A House-Built Upon Sand Jesus of Nazareth, toward the end of the sermon on the mount in Mat. 5-6-7, gave a warning to His disciples concerning the true challenge of their spirituality. In Mat 7:15, He warned His followers to beware of false prophets, individuals who were wolves in sheep’s clothing. You know what that meansthese are people who appear to be spiritual on the outside; but who are inwardly like devouring wolves. They were people who would make merchandise of the flock of God in order to feather their own nest. We have all seen people who match this description: whether or not we recognized them at the time. The difficult part is in looking beyond the exterior veneer, and in identifying the basic underlying character that makes them wolves to begin with. This requires spiritual discernment. In physical terms, these are individuals who appear, on the outside, to feed the flock of God; but inwardly, they are more interested in feeding themselves than they are in feeding the flock. They put on a good show, proclaiming their works; but without any real Christianity involved. In Matthew 7: 16 and 20 Jesus makes it plain to all who will see, that the fruits of their labor will show quite clearly, exactly who is a good shepherd, and who is a hireling. In verse 22, Jesus personally exposes their soft underbelly of spirituality: Matt 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Their supposed healings, and prophesying and casting out demons leaves the sheep exposed to chaos when their great works of the flesh are exposed for all to see. We should also recognize the fact that God will heal those who ask for His power to be made manifest in their lives, even if the ministry may not be truly converted. When we watch the Church leadership continually build upon sand, we need to expect the results to continue unchanged. We will see split after split after split, usually over control. Control of the Ministry, control of the brethren, and most importantly, control of the finances; when push comes to shove, it is usually about the money. Regrettably, even the protestant churches, even those who have a more biblically based financial system than we find within many of the Churches of God, yes even these protestant churches have splits. Generally speaking however, their splits occur over doctrines. Some of the more recent noteworthy splits coming from within the Protestant church groups have been over abortion, homosexual marriage and ordination of practicing homosexuals. Matt 7:22-27 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Vs. 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Ultimately, it will focus on their works. Wouldn’t it be a terrible thing for someone who has spent a major portion of their life, thinking they are serving God and Jesus Christ, to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, only to hear the Lord say these words recorded in Mat. 7:23 I never knew you: How can we live what we think is a good Christian life, only to have Jesus reject and disavow our efforts? While works are an important part of our Christian life, Jesus shows clearly that He will judge us on our inner character and conversion, much more than on the exterior facade of Christianity that can more
A House-Built Upon Sand easily be manufactured and feigned. Jesus goes on to show that those who hear His words and who do them, manifest the traits and characteristics of a true master builder. They build upon a rock. They have a firm unmovable foundation. Vs. 24 Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
What sayings is Jesus talking about? It would seem most logical to re read His words in Matthew 5-6-7, and to ask ourselves- am I doing what Jesus said I should be doing? In context, to what else could He be referring? The words of the sermon on the mount should give each of us pause for concern. Too often, I’m afraid, we allow our eye to be taken off of the goal that Christ sets before us, and we allow ourselves to be misdirected, by well intentioned but misguided leaders, -away from the prize of our high calling. We lose sight of the Rock, and stumble over pebbles. Who or What is This Rock? First let’s realize that there are no capital letters in the Hebrew or Greek. In the English speaking countries, we use capital letters to mark the first word of a sentence, to denote all proper names of people states and countries; and we also use capitals when referring to God. We see then that this Rock which followed Israel in the wilderness, this Rock which provided them with water to drink, we see this Rock was a spiritual Rock, one from which the water of life could have come to physical Israel,- if they had been obedient to God. It would have been quite easy for God to open their minds to spiritual content, if they had been ready. After all, He opened our minds, didn’t He?? In order to properly build upon the rock we need to recognize the biblical identification of whom or what this rock truly is. One place we can look is to the life and writings of the apostle Paul. Can anyone who has studied the scriptures deny that the life of the apostle Paul manifests, for all to see, the manner in which Paul allowed Christ to work in him? Can anyone deny that the labors which Paul performed, and the words which he wrote; have they not withstood the assault of those who would attempt to pervert the teachings of Jesus? Speaking of Israel during the Exodus, this is what Paul was inspired to write: 1 Cor 10:4-5 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. Vs 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. It seems important therefore brethren, for us to examine ourselves to determine whether or not our spiritual foundation is founded on the true spiritual Rock of Christ. Wouldn’t it be sad to come to the end of our days and find out we had built on sand, and not on the true Rock? The spiritual wilderness through which we travel daily is one which can easily turn our eyes away from the true Rock, unless we are wary. We must stay firmly planted on the Rock of Christ, if we hope to prevail against the adversary. You see, in reading Mat. 4, Jesus, in the flesh has already defeated Satan the
A House-Built Upon Sand adversary. Nothing can come between us and God; not the ministry, not the corporate church-nothing, unless we allow it to do so. Learn the Lesson of History As we study the book of the Exodus, we can, if we look carefully, see the parallel between the Israel of the Exodus, and those who would like to be considered the Israel of God. (Gal 6: 15) The Israel of the Exodus never completely gave up their longing for the “good” things of Egypt. Even though they had been little more than indentured slaves, Israel was never able to deal with the freedom to obey God. The Levitical priesthood under Moses and Aaron was never able to focus the eyes of the people on the perfect freedom, and the multiple blessings which would have come from obedience to God. Let me cite a few examples: While Moses was in their midst They Broke the Sabbath, Exodus 16:26-30 They built and worshipped the golden calf. Exodus 31: 4-34 They were sexually perverse. Numbers 35:-9 Paul recaps Israel’s sinful ways in the book of first Corinthians: 1 Cor 10:5-12 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Vs 12 Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. The children of Israel refused to build upon the Rock, and sometimes I wonder if some of the leadership today doesn’t closely follow Israel’s wrongheaded ways. When Israel Entered the Promised Land: They refused to keep the Feasts as God commanded. Nehemiah 8:17 They refused to keep the land Sabbaths. 2 Chronicles 36:21 They built and worshipped idols in the groves. Judges 3:7, l Kings 14:15 All in all, we would have to conclude that they built on sand, and the house of Israel fell catastrophically, twice!
A House-Built Upon Sand Don’t Build on Sand Mat 7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Brethren, one of the major lessons we should learn from holy scripture is this: Unless we mortals learn to do things God’s way, we leave ourselves with no excuse for our repeated failures, both in our personal lives and within the Church. Let’s look at the manner, in which the Church of God has fractured and split over the years, and learn from the mistakes of our forefathers; and maybe also learn from the failures of our contemporaries. In the past one hundred years, the church has tried to use centralized control of both financial and administrative management of the church, and the “work of the gospel”. Without being overly critical of this method, it would not be wrong or disrespectful to analyze both the trajectory and the consequences of this “centralized approach” to church governance. This church model focuses all of the major control of the income and the work of the Gospel in the hands of a small handful of individuals who are both charismatic and in some cases highly efficient administrators. Using a corporate structure, which concentrates the financial controls and administrative controls in the hands of a relatively few, powerful, but not necessarily converted individuals; we can see that the efficiencies of scale and the media approach to team building, can easily develop a few charismatic and in some cases control oriented personalities. When we question the conversion of certain of the individuals involved, perhaps we would be wise to follow Jesus instruction, and judge their works by their results -- by their fruits. Without judging or condemning, many of us have experienced the downside of this authoritarian type of management style. What is truly difficult to understand is why the leadership continually tries to rebuild in the flawed failed image of their predecessors. In this type of organizational structure, we often see the emergence of a personality cult which produces a less than Christian interpersonal behavior. Frequently we see power struggles which pit brother against brother, and the resulting splits and fractures lead to fractionalization and disorientation among the brethren. It also has the tendency of facilitating in-fighting for control of the church finances and real estate. I believe it was Einstein who postulated that: insanity was doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Perhaps it is time to review the words of Jesus: “by their fruits you shall know them”. Nevertheless, we see the repeat of this failed organizational structure, over and over again. Perhaps it is time to know them by their fruits.. Let’s compare the way God organized the Church in the wilderness, with the methods we see among the churches today. Perhaps then we can compare Israel’s failures with our own contemporary failures. God’s Financial Plan for Israel, the Church in the Wilderness First of all let’s remember that it was the Word of God, the Rock who was Christ, who spoke with Moses and gave to Israel through Moses, the words of life which were designed to guide them toward both the physical and spiritual Promised Land.
A House-Built Upon Sand The nation of Israel was referred to in scripture as the “church in the wilderness”, or the desert as some translations say. Stephen, in Acts 7:38 uses this term, Church in the wilderness, to refer to the nation, under Moses as they dwelled in the desert of Sinai. This church in the wilderness was organized in such a manner that allowed the flow of Godly blessings to the people, as they learned to please and obey God. If we will carefully read Deut. 28: 1-13, we will see the promises of continuing blessings which God promised Israel for their obedience and proper lifestyle. God’s promise was simple and straight forward: obey and be blessed. Obedience to God’s law carries automatic blessings. We sometimes have to wait for those blessings to materialize, and at other times they are immediate. Look at the example of the woman of Zarepath in I Kings 17:9-16: this widow woman and her son ready to die from hunger, due to a drought in Israel. Elijah the prophet told her: first bring me a drink of water and a small cake to eat and then you can make one for you and your son. Elijah was showing her to put God first, by feeding God’s servant, and then take care of her personal needs. Wow, what a test of faith; read it for yourself, in 1 Kings 17. The lesson was this: put God first and be blessed. These promises were unequivocal!! In Deut 28 1-6 God spells out very clearly the promised blessings which would accrue to those who would hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord. Blessing upon blessing, would be poured out, simply for being diligent in our attention to our calling. Deut 28:11-12 And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord swore unto thy fathers to give thee. 12 The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thy hand: and thou shall lend unto many nations, and thou shall not borrow. Great personal and national wealth: that was God’s promise for obedience. Yet, they continually chose to do things their own way. God's way was never enough for them. In Numbers 18, Moses records the financial organization of the Church and State of Israel. God told Aaron and Levi that they were to have no inheritance in the land, when they crossed over Jordan. God was to be their part or inheritance among the children of Israel. God then gave Levi, (Levitical th Priesthood), all the 10 in Israel for their inheritance. Num 18:20-24 20 Then the Lord said to Aaron: "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. NKJV God was to be Levi’s portion and inheritance of Israel’s blessings. Stop and think about that statement, for a minute. God was to be the inheritance of Levi’s priesthood. But notice they would have to work for their portion. They would be recompensed for their service in the tabernacle of meeting. 21 "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. 22 Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. NKJV Regrettably, God is not enough of an inheritance for many modern day ministers. They seem to prefer the massive structures of modernity, to the tabernacle of meeting with the Eternal. The Eternal God, and the
A House-Built Upon Sand service of God’ people, too often take a back seat to the personal desires of those who demand the hierarchical structure which seems to have become the norm. th
Notice that the Word of God never gave Aaron the 10 for him to re-distribute to the sons of Levi, as he chose. That would certainly have simplified things, administratively; but humans being what they are, the chance for abuse and misuse would have been catastrophic, as we have seen in some later organizational abuses. Regrettably, those organizational abuses continue to this very day. The ministry suffers and the people suffer. All the while, the work of God languishes. Let’s concentrate upon the plain unvarnished facts. Forget for a moment, if you are able, the many wonderful things a human can buy with money. Forget the big home, the fancy cars, the fine jewelry and all of the sumptuous surroundings a mortal can acquire. In Luke 12, Jesus of Nazareth lays out for our study, the tale of a man who had so much wealth, he needed to construct more space in which to store his stuff. Jesus plainly shows us the folly of being rich toward ourselves and not rich toward God. Vs. 21. Luke 12:17-21 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Yes brethren, feathering his nest for a life of ease, left our rich man unable to acquire the things that will last forever. The work of God does not contain a career path. It is instead, a lifetime of servant leadership which puts the Father and Jesus of Nazareth at the very pinnacle of our Christian lives. There are certain facts which can be easily proven: Some Incontrovertible Facts All enduring blessings come from God. When we obey God He blesses us. We can only obey God, if we know what He wants and expects of us. We learn what God wants when we are taught through His Word. We learn through the preaching of faithful ministers. If you study the Scriptures, I believe you will see the difference between true shepherds, and hirelings. The Apostle Paul put it succinctly in Romans, where he Quotes Isa 52:7, when he speaks of the beautiful feet of God’s true ministers. Rom 10:14-17 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
A House-Built Upon Sand It should be evident that Paul was not speaking of physical feet. Rather, he was speaking of a true servant of the gospel, who would be willing to travel long distances in order to faithfully preach the gospel, It must be truly regrettable in the eyes of God, when those who are supposed to be delivering the Gospel of peace, instead deliver a Gospel of division. Thus it will always be, as long as we fail to follow God’s way of doing things. God’s ways are the only ways that work. Therefore, when we read Num. 18 please notice the beautiful simplicity of the manner in which the financial structure of the church and the nation was supposed to operate. Once we see the manner of operation, we can then see the practical application of the law of tithing. I have to warn you in advance, it is not a complicated scheme. It is simple enough for the least educated Israelite to observe and to learn. Aaron was to teach the Laws and instructions which came from God. The Levites were to faithfully teach the ways of God to the nation. When the people obeyed, God blessed them. When the people were blessed, the Levites were amply rewarded by their tithes. Levi gave a tithe of all he received, to Aaron’s family, the High Priesthood, for the administrative and sacrificial job of the Tabernacle Service. All of these blessings were there for the reaping, if only man didn’t lust for things that are unprofitable. Since the creation of man, and the garden of Eden, God has repeatedly offered mankind the blessings which only He can give. In addition to the primary tithing law, there were instructions for first fruits and firstlings, both of which could have had tremendous significance for Israel. These firstfruits help provide the understanding of the spiritual significance of God’s plan of human salvation and redemption. It would take a lot more explanation to expound on these concepts; but for now, let’s just look at the tithing laws as God gave them. As the above bullet points show, Numbers 18 gives an overview of the basic points of tithing. In verses 20 and 21 God shows us His plan for the tribe of Levi. God determined that He, the eternal God would be Aaron’s inheritance, and that the tithe was to be Levi’s inheritance for the work of the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Num 18:20-21 And the Lord spoke unto Aaron, Thou shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thy inheritance among the children of Israel. 21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. This is fairly straight forward in its’ approach. Furthermore, when Levi received the tenth, he was then to give a tenth of the tithe to Aaron. Num 18:25-28 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, 26 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord,
A House-Built Upon Sand even a tenth part of the tithe. 27 And this, your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the Lord of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord's heave offering to Aaron the priest. We see in the book of Heb. 6:20 the writer states that Jesus has been made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The office of the high priest was one that was to last the lifetime of the high priest. Jesus of Nazareth, being immortal, will retain that office into the foreseeable future. Hebrews 7:117 we see this new priesthood was intended to replace the Levites. Some students of the Bible will accept the fact that Jesus of Nazareth and his ministry, are in fact the replacements for the entire Levitical priesthood. Others fail to see the connection, and they are looking for a different interpretation of the Scriptures. My personal tendency is to accept the Levitical priesthood as being replaced by the Melchizedek priesthood. Otherwise, we would have to believe that we are still under Levitical priesthood, and I see no scriptural reason to believe that is even possible. Nevertheless, this transfer of responsibility was mentioned by the writer, in the context of receiving the tithes. Heb 7:4-5 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. 5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: Without going into great detail on the possible genealogy of Melchisedec, suffice it to say, there is no change in the method of the distribution of God’s tithes: from the people, to the local Levites (ministers), to Aaron. Since verses 11 and 12 show very clearly that the priesthood has been changed, we may have to simply wait for Christ to return and tell us what we should call it. That’s the way God said to do it. Today the same translation would probably read: tithe to the local Minister who serves you, he sends 10% to “the work of the corporation” or whoever oversees or coordinates the evangelical efforts of the group. When I think back on the past 45 years, most of which we have been tithing to a central headquarters type of structure, I can only imagine what would be, if we had been doing things God’s way. As we saw in Jesus time, today there would be local church halls, where the brethren could meet with their fellow Christians; from where they could let their light shine in their community. They wouldn’t be renting the local Moose club or Lodge; they would have their own building. Places where their children could grow up, become baptized, and married; and from which their grandparents would be buried. We would have a church home where we could serve our community as local need arose, free from the infiltrators who might try to sneak in and run off with the church assets. Haven’t we seen this type of behavior in our recent past? Haven’t we seen wolves enter in and consume the widows’ mites and the children’s inheritance? Why then do we continue to do the same things over and over? Brethren in Christ: there is only one way in life that works: and that way is God’s way. If we don’t learn to do things God’s way, we are doomed to repeat past failures: over and over again. Regrettably, many in the ministry have never learned the lessons of the past; although some have. We should not blame those
A House-Built Upon Sand who have been indoctrinated in an incorrect system. Some of the local churches are beginning to see that they need to be building upon the Rock and not upon the sand. If we build upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, we will see measurable growth within the local congregations. We will experience the great blessings which God wants His church to experience. We will experience the power of God’s Holy Spirit moving in our lives. We will see the fruits of God’s Spirit manifested in the things we do to serve God and His people; and not just those people within our local congregation. We will also see more tests, more trials, and more tribulation. The important thing is that all of the glory will go to the Father and Jesus Christ his Son Matt 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. The works we are able to perform are, quite often, not the works we would anticipate doing. Scripture shows us that there are works for which we have been prepared. Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. NKJV We may not realize at the time, that God might be using us to do His works of righteousness. God’s plan for His human family goes beyond mere human understanding. He is the potter, we are the clay- we are being molded by the Father to perform the works which He wants done. This preparation is a seven day a week learning experience. We won’t understand it completely until it happens. 1 Cor 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
The question remains therefore, do we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again? Do we then, build on the Rock or do we build on the sand? The Choice is ours. If we continue to build on a church model that is being disproven over and over again, we are like the person that Jesus spoke about: Matt 7:26-27 And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. There can be no foundation other than the foundation of the word of God. Eph 2:19-2219 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
A House-Built Upon Sand Brethren, we have a solid Rock upon which to build if we will only wake up and build. That’s up to us isn’t it? Will we be builders or enablers?