Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Creating is in our DNA. It is built into us. God created the world and everything in it, including you and I — humans. We are created in His image — Male and Female alike. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Just a little bit later you read:

” …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26–27)

As those who are made in God’s image, we are gifted towards creating. Some of us are more gifted than others, but we are all designed to create.

Not only is creating built into us, but we are tasked to create by God.

In Genesis 2:15 we read:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Ge 2:15)

To “work it” carries the meaning, the idea, of creating, of making. To take the raw materials of the garden and work it to make something glorious. Creating itself is not a bad thing. It’s more of a neutral thing. It is the why and what we create that matters.

Not only does man create in order to make a name for themselves, but man also creates in order to make gods for themselves.

Idolatry is one of the oldest forms of rebellion.

Since the beginning, man has been fashioning gods in their own image. But God abhors idolatry. We know because in the first and second commandments of the 10 commandments God says,

““You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Ex 20:3–4)

God abhors idolatry!

Idols never provide us with that which we desire. Israel learned this through the prophets. One was Habakkuk, who asks:

““What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it”” (Hab 2:18–19)

Other prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, join with Habakkuk in condemning and pointing out the futility of creating and worshipping idols. But man continues to do it. Even those in Jesus’ day continued to manufacture idols.

More crooked than creating an idol from wood, hay, or straw was their desire to create Jesus in their own making.

We have a tendency to try to make Jesus into who we want Him to be.

Instead of believing and accepting Jesus’ message with joy, The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

The religious seek to make Him into:

  • A rigid and hard figure whom we must work for in order to earn or keep our salvation.

The irreligious seek to make Jesus into:

  • A “woke Savior” or what you might refer to as “Hippie Jesus”. He would never say anything that hurts anyone’s feelings. No trigger words or actions come from Jesus. He is fully welcoming. Accepting everyone and anyone into the family no matter what they believe.
  • Or Jesus is made into: “A meek and mild figure”. One who doesn’t judge anyone. Hell is not a reality, except for the really bad people like Hitler. Everyone else is going to heaven. No one will suffer or experience judgment.
  • Still others seek to make Jesus into what I like to refer to as: “Genie in the bottle Jesus” He will give you whatever you want. Whatever your heart desires Jesus will provide. All you have to do is say the right thing and have enough faith and you can have whatever your heart desires.

The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

Jesus doesn’t accept our image of Him. He is not an idol.

Jesus is not someone we can fashion and form any way that we like. He is not someone we can make in our own image. That is not who Jesus is. Instead, Jesus is the God sent Savior of the world.

Instead of becoming who we want Him to become, Jesus is who we need Him to be — a gracious God who calls us to repent of our sins and trust in His sacrifice on our behalf.

Idols can’t provide us salvation. They can’t provide us release from the bondage of sin, Satan and death. Idol’s can’t change us. Idols are what we make them to be.

If we make them, that means we make them in our image.

How do we know if we have made Jesus in our image?

I don’t know about you but I don’t make things that cause me to change. I make things that support me for who I am so that I can be who I want to be. That is how you know if you are worshipping an idol of Jesus or the true Jesus. The Jesus we make doesn’t disagree with us. He doesn’t hold us accountable because there is nothing we need to be held accountable for. We are good. We have it together. The Jesus of our own making affirms who we are. But that is not the real Jesus.

The real Jesus calls us to repentance.

He knows we are sinners who have rebelled against Him. He calls us to turn from our rebellion to follow Him.

The real Jesus also calls us to believe the joyous message of the gospel.

He offers us forgiveness, salvation, and a different way of life that reflects God’s wisdom.

That is who the real Jesus is. He is the God-sent Savior. He is not an idol. He is not someone we have fashioned. Instead, He is someone in whom we should find hope and salvation.

Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Why do those who seem to be Christians walk away from the faith?

Counterfeit spirituality can look a lot like true biblical conversion. A counterfeit Christian can show signs of the real thing in their life. They might present like someone who is on fire for Jesus, whose life is changing and turning around. They might praise the Lord, tell others about Him, pray to Him, and come to worship service. At times, they might even make their way into church leadership. But then something happens and you never see them again. I know we have all experienced it. We have all sat next to someone. We have all known someone who seemed like a true convert only to fall away.

When someone walk away, we are left wondering — what just happened? We might have been so sure Jesus had changed their life. We might have even been mentoring and discipling them. But the next thing we know, they aren’t walking with the Lord anymore.

When someone who seemed like a true believer falls away how do we make sense of it?

Why do those who seem to be a part of the family walk out on the family?

Jesus’ parable of the four soils helps us process why those who seem to be believers walk away.

Look at what Jesus says,

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”” (Mt 13:1–9)

Instead of going with His family (Matt 12:49-50), Jesus leaves the house where He was ministering and goes to the sea. The crowd that followed Him was so large, he had to get in a boat to address them.

Jesus tells the crowd a story every farmer and resident of the area would understand. Farmers back then didn’t have the equipment like farmers do today. Most likely this man had a bag with seed in it. In order to plant his crop, he would have to walk around his field sowing it by hand. As the farmer walked around his field sowing the seed, he ended up sowing in 4 different types of soil — the path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil.

The Seed

In the Parable, the seed represents the gospel. Jesus sows the gospel message. The gospel is referred to here as the “word of the kingdom.”

The good news is that a king has come who will setup another kingdom. A kingdom that is unlike any kingdom in this world. There is no death, disease, injustice, heartache. No sin at all. It is a perfect kingdom. But only those who are perfect can enter the kingdom. The problem is we aren’t perfect people. We are sinners who have rebelled against the King. We are barred from entering the kingdom.

But Jesus has come on our behalf to make a way for us to enter the kingdom. He does so by paying our debt. The wages of sin is death. He dies in our place. All those who believe in Him, His death is our death, and His righteousness is our righteousness. In that way we are able to enter His perfect kingdom.

A kingdom that had come in part when Jesus arrived. One that is breaking into the world now as we live out the kingdom’s ethics. One that will finally and fully come when Jesus returns in the future.

That is the good news, that is the seed Jesus is sowing. If you notice, Jesus sows the gospel message indiscriminately to the crowds who follow Him and listen to His teaching. Some reject His teaching. Some accept it. Others accept it for a while then walk away.

The parables teaches us that there are four responses to the gospel. The response has to do with the people’s heart. The heart represents the soil in which the seed, the gospel message is sown. The message is the same but the soil is different.

Let’s look again at the different types of soil with that in mind and discover why some who seem to be believers end up walking away from the faith.

(1) The Impenetrable Heart

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” (Mt 13:19)

Again, everyone hears the gospel — that Jesus’ kingdom has come, a kingdom that is drastically different than the kingdoms of this world. A kingdom we can only enter by believing that Jesus is the Messiah who paid the penalty for our sin in order to restore our relationship with the King.

The people who represent the path hear the gospel. Jesus tells us it is not a hearing issue, it is an understanding issue. They hear but they don’t understand.

The reason they don’t understand has nothing to do with a language barrier, or a cultural barrier. The people they hear what Jesus is saying. They hear Him, but they don’t understand His teaching regarding the kingdom. They don’t understand, they don’t grasp that the Messiah has come. That what they see in front of them and who they are hearing from is the Messiah for which they have been waiting. Since they don’t grasp who Jesus is they reject His message. Their heart is as hard as a path that has been trampled by 1000 footsteps. Their heart is impenetrable.

The heart, if you remember, represents our intellect, our emotions, our will. They refuse to allow the gospel message to penetrate their heart so that it affects how they think, feel, and act. They hear what Jesus says, but they flat out reject it. Their heart is hardened to the gospel message.

This represents both religious and secular society today. They have an idea of who the Messiah should be; what salvation looks like. Just think of any gospel today. One of the more popular ones is that we are to be mindful. That we are able to control our emotions and thoughts. That we are able to calm ourselves through meditation breaks throughout the day.

There certainly benefit to taking breaks from stressful situations, allowing ourselves to calm down. But often times the way this occurs is through self motivation and self talk. It is does not occur through believing and trusting in God to be your provider, or that you are accepted in Christ and you don’t need the acceptance of the world. Those who believe a secular gospel or any other gospel besides the biblical gospel, they hear the gospel but they reject it because it doesn’t look like their gospel and their heart is hardened to any form of correction.

Their heart is hardened because of what we learn in verses 10-17. These verses provide a lot of guidance when looking at Jesus’ explanation of the parable. There is a reason this teaching is sandwiched in between the parable told to the crowd and the explanation given to the disciples. We can’t gloss over its teaching. We have to let it inform our understanding of the parable.

In verse 10, Jesus’ disciples ask why He speaks in parables. The implied idea is that parables aren’t easy for everyone to understand. Wouldn’t a straight forward teaching be more beneficial?

Look at Jesus’ response in verse 11:

And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

There is that word “understand” again. The same word that appears down in verse 19 — “they hear but they don’t understand

Jesus tells the disciples that they have been given the ability “to know” the secrets of the kingdom. But the ability “to know…the secrets of the kingdom of heaven…has not been given” to them. The Father has given it the disciples, but He hasn’t given it to those who don’t follow Jesus.

To know”, which is ginosko in the Greek, it means to come to an understanding, to perceive, to comprehend. To know what? To know the “secrets of the kingdom”.

When we think of the word secret, we often think of it as something that is hidden that others are trying to find. Some people are able to discover another’s secret because they looked hard enough. Think about an investigative journalist, they are able to uncover the secret life of a high profile celebrity because they looked, they dug hard enough.

While that might be how we often think of that word. The way it is being used here is different.

The “secrets of the kingdom” do not represent that which others sought to uncover but were not able to uncover. They represent those things that were hidden, that were unmanifested. They are those things that remain hidden until God reveals them.God is the only one who knows them. God is the only One who is able to reveal them.

The “secrets of the kingdom” is that Jesus, very God and sole Son of the Father, has come to earth to bring the Kingdom in an upside down way — not through force, but through Sacrifice. To show that He is bringing the kingdom, He has been teaching and performing many mighty deeds that testify to Him as the Messiah.

But those whose hearts are represented by the impenetrable soil reject Jesus. That is because they haven’t been given the ability “to know” to understand the “secrets of the kingdom.”

Even though they see Jesus’ work, they hear Jesus’ message, they refuse to believe. As we see in verse 15,

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

Because they don’t understand, they reject Jesus’ message of salvation. As a result they dull their hearts, they close their ears and eyes to Jesus’ message. Instead of turning to Jesus and experiencing healing, they turn from Him. Because the gospel message sits on the surface of their impenetrable heart, Satan, who is the deceiver, is able to come and continue his deceptive work in their life.

That’s the first soil. They are absolutely closed off to the gospel because God hasn’t softened their heart and they turn from Jesus hardening their hearts even more to the true gospel, which results in Satan continuing his deceptive work in their life.

(2) The Emotional Heart

Look what Jesus tells us about them — verses 20-21:

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Mt 13:20–21)

Whereas the first soil was absolutely impenetrable, the gospel is able to work its way into the heart of the second soil, but only at an emotional level. These people hear the gospel, the good news about the kingdom, they get all excited. Somehow, someway the message has tugged at their emotions. In the moment, they have a feeling, an emotional response to the message. Maybe it was at Youth Camp, a Revival, or a particular message one Sunday touched them. Because of what they are feeling, they respond. They respond in a positive way.

But the problem is — there is not much depth. There is not really a desire to grow in their understanding of God’s Word, nor to be obedient to it.  It is all about the emotions. It is all about the feeling. It is all about the experience to them. The positive vibes Christianity brings. These are those people who are always chasing that spiritual high.

As long as the feeling, the spiritual high is there, they are with Jesus. But nothing kills a spiritual high like tribulation and suffering that is related to belief in Jesus. When persecution comes, the spiritual high, the emotional feeling one gets about Jesus, disappears. Because the mind and the will were not engaged, they end up falling away from the faith. It is no longer worth it, beneficial for them to follow Jesus. Their safety, their status in the community is more important than being a part of Jesus’ family and entering His kingdom. They choose the temporal over the eternal.

This is why it is important we aren’t just after emotionalism, but that we truly dive into God’s Word. That we purposefully seek to develop an understanding of who God is, who we are, what we can expect from the world. Feelings fade fast when you are being attacked. That attack doesn’t have to be much. It could simple be the way people look at you when you talk about finding Jesus. Or maybe your friends not wanting to hang out with you anymore because you claim to be a Christian. These attacks don’t have to be physical. Your life doesn’t have to be threatened in order for the spiritual high to fade and for you to walk away from Christ.

That’s the second soil. It is all about the Spiritual high, the feelings. When the feelings fade because of persecution and suffering, they walk away.

(3) The Idolatrous Heart

Look at what Jesus reveals about this soil in verse 22:

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mt 13:22)

This group doesn’t outright reject the gospel. They aren’t all about the feelings, getting caught up in the emotions of it all. That’s not to say that the gospel, that worship doesn’t affect their emotions. It certainly does. But there is some depth to this group. They know God’s Word. They seem genuine.

But we are told that it is “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches [that] choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” In other words, their idols are more important than Jesus.

As we have talked about in the past, an idol is anything you allow to get between you and Jesus. It can be anything other than Jesus that you believe will provide you with satisfaction, joy, purpose in life, and salvation.

It might be your work — Now, we certainly need to take care of our families. I’m not advocating for you not working. But work might be your idol if it consistently takes you away from regularly gathering with other believers. Or maybe it doesn’t take you away from your regular gathering, but you are not willing to take a stand on anything. You are willing to fudge a bit here and there. Operate in the gray or outright break the law in order to get ahead.

Maybe your recreation is an idol — You find yourself on the golf course, the lake or the hunting stand more than in the pew or gathered with others. Or maybe it doesn’t take you away from church, but you know more about the local or national sports team than you do God’s Word.

Maybe money, status, or position is your idol — You are willing to do whatever it takes to gain and keep them even if it means acting contrary to God’s Word.

Those whose hearts are thorny will choose their idol when there is a conflict between the idol and Jesus. They will obey their idol over obedience to Jesus. Whatever it takes to gain and keep that idol, they will do. They will submit to its will over Jesus’.

The result is that these people are unfruitful. They don’t really ever change, they are stagnant. There is no fruit to speak of because all their attention, all their affections, all their time and energy are given to serve the idol instead of Jesus.

If you have been coming to church your entire life, and there is no fruit in your life. There is no peace, patience, joy, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, and love. If these fruits aren’t evident in your life,  if you haven’t grown and are not continually growing in these areas, if you know no more about God’s Word than what you learned in Sunday school as a kid, if you haven’t changed, your life might be characterized by the Thorny Soil.

Eventually when a choice has to be made between Jesus and your idol, you we will walk away from Jesus because you care more about the things of the world than you do spiritual things.

That’s the third soil — the idolatrous heart. Obedience to their idol is prioritized over obedience to Jesus.

(4) The Fertile Heart

We finally get to the one that is the true believer. Look at what Jesus says in verse 23,

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”” (Mt 13:23)

This person doesn’t reject the gospel, instead they believe the gospel. They understand its purpose and implication for their life. If you notice this is the only one Jesus says understands the Word. They are the only ones who allow Jesus’ message to penetrate their heart, to affect their mind, their emotions, and their will.

They are not just in it for intellectual knowledge, to prove they are smarter than someone else. They aren’t the continual debater. Nor are they always after a certain feeling, an emotional, a spiritual high. They don’t obey the wishes of an idol. Living according to an idols will instead of the Father’s.

Instead they are wholly engaged — mind, emotions, and will. They are always seeking to learn and understand God’s Word. Their hearts are warmed by worship, their affections are drawn to Jesus. They seek to obey Him with their whole life. They don’t hold any areas back, nor do they put anything above Jesus. They are wholly engaged with their whole self. Mind, emotions, and will. Each are kept in check by God’s Word.

This is the person who is the true believer, the one who ends up being fruitful instead of fruitless. This is the one who will go the distance, who won’t quit at the first sign of persecution. Who won’t allow an idol to draw them away. They will continue to follow Jesus, understanding that the gospel is the only message that saves.

These are the ones who recognize Jesus as Messiah because God has changed their heart, He has made it fertile to the gospel message. He has given them the ability to comprehend the “secrets of the kingdom”. As a result, they turn to Jesus for salvation and they experience healing.

Without God’s work, they would be like the soil on the path, the rocks and the thorns. They wouldn’t give the gospel a second thought, they would allow persecution to drive them away, or they would seek after idols over Jesus. That is how man naturally responds to Jesus. But not those whose hearts are fertile. They respond rightly.

Recognize Blessing from the Lord

As well as those whose hearts are fertile, recognize how blessed they are. Look at the text beginning in verse 16,

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Mt 13:16–17)

If our hearts are fertile, we will recognize the blessing God has poured out on our life, how fortunate we are, how privileged we are to sit at this moment in history. The prophets and righteous men from long ago, longed – they so desired the blessing and privilege we have.

Not only that but if our hearts are really fertile, we will praise God for the salvation He has provided. We will rejoice at our understanding of the gospel of the kingdom! We will long to know and see and understand more. We will allow what we learn to affect us. We will repent of our sins and turn to God on a regular basis. In other words, we will live as true family members of Jesus.

Is your heart fertile? Do you understand the gospel? Has it affected your mind, emotions, and will?

Do you recognize the blessing God has poured out in your life by allowing you to understand the gospel? Do you praise God for your salvation on a regular basis? Is your heart fertile?

Conclusion

The parable of the sower reveals why some walk away. Their hearts are hardened. They are just in it for the spiritual high. They worship and obey their idols over Jesus.

When someone walks away from the faith, don’t loose heart. Don’t loose faith in Christ. Instead, pray for their salvation. Pray the Lord would soften their heart to the gospel. Not only should we pray but preach the gospel to them. We should spread the seed indiscriminately to all. While at the same time praying their hard, unfruitful, idolatrous heart would become fertile soil in which the gospel would take root and be productive.

Yes, people walk away from the faith. But don’t allow their actions to cause you to walk away. Instead, recognize who blessed you are, praise God, pray for them, and spread the gospel to all who will give you a hearing.

If worldly wisdom is so destructive, why do people continue to build on worldly wisdom?

Those who build their life on worldly wisdom will experience a great loss. Destruction, disaster will come upon them when they least expect it. Your entire life will come crashing down if you have built your life on easily moved sand instead of the rock. The things of this world can promise us happiness, joy, pleasure, peace but those can be quickly taken. If the world is all that we have based our life on, we will experience disaster.

The Bible is clear, disaster will come for those who have built their life on worldly wisdom. However, people continue to build on worldly wisdom every day. Why?

Let me give you three reasons people continue to build on worldly wisdom even though disaster is coming for them.

(1) The ways of world are easier to come by.

Building on rock is hard work. In Luke’s account of this parable, we learn that a person didn’t just find a rock upon which to build, but they dug down through the hard dirt and built their house on the rock.

he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Lk 6:48)

Digging down deep to build on the rock is not easy. It is much harder than building on sand or the ground. There is no time spent searching, no energy expended in digging down to the rock. It is much easier to build a house on the sand. In the same way it is easier to come by the world’s wisdom. All you have to do is turn on your TV, scroll through Facebook, listen to the radio, watch YouTube, look at the billboards as you drive down the highway. Our access to worldly wisdom is so much easier to come by than heavenly wisdom. You don’t have to be purposeful. All you have to do is soak up the messaging you are bombarded with every day all day.

(2) The ways of world promise greater immediate benefits

Think back to our building analogy once again. If you aren’t concerned with building on the rock, you can pretty much build anywhere. You can build close to a stream, which would make it easier to get water. You can build close to friends and family. Community is readily available without you having to travel anywhere. You can build close to your livestock, so you can more easily take care of them. Building on the sand allows you to build anywhere. It may seem beneficial at first. You may even get away with it for some time. But when the hard rain comes and flash floods occur, the house and life you have built are going to come crashing down.

The immediate benefits that worldly wisdom offers us is not worth it in the end. The good fortune that worldly wisdom seems to provide will eventually run out. The house you have built will eventually come crashing down. The short term benefits are not worth the long term disaster.

(3) The ways of the world may seem right because they are popular.

The vast majority of people are building their lives on worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom is popular, so it must be the right course of action, right? Not only that but that which is popular leads to greater acceptance, it can lead to more opportunity, and a lot less persecution.

But what the world says is wise today, what it accepts today, what will afford you benefits and relationships today, might not be so tomorrow. We live in an ever changing world. Those people who were on the right side of history last year, may no longer be on it this year or the next. What is wise to the world today, may be foolish tomorrow.

For those reasons and more, people continue to build on worldly wisdom even though it will result in sure destruction. But Jesus is not calling you to follow worldly religion. He is calling you to follow Him. He is calling out to you like wisdom at the beginning of the book of Proverbs:

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.” (Pr 1:20–23)

So how long? How long will you refuse to listen? How long will you ignore Jesus’ counsel to build your life on His wisdom — the Rock?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pr 1:7)

Will you be a fool? Will you despise wisdom and instruction? Will you follow the wisdom of the world? Will you build your house on the sand? Or will you build on the Rock, who Jesus Christ? The former results in sure destruction and judgment. The latter in eternal life. Will you be like the man who built his house on the sand? Or will you be like the one who built his house on the rock?

Two Choices — Biblical Wisdom or Worldly Wisdom

Are you able to distinguish between worldly wisdom and biblical wisdom? Do you know which is more beneficial for your life and why?

Jesus’ parable of the two builders comes at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount teachings. ****We don’t have time to go through all of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. But suffice it to say His teaching tells us who are apart of His kingdom and how we are to live in His kingdom.

Two Choices — Biblical Wisdom or Worldly Wisdom

At the end of His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers His listeners, He offers us, two choices. A choice between hearing and doing the wisdom of the world or hearing and doing His wisdom.

Look at the text starting in verse 24:

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Mt 7:24)

Skip down to verse 26:

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.

(Mt 7:26)

Using a building analogy, Jesus distinguishes between worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. He uses an everyday occurrence in Palestine to show us the folly of building our life on worldly wisdom. The wise man builds His house on the rock.The foolish man builds his house on the sand.

If you were a wise man in ancient Palestine, you would build your house on the rock so that when “... 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.” (Mt 7:25)

But those who were unwise, they didn’t build on the rock and there was a different outcome for them. Look at verse 27,

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””

(Mt 7:27)

Through this parable, offers us two choices.

  • (1) Build your life on the rock — on biblical wisdom — experience safety and salvation.
  • (2) Or build your life on the sand — on worldly wisdom — experience destruction.

Those are the two choices we have. Allow the Bible, allow Jesus to guide us, allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives. Or allow the world, worldly wisdom to guide and direct us.

Why should we allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives?

When it comes to understanding why we should allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives, James is super helpful:

In James 3:13-18, James contrasts two types of wisdom — heavenly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Those who are wise according to the world’s standards live by mantras like:

  • “You do you”;
  • “let it be”;
  • “just do what feels right to you”;
  • “be true to yourself”;
  • “do what makes you feel good”;
  • “Just follow your heart”.

I’m sure you have heard those before. You might have even voiced them yourself. As good as they might sound, that is representative of worldly wisdom.

You might think following worldly wisdom will result in success. We live in the world after all. But that is not true.

Worldly wisdom, James says, results in “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14). It results in boasting that seeks to puff up self while tearing another downAs well as it results in lies, because, after all it is all about self.

Heavenly wisdom is different. Heavenly wisdom comes down from above. Heavenly wisdom is what Jesus has been pouring forth throughout the sermon on the mount. Heavenly wisdom produces good fruit:

  • Humility, peace, and mercy.
  • It is pure and gentle.
  • It’s impartial.
  • and it results in sincerity (James 3:17-18).

All wisdom is not created equal.

All wisdom doesn’t lead to flourishing relationships and a loving community. There are two different types of wisdom to which we can listen and apply. They originate from two different places. Notice I didn’t say they came from several different places, but that they originate from two different places. Wisdom either originates from God and His kingdom, OR from Satan and his kingdom. There is not a third or fourth type of wisdom. There are only two types of wisdom upon which we can base our life, our actions. God’s wisdom, Jesus’ wisdom. The wisdom found in God’s Word, what James refers to as heavenly wisdom. Or worldly wisdom.

Those who build their life on worldly wisdom will experience a great loss.

Destruction, disaster will come upon them when they least expect it. Your entire life will come crashing down if that what you have built your life on instead of the rock. Sand that is easily moved. The things of this world can promise us happiness, joy, pleasure, peace but those can be quickly taken. If the world is all that we have based our life on, we will experience disaster.

But those who build their lives on Jesus’ wisdom, His teaching, who operate according to a Christian worldview, they will stand firm when destruction comes knocking. Jesus doesn’t change. He is the rock. That which He offers, He always offers. There are no shifting sands with Jesus. Even if things around you come crashing down, you always have the Rock.

It is not “if” but “when”.

Those things that seek to destroy us will come. They will often come at a time we are not expecting. Life is going great. All is well. Then boom! The storm comes. Depending on what foundation you have built, you will either survive the storm or you won’t. That is what Jesus is getting at.

Worldly wisdom doesn’t save. It doesn’t protect. It only results in destruction.

Why Do We Struggle to Give Financially to the Church?

Giving is where many of us struggle. A recent statistic I came across revealed that:

  • 75–90% of church members do not tithe (give 10% of their income)
  • The average giving by adults who attend US Protestant churches is about $17 a week.
  • Typically, 77% of those who do tithe end up giving 11%–20% or more of their income, far more than the baseline of 10%.[1]

What this reveals is that when it comes to giving, we find that in every congregation there are some who don’t give at all, there are others who give a little out of habit or obligation, and then there are those who joyfully and generously give above and beyond.

Why Do We Struggle to Give?

There are different reasons why people fit into each of these categories as well as there are different reasons why people struggle to provide financial support to their local church.

(1) Maybe you have overextended themselves so that you have nothing to give.

If this is you, what you need to do is sit down and audit your budget. Once you have audited your budget, you need to make a budget and stick to it.

Many of us spend more than we make, which results in credit card debt or debt in other forms — a car payment too large to really afford. I’d counsel you to spend time balancing your budget and offloading those items you really can’t afford. It will take some time and a change in your spending behavior, but it is necessary if you want to be able to help further the gospel ministry of your local church.

Once your budget is balanced, plan your giving into your budget. In other words, make your giving a line item in your budget. I’d suggest it be the first line item, so that you are giving out of your first fruits rather than your leftovers.

(2) Maybe you don’t realize the impact your individual giving has on the church budget.

Churches budget based on past giving and number of members. If a member is not giving, they are severely impacting the budget of the church. If a church can’t make budget, they can’t effectively do ministry. Your giving matters!

(3) Maybe you do realize the impact your giving has on the church, but you are upset about something the church is or is not doing, so you withhold you tithes and offerings out of protest.

This is an area in which you really need to check your heart. The reason people withhold their tithes and offering is almost always a selfish one. Your pet project didn’t get selected or it was cut from the budget. The church isn’t moving in the direction you want. Change is occurring and you are uncomfortable with it. A minister slighted you and in order to get back at them, you are withholding your gifts.

In some situations, a minister or ministry leader will notice your giving has dipped. But in most instances, many ministers, including myself, don’t know what individual members give. I purposely keep those numbers from myself so that I won’t treat any one person different than another.

Instead of withholding out of protest, the best solution is to set a meeting with the pastor or ministry leader with whom you have issue or questions and talk it through.

(4) Maybe you have the money to give, but you don’t because you don’t trust that the Lord will provide.

God doesn’t need our money, but God does desire we give on a regular basis to support the gospel ministry of the local church.

Giving is not just a money issue. Rather, it is a heart issue. If you struggle to give, your heart is most likely directed towards something else. Where our money goes, there our heart goes as well. What you spend your money on is indicative of what you believe will provide you with joy, satisfaction, purpose, comfort, and security.

A lack of consistent giving reveals a trust issue.

God, however, can be trusted. Jesus tackles this issue in Matthew chapter 6 when He says,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:24-33

If God provides for birds and flowers, how much more do you think He will provide for you? Our God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is all sovereign. Not only is He in control of all things, but He is a generous God. So generous, in fact, that He gave His only Son to die in our place. Jesus freely came and took the condemnation we deserved so that we might have a restored relationship with the Father and experience His kingdom both now and for all eternity.

God is not one to withhold good things from His children. Instead, He gives freely and abundantly to those who have need. The greatest gift of all being our salvation. If you are struggling to give, consider God’s generous gifts to you, especially the gift of salvation.

As well as consider your giving as a form of worship. When you give, you are exhibiting trust in the Lord. You are saying He is great enough to meet your needs. You are proclaiming that He is your Provider. Giving is an act of worship.

[1] https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/church-giving/

Believe it or not, God puts his grace and mercy on display by pointing out sin

Believe it or not, God puts his grace and mercy on display by pointing out sin. In Jonah 4, God comes to Jonah and says,

…“Do you do well to be angry?””

(Jon 4:4)

In other words, God asks Jonah: What right do you have to be angry at Me saving the Ninevites? Do you see what God is doing? He is pointing out Jonah’s sin. He is revealing his heart.

Not the first time

This isn’t the first time God has pointed out the sin of another. Way back at the beginning of the Bible is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel both brought God a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s instead of Cain’s. This made Cain angry. God seeing Cain’s anger comes to him and says,

“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

(Gen 4:6–7)

God is extending grace and mercy to Cain by pointing out his sin and the consequences of it. If you continue through the story, you find Cain doesn’t rule over his sin. He allows it to attack and rule over him. He eventually rises up against his brother and kills him. Cain ends up banished from his people forever. I’d like to think God’s words to Jonah would have made a connection back to this story in Jonah’s mind, just as it should for us.

When God points out sin, it is an act of grace and mercy.

God could have left Jonah to stew in his own sin but God doesn’t do that. Instead, He extends grace and mercy by pointing out Jonah’s sin.

God could allow us to stew in our sin, but He doesn’t. He brings others into our lives to point out our sin, so the next time your spouse, neighbor, coworker, or friend points out your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy instead of getting angry with them. The next time you are reading a book and God’s uses its message to point out your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy and keep reading instead of throwing it down. The next time a song or sermon reveals your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy and keep listening instead of tuning out.

Our God is a gracious and merciful God and He puts His grace and mercy on display when He points out our sin.