has gone before to make this connection?


To answer this we have to go right back to early in the Sermon: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (5:17). Straight after this Jesus launched into a variety of ways that following the Law was inadequate for his followers, as he showed that being his follower fulfilled the law or went deeper into it to deal with the motivation behind the laws. To expand on that he then, in chapter six, went into the reality behind acts of piety, concluding with considerations of values or priorities and resting in God's loving provision. The teaching has gone from the Law to the motivation for righteousness, to righteousness as an expression of love for God, to resting in God. Thus when we come to today's verses we find they are a winding-up summary, and when we look at what follows, it is as if we are looking at a preacher's set of sermon notes and have come to the end section that might have a heading “Conclusions”.


As the first part of the “Conclusions” Jesus sums up everything about how we relate to other people and seek to be righteous in respect of them in this one rule: do to others what you would have them do to you. If you want to know how to act towards other people, think if the situation was reversed and think, how would I like them to act towards me here? We always want others to treat us well, and so treating others well will be the standard we aim for. In the Law, fairness and justice and the well-being of the parties was always at the heart of God's desires for His people, and thus these things are to be in our hearts, a concern for what is right and fair for whoever I deal with, and a concern for their well-being, for that is what I would want for me.


When I am in trouble, I would want other to help me. When I disagree with others, I would want them to listen to me. When I have wronged them and am sorry for what I have done, I would want them to be gentle with me and forgive me. Thus, similarly, I should be there for others, providing the help they need, listening to their point of view and seeking to understand them, being gentle with their failures and being ready to forgive them when they come to me saying sorry. Aware as I am about my own frailty and weaknesses, I need to be aware of the frailty and weaknesses of others. Being aware of my own tendency to get it wrong, I should understand others when they get it wrong, and in all these things respond as I would want them to respond to me. This is God's will.







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Meditation No. 42

Meditation Title: It's a Narrow Gate


Mt 7:13,14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


We have previously suggested that we are now in the ‘Conclusions' part of this sermon. Yesterday we saw Jesus summarizing righteous behaviour as doing what you would want others to do to you. Now we come to what seems a completely different point, but as a summary or conclusion of what has gone before, that is not surprising.


If the previous two verses summarised Jesus' teaching in 5:17-48, today's verses summarise the heart of what he was saying in the bulk of chapter 6. There, you will remember, he spoke about true piety, but it was always in the light of the relationship we have with our heavenly Father. As that chapter of the Sermon moved on, so it focused more and more on values and priorities if that relationship is to be real.


We live in a so-called pluralistic age, here in the West, where all opinions are acceptable and anyone who claims to have THE truth is considered arrogant. We are not dissimilar to the Athens that Paul found in Acts 17:16 onwards. However any time of unbelief is such a time. When the enemy rises up and takes the minds of the populace away from God, then of course anything goes, but that is not acceptable to Jesus. You may remember in his teaching that he warned to gather riches in heaven, he spoke about the inner darkness of the life without God, and declared you can't have two masters. His teaching is uncompromising: no, there aren't lots of acceptable alternatives! There is only one way, the way of his Father, the way of complete surrender to God.


And that's where we find ourselves in today's summary verses. Jesus portrays two different paths in life and two different entrances. Paths or roads are good analogies of life. A path or road is something you travel along to go somewhere. They present a picture of movement and change, of going somewhere. That is what life is like, a road that we travel along where we are getting constantly older and where we constantly experience different things. But Jesus also uses the analogy of an entrance to the road that we choose to go down. Oh yes, there is choice behind these two pictures, we choose which path we go down, which road we take. That is what is behind Jesus' teaching, choice!


Let's consider the two pictures. The one is a wide gate that is obviously easy to pass through and then a wide road that is easy to navigate with little or no effort required, but this road, Jesus says, leads to destruction. The other road is entered by a narrow gate, that is very limited, and the road is narrow, requiring care and effort, and few find it. Now the two roads are not given detail beyond this but as we look back on Jesus' teaching, we find he is quite specific and, if you like, very narrow in his expectations. The path for his followers, is quite narrow. You go God's way through life and that is a godly and righteous way, NOT doing any of the myriad things the enemy would suggest that are illustrative of an unrighteous and ungodly life. No, Jesus has been quite specific in his teaching. These are things you do and there are things you don't do. There is a heart attitude of surrender to God that is required, and that is the narrow gate that leads onto the road. Without that heart surrender, without making God your sole Master, without making your priorities heavenly treasures, you cannot even get onto this road. No, Jesus' teaching is quite specific and that leads to life. Pluralistic, ‘do anything' leads to destruction!







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Meditation No. 43

Meditation Title: Be Discerning


Mt 7:15,16   Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.


Knowing the truth about people or circumstances is vital in the Christian faith. Christianity is all about truth; it stands or falls on the grounds of truth. More than any other philosophy or ideology or religion, Christianity pleads for the truth: truth about the Bible, truth about God, truth about Jesus, his life death and resurrection, and truth about ourselves. If you look back at the history of the early church, particularly to the first three or four hundred years, the battle that was being constantly waged, was the battle for truth, while heresies sought to undermine that truth. Again and again throughout this Sermon, Jesus has been pleading (indirectly) for the truth – reality in the lives of his followers.


It is natural, therefore, in this conclusion section, for Jesus to insert a warning. In his discourse on the end times, Jesus warned, For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.” (Mt 24:24). The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders, I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29,30). To the Thessalonians he said, The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thess 2:9,10).

Similarly the apostle Peter warned, But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” (2 Pet 2:1,20) Even the apostle John said, Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.” (1 Jn 3:7) and, Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (4:1). Each of these men knew that deception was a major strategy of the enemy as he sought to deceive people into believing untruth.


Thus Jesus gives this warning as he draws near the end of this Sermon. First he describes the nature of these people: outwardly they look fine, but inwardly they are utterly destructive, out to destroy the righteous faith of God's children. Next, Jesus tells us how to discern them, these people who look good on the outside. Look at the fruit of their lives. The ultimate test, which Jesus goes on to speak about and we'll look at in the next meditation, is obedience to Jesus' teaching. If the person speaking, that you have a doubtful feeling about, isn't doing what Jesus taught, then there is the first question mark over their lives. If you cannot see that this person is given over in surrender to God through Jesus Christ, then beware what they say. But there are two further specific things we should note. The first is the negative fruit you may see in their lives. This is the other side of the coin we've just referred to. Obedience is one side and disobedience seen in the form of untruth or immorality is the other. There is a final fruit to watch for: upset and weakening faith in the lives of those who listen to them. If the lives of the listeners deteriorate spiritually, beware the false teacher! Simple warnings we need to observe.







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Meditation No. 44

Meditation Title: Doers not just Hearers


Mt 7:21    Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.


Possibly one of the biggest deceptions that heaven must observe on earth, is people who say they are Christians but who do not do the will of God. This verse and the ones that follow it are quite unnerving. It is a measure of the importance of this that Jesus gives over the remainder of the Sermon to this subject, culminating in the only real parable in the Sermon.


He has just warned against false prophets who include false teachers. Now by definition these are people who sound like Christians, who sound very plausible and who are so like the real thing that they could lead you astray, but the reality is that they are either not Christians or they are very distorted Christians. Jesus starts out these verses by characterizing such people as those who call him Lord, yet he makes it clear that simply calling Jesus Lord will not get you to heaven. Now that is challenging! What is even more worrying is that he then cites those who will claim to have prophesied in Jesus' name and even cast out demons in his name. In other words these are people who seem to move in supernatural abilities, with power ministries, yet even these are not guaranteed a place in heaven. Not a wonder that he said the gate and the road are narrow that lead to everlasting life! Even these people Jesus will tell to go away because he did not know them! (v.23)


Now there is a clue. The blatantly obvious teaching in this passage is that it is only those who actually DO God's will who receive eternal life, but there is a subtle clue here that expands on that. To those people Jesus says, “I never knew you.” Now that suggests that he never had a relationship with them, or to put it the other way round, they never had a relationship with him. What has been the message coming through this sermon again and again? It is that all these things are too hard to do on our own; they drive us into the Father's arms. Go back, if you will, to the earliest meditations in this series and you will see it come through again and again. We cannot live this life without Jesus' help. We cannot serve God without Jesus' help. That is why Jesus told the disciples at the Last Supper, apart from me you can do nothing (Jn 15:5). In that passage, at the Lord's Supper, Jesus spoke of us as branches of the Vine – himself. He said, No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” (15:4) The picture is of a living branch getting its life from the living vine. It is a matter of life flow, and the Christian life is all about the life flow between us and Jesus, but how many of us actually live our lives, even perform our acts of service with little thought or reference to Jesus. We just get on with it and we fail to receive the life flow that comes from him. That is why, to even those who apparently serve God, he can say, “I never knew you” because they were simply performing acts of service without any reference to the Master.


How do we DO his will? We remain in close contact with him. We seek to obey everything we find him saying in his word, and we seek to be sensitive to the leading of his Holy Spirit. In this way we are God focused and we DO, to the best of our abilities, his will. Now there will be times when we fail to hear him and we fail to do his will – that is why he died for us, for our times of failure – but if our heart's intention is to be submitted to him and to hear him and obey him, we will certainly be on the right path.


The question therefore arises, is my life self-centred or Jesus centred. It doesn't matter how religious you appear on Sunday, how about the rest of the week? Is my life an expression of my relationship with Jesus? Could it be summarized by ‘surrendered and led'? Is my will surrendered to his so that his desires for me are all-important, and is the demonstration of this my daily contact with him and the way I am subsequently led? These are challenging and uncomfortable verses perhaps but, like the rest of the sermon, they call us back into a living relationship with him. May it be so!







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Meditation No. 45

Meditation Title: Fruits of Obedience


Mt 7:24,25 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. 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.


I'm sure that one of our difficulties, so often, as Christians, is that we do not appreciate the wonder of all of the promises God has given us, for as the apostle Paul said, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ .” (2 Cor 1:20 ). In other words, because of Jesus, every promise of blessing that God has made, is now “Yes,” for us and, remember, a blessing is a decree of good from God. So when Jesus is encouraging us at the end of this Sermon to be doers not just hearers, he reinforces his appeal with this little picture found in the closing verses of chapter seven. As we will see there are two parts to it, and today we will simply focus on the first part which is the promise of blessing for those who do take on board what he has been saying and actually DO these things.


Yes, observe the first part; it is the person who hears AND puts into practice what Jesus has been saying. There is no merit in simply hearing God's word to us. The merit comes in the responding to it and doing what He has said. The person who actually does this, Jesus says, is like a wise house builder. We don't esteem wisdom greatly these days, but wisdom in the Bible is something to be attained and this person is acclaimed a wise person. Scripturally, a wise person is a person of understanding who corresponds their life in line with God's design, His will, and that is what we see here, a person who brings their life in line with God's will by DOING the things Jesus has taught.


The picture to convey the truth about God's blessing is the picture of a house that this wise man has built. Houses are all around us. We all know about houses; we live in them and may have even watched them being built. This wise builder finds rock and builds his house immediately on it. Whether he has to dig down to it is not made clear. It is a house whose foundations are rock. I am very much aware of foundations. My house is in an area where the predominate subsoil is clay, and clay expands and contracts with varying moisture content, so if it rains a lot the clay expands and pushes buildings upwards and there is cracking in the walls. If there is a long drought, the clay shrinks and there is subsidence and the walls crack. It's a no-win situation, and so the builders, when they built a single storey extension to my house a number of years ago, dug a foundation trench a metre deep and filled it with concrete. That's how big the foundations had to be to take a single-wall extension. If we had lived in an area where there was granite, we'd have been able to build immediately onto the granite without any other foundations. No, foundations are all-important.


Now if the foundations of buildings are all-important, why should we think that the foundations of our lives are less important? The answer is probably because we don't think about the perils of life in a Fallen World and the things that can happen to us. These perils Jesus portrays in this parable as winds and rain. If you live in a monsoon country you know the power of pouring rain. In our own country in recent years, because of global warming some say, parts of our country have had flash floods caused by large amounts of rain failing in a short period of time, and our TVs have shown pictures of roads turned into a raging river. For a house to stand in the face of such a torrent, it needs to be well established on a strong foundation.

That is the picture Jesus is conveying here, and his promise is that those who do what he says, will be able to stand in the face of the perils of life that come. The perils? Illness, accidents, unemployment, unexpected failure, all of these sorts of things can undermine us if we are not firmly established, but we'll look at that in more detail in the final meditation. For now, the point that is being made, is that doing what Jesus says, will act as a firm foundation when such perils come. The trouble with foundations is that normally they take effort to put in and then you cover them up and forget that they are there. It's only when the weather changes and you start to wonder, do you then remember them and realize you are well established. If you are not sure of your foundations, go back over this whole series again and take in again the wonder of what Jesus is saying – and make sure it is the foundation of your life.







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Meditation No. 46

Meditation Title: Fruits of Disobedience


Mt 7:26 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.


The thing about Jesus' teaching and the Christian faith, and we've commented on this before, is that it corresponds perfectly with life and how things are. The reality of living in this Fallen World is that things go wrong. People are nasty, illness strikes, circumstances take a turn for the worse; it's just like that. Ever since Sin came into the world, that's how the world has been, and it will remain like that until God winds it up at the end of time. In some primitive societies in the world we see this recognition that things go badly, by a superstitious fear expressed in offering gifts to supposed ‘gods' to appease their anger. In modern societies we take out insurance policies! It is the recognition that storms of life blow up and life gets very difficult.


Now it is this very picture – the storms of life – that Jesus uses to make his final point in this sermon. He has just said that those who obey his words will stand strong in the face of the storms of life; that is the positive approach to this matter of obedience, but now to conclude he leaves us with a warning that could be summarized as, “If you don't take heed to all that Jesus says, the storms of life will bring you down!”


Let's look for a moment in a bit more detail at the ‘storms of life', things that come upon us that threaten to undermine our lives. We started the list above by saying, people can be nasty. That is an understatement! At one end of the scale there is the hostile neighbour who causes trouble for you; at the other end is the child molester or rapist. In between are the vandals who purposely damage your car, or the drunken youths who barge you into the road. There is the boss who is arrogant and makes your work life a misery, or the teacher who is useless but blames you for poor results. But if people can be a potential cause of downfall, health can be equally so, when that illness strikes without any warning that leaves you feeling so low, when some form of disability occurs that leaves you feeling less than a whole person and the future now has a constant cloud hanging over it. Then there are the accidents that occur; the car crash that came with no warning, the weeks in hospital, or the legal arguments about blame. There is the falling off a ladder that leaves you with broken limbs, and a whole range more of things that were unforeseen and unplanned and which you wish never happened. All of these things undermine your life; they sap your confidence and they bring worry and anxiety and take the joy out of life. How do we cope with things, and the answer for many, is badly!


So how does obeying Jesus' words avoid all this? Well you don't avoid many of the things happening because they happen because it is a Fallen World. But what has been the underlying theme running behind all the individual details? It has been stick close to God, and let your relationship with Him be real, and this, of course, can only come about because of what Jesus did on the Cross for us. His sacrifice, taking our sin and our guilt and our punishment, opens the way up for us to come into a living, loving relationship with God the Father. And what does that do? It means the way has been opened for Him to come close to you to help you, guide you, give you His wisdom and His grace to cope in whatever comes. However rough the storm, with Him there with you, you need not be afraid. The psalms are full of testimony to the Lord's love and goodness and protection and provision. Know it, receive it and live in it. Hallelujah!