Faithlife
Faithlife

20080113_sermon

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ore than a decade ago, Matt Thom, a few helpful young teens and me conceived of and set in motion a tree house for our back yard. The tree had a great section where branches came together but it wasn't large enough for a good side platform. Instead, we placed four 12' pressure treated 4x4's around the tree. They were planted 3-4 feet deep and cemented into place. To these ran a set of 2x6 stringers, carriage bolted to the posts.

The end result was a platform that didn't touch the tree but was amidst the branches. Everything added to it, from the stairway to the sidewalls were accomplished because we had a very solid base from which to build.

How important is a foundation? Psalm 1 tells us that those who are settled and blessed are those who are "planted" in a place where they are constantly fed by God's word. Jesus describes a foolish and wise builder by the place on which they lay their foundation. Fools would settle for the smooth, fairly stone-free sandy base of the seasonal Wadis which were fine till the seasonal rainfall came. Then they were a lot like Vernonia or Tillamook in a flood. Wise builders put up with rocks, cleared the ground and worked hard to build a house that was out of harm's way when the creeks rose.

In 2 Timothy, Paul writes to the young pastor of the congregations in Ephesus that, he, Timothy, should continue doing what he'd learned was right and true. What was Timothy's source of knowledge? It was Paul's life and experiences. It was his own life lived out under other believers and it was the Word of God that provides the means for "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

Today is the start of four weeks of looking at God's Word—the what, why's and how of reading it. We're aiming at the February 11 kick-off of reading through the Bible in a year. And before I ask you to consider something that difficult you ought at least to understand the value of the Bible.

Jesus is the one we trust in life and death. But how do we know about Jesus? Someone tells us stories. We've been raised in church and, like a virus we caught Him. We listen to the sermon and watch Christian TV. Any of these can help us to understand Jesus but the only continual witness to Jesus is God's Word. In classic theological language one talks about Jesus being the Word Incarnate or made flesh and Scripture as the written Word. Without trust in Jesus the Scripture remains a confusing, daunting book. Without Scripture, Jesus often becomes a misunderstood revolutionary or simply a good man who was caught up in the politics of His day and age.

God's word is foundational to our understanding of who Jesus is and what His life, death, bodily resurrection and ascension mean for us today. It is the basis from which all ministry, service, work, evangelism, and mission in the name of Jesus proceed. But doesn't this take place in every church, everywhere? You a very quick comment from Rev. Jim Berkeley show that some Christian leaders have a different view of what's foundational for faith and life. Last January, Berkeley wrote for The Institute on Religion and Democracy about being an observer for IRD at a meeting between our denomination's Committee on Social Witness Policy and National Council of Churches meeting in New York. Rev. Marcel Welty, NCC Associate for Research and Planning, attempted to make small talk with him. Here's Jim Berkeley's recollection of that:

“So, what do you think of President Bush?” he asked, with all the grace and delicacy of a drunken hippopotamus. Why politics came to his mind as a sociable topic of conversation with a guest, I’ll never know. Why not ask about my faith or my family for starters? Why home in on what to Welty just had to be an obvious bone of contention? " [1]

It is because to such folks, politics are the foundation upon which they base their existence. Just so you know this can be true of progressive and evangelical as well.  Scripture is the foundation upon which we base our knowledge of Jesus Christ (orthodoxy) and our behavior as a follower of Jesus Christ (orthopraxy).

Paul tells Timothy that God's word is profitable for "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". When it comes to our study of God our feelings or what we believe aren't the final authority, it is what God says that goes. You are free to believe God wears pink bunny-rabbit slippers if you want but that doesn't make it valid or true, in spite of our politically correct world. There seems to me a type of progression in these phrases. From understanding theology the Word of God rebukes. The Amplified Version uses the phrases, "for reproof and conviction of sin". It is a correcting word. It tells someone that what they are doing is wrong. It points out the sin and, building on the teaching, it shows them from God's word where it violates God's standards.  From this it moves on to correction. We might think of reproof and correction as the same word but the aim is totally different.

Correction seeks to make things right. The first time I helped my dad prep a car for painting I got the glamorous job of wet sanding it by hand. I got done, went in the house and my dad said, "Are you done?"

I got my usual senior high ego in a twist and said, "Of course. It wasn't that hard." After lunch, my dad went out to look at the car and soon called me over. One guess; do you think it was because I'd done such a good job that no one would ever sand a car again to that quality? Yeah! He ripped me up one side and down the other. I'd missed some places totally and went too deep in others. Then he did something that was embarrassing. He took the sandpaper and block, put them in my hand and with his hand on mine showed me what good sanding looked like. I hated it. It was demeaning. I felt like a fool. But I could probably still sand a car today because his correction gave me the right feel for the amount of pressure needed.

All of this, teaching, rebuking and correction lead to the goal of "training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action), so that the man and woman of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work." Amplified Version

Let me go back to Psalm 1 to do the work God created us to do is to bear fruit in the proper season. And to do that we are rooted, fed, watered, and made strong by our "delighting in God's Word" and it is upon this law that we meditate, ponder, and study.

When our foundation is set in Christ we are secure and blessed. The tree house I mentioned at the start is coming down this spring. You see, the tree is splitting and sagging against the fort. Yet the fort still holds because it is rooted well. When the pressures around us fall on us will be a strongly founded on Christ?


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[1] http://www.ird-renew.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=fvKVLfMVIsG&b=401617&ct=3498681 accessed January 10, 2008

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