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Following in the Same Direction . . .
02/04/2007
Scripture: Luke 6:46-49
Track 5 of 12 in the A Transforming Church . . . Lives By Transforming Values series
Running time: 32 minutes, 19 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Foundations"

On June 2, 2005, Good Morning America's lead story was Soledad O'Brien's report on the landslide on Laguna Beach, California. The day before, 18 homes were destroyed and 20 others damaged when the land gave way and the homes slid into Bluebird Canyon.

An American Digest article contained the following line: "Plenty of dirt and sand to build on and no rock." And one wonders why California insurance companies refuse to provide "landslide coverage."

Those of us on solid, flat, mid-west soil can't help but wonder how people could be so foolish. "Erect a million dollar home on a hillside without the benefit of a rock base? Who would build a home on such an unstable, unsuitable foundation?"

We all would. Oh, we probably wouldn't erect our physical dwelling there . . . we're much too wise for that. But what about this house we call life? Upon what foundation are we basing our life choices? The solid rock of "I hope..."; "He loves me..."; "The lottery is over..."; "This slot always pays..."; "My ship will come in..."; "I don't need the church..."; "We don't need counseling..."; I feel like..."?

Being a disciple may not be easy, but it is wise. Following Jesus may be challenging and sometimes downright hard. But at least we know we can count on Him. He is not unsuitable, shifting soil. He is steadfast, solid, secure.

Life has a way of throwing storms at us. Life rains grief, sorrow, anger, pain, discomfort, disagreement, dissatisfaction. When those rains fall, our "house" takes a beating. Why do some houses withstand the storm and others do not? It's because of the foundation on which they're built.

Jesus teaches us that a house built on Him will stand. A life built on anything else will fail. The wise choose to build their life on Him.

We're all in the process of building the house we call life. We're determining what kinds of things it's made of. And most importantly, we're deciding what kind of a foundation it is built on. A number of you have been making very good choices; at least choices that we think are important around here. There are about eighty of you ladies who are meeting regularly in women's Bible studies. There are another ninety or so people who meet regularly in Bridge communities during the week. About forty percent or so of the adults who attend worship here are involved in some kind of discipleship class Sunday mornings. We send out literally dozens of CD's every week, for people who desire either to hear the message and the worship service again or they feel like they want to share it with someone else or they missed it and so they're picking up last week's because they want to make sure that they stay along this discipleship process. We don't have any idea how many pod casts actually go out, but you can go to the website, you can go to any of the sermons that we've had in the last two or three years, and those are retrieved and listened to from around the world. You can stay up with discipleship if you choose. We have devotional guides for you every week for you in your bulletin and there are others out there that you can choose as a reading guide that people are doing something in the way of trying to build a foundation.

But I'd have to be the first to tell you that those positive signs of attempts at discipleship don't necessarily mean that we are achieving discipleship. What it means is that a lot of people are positioning themselves to become disciples; they're at least putting themselves in a place where the right things can happen, where they can receive the right information upon which to build their lives. They're getting input that is important, but just simply attending a class, listening to a sermon, even reading your Bible does not of necessity mean that discipleship is occurring in your life. So I find myself regularly asking, how in the world would we know if we were being successful? I mean, those are good things to look at, I like the fact that we have anywhere from twenty-five to forty or fifty men who come out for a Saturday morning breakfast, I think that's a positive kind of sign of things that are going well, but how do you know that we have actually begun to experience transformation? That is the core value of our congregation that we believe in discipleship that leads to transformation of character. It's not just about how many people we can put in the right place, it's about whether or not something changes in people's lives to help them become more Christ-like in their life. So how would we know?

Well, I think one of the ways that we know is anecdotally. That, to me, is one of the better ways of finding out whether or not anything is actually happening, is that you have a chance to listen to people tell their own stories as to the kinds of things that are changing in their life. Or the kinds of things that are not changing in their life, as the case may be. I was coming out of Lincoln Thursday with Brent on our way home, and some yo-yo pulled out in front of my in the traffic, and I had honked my horn before I even realized that I had done it, and I found myself sitting there thinking, "Where did that come from? I haven't honked my horn at somebody for a long time." I would tell you that he deserved it. But that would be pure justification and rationalization on my part, because he did deserve it, I just didn't need to do it. There are anecdotes; I hear them all the time. I wish you heard some of the anecdotes that I hear. I don't know how many of you have decided that during January, February, March, maybe on into the rest of the year you're going to do the "Try a Tithe" kind of thing. I've had people walk up to me and tell me they've decided that they're going to work hard at giving God a chance to demonstrate His faithfulness to them. And they're telling me stories of how God has worked in their life, and it's a remarkable thing to see that happen in people. You heard a bit about that last week, when the Seniors shared their own little story. I hear about young people just seem to be behaving better, they seem to be obeying their parents in a way that they might not otherwise have, and I think that's an anecdote, it's a story of life transformation. I hear about people who are doing better at working at work. I mean that in two senses, one, they're just doing better. They're working harder just because they believe disciples should, but they're also doing their best to become witnesses at work. That was what our Power Lunch was about this last Friday. To hear about men who were doing their best to try to stand for Christ in a difficult workplace. Those kind of anecdotes let me know that at least in some way we're making some progress in this process we call discipleship, transforming the character of people.

I find myself still asking how would we know that that was happening, and I want to come to the text that we're going to use this morning, in Luke chapter six. It's the end, if you will, of Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount. Most people call it the Sermon on the Plains since he's not on a mountainside in Luke; he seems to be down in flat land. It's a bit different than Matthew's version and yet it contains many of the same things, the final story, however in both of them are the same. They're not word-for-word the same but the message is the same. Luke chapter six verse forty-six. One of the things that you're going to see when we read this text here in just a few minutes is that the fundamental mark of obedience, of discipleship, is obedience to the Word. That what Jesus seems to say, after having given a series of lifestyle lessons is to say that if you really want to be My disciple, if you really want to demonstrate that your life is changing, it's being transformed, the way you're gonna to know that you're building the right house is that you're building a house of obedience. And that's going to produce some kind of transformation in your life. This is one of those tensions that we live with here all the time. Because I find myself with some regularity saying things like, "This is not about being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing." I don't want you to think that we don't want you here, doing the right thing in the right place, but if that's all you're measuring, is just that I'm Sunday morning, and it doesn't' matter how cold the weather is, and I'm here, that's a good thing but it's not the only thing. So you can be doing the right thing but still not be following what it is that God is calling for you to do in your life. It's not even a matter of being disobedient to some passage of Scripture; particularly it can simply mean that you're not following the leader in a genuine sense of the word. I have the privilege of having a fellow that we call "Fitz" in one of my classes at school. He is the dorm dad at one of our boys' dorms. I just want to read you a bit of his story. He shared it with me this last week.

He says, "I came to Christ at the close of my junior year in high school, but I struggled to allow God to control my life until my sophomore year in college. At that time I got plugged into campus ministry and then my faith really blossomed. During my sophomore year, the guys who mentored me really helped me invest my time in an examination into the lordship of Christ, through which I radically changed my direction and focus. My plan after college was to teach high school social studies as a tent-making ministry while I volunteered time in a campus ministry. But we ended up in Henry, about an hour from the nearest college. We became content with our location and our situation and we became comfortable in our setting. I was the FCA huddle coach for the school, I was adopted as the town youth minister, we were involved in Kingdom service, we had a growing ministry, I was an elder at the church, and God was at work. And yet, there was a nagging sense that we were in the wrong place. As my FCA students began graduating, I'd check on them at college, and even find times and ways to visit them. I would continually talk to Jen," that's his wife, "about campus ministry, but also my love for the local church. Then during a chat with one my best friends and colleagues at the school, I expressed my discontent with what I was doing. I shared with him that I felt that I was running from a call. It was weird to think that I could be as involved as I was in ministry and Kingdom work but still not be in the right place. I realized that it was possible that when Jonah left for Tarshish, he could have easily justified his disobedience as a mission to a different area. I wondered if I was doing the same thing. During that school year my discontent grew and as Jen and I talked, we admitted our longing to work with lost college students. And I recognized my want and need of equipping in seminary. We began praying about it and what it might look like. I tentatively developed a plan and a timeline; I was going to teach for four more years or so, while we saved money to help cover the expenses of seminary life. Then a month later we got a call informing us of the opening in the dorm. It was in November and they weren't posting the job until January but I still called. We wrestled with the possibilities and then the afternoon I returned home from the elders and church leaders retreat in February, I shared with Jen that I'd felt pulled to go to Lincoln in the Fall, regardless of whether we got the job or not. I was scared to tell her, because we had just found out that we were pregnant, and that was gonna change our lives dramatically. Plus, it would require a lot of faith and dependency on God to provide. But as I shared it with Jen, she began crying, because she prayed that morning, and had arrived at exactly the same vision. I resigned from teaching a few days before we found out we had the job, and then we were able to sell our house a week. We'd committed to selling it by owner, we'd committed to fulfilling our faith pledge to the church, even though we knew we were going to be changing our membership. We prayed in faith for the house to sell quickly, that we might be able to give more generously to the church and other areas which we would not be able to support after our move. God provided a buyer at our asking price in a week. And though we were moving to a substantially lower income, we wrote the check to the church in faith that God would provide for our needs, and in recognition that our pledge was initially based on faith, not on condition of how much we had. We wanted that to be an area that we diligently and faithfully submitted to the lordship of Christ and the process of following His call."

I want you to hear that language about following. I want you to think about that lordship issue when we read this text in Luke chapter six. Here's Jesus' statement, Luke chapter six verse forty-six: "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He's like a man building a house who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well-built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

Each of us is building a house. We call it life. We're laying it on some kind of a foundation or the lack thereof. This text talks about two different possibilities. Of what that life experience might be like, depending on where we build our house. I wanna show you just a brief footage of somebody who built their house on a place where maybe they should've thought twice before they did it.

Footage from a newscast is shown:
"…California. A torrential rainstorm pounds the city, causing a century-old sewer pipe to burst in the middle of the night. The gushing water has created a mammoth sinkhole and left a three-story home hanging precariously over the edge. During the night, the rain lets up. But the damage has already been done. Large sections of the house begin to break away. The next morning, the giant crater spreads. Residents of nearby homes were ordered to evacuate. They raced to save their belongings, not knowing if they ever be able to return home again. Suddenly, the ground begins to shift. And then, all hell breaks loose. (Sounds of crashing down.) In a matter of seconds, the house tumbles and collapses into the hole." (More crashing sounds.)

I suspect none of you have been a position where all hell broke loose in your life, right? And the question was whether or not you were going to stand up against it. And the answer to that question was determined by where you built your house. On what kind of a foundation you had laid your life. On whether or not you had dug down into the bedrock and put it on something firm. Or whether in act of foolishness, you had made a decision to build a house on a foundation-less place. You can rest assured that some things are gonna be true. Storms are going to come. There's not a person in this room who hasn't or won't face real difficulty in life. That is without question. If it hasn't happened yet, ask somebody a bit older than you because they'll let you know, life can be really hard. And the question about whether or not you can stand is found in this text, based on what you decide to build your life on. It's such a clear statement, isn't it? You've got two fundamental options. You can build your house out here on the ground without worrying about the foundation, because at that particular moment in time it looks plenty firm. Or you can do the hard work of digging down past the soil into the hard bedrock. And you can only imagine those of us who live in the twenty-first century what it must've been like to have lived in the first century without the advantage of power-tools and dynamite. And think about hitting bedrock and having to dig down into that rock to create a place to put a foundation so that you knew that the house that you were building would in fact stand. Those are the options that you get. You either put it on something solid, or put it on sand. And you have two guarantees in this text. The guarantee that if you build your house on rock, if you build your house on obedience; you will stand. Your house will not be shaken. It will not collapse around you. But it is just as sure that if you have built your house on the wrong spot, if you have built your life on something false, if you have not dug down into the deep bedrock of Scripture and been obedient to following Jesus, you will just as surely collapse, as that house in California did. Your life will tumble. Storms will come. People prepare for that. One of my favorite structures in the Midwest at least is the St. Louis Arch. I suppose you've been there, six-hundred and thirty feet in the air, looking out those little eighteen-inch windows. They tell me that that thing will sway eighteen inches off center in either direction. It takes a hundred and fifty mile-an-hour winds for that to happen. I'm opting that if the wind is blowing that hard, I'm not going up there to find out. But the reason that that works is because the foundation of the Arch is sixty feet into the ground, buried thirty feet into deep bedrock. There are two-hundred and fifty-two tension rods that are an inch and a quarter in diameter that bury themselves down thirty-four feet into the ground, down in that bedrock to make sure that that thing doesn't fall. And the question that I'm raising this morning is really a very simple question. Are you preparing yourself for the inevitability that storms are gonna hit your life? Are you building your life on something that matters that will last?

I have to confess to you that I'm always surprised at what seems to me, at least, to be only logical kinds of conclusions. I recognize that when somebody else does something really foolish-looking in your eyes, it's because, well, because you think you know better. They're probably looking at you saying the same thing about some other area of your life and thinking you're just as foolish as they. But just out of life experience, one of the questions that I get regularly is about marathon-training. For those of you unfamiliar with such an event, a marathon is twenty-six point two miles. Please don't forget the point two, those are the hardest part. They put them at the end, rather than the beginning. And there are lots of training programs for how to get yourself from nothing to the place that you can run twenty-six miles and two-tenths. And many of them tell you to run your longest run out to twenty miles, and you'll be fine. Now, I'm not a brain surgeon, and I'm not wanting to argue with the guys that write the programs, because they're far better runners than I am, maybe that's the problem. They are really good runners, and so for them to train up to twenty miles and then run six more is a piece of cake. But for a guy who struggles to run six miles at a time, an extra six seems like a long ways to me. So the training run that I have fallen into as a pattern is to increase by two miles a week, eighteen, twenty, twenty-two, twenty-four. And then about two weeks later, go run the marathon when the next natural step is to be up to twenty-six. Because inevitably, those of you who run know that when you get to the last place that you train to, that's when your body says, "Okay! That's as much as I'm used to, I'm done now." You can force another couple of miles out. I can't force six. I look at that pattern and I say to myself, "Wouldn't that be a bit like life?" That if I prepare myself for certain inevitabilities that the better prepared I am, the closer I am to getting to a place that is similar to what might be coming, I'm more able to be able to handle when it hits. If I build my life on the assumption that bad things are probably not going to happen, chances are when they do, I'm gonna be in trouble. But if I build my life on a consistent pattern of being obedient to Christ whenever he speaks, then when life gets hard, I stand a much better chance of being able to get that last couple of miles in without failure.

What I'm suggesting to you is that I think that each one of us has to make a decision whether or not we're going to obey or disobey whenever Christ speaks. Here's the text and what it says. "Those who obey are like men who build their houses on bedrock. Those who disobey are like those who build them on sand." So it's a simple decision. Not a simple process, a simple decision. Am I gonna build my house in the right place? Am I or am I not gonna be obedient to Christ? And I'm really calling for you to make some kind of a, just a simple strategy in your life. And I'm just gonna enumerate five things that I think would be good for you to do. You can dismiss them all if you choose, as totally impractical. The first, being the most important. And that is determine today that you're gonna become obedient to everything Jesus says. Even when you're not sure you understand it, even when you're not sure that it makes good sense to you, to have enough confidence in Christ that you will simply do what He says. It's an attitude that we see portrayed in Jesus' life. We see it particularly in Luke twenty-two when we're in the Garden of Gethsemane and all hell is breaking loose around Jesus as He faces the cross. Do you remember what He says? "I don't wanna go there, but not my will, but yours." See, that's the intention. And that's where it all has to start. The first thing a person has to do is intend to be faithful to Christ. To intend to be obedient when you read Scripture or you hear it presented. To have already made up your mind what the response is going to be. It's not going to be, "Well, I don't particularly like that one," but rather, "Whatever he says, I'm willing to do."

The second step then, is to simply create a strategy of how to get that Scripture into your life, and since I belabored that a great deal last week, I'll only remind you just quickly of ways around here, at least, that you could do that. To sit down, and to go through the Peace Treaty that talks about a covenant relationship with God. That would be one step for you to take. If you've not done that, I would encourage you to do that. If you've done it, I would encourage you to do it again, just as a fresh reminder of the relationship that is created in Christ because of his covenant association with us. To get involved in a Bridge Community during the middle of the week. To be a part of a discipleship class. To recognize that in your life you may need some personal counsel and to either take advantage of the counseling service that we have, or the Christian leaders that we have here who could sit down and simply answer your questions. To make sure that you have some kind of a pattern of personal study, devotional reading, or a weekly time that you spend in the Word, but somehow you studying what Jesus does and says to you personally.

I wanna suggest a third step in this process and that is what I would call practice. Just practice. I'm fascinated by a little text that's tucked away, the last verse of the fifth chapter of the book of Hebrews, where it says, "By virtue of practice, we learn how to discern between right and wrong." I think it's just important for you to practice this decision-making. And if you're a parent, I hope you're teaching your children how to practice making good decisions. It does not come naturally to make good choices. To be able to discern what it is that is out there. Five-thirty this afternoon, they will start pre-game stuff for this thing we call "Super-Bowl." Some of you will be watching it, I have no doubt. And the…well, I got the strangest answer this morning. I was following two of our teenagers down the hallway over toward the Annex, and I said, "Who are you rooting for?" Well, they looked at each other, and they looked at me, and they said, "Well, we don't really, care, how bout the half-time show?" You know, some people will sit down today to watch the Super-Bowl for one reason only, and that is to see the new ads. It has become a phenomenon in our country, what ad is going to come out during the Super-Bowl. Can I just make a suggestion? Not to ruin your day, but have you ever tried to figure out what they're trying to sell you? And how they're going about getting into your desire system? Because all an ad is an attempt to tell you you need something you haven't figured out you need yet. How are they doing that? See, the practice of discerning how people get to us is a valuable experience because life presents constant impact on us. Thirty-five hundred advertisements a day, and our children need to know how to discern differences. And we need to know how to make right decisions. So we practice making good choices.

The fourth thing in my strategy, or my suggestion to you is this very simple, don't try to do it yourself. Just don't try to do it yourself. Life is hard. And trying to live it alone is tough. And we need help. Sometimes we need professional help, most of the time we just need good friends around us who are willing to walk the journey with us; someone that we can turn to, someone that can confide in, someone that we can rely on, who will help us in the process. Don't try to do this by yourself.

And the fifth thing is, share the story. There's something of immense value when you see what God's doing in your life, of you telling the rest of us what that's about. It just solidifies it for us. It helps us know that other people are in the journey. It helps you understand what God is doing in your life. It helps us be encouraged to know that God is alive and well and active. ‘Cuz you see, all of us, all of us, it doesn't matter who we are, all of us are building some kind of a house. We call it life. And in that house we call life, we're impacting neighbors, and we're influencing children and grandchildren, and we're making a difference in the world. But the question is what kind of a house are we gonna build? At Madison Park we value discipleship that leads to transformation of character. We value building a life that matters. That makes a difference when the times are hard. And I think what this text teaches us is a very simple lesson, not too terribly difficult for any of us. And that is, that obedience produces that kind of transformation. It's just that simple. Your decision to be an obedient person.

Two weeks ago, we talked about worship under no matter what the circumstances, in fact letting life drive us to worship. Last week we talked about the fact that we value Scripture as a word from God and the encouragement was to get Scripture into you and get yourself into Scripture. And the morning what we're asking you to think about is whether or not once you encounter that Scripture, whether you're gonna do anything about it. Are you gonna listen to it? Are you gonna respond to it and obey it? Because it's in the obedience that you dig the foundation. It's in the obedience that you lay the thing down here on solid rock. I have a book on my shelf, finally, I'm starting the cart them over here from Lincoln and get them put away. It's called "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction." It's by Eugene Peterson. The title alone is worth the cost of the book. A long obedience in the same direction, that's discipleship my friends. That's exactly what discipleship is, it's a long obedience in the same direction. It's having set your heart on the life of Jesus and determined that you're gonna follow Him no matter what, and you that you just keep doing it day after day after day. And that is it, you know. It's just a decision that you're gonna keep doing it, over the long haul. You're gonna obey Him. And you know, down in your…down in your very core, that that journey of a long obedience starts with the first step; when you say yes to Christ. When you decide that you're gonna be obedient to Jesus in your life and you take the first step in the right direction. And so we invite you to trust Him, to obey Him, to walk with Him over the long haul, and to let us help you. That's why we're here. To try to aid you in the journey of building a life on a foundation that'll last no matter what life brings. And if we can help you this morning, we wanna do that. If you've never identified Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life, then we invite you to come and start that process. If you know where you are in the journey and you know the very next thing you need to do is to confess your faith before men and be baptized into Christ so that you can identify with Him, we're ready to take care of that this morning, all you gotta do is just let us know. If you're at one of those places in your life when it has been hard and you're just not sure that you're up to the task, and you need somebody to come along side you and pray with you this morning, then while we're singing, you just come up here and one of our elders or somebody else will come up here and take you by the hand and pray with you, so that you can make this journey successful. Let's stand, let's sing. Make this your decision-time, to start this journey in the right direction.

[Transcribed by MM15]