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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Building upon a good foundation.
" "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 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. 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. " Matthew 7:24-26 [ESV]
For the greater context, we need to go back to the start of this sermon that Jesus was teaching, we see find it here:
"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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:17-20 [ESV]
now, if you have been a Christian for more than a month, you have probably heard a sermon on this passage of scripture, so I doubt I can add much to that, but I wouldn't mind discussing one aspect of it, if I may.

When we talk about this passage we should ask [1] what does the house represent, [2] what does the foundation represent, and [3] what does the flood represent; and we should bear in mind as well that if "truth" is being expounded here by Christ, then even if we mine one truth in particular from this passage - that same truth can be multi-faceted. That is, Paul recognized that when God gave instruction about muzzling an ox - that the truth behind it was applicable elsewhere, and that the instruction was given not on the account of the ox, but on account of the truth represented by the example.

Like most of you, I was taught that this "foundation" is "Christ" and even though that doesn't really knit well with a Jew instructing Jews on how to be correct in their Judaism - yet I accepted that unreservedly and less than critically. Surely Paul echoes the thought in 1 Corinthians? No?

I awoke this morning from a dream. In my dream, I remembered a jade necklace I had given my mother for her birthday when I was six or seven years old. The chain was of that extremely cheap "imitation" gold stuff, and the jade piece itself was a flat rectangle, sort of rounded on the front side, and engraved in some "hippy" font was the word "LOVE" - with the "L" at the top close to the chain, and each consecutive letter underneath the last so that the "E" was farthest from the chain. I had only enough money to buy it, and my father tried hard to dissuade me, knowing that my mother would never wear the thing, but I thought it was precious beyond anything I could imagine - a treasure, made more rich because it said "LOVE" on it. The thing was well received by dear old mom, who even wore it for the rest of that day, and kept it for many years after that. I don't know why I dreamt of that necklace, and to be certain, dreams are at the best of times meaningless and flighty - and this one seemed to be no exception - the necklace seemed to be the hub around which the rest of the dream was revolving, but there was a critical flaw in the necklace that I couldn't comprehend - it was so intangible - I felt it and knew it, but I could not articulate it.

Dreams are weird like that. I think that truth works that way sometimes - you know what it feels like to be wronged for example - and you can take that feeling and apply it elsewhere. So too with dreams - sometimes you come to an understanding of a thing subconsciously, and your brain tries to match that up with something concrete, so it sifts through your memories and finds something that matches the feeling - matches the intangible truth, as it were - and gives some context (however obscure) to what you are thinking about. I am no psychologist, and even if I were, I wouldn't attach a lot of weight to that - but I mention it so as to give context to my overall point.

When I was younger, and I saw my wonderful gift laying in my mother's jewelry box day after day - never being worn and therefore, according to the extention my reasoning assigned, never being cherished - I asked her to wear it. Whether she did or not I really don't remember - but if she did it went back in the Jewelry box soon enough to lay dormant. I probably haven't thought thrice about that thing in the last 30 years, I really don't remember - but I do know, especially as a parent how impractical it was.

When I woke from this dream I immediately turned to the Lord in prayer and asked if there was something there that I should know. Not that I am given to mysticism, but rather I believe in a sovereign God, and I don't doubt that if I am too stubborn to understand a thing the normal way - God is able to open my eyes to truth using the back door as it were. Immediately I asked the question, I began to be acquainted with the similarities between the jade necklace and a poor foundation. Had the necklace sufficed for its intended purpose - to adorn my mother's neck - it would have done just that. But the fact that it stayed in a Jewelry box, forgotten and sequestered away in some drawer tells me that it did not perform as expected. Every intention was good, but the outcome demonstrated that there was something fundamentally wrong with the "gift."

Not that the Lord speaks to me through dreams - I don't want you to get that wrong impression, but rather (I hope) if you are always thinking about the Lord, and constantly submerging yourself in truth - then every aspect of your life can be used to train you in truth - even your dreams. If a dream comes and opens my eyes to some thing I find in scripture - I say "Thank you Lord" and move on. I don't pretend that God is talking to me or anything odd. I do the same if I am whittling a stick and find that the shavings remind me of something from scripture - I don't pretend that the shavings are spiritual - they were just the vehicle by which I came to understand a thing in scripture - not spiritual in and of themselves, but used of the Lord none-the-less if in fact they help me to understand more clearly the word of God.

I hope I have sufficiently defended against any charges of mysticism, but you never know.

Now, as I was pondering this in the first few moments of wakefulness this a.m., I came to understand again how the flood is sin, and how the foundation is our union with Christ. The house that we built is our "pious" activity - and whether we build industriously or carelessly makes no difference with respect to sin - if we build anything upon the sand - that is, in the flesh - it does absolutely nothing to guard us against sin - sin will continue to have dominion over us - and we are right to fear the coming flood, because we know that the work of our hands is not going to do much for us on that day when we are truly tempted.

Now, that is easy enough to see I suppose, but what struck me was how -instructional- that truth is when we come at it backwards.

Why does an otherwise religious fellow, one who hates sin as surely as a homebuilder in a flood plain must hate the floods - why does such a one continue to give into sin? Answer: Because there is something wrong with the foundation. He is a branch just as surely as the other branches - but he is withering and dying while they are healthy and fruitful - why is that? It is because this one is not attached to the vine - all his activity comes from himself and not through a living union with Christ.

That ought to cut through the hoobaloo we sometimes give in to. You know, where we tell ourselves that everything is fine and dandy even if we continue in sin. We tell ourselves God forgave instead of God forbid.

This leads me to ask, the question: what did Christ consider foundational? Certainly faith - I mean, that is a given. But you can't have genuine faith without repentance - (though some misguided, but well intentioned believers would argue otherwise...) But is that where the buck stops? Is repentance foundational? Do we slur our theology a little and teach that Christ is foundation because scripture teaches that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church)? Some would argue that Christ was referring to Himself as the "rock" upon which He planned to build his church; but I fancy that when Peter said to Christ, "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God" - and Jesus replied that flesh and blood didn't reveal that to Peter, but that this revelation came from God - and that upon this (revelation from God) Christ planned to build his church - that is, not with human hands - but through revelation from God - and if I wanted to be theologically precise - I would say revelation by the Holy Spirit.

No one comes to Christ except that they are called, and no one repents except that God grants them the repentance, and no one comes to faith except that God grants them the faith.

When I look back to the moment I first believed, it wasn't that I was trying to generate assent to the truth - it was that the scales suddenly fell off my eyes, and I suddenly saw the gospel for the first time. It was obscured somehow, and then it was clear as anything - God was calling me, and I had to answer, He chose exactly when he would call me, because I knew there and then that I was either going to give my life to God or not - it wasn't me sitting down with a bunch of facts and calmly reasoning out whether or not I could believe such and such, and deciding that this was true and then intentionally praying to this God whom I had decided was certainly there - and laying claim to some promise of eternal hope because I understood that such existed and I wanted it. Nuh-uh. No - in a moment of agony I realized that God was real, and that I was a sinner - that God was Holy and that unacceptable as I was, God was pointing his finger at me and commanding me to be reconciled with Him, and I had the choice to obey that command and be reconciled, or to continue in my hardened rebellion and disobey it.

The foundation it seems plain enough - is not simply my repentance, nor the faith that comes by God's grace through granting us repentance (said another way: by God's grace through granting us the ability to humble ourselves - to be willing to be eternally obedient to God) it isn't through the act of being willing to obey that Christ consider the foundation - it was the work of the Holy Spirit this is fundamentally foundational, I think that might be a little fine grained for most of us, but the theological implications are sound.

Why do I sin, I sin because I am building a house that lacks the correct foundation - I sin because I am engaged in a Christianity that is robust and industrious and lacks only one element - walking constantly in the Spirit - and that is why I have no heart for missions, that is why I do not evangelize, that is why I am dead inside for all my external effort - oh the house is glorious, but it falls every time sin comes in like a flood - and just as the branch that is seperated from the vine cannot bear fruit, so too there is no power to deliver me from this sin so long as I continue to remain aloof from the branch - I abide in Christ through the Holy Spirit, and not through my external pious conduct. To forego this union with Christ, even if I act in every other way as a Christian ought to act - ministry and devotion included - is to build upon sand, and it is a beggarly thing - like pushing a car that is in gear rather than starting it up and driving it.

I think this is the truth that I pulled from all that. I am not suggesting that this is the "correct" exposition of the text in Matthew - but that this is one truth that I found there.
posted by Daniel @ 11:20 AM  
  • At 2:10 PM, January 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I told you (that you were back)...


  • At 2:27 PM, January 16, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    This is not "backness" yet... it is more of a preamble to backness.

  • At 2:44 PM, January 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not a bad preamble if that is all it is. Your post made me think, and that is good. What you said it true, and that is good too. Is it fully what is found here in Matthew, probably not, but I think at the very least it is implied by this teaching.

    I will have to read it again after thinking about it for a while, because this first reading sent my mind zinging all over the place. A good thing, but not very useful for interacting with your post. :)

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