Sandy Foundations

By Ed Hurst | Posted at 10:57 PM
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was casting a view of God's ways. He did so as a corrective of a false view, by contrasting it with assumptions the people had about what the Law and Prophets required. They had been taught these assumptions mostly by the Pharisees, whose teaching dominated the synagogues at that time. Their teaching was a pedantic, worldly corruption of the Old Testament, strongly influenced by a system of interpretation developed over three centuries of Hellenistic rationalism, in turn preceded by two centuries of Babylonian and Persian materialism. At the end of His message, as recorded in Matthew's Gospel (ch. 7), Jesus declared His teaching was a reflection of the ancient and eternal truth revealed by God Himself, characterized by a distinctly other-worldly outlook. Any other basis for looking at life was comparable to building on sand.

The task of Christian discipleship is moving people away from their natural and instinctive assumptions shaped by a human world view. It doesn't matter what that world view is; if it comes from any source but God, it's a human view, wholly shaped from fallen perceptions. A primary element in the Fall, we notice, was a change in perception. Adam and Eve suddenly decided appearing before God without covering was a bad idea. Previously, it had not mattered. Among other lessons from that narrative, we draw the understanding fallen man is blinded by a dead spirit. No part of human nature, minus the presence of the Holy Spirit, can see clearly beyond this world. Thus, fallen humanity has made tremendous strides in understanding and manipulating elements of human existence. When any part of those aspirations reaches into the spiritual, it fails, utterly and completely. Without Christ, no human is in any way able to grapple with eternity.

The tools of human reason, then, fall short when dealing with the Kingdom of Heaven. We are hardly surprised when people lacking that eternal perspective mistake what Scripture is saying. While it is clear they should be able to usefully analyze the Law of Moses, not much else in the Bible is within their reach. Sure, the obvious literary meaning of things is there, but the ultimate importance of them is, at best, hit and miss. Fallen men see no problem with passing judgment on God's command to remove the Canaanites from the earth. The assumption their value system is somehow superior to that is both sad and humorous. The spiritual issues involved have no meaning to them. All the rational arguments in the world won't change a clear command from God, who made all things.

Equally foolish are Christians today who, claiming to really embrace the Word of God on such matters, insist on ignoring what Jesus said about such things. First, it's too easy to forget Israel rejected that Covenant of the Law. Consistently throughout their history, they either refused to obey, or simply claimed they were obeying when they had twisted the meaning of the Law. During brief flashes of reform and revival, they experienced a bit of what should have been. Yet, for most of their history, they were off course. As time went on, they got farther and farther from it. By the time Jesus came along, they had no hope of even knowing what it was about, what it all meant. Jesus corrected this in His teaching. Finally, He announced the end of it all, closing God's dealings with man through a discrete nation of earth, and creating a new nation of souls. The whole matter of God's revelation and dealings with mankind became a matter of spirit alone.

Because of the infecting influence of human reasoning, it seems a vast majority of those claiming Christ have missed that. They still insist God has a human political agenda. If that is true, Christ died for nothing. We can detect all we need to know about human justice and political ideals from Moses. The proper Christian view of human politics is that none of it really matters. That's because the few things politics can affect don't really matter to Christians. Sure, we'd rather have our stuff unmolested and untaxed, our freedom to act in Christ as we see best without regulatory consequences, and we certainly would prefer to live a long and healthy life. Those are things God has said governments are supposed to promote, to the degree possible. Yet, the entire New Testament consistently warns us not to become too attached to these things. We bear their loss with grace, counting it all joy when our choice of holy living brings persecution.

Jesus told the Roman governor, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). We do not build His Kingdom on sand. The rock and foundation of faith is Christ, and His teaching clearly points away from this life, to life in the Spirit. How have we lost this?

Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.

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